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NEWS - Archive May, June and July 2005

Headlines week 30, 29 July, 2005

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A call for more immigration by the agency in charge of it, to meet future labour demands, has puzzled and angered many immigrants who already are in Norway, and who can't find decent jobs.

25/7/2005- Trygve Nordby, the head of Norway's immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet), issued a call last week for more immigrants, both highly educated and unskilled. Nordby claimed Norway needs to usher in less restrictive and more proactive immigration rules to meet the country's labour needs in coming years. "First they'd better manage to find jobs for all the immigrants who already are here," claims Luca Usai, age 32, from Italy. He's not at all impressed by the prospect of immigrant recruitment. That's because Usai, who holds a masters degree in economics and is fluent in Norwegian, is among the thousands of immigrants in Norway who has met a brick wall when trying to find a job. He followed his girlfriend to Norway in 2003 and never imagined it would be so difficult to find work, especially since he'd specialized on the economics of the Norwegian social welfare state. Two years and hundreds of applications later, the best work he's been able to find is as an assistant at an after-school program for children. "I've never even been called in for a job interview," he told newspaper Aftenposten, which first brought the news of UDI's plans last Friday. "Many times I've called and asked why, but I most often don't get an answer. Some have told me, though, that they had orders to put all foreign applicants at the bottom of the pile." Usai's story is familiar. Hundreds of highly educated foreigners with solid working experience either have trouble obtaining residence- and work permission in Norway, or jobs once they do. Lawyers, nurses, doctors and business owners are among those who encounter employment trouble in Norway, even when they're fluent in Norwegian both oral and written. Whether it's a general "fear of foreigners" or concerns that hiring foreign workers can cause trouble wit the bureaucracy is hard to tell. "The reason that many immigrants today are out of work is very complicated," claims KÂre Verpe of Norway's major employers' group NHO (NÊringslivets hovedorganisasjon). He notes, however, that it's clear Norway will need more workers in the years to come. One reader, a Canadian whose father was Norwegian, called it "laughable" that Norway is now asking for more immigrants. He and his wife faced huge obstacles trying to move to Norway, and suggested he's been "bitter" towards Norway ever since. "I spoke Norwegian during job interviews," wrote Michael Skrettegerg of Claremont, Ontario. "We did not ask for assistance, only for the opportunity to move to Norway. We were not treated well." Another reader, originally from Scotland, also scoffed at UDI's call for more immigrants, noting the difficulties encountered since moving to Stavanger in 1997. The Norwegian bureaucracy, he noted, "really is insanely out of control."

25/7/2005- A new major survey indicates that a majority of Norwegians think freedom and human rights are more important than a war on terrorism. Young people questioned were most concerned that anti-terror campaigns threaten individual freedoms. Human rights mustn't be trampled on during any war on terror, responded 54 percent of Norwegians questioned in the survey, conducted by research firm Norsk Statistikk for the Norwegian Refugee Council (Flyktninghjelpen). "I'm glad that human rights stand so firm," said Raymond Johansen of Flyktninghjelpen, which describes itself as "a non-governmental, humanitarian organization." The survey was conducted just before bombs went off in London on July 7. The 3,000 Norwegians polled were asked the following question:
"It's said that the war on terrorism has weakened human rights. In your opinion, what's more important: To protect human rights or to fight terrorism?"

Fully 54 percent said protecting human rights was more important. Another 34 percent said it was more important to fight terrorism, while the remainder were unsure. Efforts to fight terrorism have led to murder, torture, arrests and heightened surveillance all over the world. Norwegian authorities also have boosted surveillance, from increased instances of telephone taps to a proliferation of security cameras. Highly educated persons with high incomes are showing more concerns over preservation of human rights. Erna Solberg of Norway's Conservative Party said basic principles of human rights must be protected, "but it's also a question of being able to get to work safely. The two issues must be balanced against each other."

A vast majority of Norwegians say they'd like to see limits placed on the constitutional freedom of extremist groups, like neo-Nazis, to express themselves. They'd also favor a ban on public meetings of racist groups or Muslim or Christian fundamentalists.

29/7/2005- A survey conducted by TNS Gallup for Norwegian Social Science Data Services (Norsk samfunnsvitenskapelig datatjeneste NSD) in Bergen showed eight out of 10 Norwegians supporting a change in current constitutional rights regarding freedom of expression, speech and assembly. The survey is part of an international effort to gauge public opinion on freedom of expression in 35 countries. It was conducted in Norway last autumn, but its results are only being made public now, reports newspaper Aftenposten. A questionnaire completed by 1,404 Norwegians aged 18 to 79 showed 76 percent wanting to deny neo-Nazi groups from holding public meetings. Another 25 percent favored a ban on meetings of communists as well. Only 20 percent supported allowing meetings and free expression by all groups, including, for example, racists, Muslim or Christian fundamentalists. communists or extreme right-wing groups. Men were shown to be more skeptical towards Muslim and Christian fundamentalists than women, while women were more skeptical towards racists. "This is very surprising, and shows that there's a certain anti-democratic current running through the population," said lawyer Cato Schi¯tz, one of the Norway's foremost experts on freedom of expression. The survey results also defy those in another survey taken more recently, where a majority of Norwegians said the war on terrorism must not damage individual human rights. (see link list). Schi¯tz linked the NSD survey results to "an element of common intolerance" lying under the surface of lofty claims to the contrary. "You only have to scrape the surface to find the undemocratic opinions," Schi¯tz told Aftenposten. "It's like racism. You don't have to scrape very deep with the average Norwegian before the clear racist interpretations emerge." He thinks most Norwegians are less liberal than they'd like to believe.

23/7/2005- Immigrants may have to pass a French language test if they want long-term residence rights in the country, a junior social affairs minister said yesterday. In a further tightening of already strict immigration laws, Catherine Vautrin, the state secretary for social cohesion and women's rights, said the French government aimed to create "a link" between linguistic competence and the granting of a 10-year residence permit. "We want to encourage as much as possible the integration of new arrivals," she said. "At present there is no language requirement, and I believe one is necessary. What interests us is successful immigration - and behind language lies employment, accommodation, everything." Few EU states require immigrants to master their language. Britain, Spain and Italy only demand an ID card and an employment contract before issuing a residence permit. But in Germany, applicants for permanent residence must pass a language and general culture test, and Austria and Denmark have introduced similar measures. Ms Vautrin was speaking at a centre in the south-western city of Lyon where some of the 110,00 to 120,000 legal immigrants who arrive in France each year - refugees, economic migrants and family members of existing residents - go for basic tuition in the laws and principles of the republic as well as to sign a "Welcome and Integration Contract". The contract, written in a dozen languages including Arab, Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Hindi, was introduced three years ago to remind immigrants that France is an "indivisible, secular and social" state, that religion is a private matter and that men and women are equal. Officials say about 90% of immigrants who are granted a French residence permit have signed the document, which entitles them to 500 hours of non-compulsory French language teaching and a two-day civic education course. The programme is supposed to make it easier for immigrants to renew temporary residence permits and, eventually, acquire French nationality. It costs the government 60m (£41.7bn) a year. Some 8,000 immigrants signed the contract in 2003, and 37,000 last year. "Language is a problem," Ms Vautrin said. "Only 60% of new arrivals take lessons and it's not enough. For married women in particular it's important: to live their lives in France they have to be independent, and the first condition of independence is to be able to speak our language." The prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, last month asked an inter-ministerial committee to study ways to "ensure immigration is more closely tailored to France's economic needs" - seen by many critics as a hint that France was prepared to introduce quotas for legal immigration. But Paris also recently unveiled a package of tough new measures aimed at combating illicit immigration. Putting the number of illegal aliens in France at between 200,000 and 400,000, Mr de Villepin said it was "far, far too easy" for people to enter on a tourist visa and then stay on illegally. If caught they could claim to have no papers and to be unaware of their nationality, preventing any expulsion, he said. France aims to boost expulsions by up to 30% a year, the prime minister said, partly by creating a special 600-strong "immigration police" and an immigration control service to coordinate the activities of the police, gendarmerie, local authorities and government departments.

  • The French interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, said yesterday that in the wake of the second wave of terrorist bomb attacks in London, he was launching a "major operation to track down the radicalising elements" - mainly radical imams - among France's 6 million Muslims. Mr Sarkozy said France would "substantially increase" the security services' budgets. "Everyone in France has the right to practise his religion," he said. "But when you see the images of the kamikazes in London you see the responsibility of radical preachers for young minds. I do not int ©The Guardian

    26/7/2005- The European Court of Human Rights unanimously condemned France Tuesday for being too lax in a case of domestic slavery involving a young Togolese woman who worked without pay for four years. The court condemned France under article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights which prohibits "slavery or servitude" and said it regretted that these two specific crimes "as such were not punishable under French criminal law". The seven judges found that there was a gap in French law in that there was no "specific and effective protection" against modern-day slavery. The case involved Siwa-Akofa Siliadin, known as "Henriette", who was 15 years old when she arrived in France in 1994 and was "employed" until July 1998 by a wealthy Parisian couple who had promised that she would be educated and provided with a residence permit. For four years she was forced to work seven days a week, from 7:30 am to 10:30 pm looking after their four children and doing household chores. She slept on a mattress on the floor of one of the children's rooms. She eventually confided in a neighbour who alerted the Committee Against Modern Slavery (CCEM) which contacted the authorities. A French court convicted the couple of making a "dependent and vulnerable person" work without pay and sentenced them to five months in prison. But it found that the young woman's working and living conditions were not incompatible with human dignity as defined under the French criminal law. On appeal the prison sentence was quashed. The couple were eventually ordered to pay the woman 15,245 euros (18,318 dollars) in damages. The European court said states had a duty to make a criminal offence of slavery and servitude and punish any act tending to keep someone in such a situation. It said that while Henriette had not been a slave she had been kept in a state of servitude. "It is a very important advance in the battle we are fighting," said Benedicte Bourgeois of the CCEM. "This decision underlines that French legislation is too vague, not effective enough to repress this kind of activity. "What is also interesting is that the court, to talk of 'servitude', based its opinion on the fact that the victim was deprived of her liberty, had her passport confiscated, was subjected to threats," she said. "That is what slavery is and these are concepts that do not appear at all in French law at present." The CCEM says it receives about 300 reports a year of modern slavery, usually of African families. But the victims are reluctant to complain and only about 30 cases come before the courts.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    26/7/2005- Britain and France have organised a joint flight to repatriate Afghan illegal immigrants which is due to take off shortly, a British government source said Tuesday. "All those on board are single Afghan males," a Home Office source told AFP, adding: "I believe it is today". "The UK welcomes the opportunity to participate in the French charter operation to Afghanistan," a Home Office spokeswoman said. She added she could give no further details on the flight, notably on the departure details and the number of passengers on board. Interior ministers from the G5 group of the European Union's biggest countries (Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain) decided at a meeting in France earlier this month to run joint flights expelling illegal immigrants of the same origin. They pressed the idea on financial and political grounds. The Franco-British flight would be the first of its kind since the G5 meeting in Evian. In May 2003, Britain and France put in place a similar flight expelling 34 Afghans whose asylum applications had been rejected.
    ©Expatica News

    24/7/2005- Asylum seekers are being 'inappropriately' turned away amid a climate of political pressure and hostile media coverage, an official watchdog has warned. Mary Coussey is the independent race monitor appointed by the Home Office to oversee instances where the usual laws on discrimination are waived to allow the immigration service to do its job. That includes allowing immigration officers to treat nationals from 'priority countries' differently from everyone else at ports of entry. Coussey found evidence of immigration officers apparently deciding in advance to reject someone then 'looking for evidence to justify a refusal'. She was even told by a couple of officers that they 'liked refusals' - turning suspicious entrants back at ports - because they thought it was more interesting than just letting people in. Coussey's review of more than 40 asylum claims found evidence of 'inappropriate decision-making'. She said: 'Several refusal decisions were based on caseworkers' assumptions of what should have occurred, or on small discrepancies and inconsistencies in accounts of events, giving the impression that whatever the applicant's experience, some grounds for refusal would be found.' Asylum seekers were being rejected if they had not sought medical treatment after alleged brutalities, even if they lived in war zones where it was impossible to get medical help, she said. One applicant was told that an attack they had suffered, in which others had died, was so bad that 'it is not believed that you would have been able to survive'. Others were turned down on the basis of assumptions of what officers thought they might do themselves in the circumstances. Calling for a more balanced public debate, Coussey said that 'hostile, inaccurate and derogatory' press coverage of asylum and immigration, plus 'comments by a few politicians', were having an impact. 'I do not doubt that this negative atmosphere can affect decision-making on individual cases, as it makes caution and suspicion more likely,' she added. Repeated references to abuse of the system and reducing asylum applications - which Tony Blair and then Home Secretary David Blunkett promised to do before the election - 'tend to reinforce popular misconceptions that abuse is enormous in scale', when it was only a small proportion of entrants. Home Secretary Charles Clarke accepted 'many of the comments on inappropriate and speculative reasoning' by officials, but said the majority of decisions appeared to be correct. He rejected Coussey's calls for an independent element in decision-making. However, the Refugee Council warned that the report, which was published on the Home Office website on the day of the 7 July London bombings, said it helped to explain why so many rejected claimants appealed - thus delaying their removal from the country. 'The examples cited in the report of refusals made by Home Office caseworkers are jaw-dropping, but what is truly shocking is that the report contains so many of them,' said a spokeswoman. 'The report paints a picture of a system dominated by a "culture of disbelief", in which refusals are the norm and stories of persecution are only ever accepted grudgingly.' For some nationalities, such as Somalians and Eritreans, more than a third of those rejected have the decision overturned on appeal. The Refugee Council spokeswoman said that unless decisions were made clearly and fairly in the first place, the government would struggle to reduce delays in the system and speed up removals.
    ©The Observer

    Fear of faith-hate reprisals runs high
    By Anushka Asthana, Dana Gornitzki, Lorna Martin, Tariq Panja, David Smith and Ned Temko

    24/7/2005- Jimmy, a Muslim, pulled over his car a few hundred yards from the former home of suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer on Colwyn Road in Beeston, Leeds. He took out a DVD which explored a conspiracy theory about 9/11. 'It is the same with this,' he said. 'The moment a mother rang up about her son from West Yorkshire, they knew they had their fall-men.' Among Beeston's younger Muslims, it was an increasingly common view last week. On the street corners, inside the shops and in the local park, there were mutterings of conspiracy theories as rumours washed over the town. One was that Hasib Hussain - the 18-year-old bus bomber - had been seen alive, another that one bomber's family said he could not have been carrying identification as it was all at home. Ever since it had become clear that three of the men responsible for the 7 July atrocities were from the same tiny area, Beeston became a hub of activity as police and media descended. Over the past two weeks the mood has shifted from shock to disbelief. Last week things appeared to have calmed down, with the police lines gone and the cameras out of sight. In the park people walked dogs or played tennis. Near the courts, a group of men - whom Hussain and Tanweer had once hung out with every day - gathered as usual. After news of the further bombing attempts in London reached them last Thursday, they relaxed more and one said: 'That should take the attention off Beeston.' Any possibility that the new suspects could also be locals was not discussed. By Friday, as news of more extraordinary developments in the capital filtered through, the mood shifted again. 'London will be like Beirut, Belfast and Palestine now,' said one man. 'It will be a part of life because Bush and Blair can't keep their noses out of other people's business.' 'Bush is the real terrorist,' muttered another. A 30-year-old man who went to school with Mohammad Sidique Khan - the oldest of the London bombers - said many young Asians in the area suffered from a 'persecution complex'. He said: 'A lot of people had no idea who Osama bin Laden was before 9/11. Then they got this information and believed that Muslims were being persecuted.' He added: 'Many don't want to get addicted to drink, so they look for another outlet - for them religion is always there.' Blaming Bush and Blair to justify terrorism is not the majority view among Muslims across the country - but it is the passionate belief of a significant minority. Almost one in four British Muslims sympathise with the motives of suicide bombers, according to a YouGov poll published in yesterday's Daily Telegraph. More than half say that, whether they sympathise or not, they understand why some people behave in the way they do.

    The research also showed that nearly one in three thinks that Western society is decadent and immoral and should be brought to an end. Sixteen per cent of British Muslims told the survey that they do not feel loyal towards Britain and 6 per cent went as far as saying the London bombings were justified. Findings like this produce complex reactions in young British Muslims like Fatema Dossa, 24, a pharmacy graduate from Eastcote, London. 'There is no doubt that the double standards of Western foreign policy have an effect on Muslim youth. You can understand the motives of suicide bombers, but to kill people is different. It is not going to achieve anything. 'If you go to university and see the youth - not just white British but Pakistani and Muslim youth - drinking and drug-taking, you do feel, where is society going? I'm sure the older white British generation would agree society is decadent. But I wouldn't go as far as to say "immoral".' Fears of an anti-Muslim backlash have been realised in a 500-per-cent rise in faith-hate crimes in the past two weeks. More than 1,000 race and faith hate incidents have been reported to police across the country since the London bombings, though community leaders believe the actual number of incidents is at least four times higher. Most of the reported crimes are 'low-level' attacks such as graffiti and verbal abuse. However, race monitoring groups across the UK have seen a significant increase in the number of reports of arson attacks on mosques and Muslim women being spat at in the street or not being allowed on buses because they were wearing headscarves. Police are investigating several serious assaults and one murder related to the backlash. Although most incidents have taken place in and around London, police or community groups across the country have reported a rise in Islamophobic-motivated attacks. On Friday, police arrested three people after an alleged arson attack at the Buckinghamshire home of suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay. They have also received more than 200 reports of faith-hate incidents, up from 30 for the same period last year. A race body in Wales yesterday said the rate of abuse had increased from 10 incidents in a month to more than 30 in the two weeks following the 7 July attacks. In Glasgow, a woman sharing the same surname as one of the bombers said her children had been spat on. According to the Muslim Safety Forum (MSF), there was a sharp rise in Islamophobic crimes the day after the first London bombings. The rate decreased a few days later then increased again after the suspects were revealed to be British-born Muslims.

    Since CCTV images were released of the suspects of Thursday's failed attacks, there has been a further rise in apparent reprisal attacks. Tahir Butt of the MSF said there were serious concerns about the backlash and, while he praised police for their efforts to protect Muslims, he raised questions about how prepared they were for the level of reprisal attacks. 'There are bigots out there who are reading some media reports and deciding to take the law into their own hands,' he said. 'The message from everyone is zero tolerance, but we need action. We need to hear about people being arrested for these attacks on Muslims who are threefold victims. They are targets of terrorists, targets of the Islamophobic backlash and they will be targets of anti-terror legislation.' Amar Singh, editor of the Eastern Eye newspaper, said Muslim communities were on tenterhooks. 'There is genuine fear. At worst it is assault and abuse, at best it is strange looks or people moving away from you on the train. After 11 September we looked at Americans and thought they were so ignorant ... They didn't know the difference between a Muslim and a Sikh. I can't believe parts of Britain are just as bad. Just as xenophobic.' Police had hoped an intense backlash could be avoided by responding quickly to hate crimes.

    A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said apart from four arsons, or attempted arsons, and one murder, most incidents involved abuse in the street, minor criminal damage, graffiti, offensive literature, phone and internet threats and abuse, hoaxes and some assaults. The Met has passed the effort to counter hate crime to its most senior Muslim officer, assistant commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, who told The Observer he would be convening a special meeting of local community figures at Scotland Yard tomorrow. While positive discrimination is illegal, Ghaffur told an inter-faith meeting in Southall on Friday that he was determined to look for 'imaginative' ways to recruit more Asians and Muslims to the police. One of his ideas was the possibility of London business leaders funding a recruitment drive for Muslim officers. The tension was evident in east London yesterday on Brick Lane, where the stalls and restaurants are usually bustling on a Saturday. Oly Ahmed, 22, a staff member at Chillies restaurant, said: 'It's not normal, very quiet. Friday night was quite busy but the rest of the week was not even 10 per cent of normal business. It's incredible for Brick Lane. Our business depends on tourists and City workers. They are not coming this way because of problems with travelling. Lots of people are talking about it and everyone is scared of what will happen.' Aklis Ali, 39, who works at the Best 1 convenience store, said: 'There have been a lot of police on the streets since 7 July. There is tension when my family goes out. When my wife wears a hijab people think she's a terrorist. We don't feel safe - you never know if someone is going to attack you for being Muslim. My wife went to the hospital last week and someone swore at her.' He added: 'Just because of a few fanatics, you can't blame all Muslims. We all have the same feeling about 7 July. We're human beings.'
    ©The Observer

    25/7/2005- Senior members of the UK's Muslim community have voiced fears the London bombing hunt is making innocent people feel they are under suspicion. Labour peer Lord Ahmed said many Muslims in the north of England believed they could become victims of mistaken identity by armed police. And Azad Ali, chairman of the Muslim Safety Forum, said many young Muslims were reluctant to leave their homes. "They fear that they're all suspected bombers," he told BBC Radio Five Live. "We've received many emails, we've received telephone calls, about how young Muslims don't want to use the Tube now." Police have called on the whole community to be vigilant when travelling on public transport and report anything they think to be suspicious. But the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, has stressed no section of society should be singled out. The shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian man police wrongly suspected of being a suicide bomber, has heightened fears that innocent people could be caught up in the investigation. Lord Ahmed said some sections of the Muslim community were afraid they could also become a victim of mistaken identity. "I've been to Bradford, Birmingham and Sheffield during the weekend and people are very concerned," he said. They fear they could, like Mr Menezes, be victims of the shoot-to-kill policy or be mistakenly arrested as the police gather intelligence on the Muslim community. Lord Ahmed also said it was possible illegal immigrants would run if challenged by the police. "We know that there are many thousands or hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants and if they're challenged by the police, they're not going to stand there and produce their ID, they obviously will try and run. "And whilst we need to catch those illegal immigrants or asylum seekers, nevertheless we can't shoot them because they're not terrorists." Anyone with dark skin who was running for a bus or Tube could be thought to be about to detonate a bomb, he said.
    ©BBC News

    It's a crowded train in central London, and I'm sitting opposite an Asian man carrying what looks like a large laptop bag.
    By Sean Coughlan

    26/7/2005- Is it a coincidence that no one else is sitting near us? Is it an accident that he's pushed out his corporate ID card so that it's clearly visible over his jacket, hanging like the open page of a passport? Public transport can be a world of unspoken signals and gestures - but am I right in thinking that he looks self-conscious, sometimes burying his face in his arms as though asleep? When that woman getting into the carriage half-turned towards us and then moved away, was that a deliberate decision, or was it a random commuter choice? How would it feel to have someone literally turning their back on you?

    I change Tube lines and in the next train I'm sitting close to a woman wearing Islamic dress. But this time, all the seats are filled around her, and the atmosphere feels relaxed. What's going on in the thoughts of passengers? What judgements are they making? It's a mind-game being played out all over the Tube network, and indeed on many trains and buses throughout the country. It's performed in silence, with people unsure of their neighbours' motives and guilty about their own feelings of suspicion. Following the London bomb attacks, there have been stories swapped all over the capital of people switching seats because of "suspicious" passengers. And targets of that suspicion have talked about their sense of frustration at the unsubtle attention of other travellers. Even though people say little when they're travelling, there's plenty going on inside - fears of danger, changed routes, calculations to avoid risks, guilt at making stereotypical assumptions, anger at being unfairly distrusted.

    Stopped carrying rucksacks
    In the rather unreal atmosphere of familiar places facing unfamiliar threats, people are taking note of actions and appearances they wouldn't usually see. Hundreds of e-mails sent in to the BBC News website show how, in the uneasy mood on public transport, we're thinking all kinds of unspoken thoughts. There are flickers of bigotry and thinly-disguised racism, but there are also convincingly understated descriptions of people's edginess - and examples of how it is changing people's behaviour, including a number who say they have stopped taking Tube trains. Marcus, who says his family are Greek-Cypriot, has devised a strategy to avoid "odd looks" on the Tube (which he attributes to his Mediterranean appearance). To make himself seem non-threatening, he now wears a Make Poverty History wristband and makes a point of reading the Economist. "Whilst this sounds ridiculous it does reassure people around me. Of course, the whole thing is ridiculous but these are ridiculous times we are living in," he writes. An Asian reader says fears about what people are thinking have stopped him carrying a rucksack. "I do not take my rucksack to work anymore, which had my lunch and work shirt. I would rather wear a dirty shirt left at work than be looked at suspiciously. I also wear a T-shirt to work now, as I am afraid to wear too much, after the shooting," he writes. There are also people who have stopped wearing their MP3 players or iPods because of worries about trailing wires or not hearing orders from the police.

    Empty seat
    Being on the receiving end of such a hostile atmosphere has persuaded Leila, a white convert to Islam, to stop travelling by Tube altogether. "I sensed people's fear of me because of my Muslim dress. Sometimes people even preferred to stand rather than sit by me, leaving an empty seat next to me." Hindu and Sikh readers have also written to say they have experienced the same sense of rejection. "As I got on the tube with my rucksack, a fellow passenger saw me, waited a second then got up, to wait on the platform for the next train," writes Dev.

    This distrust between travellers is a phenomenon that feeds on itself, says psychologist Gary Fitzgibbon, from the north London-based consultancy, Fitzgibbon Associates. "You've got a strange effect here. Everybody's awareness of a threat is raised - and everyone is looking round suspiciously. So they're looking at each other - and what they observe is people looking at them suspiciously, which immediately raises their awareness that this person might be a threat. "You can get very anxious situations arising - and in the extreme it could lead to violence." Mr Fitzgibbon says fear is a natural response to a threat - but the prolonged media coverage, and the way that people continue to talk about the bombings, can generate a response that is greater than the actual threat that exists. And amid such fears, he says that people can tend to seek people more like themselves and to avoid those who are different. Such a reaction, already witnessed by people sending in e-mails, would threaten what a worried reader described as the capital's "multi-cultural mini-world".
    ©BBC News

    Download today's poll in full (pdf)

    26/7/2005- Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have thought about leaving Britain after the London bombings, according to a new Guardian/ICM poll. The figure illustrates how widespread fears are of an anti-Muslim backlash following the July 7 bombings which were carried out by British born suicide bombers. The poll also shows that tens of thousands of Muslims have suffered from increased Islamophobia, with one in five saying they or a family member have faced abuse or hostility since the attacks. Police have recorded more than 1,200 suspected Islamophobic incidents across the country ranging from verbal abuse to one murder in the past three weeks. The poll suggests the headline figure is a large underestimate. The poll came as British Islamic leaders and police met to try to boost recruitment of Muslim officers, improve efforts to protect Muslims from a backlash, and improve the flow of information from Muslims to the police about suspected terrorist activity.

  • Nearly two-thirds of Muslims told pollsters that they had thought about their future in Britain after the attacks, with 63% saying they had considered whether they wanted to remain in the UK.
  • Older Muslims were more uneasy about their future, with 67% of those 35 or over having contemplated their future home country compared to 61% among those 34 or under.

    Britain's Muslim population is estimated at 1.6million, with 1.1million over 18, meaning more than half a million may have considered the possibility of leaving.
  • Three in 10 are pessimistic about their children's future in Britain, while 56% said they were optimistic.
  • Nearly eight in 10 Muslims believe Britain's participation in invading Iraq was a factor leading to the bombings, compared to nearly two-thirds of all Britons surveyed for the Guardian earlier this month. Tony Blair has repeatedly denied such a link.
  • Muslim clerics' and leaders' failure to root out extremists is a factor behind the attacks identified by 57% of Muslims, compared to 68% of all Britons, and nearly two-thirds of Muslims identify racist and Islamophobic behaviour as a cause compared to 57% of all Britons.
  • The general population and Muslims apportion virtually the same amount of blame to the bombers and their handlers, with eight in 10 or more citing these as factors.
  • The poll finds a huge rejection of violence by Muslims with nine in 10 believing it has no place in a political struggle. Nearly nine out of 10 said they should help the police tackle extremists in the Islamic communities in Britain. A small rump, potentially running into thousands, told ICM of their support for the attacks on July 7 which killed 56 and left hundreds wounded - and 5% said that more attacks would be justified. Those findings are troubling for those urgently trying to assess the pool of potential suicide bombers.
  • One in five polled said Muslim communities had integrated with society too much already, while 40% said more was needed and a third said the level was about right.
  • More than half wanted foreign Muslim clerics barred or thrown out of Britain, but a very sizeable minority, 38%, opposed that. Half of Muslims thought that they needed to do more to prevent extremists infiltrating their community.

    ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,005 adults aged 18+ by telephone on July 15-17 2005. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
    ©The Guardian

    24/7/2005- The second wave of attacks on London last Thursday did not, thankfully, have the devastating results we watched in horror on July 7. It would be untrue, however, to say they had little effect. If there was ever any real doubt that we have to live with the possibility of yet more attacks on London ñ and, presumably, on other British cities ñ last week's events swept them away. The message from the fanatics who brought terror to Egypt in the early hours yesterday was equally clear: nowhere is safe. That will have a profound effect over the coming years, and presents real dangers not just to our lives but to the values by which we live. There are already welcome signs of a determination not to let fear and paranoia divide communities. Yesterday, residents of Leeds ñ of many different races and creeds ñ took to the streets in a show of solidarity and a clear demonstration that they would not allow suspicion and hatred to take root. The political reaction has been more problematic. This newspaper remains convinced that Tony Blair is wrong when he insists that Iraq is not a factor in the dangers we now face. But the Prime Minister was right to be affirmative in his approach to the atrocities, as he was last Thursday when he said that the only way to deal with the menace of terrorism was "head-on". Any wavering, any doubts or hesitation, any sense of suggesting to the terrorists that London was on the back foot would have played into the terrorists' hands. This is a moment when the people of Britain cannot afford to do anything else but stand firm and face the challenge posed by the recent attacks. At the same time, they have to tackle another problem head on, namely the issue of Islamic extremism and why it has been fostered in this country. For far too long Britain has allowed militant Islamic preachers freedom of speech to spread their gospel of hatred of Western values. Three of the bombers in the first attack were not brainwashed into accepting extremist beliefs when they visited madrassas in Pakistan. The odds are that they learned their message of hate in their native Leeds from religious leaders in their own community. Many Muslims in this country feel disenfranchised from society and out of sympathy with what the West has to offer, and are prey to extremists who offer an alternative point of view.

    Wider society may shoulder some of the blame for this sense of alienation, but some Muslim groups are also at fault. Many Muslim groups refuse to integrate, and they hang on to values that are often out of kilter with the modern world. This is understandable. People with their own beliefs and traditions do not always want to give them up for alien values. However, by turning their backs on the modern world they also give up the opportunity to become part of a wider multi-cultural and multi-faith society. For the younger members this is a challenge. Either they rebel against their parents' generation or, in the case of the extremists, they turn towards the conservatives who want to keep them within the tenets of a more extreme form of Islam. In both cases they are put in a terrible position. If they embrace the modern world with all its temptations, they stand in danger of cutting family links and damaging their own communities. If they fall into the clutches of those who advocate violence, they could find themselves with a one-way ticket and carrying a lethal rucksack. All this matters, and in the wake of the bombs it has serious implications for the country. So far there has been no serious backlash against the Islamic community and there is a general understanding that the attacks were carried out by criminals and not by people of any specific religion. But all that could change if there are further attacks. Britain is no stranger to the wilder reaches of the right, and racism is not so far below the surface that it has disappeared forever. Just look at the British National Party and its ideology. During the IRA bomb campaigns there was never any significant anti-Irish feeling, but these bomb attacks are different because they are carried out by suicide bombers and are aimed casually at innocent civilians from all backgrounds and all faiths.

    That intensity and that element of impartiality make the bombers more difficult to comprehend and certainly more dangerous. Much more has to be done to integrate the Muslim community into mainstream British society. The Prime Minister has made a start by announcing a conference to address this issue, and this initiative deserves support and serious consideration. Unless we tackle this problem seriously, things will get worse before they get any better. And it will not just be about outreach schemes or focus groups or appointing highly paid tsars. What is needed is a serious investigation into why some young Muslims are so unhappy with their lot that they are prepared to blow themselves up and kill innocent people. It cannot just be about the promised delights of paradise; they are being impelled by much deeper and darker thoughts. The leaders of the Islamic community have to play their part too, not just by laying down the law but by listening to the younger people and trying to understand their concerns. There is no point either in trying to lay the blame at Pakistan's door. While the madrassas have played a role in politicising young people, there is no shortage of similar voices to be heard in mosques and meeting places in Britain. Wider society has a responsibility as well. It must guard against perfectly understandable fears turning against all Muslims and making them figures of hate. If racism takes root, the terrorists will have achieved at least one of their aims and dealt a blow to the whole notion of a tolerant society in which different races and religions can live together in peace. This is a battle which has to be won. Not only could our lives depend on it, but so could our hopes of creating and maintaining a vibrant, multi-racial Britain.
    ©Sunday Herald

    BLACK MEN CAN'T RUN(uk, comment)
    I have reason to fear the police's new shoot-to-kill policy
    By Paul Myers

    29/7/2005- I'm London-born to Jamaican parents, and like most people I want to stay alive while travelling around my home city. Easier said than done now that terrorists are blowing up buses and tubes, and police have killed a dark-skinned man they thought was on the verge of an atrocity. Up until Jean Charles de Menezes was shot in Stockwell, I was scared of the explosions. Now there's a double whammy. Do I worry about the Asian with the backpack or the nonchalant white guy?

    "De Menezes acted suspiciously by running" is one line that's wheeled out to abrogate responsibility for a catastrophe. But if you're in an ethnic minority the errors seem to hit you thick and fast throughout your life. It really doesn't take that much for a police officer to be suspicious.

    I remember Doreen Lawrence telling me that police initially treated her and her husband Neville like they were the criminals after their aspiring architect of a son had been stabbed to death by white racists at a bus stop in south-east London. In 1993 she had to grieve through the bigotry, but the bungled investigation into Stephen's murder forced the Macpherson report, which among other things highlighted the institutional racism within police forces. And to their credit the police have moved to eradicate that blight.

    So far I've evaded the racist thugs at the bus stops, but I haven't eluded the institutionalised stupidity. Like countless other law-abiding black men in the capital, I've been stopped, questioned and searched by police professing to be doing their utmost to protect the community. When I owned a Golf convertible I'd be tailed or pulled over for driving what they suspected to be a stolen car.

    While trying to catch the last bus home from the City a few years back I was stopped by an officer who told me that I was acting suspiciously by running through a high-risk burglary area with a holdall. He looked through the bag, asked me whether the shoes and clothes were mine, and then wanted to know where I'd come from. When I told him the Guardian in Farringdon Road, he asked if I could prove it. I showed him my press card and I thought that would be the end of it. Wrong. He asked where I lived, and even though the address tallied with the bus that I'd been running to catch, he still radioed my details through. When these were confirmed, the officer's explanation was that he had a job to do, and was sure I'd understand. I was livid because I had understood.

    Now what frightens me is that, unlike the Lawrences, the grief of the De Menezes family seems not to be yielding anything positive. The Met commissioner apologises but says police may have to shoot other innocent people to protect the community. And their colour will be ... ? Giving apparent carte blanche to marksmen to unload bullets into dark-skinned people, while exhorting these targets to trust in the policy's effectiveness, may have pleased the old Special Patrol Group, but it leaves me queasy. Especially when some of the bobbies on the beat can't distinguish the most salient of differences. You see, the officer who stopped me in the City marked me down on his report sheet as Asian.
    ©The Guardian

    Two forces questioned over raid on BBC producer's home

    24/7/2005- Detectives from two forces are to be investigated for perverting the course of justice in connection with a BBC documentary that exposed racism at a police training college. The Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation could lead to criminal charges against officers from Greater Manchester and Cheshire police, who are said to have accused a BBC producer of murder in order to gain access to his journalistic files. The forces both sent recruits to Bruche police college, near Warrington, which featured in the documentary The Secret Policeman, broadcast in October 2003. In January 2004, police from Cheshire gained a warrant to search the house of Paul Atkinson, a former sergeant from Greater Manchester, who worked as a producer on the programme. The film used undercover reporter Mark Daly to film scenes of racist behaviour. One recruit dressed in a Ku Klux Klan-style hood and bragged of his plans to attack Asians. Charges of 'obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception' against Daly were dropped. The Observer has discovered that an assistant chief constable from West Yorkshire has been appointed to head the investigation into Atkinson's claims that officers falsely arrested him to gain access to his files. These allowed them to identify officers who had blown the whistle on the college and launch an internal inquiry into their conduct. The investigation will be the largest yet by the IPCC, which was established last year. Such is the seriousness of the claims that eight detectives will work on the case full time. They will examine whether Cheshire officers were acting in the full knowledge of their Greater Manchester colleagues when Atkinson's home was raided. Neither force now disputes they were working together to find out how the BBC had come to make the programme. Also under investigation is the decision to allow Greater Manchester police access to Atkinson's bank accounts just days before the programme was to be broadcast.

    The criminal investigation could lead to charges against individual officers and cast doubt over convictions in the trial that followed the murder investigation. Atkinson was first questioned as a witness about the murder of drug dealer Brian Waters in September 2003. James Raven, who had once been a BBC consultant, was later convicted of involvement in the killing in which the victim was whipped, tortured and burnt to death. Atkinson's name had been found in Raven's notebook. Raven, serving a 24-year sentence in Full Sutton high secruity prison, continues to protest his innocence. The producer was eliminated from the police inquiry in April last year, but not before the police had stormed his house and kept him in custody for 15 hours. The officers who arrested Atkinson will be asked to justify why they did not check the verifiable alibi given by his girlfriend as he was dragged away. They would have discovered that the couple were in a hospital 250 miles away from the scene of the crime, being told they had lost their unborn child. An internal inquiry by Greater Manchester Police found that Chief Superintendent Don Brown had not adequately performed his duties in sending a letter telling Atkinson he was not under investigation over the The Secret Policeman. Disclosures under the Freedom of Information act showed that this was not true. Brown has since taken early retirement. The investigation will raise questions about the role of Michael Todd, chief constable of Greater Manchester. There is no suggestion Todd was aware of the raid, but it is clear from documents seen by The Observer that he believed Atkinson to be behind the BBC programme before it had been broadcast. In September 2003, he wrote to the then director-general, Greg Dyke, naming Atkinson. The trials of the men held responsible for the murder of Waters (Raven, John Wilson and Otis Mathews) cost an estimated £6 million. All three cases have been referred to the Court of Appeal. Atkinson told The Observer: 'My case raises serious questions about the tactics employed by GMP in investigating officers brave enough to step forward and be counted in speaking out against racism.'
    ©The Observer

    25/7/2005- A damning assessment of race relations in Hull has emerged in a report commissioned by a race watchdog. Researchers found an "acceptance of racist behaviour" among a significant part of the population, which sometimes spilled over into violence. Agencies within the city are promoting change but have not put policy into action, the report, from the Hull Race Equality Group, concluded. Hull City Council said work was already under way to tackle race problems. Councillor Kath Lavery, of Hull City Council, said: "This report sadly confirms what we said in light of the horror of the recent attacks upon London - that too many of our residents, albeit a minority, are still struggling to cope with the presence of ethnic minorities in Hull. "We believe that the inherent tolerance of the people of this city will prevail, but the great majority of people must help by rising to the challenge of confronting the racism which blights all our lives." On Monday, the council revealed it would be attempting to reduce the number of single male asylum seekers in the city while helping more families. Anny Woods, of the Hull All Nations Alliance, said problems highlighted had existed in the city for years, but there is a determination to solve problems. Rama Banerjee, of Hull's Hindu Cultural Association, said "things had not always been good" during her 28 years in the city. But she added: "There is a buzz in the city now, things are changing. We are working together, and with the support of the city council, we know we are not alone, we feel part of the city." However, the problems could be holding back the city's much-heralded regeneration, the report's author said. "A city with a high risk of racial tension is not one to which economic and social investment is likely to be drawn, as other major towns and cities in the UK have found to their cost," said Professor Gary Craig.
    ©BBC News

    27/7/2005- A red-eyed teenage boy with tearstained cheeks is a rare sight. Even more unusual is a tracksuited group of more than 20 white lads, all phone-flipping and arm-swinging attitude, weeping and hugging a family of black asylum seekers. The final day Verah Kachepa and her four children, Natasha, 20, Alex, 17, Tony, 16, and Upile, 11, were due to spend in Britain before they were deported to Malawi was full of strange and moving moments. For the family, it was their hardest 24 hours yet, harder than when their husband and father deserted them, harder than when they were snatched at dawn by immigration officials and taken to Yarl's Wood detention centre. And then their agony was prolonged further last night - when blunders by officials meant they missed their flight from Heathrow. For the town of Weymouth, their home for the last five years, it had been a day of tears mingled with a sharp sense of betrayal after the government turned a deaf ear on a passionate campaign to give the family refugee status, despite cross-party support from MPs including Ann Widdecombe and George Galloway. The family were, said one teenager, an "anchor" in the town. "You can see they've brought together the young and the old and all ethnicities," said Ed Follis, 18. "They are such bright, bubbly, loveable people. It doesn't seem right to see them go." "The kids have been so traumatised by this. If England wants to traumatise a whole community, they've done it," said Margaret Samuel, a family friend. After barely 12 hours' notice to pack and make their own way to Heathrow, the Kachepas were surrounded by 50 friends in their small flat off the seafront yesterday lunchtime. Teenage girls hugged the family in the cramped hallway. "You're like my mum," said one girl to Mrs Kachepa. In the stairwell, young girls held up camera phones and begged Alex to give them one final rap. "Oh-oh, oh-oh," boys and girls sang along when he obliged. One of his compositions has been recorded and is played in the town's clubs. Mrs Kachepa tearfully thanked the crowd. Their local priest gave a brief blessing and sprinkled them with water, which mingled with the drizzle and the tears.

    The family arrived in Britain in 2001 to join Mr Kachepa, who was working legally as a pharmacist. Six months later, he deserted them and returned to Malawi, leaving behind a string of debts. Mrs Kachepa took on two jobs to pay them off. They learned that Mr Kachepa had moved in with a niece of Hastings Kamazu Banda, the dictator who ruled the African country for three decades. According to friends, a senior Malawian security source personally warned Mrs Kachepa not to return, echoing a threatening phone call from her ex-husband. Banda is now dead but according to independent experts his clan continues to wield a baleful influence. After Mrs Kachepa's brother and sister confronted her husband over abandoning his family they both lost their jobs. Fearing for their lives if returned, the family claimed asylum but were turned down. By now Mrs Kachepa had became a pillar of the local community, volunteering and joining church groups. Her children made friends and studied: deportation means Natasha has been forced to abandon a university place to study nursing. In March, they were woken in a dawn raid and taken by immigration officials to Yarl's Wood. Church groups, schools and residents cried out and the family were freed, allowing the children to complete their school year before their scheduled deportation. But the government would not overrule immigration officials' decision to send the Kachepas home, despite a US state department report on Malawi in February finding "instances of arbitrary arrest and detention" in the country. A Malawian-born academic described its putative democracy as an "elected oligarchy". In evidence submitted to the government, he concluded: "I am of the opinion that Mrs Kachepa would be at a serious risk of personal harassment and possible physical violence."

    "I'm scared," said Alex, as the minibus headed to Heathrow with suitcases and a toy bear squashed against the rear window. "I'm scared for my family, I'm scared for my mum and I'm scared for me. I don't know what's waiting for me at the other end and I don't know how I'll adjust." For Natasha, being deported meant a tearful farewell to her boyfriend of three years, Tom Sanderson, 20, a soldier who was injured while serving in Iraq. Mr Sanderson vowed to join the family in Malawi. "I'm out of the army as soon as possible and I'm going over. What's the point of staying in a country that doesn't support their own citizens?" The family were due to depart on a scheduled flight at 8pm last night - but bureaucratic inefficiency dealt them one final blow. Despite turning up as instructed at 6pm, immigration officials failed to produce their confiscated passports and the Kachepas were unable to board their plane. Fifteen minutes before the flight was due to depart an immigration official turned up with their paperwork but Kenyan Airlines had closed the gates. The official left without explaining to the family what they should do next. It was left to their supporters to drive them back to Weymouth late last night. "This extra delay is putting the family through serious pain and grief," said Ralph Johnson, one of the family's supporters. "Here was a high-profile case and yet they were so incompetent they weren't ready for it. This is proof of our original claim that the family have been victims of maladministration." Locals feel betrayed by their Labour MP, Jim Knight, whose surprise re-election was widely put down to his pledge to help the family. Mr Knight said he was sorry he had lost the battle. "We've not been able to prove that they are in danger if they return to Malawi, which is a functioning democracy. I've been arguing there is an overwhelming compassionate case because the family are so well integrated but unfortunately the minister and his officials have chosen to stick to the rules." One supporter, Dr John Fannon, said: "Over the past few months they have been dragged off at dawn to Yarl's Wood, released after a public outcry, used as a political football to elect Jim Knight and now left high and dry."
    ©The Guardian

    Head of local UNHCR office calls for more personnel, funding for asylum system
    By Beata Balogov·

    25/7/2005- Terrorist attacks harm nations not only through taking human lives but also by increasing tensions within the society and fuelling fear of foreigners. These fears are sometimes also directed against those who are themselves victims of violence and terror, the refugees. Terrorist attacks often result in countries taking severe measures that might in fact lock out those in genuine need of help. "Refugees are victims of persecution and violence and they indeed seek protection. Somehow, we have a strong link with them. We are all like refugees when it comes to terrorism because we all feel persecuted by them and we want protection," says Pierfrancesco Maria Natta, the head of the local Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bratislava. The Slovak Spectator spoke to Natta about the challenges that Slovakia faces during these complicated times of EU integration and the fight against terrorism.

    The Slovak Spectator (TSS): An amendment to the asylum law that came into effect on February 1, 2005, is designed to prevent abuse of the system and harmonize asylum law with EU legislation. Has the legislation proved to be effective so far?
    Pierfrancesco Maria Natta (PMN): Slovakia has been adopting the right legislation and amending it in a timely fashion. Yet, the problem is not with the legislation itself, but rather its implementation. This is not Slovakia's problem alone. All the EU countries have to transpose EU directives to their national legislation and then to implement the laws. Even countries that have much greater experience with refugees than Slovakia have problems with this process. The effective implementation is of course linked to the capacity of the administrative structure and in Slovakia these capacities are still very weak.

    TSS: UNHCR will help Slovakia become a target country for refugees, said European head of the UNHCR Pirkko Kourula after meeting Justice Minister Daniel Lipöic earlier this month. How does UNHCR want to achieve that goal?
    PMN: We have signed a Memorandum of Collaboration with the Ministry of Justice. We already have ongoing cooperation with the ministries of interior and foreign affairs. Based on this document, we will organize special trainings for the judges who are now fully involved in the asylum system. The UNHCR wants to assist the Justice Ministry in the process of the transposition of the asylum legislation. Not to influence the process, but rather to point out possible loopholes and ring the bell when we think that certain legislation might be against international standards. The ministry will inform the UNHCR about the preparations of asylum-related legislation in advance. The UNHCR also wants to assist the integration of people who are granted asylum, which can be a very difficult task. It is a good time for Slovakia to see what has been achieved in this sphere in other European countries and then to adapt these experiences to its local conditions. The task force unit, coordinated by the UNHCR, which involved the Interior Ministry and several NGOs and foreign embassies in Slovakia, concluded that more funds need to be poured into the system and that staffing needs to be improved. In Poland 600 people work at the immigration office. Here the Slovak Immigration Office has only 160 people. In Sweden there are 3,000 people working in their system. With limited staff you cannot expect people to perform in the same way as other countries perform.

    TSS: The UNHCR warned that Slovakia still lags behind in granting asylum to people. This is a problem you have been pointing out for the past couple of years. Has there been any progress yet?
    PMN: Statistics show a very sharp (80 percent) decrease in the number of people applying for asylum in Slovakia. Over the first six months of 2005, 1,410 people applied for asylum in Slovakia while last year 6,300 people applied in the same period. It means that right now the asylum system is not under pressure. Last year, we declared that the system was not able to cope with the increasing number of the refugees. You also see the recognition rate doubled this year, but it is still very low at 2.5 percent. [Last year it was 1.14 percent.] Only 10 people, compared with 431 in Poland and 2,264 in Austria. This is the lowest acceptance rate in Europe. We certainly believe that more decisions [on people's applications] are being taken but a major problem remains that almost the same number of people who are coming into the country are then disappearing and go further West. It in fact means that in 2004, about 9,000 people, excluding those with repeated application, moved further West.

    TSS: What are the target countries for the "disappeared" people? Has the disappearance rate decreased over the first six months of 2005?
    PMN: Compared with Slovakia's 80 percent decrease in the number of asylum seekers, Austria posted a 20-25 percent drop, which is a much milder decrease. While before, most of the people were applying for asylum in Slovakia before leaving the system and going to Austria, probably now many of them avoid registering in Slovakia and go directly to Austria. We cannot really prove this theory. Before, people used this system to legally cross through the country. Now they probably feel they don't have to use this system because, due to the Dublin protocol, after being registered in Slovakia, they might be returned to Slovakia after being tracked in other countries like Austria, Germany or Great Britain. It is quite a challenge for all of Europe to make Dublin effective; then there is the burden on the countries that are on the border. But if people do not register and can continue undetected, then Dublin has no purpose. This is something that needs to be analyzed most urgently.

    TSS: What could be a possible solution to this problem?
    PMN: The main goal should be to create a system that separates people who need international protection from those do not need such protection. The migrants simply need a different registration system to allow them to stay and be productive for the country. Or to be returned if they do find legal jobs. Currently, here there is still no effective system for separating migrants from asylum seekers. There are many people who are moving further west and are abusing the system and we agree with the Migration Office that not all of these people are refugees. But it is the system that allows them to move further West, and in the end it creates problems for those who in fact are in need of protection and want to apply for asylum in Slovakia. We would like to create a system that would speed up the procedure for those who have a good claim, instead of looking into all cases, including those who are obviously not refugees. We need to concentrate on the small number whose cases deserve to be heard. We need a system that would encourage these people to seek asylum in Slovakia and not go to other countries using smugglers. Such a system of course would need more trained staff with the appropriate language skills. The lack of English proficiency does create a problem and this knowledge would certainly speed up the procedures. I do not mean to say that the border police and other staff are not capable of dealing with the system, but if they had better salaries, better equipment and more colleagues, more interpreters, they would deal with it much more effectively. Then there is the Schengen regulation, which will put even more stress on border control. Recently, 50 million was given to Slovakia to control the border. Compare that with the budget of the Migration Office, whose resources are much less ( 7 million): the difference is too big. Countries tend to stick to the idea of having a strong border control instead of having an asylum system that can really be a tool to determine who comes into the country.

    TSS: What impact do terrorist attacks have on the local perception of asylum seekers.
    PMN: This is an issue, which needs to be addressed and explained. Refugees are victims of persecution and violence. They are the first ones who would like to be protected and we are all like refugees when it comes to terrorists because everybody feels persecuted by terrorists. The general reaction is often to call for the exclusion of incomers because we simply do not know who these people are. In Gabcikovo there are people of 31 nationalities asking Slovakia for protection. Again if you have an effective system that can detect who the people entering the country are, then you will also create the possibility for the local community to help the state, which has the right to protect citizens from certain groups, but certainly not from people who are coming here in hope of help. But I have not sensed any particular increase of tensions in Slovakia. A recent survey stated that 74 percent of Slovaks consider it necessary to help refugees: seven percentage points more than three years ago.

    TSS: How successful is the process of integration of refugees into Slovak society?
    PMN: We do not have many cases to integrate. But there is a big gap in that integration process. We have some housing units that have been built in cooperation with UNHCR, in Bratislava, Koöice, and Lucenec. However, the costs of the rent and electricity bills are often higher than the social benefits that the refugees get. The rent sometimes reaches Sk4,000 ( 100). We had a case of a woman with three children from Serbia-Montenegro. She has now delivered a new baby, so she cannot work. She is receiving social assistance that is below her electricity bill and rent. How can she live? There is a request for her eviction. We will talk to the authorities and tell them that it is not possible to evict a refugee on maternity leave and who is living in a house that UNHCR has co-funded. We need a policy in which you provide language and work training, which gives a person a chance to find a job and integrate into the society. If refugees have to pay more in rent than the social security they receive, then they will go to a different country and this for a country that will enter the Security Council is surely not a good "visit card".
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    Refugee centre in Witmarsum, a small village (1900 inhabitants) in the northern province Friesland, is defying Dutch minister of immigration and integration Rita Verdonk.
    By Suzette Bronkhorst

    25/7/2005- The announcement in 2004 that 26.000 refugees which haven't managed to get a legal status in the Netherlands are going to be forcibly removed has caused a lot of unrest and protest in Dutch society. Many of the refugees have been in this country for 5 years or longer, their children are born here, they go to school, speak fluent Dutch and are, for all intends and purposes, Dutch. The strongest protest came from the Dutch province Friesland, not only from its citizens but also from local authorities, who consider it their duty "to protect 'our' refugees, excuse me, we mean our citizens".

    One of the measures Minister Verdonk is taking is withdrawing funding for refugee centres around the Netherlands, to force them into closure. This is what happened to Vluchtelingenzorg Wšnseradiel (Refugee aid Witmarsum foundation) where 125 asylum seekers are cared for. A small municipality like Witmarsum doesn't have the funds to carry the costs of keeping the centre open. To keep going for the next two years (until the next Dutch general elections) 200.000 euros had to be found.

    In April of this year a few local and provincial organisations put their heads together to think of ways to keep the centre open. Witmarsum became the national symbol for resistance against the asylum policies of the government. By June, 170.000 euro had been collected, of which 80% came from people and organisations in Friesland itself. For the remaining 30.000 euro an email titled "Verdonk refuses to pay, we don't!" went out, asking a minimum of 333 people to donate 25 euro per month, over a period of 2 years. This mailing created once again publicity and interest, so on July 15 youngsters from the local youth club, who had donated the proceeds of a lottery (270 euro) to the cause, carried 7 'orange cakes', the symbol for hospitality in Friesland, into city hall with the figure 200.000 euro written on it. A spokesperson of centrum Tšmba, one of the organisers, told us that donations are still coming in.

    It looks like this time civilisation and compassion won from politics!
    ©I CARE News

    26/7/2005- Belgian police are aiming to recruit a higher number of women and immigrants to boost the representation of both population groups in the federal and local police corps. Currently, 30 percent of new recruits are women and about 4 percent are people of immigrant ancestry, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported on Tuesday. But in a new campaign to recruit a 1,000 police agents at both the federal and local level, the police advertisement is devoid of tough-looking men in combat gear. Instead, the advertisement sketches a woman's features and emphasises skills such as listening and communication. Diversity is the key word in the recruitment text. The director-general of personnel, Alain Duchatelet, said diversity relates to the recruitment of both women and immigrants. "For the latter group, we will not apply positive discrimination, but we are entirely busy with specific recruitment actions in immigrant circles," he said. Police recruited 1,300 agents in 2003, 4.2 percent of which were of immigrant ancestry and 4.4 percent of the 1,000 people recruited last year were immigrants. Pre-training courses are offered to second and third generation migrants to build up their language skills. Immigrants must have the Belgian nationality in order to become a policeman or woman. Meanwhile, despite the new focus on recruiting female police, 28 to 30 percent of new recruits to the Belgian police corps are already women, one of the highest rates in Europe, Duchatelet said. He said the police corps has come a long way since the first women were recruited in 1981, pointing out that 45 to 50 percent of new recruits to the police officer training school are women. "The higher the level, the greater number of women," Duchatelet said. There are currently 35,000 people employed by the Belgian police force, 3,500 of them civilians. Women make up 15 percent of the total, 60 percent of the civilian department and just 10 percent of the actual police corps.
    ©Expatica News

    29/7/2005- Sint-Niklaas Mayor Freddy Willockx has been under police protection for the past four weeks after being sent death threats in the mail. Police said Willockx received a death threat shortly after he exchanged harsh words with the extreme-right Flemish Interest party during a meeting of the Sint-Niklaas Council four weeks ago. "Because it was impossible to judge where the letter came from, we took the case very seriously. The mayor has since then been protected by our officers," town police commissioner Jack van Peer said. Another death threat was sent to the mayor in the weeks that followed. "With a bit of luck you will end up in a wheelchair, if you have bad luck then it will be coffin," the letter said. Willockx also received three letters with pornographic photos. Police decided against going public with the case until a colleague of Willockx opened up a letter containing white powder on Thursday, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported on Friday. Alarm bells were immediately triggered, but tests later revealed the white powder was simply powder sugar and not anything dangerous. Police commissioner Van Peer has refused to confirm a possible link between the death threats and Willockx' argument with the Flemish Interest. "But it is the only clue at the moment," he admitted. The argument was sparked after the Flemish Interest claimed immigrant youths were guilty of recently vandalsing graves at the Tereken cemetery. The party claimed police and politicians were trying to cover the fact up, but police inquiries actually revealed that native Belgian youth were the culprits. Willockx subsequently demanded an apology from the Flemish Interest, but the party refused to yield ground. He then lodged a complaint with the anti-racism bureau CGKR.
    ©Expatica News

    26/7/2005- Women earned on average 75 percent of the net salary Belgian men took home between 1998 and 2002, but the wage gap is starting to decline. Economist Jozef Konings also wrote in the Leuven Catholic University magazine 'Leuven Economic Viewpoint' more than 50 percent of the gap can be attributed to discrimination. Konings based his findings on an analysis of the results of a survey of 2,000 people conducted as part of a study into Belgian households, newspaper 'Het Laatste Nieuws' reported on Tuesday. The economist studied the affects of a range of objective criteria such as the type of job, the level of education, the industry sector and the number of hours worked While the average gap between the wages of men and women was 31.1 percent, the gap fell to 17.4 percent when taking in the aforementioned factors. "This remaining part of the wage gap can be put down to discrimination," the economist said. However, the research also revealed that wage gap between men and women is starting to decline. In 2002, the average wage women earned was 79 percent of that earned by men, compared with 75 percent for the period 1998-2002. Konings believes the narrowing of the wage gap can be attributed to the government's equal opportunities policy. A decline has also been detected in other countries. However, the amount of discrimination is higher among the lower-educated, with almost 70 percent of the wage gap in this group attributed to discrimination. Just 42 percent of the wage gap can be attributed to discrimination among the higher-educated working population. In highly competitive sectors, the level of discrimination is lower than in less competitive sectors, with 57 and 70 percent discrimination respectively.
    ©Expatica News

    23/7/2005- Latvian police have arrested protesters after they shouted insults and threw eggs at people taking part in the Baltic state's first gay pride march. The few dozen marchers were outnumbered by hundreds of protesters who blocked the narrow streets of the capital. Police were forced to alter the march route and to form a chain around the parade participants to protect them. The march had sparked outrage in Latvia and only went ahead after a court overturned a council ban on the event. Officials said that six of the protesters had been detained for their part in disrupting the march. Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis had opposed the event, saying Riga should "not promote things like that". "For sexual minorities to parade in the very heart of Riga, next to the Doma church, is unacceptable," he told LNT television on Wednesday. One of those who took part in Saturday's march, 61-year-old Lars-Peter Sjouberg, from Sweden, said he had been shocked by the offensive remarks made by protesters. "Protesters here were really aggressive [...] but it won't stop me from helping my Latvian friends fight for their rights."
    ©BBC News

    Police departments in three federal states use a software program that records whether or not a person involved in a case is homosexual. One parliamentarian said it reminds him of the Nazis' notorious "Pink Lists."

    25/7/2005- The computer programs used by the states of Bavaria, Thuringia and North Rhine-Westphalia to record cases and track their progress allow investigators to categorize suspects as homosexual or the scenes of crimes as "locations frequented by gays and lesbians." By entering the abbreviation *omosex*, personnel can call up all data files on cases in which homosexuals or gay locales are involved. Data protection officials and gay and lesbian advocates have been outraged by the discovery, noting that the so-called "homosexual paragraph" -- the law that once made homosexuality punishable by law -- was struck from the books in 1994. The data protection commissioner from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Bettina Sokol, said the practice was "very questionable," telling the newsmagazine Der Spiegel that information about sexual orientation belongs to a category of data that should have the highest degree of protection and only be recorded in exceptional cases and under strict guidelines. According to the magazine, the departments of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia have now blocked the category "location frequented by homosexuals" from their digital case files, but the key word "homosexual" is still enabled. In a letter to the interior ministers of Thuringia and Bavaria, Volker Beck, a parliamentarian who often addresses gay and lesbian issues, said the police software in use "brings up unpleasant memories of old police practices such as the keeping of 'pink lists'." Those lists were records of gays that were kept during the Nazi era and used in the persecution of the minority group. The association that represents German gay and lesbian police employees, VelsPol, says it suspects that the practice of saving the category "homosexual" on case files is widespread. It notes on its Web site that one of the computer programs in question, IGVP, has designed its categorization system so that the key words "location frequented by homosexuals" is side by side with "peepshow," "brothel," and "prostitution area."
    ©Deutsche Welle

    Sinti and Roma in Europe have long been two ethnic groups persecuted by governments and those in the "majority" alike. Now, one German state is recognizing them as a national "minority."

    26/7/2005- Rhineland-Palatinate is the first state in Germany to recognize as a national minority the roughly 8,000 Romas and Sintis who live there. In 1997, the federal government recognized the 50,000 Danish in the north and the 60,000 Sorbs who reside in the southeast as national minorities. Rhineland-Palatinate's premier, Kurt Beck, and the head of the state's Sinti and Roma association, Jacques Delfeld, signed the agreement on Monday. "We want to send a signal with this agreement against the discrimination and for the rights of Sinti and Roma in our society," Beck said after the signing. Recognition of European minorities on a continent-wide basis dates back only to the EU's Framework Agreement, passed in the 1990s. Germany ratified it in 1997. With it come certain responsibilities towards minorities. In Rhineland-Palatinate, the state will promote special support for Sinti and Roma in kindergartens, schools and colleges. This measure is supposed to level the playing field for the two groups in the educational system. The Central Committee of German Sinti and Roma, in Heidelberg, has been demanding for over a decade that an end be brought to what it believes to be discriminatory reporting against the people it represents. This comes primarily in the form of arrest warrants and reports. Police sometimes include the terms "Sinti," "Roma" or even "Gypsy" in their reports, which are frequently published in the media. The Central Committee says the procedure helps to propagate negative stereotypes. The new agreement in Rhineland-Palatinate will prohibit police from mentioning the ethnic identity of Sinti or Roma when publishing criminal reports in the state. The Sinti and Roma languages will also be promoted. Whether Berlin will take up the matter and put the recognition of the two groups on the legislative agenda remains to be seen. So far, the government describes the Sinti and Roma as an "ethnic group," which allow them some special protection. But the federal government has not yet taken the final step, saying that the Sinti and Roma do not meet one of the five criteria set up in the EU framework -- namely that they do not have a permanent region they reside in. Over 500,000 Sinti and Roma were killed by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. Countries around Europe still systematically persecute and discriminate against the ethnic group that many do not understand.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    Turkey's foreign minister, Abdullah G¸l, has criticised Switzerland for briefly detaining a Turkish politician on suspicion of violating Swiss anti-racism laws.

    25/7/2005- Dogu PerinÁek, who is leader of Turkey's Workers' Party, has twice denied that the killings of Armenians around the time of the First World War amounted to genocide. He is the subject of two criminal investigations. Under Swiss law, any act of denying, belittling or justifying genocide is a violation of the country's anti-racism laws. "It is not possible for us to accept these things to be done to the leader of a political party in Turkey," G¸l was quoted in the H¸rriyet newspaper. "Do these actions suit a country like Switzerland?" he asked.

    The public prosecutor of Winterthur questioned PerinÁek on Saturday for more than two hours after a news conference he gave on Friday in Glattbrugg, near Zurich. In the speech honouring the 82nd anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne, which fixed the borders of modern-day Turkey, PerinÁek called claims of genocide against the Armenians an imperialist lie, authorities said. PerinÁek is also under investigation from authorities in canton Vaud after a complaint from a Swiss-Armenian Society over a speech he gave in Lausanne in May. G¸l described Saturday's questioning as "unacceptable" and "absolutely contrary to the principle of free speech". On Sunday, PerinÁek repeated his denial of the Armenian genocide at celebrations attended by about 2,000 Turks near the Beau-Rivage hotel, scene of the treaty negotiations.

    About 300 Kurds, who also marked the anniversary, demonstrated in front of the Palais de Rumine where the treaty was signed. Speakers criticised the treaty, which had "made a mockery of the hope for freedom" of Turkish minorities. Armenians say 1.5 million of their people were killed as the Ottoman Empire forced them from eastern Turkey between 1915 and 1923. They argue that this was a deliberate campaign of genocide by Turkey's rulers at that time. Turks say the death count is inflated and insist that Armenians were killed or displaced as the Ottoman Empire tried to secure its border with Russia and stop attacks by Armenian militants. Switzerland and Turkey have argued over the issue in the past. In June, a Turkish cabinet minister postponed a visit to Switzerland to protest against a Swiss investigation of a Turkish historian who made a similar speech denying that the mass killings of Armenians in the early 1900s amounted to genocide. Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey had been scheduled to travel to Turkey in 2003, but Ankara withdrew its invitation after the parliament of a western Swiss canton recognised the killings of Armenians in Turkey as genocide. Calmy-Rey visited Turkey in March.

    Turkey should recognise the Armenian genocide and stop blackmailing Switzerland, says Swiss parliamentarian Erwin Jutzet.

    28/7/2005- Meanwhile, the Swiss ambassador in Ankara has had to defend himself against a barrage of criticism concerning the Swiss investigation of a Turkish politician. "Turkey has to stop reacting so sensitively to such events," Jutzet, the president of the House of Representatives' foreign-policy commission, told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper on Wednesday. "It would do better to recognise once and for all the genocide of the Armenians." On Tuesday Turkey presented a protest note to the Swiss ambassador in Ankara and the Swiss foreign ministry in Bern. The note concerned the investigation of a Turkish politician on suspicion of violating Swiss anti-racism laws. Dogu PerinÁek, leader of Turkey's Workers' Party, has twice denied that the killings of Armenians around the time of the First World War amounted to genocide. He is the subject of two criminal investigations. Jutzet said it was up to Turkey to make a move "instead of always taking offence and resorting to blackmail". He added that the constant denial of genocide could have ramifications for Turkey's much sought-after entry into the European Union. "If Switzerland were to turn its back on Turkey, it would be a bad sign for EU entry," he said.

    On Wednesday the Swiss ambassador in Ankara, Walter Gyger, was told in no uncertain terms about Turkey's dissatisfaction concerning the PerinÁek investigation. Gyger countered by pointing to Switzerland's anti-racism laws and the strict separation of judicial and political powers. Under Swiss law any act of denying, belittling or justifying genocide is a violation of the country's anti-racism laws. The Turkish ambassador in Bern, Alev KiliÁ, was due to meet the relevant representatives from the Swiss foreign ministry on Thursday. The press attachÈ at the Turkish embassy in Bern, Sibel Gal, told swissinfo: "This has caused discomfort and disappointment in Turkey, and such a measure falls short of freedom of speech and expression which is one of the most fundamental human rights." "It's even more regrettable that this was launched by the authorities in a friendly country whose reputation for upholding human rights is well known." Gal added that PerinÁek's views "reflected historical facts based on scientific and academic findings of events during the First World War at the easterm front of the Ottoman empire".

    The public prosecutor in Winterthur questioned PerinÁek on Saturday for more than two hours after a news conference he gave on Friday in Glattbrugg, near Zurich. In the speech honouring the 82nd anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne, which fixed the borders of modern-day Turkey, PerinÁek called claims of genocide against the Armenians an imperialist lie, authorities said. Turkey's foreign minister, Abdullah G¸l, described Saturday's questioning as "unacceptable" and "absolutely contrary to the principle of free speech". "Do these actions suit a country like Switzerland?" he asked. On Sunday PerinÁek repeated his denial of the Armenian genocide at celebrations attended by about 2,000 Turks near the Beau-Rivage hotel, scene of the treaty negotiations. The House of Representatives has recognised as genocide the expulsion and massacre of more than a million Armenians, but the government has not.

    25/7/2005- Nine in 10 Greek judges and policemen believe that some of the approximately 1 million immigrants living in the country are to some degree responsible for the rise in crime over recent years, according to a study published yesterday. More than 88 percent of judges and over 93 percent of police officers believe that migrants are either totally or partially to blame for an increase in the crime rate over the last decade, according to a survey conducted by Evangelia Vagena-Paleologou, a doctor of criminology and a judicial official. Nine in 10 judges also describe the number of migrants living in Greece as "high" or "very high," while almost three-quarters of policemen say that the presence of foreigners in Greece has exacerbated unemployment. Some 1 million immigrants make up just over a 10th of the population in Greece. Of the 250 judges who took part in the survey, three-quarters felt that the public has a negative view of migrants. Half of the 412 policemen questioned said they believe that Greeks are racist and almost 14 percent said they thought immigrants should be treated more strictly than Greeks.

    25/7/2005- HIV-positive immigrants in Sweden are being sent back to their homelands, despite the fact that they will not have access to treatment when there. Swedish government policy says that people with live-threatening illnesses who cannot get treatment in their homelands should be granted Swedish residency. But according to an article in Dagens Nyheter, the Swedish Migration Board does not take a person's ability to afford treatment in their home country into account when deciding whether to deport them. Inger Lindgren, at the HIV Clinic at the Karolinska University Hospital told DN that the rules required only "that there is one tablet in the whole doesn't matter whether this costs a million kronor." According to a spokeswoman for the Alien Appeals Board, the rules are based on the principle that it would be too expensive for Sweden to give treatment to all who need it. But Lars M–berg, an infectious diseases specialist at the Karolinska University Hospital, said that he did not believe that there was a great risk of "medical tourism", as most HIV positive foreigners in Sweden are diagnosed here. "Testing is not widespread in Africa or Thailand," he said. ‰sa Kronberg, legal adviser at the Swedish Association for HIV-positive People, told DN that Sweden has an "ethical and moral responsibility" to continue treatment that has already started.
    ©The Local

    25/7/2005- On July 19 the deportation from Belarus of American professor Terry Bosch was made public. This was the second deportation from Belarus in a week. On July 15, a report appeared that Andrzej Buczacki, an advisor to the Polish Embassy, would have to leave the country. But whereas the diplomat was given until July 21 to prepare, the professor was deported immediately. Terry Bosch taught international law at Belarus State University (BGU) and also organized charitable events for the country's educational institutions. Bosch's family, who had lived in Minsk for two years, was given only two hours to leave the country. "On Friday, July 15, I was warned that my two daughters, aged 10 and 13 years, and I were being expelled from Belarus. When I got back to our apartment, I immediately phoned the American Embassy, whose employees began calling the republic's Foreign Ministry. They were hoping we'd be given at least until Monday to leave the country," Bosch said. Bosch is certain that the approaching presidential elections planned for next year were the reason for his deportation. "I did everything I could to help the Belarusian people. I think I'm the last person from the West who tried to understand the Belarusian authorities and work with them to help this country. But now I'm convinced that their situation is hopeless. There's no turning back now. I really don't want to leave the wonderful people who live in this country. But today, before taking part once again in the 2006 presidential elections, Lukashenko has started a great purge against Western residents," Bosch wrote in a letter to the press center of the Belarusian website Khartiya-97.

    There has been no official explanation of the reasons for the professor's expulsion from Belarus. In an interview with Kommersant, Maria Ivanshina, the head of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry's press service, would say only that "this was not a deportation; it's just that his visa was not extended by the competent authorities." The deportation of foreign citizens has been no surprise to anyone in Belarus for a long time, just like the closure of all non-state educational institutions, which, in President Lukashenko's opinion, were a breeding ground for the opposition. Last year, the Belarusian authorities closed the European Humanities University. More than a thousand students were thrown out as a result. The Yakub Kolas Belarusian Humanitarian Lycee [Yakub Kolas was a Belarusian poet] was disbanded even earlier. Today, this school continues to exist underground, operating in both Lithuania and Poland. A British professor who also taught at BGU was recently expelled from the country. Aleksandr Kozulin, the rector of BGU, was fired from his position and almost ended up in prison after state television accused him of financial irregularities. However, the prosecutor did not file the corresponding charge against him. Incidentally, the campaign against the rector began shortly after the 2001 presidential elections, when Lukashenko admitted that young people didn't support him. A couple of days ago, the Belarusian government announced it would no longer issue one-year Belarusian visas to humanitarian workers arriving from the West. And Aleksandr Radkov, Belarus' minister of education, issued an order according to which students observed taking part in opposition activities would be excluded from Belarus' higher educational institutions. Several students were expelled from BGU's faculty of journalism for cooperating with the non-state press.

    28/7/2005- Poland has decided to recall its ambassador from Belarus after a series of scandals involving the Polish minority in the country. Poland's Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld quoted by RIA-Novosti news agency said the ambassador will travel to Warsaw for consultations and "will not return to Minsk (capital of Belarus) till the situation in Belarus is settled." The ministry has already addressed the European Commission in order to take measures to support Poland and defend the rights of the Polish minority in Belarus. Earlier, external relations spokesperson for the European Commission, Amadeu Altafaj Tardio, called the incident "a bilateral matter between Belarus and Poland." He added, however, that the Commission is "concerned by the situation of all minorities and of civil society in Belarus. We will continue to monitor the situation closely." Relations between the two countries have deteriorated during the last months. One of the reasons was the situation around the Union of Poles in the Belarus city of Grodno. In March, the union elected its new leadership but Belarus found it illegitimate and insisted on the former leadership being reinstated. In April, the Belarus authorities stopped the edition of the union's periodical, Glos znad Niemna, and arrested its reporters. After that, the authorities started to release a new periodical under the same name but not authorized by the Union of Poles. Poland's Senate condemned this step stressing that the new periodical claims it is supported by the Polish Senate, although Poland stopped financing the magazine after the incident. On Wednesday, union activists were detained by Belarus police. They were all released overnight but the police have not let them back into their headquarters referring to an order by the Justice Ministry that states the former leadership of the union must be reinstated. Over the last three months, Belarus expelled three Polish diplomats, prompting Poland into tit-for-tat deportations of Belarusian diplomats. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said his country will not let Poland interfere with its interior affairs.

    Ataka's extremist programme sounds barely credible, but it has already become parliament's fourth largest party.
    By Albena Shkodrova, the Bulgaria director of the Balkans Investigative Reporting Network, a localised IWPR project.

    27/7/2005- On the first day Ataka took power Bulgaria would withdraw from NATO. On the second it would reconsider its agreement with the European Union, reopen the two oldest reactors of its Soviet-era nuclear power plant at Kozloduy and announce plans to double the size of the army. On the third day, Ataka would terminate its relationship with the World Bank and the IMF, ban ethnic minority parties and cut programmes in minority languages in the state media. This is how the first three working days of a government led by a popular new nationalist party in Bulgaria would pan out according to the pronouncements of its flamboyant and controversial leader, Volen Siderov. Ataka, which was founded in April, is a political phenomenon. Siderov is a former journalist who once edited a reformist newspaper, Demokratsia. He drifted into radical nationalism, publishing books that were attacked for alleged racism, and was expelled from his post as a commentator on a national daily newspaper. Over the last year, his cable television programme, Ataka, has drawn protests from most human rights organisations, often on account of its crude generalisations about the Roma or Turkish communities. Siderov claims that gypsies were guilty of committing "genocide against Bulgarians". In April, Siderov and a dozen other politicians registered a party named after his controversial TV programme. While the big centrist parties wrestled each other for votes in the June 25 parliamentary elections, Ataka slipped ahead of them. As a result, it emerged the fourth largest party in parliament, after the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, the former ruling National Movement Simeon The Second, NDSV, and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, DPS. Moreover, its success in the June 25 vote may mark only the beginning of the rise in Ataka's fortunes, as Bulgaria's political crisis continues to unravel. After the BSP failed to form a coalition government with the DPS earlier this week, there was widespread talk of a new round of parliamentary elections that could well see Ataka leapfrog even further ahead. A government espousing Ataka's policies would clearly stun the world. In reality, the shock tactics are deliberate. The party exists to reject the last government's policies and it has no intention of leaving the opposition ranks for now. "We are not going to form coalitions or participate in governments," one Ataka member of parliament explained to the local press. He compared his party's role to that a horse fly, which stings and torments the big beasts around it.

    Bulgaria's politicians are uniformly hostile to the new group, and all the parties in parliament ruled out cooperation with Ataka, which many have accused of espousing Nazi-style policies. Party members furiously deny the charge. "We are tired of responding to ridiculous accusations about us being racist xenophobes or endangering minority rights," Pavel Shopov, a member of Ataka, told Balkans Crisis Report, BCR. However, Siderov has hardly allayed concerns with his most recent stunts. A day after the election, he repeated an earlier Ataka demand that minority language TV broadcasts be shut down and those who had allowed such programmes to start in the first place be prosecuted. "One of the first things we will do is shut down the hateful news in Turkish on national TV," Siderov declared on June 26. "We will demand punishment for those traitors who allowed the broadcasts." Ataka's programme is an equally colourful ragbag of populist, nationalist and socialist slogans. It calls for a ban on foreigners buying land in Bulgaria, the revision of major privatisation deals, the enlargement of the army, the return of the death penalty and a new all-encompassing law defining "national treason". Pavel Shopov, however, insists his party has been widely misunderstood and that its basic orientation is pacifist. "Which neo-Nazi party, as some wrongly define us, would advocate peace?" he asked. He defended the party's right to demand "a monolithic country, which is not subject to division on the basis of ethnic, religious or cultural differences". Tackling the question of minority rights, Shopov added bluntly, "We think there are no minorities in Bulgaria." Shopov would admit only that there exist certain ethnic and religious groupings, which should not be encouraged to isolate themselves from the mainstream through the use of different languages. Ataka's strong opposition to the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which represents ethnic Turks, was based on a strict reading of the constitution that bans ethnic parties, he added. Siderov refused to answer BCR's questions on the party's identity and policies.

    For all its loudly proclaimed moderation, there is little doubt that Ataka sees itself - and is seen - as a similar phenomenon to France's Front National and other far-right parties in Europe. After the Bulgarian elections, the Freedom Party in Austria, the Front National, the Polish Samoobrona and the Russian Rodina all indicated that they recognised Siderov's group as an ally. However, some observers say these relatively well-established parties may well draw back from forming explicit ties to such an overtly racist organisation. "No EU countries would allow a party with such a degree of explicit racism or xenophobia to enter parliament," said Krasimir Kunev, from the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. Kunev's colleague, Yonko Grozev, alleges that some of Siderov's statements violate national laws and international agreements signed by Bulgaria. If that is the case, no one threatened Siderov with legal action. In fact, at this stage, he is the one who is publicly dismissing Bulgaria's politicians as criminals and claiming that their proper place - not his - is in jail.
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    28/7/2005- Bulgaria's Socialist Party (BSP) - the winner of last month's election - has failed to form a new government, its leader Sergei Stanishev says. He wanted to form a coalition with a small, mainly ethnic Turkish party, but MPs voted against the plan. The BSP won the elections with 31% of the vote, ahead of the ruling centrists led by ex-king Simeon Saxe-Coburg. Mr Saxe-Coburg might now get another chance to form a government - but analysts say that will be difficult. Bulgaria is due to become a member of the European Union in 2007, but must carry out a series of reforms to meet the entry requirements. The European Commission says it hopes "a strong and stable government will be formed as soon as possible and that the government will continue the preparations for accession". The country's bid might be delayed if the political deadlock forces Bulgarians to go back to the polls for new elections. "With the lack of a necessary majority in parliament, we have reached the conclusion that the Socialist party's mandate for forming a government has been exhausted," Mr Stanishev said. MPs narrowly rejected the cabinet list presented by the BSP and the liberal, mainly ethnic-Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF). They jointly account for only 116 of the 240 deputies elected in the 25 June polls. The ex-king's Simeon II National Movement (NMS) came second in the election with just under 20% of the vote, ahead of the MRF with 12.7%. A radical nationalist group called Ataka won 8% - enough to enter parliament. It challenges Bulgaria's tentative efforts to integrate its Turkish and Roma (Gypsy) minorities.
    ©BBC News

    28/7/2004- The processing of visa applications from Chinese English-language students is to come under more rigorous guidelines. The move follows the drowning of six Chinese and Mongolian illegal immigrants off the coast of Sicily in Easter, which had fueled suspicions that Chinese people were obtaining visas to study English here with the sole intention of using the island as a springboard to Europe. Last month, the police concluded an investigation into the way Maltese diplomats in China processed visas. Although they had found no irregularities, the Foreign Ministry had established that administrative procedures could have been followed more strictly by embassy staff. Feltom, the body representing English language schools, yesterday said agreement on the new guidelines had been reached in a meeting on July 18 between Home Affairs Minister Tonio Borg, Tourism Minister Francis Zammit Dimech, Commissioner of Police John Rizzo and the president of Feltom, John Dimech. Under the guidelines, interviews at the Maltese Embassy in Beijing will be conducted by more than one person, Feltom said in a letter to its members released to the press yesterday. The vetting of the applicants by the police immigration branch will be carried out prior to the interview, so that interviews will not be meaningless, The immigration branch and the embassy will maintain records of Chinese agents and English language schools in Malta. Keeping a profile of agents and schools will enable them to take the necessary action and blacklist those who do not comply with the procedures and obligations. Feltom quoted Dr Borg as saying that language schools should be more selective and recruit students from preferred regions in China, since there was a problem with Chinese students coming to Malta to learn English and not returning to their country.

    All language schools will be required to submit weekly reports to the immigration branch about students who absent themselves from studies. For this purpose, surprise inspection visits will be carried out by the immigration officers at language schools. Language schools will be required to inform the immigration branch of the students' departure details at least a week prior to the termination of their studies. Extensions will only be granted upon confirmation that students have attended their studies regularly and that students have sufficient funds for their stay in Malta. Mr Dimech expressed his satisfaction with the new guidelines and hoped that such measures would not just bring the situation back to normal but enhance it. He reminded the ministers that Feltom firmly believes Malta should introduce a student visa, as the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand have had for several years. The ministers agreed to look into this, Feltom said. Following the police investigation, all the diplomatic staff at the Beijing embassy were to be recalled because the credibility of visa processing has been "irreversibly prejudiced", the Foreign Ministry had said. The investigation had been launched following allegations about irregularities in the issuing of visas made in Parliament last year by Labour MP Leo Brincat and claims about the behaviour of a diplomat made in The Malta Independent on Sunday in March. Throughout their investigation, the police had refused visas to most Chinese nationals.
    ©Times of Malta

    26/7/2005- Like thousands of jobless and hopeless souls before him, Mohammed Ben Hsin set out from Tunisia for Italy in the fall of 2002 on an overcrowded, rickety boat that was intercepted by the coast guard before it could reach shore. He soon found himself behind locked doors and barbed wire in a "reception center" just outside this southern town on the heel of the Italian boot. The center was run by a celebrity priest, the Rev. Cesare Lodeserto, who had been praised by Italy's president, lionized in the news media, and blessed by Pope John Paul II for his work sheltering immigrants. But Ben Hsin and 15 other former inmates of the Regina Pacis facility tell a much different story, a dark tale of degradation and abuse that has divided city residents and highlighted Italians' deep misgivings about the waves of desperate newcomers sweeping across their borders. Lodeserto and 16 others are facing a host of criminal charges, the most shocking of which are based on the allegations of Ben Hsin and his fellow North Africans. Rounded up after they escaped from the facility in November 2002, the men were tortured and humiliated at the hands of the priest and the Italian paramilitary police who worked for him, according to the charges. First, Ben Hsin and several other inmates say, Lodeserto, known here as "Don Cesare," watched and participated while carabinieri guards and other staff members beat them with truncheons. Then, the inmates say, the guards forced them to eat pork, in a mockery of the Muslim ban on that meat, by shoving it into their mouths with the batons. "They pushed pork down my throat, and they left me outside with no clothes," Ben Hsin said in an interview, repeating his court testimony. "Don Cesare ordered it." Some of the inmates were severely bruised, allegedly from the beatings, and prosecutors have charged a doctor with filing a false report claiming that the bruises came from falls during the escape attempt. Lodeserto also has been charged with obstruction of justice over allegations that he tried to intimidate witnesses into changing their testimony. Prosecutors say he ordered a woman to falsely accuse a key witness of raping her. In a separate case, prosecutors have accused Lodeserto of illegally confining several Moldovan women in another part of the facility. The women had been brought to Italy as part of a sex-trafficking ring, and, having fled their captors, had been granted immigration permits that allowed them to move about freely.

    Many years
    In a third case, prosecutors have charged Lodeserto with misapplying what they say was more than two million euros (more than $2.3 million in today's dollars) in public money over three years that was supposed to pay for the upkeep of the immigrants. The allegations of witness-tampering led a judge to grant a prosecutor's request to jail Lodeserto in March. He later was granted house arrest and then freed after investigators secured sworn testimony from key witnesses, prosecutors said. Under the delay-prone, three-tier Italian justice system, it will be many years before his cases reach a final disposition. In addition to highlighting the plight of immigrants in Italy, the scandal has underscored the increasing willingness of a new generation of prosecutors to take on the Catholic Church. Prosecutors began investigating the center after they discovered what appeared to be a second set of accounting ledgers for it in an unrelated matter. They opened the other cases after the inmates complained to human-rights activists. "I am a Catholic. I know the value of Catholicism," said Carolina Elia, a lead prosecutor in the case. "There is very little Catholic in all of this."

    'Like a strict father'
    Through his attorney, Lodeserto denied the criminal charges and said he never beat inmates. After agreeing to a telephone interview, Lodeserto did not respond to calls. He and his defenders also have argued that it was sometimes necessary to be "tough" or "strict" with the inmates. "A few times I behaved like a strict father, but what could I do? These are young girls, easy prey for men looking to fool them," Lodeserto said in court earlier this year. "Some humanitarian work needs a little rigidity in behavior," said Lodeserto's attorney, Pasquale Corleto. "He may have engaged in severe behavior, as needed to be done to manage a community as diverse as that one." This "tough love" defense has resonance in Italy, where many people openly express suspicion and hostility toward migrants from the developing world. Although Lodeserto resigned as head of the center after his arrest, the Lecce archbishop and other prominent church figures have rallied to his defense. So have many residents of Lecce, to the chagrin of the authorities. "I think it's possible that Don Cesare may have been a little severe in his actions," said Lecce's center-right mayor, Adriana Poli Bortone. "But these are not very tranquil people. They have a disposition that is quite violent." Overall, she said of the prosecution: "I am very sad about it, and I feel personally that it's a great injustice." Antonio Buscicchio, 78, a pensioner speaking in Lecce's main square, used even blunter language. Immigrants "are like animals," he said. "They're dirty, and they live on top of one another. If it was up to me, we wouldn't let any more in."

    But concerns over immigration do not stem solely from racism and xenophobia. Italy, once a rich source of migrants to the United States, Australia and Canada, is now one of the main gateways for poor, desperate refuge-seekers from North Africa and the Balkans to sneak illegally into European Union nations. Migrants pay smugglers hundreds or thousands of dollars for the stealth passage across the Mediterranean or the Adriatic Seas, and many often drown in the attempt. Those who are not captured by authorities can work only illegally, in a country with an anemic economy and high unemployment. Often, they become a burden on society. Just last month, 252 would-be migrants were rescued by Italian authorities off Sicily and placed in an overcrowded detention center on the island of Lampedusa. Italy's response to what some call an invasion has been a series of tough laws facilitating the detention and expulsion of immigrants. Last year, authorities flew more than 1,000 immigrants back to Libya without a hearing. In a report released last week, the human-rights group Amnesty International criticized Italy for not giving migrants a chance to seek political asylum in accordance with international human-rights standards. The report also questioned the system of reception centers such as the one in Lecce, citing allegations of abuse at the centers by lawyers, aid workers and journalists from across the country. What is striking about the tough stance is that Italy appears to need immigrants more than almost any country in the world. With a birthrate far below replacement level, Italy's population is aging rapidly, and the country is hurtling toward a pension crisis. "I always thought Italy was a great place, a place we could find a job," said Anis Loro, 29, a witness in the case against Lodeserto. "This has turned into a nightmare."
    ©Philadelphia Inquirer

    25/7/2005- The hot, lazy days of summer send many people on holiday, and make interesting news more difficult to find. Perhaps this is why Italian and British papers are filling quite a few columns with slanderous and inflammatory stories against Roma. For almost two months, the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, owned by the Italian Prime minister's brother Paolo Berlusconi, has given disproportionate attention to the situation of Roma in the regions surrounding Milan and Rome. This newspaper has extensively covered the situation of Roma evictions from via Capo Rizzuto in Milan their ongoing situation in charity housing provided by Casa della Carita. Almost daily updates of the political agreements and disagreements of local institutions surrounding the case are provided on the newspaper's website. Similarly, the papers have issued several reports describing demonstrations being held by local inhabitants of via di Castel di Guido in Rome against the displacement of a group of Roma from a camp site to a more developed residential site. The Il Giornale reports continually cast the Roma in a poor light, reinforcing stereotypes that the Roma are dirty and worthless. The paper reports quotes such as those on the demonstration signs addressed to the mayor of Rome, Mr. Veltroni: "Nomads Again! Thanks Mr Veltroni: You are Making this Area the Garbage Dump of Rome!". In addition the newspaper continues to use words such as ëterrorized' to describe the Italian families who will be affected by the Roma; or to refer to the Romany people as ëzingaros,' a term with a derogatory meaning similar to ëGippo' in English. These tactics are similar to the linguistic approach, reported earlier this summer by Dzeno, of two British tabloids who continue to promote racism against Roma through inflammatory language and stories. The Sun and The Daily Express demonstrated these tactics once again in three recent articles describing the efforts of non-Roma to evict Roma families from land near the town of Ilchester, Somerset (UK). The articles featured expressions such as ëterrorized villagers,' and ëthe invasion of Roma and referred to the Roma people as ëscum.' As horrifying as it is to see newspapers of any sort promote racist attitudes and beliefs, the British publications are only tabloids. It is far more disturbing to note these underhanded tactics being used by ërespectable' Italian newspapers.
    ©Dzeno Association

    By Mara Vladimirova for Antifa-Net in Moscow

    July 2005- Nobody knows exactly how many Gypsies live in the Russian Federation. Some estimates say 150,000 people while others other give an approximate figure of one million (Russia's population as a whole is 144 million). In both cases, the count is probably inaccurate because, traditionally, Gypsies are nomadic tribes that do not have a permanent place of residence and do not pay much attention to state census demands. Although, the Gypsies are nominally citizens of the Russian Federation, they remain social "outlaws" as in the past and opt not to conform to a society that oppresses them and discriminates against them. Russian Gypsies can be divided into two big groups, the Roma and Luli. Historically, the Roma first appeared in Russia in the 16th century but it was only at the beginning of the 19th century that they came to Moscow and St. Petersburg. Classic Russian literature of the 19th century painted a romantic image of Roma people as vivacious musicians, dancers and actors very popular with Russian aristocrats. This abstract idealised image still exists in heads of countless people but the sight of real Gypsies in the streets seems to provoke feelings of hostility, anger and fear of being robbed. The Roma are often regarded as "home Gypsies" with a more regular and fixed way of life but few have higher education and few are integrated in contemporary society. During the Soviet era, considerable energy was spent on spreading Communist ideas among the Gypsies to try to restrict their nomadic life and to involve them more in the process of collectivisation of society. During the Second World War, of course, Gypsies fought against Hitler fascism as soldiers of the Red Army. After the collapse of the USSR, however, the Gypsies returned to their traditional way of live as outsiders.

    Though the economic and social situation of the Gypsies in Russia in general is poor, the worst situation is faced by the Luli. Luli is a common name for numerous groups of Gypsies from Tajikistan, or those associated with them, who came to Russia en masse after the economic crises and civil wars in the Asian Republics during the period from 1992 to 1997. Now, they are frequently seen, mothers with several children, sitting in the streets of the big cities and begging at the same time as enduring the rigours of the rainy Russian autumn and cold Russian winter. Many Russians mistake them for Tajiks because the Luli dress more like Asians and have an Asian appearance. Every facet of social, political and economic difficulty accompanies the life of Gypsies in Russia. According to research by the European Centre for the Rights of Roma People, Roma communities all over Russia live in deep poverty, deprived of the possibility of obtaining education, jobs, housing and medical help. In practice, this means, for example, that ordinary schools try to find ways not to accept Gypsy children. Even if they are accepted, their attendance is rarely encouraged or enforced. Prejudice is so widespread that Russian pupils refuse to share tables with Gypsy children and that a school textbook could contain a warning not to touch Gypsies because they "spread maladies". The educational problems are compounded by the fact that most Roma, and especially Luli, do not speak Russian. Nevertheless, there are no special classes, schools or textbooks for them in their own languages. Discrimination in the health sector is rampant. In one case a Gypsy woman had to give birth to a child in a field after being rejected by a hospital's emergency department.

    Oleg Gusev, a candidate for major of Yekaterinburg, proposed to close down Roma settlements and recently, in the Archangel region, Gypsies were forced to take to court a city government that wanted to drive them out of the region. Gypsies have even threatened to burn themselves with their houses if the authorities try to destroy their buildings. The mass media plays a big part in inciting hostility to gypsies. A TV documentary about beggars in Moscow, for instance, stated that "it is Roma and Luli who control the begging business in the Russian capital and get much more money from this than those who run the petroleum business" before adding that, for the purpose of this business, "Gypsies steal children, buy people as slaves, mutilate them and kill them when they cannot work any more". One Russian person on the programme even suggested using napalm against Gypsy settlements The mass media also claims that Gypsies are heavily involved in drug trafficking. As a result, the words "Gypsy" and "drug dealer" have become virtually synonymous. The police can ñ and do ñ make round-the clock drugs raids on Roma and Luli settlements. If they are unable to find drugs, policemen demand money or arrest them on trumped-up charges for several days. When arrested, a Gypsy is generally detained longer than others arrested for the same crime. Arrested Gypsies are often badly beaten, and sometimes even killed, by the police. For example, in 2001 a Gypsy was killed in the police station at Khimki in the Moscow region. The resulting court case has been delayed six times.

    In the list of those to whom Russians show xenophobic feelings, Gypsies come second place only to Caucasians but for Gypsies, and those who help them, it is quite difficult to defend their rights against the state. Many Gypsies are illiterate and have little legal knowledge. The easiest way for them deal with police is to give them cash. When extremists like nazi skinheads attack them or other discrimination occurs, the Gypsies rarely go to the court because they know they will not win and can easily be turned into the accused. According to official figures, Gypsies commit 3% of all crimes in Russia. Many Gypsies do not deny being involved in the drugs business as couriers nor that they practice thieving. However, so-called "civilized" society leaves them with few options. Without proper papers, Gypsies who want to start working conventionally and legally seldom get jobs. It is claimed that police officers are reluctant to provide proper papers because they might lose their "pocket money". Even with valid documents, Gypsies can hardly ever find jobs because prejudice against them is so strong. There are other forms of discrimination. Regional governments, for example, refuse to sell land or apartments to Gypsies who want a settled existence. More and more often, the newspapers and observers of human rights organisations publish information about pogroms at Gypsy settlements, like the one that happened in Iskitim in the Novosibirsk region in April. Several organizations, including the Union of Roma Social Organizations and the International Romani Union, monitor the situation of the Roma people in Russia and try to help them preserve their specific culture and language and to resist discrimination. The state envisages only two possibilities for the Gypsies: integrate into society and, effectively, stop being Gypsies or be constantly put into circumstances that are almost impossible to survive and, thus, disappear as an ethnic group. Faced with this arbitrary choice, Gypsies invariably choose to keep their freedom from the state and willingly take the risk of remaining outsiders. This leaves them in the position of outlawsÖ a large nation without a country of the their own, the last such nation in Europe.

    26/7/2005- The delegation of the European Commission in Romania and the Education Ministry will launch a program to train teachers on how to treat each child without discrimination in schools, regardless of their ethnic origins, the area they live, financial status of family or health issues. The program, worth over 11 million euros, will be subsidized by EU Phare funds and will be initially introduced in 11 counties: Alba, Bacau, Braila, Covasna, Harghita, Ialomita, Mures, Maramures, Neamt, Sibiu and Valcea. It may later be extended to Botosani and Iasi. The program's main purpose is to support Roma people's access to education, as well as to help children with special educational needs or socio-economic disadvantages to have access to education without any kind of discrimination. The head of the European Commission's delegation, Jonathan Scheele, said the program aims to bring a relationship of trust to schools and improve communication between teachers, children and parents. The EU official said he hopes the authorities will get involved in this project so such problems can be solved and avoided in the future. "Unfortunately, not all the commitments made by the local authorities for supporting such activities were applied in all counties during this program," Scheele said. Education Minister Mircea Miclea said all children should have equal chances to education, despite all costs. General Manager in the Education Ministry, Liliana Preoteasa, said there are many situations in which teachers allow children with special needs or those who come from poor families to join their classes, but usually place them at the back of the class. Preoteasa said such habits have to be eliminated and asked all the population to say if they find out about such discrimination actions. "Teachers can not be punished for not allowing a child with HIV/AIDS to enter their classrooms; they have to be educated, as punishments do not change mentalities," said Education Ministry state secretary, Paloma Petrescu. This program is a continuation of the Phare project launched in 2002 whose purpose was to subsidize access to education for disadvantaged groups, especially Roma people.

    28/7/2005- The Czech government is planning to feature popular young Roma figures in an upcoming public awareness campaign against racism. Andela Haluskova, a recent finalist in the 2005 Czech Miss competition, and Vlastimil Horvath, recent winner of the Czech Superstar competition will be featured in posters and billboards all around the city to promote tolerance towards Roma. The campaign will also feature photographs of prominant members of other minority groups as well as groups of recent immigrants such as the Vietnamese. Ms. Haluskova, 22, was the first openly Romany woman ever to reach the finals of a national Miss competition. By participating in this campaign, she is keeping her promise to help open doors for other Romany women in the larger Czech society. Just before the final competition on February 26, 2005, Haluskova stated "People are probably very concerned that I am the first Roma woman to get a position in a competition like this. I don't really mind that. I understand that my success can open the doors of success to other Roma women." Half Romany and half Cuban, Haluskova has lived the life of a normal Roma girl, before her modelling career became a reality, she was simply another cashier at a local supermarket. Vlasta Horvath also knows firsthand the media storm that can be created by successful Roma. After he won the television competition for ëCzech Superstar' early this summer, the national papers went mad trying to figure out the consequences of his win on racial sentiments in the Czech Republic. This year's government campaign against racism, entitled ëTolerance Against Racism' is only the latest effort by the Czech government to try and promote tolerance towards the nation's ethic minorities and foreigners. The government has been producing such campaigns against xenophobia and racism since 2000, but little is known about the effectiveness of such campaigns in actually changing people's perceptions and behavior about race.
    ©Dzeno Association

    25/7/2005- The 8th Annual Human Rights Report issued by the United Kingdom was released last Friday, containing information on the human rights situation in the United Kingdom and abroad. Although the Report denounced anti-Roma discrimination throughout Europe, it omitted many important details, and failed to mention such major factors as the the tragic situation of Roma refugees in Kosovo, the problems of Roma in countries such as Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and the Slovak Republic, as well as the growing problem with evictions in the UK itself. Instead of looking in detail at the situation of Roma living in EU countries, the UK report focuses mainly on the activities that the UK Embassies have taken over the past year and the grants that they have provided to Roma NGOs. In many places, the report tends to understate the case, for example: the section on Roma states that while it "found no evidence of systematic or officially sanctioned discrimination against Roma within the EU," many individual Roma may still "experience prejudice and discrimination in their daily lives." The report specifically mentions incidents of individual discrimination against Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, and Serbia and Montenegro, providing details of discrimination in each country in the fields of education, employment, health services, housing and political participation. While the report acknowledges that problems remain with the Roma populations in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it fails to discuss the details of the problem; focusing instead on the grants that the UK has supplied to assist Roma NGOs in these areas. (Full disclosure, Dzeno was not one of the grantees). The UK report speaks in glowing terms of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, and affirms its support for the Decade Initiatives. The UK will be contributing expertise and finances to the Decade, the report states, particularly to the Roma Education Fund. While any statements denouncing discrimination against Roma are welcome, this report seems to omit more details than it highlights. Perhaps because of its early release due to the timing of the UK's EU presidency, this Human Rights Report spends more time in self-congratulation than in description of the problem or recommendations for constructive solutions. It's true that this report isn't meant to be comprehensive, but it's disappointing that a country as respected as the UK cannot take the time to provide accurate and realistic information on the situation of Roma in Europe and in the UK.
    ©Dzeno Association

    By Ronald Eissens

    29/7/2005- It's been a shile since I wrote something for the ICARE-news. The only thing I can say is that I was, as per usual, quite busy. Projects and other work comes flying in left, right and center all the time. Hardly any time to sit back and think what is happening, and a lot has been happening, most of it bad. Devastating moments like the murder of Theo van Gogh put their mark on us all and not only caused anger, fear and distrust, but also worsened the already hostile climate towards Muslims in the Netherlands and abroad. All the attacks on Mosques, Muslim schools and institutions after the murder led to more fear and antagonism, on which Dutch government is not picking up as well as they should. As program director of Human Rights First, Michael McClintock wrote: ëwe are quite concerned with the Netherlands thin veneer of civility peeling away after the murder of Van Gogh'.

    In the meantime we can conclude that the main problems we face on all sides of the ocean are Muslim-hate, antisemitism and terrorism. A few days after the second London bombing I got a phone call in the evening from a colleague at another Dutch NGO. She was disturbed and had a profound question; what does terrorism really have to do with Human Rights and antiracism? I was not surprised by the question. I was in fact rather glad that somebody asked. Nobody really wants to ask this question, or, if they do, they will give you the answer right away: oppression and colonialism and occupation and capitalism all generate terrorism, we therefore need to fight against those, implying that if we as citizens get our government to do whatever terrorists want, they will leave us alone.

    I must say that I find this way of thinking to be of an infuriation and disgusting stupidity. Oh sure, let's all be nice now so Mr. Terrorist will not blow us up, and in fact it is all our fault or our governments fault.

    Anyway, I answered my colleague. It is quite simple. Why do we need to fight terrorism?
    1. We do not want to be blown-up.
    2. We don't want other people to be blown-up, whatever the reason.
    3. Terrorism generates more hostility between groups in our societies.
    4. It's the trinity, and using the trinity is a racist statement. No, I'm not bashing Catholicism here. I'm talking about another trinity; ëthe Western World, America & Israel'.

    Look at the rhetoric of Islamists and other Islamic fundamentalists and extremists, look at the rhetoric of Al Quaida and her affiliated groups, look at their statements when they claim an attack. You will always find the trinity. The western world, those are the Zionists, which equals the United States, which is ruled by Jews, which is the International Zionist conspiracy, with Israel as the colonial lackey of the U.S. and the Western world. There you go.

    Terrorists want all those gone, exterminated or converted to Islam. They want to conquer Europe and America to establish ëthe new caliphate'. They are dangerous crackpots that our out to get us, which means everyone of us that does not conform to their demands, be it Muslim, Christian, Jew, black or white or whatever color, shape or creed. So we need to do what we do; fight racism, discrimination, antisemitism and terrorism; we need to create coalitions between people who do not want extremism, people who want to live together in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and peaceful world. We need to keep on doing our work as NGOs, fighting Muslim Hate, fighting those who equate Islam or Muslims with terrorism, but we also need to fight injustice, war, oppression and poverty ñ because we are humans, not because of the nasty little ideologies of those who want to rule us by violence and fear.
    ©I CARE News

    On the bombers' route between London and Leeds, Patrick Barkham finds communities riven by a generation gap

    16/7/2005- The M1, down which three of the suicide bombers drove on their final journey, is famous for its grey monotony. But its dullness is in contrast to the diversity of the Muslim communities for which it is the backbone. Retracing their route in reverse from London, to Luton, Leicester, Derby and Leeds, is to travel through Muslim Britain. British Muslims are experiencing the crisis wrought by the attacks in vastly different ways, and the most pronounced of those is the chasm between the young and old. Saleem Tayyab had just finished in the kitchen on Tuesday evening when he heard that the bombs were detonated by British Muslims. A 33-year-old father of four, he is moderate, hard-working, urbane. Thirty-one years ago, his father founded Tayyabs on a street behind the East London Mosque, barely 500 metres from the Aldgate bomb. The garment workers who first ate their freshly cooked kebabs are long gone but the Tayyabs' family business has thrived. Saleem is shocked and apologetic but confident that "everybody" in the country "knows the difference between mainstream Muslims and organisations that are responsible" for the terrorism. Like many older Muslims, he speaks of children being "brainwashed". "They can't sit at home and decide to blow themselves up. It's a larger story than that," he insists.

    Thirty miles up the M1, Luton, the chosen rendezvous for the suicide bombers sweats out the heatwave. Periodic anti-terrorist raids by police have given the town's 30,000 Muslims an extremist hue. Muhammad Sulaiman, 68, was president of the Central Mosque when the Syrian-born cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed spoke there a couple of years ago. When they heard his message they unplugged his PA and manhandled him off the premises. But his jihadist group al-Muhajiroun and its successors continue to hand out leaflets, campaigning and recruiting on the streets nearby. The mosque leaders insist there are barely half a dozen extremists in Luton and all are banned from the town's 12 mosques. "The police are well aware of these guys," says Qurban Hussain, deputy leader of the borough council. A Liberal Democrat candidate in this year's general election, Mr Hussain is sharply conscious of the extremists: he received death threats for standing for a "western" political party in the May elections, even though it was the anti-war Lib Dems. Like every older Muslim encountered along the M1, Mr Hussain emphatically denounces the suicide bombers. He speaks of an intelligence failure but is happy to scrutinise his own community. "This is another tragedy: the generation gap between young and old in the ethnic minorities is much greater than in the indigenous population. Our elder generation were law-abiding and hardworking. Where they failed was they put all their God-given hours into work and didn't spend time with their children. When these people are brainwashed, they are brainwashed to an extent that they don't talk to their parents."

    As the dome of the Masjid Umar mosque sparkles in the evening sunshine, 100 children gather for Islamic classes on the generous playing fields of Crown Hills Community College in Leicester. "Twinkle twinkle little star," four five-year-old girls in white jilbab and hijab sing. "Allah created you, and He created me/In truth and so perfectly." They finish with prayers for the victims of the London bombs. Driven to their classes by parents in VW Passats, these children study Arabic and the Qur'an five evenings a week. "We want them to be proud Muslims and proud British citizens," says Ibrahim Mogra, their gentle, engaging teacher, also a committee member of the Muslim Council of Britain. "This is our country, this is home. There is no reason for them to feel second-class or alien. If you ask them who they are, they would say Muslim and I think that's right. As a person of faith, for me, God comes before everything. But there is no contradiction. I'm Muslim, I'm British, I'm Asian, I'm an imam, I'm a teacher."After their lessons, young pupils point out double standards in government and media treatment of their faith. Of course the bombs were wrong and destroyed innocent people's lives, but look at what fuelled it: Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine. "In Afghanistan people die every single day but that's never mentioned," points out Irshad, 14. "Nobody is there to help the people in Palestine." Arshad, also 14, finishes the argument: "It's not a war against terrorism, it's a war against Islam. That's how some people see it."

    Past old garment factories being converted into designer flats, evening prayers at the shiny modern Masjid Umar mosque brings working-class Muslims on to the streets. It is wearily routine for reporters to rush to mosques whenever there are outbreaks of extremism. As Mo, a young Muslim who works at a BT call centre, points out, reporters didn't swarm around Catholic churches whenever the IRA blew someone up. Mo buys me a soft drink from the local kebab shop. "Stay here, I've got something to show you." He returns with a sheet of typed paper that his sister stuck to her bedroom wall. "Former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali visited the remains of the World Trade Centre," it reads. "When reporters asked how he felt about suspects sharing his Islamic faith, Ali responded pleasantly, 'How do you feel about Hitler sharing yours?' Ever wondered ... why a nun can be covered from head to toe and she's respected for devoting herself to God, but when a Muslimah does that, she's considered oppressed?" Despite his wispy blonde beard, Hussain, 27, still looks better suited to Scott, his former name. "I wouldn't be surprised if the bombs were planted by MI5," he says, a conspiracy theory suggested by more than one young Muslim milling around the mosque. Yet even the most unapologetic appear a million miles from being potential bombers. Hussain's white non-Muslim family does not understand his conversion. "I let them have their opinions and agree to differ," he says. In Derby, 12 miles off the M1, Yahya Akhter, a local bookseller, says al-Muhajiroun "are very active" at the nearby Jamia mosque, haranguing and handing out leaflets outside. The group were accused of recruiting Derby resident Omar Khan Sharif, who was found dead after attempting a suicide bombing in Israel two years ago in which four people died. Mr Akhter sells Islamic books and shalwar kameez. The 38-year-old, who came to Britain from Kashmir 10 years ago, believes the generation gap is based on the language barrier between English- speaking young Muslims and their elders. "It doesn't matter what the imam says inside the mosque because the young people don't understand. The real education goes on outside. In mosques our religious leaders are speaking in Urdu. The only people speaking in English are extremists like Abu Hamza and Bakri Mohammed. Youngsters do not get the real message of Islam."

    'Reactionary product'
    Muslims did not do enough to prevent extremism and must replace imams who don't speak English, he says. But the extremists are a "reactionary product of this country" and not produced by Muslims alone, he argues. Hamza and Bakri Mohammed were "given enormous and disproportionate media time to say poisonous things. Why did you make them our heroes? Why did you give them airtime?" "Have they found the bomb?" asks one young Muslim hovering at the police tape, the curtain for a drama starring a robot, jerkily searching for explosives near where two of the bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, grew up in Leeds. "If they haven't found it, they'll pull one out of their back pocket," shrugs another. The Ali Cool ice-cream van chimes out as it labours up the hill in the heat. Beeston's tatty red-brick terraces are significantly poorer than the Victorian roads where most Muslims live in Luton, Leicester and Derby. A sense of harassment has been building with the heat, police presence and press scrum. Ima gathers at the police tape with a group of mates. The 27-year-old knew Shehzad Tanweer pretty well. For him, there is a "cultural gap" between the generations. "The generation that did the bombings have had a free rein. They've been given a good education and been able to do whatever they like. The older generation haven't tuned in. They don't know Tupac Shakur or Steven Gerrard." Like many younger Muslims, Ima wants to see not just his elders but wider society trying harder to understand modern British Muslims. "We need a close examination of what the youth of today are thinking and doing." On the other side of the class divide in Leeds is Hashim Talbot, 18, and waiting for his A-level results before going to study law in Cardiff. Hashim prays at the Grand Mosque in the leafy north of the city, linked in press reports to the fourth bomber, Jamaican-born Lindsay Germain, who changed his name to Abdullah Shaheed Jamal when he converted to Islam. Hashim is certain his mosque is moderate and says "secretive" mosques must open up. He also has an acute sense of the difference between old and young Muslims: elders are theologically aware but politically passive; younger people are theologically dumb but politically active. "Young people like myself are more politically aware. It's not only Iraq. A lot of people have sympathy for the Palestinians, who we see as brothers. But young Muslims are not as educated in their religion so they go for radical ideas because with these they can see change happen quickly. Moderate Muslims are too slow for young people." Ima quietly watches the police close off more roads. "Any young person is vulnerable to any form of extremism," he says. "You have to open the doors a bit. Lack of information breeds misinformation. The less we are told, the less we feel this is our country."
    ©The Guardian

    By Michael Portillo

    17/7/2005- Multiculturalism is of another era and should be scrapped. That conclusion, expressed last year by Trevor Phillips, caused a sensation. The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), which he chairs, was founded to promote multiculturalism and governments of both parties pursued that policy since the 1960s. Phillips went further: "We need to assert there is a core of Britishness." He lamented the "loss" of Shakespeare. "That sort of thing is bad for immigrants," he said, who come here not just for jobs but because of Britain's tolerance and parliamentary democracy. Despite the CRE's retreat, immediately after the London bombings the prime minister referred to Britain as tolerant, multi-ethnic and multicultural. It's clear from the way he spoke that he regarded those three words as interchangeable. One reason why we in Britain have enjoyed a broad consensus on multiculturalism is that we have been so imprecise about what it means. Given that Britain has attracted waves of immigrants who in their new home still celebrate Passover, Ramadan or Diwali, to many it seemed to be just a statement of the obvious. In the 1960s Enoch Powell foresaw immigration leading to rivers foaming with blood and was sacked from the Conservative party's front bench for saying so. In 1990 Norman Tebbit talked of a cricket test, meaning that you doubted whether people were integrated into this country if they supported Pakistan or India when those teams played England. Those remarks embarrassed the Tories, too. With those exceptions the respectable British right has left multiculturalism unchallenged out of fear that it would be accused of racism. Phillips's remark indicates that multiculturalism has passed its high water mark. But that occurred because the left got cold feet, not because the right won the argument.

    The American right has not been so passive. For example, the Ayn Rand Institute (which bears the name of the author of The Fountainhead, the bible of individualism) claims that: "Multiculturalism is the view that all cultures, from the spirits worshipping tribe to that of an advanced industrial civilisation, are equal in value." It continues: "A culture that values freedom, progress, reason and science is good; one that values oppression, mysticism and ignorance is not." The institute has battled against such terms as "black American" on the grounds that they invite us to categorise a person according to his ancestry rather than his qualities as an individual. The voters of California rejected the use of teaching in Spanish, which had become standard practice in state schools. Victory went to those who argued that American children who could not speak English would founder in later life.

    A number of things have unsettled the British left and led to the dramatic U-turn. The Labour party has had to respond to its white working-class voters in urban seats such as David Blunkett's in Sheffield. The former home secretary introduced English language tests for those wishing to become British and town hall ceremonies at which successful applicants receive citizenship. More worrying was the issue of Muslim schools. The demand for them was difficult to resist given that Britain had Catholic, Church of England and Jewish schools. The authorities felt on the back foot when Muslim leaders argued that they would enforce higher moral standards than state schools. After September 11, 2001 the issue seemed less straightforward. Another problem for the left was that its belief in multiculturalism collided with its espousal of women's rights. Thinkers on the left struggled to accord equal respect to all cultures when they felt offended by the idea of some Muslim women living in Britain being shrouded in the burqa. Maybe the greatest blow to those who believed that all cultures were to be esteemed equally was dealt not by Islam but by some Christian sects in Africa. The two guardians of Victoria ClimbiÈ, the little girl whom they murdered in 2000, claimed that she was possessed by witchcraft. At the time of her death she was due to undergo a church exorcism ceremony. More recently three people were jailed for torturing another girl from Africa, claiming she was gripped by evil spirits. BBC reporters who tracked her family to Angola found a boy being beaten. He died before the authorities would intervene. British police investigating the discovery of a boy's torso declared that he had been the victim of a ritual killing and revealed that in a three-month period in 2001, 299 African boys living in Greater London had disappeared. Britain's failure to collect data on people leaving the country makes it impossible to prove that they did not simply return to Africa, but experts fear that human trafficking and abuse of such children are widespread. The ClimbiÈ case suggested that political correctness hampered local authorities in their duty to protect children, and social workers were afraid of appearing insensitive to legitimate cultural diversities.

    Tolerance was clearly never meant to mean that Britain should allow those with roots outside the country to flout human rights and the laws of the land on the pretext that things were done differently where they came from. The Ayn Rand Institute is right to say that it is dangerous nonsense to pretend that all cultures are morally equivalent. Such sloppy thinking corrodes our ability to distinguish good from evil. It is tempting in a tolerant society to want to see other people's point of view. If Islam has thrown up its extremists, we can recall the excesses committed over centuries in the name of Christianity. We can understand that a devout Muslim might find western society licentious and irreligious. But the time for sophistry has passed. Our citizens and our society are under threat from those who believe that difference is a justification for terror and murder. Our country has the right to assert its values and require from everyone living here compliance with our laws and respect for our standards. Britain's woolly thinking about multiculturalism has helped to make us vulnerable. We were reluctant to heed warnings passed to us by the French about the dangers of Islamic extremists settling here. Last week the Conservatives were in no position to criticise the government because the last Conservative government was no more inclined to recognise the perils. The discovery that the young men who planted the London bombs were British is deeply worrying. It defies comprehension that people who have grown up enjoying our liberties should hate our society enough to engage in mass murder and to kill themselves. We cannot know whether tens or thousands of our fellow citizens have been perverted in that way and now pose a danger to us.

    The impact on community relations is another worry. For all the concern that I and many others feel about the growing intrusion of the state in our lives, our security services will have to penetrate more deeply the places where some of our young people are being taught to hate Britain. We need to think more clearly than in the past. Politically correct commentators will want us to cast our security measures wide to avoid stigmatising the Muslim community. After the bombs Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner, argued that the words "Islamic" and "terrorist" must not be linked. If he means that most Muslims abhor murder he is right. But most Irish people did not support the IRA. Nonetheless the security forces infiltrated Britain's Irish community to know what was going on and to disrupt the activities of individuals. Another lesson from the Irish Troubles is that the British showed themselves well able to distinguish between Irish terrorists and Irish people. British and Irish people feel an affection for each other that neither politics nor terror has diminished. I do not think that the bombings will produce a backlash among the majority of our non-Muslim population. Even if multiculturalism in Britain went perilously too far it had important successes. Britain has undergone enormous changes in the make-up of its population with little social unrest. There is understanding and respect between our diverse ethnic communities. Our signature national quality of tolerance has been strengthened, not diminished, by successive rounds of immigration.

    Multiculturalism may, as Phillips says, belong to a bygone era. But magnanimity and understanding must shape our future.
    ©The Times Online

    17/7/2005- Thousands charged with race hate crimes in Scotland are walking free, fueling accusations that the justice system is a "soft touch" for racists. Despite 10,173 people being charged in the past three years with a statutory racist crime or a crime aggravated by racism, only 4180 ñ fewer than half ñ have been convicted. More than 1500 suspects had their charges dropped before they came to court. The statistics highlight evidence of a "police lottery", revealing that in some police areas victims are twice as likely to see their alleged attacker in court as in others. Scottish Muslim leaders said last night the figures would reinforce the existing perception that racial abuse or harassment was not worth reporting because such crimes were not taken seriously. Asians and Muslims have reported increased abuse in the wake of the London bombings, and so, campaigners argue, there has never been a more crucial time to prosecute racists. Last Tuesday, a 16-year-old Asian boy was attacked in daylight in Edinburgh by a white skinhead. On July 7, the day of the London bombings, the Shah Jalal mosque and a Pakistani centre in Edinburgh were defaced with racist graffiti. Christine Grahame, the SNP's social justice spokes woman, who uncovered the Crown Office figures, said the bombings had brought a "heightened importance" to prosecuting race crimes. She was appalled by the "substantial failure rate" in securing convictions. Over the past three years, the Crown Office figures show a rise in race crime charges for all police areas. However, last year alone, around 900 people charged with race crimes did not go to court. Osama Saeed, the Scottish spokesman of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "We know there is still a reluctance to report these crimes because there is a perception that it won't be taken seriously." Aamer Anwar, a lawyer and race campaigner, said that, despite vocal commitments by politicians, race crimes were "almost grudgingly" dealt with. A Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service spokeswoman said: "We are committed to using the full extent of the law to tackle this area of crime rob ustly. Any report of race crime is treated as a priority."
    ©Sunday Herald

    18/7/2005- Four officers from Greater Manchester Police have been sacked for exchanging racist text messages. All four admitted at a disciplinary hearing sending, receiving or showing a racist text message to colleagues. The force said they were made aware of the incident after a police inspector, who was shown the message, reported it. The men, aged 31, 38 and two aged 41, who were based in Salford and south Manchester, were dismissed at the hearing last Monday, a statement said. The incident happened on 16 September last year, and the hearing took place last week following a 10-month internal investigation. The Police Federation's Greater Manchester branch said at least two of the officers were off-duty when the text was sent. Police Federation secretary Gordon Johnson said: "The federation does not condone racism, sexism or homophobia of any kind. "The case is finished but they can still appeal. For them to comment in the process would jeopardise that. "The four officers have co-operated fully throughout the inquiry and fully admitted the allegations." The officers now have two weeks to request a review of the case with the Chief Constable Michael Todd. If he upholds the tribunal's decision, they can take the case to an independent police appeals tribunal.
    ©BBC News

    22/7/2005- A sub-culture of racism, casual violence and abuse existed at the government's immigration detention centre at Oakington, near Cambridge, an official inquiry confirmed yesterday. It was published as ministers announced the introduction of compulsory pre-entry screening for tuberculosis for thousands of visitors to the UK from six countries. A government watchdog also revealed yesterday that the policy of deporting asylum seekers with "manifestly unfounded claims" before they could appeal had led to the wrong decision being made in at least 147 cases. The report by the prisons and probation ombudsman, Stephen Shaw, into allegations of racism and mistreatment at the detention centre concluded yesterday that if this "subculture of nastiness" could exist at Oakington - the most benign of the detention centres - it could happen anywhere. Mr Shaw's report made 54 recommendations, including a race relations audit of the entire immigration removal network of detention centres. At the same time the immigration minister, Tony McNulty, announced an "action plan" to minimise the risk of riots at immigration removal centres in response to a previous inquiry by Mr Shaw into the riot and fire that destroyed the Yarl's Wood detention centre, near Bedford. Ministers also faced criticism yesterday from the official monitor looking at the operation of the government's policy of deporting some asylum seekers before they can appeal in Britain. Sarah Woodhouse said that there had been 2,118 cases where the claims for asylum were certified as unfounded. However, in 147 cases this certificate was later withdrawn by the Home Office. "My concern is whether the system offers adequate procedural safeguards against errors in Home Office decision-making," Ms Woodhouse said. "In my view, the successful appeals and much larger number of successful judicial review applications indicate that it does not." A Home Office spokesman claimed that the change in decision could have been due to new information or a change in the conditions in the asylum seeker's home country. The Home Office also said yesterday that it was introducing the first phase of compulsory health screening tests for visitors and migrants coming to Britain for more than six months. "There is a greater risk to public health from those who come for a long time than from those who only make short stays in Britain. We don't think it would be practical to screen all visitors." Critics fear that the policy may lead to infected people "going underground" and try ing to enter Britain illegally without seeking treatment.
    ©The Guardian

    20/7/2005- Low-skilled migrants coming to Britain face having part of their wages compulsorily withheld until they return home under much tougher than expected proposals for a new immigration system put forward by the government yesterday. Employers would pay part of the wages of migrants on temporary work schemes into a bank account in their home country which the workers could only access once they returned home. Keith Best, of the Immigration Advisory Service (IAS), last night branded the idea as "very intrusive" and said it was part of a package designed to ensure that businesses and colleges acted as unpaid immigration officers to tackle the problem of overstayers. Ministers also propose to introduce "green card"-style monthly auctions of work permits in non-shortage areas with companies that make the highest bids able to employ the migrant workers. The five-tier, points-based migration system proposed by the immigration minister, Tony McNulty, is intended to replace the current system of work permits that offer 50 different legal routes to work, train and study in Britain.

    The proposed scheme, to be introduced next spring, would include:

  • a five-tier points system for migrants, ranging from easy access and full residence rights for the most highly skilled and those with large sums to invest, to temporary entry without their families to low-skilled workers
  • biometric residence permits to be issued to all foreign migrant workers without which they can not work or access services
  • all but top tier migrants to have a sponsor with some asked to deposit a financial bond against their departure
  • overseas students to be certified to attend a specific course at a specific college with authorities to inform Home Office if they fail to attend
  • only the top two tiers of workers to be allowed to bring families or have the chance to settle in Britain after five years. Ministers are also considering allowing the qualifying points to be varied so that English regions or Scotland, which have particular skills shortages, can attract the migrants they need.

    The Home Office also announced yesterday that from August 30 those who are granted refugee status will no longer be given permission to remain indefinitely. Instead they will be allowed to stay for five years and then face an official review of the risk of persecution they face. The Refugee Council said last night it would leave those fleeing persecution in a cruel limbo unable to plan for the future.
    4 page PDF document Briefing for MPs on ILR change by the Refugee Council

    Mr McNulty said the points-based migration system was designed to ensure that the public had the confidence to see that it was properly run with strict controls that worked. "We will ensure the new system is underpinned by measures to ensure we only admit those who meet our criteria, that people stick to the terms of their leave to enter while they are here and leave when they are supposed to." The five-tier system is designed to maximise the economic benefit to Britain with the first two tiers - the highly skilled, the wealthy and those skilled workers with a job offer - entitled to be joined by their immediate families and given the chance to settle in Britain after five years. No details have yet been worked out as to what "pass mark" would be needed to qualify for the top tier but the current scheme shows that a high proportion are doctors, with an average salary of more than £45,000. A skills advisory body is to be set up to develop a list of shortage occupations in Britain which will be open to skilled workers in tier two. A resident labour market test may also be used to ensure that no local candidates can fill the job. A points system would be used to judge overseas candidates. The most rigorous conditions would apply to those who come to fill specific low skill shortages such as in the food processing and agriculture sectors. They are most likely to come on temporary quota-based schemes with accredited operators recruiting them only from countries which agree to take them back when the job is over. The fourth tier would cover students who would have to have a sponsorship certificate from a British college to attend a specific course. The final category of visiting workers and cultural exchanges would involve a sponsorship element and some would be asked to post a financial bond to ensure their return home. Youth and cultural exchange schemes would be restricted to countries with effective return arrangements with Britain, which excludes many African and Asian countries. The IAS, an independent body that gives free advice, said the package was much tougher than expected and was designed to ensure that new migrants did not overstay. "There may well be a mixed reception," said Mr Best. "Business does not want to be turned into unpaid immigration officials. They are saying we will only take some migrants from countries which have adequate returns agreements."
    ©The Guardian

    20/7/2005- One of the dominant figures of the British far right for the last 50 years has died two days before he was due to appear in court charged with inciting racial hatred. John Tyndall, 71, was found at his home in Hove, West Sussex, by his wife yesterday morning after he was believed to have had a heart attack. Police said there were no suspicious circumstances involved in his death. Tyndall, the founder of the modern British National party, was known among followers and observers of the far right for his jackboots, arrogance and dedication to Nazi racial ideals. After forming the BNP in 1982, he imposed his particular brand of doctrinaire leadership, holding marches, threatening violence and promoting openly racist policies such as the compulsory repatriation of all foreigners. "He was one of the two or three key players in the post-war era," said Gerry Gable, the anti-fascist campaigner who was Tyndall's foe for much of the last 40 years. "But essentially he was a loser who never managed to see a realisation of his national socialist ideals." In the last few years, under the leadership of a Cambridge graduate, Nick Griffin, the BNP has striven to present an electorally viable face. But Tyndall, who did little to dispel the view of it as a neo-nazi organisation, was a constant thorn in the side of the movement as it attempted to convince the public that it had moved away from its roots. In the run-up to the local elections last year Tyndall was banned from speaking at a meeting and told by the new leadership: "The many photographs of you in neo-nazi uniform ... are a public relations handicap for the party." Although he was expelled from the BNP twice, first in 2003 after criticising the new leadership and again earlier this year, Tyndall always remained an important figure. A spokesman for the BNP yesterday described him as a "great fellow who knew exactly what our movement was about" and an "excellent chap with a keen analytical mind". Phil Edwards, the party's spokesman, said: "It is fair to say that he was not able to carry that forward to electoral success. It is a pity he did not just stand down. He tried to criticise the current leadership, and he should not have done that." Mr Edwards praised Tyndall for his talent as an orator. "He was a marvellous speaker. He could hold a room and mesmerise them, but he did not have the answer to the problems."

    It was his apparent gift for incendiary public speaking, however, that threatened to put Tyndall back into jail for the fourth time in his life. He was due in court in Leeds tomorrow charged with race hate crimes which carry a maximum sentence of seven years. Tyndall was charged together with Mr Griffin following a BBC documentary, The Secret Agent, in which an undercover reporter filmed him making a speech at a social club in Burnley. During the speech he was filmed saying: "The only thing the Africans have given us is voodoo, witchcraft and Aids." Tyndall first showed an interest in politics in the mid-1950s when he attended the Communist Moscow world youth festival. But a few years later he switched allegiances and joined the far-right League of Empire Loyalists, an anti-semitic organisation opposed to the end of Britain's global influence. He went on to become a leading figure in the National Front and then broke away to form the modern BNP. While many followers supported neo-nazi ideas, Tyndall was known for his dedication to them. Colleagues tell of an occasion in the 1960s when, after crossing the German border on the way to a nationalist meeting, he stopped at a shoe shop where he kept them waiting for an hour while he chose his first pair of genuine German jackboots. Observers of the far right said his death would have widespread implications. "He was someone that the more hardline nationalists from the party have always looked up to and rallied around," said Nick Lowles, from the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight. "He still had a lot of support, particularly in the north-west and parts of south London. He was the one who appealed to the racist heart of the BNP and his death means that Griffin's grip on the party is a lot stronger." Tyndall's death could also hasten what many believe is an impending split in the BNP between Griffinites and followers of Tyndall's brand of racist nationalism. Mr Lowles said: "A new group called the National Alliance has emerged, based on disgruntled activists from Yorkshire and Burnley. It may signal the way forward for core Tyndallites in light of his death." While Searchlight prepares a final exploration of the views of Tyndall, his followers can turn to the latest edition of Spearhead, the magazine he had edited since 1964, for a reminder of his unsavoury extremism. Just weeks before he died, he penned a typical rant against immigrants and homosexuals and questioned whether the Serbs were really responsible for the Srebrenica massacre.

    Tyndall: right and wrong

  • 1934 Born. First politically active as a young man in the right-wing pressure group League of Empire Loyalists, led by AK Chesterton.
  • 1957 Left to form the National Labour party. The Labour party prevented the use of this name.
  • 1960 His party merged with the White Defence League to form the old British National party (BNP). He became deputy national organiser of this party and deputy commander of a private army set up by Colin Jordan called Spearhead, based on the Nazi "Brownshirts". The police prosecuted Jordan, Tyndall and two others for paramilitary organising.
  • 1962 Jailed for six months for training neo-Nazis. Left the British National party to set up the National Socialist Movement, then formed the Greater Britain Movement in 1964. Spent much of the 1960s developing his ideological programme, publishing The Authoritarian State in 1962, in which he claimed that liberal democracy needed to be replaced by authoritarianism.
  • 1966 Jailed after being caught with a gun and bullets
  • 1967 National Front formed; he rose to chairman when AK Chesterton resigned. Internal recriminations saw Tyndall set up first the New National Front, then changed its name to the British National party in 1982.
  • 1986 Year in jail for conspiracy to incite racial hatred.
  • 1990 Refused entry into the United States.
  • 1994 Polled 9% in Dagenham byelection, east London.
  • 1996 Offered Nick Griffin the editorship of Spearhead, his extreme rightwing magazine, and encouraged the Cambridge-educated former boxing blue to become active in the BNP.
  • 1997 Polled 2,849 votes in Poplar and Canning Town, east London.
  • 1999 Lost the leadership of the BNP to Nick Griffin and was expelled for being a disruptive influence.
  • 2001 Received 642 votes as candidate for Mitcham and Morden in the general election.
  • 2003 Tyndall and Richard Edmonds, a BNP party official, fined £100 for displaying racist recruitment posters.
  • 2004 Arrested on suspicion of incitement to racial hatred following a BBC documentary aired in July.
  • April 6, 2005 charged with using words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up racial hatred. Due to appear at
  • Leeds crown court tomorrow.
  • July 19, 2005 Found dead.
    ©The Guardian

    20/7/2005- Police have increased measures to protect Edinburgh's ethnic minorities after fears of a backlash following the London terror attacks. Officers have visited mosques and other places of worship to check on security arrangements since the July 7 atrocities. Patrolling police officers are paying extra visits to the mosques and vulnerable businesses, such as shops run by members of ethnic communities. A specially-created security liaison group of police and community leaders has been set up to ensure officers know immediately of any problems. All racist and other hate crimes are also being monitored on a daily basis so police can spot any worrying trends if they emerge. The high-profile "community reassurance" campaign has been widely welcomed by local Muslim representatives who attended a meeting of business, council and police leaders last night. Although there has been no significant rise in racist crimes in Edinburgh in the wake of the terror attacks - a total of 41 incidents from July 7 to yesterday, compared with 39 in the same period last year - there have been a number of verbal threats made and cases of racist graffiti daubed on mosques. Lothian and Borders Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Dickson addressed the meeting of community and business leaders, which included representatives from the Bangladeshi Consulate, the Pakistan Society Edinburgh and the Jewish Reform Synagogue. He said: "We felt it was vitally important following the bombings to pull together all the leaders of every community in the force area to discuss ways we can all help each other through this difficult time. "All these measures are designed to reassure not just the Muslim community but the wider community that we are taking steps to try to tackle the current issues facing everyone." Mr Dickson said monitoring trends of racist and hate crimes allowed the police to take swift and appropriate action. "My message is clear: we will not tolerate racism and we will pursue racists as a priority using all of the resources we have and using the full force of the laws."

    Hours after the London bombings, which killed 56 and injured more than 700, a mosque in Annandale Street and a nearby Pakistani community centre were attacked with racist graffiti. Jalal Chaudry, the Edinburgh and East of Scotland representative on the Muslim Council of Britain, said the message from the police was "very positive". He said: "I am delighted with what the police have been doing. Each one of the five Edinburgh mosques have noticed an increased police presence, which shows that they are saying: 'We are with you and we will protect you'." Shami Khan, the Capital's only Asian councillor and a leading member of the city's Pakistani community, added: "It is vital that people realise that the bombers were individuals who were not representing the views of the Muslim community. "Islam is a peaceful religion and people here should not be being blamed for what those men did." Meanwhile, Mohammed Akram, president of the Scottish branch of the Council of British Pakistanis, said the community had to remain united at all costs. In a letter to the Evening News, he said: "Nothing stemming from atrocities in London should divide our multicultural society and set us against each other. In these difficult times we must refrain from actions which divide us. "This is why we particularly appreciate the supportive messages from Lothian and Borders Police, politicians and from the general public."
    ©The Scotsman

    20/7/2005- The Government today said that a new system for measuring hate crimes is needed after admitting that reported racist attacks in Northern Ireland are "only the tip of the iceberg". Equality Minister Lord Rooker has launched the province's first ever Racial Equality Strategy aimed at eliminating racism and hate crimes. The Minister said the launch of the report was "timely" in the wake of the terrorist bomb attacks on London. There were more than 800 hate crimes reported in Northern Ireland in the past year - a figure described in the new plan as "undoubtedly shocking". However, the document warns that the true extent of racism in the province is much higher with many incidents going unreported because of a lack of confidence among ethnic minorities in police. It suggests a new system to measure hate crimes be introduced which allows third party recording of incidents through a range of statutory bodies and voluntary groups to provide a "detailed evidence base and an early warning system". The report also recommends that the Government should look at ways of trying to encourage more people from ethnic minority groups to join the PSNI. It also recommends carrying out an audit of training arrangements within the PSNI to encourage more ethnic minority people to join. The report also recommends examining ways to increase applications from people of ethnic minority backgrounds to other public bodies. As the strategy was laid before MPs, Mr Rooker said the London attacks were an attack on everyone. He said: "The bombs did not discriminate and people of all faiths and all racial groups have been victims. "At this time, we should remember that communities in the United Kingdom have more that unites them than divides them and the Government is determined that the atrocities will not be allowed to create tension between our communities. "Our vision for Northern Ireland is of a society in which racial diversity is supported, understood, valued and respected - a society where racism in any of its forms is not tolerated and where we live together as a society and enjoy equality of opportunity and equal protection."
    ©Belfast Telegraph

    Up to 1,000 exhausted, hungry, illegal immigrants arrive on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa each day, says Barbara McMahon

    17/7/2005- The smell is awful. Sour and overpowering, it rises from two wooden boats and two rubber dinghies tied up in a far corner of the picturesque harbour on the Italian island of Lampedusa. In these small craft some 300 people arriving from North Africa in search of new lives in Europe have endured dangerous journeys at sea, crammed together for hours without adequate water, food, shelter or toilets. Still scattered on the decks is what was left behind by those who made it ashore: odd shoes, discarded clothes and empty water bottles sloshing about in dirty, oily water. According to local fishermen, the migrants in these boats were brought in by the coastguards 10 days previously. The terrible stench gives some idea of the ordeal they must have endured. 'When they arrive they are suffering from nausea, vomiting, sunburn, dehydration, hypoglycaemia, diarrhoea,' says Dr Claudia Codesani from the charity MÈdecins Sans FrontiËres. 'They have been at sea for 17 hours or for as long as five or six days and they are desperate to eat and drink. Everyone is shocked and frightened. Many of them say to me: "Where is the train station for Milan"?' This tiny island 205 kilometres (about 127 miles) off the coast of Sicily and 113 kilometres from Tunisia doesn't even have a taxi, far less a train station. The people-smugglers who make small for tunes out of these clandestini, charging between 1,000 (£687) and 1,500 per person, know full well that the boats will not reach mainland Italy. They crush in as many people as possible, give one of them a compass and direct him to steer due north. As they set off from Libya or Tunisia, the passengers are unaware they have only enough fuel to reach Lampedusa. Overcrowded and dangerously low in the water, these boats of misery limp along in the swelling waters of the Mediterranean until, if they are lucky, they are spotted by Italian coastguards.

    At the headquarters of Lampedusa's Guardia di Finanza, the equivalent of Customs and Excise, Commander Cavallin and his men are enjoying a break from their daily routine of picking up survivors from the boats. 'When the sea consents, we can get 250 to 300 of these poveracci [pitiable people] a day,' he says. So far this year 4,500 migrants have landed at Lampedusa and the commander expects that the final tally for 2005 will be the same as last year - around 10,000. The record was 1,000 arriving in 48 hours. It must be difficult work, intercepting these boats and dealing with such wretchedness every day. 'Yes, but you become used to it,' replies Cavallin, pointing to a plaque on his office wall. It is a commendation signed by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi for a rescue a few years ago of a boatload of people in rough seas. 'There were a lot of dead people on that boat - 13 bodies,' the commander said. 'I found this girl and she was frozen, completely frozen, and near to death. I pulled her out and I warmed her with my own body to keep her alive.' She lived, but the officer and his men were quarantined for a month for fear of meningitis. 'You see the tears, the terror in their eyes - it is always a desperate situation,' he said. Once, he remembers, a woman and children were brought to the station to be questioned about their identity. 'My wife came by and brought some sweets and these children, six or seven years old, did not know how to open a sweet because they had never seen one before.' Lampedusa (population 5,500) with its volcanic landscape, turquoise seas and stunning coves and beaches, has always been a magnet for tourists, mostly Italians who come from cities seeking a few days of sea air. Bob Geldof enraged local people when he claimed on British television last month, before the Live8 concerts, that bodies of dead African children were washing up daily on Lampedusa's beaches. This upset business people struggling to maintain Lampedusa's reputation as a resort and angered the men of the Guardia di Finanza who risk their own lives to save those in danger.

    An unknown number of craft have capsized, their occupants drowned, but bodies do not wash up on the shore, says Cavallin. 'It's not true to say we are under siege here. It is bad for our business to give this impression,' said one hotelier. Angela Maraventano, local secretary of the ultra-right Northern League party, says the impression that Lampedusa is bursting at the seams with illegal immigrants is wrong. She claims tourism is down 40 per cent this year because people believe the stories about bodies on the beaches. 'We are all frightened after what happened in London,' she says, referring to last week's bombings. 'We don't know who these people are and what their intentions are.' Despite the improbability of terrorists arriving by rickety boats, Maraventano insists the immigrants could be a danger to the Italian way of life: 'We don't want them here, we don't know who they are and what they believe in. They should go back to their own countries.' Once on dry land, the illegal immigrants are interviewed, fingerprinted and photographed. Prior to embarkation, they will have destroyed their documents and may claim to be from places such as Turkey, Kashmir or Palestine in the hope of improving their chances of gaining asylum. Some of the clandestini who arrive on Lampedusa this year will be sent back to their own countries, but many will remain illegally in Italy or move on to other countries in Europe. They will have to pay their debts to the people-smugglers, and have little hope of finding the bright new lives they have dreamed about.Those staying in Italy will probably be reduced to selling socks, scarfs and sponges from trolleys in supermarket car parks, or peddling fake fashion handbags on the streets of big cities and handing most of the money to someone else. Others will simply have to beg. One has to wonder if their terrible journeys were worth it.
    ©The Observer

    17/7/2005- The government's flagship organisation for fighting racism in society has been accused of wasting massive amounts of taxpayers' money and of achieving "absolutely nothing" since it was set up two years ago. The Centre Against Racism hit the headlines earlier this year with its controversial criticism of a Swedish ice cream called Nogger Black. But despite receiving 14 million kronor (= about 1.5.million Euro) in funding - half the government's annual budget for combatting racism - the organisation appears to have done little else. Instead, a Svenska Dagbladet investigation has revealed, the Centre has been riven by internal conflicts and a lack of financial control. According to the newspaper, the Centre Against Racism spent 330,000 kronor in 2004 renovating its 180 square metres of office space in central Stockholm. The organisation only has three employees. "It became so expensive because the head of the organisation, Amina Ek, bought new, very luxurious furniture," said several disgruntled former employees. "She threw out all the old stuff we had bought cheaply." This year's budget allowed for a further 140,000 kronor to be spent on renovations. But a far greater amount was spent on hotels and restaurants. In 2004 the three employees plus the eleven board members managed to rack up bills of almost 600,000 kronor in travel, luxury hotel charges, meals and booze. So what has the Swedish taxpayer, eager to fight the scourge of racism in society, got for his or her money? "We made some keyrings and erasers, but nothing more substantial," said a former board member. "There were no concrete ideas about what we should do." Indeed, in two years the Centre has not carried out one investigation or produced one report into racism, ethnic harassment or homophobia, according to SvD. And the figures on hate crimes which the Centre publishes on its web site are five years old. Nevertheless, the salary costs in 2004 amounted to 1.7 million kronor, while the expenses of board members, who are meant to be unpaid, came to 275,000 kronor. Benito Miguel was one of the people who helped to form the Centre Against Racism two years ago. "The Centre has done absolutely nothing. The campaign against Nogger Black was just to cover up the lack of work," he said. During 2003 and 2004 the organisation received 8.3 million kronor from the government. Over 40% is still sitting in a bank account. That didn't stop the Department for Integration, which provides the funding, from dishing out another 800,000 kronor to cover the costs of the Centre's taking over the running of a database on racism. As SvD pointed out, "normal organisations receive reduced funding when they don't use their money". But that has not happened with the Centre Against Racism - which has apparently not been required to provide any evidence of how it has spent the cash. "The failings are in how they use the money," said Gunno Gunnmo, an investigator at the Justice Department. "There is no strategy, no goal and no guidelines. They have no order." But the chairman of the Centre, Stig Wallin, rejected the criticism, telling SvD that the unspent money was "a buffer" in case the funding stopped in the future. "We are employers and have a responsibility to cover notice periods and rental contracts. We need the money as security."
    ©The Local

    19/7/2005- Hate crime is increasing in Sweden but the police's ability to deal with it is limited by a lack of knowledge. That's the conclusion of an internal inquiry which, according to Dagens Nyheter, was covered up by the National Police Board. In 2003 there were 3,914 hate crimes, in which the attack was motivated by the victim's sexuality or ethnicity, in Sweden - an increase of 5% on the year before. The fastest rising area is crimes against homosexuals, which have doubled in eight years. In response, the National Police Board has organised a series of conferences and in February distributed among local police authorities guidelines on dealing with homophobic crimes. But after 4 months, none of the 20 police districts has used the guidelines. In a survey carried out by the Swedish National Police Academy, only three of the police districts were found to have sufficient knowledge of the guidelines. The interviewees were those responsible for prioritising hate crimes within their department and two thirds of them said that their bosses did not make it clear how important the issue is. They also reported a lack of knowledge of changes in the law and of racist networks. But in the National Police Board's annual report to the government, it described the progress in its work against hate crime as "good". That's a cover-up, said Dagens Nyheter. "I delivered the result to the National Police Board but I don't know why they chose to distance themselves from the research which they themselves had requested," said the man behind the survey, Christer Nyberg. Eva Br”nnmark, the head of the procedural department at the police board, told DN that the answers depended on who was asked. "Obviously it can be better than it is today," she said. "The need for knowledge is great and there are authorities which are evidently not clear on how they should work with hate crime."
    ©The Local

    Four members of the extreme rightwing Party of Nationally Orientated Swiss (PNOS) have been found guilty of racial discrimination.

    18/7/2005- PNOS has already been the subject of controversy after two of its members were recently elected to serve in local politics. The verdict, which was confirmed by officials on Monday, was handed down by a district court in canton Aarau. Party president Jonas Gysin was among those penalised. The court found that the four concerned had publicly disseminated an ideology which was aimed at belittling or slandering people of certain races, religions or ethnic origins. It also condemned the members for publishing the party manifesto which advocated collective abuse of foreigners and called for non-Swiss people to be repatriated. The four now have to pay fines ranging between SFr300 ($232) and SFr500. They have until the beginning of September to appeal. Heinz Kaiser, a project leader with World Citizens, an international peace organisation, filed a complaint against the rightwing group in 2003. In the same year PNOS had conducted a poster campaign during the federal parliamentary elections, taking material used by the Swiss National Socialists in the 1930s. The party, which was founded in summer 2000, has enjoyed some success as a political force in local politics after two of its members were elected to serve in local government. Dominic Bannholzer was elected to the government in the commune of G¸nsberg in northern Switzerland in May 2005. Six months earlier Tobias Hirschi gained a seat in the local parliament in the commune of Langenthal in canton Bern. PNOS is estimated to have between 100 and 130 members and is particularly active in central Switzerland and around Basel. This is not the first time that members of the party have been alleged to have racist views. The federal authorities' 2004 report on extremism found that the party programme, newspaper and other PNOS publications were characterised by "xenophobic, antidemocratic and rightwing extremist rhetoric".

    Around 30 businesses in canton Vaud are refusing to comply with an order to sack hundreds of foreign workers who have had their asylum requests rejected.

    22/7/2005- If they fail to do so by the end of the month, they could be hit with fines of up to SFr5,000 ($3,900) per illegal employee. In April this year the authorities in Vaud announced that all rejected asylum seekers facing expulsion would no longer be allowed to work in the canton, bringing it into line with the federal asylum law. Employers were recently informed that the ban would take effect from July 31. Campaigners estimate there are around 400 people affected by the move. But businesses, including hotels and cleaning companies, have now written to Vaud's seven-strong government saying they will not fire staff. (read related stories) "We are being forced to sack people who have been in Switzerland for several years, who have made great efforts to adapt to our customs and way of life even though they have experienced traumatic events in the past," they said in their letter. Employers also highlighted the time and effort invested in training staff, the arbitrary July 31 cut-off date, and the fact that workers would now have to rely on "paltry" welfare handouts to survive. The cantonal authorities told swissinfo that they were unable to comment on the contents of the letter since the government had yet to read it. But they said that there had been no change in the policy announced in April whereby rejected asylum seekers ordered to leave the country would no longer be allowed to work. The stand taken by businesses in favour of rejected asylum seekers comes shortly after the issue provoked a political crisis within the canton. At the beginning of the month Vaud's parliament voted narrowly in favour of a freeze on repatriations of a group of rejected asylum seekers. But 24 hours later the canton's government ruled that it would not consider the resolution until it met again in August. It said expulsions would go ahead as planned during the summer, adding that it had no option but to fall into line with federal law.

    Doctor Petar Beron, deputy leader of Ataka and the party's nominee for Deputy Speaker of Parliament, interviewed by The Sofia Echo Editor-in-Chief Clive Leviev-Sawyer.

    18/7/2005- ATAKA, the political phenomenon led by Volen Siderov into winning 21 seats in Bulgaria's 40th National Assembly, has been described as ultra-nationalist, anti-Roma, anti-Semitic, anti-EU, anti-NATO, homophobic, and xenophobic. None of these descriptions is accurate, says Dr Petar Beron, deputy leader of Ataka.

    "All of them are sheer slander. The only thing that is true is that this is a nationalist organisation, but this is not a bad name. It is something that we are proud of, because we want to be the same kind of nationalists as all the other noble countries ñ such nationalists as Chirac, Schroeder, as Bush. Bush is the biggest nationalist now because he wants the interests of the United States to be defended everywhere. "If we want to do this for the interests of Bulgaria, they call us ultra-nationalists, and I don't think that this is fair. We want to be measured with the same measure as anyone else."

    Taking the descriptions one by one, he starts: "We are not anti-Roma at all".
    "The problem with the gypsies, or now they call them Roma, is a European problem, not just a problem of Bulgaria. It is very difficult to solve, first because of the very conservative way of life of these people, which is very difficult to change." Secondly, he says, the approach to the issue of the Roma is very different from what would be appropriate. "They have some privileges which are unacceptable to us. They are poor, they live in misery, but they are privileged. They are privileged to not have to pay for electricity, they are privileged to have a lenient approach taken to them in court, because otherwise they accuse Bulgaria in court in Strasbourg of racism."

    All Bulgarian citizens should be equal before the law, as the country's constitution says.
    "Equal rights, equal obligations. Whoever is contributing to society may enjoy all these rights, but whoever is not contributing, who is destroying the cities, and stealing, is not entitled to these rights ñ they are entitled to go to court and be sentenced." "We think that rights are not something fallen from Heaven, they are part of the social contract."

    The Roma need to change their behaviour and their lifestyle, including for their own sake.
    "To teach their children not to steal, to go to school ñ we want them to be educated; to clean up their streets ñ what is wrong with this? We want them to refrain from organising groups that steal, for instance from the orchards." Beron says that Roma steal harvests in villages: "they act as parasites". "We want them to work for their bread. If they want cherries, if they want potatoes, let them plant them. The state should help them to do this, to give them land. But that social amenities are given to them, just because ëeverybody's entitled', does not solve the problem". All who can work, should work, if they want to be treated as decent, equal Bulgarian citizens, he says. He describes EuroRoma, which is probably the largest Roma political formation, as having been set up with European and foreign money, and says that it is an ethnic party, and as such represents a violation of article 11 of the Bulgarian constitution that forbids such parties.

    As regards Bulgaria's community that is of ethnic Turkish descent, Beron says, "We are not anti-Turk".
    But, he says, Ataka cannot accept the role being played by Ahmed Dogan, the leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the party supported mainly by Bulgarians of ethnic Turkish descent. "Dogan is doing things that no other normal European country would accept. He is trying to make Bulgarians feel uncomfortable in their own country. Mr Dogan is trying to swallow the whole country, little by little, with his ethnic party." There were areas of the country where Turkish, not Bulgarian, must be spoken by Bulgarians in order to access services, Beron says. In the Agriculture Ministry, Nihat Kabil (the MRF-nominated minister at the close of the Simeon Saxe-Coburg government) introduced the use of Turkish, and addressed Bulgarian officials using a Turkish word meaning "infidel", says Beron. "We will not tolerate this in our own country. Try to do this in Greece and see what would be the consequences". "We don't have anything against the Turks ñ they are, contrary to the gypsies, people who are hard-working. They are not a nuisance to society, as most of the gypsies are. But we were under Turkish occupation for 500 years, and they want to perpetuate this now through other means." Should the ethnic Turkish population work for the interests of Bulgaria, this would be acceptable, "but when they work as a fifth column for Turkey, we cannot accept this".

    Regarding Jewish people, Beron says that Bulgaria is the country in Europe where there is the least discrimination against Jews.
    As an MP, he went to Israel in 1991 as part of a parliamentary delegation. "They were so thankful for the salvation of the Jews in Bulgaria in World War 2 that I felt uneasy because I personally did not contribute to this." In the war, 50 000 Bulgarian Jews were spared from transportation to Nazi death camps because of the courage of Bulgarians who stood up against the Reich. There has been little anti-Semitism in Bulgaria, he says. "We have many Jews in government now, in Parliament, some of them open, some of them hidden under Bulgarian names, but Jews all the same. You see that one of them is trying to be Speaker of Parliament (this interview was conducted at the time that it had emerged in media reports that the Bulgarian Socialist Party's George Pirinski, whose mother was of Jewish descent, was to be nominated as the National Assembly's presiding officer), the other one Prime Minister (BSP leader Sergei Stanishev's mother was also reported to be of Jewish descent). "We have nothing against them when they work for Bulgaria. When they get their orders from foreign Jewish institutions, we cannot accept this. It is very simple. We are against the activities of Mr (Solomon) Passi not because his father is a Jew, but because he is serving foreign interests and foreign forces."

    Who are these foreign interests and foreign forces, Beron is asked.
    "First of all, the overall project of the United States for world domination, which no one can deny. Second, the US-based Jewish organisations that are dictating to Mr Passi what to do and what not to do. This is our deep conviction." Beron says that his son is an American citizen, living in Washington DC, and his daughter-in-law is American. "So, I have nothing against this country (the US). But I cannot accept an ambassador here in Sofia who is calling the Bulgarian ministers and telling them what to do." Bulgaria, Beron says, is not a colony or a dominion. "We try to be an independent country, like Greece for example, with national dignity. We want to be equal among equals and to have more consideration from the foreign ambassadors". That US ambassador James Pardew makes statements about issues like judicial reform and military reform ñ "giving very blunt instructions" ñ affects the dignity of the Bulgarian people. That Ataka is labelled as "Nazi" is meaningless, he says, because the party has no ambitions to invade foreign countries ñ in fact, it wants to withdraw Bulgarian troops from foreign countries.

    And yet, it is put to Beron, someone felt comfortable enough with their perception of Ataka to post an anti-Semitic document, purportedly listing 1500 influential Jews in Bulgaria, on Ataka's website forum?
    "This was a provocation." The list, he says, contained the names of people who were not Jews. The list was concocted in 2002 and had been posted on several sites since then. "Ataka is not against people because of their ethnic origin." The party's appeal, he said, was based on its true aims, which included stopping corruption and thievery. "Forget about this list. Anybody can put such a list on anybody's website".

    On the European Union, he dismisses the description of Ataka being anti-EU as "rubbish".
    "We cannot stay outside the EU, but we don't like the way that the talks were carried out. This was done without any clarity. Chapters that were closed were not shown to anybody. The president of the Bulgarian Academy of Science asked that the chapter on science and technology be shown to him, to be told that it was ëtop secret'." He describes the agreement on the closure of units of Kozlodui nuclear power plant as "scandalous". There should be real negotiations, he says, rather than "yes-men and yes-women" simply accepting orders from Brussels, and European functionaries being treated as gods.

    On NATO, Beron says the alliance is an aggressive organisation, not a defensive one.
    "NATO has not defended anyone up to now. It was created by the West for defence against the Soviet Union. Now they are trying to impose a new role of NATO which is not written, as far as I know, in the statutes of NATO ñ to fulfill the global purposes of the US." NATO will be disbanded one day, he says, because it is outdated. There will be a new defensive organisation. But for the time being, it is not possible for Bulgaria to leave NATO. In the unstable Balkans, when Bulgaria's army has been purposefully destroyed, Bulgaria has no choice but to remain in NATO because it needs it should the need for defence arise. At the same time, US bases, like any foreign bases, should not be allowed in Bulgaria. "Bulgarian military bases should be open to NATO, but remain under Bulgarian military control."

    That the party is xenophobic, he says, is "a nonsense".
    "Half of my family is married to foreigners, including in Israel. I am chairman of the Association Friends of Africa, and of the association for friendship with Indonesia. I have been to many foreign countries. "We just want Bulgaria to be predominantly a country of Bulgarians, just like France is a country of the French and Germany of the Germans. You know the German anthem, ëDeutschland Ueber Alles?' If we asked for such an anthem in Bulgaria, they would call us nationalists. We do not want Bulgaria to be ëueber alles' but we want it to be respected. To be a country where Bulgarians are the predominant etnos. This is the national state of Bulgarians. This is not xenophobia."

    His recruitment policy at the Museum of Natural History, he says, has always been to appoint on the basis of competence, not ethnic group or nationality.
    "When we say that we do not want non-Bulgarians in the government, it doesn't mean that we are against somebody of another ethnic origin. We want people who are not acting for foreign interests. There are people of pure Bulgarian ethnic origin who are acting against Bulgarian interests, and these are also non-Bulgarians."

    As to homophobia, he considers this a question of character, not sexuality.
    "We do not want to be ruled by such people." "Things like the laws that have been accepted in Holland and Spain, on same-sex marriages, we do not want such laws. We are old-fashioned people. If they want to have such relationships, let them. These are weird people, let them be weird, let them be as they want to be, but let them not impose their weirdness on others. The normal situation is a heterosexual situation."
    But, he says, such matters are not the core issue. The real issues are those like privatisation, and the real resentment of Ataka is not about its views, but that the party wants to see prosecutions for illegal acts during privatisations.

    Has Ataka received threats, considering the controversy that surrounds it?
    "The ordinary people are ringing, day and night, to express support. Support from everywhere. If you see the analysis of our vote, you'll see that most people were educated, middle-aged, intellectuals, with strong support too from young people. If elections were held now, we'd have 50 MPs, at least. The results would be crushing for the thieves. They think that entering Parliament, we shall become like them, but we shall not. We have decent people, lawyers, doctors, army officers ñ they are respected people in their constituencies. I don't think they will yield to the pressure to become like the others."

    Interviewer's note: taxidermy and politics
    Trapped forever in poses of rigid but futile aggression, the stuffed wild animals in Sofia's Natural History Museum provide a tempting analogy for the politics of Ataka. Petar Beron, before taking up his seat as an MP on July 11, was still director of the museum, and it was there that this interview was conducted. He came down from his office to meet me at the entrance of the museum (entrance fee: 50 stotinki for children, pensioners, and students, one lev for Bulgarians, two leva for foreigners) and, with impeccable courtesy, insisted on playing tour guide, showing off the exhibits, leading me through the atmosphere of perceptible humidity and a whiff of dustiness. In turn, I murmured and nodded politely at each point of pride, refraining from pointing out that, coming as I do from Africa, I had seen many of the animals on display live, vital and vigorous. A glass-eyed relic of past glory, sometimes with a tiny fold of sagging hide, is not quite the same. In his office, shared with a secretary, one wall is lined to the ceiling with books, including his own, the covers showing his face younger and firmer, the beard as bushy but much darker, taken at the time he was one of the leaders of the post-communist wave of democracy, when he was a key figure in the Union of Democratic Forces, and at one point came close to being Prime Minister. His staff, and his fellows from Ataka who came and went as the interview proceeded, defer to him with politeness and respect. The previous night, when I had been introduced to him to get this interview, the person who did so described me laughingly as a "Jewboy" (an ancestral claim, however objectionable the term, true of that person himself), but Beron received me not as the enemy, but as the conduit of what he hoped to clarify in the interview. This newspaper, he said, was vital to its audience of expatriates and foreigners finding out what Ataka really stands for. Throughout the interview, I found myself using one of time-honoured techniques of the interviewer, of nodding and murmuring at appropriate junctures in the flow of words. It is human nature for many interview subjects to be encouraged by this, by the way: to misread the real message, which is no more than "I'm listening", as "I agree with you".
    ©Sofia Echo

    20/7/2005- A group of nationalists has asked a Moscow court to order an investigation of Jewish leaders over an ancient text that the nationalists say incites hatred, Interfax reported Tuesday. The request was the latest move in a months-long campaign by the group to ban Jewish organizations in Russia, an effort that has raised fears of a resurgence of anti-Semitism and questions about the government's commitment to fighting racism. Interfax reported that members of the group asked the Basmanny District Court to order the Prosecutor General's Office to investigate Jewish leaders whom they accuse of imposing the principles of an ancient Jewish religious text. The group claims the text, a summary of religious laws called Kitsur Shulhan Arukh, foments hatred. The appeal came three weeks after Moscow prosecutors dropped an investigation into whether a Russian translation of the text incites ethnic and religious hatred. Interfax quoted one of the authors of the request as saying that 15,000 people have voiced support for banning Jewish religious organizations in Russia. Mikhail Nazarov, a historian and writer, said government and media officials who "support the principles" of the text should resign, Interfax reported. Nazarov and other authors could not immediately be reached for comment. The Basmanny District Court declined to comment or confirm that it had received the request. The Prosecutor General's Office said that it took at least several days for such appeals to be considered and, if approved, to reach the prosecutor's office. The campaign emerged in January, when 19 lawmakers signed a letter that accused Jews of fomenting ethnic and religious hatred, citing a Russian translation of Kitsur Shulhan Arukh. The letter asked prosecutors to conduct an investigation aimed at outlawing Jewish organizations. The letter was withdrawn amid a public outcry ahead of President Vladimir Putin's visit to Auschwitz for ceremonies commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Nazi death camp's liberation. In May, Moscow prosecutors ruled that a criminal case was not warranted because the text did not inspire hatred. Prosecutors later opened another investigation meant to review the ruling, but dropped it in late June amid criticism from Jewish leaders who called the probe anti-Semitic. Jewish leaders praised that decision but said the Russian government was not doing enough to combat anti-Semitism. "If the state -- the judicial authorities -- does not place barriers to such actions, they will continue on a larger and larger scale," said Borukh Gorin, spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia. Gorin criticized authorities for rejecting a request from Jewish and human rights groups to prosecute the authors of the initial letter. He said the government should come down harder on "the propagandists of xenophobia, nationalism and Nazism."
    ©Associated Press

    19/7/2005- The Russia government has approved a plan to make people more patriotic. The $17m programme will urge youths to mark military victories, and will fund the re-introduction of military-style games in schools. There will also be healthy lessons in the curious subject of "correct reproductive behaviour" - Kremlin-speak for patriotic sex education. Boosting patriotism is one of President Vladimir Putin's priorities but it is unclear if the move will achieve that. The Soviet Union may have been short on freedom and democracy, but the one thing it had plenty of was patriotism. For decades, one-sixth of the world's land surface was adorned with hammers, sickles and busts of Lenin. The country echoed to the sound of spectacular military parades on Moscow's Red Square. It all went some way to make up for the sausage queues and the rusty Lada cars, and help persuade the population they were part of a superpower. Until, of course, the USSR fell apart, and the patriotic bubble burst. Now, though, the Russian government has decided to restore lost pride with something very Soviet - a five-year plan. Bearing the grand title The State Programme for the Patriotic Education of Citizens, it quadruples government spending on patriotic projects. There will be more flags, more CDs with the national anthem, more computer games celebrating the might of the Russian army.

    'Spiritual backbone'
    There are plans to organise patriotic song contests and competitions for Patriot of the Year. Soviet-style military training will be reintroduced into schools. And to improve the moral standing of the young generation, there will be lessons in "correct reproductive behaviour". The plan aims to make patriotism the "spiritual backbone" of Russia and is designed to "counter attempts in the media at discrediting patriotic ideas". The Kremlin sees the measures as vital for preserving national unity and state security. It is unclear, though, whether this particular programme will achieve that - after all, money alone can't buy love for the motherland.
    ©BBC News

    16/7/2005- A deputy speaker of the Russian parliament's lower house, the State Duma, registered a new faction on Tuesday that is called Rodina (Motherland). It will be the second Duma faction with the name. Last week Sergei Baburin, a senior member of Motherland, was expelled from the faction led by Dmitry Rogozin. Baburin insisted that his faction should also be called Motherland. The head of the parliamentary regulations committee, Oleg Kovalev, quoted by the Ekho Moskvy radio station said Rogozin's faction could be named Motherland (Party of the Russian Regions) and Baburin's would be Motherland (People's Will). People's Will was the name of the party headed by Baburin that earlier joined the Motherland election bloc. Baburin was expelled due to his attempts to "split" the faction, it was declared officially. His new faction includes nine members. It is not the first time there has been a split in the nationalist Motherland faction. The bloc was established at the end of 2003, on the eve of parliamentary elections. Its leader then was Sergei Glazyev, but soon after the bloc entered the Duma with over nine percent of the vote Glazyev left the faction, and his co-chairman Rogozin took over the leadership. After the news of the new Motherland appeared, Rogozin decided to bring Glazyev back as the old faction leader, Interfax news agency reported. The old faction decided to restore Glazyev as the chairman for the fall parliamentary session and appoint Rogozin and the other top faction member, Valentin Varennikov, co-chairmen. One of the three will become chairman for the future sessions on a rotation principle.

    16/7/2005- A top aide to President Vladimir Putin made light of recent charges of discrimination by minorities who speak Finno-Ugric languages in Russia and suggested an international conspiracy behind the rise of Finno-Ugric ethnic consciousness. In a style recalling Stalinist paranoia, Vladislav Surkov told members of the Delovaya Rossiya (Business Russia) economic forum last week that Finland, Estonia, and the European Union - as well as the CIA - are engaged in "an obviously premeditated system of operations" against Russia. "Suddenly one discovers, that we [Russia] do oppress them somehow and they are discriminated against in our country," Surkov said according to the Radio Liberty web site on July 11 that published his apparently off-the-record speech. "And regions where these Finno-Ugrians constitute a majority of population do hold a strategic amount of our oil reserves." In taking such things into account, Surkov continued, "It is better to be enemies and not ambiguous friends as it is now!" Then he plunged into history he identified as a "psychological base." For 500 years, Russia was "a modern state," Surkov said, "it made history and was not made by history. After all, with respect to all those nations, we differ strongly from Slovaks, Baltic nations, and even Ukrainians. They had no state system. People, including Russian politicians of the past, drew them on maps. This explains why we will be those bad children who have disregarded everything."
    ©Bigotry Monitor

    19/7/2005- Russia's non-governmental human rights organizations have said they should be present at consultations between Russia and the European Union on human rights issues, the Interfax news agency reportd. Russian human rights activists stated their demands in an open letter to the governments of Russia and the EU countries, and the secretary-general of the EU Council. The letter was made public at a news conference in Moscow Tuesday. It was signed by representatives of 76 Russian non-governmental human rights organizations. "We are concerned that the first round of consultations, which was held in Luxembourg on March 1, was not sufficiently prepared and made no headway," the letter's authors noted. They recalled that preparations are currently under way for a new round of consultations to be held in Brussels in the fall. In view of this, the human rights organizations are proposing that they should be included in the negotiating process. For instance, as preliminary subjects for discussion, the Russian human rights activists suggest the problem of making law enforcers respect human rights, reforms in the Russian legal system, the problem of human rights and the fight against terrorism, and Russian citizens' electoral rights. The letter's authors stress that this is not the only area of public life where, in their view, human rights are violated. However, the letter's authors believe that these subjects should be made a priority. "We believe it is necessary to stress once again that dialogue between Russia and the EU can only be productive for our country if open discussion on the most acute and painful subjects is made the centre of dialogue and if the discussion remains within the public domain," the letter's authors stress. Commenting on the document during the news conference, the head of the Russian society Memorial, Sergei Kovalev, who also signed the letter, said: "We understand our mandate, we understand our responsibility." At the same time, he said: "We have something to do with this business, ladies and gentlemen, will you kindly pay heed to our opinion".

    22/7/2005- A human rights activist and her son were killed in the North Russian city of Vorkuta on Thursday. An unidentified person rang the doorbell of Lyudmila Zhorovlya's apartment. When she opened the door, she and her son were shot, Interfax news agency quoted the head of the regional department of the Memorial human rights organization, Igor Sazhin, as saying. Zhorovlya was well-known in Vorkuta for helping residents receive money back after having paid for public utilities illegally overpriced by the city administration. Zhorovlya had received numerous threats and demands to stop her activity. Vorkuta social organizations are currently preparing a joint address to the Russian Prosecutor General's office to send an operative group to the city to investigate the murder. Another well-known Russian human rights activist, Nikolai Girenko, was killed in St. Petersburg in June 2004. Girenko led a research group into national extremism. An unidentified person killed the activist in his apartment, and Girenko died at the scene.

    22/7/2005- Police have detained a group of suspects believed to have been involved in causing a deadly blaze that spread through a shopping center in North Russia's city of Ukhta killing 25 people earlier this month, the Interfax news agency reported. "Detentions began on July 20," the acting interior minister in the Komi Republic, Vladimir Silayev, told a news conference in Syktyvkar on Friday. Five people including an Ukhta resident and four residents of Vorkuta were detained, he said. Firearms were seized from the detainees. "They may be viewed as accomplices in the Ukhta fire," the official said. Several more suspects were detained in Vorkuta. The detainees could be linked to those involved in the Ukhta events, Silayev said. Those who masterminded the attack did not expect such a response from law enforcers, Silayev noted. The fire broke out at the Passazh shopping center in Ukhta on July 11. Initially, investigators suggested the attack may have been racially motivated. Police said the fire was caused by arson and some officials say they would not rule out the attack could have been the result of a feud between local businessmen of Slavic origin and rivals from the North Caucasus. Other officials have blamed the incident on negligence. Russian media reported earlier that police detained two teenagers who had allegedly been seen throwing bottles with flammable liquid into the crowded building.

    President Vaclav Klaus is in hot water again after controversial comments about multiculturalism and terrorism. Mr Klaus was quoted in a newspaper interview as saying that there was a link between the mass influx of foreign cultures and terrorist attacks on the West.

    18/7/2005- President Klaus made the comments in the newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes. He was quoted as saying that the openness of the West to immigrants from other cultures facilitated attacks by radical Islamists. He described multiculturalism as a "tragic mistake" of Western civilisation, for which Western society would pay dearly. He stopped short of saying multiculturalism was a direct cause of terrorism - rather that it was a breeding ground for terrorist attacks. Mr Klaus's political opponents reacted immediately to the remarks. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said he didn't understand the comments, pointing out that not all terrorists were immigrants. Deputy Prime Minister Zdenek Skromach described the comments as nonsense, saying it was impossible for countries to be closed when the world was being globalised. Mr Klaus, he said, was living in the last century. Some, however, supported the president's views. Mirek Topolanek, chairman of the centre-right opposition Civic Democrats, which was founded by Mr Klaus in the early 1990s, said Europe was suffering from multiculturalism, which was beginning to destroy its original culture from within. In London, he said, churches were being closed down and minarets were appearing in their place. This, he said, was not normal. Generally President Klaus is very in tune with Czech public opinion. He's one of the country's most respected and popular politicians, and is always careful to reflect the public mood. Czech society is sometimes described as rather closed and xenophobic, although some observers say that is beginning to change. Many people, particularly better-educated people living in cities with immigrant populations, will take issue with his comments, and many will be offended. However Mr Klaus probably wouldn't have made the comments if he didn't think a large slice of Czech society didn't agree with him.
    ©Prague Daily Monitor

    20/7/2005- President Vaclav Klaus has thanked the far-right and nationalist National Unification party (NSJ) for its support in his dispute with members of the European Parliament (EP), Pravo wrote yesterday. The letter of thanks, written in Klaus's name by his secretary Ladislav Jakl, has been published on the NSJ website, the paper said. Klaus had a fierce dispute with EP Vice President Alejo Vidal-Quadras and EP constitutional committee head Jo Leinen in April. Klaus was enraged by the MEPs' criticism of his negative opinions on the draft of the European constitution. Jakl thanked the NSJ for its political statement in support of Klaus. "I have handed your statement over to the president and I thank you for your support on his behalf," Jakl wrote. Jakl added that Klaus is pleased that the party is not indifferent to events concerning the current political scene and that "it openly presents its stance." Klaus's spokesman Petr Hajek refused to comment on the letter. However, he admitted that the letter is authentic, Pravo said. According to the paper, the NSJ is a party combining the extreme right wing and Catholic fundamentalism. It plans to run joint candidates with the far-right nationalist Republican Party of Miroslav Sladek in the next general election in summer 2006. NSJ representatives state on the party's website that they want to re-introduce capital punishment and issue stricter sentences for drug dealers, and they are against abortions, euthanasia, the registered partnership of homosexuals and the country's EU membership.
    ©Prague Daily Monitor

    18/7/2005- Despite earlier calls by Czech officials to stop hate concerts in the Czech Republic, two large events were held last weekend, each attracting around 200 skinheads and neo-Nazis. Both concerts were monitored by the police. In Olomouc, a concert organized by the hate group Narodni Odpor (National Resistance) featured four bands known to have recorded songs with anti-semitic and racist lyrics. Although the police did not report any Nazi or nationalist activity at this concert, anti-hate activist Ondrej Cakl of Tolerance a obcanske spolechost (Tolerance and Open Society) reported that his hidden cameras at the event revealed concert goers quietly giving the Nazi Sieg Heil while police weren't looking. Similarly, songs with racist lyrics were only sung when police were absent. The concert started at 6:00 pm at the local pub Na Pile, and lasted until 3:00 am. Another concert took place in Libavske udoli, featuring Ukrainian nationalist band Sokira Peruna (Perun's Axe). Forewarned that the concert would feature a foreign band, the police brought along a translator, who confirmed that the band performed songs with racist lyrics, and talked of ëwinning white power.' The police shut down the concert after attendees started giving Nazi salutes and shouting Sieg Heil. The lead singer of Sokira Peruna was arrested, and questioned, but later released. Such concerts are part of the growing international hate movement, which has found a particularly strong medium through white power music. According to American anti-hate organization the Southern Poverty and Law Center, racist music is now found in every one of Europe's 30 countries, but it is especially widespread in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Serbia and Slovakia. Interpol estimates reveal that the European neo-Nazi music industry is growing rapidly. Their report in 1999 placed the value of the industry at 3.4 million USD per year, and it has only grown since then. With the cost of producing a CD little more than , Interpol said profit margins were better than for selling hashish. It is estimated that there are now around 40 such hate concerts a year in the Czech Republic. The events are usually organized as private parties, to keep outsiders from attending, and are monitored by police officers. The police do not interfere in the events unless there are blatant signs of illegal Nazi propaganda or promotion.
    ©Dzeno Association

    By Mary Dejevsky

    18/7/2005- If charm and elegance define your idea of a desirable city, Simferopol will not meet your requirements. It is almost as though this scruffily rambling conurbation has been called upon to balance the delights of the increasingly chic resorts just an hour's drive over mountains to the south. In so many ways, the capital of the Crimea has caught the short straw. It has the airport, railway station and road junction through which most holiday-makers must pass to reach the sea; at any one time a large number of those thronging its streets are just passing through. It was only lightly touched by Ukraine's Orange revolution. Lenin still lords it over the square in front of the government buildings. And, although capitalism has made its mark, with casinos, money-changing booths and cafes every few yards, the city is undisguisedly poor. Jewellery shops tempt customers inside with offers to exchange old baubles for new and a store has cornered the market in "second-hand European clothes". Its mixed identity falls short of feeling cosmopolitan. While the rest of Ukraine is divided relatively neatly, with Russian-speakers predominating in the east and Ukrainian-speakers in the West, in the Crimea there is a three-way split: Russians, Ukrainians and the Tatar population compete for public money, space and political power. After the Orange revolution, the Russians, at almost 60 per cent, feel displaced. The Ukrainians feel at once vindicated and apprehensive, while the Tatars, who started returning in the 1980s from the Central Asian exile into which they had been brutally forced by Stalin, are trying to reclaim their old land, or any land at all. All these tensions converge in Simferopol. Two blonde girls in their late teens sit at a card table on Rosa Luxembourg street, chatting and preening in the sunshine. The placard behind them explains that they are collecting signatures for a petition; 220,000 already collected in two weeks. Its purpose is to press for an amendment to the Ukrainian constitution that would enshrine Russian as joint official language with Ukrainian. To pass, an amendment needs the support of three-quarters of Ukraine's 400 MPs.

    The petition is designed to put pressure on local MPs. "If they don't support it, we'll campaign to throw them out," says one girl. With parliamentary elections in March, and Ukraine still a simmering political cauldron, this is no idle threat. An elderly woman stops to sign. She complains that all prescription labels are now in Ukrainian and she cannot understand them. Russians have treated the Crimean resorts as their summer playground since the 19th century, and still do, even though they now have to cross a border, change their roubles into hryvny and pay Ukraine's higher prices. With car ownership now common, thousands of Russians make the long trek south at this time of year. Reading between the lines of the local newspaper, it seems that their passage through Simferopol and its environs has become a nice little earner for the local traffic police. After complaints from Russian drivers that they were being importuned by bent Ukrainian cops - accusations hotly denied by local police chiefs - encounters between police and drivers were secretly recorded. The result? More than 500 "breaches of discipline" registered across 365 encounters. The police authority is now appealing to holidaymakers not to "tempt" the cops or to break the law by "offering a bribe". If things don't improve, Ukraine's Interior Minister, Yuri Lutsenko, has threatened to drive around in a Russian-registered car to test the southern charm of his officers for himself. He says that if he comes across any rude or corrupt behaviour, he will withdraw all the traffic cops from Crimea for the summer. "Whoopee," says a local reporter, "then we really will have a ball."

    20/7/2005- A ceremony took place June 24 in Lviv, western Ukraine. The presidents of Poland and Ukraine attended the opening of the Eaglets' Cemetery, a place which for several decades was the focus of conflict between both countries. Despite decades of declarations concerning a strategic Polish-Ukraine partnership and countless manifestations of friendship between politicians from both countries, the issue of the Eaglets' Cemetery cast a shadow over good relations. The problem dated back to what might seem like the remote past, but is still much alive in the collective awareness of the two nations.

    Brother vs. brother
    In 1918 World War I was nearing an end. Countries which until recently had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire started to rise from the empire's ruins. Polish aspirations for independence started to materialize and take on real form. Still, the Poles were not the only nation which hoped to create an independent country at a time of immense European upheavalóthe Ukrainians also had their sights set on independence. The pursuit of an independent Ukraine and political concepts for the country's creation found support among some politicians of the collapsing Habsburg monarchy and Germany, devastated by the war. According to those concepts, the Ukrainian state would be formed on territories with diversified ethnicity, where the Polish and Ukrainian nations had coexisted for centuries. In the 18th century, the land in question had belonged to the First Republic of Poland, a multinational country governed by Poles. Consequently, in the early 20th century, both Poles and Ukrainians claimed the area. The two nations claimed links to and the right to possess the city of Lviv. While the territory had belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Lviv became an important academic, scientific and cultural center. The city had an enormous cultural and civilization heritage rooted in Polish influences dating back to the 14th century. Poles pursuing independence in 1918 had no doubt that Lviv was a Polish city and should be incorporated into the reborn Polish state. To Ukrainians, in turn, it was just as obvious that if an independent Ukraine emerged, Lviv had to remain within the borders of the new state and become an important intellectual and civilization center of the young state. The situation inevitably led to a conflict. The first sparks flew Nov. 1, 1918, when Ukraine's volunteer military formations attempted to take control of Lviv. Fights broke out at several sites in the city, as Polish military groups formed spontaneously to mirror the Ukrainian formations that had appeared in the city. The fight for Lviv continued through Nov. 22, 1918, when Polish flags eventually fluttered atop the city's most important buildings. On the Polish part, the fights primarily involved extremely patriotic youth from Lviv who could not imagine the city under Ukrainian control. It was those young people that the Poles later dubbed the Eaglets of Lviv. Naturally, as the conflict in Lviv unfolded, Polish military backup came to the rescue from Cracow and Poland gained control over the city. Hundreds of young Poles were killed in the November fighting. Initially they were buried at various spots in Lviv within provisional graveyards. In the summer of 1919, the Lviv City Board decided to build one cemetery as the final resting place for not only the bodies of the young defenders of Polish Lviv, but also soldiers and civilians who died in eastern Poland fighting the Soviet Army. The war, which historians later called the Polish-Bolshevik war, ended in 1920 with the defeat of the Soviet invaders. The Poles were aided by soldiers from France, the United States and other countries. Some of those who were killed were also buried in the Lviv cemetery.

    History of the cemetery
    A competition for the design of a mausoleum of the defenders of Lviv and Polish eastern territories was launched as early as 1921. The winner was Rudolf Indruch, an architecture student from the Lviv University of Technology. He designed a monumental cemetery complex comprising a domed chapel towering over the tombs below. Between the chapel and the tombs, Indruch placed catacombs where the exhumed remains of 72 fighters were laid to rest. Two monuments were erected to the French infantry and American pilots. Below, a Glory Monument was built in the form of a semi-circular colonnade with an inscription above reading "Mortui sunt ut liberi vivamus"ó"They died so we could live free." Two stone lions stood near a triumphal arch. The construction of the Eaglets' Cemetery, as the memorial was named, continued until the outbreak of World War II. The cemetery had almost 3,000 tombs, including 300 of the young defenders of Lviv from 1918. After World War II, western Ukraine, including Lviv, became part of the Soviet Union. The Eaglets' Cemetery deteriorated and was systematically devastated. The lions were taken away, the colonnade pulled down, as were the monuments to the French infantry and American pilots. There were attempts to crush the triumphal arch with tanks and in the 1970s, bulldozers razed most of the tombs. The catacombs became a stonemasons' shop. The Soviet authorities did their best to erase any traces of the Polish military cemetery in Lviv and consequently, the memory of the Polish presence in the city. The situation changed with the rise of independent Ukraine. Good Polish-Ukrainian relations resulted in the Ukrainian authorities' consenting to the reconstruction of the cemetery and restoration of its former splendor. Cleaning and renovation work was initiated by Polish companies operating in Ukraine. The workers received priceless assistance from Poles living in Ukraine. Later the Council for the Protection and Commemoration of Battle and Martyrdom Sites joined the project. The council is a Polish governmental agency whose tasks include caring for Polish military cemeteries outside Poland's borders. The main part of the Eaglets' Cemetery was already renovated a few years ago. However, over those years both parties failed agree on several, seemingly insignificant issues. The Ukrainians did not agree to the reconstruction of the monuments to the French infantry and American pilots, the colonnade, nor to the return of the stone lions. A fundamental controversy surrounded the future inscription on the centrally situated tomb of five unknown soldiers. Representatives of the Lviv City Council repeatedly said they would not permit the opening of a Polish cemetery which glorified the Polish army.

    The recent change of the political situation in Ukraine and Poland's support for the Orange Revolution made Ukrainian politicians treat many controversial issues, including the Eaglets' Cemetery, more favorably. A dialogue became possible and ended in a compromise. The Poles had to give up some of their expectations and the Ukrainians withdrew some of their reservations. June 24 definitely marked the closure of yet another stage in the difficult process of Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation. Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko did not hesitate to say twice at the opening ceremony: "Without free Ukraine, there is no free Poland and without free Poland, there is no independent Ukraine." It seems an awareness of this truth is finally present not only among Polish and Ukrainian politicians, but within the general public in both countries as well. Commenting on the future, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski took the opportunity to remark: "We believe the moment will come when we can welcome you [Ukrainians] to the family of European Union states." It seems the ceremony in Lviv, so deeply rooted in history, was at the same time a signal concerning a future vision of Polish-Ukrainian relations. If it indeed indicates a new stage inPolish-Ukrainian reconciliation, its significance is invaluable.
    ©The Warsaw Voice

    18/7/2005- The number of Roma children begging for money in the streets of Spain is growing. Alicante Acoge, an NGO involved with problems of migrants and minority peoples in the South of Spain denounced this problem recently to newspaper El Pais, revealing that these children are both recent Romanian immigrants and native Spanish gitanos. In the article, Alicante Acoge called for the local social services system to intervene to help prevent this extreme situation for the children. The local government has replied, however, that they are already doing their best. Since 2001, there has been a collaborative project among several institutions working to keep the children off the streets. In addition, the government claimed that fining the parents is not a useful strategy because they usually have no resources. This problem is especially disturbing considering that Spain is often presented to other Central European countries as a model of social integration between Roma and non-Roma peoples. There are currently around 700,000 Roma in Spain; half of this population is under 16 years old. While 95% of Spanish Roma, or Gitanos, are settled, the majority are still living in slum housing on the outskirts of Spain's largest cities. The earliest mention of Roma peoples in Spain was in 1417. Since that time, they have constantly been persecuted and have been victims of institutional racism. This was especially true during the Franco regime, when databases were set up to monitor and control Roma. It was only after 1978 and the Spanish democratization process that Spain began to reform its policies. In 1986, the government introduced the first budget allocating money to Gitano communities and to programs against racial exclusion.
    ©Dzeno Association

    Spain's first gay wedding in Spain has finally happened, but the issue has infuriated the Church and conservative politicians. Ian Frewer explores how the issue might have repercussions not just for Spaniards.

    July 2005- It can't be easy to provoke a newly-elected Pope to outrage, but Spain has managed to do it. The new 'gay marriage' laws brought in by Madrid prompted Pope Benedict XVI to accuse Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of "dismantling the family, brick by brick", and to call on all Catholic officials to refuse to officiate at gay weddings. Zapatero's unofficial comments are not known, but are unlikely to have been too complimentary about His Holiness. The precedent has already been set in both the Netherlands and Belgium, but neither of these countries have Spain's strong Roman Catholic tradition. When the vote was passed in the Cortes, by 183 to 136 ñ indicating that strong opposition still exists ñ it brought forth a storm of condemnation from all religious leaders, not just the Pope. But the law was passed and came into operation at the start of July, allowing gay people of either sex to formally and legally marry, and receive the same benefits as any married couple. Some gay people say there was little need for such a law as, in real life, relatively few actually want to marry, but cynics say that Zapatero needed a cause celebre to establish his liberal credentials. Since a ban of bullfighting or smoking in all public places might have resulted in an armed uprising, gay marriages it was. Not so, says Angel Valero, 31, of Puerto de Mazzaron; he has lived with his partner, Narcis Botella, 29, for three years, and they want to marry. "Why should we not have the same entitlements, the same standing in the community, as a straight couple?" he told us. "Narcis and I love each other, we want a stable union ñ isn't that what the government is asking people to do, to accept their responsibilities?" But the Pope's exhortation to what amounts to civil disobedience by local officials has not fallen on deaf ears. Some conservative mayors, who can carry out civil marriages, are very uneasy about the new law. Others are pragmatic about it; Pedro Hernandez Mateo, long-time Partido Popular mayor of Torrevieja, said: "It will be the law, and, as a public official, I am sworn to obey the law, that's all there is to it. "We'll marry gays, we'll even give them their statutory grant, to help them get on the housing ladder!" Others are playing a cannier game. They accept, like Hernandez Mateo, that they are obliged to follow the law, but will personally opt out of it. Miguel Angel Sequero, mayor of Molina de la Cruz, in Murcia province, told us: "My administration will carry out the ceremonies, but I, personally, will not; I have delegated it to a member of my staff who has no problems with this sort of thing."

    For Pilar Codesal, 27, an accountant and a lesbian, these attitudes seem antediluvian. "This is the 21st century, for God's sake," she said. "Homosexuality is no big deal, these days. "When and if I meet a life-partner, why should I not legalise the relationship, as I would if I was straight, and had met the right man? "This discrimination against gays and lesbians in Spain is wrong, very wrong." But is there legal discrimination? Many say at least not officially. Spain's constitution forbids it, so does the EU constitution, to which Spain is signed up. Homosexuality was severely frowned upon under the Franco regime, but that is decades in the past. Senorita Codesal's current partner, Maria, agrees. "Actually, whatever the law says, the Spanish people are not bothered about homosexuality. "If Pilar and I kiss in the street, nobody objects." This slightly naÔve remark goes unchallenged; people, and the law, traditionally extend to lesbians a tolerance sometimes denied to male homosexuals. Does it affect expatriate gays? Mike Halle and Tom Aynsley are in their thirties, from Manchester, in the UK, and have lived openly together for several years, now running a restaurant together in Gandia. We asked for their views. "Well done, Spain," said Halle. "In some ways it's a disgrace that only three countries in Europe allow gays to legally marry." But surely other countries have civil contracts for gays wishing to formalise their relationships? "That's not the same thing at all ñ if gays want to make a commitment to one another, marriage is a statement, much more than just a contract. Would they take advantage of the new law? "You must be joking," laughed Aynsley. "Can you begin to imagine the bureaucracy that will be involved, for expats? No way, we're quite happy as we are!" We spoke to Father Diego Vicente, a 67-year-old parish priest. "Well, personally I agree with His Holiness," he told us. "It is against Scripture, and against the concept of the family as we regard it, as a bulwark of civilisation. "That said, if it becomes the law, well, I don't have to involve myself, the law does not compel priests to marry anyone, if they don't want to." But did it not surprise him, that a country renowned for its Catholicism would enact such a law? His reaction was highly cynical. "Oh, I know Spain is supposed to be a Catholic country," he laughed, "but whoever said it was Christian?" In fact, the law will soon become accepted, merely because few people feel very strongly about it. Expatriate gays will probably be put off by the horrendous complexities of foreigners marrying in Spain ñ as are many straight couples ñ and town halls will find a way round it, if the mayor strongly disagrees. But Prime Minister Zapatero is unlikely to meet a very amiable reception from Pope Benedict XVI, should he visit the Vatican in the near future.
    ©Expatica News

    21/7/2005- A major Spanish gay rights group claimed foreigners who wanted to take advantage of the new same-sex marriage law are already facing obstacles. In a statement, a Spanish organization of lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals, COLEGAS, said gay couples from abroad trying to get married in Spain are being asked to produce certificates from their countries stating such marriage would be legal there. COLEGAS said it does not make sense to demand a certificate of that kind as "only the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada allow such marriages". It said Article 50 of Spain's Civil Code says foreign citizens "may marry, and the regulations of either Spain or their respective countries may be applied". Spain legalized gay marriage and adoption last month. Two weeks ago, a homosexual couple residing in the north-eastern Spanish town of Canet de Mar were refused marriage because one of them was an Indian citizen. On Tuesday, a judge in the province of Alicante filed initial paperwork challenging the new law on constitutional grounds. COLEGAS said both were instances of "flagrant legal rebellion and disobedience of the law" by some judges and officials, and "a form of conscientious objection". The group also encouraged gays and lesbians to take appropriate measures to see the law is enforced and urged them to avail themselves "freely" of the Constitution's Article 14. That article says all Spaniards are equal under the law and may not be discriminated against on grounds of birthplace, race, sex, religion, opinion or any other personal or social status or circumstance.
    ©Expatica News

    22/7/2005- Some 2,442 gay couples have married in Belgium since same-sex marriages were legalised on 1 September 2003, the Interior Ministry said Belgium was the second country in the world after the Netherlands to legalise gay marriage. Same-sex marriages are now also allowed in Spain and Canada. A total of 3 percent of all marriages in Belgium are now between partners of the same sex, Flemish broadcaster VRT reported. One possible reason for the popularity of gay marriage is that many same-sex couples have been living together for years. But it was not possible prior to September 2003 for them to marry. It is not yet certain whether the trend is permanent because some gay couples do not want to marry because it prevents them from adopting children. However, the Belgian Parliament has been discussing adoption rights for gay couples in recent months. A vote is expected after the summer recess.
    ©Expatica News

    19/7/2005- An Iraqi refugee with residence permission in Norway married his own mother, in a desperate attempt to bring the rest of his family to the country. It worked, inititally, but now both he and his mother face two years in prison. The bizarre story, reported in newspaper Romerikes Blad, started to unfold last winter when local police began investigating the case, several years after the man first came to Norway as an asylum seeker. The man in question initially had been granted permanent residence permission in Norway for humanitarian reasons.He settled in Lillestr¯m, northeast of Oslo, and then quickly filed an application with the immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) to bring the rest of his family to Norway under terms of the country's family reunification policy. He told the authorities that he had a wife in Iraq, and that she had two children from an earlier marriage. The authorities accepted the man's claims and the documentation he provided, and granted all three permanent residence permission as well. They came to Norway, and all four lived in a flat in Lillestr¯m for several years before local police began to be suspicious, mostly because of the apparent age difference between the man and woman. "It just didn't seem right," inspector Jan Eirik Thomassen of the Romerike Police District told Romerikes Blad. The man had said he was 33, and his wife was 44. Police went to court to get permission for DNA testing. Results showed that the couple actually were mother and son. Her two other children were the man's siblings. The man ended up making a full confession when confronted with the DNA results. Both he and his mother have now been charged with giving false information to the authorities, which can result in two years in prison and deportation.

    Fully 94 percent of would-be refugees arriving in Norway lack valid identification papers. The acting chief of the Norwegian police unit in charge of national security calls that a threat.

    19/7/2005- Signe Kathrine Aaling, who heads the police security unit PST (Politiets sikkerhets tjeneste), thinks that foreigners whose identities can't be confirmed constitute "a considerable security risk for our entire society." That's because asylum seekers without identification can be granted temporary residence and working permission in Norway while their case is being processed. That in turn gives them Norwegian identification papers. Aaling worries that those papers, and the system itself, can be exploited by terrorists. PST has sent a report to the government department responsible for immigration issues, warning of potential abuse and exploitation of the system. Aaling notes that the relatively easy process of obtaining work permission, and thereby a Norwegian bank account and credit card, also can be exploited by organized crime. "We don't know how widespread this may be, but want to point out that it's cause for unease," she told newspaper Aftenposten. PST officials are urging more comprehensive means of trying to confirm an asylum-seeker's identity as soon as they arrive in Norway. Terror researcher Brynjar Lia at the military research organization FFI (Forsvarets forskningsinstitutt) notes that most active terror cells in Europe are multi-national, and that the need for identification papers is huge. Both false and legitimate identification papers are important resources for international terrorist groups, so their members can get past border controls, Lia said.

    20/7/2005- Politicians from one of Norway's small parties played at shooting Muslims when they gathered for a summer meeting on the Hurum Peninsula. The event has drawn fire from anti-racists. It all started when members of The Democrats (Demokratene), along with some of their supporters, held a paintball competition at what they called an "informal" summer meeting. The politicians divided themselves into two groups, one of them dressed up like Muslim terrorists. "This was both fun and useful, and we hope to have more competitions like this in the future," John Arntsen, leader of the Hurum chapter of the Democrats, told When asked what he meant by "useful," Arntsen said that "if the world keeps developing like it is now, with terrorism especially in Muslim circles, people can quickly have a need for knowledge about self-defense." He claims it wasn't planned in advance that one of the teams in the paintball competition would be Muslim. "It just happened that the one team dressed up like terrorists," he said. "This was innocent stuff." Svein Otto Nilsen, deputy leader of The Democrats, stressed to that the party isn't racist. "Everyone is welcome to join and we'll help everyone, also Muslims," he said. The Hurum chapter of the party, however, continues to have a note on its web site that it's a "Muslim-free zone." And when asked why he thinks The Democrats of Hurum chose to let their terrorist team be Muslims, Nilsen said: "Most terrorists are Muslims today." Reaction was swift to news of the paintball shooting against Muslims. "When it becomes sport to shoot Muslims, it's going way too far," said Tor Bach of the anti-fascist magazine Monitor. Nadeem Butt, leader of Oslo's Anti-racist Center, said he was "shocked" by The Democrats' paintball war. He thinks Norway's national security police should keep an eye on party members. "They call themselves politicians, but this case shows just what kind of party we're dealing with," he said. The party, which is represented in the Norwegian parliament, says it builds its program around "Christian values... based on Norwegian culture and tradition."

    The agency that handles immigration to Norway, UDI, thinks the country must make it more attractive for both skilled and unskilled workers to move to Norway. "We need more immigrants," claims UDI chief Trygve Nordby.

    22/7/2005- That may come as a surprise to all those who have been through the immigration process in Norway, and learned first-hand that it's tough to gain residence and work permission in the country. It takes at least three years to gain permanent documents, and the rules are strict. Nordby admits that current laws have left UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) enforcing restrictive policies. He told newspaper Aftenposten Friday that he wants to move away from the debate between "restrictive" and "liberal" policies, and instead focus on pro-active immigration rules that clearly address the country's labour needs. "We need to tailor immigration in the future to suit our needs, even though we also must take care of our obligation to protect refugees," Nordby said. Drafts of new immigration regulations are currently under evaluation, and Nordby wants a new "more dynamic" law that will address future labour market needs, especially given the immigration pressure on Europe. Today's rules aim at protecting Norwegian workers and contain largely negative criteria. "We need to change that way of thinking," Nordby said, claiming that Norway should invite "exactly the sort of competence we need." That can involve everyone from highly skilled and highly educated high-tech workers, to unskilled labourers. "Too few dare to say that we have a large need for non-professional workers as well," he said. UDI, in turn, should be able to have more flexibility in deciding cases, and process cases more quickly and efficiently. "Even though we don't face as large a population reduction as some other European countries, we need more immigrants to maintain population levels and competence," he said.

    19/7/2005- The National Gay Helpline (NGH) marks its first anniversary on Tuesday, 19th July 2005. During the past 12 months the service, which is provided by the Malta Gay Rights Movement, has dealt with 121 genuine calls. In a press release, the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) stated that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered (LGBT) and questioning individuals who need support can call 21-430006 and find trained volunteers who listen to them and offer them help. The issues dealt with in this first year ranged from support for individuals during their coming out process to relationship difficulties, referrals to professionals, as well as requests for information related to sexual health and LGBT social activities. The NGH lines are open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 1800 CET to 2100 CET. Normal Maltacom rates apply. The Helpline volunteers have undergone professional training with Agenzija Appogg, and some of them even have had a hand on experience as Supportline 179 volunteers. The NGH guarantees total confidentiality to its callers.
    ©Malta Media

    19/7/2005- German prosecutors said Tuesday they have charged white supremacist Ernst Zundel with inciting racial hatred, four months after he was deported from Canada. German authorities accuse Zundel of decades of anti-Semitic activities, including repeated denials of the Holocaust -- a crime in Germany -- in documents and on the Internet. Zundel is "known internationally as a leader of the right-wing scene,'' prosecutors in the southwestern city of Mannheim said Tuesday in a statement listing 14 examples of alleged incitement. It was unclear when he might face a trial, which Jewish leaders hope will spread awareness of the Holocaust. Zundel was arrested in March on his arrival in Germany after a long legal battle, and remains in jail. He had been detained in Toronto since 2003 under anti-terrorism laws and deported after a Canadian judge ruled his activities a threat to national and international security. Born in Germany in 1939, Zundel emigrated to Canada in 1958 and lived in Toronto and Montreal until 2001. Canadian officials rejected his attempts to obtain citizenship in 1966 and 1994. He moved to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., until he was deported to Canada in 2003 for alleged immigration violations. German prosecutors obtained an arrest warrant for Zundel in 2003. Because Zundel's Holocaust-denying website was available in Germany, he is considered to have been spreading his message to Germans.
    ©Associated Press

    20/7/2005- Polish prosecutors have found illegal words of praise for Nazis in a newspaper published by Germany's far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) but printed in Poland, Polish Radio (PR) reported Wednesday. The NPD contracted "Lubpress" a Polish print-shop in Zielona Gora, western Poland, to print their Deutsche Stimme (German Voice) newspaper. Because Polish law prohibits public praise for totalitarian ideologies such as fascism or Stalinism, justice officials confiscated the print-run. But as the paper was not publicly distributed in Poland, prosecutors are having difficulty pressing criminal charges against the NPD or Lubpress. "Everything depends on further developments in the investigation," State Prosecutor Kazimierz Rubaszewski told PR. "We must be completely certain the printers were fully aware of the meaning of the texts in the newspaper they were printing - this could be very difficult," he said. Lubpress officials claim they were completely unaware of Deutsche Stimme's contents. Lubpress cancelled its contract with the NPD after Polish justice officials took an interest in the newspaper, which PR reported is now printed in Lithuania.
    ©Expatica News

    20/7/2005- The Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) demanded yesterday, July 19, from the state institutions to take action and prevent the expansion of racial, religious and national hatred and intolerance shown at a protest meeting organized by the inhabitants of Doctor Ivan Ribar Street in New Belgrade. Moreover, we demand the Public Prosecutor start proceedings to find out who is responsible for the expansion of racism in New Belgrade. In the block 45 in New Belgrade the inhabitants of the Doctor Ivan Ribar Street block traffic every day and protest against a decision of city authorities to set containers for a temporary accommodation of Roma people in this part of New Belgrade. YIHR express concern, for there is no official reaction to racial slogans heard at meetings of inhabitants who are against the development of a new part of the settlement. At the protest meeting held on July 15, 2005, a YIHR researcher noted a call to lynch of the Chinese and Romany. One of the speakers at the meeting said: "The Chinese in this block urinate in building entrances, staircases, and corners as well as those coming at their places to have a bath. Imagine all that dirt and you will know what troubles our neighbours have to face". Youth Initiative for Human Rights also noted open calls to lynch of Radmila Hrustanovic, Deputy Mayor of Belgrade. Some of the present were exclaiming slogans such as "Let her return to Sarajevo where she came from" and "She came from Sarajevo to direct our city", as well as an open humiliation of the Romany by messages such as "Come to the sun to get a tan like the Gypsies" and "We don't want the Gypsies". "We are not racists, we just oppose to dumps, rubbish-heaps and spread of infections they will bring along". Youth Initiative for Human Rights thinks that state institutions shall prevent the expansion of racism in New Belgrade and start adequate proceedings against those who violated the law. It seems as if non-punishing committers of the acts that provoke racial intolerance and hate speech has become a practice.

    New Era stands against Muiznieks

    20/7/2005- Officials from New Era, the ruling right-wing party, said they would not support the candidacy of Nils Muiznieks, former integration minister, as head of the state's human rights department because he was unqualified and biased. Muiznieks is a member of Latvia's First Party, a coalition partner, and New Era's opposition is another reminder that the four-party coalition is an untenable one. He won the competition over Liga Bikseniece, a lawyer with the State Human Rights Office. The Cabinet now must decide how to move forward. The step by New Era will put the vote off for another week. In order to secure the position, Muiznieks will most likely have to gain support from opposition members - a development that cannot be excluded, considering the opposition's notorious dislike of New Era. Muiznieks himself admitted that the position should be held by someone who was neutral, offering to resign from his political party should he get the job. Meanwhile, New Era and Latvia's First Party are antagonistic. Indeed it was friction between them that brought down the New Era-led government in early 2004. Muiznieks, who originally belonged to no party when taking the post of integration minister, was forced to join Latvia's First Party after New Era called for his removal in the summer of 2003. "New Era has a blood feud with me and my party," Muiznieks said, adding that the Foreign Ministry had nominated him to take over the top human rights job in the Council of Europe, while New Era claims he lacks the experience for human rights work back home. New Era, however, insists that their opposition is based entirely on professional bases and is not personal. In a press release signed by the party's board, MPs stressed that Muiznieks was a party loyalist and lacked work experience in the area of human rights. The letter also said that his work as integration minister produced no obvious results, and that was the reason a vote of confidence was called to remove him. The nationalist For Fatherland and Freedom party also said they would oppose Muiznieks, since his work on integration issues were against the state's interests. Current Integration Minister Ainars Latkovskis, also of New Era, accused Latvia's First Party of playing politics when it called for a time of prayer and asked for the Gay Pride Parade, scheduled for June 23, to be cancelled. Before his work as integration minister, Muiznieks headed the Latvian Human Rights and Ethnic Studies Centre for years. He is also candidate to head the European Commission's delegation to Latvia.
    ©The Baltic Times

    20/7/2005- After Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis expressed concern over possible public disorder during the gay, lesbian and bisexual parade scheduled for July 23, Riga City Executive Director Eriks Skapars promised to revoke the permit granted to march, the Riga City Council said. Defending their decision, City Council officials said it was necessary to take all measures to prevent any public disorder and protect the population. The permit to organize a gay parade was issued earlier this summer after passing all necessary approvals. However, Riga officials have decided to revoke the permit since the event has already agitated the public and various radical organizations have threatened to take action against it. The City Council spokesman mentioned Klubs 415 as one such organization, since the club announced plans to organize a demonstration protesting the gay parade. When asked to specify if the City Council had received any information about possible disorder, spokesperson Ugis Vidauskis said that the decision was made on the basis of concerns expressed by the prime minister. "We are to a great extent relying on our prime minister -- if he does have such information," he said. The decision has also been influenced by recent "racist attacks by extremists" on foreign citizens. "Tolerance of sexual minorities is also very low in Latvia," the spokesman said. Officials have asked the Riga municipal police to make sure that all possible signs of intolerance to ethnic, racial, sexual or other minorities are eradicated. Skapars asked that his decision be viewed as a security concern and not as discrimination against sexual minorities. The radical organization National Power Unity also intends to block the gay parade. This would have been the first gay parade in Latvia. As part of the event, a conference on homosexuality, human rights and religion, a church service and shows in popular Latvian gay clubs have been scheduled and will most likely continue. Representatives from neighboring countries -- Sweden, Russia, Lithuania, Estonia and Finland -- are also expected to come to the festival in Riga.
    ©The Baltic Times

    By Rafal Pankowski

    22/7/2005- Warsaw, Bucharest, Chisinau, and now ñ Riga. These Eastern European capitals have witnessed a vigorous debate over the last months and weeks. Gay rights organisations tried to organise public demonstrations which have been banned by city authorities. The reason for the bans was mostly the campaign from the extreme right in each of the countries, including threats of violence against the marchers by fascist thugs. Instead of protecting the citizens' right to peaceful demonstration the authorities bow to the extremists' pressure and homophobic arguments about "public morality".

    It may be wrong to put the blame entirely on the shoulders of the national governements, though. They are of course responsible in one way or another for everything that is happening in the country, but it has to be said that in the past cases (Warsaw, Chisinau, Bucharest) the homophobic bans were announced by city government, dominated by the nationalist opposition to the generally progressive government on the national level. Let's see how the political situation over the gay pride ban unfolds in Latvia.

    Isn't it ironic that the same authorities in Eastern Europe allow the public distribution of racist literature, activities of neofascist organisations and marches of fascists (including Waffen SS veterans in Latvia), all in the name of freedom of speech?
    ©I CARE News

    By Ekrem Dumanli

    17/7/2005- At the latest Council of Europe summit which was held on May 16-17, 2005 and attended by 46 countries, a decision was made to fight hostility toward Islam. Turkey played a significant role in that Warsaw summit decision. One day before the decision was made, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a speech in which he pointed out the rapid spread of hostility toward Islam in the West and warned of the likely damages it would bring.

    The Council of Europe declaration includes several important details. For instance, the concept of 'hostility toward Islam' is addressed in the declaration in this way: "We fiercely condemn Islamophobia and anti-Semitism particularly under the blanket of any form of intolerance and discrimination based on gender, race and religious beliefs..."

    It is a significant detail that Islamophobia is mentioned along with anti-Semitism. According to the outcome of the meeting, hostility toward Islam is to be monitored just as anti-Semitism is and anti-Islam activities are to be included in the Council's reports. The unit that monitors crimes based on racism and discrimination, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), is to report on countries where anti-Islamism is on the rise. The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is to assist relevant units of the Council of Europe in preparing these reports...

    For the Council of Europe to encourage efforts to build dialogue among religions and cultures carries a great deal of significance. Inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue does not mean the annihilation or transformation of one culture or religion by another as some ignorant agitators believe. On the contrary, the sort of dialogue that occurs among followers of different faiths allows participants to appreciate the richness of their own culture and religion while working to understand the "other's." Bigots that do not appreciate the richness of their own culture and religion always prefer fighting and disputes...

    The Council of Europe's decision to fight anti-Islamism and to activate its internal units for implementation of the sanctions is an effort to remove a danger that has gradually come to be felt quite deeply in recent years. The September 11th terrorist attacks poisoned the lives of all Muslims like a nightmare. Such an atmosphere has emerged that every Muslim was accepted to be a terrorist. But, Islam just even as a word means peace and well-being in itself. It was an historic mistake to link a religion, which in its essence contains love for Allah, and corollary love and mercy for mankind, with global violence. Despite the reality that marginal groups exerting violence have not seen a general acceptance in any Islamic countries, and even met with hatred in most of them, Muslims all over the world are treated like criminals. In fact, these violent groups harm Muslims the most...

    Negative Western generalizations about Muslims based on prejudice unfortunately only managed to force some Muslims into radicalism. In general, Muslims already believed that the West was applying double standards to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Adding to this common belief were the September 11th disaster and the subsequent occupation of Iraq as well as the publication of photos and images that truly disturbed Muslims there, all of which paved (and continue to pave) the way for deepening rage in the Islamic world...

    The Council of Europe made the right decision at the right time, because following the end of the Cold War, the most serious threat facing the world is a clash of civilizations (or, one could say, a clash of religions). The first signs of this threat have been seen. These signs prove what a big disaster waits on our doorstep if action is not taken. It is best to rebuild cultural bridges as a precaution. Europe has grabbed at the chance to change its anti-Islamic image among Muslims by signing such a decision. This is also important, because the more negative judgments there are regarding Islam's image in the West, the worse the West's image becomes in the Islamic world. Well-intended steps toward world peace cannot be one-sided. In this regard as well, the decision by the Council of Europe is of historic importance.

    Europe is always ready to preach good practice. But violations of every kind are a regular occurrence even on its own territory. This is why Brussels is preparing to launch a brand new agency in 2007.

    18/7/2005- Ever since the 1957 Treaty of Rome ñ and even more so since 2000 and the Charter of Fundamental Rights ñ human rights have been a frontline issue for the EU in its relations with other countries and regions. From the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht onwards, the violation of human rights by a non-EU country can lead to the suspension of commercial relations and a reduction in assistance programmes. Fine words. But what does the Union actually do in concrete terms to guarantee the respect of human rights?

    Keeping up with the latest on the human rights scene
    Attention is turned most often to the case of asylum seekers and immigrants. The EU is keen to combat racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination against minorities, in particular via the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). The primary mission of the Centre is to provide member states with objective factual information on these issues, with the ultimate aim of encouraging action or at least defining actions that could eventually combat the violation of human rights. Based on the gathered data, the EUMC studies the extent and evolution of the problems by analysing causes, consequences and effects. The Centre endeavours to make known examples of good practice in the integration of immigrants and ethnic or religious minorities. Endowed with funds of some 100 million euros for the period 2001-2006, the EUMC also finances the comprehensive monitoring of the situation across the EU and carries out analyses of actions member state by member state.

    An agency that goes beyond fact collection
    However, the EUMC's scope is somewhat limited. Indeed, this is why a new agency which deals more generally with fundamental rights is going to be set up. Last November, President of the European Commission, JosÈ Manuel Barroso, delegated a group with the responsibility of guaranteeing the consistency of the Commission's initiatives in the area of fundamental rights, the fight against discrimination, equal opportunities and the integration of minorities into society. According to Vice President of the European Commission, Franco Frattini (also European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security), the new EU human rights agency should be operative from January 2007. In promoting the agency's creation, the Commission has made sure to keep in mind the results of a consultation launched in October 2004 aiming to understand the opinion of civil society, the European Parliament and EU member states. Almost 90% of respondents declared themselves in favour of strong measures against cases of discrimination, also voicing disappointment regarding the reluctant uptake by certain member states of guidelines that are already in place. But according to representatives of NGOs, an agency for fundamental human rights would only be effective if the Commission nominates a Commissioner to deal exclusively with human rights issues. They say the agency must also be ensured political independence and should not be limited simply to the provision of information. The real challenge will be translating words into actions and ñ in cases of human rights violation ñ being in a position to intervene with appropriate sanctions.
    ©Babel International

    By Miranda Hearn

    18/7/2005- Despite the signature of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in 2000, the conduct of several member states as regards immigrants, both legal or otherwise, is less than satisfactory. Immigrants entering a country illegally are the most vulnerable group in society in terms of the protection of their human rights, which should be respected despite their clandestine status. Since the only alternative to suffering repression and exploitation is likely deportation, the abuse of illegal immigrants' rights is rife throughout Europe. The Morecambe Bay tragedy of 5 February 2004, in which 23 Chinese workers drowned harvesting cockles on the Lancashire coast, made public the stark realities of migrant worker exploitation in Europe. The cockle-pickers were earning £1 a day working for an industry worth millions of pounds per year to that region of England alone. The incident caused outrage in Britain, and yet by June of the same year, more Chinese illegal immigrants were found cockle-picking on the same mudflat, thereby doubly exposing the UK's failure to meet its human rights obligations.

    Anti- or pro-terror laws?
    The UK has also faced criticism over its recent Prevention of Terrorism Act which allows for "control orders", which include tagging suspects and house arrest, to limit the activities of suspected terrorists. The law also controversially allows an elected politician (rather than a judge) to restrict the freedom of a British citizen ñ arguably an infringement of civil liberties. Although this legislation is not specifically aimed at immigrants, it is undoubtedly immigrants, particularly of Muslim faith, which will bear the brunt of the government's wrath. Now that London itself has been attacked apparently by an Al-Qaeda related cell, further degradation of Muslim immigrants' personal liberty is likely and the government's proposal for ID cards is likely to gain ground. As the Daily Mail put it the day after the bombings, "Britain will almost certainly have to sacrifice some of our ancient legal rights if we wish to protect our citizens." But this kind of mentality cannot be allowed to prevail if human rights are to be respected.

    The headscarf debate
    But it is not just in the UK where the rights of Muslim immigrants are not respected. All EU member states are united in their desire to culturally and socially integrate immigrants into society in the hope of preventing ethnic minority groups from becoming marginalised. But sometimes attempts to wipe out differences can go too far. The September 2004 introduction of a French law banning all religious symbols in state schools presented many French Muslims with a dilemma. Should Muslim girls comply with the law, and thereby disobey their religion, or continue wearing headscarves and compromise their education by facing potential expulsion from school? The French government's line was that the new law reinforces the Republic's secularist tradition and is vital for the successful social integration of France's 5 million Muslims. However, in terms of its legality, the French ban was widely considered a violation of both the 1951 Geneva Convention, which demands that "freedom to practise (one's) religion" be granted to all exiles and immigrants, and of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that all immigrants should have the freedom to manifest their religion. Let's hope that Europe will manage to embrace the culturally diverse future it faces via the sensitive treatment of immigrant persons, and that it does not instead turn its back on human rights and become an intolerant private members club.
    ©Babel International

    17/7/2005- A volunteer movement that vows to guard America from a wave of illegal immigration has spread from the dusty U.S.-Mexican border to the verdant hollows of Appalachia. At least 40 anti-immigration groups have popped up nationally, inspired by the Minuteman Project that rallied hundreds this year to patrol the Mexican border in Arizona. ``It's like O'Leary's cow has kicked over the lantern. The fire has just started now,'' said Carl ``Two Feathers'' Whitaker, an American Indian activist and perennial gubernatorial candidate who runs the Tennessee Volunteer Minutemen, aimed at exposing those who employ illegals. Critics call the movement vigilantism, and some hear in the words of the Minutemen a vitriol similar to what hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan used against Southern blacks in the 1960s. The Minuteman Project has generated chapters in 18 states - from California to states far from Mexico, like Utah, Minnesota and Maine. The Tennessee group and others like it have no direct affiliation, but share a common goal. ``I struck the mother lode of patriotism or nationalism or whatever you want to call it,'' said Jim Gilchrist, a Vietnam veteran and retired CPA who co-founded the Minuteman Project 10 months ago. ``That common nerve that was bothering a lot of people, but due to politically correct paralysis ... everyone was afraid to bring up - the lack of law enforcement.'' At the Department of Homeland Security, whose authority includes patrolling borders and enforcing immigration laws, response to Minuteman-type activism is guarded. ``Homeland security is a shared responsibility, and the department believes the American public plays a critical role in helping to defend the homeland,'' agency spokesman Jarrod Agen said from Washington. ``But as far doing an investigation or anything beyond giving us a heads-up, that should be handled by trained law enforcement.'' A group leading patrols of the California border raised concerns from the U.S. Border Patrol last week when they urged volunteers to bring baseball bats, mace, pepper spray and machetes to patrol the border. They backed off the recommendation, but insisted on another weapon when they started patrols Saturday: guns. ``The guns are for one reason - to keep my people alive,'' said Jim Chase, a former Arizona Minuteman volunteer who is leading the effort. Gilchrist said people from across the country have been sending him dirt on companies that hire illegal immigrants. ``It is a rampant problem. It is happening in Chicago and Portland, Maine. And Milwaukee and Montana and Idaho. And these people want the government to do something,'' he said.

    The Southeast has the nation's fastest-growing Hispanic population. In Tennessee, the Hispanic population nearly tripled in the last decade. The Tennessee Minutemen, which plans rallies in Memphis and Nashville and reputedly has heard from at least 120 potential members statewide, insist they are not vigilantes or racists. ``We don't want to project it as a hate group. We don't hate anybody or anything. But there are legal immigrants and illegal,'' Whitaker said. In Morristown, a Southern industrial town of 25,000 with a small but burgeoning population of Latinos, some see the Volunteer Minutemen's spiel as race baiting. ``The same sort of dogmatism that racists used against blacks in lower Alabama and across the South, I am seeing the same patterns here,'' said Thom Robinson, who heads the area's Chamber of Commerce. ``They are using it as a racially divisive thing.'' Santos Aguilar, executive director with Alianza del Pueblo, a regional Hispanic support group in Knoxville, said he fears the volunteers are ``spreading a lot of misinformation and are terrorizing the ethnic community in the area.'' Members of the Hamblen County Commission recently suggested that Hispanic immigrants were to blame if property taxes have to be raised next year - though commissioners insisted they were talking only about illegal immigrants. County Commissioner Tom Lowe, who says ``we do not want (all) Hispanics stereotyped as illegal,'' estimates as many as 85 percent of Hamblen's Hispanics are - and he fears they carry drug-resistant disease. ``We could be two or three aliens away from an epidemic that would sweep through our county and state,'' the retired pharmacist said. Hamblen County Mayor David Purkey said, like Lowe, he supports immigration laws, but finds such comments disturbing. ``I think you have to be careful when you are expressing your opinion on that, that you don't appear as if you are against diversity as a whole,'' he said. Guatemala native Noel Montepeque, who owns a company that provides a variety of blue-collar jobs to Hispanics, said the tone has changed since the first migrant farm workers passed through the area in the 1990s. ``Now they are getting afraid of the many Hispanic folks coming in,'' Montepeque said. ``And we are coming to stay.''
    ©Associated Press

    9/7/2005- The Governor of Madeira, Alberto Jo“o Jardim shocked the country when he told a public gathering that he did not want Chinese or Indians on the island he has ruled over since shortly after the April 25 revolution of 1974. His comments have since sparked a wave of criticism, with political opponents and associations representing ethnic minorities in Portugal accusing him of racism and xenophobia. They have since demanded that, "in the very least, he pays the political price of his comments". Alberto Jo“o Jardim has warned certain racial minorities that they are not welcome in Madeira. "Mainland Portugal is already being subjected to competition from countries outside of Europe ñ the Chinese are coming, the Indians are coming and the countries from the East are competing against Portugal", he said in Santana in northern Madeira at the closing ceremony of a 48 dance marathon. As he was making this statement, someone in the crowd signalled to Alberto Jo“o Jardim by putting his index finger in front of his mouth, an action that seemed to spur the Madeira Governor on to explaining his position in even greater detail. "Why are you signalling to me?" questioned Jžao Jardim. "Are there any Chinese here? I want them to hear this, because I don't want them here". The Governor continued by appealing for unity among the people of Madeira, saying that he would doing everything within his power to stop the crisis in mainland Portugal from reaching Madeira. "We have to avoid that the policies of those crazy and incompetent people results in us having to pay the consequences", Jardim warned accusingly. The days following his controversial comments resulted in heated exchanges. First, a vote of protest was lodged against Alberto Jardim by Madeira delegates from the Socialist and Left Bloc parties. However, it was swiftly rejected by Jardim's party (PSD). The opposition parties had wanted his "xenophobic comments" recorded at a political level. The Socialists argued that his comments constitute "an inadmissible and dangerous incitement to violence, discrimination and racism", while the Left Bloc argued his comments "denotes his racist and xenophobic character". Both parties have called for a public apology and retraction of his comments, but none has so far been forthcoming. The Socialist Youth Party in Portugal have meanwhile revealed that they will pressing criminal charges against the Madeira Governor for contravening a number of articles in the Portuguese Constitution. Associations for ethnic minorities have since backed the positions of the Socialists and the Left Bloc in Madeira. Chinese representatives denounced Alberto Jo“o Jardim's comments, but said the Madeira Governor will not have his way, as "he will buying and using several Chinese products to continue conquering the electorate at the next elections".
    ©The Portugal News

    Changes to university entrance exam system are driving talented students abroad, complain ethnic minorities.
    By Fati Mamiashvili in Tbilisi

    14/7/2005- Thousands of Georgian school-leavers are in the middle of university entrance exams, but some are finding it a sterner test than others. As part of new education reforms, all school leavers wishing to go to university in Georgia are being forced to take the same four examinations. But one of the exams, Georgian language and literature, is being seen as a stumbling block to many from the country's ethnic minorities getting a place in higher education. Around a third of the population of Georgia is ethnically non-Georgian. The innovation is the first manifestation of a comprehensive education reform programme, which is being implemented throughout Georgia this year. The root-and-branch reform has been discussed for three years but intensive work began only this year. Children will start to have a 12-year school education instead of the current 11 years. There will be three terms a year instead of two. And instead of the current five-point marking system there will now be a ten-point one. By far the most controversial aspect of the reforms is the new compulsory Georgian language examination. The entrance examinations began on July 11 and will last until July 22. Thirty-two thousand school leavers are taking the tests and there are places for 17,400 of them in Georgia's 110 registered institutes of higher education. There are now four compulsory subjects: Georgian language and literature, a foreign language, general knowledge and mathematics. When he or she receives a mark, the student can then apply to any faculty in any college or university which will then decide whether the score is high enough for the student to be accepted. "We have brought in a rule of the same exams for all mainly to rid the system of corruption," Deputy Education Minister Bella Tsipuria told IWPR. "The university entrants will take their maths and general knowledge exams in either Georgian or Russian, depending on what their future language of tuition will be. "As for the compulsory Georgian language exam, that requirement stems from the fact that Georgian is the state language and knowledge of it is compulsory for all residents of the country. Georgian language and literature is also taught in non-Georgian schools." The minister added, "But we take into account the real situation and so non-Georgian school leavers will take Georgian language and literature exams according to an easier programme which corresponds to their school course." This assurance is not enough to pacify worried ethnic minorities, especially the approximately 100,000 Armenians who live in Samtskhe-Javakheti in south-western Georgia and the 300,000 or so Azerbaijanis in Kvemo Kartli in the south of the country. They say that most of the population here does not speak Georgian and the new rules effectively close the doors of higher education to thousands of pupils.

    Gulnaz, an Azerbaijani who works as a trader in Tbilisi, said she was worried for her own family. "None of us speaks Georgian," she said. "I learned Georgian because I often have to come to Tbilisi. My son is going to study in Baku this year. Even the teachers in his school do not know Georgian so how can the pupils take an exam in that language?" Sofia Ohanesian, headmistress of an Armenian-Russian school, said, "I don't think there are any problems with knowledge of Georgian in Tbilisi. But in the regions, where practically no one speaks Georgian the level of knowledge is very low." Many ethnic Georgians share these concerns. "I support education reform, but it worries me that it is being brought in at unjustifiable speed," said Tsitso Nutsubidze, a teacher. "Maybe in the education ministry they've forgotten that the objects of the reforms are children, they are just entering adulthood. It's true, Georgian language and literature are taught in non-Georgian schools, but the level of the teaching is very low. "The school-leavers had very little time to prepare ñ the model tests were published only in October last year. Parents were forced to hire tutors for their children and that is of course very expensive. Many talented and promising school-leavers from the non-Georgian population will not go to university this year or will go and study in Russia. And we don't know if they will come home again."The education ministry says the reforms have been approved by international experts and that free courses were offered to prepare pupils in Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli for the Georgian language exams.However, the ministry conceded that the courses began only on May 16 ñ less than two months before the exam season ñ and that it had spent just 1778 lari (976 US dollars) on preparing the teachers for them.Mikheil Kurdiani, a well-known Georgian literary scholar, said that the reforms were hasty and ill-prepared and they should be urgently corrected. "The state could not guarantee equal conditions of education, it was in a hurry, so it demanded that everyone should take the same exam under the same conditions," he said. "It's very good when citizens of your country get educated abroad but very bad when it happens en masse. That is not in the interests of our country."

    Fati Mamiashvili is a correspondent with the magazine Sakartvelos Ekonomika in Tbilisi.
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    Thousands recall Srebrenica pain

    11/7/2005- Tens of thousands of people are attending ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the massacre of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica. About 8,000 men and boys were killed by Serbian forces in 1995, in Europe's worst atrocity since World War II. UK, French and Dutch ministers, and US officials are taking part in a memorial at the Potocari cemetery, where many of the dead are buried. The remains of 610 newly identified dead will be buried at the same time. Security is tight after two unexploded bombs were found nearby last week. Over 1,500 policemen have been deployed to patrol the area. A Serbian delegation led by President Boris Tadic is at the memorial for the first time. Also attending Monday's ceremonies are former US Balkans envoy Richard Holbrooke and the president of the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Theodor Meron. UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw apologised on behalf of the international community for not doing enough to prevent what he described as one of the darkest chapters of European history since 1945. "For it is to the shame of the international community that this evil took place under our noses and we did nothing like enough. I bitterly regret this and I am deeply sorry for it," he said. He said that it was "sickening" that former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his army commander Gen Radko Mladic, who are accused of the slaughter, had not yet been brought to justice. The tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, has boycotted the occasion in protest against the failure to arrest the two.

    Muslim prayers echoed through the valley as hundreds of relatives of those killed walked slowly and thoughtfully around the cemetery. Piles of soil stand next to the 610 freshly-dug graves - the latest victims to be found and identified, who are to be buried at the ceremony. Women in white headscarves were seen weeping by the coffins. Bosnian police are providing security for the event, which takes place in the Serb-controlled part of the country, but international peacekeepers and police officers are keeping watch from a distance. The attendance by Serbian officials has been condemned by Serbian hardliners but welcomed by the chief international representative in Bosnia, Lord Ashdown. "The Serb authorities and people are now moving from denial to recognition, and beyond that lies reconciliation," he told the BBC. In Serbia, many still believe the mass killings never took place. But a new video showing the execution of Muslim civilians sparked national soul-searching among Serbs last month. Dutch peacekeepers who were guarding the Srebrenica enclave at the time of the massacre, have accepted partial responsibility for what happened. Mr Karadzic and Gen Mladic have been indicted for genocide but are still at large. Mr Tadic told the Bosnian Serb newspaper Nezavisne Novine that he hoped Gen Mladic would be arrested in the next few days. Many of the widows attending the ceremony are still waiting to see justice done, says the BBC's Nick Hawton in Srebrenica. "They killed my entire life and the only thing I want now is to see the guilty ones pay for it," Fatima Budic, whose 14-year-old son Velija was one of the victims, told AP news agency. Her husband and another son are among the missing.

    Srebrenica Indictments

  • Convicted, cases completed - 3 including former Bosnian Serb Army chief of staff Gen Radoslav Krstic
  • Appeals against convictions - 3
  • On trial - former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
  • Cases at pre-trial stage - 9
  • Still at large - 3 including Radovan Karadzic and Gen Ratko Mladic
    Source: International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
    ©BBC News

    Ten years later, many survivors are eager to remind the world that Srebrenica was not an isolated horror.

    14/7/2005- The genocide of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica started, but did not end, on July 11, 1995. It took eight days. On July 13, for example, Serbian forces deported 20,000 thirsty and dazed women and children. On July 16, Drazen Erdemovic of the 10th Sabotage Unit was ordered at 10 a.m. to shoot unarmed Muslim men brought by truck to a farm in Branjevo. His squad shot a dozen at a time until 3 p.m., leaving 1,100 dead. So far, Mr. Erdemovic is the only foot soldier to plead guilty for his action at the Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal here. Now 10 years later, many witnesses and survivors are eager to remind the world that Srebrenica was not, as it is sometimes presented, an isolated horror conducted by a clutch of crazy hillbillies - nor simply the worst slaughter in Europe in 50 years. Rather, they see it as an extension of a racial superiority campaign, and sparked by sophisticated Serb hate propaganda in Belgrade that acted like a blowtorch on a bale of hay in the Balkans. The killing fields of Bosnia, they say, represent an "again" - on a continent that swore "never again." Video evidence at the war crimes tribunal here shows Milan Jolovic, a Serb "Wolf" brigade commander, after the Dutch UN peacekeepers have left on July 14, saying into his radio set, "Get on with it. There is nothing anyone can do to us now." In Srebrenica, according to the tribunal indictment, Gen. Ratko Mladic finished a job begun in 1992 - to rid the Drina river valley of non-Serbs, and to do so unchecked by any great power. "Srebrenica was a fusion of all the elements of the war in a concentrated time and space," says Emir Suljagic, who lived in the "safe haven" for three years and is one of few young Muslim males to survive. "You had deportation, selection, random killings, executions, organized burial, peacekeepers thwarted - in a small area, in a week." The meaning of Srebrenica transcends the grisly crimes. It was a crucial turning point, analysts say: The genocide exposed the failure of a British- and French-led policy that appeased Serb forces, and it brought the US and NATO in to stop the war. It led to an "abetting genocide" sentence at the international tribunal in 2000 for Bosnian Gen. Radislav Kristic - and contributed to the arrest of Serb President Slobodan Milosevic, considered the architect of the Balkan wars. "It was the culmination of the failed British-French policy from 1992," says Quentin Hoare of the Bosnian Institute in London. "After Srebrenica, it became impossible for the US Congress and the Clinton administration not to do something." Ed Vulliamy, author of "Seasons in Hell," one of the earliest firsthand accounts of the war, argues that "Srebrenica was iconic - since for three years there were little Srebrenicas happening all over Bosnia." And "it was iconic of the brutality of men like [former Serb leader] Radovan Karadzic and General Mladic, and iconic of the [diplomats] who did deals with these men, and eagerly shook their hands under the chandeliers of Europe."

    Serbian acknowledgment
    On Monday, a 10th anniversary event in Srebrenica ("place of silver") amid light rains brought signals and statements of regret from UN and British diplomats, and the presence of Serb president Boris Tadic, seen as a rare Serbian acknowledgment of the crimes, amid the reburial of 610 persons. Still, the event took place as Mladic and Karadzic, indicted as engineers of the genocide, remain at large. Mladic, particularly, is remembered in a scene captured by TV cameras near Srebrenica. He was standing in front of a large crowd of unarmed civilians as UN forces withdrew, patting the head of a young boy, and saying, "Don't be afraid. Take it easy. Thirty buses are coming ... to deliver you.... No one will hurt you." Later that day a heavily breathing Mladic stated on Belgrade TV, "... we are giving this town to the Serbian people. The moment has finally come for us after the 19th century rebellion against the Turks, to take our revenge on them..." One concern among survivors is that Srebrenica not become such an "exceptional" icon that it detracts from the reckoning, lessons, and truth-telling that remains before genuine reconciliation is possible. "I worry that Srebrenica may become a smokescreen to hide all the other crimes and atrocities. Take Foca [a village in Bosnia]," says Kemal Pervanic, a blue-eyed Muslim intellectual with a blond pony tail who survived the Serb-run Omarska torture camp. "Who talks about Foca? Thousands of us were murdered there. "I am passionate about reconciliation. But we need truth first." Nor has the international community finished its reckoning. Very few UN or Western officials whose policies aided the Serb ethnic cleansing project have yet faced history, analysts say. "Was there ever a more inept, less effective and positively counterproductive organization than...the UN protection force in Bosnia?" asks William Montgomery, former US ambassador to Croatia and Serbia, respectively. "Where are the leaders of the international community who ... helped bring events in the Balkans about? ... We are rightly looking for full accountability from the parties in the region. I am sorry that we are not doing the same for ourselves." The tribunal in The Hague, which has indicted 146 persons for war crimes in Bosnia and Croatia, has become the center of gravity for dealing with the war - and it is where most of the facts about the war have come to light. [Editor's note: The number of indictments in the original version was incorrect.]

    Mr. Suljagic, a UN interpreter whose biographical account "Postcards from the Grave" was released last week, says there are two main myths about Srebrenica. One is that it was only a brief bloodletting, when it was planned for many months. Second, that it was carried out only by a few thugs. "To kill 8,000 people in three days you have to have logistics," he says. "There have to be truck drivers, people to tie hands, put on blindfolds, bulldozers." In Srebrenica, one group that carried out much of the carnage was the 65th Protection Regiment, the tribunal has found, a group that took care of Mladic's own safety, and could be compared to a Nazi Waffen SS force in terms of its brutality. Last month, a video of Serb paramilitary "Scorpions" who filmed themselves executing Muslims provided a literal "smoking gun" at the tribunal, and has caused a stir in Serbia. Yet denial remains stubborn. At a forum on the war in Belgrade this spring, a balcony of young Serbs made a three-finger national salute and shouted the name "Radovan Karadzic" approvingly. A retired Serb military expert also stated it was a "heinous lie that anyone planned" the Srebrenica genocide. Rather, he said, it was due to "chaos." General Kristic's defense lawyer in the tribunal stated the massacre of 8,000 men in Srebrenica may have been the work of "French intelligence" agents. The same point was picked up by Mr. Milosevic, who told the court in 2002, that the slaughter was the result of renegade Serbs directed by French agents. His trial is currently in the defense phase.

    Serbian denial
    Even with photographic evidence, many Serbs at the tribunal have denied involvement. One Dusko Jevic-Stadja, shown in uniform in a videotape standing next to Mladic in July, 1995, denies any harmful action. An exchange with prosecutor Peter McCloskey goes like this:

  • Question: On 12 July did you see men and women separated? Answer: No.
  • Question: Did you ever see any Muslim hit or kicked? Answer: No.
  • Question: Any reports that Muslims were being physically hurt reach you? Answer: No.
    War crimes investigators say that in the Srebrenica region, an area some 20 by 40 miles wide that includes several dozen villages, only one Serb resident had come forth to offer information. Last year Mr. Pervanic revisited the Omarska prison camp where he was held for nearly a year. He was escorted by a guard, who, as Pervanic points out, was wearing the same double-headed eagle insignia on his uniform that guards at the camp wore in 1993, when he was rounded up for being a Bosnian Muslim. "A lot of the younger kids I talk to in Bosnia today think the war was caused by a few nutty peasants," says Peranovic. "I tell them my village was attacked by the Serb army, by tanks, by troops."

    Prosecuting War Criminals
    The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established by the UN Security Council in 1993. Former president Slobodan Milosevic's trial is ongoing, but 10 key suspects remain at large. The ICTY has successfully handled dozens of cases. The maximum sentence that can be imposed is life imprisonment. Prison terms are served in one of the countries that have signed an agreement with the United Nations to accept persons convicted by the ICTY.

  • Tribunal Indictments to date: 146
  • Judgments rendered: 55
  • Sentenced: 37
  • Acquitted: 2
  • Not Guilty: 3
  • Appealing: 13
  • Recused: 2
    Source: ICTY
    ©Christian Science Monitor Service

    11/7/2005- The Humanitarian Law Center calls on the public and on the political parties of democratic orientation in Serbia to sincerely mark 11 July as a day of remembrance of the sufferings of the other human beings; as a day devoted to facing the consequences of those sufferings; and as a day for reflection on the course of our history. The denial of the Srebrenica massacre has stopped in Serbia. Under the pressure of visual records displaying the perpetrators from Serbia and the victims from Srebrenica, the public in Serbia went silent and demonstrated its capacity for compassion and solidarity for victims of the other party. The statement of the President of Serbia Boris Tadic, on the eve of his departure to the commemoration in Potocare, is quite clear in its admission of responsibility and in its obligation to the truth. For the first time, the radical right-wingers have, in the context of the condemnation of the crimes against the Serbian people, mentioned the crimes against the others. All this indicates that the issue of war crimes has for the first time been addressed in its political, legal, and moral aspects in Serbia. It is unrealistic to expect that the defendants of the Milosevic regime shall withdraw from the political stage or assist in revealing the complete truth about war crimes committed against others, but an individual and collective re-assessment of the past has definitely begun, and this is a precondition for breaking the still existent links with the Milosevic epoch.
    Humanitarian Law Center

    Remember Elvis' story
    By Diana Sehic and Fedra Idzakovic, staff attorneys in the Bosnia office of Global Rights, an international human rights advocacy organization that partners with advocates around the world to challenge injustice. It has operated in Bosnia since 1997.

    11/7/2005- Elvis is in many ways an ordinary 22-year-old. He likes music and soccer, and writes his own blog. Today is his birthday. But Elvis did not celebrate this year ó or the year before. In fact, the last birthday Elvis celebrated was his 12th. Ten years ago, Elvis lived in Srebrenica, a United Nations-designated "safe area" in eastern Bosnia As war engulfed their country, Elvis' family and tens of thousands of others took refuge in that enclave, guarded by several hundred lightly armed United Nations forces. Because food had not been brought in for months, residents were forced to eat oats and grass to survive. But on Elvis' birthday, a U.N. soldier gave the boy a can of Coca-Cola and two Snickers bars. Elvis felt that the gift had come from another world. The next day, on July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serb forces overran Srebrenica, killing Elvis' father, several of his male family members and approximately 8,000 others. Now, each year, instead of celebrating his birthday, Elvis commemorates the fall of Srebrenica and the end of his childhood. Unfortunately, Elvis' story is all too familiar to the men, women and children of Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and elsewhere who have hidden ó and are still hiding ó in basements, forests and deserts, waiting to be rescued. How many more of these innocents will be raped, tortured and massacred just because their attackers see them as different? Are we powerless to stop these wars and genocides, or to punish the perpetrators of horrific acts? Does the international community see human rights as mere symbols, and lack the will or the ability to enforce them? Have we become silent accomplices of evil?

    Elvis' story reminds us that we must remember the individual destinies that are shaped in the course of massive tragedies. It reminds us that what is at stake in the current debate about United Nations reform is ensuring the world body is equipped to prevent such atrocities. And it reminds us that large-scale abuses such as those at Srebrenica are not happenstance, but instead are built upon the foundations of long-standing wrongs. It is only by acting on these underlying human rights issues that we can hope to prevent massive tragedies from erupting in the future. These thoughts motivate us as we work to make human rights real for the people of Bosnia ó where war has ended but peace has not yet come. With Elvis in mind, we work to stamp out ethnic, religious and gender discrimination, and to ensure that all can participate equally in the state's affairs. We work to ensure that no person lives in fear because he or she is different, and that every individual is guaranteed the right to a peaceful childhood, to family, to home, to choice, to education, to employment and to life. This year Elvis will join the 10-year commemoration of Srebrenica's fall by attending the burial of approximately 600 of his former neighbors, all killed during the city's occupation but only recently identified, at the Potocari memorial cemetery. Elvis hopes that in their burial, the dead will find the peace they were brutally deprived of in life. He hopes their killers ó including Bosnian Serb wartime leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, who remain at large ó will finally be brought to justice before a court of law. He hopes the United Nations and the international community will one day be able to protect those who live in fear of their oppressors. And he hopes that Bosnia will soon start down a new path in which individual differences are respected and no one is killed simply because he is born a certain ethnicity or faith, because he is dark-skinned, poor, homosexual, disabled or a foreigner. We are working to make his hope a reality.
    ©Dayton Daily News

    Monday, July 11, 2005, marks the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, in which approximately 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Serbs in this Bosnian town. A ceremony was organized by victims' families. Members of the EU peacekeeping force in Bosnia had also found explosives located in the area near where the memorial was to take place. A spokesman for the Bosnian Serb police announced that his force was taking steps necessary to remove the explosives. As part of the ceremony, an additional 570 victims of the massacre are expected to be buried at the cemetery adjoining the memorial, where more than 1,300 other victims are already buried. As of the massacre's tenth anniversary, only six of the 19 individuals indicted for playing a role in the massacre have been charged by international authorities at The Hague. Most noticeably on the list of individuals responsible for the massacre who have not faced the tribunal are military commander Ratko Mladic and former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic. Recent events have suggested that Mladic may be near arrest; reports suggest he is offering to either surrender himself over to Serb authorities in exchange for money for his family or to commit suicide. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica had reportedly promised the United States that Mladic would be in The Hague by July 11. Also at large is Zdravko Tolimir, believed responsible for organizing the mass transfer and deportation of parts of the population of Srebrenica. EU leaders called for Serbian and Bosnian efforts to capture war criminals responsible for the massacre to be stepped up. German legislator Doris Pack implored the two countries to recognize their guilt, implying that as a German, she understood the need of guilt recognition as a part of the process of reconciliation. Other European leaders have also further encouraged the revision of the flawed Bosnian constitution, created at the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995.
    ©Balkan Watch

    By Karin Waringo, independent journalist and researcher on Romani affairs.

    11/7/2005- Germany and other host countries up the pressure on Kosovo refugees to go home, despite abundant signs that they are still not welcome there. No mercy. On 24 June, the interior ministers of the German L?nder rebuffed a proposal to remove the threat of forced return from at least a few of the thousands who fled the conflicts in Kosovo. Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily had simply asked that children who had been in Germany for several years, along with their families, not risk deportation. The refusal of the states' ministers to consider Schily's proposal means that up to 54,000 people face the risk of being forcibly sent back to Kosovo. Most are Roma, Ashkali, and Kosovo Egyptians; a minority comprises ethnic Serbs and Albanians.

    Defining away a threat
    Kosovo is entering a new phase of insecurity. In February, the Brussels-based think tank International Crisis Group warned that violence might escalate in Kosovo if the Albanian-speaking majority's expectations of achieving independence soon are frustrated. In March 2004, a sudden and unexpected outbreak of violence led to the deaths of 19 people and the displacement of more than 4,000 Serbs, Roma, and Ashkali, chased from their homes by angry Albanian rioters. NATO is making contingency plans as the province enters "the sensitive period," as Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer put it recently, when the international community is to assess the province's readiness to begin multiparty talks on its future status. The coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, Erhard Busek, acknowledged in a recent newspaper interview that, six years after the end of the war, Kosovo Serbs and Roma still face problems being accepted by the Albanian-speakers who make up the vast majority of Kosovo's population. He nevertheless defended the German government's repatriation plans as part of a normalization process. Voluntary returns to Kosovo have been slow to take place. By the end of last year, the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, reported 12,000 "minority returns," defined as the return of people to places where their community is not dominant. About 10,000 forced returns were registered in 2003 and 2004, the majority of them ethnic Albanians, followed by Bosniaks and Ashkali. Until this spring, UNHCR defended the position that people belonging to minority communities in Kosovo continued to face threats and should therefore not be forcibly returned. But in March the agency changed its position regarding the Ashkali and Kosovo Egyptians, stating that their situations should be assessed on a case by case basis. (The Ashkali and so-called Egyptians of Kosovo are Albanian speakers, unlike the Roma, who typically speak Serbian.) On 26 April, the German federal government struck a new agreement with the UN civil administration in Kosovo, UNMIK, enabling Germany to propose the names of up to 500 Ashkali and Kosovo Egyptians monthly for forced repatriation, although it is thought that only about a fifth of these will actually be sent back after going through a screening process. The agreement excludes members of the Roma ethnic group from forced repatriation for now, except for up to 20 (from September 2005 up to 30) Romani convicts serving jail sentences of two years or more. In September new negotiations are set to take place. The optimistic forecast by UNMIK and Berlin is that all restrictions on forced repatriations can be lifted as of 2006.

    Secret protocols for 'voluntary' returns
    From a right defined in UN Security Council Resolution 1244 in 1999 ("the right of all refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes [in Kosovo] in safety"), the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to Kosovo has turned into a threat. The present deportations are hardly compatible with UNMIK's principles for sustainable return, defined as a free and informed choice, nor with the principles enacted in the UN-authored "implementation plan" for Kosovo: "All refugees and displaced persons who wish to return to Kosovo must be able to do so in safety and dignity." Over recent months, representatives of the elected Kosovo government have multiplied their appeals to the communities in exile to return to Kosovo. A Kosovo Serb has been appointed as minister for returns. Several municipalities have established return commissions. Officials visited neighboring countries and received visits from their counterparts in turn. As a result, Macedonia and Montenegro signed protocols on refugee returns with the government and UNMIK. In high contrast with the German agreement, these protocols concern only voluntary returns, but the wording of the agreements is not public and the refugee communities fear that they may face the same destiny as their fellows in Germany and other West European countries. Moreover, representatives of the Macedonian government have already announced that they will put pressure on the refugees to go home. The situation in Kosovo remains volatile. The UN administration has recently shown a tendency to downplay the security concerns of the refugees, noting for instance that no serious act of "ethnically motivated crime" has been reported since the mob violence of March 2004. The UN refugee agency makes similar claims in its position paper released in March 2005, concluding however that the absence of serious violence against members of minority communities may be linked to their newly restricted freedom of movement. UNMIK, however, has also in effect admitted that the terms of the repatriation agreement with Germany are hardly practicable. In an appearance before the U.S. government's American Helsinki Commission in May, UNMIK chief Soren Jessen-Petersen acknowledged that Kosovo lacks the capacity to absorb large numbers of returnees. He repeated this in response to a letter from the Kosovo Ombudsperson, Marek Nowicki, in June, adding that UNMIK had not agreed to and he did not expect any massive returns of Kosovo Roma from Germany or other countries, not mentioning, however, whether he was also referring to Ashkali and Kosovo Egyptians.

    Refugees at home
    What is often overlooked is that Kosovo also is burdened with a large number of internal refugees, or internally displaced persons. In late June the UN special envoy on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Walter K?lin, visited Kosovo. By the end of his visit he was deploring the situation of many IDPs who are forced to continue their miserable lives in camps and elsewhere because there is no donor money available to implement their return to their homes, which may be just a few kilometers away but in many cases were destroyed in the 1998-1999 conflicts or occupied by members of more powerful groups. He added that the lack of attention to this problem particularly affects the non-Serbian minorities ñ Roma, Ashkali, Kosovo Egyptians, and other smaller groups who feel caught between the two main ethnic communities. At the end of April, the disastrous living conditions of the Roma living in camps at Zitkovac, Cesmin Lug, and Kabalare briefly caught the attention of international media. Blood tests conducted by the World Health Organization revealed above-normal levels of lead in 40 percent of the people tested. Twenty-seven people, the latest a 26-year-old man, have already died from what their relatives see as the consequences of the lead contamination in the soil of the camps. The people living in these camps are the former inhabitants of the Fabricka Mahala, the old Romani quarter, in Kosovska Mitrovica. In April, UNMIK, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and other international organizations proudly announced an agreement with the municipal council on the reconstruction of the mahala, which burned down in June 1999 under the eyes of French KFOR troops. At a donor meeting in May, however, no international sponsor came forward with funding. UNMIK has released only scant details about returns and forced repatriations under the new agreement with Germany. From the exchange of letters between UNMIK and Nowicki it emerged that 14 Ashkali and Kosovo Egyptians were repatriated in the first weeks after the agreement came into force. Jessen-Petersen has also acknowledged that Germany is not the only country that is currently exerting political pressure for the return of refugees. Soon, the Kosovo government, Serbia, and the international community will open talks on the final status of Kosovo. Because refugee return is one of the preconditions for talks to begin, a window of opportunity is opening for host governments to send refugees back. Resistance is building slowly. The world seems to have forgotten that the Romani refugees, never welcome guests wherever they went, left their country under violence and threats. In one of his regular columns in the Kosovo press, Ombudsperson Nowicki reminded the host countries that the "home" to which their governments wish to return refugees may hold negative memories and in many cases not even exist anymore. While the refugees abroad are often crippled by fears that any act of resistance might aggravate their case and make deportation more likely, their cause is being taken up by their communities in Kosovo. Members of the Kosovo Roma and Ashkali Forum have started to speak out against what they call an open experiment on undefended communities. In a call to the high representatives of the international community they demanded an immediate end to the deportations and asked to be included in the negotiations on Kosovo's future.
    ©Transitions Online

    Explosions continue to rock Kosovo as the international community prepares to assess the province's progress on security, human rights, and governance standards.
    By Fatmire Terdevci

    15/7/2005- Two weeks after three blasts rocked Kosovo's capital Pristina, nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack. The simultaneous explosions took place in the evening of 2 July. One bomb targeted the offices of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), while the other two were detonated near Kosovo's government building and the Kosovo headquarters of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Three UN vehicles were set ablaze, but there were no injuries. Police have been unable to name any suspects. "The case is still under investigation and according to the information I have there are no suspects yet," the Kosovo Police Service spokesperson, Refki Morina, told TOL earlier this week. The explosions were almost simultaneous. They were targeted against the three most important institutions in today's Kosovo. UNMIK has been in charge of administering and policing the province since 1999, when NATO expelled Serbian institutions from Kosovo. The OSCE has organized all Kosovo's elections since and has been specifically tasked to monitor human rights and the rule of law. Both organizations aim to enable Kosovo's own institutions, which still have limited powers, to function on their own once the provinces status is determined. Status talks may begin as early as September if the international community judges that Kosovo has made significant progress in meeting a set of UN-approved standards on security, human rights, and governance. The bombs were either discovered immediately before they detonated or there was a warning. "I was on the balcony of my apartment and could see three police vehicles blocking the road between the OSCE and the cinema. Police officers very rapidly evacuated people and shortly after there were explosions," a local newspaper quoted a witness who wanted to remain anonymous. A local television channel interviewed an eyewitness, who claimed to have seen a couple leaving a bag near the OSCE building. But the police spokesperson could not say how the police got the information about the bomb. "I don't have information about this," Morina said. The blasts were condemned by local and international officials "Such acts, which are not supported by the Kosovar people, will not be allowed to damage the democratic process in Kosovo," said the head of UN Mission in Kosovo, Soren Jessen-Petersen. He said that the violence will not influence UNMIK's determination to support Kosovo's institutions and people in building a peaceful, democratic, and multiethnic Kosovo. For the head of the OSCE mission in Kosovo, Werner Wendt, it is very worrisome that such explosions are taking place in the heart of the capital, but as he said, "it is one reason for more for us to convince the Kosovars that the future of Kosovo can only be determined in a political way." For local officials, the explosions are dangerous acts aimed at destabilizing the province. "They took place at a time when it is expected that there will be a positive assessment of the standards, at a time of progress in Kosovo which will bring closer the recognition of Kosovo's independence," said Kosovo's president, Ibrahim Rugova.

    More bombs
    Another bomb exploded on 4 July near the premises of the Ministry for Returns and Communities, which also houses the offices of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDP). The Returns and Communities Minister is the only ethnic Serb in the Kosovo government, Slavisa Petkovic, who is also the chairman of the SDP. No one was injured, but the building was damaged. Police have no suspects yet in this case either, but in a press conference in Pristina two days after the blast Petkovic publicly accused the Serbian National Council (SNV) and one of its leaders, Marko Jaksic, of being behind the bombing. Petkovic also demanded that UN police proclaim the SNV a terrorist organization. The SNV is a hard-line Serbian party based in the northern part of the divided city of Mitrovica. The motive of the attack, according to Petkovic, was the drop in the level of support for the SNV, while his party, the SDP, was growing each day. "Another motive is related to my statements that the [Kosovo] Serbs should seek their future here and not somewhere else," said Petkovic in a reference to the SNV's close links with the government in Belgrade. The SNV boycotts Kosovo's institutions. In the same press conference, Petkovic did not spare UNMIK chief Jessen-Petersen, whom he blamed for not communicating with his party, but with Belgrade instead. Some observers related the explosions to the recent visits of Serbian officials in Kosovo. Vuk Draskovic and Prvoslav Davinic, the foreign and defense ministers of Serbia and Montenegro, visited the province recently and met with UNMIK representatives, as did Serbian President Boris Tadic. The Kosovo Action Network, a student organization, held protests during Draskovic's visit. Twenty-two people were detained for throwing eggs at the convoy of vehicles escorting Draskovic.

    Last month, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide as his special envoy to Kosovo. Eide is to evaluate the implementation of the UN-approved standards and report his findings by the end of summer. Talks to determine Kosovo's future will start later this year if the standards are met. There has been much anxiety among Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority about the outcome of this exercise. According to reports published in the local media, in his second visit to Kosovo earlier in July, Eide was much more focused on the Serbian minority than on the ethnic Albanian majority. His agenda included visits to Serbian enclaves to establish if there has been enough progress on the freedom of movement of the Serbian community. Meantime, foreign diplomats keep calling on the Albanian majority to work on fulfilling the standards. One of them, former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright, visited the province in early July. In the late 1990s, Albright was perhaps the highest profile international official supporting Kosovo Albanians. She and her close aides masterminded the 1999 Rambouillet peace accord, which Belgrade then rejected, paving the way for the 1999 NATO intervention against Serbia. Addressing the parliament of Kosovo, Albright said that Kosovo should become a society guided by the rule of law and providing equal opportunities for all its citizens. "This year 2005 is crucial for Kosovo. There are many things which need to be done," Albright told the lawmakers. She called on them to do everything in their power to ensure the return of all internally displaced persons, regardless of their ethnicity. The lack of return of Serbs and other minority groups who fled the province since 1999, as well as problems related to their freedom of movement, have been major impediments to handing over more powers to Kosovo's own authorities.

    Bomb threats, often targeting UNMIK, have intensified, especially after the resignation of former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj in March and his surrender to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to face war crimes charges. On 15 March, a bomb exploded in the vicinity of the vehicle carrying President Rugova and on 17 April a heavy explosion devastated the premises of the youngest Kosovo Albanian party, Ora. Another explosion took place in May in the heart of Pristina, near UNMIK headquarters. Police have so far failed to find the perpetrators. Despite the frequency of the explosions, there has been no panic among the people of Kosovo. "People have come to see the attacks as part of the local scenery," the director of International Crisis Group, Alex Anderson, told TOL. According to him, extremist elements are likely to repeat such acts. "The following months will be uncertain in Kosovo," said Anderson. Observers think that in the run-up to possible status talks the very different expectations of the ethnic Albanians, who advocate full independence, and the Serbs, who prefer Kosovo to remain part of Serbia, are at the core of rising tensions.
    ©Transitions Online

    11/7/2005- French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday announced the creation of an inter-ministerial committee tasked with re-evaluating the country's immigration needs and its visa procedures. Sarkozy said during a visit to the southern port of Marseille that the committee would begin work in September and deliver its conclusions in March 2006. Saying he wanted to "profoundly transform" France's immigration policy, Sarkozy said his goal was to move beyond a so-called "inflicted immigration, where everyone loses, to select immigration, where everyone will be a winner". The minister, who also leads President Jacques Chirac's ruling centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party, recommended the implementation of a "points system that would allow us to welcome the foreigners that we want". Points would be given to visa candidates based on "age, education, knowledge of languages and professional experience," Sarkozy said. The tough-talking interior minister, who has made no secret of his presidential ambitions ahead of the 2007 election, pledged to crack down on illegal immigration and marriages of convenience. French consulates will be instructed to refuse tourist visas to those candidates who present a "migratory risk", he said. Sarkozy called for the creation of a central government agency tasked with handling immigration issues and asylum requests, and for better data sharing between police stations at home and French consulates abroad. Last week, the European Union's five biggest countries -- Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain -- agreed at a meeting in Evian, France to establish joint naval patrols in the Mediterranean to stem the tide of illegal migrants. They also agreed to set up joint flights to repatriate would-be immigrants. About 70 percent of France's immigrants come from North Africa and French-speaking west Africa, but since 2000, more and more immigrants have come from China, the former Soviet Union and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
    ©Expatica News

    By Alexei Bayer, a regular contributor to Vedomosti, contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.

    11/7/2005- One day in February, Maxim Kononenko's satirical web site ran a story about General Albert Makashov, a Communist State Duma deputy who had acquired notoriety for his anti-Jewish comments. In the story, President Vladimir Putin and his deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov are watching Makashov expounding his ideas on television. Makashov's greatest fear, explains Surkov, is to be accosted by a gang of skinheads. Is he Jewish, asks Vladimir Vladimirovich in surprise. Of course, confirms Surkov, he is a "mason." How does he know? Why, because of the general's first name, Albert. With characteristic brilliance, Kononenko put his finger on two basic things about Jews in Russia. First, although in real life Makashov is probably not Jewish, his first name is unusual enough for an ethnic Russian, and many people in Russia -- mostly Jews and anti-Semites -- watch for such signs. Second, while anti-Semitism is a strange phenomenon everywhere, in today's Russia it takes particularly twisted forms. It wasn't always like that. In tsarist Russia anti-Semitism was straightforward: the Pale of Settlement, the Black Hundred and periodic pogroms. The fall of the Russian Empire was seen by many Jews not only as liberation but also as an opportunity to assimilate. The atheism and internationalism of the communist creed raised hopes that Jews could seamlessly merge into the Soviet people.

    The Donskoi Cemetery in Moscow is a memorial to that first stab at Jewish assimilation and its subsequent failure. In the Soviet days, it was the city's crematorium and unofficial Jewish cemetery. Of those buried there, an extraordinary number --including my grandparents and some three dozen of their relatives and friends -- hail from the Pale and from Yiddish-speaking, observant households. Yet, you would need a keen eye to identify them as Jews, since many Russified their Jewish-sounding names. Fortunately, Russian headstones are highly informative, supplying not just first and last names, patronymics and pictures, but sometimes even a brief summary of accomplishments. As Kononenko's vignette implies, if you are practiced in this kind of detection, you can always tell who is a Jew. Stalin's Soviet Union was a repressive place, and plenty of Jews perished in the massive purges of the 1930s. However, as University of California at Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine asserts in his recent book "The Jewish Century," they were persecuted for political reasons, not as Jews. Although anti-Semitism existed in the streets, it could be dismissed as a leftover from the tsarist past. It all changed in the late 1940s, when Jews began to be regularly accused of double loyalty and cosmopolitanism. Stalin died in the midst of the Doctors' Plot trials, before his murderous plans for Soviet Jewry could be carried out. However, state anti-Semitism never really went away. Jews remained an alien presence, viewed by the authorities with intense suspicion as the Fifth Column of the Cold War. When in the twilight years of communism, Jews were allowed to emigrate, hundreds of thousands availed themselves of the opportunity. Today, many headstones at Donskoi are neglected. A chatty caretaker would readily tell you whose widow has recently visited from Tel Aviv, whose daughter has been back from Sydney and whose grandchildren have not been heard from since moving to Brooklyn.

    Nevertheless, when the Soviet Union collapsed, there was still a surprising number of Jews left in Russia. Ironically, they welcomed the fall of communism just as they had its establishment some 75 years earlier. Jews became successful in business once private enterprise was permitted, not only as highly visible oligarchs but also in small and medium-size operations. Jews quickly rose to prominence in the professions and the arts in the first post -Soviet decade. In 2002, I attended a series of cultural and artistic events showcasing Jewish artists and highlighting the life of the Jewish community. Hopefully, and a little ominously, Moscow began to look like the heir to early 20th-century Vienna, Berlin, Budapest and Prague. The once shambolic Moscow Synagogue became a place of wealth and social prominence. The Soviet about-face on the Jews confused Russian anti-Semites. Or rather, it made it possible to espouse anti-Semitic views regardless of one's ideological hue. If you want, you can blame the Jews for the Bolshevik coup and hold them accountable for all the crimes the Soviet regime committed against Russia's national, religious and cultural heritage. Alternatively, you can accuse the Jews of destroying the Soviet Union on orders from global Zionism and imperialism.

    Today, the varieties of Russian anti-Semitism run the gamut from the now -banned National Bolshevik Party to the fascist Russian National Unity organization. Between those extremes are found the four established parties in the current State Duma, all of which are strongly, moderately or somewhat anti -Semitic. At one end of the ideological spectrum, Putin is accused of perpetuating a Jewish stranglehold on Mother Russia. At the other, he is hailed as a patriot standing up to greedy Jewish oligarchs. You might think that anti-Semitism in Russia is the only sphere of national life where genuine pluralism has been achieved. However, on closer inspection, anti-Jewish ideologies left and right share a common foundation. They believe in Russia's special place in history and particular destiny. They differ greatly on what this destiny should be -- the Orthodox faith and monarchy, communism, or the vertical of power and state-controlled economy -- but they certainly do not want Russia to emulate the West. On the contrary, they see the outside world as a whole, and the West in particular, as an enemy bent on subjugating Russia and taking control of its rich natural resources.

    Russian Jews are not a true religious minority. Few belong to a temple, observe religious laws and give their kids a Jewish upbringing. Their Russian names are no longer indicative of an urge to assimilate but are usually the result of mixed marriages. Indeed, Jews for today's anti-Semites are a symbol, just as they were for Stalin and Brezhnev. Jews still stand for modernity, democracy and openness to the West. By virtue of being outsiders, they are a living embodiment of a modern, inclusive Russia --Rossiyania, as some nationalist movements dismissively call it -- rather than "a Russia for the Russians" or an ethnocentric empire. In this regard, Russian Jews are no different from other assimilated minorities, be they Georgians, Armenians or Tatars. Or, for that matter, from educated ethnic Russians. Not surprisingly, in the Soviet Union leading dissidents were often portrayed as Jews. Alexander Solzhenitsin's real name, it was comically asserted, was Solzhenitzer, and physicist Andrei Sakharov's was Zuckerman. Or else, the father of the Russian hydrogen bomb was represented as a political naive controlled by his Jewish wife. This is why the anti-Semitic outburst in Putin's Russia is frightening not just to Russian Jews but also to other ethnic groups in the country and, even more so, to the Westernized Russian intelligentsia. It should also be a cause for serious concern for the rest of the world. It is indicative of a much larger strategic shift within post-communist Russia. It is a litmus test for the direction in which the Putin administration is taking the county -- to the community of nations or back to communist-era isolation.
    ©FSU Monitor

    12/7/2005- Jewish leaders in Russia said Tuesday that anti-Semitism and xenophobia were persistent in Russian society and they criticized law enforcement officials for not doing more to punish nationalist crimes. Borukh Gorin, spokesman for the Federation of Russia's Jewish Organizations, said an investigation by prosecutors into whether an ancient Jewish religious text was inciting religious hatred "was a sign of a serious illness of our society." Last week, prosecutors dropped the inquiry into whether the Russian translation of a 19th century summary of Jewish religious laws called Kitsur Shulhan Arukh provoked religious hatred. The inquiry had been prompted by a complaint by two nationalist activists. The issue of the translation arose in January, when 19 lawmakers signed a letter that accused Jews of fomenting ethnic hatred and anti-Semitism and asked prosecutors to conduct an investigation aimed at outlawing Jewish organizations. Prosecutors later, on behalf of activists, investigated whether the letter itself incited ethnic hatred, but concluded it did not. Gorin said that xenophobia in Russia was directed not only against Jews, but also against non-Slavic people, especially those from Central Asian countries and other dark-skinned migrants, who face severe discrimination. "This is not just a wave of anti-Semitism. There are very dangerous xenophobic tendencies in Russia," Gorin said. "National hatred is high in Russian society." Many experts believe the rise in xenophobia has its roots in Russia's economic problems, which resulted in high unemployment, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which sent large numbers of job-seeking migrants from poorer former Soviet republics to Russia. Alexandr Boroda, chairman of Federation of Russia's Jewish Organizations, said law enforcement officials should do more to combat nationalist crimes. "Until there is a clear-cut connection between action and punishment and until others see what such actions can lead to, I am afraid we will be seeing similar phenomena," Boroda said. Many rights groups accuse Russian leaders of remaining silent in the face of rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism, pointing to the occasional desecration of Jewish cemeteries and the growing frequency of skinhead attacks against dark-skinned foreigners.
    ©Associated Press

    HIV-positive Russian women and their children face widespread discrimination and abuse, Human Rights Watch reports.

    15/7/2005- Children born to HIV-positive women are often segregated in Russia for no medical reason, the rights group says. According to official figures cited in the report, nearly 10,000 HIV-positive Russian women have given birth since 1997. Up to 20% abandoned their babies. The report criticises "the very real discrimination" the women and children face - often from healthcare providers. "The stigma of HIV/Aids is with them everywhere: in the workplace, at school, at the neighbourhood clinic, even in their own homes," said Lois Whitman, children's rights director at Human Rights Watch. HIV-positive women interviewed by the group's researchers reported being verbally abused by doctors and nurses, or even being denied treatment altogether. A health ministry official quoted in the report admitted that segregating children with HIV was a violation of their rights and "enforces the stigma society attaches to the disease". Human Rights Watch urged the Russian government to prioritise measures to end such discrimination and address the issue publicly. It complained that so far the "meagre" resources put into the battle against HIV/Aids had done little to educate the public or halt the spread of the epidemic. Russia has some 300,000 HIV-positive people, according to government data. But Russian and foreign experts estimate the true number to be closer to one million.
    ©BBC News

    11/7/2004- "Anti-Semitism will never be tolerated in Romania, we must establish a society ensuring equal rights for all its citizens no matter the origin, language, color of the skin or religion", stated Foreign Minister Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu, on the occasion of a conference held at the Hebraic University in Jerusalem. During the conference ''Fata in fata cu istoria. Romania si Holocaustul'' (Face to face with history. Romania and Holocaust), the chief of the diplomacy in Bucharest reminded though the historiography during the communist period shadowed the tragedy suffered during the second World War by the Romanian Jewish people, the youngsters in our country are presently presented the size of the systematic crimes they were subjected to by the Romanian authorities at that time in order to prevent the apparition of such discriminatory actions. He reviewed the activity of the International Commission to Study the Holocaust in Romania (Wiesel Commission), concluded at the end of 2004 with presenting a report published and distributed in libraries and on the Internet. In addition, Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs reminded the Government in Bucharest decided that by October 9, when it is commemorated the Day of Holocaust in Romania, a memorial monument is built in Romania, and Ministry of Culture is currently working at a project to establish a Museum of the Holocaust. Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu also talked about the activity of the centers of Judaic studies in Romania that will soon be enabled to collaborate with a national institute to study the Holocaust and made a detailed description on teaching the history of the Holocaust in the Romanian schools. He stated that in 25% of the Romanian high-schools it is being taught the optional course on this phenomenon and in the history program for the 8th, 10th and 11th classes, pages about the Holocaust were inserted. Altogether, there were also reminded the training of the Romanian history teachers to teach this chapter, effort developed by Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Institute of Memorial Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and the printing this year's fall of a new manual on the optional course History of the Holocaust.

    14/7/2005- Asylum seekers have found themselves at the center of European controversy in recent years, provoking a variety of reactions, including sympathy, hostility and even outright racism, often thinly disguised in the painted face of hijacked patriotism. Nations across Europe have grappled with the question of how to balance humanitarian interests for asylum seekers with the national interests of the country's citizens. Except in the Czech Republic, where a response to the question of asylum seekers seems almost nonexistent. According to nongovernmental organizations that advocate refugee rights, the Czech asylum system is so labyrinthine, so fraught with bureaucratic peril and so draconian in its requirements that, for all its complexity, it usually might as well not exist at all. Consider this: From 1990 to 2004, more than 75,000 foreigners applied for asylum in the Czech Republic. Only about 2,500 emerged from the other end of the maze. That's less than 167 a year, or just over 3 percent. Last year, the nation's record was even worse, granting asylum to only 142 foreigners ó just 2.6 percent of those who applied. So how does that compare to other European nations? To look at that, it's instructive to see exactly how certain nationalities receive treatment, since it's through those disparities that obvious biases emerge. For Ukrainians, as an example, the prospects for asylum in the Czech Republic remain particularly bleak. In 2003, only five individual Ukrainians ó just 0.3 percent of that nationality's applicants ó received approval; contrast that with France, which approved 11.5 percent of its Ukrainian applicants that same year, a portion that is 38 times higher.

    Bela Hejn· from the Counseling Centre for Refugees told the Czech News Agency that "the number of asylums granted does not really correspond to the number of people who rightfully apply for international legal protection in our country, and who should receive asylum." And Jaroslav Vetrovsk› from the Organization for Aid to Refugees said that even in rejection, the system abuses its applicants: The stated reasons for refusals are sometimes "so confused," he told the Czech media, that many applicants can't even figure out why they were turned down. In all of this, several questions naturally occur: Doesn't the Czech Republic have the right to decide whom it allows permanent entry into its territory? Why would these people be entitled to come here in the first place? The answers, however, speak to deeper questions in the Czech identity. Does the Czech Republic really want to be a nation friendly to humanitarian interests, one of the cornerstones of European foreign policy? Has it really forgotten the countless number of Czechs granted asylum in the West during the dark decades of the Cold War ó only to submit to the current flavor of transitory nationalism? For certain, not every applicant in any system would be entitled to asylum, and it may even be true that most applicants, upon fair review, still wouldn't qualify. Immigration officials also note that many asylum applicants come from nations like Russia, Romania and Ukraine, where oppression is not so astringent as in places like Sudan, the Palestinian territories and other flashpoints of political violence. Ultimately, however, Czech politicians know they must answer to their electorate, which collectively has taken a dim view of the prospect of welcoming foreigners into society. The mark of true leadership, however, is not to simply hold a finger to the wind and then follow the whim of the masses ó it's not to do what's popular; it's to do what's right. If the politicians are not motivated to follow the example of other European nations, then we would hope, at the very least, they would try to answer to their conscience.
    ©The Prague Post

    11/7/2005- The forced sterilisation of Romany women was an isolated phenomenon in the Czech Republic in recent years, Ombudsman Otakar Motejl told CTK Friday. A total of 78 women have turned to the Ombudsman's Office so far, complaining about forced sterilisation. "The complaints concern a 30-year-long period. The number of such cases is relatively low, given that up to thousands of sterilisations have been performed in the country every year," Motejl said. Representatives of the League of Human Rights said that they disagreed with Motejl. They said that sterilisation of Romanies under the Communist regime was conducted on a planned basis. "Romany women were motivated by a financial contribution, which differed in individual towns. In Slovakia, these were thousands of crowns," the lawyer for the League of Human Rights Jiri Kopal told CTK Friday. He said that hundreds of Romany women had been persuaded to undergo sterilisation in this way. "In the Chanov neighbourhood in Most, North Bohemia, alone, one social worker persuaded one hundred of them," he said. Motejl admitted that the number of women who involuntarily underwent sterilisation could be higher. "However, I don't have any evidence to prove that Romany women were subjected to systematic sterilisation in the Czech Republic," he said. He said the reported cases spread evenly across the Czech Republic's territory. The problem started to be discussed last autumn when the European Centre for Romany Rights published its suspicion of forced sterilisation of Romanies. The Centre said that in some cases, Romany women had not consented to the operation, did so in extreme circumstances, or were under threat of losing social benefits. Motejl received the first ten complaints from north Moravia last September. His office initiated criminal proceedings. At present, however, he said his office wants to proceed very cautiously, as the court proceedings could cause many women to be discouraged for fear of others' reactions. At Motejl's request, the Health Ministry has also been checking for cases of forced sterilisation. For this purpose, it has established an independent commission of experts. Motejl originally planned to disclose his inquiry's results by the end of June. "However, I haven't yet received the results from the last meeting of the expert commission, which dealt with almost a half of the cases," he said Friday, in explaining his failure to complete the report.
    ©Prague Daily Monitor

    Racial Discrimination and Other Humiliations Amount to "Degrading Treatment" Seven Victims Awarded Damages Totaling 238,000 Euro
    Second Finding of Racial Discrimination in Relation to Roma within One Week

    13/7/2005- The European Court of Human Rights yesterday ruled that Romania violated multiple provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights for failing to provide justice in connection with a 1993 pogrom and its aftermath. The case involves the killing by a mob of three Romani men and the subsequent destruction of fourteen Romani houses in the village of Hadareni in Mures County, northwestern Romania, as well as the degrading circumstances in which the victims were forced to live after the event. The Court held that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), Article 6(1) (right to a fair hearing) on account of the length of the proceedings, Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken in conjunction with Articles 6(1) and 8.

    Speaking on the occasion of the ruling, ERRC Legal Director Dianne Post said, "This ruling cannot undo the crimes of the past. It will not bring back to life people killed by mobs for the basest motives of racial hatred. It importantly however finally brings recognition of the extreme harms to which the families of the deceased have been subjected, and compels the Romanian government to pay them for its failures. We call on the Romanian government to take this opportunity publicly to express regret for this dark chapter of post-1989 Romanian history, during which Romani communities throughout the country were hounded from their homes by organised racist mobs."

    The facts of the case are as follows:
    Following an altercation in which a non-Romani youth was killed, a mob of non-Romani villagers hunted down the alleged perpetrators and set fire to the house in which they were hiding. Two were brutally murdered when they tried to escape, and the third burned to death in the house. The mob, including members of the local police force, went on to destroy 14 additional houses of Romani families Ten months later, three individuals were charged with the murders but later released and their arrest warrants cancelled by the General Prosecutor. The complaints against the police were referred to the Military Prosecutor's Office, which issued a decision not to prosecute. That decision was upheld on appeal. Nearly four years after the incidents, the Public Prosecutor in Mures County finally issued an indictment against 11 civilians suspected of committing the crimes, later expanded to include others. In a judgment issued in July 1998, twelve individuals were convicted of destruction of property and disturbance, including the Deputy Mayor of Hadareni, and five were convicted of murder. The sentences, ranging from one to seven years were later shortened on appeal. The Supreme Court later acquitted two of the defendants and those remaining in custody were pardoned by the Romanian president in June 2000. A civil court awarded limited pecuniary damages to some of the victims, while rejecting all requests for non-pecuniary damages. That decision was made final by the Court of Cassation (the former Supreme Court) in February 2005.

    Following the events of 1993, the applicants were forced to live in hen houses, pigsties, windowless cellars, in extremely cold and overcrowded conditions. These conditions lasted for several years and in some cases are still continuing. As a result, many applicants and their families fell ill. Diseases contracted by the victims included hepatitis, a heart condition (ultimately leading to fatal heart attack), diabetes, and meningitis.

    With regard to Article 3 of the Convention, the Court applied an approach it first developed in the 1970s, namely that the racial discrimination to which the applicants have been subjected constitutes a factor giving rise to "degrading treatment" within the meaning of Article 3. The Court noted that remarks concerning the applicants' honesty and way of life made by some authorities dealing with the applicants' grievances appeared to be, in the absence of any substantiation on behalf of those authorities, "purely discriminatory", and as such were regarded as an aggravating factor. The Court went on to explain that the applicants' living conditions in the ten years following ratification of the Convention by Romania, in particular the severely overcrowded and unsanitary environment and its detrimental effect on the applicants' health and well-being, combined with the length of the period during which the applicants have had to live in such conditions also contributed to the finding of a inhuman treatment.

    With regard to Article 8, the Court condemned the general attitude of the Romanian authorities prosecutors, criminal and civil courts, Government and local authorities which perpetuated the applicants' feelings of insecurity and constituted in itself a hindrance to the applicants' rights to respect for their private and family life and their homes. In order to arrive at this conclusion, the Court relied on a number of factors, such as:

  • Despite the involvement of State agents in the burning of the applicants' houses, the Public Prosecutors' Office failed to institute criminal proceedings against them, and thus prevented the domestic courts from establishing the responsibility of these officials and punishing them;
  • The domestic courts refused for many years to award pecuniary damages for the destruction of the applicants' belongings and furniture and justified this refusal by making racist assumptions;
  • In the judgment in the criminal case against the accused villagers, discriminatory remarks about the applicants' Roma origin were made;
  • The applicants' requests for non-pecuniary damages were also rejected at first instance, the civil courts considering that the events - the burning of their houses and the killing of some of their family members - were not of a nature to create any moral damage;
  • Three houses have not to date been rebuilt and, as evident from the photographs submitted by the applicants, the houses rebuilt by the authorities are uninhabitable, with large gaps between the windows and the walls and incomplete roofs;
  • and Most of the applicants have not to date returned to their village, and live scattered throughout Romania and Europe.

    With regard to Article 14, the Court stated that the applicants' Romani ethnicity played a decisive role in the incidents of 1993 as well as in the subsequent failure of the authorities to investigate the events and provide redress to the applicants. The Court therefore found a violation of Article 14 of the Convention taken in conjunction with Articles 6(1) and 8. With regard to Article 6, the Court found that the length of the civil proceedings instituted by the applicants failed to satisfy the reasonable-time requirement of Article 6(1) of the Convention.

    The Court ordered that seven persons be provided with damages totaling 238,000 Euro. Individual awards ranged from 11,000 to 95,000 Euro.Throughout the proceedings, the victims were represented by the ERRC. The Targu-Mures-based organization Liga Pro Europa provided significant assistance with the case and undertook representation of some of the victims before domestic tribunals.

    Eighteen of the twenty-five applicants agreed to enter a friendly settlement with the Romanian government that was the subject of a separate judgment, issued on 4 July 2005. In the earlier decision, the Romanian Government also agreed to provide a number of other ameliorative measures.
    The full text of the earlier decision

    The decision follows last week's Grand Chamber ruling in the matter of Nachova v. Bulgaria, another case in which the Court ordered damages after finding the administration of justice in a Council of Europe Member State infected with racial discrimination.
    Information about the Court's decision in Nachova v. Bulgaria
    ©European Roma Rights Center

    14/7/2005- Around 3.6 million Bulgarians went to vote this weekend, but only 1.6% of them voted for the Roma focused EuroRoma party according to Alpha Research polls. That is far from the 4% needed to enter Parliament. The leftest Socialist Party won the majority of the votes, but still lacked enough votes to form a government. They will now need to form a coalition government with the two parties who came in second and third place: the governing Liberal Party of former King Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha and the Movement for Freedoms and Rights, a party representing mainly the ethnic Turkish minority. All the main parties have distanced themselves from the nationalist Attack party, who came in fourth place, receiving 8% of the vote and earning themselves 22 to 24 seats in the Parliament. Attack leader Volen Siderov attributed their success to their nationalist platform of one national language, and programs for a sole-ethnic country. Attack also won votes for their stance against the Bulgarian troops in Iraq, the sale of Bulgarian troops to foreigners and the building of US military bases on Bulgarian soil. Some rumours existed before the election that many of the campaigning parties were attempting to manipulate Roma voters with offers of free food or money. Els de Groen, a European Member of Parliament from the Netherlands, stated that these attempts, and the growing anti-Roma sentiment voiced by many parties during the campaign, were unacceptable. "Such facts are directly breaching the European Parliament's resolution on the Roma, which specifically talks about taking action to empower the political representation of Roma in the EU and candidate countries," she added. "Also, when the Parliament calls on member states and candidate countries to develop a strategy to increase the participation of Roma in elections as voters and candidates, Bulgaria should cooperate in that too." These election results raise serious questions about the future for Roma in Bulgaria. Although the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union is likely to take place in 2007, which will assure some minimal social protections to Roma, it will be hard for the new Bulgarian government to take the Roma population seriously when their party has been so soundly defeated.
    ©Dzeno Association

    14/7/2005- Bulgaria's militant nationalist (if not racist) Attack party said on Sunday its surprise election success meant Bulgarians had finally woken up to what it called a betrayal of their national interests and invited other parties to join it. Attack Party (AP) Leader says that they will change the Turks' names as done in the past. Siderov says if they can come to power, they will add ëov' to the Turkish names. AP's main aim is to assimilate the minorities in Bulgaria.

    "Give Bulgaria back to Bulgarians"
    "Bulgarians have been pushed into the gutter and now they see Attack can help them change that," Volen Siderov said. "If political parties share our views and principles, they are more than welcome to be our partners." Siderov stormed out of his first post-election news conference when a journalist asked him how recently he had visited a psychiatrist. Although scrambling to form a coalition after the inconclusive vote, all parties that passed the threshold to parliament ruled out any cooperation with Attack, whose main slogan is "Give Bulgaria back to Bulgarians". Running on a xenophobic ticket, Attack emerged from obscurity as recently as two months ago to win about 8 percent of Saturday's vote and 21-22 seats in the 240-seat parliament, shocking the ethnically tolerant Balkan nation of 8 million. Attack is now the fourth biggest party in the impoverished EU candidate country whose Slav, Turkish, Muslim and Roma people have avoided the ethnic tensions that caused bloody wars in other Balkan countries following the 1989 fall of communism. Siderov seeks Bulgaria to pull out of NATO, end relations with the IMF and the World Bank, and drop the Turkish language from state television. The party's Web site features a map of the Balkan country covered with Turkish and Israeli flags and Siderov has launched vitriolic attacks against the country's Roma and ethnic Turks. Analysts say the AP should not be underestimated. Sedat Laciner from ISRO says the party is one of the biggest parties in the country. "The Turkish and other minorities suffered a lot under the racist Bulgarian rule in the 1980s. Hundreds of thousands of them poured into Turkey to save their life. Many were tortured in the Bulgarian prisons. The ultra-nationalist Bulgarians made ethnic cleansing. However not only the minorities, but also Bulgaria lost a lot. Now Bulgarians and Turks need each other. They need stability and integration with the rest of Europe. Turkey and Bulgaria are both allies and have close relations. If Bulgarian extremist nationalism continue to increase Bulgaria's relations with the EU and neighbors will be damaged. If the Turkish immigrants remained in Bulgaria in the 1980s, Bulgraia would have been richer and more democratic now" added Dr. Laciner. Mehmet Ozcan from ISRO claims that the EU must support Bulgaria's and other candidates' EU perspective. "If the Brussels cut the relations, the extremist currents will be nourished in the Balkans, Caucasia, and other regions".
    ©Dzeno Association

    11/7/2005- Two Spanish men have become the first gay couple to be married since a new law allowing same-sex marriages. Emilio Menendez, a Spaniard, and Carlos Baturin German, from the US, tied the knot at a ceremony just outside Madrid. The couple have been together for 30 years. After the event, Mr German said: "Today we are even more a family." Spain is the third European nation, after the Netherlands and Belgium, to legalise same-sex marriages. The law allows gay couples to adopt children. The wedding ceremony in the town of Tres Cantos was attended by family friends and journalists - as well as Pedro Zerolo, the governing Socialist Party's top official for social issues. State television showed footage of the couple smiling and displaying their wedding rings. "The happiest day of our lives was when we fell in love with each other. We have been together for 30 years, there have been many wonderful days, today is yet another wonderful day," said Mr Menendez. Mr Zerolo said a dream had become reality, as the dignity of homosexuals had been recognised. Spain's lower house of parliament voted in favour of the bill on 30 June, overruling its rejection by the upper house, the Senate. Polls suggest most Spaniards back the move, although thousands joined a Madrid rally against the bill before it was passed. A Roman Catholic group had presented MPs with a 600,000-signature petition opposing the legislation and were lobbying hard for a referendum on the issue. And some of Spain's local mayors have said they will not officiate at gay marriages.
    ©BBC News

    14/7/2005- A review into racism in Scotland's police forces has issued 63 recommendations on how to improve race relations. It said many of the current policies were to be commended but that did not mean they were working on the ground. The very low numbers of black and ethnic minority officers was also a major problem forces must overcome, according to the review. The report followed a BBC documentary which revealed force racism in England. The Secret Policeman exposed discrimination among police recruits at Greater Manchester Police. The Commission for Racial Equality said that Scotland's forces were ahead of counterparts in England in dealing with race relations. However, major problems were still found to remain in recruiting and retaining officers from black and ethnic minority communities. The report, published on Friday, said senior management were trying to stamp out racism but that policies were not always carried out in practice. It added that forces needed to look at whether the training given to officers actually made a difference to the way they dealt with people on the ground.
    ©BBC News

    14/7/2005- The radicalisation of some younger members of Britain's 1.5 million-strong Muslim community has led to often heated debate. Now questions are being asked about whether British-style multi-culturalism is succeeding or failing. Muslims have lived in Britain for centuries, but only relatively recently have they become the focus of controversy. Three big crises over the last decade and a half have heightened tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims:

  • The Rushdie affair of the late 1980s
  • The attacks of 9/11 in the US, and their implications for Britain
  • And now, potentially most serious of all, this month's London bombings
    They pose awkward challenges for British policy-makers.

    Huge shock
    The Rushdie affair was, in many ways, a turning-point. Until then most Britons, especially in London and the prosperous south, had scarcely been aware of the new Muslim communities taking root in northern industrial towns like Leeds and Bradford. The public burning in Bradford of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses was therefore a huge shock. The affair showed up the yawning gulf between Muslims, who believed the novel slandered their faith and its prophet, and a liberal intelligentsia outraged at the idea of banning, let alone burning, a book. The Iranian death threat against Rushdie, which a few British Muslims supported, further polarised opinion. The affair triggered the first serious debate about a community which was little known or understood.

    Angry young Muslims
    Large-scale Muslim immigration to Britain occurred after World War II. Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India provided cheap labour for the textile industry in northern England. At first, they were unaccompanied men intent on earning money and then returning home. But in the 1970s, they began to bring their wives and children to join them. By the time of the Rushdie affair, they were starting to think of themselves as British Muslims rather than Muslim immigrants. Although the campaign against Rushdie's novel was led by first generation community leaders, it also served to mobilise the disaffected young. Politicians and commentators began to ask whether Britain was now home to a new generation of angry young Muslims. A series of issues - both domestic and foreign - served to further radicalise Muslim opinion. These included the Palestinian intifada, the Gulf war of 1991 and the plight of the Muslims in former Yugoslavia. At the same time, many young British Muslims experienced a familiar mix of inner-city problems - crime, drugs, unemployment and prejudice. Many felt prejudice was directed at their religion as well as their skin colour.

    New urgency
    It was in this context that the attacks against New York and Washington took place on 11 September 2001. This raised the alarming prospect that young Muslims living in the West might be susceptible to the radical and violent ideology of al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama Bin Laden. Following the bombings in Madrid in March 2004 and in London on 7 July 2005, this question has acquired a new urgency. The possibility that the London attacks were the work of young British Muslim suicide bombers poses a significant challenge to Muslim leaders and the Blair government. Muslim parents, teachers and community leaders are under pressure over whether they have done enough to acknowledge and tackle the threat of extremism. British politicians are not only having to review domestic security. They are being forced to think again about the mix of liberal policies pursued by successive governments since the 1960s - collectively known as multi-culturalism. Multiculturalism was designed to bring different communities together, but its critics argue it has only served to keep them apart.
    ©BBC News

    The BNP sparked controversy with its leaflet exploiting the attacks on London. But what do the locals think? Jo Adetunji and HÈlËne Mulholland went to Barking and Dagenham to find out

    14/7/2005- It's rare to find a British National party member agreeing with a Labour opinion, but Peter Hudson is the first to admit that the local BNP's decision to exploit last week's bombings in a bid to win a byelection was rather "stupid". "There is no need to put that right in people's faces," says the minicab driver, who lives and works in the sleepy ward of Becontree in Barking and Dagenham. Though he will be voting for his party in today's council byelection, he still thinks the BNP's campaigning material of choice "was a stupid decision". The BNP received heavy censure this week after publishing an election leaflet showing an aerial photograph of the devastated number 30 bus with the headline: "Maybe now it's time to start listening to the BNP." The BNP is delivering the leaflet across the Becontree ward where the party hopes to gain a council seat in today's byelection following the death of Labour councillor John Wainwright. London police confirmed it is investigating the leaflets following local complaints. A police spokeswoman said of the BNP leaflet: "We do now have a copy in our possession and are considering it. However, no offences have been disclosed at this stage." Tensions flared over the weekend and police were called to an incident involving local Labour activist and councillor Jeff Porter, who was reportedly hounded by a man distributing BNP leaflets. Less than 48 hours before the incident took place, Mr Porter, who is also a London Underground train operator, had been driving a tube to Edgware Road station as one of last Thursday's bombs ripped through a train 10 feet away. The BNP has not denied that local activists were heckling people over the weekend, but claim that the party's wrath was saved for the anti-racist organisation Searchlight, which is seeking to counter the BNP's campaign claims. Essex is not the only area of concern. West Yorkshire police are promising local residents extra security after rumours that BNP supporters are touring the Dewsbury area to whip up local concern. Though Labour has a strong majority in the Essex authority, it is aware that its main threat today is not from the Tory or Ukip candidates, but from BNP rival John Luisis. The party is keen to get a foothold in the council after losing its only London seat to Labour in another byelection held last month, after BNP councillor Daniel Kelley quit the Goresbrook seat on Barking and Dagenham he had won just nine months before.

    Becontree's Labour candidate, Alok Agrawal, and his election agent, Val Rush, prepared for their last day of canvassing in the backroom of the newsagent's shop he has run for 21 years, nestled between the Jasmine Court Restaurant and the Chair Centre. They have had 1,700 firm pledges of support after knocking on 2,300 doors, says Ms Rush. "We should win by a large majority," says Mr Agrawal. "A lot of people know me personally and people are not that bad that they can go along with these silly things." Ms Rush, also a Labour councillor, is concerned at the coincidence of two attacks on Mr Agrawal's shop over the past week by gangs of youths. "This is not normal," she says.'s efforts to reach Mr Luisis failed. His election agent, Richard Barn-Brook, admitted that the BNP candidate "is not very good at talking to camera or radio" and has asked not to be interviewed until the election. Mr Barn-Brook stands by the decision to use the controversial photo last week, which he says was a local issue for Londoners. He adds that leafleting has been the party's only activity since the atrocities took place last week. "We stopped canvassing on Thursday out of respect for the bombing victims." Mr Barn-Brook insists that Mr Luisis has received support from African and Asian residents upset by last week's tragedy who agree that lax immigration laws were to blame. Will Martindale, who has come to Essex from the Labour's London regional office to help with canvassing, says the tone of the BNP campaign has changed since the last byelection in June. "They were coming across as a more serious political party," he says. "Now they are not. It is different BNP activists who seem to be out on the streets. the people here seem to be far more aggressive."

    Tory candidate Tony Chytry agrees that the leaflet could prove a political own goal, but believes the wider message will have some resonance with the electorate. The Conservatives have only a small presence in the council, numbering three councillors in all. "I don't think it's gone down well with the voters," says Mr Chytry. "A lot of people are worried about uncontrolled immigration. Those people are normally Labour voters and were planning to vote BNP as a protest vote ... I haven't heard people say they are voting BNP just because of racism." Ukip candidate John Bolton was busy canvassing, but his agent, Terry Smith, paused to confirm that the "ghoulish" leaflet had been badly received by the electorate. "All they're going after is their hardcore supporters," says Mr Smith. He notes that the BNP campaign really kicked off after Thursday. "Before that it was very low key." Out on the streets of Becontree, few in a ward populated by around 8,000 residents are even aware that their vote is being sought today. Over at Cafe Corner just across from Mr Agrawal's shop, Sharon Broomfield recounts how she only became aware of the election in her backyard while watching the news on Wednesday night and seeing her newsagent on the telly. "I hadn't heard about it until now," she says. She isn't alone. A straw poll of 16 people found not one had heard that a ward seat was being fought. Mr McKillop, a retired seaman who lives in an elderly people's residence close by, is upset that no one has bothered to leaflet his block. He admits he wouldn't rule out giving the BNP vote, but this time it looks unlikely. "There is something about the BNP," he says. "They get their teeth into something and they take a bite out of it, and then they will do nothing. They are full of promises, like every party. That is why I just look at what promises they intend to break". Ronald Davies, a retired lorry driver who has lived in area for 30 years, is a Labour supporter and has every intention of casting his vote. "This is a nice area with a mixed community. Overall it's quite good. We've had a bit of trouble here but not much," he says. "People have been coming into the area, they have young families. At the end of the day we've all got to live together."
    ©The Guardian

    Anti-Muslim websites monitored

    15/7/2005- Plans by an alliance of rightwing extremists and football hooligans to exact "revenge" on Muslims after last week's bomb attacks are being monitored by police. The Guardian has learned that extremists are keen to cause widespread fear and injury with attacks on mosques and high-profile "anti-Muslim" events in the capital. Football hooligans communicating over the internet have spoken of the need to put aside partisan support for teams and unite against Muslims. Hooligans from West Ham, Millwall, Crystal Palace and Arsenal are among those seeking to establish common cause. As part of wider plans to generate a backlash, rightwing groups such as the Nationalist Alliance and the National Front are said to be planning marches. Extremists hope to hold a march along Victoria Embankment in London tomorrow. It is also known that many mosques have received bomb threats since the attacks. Attempts by the right to make capital out of the tragedy have created a powderkeg. Already extremist Islamist websites have told Muslims to be ready to retaliate. The BNP sought to capitalise on last week's atrocities in its byelection literature in Barking, Essex, by reproducing a picture of the bombed No 30 bus with the headline Maybe Now it's Time to Listen to the BNP. But the tactic backfired last night when Labour trounced the BNP, winning the Becontree byelection with 1,171 votes. The BNP received 378. The BNP's tactic prompted cross-party condemnation. Though it was designed to increase support for the far-right, many believe the message may have been too crass and too badly timed to work. The party does, however, enjoy some support in the area. Gerry Gable, of the anti- fascist organisation Searchlight, said: "There is no doubt that the far-right are playing this for all they think it is worth. "If you look at the BNP website there's Nick Griffin saying 'be calm' and other material saying 'don't get angry, get even!'" He added: "These things should be taken seriously. One site, Blood and Honour, had a posting about a mosque in the Wirral and soon after the mosque was hit. Soon after, the posting was taken down." The police have pledged to crack down on any attempts to provoke division in the aftermath of the bombs. Members of Scotland Yard's independent advisory group have been asked to liaise with borough commanders in the capital to reassure the public and make sure the police carry out their pledges. The Met has said from the outset that the bombs were an attack on all communities and that none should be scapegoated. The synergy between rightwing extremists and football hooligans is not new. Throughout the 1980s, some of the biggest clubs in Britain were plagued by notoriously violent and racist followers. Though virtually all clubs have since challenged the behaviour of extremist fans, and almost all now belong to the Kick Racism Out of Football initiative, violent followers continue to communicate with each other and supporters from other clubs to engineer confrontations. The prospect of the opening day Championship fixture between Leeds and Millwall in August is already causing concern.
    ©The Guardian

    Britain has done much to help integrate Muslims. Now they must rise above their grievance culture
    By David Goodhart, the editor of Prospect magazine

    15/7/2005- Britain can take pride in how it has been trying to make a reality of political and legal equality for its 1.6 million Muslim citizens over recent years. Some Muslims still face forms of discrimination not faced by most other Britons, but many doors have swung open, especially since 1997. Under Labour the first Muslims were elected to the House of Commons and appointed to the Lords. Muslim organisations lobbied for and won state funds for Muslim schools, a question in the census on religious faith, and criminalisation of religious hate crimes. The huge rise in public spending and focus on improving delivery in the poorest areas will have particularly benefited Muslims alongside other disadvantaged groups. And since 9/11 the government has sought out bright young Muslims for senior civil-service jobs and introduced innovations such as the hajj information unit for those making the pilgrimage to Mecca. Privately, Muslim leaders will acknowledge this progress. But the overwhelming theme of public comment, even after the recent bombings, is one of Muslim grievance. Britain's Muslims are among the richest and freest in the world and most of them are groping successfully towards a hybrid British Muslim identity, but when did you last hear a Muslim leader say so? Iqbal Sacranie is a capable leader who has helped to turn the Muslim Council of Britain into an effective lobbying body, but his organisation's default position remains grievance. Here he is in the introduction to a recent booklet for British Muslims: "The unleashing of a virulent strain of Islamophobia, inflammatory media reporting and the misconceived wars against Afghanistan and Iraq have all contributed to the undoubted increase in prejudice we face."

    There will, regrettably, be some backlash after the London bombs. But to glorify this with the term Islamophobia is silly. The respected science writer Kenan Malik has elsewhere (see Prospect, February 2005) examined the claims made in the name of Islamophobia (over stop and search, racist attacks and so on) and found them wanting. As for inflammatory media reporting - after 9/11 and even more so after 7/7 - all politicians and mainstream media voices have stressed the unrepresentativeness of the terrorists, and increasingly it is Muslim voices making this point, such as the hijab-wearing Sun columnist Anila Baig. An undifferentiated rhetoric of grievance contributes to alienation, lack of integration and even indirectly to extremism. If you are constantly being told by even moderate Muslim leaders that Britain is a cesspit of Islamophobia and is running a colonial anti-Muslim foreign policy, you might well conclude, like one young Muslim quoted after the bombs: "I would like to give blood but they probably won't want mine." According to an ICM poll in the Guardian last year, 13% of British Muslims thought the 9/11 attacks were justified, and according to other polls as many as 25% do not identify with Britain in any way. It is part of the job of moderate Muslim leaders to help to reduce those numbers as much as possible. To do that requires a change in rhetoric in at least three areas.

    First, the relatively poor socioeconomic position of most British Muslims has little to do with Islamophobia or racism and a great deal to do with the fact that nearly two-thirds of British Muslims come from Pakistan and Bangladesh, often from these countries' poor, rural areas. (Indian and Arab Muslims do better.) The starting point in terms of education, skills and traditional cultural attitudes is worse for most Muslims than it is for, say, the Hindu or Chinese minorities, both of which outperform white Britons. To expect Muslims to rise to the average level in terms of education and jobs within a generation or two is not realistic, although progress is being made. Second, the economic and political failure of many Muslim states - and subsequent western interventions - poses a challenge to all Muslims living in the west. But the crude "war against Islam" rhetoric of many British Muslims is just a feelgood rallying cry. How often do Muslim leaders point out that Tony Blair favoured ground-troop intervention on behalf of European Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo? And as the Muslim peer Kishwer Falkner points out: "When Muslims are pressed to say what should have been done with a Taliban-run, al-Qaida-embracing Afghanistan, one is met with silence." Finally, how often is it pointed out that many of Britain's Shia Muslims welcomed the overthrow of Saddam, which has replaced secular dictatorship with Islamic democracy. Third, the terrorist threat that Britain faces comes overwhelmingly from British or foreign Muslims; it does not come from Welsh hill farmers or US investment bankers. So it follows that most terror-related investigations will focus on Muslim communities. This isn't picking on Muslims; it is simply a fact of life. A more open acknowledgment of these three points could help to move Muslim debate beyond the paranoia that often seems to characterise it and send an important signal to the rest of Britain that Muslims have risen above their grievance culture.
    ©The Guardian

    15/7/2005- A young Sikh man, who was stabbed, racially abused and blamed for the London bombings, said yesterday his attackers were trying to kill him. Hardip Singh suffered serious wounds to his hands and arms after being attacked by two men outside a house in the midlands. He has no doubt they thought he was a Muslim. The 23-year-old, originally from the Punjab in India, but studying business in Dublin for the past four years, described last night how the two men called him "bin Laden" and "a terrorist", and blamed him for the London bombings and directed racial abuse at him. The incident happened earlier this week in Athlone, Co Westmeath, where Mr Singh was staying with friends. After the abuse "one of them then produced a knife from his right hand side pocket and attacked," said Mr Singh. "He was trying to kill me. I tried to stop him, put my hands in front. The wounds were defensive. He cut my hand and I needed 10 stitches," he said. When the pair ran away (they were aged 20 to 24), Mr Singh called an ambulance and was taken to hospital. He was released that day and is now back in Dublin. However, he said he could not leave his house for two or three days after the incident. He has suffered racial abuse before. The Irish Sikh Council is seeking a meeting with the gardaÌ following the attack on the youth in Athlone. The council has no doubt the attack was a backlash to the bomb attacks in London last week, as Sikhs are often mistaken for Muslims despite their distinctive beards and turbans. This is the first attack on a Sikh since the London bombings but it mirrors similar incidents that followed the 9/11 attacks on the United States. In the US, two Sikhs were shot dead by a gunman who believed they were Muslim. No one has ever been charged with any of the attacks here despite them being reported to gardaÌ, the Irish Sikh Council's Kirpa Singh said. That is one of the reasons they are seeking a meeting. "This incident and many such similar ones in the past have become a common occurrence in the lives of practising Sikhs living in the European Union and USA as Sikhs keep fully-grown beards and wear turbans," added the council's Harpreet Singh. "The Metropolitan Police in London have also admitted that the Sikh community is particularly vulnerable to backlash crimes in the aftermath of the London bombings because of their visibility and that this is a police concern." One Dublin-based Sikh, Sarabjit Singh, relocated to Britain following repeated harassment, including an attack by three teenagers on Dublin's South Circular Road.
    ©Irish Examiner

    Racism in Germany is usually associated with far-right groups and neo-Nazis. But anti-racist campaigners say the country's advertising industry is also guilty of rampant insensitivity towards ethnic minorities.

    15/7/2005- Plans to stage an African cultural festival in a zoo in the southern German town of Augsburg last month sparked condemnation among the country's anti-racist groups. The incident was given wide coverage in Germany's mainstream media. But apart from such one-off controversial events, what hardly receives any attention, according to campaigners, is long-running insensitivity towards ethnic minorities in the country's advertising industry. A case in point is a poster (photo, above) created for the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden last year to advertise German composer Richard Wagner's "Parsifal" performed by acclaimed US conductor Kent Nagano, currently creative head of the German Symphony Orchestra in Berlin. It showed a famous portrait of Wagner, given a pair of arms with the help of a computer, making slanted eyes in an obvious reference to Nagano's Japanese origins. The poster, "Kent Nagano Conducts Wagner," didn't even raise an eyebrow in mainstream Germany. But it did catch the attention of advertising industry insiders -- they awarded it a top prize in Berlin earlier this year. "I think it's tasteless and racist," said Dagmar Yu-Dembski, chairwoman of the German-Chinese friendship society in Berlin, who documents examples of racial stereotypes in the media and advertising. "Highlighting the physical features of Asians in this way is just a cheap ploy to grab attention. The crass reference to Nagano's ethnicity has nothing to do with a classical music concert." Aki Takase, a well-known Japanese pianist and composer based in Berlin agreed. "It is shameful that his origins seem to be so much more important in this case than his immense musical talent," Takase said. Kent Nagano was unavailable for a comment.

    Ethnic cliches
    Insensitivity to issues of ethnicity is widespread in German advertising, according to campaigners. Noah So, a prominent black German radio presenter and singer (photo), who founded the group "Der braune Mob," which monitors race issues in the media and advertising, said most Germans think it's perfectly normal to make fun of certain racial minorities. "In commercials or advertising posters, Asians and blacks are usually used to either give Germans something to laugh about or they're reduced to ethnic clichÈs," So said. She referred to a current commercial on MTV Germany for an online music download platform, in which an Asian teenager never manages to buy music by his favorite band, as he can't utter the letter "r" and keeps saying "Lamones" instead of "Ramones." Such stereotypes are frequently played upon in German ads. "Asians are usually depicted as small, giggly people who can't pronounce the letter "r" and constantly take photographs, while blacks are shown either as victims in need of donations or as hip DJs," So said. Norbert Finzsch, a history professor at the University of Cologne, agreed. "The way Africans and African Americans in Germany are perceived and discussed, the way they are presented on billboards and in TV ads proves that the colonialist and racist gaze is still very much alive in Germany," he said in an open letter last month calling for the African cultural festival in the Augsburg zoo not to open.

    Selective political correctness?
    The allegations might seem surprising given that Germany is known to be particularly careful about relations with its 6.8 million-strong immigrant population, in view of its past. But anti-racist campaigners suggest that many Germans have a selective concept of political correctness -- an attitude which is perpetuated by advertising, they say. "Naturally, you won't find any racist or offensive portrayals of Jews or Sinti and Roma people in German advertising, because most Germans are acutely aware that that's off-limits," So said. Yu-Dembski added that given Germany's large Turkish population of some 1.9 million, the stereotyping of Muslims in commercials is also taboo. "The Asian community, in comparison, is small and almost invisible. There's almost this unspoken agreement that the Asians are the laughing stock in German advertising," she said.

    Ad industry denies accusations
    The German advertising industry denies accusations of being racially insensitive. Michael Preiswerk, company board spokesman for the Art Directors Club (ADC), a Berlin-based advertising group that awarded the gold prize to the Wagner poster earlier this year, defended the move. "It's an excellent poster that goes beyond cultures to form a great work and that very strikingly and succinctly shows Asian culture." He denied it was meant to cause offense. "It's charming and funny and shows openness and multiculturalism," Preiswerk said. He admitted, however, when asked, that had Nagano been a black American, it would have been "more complicated" to come up with a creative concept. Volker Nickel, press spokesman of the Deutscher Werberat, an advertising watchdog, also saw the Wagner poster as acceptable. "People who feel directly affected naturally feel upset about such things, but you have to see the advertisement in its entirety," he said. Though the watchdog has drawn up a list of fundamental rules against discrimination of people in advertising on the basis of ethnicity, race, language and origins among others, it has rarely asked a company to drop an advertisement on those grounds. Nickel underlined that there had not been any "racist advertisements" in Germany over the 33 years of the industry watchdog's existence, only "questionable" ones and that the country enjoyed high advertising standards. "There's a great deal of sensitivity in German society and even among companies and people towards other ethnicities -- we really don't need to worry about that," he said. He added that the Werberat received only between one and three cases a year amid some 400-600 complaints about "racist" ads. "It really is a fringe phenomenon," he said.

    German reality not just white
    Anti-racism groups aren't convinced. There's agreement that lack of awareness is a big part of the problem -- a sign that the country still needs to make huge strides to become truly multicultural. A further stumbling block is presented by the fact that unlike in the UK and US -- which admittedly also have their own share of racism -- there's no central body or forum in Germany where members of racial minorities can turn when they have a complaint. Others say that average Germans are also to blame. "In Germany, it's very important for people not to seem racist. But they're more worried about how the British press is referring to them and about Nazi comparisons abroad than about how racial minorities are portrayed in their own country," So said. She added that, since white people are rarely the target of racial stereotyping, it's almost impossible for white Germans to understand how people of color feel when their ethnicity is ridiculed or portrayed disrespectfully. "German reality isn't only white," So said, pointing out that there are some 300,000 black Germans living in Germany today. "But to hear and see the mainstream public sphere in Germany, you'd think that all Germans are white."
    ©Deutsche Welle

    15/7/2005- A popular cafe in Berlin's fashionable Prenzlauer Berg district is under fire from anti-racism activists for banning young black people from the premises. The newly-formed protest group 'Nie wieder Sonntag' plans an "action day against racism" on Sunday 17 July outside the Kastanienallee cafe 'An einem Sonntag im August', to protest against what they claim are the cafÈ's discriminatory practices. According to press reports, the manager of 'An einem Sonntag im August', Claudia Humeniuk, required cafÈ employees to sign an internal memorandum with instructions on how to deal with suspected drug dealers. The 12 April 2005 memorandum, which was obtained and published by 'Nie wieder Sonntag', begins "Today we threw three black people (probably dealers) and one white person (probably a buyer) out of the cafÈ and banned them. From now on we will ban everyone belonging to this group from the premises." It goes on to give advice on how to recognise people who belong to the banned drug dealing group, specifying "young black people up to the age of 25". Excluded are "black students with clever eyes, black tourists, older black people, black men with girlfriends." According to 'Nie wieder Sonntag', who are encouraging a boycott of the cafÈ, employees who did not sign the memo were forced to leave the cafÈ. In an open letter, Humeniuk, clearly aware of the damage caused to the cafÈ's reputation by the negative publicity, says "I expressed myself in a very stupid way," adding "I would never write this kind of memo again." She claims she wanted to take measures against the dealer gang because the local authorities had threatened to take away the cafÈ's license - a claim which is however disputed by the authorities, who say they never made such a threat. Humeniuk has tried to meet 'Nie wieder Sonntag' for a face-to-face discussion, but has had her requests to meet turned down by the group, who only communicate with the cafÈ's manager via open letters. The group's spokesperson Roman Schneider told the Taz newspaper that "the owners are racist and shouldn't have any space in our neighbourhood." The 17 July action day takes place from 10am until 10pm at U-Bahn Eberswalder Straþe, next to the cafÈ, and features live music, DJs, and food. A demonstration will take place at 4 pm.

  • More information on 'Nie wieder Sonntag' and the action day
  • The original memo
    ©Expatica News

    11/7/2005- The Maltese foreign affairs minister Michael Frendo has called on the EU for assistance in dealing with illegal immigration on the island. The minister has presented a 17-point document to explain in which fields Malta needs the most help in addressing illegal immigration, and why it has become an issue for the island, according to Maltese Di-Ve news. "Malta is the smallest and most densely populated country in the European Union and the second most densely populated country in the world", Mr Frendo has said, adding that "the 3,000 illegal immigrants that landed in Malta since 2002, are equivalent to 420,000 landing in Italy over the same short period of time". This is why the minister has asked for EU help in, for example, the repatriation of people who have not been granted refugee status, and the settlement of those who have. Malta also needs assistance in providing facilities to receive immigrants, the paper says, and suggests further cooperation in the field of maritime security as well. Currently, Malta grants the highest rate of refugee status to irregular immigrants, but risks adversely affecting it both socially and economically, the minister has written. Tackling illegal immigration is under the spotlight in the EU at the moment, with interior ministers from France, Germany, the UK, Italy and Spain recently agreeing to organise joint charter flights to deport illegal immigrants. On top of that, the European Commission has announced that it will soon propose a new directive for common standards for illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers, hoping that it can be adopted rapidly

    6/7/2005- Interior ministers from France, Germany, the UK, Italy and Spain agreed to organise joint charter flights to deport illegal immigrants, during their meeting in Evian, France on Tuesday (5 July). Under the scheme, a charter airline, dubbed "Asylum Airways" by the UK daily the Times, and "Migrant-air" by the Guardian, will fly from country to country picking up illegal migrants. "We think that foreigners with no right or entitlement to be in our countries should not stay. They are in breach of our laws", French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy said after the meeting, according to Le Monde. The solution is to then send these people back home, he added. This will contribute to cutting deportation costs, as sending the deported home on commercial airlines costs more than using a charter. Mr Sarkozy had already made the fight against illegal immigration his priority during his previous term as interior minister from 2002 to 2004. And he recently announced that he aimed to increase the deportation of illegal immigrants from France by 50 percent in 2005 compared to last year. Mr Sarkozy suggested that the charter flights could begin within a few weeks, and the Italian interior minister Giuseppe Pisanu has even said that "it is a matter of days", according to the European press. Brussels commented on the five countries' initiative, underlying that "it is the policy of these five countries, not of the EU". "It fits in" with an EU framework position however, and justice and home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini welcomed the move, his spokesperson indicated. The commission had already suggested the idea of joint flights, and "in the next few weeks", commissioner Frattini will propose a new directive for common standards for illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers, hoping that "this can be adopted very rapidly", the spokesperson added.

    Europe needs a stronger "engine"
    During the meeting of the so-called group of five (G5), Mr Sarkozy also suggested extending the group and adding Poland to form a G6, as the Franco-German "engine" was not sufficient to druive the EU anymore."In a Europe of six members, the engine was obviously Franco-German. A Europe of 25 needs an engine of five at first and probably six, with Poland", he told French radio Europe 1.

    9/7/2005- Canada has joined an international crackdown on Internet racism and its links to terrorism, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler says. He was in Strasbourg, France, yesterday as Canada became the first non-European country to sign a protocol to fight hatred on the Web. "We're talking about a faceless, anonymous, borderless, predatory racism," he said in a telephone interview. "And we've got to find the ways and means to combat it. "No country standing alone can do that. It can only be done through international co-operation." Mr. Cotler was in England a day earlier at Cambridge University when four bombs ripped through London, killing at least 50 people and injuring 700 others. Officials are investigating an Internet claim by a little-known group calling itself The Secret Organization of al-Qaeda in Europe that it staged the attacks. Mr. Cotler says the new protocol means law enforcers can pool efforts internationally to prosecute Internet racists and shut down their sites. He cites a connection between terrorist attacks and an increase in the past decade of sites used to swap tips on everything from exterminating whole ethnic groups to building bombs. "Incitement to hatred can itself be a connecting link to terrorism," he said. "And in some instances, it's the most proximate cause of terrorism itself." Canada, which signed the Convention on Cybercrime in November of 2001, joins 28 other countries in supporting its first additional protocol to fight Internet racism. The number of websites promoting violence against specific groups has rocketed in the past decade to 5,000 from a single neo-Nazi site in 1995, says Leo Adler, a spokesman for the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies. Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel is the best example of why international action is needed, he said. Mr. Zundel, prohibited from spreading his Internet message from Canadian-based sites, simply switched to a server in Tennessee, Mr. Adler said. Mr. Zundel was deported to Germany in March. Anyone convicted under the Criminal Code of promoting hatred against a specific group faces up to two years in jail.
    ©Globe and Mail

    By James Brandon, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

    11/7/2005- Thursday's coordinated terrorist attacks that killed at least 49 people have underscored competing forces within Britain's Muslim community: a minority that advocates violence against Western targets, and those who want to coexist peacefully with Britain's multifaith, multiethnic society. Since the bombings, the media and Muslims have been at pains to explain that most of the country's 2 million Muslims are peaceful. "The Muslim community in Britain has a long history and is enormously diverse," says Anas al-Tikriti, a member of the Muslim Association of Britain. But the attacks are turning attention to the increasing numbers of young British Muslims who are rejecting their parents' traditional culture in favor of a radical and expansionist Islam. This strikingly Western version of Islam combines an independence of thought with a contempt for established traditional scholarship and a theme of teenage rebellion. "Getting involved in radical Islam is an emotional thing rather than a rational decision," says Abdul-Rahman al-Helbawi, a Muslim prayer leader. "And it's not a matter of intelligence or education - a lot of these radicals in Britain are very well-educated." In Dalston market in north-east London on Thursday, "Abdullah," a Muslim watch-mender and evangelist, was in a pugnacious mood. "We don't need to fight. We are taking over!" he said. "We are here to bring civilization to the West. England does not belong to the English people, it belongs to God." Two days later in a prosperous West London cafe, Mr. Helbawi pondered the attacks. "It's not a surprise but I am still shocked," he said. "How can they do this? London is a city for all the world. This is not Islam." Hours after the bombings, Helbawi logged onto an Internet chat room run by British Muslim extremists. "They were all congratulating each other on the attacks," he said. "It was crazy. They were talking about how they had won a great victory over the infidels, as if they had just come back from a battle." Although so far, there is no evidence that British Muslims were involved in the bombs, there is little doubt that many British Muslims feel that Britain "deserved" the attacks for supporting the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. "Because Muslims explain the conflicts in Iraq, Kashmir, and Israel through Islam, every Muslim feels involved," said Helbawi. "People watch television and see Palestinian women being hit and pushed around by Israeli soldiers, and get angry and feel that they have to do something." But beyond anger, a sense of alienation often drives radical Islam. Many second- and third-generation immigrants find themselves cut off not only from their parents' cultures but also from a British one that includes alcohol and looser sexual mores. "If you don't drink, it really cuts you off from English society," says Ummul Choudhury, a London-based Middle East analyst for the Gulf Centre for Strategic Studies. "The view of the older generation is also that you do not integrate. If you do, you are told you are betraying your culture and religion." The resulting isolation makes it easier for young Muslims to develop a contempt for British society.

    "There is also a lot of racism toward white British people," says Ms. Choudhury. "It's not really something that people want to talk about, but there are definitely some things that Muslims say between themselves that they would never say in front of white people." For frustrated and isolated young Muslims, radical Islam is not difficult to find. Girls in particular are often prevented from going out at night and can be easily drawn into online Muslim communities where they come into contact with other disillusioned Muslims from across Europe. One leading analyst of the Islamic diaspora even compares the lure of extremist Islam to 1950s teens listening to Elvis in an attempt to shock their parents. "The son of a Pentecostal preacher in Brixton was recruited by the radical Muslims," says Nadhim Shehadi, acting head of the Middle East program at Chatham House. "This young man initially tried to upset his parents by becoming a rapper," says Shehadi. "But when his parents stopped objecting, he became a jihadi instead." The antiestablishment nature of this new Islam and its apparent status as an alternative to capitalism and secularism is also winning converts among native Britons. "People come to Islam from all walks of life. It's not just middle-class people but also electricians, judges, and taxi drivers," says Sara Joseph, the editor of "Emel," a lifestyle magazine for Muslim women, who converted to Islam at age 17. "The main catalyst for conversion is often going out with a Muslim, although the primary factor is usually a search for spirituality." While the estimated 1,000 British Christians, atheists, and members of other faiths who convert to Islam every year are often attracted by Islam's clearly defined teachings, this minor trend is overshadowed by Muslims' highbirth and immigration rates, which toma

    Last month, Muslim groups in Glasgow petitioned the City Council to ban an Italian restaurant from serving alcohol to diners seated at outside tables. Hospitals in Leicester considered banning Bibles from hospital wards to avoid offending Muslim patients. In Birmingham, a group called Muslims Against Advertising began a campaign of painting over billboards that they deemed offensive to Islam - targeting ads for Levi's jeans, perfume, and lingerie. But these small campaigns are polarizing public opinion along ethnic and religious lines - and creating support for Britain's far-right groups, who present themselves as defenders of Britain's hard-won freedoms.
    Egypt Election Daily News

    Deepest sympathy is expressed at the death and suffering which the series of co-ordinated attacks in London has caused to the families and loved ones who have been the victims of this terrible atrocity.

    This criminal attack is condemned in the strongest possible terms. No good purpose can be achieved by such an indiscriminate and cruel use of terror.

    The scriptures and the traditions of both the Muslim and Christian communities repudiate the use of such violence. Religious precepts cannot be used to justify such crimes, which are completely contrary to our teaching and practice.

    We continue to resist all attempts to associate our communities with the hateful acts of any minority who claim falsely to represent us. In the present uncertainties, we look to all community leaders to give an example of wisdom, tolerance and compassion.

    The events of recent years have challenged Muslims and Christians to work together in order to acknowledge our differences, to affirm our common humanity, and to seek ways to share life together. Much has already been achieved, and nothing must undermine the progress that we have made. These attacks strengthen our determination to live together in peace, and to grow together in mutual understanding.

    This crime must inspire us to work unceasingly together in pursuit of peace, justice and respect for difference.
    Muslim Council of Britain & Britain and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland

    The National Association of British Arabs condemns the horrific and indiscriminate attacks that took place in London today and the carnage visited on this most diverse of cities. It should be noted that the bombing at Edgware Road was in the heart of London 's Arab community, as the bombing in Aldgate East was in the heart of a Muslim community which includes North African and Somali Arabs, underlining that British Arabs were among the intended victims of this attack. It is vital that all of London 's communities remain united at this critical time, and resist any voices inciting racial or religious hatred.

    The total disregard for innocent life shown by the bombers is to be deplored and strikes against the heart of all religious beliefs. We hope that all those involved in this outrage are swiftly brought to justice. Our thoughts, prayers and sympathies are with the families of those who have died and with those who are injured.

    Ismail Jalili
    Chairman & Secretary General
    The National Association of British Arabs

    Thursday 7 July 2005 will be a day that no decent resident of London or the UK will forget. Less than 24 hours after we were awarded the 2012 Olympics, a decision made partly because London is such a multicultural and tolerant city, the heart of our capital has been ripped apart by four bombs.

    It seems likely that the bombings were the responsibility of Islamist terrorists ñ religious fanatics who are nothing more than clerical fascists. They preach the politics of hatred and are indiscriminate in their targets. These cowardly bombings were an assault on innocent Londoners, Christian and Hindu, Muslim and Jew, black, brown and white going about their daily business.

    Those who say they were responsible are using the language of European antisemitism when they talk of the "British Zionist Crusader government". They cite the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as their motives but they are liars. They took the decision to bomb ordinary people in the city that held the world's biggest anti-war demonstration because of their own twisted hatred for democracy and for the idea that people of all cultures and faiths can live harmoniously together.

    In this they are every bit as evil as the nazis of the British National Party (BNP), an organisation that has also spawned terrorists. We should not forget that the last lethal terror bombing in London was carried out by David Copeland, a former member of the BNP. He told police on his arrest that he hoped his actions would lead to a violent backlash and eventually a BNP government.

    The politics of Islamic fundamentalism are the politics of hate and intolerance. This is the other side of the coin to the BNP and other Nazi groups.

    Only last year, a leading BNP officer said a terrorist bombing in London would be good for the BNP. That is not the talk of a respectable or even a normal political party.

    As a result of today's detestable outrage, innocent Asians and people of the Muslim faith will be targeted by racists, fuelled with propaganda from the likes of the BNP.

    London cannot tolerate pogroms and witch-hunts. We appeal to the trade union movement ñ members of the RMT, ASLEF, the FBU and UNISON have been directly affected by the attacks ñ to call, together with London mayor Ken Livingstone, for a mass rally as soon as possible at which all Londoners can express their disgust at terrorism and solidarity with their fellow citizens under the slogan "London stands together against terrorism and hatred".
    Searchlight Magazine

    Londoners of all faiths and none will remain united
    By Sher Khan

    8/7/2005- It was 7am and I felt a spring in my steps. The joy of our city's success in winning the right to stage the 2012 Olympic games was lingering on. It had been so long since our country and our capital felt so united in joy. So it was a calamitous shock to learn of what appears to be a series of coordinated attacks in London that have led to dozens of fatalities and scores of casualties. Lives that were united in celebration were now under threat from people who have no respect for the sanctity of life. Nothing can justify the slaughter of innocent lives.

    While the perpetrators of this crime have succeeded in afflicting injury and damage on our great city, they must not be allowed to destroy what we stand for. Lord Coe in his winning presentation distinguished London from all others by bringing to attention the richness of our diversity. He demonstrated, with visual examples, how people of so many different cultures and faiths could forge an identity that all could unite under. It is our ability to debate, to disagree and yet work together for the common good of our society while living in peace, which such atrocities threaten. They cannot and must not be allowed to win.

    The spirit that brought our country together in our campaign for the plight in Africa, and united us against the injustices in our world, must lead us to overcome and overwhelm the evil of those who are prepared to commit such horrors.

    There are people claiming responsibility for these atrocities, calling on the "nation of Islam and the Arab nation to rejoice" as these acts are "retaliation for the massacres Britain is committing in Iraq and Afghanistan". These people give the lie to religion. Whatever people feel about the current UK foreign policy, this cannot be used as an excuse to murder innocent people going about their business.

    Islam does not sanction such murder. Indeed, there is no one with a genuine belief in God who can have sympathy for such evil acts. The pursuit of justice cannot be used as an excuse for committing injustices against others. People who have lost their way in life have challenged our values. We must reply with a united voice.

    Two of the areas targeted have large Muslim communities. In fact, one in seven Londoners is a Muslim. This should make us all realise that the perpetrators of these crimes do not believe that any life has value: Christian or Muslim, Jew or Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh. They value no race either. Rather, they revel only in the indiscriminate killing of the innocent, and thus we are all their victims.

    However, out of such darkness there can be a dawn. Although there will be some who use these atrocities to sow division and hatred, amid some hate mail to UK Muslim websites there have been many messages of concern. People simply wanting to extend the hand of friendship and to make sure that as Muslims we do not feel vulnerable and exposed, as was the case after September 11. Such is the great spirit of London that I am convinced Londoners of all faiths and none will stand firm and resolute against this aggression.

  • Sher Khan is chair of the public affairs committee of the Muslim Council of Britain.
    ©The Guardian

    Muslims fear hate attacks in wake of bombings as threats pour into Islamic organisations

    8/7/2005- A backlash against British Muslims began almost immediately as news of the bomb explosions spread. The Muslim Council of Britain received more than 1,000 emails containing threats and messages of hate, several reading: "It's now war on Muslims throughout Britain." Government planning for how to cope with a terrorist attack has included how police and the authorities will calm community tensions and crack down on any surge in hate crimes directed at British Muslims. Last night an emergency meeting was held of the Muslim Safety Forum, where top police officers and representatives of Muslim communities meet to discuss the policing of terrorism and other issues. Azad Ali, chair of the MSF, said: "This is the biggest test for community relations. The years of planning, of ifs and buts - now the time has come. Our concern is of the potential backlash. We have already received numerous reports of spitting, verbal abuse and attacks." At the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, worshippers said passersby had shouted abuse and rattled the entrance gates in the hours after yesterday's bombings. Within hours of the attacks police forces across the country were sent advice from the Association of Chief Police Officers on how to counter any backlash. Forces are supposed to make contact with "vulnerable communities", in this case Muslims, and react quickly and robustly to incidents of hate crime. There are two fundamental aims, to keep Muslims safe, then to ensure there is the maximum chance that those with information about the planning of the attacks have the confidence and trust in the police to come forward. After the attack, a National Community Tensions Team swung into action, analysing intelligence on potential community rifts for the police and the government.

    Assistant Chief Constable Rob Beckley, who leads for the Association of Chief Police Officers on policing faith-based communities, said: "We will deal very robustly with any hate crimes as a result of the bombings. "Our aim is to prevent a backlash, we've got to work hard to prevent tensions and deal robustly with any incidents that arise." Some mosques are expected to have police guards today, which for Muslims is the most important day of the week for worship. Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain said British Muslims needed to be on the lookout for any threats against them: "We urge them to exercise caution when going out. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks there were mindless attacks on Muslims." In a statement the MCB said: "These evil deeds makes victims of us all. The evil people who planned and carried out these series of explosions in London want to demoralise us as a nation and divide us as a people. "All of us must unite in helping the police to capture these murderers." Far-right groups are also expected to come under renewed scrutiny in case they try to whip up tensions. Shahid Malik MP, whose constituency of Dewsbury recorded the highest BNP vote in the country in May, warned: "What is inevitable is that the far right will attempt to use what we suspect took place to inflame discord and create hate. They will utilise this to the max. "We have to stay cool and calm, and people who are potentially victims of verbal abuse, for instance, need to turn the other cheek." Sadiq Khan, London's only Muslim MP, said: "It is unwise and foolish to speculate who may be responsible for this outrageous and savage attack. But it is important that no one suffers from any backlash.

    'True teachings'
    "The reality is that, when we see the victims, there could be people who are doubly victims, of the atrocity and potentially of a backlash. The kind of people who live in Aldgate East and Kings Cross include many of Muslim faith. "We know from what happened after September 11 that there were incidents of reprisals against visible Muslims. Everyone needs to be vigilant to ensure that nothing like that happens this time. No one who follows the true teachings of Islam could condone these outrages." He said the borough commander in his constituency, Tooting, had already deployed high-visibility policing around mosques and schools. Muslims arriving for afternoon prayers at mosques across the country expressed their outrage and sadness at yesterday's attacks, and said they feared the impact they would have on relations between them and the wider community. A spokesman for Finsbury Park mosque said he understood people's frustrations but was quick to condemn those responsible for the attacks. "What happened today is very, very sad for everybody, Muslims and non-Muslims. I truly hope that whoever is responsible for these terrible actions is caught and given justice." He said those responsible had nothing to do with Islam and called for all communities to pull together. That sentiment was echoed by Anas Altikriti, spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain. "In the past three or four years, British people have proved that they are strong and resilient, and Muslims and non-Muslims have worked together to support each other. We must continue to do that in the face of what has happened today. "The people responsible for these attacks are not true Muslims in any way and we have no hesitation in condemning absolutely these terrible actions." He urged Muslims to help the emergency services and police in whatever way they could. "We have faith in Britain and British people that we as a country will not be defeated by this."

    Arriving at Finsbury Park mosque for afternoon prayers yesterday, members said they were stunned and saddened by the morning's events. Mohamed Islam, 30, had witnessed the explosion at Tavistock Square. "I saw people lying in the road. It's very shocking just to think about it now. The people who did this are not people, never mind Muslims. They are not fighting for their faith or any other noble cause, they have killed and injured innocent people today and I am disgusted by that." Standing in the rain outside the mosque, Ahmed Ka, 57, said the bombings were "truly awful". But he believed that relations between Muslims and non-Muslims would not be affected. "This is a strong multi-religious society and we are all involved in what has happened this morning. Muslims would have been caught up in it on the buses and trains, we must come together, not separate now." But Ahmed Osman, 36, said he feared for the safety of his wife and children. "There will be more suspicion aimed at us and I worry that it will not be safe for my wife or daughter to walk around by themselves. The people responsible should realise they have done nothing but made things harder for all true Muslims." In the nearby Paradise cafe there was an air of tension and disbelief as the news of the attacks filtered through. Assas Aziz said that he had received a call from his parents in Algeria. "They wanted to know that I was OK first, but they also said they felt very sad and sorry for what happened today. I think like me they are embarrassed as Muslims about what has happened because we are associated with these people. "But this has nothing at all to do with Islam in any form. I do not understand what these people feel or think. All I know is that they are not following the teachings of the Qur'an and are not Muslims."
    ©The Guardian

    Clergy work with emergency services

    8/7/2005- Royals, religious leaders and politicians yesterday condemned the terrorist attacks and offered sympathy to the families of the victims. "The dreadful events in London this morning have deeply shocked us all," said the Queen in a statement. "I know I speak for the whole nation in expressing my sympathy to all those affected and the relatives of the killed and injured. I have nothing but admiration for the emergency services as they go about their work." Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "Yesterday we celebrated as Londoners, euphoric that our great city had secured the games. Today we watch aghast as we witness a series of brutal attacks upon our capital city. We were together in our celebration; we must remain together in our time of crisis." A similar plea was made by the Hindu Forum of Britain. "It was encouraging to hear the prime minister saying that we will stand united in our resolve to ensure that terrorism will never win," said its secretary general, Ramesh Kallidai. "One of the most shameful fallouts of terrorism is that it aims to divide communities by creating fear and suspicion. "It is now more important than ever to ensure that we do not succumb to terrorism by allowing ourselves to be divided. All faith communities in the UK should make an even stronger resolve to work together in our fight against all forms of terror." The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, condemned the "evil" atrocities. "The appalling events in London have shocked us all," he said. "I want first and foremost to extend my personal sympathy and condolences to everyone who is suffering and grieving at this time. "All those caught up in this tragedy, and that includes, of course, the emergency services, whose selfless dedication and commitment is so vital at times like this - all are in my prayers and in the prayers of a great many people." The Anglican Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, said churches near the blast scenes had been opened to offer relief to the injured and exhausted. "This is a grave day for London," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured and bereaved and with the emergency services, who have responded so rapidly. "London's clergy have been working alongside the emergency services since early this morning." The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, said: "These terrible events have brought home to us the full evil that terror represents. "It is not the weapon of the weak against the strong but the rage of the angry against the defenceless and innocent. It is an evil means to an evil end. I will be asking all our congregations to say special prayers for the victims and their families this sabbath. We grieve for the dead, pray for the injured and share our tears with the bereaved."
    ©The Guardian

    8/7/2005- The terrorist attack all had expected finally came to London yesterday, to the shock of everyone. Just as the city was still glowing from the success of its bid for the 2012 Olympics, and the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was leading the opening session of the G8 summit in Gleneagles, a sequence of four co-ordinated explosions was set off across London, killing scores of ordinary commuters, wounding more than 700 and paralysing the city's transport system. The precise death toll was still not known last night. One hopes it will prove mercifully less than that of Madrid. But for a people who have already suffered from a generation of bombings and alarms from the IRA and the years of the Blitz in the Second World War, this was the worst single atrocity on civilians in half a century and a desperate reminder of just how vulnerable a modern metropolis is to the assault of those without concern for human life. "It is important," declared a visibly rattled Prime Minister from Gleneagles, before returning to London, "that those engaged in terrorism realise that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world". A degree of political hyperbole is understandable on these occasions - although it was noticeable that the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, projected a more sober and better pitched tone in the Commons yesterday morning. But Tony Blair was undoubtedly right in asserting British determination not to be thrown by such attacks and, in being pictured with the other leaders attending the G8 summit, reminding the world that "each of the countries around the table have some experience of the effects of terrorism". Unlike the Irish campaign, Britain is this time facing a threat that is not peculiar to us nor unprecedented. Nor, whatever one's feelings about the invasion of Iraq, would it be right for Britain to take its decisions about the future of its troops there on the basis of this attack on its citizens back home. The invasion of Iraq was a mistake. It has helped to radicalise the Middle East and much of the Islamic world against us. But the policy towards that country now cannot be determined by fear of the bomb.

    None the less, this is a time for measured consideration as much as high-flown emotion, however awful the casualties or the anger against those who have perpetrated them. The fact is that this was not just an attack designed to hurt, but a relatively sophisticated demonstration of the power of terrorist groups - whether al-Qa'ida or otherwise. In a carefully co-ordinated pattern of explosions both on the Tube and on the bus system, they were able to bring the whole city to a halt and gain maximum publicity at a time when the world's leaders were meeting in Britain, and London was celebrating its Olympic victory. The Prime Minister was forced to leave his meeting to return to London, his fellow leaders of the industrialised nations had to proceed without their chairman, and Parliament had to be convened to discuss the emergency. It happened despite the constant warnings by security experts that such an assault was in the offing, particularly after the Madrid bombings of March last year, and despite the efforts of the security forces to prevent it. In the event, the preparations of London's emergency services appear to have coped well. Well-laid plans were swung quickly into motion, the Tube was evacuated, bus were journeys were stopped and roads cut off. But it would be entirely wrong either to dismiss the planning behind the terrorist outrage or to underestimate the propaganda coup those behind it sought. That is not in any way to hand the assassin the "victory" or to pander to his self-estimation. But in seeking to protect ourselves over the future, we must try to evaluate clearly the nature and the likelihood of the threat.

    The immediate questions
    One immediate question is obviously whether the authorities were right to take quite so long in releasing any information about the incidents or the likely scale of the casualties. They were clearly anxious to avoid panic. But with so phlegmatic a people as the British, and Londoners especially, a policy of openness is often the better course and might actually have prevented some of the traffic chaos and civilian confusion that reigned for several hours in the nation's capital. Nor did the financial centre, which had behaved so well when the IRA bombed the Stock Exchange, cover itself in glory this time, rushing to sell off shares and close bank branches. There is a careful balance to be struck between due caution in the face of such atrocities and ensuring that life proceeds normally. The authorities need to look in due time at this incident to see whether the right balance was eventually struck. In a deeper sense, however, we must try to understand better the forces we are up against. Categorising the situation as a "war against terror", or talking in terms of facing an attack on democracy and "what we hold dear in this country and in other civilised nations throughout the world" (to use the Prime Minister's words) is tempting but unhelpful. Our invasion of Iraq took the war to the Middle East, not the other way round.

    Still less is it useful to use such terms as an excuse for introducing ever more restrictive controls on immigration or the freedoms of ours own citizens. ID cards did not prevent the Madrid bombings, and it has yet to be proved that they would have done so in London's case. Locking up suspects without the right of a trial and placing them under detention or control for indefinite periods does nothing to improve our security and much to antagonise individuals and communities. The terrorist threat comes obviously from international terror organisations - although it is far from clear that al-Qa'ida is anything like the centralised force it is often depicted as - but also from home-grown and quite localised groups who may or may not be drawn to violence. One of the most important questions that the police and security forces will have to determine in the coming months is whether these attacks were from international or national sources.

    The right response
    Yet in doing so, Britain must be careful not to radicalise groups here or drive its own citizens to sympathise with extremists by seeming to blame whole sections of society, and to bear down on them. The primary aim of extremists in these attacks is not to undermine British society as such or to "cow us", as Tony Blair would have it. It is to demonstrate across the news channels of the world, and Arab TV in particular, that they have the capacity to bring one of the world's great cities to a halt and to "punish" Britain for its invasion of Iraq. Against the might of Western arms, they wish to show their brethren that they have the means and ability to strike back. The secondary aim is to produce a repressive reaction that will produce new converts to the cause.

    The most effective way of dealing with this threat is through prevention, by first-class intelligence and dogged police work. The worst response is to play into the hands of the terrorist. London won its Olympics bid on a pitch that emphasised its multiculturalism, its tolerance and its openness to the outside world. We must not lose this as we react to this outrage, however abominable it is.
    © Independent Digital

    8/7/2005- Karim Mohammed has spent two years developing an air of multi-cultural harmony at his Lebanese Halal restaurant on Edgware Road but, in the eerie aftermath of the explosions, he feared it might be in ruins. "Everyone is subdued and people are wondering what has happened," he said, surveying his depleted customer base. "People are asking how will it affect us, are we going to be treated in a nice way after this? We have nothing to do with this." The explosions prompted the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) to issue the extraordinary advice yesterday that no Muslim should travel or go out unless strictly necessary, for fear of reprisals. The Muslim Association of Britain said women in headscarves were at particular risk, asked police to consider extra protection for mosques and Islamic schools, and also warned Muslims against unnecessary journeys. "It is scary. A tiny element of the community will make use of this," said the Muslim Association's president Ahmed Sheikh. "In the event of being attacked, [do] not to retaliate and report the matter to the police and authorities," said the IHRC. The first hint of the aggression both groups feared came in a threatening e-mail about the explosions to Ahmed Versi, editor of Muslim News. "Visible aspects of Islam, such as mosques, community centres and women with headscarves" may be attacked, he said. Dr Mohammed Naseem, chairman of the Birmingham central mosque, questioned the IHRC's advice and said it was "a bit over the top". But the anxieties voiced by most Muslim groups provided a depressing reminder of how individuals of non-British extraction have found themselves blamed for events such as the 11 September terrorist attacks and the Madrid train bombings last year. Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick disassociated Islam and terrorism. "The words Islam and terrorist do not go together," he said. "These acts go totally against what I understand is the Muslim faith."

    Muslim groups also issued swift condemnations of the attacks. The Muslim Council of Britain said it "utterly condemns the perpetrators of what appears to be a series of co-ordinated attacks". It added: "These evil deeds makes victims of us all. The evil people who planned and carried out these series of explosions in London want to demoralise us as a nation and divide us as a people. All of us must unite in helping the police to capture these murderers." The churches also came to the help of community relations. On a visit to Yorkshire, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams stressed that he had spent the morning with Muslims. "We are all as one in our condemnation of this evil and in our shared sense of compassion." The Hindu Forum of Britain also appealed to faith communities to not allow themselves to be divided. Secretary general Ramesh Kallidai said one of the most "shameful fall-outs of terrorism" was that it "aims to divide communities by creating fear and suspicion". He added: "Britain is a good example of a multicultural society where all faith communities live together peacefully. It is now more important than ever to ensure we do not succumb to terrorism by allowing ourselves to be divided." The Bishop of Stepney, who made a joint appearance with the chairman of the East London mosque spoke together outside the Royal London Hospital, warned that "speculation without knowledge" (as to the perpetrators) was "a very dangerous thing" and added: "We do not want people to divide communities because they are either angry or afraid. We are all caught up in this together irrespective of our religions." The Bishop of London also condemned the "indiscriminate slaughter of Londoners, Christians and Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, all without distinction." The IHRC's fears of reprisals against Muslims are borne of an intimate knowledge of how life for many British Muslims was changed after 11 September, 2001. In just the first four months after the terrorist hijackings in the US, the organisation logged details of more than 400 attacks on Muslims in Britain - four times the number it had received in an entire year since it was established in 1998. Despite yesterday's warning, Karim Mohammed ventured out across London from his restaurant. "I will not become a prisoner in my own home," he said. "That kind of advice is frightening people who have to go to work. We have to believe that the Government will protect us."
    © Independent Digital

    8/7/2005- Muslim leaders called on worshippers to pray on Friday for the victims of the London bombings blamed on radical Islamists, as fears of an anti-Muslim backlash were fueled by a deluge of abusive messages. The Muslim Council of Britain said it had received 30,000 messages of hate via e-mail, jamming its computers. The Islamic Human Rights Commission warned London Muslims to stay at home to avoid retaliation. London police chief Ian Blair said the authorities were in touch with Muslim leaders and those of other faiths to protect symbolic buildings. "We are aware of one or two very minor incidents across the country but so far, as I would expect, Britain, with its liberal and welcoming approach to people, is taking it in its stride," Blair told a news conference. Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned bombers who "act in the name of Islam" but said the majority of Muslims, both in Britain and abroad, were decent people who hated terrorism. Many in London's Edgware Road -- close to one of the underground stations that was attacked and home to scores of Lebanese, Iraqi and Egyptian businesses -- condemned Thursday's attacks but feared there would be a knee-jerk revenge reaction. "The whole world now will point at me and say I am an Arab and Muslim terrorist," said Zakaria Koubissi, a 29-year-old manager of a Lebanese restaurant. "We expect to be harassed. It is a natural reaction, but people should know that Islam does not tell or allow us to kill innocent people," he added. A previously unknown group, "Secret Group of al Qaeda's Jihad in Europe," claimed responsibility for the attacks that targeted a bus and three underground stations.

    Western Colonialism?
    Despite the appeal for solidarity from moderate Muslims, Imran Waheed of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, a radical Muslim group dedicated to building an Islamic caliphate worldwide, said it would continue to speak out against the West. "Despite the intense scrutiny that our community will find itself under after these attacks, it is imperative that the Muslim community is not silenced about the colonialism of Western governments," the group said. The group that claimed responsibility said in a Web site posting the attacks were in response to what it described as the "massacre carried out by Great Britain in Iraq and Afghanistan". Many Muslims regard the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq, where Britain has troops despite broad public opposition, as a campaign against their faith. They also accuse the West of supporting Israel in the dispute with the Palestinians. Speaking of the London bombers, Ahmed al-Merri, a 27-year-old government employee visiting from the United Arab Emirates, said: "They want to stop the killing of people in Iraq and Afghanistan, so they come to kill innocent people here and ruin ordinary Muslims' lives." Around 1.6 million Muslims live in Britain, home to many opposition groups who fled persecution back home. "This was the last western country that had great respect for Arabs and Muslims," said Ehab Maged, a 30-year-old Egyptian travel agent. "Now no one knows what will happen." But Laith al-Taei, an Iraqi who owns a coffee shop near Edgware Road's underground station disagreed. "You kill a snake by chopping its head off, not by hitting the tail," he said. "The head of terrorism is not (al Qaeda chief) Osama bin Laden, but it is America and Britain's policies against Arabs and Muslims." "Change them: terrorism will end."

    8/7/2005- The umbrella organization for all the Islamic organizations and religious groups in Norway has condemned the terrorist attacks in London on Thursday. It claims the Koran forbids such actions. "Killing another person is like killing all of humanity, according to the Koran," claimed the council (Islamsk RÂd Norge, IRN) in a statement posted on its web site. "This is something the terrorists appear to have overlooked." The IRN noted that it's still not confirmed whether Muslims were indeed behind the attack, "but those who were have nothing with Islam." The council condemned the bombings, which left nearly 40 people dead, "in the strongest possible terms." Moreover, it claimed, "attacks on civilians is something Islam doesn't allow under any circumstances." IRN officials added that they extend their sympathy to the victims and their families. The council has 25 member organizations nationwide in Norway.

    11/7/2005- Czech Muslims today condemned a series of terrorist attacks in the centre of London last week in which more than 50 people died and 700 were injured. "We, as Muslims from the Czech Republic, sharply denounce these terrorist attacks and believe that their perpetrators will be found, tried and punished," they said in a statement sent to CTK. On behalf of the Brno-based, south Moravia, Islamic Foundation they expressed sympathy and solidarity with the families of the victims. The statement expressed deep disgust over people who abuse religion to justify their crimes. "We condemn these inhuman deeds in the same way that we condemned the previous terrorist attacks whose perpetrators stated that they acted in the name of Islam," the statement said. It was a crime against humanity and innocent people and had no justification, the Muslims said. They cited the Koran, which says that anyone who kills one person not guilty of murder or speading evil would be tried as if he killed all of humanity. It is believed that several people were behind the terrorist attacks in London. No one has been arrested but police have many leads. According to the Czech embassy in London, there are no Czechs among the victims. Six Czechs in London have not established contact with their families in the Czech Republic.
    ©Prague Daily Monitor

    1/7/2005- The foreign police in Prague are arrogant to foreigners, Gozel Khallyeva, director of the Centre for the Integration of Foreigners NGO, told CTK yesterday. "Queues have been removed, it's true, but the problem rests in the behaviour of people. Clerks are arrogant, they refuse to solve our problems and they do not know the regulations," she said. Other problems include the clerks' incompetence, language problems and bad organisation. Khallyeva said that the foreigners who seek aid through the centre, which provides social consultancy for asylum seekers and handicapped foreigners, always meet with difficulties when they want to acquire a residence permit. She said that she herself has come across inexpert attitudes when wanting to report a change of residence with the foreign police. "The male clerk wanted me to pay CZK 300 for an administrative act, though the law does not say it is required. She reacted arrogantly and told me to pay in advance, saying that a queue was building up behind me," Khallyeva said. She eventually had to pay the fee and the authorities only apologised to her after she complained twice, saying that the fee was unlawful. Three months after the incident, she still has not gotten her money back. Khallyeva said that foreigners have also language problems at Czech offices. "Our clients have complained that, until recently, information was available only in Czech. The clerks only use the Czech language while the clients do not know Czech. The problems of people from the former Soviet Union are the same as people from the United States," a woman coming from Turkmenistan said. The Centrum for the Integration of Foreigners, which opened in April 2004, provides social consultancy for asylum seekers and foreigners suffering from physical handicaps. It also mediates solutions for the problems of elderly people, and provides assistance in dealing with health care and social institutions, applying for citizenship, job searches and family-legal issues. It also helps overcome language barriers. In reaction to complaints by foreigners and criticism by ombudsman Otakar Motejl, the foreign police in Prague announced in early May that they are trying to improve their services for applicants for Czech residence. Spokeswoman Nela Gajduskova said that the foreign police had been given subsidies to raise the capacity of the waiting room and other areas at its offices in Olsanska Street. It also introduced longer office hours and an applicant waiting list.
    ©Prague Daily Monitor

    4/7/2005- The conditions for granting asylum to people who have fled their countries is too strict in the Czech Republic, representatives of NGOs supporting refugees said today. Not all applicants who have a right to asylum receive it, the groups said. Only 2,541 out of 75,568 foreigners who applied for asylum in the country in 1990-2004 received a positive answer from the Czech authorities. Last year, 142 out of 5,459 applicants were granted asylum. "We believe that the number of asylums granted do not really correspond to the number of people who rightfully apply for international legal protection in our country and who should receive asylum," Bela Hejna from the Counseling Centre for Refugees (PPU) told CTK. Members of the Organisation for Aid to Refugees (OPU) have also pointed out that the Czech Republic should grant asylum to more people. Jaroslav Vetrovsky from the OPU said that Czech asylum policy is very restrictive. But he added that this year's statistical data raise hope that the situation might partly improve. The Interior Ministry's asylum and migrant policy department head, Tomas Haisman, said that the situation in the Czech Republic is different from that in other countries. For example, instead of staying in the country until the asylum procedure is completed many people move to another EU country. The ministry also points out that most of the refugees are Ukrainians, Russians and Romanians. Vetrovsky said that the opinion that Ukrainian applicants should be rejected is spread in the Czech Republic. "Only five out of 1,581 Ukrainian applicants in 2003 were granted asylum. This is 0.3 percent. In France, 11.5 percent of Ukrainian applicants received asylum the same year," he said. Moreover, the official explanations of asylum rejection are often "so confused" that it is not clear why the applicant was refused, Vetrovsky said. Even if refugees receive asylum in the country, their problems allegedly do not end. Many of them complain of arrogant police officers who do not master any foreign language and do not understand regulations. Basic information is often available only in Czech. Human rights activists have said that the country has much to pay back to the world because a large number of Czechs were granted asylum abroad after 1948 and 1968 when they fled the Communist regime.
    ©Prague Daily Monitor

    5/7/2005- On Sunday in Voronezh a citizen of Rwanda studying at a local institute was beaten and robbed. This is just another episode in a long chain of attacks on foreign students that happen in various Russian cities almost every day. Three months ago, Novyie Izvestia wrote that many young people having come from Africa and Asia to study are ready to leave Russia forever unless law enforcement here starts taking their security seriously. Since then, a large number of students, paying considerable money for their education, have left the country. However, it turned out that federal authorities consider the problem exaggerated in the minds of the public, and do not intend to take special measures to protect foreign students. "It only seems as though the number of attacks against foreign citizens has increased, but in reality there are fewer of them," a high-placed source in the Interior Ministry told Novyie Izvestia on conditions of anonymity. "The problem is that practically every incident involving a foreign student gets wide public resonance, and that's why it seems there are so many." A number of embassies, however, would find that arguable. "We continuously remind our students that they are under a constant threat," said a representative of the Indian embassy. "Every April we send out a special letter to schools and colleges where we warn about neo-Nazi aggression. Even in India they know about attacks on students, the press writes about it all the time. And that is why citizens of our country refuse to go to Russia. But a lot of students, despite their fear, still travel to Russia. Higher education is valued in India, especially medical education...." A representative at the Guinea-Bisau embassy said that the diplomats are also informed about frequent attacks on students, as well as the students themselves. Still, they inform newly arrived students of the danger. "We warn them, give them advice on how to act, not to go out late at night, avoid conflicts," a source at the embassy said. "But what can a young person do if he is attacked by a whole crowd?" The Federal Education Agency, which advises foreign students, is aware of the problem, but talk about the issue with care. "We have no instructions on providing security to foreign students, and it is not our duty to inform them of any danger," said international education vice director Viktor Petrenko. "This is the job of law enforcement authorities and embassies. After all, we can't tell students that they're going to get killed here. We only send out lists of necessary documents, medical information, and the amount of money they need to take with them."

    Education officials admit that regular attacks against students can provoke massive departures. "Many are already picking up their documents and asking to be transfered. So far, only to other cities. A majority of these requests are coming from Voronezh and Rostov," said Petrenko. "However, apart from attacks, students' decisions are also influenced by other factors. For example, after the fire at the International Friendship University many picked up their documents and returned to their home countries. But the number of people who want to study in Russia is not decreasing, if not increasing. Every year, foreign students bring about $200 million into Russia. And we have to admit that if there's a massive withdrawal, this number will decrease. But right now this is not happening." The State Duma also believes that so far the issue of providing security to foreign students has not reached the federal level. "There is a security problem with foreign students in separate regions, in Moscow and Voronezh, for example," said Viktor Ilyukhin, deputy chairman of the parliamentary security committee. "But on a whole, there is no such problem in Russia. In Siberia, for example, guests are treated warmly, it's calm there. So it's not necessary to view students as a specific category needing special protection. All the problems should be resolved on a regional level." Although Voronezh has good grounds to be counted among the most dangerous cities for foreign students, while local racists and hooligans attack anyone from Africans to Chinese to French, Voronezh authorities have no realistic program for protecting them. Plans are very broad and are mostly words, while representatives in the mayor's office and the police cannot name any measures to prevent attacks. No massive departure of students from Voronezh has yet been noticed. But two Chinese students who survived an attack by football hooligans said that they're leaving for their vacation, and they don't know if they'll return to Voronezh or not. "Attacks against students in Rostov happen constantly. Only the police doesn't care," said Alex, a black student from Congo. "Recently skinheads broke into a dormitory of a medical university. They blocked the front door and beat up anyone who didn't hide. We didn't call the police ñ we know from experience that it's useless." However, the rector of the Rostov Medical University, Viktor Chernyshov, rushed to assure Novyie Izvestia that law enforcement authorities guard the dormitory. In response to that, the student laughed: "A policeman appeared only after the June 4 incident," he said. "Before that, there was no one but a woman porter." "We have documented complaints of racism from foreign students," said a source at the local police precinct. "But you have to understand that we can't put a policeman beneath every window." "When I was coming to Russia, I couldn't imagine that just because my skin is black, I was someone's enemy," said Lamar Crawford, an African American from Pennsylvania who is studying Russian at the Volgograd State University. "I can't say I'm afraid to study here. But it is scary to go out at night." In Vladivostok, it's usually Chinese and Japanese students that come under attack. In March of 2002, Japanese student Furakawa Takasi was found killed in his own apartment. Three days earlier, he had met three young people, who later killed him for his camera and lap top. After the incident, a part of the foreign students at the Far East State University picked up their things and went back home. The next year, the university experienced a shortage of students ñ many simply refused to come to Vladivostok. But one of the most dangerous places for foreign students is St. Petersburg. After the killing of Vietnamese student Wu An Tuan, his teacher, Natalia Rusakova, said that the attacks have been going on for years. In early March, the foreign students sent an open letter to the St. Petersburg governor, the regional police chief, and the prosecutor, telling of yet another attack on three students from the Pavlov Medical ©MosNews

    5/7/2005- Some ethnic Russian children and their parents are angry that schools in the Russian capital are now offering instruction to non-Russians in the native languages of the latter. And some Russian nationalist politicians have demanded that all such instruction be stopped. But educational officials in the Moscow city government say that most residents understand the value of such schools both in providing education to non-Russian immigrant groups and in helping members of these groups integrate more fully into Russian society. That approach represents a major change from Soviet times. Until 1991, the Soviet authorities rarely provided instruction in non-Russian languages for non-Russians who moved outside of their home ethnic territories even though Soviet officials routinely provided Russian-language training for Russians who lived outside their republic. Not surprisingly, many non-Russians were outraged by that practice, but many Russians saw it as both natural and appropriate given the relative size and importance of the Russian nation and the Russian-language community within the USSR. Since the end of the Soviet Union, officials in the non-Russian countries have generally worked hard to increase non-Russian instruction in their respective countries even at the cost of reducing the number of Russian-language schools there, something that has angered not only Russians directly affected but also many Russians in general. And that in turn has made the appearance of non-Russian language schools in traditionally Russian areas of the Russian Federation and especially in the Russian capital of Moscow a sensitive issue in the minds of many residents in these locales. This issue came a head last month in Moscow itself when pupils and their parents joined nationalist politicians to protest the negative impact on Russians that they believe a Georgian-language course track at School No. 223 is having on the Russian nation, Tribuna reported. According to the newspaper, parents and representatives of Russian nationalist groups carried signs reading Moscow for the Muscovites and demanding that the Georgian-language program, which was introduced in the school in 2002, be scaled back or even eliminated entirely.

    Parents and pupils said that the two-track system, in which Russian-speaking students attend in the morning sessions and Georgian-speaking students who make up 30 percent of the total enrollment attend in the afternoon, was making them feel like foreigners in their own country. Both groups said that they were particularly unhappy that the school is now officially identified as one with a Georgian component, and the protesters said that the appearance of that on school documents will limit the opportunities of Russian-speaking graduates to enter higher educational institutions in the Russian Federation. Lyubov Kezina, the head of the Moscow city department of education, told Tribuna that such concerns were overblown and seldom the views of the majority of pupils or their parents. She noted that there are now 81 schools in the Russian capital with an ethno-cultural component. Such schools, she continued, are set up with only one goal in mind: teaching children to respect other cultures. [And] all of them operate according to a program confirmed by the government of Moscow. Instruction takes place in Russian as well as in the other languages, she pointed out. And School No. 223 where the protest occurs is not a Georgian school but rather a school with an ethno-cultural Georgian component. In it, she noted, there are representatives of 20 different nationalities, many of whom have chosen to be there because it is a place where they can be exposed to another culture. Kezina said that it is well-known to us just who had organized the protest at School No. 223. Many of the protesters were not local people at all but had been bussed in by nationalists interested in sparking a political conflict rather than in improving public education. But not everyone shares her understanding of the situation. Aleksei Ostrovskiy, a Duma deputy who is a member of Vladimir Zhirinovskiy s nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, told the paper that there must not be any ethnic schools in Moscow or [indeed] anywhere in Russia. No new ones should be allowed to open, Ostrovskiy insisted, and those that exist must be closed. To do otherwise threatens the future of the Russian nation and the Russian state because it could attract more such migrants and create a situation in which Russians will become a minority in their own country.
    ©FSU Monitor

    8/7/2005- Appearing on a discussion program of Ekho Moskvy radio on June 30, Russia's best known extremist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, approved the decision of a Moscow Region court the day earlier to disband the National Bolshevik Party, a group more extremist than his party, which is represented in the national parliament. He said that the National Bolsheviks prefer provocation to elections and terror to the parliamentary process. The ban was reasonable, he argued, given the party's failure to comply with legislation and its attempt to build up underground combat units. When asked if the National Bolsheviks could turn even more radical, Zhirinovsky said yes: "It's already a formula. When they started out, no one paid any attention. As they started to take tougher action, as their rallies, slogans and actions became more hard line, so young people joined them. This really is a scenario for revolution." He pointed out that Russia has many young people who are destitute, without education or jobs. "They're from poor homes," he continued, "they need some sort of revenge," and they see a party with the hammer and sickle as its emblem, once approved by their grandparents. Zhirinovsky said that National Bolshevik leader Eduard Limonov was attempting to combine Hitler and Stalin, Nazism and Bolshevism, as evidenced by the movement's name, and that under such circumstances the authorities had no choice but to act. "Our country is too democratic," Zhirinovsky said. "The organization would have been banned long since in any other country+ It's a warning to everyone who will try to go out on the streets in the next few years and resort to violence." Citing the revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, he said: "Everyone had to be warned that nothing like that can happen in Russia ... It shows the danger if radical organizations aren't put in their place in good time." Arriving late for the radio program because of a traffic jam and in a bad mood, Limonov protested that the ban declared by the court "is on a big political party that everyone has heard of, with an active presence in our political life, in our political scene. It's an attempt to make a show of destroying a political party lest others are tempted to imitate us, our methods and tactics and attitude to the authorities." Limonov denied Zhirinovsky's claim that the National Bolsheviks are building an underground army: "It's an untruth put about by the Prosecutor's Office. It's a lie." Similarly, he denied any failure to comply with demands for registration documents, saying this too was "a blatant lie." Soon the discussion degenerated into a shouting match, and the moderator had to interfere, reminding the panelists to conduct themselves in a civilized manner. After calm was restored, Zhirinovsky said: "In our economic situation, only radicals and extremists evoke real sympathy, people who put forward incisive slogans and call people onto the streets ... People want revolution." He contended that Limonov is dangerous, even though his party is small, because the day after an election, his followers could take to the streets of Moscow with banners that would be shown around the world. "In two hours' time he'd be joined by everyone who was unhappy with the election," Zhirinovsly concluded. "They could be the spark that leads to demonstrations in the street."
    ©Bigotry Monitor

    8/7/2005- Two men who may be members of Russia's most prominent neo-Nazi group, Russian National Unity (RNU), have been arrested in connection with a June 12 bombing that derailed a Moscow-bound train, according to a July 1 report by the news web site Initially, the origin of the train -- Grozny, capital of Chechnya -- prompted speculation that Chechen rebels were responsible for the bombing. The two Moscow residents in their mid-50s allegedly planted the radio-controlled bomb that derailed the train, causing 15 injuries. Both are being charged with terrorism and attempted murder. A search inside the suspects' homes is said to have found extremist literature and evidence connecting them to the bombing. Despite similarities between the bomb used against the train and one used in the attempted assassination of electricity monopoly head Anatoly Chubais, prosecutors told that they do not believe that the two crimes are connected. "Kommersant" of July 5 quoted RNU leader Aleksandr Barkashov as saying that the suspects are not members of his movement and cited a source in the Prosecutor's Office as saying that while both men clearly held extremist nationalist views, they may not after all be members of the RNU.
    ©Bigotry Monitor

    7/7/2005- A Vilnius court has fined the editor-in-chief of the Respublika daily 3,000 litas (EUR 870) for publishing a series of anti-Semitic articles. On Thursday, the court found Vitas Tomkus guilty of instigating ethnic and religious enmity. Although the court found no extenuating circumstances, taking into consideration the fact that Tomkus committed a violating for the first time, it did not impose an additional penalty -- seizure of the publishing house and publications. Faina Kukliansky, defender of the Lithuanian Jewish community found the aggrieved party, had asked the court to fine Tomkus 5,000 litas and to seize the publications and the equipment used in the production and distribution of such publications. The lawyer substantiated such a request by saying that Tomkus had never apologized to the Lithuanian Jewish community, and had not only allowed such articles to be published and distributed, but had also been their author. Simonas Alperavicius, chairman of Lithuania's Jewish community, at the court expressed indignation over "attempts by some journalists and even politicians to change the emphases in this case and show that Tomkus' publications had allegedly been targeted against corruption rather than against Jews." "This case must defend the name of Lithuania. I am a citizen of Lithuania and Lithuania's image in the world is of importance to me. I think a maximum fine should be imposed, especially that Respublika continues its anti-Semitic line," Alperavicius said. Tomkus, the defendant, and Rimas Valeikis, who illustrated the articles with cartoons, summoned to the court as a witness, were not present at the court hearing. The hearings of the administrative case were started two months ago, but had to be postponed as the defendant failed to come to court hearings on several occasions. It was later decided to hear the case in the defendant's absence. The court has already imposed fines on employees of Respublika for distributing the publication instigating ethnic discord, but they appealed against the court's decision to a court of higher instance. The Administrative Code stipulates a fine of up to 5,000 litas for distributing a publication instigating ethnic, racial or religious enmity. Last year, the Respublika daily and the Vakaro Zinios daily published a series of articles which were described by the public as instigating anti-Semitism and intolerance of gays. Tomkus' publications, complete with translation into English, are still available on the Internet at Illustrated with cartoons showing a Jew and a gay, the publications were condemned by public figures, politicians and foreign diplomats. The Prosecutor General's Office was asked by representatives of the Lithuanian Jewish community, a number of organizations as well as private individuals to launch criminal proceedings on the grounds of such publications. A pre-trial investigation was launched in April last year. The defendants faced a sentence of imprisonment for instigations against any national, racial, ethnic, religious or another group of people. The investigation was terminated last February, one of the reasons being that the publications were not a criminal offence. In March, the case was re-opened, however, it was stated that the defendants' articles about Jews and persons of unconventional sexual orientation were an administrative violation rather than a criminal offence.
    ©Baltic News Service

    4/7/2005- Ultra-right parties from across Europe have caused uproar in Greece after announcing plans to stage a festival in a Peloponnesian town in the autumn. The three-day event, organised by some of the continent's leading neo-Nazi groups and billed officially as a camping trip to "Hellas, land of the heroes", is intended to become a recruiting ground for young people. "This unique gathering will combine comradeship with sport activities by the sea and, most importantly, an open congress with speeches on the descent of our national identity," the extremists say on their website. "Turkey, out of Europe" is expected to be the main slogan of the September 16-18 meeting. Germany's National Democratic party (NDP), Italy's Forza Nuova, Spain's La Falange, Romania's Noua Dreapta (the New Right) and Greece's Chryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn) have all pooled resources for the youth gathering. Old-guard fascists, including Udo Voigt, who heads the NDP, and Roberto Fiore of Forza Nuova plan to address the crowd. Outraged local authorities and leftwing groups in Greece yesterday pledged to fight back. In Meligala, the site of the proposed gathering, the town council vowed "to do everything possible" to stop the extremists descending on the hamlet, 150 miles south-west of Athens. "If indeed, it does take place here, the council will decide what to do to prevent it," the mayor, Eleni Aliferi, said. "We don't want them here." Opposition has also come from Greece's tiny Jewish community, one of the most badly hit in Europe by the Holocaust. Fewer than 8,000 of an estimated 80,000 Greek Jews survived the Nazi death camps after German forces marched into Greece in 1942. "We want the government to ban the gathering," said Moses Constantinides, president of the community. "We believe its reaction should be strong. The neo-Nazi meeting should not be allowed to take place." Anti-racist groups will this week meet political parties to discuss how best to confront the ultra-rightwingers. But there are fears that by banning the event outright, the neo-Nazis could be turned into martyrs. "Like all EU member states, constitutionally we cannot stop a gathering taking place if it is peaceful and unarmed," Lefteris Economou, the public order ministry spokesman, said. But human rights activists believe the "menace" can be stopped. "It's very provocative what they are doing," said Takis Yiannopoulos of Youth Against Racism in Greece. "The Peloponnese is steeped in the history and blood of the Greek civil war [between communists and nationalists in the 1940s], so it's no coincidence that they've chosen to hold the meeting there. We are absolutely determined to stop them."
    ©The Guardian

    4/7/2005- The mayor of Lisburn vowed last night to intensify efforts to tackle the scourge of racism after two Polish brothers were injured in a suspected racist attack. DUP mayor Jonathan Craig said he was "very disappointed" to hear of the incident which happened in the Hill Street area of the city in the early hours of Saturday. One brother is thought to have suffered a broken arm while the other is being treated for head injuries. Police have said that it is thought the men, both aged in their 20s, were assaulted near a bonfire, but it is not clear exactly what happened. A "racial" motive for the assaults has not been ruled out at this stage, police said. Mr Craig appealed for any information on the incident to be reported to police. "Lisburn has not had a problem in terms of racially-motivated attacks but we could see what was going on in other areas of Northern Ireland and took a pro-active approach on the council to prevent any tension creeping in here. "Lisburn council has taken a lead role in encouraging the inclusiveness of the minority communities and trying to teach toleration. "If this attack was racist, and I really hope it wasn't, I would be very disappointed to hear that. I would call on people for calm and promise to re-double our efforts to tackle the problem." The attack in Lisburn came just a day after a petrol bomb attack on four Lithuanian factory workers which was linked to an attack on a man in the town last weekend. A device was thrown at their home in Fairmount Park, Dungannon, shortly before 3am on Friday and the householders, three men and a woman, were lucky to escape uninjured. The weekend before last, Paul Young (32), from Newell Road in the town, was beaten around the head with iron bars after intervening in a dispute between a group of Lithuanian nationals and local women in a pub. The victim's wife Kathleen joined police to make an emotional appeal for no retaliation. Dungannon's District Commander, Superintendent Frances Nolan, said "It is nonsensical to target a whole race because of the alleged actions of a few. "An attack such as this serves no purpose, it simply heightens tension and spreads fear."
    ©Belfast Telegraph

    4/7/2005- Campaign groups and charities who protest against Government policies have accused the State of intimidation after they were told they would have to reveal details of donations they receive. More than 80 groups, including Amnesty International, the Carers' Association, Focus Ireland, the Peace and Neutrality Alliance and Residents Against Racism, have been contacted by the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) and told they must register with the commission and furnish details of any donation for "political purposes" that exceeds 126.97. Under Section 23C of the Electoral Act, which became law in 2002, the definition of ëpolitical purposes' includes any campaign for "a particular outcome in relation to a policy or policies of the Government or any public authority". SIPO itself is uncomfortable with the definition, and in a review of the Electoral Act two years ago, expressed its concerns to the then Environment Minister Martin Cullen. Because the definition was so wide, the commission warned, it could cover anything from residents' associations, tidy town committees, and community organisations to the Credit Union Movement and St Vincent de Paul. "The Standards Commission doubts if it was the intention of the legislature that such bodies, in conducting their ordinary affairs, could find themselves covered by the legislation," it told Mr Cullen. Despite this, no moves were made to amend the act, and Environment Minister Dick Roche has no plans to do so, according to his officials.

    John Gormley of the Green Party yesterday called for the legislation to be revisited and clarified. "As it stands, it is an infringement and it undermines the democratic process," he said. Small ad-hoc groups set up to campaign on a particular issue could be put out of business by the requirement, he argued. Rosanna Flynn of Residents against Racism said the law would "make it difficult for organisations like ourselves to exist". "We have nothing to hide. It's ludicrous. It would tie us up with red tape and create financial difficulties." One source in a large non-government organisation (NGO) said complying with the regulations would be problematic to administer. Donations are given to organisations to fund its general activities and are rarely, if ever, given specifically for a particular campaign, it was pointed out. SIPO itself has said it was "not possible" to distinguish between general, and "political purposes" donations, for such groups. It said of the 80 groups the commission estimates it has contacted to date, 30 have registered. To comply with the legislation, they have to open a dedicated account for political purposes contributions. And each year they must furnish a bank statement specifying account transactions. No foreign donations are allowed and a limit of 6,384 is imposed for an individual donation. SIPO says it contacts groups for clarification only when a complaint is received that the group has not registered, or when a group becomes involved in campaigning in an election or referendum.
    ©Irish Examiner

    6/7/2005- While many European nations struggle with the immigration issue, Ireland has adopted a more positive attitude, offering free English lessons, and celebrating its newfound multiculturalism. When a national economy thrives the way Ireland's has in recent years, you might expect the capital city to take on an increasingly international flavour. But an Irish market town, situated on bog land, in the middle of the country, a place of cattle-rearing, peat-cutting and whiskey-making? Walk up the main street in Tullamore, County Offaly, in 2005 and you will hear languages of Africa, Asia, South America and Eastern Europe. Within the space of only about five years, foreign faces have become the norm.

    'Growing awareness'
    "We're coming on, you know," one local man said. "We may only be a small town but we're metropolitan now!" I have been looking at Ireland's new ethnic mix through the - slightly unlikely - eyes of the Adult Literacy Agency. It was given the responsibility for making sure English language lessons were available free of charge to every immigrant who wanted them. Inez Bailey, the agency's director, told me: "There was a growing awareness that we needed more of our population to be productive and involved in society." She admitted to having had to organise things "in a bit of a vacuum" because immigration on today's scale was such a new phenomenon for Ireland. But once it was established that the foreigners did not have to declare their legal status to be entitled to language lessons, they came "in droves".

    In demand
    Several years ago, Mary McLoughlin volunteered to help run adult education classes in a classroom off the market square in Tullamore. At that time Ms McLoughlin never imagined her services would be in such demand from a new workforce lapping up the rules of English grammar. "We're a multi-national town now," she said, "and we meet multi-national needs." At a Tuesday evening lesson given by Tanya Moran - a Belorussian woman married to a County Offaly man - it is evident Ireland is one of only three old EU countries to open its doors straight away to migrant workers from the new Eastern European members. Among her students are a plasterer from Latvia, a cook from Poland and a waitress from Hungary. They are so focused on improving their English that they often work through breaks.

    Foreign workforce
    A couple of kilometres away on the outskirts of town, a busy building site typical of many in the area, provides more insight into the kind of social upheavals going on. Brendan Grimes is supervising work on 200 near-identical new houses, expected to be snapped up as rental properties, second homes or new homes for Irish families becoming smaller. About 65% of his workforce is foreign "from Poland, Brazil, China, Lithuania", he said. "It's a great mix. It's a very good thing for me." Brendan warned against thinking that his attitude is universal here, and spoke about racism in some parts of Irish society. But he said his own approach is shaped by having been an itinerant builder and immigrant himself - nine years in the UK, and three years in Germany. "I know what it's like," he said, "There was no work here when I left school." "There was just a boat in Rosslare and away you went to England and did whatever had to be done to earn a living. "These guys here are the very same, they're hungry for the work, nothing is a problem. I have admiration for them all... And we need them. "The Celtic Tiger couldn't keep on going if it wasn't for them." Jack, from southern China, is employed on the site as a plasterer. He said he earned the kind of money in Ireland he could only dream of at home; money to give his wife a good standard of living, and to give his four-year-old son a private education.

    Sharing skills
    On other days of the week, the classroom at Tullamore Adult Learning Centre is used by local people who come for lessons to improve their reading and writing skills. I asked farmer Kevin O'Duffy from Ballycumber, if he thought it was right that an education budget funded by Irish tax-payers should also buy English lessons for the newcomers. "Yes, it's right," he said. "They're quite welcome as far as I'm concerned. "It's good for the community that people are going to settle down and bring skills and knowledge from their own countries, whatever it may be. "So we need to help them achieve their goals and help them communicate with the people of Ireland." Social revolution in rural Ireland? Maybe.
    ©BBC News

    5/7/2005- The Government is set to be embarrassed at the United Nations over its poor record on women's rights, it was claimed tonight. Noirin Clancy from the Women's Human Rights Alliance (WHRA) said a delegation of Irish women will highlight the State's failures at the UN Headquarters in New York next week. Ms Clancy said members would raise the issues at the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women's (CEDAW) 33rd session, which will also be addressed by Minister of State Frank Fahey. "By accepting CEDAW, Ireland committed itself to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms," she said. "In our presentations to the CEDAW Committee we aim to highlight the failures of this Government to keep to their obligations under CEDAW. "Despite Ireland's economic progress, our Government has failed to allocate adequate resources to eliminate discrimination against women. "There is really no excuse for Ireland to have such an appalling record on women's human rights." CEDAW was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979 and Ireland signed up in 1985. The convention is much like an international bill of rights for women, a legally binding document, which defines what constitutes discrimination against women. The Irish women's delegation, which is made up of representatives from Women's Aid, Pavee Point, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), Banulacht, the National Women's Council of Ireland and the WHRA will meet with the CEDAW Committee two days before the Government is brought before the Committee to be examined. "It is very evident from the attitude and the record of the Government that there is resistance on their part, towards rights-based legislation," Ms Clancy said. "They sign international legally binding agreements but yet they do not abide by them. "One of the ways we hope to make them keep the promises they have made, is by embarrassing them in the international arena, by presenting a far more accurate picture of what is happening on the ground with regard to women's rights in Ireland." Ms Clancy said the Government had made some progress, but it had not done enough to address the under-funding of the women's sector in Ireland, the inequalities in the provision of cancer screening services around the country, the under-representation of women in decision-making positions and the increase in violence against women. "This is about persistent discrimination that continues to exist between men and women in Ireland," she said. "The Government has signed up to CEDAW; it has a responsibility and a duty to ensure that the terms of this agreement are met and that provisions are put in place to end all forms of discrimination against women."

    For the past two decades a Swiss organisation has been fighting all forms of exploitation of immigrant women, including trafficking and violence.

    2/7/2005- On Saturday, FIZ - the information centre for women from Africa, Asia, Latin America and eastern Europe ñ is marking its 20th anniversary, and some notable successes.But the campaign group says there are still hurdles to overcome and the work on behalf of oppressed immigrants will continue. The Zurich-based organisation offers legal advice and support to women who have been abused or exploited, have no right of residence or face repatriation following separation or divorce. Since its founding more than 3,300 women have visited the centre, while 5,000 have been counselled over the phone in the past five years alone. Many of these women were working as prostitutes, having been lured to Switzerland with false promises of well-paid work. Others suffered abuse at the hands of violent husbands or were treated as domestic slaves by unscrupulous employers.

    Raising awareness
    In addition to its consultation services, FIZ campaigns on a political level for improvements in the status of immigrants. "The main aim is to improve protection for women who are trafficked," explained FIZ spokeswoman, Doro Winkler. "The other thing is to fight for better rights for migrant women. We try also to change the political situation, although this is not easy." Winkler told swissinfo that she considered the biggest success of the past 20 years to be the fact that the information centre had raised public and political awareness of the issue of women trafficking. But changes in the law 13 years ago had made the situation of migrant women more difficult and had also had an impact on the organisation's work. "Until 1992 women who married Swiss men got Swiss nationality. Now they have to stay five years. If they separate they lose their residence permit," Winkler said. "There are more and more illegalised women looking for help."

    Makasi project
    Winkler, one of just seven staff members, says that in the past few years the centre has dealt with a growing number of victims of trafficking. These women now increasingly come from eastern Europe, with fewer women from Asia and Latin America seeking help. To improve its assistance to this category of women FIZ set up a new professional consultation centre last year, known as FIZ Makasi. Makasi means "strong" in Lingala, a language of central Africa. The Makasi project offers legal, psychological and social help to women who are victims of trafficking. It seeks to make them aware of their rights, clarifies their residence situation in Switzerland, and tries to help them overcome their trauma. The organisation is concerned that there is too little protection available to those who have been smuggled into the country. If they speak out against their abusers, they may face repatriation once the case has been through the courts, even if their lives could be at risk in their homeland. "We inform women about their rights and about the risks if they press charges," said Winkler. "We've had women whose families were murdered after they launched [legal] proceedings. "We try to help them make the decision that is right for them. But we also inform them about the lack of protection. If they press charges there is no guarantee that they can stay in Switzerland. But if they press charges, we support them in this process."

    Looking ahead
    Almost half of the running costs of FIZ are met by public donations, with a third coming from the Zurich city, cantonal and federal authorities. Charities and aid agencies including Caritas and Terre des Hommes make up the difference. Having launched the Makasi project last autumn with funding guaranteed for one year, the FIZ organisers now have a job on their hands to ensure its future financing. They have been trying to secure funding from the federal and local authorities under the law on victim aid, but are not optimistic in the light of budget cutbacks. Another possibility for the future, according to Winkler, is to set up a shelter for victims of abuse. What is certain, she says, is that FIZ will continue its work of publicising the trafficking and exploitation of immigrant women in Switzerland ñ both among the public and at a political level.

    6/7/2005- French police have blocked the entrance to a cemetery to stop the inauguration of a memorial to paramilitaries who fought against Algerian independence. The memorial pays tribute to right-wing militants killed during their failed campaign in the 1960s. The memorial in the village of Marignane was put up surreptitiously on Tuesday by a group called Adimad. Around 600 sympathisers turned up for the ceremony, which was banned by the local authorities. Some laid a wreath outside the cemetery before dispersing. Adimad stands for the Association for the Defence of the Moral and Material Interests of Former Prisoners and Political Exiles of French Algeria. Algeria's eight-year fight for independence started in 1954, and brought to an end 132 years of French colonial rule. The fighting was brutal, with atrocities committed on both sides, and resulted in an estimated 500,000 deaths. The rebel Secret Armed Organisation (OAS) was formed by disgruntled French soldiers in 1961 as it became clear that the French government was moving towards a settlement with Algerian insurgents. Among those honoured by the memorial are four men executed for their part in the OAS guerrilla campaign in the early 1960s. They include Jean-Marie Bastien-Thiry, who masterminded an attempt to kill the late French leader, General Charles de Gaulle, in Paris in 1962. The bronze statue in Marignane is dedicated to "Fighters shot by firing-squad or otherwise killed so that French Algeria could live". Human rights groups and relatives of Algerian veterans of the war held a counter-demonstration at the village, which is near Marseille in the south of the country. Mouloud Aounite, President of the Movement against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP) said the planned ceremony was an insult and showed "contempt for the nation which condemned these murderers". "This inauguration is destroying our memories. In this current context of tension, this type of initiative is a way to set things ablaze," she told France Info Radio.
    ©BBC News

    6/7/2005- According to Ferenc KÙszeg, president of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), abuse and torture by the authorities are a continuing part of Hungary's prison life. Speaking to The Budapest Sun, KÙszeg said, "The biggest problem in Hungarian prisons is overcrowding. "Regulations stipulate that each adult male prisoner should have at least three square meters of space, but in Hungary there are almost no prisons that meet this condition. "This is mainly because Hungary has a disproportionately high prison population. For every 100,000 inhabitants, 160 are in prison, whereas the European average is only 80-100. "Even Serbia has a lower ratio than Hungary, with just under 100 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants." KÙszeg explained. "The German ratio is well below 100. Russia and the US are the most prominent countries with a higher proportion of the population behind bars." In these conditions in Hungary, he says, 1,200 cases of abuse by the authorities are reported each year, but he believes far more go unreported. A recent "anonymous survey" showed that out of 500 Hungarian prisoners, 80 claimed to have suffered physical abuse by the authorities, he added. In the course of the police jail and prison monitoring program, the HHC carried out questionnaire-based interviews with 500 pre-trial detainees held in 16 police jails and 10 penitentiary institutions. The survey focused on injurious treatment (physical or psychological ill-treatment, and other forms of abuse) affecting pre-trial detainees during criminal proceedings, as well as the performance of ex-officio defense counsels appointed to indigent criminal defendants. "Whilst abuse is a problem in prisons, it is much more significant in the case of the police. "The problem as far as police abuse is concerned is that they [the police] have come to expect impunity. "Things have improved here, because whilst 10 years ago prosecutors almost never investigated cases of police misbehavior, there are now some young examining magistrates who are taking the issue seriously." KÙszeg said. "It is difficult to draw comparisons within the region - I don't have the data, but there is a British-funded study of prisons and other 'enclosed institutions' (prisons, mental hospitals, police cells) which is due to be completed next year." Last Sunday, June 26, was the UN's International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    6/7/2005- A black council officer who complained when a monkey poster was placed next to his desk has lost his battle to prove racial harassment. An employment tribunal decided unanimously that 46-year-old business adviser Everald Brown's claims were unfounded. He may now appeal against the decision. Mr Brown returned to work at Croydon Council after suffering from stress to find the "racially offensive" image on the wall. The poster showed a chimpanzee in white shirt, tie and braces with a calculator and phone. A slogan said: "Have you used your brain today?" He later complained the poster was deeply offensive, discriminatory and racially offensive. He said he was the only black male member of staff in an office of mainly white women and had been made to feel unwelcome. Croydon Council and his manager, David Johnston, both denied racial harassment against Mr Brown. The tribunal found there had been difficulties in the working relationship between Mr Brown and his colleagues, but did not believe his race played a part. In its ruling the panel said: "Croydon Council acted very promptly in removing the poster when it was pointed out to them by the claimant that he found the poster offensive." Mr Brown, who began his job in the early years and child care section in 2003, is still off work suffering from stress and is on half pay. He continues to be supported by black members in Unison, a group within the public services union. Its co-chairman, Ekanem Hines, said: "If Mr Brown hadn't raised this matter, would the poster still be up on the wall? This case raises lots of concerns about how racism is being dealt with in Croydon Council." A Croydon Council spokesman said: "We are very pleased the tribunal unanimously supported the council's position."
    ©Croydon Guardian

    6/7/2005- Following a season in which racism has repeatedly hit the headlines across Europe, thousands of amateur footballers from across the continent have travelled to an international football festival in Italy to make a stand against racism and xenophobia. The Mondiali Antirazzisti, also known as the Anti- racist World Cup, has been organised by Italian FARE partner Progetto Ultra for the 8th year. This year's Mondiali is again supported by FARE and has brought more than 200 teams from more than 25 countries together for the weekend tournament. The Mondiali, one of the world's largest gatherings of amateur footballers, has received widespread recognition for using the game to bring together the diverse cultures and people of Europe. The event is particularly successful in attracting some of the most difficult to reach footballing groups in Italy ñ the Ultras. Carlo Balestri, one of the main organisers of the Mondiali from Progetto Ultras, said, "Each year the Mondiali offers an opportunity to stand united alongside our European neighbours and minority communities to underline the very clear universal message - that there is no place for racism in society." "Football crosses boundaries and helps to bring people together, the Mondiali illustrates this, highlighting how the power of the game can be used for positive change."

    8/7/2005- Access rules for Austrian universities are in breach of EU rules, the European Court of Justice decided on Thursday. (7 July). Students having obtained their secondary education diploma in a member state other than Austria should be given access to Austrian universities on the same conditions as Austrian students, the court said. The judges added that this right "constitutes the very essence of the principle of freedom of movement for students guaranteed by the EC Treaty". So far there was no restriction on admissions to universities in Austria, but applicants for admission with foreign school leaving certificates had to prove they had obtained a place at university in their country of origin as an entry requirement for an Austrian university. This constitutes discrimination on grounds of nationality and is contrary to the provisions of the European Treaty, the Luxembourg court stated. The ruling could now lead to restricted intake for all students ñ including Austrian ones - in seven faculty areas, including medicine and biology, the Austrian press reports. The concrete measures will be negotiated among Austrian political parties today, Friday (8 July), according to Austrian minister of education Elisabeth Gehrer. German students are expected to benefit from the changes the most. In the 2004-2005 -winter semester, a total of 5,421 German students were enrolled in Austrian Universities (19.28% of foreign students), according to the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture, of whom 814 (25.3%) studied at its famous music and art academies.

    3/7/2005- The law legalising gay marriage in Spain has cleared its last bureaucratic formality- being published in an official government registry - and will take effect today. An official of the ruling Socialist party, which sponsored the law, said the party will now seek legislation to protect Spain's estimated 8,000 trans-sexuals. The gay marriage law, passed on Thursday by the lower house of parliament, was published in the Boletin Oficial del Estado, which records all government decisions in Spain. The law was signed by King Juan Carlos and the Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Gay couples are not expected to start getting married until late this month because of the paperwork needed before they go to town halls and other civil bodies that marry people in Spain, according to Spain's main Federation of Gays and Lesbians. The law gives same-sex couples the right to wed, adopt children and inherit each other's property, making their legal status the same as heterosexual couples. Gay and lesbian groups planned a big street rally for Saturday evening in Madrid to celebrate passage of the law, which makes Spain the third country in the world to grant full recognition to gay marriage. The others are the Netherlands and Belgium. Canada is expected to follow suit later this month. Several European countries and a few US states recognise civil unions among same-sex couples but this falls short of treating them like married couples. There was fierce criticism of the law from the Catholic church, with Bishop Ricardo Blazquez branding it unconstitutional. He called the law's passage "a sad day for the Spanish people because the stability of marriage has been gravely injured and tremendous confusion over marriage and family has been unleashed". Meanwhile Pedro Zerolo, a Madrid town councillor who is gay and heads the Socialist party's social policy department, said that when parliament reconvenes after its summer recess the government will present a bill that aims to regulate treatment of trans-sexuals. One issue that has not been settled is whether it will pay for sex-change operations. Such funding was a plank in the Socialist platform for the March 2004 general election that the party won. But the government has to negotiate this with regional governments because in Spain it is they, not Madrid, who are responsible for state-paid healthcare.
    © Independent Digital

    4/7/2005- Gay couples took the first steps to get married after new law allowing same-sex unions comes into force. Three couples in Madrid went to a registry office in the capital with their paperwork so they can get married. But gay rights campaigner Beatriz Gimeno, president of the Federation of Gays, Lesbians and Transsexuals, said the first weddings would probably be held in small towns where civil servants have less paperwork to deal with. One couple who plan to marry, Carlos and Emilio, who are both Americans, said: "We are proud to live in this country." A couple for 30 years, they may be one of the first to marry in Madrid. Last week, Spain's lower house of parliament voted in favour of allowing gay couples to marry and adopt children. The controversial decision overruled the rejection of the bill by the upper house, the Senate. The bill became law on Sunday, making Spain Europe's third nation after the Netherlands and Belgium to allow same sex marriages. A Roman Catholic group had presented MPs with a 600,000-signature petition opposing the legislation. The Family Forum group had called for a referendum on the issue. They urged conservative deputies to take legal action to have gay marriages declared unconstitutional. Public opinion polls suggest that although the majority of Spaniards describe themselves as Catholic they are in favour of gay marriages. The leaders of Spain's Roman Catholic Church strongly opposed the bill. Some have even likened the proposal to introducing a virus into Spanish society. The new law puts same-sex and heterosexual marriages on the same legal footing, including the right to adopt children. About 5,000 gay couples in Spain have announced they are queuing up to say 'I do'.
    ©Expatica News

    MADRID CARDINAL TELLS POPE GAY MARRIAGE IS A 'SLUR'(Spain) 5/7/2005- The cardinal-archbishop of Madrid, Antonio Rouco Varela, used a speech before Pope Benedict XVI to attack Spain's approval last week of a law permitting same-sex marriage. Spanish society, he said, is being tempted by proposals for radical secular lifestyles that "not only deny the faith, but also our very humanity, as can be seen in the recent legislation on marriage". Rouco spoke during an audience held by the pope with some 1,400 Madrid residents who travelled to the Vatican for the closing of the third diocesan synod. After pointing out that the synod's goal was to strengthen the faith among citizens and especially youths, Rouco said a new 'evangelisation' was needed "in a society strongly tempted by a relativistic culture and radically secular lifestyles proposed as if God did not exist and that go against history". Rouco said Spaniards always "looked" to the Pope and "much more so now, in these difficult times, which are at the same time full of hope". In the face of aggressive opposition from the Catholic Church and social conservatives, Spanish deputies gave final approval last Thursday to a bill submitted by the ruling Socialists to allow same-sex couples to wed and adopt children. Spain thus became the third country in the world to permit same-sex marriage nationwide, joining the Netherlands and Belgium. Canada's lower house last week approved a bill allowing such unions that is expected to pass the country's Senate later this summer. Gay marriage were already legal in several Canadian provinces and territories. Socialist prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said in the final debate before Thursday's vote that authorising same-sex wedlock represented "one more step on the path of liberty and tolerance". The leader of the conservative Popular Party, Mariano Rajoy, accused the Socialists of dividing Spanish society with the law, and noted that the PP presented an alternative proposal to permit civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, similar to measures adopted in other European countries such as France and Sweden. The Family Forum, which two weeks ago gathered tens of thousands of people in Madrid for a demonstration against the law, announced plans for more protests and a campaign to demand a national referendum on the issue. According to the latest survey by the Sociological Research Centre, 56.9 percent of Spaniards approve of gay marriage, but only 42.4 percent approve of allowing gay couples to adopt.
    ©Expatica News

    6/7/2005- Let us be vigilant! The Nash Mir (Our World) Gay and Lesbian Center today draws the public's attention to recent printed 'facts' deliberately kindling hatred and animosity (on the grounds of nationality, sexual orientation, and personal convictions). Actually, what we have identified is the spreading of explicit and undisguised instigations of xenophobia in Ukraine - by persons associated with the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management (IAPM).

    The faculty and staff, and printed and electronic editions of this non-state educational institution (which advertises itself as "the major humanitarian and economic higher education institution of Ukraine"), have been repeatedly and publicly expressing views that cannot, in our estimation, be read as anything other than primitive xenophobia. The so-called domination of a "Jewish mafia" in Ukraine has always been IAPM's greatest concern. Lately this hate-mongering theme of theirs was intensified with an equal number of hate-mongering homophobic statements. IAPM's call to return to methods for tackling homosexuals that were practiced in Nazi Germany (methods featured in a recently published article by Mikola Sensenko, Director of the Book Chamber) alone is quite telling. The article was printed in the 24th issue of IAPM's periodical Personal Plus. The co-authors of the piece do not scruple to resort to explicit lies, referring to unknown "authorities", distortions of facts, and substitutions of concepts. While we recognize liberty of conscience and freedom of thought and speech as fundamental values of our 21st century society, it is our belief that no one may be allowed to abuse these values if such abuse results in restricting other people's rights. Recently, therefore, the Nash Mir Center made a group decision to render legal assistance to a former student of IAPM. He had been expelled from IAPM institution because of the administration's hostile attitude to his homosexuality. Apparently, it was the sexual identity issue of this student that spurred a surge of homophobia - in addition to IAPM's traditional anti-Semitism. Apart from disseminating their views via conformist mass media controlled by the institution, previously IAMP hosted an "academic conference" titled Dialogue of Civilizations: Zionism as the Greatest Threat to Modern Civilization. Each one of us who has gone through the Soviet school system knows what is meant by the "struggle against Zionism" in our country* Incidentally, the guest of honor was David Duke, who formerly headed the American Ku-Klux-Clan.

    We draw your attention to the fact that the mentioned statements and actions of IAPM's administration cannot be viewed as merely their own private affair. Using their positions IAPM administrators are actively prejudicing the minds of the young Ukrainians who study in the extensive system of the institution's affiliates across the whole of Ukraine. An official directive issued by the Rector openly obliges students to subscribe to the editions where the mentioned articles were published. Also, the administration promotes the setting up of centers of certain political and public organizations. We identify and define these activities as IAPM's ongoing attempt to take total control of the lives and thoughts of those under their charge. Though presenting themselves as a recognized factor in the "Orange Revolution", IAPM personnel in fact create, by publishing their hate-fomenting materials, an utterly negative impression of the new modern Ukraine for the democratic countries of Europe and worldwide.Their actions discredit Ukraine in the eyes of Western society - to a greater extent than anti-Ukrainian propagandistic articles in the foreign mass media that are made to order. IAPM administration's attitude towards the Holocaust, as expressed in their statements and articles actually justifying the Nazi regime's actions, are an outright and cynical outrage against the memory of millions of Jews, Ukrainians and representatives of other nationalities (together with gays and lesbians) - who died while directly experiencing the "effectiveness" of such actions.

    We suggest that everyone in Ukraine and beyond its borders who are not indifferent to the described regressive developments, (and who are hoping for the creation of a modern European liberal democratic society in our country), join the struggle against this dangerous phenomenon of disseminating and propagandising xenophobia in all its forms.

    Please forward your suggestions and requests for additional information to:
    the Nash Mir Center

    Mainly by uniting our efforts can we all overcome those who sow discord and separation in our society.
    Let us be vigilant!

    PS An excerpt from an article published in the Ukrainian paper Personal Plus (issue number 24 dated June 15-21, 2005) authored by a state official, Head of the Ukrainian Chamber of Books, Doctor of Science, professor Nikolai Senchenko.

    He writes in the article entitled Spiritual Zionism in the Global Historical Process:
    "Let me briefly touch upon the issue of a tool of ethnic genocide called sexual perversions. Research has shown that the number of homosexuals in different nations amounts to 2-4 per cent. Their greatest percentage is in West European countries, which show no growth of population. According to sociologists and psychologists, when the number of homosexuals exceeds 5 % of a nation's population this results in irreversible processes which in its turn lead to depopulation - by up to 3 % yearly. Ancient people were perfectly aware of the fact and thus regarded homosexuality as a greatest crime and punished the offenders with death. So, in 1933-1945 male homosexuals in Germany were put into female prisons and homosexual women were put into male ones. As a result, in the course of oneor two years they all came back to the normal sexual orientation. It was a severe, but apparently correct measure."
    Nash Mir ëOur World' Gay & Lesbian Center

    5/7/2005- The number of MPs prepared to back legislation granting gay couples adoption rights is dwindling, placing the legislation in threat of being rejected. The Francophone Reform Movement party (MR) withdrew its support for the proposal on Monday, prompting Socialist (SP.A) MP Guy Swennen to admit his concern. Nevertheless, the legislative proposal lodged by Swennen aimed at granting gays the right to adopt children might just gain a majority. On the other hand, it might also just miss out. The pro and anti-camps started adding up votes on Monday to see which held the majority, but no definite result was identified. The mathematical work was prompted after MR leader Didier Reynders told French-language newspaper 'La Libre' that his party will not support gay adoption rights. Several weeks ago, Reynders had asked and received extra hearings in the Federal Parliament's justice commission in order to decide the party's stance. After those hearings, the Christian Democrat party CD&V revised its pro-gay adoption stance. The Flemish party suddenly saw greater value in affording gays co-parenting rights, similar to what unmarried heterosexual parents enjoy. The policy that Reynders unveiled to La Libre leads off in the same direction, Dutch-language newspaper 'De Standaard' reported on Tuesday. Reynders said gay and lesbian parents in existing family relationships have parental rights and obligations. He was referring to the partners of lesbian mothers who give birth via insemination, the partners of people who adopted a child while single and the partners of people who have a child from a former heterosexual relationship The federal finance minister thinks co-parenting regulations are sufficient, just as they are for heterosexual families. Drawing up new regulations is not on his agenda. The Francophone Christian Democrat party (CDH) was pleased with Reynder's stance. Flemish CD&V MP Servais Verherstraeten is now examining whether the opponents to the gay adoption legislation can gather their strength and lodge a joint amendment to the proposal. The parliament's justice commission will then need to examine the original proposal from MP Swennen granting adoption rights to gay couples. Such a proposal can count on the support of the Socialist parties PS, SP.A/Spirit, Liberal party VLD, Francophone green Ecolo and MR MP Philippe Monfils. That would guarantee majority support in the justice commission, but the vote in parliament is less certain.
    ©Expatica News

    1/7/2005- Female European diplomats did not shake hands with Iranian parliamentary delegates at a meeting in Brussels on Friday (1 July) while EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana served coffee, fruit juice and water, following a row over women's rights and alcohol between Belgium and Iran. European Council and European Commission sources stressed that it is normal protocol for female EU employees, including commissioners, to avoid shaking hands with Islamic guests or hosts in order to respect religious custom. "The Iranians do not shake hands with women. It's their personal decision and they are our guests", a spokeswoman for Mr Solana said, adding that she is not offended by the practice and warmly embraces female Iranian delegates whom she knows well. The meeting reaffirmed Brussels and Tehran's commitment to continue dialogue on nuclear non-proliferation, counter-terrorism and human rights in the wake of Iran's election of the conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week. European Parliament sources also confirmed that while there are no official EU rules on hand-shaking and alcohol, such differences are usually worked out before meetings in order to smooth diplomatic relations. The EU's attitude toward Islamic customs stand in contrast to Belgium's views on the subject however, with Belgian upper house president Anne-Marie Lizin canceling her meeting with the Iranian party on Thursday (30 June) because of the hand-shaking problem. Belgian lower house speaker Herman de Croo also cancelled his lunch with the Tehran group after the Iranians insisted that there should be no alcohol at all present at the event, opting to meet in the parliament's offices briefly instead. "According to our habits, we would do this [shake hands]. There is no difference between men and women in Belgium", a spokesman for the Belgian senate told EUobserver, adding that Afghan president Hamid Karzai shook Ms Lizin's hand on a visit in May. "You can't force the authorities of Belgium to drink water", he added. Experts on Islamic law told EUobserver that it is not against Islamic law to shake hands with women, in so much as there is no single Islamic legal canon on the subject.

    5/7/2005- Five major European countries have agreed to organise joint flights to deport illegal immigrants from the EU. Interior ministers for the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany - known as the Group of Five - announced the plan at talks in France ahead of the G8 summit. Ministers hope pooling resources will help Europe beat illegal immigration. France's Nicolas Sarkozy told Europe 1 radio that joint naval operations would take place in the Mediterranean to deter people-trafficking from Africa. Italy, which would carry out the naval surveillance with France and Spain, says rising illegal immigration from North Africa is controlled by organised criminal gangs. Joint French and Spanish naval operations could also take place in the Atlantic to curb drug trafficking. Mr Sarkozy said the proposal to operate joint repatriation flights had been put forward by Spanish Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso. The aircraft would tour the five nations to pick up illegal immigrants of the same nationality, then return them to their country of origin. Such flights could begin within days, Mr Sarkozy said. The French minister said he had proposed a "ceiling" on the number of immigrants allowed into the G5 nations each year. "Immigration is not a problem on one condition - that it is controlled," he said. Mr Sarkozy said the five ministers had also agreed to harmonise terms to ensure that immigrants who are granted permission to stay are allowed to bring their families to join them. He suggested inviting Poland to join the group of key European nations, in recognition of the enlarged EU of 25 member states. The G5 was set up in 2003 and is meeting for the eighth time.
    ©BBC News

    4/7/2005- Researchers and local decision-makers from Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region will meet in Nagoya, Japan on July 8 to evaluate anti-discriminatory policies and to elaborate indicators for racism and discrimination in cities. A report based on a study of indicators applied to six North American and European cities should offer interesting leads for discussions. Organized by Chubu University, the International Movement against Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), the University of Quebec and UNESCO, the Nagoya meeting falls within the framework of the UNESCO initiative launched in 2004 to create an International Coalition of Cities Against Racism. For UNESCO, the city, as the main crucible for ethnic and cultural melding, represents an ideal environment to lead the fight against racism and xenophobia and the discrimination they entail. Hence the proposal to create a network of cities interested in exchanging experiences and expertise with a view to improving their anti-racism policies. At first, regional city coalitions will be created. Working around a "lead city", each of these regional coalitions will devise it's own action plan. Signatory cities commit to integrate the plan into their local policies and strategies and to allot the human, budgetary and material resources necessary to implement it.

    Europe has already shown the way, with the December 2004 launch in Nuremberg, Germany, of the European Coalition of Cities against Racism and Xenophobia. Fourteen cities - Badalona, Barcelona and Madrid (Spain); Gap, Lyons, and Paris (France); Bologna, Pescara and Santa Maria Capua Vetera (Italy); London; Erlangen and Nuremberg; Sarajevo; and Stockholm ñ signed the declaration of intent. The coalition has since been joined by Berlin, Caudebec-LËs-Elboeuf (France); Geneva; Grenoble; Lausanne; Liege; Pappenheim (Germany); Pianoro (Italy); Pontaut-Combault (France); Riga; Rome and Seville. A number of other cities have also expressed interest. Further coalitions will be put into place progressively. In June 2005, in Saskatoon (Canada), a workshop prepared a ten-point action plan for a future Canadian Coalition of Cities against Racism. The Bangkok Municipal Authority has also recently agreed to become the lead city for the Asia-Pacific region and a series of consultations will begin as of July 2005. A Latin America and Caribbean coalition is expected after a meeting scheduled in Montevideo (Uruguay) in September 2005.

    Discussions at the Nagoya meeting will be fueled by a new report presenting series of indicators for the evaluation of local policies for controlling racism and discrimination. The report, "Indicators For Evaluating Municipal Policies Aimed at Fighting Racism and Discrimination", was produced by the Canadian Center for Research on Immigration, Ethnicity and Citizenship (CRIEC). Based on a study of the means deployed in this domain by six cities: Montreal, Toronto, Saskatoon and Vancouver in Canada; Boston in the United States and Stockholm* in Sweden, the report offers a tool to help cities evaluate their own performance. It underlines, however, that conditions vary greatly between cities and that an indicator that is pertinent in one context may not be in another. Cities must therefore adapt this tool to their specific context. The report's proposed analytical framework groups policies under three headings: the city as organisation; the city as community and the city as guarantor of public order. The first section includes equal-opportunity employment programmes in city government and legal obligations; training staff on diversity and the fight against racism; available municipal services (including translation services and the employment of multilingual staff); services offered to counter racism (for example, a committee responsible for collecting complaints about racist harassment); the composition of the city council and the participation of diverse communities or groups. The section on the city as community reports on the various types of support that the local administration can offer to community life. This can include liaison mechanisms; the financing of community or local association initiatives; support or promotion of public events such as Fight Against Racism Week; attribution of prizes of distinction or partnerships. As for the city and public order, this includes actions such as protecting victims of racist crimes; protecting citizens from "racial profiling"; education of police officers; adoption of a declaration of principals and of an ethical code aimed at controlling discriminatory behaviour within law enforcement services; the adoption of programmes and policies aimed at improving police efficiency in the fight against racist behaviour; and the allotment of resources for the prevention of racist behaviour.

    *A deputy mayor of Stockholm will be present in Nagoya to present her city's experiences regarding the evaluation of social policies aimed at integrating all residents.
    To obtain the Indicators Report please contact:
    ©UNESCO Moscow Office

    Between 5,000 and 8,000 people took part in a demonstration in Bern on Saturday to mark the 26th National Refugee Day.

    18/6/2005- Events were held simultaneously in 200 other towns across the country to protest at Switzerland's tougher stance on asylum issues. "We will not put up with xenophobic words and political parties," said Hannes Reiser of the European Citizens' Forum in an opening speech. Among other speakers at the Bern gathering was former government minister Ruth Dreifuss. The Social Democrat called on society "to remind our parliament and our government of their responsibilities." "It is necessary to issue a reminder that asylum is a fundamental right, as there is a big risk of this being forgotten," Dreifuss said. "We cannot force people temporarily admitted into our country into a second exile," the ex-interior minister said, referring to a parliamentary decision to tighten the asylum law and scrap welfare payments for rejected asylum seekers. She said asylum requests had to be processed under law, and the absence of identity papers could be a sign of persecution. "We denounce the gradual but continued erosion of our asylum law," Dreifuss concluded. More than 100 human rights and church organisations, as well as unions and political parties, had called on their supporters to attend the demonstration in Bern held under the motto "We are Switzerland".It followed a gathering of writers and journalists in the federal capital on Friday under the auspices of the Swiss Refugee Council. Participants strongly criticised current asylum policy, which they referred to as a "practice of expulsion". On Sunday it will be the turn of the Swiss churches to mark "Refugee Sunday" on the theme of resistance. The United Nations World Refugee Day is held on Monday. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is using the occasion to remind the world that while the number of refugees is falling, the number of displaced people is on the rise.

    18/6/2005- An anti-racism demo in Dublin today called for an amnesty for all asylum-seekers living in Ireland for a number of years. Residents Against Racism spokesperson Rosanna Flynn told the 32-county rally that non-national families should be allowed to stay here if they put down roots in communities. The National Day Against Racism assembled at the GPO and marched to the Justice Department on St Stephen's Green. Ms Flynn said: "Our asylum system is a shambles if it splits up families and allows children to be dragged from their schools and deported." "Justice Minister Michael McDowell's ideological obsession with deporting people makes him unfit to be in charge. "The system should be taken out of the hands of politicians and run by in independent body similar to the Human Rights Commission." Speakers at today's event included Labour TD Michael D Higgins, Sinn Fein justice spokesman Aengus O Snodaigh, Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins and ATGWU official Mick O'Reilly. The timing of today's demo was chosen to coincide with UN World Refugee day on Monday. Residents Against Racism also called for an overhaul of the work permit system which it claimed exploited immigrant labour.
    ©Ireland On-Line

    18/6/2005- Bishops in full regalia and legions of nuns from all over Spain take to the streets in Madrid today against gay marriages, in the church's biggest political mobilisation since the death of the dictator Francisco Franco. "We face a unique situation in the history of humanity," said Jose Antonio Martinez Campo, a spokesman for Spain's episcopal conference. "The Catholic church has encountered nothing like it in 2,000 years." The bishops' organisation has given unprecedented support to the rally, organised by the Forum for the Family, an association of traditional-minded Catholic groups. Parishes have chartered hundreds of coaches, and the forum expects to attract up to a million people. Fr Martinez Campo called the bishops' political action "exceptional conduct for an exceptional situation". The gay marriage law, which is before Spain's Senate and is expected to be approved this month, "represents the disappearance of marriage as the union of a man and a woman ... with grave consequences for society," he added. This is the most ambitious mobilisation by the Spanish right since their surprise electoral defeat in March last year. Flabbergasted and disconcerted by being thrown from power, conservative forces floundered for more than a year. Today's rally marks the first coherent counter-offensive against the socialist government. The rally is backed by the conservative opposition Popular Party (PP), a vociferous wing trying to destabilise Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's rule.

    Spain's gay and lesbian federation said: "Equality is complete or it is not equality. Lesbians and gays want, like any other citizens, to be able to decide freely if they marry, and if so, with whom." The federation, which usually garners a million supporters for Madrid's annual gay pride march, said it would not set up a counter-demonstration. "The supporters of the Forum for the Family have every right to demonstrate," said the federation's spokeswoman, Beatriz Gimeno. "But it is a march of intolerance. Their only objective is to oppose our rights." Instead, gays invited all those "who support liberty and diversity" to join a carnival street party this afternoon in another central part of Madrid, at which the musician Carlinhos Brown is to perform. Gays in the PP - who claim to represent a million conservative votes - have opposed the march. And Christian homosexuals criticised the mobilisation as an un-Christian act of discrimination against a minority. The crisscrossing of opinions has prompted a massive nationwide debate on gay rights that has dominated Spanish media. Not all Spanish bishops favour the march. Basque and Catalan bishops say they will stay at home, and have issued no appeal for their parishioners to march. The demonstration comes on the eve of regional elections. In Galicia, the veteran conservative Manuel Fraga, 82, a former minister for General Franco, is seeking a fifth term as regional prime minister. Mariano Rajoy, the PP leader, and Mr Zapatero have been campaigning vigorously in the region. Mr Fraga built the PP in Galicia out of the rubble of Francoism, and the region remains the party's heartland. Defeat would plunge the party nationally into crisis, perhaps provoking a split. Victory for Mr Fraga would boost the party's campaign for early elections to oust Mr Zapatero. Polls suggest a close result. Surveys show that some 80 per cent of Spaniards approve the homosexual marriage law, which enables gay couples to adopt children with full rights of inheritance. Some 5,000 gay couples have announced plans to marry when the law comes into effect.
    © Independent Digital

    21/6/2005- A controversial psychology professor told the Spanish parliament homosexuality is a "disease" as deputies prepare for the final vote on gay marriage and adoption. Aquilino Polaino, who was selected by the main opposition Popular Party (PP) and opposed adoption of children by same-sex couples, argued against homosexuality ó even though most scientists disagree with that position. Polaino was among a group of experts who testified before a Spanish senate committee about children who are raised by same-sex couples experience. Most said they experience normal psychological and emotional development, and said such pairs should be allowed to adopt. The experts appeared before the Senate justice committee ahead of the upper house's vote on Thursday on a bill that would open the way for same-sex marriages in Spain. The legislation, which would then be debated in the lower house, could be enacted by prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government in the next few weeks. The PP called for the senate committee's session, contending that it was necessary to hear from experts given the serious nature of the legislation, which would allow same-sex couples to adopt children. Polaino, who said the environment in which a child grew up would determine its sexual identity, wagered that in 10 years those adopted by homosexual couples would sue the government and demand compensation for "having agreed to allow the break up of their personal identity". The other experts, however, refuted Polaino's statements and the research he cited to back his position, contending that no scientific group considered homosexuality an illness and there were was no data showing that homosexuality could be induced. Nearly 200,000 Spaniards marched through Madrid on Saturday protesting the gay-marriage bill. The protest was called by the Family Forum, an organization that according to its leaders comprises more than 5,000 associations around Spain and enjoys the support of the PP and Spain's Catholic bishops conference. It was the first time in almost two decades that the Spanish church officially supported a demonstration, one attended by 166,000 people - according to police - and 1.5 million, according to organizers. Participants called for defeat of the bill, sponsored by the ruling Socialist Party, that wipes out any reference to gender in laws regulating marriage and the family. In response to the protest, deputy prime minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said demonstrators were not defending a right but "asking for a right to be denied others".
    ©Expatica News

    30/6/2005- The organization "Open Contact", owner of the right to register domain names in the zone ".by", assented to register the name Henceforth, LGBT people existence has been legalized in Belarusian Internet-space. From now on the all-Belarusian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual portal is available under this name. For the first time the registration of the name was requested in the Department of the Security of the information at the Administration of the President of the Republic of Belarus in 1999 by the activists of Belarusian Lambda League. But we were refused to register such a name under pretence of as if this domain was already occupied. Yet, when anyone would click on, the page couldn't be displayed, so the only reason of the unwillingness to register lay purely in the homophobic policy of the state institution, although they never acknowledged it officially. Our consequent requests to register were declined more than once, though the web-site with such name didn't exist.

    Only the Belarusian portal crew's perseverance made possible the registration of this domain name. The personnel of the resource and professional lawyer pointed out to the "Open Contact" administration that they have no legal argument not to register name. "Belarus was the last European country where it was not possible to register the web-site with such a name, but our persistence met with success. LGBT people in Belarus are in for a lot of work to do to make the majority respect their rights, but this little victory gave us inspiration and optimism", - said one of the owners, BLL Chairman Edward Tarletski. So, under the name of the all-Belarusian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual portal is available now. The portal was created in 1998 as the electronic version of Belarusian LGBT magazine "Forum Lambda". At the time being it contains several satellites and appears in the ten most attended sites of

    18/6/2005- The image of Britain's universities as centres of civilised manners and learning is dented in a poll of more than 1,100 workers which reveals sexual harassment, racism and violence against cleaners, porters and librarians. A survey conducted by the trade union Unison found that one in five had faced some form of violence, much of it serious verbal abuse, and one in seven had been attacked. One in three women said they had endured some form of sexual harassment and one in five people from ethnic minorities had suffered racism. Students were found particularly to make racist comments against staff, while staff seemed responsible for much of the sexual harassment. Just under one third of staff reported being harassed by other staff, in ways which included racist jokes, banter, insults or taunts. The study revealed that 6% had been threatened with a weapon. The survey covered cleaners, cooks, librarians, clerical staff, technicians, security guards and other workers. Christina McAnea, Unison's head of education services, said: "Support and professional staff are treated poorly by managers, colleagues and students. The sector needs to look long and hard at how it treats and protects its staff. Our lowest paid members are the ones who clean students' rooms and serve their food and they deserve to be treated with more respect. "Support staff take a great deal of the burden of day-to-day life away from students and lecturers so that they can concentrate on their academic work. Without support staff higher education couldn't function properly. "It is disturbing to see that there is an underlying problem of sexism and racism. Not just from one group, but right across the board from managers, colleagues and students. We want to work with university managers to make sure we do more than just pay lip service to getting rid of this sort of behaviour." The report also reveals that three-quarters of staff reported that their workload and pressure had increased. Four out of five said that they had been given additional duties and responsibilities and more than 40% said that this was due to pressure to meet targets. The result has been that 40% reported increased stress levels. Half had considered leaving their jobs. The main reasons given by those who had considered leaving were managers' treatment of staff, levels of pay, unfair grading and a lack of career and promotion prospects. Reasons for staying were good colleagues, job satisfaction and commitment to the job.
    ©The Guardian

    A GAGGING ORDER TOO FAR(uk, comment)
    If it becomes illegal to criticise religious belief, we will lose a precious freedom. And that will not help Muslims
    By Will Hutton

    19/6/2005- Being a Muslim, especially a Muslim woman, in Britain is for many a dispiriting and occasionally terrifying experience. The society that prides itself on tolerance has lost its bearings over Islam. On the streets, the prejudice that Islam is irrationally and murderously violent and menacingly foreign has spawned a subculture of hatred and abuse. If you are a woman in a hijab, being jeered at, even spat at, is routine. Many never venture from their houses. This is fertile ground for widespread racism and where the law is currently uncertain. Harassment and abuse are certainly illegal, but the threshold that incurs legal action is very high; equally illegal is the expression of hatred, or views that might incite hatred, towards a group or individual for their race. But the woman in a hijab could be African, Asian or Middle Eastern. It is not her race that makes her the object of hatred; it is her religious belief and culture that require her to dress in such a conspicuously different way and make her part of the hated group. The law, as currently framed, offers her no systematic protection, and no explicit penalty for a political party, say the BNP, that chooses to make such hatred a central plank of its electoral pitch. The Commission for Racial Equality and the Association of Chief Police Officers, along with the leaders of all Britain's faith groups, believe the position is unsustainable and toxic. The CRE thinks it wrong that because Islam is a multiethnic religion, the automatic protection under the Race Relations Act offered to Jews and Sikhs, who unite ethnicity and religion, is not available to Muslims. The police, when dealing with incidents sparked by hatred against Muslims, want stronger legal backing to justify intervention and, by having a stiffer law, protect themselves from the charge of racism for stopping and searching so many more Muslims when, in truth, their reason is the prevention of terrorism. And thus the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill has been reintroduced, a seemingly more than justified response to what is actually happening on our streets. Inciting hatred over someone's religion is to have the same status as inciting hatred for their race, a provision expressly formulated to deal with the Muslim issue.

    It all sounds extremely reasonable, but it isn't. It has crossed another line that is no less dangerous in a liberal society. To incite or express hatred for someone because of the colour of their skin is plainly unacceptable, but to put the expression of views about religion in the same off-limits territory, even if only in tightly drawn circumstances where they incite hatred, is wrong. By protecting belief systems from criticism, it challenges the very heart of why and what we are. The Home Office understands the line that has been crossed and has done its level best to build in protections. To incite hatred sets a very high bar for any legal action, it says, and expressly does not include making jokes, as some comedians have feared. The number of prosecutions will be tiny; actions cannot be brought by individuals or groups against each other, but only by the Attorney General, so there won't be a rash of religious groups suing each other; the European Convention on Human Rights entrenches freedom of expression on religion, so serious reflection and criticism can continue as before. All that is being attempted, it pleads, is to deal with the worsening situation on our streets. Muslims are being abused every day and need a signal that the host society condemns what is happening and is ready to act. I agree. Too much criticism of the bill has been insouciant about the rising tide of abuse against Muslims, and to do nothing is not an option. But, equally, any signal that is sent needs both to work and to respect the values of the host society or else it will end up being seriously delegitimised and inflame the sense of the majority that their core values and principles are under as much assault as those of the minority. The reason why the race-hate laws work is that they go with the grain of core British values; incitement for religious hatred is new territory.

    Any explanation about the way European civilisation overtook the Islamic world and China, both of which were more advanced until at least the 13th and 14th centuries, and, in China's case later still, has to incorporate the capacity of Europe to accept the intellectual and practical consequences of the catalytic impact of ideas. Continuing technological innovation drove growth; but behind technological innovation lay the Enlightenment's willingness, which did not exist elsewhere, to subject every belief and tradition to sceptical inquiry and to accept the practical consequences. This is part of any conceptualisation of modernity; it is at the core of who we are and it is profoundly secular and sometimes abusive about the way religion may hold back human advances. For myself, I am simultaneously respectful of Islamic culture for its achievements, but intensely critical of the way the Islamic religious belief system condemns the civilisation to pre-modernity, together with an embedded sexism. I find the hijab offensive; it is a symbol of female oppression and relegation of women to second-class status that offends universal principles of human rights. It is a matter of concern to me as a British citizen that this degree of inequality exists in my country; it is of wider concern that Islam predisposes its adherents to poverty, backwardness and sexism because it incubates deep resentment and, at its extremes, terrorism. I can write this today. When the bill becomes law, I and many others will be exceptionally wary of expressing any such view, even if formally it is not inciting hatred or intended to. A key debate will be closed down that needs to be had, not least within the British Islamic community itself. On the other hand, daily abuse of Muslims is intolerable. The way to respond is surely the compromise formula suggested by the Lib Dem MP Evan Harris, member of the National Secular Society, in his suggested amendment to the bill: that freedom of expression about religion and culture should remain uncurtailed but prosecutable only if it is used as a pretext for inciting racial hatred. Thus, we offer Muslims more protection than they currently have but, crucially, we do not cross the line into limiting freedom of expression about religion.

    The events of 11 September cast a long shadow. There is a terrorist threat on a scale that did not exist before and there is an intensification of Islamophobia. The government would be condemned if it did not respond. But just as in its response to terrorism, where it has been too careless about civil liberties, here it is being too careless about protecting freedom of expression. There are lines that cannot be crossed, even while we have to do more to stamp out intolerable abuse. This is one of them.
    ©The Observer

    21/6/2005- A new law that would make incitement to religious hatred illegal is due back before MPs a day after comic actor Rowan Atkinson branded it "draconian". The new offence gives equal protection to all faiths. Jews and Sikhs are already covered by race hate laws. Mr Atkinson said it was "sledgehammer to crack a nut" and backed a bid to amend existing race hate laws instead. He fears performers may censor themselves for fear of prosecution, hitting free speech.

    Protecting believers?
    The Racial and Religious Hated Bill would create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred and would apply to comments made in public or in the media, as well as through written material. The plans - which have failed to make it through Parliament twice before - cover words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up religious hatred. Ministers insist the new law would not affect "criticism, commentary or ridicule of faiths". Home Office Minister Paul Goggins has said: "It is about protecting the believer, not the belief." But on Monday a series of speakers from politics, civil liberties groups and from the arts were in Westminster to voice their concerns the day before the bill comes back before Parliament for its second reading. Liberty's Shami Chakrabarti brushed off Mr Goggins' reassurances saying: "In a democracy there is no right not to be offended. "Religion relates to a body of ideas and people have the right to debate denigrate other people's ideas." She said where people used religion as a proxy for expressing racism the existing race laws could be amended to encapsulate that. Author Ian McEwan said religions all thought they held "irrefutable beliefs" and only a secular society could ensure true freedom for them and for others' right to express criticism.

    Hard to define
    Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews, who was joined by Lib Dem and Conservative colleagues, said people's race was what they were, their religion was what they believed. "Hatred of what you think is much harder to define than hatred of what you are," he argued. The speakers emphasised that any decision to prosecute under the legislation would be decided by the attorney general, a politician, and conviction carried with it the risk of a seven-year jail sentence. Mr Goggins has said he does not expect many prosecutions under the new laws, but said it was important for Parliament to send out a clear message against "hatred, racism and extremism." Religious hatred is defined in the Bill as "hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief" - showing it will also cover atheists. Race hatred laws had resulted in 76 people being prosecuted in nearly 20 years, with 44 convictions. Lib Dem Evan Harris, Tory Dominic Grieve and Mr Marshall-Andrews are all backing an amendment which they hope will change the race hate laws.
    ©BBC News

    Hostility to asylum seekers has risen most among the middle class
    By Miranda Lewis

    29/6/2005- Attitudes towards asylum have hardened over the past few years. But it would be a mistake to think this is exclusively a problem of an illiberal white working class. The latest research for the Institute for Public Policy Research, published tomorrow, does show that it is in the areas of greatest social deprivation that hostility runs deepest. But it is the middle classes - and the most educated - who show the greatest rise in anxiety. They just articulate it in different ways. Any attempt to understand and change people's views of asylum needs to acknowledge this. Hostility is not new: immigrants from the Huguenots to the Irish have prompted public outrage and repressive government measures. Yet until four or five years ago most politically progressive people believed that, beneath these periodic eruptions, long-term socioeconomic change was producing a more integrated, less divided and less racist British society. In this sense, the deep well of public concern - tapped by the Conservatives in the general election campaign - could be seen as just another moral panic that, if ignored, would disappear of its own accord. But there are stark differences between earlier manifestations of public concern over immigration and today's problem. We live in a much more diverse society than ever before, and hostility to asylum seekers and other immigrants can rapidly undermine gains in community cohesion. Prejudice about one minority group can rapidly spill over into prejudice about other groups. The good news is that our research - based on 32 focus groups across London, the south of England, Wales and the Midlands - shows that most people still believe that refugees should be protected by our government. The bad news is that negative attitudes are widespread. The pressure group Migration Watch would argue that public opinion simply reflects increases in the numbers of asylum seekers and migrants in the past few years. While there is some truth in this, our research shows that attitudes are not based upon accurate impressions of economic or social impacts. Asylum seekers are believed - by many people of all social classes - to receive grossly inflated benefits, priority access to social housing, better healthcare and even free driving lessons. Most of those involved in our research in Norwich believed that Portuguese migrant workers were asylum seekers; a significant minority estimated that there were more than 5,000 asylum seekers living in Norwich when in fact there are fewer than 500.

    Many working-class participants in our research were concerned about asylum seekers undermining their social housing, jobs and benefits. These concerns are disproportionate to the actual impacts of asylum seekers, most of whom aren't allowed to work and are entitled to limited benefits. Hostility is strongest in areas where few asylum seekers actually live. Yet these fears are very real, and for the most socially excluded they add to a sense of vulnerability over public resources. So there are excuses, not reasons, for commonly held prejudices among poorer groups. The middle classes don't have these excuses. They are not in the types of jobs potentially threatened by immigration, do not live in social housing and are less likely to claim benefits. The public services they use most - health and education - are commonly acknowledged to benefit from immigration. What exercises the middle classes is different: when asked about the impacts they feared of the presence of asylum seekers, they frequently referred to house prices going down. This is largely intellectual racism. Attitudes to immigrants vary depending on their nationality, with Chinese and white South Africans deemed to be reasonably desirable neighbours, black Africans and Iraqis less so. While the middle classes are the most likely to benefit from the superficial benefits of multiculturalism, that does not mean they want the waiters in the Moroccan restaurant they frequent and the Polish builders they use to move next door. Yet our research shows that having meaningful contact with people from a different ethnic background reduces prejudices about all immigrants, and specifically asylum seekers. The middle classes, particularly outside cities, are the least likely to have this kind of contact. The middle-class intelligentsia and media would do well to avoid diagnosing the problem of negative attitudes towards asylum as a problem caused by the bad white man from Burnley. They and policy makers need to recognise that prejudices run deep in middle Britain, as well as in deprived inner-city communities - and that there are fewer economic excuses underpinning them. Without this, action to move the public debate on to more liberal territory will fail.
    ©The Guardian

    More immigrant high school graduates
    Increased numbers of immigrant students graduate from high school. The development has not reached ‰rhus' immigrant quarters

    17/6/2005- More bilingual students than ever are donning shiny white caps and graduating from high school, daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported on Friday. The Association of High School Headmasters said the numbers of immigrants who finished their A-levels and become qualified to apply for university had increased by 26 percent from 2000 to 2003, when 1189 foreign-background students graduated. The association joined a chorus of happy teachers, carrier advisors, and Integration Minister Rikke Hvilsh¯j, who all said the number of bilingual graduates had broken all record this spring. 'Bilingual students have opened their eyes to high school education,' said Flemming Steen Christensen, chairman of a national carrier advisors' organisation. 'More and more are joining in, especially girls, and they do so well both academically and socially that you could call it successful integration.' The only exception to the rule is Denmark's second largest town, ‰rhus, where the numbers of bilingual students are stagnant. 'The share of students with another ethnic background than Danish, who begin a high school education, hasn't changed. There is still a 25 percent lower chance that they to go through the education than for Danish students,' said Gunnar Nielsen, who has studied dropout rates in ‰rhus' high schools. Nielsen said the explanation could partly be traced back to parent pressure. 'Bilingual parents have a pronounced wish for their children to get a higher education, because it gives them more status than a vocational education,' he said. But students with background in other cultures tend to find subjects like history, Danish, religion, and social studies more difficult than native Danish speakers. Nielsen said their parents were in a worse position to help them with their homework, and the families did not seem to have the basic knowledge about Danish society that they needed to carry out the studies.

    150 Refugee centres closed in 10 years
    The number of centres for asylum seekers has fallen to 13 in 2005 from 161 in 1994

    17/6/2005- Asylum seekers have all but disappeared from Denmark in the last decade. Authorities have closed down 150 asylum centres since 1994, national radio news channel DR reported. Today, refugee and immigrant authorities operate 13 asylum centres across the country. In 1994, however, there were 161 refugee centres in Denmark. Forty-one were so-called refugee villages, and all in all 24,000 asylum seekers lived in the centres. The Danish Red Cross is the only remaining non-municipal asylum centre operator in the country, running 11 centres. Apart from the humanitarian organisation, local authorities in Brovst and Hanstholm operate one centre each. The sector will be further reduced in November, when the Red Cross closes down two of its centres in Grenaa and Ebeltoft, the organisation said.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    20/6/2005- A far-right German party that criticizes outsourcing abroad as a danger to German workers hired a plant in Slovakia to print its newspaper four years ago, according to a report on Monday. Earlier this month, Polish anti-subversion police interviewed management of a printery in Zielona Gora after the revelation that the Polish factory has been printing the National Democratic Party (NPD) monthly paper, Deutsche Stimme. According to the Dresden daily Saechsische Zeitung, the NPD took advantage earlier of eastern Europe's favourable rates. The Slovak supplier in Banska Bystrica had printed Deutsche Stimme from March 2001 to January 2002. The Dresden paper said this had emerged from papers seized in 2002 during a police inquiry into commerce with neo-Nazi tracts and music CDs. The NPD said it printed abroad because German printers refused to take its business. The role of the Polish printer emerged when Polish police checked a truck bound for Germany and discovered the newspapers on board. The NPD, which says it has 6,000 members around Germany, has 12 seats in the state parliament of Saxony state after winning 9 percent of votes in a state election there last year. One of its campaign slogans demanded action to 'save' German jobs from imports.
    ©Expatica News

    20/6/2005- The prime minister for the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, Peter Harry Carstensen, on Sunday called for German-Jewish history to be viewed as more than the history of the Holocaust. Speaking at a ceremony marking the 125 anniversary of Luebeck's synagogue, Carstensen said the mass murder of Jews by the Nazis during World War II was not the sum total of German-Jewish interaction. The Luebeck synagogue was first dedicated on June 10, 1880 and was the only synagogue in Schleswig-Holstein that was not destroyed by Germany's rightwing National Socialist party. The Vice President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knoblauch, also said Germans and Jews were bound by a common spiritual and cultural history. "The destruction of the synagogues in 1938 ended the most fruitful part of German-Jewish history," she said. "But Jewish culture must not be reduced to the time of its annihilation." German President Hoerst Koehler in a written greeting, said the celebration was a sign that it was possible for persons of different persuasions to live together in Germany. Among the attendees of the ceremony was Salomon Carlebach, the grandson of one of the synagogue's founders. Carlebach, who lives in Israel, said that until 1933, when Hitler came to power, his grandfather like other rabbis and members of the Jewish community was a highly respected citizen of Luebeck. The Luebeck Jewish community today numbers around 700 persons, most of whom are immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
    ©Expatica News

    Fewer and fewer refugees are being granted asylum in Germany. Human rights groups say this reflects unfair immigration practices rather than improved international conditions.

    20/6/2005- If the official number of refugees in Germany was an indication of the state of world conflict, Earth would be a very peaceful place indeed. While Germany had 11,000 official asylum seekers in 1998, in 2004 there were just 2000. But a glance at the newspapers shows this is not the case. Crises continue to rage in Sudan and Iraq; closer to Germany, the political persecution of Kurds in Turkey and the ongoing conflict in Chechnya give hundreds of thousands of people a reason flee their homelands.

    'Extreme mistrust'
    Yet just 1.5 percent of the 35,000 people who applied for asylum in Germany got it, according to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. "There is extreme mistrust and tendency toward refusal on the part of immigration officials," said Bernd Mesovic of Pro Asyl, a nonprofit human rights organization for refugees. Germany is shifting the responsibility for refugees onto other countries, and as a last resort, to the country of origin, his group says. Pro Asyl, Amnesty International, an association of German magistrates and other organizations have examined how refugees are questioned during their asylum application. "In cases of doubt, the Federal Migration Office decides against asylum seekers," said Wolfgang Grenz, a refugee expert at Amnesty International. He gave the example of a Kurdish woman who sought asylum on the basis of allegedly having been tortured in her homeland. But the application can be denied on the grounds that the torture wasn't described in detail. "In that case," said Grenz, "the official breached his duty by not asking the person to give details."

    Personal interview is key
    The personal interview is the heart of the asylum process. After they have fled their countries, most applicants have no hard proof of their political oppression; torturers don't issue "official torture certificates." The decision therefore is usually a subjective one, made by the interviewer who questions the refugee. Is the Kurdish woman's story is true or invented? In many cases, it is a difficult call to make. Barbara Stolterfoht of the Parit”tischer Wohlfahrtsverband, a leading German social welfare support group, said that officials increasingly assume asylum applicants are not telling the truth and are merely abusing the system. This assumption can even be subconscious, she said, but either way, it is deadly. "The social climate has developed toward being anti-asylum, even though the asylum seekers are just exercising their constitutionally chartered rights," she said. According to Pro Asyl, asylum cases are often seen less as individual situations and are instead standardized to the extent possible. The group said it frequently sees cases where officials ask questions in order to elicit answers that fit neatly into prearranged categories, rather than dealing with each individual. "You can be happy when a report caries five or six sentences having to do with the person's particular situation," said Pro Asyl's Mesovic.

    Fair hearings?
    Mesovic also said the person's country of origin has enormous influence on the outcome of a hearing. "If officials believe that people aren't tortured in a given country, then that often has more weight than the statement of the refugee who says he or she was tortured," Mesovic said. The Federal Migration Office denies that is the case. "The hearings are fair and each applicant has the chance to make detailed statements, and to correct and amplify the statements," said a spokesperson. But Pro Asyl and Amnesty say otherwise. In their experience, the groups have said, applicants aren't informed of contradictions in their statements, and therefore forego their legal right to change their statements. Pro Asyl compared notes taken during hearings that resulted in asylum denials and found that many people were turned down when contradictions in their stories made their reasons for seeking asylum less credible. Yet in the transcripts of the hearings, there was no mention of the contradictions.

    Political decisionmaking?
    Thus the asylum seekers didn't know which part of the hearing was important in deciding their case. Pro Asyl's Mesovic attributed the practice to a political move. "The quota of asylum cases that are granted are steered politically," he said. "The Federal Migration Office is doing nothing more or less than carrying out the concept of Interior Minister (Otto) Schily." For his part, Schily has said he hopes to move the asylum process at least in part to refugee camps in North Africa.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    20/6/2005- Illegal immigrants who land in Italy consistently allege they have been subjected to abuses, according to a report by Amnesty International. Holding centres are often overcrowded and no legal assistance is offered to asylum seekers, the rights group says. Amnesty says it could not investigate the allegations further as the Italian authorities refused to give it access to the centres. It is calling for the creation of a monitoring body to check the centres. "People are held in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions, have no contact with the outside world and have no access to legal advice," Amnesty's Nerys Lee, who conducted the research, told reporters in Rome.

    Standards 'violated'
    According to allegations from migrants, they have been beaten, given sedatives and gagged by law enforcement officers and supervisory staff while being expelled from the country by plane. "The number, consistency and regularity of the allegations... has led Amnesty to believe that there is a substantial cause for concern," Ms Lee said. The human rights group says Italy is increasingly resorting to locking up asylum seekers in detention centres "in violation of international refugee standards". Many are denied access to lawyers and experts, thereby making it impossible to challenge their detention or deportation order, it says. Amnesty also raised concerns over the detention of irregular migrants who have not applied for refugee status. The BBC News website contacted the Italian government, which was not immediately available for comment.

    Tens of thousands of immigrants land on the Italian coast each year, most of them heading from north Africa on ramshackle boats. Holding centres, like the one on the small island of Lampedusa, halfway between Libya and Sicily, are constantly overcrowded. Amnesty wants Italy to set up a special watchdog that could carry out unannounced and unrestricted checks at the centres and other facilities designed for illegal migrants. The report, which was released to coincide with World Refugee Day, says 15,647 people were held in the centres in 2004 - a 9% increase on the previous year.
    ©BBC News

    20/6/2005- Over 1500 people, mostly women, gathered at Þingvellir yesterday to commemorate 90 years of voting rights for Icelandic women, and to shed light on the ongoing struggle for equal rights. Before the ceremony began, 18 white roses were thrown into a pool, in the river ÷xar·, called Drekkingarhylur. In centuries past, Drekkingarhylur, or Drowning Pool, was used to execute women who had been found guilty of adultery. Former president VigdÌs FinnbogadÛttir addressed the guests and said that friendship and mutual respect between the sexes was pivotal in attaining full human rights. She continued by saying that a democracy that excludes women from power was not a fully developed democracy. The Minister of Social Affairs, ¡rni Magn™sson, announced that his ministry and the Equal Rights Commission had written a letter to companies and institutions in Iceland reminding them of legislation and regulation that govern equal rights. He also said that his main objective was to eliminate the difference in wages that still exists between men and women. A recent study, by the Bifr–st School of Business, shows that male graduates receive 50 per cent higher wages than women. A 2003 survey from the Association of Business and Economics Graduates, reveals that the sex-linked wage difference between its members had increased from 22 per cent the year 2001 to 31 per cent in 2003, in favor of men. Icelandic women received voting rights on June 19th, 1915, but only those 40 years of age and older. According to an article in Morgunbla•i•, the minimum voting age of women was supposed to decrease one year, every subsequent year, which would have given them the same rights as men in the year 1931. However, because of the Commonwealth Agreement between Iceland and Denmark, Iceland was forced to grant women the same status as men in 1920 when women in Denmark received the right to vote.
    ©Iceland Review

    20/6/2005- A United Nations expert group on the social situations of people of African descent worldwide has welcomed Belgium's adoption of measures against racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and other expressions of intolerance and called for follow-up actions. The Working Group, which met representatives of all levels of Government, as well as Belgian and African non-governmental organizations (NGOs), noted that employment, followed by housing, remained the area in which the majority of complaints of discrimination continue to be recorded and the field in which people of African descent find themselves more disadvantaged. In the past year Belgium has passed national laws to fight racism and xenophobia and "provide for civil remedies against discrimination in various areas and on a wide range of grounds," the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent said. "The experts encourage the Belgian authorities to undertake further awareness-raising efforts directed in particular to private enterprises on the issues of discrimination and the need for the work environment to reflect the diversity of society," the Group said, adding that the 62nd session of the UN Commission on Human Rights would receive its full report on Belgium next year.
    ©UN News Centre

    21/6/2005- Tens of thousands of illegal Chinese immigrants are living in the Paris area, where many work in conditions of extreme poverty and isolation, according to a report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) released Tuesday. Smuggled into France by criminal gangs, the men and women are indentured to sweatshops and restaurants where they spend years paying off the cost of their journey. Many live in constant fear of discovery and never leave their homes. The report puts the number at 50,000 -- 70 percent of them in Paris, and 30 percent in the northern and eastern suburbs. "It is rare for them to receive proper treatment from their employers. They are extremely vulnerable and abuse is widespread," said Gao Yun, co-author of "The traffic and exploitation of Chinese immigrants in France." "The language barrier prevents them from asking for help or having access to associations which aid victims of forced labour. Work inspectors and police say that very few of them lodge a complaint," he said. Illegal Chinese immigrants began arriving in large numbers in Europe between 10 and 15 years ago, responding to painful economic restructuring at home. Most are from rural regions of China and have little education. Paris harbours one the biggest communities. Because visas are almost impossible to come by, the immigrants rely on underground networks of people-smugglers who charge between 12,000 and 20,000 euros (14,500 and 24,000 dollars) for the journey, according to the report. "It takes between two and ten years to pay it off," said Gao Yun. Traffickers take the immigrants' identity papers at the start of the trip and hand them to their employers in Paris. These then retain a portion of the immigrants' salary to reimburse the debt. The report's authors found that most immigrants work in clothes-manufacturing, restaurants or the building trade, where they receive between 300 and 500 euros a month for work days of up to 18 hours. Unscrupulous business-owners continue to exploit the workers even after the repayments are completed, holding over them the constant threat of exposure to the police, the report said. To escape detection from inspectors, employers also disperse their workers into hundreds of home-based units which are effectively sealed off from the outside world. "I have visited homes where there are two or three children living with their parents in a state of total secrecy. Out of fear, they never once left the building," said Gao Yun. The report urges greater co-operation between the authorities in China and France as well as in transit countries. It also calls for training programmes for police and work inspectors so they understand the Chinese community better. Adequate laws exist in France to clamp down on forced labour but their application is proving extremely hard, the report's authors said.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    29/6/2005- Plans to inaugurate a memorial to four executed members of the Secret Armed Organisation (OAS) -- the diehards who resorted to terrorism nearly 50 years ago to stop Algerian independence -- have sparked new arguments about how France should remember its colonial past. A group representing OAS veterans has won authorisation from the right-wing mayor of Marignane, a town a few miles outside Marseille on the Mediterranean coast, to unveil a bronze statue dedicated to "Fighters shot by firing-squad or otherwise killed so that French Algeria could live." The Association for the Defense of Former Prisoners and Exiles of French Algeria (ADIMAD) hopes to hold the ceremony in Marignane's cemetery on July 6 -- the 43rd anniversary of the execution in Paris of Roger Degueldre who was leader of the OAS's notorious Delta Commando. However the news has set off a torrent of criticism from left-wingers, Gaullists and Algerian immigrants -- all of whom see in the event the creeping rehabilitation of an inglorious episode in French history. Both ADIMAD president Jean-Francois Collin and Marignane mayor Daniel Simonpieri -- a former member of the far-right National Front -- refused to answer calls about the planned ceremony, but there were growing signs that it could be postponed. Amid fears of a violent confrontation between right-wing "pieds noirs" -- exiles from French Algeria -- and their opponents, the prefect of the Bouches-du-Rhone department Christian Fremont has said he is prepared to issue a formal ban. The OAS was formed in 1961 after it became clear that France was moving to a settlement to end the bitter war with the Algerian insurgency. Responsible for scores of mainly Algerian deaths in the run-up to independence in 1962, it then sought vengeance against its hate-figure President Charles de Gaulle. Of the four to be remembered on the Marignane monument, Degueldre was executed for the murder of six social workers in Algiers; Albert Dovecar and Claude Piegts for the knifing to death of a police-chief; and Jean-Marie Bastien-Thiry for a failed assassination bid on de Gaulle in August 1962. The names of 101 other OAS members that ADIMAD says were "killed in action" against French or Algerian forces are also to be inscribed on a granite plaque. The planned memorial is revealing of the deep sense of grievance that continues to be felt among the million "pieds noirs" who fled to France in 1962 and who now live in large concentrations along the Mediterranean.

    Many believe that they were betrayed by de Gaulle and that their own stories of suffering -- including the brutal repression of OAS-organised demonstrations by French troops in Algiers in which scores were killed -- have been airbrushed out of the history books. However critics are fearful that ADIMAD and other nostalgics for the colonial period are taking advantage of the passage of time to insinuate their own version of events into the mainstream. "In the south of France more and more monuments, plaques and street-names are being set up bearing the names of OAS killers, transformed into heroes and victims," the left-wing League of Human Rights (LDH) said. A first memorial to the OAS dead was unveiled two years ago in the southern town of Perpignan, where it bears the graphic image of a man shot at the stake. According to the LDH, there are smaller monuments to the "Martyrs of French Algeria" in Toulon and Nice. The row has been intensified by a new law that recently passed into the statute books which many academics and left-wingers say is a surreptitious attempt to rewrite France's colonial history by ignoring its darker side. In an otherwise innocuous text concerning action to help "pieds noirs," the February law states that "School programmes are to recognise the positive role of the French presence overseas, especially in north Africa, and give an eminent place ... to the sacrifices of fighters for the French army raised in these territories." A petition has been signed by hundreds of French historians demanding abrogation of the text, claiming that it "imposes an official lie about the crimes, the massacres which sometimes went as far as genocide, the slavery, and the racism that has been inherited from this past." Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika Wednesday called the law "mental blindness bordering on negationism and revisionism" and hinting that it could affect the signing of a planned treaty of friendship between Paris and Algiers. It was difficult not to be revolted by the legislation, he said in a speech marking the 50th anniversary of the creation of a students' association during the independence war. Bouteflika called on French society "to free itself of the vestiges of a past ... that is apparently regretted by those nostalgic for colonial
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    28/6/2005- A Paris reggae festival has been cancelled after gay rights groups complained that the lyrics of one of the Jamaican singers incited violence against homosexuals, festival organisers said Tuesday. The cancellation came after several French concerts by another popular Jamaican reggae singer were called off earlier this month following complaints that his lyrics were violently homophobic. France has strict laws banning public hate speech and defamation, most commonly applied to protect social groups that have historically suffered discrimination. The singer at the Garance Reggae Festival to whom gay activists objected is called Sizzla and was one of eleven groups in the line-up at the event which was to have taken place in Paris on Saturday. Garance Productions, the company that organised the festival, said in a statement that the venue that was to host the event had decided to cancel "because of the risk of public disorder." Of the eight concerts Sizzla was due to give in France, six have so far been cancelled. Earlier this month, several concert venues in France cancelled gigs by Capleton, another Jamaican reggae singer whose homophobic lyrics prompted protests by gay rights groups. The cancellations came despite the fact that Capleton, along with other Jamaican reggae singers accused of inciting hatred against whites and homosexuals, signed an accord in February with the British gay and lesbian organization Outrage. According to a spokesman from a French gay rights organization, Les Fourmis, "Capleton has not lapsed" since then.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    21/6/2005- Two volumes of works by slain St. Petersburg ethnic and racial issue expert Nikolai Girenko, were launched on the first anniversary of his death Monday. The first volume, "Sociology of Tribe" comprises studies on African tribes as a social form, while the second book, "Ethnicity, Culture, Law" features selected articles on human rights and ethnic issues. Among the titles are "Violence and Survival Strategies," "Nation and Nationalism: Pro and Contra," "National Minorities in St. Petersburg: conditions of survival," "State and National Minorities" and "Confronting Nazism, Racism and Xenophobia." The books were published by city publishing house Carillion with a circulation of 500 copies of each volume, to be distributed free of charge. They were launched at the Regional Press Institute. Girenko was shot through the door of his apartment on June 19 last year. Soon after a nationalistic group claimed on its web site to have ordered his execution. No one has been charged with his death. His supporters said Monday that Girenko was a talented respected scientist who combined his academic career with intensive human rights activities. "Whenever we asked him to deliver a lecture or prepare a report thus sometimes putting his own academic career aside, he never refused," said Boris Pustyntsev, head of the local branch of human rights group Citizens' Watch. Alexander Vinnikov, a senior official at the St. Petersburg Union of Scientists, of which Girenko was a member, and one of the editors of Girenko's books, said the publication of the books was more than a commemorative gesture. "These books are precious live thoughts. The plans and drafts of books show the direction and serve as an impulse for further research by experts in the future," he said.A vocal critic of racist and neo-Nazi groups, Girenko had often warned against growing extremism. He regularly provided expert evaluations for criminal investigations and trials involving ethnic issues.He assisted the city prosecutor's office in several high-profile court cases, including the 2002 murder of Azeri watermelon vendor Mamed Mamedov and an ongoing investigation of a local skinhead group known as Schultz-88. Governor Valentina Matviyenko had promised to take the investigation under her personal control. No statement followed from the Smolny on Sunday on the occasion of the anniversary.
    But Girenko's colleagues are hopeful that the murder will eventually be resolved.

    Pustyntsev said his most recent meeting with the investigators three days ago made him think there are good chances of catching the killers. "The investigators have identified a circle of people who they feel may lead to the organizers of the crime," Pustyntsev said. "This strategy proved useful during the investigation of the murder of [ex-Duma deputy] Galina Starovoitova." At this point, however, nobody is even trying to predict how long it may take for the killers to be identified. It took five years to complete the investigation on the Starovoitova murder followed by a trial lasting some 18 months. Human rights advocates argue the city authorities should also shoulder some of the blame because the killers were able to carry out their vendetta largely because they felt they have a high chance to escape. "City authorities have long ignored the existence of extremists in the city by portraying their activities as hooliganism," said Yury Vdovin, also from Citizens' Watch. Vinnikov said Girenko was the country's leading expert on extremism in Russia. "He fought against prejudice, discrimination and racism but never against people," Vinnikov said Monday. "Even his political opponents, who I feel are ultimately responsible for his murder, he treated without personal respect, confronting ideas, not personalities." Girenko's circle of colleagues and friends find him irreplaceable and the importance of the loss has only been growing. "He was like a father for us, and we are still sort of drifting without him," said Tounkara Aliou, president of the African Union in St. Petersburg. Girenko was at the heart of the foundation of the organization in 2000 and Aliou was his personal friend. Aliou said Monday about 2,000 Africans have made their home in St. Petersburg. "He not only represented us when some of us applied for a refugee status or a work permit, but brought us together as a united group able to defend its interests," Aliou said. "We miss him very much."
    ©St. Petersburg Times

    27/6/2005- On 24 June, as a result of a jury trial, Krasnodar Territorial Court convicted a killer of two Meskhetian Turk girls. Cossack chiefman Nikolai Drozdov was sentenced to 11 years in high security penal colony for the murder of 26-year-old Narmina Lomanova and 19-year-old Narghilya Akhmedova. On 26 December 2004 in the village of Rousskoye, Crimean District, Krasnodar Territory, 56-year-old Cossack chiefman Nikolai Drozdov shot dead two Meskhetian Turk girls at point blank range with the 12-caliber shotgun outside their own home. The girls' nieces Shairat, aged 9, and Albina, aged 8, were the main witnesses to the crime. After the murder Drozdov ran around the village with the shotgun threatening to shoot dead all the Turks. Drozdov told the court that the girls were first to "attack" him and that he acted in "self-defence". Crimean District Prosecutor's Office began criminal investigation treating the killing as a murder on ethnic grounds but later it was suggested that Drozdov had killed the girls because of personal enmity against their elder brother Nariman Lomanov. Drozdov's daughter told the court that he had raped her 10 years previous. In January 2005 a criminal investigation began against Nariman Lomanov but on 3 April it was abandoned. On 21 June the jury's verdict was announced. The jury found Drozdov guilty but "recommended for mercy" and deemed unproven presence of the children at the crime scene. Drozdov had also been charged with illegal possession of ammunition but was fully acquitted of this charge by the jury.
    Prima News

    21/06/2005 - In one of the first Roma rights decisions issued under Hungary's comprehensive anti-discrimination law, a discotheque in the town of Nagyhal·sz, in northeastern Hungary, has been fined the Hungarian forint equivalent of approximately 2400 Euros for discriminating against Roma.

    The facts of the case are as follows:
    On 10 April 2004, Ms. Agnes Rado and three other young people, two of whom were, like Ms. Rado, Romani, were turned away by guards at the door of the Julia Central Discobar in the town of Nagyhalasz, for the stated reason that they were not "regular guests". Non-Roma coming after them managed to enter without any identification or having questions asked of them. In the framework of a joint litigation project with the ERRC, the Budapest-based NGO Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI) conducted a test of the disco on 12 June 2004, to determine whether the establishment was racially discriminating or not. The tests ascertained that Roma were banned from entering the bar, while non-Roma were allowed entrance.

    On the basis of the evidence gathered, a lawsuit was filed in which violations of personal rights, based on the infringement of the right to equal treatment, as regulated by Article 76 of the Hungarian Civil Code, as well as by Articles 8 and 30(1) of Hungary's new anti-discrimination law, were alleged. It was also noted in submissions that under Hungarys anti-discrimination law, adopted to comply with EU rules banning discrimination, where it has been established that discrimination has taken place, the burden of proof shifts to the respondent.

    On 13 June 2005, the Szabolcs-Szatm·r-Bereg County Court held that the Julia Central Ltd., operating the Julia Central Discobar in Nagyhalasz, violated the plaintiff's right to dignity and infringed the requirement of equal treatment. The court awarded 150,000 Hungarian forints each (approximately 600 EUR) in non-pecuniary damages to Ms. Rado and to the other three persons concerned. The Julia Central Ltd. was further ordered to refrain from further violations, and was ordered to post the court's decision at the discotheque for two months.

    The ruling is among the first to date issued by courts under Hungary's comprehensive anti-discrimination law, adopted in December 2003, and is part of an important developing anti-discrimination jurisprudence on Roma rights matters in Europe. The decision may still be appealed. The plaintiffs have been represented by Erika Muhi, an attorney based at the Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI), as part of a joint litigation project with the European Roma Rights Centre.
    ©European Roma Rights Center

    27/6/2005- The far-right Flemish Interest party has sparked controversy by accusing police of deliberately concealing immigrant youths were responsible for the vandalism of graves at Sint-Niklaas over the Easter weekend. In a party magazine, the Flemish Interest claimed police deliberately decided against revealing to the public that immigrant youths carried out the cemetery vandalism. It said the incident was proof the Muslim community did not respect Flemish culture, values and beliefs. However, Sint-Niklaas Mayor Freddy Willockx has dismissed the allegations as lies, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported on Monday. Both Willockx and the local police chief were enraged by the claims, pointing out that the vandals were native Flemish youths. "The assertions by the Flemish Interest are lies," Willockx said. He called on Flemish Interest city councilor Frans Wymeersch to apologise to the Islamic community. In the lack of an apology, the mayor lodged an official complaint with the anti-racism bureau CGKR. The CGKR had earlier warned the Flemish Interest it will face renewed prosecution for racism if it continues to make such allegations. CGKR director Jozef de Witte said the anti-racism centre is compiling evidence against the right-wing party again. "I would prefer not to start a second lawsuit, but if they continue, I cannot do otherwise. The Flemish Block was convicted because of clear and repeated 'scapegoating'," De Witte said. "It changed its name [to Flemish Interest] while no one asked it to. But it must change its practices and stop the hate campaign and this is what it doesn't do. The Flemish Interest must realise that it cannot go unpunished just because it was previously convicted."
    ©Expatica News

    28/6/2005- Romany women in the Czech Republic have problems in seeking jobs, most of them earn their living by doing manual work and their involvement in public life is minimal, according to a study presented at the Romany Forum in the European Parliament today. Yveta Kenety from the Romany civic association Athinganoi, who presented the study, said that though Romany women and girls only constitute 1.5 percent of the Czech Republic's population, they represent a strong group of 150,000 people who live on the margin of society. Kenety, who also works with the Open Society Institute, said that according of a survey by the Faculty of Social Affairs of Masaryk University in Brno, south Moravia, from 2002 only 5 percent of Romany families live in their own house. The number of Romany ghettoes is constantly increasing mainly in north Bohemia and north Moravia [which are regions with the highest rate of unemployment], the study says. It seems that Romany women are the most discriminated against in Prague, Kenety said, and she recommended that the government plan of integration of Romanies into society should pay special attention to Romany women and girls. The opinion that Czech just as Hungarian, Slovak, Bulgarian and Romanian Romanies often face discrimination in the provision of health care was expressed in the debate today. Participants also pointed out the need for improving Romanies' access to education. "I believe that the Romany issue is slightly underestimated in this country. On the other hand it is a pity that the study does not mention projects financed from EU funds which are of a very good quality," Czech MEP Vera Flasarova (Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, KSCM) told CTK. The Romany Forum was established within the European Parliament early this year. It meets once in two months.
    ©Romano vodi

    The plight of a thousand Dagestani villagers fleeing Chechnya has stoked trouble between the two republics.
    By Musa Musayev, worker for the Memorial human rights centre in Chechnya and Natalya Estemirova, reporter for the Severny Kavkaz newspaper in Dagestan.

    30/6/2005- Tensions between the Chechen and Dagestani authorities remain high as hundreds of ethnic Avars who fled their village in Chechnya for the neighbouring republic say they are too afraid to go home. The villagers belong to a tiny minority in Chechnya, but in Dagestan where they have sought refuge, the Avars are one of the major ethnic groups. A pro-Moscow Chechen special forces battalion raided the village of Borozdinovskaya on June 4, and described the operation as a success. Police officials said 11 "guerrilla sympathisers" were rounded up and two guerrillas killed during the fighting. However, villagers who fled Borozdinovskaya say the unit, which reports to the Vostok special battalion of the Russian defence ministry, has often been involved in kidnappings for ransom and abuses against local people ñ and that this operation was no different. Eyewitnesses said a well-known commander in the battalion, who goes by the nickname of "Beard", was present during the raid. Locals say Beard is a local activist in the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. One Borozdinovskaya resident, told IWPR, "Those people are scum and they are former rebel fighters. Hamzat [alleged to have led the raid] extorts money from the locals. They have kidnapped our people before, then they let them out for a ransom. It was Beard who collected the money. Everyone knows that in our district. The Dagestani government knows it; we've complained many times. "The federal government knows it, too, assuming our complaints got through. We've been writing to the Kremlin for two years."

    The incident was explosive enough to attract the attention of Dmitry Kozak, President Vladimir Putin's special representative for the North Caucasus. "If Borozdinovskaya residents are telling the truth, what happened there is an outrageous act of sabotage against Russia, Dagestan and Chechnya," said Kozak. "If the perpetrators thought they could terrorise peaceful civilians and get away with it, they were dead wrong."Aizanat Magomazova, the daughter of a 77-year-old Borozdinovskaya resident who was killed in the raid, told IWPR how she received a telephone call the night her home village was raided, "A friend of mine who's a schoolteacher called me in Kizlyar in the middle of the night, saying there was another Beslan going on at their village school."All the villagers had been brought to the school building at gunpoint and ordered to pull their shirts over their heads. Then they started beating people and robbing their homes. She told me my father had been taken away and his house was on fire."The house was still burning when I came to the village. A neighbourhood boy went in to retrieve a gas cylinder that might explode, and he found my father's body. We could hardly recognise him. He had bare bones for legs." Magomazova said tensions had grown since Chechen authorities began resettling displaced persons from the Nozhai-Yurt district in Borozdinovskaya. "A few families came," she said. "There were fights with the locals and people complained. But the complaints were always ignored. Some masked people came and threatened violence if the villagers didn't retract their complaints." But Isa Nutayev, the head of Shelkovskoy district, told IWPR that the authorities had simply been battling illegal armed gangs in the area. "A criminal group we call the Avar jamaat [Islamic group] made Borozdinovskaya its home after August 1996," he said. "Back then the group numbered between 50 and 60 and was headed by the infamous warlord Mitabov, who is accused of numerous murders and kidnappings, including the kidnapping of an Armenian boy fromÖ Stavropol province. Mitabov was killed in a gangland shooting before the second Chechen war."

    The displaced persons, who say the raid on their village left several homes burned to the ground, have set up a tent city along the border between Dagestan and Chechnya. The refugees built basic huts covered with polythene sheeting, and have been living there for more than two weeks. They brought their own food, which they cook over fires. Among the more than 1,000 people in the tent camp near Kizlyar, some 150 are children under the age of seven. "We've been roughing it for two weeks now with no help from anyone," said Magomed Magomedov, a history teacher and father of eight. "The emergency rescue workers wouldn't even give us any tents; each family had to buy its own. The Red Cross people said they couldn't help because we don't have the status of forced migrants. Only individual Dagestanis are helping as much as they can. The heads of Khasavyurt and Kizilyurt municipal administrations have sent us flour and sugar." Magomedov denied the men rounded up by the Vostok special forces were "criminals" or "guerrillas". He and other villagers want them to be released before they will agree to go home. "Our representatives met with Dmitry Kozak in Khankala," he said, referring to the main Russian military base in Chechnya. "He promised us safety, but people are afraid to go back."

    Leading Dagestani opposition politicians from the newly formed Northern Alliance which opposes the government have visited the camp and criticised the Chechen and Dagestani authorities for not helping the refugees more. The Dagestani authorities want the refugees to go home. They fear the smouldering crisis could spark broader interethnic tensions between Chechens and Dagestanis. In 1999, relations between Chechnya and Dagestan spiralled downwards after Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev led an incursion into Dagestan ñ an operation that helped trigger the second war in Chechnya. According to Magomedov, the raid on Borozdinovskaya is just the latest in a long string of violent incidents against Avars there, and he claims 18 Dagestanis have been killed in the village since 2000. Chechnya's most powerful figure, first deputy prime minister Ramzan Kadyrov, has now been made head of a commission to resolve the issue of the villagers' return. However, he does not enjoy good relations with the Dagestani authorities. Zaid Abdulagatov, a Dagestani political analyst, said he feared trouble ahead. "Things have taken an ominous course," he said. "Now everything depends on what the Dagestani and Chechen governments decide." "If they just leave everything as is, the problem will only grow worse," Abdulagatov said. "On the one hand, the refugees are Chechen citizens and their problems are an internal matter for Chechnya, but on the other, violence was used against ethnic Dagestanis. That does not augur well for this ethnically tense region."
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    A video showing the execution of Bosniaks from Srebrenica may have shaken Serbs, but it has also left many confused and embittered.
    by Tim Judah

    30/6/2005- The prosecution in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian and Yugoslav leader, played a videotape at his trial on 1 June, a tape shown later that evening. The tape apparently showed men from a Serbian paramilitary group called the Scorpions executing six young men from Srebrenica following the fall of the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) enclave in July 1995. The result has been a political storm that has yet to abate and that has left many Serbs angry and confused. When the tape was first shown, the prosecution at the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) claimed that the Scorpions were under the control of the Serbian Interior Ministry. If this is proved to be the case, it will have enormous political and judicial significance. In effect, the prosecution claims to have found the "smoking gun" linking Serbia and its former leadership to the Srebrenica massacre, which the UN tribunal in an earlier case has already judged unequivocally to be genocide. As many as 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed in the aftermath of the fall of the enclave. At first, Serbia's leadership rushed to denounce the crime seen on the video. Both Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and Serbian President Boris Tadic made trenchant statements and several former members of the Scorpions were arrested. However, as the recriminations began pouring in, there was no agreement as to what to do next. If the video had been shown at almost any other time in the past few years, it would certainly have had less political significance than it does now. The problem for Serbia, however, is that the Scorpions affair exploded just weeks before the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the massacre, which will be held at Potocari, just outside Srebrenica on 11 July. It will be a major political and media event with dignitaries from both the region and around the world attending. Before the showing of the video, President Tadic had received an invitation to attend from the Bosnian presidency ñ but he had not yet replied and was presumably weighing up his options. In the wake of the media storm after the showing of the video, Tadic had little option but to confirm he was going. However, he now felt he needed political backing for his trip.

    Belgrade on the spot
    Action then moved to the Serbian parliament. Here, even before the showing of the video, liberal deputies Zarko Korac and Natasa Micic had already introduced a motion inviting members of the assembly to condemn the massacre as genocide. They had done this in the wake of a public meeting on 17 May at the law school of Belgrade university in which extreme nationalist and right-wing groups had celebrated the "liberation" of Srebrenica (where before the war 73 percent of the population were Bosniaks) and had claimed either that no massacre had taken place or that the Bosniaks had inflated beyond recognition the numbers of those who died. With the appearance of the video, the question of the resolution became urgent. There was no question, however, of acknowledging that genocide had taken place ñ especially while Serbia and Montenegro is still facing a potentially extremely damaging law suit taken out by Bosnia and Herzegovina at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), charging the former with genocide. What frightens Serbia's leaders is not just the political cost to Serbia and the Serbs in general of losing this case, but the billions that Bosnia will demand in reparations if it wins. Nevertheless, Tadic's party wanted to pass a resolution in which the specific nature of the crime would be acknowledged. However, Kostunica's party felt unable to agree, not only for ideological reasons but also because it relies on votes from Milosevic's Serbian Party of Socialists and the extreme nationalist Serbian Radical Party in order to survive. Since the former was in power at the time of the Srebrenica massacre and the latter provided Milosevic with paramilitaries to fight in Bosnia, neither was prepared to support anything more than a vague and watered-down resolution condemning war crimes across the former Yugoslavia by all parties during the wars. Negotiations on a resolution collapsed on 14 June. This was followed by a condemnation of what happened at Srebrenica by the Council of Ministers of Serbia and Montenegro ñ an extremely weak body that does not have the political clout of the republican governments. The failure to pass a resolution means that Tadic could face protests when he goes to Potocari. Indeed, the Mothers of Srebrenica group, which helps families of survivors, has called his visit a "planned provocation" and an attempt to "demonstrate that Srebrenica is part of the holy Serb land in whose name this genocide was committed." They then called on the families of Srebrenica victims to physically prevent Tadic "and every other unwanted guest" from attending the 11 July ceremony.

    Powerful forces at work
    As the resolution battle was playing out in parliament in Belgrade, it became clear that there were powerful forces in Serbia determined to destroy either the credibility of the tape or the evidence it purported to show. There were several reasons for this. Firstly, the tape has significance for Bosnia's case against Serbia at the ICJ. Secondly, the link claimed by Hague prosecution team and Natasa Kandic, Serbia's leading human- rights activist who brought the video to light, is also extremely damaging for a number of individuals currently awaiting their trials in The Hague. They include Jovica Stanisic, the former head of Serbia's secret police. Firstly, stories began to emerge in the press that the killings on the video had taken place before the main massacre and, secondly, that the Scorpions, who had operated under the command structure of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) in eastern Slavonia in Croatia in 1991, had then become part of the army of the short-lived, would-be breakaway Serbian state in Croatia, the Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK). Finally, on 17 June, current Serbian Interior Minister Dragan Jocic insisted that the Scorpions had never been a reserve unit of the ministry. If that is proven true, it will significantly devalue the prosecution's case in The Hague. Florence Hartmann, the spokeswoman for the Hague prosecution, hit back hard, though, saying that not only would the prosecution soon introduce evidence to prove the link, but adding that the Scorpions wore the uniform of the RSK army simply as a front. Everyone agrees that one of their main tasks was to guard supplies of oil produced in then Serbian-held eastern Slavonia, which was exported to Serbia. However, as the region had by that stage come under a UN mandate, Hartmann pointed out that the Scorpions could hardly operate openly in Serbian police uniforms. The result of the uproar caused by the Scorpions video has been both conflicting and confusing. Before the video was shown, half of Serbs questioned said they did not believe that Serbs had committed war crimes during the wars of the 1990s. Since the video was shown, a new poll has found that one-third of the public believe it to be a fake. Another poll published in the Serbian daily Blic on 17 June showed that 37 percent of those asked said they did not believe that General Ratko Mladic, the wartime commander of Bosnian Serb forces, should be extradited to The Hague, where he faces genocide charges relating to Srebrenica. A slightly larger percentage of those polled thought that he should face trial in The Hague. However, of those, only 20 percent thought he should go because he was responsible for war crimes, while another 23 percent thought he should go only because that was the only way for Serbia to join the EU.

    Among Bosnian Serbs
    With the commemoration looming, the debate about Srebrenica shows no signs of abating. Indeed, Vesna Pesic, a well-known liberal politician, added fuel to the fire, suggesting that the day be a day of mourning in Serbia. Within Republika Srpska (RS), Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity, the debate has been somewhat different. Lord Paddy Ashdown, the international community's High Representative in Bosnia, has demanded that RS provide a list of names of all men who could have been involved in the massacre ñ something the authorities have been dragging their feet on, claiming it is an impossible task, since some papers were long ago seized by NATO-led troops in Bosnia and because the papers relating to any involvement by Serbia were in Belgrade. Last year, under extreme pressure from Ashdown, the RS authorities finally acknowledged that a crime had taken place in Srebrenica and a list of 7,800 missing provided, tallied with that of the International Committee of the Red Cross. In the wake of that, RS President Dragan Cavic called the massacre "a black stain on the history of the Serb people." Now, however, he is calling for a mutual apology of Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats in Bosnia. "When speaking about the crime in Srebrenica and an apology for it," he said recently," many are making a comparison with the apology of [then] German chancellor Willy Brandt to the victims of Nazi Germany. Bosnia would need three Brandts to appear at the same time, since only then would these apologies have any sense. Outside this context, they would represent only politics." For some Bosnian Serbs, Cavic's idea may seem farfetched, but it may also coincide with the feelings of many others who feel embittered that the world will pay homage to Srebrenica's Bosniak victims on 11 July, while Serb victims, they say, are forgotten. For example, in the Bosnian Serb village of Bibici, a few kilometers from Srebrenica, local bus driver Radivoje Bibic says that he believes 99 percent of local Serbs agree with him when he says that what happened to the Bosniaks in the wake of the fall of Srebrenica was entirely justified. "What they asked for, they got. They deserved it," he told ISN Security Watch. In Srebrenica, Milos Milovanovic, the head of the local branch of Bosnian Serb war veterans association complains that Bosniaks "killed a lot of Serbs," during the war, but foreigners "only ever talk about Muslim victims." In nearby Kravica, a seven-meter high cross is being erected to commemorate the Serbs who died during the war from this region. The number is some 3,500, says Jovan Nikolic, who is a member of the committee for the memorial, but he admits that almost all of them were soldiers. Among them, however, are 49 people, mostly civilians, who died when the hungry Bosniaks of Srebrenica raided Kravica at dawn on the morning of Orthodox Christmas Day on 7 January 1993.

    Just a spark
    Down the road from Kravica's cross is the factory hangar where up to 1,500 Bosniaks were executed after having been caught trying to escape from Srebrenica in 1995. The walls are still riddled with bullet holes. A local Serb, who is working on the cross and asked that his name not be used, says, "Kravica also had a lot of victims." Asked about the Bosniaks killed in 1995, he says, "It was not such a big thing. Something happened, but it was not as big as they say." In Bibici, Vukosava Bibic, an elderly cousin of bus driver Radivoje Bibic, whose son died as a soldier in the war, says of the neighbors, whom she disparagingly calls the "Turks," "It would have been better if they had killed all of us or we had killed all of them because we can't live together now, after the war." Her feelings are reciprocated. In Tuzla, where many Bosniaks from Srebrenica now live, Hajra Catic is the president of the Women of Srebrenica organization, which helps the families of the dead and missing. Noting that many refugee Serbs who have been living in Srebrenica have been leaving for Serbia she says, "I wish Serbia would burn." In the village of Bibici, Radivoje Bibic says that if it were not for the presence of international peacekeepers, "it would take just a spark for us to start all over again."
    ©Transitions Online

    29/6/2005- The World Migration 2005 report challenges many of the pre-conceptions about the impact of international migration. The rapid expansion of the European Union eastward seems to have been one of the many factors that persuaded the public in France and the Netherlands to reject the EU Constitution in referendums in May and June. Indeed, conscious of concerns cheap labour would flood their local jobs markets, most established EU member states introduced restrictions on labour mobility prior to the 'big bang' in May 2004 when 10 Eastern and Central European states joined the EU. This is hardly surprising: Europe is already host to more than 55 million of the estimated 192 million people the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says are living as migrants in the world.

    The Right
    Jean-Marie le Pen's Front National in France, Belgium's Vlaams Belang and a host of other far-right politicians in Europe have for years played up what they say are the negatives associated with immigrants. More mainstream parties have increasingly moved towards the need to control migration as they see concerns about the issue rising among their electorates. The interception of boat-loads of would-be immigrants from North Africa is a daily occurrence off the Spanish coast. Many who avoid the authorities end up falling victim to leaky boats or unscrupulous people smugglers. Since the meteoric rise and murder of anti-immigration populist Pim Fortuyn, the Dutch government has considerably toughened migration laws in the Netherlands and decided future immigrants will have to undertake special courses to help them integrate into Dutch society.

    But the overriding perception that migration is a problem and nothing more is misleading, according to the World Migration 2005 report by the International Organisation for Migration. The IOM says the first ever comprehensive benefits study of international migration provides ample evidence that migration brings both costs and benefits for sending and receiving countries, "even if these are not always shared equally". "We are living in an increasingly globalised world which can no longer depend on domestic labour markets alone. This is the reality that has to be managed," IOM director Brunson McKinley says. World Migration 2005, for instance, cites a Home Office study in the UK which revealed migrants there contribute the equivalent of more than USD 4 billion (EUR 3.3 billion) more in taxes than they receive in benefits. And in the US, the National Research Council estimated that national income expanded by USD 8 billion (EUR 6.6 billion) in 1997 because of immigration. IOM's study also noted that there is rarely direct competition in a wide variety of jobs between immigrants and locals. Migrants occupy jobs at all skills levels, but with a particular concentration at the higher or lower ends of the market, "often in work that nationals are either unable or unwilling to take". The report also talks about the better-known benefits for sending countries. Remittances by immigrants sent back home through official channels surpassed USD 100 billion in 2004, and now seriously rival development aid in many countries, the IOM found. Morocco, for instance, received USD 2.87 billion, or 8 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), from remittances by migrant workers in 2002. Remittances to the Philippines came to almost 10 percent of its GDP. Some sending countries are seeing a shift from brain drain to brain gain as a result of increasingly pro-active policies to attract back ÈmigrÈs with newly acquired skills and education.

    Reviewing the situation in Europe, the World Migration report says despite the long-standing preoccupation with asylum issues, the focus has recently shifted to economic immigration, irregular migrants and the integration of newcomers. "The latter, in part, reflects an often ignored reality in Europe: many immigrants are not fully integrated, some not at all." The report looks at the new measures being introduced in the Netherlands, Germany and Austria to foster integration among immigrants. Referring to worries about a flood of immigrants from the new EU states, the report says that the data shows about one percent of the population of the new EU member states (i.e. some 700,000 people) firmly intend to migrate to a western country. This would put the total migration potential over the next 20 years at 3 to 4 million people. "Experience from earlier EU enlargements suggests, however, that emigration is more likely to decrease than increase after EU accession of countries with below-average GDP and a negative migration balance," the report says. "This has been demonstrated by Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. It is therefore likely that new immigrants from Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria will fill some of these jobs."

    What needs to be done
    The World Migration 2005 report emphasises the need for effective policies of socio-economic inclusion of migrants into host communities, even on a temporary basis to maximise productivity. "These measures have a cost but can ensure social cohesion in the face of cultural diversity and enable migrants to be productive for themselves, their host and home communities." Migrant-sending countries would greatly benefit, the report says, from engaging in "dynamic and broad-based" development, combining job creation and economic growth with a fairer distribution of income. This would create a general optimism about the future of the country. At a time of growing resistance to migration in some receiving countries, governments have to work together and make the right policy choices to steer migration more in the direction of benefits than costs.

    Myth and reality

  • Migrants represent 2.9 percent of world population
  • Half of 192 million migrants are women
  • Migrants are a financial asset rather than burden
  • International migration doubled in 1970-1990
  • Migrant political visibility is sometimes greater in industrial countries than the percentage suggests
    ©Expatica News

    23/6/2005- To mark refugee week, UNITED for Intercultural Action, the pan-European network against racism, has revealed details of 6,300 deaths of migrants and refugees at Europe's borders. UNITED has monitored refugee deaths since 1993. With the help of their network of more than 560 anti-racist and refugee rights organisations they have documented the six-thousand deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, the Strait of Gibraltar, and in minefields between Turkey and Greece. Numerous refugees have also suffocated while being transported in trucks, or committed suicide while detained in Europe's detention centres. The list makes extremely depressing reading. Those whose names and identities are established are few and far between. The vast majority of those listed remain unidentified - just numbers. There are those who simply disappear into the seas of Europe - presumed drowned trying to reach the coast or thrown overboard by unscrupulous smugglers. For example, sixteen Moroccans died, presumed drowned near the Algerian coast on their way to Spain in April. In December, while most of us were thinking of how to enjoy Christmas, the bodies of thirteen Sub-Saharan Africans were found in a boat drifting off Fuerteventura. UNITED's spokesperson told IRR news: 'Dense Borders are a political illusion. Europe can no longer ignore the circle of desperation around its borders. The more Europe tries to keep migrants out of its societies and economies, the higher the risks refugees will take to come to Europe.'
    Read UNITED's list
    ©Institute of Race Relations

    By Arun Kundnani

    26/5/2005- The Identity Cards Bill, introduced on 25 May 2005, is aimed at enabling the policing of a harder boundary of entitlement between British citizens and foreigners. The result will be the creation of a new under-class of those who are 'sans plastique'. The government's ID cards programme is being justified by the perceived need to target illegal immigration, illegal working, 'health tourists', identity theft and terrorism. The last of these purported justifications for ID cards - the threat of terrorism - already looks fatally flawed, with the commen-sense admission by David Blunkett, last year, that compulsory ID cards would do little to foil terrorist attacks. And, it seems unlikely that public support for ID cards will be found on the basis of a fear of identity theft, a crime that few people have experience of.

    It is thus to the first three of these issues - illegal immigration, illegal working and 'health tourism' - that the government is turning for justification. The government argues that ID cards will address public fears of foreign 'scroungers', porous borders and Britain's vulnerability to abuse by asylum seekers. At the general election in May, immigration was the only issue on which New Labour seemed to be vulnerable to the Conservatives. And central to this was the question of what to do about 'failed asylum seekers' who remained in Britain; in his interview with Tony Blair, Jeremy Paxman asked twenty times how many 'failed asylum seekers' were in Britain. ID cards are the government's answer to this problem, ostensibly making it easier to prevent 'failed asylum seekers' and other 'overstayers' from working or receiving healthcare and satisfying the apparent public demand for a hardening of boundaries between those who are entitled to be here, to work and to access public services and those who are not. The current lack of ID cards in Britain is thus presented by the government as yet another 'pull factor', supposedly encouraging foreigners to abuse the British welfare state.

    Sans plastique
    While criticism of the ID card scheme so far has focused on the cost and the viability of the technology, less attention has been given to the consequences of increased surveillance on particular sections of British society. In order to achieve its intended outcomes, the introduction of ID cards will have to be accompanied by unprecedented levels of electronic checks - at airports, workplaces, social security offices, hospitals - and police operations against those suspected of being sans plastique (without ID cards) will need to be stepped up. ID cards will not initially be compulsory for the majority of the British public. But migrants, refugees and other foreign nationals will have to pay for biometric identification and register their details on the new national identity database, if they have been in Britain for longer than three months. This will immediately create a two-tier society in which many foreign nationals who may have lived in Britain for decades will suddenly find that they can be fined £2,500 if they do not have an ID card or equivalent. It is these groups of people that will effectively be the testing ground for the entire ID card scheme.

    Illegal working
    At present, employers can be prosecuted if they employ somebody who is not entitled to work. But, in reality, this sanction is hardly ever used, as employers can offer the defence that they had been duped by forged documents. Those working illegally, on the other hand, doing essential jobs in the building, catering, hospitality and agricultural industries, are vulnerable to immigration raids, deportation or imprisonment. The government argues that the introduction of ID cards will make it easier to tackle illegal working by providing a more efficient and reliable way for employers to test if someone is entitled to work. It is likely that pressure on employers to police illegal working will increase. Employers could thus become more active in checking the immigration status of workers, especially those whose skin colour or accent marks them out as 'suspicious'. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some employers already take advantage of those working without permission by threatening them with a call to the Home Office if they complain about working conditions. Such abuses of power may increase. It is also likely that immigration and police officers will conduct more raids on workplaces as part of a general clampdown. And it is not only those who are sans plastique who could get caught in such raids. Under the proposed ID card scheme, you will have a duty to ensure that information about yourself is accurate and complete, with a £1,000 fine if you fail to do this. If your immigration status changes and you acquire the right to work, you will have to notify the authorities yourself. If they make a mistake and the database is not updated properly, not only will you risk being wrongly arrested for illegal working, but you may be fined for having a card with out of date information.

    Public services
    The second area where ID cards will have a huge impact is in access to public services. In hospitals and social security offices across Britain, electronic readers will connect scanned-in cards to the national identity database, to establish whether the bearer is entitled to access support or medical care. In this sense, the ID card will really be an 'exclusion card' that divides the population between those who are entitled to access services and those who are not, entrenching an immigrant under-class of those who are sans plastique. In a context in which there is growing pressure on the NHS to refuse treatment to overseas visitors and other foreigners, even if it puts them and wider society at severe medical risk, ID cards could provide a means to enforce new boundaries of access. The undermining of the principle of universal access to the NHS has been progressively undermined since at least the 1980s. Last year, new regulations were introduced which excluded many groups, including failed asylum seekers, from 'non-emergency' treatment. ID cards could provide a means of policing such measures. In order for that to happen, though, doctors and nurses would have to check ID cards for immigration status before registering new patients. This would lead not only to exclusion of certain groups of foreigners but also disproportionate suspicion falling on Black and Minority Ethnic communities, who would be more likely to be asked to prove their eligibility.

    Because the carrying of ID cards will not be compulsory to start with, the police will not initially have any new powers to demand their production in spot checks. But a process of compulsion by stealth may arise, whereby officers become increasingly suspicious of those who do not voluntarily produce a card, particularly if their skin colour or accent makes them seem more likely to be an 'overstayer'. This could lead to the risk of confrontations with those who are sans plastique. And it will be all the more likely to occur if government pressure to step up the number of deportations of 'failed asylum seekers' seeps into policing practice and stop and search operations are directed at rounding up those whose permission to be in the country has lapsed. These kinds of operations have already been tried out at stations in London over the last year.

    European experience
    The experience of other European countries suggests the dangers that may lie ahead. In France, during the mid-1990s, the government introduced a new law which led to a massive increase in police asking people for their identity papers. In some areas, young people of Algerian or Moroccan descent complained that they were asked to produce their papers several times a week. When they refused or could not produce them, they faced immediate arrest and detention. In Belgium, Black and Minority Ethnic people had similar experiences. The case of Bicha Monkokole Kasembele, for example, became a cause celebre after she was stopped at a station in Brussels by the police. A Belgian citizen of African origin, she was told to produce her ID card, which she did. But the police decided that she must be an 'illegal' carrying a fake document. She was arrested and taken to a detention centre where she was held for three days and served with a deportation order to a country she had never before seen. It was only at the last minute that lawyers were able to intervene.

    Profiling and databases
    Unlike other European countries which have ID card schemes, the proposals in Britain include a national identity database, which takes Britain further down the road to a society of total electronic surveillance. Effectively, the ID card itself will be a 'pointer' to entries on this database, which will include biometric information (such as fingerprints, photographs and iris scans), current and previous residential addresses, nationality, place of birth and immigration status. The British security services will have access to this database and, as a result, will have the opportunity to use it as the basis for new kinds of 'profiling' of suspected terrorists. In Germany, a law was introduced after September 11 which placed a duty on public and private institutions to hand over to police authorities computer data on individuals whose personal profile corresponded to specific criteria that the police believed to be associated with terrorists. For example, if you were a Muslim studying engineering and the police decided that this meant you fitted the profile of a terrorist, then the university would be forced to hand over all its data about you. The result of this kind of policing is that the German state compiled a vast database of six million personal records, of which 20,000 were singled out as potential terrorists, even though there was no evidence against the individuals at all. This huge accumulation of data culminated, in December 2003, in the largest police operation in post-war Germany, in which 1,170 Muslim homes and businesses were searched in a single day. While the proposed identity card scheme in Britain does not empower the collection of similar levels of information about individuals, the future of policing in Britain is moving in a similar direction, as the state amasses ever greater quantities of data on the population without adequate checks on its use. The ability of police officers and other authorities to have instant access to information about immigration status, nationality and residence will only deepen the climate of fear currently experienced by many migrants, foreign nationals and Black and Minority Ethnic communities.
    ©Institute of Race Relations

    28/5/2005- The British National Party will continue to be banned from running influential committees at Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Councillors adopted the stance after suspending part of the authority's constitution which stated that leaders of local authority commissions and committees should be politically balanced. These rules would mean the BNP would be allowed to have one chairman and one vice-chairman on groups set up to scrutinise council performance and help develop policies. The regulations were originally suspended last year after Labour councillors said BNP members were too inexperienced to manage committees effectively. But some city councillors say the ban is undemocratic and should be overturned. Tory leader Roger Ibbs said: "My concern is if they can suspend it for the BNP they can suspend it for the Tories. "Democracy says that if you are elected then you should be able to represent the people in your ward. "Things should be seen to be fair - I don't like the BNP and I will work against them, but they are a democratically elected part of our council." Earlier this month, Labour's elected mayor Mark Meredith said he would work with all politicians - except the BNP - to improve the lives of residents in Stoke-on-Trent. Some critics have claimed this plays into the hands of the far-right party by making them more attractive to people who feel they have been let down by the city council. And Steve Batkin, BNP councillor for Longton North, said: "When they suspended the rules last year they said it was because we lacked experience. But they were quite happy to have political balance until the BNP group came along and now they don't want it. "I have been there two years now so it is hard to justify it on the grounds of experience." Labour councillors denied the ban on BNP councillors was undemocratic. Labour's deputy leader Peter Kent-Baguley said: "It is about getting the right people in the chairmen and vice chairmen positions. "It would be absolutely crass to put someone in the position of chairman when they are totally inexperienced. "As far as the BNP is concerned they are examples of people who get elected and then don't go to meetings very much. "If people haven't got the expertise or appropriate experience then they shouldn't be a chairman or vice chairman."
    ©Stoke Sentinel

    3/6/2005- Merseyside Police last night said one in 10 officers recruited in the last two months were from black or ethnic minority backgrounds following accusations of racism. The figures come after the force's branch of the Black Police Association (BPA) said bigoted staff treat black and ethnic minority workers so badly that many leave. However, last night the force said that, between November 2003 and November 2004, only 3% of officers - or six out of 206 - who left were from black or ethnic minorities. A force spokeswoman added that, in the last two months, 10% of new recruits were non-white. The spokeswoman said: "We have a target set by the Government which means our recruitment has to be reflective of the ethnic diversity in the community. "Our target is 2.7%. Between April 2004 and April this year, our figure was just below the target of 2.63%. In the first two months of this year, we look to be well ahead of the target. Of the 60 officers we have recruited, six were black or of ethnic minority, that's 10%." The spokeswoman said that, of the six who left in 2003-4, two were transferred to other forces, one for domestic reasons, the other for unknown reasons. Another officer was dismissed, two resigned and one retired due to ill health.

    The BPA said that, although the force recruits ethnic minority officers, they struggle to get promotion. Many resign, alleging abuse from colleagues, it added. In addition, the BPA said some officers "celebrate" their racism and go unpunished. The association further criticised the force for wasting opportunities to expel racists when offensive messages were found in a recent email probe. In March, 501 officers and staff - a twelfth of the force - were disciplined after an investigation into improper use of the force email system, which included the sending of racist, homophobic and offensive messages. Chairman Vinnie Tomlinson said: "Last month, I received a report from one officer who has left, quoting racism as his major reason for leaving. Almost every black or ethnic minority colleague has witnessed or been on the receiving end of racism, much of which can only be described as out-and-out bigotry. "Black officers are leaving the force because of racism." But Merseyside Police Chief Constable Bernard Hogan-Howe last night said the force was committed to rooting out racism. He added: "We are absolutely clear on the issue - racism has to and will be actively confronted by the BPA and colleagues in the organisation who find this behaviour abhorrent. "We have good evidence of the organisation dealing firmly with racism when we discover it. Because the force is fully behind the BPA in tackling racism, it has provided funding to support its day-to-day activities. "We very much hope that we'll be working closely with the BPA in the future to jointly tackle this critical issue." He added: "The force is committed to increasing the recruitment of officers and staff from black and ethnic minority groups."
    ©IC Network

    14/6/2005- Black young black males are twice as likely as white youths to be assaulted by prison staff, according to a report out today. The study of young people in custody, carried out by the Inspectorate of Prisons and the Youth Justice Board, surveyed 861 youths aged 15-18 years, of whom 225 were black or of another ethnic minority, at 15 young offenders centres. The survey, which included 84 teenagers in female institutions, painted a grim picture of Britain's juvenile prisons. More than a third of inmates felt unsafe, more than half said it was hard for families to visit, and many got no help for drug or alcohol addiction, nor any preparation for life outside. Of white youths, 8% said they had been physically assaulted by staff. The figure for black and other ethnic minority youths was 15%. While 16% of whites reported being verbally insulted by staff, the comparable figure for black and other ethnic minority males was 28%. And while 14% of black and other ethnic minority respondents claimed to have been victimised by staff because of their race, the same was true of only 3% of the white inmates. Regardless of the race issue, 10% of all the youths surveyed said they had been hit or kicked by a member of staff. The institutions where levels of verbal and physical attacks were said to be worst were Brinsford, near Wolverhampton, holding 207 males, and Carlford, in Suffolk, with 25 young male inmates. Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "It is a matter of grave concern that despite a commitment by the Prison Service to eradicate racism, and monitoring by the Commission for Racial Equality, you hear from black and ethnic minority boys that they are treated far more harshly than white counterparts."
    ©The Guardian

    17/6/2005- The Scotland Yard commissioner Sir Ian Blair yesterday vehemently denied "hanging out to dry" three white Metropolitan Police officers for the sake of political correctness. The three men claimed they were made scapegoats when a female Asian officer complained about their allegedly racist behaviour at a training day. But yesterday, Sir Ian told an employment tribunal in Stratford, east London, that the men had been guilty of deliberately offensive behaviour and that the Met's handling of the case was justified. Detective Constable Thomas Hassell, 60; acting Detective Chief Inspector Paul Whatmore, 39; and Detective Sergeant Colin Lockwood, 55, are suing the Met for racial and sexual discrimination. The men faced a disciplinary board in June 2001 after a colleague, Detective Sergeant Shabnam Chaudhari complained about their behaviour at a cultural awareness training day in October 1999. Mr Hassell, who retired last year, compared Islamic headwear to "tea cosies", mispronounced Shi'ites as "shitties" and said he felt sorry for Muslims because they could not eat, drink alcohol or have sex during the daylight hours of Ramadan. He immediately apologised for the mispronunciation and said the other remarks were in the context of a presentation on cultural differences and not meant to cause offence. The other two senior officers were criticised for not intervening. The men claim they were victims of political correctness in the wake of the 1999 MacPherson report into the death of black teenager Stephen Lawrence which accused the Met of institutional racism. Sir Ian, who became deputy commissioner in charge of diversity and discipline in February 2000, insisted yesterday that the three men were treated like any other officer would have been in the circumstances, regardless of race or background. He claimed the matter was a "critical incident", despite admitting that he had never read a report by one of his senior staff, which downplayed events at the training day, and the fact that all three were exonerated by the Met's most senior Asian officer, assistant commissioner Tarique Ghaffur.

    Sir Ian told the tribunal: "On what I know, [these remarks were] not an isolated, one-off statement . It was a series of gratuitous comments made in the presence of a member of staff of a racial and religious background who would have been deeply offended." The initial inquiry played down the incident and said the three men should be spoken to informally. But when they refused to accept they had done anything wrong, the matter proceeded to a full-blown, misconduct hearing in June 2001. Although the board upheld Detective Sergeant Chaudhari's complaint, it said the three officers should not be punished further. When the then deputy commissioner was informed of the board's decision he demanded to know if it could be challenged. "Where racist comments are made that deliberately and ignored by supervisors, I would expect consequences to follow. At the time, I thought it extraordinary that the board, having found the officers guilty, recommended no further action," said Sir Ian yesterday. The men then appealed to Mr Ghaffur, who, in February 2002, cleared them of any wrongdoing, saying the matter should never have got so far. Yesterday, Ruth Downing, representing the three men, accused Sir Ian of meddling in the case because he wanted to prove the Met's anti-racist credentials after they were castigated for mishandling the Lawrence inquiry. "You made clear the only satisfactory outcome would be one which branded these three men racists," she said.
    ©The Guardian

    17/6/2005- An independent report has found that Lambeth council failed to protect its staff from racist clients. It also made a series of recommendations including withdrawing services from abusive clients, and creating a senior management position to tackle the issue. The report, published yesterday, was commissioned jointly by Unison and Lambeth council after a tribunal found the council had discriminated against an employee, Sandra Simpson, by failing to protect her from the abuse of a client. Karl King, the barrister conducting the investigation, reported that Ms Simpson had suffered "some appallingly distasteful and distressing events" including being called a "fucking black monkey". The culture of the council, however, implied that this was an inevitable part of employment there and her mangers did nothing, the report found. Mr King's list of recommendations to tackle the inertia he found and to create a concerted approach to tackling racist abuse included the withdrawal of services from clients. According to Jon Rogers, a Unison secretary, it could, for example, be legal to withdraw social housing from a tenant if the tenancy agreement prohibited abuse, or abusers could be physically barred from council premises. Mr King recommended the appointment of a senior manager to investigate incidences and tackle unacceptable behaviour. In addition, the council must proactively warn service users of its zero tolerance policy on racism, investigate each incident fully and take proportionate action taken against abusers, the report recommended. Support for the abused worker must also be improved, Mr King found. Supervision, a process of appraisal and an opportunity to bring up difficulties, focused too much on the employee's cases and too little on the issues brought up by the individual. Commenting on notes he had seen from supervision meetings, Mr Rogers said that issues that the employee was trying to raise amounted to just a "postscript" in the notes. "The balance was wrong," he said. The report also called for a quarterly forum of staff and mangers to discuss abuse, management training and a relaunch of the council's aggression, violence and abuse at work policy. Lambeth council has sent a letter of apology to Simpson and in a statement released today said it "deeply regrets the significant distress suffered by Ms Simpson" and "apologises to Ms Simpson for the delay in completing the investigation." "The council wants to put on record its determination to ensure, as much as humanly possible, that this situation never arises again for any member of staff," the statement continued. In addition, the case of Alex Owalade is continuing, with no signs yet that the four-year-old dispute is reaching a conclusion. The former council worker was fighting to be reinstated after an initial tribunal found that he had been unfairly dismissed. Allegations were made that he had harassed managers in the process of supporting workers he believed had suffered racial discrimination. A later hearing overturned an order for reinstatement find legal irregularities, and a further hearing has been scheduled for July.
    ©The Guardian

    14/6/2005- The media are fostering a climate of hostility towards ethnic and religious minority groups in the UK, according to a new report. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance(ECRI) report says the media have played an important part in determining the "current climate of hostility" towards asylum seekers, refugees, Muslims, Roma/Gypsies and Travellers. The commission says the tone of the national media debate, particularly since the terrorist attacks against America on September 11 2001, has included "material which was racist and inflammatory in its effect". On the responsibilities of the press, the report says: "ECRI recommends the authorities in the UK to impress on the media, without encroaching on their editorial independence, the need to ensure that reporting does not contribute to creating an atmosphere of hostility and rejection towards asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants, or members of any minority group, including Roma/Gypsies." The report says the UK has a high number of racist incidents (partly the result of better reporting and recording techniques) despite a government strategy to promote nationwide "community cohesion and race equality". It acknowledges that UK laws against racism have been strengthened but says, nonetheless, "members of ethnic and religious minority groups continue to experience racism and discrimination. "Asylum seekers and refugees are particularly vulnerable to these phenomena, partly as a result of changes in asylum policies and of the tone of the debate around the adoption of such changes. "Members of the Muslim communities also experience prejudice and discrimination, especially in connection with the implementation of legislation and policies against terrorism. "Continuing high levels of hostility, discrimination and disadvantage of Roma/Gypsies and Travellers are also a cause for concern to ECRI." The report goes on: "The disproportionate impact of criminal justice functions on ethnic minorities has continued to increase." It singles out an increase in anti-semitic incidents in the UK as a cause for concern and says prejudice against Muslims in the arenas of employment and the criminal justice system have worsened considerably since September 11. The commission recommends closer consultation between public officials and leaders of ethnic and religious minority groups as well as the extension of legal protection against religious discrimination to all areas where legal protection against racial discrimination already exists.

    ECRI is an independent panel of experts set up by the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe to monitor racism and intolerance in any of the council's 46 member states, which include all 25 EU countries.
    ©The Guardian

    14/6/2005- An African-born bus driver today revealed the horrendous litany of racial abuse he has faced on his route around Dublin. Nana Ouwandensng, who is originally from Ghana but has lived in Ireland for the past five years, said a man racially abused him, threatened to kill him and spat in his face as he simply went about his job. The Dublin Bus driver said he suffered the abuse after he asked a passenger to stop smoking a cigarette on a bus in the southside of Dublin last Sunday evening. "He stood up, nearly hit me. He was saying all sorts of things but I was just doing my job. All I wanted was the comfort of my passengers so I insisted that he should get off the bus," the father-of-six said. "Then eventually he got out. But he spat in my face, he wanted to headbutt me. He was so close to me that he wanted to headbutt me. So I just tilted back. "He was pretending he was going to kill me, all sorts of things." The brave driver revealed he was frightened during the abusive confrontation and he had to restrain himself from reacting after the man spat in his face. "It was very bad. I felt very very ashamed, I couldn't tell my wife when I got home," he said. Mr Ouwandensng, who has worked for Dublin Bus since 2003, revealed this is not the first time he was attacked on his route on the southside of the city. He said the confrontations would occur around once every two months. The driver added: "You meet the bad guys on those days." Mr Ouwandensng revealed another incident also occurred on the same route with a group of men who were smoking. He added: "I told them and as they were getting off they spat. "I was about to react and the guy just punched me in the face and got off. I think I learned since from that, you know I tried to be calm." Mr Ouwandensng said that during the racial abuse other passengers on the bus do not offer him help but they may be afraid to get involved. A spokeswoman for Dublin Bus said the incident on the southside of the city had been reported to officials, however, the driver had not wanted to take the complaint any further. She said the company was proud of the way he handled the incident. "From an eye witness statement it was a threatening situation and he handled it capably. He was looking out for the other passengers. He did a great job," she said. The spokeswoman said incidents that extreme were rare. Around 200 or 8% of Dublin Bus drivers were originally from places outside Ireland. "All drivers receive equity and diversity training courses about different nationalities within the workforce and the customers," she said. The National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism said there were 41 racist incidents reported to its offices by non-governmental organisations for victims between May to October 2004.
    ©On-Line Ireland

    3/6/2005- A seven-year-old Romanian boy who was in hiding in Tralee was found by gardaÌ yesterday afternoon. Eduardo Covaci went into hiding after his family was deported on Wednesday night. Last night a garda spokesman said the health services had been notified and no decision had yet been taken as to his future. He's believed to have been with an aunt. Grainne Landers, of the Tralee Refugee Support Services, said she was extremely concerned about Eduardo's future and about the effects of the separation on his family, who were among almost 60 Romanian deportees flown to Bucharest on Wednesday. His mother, Samantha, stated to be "utterly distraught and distressed" after leaving Ireland without him, made telephone contact from Bucharest with a family member in Tralee at 4am yesterday. Samantha, the boy's father, Mihai Tejlas, and four-year-old brother, Ricardo, were told they were being deported after they went to Tralee Garda Station for their weekly signing on on Wednesday. Eduardo was collected from the Holy Family School, in Balloonagh, Tralee, most likely by a relative, minutes before gardaÌ from the National Immigration Bureau arrived to deport him. Ms Landers, meanwhile, questioned the manner in which the deportation was attempted. She said garda immigration officials had arrived at the school in full view of other children and the deportation attempt was not discreet. The Refugee Support Service believes no great attempt was made by immigration officials to locate the child before his family was taken to Dublin. A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said it was generally up to the parents of a child to insist on a search for him. Parents were not forced to leave without children. GardaÌ were not obliged to conduct a search if parents did not request them to do so. Fifty-eight Romanian nationals were put on a flight to Bucharest, which departed at 11.30pm on Wednesday night. They included 42 males, five male children, 13 females with three children.
    ©Irish Examiner

    10/6/2005- Mourners yesterday demanded justice for Milan Bily, a Roma man who died of injuries sustained in a recent fight in Janov nad Nisou. A procession of roughly 150 people set out from the Jablonec hospital at about 1:00 p.m. The mourners carried the dead man's photos and chanting "We want justice!" and "We want work!" they reached the Horni namesti square from where they went home after an hour. The participants voiced disagreement with the District Court in Jablonec for not taking Bily's assailant to custody. "We are asking why the man who deprived Milan Bily of life is not in custody? I cannot understand it. We will pass the whole case to the European court in Strasbourg," said organiser Andrej Lucka from the group Help Roma. Organisers also collected signatures for a petition voicing their disagreement with the steps taken by the court. Bily, 45, suffered serious injuries in the brawl and succumbed one month later. Roma have dropped their initial claim that this was a racially-motivated crime. The late man's former wife said yesterday that the two men knew one another for years. Witnesses say that the fight was probably caused by alcohol and maybe drugs. If convicted, Bily's assailant, 20, may be sent to five to 12 years in prison.
    ©Prague Daily Monitor

    14/6/2005- The "Czech Idols" television contest, which Romany Vlastimil Horvath won Sunday night, has refuted sociological studies stating that Czech majority society has the worst possible attitude to the Romany minority, Hospodarske noviny wrote yesterday. Television viewers from generations that link Romanies to negative human qualities voted to bring Horvath the victory, the author said. "The contest has confirmed something I have been saying for many years. Czechs - with the exception of skinheads - are not racists in a sense of the word that they resent a different skin colour. Problems with Romanies, as public opinion polls show, are of the social and not ethnic nature," expert for Romany problems Roman Kristof said. "The enormous resentment towards Romanies mainly stems from people's bad experiences, including housing problems and Romanies' attitude to work," he said. The Centre for Public Opinion Research (CVVM), which has studied Czechs' attitude to ethnic minorities for many years, confirmed his opinion. In the polls, at least three-quarters of respondents have continued to say that they do not want to live near Romanies, heavy alcoholics and people with a criminal past, while only two in ten respondents resent those with a different skin color. People do not connect the question about different skin colour with Romanies. Instead, they connect Romanies with the negative experiences they've had with them.

    A 1970 poll, taken by the Public Opinion Research Institute (UVVM, the CVVM's predecessor) analysed Czechs' attitude to Romanies in detail. According to respondents, Romanies are noisy, aggressive, primitive, selfish, lazy, false dirty and generally troublemakers. The main group of respondents from the 1970 poll represent the same generation who voted in the "Czech Idols" television contest in large numbers. Peoplemeters show that people over 45 (and children from four to 15) were the ones in front of television screens during the contest. They made up more than one-half of the viewers. It is unlikely that these people have changed their attitude to Romanies. The reason for the success of Romany Horvath is different, claims sociologist and CVVM analyst Jan Cervenka, who has studied Czechs' tolerance towards Romanies for a long time. In 2003, he asked people how they thought Romanies could contribute to better co-existence with the majority population. "The answers showed that Czechs believe that Romanies should change their behaviour and life-style and better adapt themselves to the norms of the majority, observe laws, work and study," Cervenka said. This is a precise portrait of Horvath, as portrayed by both the contest and by himself. In the only interview which touched upon his nationality, Horvath said that he considered "the behaviour demanded from Romanies" to be the only acceptable one. "Sometime I say if I have had to prove for my entire life that it is possible to live a decent life, why other Romanies could not do the same," Horvath said. Messages exchanged by fans on the contest's website, show that his statement did not go unnoticed. Those who attack Horvath because he is Romany receive responses from his supporters. "Yes, Vlastik is a Romany, but he is decent. Why should this bother you, you racist," a girl who called herself Magdalena wrote.
    ©Prague Daily Monitor

    By Valeriu Nicolae

    1/6/2005- On 25th January 2004 Dominic Hipkins, a freelance journalist, and Graham Johnson, his editor, published in Sunday Mirror ñ "For sale ñAge 3 ".The article wrote at large about Roma selling children and portrays Sinisa Nadazdin the director of an NGO "Philia" in Podgorica as one of the child traffickers. It was largely quoted by media all over Europe. It helped promoting the strong negative and widespread stereotypes of criminality and sub-human Roma. Sinisa, who occasionally works with foreign journalists as their assistant worked with Dominic Hipkins on what was supposed to be a story on the refugees camps for three days at the beginning of January 2004.

    After found not guilty by Montenegrin police for allegations of child trafficking, Sinisa was jailed on February 3rd, 2004 for "defamation of the image of the Republic of Montenegro", meaning for talking to a foreign journalist about child trafficking in Montenegro. He spent 7 days in custody and is still waiting for his trial with the state of Montenegro. While jailed, him and his Roma friends were presented in the local media as "traitors", "enemies of the state", "petty liars and thieves who betrayed their country for 50 euros".

    In May 2004 National Vanguard used the same story and presented it from a "slightly" different angle under the title "Gypsies Selling White Children" basing their theory : "Roma steal white children and sell them as slaves" on the article published by Sunday Mirror. Sued Sunday Mirror apologized in a small and very ambiguous disclaimer after more than a year. In the meantime the story has been quoted, used or republished in hundreds of papers and websites. Nobody seemed to care to ask what those (Roma and non-Roma) accused of trafficking had to say.

    The situation in Konik 1 and Konik 2 the camps for the displaced Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians from Kosovo is appalling. Konik 2 is 50 meters from the garbage dump, heavy smoke from the burned garbage stays over the camp practically most of the day, bathrooms and school facilities are locked and inaccessible. Most of the over 350 people in the camp are children living in a clearly toxic environment. The unemployment is close to one 100% and abuses against people in the camp are seen as normal even by Roma themselves. The terribly infested cockroaches and rats camps, the cotton balls used by mothers to protect their children's ears from bugs during sleep were not sensational enough for the Sunday Mirror and for that matter for any of the main European newspapers.

    The horrendous reporting of Dominic Hipkins fitted well the campaign of most British tabloids against Roma and helped the already established image for us, Roma, as half human-half beast threat for the European and British civilization. He was closed to destroy Sinisa's life as well as making even worst the hellish lives of Roma he wrote about.

    Sunday Mirror paid Sinisa damages but never considered apologizing to the Roma communities. The tall Serb, himself a refugee of the Yugoslav war continues to try to help Roma communities a lot more aware now of the strong pan European anti-Gypsyism.

    Selling racist articles against Roma is nowadays a normal practice in a large number of European newspapers as anti-Gypsyism, racism and xenophobia sells well on the old continent.

    15/6/2005- The First European Conference on Higher Education in the Languages of National Minorities was held in Cluj (UBB) and online with participation from all over Europe, Eurolang reports. They examined the possibilities of establishing or extending higher education in the mother tongue of "national minorities" based on the principles of the European Union and the Bologna Process and they adopted a Charter of Higher Education in Minority-Languages in Europe.

    The virtual conference was held in a closed session on May 26th. Last week, at an on-line press conference, the organisers highlighted that the initiative was the first of its kind and they are hopeful that European institutions and governments will accept its recommendations. The conference was organized by the Education Committee of the Transylvanian Hungarian National Council (CNMT, an NGO for the autonomy of the ethnic Hungarians in Romania), the Bolyai Society (SB, an NGO for re-opening the Hungarian-language Bolyai state university in Cluj) and the Hungarian Students Union in Kolozsv?r (HSUK, OSMC). Many so-called "national minorities" from Europe with their language established in higher education were represented at the conference: Welsh, Basques, Catalans, Swedes from Finland, Germans from Italy, Albanians from Macedonia and Hungarians from Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia and Romania. Universities from Switzerland and Ireland that teach in minoritised languages also participated. The conference found that some ethnic minorities with a structure of higher education in their mother tongue were in a disadvantaged situation. Examples were the ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania (Romania) and Vojvodina (Serbia and Montenegro), as well, as the Basques in France.
    "Only 4.4% of those with a higher education degree were ethnic Hungarians in Romania, whereas this minority represented 6.6% of the total population", conference Vice-President and teacher at the Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj (UBB) P?ter Hantz told Eurolang.

    "At the same time, 6.7% of the population had Hungarian, as their mother tongue. Only 4.3% of higher educational students were ethnic Hungarians and only 1.6% of all students in Romania were studying in Hungarian. No bilingual signs can be seen at the UBB, which likes to call itself a multicultural institution." "The best solution to overcome this would be, according to a European model, a separate Hungarian-language university", conference Chairman and teacher at the UBB Political Sciences Chair Barna Bod? added.

    This could be best carried out by simply re-opening the Hungarian-language Bolyai University (UB), a state-owned and financed higher educational institution closed down by the communists in Cluj in 1959. He pointed out that in the context of the Romanian higher educational system adapting to the Bologna Process, the reorganizing of the higher educational system was a great opportunity to re-open a Hungarian language university. He criticized the present ruling coalition in Romania for not even mentioning the Hungarian-language state university in its government programme.

    The conference found that almost all ethnic minorities consisting of at least 200,000 people in Europe had at least one higher educational institution. The only exceptions were the ethnic Germans in South-Tyrol, but in this case Italy financed their studies at German-language universities in neighbouring Austria. The Swedish minority of Finland and the Catalans had the highest number of universities in their native languages. Likewise, the Hungarian-speakers in Slovakia and the Carpathian Ukraine had independent universities. The same went for the Albanians in Macedonia, but that they had fought hard for their Albanian-language university in Tetovo. Serbia and Montenegro was one of the negative examples, because no Hungarian-language university existed there, just a few courses at the University of Novi Sad.

    The conference adopted a draft Charter of Higher Education in Minority-Languages in Europe based on the European Constitution and the regulations of the Bologna Process. Originating in the principles of the European Constitution which "respects cultural and linguistic diversity", the Charter recommended that European states make it possible for all those traditional ethnic minorities that had at least 100,000 members to have higher educational institutions of their own. These universities or colleges would teach in the language of the respective minority, in the state language and in a worldwide language as well. The Charter enumerated the possibilities on how to set up or develop a higher educational system in a minority-language and it recommended legislative solutions for states on how to achieve these goals. However, by setting a lower limit of 100,000 the proposed Charter would exclude some lesser-used languages and make them even more minoritised such as Scottish Gaelic (59,000 speakers)- even though it is taught at Scottish universities and has a dedicated Gaelic-medium campus at Sabhal Mor Ostaig on Skye. The Charter will be presented to the European Parliament (EP) by MEP Kinga G?L (Fidesz ñ Hungarian Civic Alliance, Hungary) in order to make the European Ministers of Education adapt educational policies accordingly and the EP to enact a European framework law. The Charter would also serve as an initiative for a resolution or recommendation of the Council of Europe (CoE), at the next session of its Parliamentary Assembly. A real conference, and not a virtual one, will be organized on the same topic next year.

    10/6/2005- Germany's high court on Friday set down legal principles aimed at blocking neo-Nazis from holding rallies at sites linked to the Holocaust, including former Nazi concentration camps. A month after barring the extremist National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) from staging a rally at Berlin's Holocaust memorial on 8 May - exactly 60 years after World War II ended in Europe - the Federal Constitutional Court published details backing up its ruling. Berlin's city government called a counter-demonstration dubbed a 'Day of Democracy' at the Brandenburg Gate near the Holocaust memorial on 8 May and won court approval to ban the NPD from the entire area. The Constitutional Court said that while the authorities could not discriminate against legal groups such as the anti-foreigner NPD, it underlined that they could give priority to other demonstrations even if they made their request after approval had been granted to another group. It was proper to give priority to groups whose "purpose in demonstrating" attaches special meaning to a site or date, said the court. The ruling was a fresh bid by judges to draw a line between freedom of speech and stopping NPD disruption of commemorative days. Judges said that officials could not discriminate on grounds of the demonstrators' politics, but could keep the NPD away from the Brandenburg Gate because of its special significance to Second World War memorial ceremonies. A march past the Holocaust monument was not allowed because the NPD placards insulted the dignity of European Jews, the judges said. The NPD rally marking the end of World War II was held under the slogan: '60 Years of Liberation Lies - End the Cult of Guilt.' About 3,300 neo-Nazis gathered in Berlin on 8 May but were prevented by police from even taking part in a limited march after about 6,500 left-wing activists blocked a main Berlin street.
    ©Expatica News

    The German government is reportedly blocking the deportation of Nazi war crimes suspects from the US back to Germany to be tried and punished.

    11/6/2005- The German interior ministry has refused to accept the suspects even though the United States already has stripped them of their citizenship because of their World War II history and has asked Germany to take them in, according to a report on German public broadcaster ARD's TV magazine "Monitor." Germany's refusal to accept the dozen or so Nazi war crimes suspects means that justice cannot be fully carried out in their cases as US law doesn't allow for them to be prosecuted for crimes committed outside the country. They entered the United States illegally after the World War II -- illegally, because they claimed on their immigration forms that they were not collaborators with the Nazi regime during the war. However, it was later shown in US courts that they were indeed involved. "By and large we're talking about concentration camp guards, we're talking about collaborators, people who were involved in indigenous police forces, that kind of thing," said Jonathan Drimmer, the deputy director of the Office of Special Investigations at the US Department of Justice, who has been following the cases.

    Not enough proof?
    Germany, however, refuses to accept them. Asked by "Monitor" reporters for the reason, German interior ministry officials said the US had not given enough proof that the suspects were war criminals, despite repeated requests from Germany. Deportation in such US court cases requires not criminal, but just civil, proceedings, with a burden of proof of "clear, convincing, and unequivocal evidence." Drimmer said that Germany should accept the deportees, "pursuant to a written diplomatic promise that had been given in 1954 that people who had come into the United States illegally, who had misrepresented their Nazi past to get into the United States, would be taken back by Germany." Interior ministry officials in Berlin countered that if Germany accepted the deportees, they would be supported by the German social system and possibly would involve themselves in the extreme right or anti-Semitic political activities. The officials also said Germany couldn't accept the deportees because of concerns about how this might affect the development of Germany's Jewish community. Still, according to "Monitor" staffers, there is a separate governmental office in Germany which wants to go ahead with criminal proceedings against the suspects -- the Central Office for the Clarification of National Socialist Crimes, which is specifically responsible for coordinating prosecution of former Nazis.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    Germany's relationship with foreigners is often portrayed as problematic, with tales of parallel societies and racial conflicts hogging the headlines. But there are efforts afoot to create a more peaceful picture.

    13/6/2005- A recent competition run by the Bertelsmann foundation and the German interior ministry invited more than one hundred communities to take part in a competition called "immigrant integration -- strategies for local integration policies." In the category of medium-sized towns, first prize went to North Rhine-Westphalia's Solingen, where young people in particular have been involved in a number of projects aimed at encouraging the integration of refugees and foreigners.

    Overcoming the past
    Solingen's fairly modest population of 163,000 people draws from 130 different countries, lending the city a colorful, melting pot feel which is not altogether characteristic of Germany. This image of cross cultural harmony can be attributed, at least in part, to the concerted efforts of the town authorities to consign its bad reputation to the annals of time. Back in 1993, Solingen hit the headlines when right wing extremists set fire to the house of a Turkish family, claiming five lives. It was enough to spur the townspeople into action, and they quickly set up a number of projects designed at preventing the city from being forever dubbed a hub of xenophobic activity. One particularly successful project is a soccer tournament called "Cup without Borders," which Julia Reithmeier of the youth city council, says is for kids who play football on the streets. "Young people, and especially refugee children rarely get the opportunity to join a soccer club, which means they end up playing on the streets. We organised this tournament in order to give such teams the chance to get a taste of success," she said.

    Active minors
    Solingen also has a very active youth city council, which is made up of German and foreign youths who are elected by school children from the town. They work closely with the official city council, offering opportunities for meeting new people and getting out of the rut of aimless hanging out. The young council also masterminded a project for promoting tolerance and civil courage, and awards a "silver shoe" for people who stand up to racial hatred in public. In the name of the project school children raised funds for social events in order to give refugee kids the chance to mingle with the more established inhabitants of Solingen, and additionally, to finance a homework program for those who are struggling at school. Julia Reithmeier believes that such programs don't only benefit refugee children, but also those who are involved in their organisation. "Through this kind of work, they can learn to deal with problems, to address serious issues and develop a sense of responsibility."
    ©Deutsche Welle

    16/6/2005- Many foreigners living in Germany are deciding to retire here, despite the fact that institutions are often not oriented towards the needs of immigrants, according to speakers at the 'Altwerden in der Fremde' ('Growing old abroad') conference in Berlin. "The number of foreigners over 60 is continuously growing," said Irmingard Schewe-Gerigk, the Greens Bundestag speaker on the aged and the organiser of the discussion forum, in remarks quoted by the Berlin daily Taz. In the 1960s, 'Gastarbeiter' (guest workers) from Turkey, Greece, Italy and Croatia were invited to come to Germany to work. They were expected to return to their home countries later. However a large proportion of the first wave of guest workers have decided to spend their retirement in Germany. Their children and grandchildren live here, and they have lost ties with their former homelands over the years. Although Germany's foreign population is currently significantly younger than the German population, the charity Caritas predicts that by 2010 there will be 1.3 million elderly foreigners living in Germany. By 2030 a quarter of Germany's senior citizens will be immigrants. Experts say that many foreigners age quicker than Germans, as a result of doing heavy manual labour, shift work, and night work. "The ageing process kicks in earlier [with foreigners] than is the average in the German population," said Peter Zeman from the German Centre of Gerontology. "During their working lives, immigrants have often enjoyed too few chances for regeneration," added Zeman, citing their lifestyle as the main reason. Immigrants often work overtime or have two jobs, in order to earn as much money as possible in the shortest time, to invest in their home country. Many immigrants decide to stay in Germany, however. Immigrants often expect to be taken care of by their families in Germany. "But often that doesn't work," said Schewe-Gerigk. Their children and grandchildren have jobs and so caring for the retired immigrants has to be done by professionals. However immigrants are often not well enough informed about institutions which care for the elderly. Similarly such institutions are often ignorant of the special ethnic and religious needs of immigrants. "For example, a bedridden Muslim cannot be washed with a flannel," said Ulrich Stiels from Transkultureller Pflegedienst Hannover, explaining that according to Islamic beliefs running water must be used. Raising awareness of such needs is one of the aims of the conference.
    ©Expatica News

    16/6/2005- Straining relations with Turkey, the German Bundestag parliament adopted a resolution on Thursday condemning the massacre of up to 1.5 million ethnic Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 90 years ago. The resolution criticised the current government of Turkey for "neglecting to address the issue" in a forthright manner. Turkey's foreign minister Abdullah Gul denounced the resolution as "irresponsible, appalling and injurious" to relations between the two countries. "We note this decision with regret and we strongly condemn it," said a statement released by the foreign ministry. The statement accused the resolution of being rooted in "domestic politics" and called it "irresponsible and narrow-minded". Turkey acknowledges the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of deaths in "civil strife" during 1915-17 but denies there was a state- sponsored extermination plan - a stance that has complicated its efforts to join the European Union. Accession talks are due to start later this year. On 24 April 1915, the Ottoman Turkish government arrested hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders, most of whom were quickly executed. This was followed by the mass relocation of Christian Armenians from Anatolia through desert to Mesopotamia and what is today Syria. Starvation, disease, attacks by bandits and the brutality of the escorting troops resulted in mass fatalities. Most Western sources maintain that more than a million deaths took place. The incident has been widely referred to as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey said Thursday's resolution is not historically correct, saying claims that "almost all Armenians living in Anatolia were exterminated" have "no basis".
    ©Expatica News

    5/6/2005- Swiss voters have backed joining a European passport-free zone and giving more rights to same-sex couples in separate referendums on Sunday. Official results from all 26 cantons showed 58% backed the same-sex move and 54.6% supported joining the Schengen group of European nations. The Swiss government had urged a yes in both votes. Backing Schengen will also allow the Swiss police to share information with EU states on crime. Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, but is surrounded by countries which are. Joining the Schengen zone means that it will scrap border checks with its neighbours by 2007. The same-sex vote gives gay couples the same inheritance and tax rights as married heterosexual couples. However, they will not be allowed to adopt or to undergo fertility treatment. It was the first time a country had held a nationwide referendum on this issue. Legislators had approved the move, but a coalition of religious and conservative groups had gathered 50,000 signatures to force the referendum. Critics of Schengen had also forced the referendum vote with 50,000 signatures. Schengen will allow Swiss police to share information with their EU colleagues about all sorts of crimes, from money-laundering to suspected terrorist organisations. The Dublin accord, which has also been backed in the referendum, will give Switzerland access to Eurodac, the database which is supposed to prevent asylum-seekers making applications to more than one European country. The Swiss "yes" vote on Schengen and Dublin comes in the wake of "no" votes in France and the Netherlands on approving the EU constitution.
    ©BBC News

    Zurich's Muslim organisations have decided to fight prejudice by adopting a groundbreaking charter that underlines their commitment to Swiss values.

    13/6/2005- The document, the first of its kind in Switzerland, aims to improve the integration and image of Muslims. On Monday Ismail Amin, president of the umbrella association of Zurich's Islamic organisations, said that a study carried out by the local university showed that Muslims were portrayed negatively in three out of four Swiss media reports about their community. "We decided to publish this charter to fight against prejudice and misrepresentations," he said. The charter demands that the association's 15 members defend democracy, peace, human rights, equality, integration, promote dialogue between religions and reject violence. Amin said that some political parties were using fear of Islam as an electoral tool. He pointed to recent campaigning in the run-up to the nationwide vote on the Schengen/Dublin agreements with the European Union on security and asylum.

    The charter says that the association is not attempting to create an Islamic state in Switzerland, nor does it place Islamic law above Swiss law. "The democratic state guarantees a peaceful and harmonious life for all, including the Muslim minority." The section on integration specifically calls on Muslims to be a part of Swiss society. The Zurich organisations say they are in favour of the integration of the Muslim community in Switzerland. But they also want respect and tolerance from the Swiss population. "We want to keep our religious identity," says the charter. According to Amin, the charter is based on similar documents produced in Germany. "Because of growing anti-Muslim prejudice and terrorist acts, Germany's Islamic organisations decided to react," he said. "I hope that other Muslim associations in Switzerland will now follow our example." The mayor of Zurich, Elmar Ledergerber, hailed the charter as an "unmistakable sign" that Muslim associations were committed to Swiss values. He added that the document made it clear there was no other path to follow other than integration.

    Gay rights' groups are celebrating after voters on Sunday approved a new law allowing homosexual couples to register their partnerships.

    5/6/2005- The result means that gay couples will now be granted the same legal rights as married couples in the areas of pensions, inheritance and taxes. But they will not be allowed to adopt children or have access to fertility treatment.The results of Sunday's referendum put support for registered partnerships at 58 per cent, which the "yes" campaign described as "wonderful". Speaking at celebratory gathering after the vote, campaign spokesman Christian Verdon told swissinfo he was "very happy". "[The result] shows that we are a pluralistic society that defends its minorities. Homosexuals have earned their place in society today." Verdon added that the outcome was also a big step forward in the fight against homophobia. "It will give gay couples far more visibility," he said. "People only fear what they don't know." Although the registered partnerships law had been given the go-ahead by parliament, a small conservative religious party, the Federal Democratic Union, collected enough signatures to force Sunday's referendum. Nicole BÈguin, co-president of Switzerland's lesbian organisations, said the result was a clear sign that homosexuals were now accepted in the country. "Ten years ago, such a proposal would never have been approved."

    Reacting to the result, the "no" campaign, which has lobbied hard against gay partnerships in the run-up to the vote, said it wasn't disappointed with the outcome and accepted it. "We are surprised by the result which is better than we expected since we managed to get over 40 per cent of the vote," said the Federal Democratic Union's Christian Waber. "But Swiss citizens must now take their responsibility for the vote." Opponents of registered partnerships are already warning of what they call the "consequences" for society and policies. According to Waber, gay couples will now start demanding the right to adopt children and fertility treatment. Supporters of the "no" campaign say they will also fight plans for gay people to explain to schoolchildren what homosexuality is. "Children especially will no longer understand what heterosexuality represents," Waber told swissinfo. "We will see society become more 'homosexual." Registered partnerships previously only existed at a regional level in cantons Zurich, Geneva and Neuch’tel. The approval of the law - the first time it has been voted on at a national level in Europe - brings Switzerland into line with neighbouring Germany and France. The government-backed measures are aimed at stamping out inequalities in the present system, which can prevent homosexuals from visiting ill partners in hospital or being subject to heavy inheritance taxes.

    Not marriage
    In the run-up to the vote, the government was at great pains to stress that registered partnerships were not equivalent to traditional marriage. "A registered partnership is not a marriage; it is an institution for those people who by definition cannot marry," said Justice Minister Christoph Blocher. Most political parties were in favour of allowing registered partnerships for same-sex couples, but the issue was opposed by Blocher's rightwing Swiss People's Party. The religious community was also divided. The Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference was against the law, but the Federation of Protestant Churches in Switzerland supported it. Most of the gay community were also in favour of the move but some were concerned the legislation didn't allow for families or symbolic gestures, such as saying yes in a ceremony ñ like in marriage ñ or using the same name. Gay associations are now expected to take time now to reflect on the result, and should not make any demands such as adoption for homosexual couples in the near future, according to Verdon. "It would be a mistake to demand [adoption rights] now. We still have plenty of work to do at the national level to explain to people what being gay and registered partnerships mean."

    5/6/2005- A priest was slightly hurt Sunday at Paris's famed Notre-Dame cathedral when clashes broke out between church security personnel and gay rights activists who performed a mock marriage of two lesbians. About 20 members of the group Act Up entered the cathedral and proceeded to perform the mock marriage, before baffled tourists and worshippers, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene. One militant -- dressed as a priest -- pronounded the two women married, while other Act UP members chanted: "Pope Benedict XVI, homophobe, AIDS accomplice." With security officials in pursit, the militants fled the cathedral, but clashes broke out outside the Paris landmark, during which Monsignor Patrick Jacquin suffered a minor neck injury. He was treated at the scene. The demonstration marked the first anniversary of France's first gay wedding, performed last year in the Bordeaux suburb of Begles. The union of two men has since been declared null and void by the French courts. "They are savages. I was pushed to the ground and trampled, kicked in the neck. It'a scandal for these people to lash out at me and the pope," Jacquin told AFP. Jacquin said he was considering filing charges against what he called "barbaric, odious and scandalous acts." The president of Act Up Paris, Jerome Martin -- who participated in Sunday's demonstration -- told AFP by telephone that he also had been hit in the melee, but said the priest had exaggerated the actual events. "We did not want to be aggressive with respect to the worshippers... the aggressive security detail wanted to rip up our banner," he said. Earlier, the Act Up militants demonstrated outside Paris city hall, denouncing homophobia and calling for equal rights for gays and lesbians.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    10/6/2005ñ The Catholic church has called on Spaniards to take to the streets of Madrid to demonstrate against the government's law legalising gay marriage. Spain's Episcopal Conference made the appeal to all citizens "in particular to Catholics" to join the march which is planned by the Foro Espanol de la Familla (the Spanish Forum for the Family) on 18 June. In a statement, which made the front pages of most of the country's dailies on Friday, the bishops said the protest was over "a just cause". "The legislation which is being prepared at the moment would lead to a corruption of marriage in our laws and would mean this vital and irreplaceable institution for people and society would stop being the union of a man and a woman," said the conference. The bishops claimed Spanish society had shown its "rejection of legislation which is so unfair and so contrary to reason" and urged Catholics to adopt the weapon of a peaceful protest to uphold their beliefs. Catholics must, they stated, show "a clear and incisive reply through all legitimate means. Laic believers respond properly to a challenge when they use their democratic rights to express their disagreement by demonstrating pacifically. It's a legitimate form of carrying out their duty of serving the common good." A number of MPs from the conservative Popular Party have announced they will attend the march, which will coincide with a concert planned by Carlinhos Brown in the centre of Madrid. The Forum is hoping to gather around 500,000 people for the protest and is laying on 200 buses to transport protesters to the capital. Two planes have also been organised to fly citizens from the Balearic Islands and three from the Canary Isles.
    ©Expatica News

    16/6/2005- Gay and lesbian activists denied they are to hold a counter demonstration in Madrid hours before a march supported by the Spanish Church against Spain's new law legalizing gay weddings. The Federation of Gays and Lesbians quashed rumours circulating in the capital that they would stage a counter demonstration on Saturday. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected for the march led by the Forum for the Family, a group which has received the backing of senior figures in the Roman Catholic Church and the conservative opposition Popular Party (PP). They oppose the new law legalise same sex marriages, which was passed by the Spanish parliament and will come into force at the end of the month. Beatriz Gimeno, spokeswoman for the federation, said: "There have been rumours circulating on the internet that we would stage a demonstration outside the PP headquarters, something which is irrational and madness. "No one who is linked to our organisation has been involved with these emails." She said the federation would respect the march and the democratic rights of those to demonstrate. Instead, she urged gays and lesbians to attend the concert in Madrid by Brazilian star Carlinhos Brown, near the route of the main march. Gimeno added: "The PP has committed a serious error because there are plenty of supporters of that party who are gay and lesbians. "That the PP and the Church are joined in this march is something which smells of the past." But the federation is to read a statement hours before the march takes place, stating publicly the new law will "end discrimination towards families made up of gays or lesbians and, above all, their sons and daughters". The new law is due to come into force on 30 June. Leading the march is the former head of the Spanish Catholic Church, Archbishop Antonio Maria Rouco, along with five other bishops from Madrid and surrounding dioceses. The PP leader Mariano Rajoy has yet to decide if he is to join the march
    ©Expatica News

    11/6/2005- About 2,500 gay rights campaigners have marched in the Polish capital, Warsaw, defying a ban by the city's mayor. The marchers carried rainbow flags and banners with slogans including "A gay is not a paedophile" and "Law and justice for all". There were isolated clashes as opponents threw eggs and shouted insults. About 10 people were arrested. Mayor Lech Kaczynski, favourite to win October's presidential vote, had banned the parade for a second year running. The marchers were joined by a number of politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka and two German MPs from the Green Party, Claudia Roth and Volkar Beck. "Mayor Kaczynski, democracy also means freedom of assembly and expression for gays and lesbians," Ms Roth told the crowd. The organisers of the parade said they wanted to highlight the problems faced by homosexuals in mainly Roman Catholic Poland. "Homosexuals in Poland are still treated as deviants, paedophiles," one of the marchers, 31-year-old lawyer Paulina Pilch, told AP news agency. "Such demonstrations are needed so people get to know us better and get used to us." Mr Kaczynski has said that allowing an official Gay Pride event in Warsaw would promote a "homosexual lifestyle". He banned the parade on the grounds that the application by the parade organisers had not been properly filed.
    ©BBC News

    Gays march in Warsaw, defying a ban and perhaps heightening the moral-values debate ahead of parliamentary and presidential voting.

    13/6/2005- As gays and lesbians paraded through Warsaw on 11 June, the city's mayor said they were breaking public order, some of his political opponents declared themselves gay for a day, and gays and lesbians said "today Poland joined Europe for good." The 2,000 or so marchers were technically breaking the law, because the mayor, Lech Kaczynski, had banned the march when it was announced last month. His firm stance against "spreading an inappropriate lifestyle" may have far-reaching implications. Kaczynski is a favorite in the October presidential elections, and most observers assess that the party he co-leads, Law and Justice, will enter government after parliamentary elections due in September. The mayor's ban provoked discussion not only on gay rights and discrimination, but also on the limits of democracy and the shape of Poland under the next government and president. "The problem is bigger than the [homosexual] minority," trumpeted the cover of the weekly Polityka.

    Mayor's ban ignored
    The controversy blew up when a gay-rights group, the Equality Foundation, announced last month it would hold the march on 11 June. The parade capped a series of events and meetings with Polish and foreign gay-rights activists called "Equality Days." Kaczynski responded with a ban on the parade, just as he did last year. "I will prohibit the parade regardless of what I find in the organizers' application," Kaczynski said in an interview with the daily Gazeta Wyborcza on 17 May. "I can't see a reason for propagating gay culture," he added. His move sparked a wave of protests not only from Polish and international sexual-minority organizations, but also from Amnesty International, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland's civil rights ombudsman Andrzej Zoll, and, unsurprisingly, Kaczynski's political opponents on the left. Most of the critical voices attacked Kaczynski for violating the constitutional right of citizens ñ of any sexual orientation ñ to gather and express their opinion or discontent in a peaceful way. As it happened, in the heated atmosphere that the ban and the ensuing arguments created, the march was not entirely peaceful. Groups of right-wing radicals mingled with football hooligans to hurl words, stones, bottles, and eggs at the marchers and their supporters. Polish Radio reported that the counter-demonstrations were led by All-Poland Youth, the youth wing of the populist, conservative League of Polish Families. Two people were slightly injured during the clashes, but there were no reports ofproperty damage. Even though the gay march was officially illegal, police shielded it from the worst of the attacks. Afterward, Kaczynski said the police had received a "political order" to protect an unlawful event. He also criticized the police tactics, Polish Radio reported, saying they had come down harder on the counter-demonstrators even though both events were illegal. Warsaw's first Equality Parade took place in 2001 and drew 300 marchers. That number had increased more than tenfold by 2003, according to parade organizers. Last year a rally attracted up to 2,000 people, but no parade was held in light of the official ban. Gay-rights marches have also met with resistance in Krakow, both from city authorities and the All-Poland Youth. In April, Krakow witnessed a three-day festival, Days of Gay and Lesbian Culture, but the planned parade was cancelled due to the extended period of mourning for Pope John Paul II. Several of the Warsaw mayor's political opponents showed up on 11 June to support gay rights. Deputy Prime Minister Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka, an independent, and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Tomasz Nalecz, a member of the Polish Social Democracy party, joined the rally in front of parliament, near the parade route. "I am here to express my protest against the mayor's decision, which is a violation of the Polish constitution and of civic rights. I am here to show my respect for the Polish tradition of tolerance," Polish Radio quoted Nalecz as saying.

    Are some Poles more equal than others?
    Gay activists and left-of-center politicians alike, though, fear a time is coming when the authorities' ideological principles will set the standards for the whole society. "We have had a foretaste of the Kaczynskis' 'Fourth Republic' ñ the Poland of hatred towards everything that is different," Marek Borowski, leader of Polish Social Democracy, wrote in a statement. Right-wing parties, mainly Law and Justice, co-led by Lech Kaczynski and his brother Jaroslaw, commonly speak of a "moral revolution" leading to a "Fourth Republic" marked by a turn toward conservatism and traditional values and the final severing of the remaining ties between today's Polish state and its communist predecessor. Under the banner of "Polish Spring," Law and Justice has been pushing its program in a series of large events across Poland that feature big-name entertainers.

    Many observers are united in a belief that the question of gay rights goes far beyond political campaign tactics and deep into the heart of Polish identity. Edwin Bendyk and Jacek Zakowski, Polityka commentators, put forward a daring hypothesis, suggesting that the course of Polish society will be set by its attitude toward minorities of all kinds, including sexual. What was the controversy over the gay-pride parade about, then? Bendyk and Zakowski wrote on 11 June, "It was only about current politics to a degree. What is really at stake is much bigger. It is the vision and position of Poland in the modern world. "The long-term essence of this formally moral conflict may prove to be a choice between stagnation and modernization, between the poverty and humiliation of a seemingly uniform Poland and the pride, creativity, and prosperity of a modern Poland," they argued. Their article warned that the current political discourse of "fear, xenophobia, and danger" is selling well in Poland. "This may bear fruit in the short run, in terms of elections or popularity in the polls, but is suicidal in the long run. Nobody has ever carried out modernization in a society that is to such an extent intimidated, divided, and taught to mistrust," Bendyk and Zakowski concluded. In a more nuts-and-bolts political analysis, the daily Zycie Warszawy commented, with some irony, that all sides should be pleased now that the gay parade has come and gone. Kaczynski did not yield and gained more support. Gays and lesbians met their goal of marching through Warsaw. The police successfully kept the opposing sides from serious clashes. And finally, the right-wing radicals stood up for the beliefs of those capital dwellers who opposed the parade. And yet, the debate over the parade and its implications had not contributed to a better quality of public life in Poland, concluded the right-of-center daily Rzeczpospolita on 13 June. "All the people, groups, and institutions involved in the discussion about the parade talked of rights, ideas, and values. But they proved unable to engage in any dialogue," wrote commentator Andrzej Kaczynski.
    link beschrijving

    15/6/2005- More than 2,500 people participated in the Parade of Equality held in Warsaw by homosexual communities June 11. Scuffles took place during the demonstration, which was held despite a ban issued by the Warsaw city administration. The march featured gays and lesbians as well as members of the Gay and Lesbian Association for Culture in Poland, the Lambda organization, the Campaign Against Homophobia and representatives of feminist communities. Leftist politicians and foreign guests were also on hand, including German parliamentarians from the Green Party. Deputy Prime Minister Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka and Deputy Senate Speaker Kazimierz Kutz led the parade. A group of radicals from the rightist All-Polish Youth (MW) and so-called "scarfers" (soccer hooligans) attempted to disrupt the march several times as it moved from the Sejm building to Defilad Square, the central point of the capital, by sitting on the road and blocking the way. Police removed them by force. Two participants of the march were injured after being pelted with stones. Police detained 29 aggressive individuals. As a result of the incidents, motions were filed for two arrests. Fifteen other individuals were charged with assault and battery of police officers, and six-with participation in a scuffle. Police custody was enforced with regard to 19 individuals. In all, five investigations are in progress: one involving assault and battery, exposure to loss of life or detriment to health and battery; battery and assault against a police officer; battery and threats towards a doctor; hooliganism and destruction of a European Union flag and infringing the bodily inviolability of Deputy Mayor of Warsaw Andrzej Urbanski, who had a cake thrown in his face. It is not known how many of the charges involve participants of the parade and how many were filed against their opponents.

    MW leader Marcin Kubinski said his organization would file a motion to the prosecutor's office regarding a crime committed by the organizers of the demonstration with a demand to dismiss the Warsaw police commissioner. Warsaw Mayor Lech Kaczynski lashed out at the police for acting "on instructions contrary to the decision of the city authorities, probably from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration." In his opinion, "police protected demonstrating gays and lesbians as if this were a legal demonstration, while handcuffing those opposing the Parade of Equality." Kaczynski added that the police should not have allowed the parade to set off from outside the Sejm in the first place. "It is unclear why the organizers of the demonstration, who did not have permission to stage it, were in fact capable of organizing this march," said Jan Maria Jackowski of the League of Polish Families (LPR). "We would like to express our indignation that people who, in the name of public interest, tried to prevent an illegal march, ended up persecuted by the police," he said. Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration Ryszard Kalisz denied the accusations, saying the police had not not received any political instructions, and had only been "acting in keeping with the principles of pragmatism."
    ©The Warsaw Voice

    13/6/2005- The Moldovan Court of Appeal has declared illegal and void the refusal of the Chisinau municipal authorities to give permission for a public pride manifestation of a gay organization. The case was brought to the court by the Information Centre GenderDoc-M in May 2005. The peaceful manifestation in support for anti-discrimination legislation for sexual minorities and legal recognition of same-sex relationships was to be held on 20 May 2005 within the Fourth Moldovan LGBT Pride "Rainbow over the Dnister". In his rejection letter the interim city mayor Vasile Ursu made reference to the fact, that Moldova "has already a law on national minorities" and there is no point in a manifestation. During the discussion by the municipal committee of the declaration to hold a manifestation, such reasons as church opinion and the fact that "in Moldova minorities are more protected than the healthy and native population" were mentioned. The Court decision states: "It is incontestable that GenderDoc-M enjoys the right to organize peaceful manifestations in accordance with the article 40 of the Constitution". The Court underlines that "making a decision on authorization or refusal to authorize a public gathering can not be conditioned by the nature of problems upon which public manifestation participants want to draw the attention of the society". The court found the municipal authorities' decision illegal and charged them to pay the state tax and to reimburse GenderDoc-M's expenses. The GenderDoc-M Executive Director Maxim Anmeghichean says: "We didn't put much hope originally into the Moldovan justice system and were determined to go all the way to the European Court for Human Rights. The court's judgment follows the European human rights standards and shows that even in Moldova the rule of law may be a reality for its LGBT communities. Refusals of authorization of peaceful LGBT manifestations seems to be a trend in Eastern European countries, as similar decisions were taken by municipal authorities in Bucharest, Warsaw and Krakow. We would like to express our solidarity with Polish and Romanian LGBT communities and to call upon Council of Europe, OSCE and EU to put pressure on our governments in enforcing the right to public manifestation".
    GenderDoc-M, the only organization in Moldova to promote LGBT rights, plans to organize a public pride manifestation next year in May during its anniversary Fifth LGBT pride.

    13/6/2005- Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek (CSSD) said yesterday that he would ask members of the CSSD deputies' group before the forthcoming Chamber of Deputies session to vote for a bill on registered partnership. The bill is on the agenda of the session which opens Tuesday. "It is a good law," Paroubek told journalists yesterday. The government as a whole has adopted a neutral stance on the bill. The junior government Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) are traditionally against the bill. Apart from them, representatives of all deputies' groups signed it. The Gay and Lesbian League asked Paroubek to support the bill several weeks ago when he was appointed prime minister. KDU-CSL chairman Miroslav Kalousek believes that with the passage of the bill, the family would lose its privileges and the bill could also harm the traditional perception of the family. "The law on the family is really a privilege which society provides as exclusive legislative protection to an entity which reproduces and brings up new generations," Kalousek said on Czech Television's Questions discussion programme yesterday. Head of the deputies group of the junior opposition Communist Party (KSCM) Pavel Kovacik, who also appeared on the programme, stated, however, that the rights of minorities should be protected. He said that although one-third of his group opposed the bill, the remaining deputies supported it. At the end of May, Paroubek's cabinet adopted a neutral stance on the deputies' bill on the same-sex couples registered partnership, another effort at putting the homosexual couples' partnerships on the same legal level than marriage. The government parties, the CSSD and two junior parties, the KDU-CSL and the Freedom Union (US-DEU), are not united in their opinion on the legalisation of homosexual partnership. It is generally expected that the bill will receive more votes from left-leaning deputies. According to recent opinion polls, the senior opposition right-wing Civic Democrats (ODS), opponents of the bill, will considerably strengthen their position in the Chamber of Deputies following next parliamentary elections in mid-2006. Supporters of registered partnerships fear that chances to pass the bill on registered partnership would decline after the elections with regards to a higher number of conservative MPs in the Chamber. Homosexual couples have been waiting for the legalisation of their partnership for 15 years. In February, the Chamber rejected a similar bill by the slightest majority of one vote only. In the past few years, deputies rejected two similar bills and returned one for completion. The laws on homosexual partnership are in effect in several EU member states. In April, Spain's parliament passed a bill enabling homosexuals to get married and adopt children, which a new version of the Czech bill does not allow.
    ©Prague Daily Monitor

    8/6/2005- Danish police are searching for unknown attackers who set fire to the immigration minister's car. Rikke Hvilshoj, her husband and two young children were rescued from their house, which also caught fire as a result of the attack. A group calling itself "Beatte Without Borders" has said it carried out the attack, condemning the government's "racist immigration policy". The minister and other senior politicians have been assigned guards. The attack took place at 0300 local time (0100 GMT). Mrs Hvilshoj, 34, was woken up by a "loud bang". When the rescuers arrived, parts of her house were in flames, too. "I am shaken and angry," she said. The group that said it carried out the attack sent a statement to various Danish media, which said: "We cannot watch passively, while the official Denmark carries out its racist immigration policy. "That's why we are taking action now." The group is unknown, but police have cordoned off the area around the minister's home in an effort to find clues that could lead to their capture.

    Harsh punishment
    The family has been moved to a secret address. Meanwhile, the minister herself and other of her senior colleagues in the government have been assigned bodyguards. The attack has come as a shock to Denmark's open society where it is not unusual to see ministers and other public figures go shopping, cycle and live their everyday lives among the rest of the population. Justice Minister Lene Espersen says that given the fact that there were children in the house, the attackers could get life imprisonment. The Danish government, which was re-elected in February, has introduced some of Europe's toughest restrictions on immigration, leading to criticism from Europe's human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe. Nevertheless, the centre-right government insists the measures are right and fair.

    Immigration tension
    The attack comes less than two weeks after a shooting in Norrebro, another part of Copenhagen, involving members of the immigrant community. A young man was killed by a nightclub bouncer, while another was wounded. When a leading Muslim cleric, Abu Laban, suggested the hand-over of "blood money" from one family to another as a way to settle the dispute peacefully, the immigration minister rejected the idea as "medieval". "Nor do we trade camels in Denmark", was Mrs Hvilshoj's response to the idea. But reports say that the family of the doorman who fired the fatal shot has agreed to move out of Copenhagen as a way to compensate for the killing. The agreement has been sharply criticised by experts in criminal law who say it is unlawful coercion and goes against the Danish sense of democracy. Only the courts can resolve murder cases in Denmark. So, while some Danes are asking the government to loosen the tough immigration restrictions, others fear that parts of those already in the country are developing into a parallel society where ancient traditions threaten Danish law.
    ©BBC News

    14/6/2005- The State Police have broken European regulations on border control and prevention of criminal activity across borders In recent years, the State Police has unlawfully reported 25 foreigners to authorities in other European countries and wrongfully deported 11 people, the Danish Data Protection Agency reported on Tuesday. The agency said it had scrutinized all 443 cases illegal foreigners that the State Police had reported since 2001 to the Schengen Information System (SIS), an EU organ to control free movement of persons across European borders and prevent border-crossing criminal activity. The agency stowed criticism on the State Police treatment of sensitive personal data, and said 25 foreigners had been reported by mistake to SIS. Eleven had been unlawfully deported from Denmark. 'The Data Protection Agency finds this an unacceptably high error rate,' the agency announced in a statement. The consequences for the wrongly reported foreigners are grave, as they can neither enter Europe nor spend time there. 'We are trying to find out which consequences it has had for the people in question,' said State Police spokesman Hans-Viggo Jensen. 'It's important to find out if they have in fact been denied entry to a Schengen country. Jensen said the failures did not change anything about the fact that the 25 foreigners should have been deported from Denmark. The legal paragraphs cited to justify the deportations, however, had been wrong.

    Facts on Schengen and SIS:

  • 13 EU countries, Norway and Iceland are full participants in the Schengen Convention on freedom of movement across borders
  • The Schengen cooperation includes revoking passport control at Europe's internal borders
  • The Schengen countries operate the Schengen Information System between them
  • SIS is an intelligence database on people. Information can be registered on persons who are missing or wanted for their own safety, as witnesses, suspects, or foreign criminals
  • SIS consists of two parts, one in each member country, and the other in a central database in Strasbourg
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    13/6/2005- Moroccan and Turkish groups in the Netherlands have set up a new action committee named "Genoeg is genoeg" (enough is enough) to organise a campaign against the Dutch government's tough immigration and integration policies. The organisers are calling for a national demonstration on 17 September in Amsterdam. Two spokesmen for the new organisation outlined the plans for the demonstration during a press conference in the Moroccan capital of Rabat on Monday. Dutch Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk arrived in Rabat for an official visit on Monday. She toured the Dutch embassy where modifications have been made to house the new integration tests that are to be introduced for would-be immigrants to the Netherlands. While there was news on Monday that other European countries are interested in the immigration policies being pioneered by Verdonk, the spokesmen for the new action committee described her policies as discriminatory and racist. "These policies are creating a greater rift between 'us and them', one of the representatives said. The 'Genoeg is genoeg' group wanted to hold a demonstration in Rabat to coincide with Verdonk's visit but the authorities did not grant them a permit to do so. The group says there should be no difference between the treatment of Muslims and non-Muslims. It argues that the Cabinet's integration plans as well as limitations on family reunification and dual nationality hits at the principle of equal rights for all dutch citizens. "We don't want a separate policy for one group as that leads to Apartheid," one of the spokesmen said.
    ©Expatica News

    15/6/2005- A mosque was gutted by an arson attack in the west of Rotterdam in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Police have said the inside of the Shaan-e-Islam prayer room in a warehouse on the Aleidisstraat has been destroyed. The mosque is linked to the Dutch Muslim association NMA and is mainly frequented by members of the Surinamese community. The cause of the fire has yet to be established. It was discovered at about 4am after local residents heard a loud bang. A police spokesperson said the blaze caught hold quickly in the building and the ground floor which houses the mosque was totally burnt out. There were no injuries. Several slogans were clearly visible on the outside walls of the building in news footage of the building on Wednesday morning. Locals claim the messages were also written in the early hours of Wednesday morning and the police are investigating if there is an actual link between the slogans and the fire. The message in one of the slogans read: "geen moskee in Zuid" (no mosque in south). Another was the word "Lonsdale" along with a cross in a circle, a far-right symbol. Some Dutch right-wingers, particularly teenagers with fascist sympathises, have a preference for clothing made by the Lonsdale clothing company in the UK because the middle letters of the brand name ó nsda ó call to mind Adolf Hitler's Nazi party, NSDAP. Another slogan "Theo R.I.P." which was daubed on the wall of the mosque is a reference to filmmaker and Muslim critic Theo van Gogh.

    Van Gogh was murdered in Amsterdam on 2 November and a Muslim man who was arrested moments later following a gun battle with police has admitted killing Van Gogh. Mosque chairman Abdoelhak Billar expressed shock at the arson attack on the Shaan-e-Islam when he was interviewed by RTL Nieuws. "Arson and racist slogans are an abnormal actÖ committed only by pathetic people," he said The mosque has been based in its current location since 1982 and has never been attacked before. It is due to be move to the south of Rotterdam in 18 months time, but Billar said he did not see this as the motive for the attack. Some media outlets reported on Wednesday that there had been a rally by right-wingers in the south of the city at the weekend in protest at the coming of the mosque. Denying this was the case, Billar said "everything is arranged". On Tuesday a court in Rotterdam sentenced a man, 25, to 12 months, with six suspended, for an arson attack on the Mevlana mosque on 7 November 2004 ó five days after Van Gogh's murder. Taking into account time he had already served in custody, the defendant walked free after the court handed down its ruling. The Mevlana mosque is in the same part of Rotterdam as the Shaan-e-Islam mosque. In April, another man received 12 months, with nine suspended for an arson attack on the Rahmann mosque in Breda a day after Van Gogh was killed. Badir Islamic primary school in the Brabant town of Uden was totally destroyed by arson a week after the killing. Several native Dutch schoolboys have appeared in court in relation to this incident.
    ©Expatica News

    14/6/2005- Hackers reportedly acting on behalf of radical nationalists have targeted the Russian Web sites of Jewish, communist and human rights organizations, local media reported. The attacks prompted a counterattack on a nationalist site. Slavic Union, a radical nationalist movement, said on its Web site that hackers had closed the anti-fascist site on Sunday. The site remained partially disabled Tuesday. On Friday the sites of the rights movement Moscow Helsinki Group ( and the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia ( were attacked and shut down. The Jewish site remained off-line Tuesday. Hackers also briefly brought down the Web sites of the Union of Communist Youth on June 1 and Sova, a human rights information center, on May 3. A statement on the Slavic Union`s home page said: "The Future Belongs to Us" and referred visitors to two nationalist Web sites that belong to the group. "This is an action by a very powerful group of nationalist-socialist hackers," a statement on one of the sites said, urging computer experts to join an "information war". A group calling itself Antishare Team briefly brought down a Slavic Union site Friday, posting an obscenity-filled statement denouncing "fascists" on the site's home page.

    FORCED 'HOME'(Kosovo)
    If Kosovo's refugees are to be sent back to a homeland that is no long really home, the authorities must at least create the conditions necessary for them to build a real home.
    By Marek Antoni Nowicki, Ombudsperson of Kosovo

    13/6/2005- Many people in Kosovo know what it means to be in an unfamiliar country with strange habits and an alien culture, nurturing a strong desire to return home. But what if you were told that you were home already? This is the fate that has befallen untold numbers of people in Kosovo ñ and more are to follow. Several European countries have concluded agreements with Kosovo's UN administration (UNMIK) for the forcible return of unsuccessful asylum seekers to the province. The practice has been going on for some time and is expected to gain momentum since the situation on the ground is said to be improving. People who fled Kosovo and have often spent the greater part of a decade in their adopted country ñ working, forging relationships, embracing a new language or culture, or getting an education ñ are now told that they are no longer welcome and that it is time they went "home." The "home" they know of may not only hold negative memories for these refugees; many of them, including children, simply do not know the place to which they must now return, and the communities they left no longer exist. What exactly did these governments think when they decided to repatriate people to Kosovo? That refugees who have been eligible to collect monthly social assistance in their host country could expect the same in their "homeland"? That a Kosovo Albanian or Ashkaeli who has been living in Germany for the past 15 years must naturally speak Albanian? What of those who were toddlers when their parents took them abroad? Or those who were raised in a German-speaking environment, educated in a German school? A spokesperson for Kosovo's government recently commented that the story contained good news and bad news. The good news: the returns signal that the general situation in Kosovo is improving. The bad news: the returnees will receive not one bit of assistance. They arrive at Pristina airport and are left to fend for themselves. How are they expected to navigate their new homeland?

    In Kosovo, where unemployment is rampant and the budget deep in the red, is it realistic to assume that they will be able to make a living? This is especially difficult for those who happen to belong to a minority, such as the Ashkaeli or Roma. Inter-ethnic accommodation and coexistence is still the exception not the rule in Kosovo. Not only are these people returned to Kosovo against their will; the return is in some countries selective, targeting primarily individuals with a criminal record. Since many of the people who fled Kosovo over the years are members of minorities, this selective repatriation only serves to reinforce the negative stereotypes that parts of the Albanian majority hold about them. Let us acknowledge that these returnees are not really returning home ñ because Kosovo has not been their home for a long time and the Kosovo they are returning to is not the Kosovo they left. But let us also acknowledge that, for the moment, forced returns from Western Europe are a reality and must be dealt with. UNMIK, the Kosovo government, and the province's municipalities need to create some sort of infrastructure to handle the influx of these new inhabitants. Returnees need to be provided with shelter, employment opportunities, and language courses for children. The government should develop special programs to help them integrate into Kosovo society through social assistance and social housing. But how can such conditions be created without taxing the limited resources of the province and its current residents? Aside from the obligation of UNMIK and of the Kosovo government to initiate such programs, citizens and municipalities must deal with this issue head on and understand that it is their duty to create the conditions necessary for the returnees to be able to establish a real home here.
    ©Transitions Online

    16/6/2005- While the figures may not be as dramatic as they were in the early '90s, Hungary still has to find an acceptable accommodation with those it accepts as refugees. Last year there were some 1,600 recognized refugees (ie a person whose asylum application has been approved, along with a 10-year residence permit and an international travel document or passport and accommodation support). Of those, 503 were from Europe and 1,097 from outside the continent; around one-third, 454, entered Hungary legally. Although a not insignificant proportion come from Africa and Asia, the biggest numbers come from Georgia, Romania and the former Yugoslavia. And what do you do if you are one of those refugees in Hungary? Often isolated by culture and language, how do you find out who to contact, who can help you plead your case? One answer is the Refugee Information Forum (, a Website sponsored by the European Refugee Fund through the Hungarian Ministry of Interior. Managed by the Afrika-¡zsia FÛrum Egys¸let (Africa-Asia Forum Association or AAF), based in Budapest, in conjunction with refugees and asylum seekers in Hungary, the site was created to provide what it calls "a wide range of undiluted information for refugees, refugee agencies and the open society." The AAF was established in the spring of 2000 as a non - profit association dedicated to the promotion of mutual understanding and growth between Africans and Asians in Hungary and the international community. With offices at LÛnyay utca 9, in Pest's District IX, it has five members of staff, aided by some 50 volunteers. Among projects undertaken by the AAF are "authentic" African and Asian cultural programs including annual festivals, live musical performances, fashion shows, .lm festivals etc, run in conjunction with African and Asian embassies. According to Frederick Omoyoma Odorige (pictured), President of the AAF, the asylum situation in Hungary has improved considerably, especially in terms of reception and asylum procedure, though he adds that it is more difficult to enter illegally into Hungary now.

    About 450 application for asylum have been received in Hungary since the beginning of this year. At its peak in 1999, 11,500 asylum applications were made in Hungary. Since 2002 the number of asylum seekers has been falling steadily, dropping by 86% in 2004 when only 1,600 applications were submitted. "Since the number of asylum seekers and refugees has fallen considerably in Hungary, more support towards integration should be given to those already here, so that they do not end up continually looking to the government for survival, but should end up as tax payers," Odorige says. "It is good that the Hungarian Government is taking various steps towards the integration of refugees, but more practical steps still need to be taken by refugee agencies." He says encouragement should be given to employing refugees in offices as a way of encouraging other employers to do the same, and points out that there is EU funding available to help support this. Refugees should be employed in projects that concern other refugees, he says, so experiences can be passed on. The state allowances for refugees should also change to match the new situation, he believes. "A single refugee needs an average of Ft85,000 to survive in Hungary monthly. The government cannot pay for all that refugees need, but the monthly allowances should be increased by at least a 100%." A recognized refugee receives a stipend from the Office of Immigration and Nationality worth the equivalent of $60 for a short period of time before they are expected to stand on their feet, Odorige says. For asylum seekers - those yet to be processed - the financial picture is even bleaker. They receive $12 a month, with a child allowance of $30. Odorige also believes more free Hungarian language lessons should be granted by the state so that so that refugees can be fully integrated in the community. "The language is a tool. Many educated and talented refugees live in Hungary. Such persons should be supported so that they can equally become tax payers, not dependents." If language is a tool, so is education. But even university graduates struggle here because of the costs involved. "Refugees who came to Hungary as university graduates find it difficult to pursue further education because of the exorbitant school fees, which can be as high as $11,000 for a session. This is out of reach for refugees. "Refugee agencies should work in conjunction with universities in order to be able to subsidize the education of refugees so that they do not become stale." Although he wants the state to do more Odorige acknowledges things are getting better. But what of the attitude of ordinary Hungarians? "It is on record that many Hungarians have been refugees in other countries before now. Apart from the government, the Hungarian public should do more in adopting refugee children and give support to refugee families and talented individuals. "When refugees - indeed any foreigners - return to their countries, they are the mirrors through which others can see Hungarians."
    ©The Budapest Sun

    Irregular migrants escape persecution in their homeland leaving everything behind and risking their life to seek a better future.

    17/6/2005- The government has drawn up a contingency plan that would come into operation if the island were to face a mass influx of irregular immigrants, Family Minister Dolores Cristina said. The plan, which should be fully operational in the coming weeks, includes the provision of a centre to provide temporary accommodation for the new arrivals. "Being such a small island, a mass influx means about 250 irregular immigrants arriving at once. Due to our limited resources we keep being caught unawares so this contingency should help us face the crisis, if and when it arises," she said. Ms Cristina was speaking at a press conference to mark World Refugee Day on Monday. She was accompanied by Walter Irvine, a top representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for Italy, Malta, San Marino and the Holy See. Mr Irvine, who has visited Malta numerous times and has closely followed the island's disputed detention policy, said he was eagerly awaiting Judge Franco Depasquale's report on his inquiry into the incidents at Safi barracks in mid-January. "We have followed this incident very closely and were pleased a decision was taken to immediately launch an investigation into the matter. However, it does seem to be taking some time," he said when questioned by journalists. "We hope the results of the investigation are made available as soon as possible because some people were badly injured in that incident and some clarification should be forthcoming," he added. Touching on another topic, both Mr Irvine and Ms Cristina yesterday put a heavy accent on courage, which is this year's theme for World Refugee Day. They spoke about the trauma that irregular migrants faced to escape the persecution in their homeland. These people left everything behind and risked their life to seek a better future. Though they came empty handed, they carried a different baggage - one of emotions, language barriers, cultural differences and psychological concerns.

    "Our objective today is to tell all the Maltese to welcome these people. Apprehension is understandable, but we have to learn to understand one another. There is no place for hatred and racism," Ms Cristina insisted. "It takes courage for both the irregular immigrants who left and for us to see new faces around - but there has to be courage from all sides." Mr Irvine said the UNHCR was aware that sometimes, due to lack of information, many people failed to understand who the refugee was, which could lead to "unfriendly feelings". "Sometimes a smile or an invitation to have a coffee will go a long way to help these people fit in and rebuild their lives," he said. Between January 2002 and December 2004, the Refugee Commissioner examined 1,661 applications involving 2,039 individuals. The commissioner has recognised the refugee status of nearly half the asylum seekers while another 40 per cent have been granted humanitarian protection. Currently there are some 135 pending applications, regarding 141 individuals. Granting citizenship to refugees could help refugees better integrate in society but to date not one refugee has been granted citizenship. When questioned about this, Ms Cristina said the government was moving towards granting citizenship to refugees who have been living in Malta for 10 years. The UNHCR and the Social Solidarity Ministry have joined forces to work together towards achieving better understanding among Maltese and irregular immigrants. "This cooperation agreement comes at a significant time when Malta sees the arrival of asylum seekers that is raising concerns among the local population," Ms Cristina said. An information campaign to promote better understanding is set to start around October, while the UNHCR will be holding a seminar for the media on national and international legislation and reporting techniques. "The apprehension shown by the Maltese is understandable in view of the changes taking place in our country. This makes it even more critical that misunderstandings are ironed out and clear information reaches every sector of society - however, apprehension and racism are two distinct issues," she said. Ms Cristina and Mr Irvine acknowledged the valuable efforts and courage shown by workers in the field and by non-governmental organisations.
    ©Times of Malta

    Lack of journalistic sensibility to sensitive issues
    By Gordana Vilovic

    17/06/2005 - Is there hate speech in Croatian media today? Without a detailed analysis, the first answer could be concisely expressed in the following statement: Hate speech has almost disappeared from Croatian media. However, occasional examples can be found that show how the media pay little or no attention to some sensitive situations targeted at representatives of minorities, regardless of whether they are homosexual couples, ethnic groups, AIDS victims or members of minority religious organizations. In this sense, Croatian media are still trapped by sensationalism and unfair presentation of particular events; as a rule, their bias is damaging for the members of minority groups. Thus, hate speech appears less often, but excess situations especially in post-conflict, troubled areas such as Vukovar, show that journalists and editors (ab)use ethnic background. By stressing ethnic background, regardless of the nature of the crime (if any), the journalist or the editor a priori accuses other members of the particular ethnic minority. Of course, one cannot claim that this is the kind of articles that promotes hate speech, but one can conclude that the final outcome of the reader's experience is the following: "Look at what they (the minority) are doing to us (the majority)". There are quite a number of such instances, but instead of labeling them as hate speech, it is much fairer to label them as being politically incorrect. The aim of this paper is to give a short description of the current situation and instances in which one can find unfair reporting in the media bordering on hate speech and yet, they are not hate speech in the real sense of the word. At least, they are not hate speech in the form that hate speech had in the nineties. There have been changes towards fairer and better reporting. However, can we actually be satisfied today?

    Short Genesis of Hate Speech
    The war circumstances in the nineties brought, both to politics and to the media, a new concept: hate speech. Zarko Puhovski, chairman of the Croatian Helsinki Council, states in the introduction to the book Forging the War by Mark Thompson that the beginning of hate speech was marked by total silence, and says: "At the very beginning ñ at least in our (post-communist, post-Yugoslav, etc.) case ñ there must have been silence. Silence which ñ as was later proven by reconstruction ñ had been hiding decades of hatred. Only if this is taken into account, it can be clearly understood that such a widely used interpretation of ëhate speech' as one of the vital hypotheses of the post-Yugoslav war, was possible as a form of resistance to the longstanding silence." Let us recall the definition of hate speech. It is "all kinds of speech that disseminate, incite or justify national and racial intolerance, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, religious and other forms of hatred based on intolerance." The definition is completely transparent. Without any doubt, it indicates the worst forms of verbal aggression towards those who are in minority by any criteria or who are different. Examples of hate speech in Croatian media experience have been different and one can tentatively define three stages after 1990: the first stage ñ genuine form of hate speech (1990-1997); the second stage ñ the beginning of concern to lessen the intensity and perniciousness of hate speech in the media (1997-2000), and the third stage from 2000 until today which represents a significant fading away of hate speech, i.e. more frequent occurrence of politically incorrect speech in the media when minorities are concerned.

    Genuine Form of Hate Speech: 1990-1997
    Many still feel ill at ease when remembering the beginning of the war in Croatia in 1991 and a little bit later in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Huge destruction, enormous numbers of refugees and displaced persons, destroyed families, the missing and killed and, finally, the bizarre fate of the media. Such was the framework which gave rise to hate speech that was primarily directed at the members of the Serbian national minority. Similar language was also used in 1993, but this time against the members of the Bosniak national minority. In some papers of extreme right political orientation with minor circulations, such as Tomislav, Hrvatsko Slovo or Narod, constructions of hate speech characteristic of the nineties can be found, such as:
    "the Serbian code of dishonor as a special code of moral values in which a lie, boastfulness, perfidious killing, looting, theft or rape are considered honorable deeds Ö and which were rooted in the Serbian national being."

    The scary part of the whole issue is that some of these papers were subsidized by the Croatian government. Of course, all Croatian papers, both private and state owned, feature a number of instances of promotion of hate speech. The broadcasting of Croatian public television about events from Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Croatian and Bosnian conflicts will be remembered. The members of the "Bosniak people were labeled ëbalija' , ëmujahedins', ëfundamentalists' and ëIslamic fanatics'." Today, twelve years later, then chairman of the Croatian Helsinki Council Ivan Zvonimir Cicak, remembering the time of media promotion of hate speech against Bosniaks, says: "It was a powerful vocabulary of hatred and fear so it does not come as a surprise that Muslims did not leave their houses for a few days at a time after each of these television broadcasts from Bosnia." Next to intolerant language referring to national minorities that Croatia was in conflict with, the same language was used against all those who expressed any form of critical opinions about the new Croatian state: from "hejslavenci" to "extremely communist media storm troopers". It is interesting to note that along with Serbians and Bosniaks, Jews were also the target of hate speech!?

    The first, intensive period of hate speech in Croatian media did not bypass members of different religious groups or sects. The Catholic priest Ante Bakovic writes:
    "I invite Ö all honorable and decent Croatians to be aggressive to such sects, to treat them as leprosy. I give them the status of parasites or tumors. It is the same as when a healthy organism has a tumor; the tumor must be removed immediately in order not to infect the whole organism. Thus, I give them the status of leprosy, epidemic, parasites; we should not start discussions with them Ö"

    The above illustrations show how intense was the period of hate speech in Croatian media. The majority of media analysts would probably agree that such a period of harsh hate speech never occurred in the media again. Of course, there have been sporadic cases. This is exactly why it is important to stress what it actually is, when writing about today's possible occurrences of hate speech in Croatian media, and how each media outlet that is concerned with its credibility and that honors its readers is watchful about its vocabulary and utterance in all newspaper forms. The sad side of the issue is that in eight years, not one of the government members has seriously reacted to such occurrences, except for non-government organizations dedicated to media freedom and professional standards. Among the latter, we should mention the Croatian Helsinki Council, Croatian Journalists' Association, Civic Initiative for Freedom of the Public Word, and a number of international organization that were operating in Croatia at the time.

    Croatian Government against Speech of Intolerance: 1997-2000
    Saturation with speech of intolerance finally provoked the reaction of the authorities in 1997. Namely, in October 1997, the Croatian government sent an appeal to the media in which it called for "use of speech based on tolerance, moderation and cohabitation." By issuing the appeal, the Government actually publicly acknowledged that some media outlets had caused huge evil by promoting speech of intolerance that had become counterproductive for Croatian policies, forgetting that at the beginning of the nineties the Government itself had issued suggestions and instructions on how the media should write. The respected Croatian journalist Bozo Novak commented on the then Government appeal: "The authorities were the main supporter of intolerance and state-owned media could only follow them. It seems that the Government is interested in tolerance only as a short-term program to enable the leaving of UNTAES in the scheduled term, and not as a constitutional obligation upon which Croatia is based." The appeal and the public acknowledgment of many, including some editors-in-chief , that they have sometimes promoted intolerance, opened a new page in relation to hate speech. The number of articles that used to promote intolerance diminished and critical comments in reaction to unwise statements by Croatian politicians appeared regularly. Along with reports about ethnic minorities, especially about members of the Roma group, the media also reported about homosexuals using a lot of unacceptable stereotypes in this second, "soft" stage.

    Sophisticated Intolerance in the Media: 2001-2005
    The change that took place at the end of the nineties was that intolerance was no longer exclusively targeted at the members of particular ethnic minorities, but was evenly distributed among all minority social groups. Furthermore, intolerant speech moved from the domestic politics section to all sections in the newspaper: culture, sports and crime. The Croatian Helsinki Council regularly monitors the media and annually evaluates occurrences, intensity and consequences of intolerance and hate speech in society. In this sense, a difference should be made between hate speech as a specific rhetoric of a particular, small group of individuals in relation to its media coverage. In fact, the role of the media is to report about an event and also to mention the use of unacceptable speech. But this does not mean that journalists, in doing so, participate in promoting intolerance. The role of the media is to report about an event correctly, in an unbiased and balanced way, using quotations which, of course, need not be civilized and are then a sign of intolerance. In such instances, every journalist or editor should, simultaneously with the report, write a critical commentary on the harmfulness and unacceptability of the declaration, especially if it comes from a high ranked politician or military officer. Thence, the role of journalism is not to deny an event, but to react to it. What about cases when intolerant declarations have the form of readers' letters? Unreserved publication of readers' letters can be counterproductive if it promotes unacceptable tones of hatred. It can, among other things, be understood as tacit agreement of the newsroom, which further asks for additional caution. It is an evil practice, a case of which has been mentioned in the document Media Picture of Croatia issued by the Croatian Helsinki Council:

    "An illustration of this is a letter by the Dominican priest Jozo Cirak from Split, published in Slobodna Dalmacija in April 24, 2001, in which the mentioned priest attacks Dragan Lukic from the Coalition of Youth Associations from Split, saying: ëHe calls Split, who he claims is 'his', a 'Godforsaken hole'. If he prefers to live in Belgrade or Nis or somewhere else in Serbia, , d if that is his 'Florida', let him go there and live in his homeland. I hope that young Croats, especially young Catholics, shall not take the bait of provocation and agree to anti-Croatian demonstrations that the Serbian Lukic is convening. I am asking the youth in Split, as well as the municipal authorities: Is there not a single, young Croatian intellectual who would be able to lead the cultural life of young Croatians and therefore it must be lead by a Serb? By the way, they have already taken over a lot of things. We should block them."

    Is There Hate Speech in Croatian Media?
    Today, at the beginning of 2005, there is no hate speech in Croatian media in the form that we could see and experience in the nineties. There are instances of politically incorrect speech in sporadic cases when media treat minority groups in a wrong, stereotyped way. Newspapers offer headlines such as "Albanian man raped Roma woman" and it is actually a Macedonian citizen who raped a Macedonian female citizen, i.e. this is what the article reads. In order to make a reader read the article, such an "attractive" headline is used. This, of course, is not a case of hate speech, but it is absolutely unfair to those involved in the article.

    The next example is an event that happened last year in Vukovar, when a bomb was thrown at the club terrace of the Croatian Party of the Law. Already the first editions of the majority dailies published the full names and surnames of the suspects, with Serbian national background next to the name of each suspect. The investigation in the next few days showed that two attackers were wrongly accused, but their names were no longer accompanied by their ethnic background. During a discussion with experienced journalists from leading Croatian dailies at a workshop on media ethics that focused on the mistakes committed and the damage inflicted on the two individuals from Vukovar involved in the event, the following comment was very surprising: "Why should we leave out the ethnic background next to the names of the suspects if it sells the paper? The readers want to know who attacked whom in Vukovar, all the more so because Vukovar is de facto a divided city and no one has any illusions that in the near future ethnic background will be of no importance." Unfortunately, all additional explanations met with strong opposition and refusal of some of the journalists. The journalists should not have, at their own risk, passed judgment before the investigation was over and stressed the ethnic background of the suspects because they are Croatian citizens. Besides, Croatia adopted the Law on Protection of Personal Information last year; according to the law, it is prohibited, except in exceptional cases, to collect data about the ethnicity, religious beliefs, membership in trade unions, sexual life and data about criminal and offence proceedings. It is obvious that journalists and the majority of public do not know about the provisions of this law. If they did, we would not be faced with a total lack of journalistic sensibility to the sensitive issues of a person's ethnic background or sexual orientation. This ignorance leads to a lot of unfairness in reporting, especially about the Roma and Serbs. The cases that we see, listen to or read about are not cases of hate speech. They are a sign of a state of sickness of society.

    According to Thomas Bauer, the media can help to overcome such a state; the media should have the key role in "critical reflection of societyÖas tools of cultural catharsis, when society restores or re-establishes itself." Using Bauer's dictum, we could say that Vukovar, Banovina and Knin are Croatian risky post-conflict areas that are burdened by lack of a communication culture and that each, unexpected case reminds anew that speech of intolerance exists in Croatia. We do not dare to make far-reaching conclusions in this paper because such a task would require a much more detailed analysis of newspaper articles over a longer period of time and using a representative sample of daily and weekly newspapers in order to find out the exact degree of unfair, intolerant and irritant language that appears in Croatian media. However, based on persistent monitoring of newspapers and public television, it is true that the media in Croatia do not promote hate speech today. Recent clashes with handball fans that came to an international handball match in Zagreb showed that Croatian media did not spare either the Croatian or the Serbian fans. What is more, professional sports comments and, especially critically intoned commentaries point at fair and balanced reporting. Although this is highly encouraging, it does not mean that Croatian media have once and for all freed themselves of politically incorrect speech.

    Sources and Literature

  • Bauer, B. Thomas: "The Culture of Diversity" (ed. S. Malovic), in The Wealth of Diversity, University Bookstore, ICEJ and OSCE, Zagreb, 2004
  • Biagi, Shirley and Kern-Foxworth Marilyn: Facing Difference: Race, Gender and Mass Media, Pine Forge Press, Thousands Oaks, London, 1997
  • Hate Speech, published in The Regional Herald for Promotion of Culture of Minority Groups and Inter-ethnic Tolerance, no. 2, September 2004, STINA, Media Plan Institute and School of Journalism from Novi Sad, Split, Sarajevo and Zagreb.
  • Malovic, Stjepan; Ricchiardi, Sherry; and Vilovic, Gordana: Ethics in Journalism, Izvori, Zagreb, 1998
    The Right to Diversity, (ed. Boro Kontic), Media Centar ñ Sarajevo, European Center for War, Peace and the News Media, Westminster Foundation and Freedom Forum, Sarajevo, 2000
  • Sansevic, Ivana "The New Robes of Hate Speech in the Media: When the Public Fails" in The Identity, no. 82, January 2005, Zagreb
  • Vilovic, Gordana "Improvement, but Prejudices are still Visible" (ed. S. Malovic) in The Wealth of Diversity, University Bookstore, ICEJ and OSCE, Zagreb, 2004
  • Vilovic, Gordana: "The Media, Ethics and National Minorities" in The Public and Minorities: (ed. Stojan Obradovic), STINA, Split, 2004

    Gordana Vilovic is Program Coordinator for the International Center of Education of Journalists in Opatija/Zagreb and Lecturer in Journalism Ethics at the Faculty of Political Science Journalism Studies
    © Media Online

    7/6/2005- The European Network Against Racism is deeply disappointed that European Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs did not reach an agreement on the Framework Decision on Combating Racism and Xenophobia during their meeting in Luxembourg on June 2 2005, a move in total opposition to the European Union's core values. "Without the Framework in place, perpetrators of racist crimes in one country can move to another to escape prosecution through legal loopholes and can incite hate crimes in countries other than their own - this is a standing insult to the victims of crime and it brings the law of individual countries into disrepute. Furthermore, it sends out the signal that the European Union as a whole is not genuinely committed to the core values in its charter of fundamental rights," says ENAR Chairman Bashy Quraishy. Every member state of the EU should make combating racism and xenophobia a top priority and nowhere in Europe should be a safe haven for those who commit and incite racist crimes. For this reason, ENAR reiterates the need for strong legislation at a time when individuals are suffering discrimination, rather than a negative signal to those who continue to perpetuate racist acts. The victims of racist hate crimes in Europe include national, ethnic (e.g. Roma) and religious minorities and millions of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. To protect their human rights, and to promote core values of liberty, democracy and the rule of law, it is essential that an effective European legislation should be adopted.

    14/6/2005- Europe's top human rights watchdog said Tuesday ethnic and religious minorities still experience racism and discrimination in Britain, despite new initiatives that have been adopted to combat bigotry. In separate reports, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, the Council of Europe's body on combating racism, also criticized Polish authorities for rarely investigating and prosecuting cases of racial hatred, and said it was concerned by the active presence of racist organizations in Sweden and the widespread dissemination of racist propaganda there. In the reports, examining racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance in five countries, the commission says problems are continuing in Britain, despite the launch of a strategy to promote community cohesion and equality throughout the country. "In spite of initiatives taken, members of ethnic and religious minority groups continue to experience racism and discrimination," the commission said. "Asylum seekers and refugees are particularly vulnerable to these phenomena, partly as a result of changes in asylum policies and of the tone of the debate around the adoption of such changes." The report also says the media has contributed to the climate of hostility toward asylum seekers, refugees and ethnic minorities, particularly Roma and Muslims.

  • Report on the United Kingdom
  • Report on Poland
  • Report on Sweden
    ©Associated Press

    By Rafal Pankowski

    17/6/2005- It is perhaps nothing to be proud of but I can consider myself a veteran participant of various international conferences on the subject of racism and xenophobia. Over the years I never witnessed an official Polish delegation so numerous and packed with MPs as at the recent OSCE-organised conference in Cordoba (Spain). At times it seemed as if Polish was the language you could hear everywhere in Cordoba. Does it mean the subject of racism finally won the recognition it deserves among the Polish politicians? One participant of the Polish delegation explained this phenomenon rather differently: it is an election year in Poland. Those little known MPs stand no chance of being reelected ñ the election is certain to bring huge changes on the political scene. Therefore, it is perhaps their last chance to go on a trip like this. This is the real reason why so many Polish politicians suddenly discovered their interest in anti-racism. Cordoba is, after all, a leading tourist attraction.

    Because for many of the above mentioned politicians the OSCE conference was the first experience of publically discussing the questions of xenophobia, it is perhaps not surprising some saw as their duty to act as "defenders" of their country against what they consider unacceptable criticism.

    This attitude is shared by many journalists in the mainstream media in Poland, too. A post-Cordoba article in "Le Figaro" which mentioned antisemitism in Poland was met with furious reactions in the Polish press. And, to add fuel to the fire, the newest ECRI report on Poland was published just a few days later. Although there is little to dispute in terms of the facts mentioned in the report, the reaction of the mainstream is really quite pathetic. Instead of discussing the report's contents, commentators react with shock the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance dares mention antisemitism as a problem which still exists in the country. The chorus of denial has been joined by politicians from the centre and the social democratic left. Tadeusz Iwinski, the communist-turned-social democrat is a long time denier of the existence of antisemitism in Poland, no wonder he himself authored virulently "anti-Zionist" texts published by the regime before 1989. Iwinski has been a loud voice in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and he has vowed to condemn ECRI's "anti-Polish" report in the Assembly next week. More surprisingly, some leaders of the Jewish communal institutions in Poland distanced themselves from the report, too, claiming antisemitism is not a serious problem for them.

    They should probably read the long list of antisemitic and racist incidents available on the website of the antifascist Never Again Association. Who can be expected to carry on the struggle against racism and antisemitism then? The high attendance of MPs and officials in Cordoba doesn't seem to reflect much. Should the job be left permanently to a few NGOs and groups of young idealists?
    ©I CARE News

    By Felix Corley, Editor Forum 18 News Service

    1/6/2005- As delegates prepare for the forthcoming OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism and on Other Forms of Intolerance, Forum 18 News Service notes that religious believers face intolerance in the form of attacks on their internationally agreed rights to religious freedom ñ mainly from their governments ñ in many countries of the 55-member OSCE. Despite binding OSCE commitments to religious freedom, in some OSCE member states religious communities are still being vilified, fined and imprisoned for peaceful exercise of their faith, religious services are being broken up, places of worship confiscated and even destroyed, religious literature censored and religious communities denied state registration and hence the domestic legal right to exist. Events in Uzbekistan offer one warning of what the persistent intolerance of religious freedom and other internationally agreed human rights can lead to. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which has as members all the states of Europe, Central Asia and North America, works not by coercion but by consensus and persuasion. Membership is not compulsory: states have the free choice whether to accept the binding OSCE commitments by joining or not. The commitment of all OSCE states to respect freedom of of thought, conscience, religion or belief is clear and has been repeatedly reaffirmed. One of the most important sets of human rights commitments that members states have agreed to are the 'Copenhagen Commitments,' which, amongst other things, state that:
    "Everyone will have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change one's religion or belief and freedom to manifest one's religion or belief, either alone or in community with others, in public or in private, through worship, teaching, practice and observance. The exercise of these rights may be subject only to such restrictions as are prescribed by law and are consistent with international standards."

    Yet government intolerance against religious believers, through denial of their rights to religious freedom ñ rights agreed to by these same governments - remains disturbingly pervasive throughout many member countries of the OSCE. As delegates assemble in Cordoba in Spain for the OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism and on Other Forms of Intolerance on 8 and 9 June, many ask how violators of these fundamental OSCE commitments - especially Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Armenia - can be allowed to continue as members of an organisation whose fundamental principles they blatantly flout. OSCE officials argue off the record that it is better to keep violators in, with the hope that they can be persuaded to mend their ways, rather than expel them, abandoning local people to the clutches of their governments. The result is that persecuted believers, Forum 18 News Service has spoken to in a number of states, now have little faith in what the OSCE can and will do for them to protect their right to religious freedom.

    The OSCE has reaffirmed that intolerance of and discrimination against religious believers is as unacceptable as intolerance of and discrimination against ethnic or other social groups or individuals. Meeting in the Dutch city of Maastricht in 2003, the OSCE Ministerial Council stressed in its Decision No. 4 on Tolerance and Non-Discrimination that it

  • "affirms the importance of freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, and condemns all discrimination and violence, including against any religious group or individual believer"
  • "commits to ensure and facilitate the freedom of the individual to profess and practice a religion or belief, alone or in community with others, where necessary through transparent and non-discriminatory laws, regulations, practices and policies".
    The ministerial council also emphasised what it believed is the importance of a "continued and strengthened interfaith and intercultural dialogue to promote greater tolerance, respect and mutual understanding".

    But in much of the OSCE region the most serious discrimination and intolerance against religious believers of all faiths comes from governments themselves. In many states discrimination is enshrined in law and in official practice (from national to local level). Believers will only be free of such discrimination if such discriminatory laws are abolished or amended, and if other laws and international commitments guaranteeing religious freedom are put into actual practice. Social intolerance of religious minorities does exist ñ for example among Orthodox in Georgia, among Muslims in Central Asia, and among ethnic Albanians (whether Muslim or Catholic) in Kosovo. Governments clearly have a duty to address this and promote tolerance in society, and many claim to do so. But the claims of some governments to be against intolerance are rendered worthless by their persistent, repeated failure to either improve their own behaviour towards their own citizens, or to honour the international commitments they have freely chosen to abide by. In considering religious intolerance and hatred, it is important to remember that criticising the beliefs of religious or non-religious people, whether from a religious or non-religious perspective, does not of itself constitute religious hatred. This can only reasonably be said to exist where violence is incited leading to acts of violence being committed. An absolutely vital element of religious freedom is the right peacefully to expound and promote one's own beliefs, including setting out how they differ from the beliefs of others, as well as why one believes ones own beliefs to be truer than other beliefs.

    In the run-up to the September 2004 OSCE Conference on Tolerance and the Fight against Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination in Brussels, Forum 18 News Service surveyed some, but not all, of the continuing abuses of religious freedom in the eastern half of the OSCE region (see F18News 9 September 2004). Discrimination against believers also occurs in other OSCE countries (such as the About-Picard law in France, restrictions on newer religious communities in Belgium and discrimination against minority faiths in Turkey). It is disturbing that nearly one year on, almost all the abuses Forum 18 noted in 2004 have continued unchecked. Current abuses are outlined thematically below. The situations and incidents given are examples and not a comprehensive list of religious freedom violations.

    Religious Worship
    An alarming number of states raid religious meetings to close down services and punish those who take part. Uzbekistan is one of the worst offenders: unregistered religious services and meetings are often raided and participants beaten and fined. Christian bible study groups ñ and small meetings of other faiths - in homes are illegal. Large-scale co-ordinated raids took place against Jehovah's Witnesses worshipping in April. Islam remains under very tight government control. Despite allowing some religious minority communities to register over the past year, Turkmenistan restricts the freedom to conduct religious worship and meetings ñ they remain banned in private homes. Even registered religious communities ñ such as the Hare Krishna community in Ashgabad ñ has been banned from meeting, while the Seventh-day Adventists could not meet legally for six months after gaining registration. Religious communities are pressured to venerate the president's book, Ruhnama, despite the fact that many religious believers consider it to be blasphemous. Belarus specifically bans unregistered religious services, while numerous Protestant congregations - some numbering more than a thousand members - cannot meet because they cannot get a registered place to worship. In Kazakhstan the new national security amendments now completing passage through parliament will similarly ban unregistered religious services (administrative fines have already been imposed for this). Azerbaijan also on occasion raids places where worship is being conducted, either in religious buildings or private homes. In Macedonia, members of the Serbian Orthodox Church have difficulty holding public worship and leaders have been prosecuted. In Russia and some other states, minority faiths are often denied permission to rent publicly-owned buildings available to other groups.

    Places of worship
    Opening a place of worship can be impossible in some states. Turkmenistan is the worst offender: not only is it almost impossible to open a place of worship for non-Muslim and non-Russian Orthodox communities, those that existed before harsh new regulations came in from the mid-1990s saw those places of worship confiscated, while Hare Krishna, Muslim and Adventist places of worship were even bulldozed. More than half a dozen mosques were destroyed in 2004. Uzbekistan has closed down thousands of mosques since 1996 and often denies Christian groups' requests to open churches. Azerbaijan obstructs the opening of Christian churches and tries to close down some of those already open, while in 2004 it seized a mosque in Baku from its community and tried to prevent the community meeting elsewhere. Belarus makes it almost impossible for religious communities without their own building already - or substantial funds to rent one - to find a legal place to worship. An Autocephalous Orthodox church (which attracted the anger of the government and the Russian Orthodox Church) was bulldozed in 2002. In Slovenia, which presently chairs the OSCE, the Ljubljana authorities have long obstructed the building of a mosque, as have the authorities in the Slovak capital Bratislava. In Bulgaria, in July 2004 the police stormed more than 200 churches used by the Alternative Synod since a split in the Orthodox Church a decade ago, ousting the occupants and handing the churches over to the rival Orthodox Patriarchate without any court rulings.

    Where registration is compulsory before any religious activity can start (Turkmenistan, Belarus and Uzbekistan, with Kazakhstan likely to follow soon) or where officials claim that it is (Azerbaijan), life is made difficult for communities that either choose not to register (such as one network of Baptist communities in the former Soviet republics) or are denied registration (the majority of religious communities in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan). Registration in Turkmenistan is all but impossible, despite the reduction in 2004 from 500 to 5 in the number of adult citizens required to found a community. In countries such as Azerbaijan or Uzbekistan, registration for disfavoured communities is often made impossible - officials in the sanitary/epidemiological service are among those with the power of veto in Uzbekistan. Belarus, Moldova, Slovenia, Slovakia, Macedonia, Russia and Latvia are also among states which to widely varying degrees make registration of some groups impossible or very difficult. Moscow has refused to register the Jehovah's Witnesses in the city, despite their national registration. Some countries ñ including the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria, with plans for similar moves in Serbia ñ grant full status as religious communities to favoured religious communities only. Faiths with smaller membership or which the government does not like have to make do with lesser status and fewer rights.

    Religious literature
    Belarus and Azerbaijan require compulsory prior censorship of all religious literature produced or imported into the country. Azerbaijani customs routinely confiscate religious literature, releasing it only when the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations grants explicit written approval for each title and the number of copies authorised. Forbidden books are sent back or destroyed (thousands of Hare Krishna books held by customs for seven years have been destroyed). Even countries without formal religious censorship ñ eg. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan ñ routinely confiscate imported religious literature or literature found during raids on homes. Uzbekistan has burnt copies of the Bible confiscated as travellers arrive in the country. Uzbekistan routinely bars access to websites it dislikes, such as foreign Muslim sites.

    Individual rights
    Believers from minority religious communities in institutions such as prisons, hospitals or the army may face difficulties obtaining and keeping religious literature, praying in private and receiving visits from spiritual leaders and fellow-believers. In Uzbekistan, even Muslim prisoners have been punished for praying and fasting during Ramadan. Death-row prisoners wanting visits from Muslim imams and Russian Orthodox priests have had requests denied, even for final confession before execution. In Kazakhstan, Protestant schoolchildren under 18 are denied their right to worship and their parents are denied the right to bring their children up in their own faith.

    Turkmenistan has dismissed from state jobs hundreds of active Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses and members of other religious minorities. Turkmen, Azeri, Kazakh and Uzbek officials try to persuade people to abandon their faith and "return" to their ancestral faith (Islam). Although the order has now reportedly been rescinded, Armenia ordered local police chiefs to persuade police officers who were members of faiths other than the Armenian Apostolic Church to abandon their faith. If persuasion failed, such employees were to be sacked. Belarus has subjected leaders of independent Orthodox Churches and Hindus to pressure - including fines, threats and inducements - to abandon their faith or emigrate. Officials in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus and Macedonia repeatedly attack disfavoured religious minorities in the media, insulting their beliefs, accusing them falsely of illegal or "destructive" activities, as well as inciting popular hostility to them.

    Religious school classes
    Some states have allowed the dominant faith to determine the content of compulsory religious education classes and textbooks in state-run schools. In Belarus, minority faiths complain their beliefs are inaccurately and insultingly presented. In Georgia, classes often became denominational Orthodox instruction, with teachers taking children to pray in the local Orthodox church. In Russia, Old Believers and Protestants have complained of the way religious history is presented in Foundations of Orthodox Culture classes which have been partially introduced in schools.

    Government interference
    Many governments meddle in the internal affairs of religious communities. Central Asian governments insist on choosing national and local Muslim leaders. Turkmenistan ousted successive chief muftis in January 2003 and August 2004. Turkmenistan imposes the president's book Ruhnama on religious communities, while Uzbekistan allows imams at Friday prayers only to deliver officially-produced addresses and maintains almost total control of Islamic religious education. Tajikistan has conducted "attestation tests" of imams, ousting those who failed. Islamic schools are tightly controlled (in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, schools have either been closed or access to them restricted). Turkmenistan obstructs those seeking religious education abroad. Some countries with large Orthodox communities (but not Russia or Ukraine), try to bolster the largest Orthodox Church and obstruct rival jurisdictions (Belarus, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Georgia, Moldova). Russia has prevented communities from choosing their leadership, expelling a Catholic bishop and several priests, a Lutheran bishop, and dozens of Protestant and other leaders, while the security service tried to influence the choice of a new Old Believer leader in February 2004.

    Protection from violence
    Law enforcement agencies fail to give religious minorities the same protection as major groups. Between 1999 and 2003, Georgia suffered a wave of violence by self-appointed Orthodox vigilantes, with over 100 attacks on True Orthodox, Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals and Jehovah's Witnesses in which believers were physically attacked, places of worship blockaded and religious events disrupted. Mob protests against religious minorities still continue. The authorities - who know the attackers' identity - have punished only a handful of people with relatively light sentences. In some cases, police cooperated with attacks or failed to investigate them. In Kosovo the Nato-led peacekeeping force and United Nations police have repeatedly failed to protect Serbian Orthodox churches in use and graveyards, especially during the upsurge in anti-Serb violence in March 2004, when some 30 Orthodox sites were destroyed or heavily damaged. Few attackers have been arrested or prosecuted.

    Discrimination against migrants
    Many religion laws restrict the rights of legal residents who are not citizens, requiring founders and leaders of religious organisations to be citizens. Azerbaijan provides for deportation of foreigners and those without citizenship who have conducted "religious propaganda", while Kazakhstan's new national security laws tighten restrictions on foreign "missionaries". In the past decade, Turkmenistan has deported hundreds of legally-resident foreigners known to have taken part in religious activity, especially Muslims and Protestants. Some states (including Russia and Belarus) have denied visas to foreign religious leaders chosen by local religious communities, while others such as Kazakhstan have banned short-term visitors invited by local communities.

    Lack of transparency
    Major laws and decrees affecting religious life are drawn up without public knowledge or discussion. Examples are the restrictive laws on religion of Belarus and Bulgaria in 2002, new national security amendments in Kazakhstan in 2005 which will add harsh restrictions to the religion law, and planned new laws in Georgia, Serbia, Azerbaijan and Moldova. International organisations, such as the OSCE or the Council of Europe may be consulted but governments often refuse to allow their comments to be published or ignore them (as, most recently, in Kazakhstan). Many countries retain openly partisan and secretive government religious affairs offices. Between 1999 and 2003, Slovenia's religious affairs office refused to register any new religious communities. Azerbaijan's has stated which communities it will refuse to register and what changes other communities will have to make to their statutes and activities to gain registration. For many years Armenia refused to register the Jehovah's Witnesses, while Moldova still refuses to register Muslim and True Orthodox communities.

    Religious NGOs
    Non-governmental organisations which touch on religion are often treated with suspicion and can be denied legal status. Azerbaijan has persistently refused registration to the local affiliate of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), local religious freedom group Devamm and Religion and Democracy, a group of intellectuals interested in religion. Even NGOs conducting religious surveys of the population are harassed. Religious charities are regarded with suspicion across the region, especially in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In most countries religious communities and their leaders are banned from taking part in political activities and religiously-affiliated political parties are banned.

    Religious freedom reporting
    Those reporting on religious freedom such as Forum 18 News Service and groups campaigning on the issue face lack of cooperation, obstruction and harassment. Those suspected of passing on news of violations have been threatened in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, with the aim of forcing silence. In a region without much government transparency or a genuinely free media, officials involved in harassing religious communities often refuse to explain to journalists what they have done and why. Local religious freedom campaigning groups are denied registration or kept waiting. Azerbaijan has for many years refused to register a local affiliate of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), as well as other religious freedom groups. Demonstrators protesting in Belarus against the restrictive 2002 religion law were fined. In September 2004, the Belarus bureau of the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union, which included monitoring religious persecution in its work, was denied registration. Government reports on religious freedom issues to bodies such as the OSCE or Council of Europe are often confidential and closed to public scrutiny.

    Government-directed intolerance against religious communities remains endemic in many OSCE countries. Many actions to deny internationally agreed rights to religious freedom are ñ as in the case of the repression currently being carried out in Uzbekistan - claimed to be for reasons of "national security" or "counter-terrorism." But as many of these actions predate the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks ñ and 1999 Islamic-inspired incursions into Central Asia ñ these arguments are clearly invalid. The comprehensive nature of many of these measures shows the hostility of some OSCE member states to the right to exercise the faith of one's choice freely, something described by the European Court of Human Rights in 1993 as "one of the foundations of a democratic society". Events in Uzbekistan offer one warning of what the persistent intolerance of religious freedom and other internationally agreed human rights can lead to.
  • Surveys of countries' religious freedom situation
  • Personal commentaries on religious freedom issues
    ©Forum 18

    9/6/2005- Discrimination against Muslims has increased in the European Union since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and deserves as much attention as anti-Semitism, a British imam told a conference on religious intolerance Thursday. After the terrorist attacks, the EU asked member countries to assess the effect on their Muslim communities. The conclusion was "hatred against Muslims and crimes against Muslims increased tremendously," Abduljalil Sajid told a conference for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. "Islamophobia has replaced anti-Semitism as the new sharp end of racist issues," Sajid said. The imam also criticized a draft final statement being prepared at the two-day conference for not explicitly using the term Islamophobia, and said Europe has no choice but to face the reality that millions of its people are Muslims. "Muslims are not going anywhere. They are going to stay," Sajid said. EU nations still have no established system to monitor or record crimes against Muslims, he said. Barbara John, a German politician, disagreed that intolerance toward Muslims has replaced anti-Semitism as the gravest threat to a religious community, but said fear of Muslims does "continue the evil concept" of denigrating people because of their faith. A delegate representing the Organization of the Islamic Conference said Islamophobia has historic roots but was clearly fueled by the Sept. 11 attacks blamed on al-Qaida. "We are very worried," said Saad Eddine Taib, adding that Sept. 11 was a crime under Islam. "For Muslims, 9/11 was a dark day in their history," he said.

    Meanwhile, a leading U.S. Jewish human rights group has urged the OSCE to maintain separate efforts to combat anti-Semitism, in addition to programs addressing discrimination against Muslims, racism, and intolerance against Christians. Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center warned Europe faces resurgent anti-Semitism and "it would be disastrous at this critical stage to submerge the battle against anti-Jewish hate within the context of other forms of discrimination."
    ©Associated Press

    9/6/2005- Discrimination against Muslims is becoming the main human rights challenge in Europe since the September 11 attacks and many governments are neglecting the problem, delegates told a conference on Thursday. Violence by a small minority of Islamic militants and the West's war on terrorism have fuelled bias against Muslims, they told a meeting held in the southern Spanish city of Cordoba by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Jewish groups at the conference expressed concern that discussion of anti-Muslim bias -- the first time the OSCE has tackled the issue -- might divert attention from anti-Semitism, which experts say is also on the rise in Europe. A similar conference of the 55-nation OSCE in Berlin last year vowed to fight resurgent anti-Semitism in Europe and added discrimination against Muslims, Christians and other believers to its list of concerns. "Anti-Semitism has been combated by all European countries in a very strong way. This is a very positive thing, but in this combat against anti-Semitism they are neglecting the importance of Islamaphobia," Doudou Diene, the United Nations' Rapporteur on Racism and Xenophobia, told Reuters. "Islamaphobia is now becoming the central challenge of European countries in the field of discrimination and racism." "Islamaphobia and anti-Semitism are two sides of the same coin," said Abduljalil Sajid, adviser to the Commission on British Muslims. "But Islamphobia has replaced anti-Semitism as the new sharp end of racist issues in the world wherever you go." With more than 20 million Muslims living in Europe, Islam is the second religion in many countries. Reports of anti-Muslim violence and attacks on mosques have multiplied in the wake of the September 2001 attacks on the United States by al Qaeda. France, whose five-million-strong Muslim community is Europe's largest, has seen attacks on Islamic cemeteries rise in the past year. However, more than 60 percent of its reported hate crimes last year were against Jews and their property. Several countries have stepped up their surveillance of radical Islamists and planned training courses for imams to ensure these prayer leaders preach moderate Islam.

    "The enemy within"
    "Muslim communities have begun to be perceived in some Western countries as 'the enemy within', posing potential threats to the values of Western civilisation," Turkish Minister of State Mehmet Aydin told the conference. "The world is witnessing the birth of a new racism in Europe," said Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. Several speakers argued that anti-Semitism had to be the priority in the OSCE's fight against religious intolerance. "Anti-Semitism must be specifically targeted because of its unique and tragic history, and particularly because of its inexplicable resurgence in recent years," New York Governor George Pataki, the head of the U.S. delegation, said. "We must maintain our commitment to the specialised treatment of the roots and manifestations of anti-Semitism, even as we fittingly deplore and take firm steps to address intolerance in its many forms," said Daniel Mariaschin, Executive Vice-President of B'nai B'rith International. Speakers at the conference, due to end later on Thursday, said on Wednesday that many European governments had failed to keep pledges they made last year to track anti-Semitic crimes and pool information to better combat them. The Vienna-based OSCE -- which groups countries from Europe, North America and the area of the former Soviet Union -- is holding the conference in Cordoba because of its heritage of religious tolerance under Muslim rule from 711 to 1236.

    9/6/2005- Human Rights First is releasing the groundbreaking report Everyday Fears: A Survey of Violent Hate Crimes in Europe and North America to coincide with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Conference on Antisemitism and Other Forms of Intolerance, held in Cordoba, Spain, this week. The report is the first in-depth analysis of the alarming increase in antisemitic, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim hate crimes in the 55 member states of the OSCE. It also underscores a disturbing lack of response to hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation, gender, and disability. Members of the OSCE include the United States, Canada, all members of the Council of Europe, and five Central Asian states. The report reveals the pervasive, everyday nature of hate crimes and provides an evaluation of legislation and the means of data collection on hate crimes in each country. Detailed country reports are included on Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Russia, the United States, and other OSCE member states. Human Rights First will attend the Cordoba Conference as part of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
    The report(pdf): Everyday Fears: A Survey of Violent Hate Crimes in Europe and North America
    Human Rights First

    LCCR TO OSCE: TIME TO 'TAKE STOCK' (press release)
    9/6/2005- Member states need to enhance their efforts to combat bias-motivated violence in the regions covered by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), according to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition in the United States. LCCR's declaration, released in connection with a two-day OSCE conference in Cordoba, Spain on combating anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance, offers 12 recommendations for action by OSCE and participating states to combat racism and discrimination and promote tolerance. LCCR previously sent delegations of civil and human rights leaders to participate in the Berlin Conference on Anti-Semitism and the Brussels Conference on Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination. In addition, LCCR members participated in the Paris OSCE conference on Internet hate. But, LCCR noted, since the Berlin and Brussels conferences, "there has been insufficient state progress on implementation" of commitments made there to address hate violation and intolerance. LCCR's recommendations address capacity building, enhanced data collection and dissemination, anti-bias training for law enforcement officers, and educational outreach, among other matters.

    Speech by Leadership Conference on Civil Rights before the Conference on Anti-Semitism and on Other Forms of Intolerance, OSCE Declaration of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
    The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) is the oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition in the United States. Founded in 1950, LCCR consists of more than 185 national organizations, representing persons of color, women, children, labor unions, individuals with disabilities, older Americans, major religious groups, gays and lesbians, and civil liberties and human rights groups. Together, over 50 million Americans belong to organizations that comprise LCCR. Over the years, LCCR has been at the forefront of efforts to combat racism and discrimination of all forms in the United States. Building on this legacy of accomplishment, in recent years, working with selected member organizations, LCCR has extended its efforts to address these concerns - and to reach out to and demonstrate solidarity with a range of other organizations and individuals - within and outside the United States. Our cooperation is premised on the notion that hate must not be fought by its victims alone. We see great strength in the diversity of our coalition and the solidarity it represents. That is why we organized a diverse delegation of preeminent civil and human rights leaders to participate in the Berlin Conference on Anti-Semitism and the Brussels Conference on Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination. In addition, LCCR members participated in the Paris OSCE conference on Internet hate in June to share their expertise on how to combat online hatred while safeguarding the right of free expression. Recalling our declaration in Berlin and in Brussels, this Conference now affords another critical and timely opportunity to advance the fight against anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance throughout the OSCE region, to share our learning and expertise, and to learn from others from Europe, North America, and Central Asia. LCCR and its member organizations recognize that addressing specific forms of intolerance requires a distinct focus to identify the scope and nature of a problem and to better understand the varying ways to best address it. We have seen, for example, that the historic scourge of anti-Semitism has its unique origins and characteristics, and calls for unique remedial approaches. At the same time, addressing anti-Semitism poses many of the same challenges for governments and societies as other forms of racism and intolerance. We welcome the OSCE's commitment to allow the space and focus to approach individual problems effec In that spirit, we have come to Cordoba with a delegation, each of us unique but united in purpose. We are white, black, and Latino, Arab and Jew, but we have come together around a common understanding that the failure to address racial, ethnic, and religious intolerance against any of us carries a price for all of us. We meet at a time of what one of our member groups in a new report terms a growing "assault on identity" - with the hatreds of anti-Semitism joined by increased incidents of hate violence against Arabs, Muslims, South Asians, and Sikhs, as well as longstanding hatreds and intolerance directed toward Afro-descendants and immigrants. Most troubling, this violence is sometimes encouraged by the rhetoric of political leaders who have portrayed minority populations as security threats as well as economic burdens. Now is a time to "take stock" of where we are a year after the Berlin and Brussels conferences and the launch of the OSCE's work program on anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance: a time to assess the status of implementation of the Ministerial tasking and, most importantly, progress made by states in implementing commitments. Crimes motivated by bias and hate have a special emotional and physical impact extending well beyond the original targets. Indeed, by their very nature, they are designed to intimidate others in the victim's community - causing many more to feel isolated, vulnerable, and unprotected by the law. By making members of a targeted group fearful, angry, and suspicious, these criminal acts are intended to polarize communities and damage the social fabric. We welcome the steps already taken toward combating hate violence and intolerance by the OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the three Personal Representatives, but also note that a great deal more remains to be done. We urge states to support and enhance the capability of the ODIHR and the Personal Representatives in ways outlined below. In addition, LCCR encourages the work of regional institutions such as the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) and the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), in particular relating to the monitoring of and reporting on bias-motivated crimes in member countries. We renew our call on OSCE member states to enhance their efforts to implement the Maastricht Decision and commitments undertaken at both Berlin and Brussels concerning improved collection and dissemination of information on hate crimes, in cooperation with the OSCE and other regional institutions. LCCR recognizes further that NGOs also have a critical role to play in working with national and local civic and religious leaders, enforcement authorities, and others to strengthen monitoring, reporting, and enforcement of laws addressing bias-motivated crimes, as well as to advance the reporting of such crimes by victims and affected communities. In that spirit, NGOs should take on additional commitments at this Conference. We pledge to rededicate ourselves to reach out to each other to work together to combat the menace of bias-motivated violence across the OSCE region, and we urge other civil society groups to do so.

  • We commit to intensify efforts to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance and to promote and strengthen acceptance and non-discrimination across communities throughout the OSCE region.
  • We commit to working with NGO partners to learn from each others' experience and to share best practices in the fight against all forms of racism and discrimination.
  • We commit to work with states, encouraging and recognizing progress and highlighting the gaps that remain in states' criminal justice and educational systems.
  • We commit to support and complement the efforts of ODIHR to share information on incidents and best practices and to continue to seek out ways the NGO community and ODIHR can support civil society's efforts.
    But in the end, it falls to participating states to make the most critical difference. well as other institutions at the regional and national levels, to monitor incidents of hate crimes and publicly report on their findings.
  • ODIHR should craft model hate crime law guidelines that could be used to develop and implement new laws where none exist, and strengthen those that do already exist, to improve the response of the criminal justice system to hate violence.
  • The OSCE should promote anti-bias training for law enforcement officers to counter racial and ethnic profiling and other discriminatory forms of police conduct targeted at particular communities.
  • States should support the expansion of the OSCE's law enforcement training pilot program to improve the capacity of national and local law enforcement officials to identify hate crimes and develop effective, transparent procedures for recording and responding to these incidents, consistent with the interests and needs of the affected individual victims and communities of which they are members.
  • Government and civic leaders must condemn -- consistently and unequivocally -- all manifestations of racism and intolerance, including those that sometimes emanate from political and civic leaders.
  • States should utilize public and paid media to launch public service announcements and other similar forms of educational outreach, using messages that discourage intolerance and discrimination.
  • States should counter the growth of hate speech and other forms of intolerance on the Internet through substantial efforts to develop educational websites and online materials. Such sites and materials should be heavily promoted throughout the Internet.
  • The OSCE should encourage member states to develop and institute appropriate anti-bias education programs designed to make schools a safer environment.
  • The ODIHR should follow up on its just-released study of education efforts against anti-Semitism by promoting programs that respond to its recommendations, as well as addressing education efforts in the OSCE region to combat other forms of racism and intolerance.
  • In fulfilling its mandate to closely follow hate crimes in the OSCE region, ODIHR should follow up on the findings of its survey of where mechanisms are in place, continue to proactively solicit information from participating states, and offer assistance to states where gaps in effective monitoring and enforcement remain.
    ©Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

    OSCE nations wrapped up an international conference on anti-Semitism and racism in Cordoba, Spain with a declaration to take concrete, legislative action to fight all forms of intolerance.

    10/6/2005- The "Cordoba Declaration" summarizes what delegates at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's two-day conference plan to do to stop religious and racial intolerance: maintaining an international database monitoring hate crimes and introducing hate crimes legislation. But some delegates expressed their frustration at rising rates of religious hate crimes across Europe, and a sense that the OSCE has failed to live up to promises made at a conference in Berlin last year. "We need to do more to convert these sound words and goodwill to fight anti-Semitism and intolerance into action and it's clear that a number of states have just not taken that step," said New York Governor George Pataki, head of the US delegation.

    More data collection needed
    Almost half of the OSCE's 55 members missed commitments to provide data to track hate crimes. Just three countries -- the US, Canada, and Britain -- gave thorough, reliable data, according to an OSCE report. "We would very much want to see more information so that we can precisely identify where the possible deficits are in the capacity of governments to respond effectively, in order to avoid what then would be an action deficit," Strohal said. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos said that his government's progressive legislation to stop violence and discrimination against women could be used as a model for laws to stop religious discrimination.

    Muslim community targeted
    Of particular concern among the delegates was anti-Muslim discrimination. Delegates said that public outrage at attacks by Islamic militants was being directed against the whole Muslim community, and that the fight against terrorism headed by Western governments was adversely affecting Muslims. A Muslim OSCE spokesman, Omur Orhun, said that while there has been growing hostility towards Muslims in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, it is not just a post Sept. 11 phenomenon. "Muslims in Europe in countries where there have traditionally been large groups have always felt a sense of discrimination," Orhun said. "In those countries, the efforts of integration, to a great extent, have failed."
    ©Deutsche Welle

    9/6/2005- Western governments pledged Thursday to fight anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance and acknowledged some of them have failed to deliver on past commitments and upbeat speeches must now be matched with hands-on measures against hate crimes. The two-day conference of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe ended on an unexpected and somewhat angry note as the body's top official for an anti-Semitism task force expressed shock upon learning a landmark building in host city Cordoba houses a government-subsidized foundation created by Roger Garaudy, a French author convicted of questioning the Holocaust death toll. "I am angry that this can happen here and nobody is really working against that," Gert Weisskirchen told The Associated Press. "I am ready to write a letter to the minister of the interior asking him what he personally is now doing against it. That is the first step. Then we will see." In a final statement issued after two days of speeches and workshops, delegates from all 55 member states of the OSCE stressed the importance of interfaith dialogue and insisted that strife in the Middle East cannot be used as justification for violence against Jews. The statement said educating people about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism is needed to prevent intolerance, but it did not suggest any specific measures on how to do this. And it alluded to the fact that the OSCE has not come up with an official definition of anti-Semitism. "This is a work in progress," said the U.S. ambassador to the Vienna-based body, Stephan Minikes. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said the conference had agreed on a policy of "zero tolerance of intolerance" and the meeting went a step beyond one held last year in Berlin because there was a greater commitment by countries to actually do something about religious and racial intolerance and not just talk about it. Delegates heard only 29 had abided by a pledge last year to provide the OSCE with detailed statistics on hate crimes. The head of the U.S. delegation, New York Governor George Pataki, said: "We have all given our speeches in the best prose we can muster, but there is more to combating anti-Semitism and intolerance than mere speeches. We now need to implement our commitments."

    As the conference ended, town hall quickly called a press conference to explain the existence of the Garaudy foundation, about 200 metres from the palace where the conference was held. The edifice is an exquisite 12th-century Moorish tower in the old quarter of Cordoba, which in medieval times was known as a flourishing and peaceful home to Muslims, Jews and Christians. The tower, which features a museum dedicated to that period, is owned by the town council, Deputy Mayor Andres Ocana said. Town hall first ceded the spot to the foundation in 1987 and renewed the arrangement 10 years later. The foundation was created by Garaudy, who in 1998 was convicted in France over a book he wrote that questioned whether six million Jews died in the Holocaust. Ocana said the Roger Garaudy Foundation receives a small subsidy from town hall and he defended the foundation's goals - encouraging harmony among religions - as legitimate and long-standing. He said Garaudy is very ill and now has essentially nothing to do with the foundation. Ocana said the fact that his name remains on it is "a bit anachronistic," but officials had never considered forcing it to change its name after Garaudy was convicted in 1998 in France. The vice president of the board that now runs the foundation, Balbino Povedano, said the foundation is about an idea - encouraging religious harmony - not its founder and that he himself would raise the issue of the five-member board changing the organization's name. Garaudy, a philosopher and convert to Islam who used to travel often to Cordoba, received a six-month suspended prison sentence and fines amounting to more than $21,000 US for disputing facts about the Holocaust in his book, The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics. Garaudy also received a three-month suspended sentence and an additional $8,000 worth of fines for inciting racial hatred. In his book, Garaudy questioned the number of Jews killed by the Nazis in Second World War, saying it was much lower than the six million agreed upon by historians, and denounced what he called "Shoah business" - exploiting the Holocaust for money and political gains. A stand in the lobby of the museum features a number of books by Garaudy but not the one he was convicted for or any that seemed to be about revisionism.
    ©Associated Press

    2/6/2005- A recent spate of hate-related incidents around the country has raised a troubling question: Is there something about the mood in the US today ó perhaps spurred by Americans dying in combat abroad, plus the cultural and political war at home over issues like same-sex marriage, judgeships, and immigration ó that is leading in some instances to threats and attacks? "Public discourse has become meaner and more cruel-spirited in general," says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), who monitors hate groups and extremist activities in the U.S. Recent incidents include cross burnings in North Carolina, threats against gay students on an Oregon campus, disruptions of anti-immigration meetings by those charging border vigilantes with racism, anti-Semitic graffiti in the Queens borough of New York, a whites-only group recruiting in Michigan, white separatists harassing Japanese residents in Las Vegas, and a rise in anti-Muslim activity. Such trends can be difficult to gauge. States and localities use different definitions and reporting requirements. As the subject grows in public consciousness, incidents that may have gone unreported in the past now become known, giving the sense of an increasing problem. But, says Chip Berlet, an analyst at Political Research Associates in Somerville, Mass., who specializes in hate groups and far-right activity, "I have seen what appears to be an increase in anger toward gay people and immigrants, as well as anti-Semitic conspiracy theories."

    Among the quantifiable evidence:

  • The number of active hate groups in the U.S. has grown from 474 in 1997 to 762 in 2004, according to the SPLC, and in the past four years the number of hate Web sites has risen from 366 to 468.
  • The FBI reports more than 9,000 hate-crime victims in 2003 (the most recent reporting year). When an estimate of unreported crimes is added in, according to the SPLC, the total may be closer to 50,000 a year.
  • The Council on American-Islamic Relations reports that civil rights abuses against Muslims rose 49% last year (to 1,522 incidents), and bias crimes committed against Muslims went up 52%. One example: Over the weekend, someone threw a rock through the glass door of a mosque at The Islamic School of Miami. Earlier in the year, a swastika and an obscenity were spray-painted on the school sign.
  • Meanwhile, white-supremacist groups, experiencing the recent demise and disaffection of national leaders, are splintering, creating smaller and potentially more dangerous cells. Experts wonder whether this "leaderless resistance" (as radical right-wing theoreticians call for) will peter out or instead breed more "lone wolf" domestic terrorists ó more Timothy McVeighs and Eric Rudolphs.

    While most hate crimes are directed against minorities, they increasingly involve minorities against one another. In Los Angeles County, for example, most officially designated racial hate crimes directed against Latinos are charged to blacks, and vice versa. "Whites don't have a monopoly on prejudice," says Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. "Different [racial and ethnic] groups now are rubbing elbows as populations grow" ó bringing disputes over jobs, schools, and zoning. Immigration, too, appears to be a major issue influencing relationships among racial and ethnic groups. There have been clashes between volunteer border monitors in the Southwest and those who say such self-styled "vigilantes" encourage anti-immigrant bias. Some see a parallel between Islamic terrorists led by Osama bin Laden and neo-Nazis, "Identity Christians," and other right-wing extremists linked to hate crimes. "Hating becomes a religious obligation," says Jean Rosenfeld, a researcher at the UCLA Center for the Study of Religion. "Demonizing the other is a precondition for killing and winning." "This is the basic apocalyptic scenario," says Dr. Rosenfeld. "The enemy is God's enemy and evil. Eradicating the enemy is God's work and good. War cleanses the polluted world and prepares the ground for the advent of the millennial kingdom of peace and plenty."

    For some, this has to do with race or religion. For others, it's homosexuality. "The gay-marriage thing has freaked out those who see it as a sign of 'end days,' " says Randy Blazak, director of the Hate Crimes Research Network at Portland State University in Oregon. The underlying conflict over such "values" issues in politics and society has sharpened the tone of public discourse, with opponents characterized as "evil" or "immoral" on talk radio or the Internet. What's missing today, says Brian Levin of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, "is the idea of democracy as compromise, as opposed to all-out victory at any cost." The result, he says, is a divided country and a lack of goodwill exemplified by personal attacks in politics and the media. In turn, that can lead to individual threats and assaults. Around the country, communities are using traditional and unique ways to head off hateful situations. In Bozeman, Mont., last month, a member of the white-separatist National Alliance who ran for the school board was trounced at the polls. Turnout was double last year's figures. "The community was incredibly offended by this guy," Martha Collins, a winning candidate, told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. And when a virulent gay-basher came to speak in San Francisco, those protesting his hateful rhetoric organized an AIDS charity fundraiser in which people pledged to donate so much for every minute he spoke. When the speaker found out he was inadvertently supporting those he opposed, he left. In the US Senate, meanwhile, a bipartisan bill introduced last week would strengthen the enforcement and prosecution of hate crimes. A bill in the House would add protection based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, and disability to existing federal hate-crimes legislation addressing violent crimes.
    ©Christian Science Monitor Service

    While the paper says that the police don't base their decisions on race, some feel it is flawed.

    5/6/2005- Since the Riverside Police Department began studying traffic stop data in 2000, the conclusion has been the same every year: There is no evidence of racial profiling. The 2004 report is no different. Every year, Larry Gaines, the Cal State San Bernardino professor who analyzes the data, has repeated the conclusion that stops are happening where crime is happening. Period. Yet, some community leaders continue to believe that racial profiling exists. Sgt. Mike Cook, a spokesman for the department, said, "They may have valid reasons for why they feel that way. But we're not going to change everybody's mind. We just have to accept that." James Ward, a member of the Community Police Review Commission, said, "I know that racial profiling is going on." Ward said it's not that police officers purposely target blacks. He said he believes that racism is ingrained in the culture to the point that racists don't realize that's what they are. In 2001, the department embarked on a five-year reform agreement handed down from the California Attorney General's Office after 19-year-old Tyisha Miller of Rubidoux was fatally shot by police in 1998. Police had found Miller, a black woman, unresponsive with a gun on her lap inside a locked and idling car at a Riverside gas station. Officers tried to rouse Miller, broke a window and tried to grab the gun. Officers said they fired in self-defense when Miller reached for the weapon. Part of the agreement, known as the consent decree, requires the department to collect traffic stop and search data and to analyze the information in an annual report. The agreement ends in March 2006.

    Statistics and Disparities
    One of the most-cited statistics in past reports was the disparity between the percentage of the black population and the percentage of blacks represented in police stops. In 2004, blacks made up about 7 percent of the total population of Riverside, and 14.6 percent of the stops by patrol or investigative officers. By comparison, whites represented about 39 percent of the population and 36 percent of the patrol stops. Gaines said it is "unfortunate" that blacks are overrepresented because some jump to the conclusion that that shows racial profiling, but, he said, there is an explanation. Minorites, he said, are overrepresented in the neighborhoods where there is more crime. "Just about every traffic stop study that comes out shows that blacks are overrepresented," Gaines said. "Does that mean all American policing is racist? That pattern in and of itself should indicate maybe something else is going on."

    Problems with Studies
    Experts disagree on how to conduct racial profiling studies. It is easy enough to collect information about the actual stops, but what do you compare it to? Gaines based his study on census data corrected for population growth. But the people who are on the roads aren't necessarily the people who live in the community -- especially in Riverside, a county seat with several freeways cutting through it. Depending on the place and time, the racial makeup of an area can vary greatly. Gaines readily points out this shortcoming. He included the population data because "everybody expects you to make some kind of a comparison, even though we will admit right up front that the comparison is not of that much value." Some experts believe that a better approach is to collect data on the race of drivers in different parts of a city at different times of the day. But it would be too expensive to gather that data in a city the size of Riverside, Gaines said. The Riverside Police Department already spends about $20,000 per year on the study.

    Ideas for Improvement
    David Harris, professor of law and values at the University of Toledo and author of the 2002 book "Profiles in Injustice: Why Racial Profiling Cannot Work," said money should not be an issue. "How much is it worth to you to have citizens who believe in the integrity of the police department?" Harris said. "It's money well spent." Using population statistics for traffic stop studies, Harris said, "is probably the least accurate way." One area that is easier to study, Harris said, is vehicle searches. "It's a very good measure of how police officers decide to use their discretion," he said. If the search data show hit rates that are low for blacks and high for whites, he explained, that could mean that racial profiling is happening. The "hit rate" refers to the percentage of searches that uncover illegal activity. Gaines' report shows a 10.8 percent hit rate for whites and a 7.9 percent hit rate for blacks. Harris said that difference is worth noting, but Gaines does not attach great significance to those numbers. In the report, he argues the hit rate for both groups is quite low. Bill Howe, a retired police officer and former chairman of the police review commission, said, "There is racial profiling. It's a given thing, but it's hard to prove. I don't think any kind of data is going to bring it out. They're just wasting their time and money. "The majority of white folks don't believe it is happening," Howe said. "But the minorities have been the victims of it, so they know." Riverside City Councilman Ameal Moore said he doesn't buy the argument about the stops happening in high-crime minority neighborhoods."They haven't sold me on that one," he said. "African-Americans are pretty scattered throughout the city. So when they say 'high-crime areas,' I need a little bit more information. "I support the police as much as anyone," Moore said. "Don't misunderstand me. Since we've been on this consent decree, I think we have probably one of the best forces in California. But that doesn't mean they're perfect."
    ©The Press-Enterprise Company

    11/6/2005- Police in Perth are investigating claims a known associate of the white-supremacist Australian Nationalist Movement (ANM) is planning to set up an online "hit list" of anti-racist campaigners in Australia. Western Australia Police were passed details of the "Redwatch Downunder" project, which anti-racism campaigners Fight Dem Back have claimed was being established by a former supporter of the ANM. A spokesman confirmed the State Security Unit would be looking into the claims that emails were being used to draft support for the online intelligence network based on a similar "Redwatch" website in the UK. "We have been sent the details, and have passed them onto the State Security Unit who will be looking into them. We would have been aware of the group's activities, and forensic officers keep an eye on any activity surrounding the ANM," the spokesman told AAP. Mat Henderson-Hau, from Fight Dem Back, said they had evidence dozens of emails had been sent to white supremacists around Australia and New Zealand seeking information. "They say they want information on 'anarchists, reds, homos and multiculturalists' including names, addresses, phone numbers, and vehicle registrations," Mr Henderson-Hau said. "The purpose of this website is to threaten, intimidate and facilitate physical assaults against people who stand up against white supremacists in our community. As far as we are concerned, this is a terrorist threat."

    Earlier this year, the British Home Office launched an investigation into the UK Redwatch website, which publishes home addresses and telephone numbers of anti-racism campaigners, politicians and journalists. Police then raided webmaster Simon Sheppard's home early last month, seizing computers and books under legislation which outlaws incitement to racial hatred. The site, which is still active, publishes individuals' information under the slogan "Remember places, traitors' faces, they all pay for their crimes". In Perth, several members and associates of the ANM have this year been convicted for race-hate graffiti attacks on a synagogue and other buildings around the city. The men admitted to spray-painting swastikas, racist slurs and anti-Semitic messages, such as "Hitler was right" and "Asians Out" on buildings, fences and bus shelters, and to plastering several locations with posters promoting the ANM. ANM leader Jack van Tongeren and his deputy John van Blitterswyk are awaiting trial after denying they ordered the graffiti attacks, and were plotting to reprise a racist firebombing campaign against Perth's Asian community.

    9/6/2005- A significant minority of Canadian Muslims are routinely singled out and harassed by the country's two main security services, according to a report released yesterday by a Muslim umbrella organization. The survey was gathered in mosques, community centres and on the Internet and does not have the statistical significance of a poll. It nevertheless drew nearly 500 respondents, of whom 8 per cent reported some form of harassment. Among the tactics cited were discouraging legal representation, aggressive or threatening behaviour, threats of arrest under anti-terrorist provisions, visits at work, intrusive questioning and improper identification of officers. "There's no contradiction between ensuring Canada's safety and respecting basic human rights," said Riad Saloojee, executive director of the Canadian Council on American Islamic Relations. "There's no reason why we need to resort to these kinds of tactics." The Canadian Security Intelligence Service immediately dismissed the report, saying the sample was unrepresentative. The RCMP likewise strongly denied that its officers single anyone out by race or creed. Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said he hadn't yet read the allegations, but asserted that, "as a matter of law and as a matter of policy, there's no room for racial profiling."

    It's unclear from the report whether the bulk of the incidents occurred in the months immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, or have continued steadily to this day. But even if taken as an anecdotal snapshot of opinion in Canada's 500,000-strong Muslim community, the survey results appear troubling. For one thing, the report says that firsthand accounts of harassment are only the tip of the iceberg. "Forty three per cent of the respondents who were not contacted by security officials, indicated that they know at least one other Canadian Muslim who has been questioned," it asserts. Morshed Abu Ala, a Toronto web designer and student, appeared at an Ottawa news conference alongside Mr. Saloojee and recounted how, in March of 2002, he was visited by RCMP national security investigators at his home. "They showed their badges," Mr. Ala said. "I said I was on my way to write an exam." The officers telephoned him three times during the exam, Mr. Ala said. When he eventually agreed to speak with them, they asked him whether he "knew any terrorists." They also asked him numerous questions about his political beliefs, his views about the Sept. 11 attacks, whether he attends mosque and how often, and whether he didn't think the Koran was intolerant toward non-Muslims. After they satisfied themselves that he was not involved in anything suspicious, the officers offered him money to become an informant, Mr. Ala said. He refused. "I felt like my rights had been violated," he said. "I asked for a lawyer. They said I did not need one." A spokeswoman for the RCMP said the force was studying the report and could not comment further yesterday.
    ©Globe and Mail

    26/5/2005- Leading human rights organisation Amnesty International has again criticised Belgium for allowing police brutality and racism. Last summer, Amnesty International said violence in the police station was not being properly investigated and expressed concern about the high number of alleged incidents of anti-Semitism and racism against Muslims. On Thursday, Amnesty's 2005 report repeated the allegations. It stated that violence against Jews had increased in 2004 in Belgium, particularly in Brussels and Antwerp. The Muslim community also continued to suffer racism, it stated. Amnesty said police violence throughout the world was being encouraged through the behaviour of US officers in Iraq. "Torture is no longer a taboo," stated Vincent Forest, president of the francophone section of Amnesty Belgium. "Torture has been minimised and we are witnessing a blurring of the norms. "The US, the occupying force in Iraq, has opened up a breach in the ënew norms' and other governments are sinking to that level."
    ©Expatica News

    1/6/2005- Belgium could soon debate whether to give gay and lesbian couples the right to adopt children. On Wednesday, the newspaper ëLa Libre' said there was consensus among the majority parties for the move. On Tuesday, the parties which make up prime minister Guy Verhofstadt's coalition met to discuss a proposal to change Belgium's civil code. Flemish social democrat Guy Swennen (SPA), who drafted the law, argued there was no reason to exclude gay couples ñ who are already allowed under Belgian law to marry ñ from adopting. According to ëLa Libre', the SPA party, the francophone socialists (PS), Verhofstadt's Liberal VLD party and the green Ecolo would all vote for the law. The francophone centre-right MR leadership has said it will allow its MPs to vote as they wish, as it has on other ethical questions. Amendments are currently being made to the law by the parliament's justice committee before it can be put to the vote. The committee had to decide, for instance, which parent's surname would be legally given to an adopted child and has decided the couple should settle the question between themselves. The law could be put to the vote next week, with the Flemish Christian democrat party CD&V, the francophone Christian social party CDH and the extreme-right Vlaams Belang all expected to resist it. In what is a predominantly Catholic country, the church has also already shown itself hostile to the law. On Tuesday, Belgium's Catholic bishops released a statement expressing their "deepest concern". "In the current context, such a measure would encourage still further the idea that homosexual couples are simply an alternative to a couple formed of a man and a woman," said the bishops. "Allowing the union between two men or two women to be called ëmarriage' is already an abuse of the sense of the word and above all, of the fundamental reality that it denotes. "Legalising adoption under such conditions would only add to the confusion over sexual difference, which is the basis of any family." The previous government coalition also tried to legalise gay adoption when it introduced the right to same-sex marriage, but gave up after a failure to win enough support for the measure. Then, the MR was opposed to the proposal. Proponents of the bill will be hoping that the climate of debate throughout Europe on gay rights can help their cause. Last month, for instance, the overwhelmingly Catholic country Spain surprised international commentators by becoming the second European country to legalise both gay marriage and adoption.
    ©Expatica News

    26/5/2005- A conference questioning Turkey's official policy as regards the Armenian killings during World War I has been cancelled following pressure from the government. The conference entitled "Ottoman Armenians at decline of the empire. Scientific responsibility and issues of democracy" was to start on Wednesday (26 May) and would have given the floor to academics to discuss the Turkish position of denying the genocide. But Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said that the conference was "treason" and a "stab in the back of the Turkish people", according to international media. "We must end this treason, the spreading of propaganda against Turkey by the people who belong to it", he said. As a result, the Bosphorus University "decided it would be more appropriate to postpone the conference because of the results that could occur if the conference were held under these circumstances". The killing of Armenians during World War I is one of the controversial episodes in Turkey's history. Turkey refuses to recognise the killings as genocide, and rejects estimations that 1.5 million people were massacred. It agrees that many Armenians were killed by the Turks, but also says that as many Turkish people died in the conflicts that took place while the Ottoman Empire was being dismantled. Some countries, particularly France, which has a large Armenian population, has pushed for a tough line on Turkey in regards to Armenia. But the EU has limited its demands to calling on Ankara to improve its relations with Armenia before starting its membership negotiations.

    EU regrets ëmixed messages'
    The EU expressed regret concerning "the mixed messages" coming from Turkey. "We are aware of the tragedy in 1915. We hope that now, thanks to the EU prospect it will be possible to create a climate of confidence with the Armenians", a spokesperson for the European Commission told the EUobserver. This is why "we expect that such a seminar will be held in the future, as the academic point of view is highly valuable when discussing these historical issues", she added. However, the spokesperson declined to speculate on possible consequences for the launch of EU talks, due on 3 October. "A clear agreement on starting the talks was reached by the Council [member states], the decision was taken at the highest political level", she said. "The European Commission continues to monitor the situation and will issue a statement in its next [enlargement] report on Turkey ", the spokesperson concluded. Several EU countries, such as France, Poland and Germany have formally recognised the Armenian genocide.

    Representatives of the federal, local and state governments met in Berlin this week to discuss the implementation of the new immigration law and its shortcomings.

    27/5/2005- The new law that's meant to streamline immigration procedures, improve the integration of immigrants and ease entry for skilled workers in certain sectors is too restrictive, according to members of government-sponsored immigration commission. It fails to abolish a temporary status that keeps thousands of refugees in limbo, and doesn't fully address integration and naturalization issues. For example, about 200,000 refugees have up till now received limited residency status --called a Kettenduldung -- a legal limbo that excludes both a permanent residency permit and deportation. The commission said that the new immigration law needs to abolish this status with refugees more easily able to receive a residency permit. Since January, when the law came into effect, the federal immigration agency hardly grants any permanent residency permits anymore and is extending the temporary ones. "The fact that this Kettenduldung has not been done away with is inconsistent and shows the true intention of lawmakers," said Marielouise Beck, the federal government's migration commissioner.

    Immigration policy needs rethinking
    Volker Beck, a Green party member of parliament, blamed German Interior Minister Otto Schilly for this, saying that his bureaucracy that has successfully "boycotted" the humanitarian implementation of the law. Immigration experts also urged a rethinking of policies to better reflect the realities of immigration and cultural diversity. "The integration of foreigners in Germany must be, in the future, more than just paper pushing over where and how they are to live," said Marieluise Beck. These days, every fourth newborn in Germany has a foreign parent, making the debates over a multicultural society rather superfluous, she added. "Schools, hospitals, old-age homes, the workplace, they all must be in the position to be able to deal with diversity and must open themselves to it," she said. Representatives also took issue over the integration courses that were introduced for foreigners in January: There is more interest than available slots, Beck said. According to the new law, each immigrant has the right to take part in such a course. At the same time, foreigners who don't take the course or who drop out can expect sanctions. Beck and her colleagues say that the government needs to create more of these courses. The government has allotted about 264 million euros ($331 million) annually for the classes. Another complaint was the failure of the government to address naturalization issues, particularly one affecting young Turkish men. In this case, their naturalization is hampered because of the compulsory military service demanded by Turkey, representatives said. Such recruits can buy their way out of doing military service but it costs 10,000 euros, a sum few can pay.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    In an bid to take a seat in the Bundestag at the next election, the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) is targeting young voters and rural areas with a new serious campaign approach.

    30/5/2005- How strong exactly is Germany's right wing National Democratic Party? This is not an easy question to answer. Estimates vary as to how many members the NPD could have. In 2004, the estimates put the number of new members at 300 while a year later it was as high as 5,300. Then there were the recent elections in Schleswig-Holstein, where the NPD won 1.9 percent of the vote, and North Rhine-Westphalia, where the radical right secured 0.9 percent. These results hint at a support nearing 70,000, up from 2,300 in 2000. Whatever the numbers, it doesn't seem enough for the NPD. With early elections due before the end of this year, the NPD are looking to gain three direct mandates and cross the five percent threshold which will see them enter the Bundestag. The far-right party is under no illusions, however. This target is a tall order. But that isn't stopping them from trying. A new campaign to attract younger voters and rural voters with more serious policies is currently underway. The NPD seems to have been inspired by its recent election successes and the failure of the government to have the party banned under constitutional law. But despite what the party considers to be a golden period, it continues to be snubbed by the main parties even when members make it onto local authority councils. The target, therefore, becomes credibility on a federal level. And for that, the NPD needs more support and the targets are young people and people who have escaped the net of the big parties.

    Support in exchange for working for the NPD
    The party is rebranding itself as the "underdog" to attract youngsters who have become disillusioned by the mainstream parties. "We find these youngsters and politicize them if they are not already. They work for the party," Uwe Leichsenring, an NPD member in Saxony's state government said. Leichsenring adds that the youngsters who are attracted to the NPD get support in exchange for their allegiance. "We have a children's group, a singing group and a climbing group. We are of the opinion that a child who is not on the street will not get into trouble. We keep them occupied." The NPD is also targeting the disgruntled workforce in rural areas in its bid to portray itself as a credible alternative in the political arena by campaigning on issues such as the improvement of services and the fight against corruption in places where the main parties have ignored. But Nabil Yacoub from the Foreign Council in Dresden believes the party is just employing populism and playing on people's fears away.

    Rural areas slip through the mainstream net
    "The NPD continually use their populist slogans, especially at this time of such uncertainty amongst the population regarding rising costs and the state of the social system," Yacoub said. "In the country areas, they are even more aggressive. The social infrastructure, education facilities and such is centered on the towns. The countryside is ignored and the NPD finds a receptive audience there. We sometimes do project days in rural schools and we are shocked by how swayed they are. Many teachers say that they would lose a whole class if they spoke out against the far-right." In the countryside, the supposed connection between the high proportion of foreigners and increasing unemployment for Germans doesn't have the same impact as in towns. But NPD representative Leichsenring admits that the focus is not just on the danger of foreigners taking jobs but foreigners in general.

    Xenophobic policies remain
    "In Saxony, the foreigners in the job market make very little impact. Most of them don't work anyway, mostly because they don't want to. The discussion here is whether you want to live in a part of town where it is 80 percent foreigners. If you like that then there is always the opportunity to live in Cologne or Frankfurt. But we don't want this and those here who don't want this know who to vote for." For Stephan Siegmund, the leader of the Lutheran church in the K–nigstein parish, an NPD stronghold, this kind of hostility to foreigners is nothing new. "The NPD offers very simplistic answers to very complex questions and many people just want easy answers," Siegmund said. "However, look at our East German past. There was also a latent racism. There was a lot of negativity and hostility towards foreigners."

    NPD sells national identity and German pride
    However, the negative posture towards foreigners is only one component of the NPD ideology. The party is also taking up the torch of protecting Germany from supranational institutions and the loss of national identity. "One day, the citizens will have to consider which way they want to go," Uwe Leichsenring said. "If they want to go (the supranational way), then they must choose the SPD or CDU. If they want to go the other way then they should choose the NPD. We want back our nation state and not to be steered by Brussels. We want out of EU and NATO, to be neutral and to have our own currency along with giving more say to the people." The NPD members canvass with a public-friendly approach while dressed respectably in suits but many people still see through the new approach and find the old xenophobia, racism and connections with far-right violence hidden behind them. "Whatever they say, they are still the NPD and won't get a shot," said one resident. Similar opinions throughout the country suggest that the NPD will have to adapt into a completely different political entity to gain the support they need to get into the Bundestag in the coming election.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    6/1/2005- Five members of the Turkish ''Genc'' family, who lost their lives in an arson attack by racist German youngsters in Solingen, Germany, on May 29th, 1993, were commemorated on Sunday. Turkish State Minister Mehmet Aydin; (main opposition Republican People's Party) CHP leader Deniz Baykal; Turkey's Ambassador to Germany Mehmet Ali Irtemcelik; former German President Johannes Rau; and Solingen Mayor Franz Haug attended the commemoration ceremony. Sending a message to the ceremony, Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that fight against xenophobia and racism should be continued, and appreciated Germany's decisiveness to fight racism and xenophobia. ''If we want to prevent recurrence of agonies experienced in Solingen, we should inculcate our societies, especially young generations, that breaking prejudices, prevailing atmosphere of tolerance and enabling cultural pluralism are indispensable,'' added Erdogan in his message. On the other hand, state minister Aydin said that the discrimination, racism, and attacks on places of worship were concerning, while Baykal indicated, ''if we build walls in our heads and hearts separating people from each other, these walls cannot be demolished. And, this is the biggest discrimination.'' Aydin and Baykal returned to Turkey after the commemoration ceremony.
    ©Turkish Press

    The administrative court of D¸sseldorf dismissed a complaint brought by two Muslim parents from Wuppertal who wanted to keep their son out of a co-ed school swimming class in a landmark case.

    1/6/2005- The deeply religious Muslim parents of the 11-year-old student were trying to prevent their son from attending swimming classes, where he would mix with girls in bathing suits. They filed a complaint in a D¸sseldorf court against school officials. But the court rejected their case, saying that religious beliefs are not a reason to prevent children from attending swimming classes and said that the boy must attend them in the future. It was not easy for the court to reach such a decision, Chief Judge Uwe Sievers said during the proceedings. "Religious convictions stand, in this case, against the duty of the school," he said. "But it is not the task of this court to challenge the Quran. Instead, we have to try to reconcile both interests." Initially, the parents had repeatedly requested that their son be excused from school swimming lessons that both boy and girls took part in. They called such activities "a dangerous influence on the emotional world of young people." The Quran dictates that children over the age of 10 should be segregated by gender.

    'Unacceptable' sight
    In the swimming pool, the young boy couldn't help avoid seeing his female classmates, scantily clad in their bathing suits. That is "an unacceptable sight," the complainants' lawyer told the Westdeutsche Zeitung. She said the dismissal of the complaint was tantamount to allowing the local government to interfere in the rights of parents to raise their children. The suggestion by the parents for girls and boys to receive separate swimming lessons was rejected for "organizational reasons." Judges instead said that separate changing rooms should suffice. "Besides, we live in a western society in which we don't live by the rules of the Quran," they said during the proceedings. "And as on the street, the youngster can close his eyes to the girls...or wear long swimming trunks."

    Not the first such case
    The case is an example of continuing conflicts between very religious Muslims parents and sports and sex education classes. Berlin and other cities with a high number of immigrants from Muslim countries report that an increasing number of parents keep their children from sports activities, biology classes and field trips out of religious reasons. Berlin officials have said that they have received seven applications from parents asking that their children be exempt from swimming lessons and 18 from sex education classes this year, of which they granted three. Similarly, Hamburg officials denied a request from a Muslim mother to keep her two teenage daughters out of sex education classes. They argued that it is the duty of the school system to teach biology.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    An Austrian legislator has retracted a promise to resign over remarks he made expressing sympathy to the Nazis.

    29/5/2005- Siegfried Kampl also said he would take up the rotating post of president of the upper house of parliament in July. He had said he would relinquish his seat amid pressure from all sides after he deplored the "brutal persecution" of Austrian Nazis after World War II. Last month, he said his father was a member of Adolf Hitler's Nazi party like "more than 99%" of Austrians. He also referred to Austrian deserters of Nazi Germany's armed forces as "assassins of battle comrades". On Sunday, the 69-year-old politician said he stood by his remarks. "I might phrase my views a little differently, but fundamentally there is no change," Mr Kampl told ORF public radio. "I will not give up my mandate. I will remain in the Bundesrat and I will take over the presidency." He did, however, agree to resign as a member of Joerg Haider's Alliance for Austria's Future, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, saying he did not want to be a burden on the party. Mr Kampl, who is also the mayor of the southern town of Gurk, said he had decided not to resign because of the "provocative" manner in which he was implored to do so by current Bundesrat president George Pehm, a Social Democrat. Mr Pehm had said Mr Kampl's resignation was the "only possible outcome of these unacceptable statements". Days after the Kampl controversy broke on 19 April, another right-wing member of the Bundesrat, John Gudenus, contended that the existence of Nazi gas chambers "remains to be proven". He was widely rebuked but has also refused to give up his seat. The post of president of the Bundesrat rotates between representatives of Austria's provinces. If Mr Kampl remains in his seat, the job will automatically go to him in July. The opposition Greens and Social Democrats have urged Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel to intervene. "We cannot tolerate somebody like this as president of the Bundesrat," the leader of the Greens, Alexander Van Der Bellen said, while the Social Democrats said they would walk out of the legislature every time Mr Kampl took his seat. Franz Morak, the State Secretary for Culture, said: "These statements do not belong in our time." He added that both Mr Gudenus and Mr Kampl "should suffer the consequences of their actions".
    ©BBC News

    30/5/2005- Police say at least 37 people have been arrested after a night of violence in the southern French city of Perpignan. The trouble started after a man of North African descent was shot dead. Hundreds of North Africans clashed with police, who responded with tear gas and baton charges. Tensions between North Africans and Romas have increased after another man of North African descent was beaten to death last week, allegedly by Romas. On Saturday, more than 3,500 people demonstrated in a tense atmosphere in memory of Mohamed Bey Bachir, who was killed on 22 May. French police say eight were injured in Sunday night's violence following the latest killing, which left shops smashed and about 50 cars damaged or burnt out. On Monday, pupils from schools near the scene of the shooting were being kept away from classes. Perpignan's mayor visited the shops destroyed in the violence and urged the two communities to enter a dialogue.
    ©BBC News

    30/5/2005- Slovak laws state that men and women should be given equal opportunities. In practice, however, there is room for improvement, according to the authors of a report called Equality of Opportunities of Women and Men. The authors, Janka DebrecÈniov· and Zuzana Ocen·öov·, say that the general public knows little about the issue and authorities are inconsistent in pushing for employers to respect the laws in this area, the SME daily reported. The authors also pointed out that the term "sexual harassment" is still missing from Slovak laws. The report criticizes Slovakia for having only one ministerial section dealing with gender issues. In Estonia, for instance, there is a special commissioner for the area; Lithuania has an ombudsman; and Poland has a special cabinet plenipotentiary representing gender issues. A survey carried out by the Institute for Public Affairs, a Bratislava-based think tank, showed that 82 percent of women and 56 percent of men agree that the position of women in society is worse than that of men. Women still earn less than their male counterparts. In 2002, university educated women earned 65 percent of what their male counterparts took home.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    African-Caribbean boys are still failing at school, says Trevor Phillips. It's time to look at new ideas, even if they are uncomfortable
    By Trevor Phillips, chair of the Commission for Racial Equality

    31/5/2005- Civil servants aren't usually great phrase makers but one Home Office colleague mused last year that in trying to lift the achievements of some minority groups we are running faster into the same brick wall. When it comes to one of the school system's most intractable failures - African-Caribbean boys - we have, for all of my adulthood, merely repeated the same failed solutions with ever more gusto - and then wondered why nothing changes. The hand-wringing of liberals feels increasingly irrelevant in the face of the accumulating inequalities that are slowly detaching the African-Caribbean community from the rest of society. Three out of four African-Caribbean boys fail to reach the basic threshold of five good GCSE passes, and there are currently twice as many black men in prison as there are at university. Most black boys of my generation came out of school under-qualified and unemployable. So did our sons. And so, it seems, will our grandsons. The critical mass of failure is threatening to turn this community into a permanent, irrevocable underclass. It would be comforting to suppose that the principal issue was gender or deprivation. But nearly half these boys' sisters make the grade despite growing up in the same homes and being of the same social class. Though very poor white boys are more likely to fail than blacks - the difference is tiny, of the order of 1%. But alarmingly, among those boys who are better off, African-Caribbeans are twice as likely to fall below the threshold, indicating that the main cause of the performance differential is definitely not poverty. There are those who argue that this is the result of racist attitudes on the part of white teachers, leading to low expectations of black pupils. But this simplistic argument does not account for the fact that Chinese and Indian children, who are just as likely to come from poor backgrounds and to face racism, typically do nearly three times as well as black boys.

    When, recently, I tentatively pointed out that some targeted treatment for failing black boys in one American school had apparently produced positive results, the reaction was instantaneous. Complex proposals were reduced to "segregation". Many accused me of stigmatising black boys and said that they would now be targets for bullying. But what can be more stigmatising than the absolute certainty that in every school, the pupils most likely to fail are black boys? The academic Tony Sewell believes that sending black boys back to the old country for some Caribbean-style discipline is the way forward. At least he is refusing to sit on his hands and do nothing, but how can taking them out of British schools possibly aid their integration in Britain? We can't keep hoping that our roots will rescue us. The separate lessons suggestion by Professor Stan Mimms that so outraged others might just be correct. On my return from the US, I discovered that there are already targeted programmes in Britain that are transforming the prospects of some black boys. The Windsor Fellowship runs a programme exclusively for ethnic minority children, where they are mentored and given extra lessons. In London last year, 100% of their students passed five good GCSEs; in Birmingham, the proportion was 75%. A boys' school in south London that provides a special six-week course for black pupils has seen the proportion getting five good GCSEs rise from 25.6% to 44.4% in just two years. We should not close our minds to new ideas because they make us feel uncomfortable. We should look at the evidence, debate its meaning, and come up with some answers. Tomorrow the Commission for Racial Equality is hosting a day-long seminar to do just that. Experts will present discussion papers and their conclusions will inform a policy paper. We have to accept that our historical bleating about racist teachers, class barriers and irrelevant curricula has not moved the performance of these kids one iota. We need new solutions. We can apply the brakes to this cycle of failure. I, for one, refuse to sit back and watch another generation fall by the wayside.
    ©The Guardian

    Head of Commission for Racial Equality sees danger of creating a permanent underclass

    31/5/2005- The failure to tackle academic underachievement of African-Caribbean boys is threatening to turn them into "a permanent underclass", the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality warns today. Trevor Phillips says it is not good enough to blame their underperformance on the "racist attitudes" of white teachers which lead to low expectations among black pupils. Instead, ministers and education experts should look at the evidence, debate its meaning, and "come up with some answers" even if they involve controversial proposals such as segregation, he argues. In an article in today's Education Guardian, Mr Phillips says the problem has developed into one of the school system's "most intractable" failures, which now risks alienating the group completely. He writes: "The hand-wringing of liberals like myself feels increasingly irrelevant in the face of the accumulating inequalities that are slowly detaching the African-Caribbean community from the rest of society."

    Mr Phillips points to the stark evidence: three out of four African-Caribbean boys fail to reach the basic threshold of five or more good passes at GCSE, and there are twice as many black men in prison as there are at university. The problem has become generational, he warns, passed on from grandfathers to sons to their sons: "The critical mass of failure is threatening to turn this community into a permanent, irrevocable underclass." Mr Phillips says it would be comforting to suppose that the main issue was gender or deprivation. But the evidence did not support this: "Nearly half these boys' sisters make the grade, despite growing up in the same homes and being of the same social class. "Though very poor white boys are more likely to fail than blacks, the difference is tiny, of the order of 1%. But alarmingly, among those boys who are better off, African-Caribbeans are twice as likely to fall below the threshold, indicating that the main cause of the performance differential is definitely not poverty." He goes on to say that "the simplistic argument" that underachieving black boys are the victims of the "racist attitudes" of white teachers does not account for the fact that Chinese and Indian children, who are just as likely to come from poor backgrounds and to face racism, typically do nearly three times as well as black boys. Mr Phillips adds: "We have to accept that our historical bleating about racist teachers, class barriers and irrelevant curricula has not moved the performance of these kids one iota. We can apply the brakes to this cycle of failure. I for one refuse to sit back and watch another generation fall by the wayside."

    Mr Phillips' article coincides with a one-day seminar tomorrow, organised by the CRE. Speakers include Professor Stan Mimms of East St Louis, Illinois, who has recommended that black boys be taught separately from others, and the British academic Dr Tony Sewell, who has advocated "Caribbean-style discipline". Recently Mr Phillips stoked controversy after looking at Prof Mimms' proposals that segregating black boys could provide an answer in British schools. But he defends this policy, saying: "Complex proposals were reduced to 'segregation'. Many accused me of stigmatising black boys and said they would now be targets for bullying. But what can be more stigmatising than the absolute certainty that in every school, the pupils most likely to fail are black boys?" He points to examples of segregation in the UK which have already yielded good results. The Windsor fellowship, for example, runs a programme exclusively for ethnic minority children, where they are mentored and given extra lessons. In London last year 100% of their students passed five or more good GCSEs; in Birmingham the proportion was 75%. In addition, a boys' school in south London that provides a six-week course for black pupils has seen the proportion getting five good GCSEs rise from 25.6% to 44.4% in two years.
    ©The Guardian

    WHITE BOYS FAIL TOO(uk, Analysis)
    Trevor Phillips is right to worry about the underachievement of black boys - but by focusing on them alone he is guilty of statistical racism
    By Marian FitzGerald, visiting professor at Kent criminal justice centre, University of Kent

    1/6/2005- Trevor Phillips is right to highlight the gender gap in school achievement. In Education Guardian yesterday, he warned that failure to tackle the underachievement of African-Caribbean boys is threatening to turn them into a "permanent underclass". But there are three main reasons why his exclusive focus on black boys is misleading and as dangerously simplistic as the solutions he proposes. The first is that he fails to contextualise the problem, and might understate it by using GCSE results as evidence. Schools are judged by targets for the numbers of pupils who gain A* - C grades, so they will always put the best gloss on these figures; and in any case, by this stage many of the lowest achievers will have fallen out of the system (perhaps with a helpful push). A better indicator of the gap between boys and girls lies in the key stage tests taken by all pupils. Analysis of results published by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) for 2002-03 shows that the gender gap gets progressively wider from one stage to the next; but it is far more marked for some groups than others - and the boys worst affected are poor. Comparing the results for pupils who are eligible for free school meals with the average for all other pupils reveals that the gap between poor boys and poor girls is already much higher at the start of their school careers; and by secondary school it has become a yawning chasm. That is, the gen der gap increases for all pupils between the ages of seven and 11 (key stages 1 and 2). It is wider still by the time they are 14 (key stage 3) - but in the case of poor pupils by now the difference is more than twice the average. Further, more detailed analysis by area reveals that the situation is worst in poor areas where average levels of attainment tend to be lower anyway. Thus in London's poorest boroughs, the difference between boys and girls who are eligible for free school meals at age 14 is nearly twice what it is in the most affluent boroughs. Therefore any group that is poorer than average and tends disproportionately to live in the most disadvantaged areas will be disproportionately affected by these gender differences. So the second danger in Phillips's argument is the implication that the black group is the only group that is disproportionately affected in this way. In purely numerical terms, those most affected will be white boys; but the link between boys' underachievement and deprivation has a disproportionate impact on other ethnic minority groups, which, on average, are more deprived than whites. The DfES figures suggest that boys of Pakistani origin aren't faring too well, either, whereas those of Indian ethnic origin consistently achieve above average results. Thirdly, we need to remind ourselves that statistics like these refer to very broad categories that have been artificially constructed, in part for administrative convenience. Indeed, the starkly different results for Pakistani and Indian pupils are often homogenised under a generic Asian label. Yet the picture this gives may be no more misleading than for a black group that lumps together black Caribbeans and black Africans. We should bear in mind that, even if these distinctions are recognised, the figures most commonly cited are averages only; and there are usually very wide variations around these. This means there is far more overlap between different groups than the crude images shown by graphs might suggest. Just as some poor boys will do far better than expected and some affluent boys far worse, a lot of girls perform much worse than a lot of boys. And people who are lumped together as black or Asian are neither all poor nor inhabitants of deprived inner-city areas. By grabbing the headlines, crude average figures may usefully draw attention to problems that might otherwise be ignored; but whether we are discussing educational underachievement or over-representation in the criminal justice system, they do not, of themselves, tell us what the problem is - still less what the solution must be. Taking full account of all other relevant factors, acknowledging the extent of variance around these averages and admitting that many other subgroups within the population are similarly affected might seem to dilute the case for one particular group. However, if we continue to ignore the need for this level of rigour in analysing ethnic data, we might increasingly lend ourselves to what has been called "statistical racism". The major political battles to overcome objections on principle to ethnic monitoring were won some 20 years ago; and I have no regrets about my own role in that. Now we have an abundance of ethnic data we need to have an appreciation of the pitfalls if we fail to become more sophisticated in our use of it. Otherwise, we are lending ourselves to a process that reduces individuals to the single dimension of their ethnic classification and then constructs a pecking order between the groups by further reducing the individuals to a template based on their "average" characteristics. The challenge is how best to interpret the patterns thrown up by ethnic data over time, especially where they appear to change little and to be particular to one group. Because for everyone who would use average figures to make special claims on behalf of a group or take them as proof of "institutional racism", there are many others who will take this same trend data as scientific evidence to underpin racist stereotypes.

    Helping black boys
    2/6/2005- Marian FitzGerald has invented a new term, "statistical racism", to criticise the CRE's effort to draw attention to the persistent under-achievement of black boys in British schools (White boys fail too, June 1). She suggests that we are wrong to highlight their race rather than their poverty. But in her attempt to be helpful, she repeats the errors of the past. All very poor boys do badly whatever their race. However, among those who are less poor, black boys are twice as likely to fail at GCSE as white boys, so poverty is not the principal dividing line. Second, the CRE does not focus exclusively on the fate of black boys. The even poorer performance of Gypsy and Traveller children has prompted us to campaign for better site provision, since we know that disrupted schooling as a result of being made to move on is probably the principal reason for their failure. What is disappointing about FitzGerald's response is the implication that the underachievement of black boys has nothing to do with their race. A visit to almost any exclusion unit in an inner-city school will demonstrate that this is fanciful. But, of course, if you don't acknowledge that there is any special need, you will never have to devote any special attention or resource to these children. For researchers and commentators, this may not matter; for those of us who bear some responsibility for preventing a fourth generation of failure it is the only thing that counts. The real outcome of not "singling out" black boys is that we render them invisible and thus consign the next generation to repeat their fathers' disastrous educational experience.
    Trevor Phillips, Chair Commission for Racial Equality
    ©The Guardian

    31/5/2005- A leading charity has called for more help for asylum seekers sent to Scotland by the Home Office, as a report painted a shocking picture of large numbers of families affected by drink-fuelled racism and mental health problems. Save the Children Scotland surveyed nearly 100 adults and children, coming from 15 different countries, who had been dispersed to Glasgow under asylum rules.The research revealed a large number of parents were taking anti-depressants or seeking counselling as a result of misery caused by feelings of isolation and persecution or helplessness due to being banned from working in the UK. Racism, suffered in communities and on public transport, was found to be a problem, the report warned, with alcohol often a factor. Many asylum seekers told researchers they had heard dire warnings about Glasgow before they arrived. If that is reinforced by bad experiences in their own neighbourhoods, the result can be that some families rarely venture out, leaving them feeling trapped and vulnerable, the report said. Sue Fisher, Save the Children's Scottish director, said the message on discrimination needed to be heard, particularly by the Scottish Executive. "There is effort going on to tackle the problem, but the research highlighted that this has not yet had enough impact on the insidious daily racism faced by some asylum seekers." Isolation and boredom have emerged as major problems for new arrivals in Glasgow, she added: "For men, the inability to work is often the straw that breaks the camel's back. "Not having a source of income or status or the chance to engage with other people is hugely damaging."
    ©The Herald

    The UK has been the top destination for immigrants from the 10 new European Union member states since the trade bloc expanded last year, a report says.

    1/6/2005- Germany's DIW Institute estimates that up to 150,000 people have migrated to the older members since May 2004. Economic research group DIW found that more than 50,000 people had made their way to the UK over the past 12 months. However, that figure is much lower than other estimates and the UK government puts the number closer to 130,000. The EU took in 10 new members - Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic - on 1 May, 2004. At the time there were concerns that the expansion of the EU's borders would lead to a surge in both legal and illegal immigration. The figures from the DIW are lower than many other estimates, especially regarding the UK where government figures released earlier this month show that about 130,000 nationals applied to work in Britain between May and December 2004. About 123,000 successfully obtained work permits, the UK said. According to DIW analyst Herbert Bruecker the discrepancy occurs because DIW figures are calculated in a different way from other reports. The DIW based its estimate on the number of immigrants arriving in the UK who had never visited or worked in Britain before, he explained. Regardless of earlier concerns, it seems that immigration has not hit the levels that many critics feared. If anything, countries with more stringent immigration policies could be missing out on an influx of much needed professionals, the DIW report said. Germany should relax its restrictions because qualified workers were among the first to emigrate and usually targeted countries with the most liberal immigration policies, Mr Bruecker recommended The DIW said immigration restrictions made it harder to enter Austria, Germany and Italy than Britain.
    ©BBC News

    31/5/2005- For the first time in its history, Spain has granted asylum to a foreign woman on the grounds that she was a victim of domestic violence in her own country. Interior minister Jose Antonio Alonso said woman is a 38-year-old mother-of-two from an unspecified Persian Gulf nation. He said she had been forced to marry against her will and suffered abuse from not only her husband but from his family. Alonso said the authorities in her own country took no action to protect her. The woman, whose name and nationality were not revealed for the sake of her security, suffered mental anguish from her ordeal and has been receiving psychological assistance in Spain for several months, the minister told a press conference. Spain's Socialist government has made cracking down on domestic violence a key policy of its first term. Last year, it introduced a tough new law which brought harsher penalties for offenders, introduced a specialised police and judicial units to deal with such cases and improved measures for reporting attacks. The law was criticised by opposition politicians for not catering for men who are battered by women or children who may be beaten by their parents in the home.
    ©Expatica News

    Foreigners have less chance of obtaining a Swiss passport if voters decide on citizenship applications at the ballot box, according to a study.

    31/5/2005- Experts also found that the presence of the rightwing Swiss People's Party in local politics has an impact on citizenship votes. The report comes after controversy over some of the methods used by communes to decide whether or not to grant a Swiss passport. In Switzerland the citizenship process is based on approval by the federal, cantonal and local authorities, which set their own rules and fees. Communes use a range of procedures, such as public assemblies and panel assessments, to decide. Until recently secret ballots were also allowed. The Swiss National Science Foundation study, which was released on Tuesday, found that in villages and towns where citizenship applications were put to a secret popular vote, the refusal rate was 23 per cent higher than for other procedures.

    "We were expecting that the procedure used to decide naturalisation would influence the result," said co-author Marc Helbling from Zurich University. "But that a ballot box decision increased the chances of a refusal by almost one quarter was a big surprise," he said. The authors, who examined data from 207 communes, said that they were also surprised that the public assemblies procedure, which normally entails a show of hands, was not more restrictive. "This is explained by the fact that xenophobic arguments have a greater repercussion on anonymous votes than on other procedure such as naturalisation panel," said the authors. The report downplayed the influence of factors which were thought to be important, such as the local unemployment rate and the number of foreigners living in the area. More decisive, said the authors, was how active the rightwing Swiss People's Party was in local politics. They found that where influence was high, the success rate for citizenship dropped by five per cent. However, the left-leaning parties, usually more foreigner-friendly, appear to have no influence at all. Another factor is how the Swiss identity is viewed and how restrictive these perceptions are. Communes have the final say in the complex naturalisation procedure in Switzerland.

    Secret ballots
    In 2003 the Federal Court outlawed popular votes on citizenship requests and later ruled to ban secret ballots by commune assemblies. The decisions came after voters in the town of Emmen near Lucerne turned down 97 applications from foreigners, mostly from the Balkans. Similar votes in other communes in central Switzerland caused a public outcry. But the People's Party is hoping to challenge the court ruling in a nationwide vote. Last September, Swiss voters rejected parliament-backed proposals to make it easier for young foreigners to become citizens. It was the second time in a decade that voters refused to ease citizenship rules. Foreigners currently number 1.5 million ñ about 20 per cent of the population, and one in four of those were born in Switzerland. The application process for Swiss citizenship is usually long and complicated. The procedure is in some cases also expensive ñ although this should change next year - without guarantees that the application will be successful. As a result, Switzerland has one of the lowest levels of naturalisation in Europe.

    Up to 200,000 foreigners lose their right to vote in local elections this autumn, if the Danish People's Party gets its way

    31/5/2005- Foreigners should be Danish citizens to be allowed to vote in the local elections this autumn, The Danish People's Party (DF) said on Tuesday. The party's proposal would block up to 200,000 immigrant votes. In this way, the party hopes to stop the advancement of the Radical Liberal Party, which almost doubled its mandates in the parliamentary elections last February, according to daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten. 'Let's be honest. The Radicals are not just cafÈ latte-sipping people from the creative class. To a large degree, it is also largely composed of immigrants, and one could fear the result of the upcoming local elections in large cities, where there are large concentrations of immigrants that the Social Liberals pander to,' said DF leader Pia KjÊrsgaard. Immigrants from outside the EU and the Nordic countries gain voter rights in local elections after living in Denmark for three years. In the 2001 election, 167,000 immigrants were able to vote - a number that could have grown to 200,000 since, according to the national statistics bureau. 'We feel that it is necessary that ties to Denmark be close, before one be allowed to vote,' KjÊrsgaard told Jyllands-Posten. Radical MP and spokesman on integration affairs, Morten ÿstergaard, is currently working in Albania as election observer, to supervise the preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections on July 3. The Albanian opposition accuses the Social Democratic government of systematically harassing its opponents, and ÿstergaard advised DF to take a study tour to Albania. 'The proposal shows the Danish People's Party idea of democracy,' he said. 'If someone disagrees with them, they try to erase them instead of participating in a political debate.' Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Holland, and Ireland share the Danish stance that foreign citizens should be allowed to vote in local elections. Liberal Integration Minister Rikke Hvilsh¯j rejected DF's proposal. 'The right to vote in local elections is a good tool to learn about democracy, which lies at the heart of the Danish society and we want everyone to respect. Removing the right to vote will not improve it,' she said. Professor Lise Togeby of Aarhus University, who has studied immigrants' voter participation, said she agreed 'The chance to vote is one of the best ways to aid integration,' she said. 'Immigrant voter turnout in Denmark is higher than in the countries we usually compare ourselves with.'
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    The government is ready to approve some new integration proposals suggested by the Danish People's Party

    1/6/2005- The government is positive towards many of 21 new integration proposals put forward by the Danish People's Party's Chairman Pia KjÊrsgaard on Tuesday. KjÊrsgaard suggested that refugees should not be granted permanent residence permits in Denmark, immigrants should be forced to move out of ghettoes, border controls should be resumed, and non-European foreigners should be stripped of their right to vote in local elections. Liberal Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen rejected the last proposal on Tuesday, but both his party and its junior coalition party, the Conservatice People's Party, said they were willing to consider some of KjÊrgaard's suggestions. 'I understand Pia KjÊrsgaard's intentions. But I don't agree with all her methods,' Conservative MP and spokeswoman on integration affairs Henriette KjÊr told daily newspaper Politiken. Both KjÊr and her Liberal colleague Irene Simonsen said they agreed that the number of immigrants to get citizenship should be limited. The two parties also agreed on the need to stop so-called reconditioning trips, where immigrant parents send their children back to the old homeland to prevent them from becoming too influenced by the western way of life. They also agreed that refugees that returned to their homelands on vacation should lose their residence permits. 'But this is also about integration. There is no reason to send a Bosnian home, if he has lived in Denmark for years and become well integrated,' Simonsen said. The opposition, however, was not as positive of KjÊrsgaard's ideas. Social Democratic MP and spokesman on integration affairs Anne-Marie Meldgaard, said her party would not support DF's proposals. 'DF clearly wants to make its mark with new restrictions,' she said. 'I'm glad I'm not a minister and need to negotiate with them. We don't find much edible in Pia KjÊrsgaard's suggestions.'
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    1/6/2005- Den Bosch Court sentenced on Wednesday five teenage boys to community work orders and suspended jail terms for arson attacks at an Islamic school and mosque in Uden last year. The Bedir primary school was completely destroyed when it was torched on 9 November last year, while the arson attack at the mosque three days earlier failed to set fire to the building. A makeshift fire bomb was used in both attacks and police arrested several VMBO pre-vocational high school students on 20 November. The two oldest suspects, 16 and 17, were convicted of the attempted arson attack at the mosque. Three suspects ‚ aged 14, 15 and 16 ‚ set fire to the school. The attack at the school was condemned nation-wide. Both crimes were part of a series of retaliatory attacks against Islamic targets in the days after the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a suspected Islamic militant on 2 November 2004. Den Bosch Court said on Wednesday the defendants contributed to a feeling of unrest in Dutch society, especially among the Islamic community. The boys spent several weeks in jail on remand detention and the public prosecutor (OM) said it was not necessary to place them behind bars again. The OM demanded a 240-day jail term, 202 of which would be suspended. The difference equals the amount of time the Uden youths spent on remand detention. The court also imposed a 180-hour work order on four suspects and a 160-hour work order on a fifth suspect. All of the youths had previously been sentenced by the court to a 40-hour education sentence (a course in social skills). They have also been ordered to remain under the supervision of rehabilitation officers. After apologising for their crimes in court two weeks ago, the boys were not in court on Wednesday to hear the ruling.
    ©Expatica News

    1/6/2005ñ The Muslim minority in Sweden is generally in favor of the embattled European Union Constitution as they see that its pluses outweigh its minuses. "This constitution is in the interest of the Muslim minority in Sweden, which is estimated at 500,000, as it safeguards the rights of minorities and freedom of religion," Sheikh Hassan Moussa, chairman of the Swedish Council for Imams, told Wednesday, June 1. Moussa, who doubles as the imam of Sheikh Zayed mosque in the capital Stockholm, said the treaty eschews all sorts of racist and religious discrimination, given that it dropped any reference to Christianity as the continent's religion. Al-Akhdar Kirkib, the chairman of the Swedish anti-Islamophobia society, said the constitution would shield Muslim minorities across Europe against racism. "It clearly calls for combating racial discrimination across the EU member states," he told IOL. According to the Swedish civil affairs department estimates, dozens of Arabs and Muslims in the country had applied to change their names during the second half of 2003, in an effort to escape an evident job discrimination. The constitution, designed to make decision-making easier after the bloc's enlargement from 15 to 25 member states last year, needs the approval of all members to go into force. So far, nine EU countries have approved the treaty -- Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Dutch voted on the text on Wednesday with polls pointing to a decisive "no" that would compound a crisis in the bloc triggered by France's resounding "no" .

    Liberal Code
    The Muslim leaders, however, recognize that the European constitution has its minuses. Moussa said the code indulges itself in liberalism and capitalism. Helena Bin Ouda, the chairwoman of the Swedish Islamic Council, the main Muslim representative body in Sweden, also fears that Europe's corporate titans would determine the fate of the entire continent. "I, to be honest, also fear that Europe would toe the NATO line, which would have future repercussions," she told IOL. The activist further expressed concerns that the US and the EU might forge an alliance at the expense of Muslims under the new constitution. Sweden is to hold a parliamentary vote on the EU constitution in December, and Prime Minister G–ran Persson said on Monday, May 30, that he stood by this plan even after France's rejection of the treaty. According to recent polls, a majority of Swedish voters (58%) want the chance to vote on the draft in a referendum. The call is backed by some parties, including the Leftists and the Greens. The Voice of People group, an umbrella organization of various political parties, has collected 120,000 signatures demanding the government to hold a referendum.
    ©Turkish Weekly

    The United Nations democracy-building mission in Kosovo is a "facade" which is sowing the seeds of renewed instability in the flashpoint Serbian province, a think-tank said Friday.

    27/5/2005- The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said the UN administration (UNMIK) in the mainly ethnic Albanian province lacked credibility and was scrambling for an "escape strategy". The report came as the UN Security Council is expected to hear a debate about Kosovo later Friday, ahead of talks slated for later this year on the province's final status. The ICG said that rather than marching towards multi-ethnic democracy six years after the end of the 1998-1999 war between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian separatists, Kosovo was a tinderbox ready to explode. "Recent weeks have seen an escalation in tension between (the two main ethnic Albanian political parties) so bitter that it risks spiraling into killings," the report said.

    Return to instability a real possibility
    Without a "great deal" more effort from the international community, "Kosovo is likely to return to instability ... and again put at risk all that has been invested in building a European future for the Western Balkans". It said UNMIK, which has administered the province since NATO intervened to end the conflict, had been in a "six-year holding pattern" in which it had turned a blind eye to major challenges to democracy and the rule of law. "Rather than state-building, UNMIK is now mainly working on its own escape strategy, passing on unresolved problems that will haunt Kosovo for years to come," said ICG Kosovo Project Director Alex Anderson. "Corruption is being transferred intact." The report said: "Problems that will come back to haunt Kosovo, like tolerance of widespread corruption and of powerful, unaccountable partisan political intelligence agencies, are being swept under the carpet rather than addressed."

    Administration maintaining a cover-up
    It said the UN had been coddling ethnic Albanian politicians to the point of denying the existence of rival "party intelligence structures" which threatened to erupt into unrest as soon as the UN washed its hands of the province. "UNMIK is devoting most of its energy to producing a sufficiently convincing facade ... to allow Kosovo to pass the test that will open the final status process," it said. "That facade does include some genuine progress and solid work, but it does not represent the comprehensive effort needed for democratic practices to take root." Kosovo remains technically part of Serbia but its ethnic Albanian majority demands complete independence. The ICG said the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague should consider granting bail to indicted former Kosovo Albanian prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, accused of rape and other atrocities, in order to calm mounting tensions in the province. "Kosovo Albanians' present peace with the international community is highly conditional ..." it warned. "Most areas are calm, but Haradinaj's home municipality of Decan is a tinderbox, full of angry armed groups, and isolated from the rest of Kosovo."
    view the full report
    ©Deutsche Welle

    The head of the United Nations Human Rights Commission has said the body needs a doubling in staff and funding.

    27/5/2005- UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour called for more resources to fill the gap between "lofty rhetoric" and "sobering realities". The call follows accusations from the UN itself that the commission is ineffective and over-politicised. Last month UN chief Kofi Annan said the rights body's declining credibility was undermining the UN as a whole. In a report issued on Friday, Ms Arbour said: "In an organisation pledged to promote and protect human rights, this is a call to action." She added that current levels of staffing and funding had to double over five or six years if the Geneva-based commission was to function properly. "Our objective must be to help bridge the gap between the lofty rhetoric of human rights in the halls of the United Nations, and its sobering realities on the ground," the report said. She called for more staff at headquarters, as well as rapid-response teams, monitors in peacekeeping operations and a proper follow-up to reports of abuse. Mrs Arbour has been in her post for less than a year. The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Bern says Mrs Arbour supports Mr Annan's calls for reform and that he is likely to support her request for more funds. For years the Human Rights Commission has been criticised as a weak body where powerful countries escape censure. Mr Annan is proposing a smaller council whose members already have a proven record of upholding human rights. Nations criticised by the commission do not face penalties - although most governments are keen to avoid being named and shamed. Critics say the commission cannot function when its 53 member states, among them China, Cuba, Sudan and Zimbabwe, are in charge of judging themselves.
    ©BBC News

    28/5/2005- Police in Durham, North Carolina, have launched an investigation after three crosses were set alight in one night - triggering fears that the Ku Klux Klan may have targeted the city. Yellow leaflets, purportedly produced by the KKK, were found at the site of one of the burning crosses. While burning crosses have long been associated with the Klan, people in Durham said this was the first time for a generation that such an incident had been reported in the city. Students of the Klan also say that it is vastly reduced in its membership and influence from 40 years ago. It may be that the crosses were simply set ablaze by pranksters. "At this day and time, I thought we'd be beyond that," said the city's mayor, Bill Bell. "People do things for different reasons, and I don't have the slightest idea why anyone would do this." The first burning was reported at around 9.20pm outside one of the city's churches, the second 40 minutes later next to a construction site and the third half-an-hour later at an intersection in the city centre. Each cross was around 7ft tall and 4ft across. They had all been wrapped in sacking and doused with kerosene. "We're working with the FBI in investigating this, but right now we don't have any leads," said Kammi Michael, a spokesperson for the Durham Police Department. Durham's population of around 200,000 is evenly split between white and black and the city has long enjoyed a reputation for having little racial friction. Mr Bell, who entered politics in 1972, said that even after the assassination of Martin Luther King which sparked riots elsewhere across the country, the city was able to remain relatively calm. But observers say that even today the KKK retains a strong presence in parts of the US South, where there are said to be between 30 and 50 cross burnings reported every year. Many of them are known to be carried out by the Klan. Joe Roy, chief investigator for the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Centre , an Alabama-based campaign group, said that North Carolina had 37 active "hate groups", including neo-Confederate and neo-Nazi organisations. Of all of these, the Klan is most active. "You've got a lot of Klan presence in North Carolina - always have," said Mr Roy. "Something may have touched them off." In recent weeks there have been other reports of KKK leaflets being distributed across the South. In Philadelphia, Mississippi, where in two weeks the trial is due to start of an 80-year-old former Klan member accused of organising the 1964 killing of three civil rights workers, leaflets apparently printed by the KKK were discovered two weeks ago. In Durham, part of North Carolina's prosperous "technology triangle", local people have been holding vigils since the burning crosses were discovered on Wednesday evening. "I think that the community is bringing itself together. I've heard nothing negative, just shock from everyone," said Mayor Bell. Theresa El-Amin, director of the Southern Anti-Racism Network, which organised a community meeting, told the Raleigh News and Observer newspaper: "People in Durham are not going to let this go down. This is a mean and evil thing."
    © Independent Digital

    1/6/2005- 50 years after his murder, the body of Emmett Till has been removed from a suburban Chicago cemetery. A central figure in the civil rights movement, there has always been controversy surrounding Till's murder in Mississippi. Federal agents exhumed the body of the 14-year-old Emmett Till from a cemetery near Chicago hoping to find evidence that could lead to new charges in the case. Before the exhumation, relatives gathered at the grave site for a brief prayer service. The Chicago teenager was murdered in Mississippi after reportedly whistling at a white woman. Till's mother insisted on an open casket at his funeral, to show the world the brutality of racism. Two white men were tried for Till's murder. They were acquitted, but those men have since died. Investigators said other people may have been involved, and could still be alive. Arthur Everett with the FBI said, "The event signifies that even though the system of justice sometimes turns very slowly, it still turns." Some African-American leaders have been skeptical about the exhumation. Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson said, "They are looking to positively identify Emmett Till and his mother answered that question 50 years ago." Emmett Till's casket is now at the Cook County medical examiner's office. After the autopsy, his remains will be returned to his family. Emmett Till will be buried again, but his historic case may live on for years to come. The Emmett Till case is one of several famous civil rights cases that are getting a closer look. The justice department also re-opened the deadly 1963 bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama. Federal officials hope current technology will help find answers to the historic crimes.

    But some officers take issue with Kingston report on profiling

    28/5/2005- Anti-racism activists are seizing on a new police study and urging officials to quickly stamp out "anti-black" attitudes in Toronto and beyond -- even as some police officers continue to insist "there is no systemic racism" lurking in the heart of the criminal-justice system. Police in Kingston released an influential report this week that was intended to bring some clarity to the emotionally charged issue of racial profiling. But what is being touted as a smoking gun by various anti-racism groups is still being disputed by some police-union officials. Kingston Police crunched the numbers and found that officers there are three times as likely to stop blacks as whites. Chief William Closs became tearful and apologetic as he presented the findings, the first of their kind in Canada. Yet some officers in Toronto wonder what lessons Canada's largest, most diverse metropolis may have to learn from a city that has only 110,000 residents, 90 per cent of them white. Some lively debates are anticipated next week as top police officials from across the province meet privately to discuss the study at the Ontario Police College. Toronto Police in particular have been wounded by allegations of racial profiling over the past few years. The city's police leaders say they will soon follow Kingston's lead and try out some form of race-based number-crunching.

    Anti-racism activists said yesterday that would be a good first step, but it's a long march toward fairness. "Blacks and aboriginals are overwhelmingly the subject of police stops," Karen Mock of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation said at a Toronto news conference. The Kingston study, she said, is proof positive of "anti-black racism" that exists across Canada. She spoke with a half-dozen other advocates who said they regard the study as "overwhelming" evidence that "should put to rest once and for all the cynicism" about racial profiling and systemic racism by police. They urged that video cameras be installed in cruisers and that forces do a better job of weeding out racist officers -- and from there, they said, officials ought to look at the broader social issues that lead to the overrepresentation of minorities in the criminal-justice system. "We've been at an impasse for many, many years," said Dudley Laws, head of Toronto's Black Action Defence Committee. Mr. Laws, who spent decades battling with police, added that all of the province's police chiefs ought to issue a joint statement against racial profiling.

    But Toronto Police Association president Dave Wilson said in an interview yesterday that the Kingston study does not prove anything. Gathering race-based data poses difficult questions for the whole of society, not only police, he said. "Is there is a disproportionate representation that gets drawn into the criminal process, and if there are, then what can be done to prevent those interactions from occurring?" he asked. He added that "if we're going to look at any kind of study, we have to ask why -- why is this interaction happening? "We can't just look at pure statistics." Mr. Wilson went on to say that "there is no systemic racism in the Toronto Police Service" and that he worries about an overzealous response to the issue. "We don't want police officers second-guessing themselves based on worries about being called racists." New Toronto Chief Bill Blair is taking a different approach, vowing that addressing racial-profiling will be one of his top priorities. While he hasn't committed to a timeline, city councillor Pam McConnell says that the civilian board she chairs will ensure that an "action plan" will be in place within the next eight months. "This issue has already been studied to death," she said. The plan remains somewhat amorphous as police brass and civilian overseers share some of the union's fears about creating unnecessary bureaucracy and discouraging officers from doing legitimate police work. It's unlikely that Toronto Police will be able to gather race data about their interactions as comprehensively as Kingston Police, but the feeling is that gathering some information will go a long way toward resolving one of the force's oldest and most volatile controversies.
    ©Globe and Mail

    When is it Politically Correct to Beat Gays and Kill Women?
    By Cathy Young

    1/6/2005- On April 30, American journalist Chris Crain became the victim of a hate crime in Amsterdam. While walking in the street holding hands with his partner, he was savagely beaten by seven men shouting antigay slurs. A few days later, Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Program at the Human Rights Watch, expressed some sy