news archives

Special Report

This page is updated once a week (mostly on Friday) with items from our regular news sources. If you have an item for the news page please send it to us at .

Your news has to be in English. If you have any relevant URL's (webaddresses) where more info about the news you send us can be found, please send those too. Don't forget to add the country where the newsitem originates.

This weeks news is the last edition for 2003.

Traditionally the last edition of the news has as many articles as possible from NGO sources, rather then 'regular' news sources we use the rest of the year. This year our call for articles has been particularly successful! Many of you have send us material.
We proudly present the results of your efforts. Enjoy!


Next news: 9-1-2004

By Janette Grönfors

In this text, I shall examine Romany young people and their position, and their problems in their communities in both Scandinavia and Europe.

In Finland, Romanies account for a small percentage of the population. There are only about 10,000 of us, out of a total population of about five million. There are also some 3,000-4,000 Finnish Romanies living in Sweden. Romanies have lived in Finland for almost 500 years and perhaps precisely for that reason we feel ourselves to be very Finnish. We have taken part alongside other Finns in all the wars which the country has engaged in. Our mother tongue is Finnish and we are Finnish citizens. We also obtained the status of a traditional Finnish minority in the 1990s, and, when Finnish fundamental rights were reformed in 1995, a general ban on discrimination was added. The Romany spoken in Finland belongs to the Kaalo dialect, which unfortunately few Romanies can speak well nowadays. We Finnish Romanies are distinguished by a darker skin colour than that of the Finns, by clothing and by customs, and, it should be noted, not at all by the Romany language as is the case with the Romany population in Europe, even in Sweden.

The traditional velvet skirt, weighing as much as ten kilograms, worn by Finnish Romany women is unique in the world. Romany clothing is one of the most important reinforcers of identity. Young people are free to choose whether to wear the Romany dress or not. (I myself have never even considered the matter, even though it is indeed beautiful). Already at the age of 16-20, most Romany girls want to put the traditional Romany skirt on and, by doing that, they communicate to the Romany community that they are adults. The same applies to Romany boys, when they, already at the age of twelve, want to wear straight dark trousers and a woollen coat.

Clothing and transition into adulthood thus guide the life of our Romany young people so much that they fail with regrettable frequency to complete basic education. This is the biggest problem in Finland but also in other countries in Europe among Romany young people. However, I also want to mention that both Finnish and Swedish Romanies have had a very short history of educating themselves, since Romanies stopped wandering only in the 1960s, when they also began to be given permanent apartments in towns. The Finnish school system is such that basic school, lasting for nine years, is free for all and is the minimum schooling a person is supposed to complete. All Finns, including Romanies, have the same rights and obligations relating to study after basic school as well. Even today, the traditional Romany family is still not able to support and guide the Romany young person with his or her education. And the reason for that is that many still have a greater respect for interpersonal skills and old traditional professions such as looking after horses, musicianship and trading than for study. In my own family, I am the only one of seven children that has wanted to study.

On the other hand, Romanies are still also a little afraid that, if our children spend too much time with the majority population, they will gradually turn completely Finnish and forget their Romany roots. This is why Romany children apply for a place in pre-school less often, and this means that when they start school they do not have the same skills as other Finnish children. The fear is not completely unjustified, since both Finland and Sweden practised an assimilation policy towards Romanies as recently as forty years ago. By way of comparison, I could take Romany young people from Eastern and Central Europe. Many of them are much better educated than Scandinavian Romanies on average, even though their points of departure are much worse than with us. For them, education can be the only way of escaping from misery. Social security is so good in Finland and Sweden that we do not need to struggle for our existence, and also racism and discrimination are nowhere near as widespread as they are elsewhere in Europe. Previously, in behaviour between the generations, the younger generation's obligations were precisely regulated and they were complied with much better than they are today, both in Finland and Sweden and elsewhere in Europe. The Romany youngster is still required to be obedient and respectful towards his or her parents, but, too often, behaviour outside the home is bad perhaps specifically owing to the fact that discipline in the home is so strict.

Another big problem among our Romany young people is drugs. In Europe, in the poorest countries in particular, in which the Romany population numbers hundreds of thousands, drugs and prostitution have developed into a really big and visible problem. There have been drugs in Finland for several decades now. However, it is only in the last 10-15 years that use of drugs by the Romany population has started to be a problem. Each of us has at least one close relative who is a drug addict. Drugs have also brought with them more crime into the Romany community, and this is manifested in the sadly increased number of Romany prisoners. In Finland, Romanies had not previously wanted to bring their own problems such as drugs, mental health problems and alcoholism outside their own communities. For that reason, the problems have over the years grown really big as they have not been dealt with.

A third problem that is common in all those countries where there are Romanies is unemployment. In Scandinavian countries, the biggest reason for unemployment among Romanies is not discrimination but a poor level of education. In many European countries, the biggest reason for unemployment among Romanies is discrimination and poverty, and poor level of education is a less important cause.

What does the future look like?
When the Euroopan Union is enlarged in May next year and again in 2007, movement will be even easier for both Romanies and others. This means in practice that Romanies will be moving about even more actively. For two years now, over a thousand Romany refugees have tried to come to Finland from Europe and all of them have been sent back to their home country, which the Finnish state has deemed safe. Sweden, for its part, has received thousands of Romany refugees from all over Europe, mostly though from the former Yugoslavia. Personally, I am of the view that people should first be helped to help themselves in their own countries. Often, this kind of thinking and approach is associated only with developing countries.

I perceive the future as regards Roma to be quite gloomy in some matters. Growing disparities in income also in the Nordic countries are causing inequality, not to mention the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, where the societal transformation is much greater than it is with us. Roma are increasingly active and keen to participate in decision-taking affecting them, but a great deal remains to be done in order for equality and human rights matters to be sorted out generally in Europe. As a former youth leader, I am personally also worried about the change in young people's values and moral decay. On the other hand, as a future sociology and Public Health Nurse, I am concerned about the fact that the Romany population is not in an equal position as regards provision of public health care services in many European countries. Despite all of these concerns, the job of the individual is to take care of his or her own immediate environment and, through personal effort, to help create a better tomorrow! Aahhen Deuleha, romale!

Janette Grönfors started working for the Romany Education Unit of the National Board of Education Finland in 1995 until the autumn of 2000, after working in Norway for a year, she returned to Finland and the National Board of Education in 2002.
The Drom Edu-project

By Mbela Nzuzi, OFRR President, Refugee (D.R.Congo)

It is estimated that there are approximately six to eight hundred refugees in Romania, living predominately in Bucharest. They mainly come from the Middle East:(Iran and Iraq), and Africa, and are also generally islamic. During their integration process, refugees face a series of difficulties due to cultural differences, bureaucracy and changed social and economic roles in the family and society. The need to adapt to the new environment add to the psychological impact of displacement. Refugee and migration issues are new phenomena to the Romanians as Romania signed the 1951 Refugee Convention in 1991. In general, the difference in status between refugees and other categories of migrants is unknown to the local population and this may lead to rejections and intolerant attitudes because of the fear for the unknown. Such attititudes may affect unfortunately, the access of refugees to education and the labour market, which are essential for self-sufficiency and succesfull integration. The Refugee Women's Organisation in Romania (OFRR) was founded in the year 2000 under a programme funded by UNHCR. OFRR is a refugee NGO which promotes democratic values and fundamental human rights, especially those of refugee women and children for their integration in the Romanian society. The main issues addressed through our activities are refugee women's access to the labour market, their capacity building and competence development, empowerment of the refugee community and constructive interactions with the local population. Many of our initiatives and concrete activities are equally open and accessible to refugee men. We have often felt inspired by their ideas and encouraged by their support.

Cultural exchanges with the local population are promoted through specific programmes initiated by OFRR:

  • In 2001, OFRR initiated a project called "the hope of the XXI Century", to facilitate mutual understanding and confidence building between the refugee women and Romanian women. Regular meetings, joined training activities, spending leisure time together, resulted in increased tolerance and solidarity.
  • In 2002 and 2003, OFRR joined other refugee-assisting NGOs and UNHCR in public awareness campaigns celebrating the World Refugee Day and the European Wide Action Week against Rasism: Press conferences, round-tables on refugee issues, multicultural evenings with traditonal food and clothing from the different countries of origine of the refugees, foto exhibition.
  • Starting October 2003, OFRR works in partnership with the Municipality of Bucharest Sector 4 to promote refugee issues among the local population, through meetings and material aid provided by the refugees to destitute Romanian elderly on a monthly basis. On 17 October, OFRR and the Municipality of Bucahrest Sector 4 invited the most needy members of the local community to celebrate together the International Day of Tolerance.
  • An african religious music recital was performed together by Romanian children and refugees.
  • Traditional food from refugees' countries of origine was served by refugeee women.
  • Refugees provided food and clothes to Romanian elderly in need.

    Refugee women who are members of the Refugee Women's Oganisation in Romania believe that they can play an important role in promoting understanding and respect for different cultures, tolerance and confidence. We are building partnerships with local authorities, NGOs and international organisations to help empower the refugees as well as the host society. Our task is not easy and we know that we have a long way to go but as they say: any journey of thousand miles starts with the first step.
    The Refugee Women's Organisation in Romania

    During the presentation of his book "Victims of Hate",, Esteban Ibarra, president of the Movement against Intolerance, made public a preview of the last RAXEN report, containing data on racist violence and neo-nazi organisations in Spain.

    The RAXEN report is a compilation of data on Racism and Xenophobia based on permanent monitoring by the Movement against Intolerance.
    The Movement against Intolerance created a special edition of the RAXEN report that will be published in January of 2004. It is the result of research named "The Map of The Hate", in which is shown the geographical lay-out of neo-Nazi violence in Spain, the organisations and gangs who encourage the attacks, the websites which encouraged and amplified this, the racist music groups which spread the discriminatory songs, the role of racist hooligans and the logistical centres which stimulated and controlled all of this.

    In a preview of the data, the report counts more than 4000 cases of violence per year committed by neo-nazi and racist bands, violence against immigrants, especially from the Magreb countries (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia) and against sub-Saharians, Latin-Americans, homeless people, homosexuals, prostitutes, and young people (long-haired, hippies, etc). It is possible that the number could be bigger than the dates officially acknowledged in Sweden (3000) but less than the dates in Germany (12.000) and Great Britain (50.000). There is no official data on this kind of violence in Spain.

    The report lists neo-nazi attacks in more than 90 Spanish towns, towns of different size and number of inhabitants. Big cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza or Malaga, but also small towns like Parla, Tarrasa, El Ejido, Guardamar de Segura or Orihula. The report also points out the regions of Madrid, Catalonia, Andalusia, Valencia and Murcia where this kind of violence occurs, which is in all of those regions. The report wants to commemorate the 60 people murdered, victim of hate crime . People who where assassinated because of racist and xenophobic hate, most of them killed by neo-nazis. The Movement against Intolerance says the number of cases could be higher.. It's also important to point out the hundreds of serious casualties, victims of hate crimes in the last years. The RAXEN report reflects on the existence of more than 70 groups, collectives, and neo-nazi organisations operating in Spain The number of militants, individuals committed to the ideology of hate could be between 11.000 ( Minister of Interior) and 15.000 (a figure quoted by the neo-nazi web site "La Censura de la Democracia").

    The RAXEN report speaks about the Music of Hate. In Spain, 94 music groups were created, groups who describe themselves as "patriotic". 50% of those are still in existence, producing music and giving concerts, (Odal, Reconquista, Centuria Hispánica, Klan, Batallón de Castigo, ...) more or less clandestine, producing and selling CDs with music that is racist and anti-Semitic and which promotes neo-nazi and anti-democracy ideology. They also use Internet-radio stations (Radio Hispania, Radio Nacionalsocialista...) and a network of websites for the sale of propaganda, clothes, books and other material. The economic profit from selling such material could be as big as 12 million Euro. The RAXEN report also notes the rapid increase of hate-websites in Spain. There are more than 100 of those sites spreading hate, racism, antisemitism, xenophobia and related intolerance. There are sites operating on a national level, such as NuevOrden, Fuerza Aria or Anillo National Socialista, sites directed at a regions, like Cataluña NS or Euskalherria NS. All of them have links with world wide neo-nazi websites like the Ku Klux Klan, Combat 18, Hammerskins, Stormfront, Blood & Honour, National Socialist Resistance. The United Nations reported that there are more than 4000 of those sites on the Internet.

    Finally, The RAXEN report speaks about the neo-nazi soccer hooligans. They are present during matches of all the first and second division soccer clubs. The soccer stadiums are also a place for the recruitment and manifestation of gangs who promote hate and intolerance. It's very important to note the recruitment of minors who are then incited to commit violence against other groups.

    The RAXEN report ends its analysis with a demand to the Spanish parliament to determine if a law on Statistical data about Hate Crimes should be drafted. This was a recommendation to the last OSCE conference. A similar law already exist in the United States. The RAXEN report also demands a Specialized Operatives Group in the police, to be ready to act in all regions of the country (Spain is comparable to Federation), keeping in contact and sharing intelligence with others specialized police forces in Europe and the rest of the world. The RAXEN report also demands the creation of a Specialized Attorney for hate crimes, to improve the prosecution of perpetrators of those. This is not effective enough right now, in spite of the articles on hate crime in Spanish penal code. The RAXEN REPORT recommends the implementation of an Integral Plan against Racism and Intolerance, listing good practices which should be used by journalist, teachers, parents and NGOs.
    Movimiento Contra la Intolerancia

    Laws and citizenship: two basic concepts for the rule of law, linked to the immutable principles established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the legal source that must guide all legislation that aspires to be democratic. Today, these two concepts have been neglected since they are denied to a growing percentage of the population. Immigrants have lost, in Fortress Europe, their condition of human beings subject to rights and obligations. The foremost right and principal obligation for migrants is nowadays to submit to the hard conditions that are imposed on them to regularise their situation in the reception societies. Meanwhile, migratory policies are failing over and over again, especially in countries like Spain.

    Spanish civil society is now confronted to the third Alien Law (Ley de Extranjería) in four years. The perversion of this law is implicit in the drafting, in its statement and in its effects. First, because the sentence of the Supreme Court that cancelled 13 precepts of the regulation that implemented the nearly extinct law (LO 4/2000 modified by LO 8/2000) has become the perfect excuse to adapt de facto the law to the regulation. This implies a legal fraud in due form, as it subverts the hierarchic rank of legislation adjusting the law instead of obeying the sentence. Secondly, and this will be the main point of this article, although the 24 amendments introduced by the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) have been accepted, the text remains unacceptable. The consensus between the principal political party of the opposition and The Government has surprised the Socialist party's own militants, not to say the rest of society and does not introduce any intelligent or effective solutions to the migratory phenomenon. The possible differences between the Popular Party and the PSOE are diluted in the swamp of electoral campaigns and political correctness that can not benefit to anyone.

    The new law offers the possibility to obtain visas that will enable migrants to look for employment during three months. During this period, the migrant can reside legally in the reception country. This measure has all the characteristics of a poisoned gift. For a long time now, MPDL and the organisations of the Red Ciudadana por la Igualdad (Citizens' Network for Equality) have called out against the inefficiency of the Spanish Administration in the processing of residence and work permits. Allowing three months for migrants to look for employment is a farce as the normal processing of a residence or employment permit is 10 to 15 months and this process usually terminates with the rejection of the application. But further one from these considerations, the application for the visa will be processed in the country of origin and we can expect arbitrariness and corruption that Spanish Authorities will turn a blind eye on. Another agreement reached between the two main political parties in Spain refers to family reunification and women immigrants, victims of violence. An initiative worthy of praise if it wasn't that this initiative forgets that these women are highly vulnerable and obliges the victim herself to take legal action against her spouse or companion. The necessary resources have not yet been implemented for this measure either.

    Regarding sanctions for companies that employ immigrants irregularly, the new law does not solve anything more than what the previous law did, even if a fundamental issue is included: disloyal competence occurs when the reduction of costs of the labour market is achieved through the employing of cheap and irregular workers. The law never mentions nor recognises explicitly that the current legislation and the following legislation are responsible for this situation of illegality and irregularity, but this statement recognises it implicitly. Regarding other parts of the consensus, these continue to insist on obsolete and incorrect measures that proved to be inefficient in the past, such as the voluntary return programmes to the countries of origin.

    We still need what the social society has been insistently and incessantly asking for: a global and integrated approach that would take on the great challenge of immigration. Facilitating the social insertion and integration of those who are living in Spain and, at the same time, promoting the cooperation in the countries of origin would lead to the double effect: the recuperation of human resources in developing societies and the sustainable absorption of manpower in the reception countries. This is Codevelopment, the formula that we must urgently adopt and that organisations such as MPDL base their daily work on. Recovering laws and citizenship for immigrants is recovering them for all citizens, in our societies and in developing countries. If we do not do it, we are violating the basic principles of the rule of law and we can not sit back and let this happen.
    Movement for Peace, Disarmament and Freedom, Spain

    Research Paper by Nils Rosemann

    "FORUM Menschenrechte" is a German umbrella organization of almost 40 German Human Rights NGOs – most of them with official status to UN and European Council. "FORUM Menschenrechte" coordinated the participation of German NGOs at WCAR as well as had a main impact on German language proposals and their endorsement in the final document. One representative of "FORUM Menschenrechte" was a member at the official German Governmental Delegation to WCAR.

    Germany has a strong right-wing extremist movement and a xenophobic atmosphere. Antiracism work has a long tradition manly with historical and / or ethical reasons. International documents as well as international obligations are a main tool for lobbying but not a motivation for political activities. "FORUM Menschenrechte" is trying to change this by bringing the normative approach of human rights obligations into that discourse. The results of WCAR are in this perspective a additional chance. The follow up of WCAR started with the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Germany passed two "anti-terror-packages". Both of them are threats to civil and political freedom but mainly neutral in a sense of "grounds of distinction or discrimination" But there a few points that are exceptions:

  • Changes in asylum law: If public officials declare someone as a "terrorist" – and this includes any member of a group that agrees (even in exceptional cases) on violence to reach their political aims – the request for political asylum will be dismissed as well as (existing) right to stay will be terminated. (After that change members of ANC in former times or any movement of independency would never get asylum.)
  • (Re-) Introduction of racial profiling / screening ("Rasterfahndung"): In the end (July 2002) the majority of the German Administrative Courts forbid "Rasterfahndung" for German students, but allowed that for any foreign student.
  • The taking back of the privilege of religious communities under German Association Law (Vereinsrecht). Although this is applicable as well to Christian communities it aimed to ban Muslim communities.

    The whole atmosphere was very "anti-Islamic" and few political leaders tried to get advantage of that through stigmatising statements. Thus latter Chancellor-Candidate Edmund Stoiber (CSU) called for a complete change of the introduced new migration law, because "none would know who is coming into Germany". On the opposite a few groups discussed the uprising threat by terrorists within the unequal distribution of wealth as well with the occupation of Palestine. Thus there were a few cases were Turkish citizen of Berlin beat people because they wore a David-star. Same happen to the May Scandal of the Liberal Party (FDP), were a member of the presidium, Mr. Moellemann, accused the vice president of the Jewish community that he and his behaviour causes anti-Semitism in Germany. This ended in a anti-Semitic leaflet for the September election, that finally caused political damage as well as the loss of all political positions by Mr. Moellemann. (Interestingly this campaign was financed by black money like the 1998 campaign against "double-statehood" of migrants by Christian Democarts.) Within this atmosphere it was hard from the beginning to implement the results of WCAR in Germany.

    First steps
    The first steps to tackle the backlash of human rights friendly atmosphere as well as to foster the recognition of the outcome of WCAR was to distribute the documents (official and unofficial as well as NGO) as wide as possible. Therefore the World-University-Service (German Committee) put all documents and comments on its homepage ( In addition we urged the German Government to translate the document as soon as possible but taking into consideration the concerns to any use of the word "race". Unfortunately the "German Translation Office" at the UN ignored these worries thus the official statement of EU (in relation to use of "race") has to be attached. Further more "FORUM Menschenrechte" took pressure to the already existing „Forum gegen Rassimus" (council against racism) – a National Forum consisting of nationwide important NGOs and governmental institutions – to establish a working group on "follow up WCAR". This working group was official established on November 21, 2002. Within this working group the National Action Plan should be drafted.

    Particular activities
    Beside the activities of the network "FORUM Menschenrechte" there are many local initiatives concerning the results of WCAR. Starting with countless lectures, member organisations of "FORUM Menschenrechte" as well as independent grass root organisations and members of "Interkultureller Rat" (intercultural council) set up many activities to inform about WCAR and to discuss how to use this international document for daily work.

    To somehow coordinate these activities and to get funding for some of these activities shortly after WCAR the Berlin Branch of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (Heinrich-Böll-Foundation) started a meeting series to inform about the conference and the follow up process. Additionally this series titled international alliance against racism informed about several single subjects related to the WCAR document from a German perspective. Topics dealt with read as follows:
  • the consequences of the transnational slave trade to the African and African descendants, their claims for excuse and reparations,
  • today's forms of slavery and trafficking of woman,
  • Anti-Discrimination-law, the situation of the German Sinti and Roma people, as well as Roma refugees of eastern European countries in Germany and
  • racist motivated violence of the German police.
    The meeting series will continue 2003 and brings up new subjects as the discrimination of Muslims, the situation of black people in Europe, the colonial history of Germany and the meaning of the new German immigration law for the improvement of the status of migrants, refugees and persons with no legal right of residence.

    An important aim of the events was to encourage, support and broaden the participation of NGOs in the process of elaborating and implementation of a National Action Plan. Their was a special focus on self-representative organisations and initiatives of minority groups, which are especially affected by racism and discrimination. In cooperation with the working group racism of the "FORUM Menschenrechte" a seminar was held in November 2002 to support the independent constituting of a NGO working group within the "Forum gegen Rassismus".

    Concerning the need for theoretical background along with scientific advice "FORUM Menschenrechte" in coalition with the Ministry for Justice and Ministry for Internal Affairs asked the German Institute for Human Rights to coordinate the drafting process of the National Action Plan. Unfortunately because of lack of resources and for the reason that the Germany Institute for Human Rights was founded in 2001 and recently established in 2002 it is not able to undertake this task. But the German Institute for Human Rights has embarked upon a comprehensive study that focuses on the provisions of international standards for the elimination of racism and its implementation of these obligations in Germany. The research comprises an analysis of current country reports under relevant international human rights standards, including the comments of respective treaty bodies, as well as of official government policy in recent years. Furthermore, the implementation of obligations under both the EU Race Directive and the UN World Conference against Racism will also feature prominently in the analysis. The findings of the study will form the basis for recommendations regarding the future role of the national human rights institution within the institutional context of German anti-discrimination policies. So far, the German Institute for Human Rights has expressed its willingness to be actively involved in the process of elaborating a National Plan of Action and plans to further facilitate the strategic networking between civil society and government institutions. The civil society, represented by NGOs does hope that this will come true and get the necessary support by the financing German Government.

    Due to the above mentioned over all atmosphere concerning migrants and minorities in Germany it was one of the main achievements of "FORUM Menschenrechte" to draft an "Election Code of Conduct" (see with explanation). There was a big coalition within civil society to call for an election free of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of stigmatisation. This idea was taken up by "FORUM Menschenrechte" to draft a "Election Code of Conduct" that every parties leading candidate has to sign. The normative point of departure was Para. 115 PoA/WCAR. All parties agreed about the aim but Christian Democrats and Liberal Party refused to sign. Anyway, the election has shown that this "Election Code of Conduct" was a huge success because practically – with local exceptions – racism and stigmatisation was banned. Additionally through the "Election Code of Conduct" the WCAR come back into official debate and got recognized by grass root NGOs and initiatives.
    FORUM Menschenrechte

    The processes of globalization, the world labor market, the differences between developed countries and undeveloped ones makes the issues of human rights more complex more actual and global. The concept of human rights is familiar to the many people of social community, but the problems is that how they are conscience to use in reality these concepts? They need to understand the human rights concepts as the necessary precondition for the future development of relation between countries, to understand the importance of human rights in world reality, to understand the significance of implementation and protection of human rights.

    The Greek racism towards Albanians is a story that is repeated time after time in different forms that pass every human limit. The repression, discrimination, dislikes, prejudice towards Albanians comes as a result of ignorance related with human rights and creation of stereotypes by distinguishing groups in and out. Recently the Albanian press as shown many denunciations from refuges toward Greek violence and discrimination. The cases of violence to Albanian emigrants in Greece have created a tensioned climate (as was the case of Vullnet Bytyci (Albanian emigrant) who together with other friends went to work in Greece, but he has just stepped on Greek land he meets his death(he is shoot with a gun at the back of head). These facts have made more difficult the life of Albanian refuges in Greece. Firstly the fact of living in a foreign place takes much time to adapt and to be part of community. Secondly the recurrent violence and discrimination has caused insecurity for the refuges life.

    To STOP the discrimination, violence toward people is the question of our life; we need to find an answer for everyone in every part of world. Just as human rights belong to both individuals and society as a whole, the responsibility to respect, defend, and promote human rights is both individual and collective now and always.
    We must all have heard that human rights abuses are not just something that occur in far away places, they are happening right here at home, they are happening in our daily life and we are feeling part of better and badly events. At different stages of our lives, we are all victims and perpetrators of human rights abuse.
    Designing effective national programs in citizenship or human rights education is a formidable challenge. Growing consensus around the world recognizes education for and about human rights is essential. It can contribute to the building of free, just, and peaceful societies. Human rights education is also increasingly recognized as an effective strategy to prevent human rights abuses. The international community is largely becoming an open field for cooperation and understanding but they must provide more security by making people to feel like in their home in every place that they go to live. The culture, tolerance and the desire for living in understanding must be the essence of support and collaboration between nations.
    Irida Agolli, Association of Young Researcher of Social Science

    By Dr. Deo Ladislas Ndakengerwa

    It is very important to look around us and see what is happening with Refegee Integration programmes throughout EU. Some peoiple would tell that integration is a two way process and that both community, host and newcomer have to play an equal role but do not get seduced it is just words, empty words. The reason is very simple and very clear. How do you achieve a two-way integration if only one side is working for such an integration while refugee who should be involved in integration programmes are left aside on will and pushed to be recipient of programmes while they should have a pivotal role in adminitring those programme? Think again and take a closer look. Tell me how many refugees are employed in integration programmes? If there are some, what role and responsabilityies do they hold in ? Some people will tell you that they are just tokens but to me they are more than that and do not deserve such an abusing name even if some would be. Think again and now take a step back. How many refugees are consulted or involved in assessing needs for integration? I know nobody but you might know someone from your side. Still, I have a concern: Who does know refugees' needs better than themeselves? Of course none, even a baby knows. so why aren't they involved in integration programmes? I really do not know but I think they should not be blamed for this because this how they were made to be by the host society.

    Refugees are aware of the problems they are facing and know what could be done to help them integrating in the society. To explain this, you one should see how many associations and support groups that are being created to help their community. The only thing that anyone could notice is that they have no support whatsover from funding sources to sustain their activities. I should not comment to this statement but it is an undisputable fact that they are not given any opportunity nor support to show what they can due to the assumptions and lack of respect from different individuals and institutions who continue to grow the culture of inferiority and incapability among the refugee community so that they can continue thinking and doing things for them. How integration could be achieved if people are not unabled? How intehgration could be described as two way process if one side is considered to be inferior and incapable? I think that if the situation remain stati quo no integration will be achieved the way it is thought and it will remain an utopia and not merely a panacea for community harmony.
    The African Refugee Network

    By R. Bibi

    I was catching the bus home a couple of a weeks ago, and the bus was full so as normal I went to the back of the bus to sit on one of the two empty seats. Just as I am about to sit down the man opposite me kicks out his legs on to the seat. He says "Your not sitting there. Slightly taken back I move to another seat and he says "I hope you are happy with yourself", he carries on I try to avoid eye contact, thinking perhaps I should move to the front of the bus, but then NO why should I.. Then it becomes clearer he says "people like you ruin this country, come here and get our benefits.. look at you hope your happy with yourself".. Ok so he thinks I am an asylum seeker. I have heard the usual anti asylum seeker rant on the bus, which has never been specifically targeted out to hear about the "disease ridden, greedy lazy and trouble causing" asylum seekers.. He carries on and then I loose my cool, I have another 15 minutes bus journey and am getting irritated don't want to listen to this. I am not an asylum seeker I say. Then we hear the usual "so where are you from". I say "I am from England".. no where you really from. I say "I was born here". I smile ironically.. he comments on the smug "smile".. well "you are not f**king white" are you.. I think how pathetic... Then he goes to religion. What religion are you, he throws a couple of religions at me "Sikh or Muslims, or..." I think my headscarf gave it away but I sit there and watch this pathetic individual. So by this stage I am still an asylum seeker and a Muslim he has established that without me saying so... He then goes on to tell me his uncle in the royal marines is killing my family in Iraq, not that I am Iraqi or have family in Iraq, but in his mentality they are all the same. No one on a bus full of people speaks up but the old man sitting next to him, who says to me "ignore him", I admire that from him, because this other ranting individual is trying to intimidate him, he tells him he will burn his house and break my windows. Strangely this is not like when I was younger and would get annoyed by the comments, but when I leave the bus I hear a lot of expletives coming in my direction but I walk off feeling like I belong and he is the ignorant minority. Slightly saddened and shaken because I did think he would hit me while I was sitting there. I look back at the discussion and how he emphasised my faith and the fact he though I was an asylum seeker and am a muslim.....

    Still thinking about this the next day I think he is just an ignorant individual who finds sensationalised journalism in regards to these topic all two convenient. Then to my dismay reading this headline in the paper, like many other Muslims I thought no not again, especially with Islamaphobia on its current rise.. one would expect government officials not to make matter's worst or even incite trouble as was done by David MacShane probably unintentionally but nevertheless one would expect someone in his position as a foreign office minister not to come out with ignorant comment and to be more diplomatic. , He thinks Muslims should condemn terrorist attacks more clearly. I felt complete fury, how long will we have to condemn or explain which if done so many times begins to look like an apology. After Sept 11th many condemned the actions of terrorist.. I like many others feel the British Muslims have shown time and time again where they stand. So why does David MacShane, feel we have to condemn again giving, and using the word "choose" its not about choosing its about what just and right and all acknowledge that.

    MacShanes following comments:" It is the democratic, rule-of-law, if you like the British, American or Turkish way, based on political dialogue and non-violent protest like the one in London yesterday. "Or it is the way of the terrorist against which the whole democratic world is uniting." For him to suggest we need to choose is to suggest we are in the middle ground, what right does he have to that, to question our loyalty and patrioticness. I am not alone in this complete anger and fury many muslims/muslim leaders are complaining and speaking our. Muslim activist is his constituency have lost faith in their MP and expressed their concerns to Labour's NEC ruling. Terrorism is perpetrated my many people of different faiths origins ideologies why should Muslims be singled out to condemn more so, is to align Muslim people with terrorism which is disgraceful. I don't expect all Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus constantly apologise for an atrocity coming by those who claim to have the same faith as them, so why should Muslims apologise.

    MacShane comments were toned down, and it was said muslim should use "stronger language".. Is that supposed to be a come down, because as far as Muslims are concerned he is saying the same thing. MacShane comments separate Muslims and vilify Muslims, who are disappointed that a senior in his position could create more problems. This kind of rhetoric just gives leverage to the BNP and national front and all those who would like to vilify Muslims. Two out of four local Muslim councillors have authorized a motion taking Mr MacShane to account. It was suggested by Ghu;am Nabi whose son has served with British forces in Iraq It says: "Denis MacShane is inciting racial and religious hatred, by publicly implying in the press that the Muslim community elected members and leaders are in favour of terrorism and being anti-British." "We feel these comments are ill-informed, designed to portray us in the media as conspiring against the state. The Nazis in world war two similarly accused the Jews, disputing their patriotism, which was so well executed that it led to what we now know as the Holocaust." It also mentions that muslim community leaders have heartily condemned terrorism, but MacShane has been "silent" about killings and torture by states in Chechnya, Palestine, Indian-occupied Kashmir and Gujarat". Is it not the acknowledging of a problem, because many British Muslims have acknowledged that there are some Muslims who are committing acts of terrorism under the guise of religion and are confronting this. But this is a problem for the world at large as there are people who will us violence in all faiths. This is also a reason of fustrations that the matter has been confronted and condemned and then there are ignorant comments made.

    McShanes half baked apology came too late the damage was done and at the sensitive timing when there were bomb attacks in the British consulate and HSBC bank in Turkey. It is just adding to the culture of fear. Many people have called for him to apologise or resign, because his comments are largely damaging to race relations to suggest to choose is to say that one is not already a part of the British way or the way of those who unite against terrorism. Why should Muslims apologise in fact apology only indicates that they are responsible in some way. When Muslims were killed by Hindus in Indian Gujarat or Christian Serbs killed Muslims. Were Hindus or Christians asked to choose? Similarly like the term Islamic terrorist, why were the Hindus who massacred Gujarat Muslims not called Hindu terrorist or Christian terrorist in regards to when they commit terrorist activities? Bottom line Its is not about political correctness but double standards, that cause damage to race relations in society.

    By Amina Marix Evans

    Yesterday on the train I saw some ugly anti-Islamic graffiti – signed with the "white power" sign or fascist cross. When we reached Amsterdam I found the conductor and dragged him off to look at it and got him to promise it would be cleaned off the same evening. OK, but I had been trying to get him to do it NOW, before one more person saw it – that was more than his job was worth.

    The same sign was daubed several times on a bridge where I live, down amongst the bulb-fields. I and others complained repeatedly to the town council who informed us they had asked the Province (like a UK county) to remove it… but it stayed there for months. Finally I printed out an internet page which explained the origin and meaning of the various fascist and extreme right insignia and suggested the council educate themselves to understand what it is they are allowing to stay on the walls (right near a new youth centre). Then I painted over it myself. A few days later I had a polite letter from the mayor informing me that the graffiti was not longer there and they hoped they had been of service.

    In August we held the annual commemoration of the racist murder of Kerwin in Amsterdam. 2003 marked 20 years since Kerwin died, 10 years since the killing of Stephen Lawrence in the UK and 2 years since Benjamin Hermansen was stabbed to death in Norway. All these young men of colour died as a result of knife wounds dealt them by the same people who use that fascist cross as their emblem. People who like to think they might be "100% white" – or wish their surroundings to be so. The biggest difference in these three cases is that no one has ever been convicted for the murder of Stephen Lawrence, whereas two members of the group who killed Benjamin Hermanssen received sentences of 15 and 16 years. Kerwin's killer was a minor at the time and served a much lighter sentence.

    But it's not that end result – the crime and punishment of the matter - which I want to talk about here, it's our ability to recognize the attitude causing such things when we see it, and our alertness and vigilance in stopping it before it goes further.

    Many youngsters in the Netherlands have never heard of Kerwin or what happened to him 20 years ago, long before they were born, so this year we decided to bring it to their attention by running a competition, to write a poem, story or a piece of music on the subject "I, we, they…", to stimulate thought and discussion of identity and groupings. There were some remarkable entries and on the afternoon of 20 August the winners performed at the Dam and there was a live on-the-spot competition run by the youth group Go Uptown. This attracted at least 300 youngsters to the very spot where Kerwin had lain injured 20 years earlier and was a powerful introduction to this year's commemoration.

    As the year draws to a close, we are moving into a new phase with the Friends of Kerwin Foundation (Stichting Vrienden van Kerwin). In 2004 we will be involved in more ongoing activities with young people, through schools and youth groups. Several projects are being developed involving a combination of "new" media and education for anti-racism and conflict resolution. We hope that we can help inspire the youngsters to be aware of ‘subtle' forms of racism that underlie so much of what we are bombarded with on a daily basis. We want them to understand that racism directed against any group is a reflection on all of us and that it is up to all of us to be awake and aware – to deal with it when that first sign shows up. We will also work on issues of stereotypes, particularly as perpetuated by commerce and media.

    Perhaps that famous Dutch tolerance is just another stereotype and we should look at it again – after all, isn't allowing racist graffiti to remain in public spaces a kind of ‘tolerance'? Isn't allowing a taxi driver to refuse to help an injured person a form of tolerance? That kind of tolerance harms people by omission rather than commission… I am reminded of that poem by Pastor Martin Niemoeller: First they came for the communists, but I wasn't communist so I did nothing… (this can be found on many websites)

    But even more I think of the poem which won a prize in the Kerwin Competition this summer:

    (Translated from Dutch)
    Me, us and them -
    I am
    we are
    they are… THAT's where it all goes wrong

    I heard you say
    that it's a contagious disease -
    all those homos
    that there are more and more of them
    - "now that it's allowed" –
    and that it ought to be forbidden
    I mean, women are made for men
    (and vice versa)
    and NOT for each other

    And I thought
    how can you be so dumb
    so incredibly stupid !
    but I didn't say it ……
    I was too much of a coward
    Bregje Hofstede (14)

    Let us all have more courage in 2004.
    Stichting Vrienden van Kerwin

    By Jeroen Bosch

    Pressure from Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) to prevent a "Rock against ZOG" concert, to celebrate the third anniversary of a nazi squat by the so-called Nationale Beweging (National Movement - NB) near Eindhoven, on 8 November has turned out to be a success. The remaining nazis at the squat, a former military installation called "De Kazerne"‚ packed up and left, ironically, only ten days after what must have been one of the biggest and most successful nazi concerts ever staged in the Netherlands.

    From December 2000, young activists from the fascist movement Voorpost – they switched to the NB later – started organising concerts, parties, benefit gigs, discussion evenings, their traditional "National Youth Gathering" and a bar at the huge former military barracks in a forest on the outskirts of Eindhoven. The barracks also provided living accommodation and, importantly, functioned as an "action preparation centre" for local and regional extreme right-wing activists. From the outset, anti-fascists warned of the squat's dangers and its attractiveness to the whole right-wing palette of "Lonsdale youngsters", Gabbers and skinheads in the Eindhoven area. Despite their warnings, however, neither the political parties nor the press were interested in using the information provided by anti-fascists. In August 2002, last year the NB staged a gig with the German band Oidoxie. Oidoxie's activities have since attracted considerable interest from the German justice authorities, because it is not just a hate music band but a key component of the structures of the violent Freie Kameradschaften around Dortmund. In this role, Oidoxie has organised demonstrations, distributed videos of its concerts and has become a firm part of the worldwide nazi Blood&Honour network. The band has also played songs whose lyrics included "Give Adolf Hitler the Nobel Prize, raise the red flag with the swastika" at a Freie Kameradschaften demonstration calling for "freedom of speech". In November 2002, the NB tightened its German links even more by staging a benefit gig for German "nazi bard" Frank Rennicke and sending him £1,100 from the proceeds. Rennicke, convicted in Germany for spreading racial hatred and fined £46,000, is member of the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands and was defended by the notorious nazi lawyer, Horst Mahler.

    Anti-fascists, refusing to be dispirited by the lack of interest displayed by the Dutch authorities and media, then started a campaign to raise awareness about "De Kazerne" among activists by touring several Dutch and Belgian cities with information material and a video. They also plastered Eindhoven with thousands of posters exposing the key figures behind the nazi activities in the squat and renewed their efforts to engage the press. On 15 June 2003, it was proved how dangerous this nazi "free zone"‚ really is for public safety in Eindhoven when five youngsters set an Islamic school ablaze. At their trial, they said that their first target was a mosque, but with too many people inside, the chances of being caught were too great. According to police sources, some of the youngsters had frequented "De Kazerne" and probably found their inspiration there. Despite the sustained anti-fascist campaign, the Eindhoven city council, which partly owns the terrain of the military barracks but keeps on denying that it does, claiming it is not its responsibility but that of the Ministry of Defence, opted to ignore the protests. Police sources also indicated that the squat was a perfect place for gathering intelligence on the nazi's and that, because of this, they would not recommend evicting them.

    On 7 November, Anti-Fascist Action issued a press statement revealing the background of the planned "Rock against ZOG" (ZOG = Zionist Occupation Government) concert, one day before the 65 commemoration of the Kristallnach in Germany, at which Oidoxie and the lesser-known bands Rassenhass and Kommando Freisler were listed as performers. Despite heavy pressure from various organisations and political parties to ban this nakedly fascist and anti-Semitic event, the major of Eindhoven allowed the concert to go ahead. Faced by a picket of local councillors, about 150 nazi's from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands turned up at "De Kazerne".

    In the days following the concert, questions were raised in the Dutch parliament as well as in the Eindhoven city council, prompting interior minister Johan Remkes to call for an investigation. Two days after the concert, a surprising announcement appeared on the NB's website declaring: "The continuing differences in the NJB (the NB's local branch) about the political strategy culminated in Saturday's concert. By organising or cooperating with the "Rock against ZOG", concert the NJB clearly crossed the border. The Nationale Beweging thinks that such concerts do not connect with the nationalist message we want to bring and that it is very counter-revolutionary. Nationalists are neither "race haters" nor neo-nazis. With regret, we say goodbye to "De Kazerne" which is now so marked that we do not see any possibility of staging any activities there anymore." The NB's leader, Tim Mudde, who wrote this statement, is being hypocritical to say the least. At an earlier concert with Oidoxie, the Dutch fascist band Brigade M, in which Mudde is the leading figure, appeared on stage as surprise performers. Mudde's U-turn, therefore, has occurred either because he thought the 8 November concert was a good opportunity to terminate the NB's internal wrangling or because the pressure of AFA's campaigns simply became too much for him.

    On 17 November, political parties in Eindhoven staged a silent demonstration against the squat and, a day later it became clear that the nazi squatters had quit the barracks, which are now being patrolled by military police. Later in the same week, the buildings were rendered uninhabitable by the authorities. The long overdue demise of "De Kazerne" does not mean that the fascists behind it have disappeared and it is likely that they will try to occupy a new building somewhere in or around Eindhoven, where their base is still strong and they have tasted the freedom of a "free zone". AFA, needless to say, will try to prevent any such development.

    By Dienke Hondius

    Dutch society's impressive commitment to anti-racist norms, influenced by revulsion against Nazi and apartheid regimes, is now pressured by an opposite trend: irritation with signs of cultural difference. How does the change impact on lives and identities in the modern Netherlands?

    In the post-1945 period, ideas and images from the United States have had increasing impact in the Netherlands. Relations between the two countries were generally positive. During the war years, the Dutch government and the royal family stayed in Britain and Canada. American and Canadian troops liberated most of the Netherlands from the Nazis. Their presence made a deep impression. The anglophile is a well-known figure in the Netherlands. Our academic research, like our literature, culture and policy-making, began to look increasingly to America, Britain and Canada.

    This was a major change in direction from the pre-war period, when relations between Germany and the Netherlands were intense. Relations both with Germany and with Germans became taboo in the post-liberation years, as the United States and Britain became the new, more acceptable partners. But US influence is neither linear, nor constant. Post-war, the image of the US was of a vast, modern country, associated with freedom and liberation. More recently, Dutch politicians have begun to point to the US as an example of how to handle issues of immigration and – a key Dutch preoccupation of the moment – integration.

    What inspires them today is to be found in particular in the gratitude that new American citizens express when they are granted their citizenship papers; and in the proud, patriotic ceremonies that accompany these formalities. Immigrants to the US receive no support; they have to ‘save themselves'. In a recession such as the one being experienced in the Netherlands, this gives us the seed of a rather attractive idea. It goes like this: the Dutch are not proud enough of their history and political culture. If we, the Dutch authorities, showed more pride and more force, immigrants might show more respect, a quicker willingness to ‘become like us'; in particular, they might show us more gratitude.

    Dutch attitudes to racism, past and present
    Dutch academic debate on racism is scarce: some of the current analysis falls into the category of the maximalists who argue that ‘racism is everywhere', as opposed to the minimalists who regard racism as exceptional, or new abolitionists like Paul Gilroy, Vron Ware and Les Back who argue that ‘racism must and can be overthrown' Maximalists strive to include all types and all varieties and shades of racism in one term.

    The public and political acceptance of such analysis is limited to say the least. Much more common in Dutch everyday life is a hesitation to discuss race at all, a tendency to keep the phenomenon at bay through a form of denial: better not mention aspects of ‘race' such as skin colour, since they really ‘do not matter'. This is the anti-racist norm that senses a problem, but at the same time refuses to go into it.

    Anti-racism became a new norm in our culture out of revulsion against what the American historian George Fredrickson has called ‘racist regimes' such as Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, as well as racial segregation in the United States. But the end of such regimes did not end racism: racism and various forms of spontaneous segregation endure in spite of, and alongside, the now widely shared anti-racist norm.

    Multiculturalism, by which people strive not just to acknowledge diversity, but to accept it wholeheartedly, is an important part of this normative package. In the Netherlands, multiculturalism has come under harsh attack and is much discredited. In the current Dutch debate you can safely say that multiculturalism has become a dirty word, certainly generally avoided by politicians. It is seen as a naïve, wimpish way of looking at the world, unrealistic and dangerously blind to the forces threatening modern society. Opponents of multiculturalism focus on the need for anti-terrorism, for the emancipation of Muslim women and girls, and for the protection of gay rights, Jews, and generally the basic rights of the free western world. The tone of this debate is harsh and direct: whoever is not with us, is against us.
    What brought us to this point? Historically, the end of the second world war was a turning point.

    1945-1975: anti-Semitism, liberation, end of empire, migration
    Dutch society was deeply marked by the tremendous loss of life during the Holocaust: more than 75% of the Jews deported from the Netherlands were killed. It took some time for this fact to sink in. It continues to influence policy in many different ways: ‘never again' is a strong cry. One side-effect was that the census became impossible. We have had no census taken since 1971, as a result of much altercation about the ease with which the German Nazis were able to separate Jews from non-Jews, thanks to almost watertight population administration. The immediate post-war year of 1945, however, saw an unexpected and for many shocking rise of anti-semitism expressed towards returning Jewish survivors from the concentration camps. A nationalist policy approach required Jews to be thankful for having survived. They must know their place. Meanwhile, former resistance groups, in particular the more moderate and Christian among them, became the moral victors of the war against the evil Germans. However, as a new social hierarchy was consolidated, and normal politics restored, open forms of anti-semitism and racism gradually became taboo.

    In 1949, Indonesia gained its independence when the Netherlands succumbed to US pressure to give up its empire. The 1954 treaty of equality between the Netherlands, Suriname and the Antillean Caribbean islands soon followed. The official policy regarding the large-scale immigration of the Indonesian Dutch was one of assimilation. They were offered ‘civilisation lessons' which included tutelage in how to peel potatoes and clean the house. Moluccan immigrants who were expecting to return to Indonesia were however segregated, given separate housing and places of worship. There were frequent reports of street fighting between Dutch and Indonesian boys. There were also many mixed marriages.

    From the second half of the 1950s onward, immigration from both the former colonies and labour migration from Italy, Spain, Morocco and Turkey rapidly changed the population. In 1945, nearly 100% of the population was ‘white' and born in the Netherlands. Today, two-thirds of the primary school population in the main cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, belong to what are still called the "ethnic minorities", and Islam is the second largest religion.

    In the cultural revolution of the 1960s the post-liberation, post-colonial nationalist discourse was challenged, and anti-semitism and racism fiercely opposed. A new anti-racist norm was installed. Here the American civil rights movement, and the opposition against apartheid in South Africa were strong inspirations for a new generation. However, Dutch culture drew no parallels with its own recent colonial past or with its history of the slave trade and slavery.

    1975-1985: establishing Islam, new racism and new irritation
    From the 1980s a new awareness of the history of the Holocaust was linked with growing concerns about right-wing extremism and racism. Multiculturalism and anti-racism, focusing on the acceptance of ‘others' including their ‘own culture' became a widely shared norm. It was also a starting point for public policy. In these years, immigrants from Muslim countries such as Morocco and Turkey were able to reunite their families, and many women and children entered the Netherlands. Their visible presence in cities immediately provoked considerable negative reactions amongst the Dutch. In particular, we heard much about the treatment of Moroccan women and their severely limited freedom.

    I interviewed many mixed couples at that time. Dutch women married to Moroccan and Turkish men reported that when they first got married in the 1960s, they did not meet with a lot of opposition. However, from the end of the 1970s onwards, they received much more hostile reaction and suspicion. Seeing the subordinate role played by Moroccan and Turkish women, Dutch people leapt to the rapid conclusion that anyone who married a Moroccan or Turkish man would be subject to similar oppression. These points of view came as an unpleasant surprise to these mixed couples, many of whom had been married for ten or fifteen years by then, but were now suddenly seen as backward, strange, oppressed. New racist political parties were established, first opposing the black immigrants from the Caribbean former colonies, only rather later focusing on anti-Muslim feelings. But in the same years, Islam established itself in the Netherlands and became the second largest religion.

    This was a highly unexpected development. The Dutch in the same period were leaving their Christian churches in droves as society underwent a rapid secularisation. This simultaneous development of secularisation on the one hand, and the building of an Islamic community on the other, separated into two worlds of believers and non-believers who found it hard to understand each other. It took some time for these new realities to sink in. Irritation grew, but was kept under wraps until the 1990s. The general anti-racist and multicultural norm, linked to the memory of the victims of the second world war, lingered intact for about a decade.

    However, during the 1990s these norms were increasingly challenged. A variety of politicians, intellectuals and many others came to regard the taboos against racism and anti-semitism as altogether too ‘politically correct', while irritation about new migrants, and in particular about Muslims, rose rapidly.

    Breaking the taboo became a favourite activity for some politicians, who always claimed to be ‘the first to say what many people think but are afraid to say'. They were echoed by popular entertainers in talkshows, on television, screen and stage.
    In 1991, the leader of the liberal conservative party, Fritz Bolkestein, now a member of the European Commission, took the lead in debunking the taboo. He called for more attention to be paid to Dutch history and tradition, expressing contempt for Muslim traditionalism and trepidation at the oppression of Muslim women, in particular their wearing of the veil, the practice of polygamy, and incidences of sexual violence. The warm welcome given to Bolkestein's stance in many quarters revealed a large reservoir of anti-Muslim sentiment. ‘Finally someone who says what we think', was a reaction very often heard, across the political spectrum. Only then did it become clear that non-Muslim Dutch irritation with their Muslim neighbours had been swiftly on the increase. Support for such new ideas discredited anti-racism and multiculturalism equally rapidly.

    The last politician to fiercely attack this taboo on racism and discrimination was Pim Fortuyn. Fortuyn was a populist conservative, openly gay and a hugely popular sociologist. Once an active Marxist and social democrat, he had become a disillusioned political nomad, finally drawn to populist circles. Among his demands was a call to change the first article of the Dutch constitution by removing the ban on discrimination and equal rights. He said it was not necessary to have this article. He also called for the closing of the country's borders to all Muslims, whose religion he described as achterlijk (backward). In only a few months he rose spectacularly in popularity, in particular through many television interviews on public and commercial programmes. His media image and television presentation was strong and charismatic. Fortuyn soon became the leader of a large political party. When he was murdered on 6 May 2002, it was one week before the elections that might very well have resulted in his being made prime minister of the Netherlands. The young man who killed Fortuyn was an animal rights activist who declared that he found Fortuyn's ideas a menace to society. He is now serving eighteen years in prison. In the year that saw the rise of Fortuyn and that following his death, multiculturalist policies and ideology have become even more unpopular than during the 1990s. Multiculturalism today in the Netherlands is associated with the recent past, in which immigrants were not told how to ‘behave', when their ‘integration' into Dutch society ‘failed', because public policy was too ‘soft'.

    ‘Integration Policy'
    Almost every week over recent years, there have been public outcries about Muslim women and girls wearing the headscarf at school or at work. Especially teenage girls in secondary schools and in higher education who wear the veil provoke reaction. This is an ongoing controversy. The white Dutch appear to have reached consensus on one point: the rejection of the niqab (a face-covering scarf). Very few women in the Netherlands use it, but it is clear that a line has been drawn here. The academy for social workers working in nurseries, daycare centres and primary schools was the first to introduce a ban. Women and children must be able to see each other's faces.

    In 2003, an official parliamentary investigation committee was given the task of establishing, ‘why and how the integration policy has failed'. The committee is interviewing former politicians and high civil servants, professors and community leaders to find out what happened over the last thirty years. Its work was controversial from the start, as its mission statement was drafted by a research group headed by a prominent member of the radical leftwing party Groen Links (Green Left), Jan Willem Duyvendak. Could its work be biased? Publicity about this as so many other issues seems to have become very person-directed lately. Everything is hyped that can be hyped: but only for one or two weeks maximum. Then a new scandal or controversial figure is found. We will have to wait and see what the results of this investigation are. In general, multiculturalism is now avoided as a term; it is replaced by ‘integration'.

    After Pim Fortuyn was killed, his party became the second largest in the country and part of the coalition government. Although this coalition did not last three months, the minister of justice from the List Pim Fortuyn party set the tone for what continues to be a very negative terminology regarding minorities. What integration meant to him, Hilbrand Nawijn explained, was that "They (minorities) have to learn to do what we (‘the Dutch') want them to do: they have to become like us". So much at least, was clear.

    Now there is another cabinet, not including this party, but still quite conservative, together with a secretary of state for integration whose department is part of the ministry of justice that also controls immigration policy. The call for deportation of asylum-seekers who have failed to procure legal status and yet who illegally remain in the country is one of the most urgent items on Rita Verdonk's agenda (a former head of the Dutch intelligence service).

    Memories of the slave trade
    At the same time in recent years, we have seen a small movement towards recognition for the first time of the role played by the slave trade and slavery in Dutch history. This resulted in the unveiling of a national monument in Oosterpark, Amsterdam, on 1 July 2002, in the presence of Queen Beatrix and the prime minister. The initiative was taken by Surinamese women's organisations, whose plans suddenly received the go-ahead from the minister of urban affairs, Roger van Boxtel, five years ago. Several related initiatives have followed: a research centre was opened this year; large exhibitions are under preparation – the first one opening in Rotterdam; there are theatre and music projects, and discussions.

    I find it surprising that four hundred years after the beginnings of the slave trade this hidden history is now gathering a new momentum. New questions are being raised about Surinamese and Antillean history and migration. It must be as a result of the normalisation of everyday interaction between light and dark Dutch people. Finally, the white Dutch are having their eyes opened to questions about Dutch history and the place of the slave trade in Dutch culture, politics, religion, arts and so forth. But it is equally significant that this growing awareness happens while at the same time the anti-racist norm is under attack.

    The Dutch have a particular terminology for ethnic groups and others, the current lingo dividing the population into those who are ‘autochtonous' and others who are ‘allochtonous'. The allochtonous category is an undefined mix of ‘others', seen as more or less problematic. Over the last two years, I have noticed that the Surinamese are no longer mentioned as belonging to this category. It is not that they are explicitly accepted as belonging to Dutch society, but more that they are absent from the problematic category. There is talk of a Surinamese middle class. On the other hand, the Antillean, Caribbean group continues to be seen as problematic, in particular the young men.

    Right-wing extremism and racism
    Since 9/11, strong anti-Muslim sentiments have been accompanied by a noticeable rise in verbal abuse and a more general impatience. Increasingly, we are encouraged to ‘speak our mind' in a generally negative atmosphere in which violence feels as if it is in the air. There is greater stigmatisation in particular of Moroccan and of Antillean boys: but there is also more anti-semitism directed at Dutch Jews or at people perceived to be Jewish on the street. The harder questions for Dutch society are in fact similar to those confronting the United States. They concern ethnic, racial, and economic segregation. In spite of decades of anti-racist and more or less multicultural policy, Dutch cities – its schools in particular – have become completely segregated. For a country that wants to be different, with a population that has supported the struggle against apartheid in South Africa for a long time, this is an embarrassing state of affairs. Most recent debate therefore has finally begun to explore how to encourage mixing in a situation of structural ethnic apartheid.

    Where is the love?
    Where, one might ask in conclusion, is the old Dutch image of tolerance and acceptance of minorities? Where is the love?

    I want to end somehow more optimistically. Two weeks after the elections in which one third of the voters of the second largest Dutch city, Rotterdam, chose to back the right-wing extremist party of Pim Fortuyn, there was a major multicultural festival, Dunya, in the city. Approximately half a million people came to this festival, and there were no incidents whatsoever. This simultaneity is striking. Racist violence has not increased in Rotterdam. The negative comments remain verbal. In the voting booth, Rotterdam voters expressed their alarm about migration and their rapidly changing city – their irritation and impatience about the persistence of difference. It is quite clear that racism plays a significant part in this irritation.

    Openly-expressed irritation is perhaps the most accepted form of violence in our society: it is common. However, it also has its limits. On the street, people continue to live alongside each other. There appears to be no direct connection so far between how people vote and how they treat each other. The anti-racist bottom line is buffeted, but it has not been given up. The ideal is still there: and the laws are still in place. To accuse someone of being racist or anti-semitic still has grave consequences. Where convincing, such an accusation can easily end a career, a friendship, and membership of virtually any organisation. However minimal, it is this qualification that allows us to remain hopeful for improved relations in the next few years, and for the much-needed normalisation, calm and patience.

    Hatred, I would argue, has never played a prominent part in Dutch racism, whether you look at 17th or 18th century racism, or at the attitudes of non-Jews to Jews. Hatred seems to be an exception. Hatred is generally regarded as wrong. Instead, what you will find is paternalism and patronising attitudes. Dutch racism is a well-intentioned, friendly apartheid: white, Christian, and fuelled by feelings of supremacy and superiority which are self evident, although they will be generally denied.

    Denial, indeed, appears to be a built-in part of the mix. Both in the form of anti-semitism, and in the various forms of racism, patronising attitudes prevail. In this sense, the anti-racist norm on which we have relied is part of this denial: since racism is seen as barbaric, nobody – except for small fringe groups – will allow themselves to be called racist or anti-semitic for one moment. I wonder whether this type of racism, that is present and denied at the same time, present and absent, present and pushed away, ignored, is specifically Dutch.
    Any reactions or thoughts you who read this might have on this point, would be very welcome.

    Dienke Hondius is a historian and sociologist working at the Erasmus University (Rotterdam) and the Anne Frank House (Amsterdam). Her doctoral research was on ethnic and religious intermarriage in the Netherlands; she is now writing a book about race and racism in Dutch society, from 1600 to the present.
    ©Dienke Hondius 2003

    Dutch organisations plead against power of veto
    By Dick Houtzager

    In the draft Constitution for Europe, which will be discussed at the EU-Council meeting in Brussels on 12 and 13 december, the opportunity was missed to make it easier to introduce non-discrimination measures. Despite a number of small improvements, such as a stronger role for the European Parliament, the coming into force of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the duty for the EU to mainstream non-discrimination, member states still have the possibility to veto new non-discrimination measures. In the draft text, all decisions in the field of non-discrimination need to be taken by a unanimous vote of all member states. A single member state could stop necessary measures by opposing the unanimity.

    Dutch organisations combating discrimination on the grounds of race, age, sex, handicap and sexual orientation have urged the Dutch Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, to do his utmost to abandon the unanimity requirement and to replace it by the system of qualified majority voting (QMV). QMV is the standard procedure for most decisions in the EU. In the organisations' view, it is important for the EU to act decisively in matters relating to equal treatment and non-discrimination. With the unanimity requirement, the Council will at the most reach watered-down compromises in order to be acceptable for all member states. The European Commission, in a reaction to the draft text, has already expressed its preference for QMV. The Dutch government also supports this principle.

    Since the Treaty of Amsterdam came into force in 1999, non-discrimination has been one of the policy issues for the EU. Based on Article 13 of this Treaty, two Directives have been adopted, imposing a duty on the member states to introduce new or adapt existing non-discrimination legislation in the field of employment. Where racial or ethnic equality is concerned, the scope is even wider and includes education, social protection, housing and the supply of goods and services. The transposition period for both Directives has elapsed. The Dutch government has not been able to introduce its adapted legislation in time. Many other member states have also failed to live up to the EU requirements in time.
    LBR - National Bureau against Racial Discrimination

    The sources for this analysis are mainly documents which are not publicly available - access to their full-text is given below.
    Statewatch analysis by Steve Peers, University of Essex

    The Council is nearing the deadline of December 2003 set by EU leaders for agreement on a proposed Directive on asylum procedures. This Directive, along with a parallel proposal on the definition of 'refugee' and subsidiary protection status, is at the heart of refugee law. However, there are disturbing developments in the final months of negotiations on the Directive. It appears that the Council is likely to agree a Directive which in many respects will fall below the minimum standards set by human rights law, with Member States not merely permitted and encouraged to lower their existing standards but in one area even required to lower those standards.

    At the moment, asylum procedures are only governed by EU 'soft law', comprising the three 'London Resolutions' of EU Ministers adopted in 1992 (on 'safe third countries', 'safe countries of origin' and 'manifestly unfounded' cases) and a Council Resolution setting out general rules on asylum procedures adopted in 1995. The Commission proposed a Directive on this subject in September 2000. A year later, the proposal fell victim to the Belgian Council Presidency's cancellation of negotiations over most EC immigration and asylum proposals, and the Council instead agreed 'conclusions' on this issue in December 2001. These conclusions took no account of the proposed amendments of the European Parliament, which would have considerably improved the Commission's proposal. Furthermore, the EU summit in Laeken, in December 2001, called for the Commission to present a new version of the proposal.

    The Commission presented its revised proposal, considerably lowering the standards in its first proposal, in June 2002, although the Council did not reopen negotiations on it until January 2003. In June 2003, the JHA Council agreed on part of the Directive, concerning the standards applicable when an asylum-seeker first comes into contact with the authorities. These rules cover issues such as detention of asylum-seekers, the right to legal aid and access to a lawyer, and the right to a personal interview with a trained official. The rules agreed by the Council in these areas fell well below the standards proposed by the Commission. Subsequently, the Council has been negotiating the other provisions of the Directive, concerning 'inadmissible' asylum applications, the scope of special procedures applicable to admissible applications, the rules applicable to withdrawal of refugee status, and the right of asylum-seekers to have access to a court or tribunal, including the question of whether a legal challenge has 'suspensive effect', meaning that the asylum-seeker is entitled to stay in the country pending the decision.

    Inadmissible applications
    If an asylum application is inadmissible, the national authorities do not have to consider its merits at all. So even though the situation of the asylum-seeker in the country of origin may be appalling, with the result that his or her case for refugee status may be well-founded, the authorities will not even examine the application. 'Inadmissible' cases concern those cases where it is believed that the asylum-seeker should have applied somewhere else, or where the asylum-seeker already has protection somewhere else. The proposed Directive applies this principle to cases where a person already has protection elsewhere or is subject to the EU's 'Dublin' rules allocating responsibility to a single EU Member State for considering asylum applications. More controversially, it allows applications from 'safe third countries' to be considered inadmissible. The latest Council draft considerably weakens the Commission's proposal as regards the human rights and refugee law standards which countries must uphold to be considered 'safe', and also apparently extends the principle to states which the applicant has not even travelled through. Moreover there is no longer a clear obligation to consider the application of the principle to each individual applicant. This approach would leave Member States free to remove asylum-seekers to any country willing to accept them, without any consideration of the merits of their claims or even any detailed consideration of the application of the 'safe third country' principle to the facts of their case.

    Special procedures
    One of the most important special procedures for admissible asylum applications is the application of the 'safe country of origin' principle. This means that the application is presumed to be unfounded because the applicant is the citizen of a country where human rights are so well protected that persecution of individuals severe enough to cause them to flee the country never happens. This principle might be uncontroversial if its application was limited to (say) Canada and Norway, but in practice countries which apply this principle consider that some states with very questionable human rights records are 'safe countries of origin'.

    The Commission proposed that Member States could apply this principle as an option in their asylum law, subject to certain safeguards. However, the JHA Council of October 2003 agreed that Member States would be required to apply this principle in their national law, at least for a common list of countries that would be deemed to be safe by all EU Member States. The common list is to be adopted by the Council by a qualified majority vote; the European Parliament will only be consulted and national parliaments will have no input at all. Member States will still be free to add additional countries to any national list of 'safe' third countries, but will not have the power by themselves to take any states off the EU list permanently, even if this change were limited to the Member State in question and no matter what the human rights situation in the supposedly 'safe' States. The principle will even apply to States where a person was formerly resident, regardless of whether that person was a citizen of that State or was stateless; this broadens the traditional application of the principle.

    Many Member States do not currently have a list of 'safe countries of origin'. So for the first time, EU Member States will actually be required by the EU to lower their standards in the field of asylum law. This development follows on from a call to develop such a list in June 2003 from the 'G5', a new secret grouping of interior ministry civil servants of the five largest Member States, which has begun holding wholly unaccountable meetings to control the development of EU Justice and Home Affairs law. Since the EU is at present limted to setting only 'minimum standards' for asylum procedures, it is highly questionable whether this power can be used to set minimum standards for restriction of individuals, rather than minimum standards for protection.

    Other special rules for admissible applications concern the idea of 'accelerated' proceedings for supposedly 'unfounded' cases, including those covered by the 'safe country of origin' principle. The latest draft of the Directive lists no fewer than fifteen cases where Member States could apply this principle-but this is a non-exhaustive list. Member States are also permitted to apply special rules, lower than the standards normally applicable to examination of applications, where a person applies for asylum at the border or where the application is a repeat application. The Council has lowered the standards proposed by the Commission in all these areas. Some Member States are arguing for the possiblity of a further special procedure for applications at the border with even lower safeguards.

    Cancellation of refugee status
    Even if a person in need of protection surmounts the obstacles placed in his or her way by national and EC law and obtains refugee status, the planned Directive will make it easy to take that status away. There will be simplified procedures for withdrawing status and in particular, Member States will be free to deny any procedural protection if they claim that refugee status has 'ceased' because of a change of circumstances in the country of origin--

    Access to a court
    The Council's latest draft still permits access to a court or tribunal, but has weakened the already low standards in the Commission proposal regarding whether appeals have 'suspensive effect'. Now Member States will apparently be free in any and all cases to deny applicants the right to stay in the country pending decisions on their appeals. The impact of this is that even if asylum-seekers win their cases on appeal-and increasing numbers win their appeals to the courts in some Member States-this victory will be virtually useless to them if they are already back in the unsafe country which they fled, or another State which might send them there.

    The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly ruled against Member States with low levels of procedural protection for asylum seekers, requiring an effective examination of a claim that expulsion of a person would result in torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment and limiting the ability of Member States to expel a person in the meantime. However, it seems that this case law, and similar rulings by the Committee which monitors application of the UN Committee Against Torture, has been wholly ignored by the Council in the final months of negotiations on this proposed Directive. Moreover, with its decision to require Member States to lower their standards as regards asylum law, the JHA Council has crossed the Rubicon. The Council is no longer solely setting minimum standards for protection, which already runs the risk of a competitive 'race to the bottom' by Member States reducing levels of protection in order to deter claims. Now it is at least partly in the business of forcing them to lower standards, setting a low ceiling for protection rather than a low floor.

    1. Revised Commission proposal on minimum standards for asylum procedures(COM (2002) 326, 3 July 2002)
    2. Council docs.10235/02, 10.6.03, outcome of proceedings of JHA Council, 5/6.6.03 on Articles 1-22 of proposal; 10235/03 add 1, 10.6.03, addendum to outcome of proceedings of JHA Council, 5/6.6.03 on issue of 'safe countries of origin'
    3. 12639/03, 18.9.03, Note to SCIFA/Coreper on issue of 'safe countries of origin'
    4. 12815/03, 23.9.03, Note to Coreper on issue of 'safe countries of origin'
    5. 12888/03, 25.9.03, Note to Coreper/JHA Council on issue of 'safe countries of origin'
    6. 12888/1/03, 30.9.03, Note to JHA Council on issue of 'safe countries of origin'
    7. 12734/1/03, 3.10.03, Outcome of proceedings of working party on 16/17.9.03 and JHA Council, 2.10.03
    8. 13901/03, 25.10.02, Note from Presidency to SCIFA
    9. 14182/03, 4.11.03, Note to JHA Council on 6.11.03 regarding 'safe third countries' and border procedures
    10. Amended proposal for a Council Directive on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status: 10235/1/03
    11. Update to above doc (10235/1/03) is in: 14330/03 (7.11.03) and Notes on changes(html)


    By Alexei Kozlov

    Voronezh region
    In this region we have a special situation. Voronezh was a center for the Congress of Russian Communities (CRC), the political party on which block "Rodina" (Motherland) has been based. The leader of the CRC and "Motherland", Dmitrii Rogozin, was elected in one of the election district of Voronezh region for the third time. Although for a long period of time (1997-2001) the region was being a base for activity of one of the largest region organizations of Russian National Unity (RNU). In 2001 the RNU had a split, and after that a part of its members had formed a Voronezh department of National-Sovereign Party of Russia (NSPR), and then, after NSPR had been prohibited, they moved to the Party of national revival "People's Will". And the members of this party represented Voronezh in the regional list of the election block "Motherland".

    Most of the xenophobic materials during this election campaign has beed spread by the block "Motherland" and its leader Dmitrii Rogozin. The main slogan of their campaign was "Take back the Russia". In mass-media a lot of materials about "Motherland" had been published including dozens of interviews with Rogozin. Part of those publications was purely nationalistic. Three issues of the paper "Motherland" were distributed, and in the last one there was an anti-caucaus and especially anti-chechen interview with Rogozin with the headline "Russians should take the Russia back". With the help from "Motherland" the concert of rather popular band "Lyube" was organized, and the leader of the band was speaking out anti-caucaus and antisemitic slogans during the concert.

    Another source of the xenophobic election materials was a People's Party of Russia, namely its project "People's Front in Defence of Russian Land". The meaning of their publications in Voronezh press was the following: russians should not give their native land to the "foreign invadors". The election campaign of Sergey Chizhov, a candidate from pro-president "United Russia", was clearly anti-american. In his article "Don't play a fool, America" Chizhov also expressed his racist position : "In the brains of 80% of afro-americans there is a stereotype: "Working is a bad thing". Similar materials has been spread by the local press. On the 25th of november Mr Bobrov, the head of one of the "United Russia" district headquaters in Voronezh, publically stated with the call to national discord (against Japan and Caucaus).

    The National-Bolshevik Party and Russian National Unity have called to the boycott of elections. Regional newspaper "The Commune" published an article "Russian question"by professor Kucenko. This article was anti-american, anti-caucaus and anti-semitic. The author blame Bolsheviks and oligarchs (all of them are Jews, according to the text) for all the misfortunes of Russia, and it is also the fault of caucaus maffia and American imperializm. The results of election in the Voronezh region are rather distinctive: the block "Motherland" – 20% (10% higher than in Russia in general). Rogozin has won the elections in his district with 78% of the votes.
    Youth Human Rights Movement

    By Irfan Taj

    Following in Germany's footsteps, French President, Jacques Chirac is expected this week to endorse a ban. New regulations will propose a ban within public schools on the wearing of the hijab, the Islamic headscarf. The ban, has been highly praised by politicians and observers, they argue it reasserts France's secular identity.

    Elsewhere, in Germany the government is making swift movements. Germany's biggest state, Bavaria, has drafted a law to ban Muslim teachers from wearing headscarves in schools. Bavaria, follows Baden-Wuerttemberg, the first state to propose a ban. A Bavarian cabinet minister justifies that the aim is to protect school children against fundamentalist influences. Bavarian Education Minister Monika Hohlmeier said the headscarf was increasingly used as a political symbol. "With this law, we are defending pupils against a potential fundamentalist influence and are respecting the wishes of the majority of parents," she said. Whilst Christian and Jewish symbols are not included within the ban, Ms Hohlmeier argued these symbols reflect cultural values.

    It is remarkable to think that the pressing issue in these countries is to hound down hijab wearing schoolgirls and teachers, especially when their economies are besieged with problems. France is a country with many problems and is torn by racial tension. Unemployment is so high at 10% of the workforce. At the same time Germany is in a recession, with 10.5% of the workforce unemployed. Whether it is or is not a pressing issue is beside the point, what happened to freedom of speech? It is a frightening thought, that pro-freedom states are now beginning to dictate people's dress codes. Germany and France both claim that citizens have the right to freedom of speech, yet they are set to deny that very freedom, that freedom to wear a hijab. It is sadly ironic how governments purport the ideology of freedom of speech yet limit it to the confines of X, Y and Z.

    The case presented by Germany and France is rather weak and astonishing. Hijab wearing teachers and schoolgirls hardly constitute as a fundamentalist group equal to Al Qaeda. The hijab is unlikely to pose a fundamentalist threat or influence upon a single person let alone societies. It appears that democracy is rife with blatant hypocrisy. What reaches the masses? What has the power to influence, thousands, millions and an entire nation? Without a doubt TV, Music and Film are to name but a few mediums that send out the most potent of all messages to our society. Yet we do not see such bans being imposed on MTV, Christina Aguilera and Terminator 3. Millions watch TV screens as scantily clad Christina Aguilera strips and thrusts her crotch in a sexually enticing demeaning manner. On the big screen, others watch Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone armed with weapons of mass destruction tearing up skylines, shooting, fornicating, swearing and cursing.

    Some argue that these mediums as such do not influence children and society.
    In 1999, two American teenagers immersed in mediums of violence and hatred, entered Columbine High School, armed with guns, they went on the rampage, killing 12 of their fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives. As recent as April this year a thirteen-year-old boy set himself on fire, after watching the host of the MTV program "Jackass" perform a similar act of self-ignition.

    Those who affirm TV, Music and Film have little or no influence to societies in general, are either very misguided or naïve. It is a startling thought that these mediums are overlooked whilst the hijab is at the brink of being banned.

    How about a ban on people wearing attire with corporate logos? After all, that would free many from their capitalist enslaved lifestyles in which they subscribe to extortionately priced fashion labels. Fashion and trends enslave us to work, work and work to thus afford the lifestyle that the media proposes. How about a ban on Paris' iconic catwalk models and fashion shows, because it sends the wrong message to our teenagers. Teenage girls especially feel the need to lose weight thus sometimes becoming anorexic, all in order to fit into the latest fashion attire.

    Some detractors of the hijab say that it is oppressive and devalues the woman, but one could easily argue that low-cut cleavage heaving shirts and blouses put women on a pedestal and are oppressive. To go further, it is well known men such as Calvin Klein and Armani largely set fashion trends for women. So in essence man is oppressing the woman, always suggesting and dictating what she should wear. By no means is schoolgirl choosing to wear a hijab a sign of oppression or an influence upon society. Others say the hijab is ugly and should be banned. If a man can wear pink leather diamond encrusted trousers, and a nun can wear her traditional dress and headscarf, a Muslim schoolgirl certainly has the right to wear the hijab.

    It is infuriating and scary that the banning of the hijab, could be the mere beginning of what lies ahead of difficult times for Muslims in the western civilisation. Sometimes people lose hope but we must not take a defeatist stance on this, the argument against the hijab is weak and hypercritical.

    People should be allowed to practice their different beliefs and be respected for who they are, why must governments insist on creating religion orientated media frenzies. We should seek peace and understanding not conflicts. If a woman wishes to be modest in her dress, she should not be prevented in doing so by her government. Women should have choices to wear whatever they want to wear, whether it is trousers, skirts, shirts or hijabs. This is freedom.
    Irfan Taj

    KISA – Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism – is a NGO, set up in 1998, with the vision to contribute towards creating a multicultural society, where there will be equality of all its members, irrespective of ethnic, racial, gender, political, or any other characteristic. The two major aims of KISA are (a) by direct social intervention, to inform and sensitise society about discrimination, xenophobia and racism and to combat these phenomena, and (b) to offer support and protection of the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Cyprus.
    Until its last General Meeting, in June 2003, our organisation was known as ISAG – Immigrant Support Action Group. Our new name reflects both the extension and widening of KISA's aims and scope of activities as well as the latest developments in Cyprus, the major of which are the partial opening of the borders between the two parts of this divided island and the accession of Cyprus to the European Union in May 2004.

    The Support Centre
    The Support Centre, set up and operated by KISA since 1999, offers free advisory and legal services and support to migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, foreign students, and others. The Centre constitutes one of the fundamental points of reference and defines the identity and course of our organization. Also, in its efforts for further extending and enriching its cultural activities and as a means to contribute more systematically to creating a multicultural society, KISA has just set up a Multicultural Centre. This will offer a meeting place of cultures and peoples, Cypriots and non-Cypriots, and will include art exhibitions, traditional dances, music, theatre, cinema, library (mainly for journals and newspapers), etc. The Multicultural Centre will also accommodate an Internet Café.

    Racism had existed in Cyprus against Turkish Cypriots before migrants even thought of coming here. The chauvinistic nationalist movement, that promoted the Hellenic values as understood by them controlled a great part of the political arena, the educational system as well as many local organizations and the church. They all have done an extraordinary job in cultivating racial hatred to a degree that when migration first started in the 1980s, the know-how to discriminate was already institutionalised. The influx of migrants in Cyprus began on the initiative of employers who needed cheap labour. Soon, private agencies made their appearance and the trade of people began. The number of migrants is currently estimated to be around 80.000-90.000, half of whom are considered ‘illegal' by the authorities. The temporary migration model (or ‘import of foreign workers' as in the old German model) followed by the government until now links entry visas to a specific employer, a fact that facilitates the absolute dependency of migrants on the whims, super exploitation and treatment of individual employers. It has also served as the basis and justification of xenophobia and racism by government services and society in general. This migration model is hopefully to be changed soon because of European Union obligations.

    The following three categories of migrants in Cyprus are subjected to the worst exploitation and have their rights mostly violated:

    Domestic workers
    The majority of migrants working in Cyprus are domestic workers, mainly females, many of whom have a hard time dealing with tough employers who regard them as slaves. They receive 150 Cyprus pounds, including residence and board. (The minimum salary according to the law is 350 pounds) In addition, residing in the employers' house forces them to exceed the eight-hour working day, linking employment duties with the needs of the household round the clock. Improper treatment is often reported but the dependency on the specific employer makes it very difficult to find justice, considering the fact that there is an enormous bureaucratic process that deters people from getting into this unpleasant process. As a result many complaints come to our organization related to violation of working and all human rights, (including hard working conditions, intimidation and even rape by male employers.
    Farm workers
    A number of migrants work in farms in remote areas and reports in the press talk about inhumane working and living conditions. They live in farms inside rooms built in farm premises, a few meters away from premises where animals are raised.
    This category refers to women, mainly from the former Eastern Block countries that work in clubs and cabarets. Many come to Cyprus without knowing that there is an already well-established network for trafficking of women. A report of the Ombudswoman published recently investigating this field reveals that the trafficking of women in Cyprus has reached alarming proportions. The report has been discussed in the media. The unbelievable public reaction of the Justice Minister to the report was that "a great percentage of former Eastern Block women, about 45%, … dream of becoming prostitutes."!!!!!!! This man may not have realized what he has said but his well-publicized statement is an indication of institutionalized racism and sexism. And indeed, lots of cases coming out into the open reveal that a number of individuals are charged of forcing migrant women into prostitution. The authorities are idle in combating this phenomenon, whereas the Justice Minister is of the opinion that prostitution is a yappy style career choice.

    Refugees and asylum seekers
    In the last couple of years, Cyprus has been receiving a large number of asylum seekers, who gain entry either legally or illegally, from counties such as Afghanistan, Cameroon, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey, etc. The competent authority for examining asylum applications is the Refugee Authority, and no other authority, especially the police, has the right to investigate the information relating to an asylum application. However, the police are involved in this process and are responsible for receiving applications from asylum seekers. More often than not, the police totally disregard the law and subject asylum seekers to interrogation or blackmail them so that they do not file an application form or refuse to accept asylum applications. During the whole asylum procedure, the law provides that asylum seekers can be accompanied by a lawyer or a representative of the UNHCR or an NGO. Our legal adviser, however, has never been allowed to be present during the proceedings.

    One of our major current concerns is to increase our social intervention, by involving our membership into social protests and other activities in building an antiracist movement together with other social forces. Racism is on the increase and "illegal" migrants are a profitable enterprise, therefore, the interests behind it are powerful. We are of the opinion that the response of society against racism should be more powerful. We are and intend to remain a part of this.
    KISA's Steering Committee Nicosia, Cyprus

    (Based on the oral submission to the Rapporteur in Toronto on September 25, 2003 by Ruth Klein, National Director, League for Human Rights)

    The League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada was established in order to monitor and respond to antisemitism, racism, bias and discrimination and to help build the institutional and community mechanisms that are necessary for a racism-free society. In the days of the global village, we recognize that the increase in antisemitism that is being experienced worldwide, which includes acts of violence against both individuals and property, cannot be separated out in the sense that we can distinguish a purely Canadian form of antisemitism. This type of hatred knows no boundaries. However, it has been our role to monitor and document the patterns of prejudice that have manifested themselves here in Canada in recent years. Post 9/11, our community has been faced with new challenges, as have many minority groups. Regrettably, however, we find that our experiences are hardly acknowledged, whether by government, mainstream society or even the anti-racism coalitions in this country. There has been no prime ministerial visit to a synagogue to show solidarity with the community in the face of the many incidents and threats against the Jewish community, including bombings of synagogues. It took the murder of a visibly orthodox Jew last summer before the Prime Minister was finally moved to speak out. Tomorrow evening we begin our celebrations of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and the beginning of the High Holiday period that sees thousands of Jews congregate for prayer and reflection. As has become all too common in recent years, there will be heavy security at each and every synagogue, and this scene is being played out at Jewish community institutions throughout the world as the focus of the threat has moved from fringe right wing groups and lone agitators to entities linked to international terrorism. This scene is repeated out every Sabbath and at every community event or celebration. Furthermore, many Jewish schools now have security guards.

    This illustrates more than anything that concerns about antisemitism have become intertwined with some very real concerns about security. The Jewish community remembers only too well when the Mayor and the Chief of Police for Ottawa issued a security advisory for the Jewish community for the entire month of last June. B?nai Brith received many calls from individuals worried about whether it was safe to send their children to synagogue. Warnings have also been also issued to Canadian Jews to walk home together in groups from synagogue, and it has been suggested that in certain parts of town, Jews should not wear identifying clothing or symbols of their religion such as kipas or jewellery displaying a Magen David (Star of David). The Jewish community is the only religious minority in this country that has to post guards at its houses of worship or schools. It is the only community in Canada that now has to pay for its own security. And yet this passes without much comment or concern. We suggest that this would be considered an untenable situation if churches, mosques, or Hindu or Sikh temples were in the same situation. A different standard of what is acceptable is being applied to the Jewish community, which is racism in itself.

    For the past twenty years the League for Human Rights has been monitoring antisemitism in Canada and documenting and analyzing the data it receives in an annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. It set up an Anti-Hate Hotline - 1 800 892 BNAI (2624), which provides victims of antisemitism with assistance and, where necessary, referral to the police, legal assistance, or human rights commissions. Data is obtained from victims contacting either the Hotline or B?nai Brith Canada regional offices. This flow of information enables the Audit to function as a barometer of racial intolerance in general, and a primary tool in monitoring, documenting and analyzing trends and developments that affect not only the Jewish community, but also the wider Canadian public. Recently the hours of operation of the Hotline were increased to provide 24/7 coverage in response to the increase in the number of incidents and the resultant heightened level of concern in the community. In total, 459 incidents were reported to the League for Human Rights in 2002, which represents an overall increase of 60.48% over the previous year. In the twenty-year history of the Audit, 459 is the highest number of incidents that has ever been reported to the League. In the past five years alone, the number of incidents has more than doubled. In 2002, 282 (61.44%) of these incidents were classed as harassment, 148 (32.24%) as vandalism and 29 (6.32%) as violence (see figure 4). This compares to 203 cases of harassment (71%) and 83 cases of vandalism (29%) in 2001. Prior to the 2002 Audit, violence was included in the harassment category, since it was not considered a sufficiently common phenomenon at the time to warrant a separate category. As physical assault became more common following 9/11, the League added the third category of violence in order to be able to track the increasing use of violence in the incidents reported during 2002.

    Police and sociologists agree that only about 10% of victims ever report their own victimization, as noted, for example by the Vancouver Police Hate Crimes Department. It is evident, therefore, that the incidents reported to the League represent only the tip of the iceberg. In terms of quantitative analysis, the Audit thus offers a glimpse of the bigger picture, while in a qualitative sense it gives us a snapshot of what antisemitism looks like in Canada today. In the Jewish community there is also a mindset that it is better to remain silent or else things could get worse. This is especially prevalent in the generation that has had personal or familial experience of far worse abuse in Europe before and during the Holocaust. In such cases there is a resignation that being Jewish, especially visibly Jewish, will at times provoke unpleasantness and that, while distressing, this is inevitable and thus unavoidable. For the ‘visible Jew', frequently the prime target in the current climate, this mindset is often ingrained and even the young are quite philosophical about any harassment they might experience, for example, on public transit to school. There is also a deep reluctance to involve outsiders even the police in affairs of the community, as well as a fear of the unwelcome publicity that might ensue. Of the 459 incidents reported to us last year, only 72 were also reported to the police. Thus we find that the segment of the community that is the most likely to be the victim of an antisemitic attack is also the segment that will be most unwilling and unlikely to report it.

    The Jewish community is no stranger to bearing the brunt of incidents linked to political, economic, social or ideological upheaval. As our annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents has repeatedly shown, both national and international events can trigger these reactions. For example, whenever tensions flare in the Middle East, incidents increase dramatically in response. During the separatist debate in Quebec, our community was similarly targeted. In point of fact, out of the total of 459 incidents in 2002, 154 (33.6% of the total) occurred in April (86) and May (68) of 2002 alone, which is more than three times the number of incidents that occurred during those two months in 2001. Of these incidents, 96 were classified as harassment, 52 as vandalism and 6 as violence. This period coincided with Israel's operation Defensive Shield following the Passover Seder terrorist bombing in Netanya last spring that killed 28 Israelis and one Jewish tourist, and injured 140. The wild and unfounded massacre charges that accompanied Israel?s action against the infrastructure of terror in the West Bank, and the wide media coverage that ensued until these allegations were disproved, led to a climate that proved a fertile ground for antisemitic outbursts.? The overwhelming condemnation of Israel appeared to be taken as validation of attacks against individual Jews and Jewish organizations in this country and was used as an opportunity to express apparently latent antagonism and bias.

    In 2001, 35% of all antisemitic incidents were reported in the fall-out of September 11, 20% in the immediate aftermath and close to an additional 15% in October. In terms of examining how 9/11 affected the Jewish community, we have to examine the conspiracy theories, emanating from the Middle East and still spreading like wildfire on the Internet, that accuse the Jews of being either directly responsible, or at least complicit in the 9/11 atrocities, in that they had foreknowledge of the attacks but chose only to warn their own co-religionists. The canard that ‘no Jews died in the World Trade Centre' has even been heard in a Church sermon in Canada. When looking at the effects of September 11, a real cause for concern is that while overt incidents against other minority groups decreased after the initial 9/11 backlash, incidents against the Jewish community have remained at the same elevated levels and have even increased. Police statistics confirm these trends. In Toronto alone, the statistics of the Toronto Police Force Hate Crimes unit indicate that out of 219 hate crimes identified in 2002, there were 50 (23%) against Jews. The overall number of incidents reported to the police decreased by 35%, with crimes against Arabs/Muslims, for example, dropping from 57 in 2001 to 10 in 2002. The decrease in crimes against Jews was not nearly so marked, and though the total slipped from 58 in 2001 to 50 in 2002, the proportion of crimes against Jews relative to the total was up from 17% in 2001 to 23% in 2002. The police statistics only include incidents that are classified as criminal offences and do not even claim to touch the systemic and societal bias they reflect.

    Antisemitic incidents occur in diverse sectors and settings. B'nai Brith Canada's national office, along with several other Jewish organizational targets - some housing schools or day care centers - received hate mail that included specific threats of violence. Some of these letters included white powder in an apparent intimidation campaign reminiscent of the rash of such hoaxes in the Fall of 2001. One of the targeted locales was the Anshei Minsk Synagogue in the downtown area, the target of suspected arson in April 2002. The letter threatened: "We reserve a singular hatred for the Jew, we will soon be in a position to crush you not just in Israel but worldwide. We outnumber you in every place in which you once felt safe. Islam is coming. Your days are numbered."

    In our Audit we categorize incidents as harassment, vandalism or violence and the incidents reported run the whole gamut, including places of employment, commercial and government settings, schools, universities and on the street. In one recent case, a young Jewish girl had to be escorted to and from high school classes due to the threats of physical violence against her.

    Harassment refers to verbal or written actions that do not include the use of physical force against a person or property. It includes:

  • verbal slurs, statements of hate and bias, or harassment
  • stereotyping of Jews, such as the airing on radio talk shows of comments on ‘Jewish characteristics'
  • systemic discrimination in the workplace, schools or campuses
  • hate propaganda and hate mail via the internet, telephone, or printed material
  • verbal threats of violence, where application of force does not appear imminent, or no weapon or bomb is involved

    Vandalism refers to physical damage to property. It includes:
  • posting of graffiti, swastikas and similar racist emblems and slogans, at times accompanied by other criminal acts including thefts and break-ins
  • damage to religious objects such as mezuzahs on the door posts of private homes and hospitals
  • desecration of cemeteries and synagogues
  • fire bombing, arson

    Violence refers to physical use of force against a person or group of persons. It includes:
  • bodily assault
  • assault with a weapon or accompanied by threat of imminent use of weapon
  • threats of violence directed against a particular person or group where there is reasonable cause to believe that bodily harm is imminent.

    Apart from these overt antisemitic incidents, we are seeing the return of stereotypes relating to Jews, stereotypes that are so ingrained into societal discourse that few stop to question the objective truth of the most common misconceptions. These can range from an off-colour joke or snide remark to accusations that Jews are demanding, cliquey or have too much power. As other human rights organizations can attest, the use of stereotypes that denigrate minorities can have a profound affect on the psyche of the individual; the negativity generated can be internalized to such an extent that the victim will not report harassment or even assault. The old complaint about Jewish control of the media is rearing its head once again here in Canada, as seen most notably in the comments of Raymond Baaklini, the Lebanese Ambassador, late last December. While Foreign Minister Bill Graham summoned the Ambassador to tell him that such comments are not acceptable in Canada, there was no general outrage in the limited public debate that followed, which indicates that his contention is perceived as a serious debating position in this country. Similarly, allegations about the alleged ‘power' of the Jews are again being heard, this time in the comments of Carolyn Parrish, a Liberal MP, to the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram last year, decrying the ‘influence of the Jewish lobby'. Comments about ‘Zionist' control of the media and the ‘Zionist' lobby are still considered ‘politically correct' by some, even when they clearly are being used as code words to refer to Jews,. As well, the more open use of the epithet ‘Jewish' to refer in a derogatory sense to influence and control is becoming more common.

    The Rapporteur noted in his report on the Situation of Muslim and Arab people in various parts of the world in the aftermath of the events of 11 September 2001 the "development of an ideology to legitimize and justify this violence and discrimination". In the case of the Jewish community, anti-Zionist rhetoric is being used as the cloak with which to justify anti-Jewish excesses. This type of rationale allows racism against the community to escalate unchecked. There is enough cause for concern to request the Special Rapporteur to prepare a comprehensive report on the Situation of Jewish people in various parts of the world in order to address the gravity of the current situation. Events in Canada reflect the very real deterioration in the condition of Jewish communities around the world, especially in Western Europe, and provide a barometer of the level of racism in Canada in general.
    B'nai Brith Canada

    By Rav Johal, member of the Star's community editorial board

    18/11/2003- Like me, many South Asians growing up in Canada experience the challenge of reconciling the conflicting values of the home in which they are raised and the society in which they participate. South Asians constitute one of the largest ethnic minority groups in the country. Having taught in suburban Toronto high schools with significant South Asian populations, I regularly interact with young adults who are going through the same experiences I endured 10 years earlier. It is a group that, for the most part, lacks a definitive voice in larger Canadian society, as well as their own communities. It is important to recognize that there are distinctions within South Asian cultures, particularly with respect to the role of religion, languages spoken, and customs practised in today's families. For instance, traditionally, Sikhs have been recognizable due to outward symbols. Yet in contemporary Canadian society, many Sikh youth grow up without these traditional symbols, and thus experience society in a similar manner as other young South Asians. When people see a Sikh without symbols, they tend to see a ``South Asian.''

    As a young child, I often found myself trying to hide my ``Indianness'' in favour of what I considered to be more Canadian traits. There were certain aspects of my character that I wanted to emphasize to my white friends to show that I was just like them. For instance, I excelled at playing hockey, and made certain my friends knew that I loved this Canadian sport as much as they did. I ate hamburgers, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, watched the same movies and listened to the same music as my peers. Upon reflection, I realize that I was uncomfortable with the Indian aspects of my identity. Was it the school environment, peers, stereotypes perpetuated by media, or a combination of these factors that led to my anxiety? I recall feeling somewhat second-rate to my peers who went to church or up to the cottage on weekends. Never did I share with my white peers that I attended a gurudwara occasionally, that my grandparents who visited from India spoke a language called Punjabi, and that we ate sabjee daily at home. I tried to tie in my experiences with those of my white peers. At times, I did not know quite where I belonged. It was almost as if I was too brown for some people and too white for others.

    By high school, I had become much more conscious of issues revolving around race and ethnicity. I now saw myself as more Indian than Canadian, and identified with the shared aspects of culture and home environments with my South Asian friends, while the common plight of dealing with racial discrimination united me with friends who belonged to other ethnic groups. Sharing similar athletic and musical interests often reinforced such relationships. On the first day of class, I would generally seek out friends or acquaintances of South Asian and black backgrounds to sit with, as it served to reinforce my own identity as a non-white student. I found that while we may have divergent academic standards and study habits, it was easier to relate to these students. I spent most of my time out of the classroom with members of the same ethnic peer group. We ate lunch, studied, played sports, and attended social activities as a collective. Being together gave a sense of security and belonging, feelings that are extremely important for youth growing up in Western societies. We shared a common perspective on issues, while simultaneously facing similar struggles and ordeals.

    Today, many families are still attempting to preserve their distinctive cultural identities as well as find ways to deal with the identity issues facing their children. It is a particularly arduous task for parents who want to ensure that such customs and traditions are maintained, but not at the cost of losing control over their children due to household rules that could be seen as overly strict by Western standards. It is common for South Asian parents to refer to their own experiences in migrating to Canada. Their achievement of social mobility by hard work and determination is reiterated in order to convince their children of the need for such a work ethic. Parents, for the most part, have migrated to Western countries to benefit their children. They have high aspirations for their children, eager for them to take full advantage of the educational opportunities that were scarce in their home countries. They are often perturbed when their children are unwilling to allow school to monopolize their time because they want to hang out with friends. Attending school in Western society, with many peers from a variety of backgrounds, South Asian youth constantly compare themselves to others, having to worry about not only appeasing the demands of their parents, but also of saving face among peers in order to negotiate acceptance. They do not want to feel left out and many see such activities as sports and dating as rights of passage in Western society.

    Continued dialogue must occur between not only parents and children, but others such as informed teachers and community members, who have the capability to assist and counsel struggling and conflicted students. While understanding that questions about identity, generational conflict and rebellious behaviour is common among virtually all adolescents, we need to be particularly sensitive to the additional burdens that many second generation minority youth incur in a society where they tend to be marginalized by public institutions and mass media.
    ©The Toronto Star

    Anti-Semitic attacks have been making headlines, but strikes against many minorities­Jews, Muslims, Roma, gays­are all too common in Europe
    By Amanda Ripley

    8/12/2003- The hardest part of the day for the 230 boys at the Merkaz Hatorah Jewish high school in Gagny, a middle-class suburb of Paris, had always been getting there. During the train ride from home, the boys replaced their yarmulkes with baseball caps but were still regularly hassled by other French teenagers, usually of Arab or North African descent, who called them "sales juifs" ("dirty Jews"). Once the boys made it to the school, a bright steel-and-glass building surrounded by trees and tidy homes, they felt safe. No longer. About 3 a.m. on Saturday Nov. 15, the school's brand-new building ­ due to open Jan. 5 ­ went up in flames. There are no suspects. Police believe the fire was likely started at two separate points. The blaze licked 8 m into the air, the searing heat blew out windows and warped girders. At least 60 firemen managed to save the old school building next door, but from the synagogue where the boys still gather every morning, they now look out over 3,000 sq m of charred debris. "We were in a very calm place here, a privileged place," says math teacher Michaël Mimoun. "Now we know there is no privileged place." And it seems there is no place in Europe that's immune to hate crimes like the arson attack on the Merkaz Hatorah high school. The Gagny fire made headlines across France, and on the same day, the suicide bombings of two Istanbul synagogues led newscasts around the world. But in the week before the blaze, hundreds of hate crimes were committed throughout Europe against Jews, Muslims, Roma, Pakistanis and Africans. On Nov. 10, German police discovered a large black swastika painted on the wall of an empty factory building in Marienwerder Brandenburg. On Nov. 14, a box of six Molotov cocktails was found outside a synagogue in Ivry-sur-Seine, just south of Paris. On Nov. 15, this message appeared on a web forum hosted in the Netherlands, according to Magenta, a watchdog group in Amsterdam: "Just throw that Muslim vermin, those f___ing Muslim rats out of the country." And on the same day, Agrese 95, a Czech "white power" band, played before some 150 people in central Bohemia, singing lyrics like: "Enough tolerance ... Your future is ovens and gas chambers."

    Most incidents like these do not make headlines. Although they would be denounced by the vast majority of Europeans, they are often not recognized by police ­ and their perpetrators aren't necessarily hard-core extremists. Different countries have different definitions of hate crime, and different ways of punishing offenders. But most agree that hate crimes are prompted by what the victim represents ­ a religion, race, nationality or, in some cases, sexual preference. Hard statistics are tough to find, since in most countries data collection remains abysmal. But in Germany, for example, anti-Semitic and xenophobic attacks were up in 2002. Anti-Semitic incidents are up in Italy and Belgium, too, while in France the number of anti-Semitic attacks increased dramatically until late 2002, then dropped this year. In London, racist and homophobic attacks have dropped slightly; but anti-Semitic complaints have increased nationwide. Is there a method to this madness? To find out, TIME has reconstructed a week in the life of the people who've suffered a verbal or physical assault because of their perceived differences. In this imperfect collage ­ Saturday, Nov. 8 through Friday, Nov. 14 ­ the stories share many qualities: young perpetrators, usually acting without organization, lashing out at people and sacred places. Their motivations vary, but through their action they share a desire to keep Europe's deepest wounds unhealed.

    6 p.m. Saturday, Rome
    A 22-year-old unemployed man put his BB gun in his pocket, hopped in his car and went looking for a Roma to shoot. Angry about being out of work, angry about the recent burglary of his apartment, he blamed it all on the Roma, 150,000 of whom live on the margins of Italian society. The man found his target in a neighborhood on the southern outskirts of the capital: an 11-year-old boy, walking with his aunt. He pulled up and shot the boy in the face. The boy's injury was minor, but the emotional trauma of having a gun fired in his face was not. His aunt went to the police and complained, but she did not file a written report ­ a frequent problem that renders anti-Roma attacks the most under-reported of any hate crime. The police found the man in a nearby park based on the woman's description. He was charged with inflicting bodily harm and illegal weapon possession. Although Italy has had an anti-hate crime law on the books since 1975, the police did not consider this a hate crime. "This was more of a vendetta," says an Italian police official. Very often, hate crimes are dismissed as the unimpressive work of mindless, bored youths out on a bender. And very often they are. But researchers generally agree that hate crimes are not simply caused by poverty or ignorance; often they grow out of a combination of high youth unemployment, the presence of many new immigrants, and a lack of law enforcement. It is this third element that is easiest to remedy. But, says Jack Levin, a sociologist at Northeastern University in Boston who has written extensively on hate crime in Europe and America, "the police in Europe haven't been trained to recognize hate crime."

    8 p.m. Saturday, Pritzwalk, Germany
    Andy Gaschler, a 16-year-old high school student, was walking with friends in the pedestrian marketplace of this small town north of Berlin. Gaschler was wearing a Palestinian scarf and a backpack with the slogan nazis out written on it. (The day before, a neo-Nazi gang had firebombed a Vietnamese snack-bar in town.) Now a group of neo-Nazis, obvious by their shaved heads, stopped him. "Didn't I see you before?" one of the skinheads asked Gaschler, before allegedly hitting him in the face and setting his scarf on fire. Gaschler called on his friends to help, but before they could respond, the thug had set Gaschler's backpack ablaze, too, he says. "My friends couldn't intervene as there were eight or nine of them," he told Time. One friend did manage to call the police, who arrived too late to make an arrest. The next day, an 18-year-old man named Robin Grab was charged with inflicting bodily harm based on Gaschler's description. Because of its past, Germany has one of the most impressive systems for tracking hate crimes in Europe. There were almost 11,000 politically motivated criminal acts committed by rightwing extremists in 2002, according to the Bundeskriminalamt, Germany's federal police agency, an 8% increase over 2001. Just as worrisome is a shift in mainstream discourse, says Salomon Korn, vice president of the Central council of Jews in Germany. "The change now is that people are getting more outspoken. They don't see the same amount of risk in making anti-Semitic statements."

    9.30 p.m. Sunday, Nikaia Greece
    Iftikhar Aslam came to Greece from Pakistan three years ago on a student visa. He soon had to give up his studies to work at a plastic factory to send money home. On the night of Nov. 9, he was walking home from evening prayers through this working-class suburb of Athens with five friends. "We were passing through a local square, and these everyday-looking guys were standing there shouting 'Bloody Pakis' and other abuse," he says. There were about 50 young men, and some of them began throwing bottles at Aslam and his friends. They broke into a run; four of them got away, but Aslam and one of his friends were surrounded. "I was pushed to the pavement and kicked in the face and ribs several times," he says. "They did not look drunk or out of control. They seemed to know exactly what they were doing. The only reason I am alive today is because one of them said 'Stop, he isn't worth killing.'" When the police arrived, they found Aslam sitting on the sidewalk with blood streaming down his face. "They told me to forget what happened and go home in order not to make things worse," he says. This month, Greece ­ which has also experienced a surge in anti-Semitic crimes ­ is expected to adopt a new law under which Greeks found guilty of discriminating against religious or ethnic groups will face up to a year in prison. But a law would need someone to enforce it. In Aslam's case, the police have yet to begin inquiries.

    Monday morning, Trutnov Czech Republic
    There is a cluster of plain sandstone tombstones, some carrying names, others a simple Star of David, at the edge of the cemetery in Trutnov. They line a narrow path that leads up to a polished granite plaque. In the brutally blunt language common to postwar reckoning, the sign reads: here are buried 41 jewish girls murdered by the Nazis at a labor camp in Porici near Trutnov. The girls had all been slave laborers, and they had died between the ages of 14 and 29. On Monday morning, Lucie Motycková, the caretaker, noticed that 15 of the tombstones had been kicked over and broken off cleanly at the base. It had probably happened the night before, on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night the Nazi pogrom against Jews was launched. Motyckova suspects the perpetrators were interrupted ­ or else they would have finished the job, knocking over all the tombstones and spraypainting death to Jews on the granite plaque, as they had five years ago. The number of racist and extremist crimes investigated by the Czech police has been rising steadily, from 131 in 1996 to 473 last year. Police attribute this to better law enforcement, but Ondrej Cakl, chairman of Tolerance and Civil Society, which monitors neo-Nazi activity, disagrees. He says police complacency explains why the Czech Republic has one of the biggest skinhead populations in Europe as a proportion of the population: some 7,000 members and sympathizers, according to Czech police.

    9:45 p.m. Friday, Devizes U.K.
    A 16-year-old performing-arts student walked briskly through the center of Devizes, 155 km west of London, to meet her stepfather. Clara (not her real name) passed a group of 11 young women near a pub, some of whom she recognized. One of the girls was staggering, so Clara offered to help. But the girls suddenly circled her menacingly, she says. One teased Clara, who is openly gay, about her girlfriend. When Clara tried to move on, one of the girls lunged at her, bruising her face around the eye. Then the group pushed her against a wall, punching and shoving her, she says. Eventually, she squirmed her way along the wall and into a fish-and-chip shop, where the staff drove her attackers away. "The incident is being treated as homophobic," says Sergeant Guy Williams of the Devizes police force. Starting in January, the U.K. will include offences targeting gays and people with disabilities as hate crimes, making perpetrators eligible for longer sentences. Detective Inspector Kevin Concannon, who heads the London borough of Camden police team investigating hate crimes, says such legislation is proving effective. "Race crime in the past was often not reported, but now people know that incidents believed to have a racist element carry tougher sentences," he says.

    Of all the misconceptions about hate crimes in the U.K., the most common is that people who commit them are always hardened extremists, says Paul Iganski, a criminology and sociology lecturer at EssexUniversity who has co-authored books on the subject. The truth is more mundane, but no less chilling. "The offenders are basically people engaged in anti-social behavior, but at times drawing on cultural bigotry." That populist bigotry ­ the idea that it's O.K. to target certain kinds of people ­ represents the real danger. What Yonathan Arfi, president of the Union of French Jewish Students, says about anti-Semitism in France could apply to prejudices underlying other hate crimes: "It's become a banality, part of the atmosphere." Five days before the fire that ravaged the Merkaz Hatorah school in Gagny, a group of students was taunted by a teenage girl in the subway: "The Jews, we have to eliminate you," she sneered. Says Jacques Benisty, the school's director, as he looks out over the charred remains of his building: "These are idiotic expressions. We are used to that." Rooting out this kind of casual bigotry may be key to protecting students at Merkaz Hatorah ­ and targeted minorities throughout Europe.

    With reporting by Bruce Crumley/Paris, Helen Gibson/London, Jeff Israely/Rome, Elinda Labropoulou/Athens, Ulla Plon/Copenhagen, Jan Stojaspal/Trutnov and Charles P. Wallace/Pritzwalk
    ©Time Magazine

    3/12/2003- The House of Representatives has approved legislation to grant gay couples the right to register their partnerships. But opponents have promised to put the issue to a nationwide vote if the Senate follows suit. The new law would give gays and lesbians the same entitlements as married couples – with just a few exceptions. They would not have the automatic right to adopt children or have access to fertility treatment, and there would be no legal provision for a common surname. "Of course, those are rights that we would also like to have," Moël Volken of the gay rights organisation Pink Cross told swissinfo. "But we would be happy to see the law adopted in its current form," he added.

    Civil law
    Opponents of the proposals, such as Christian Waber of the conservative religious party, the Federal Democratic Union, argue that the rights of people in same-sex partnerships are already guaranteed under civil law, and there is no need for any new legislation. "Common property rights can be covered by wills, and civil law can be used to guarantee access to information," he told swissinfo. But the Pink Cross insists that provisions under civil law are not enough. Volken says gay and lesbian couples are currently discriminated against in a number of areas including health insurance, pensions, taxes or the death of a partner. The new legislation would recognise the right of both partners to be the next of kin, and in the case of the death of one partner, allow the other to inherit common property without being hit with a huge tax bill. "At the moment, of course, the law allows you to leave everything to your partner, but not in the same way as married couples," said Volken. "This means that if you have built a house together and one partner dies, the other one will have to pay taxes just to keep what already belongs to them. "In some cases that tax can be as high as 50 per cent, and most people simply would not be able to afford to pay."

    Giving same-sex couples the chance to register their partnerships is also an issue of human rights, says the Pink Cross. It would be proof that the prejudice of previous decades no longer exists and it would act as a sign that gay men and lesbians have been integrated fully into society. "We were born here, brought up here and are members of this society, and it's very natural that we should have the same rights as everybody else." "This legislation wouldn't force gay men and lesbians to ‘marry', it would just give them the same right of choice as heterosexual men and women." But Waber says he will call for a nationwide vote if the legislation makes its way through parliament. He maintains the prime function of any state is to protect the family and not promote other lifestyles. "Gay and lesbian couples already have rights as citizens, and those rights are guaranteed in the sense that they are not discriminated against," he said. "The state can only protect lifestyles that actually guarantee its future – and that means the family and children."
    ©NZZ Online

    2/12/2003- Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has backed Rotterdam's controversial fight against the build up of underprivileged immigrant residents, but Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk criticised some of the harbour city's daring proposals, which include a ban on poor foreigners from settling in the city. The Prime Minister said Rotterdam is facing enormous difficulties due to the rise of problem neighbourhoods and he said he understood why they city wished to spark public discussion about the issue. "This suits a no-words-but-actions city," he said. Rotterdam hopes to prevent underprivileged immigrants from moving to the port city by refusing housing to anyone who does not earn at least 20 percent above the minimum income level. It also plans to seek a temporary exemption from accepting asylum seeker residents. The city is concerned it will become the receptacle for the nation's underprivileged and the executive council unveiled on Monday a plan of action designed to improve the city's social climate. It intends to prevent jobless people from moving to Rotterdam and make it more difficult for residents to bring to the city a migrant partner from their land of origin. The action plan aims to create a better spread of migrants across Rotterdam and force public housing corporations ensure more low-income earners are housed in "better" neighbourhoods. "The reason is that we want to bring old neighbourhoods in the city back into balance. Colour is not important. This is to do with neighbourhoods in balance and a city in balance," Mayor Ivo Opstelten said.

    But Immigration Minister Verdonk said some of the plans were unrealistic, indicating that it was not possible to allow only integrated immigrants to move to the city. Furthermore, Rotterdam cannot refuse entry to recognised refugees or people who have been granted a residence permit, NOS reported. Some proposals were part of a policy package she was currently preparing though and Verdonk also accepted that Rotterdam had a good point in trying to restrict the free flow of underprivileged people to the city. She promised to further examine certain proposals, ANP reported. Interior Minister Johan Remkes said the Cabinet recognised Rotterdam was experiencing problems due to its growing number of underprivileged residents. During a visit to the harbour city, the minister also said the Cabinet would seriously assess the executive council's proposals. The Christian Democrat CDA parliamentary leader Maxime Verhagen and Democrat D66 leader Boris Dittrich reacted positively to Rotterdam's plans to set income level conditions on housing allocations. But the smaller opposition parties, such as the Socialist Party and green-left GroenLinks, were critical. Main opposition party, Labour PvdA, was also critical. "You must not put a fence around Rotterdam. Instead, work together with surrounding municipalities in spreading underprivileged groups," MP Jeroen Dijsselbloem said.

    Rotterdam Mayor Opstelten said the action plan was not designed as an example to other cities, but other large cities immediately cast doubt on the harbour city's plans. The Hague Urban Development and Housing Alderman Arend Hilhorst doubted if a greater spread of underprivileged people would solve the problems. The Rotterdam branches of the CDA and VVD were more positive about the plans and have confirmed that they must not turn into a "migrant stop". The CDA and VVD are the minority parties of the city's executive council. Right-wing Liveable Rotterdam (LR) — which won the March 2002 council elections in Rotterdam with anti-immigrant politician Pim Fortuyn still at the helm before his May 2002 shooting murder — holds the upper hand. LR has applauded the council's action plan. Rotterdam has long debated the continuing influx of immigrants and a better spread of underprivileged immigrants is a key component of the council's battle against the rise of "problem" neighbourhoods. An Intomart survey in August found that 62 percent of residents supported restricting the number of immigrants allowed to live in the city. That survey came after research bureau COS predicted the proportion of immigrants would grow to 58 percent of Rotterdam's total population by 2017, compared with 46 percent last year.
    ©Expatica News

    2/12/2003- A split has opened up in the Liberal VVD after seven prominent members claimed proposals by party colleagues on restricting the establishment of Islamic schools were embarrassing and contrary to the spirit of liberalism. The seven members opposed to the stance include former Education State Secretary Nel Ginjaar-Maas and four members of the party's education commission. They claim the campaign against Islamic schools, led by VVD MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, is nothing more than a "witch hunt", NOS reported. The VVD aims to restrict the establishment of new Islamic schools with a variety of policy measures, claiming the schools do not contribute to the integration of immigrants. But the opponents have labelled the claim an "unfounded assumption" and a "flagrant violation of the constitutional freedom of education." Hirsi Ali stirred controversy recently with her proposals, which came despite a recent Education Inspectorate report indicating that the education offered at the nation's 43 Islamic schools does not breach basic Dutch ethics. The report also said Islamic schools stimulate integration.

    Education Minister Maria van der Hoeven also defended Islamic schools based on Article 23 of the Dutch Constitution, which regulates freedom of education. Responding to demands to tighten regulations, the Christian Democrat CDA minister also said last month that it was not the government's responsibility to take action against so-called "Zwarte scholen", black school. This refers to schools in large urban areas where native Dutch parents withdraw their pupils from schools where the larger group are children from an immigrant background. The VVD proposal to place stronger demands on Islamic schools also missed out on parliamentary backing after the Labour PvdA withdrew its support for the plan. Hirsi Ali's has demanded that schools no longer be mono-ethnic and has urged that all school directors have, or acquire, Dutch nationality. Meanwhile, Finance Minister and VVD leader Gerrit Zalm said last weekend that government money should no longer be invested in creating schools that will primarily attract problem students, meaning immigrants. He has backed limiting the establishment of Islamic schools, claiming they hinder integration. But Ginjaar-Maas has since asked how long politicians can credibly entice youths to respect the basic values of Dutch society when political opportunism prompts them to attack the freedom of education.

    The seven VVD members have also claimed that Hirsi Ali — a Somalian-born Muslim who openly criticised the Islamic faith for its treatment of women and has described the prophet Muhammed as a "perverse tyrant" — is being driven by a personal trauma, ANP reported. But VVD education spokesman Eric Balemans dismissed the criticism and said there was no hint of a witch hunt. He said the problems must be tackled and the criticism of Hirsi Ali — who only acted out of concern for integration — was "a little strange". Balemans said he will suggest to VVD leaders that they meet in the near future and discuss the issue with Ginjaar-Maas and the other six party members.
    ©Expatica News

    2/12/2003- A group of liberal German women have weighed into the Islamic headscarf issue, calling for it to be accepted if schoolteachers wished to wear one. Like other European nations, Germany has mainly adopted the secularist stance that religious symbols should be banned from public schools. However its constitutional court has said headscarves can only be banned by explicit legislation, not by official fiat. Moslem women who want to wear the scarves received backing Monday from various non-Moslem women, who said it was more important to be inclusive of minorities and not push militant Moslem women to the margins. Marieluise Beck, the German government's commissioner for integration issues, said, "What's on the head is not as important as what's in the head." She and 70 other women in public life, among them including Maria Jepsen, a Lutheran bishop, signed a statement rejecting legislation to ban scarves from public service. However the signatories were not directly supportive of scarves, noting that the head coverings, veils and burqas were often a means for male Islamic fundamentalists to oppress women. The statement was promptly criticized by the Turkish Association of Berlin TBB, which said headscarves were a "fundamentalist weapon". It said civil servants should not wear political and religious symbols. In Turkey, headscarves are forbidden in public life. In many parts of Europe, headscarves were a normal part of peasant dress until about a century ago. As a fashion item, they were last popular in the 1960s.
    ©Expatica News

    5/12/2003- As German government and opposition officials meet on Friday in an attempt to reach a compromise on proposals for a new immigration law, some say Germany should look to the U.S. immigration experience for guidance. Friday's discussions could decide the fate of sweeping immigration law reforms proposed by the government. The plans, which failed to garner opposition support earlier this year, are intended to regulate immigration. They propose measures to integrate foreigners into German society, including compulsory language and citizenship courses. The government coalition of Social Democrats and Greens views immigration as a crucial tool to counter Germany's aging and declining population, which is expected to pose serious problems for the country's social welfare systems and labor market in the coming decades. While generally supportive of a new immigration law, leaders of the conservative opposition Christian Democrat Union reject large portions of the proposal. They say Germany's labor market cannot handle more immigrants at the same time the country is struggling to deal with high unemployment rates. Although heated debates surround the current proposals, most German politicians agree that immigration is necessary for the country's future. What lessons, then, can Germany draw from the United States, which built itself on the fruits of immigrant labor and initiative?

    U.S. a land of immigrants
    Since its beginnings, the United States has been referred to as a melting pot. It is a land of immigrants, who, with a trace of pride, still call themselves African-Americans, Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans and German-Americans generations after their ancestors first set foot on American soil. While many identify with their ethnic roots, they often see themselves first and foremost as Americans. This says a lot about the positive light in which immigration is perceived in the United States, despite some dark spots in U.S. immigration history. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, for example, barred Chinese nationals from becoming U.S. citizens and was not repealed until 1943. A decade later, the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act targeted communists as unworthy of pledging their allegiance to the American flag. Still, the United States takes in about 1.5 million immigrants each year, according to the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies. By comparison, 220,000 people have entered Germany on average each year over the last decade, about half of the U.S. number when the population size of both countries is considered.

    Immigrants in Germany still struggling to fit in
    For the past 30 to 40 years, Germany and immigrants who have moved here have been asking the question: What role will immigrants play in German society and will there be a kind of integration possible as is often pointed to in the United States? Migration workers from Turkey and Yugoslavia, who were brought to Germany to help rebuild the country after World War II, have long struggled to obtain German citizenship without relinquishing their original nationalities. While most countries, including the U.S., grant citizenship to anyone born in their territory, German citizenship was based on German descent until a few years ago. That meant that despite living 20 years in the country and raising children, an entire family could still be considered foreign. The law was changed to grant citizenship to children born to parents who had been living legally in the country for at least eight years.

    Progress, despite a low level of tolerance
    Germany has progressed, according to Cem Özdemir, a German of Turkish origins and a former member of parliament for the Green party. Still, he's often dismayed by what he calls a "low level of tolerance" in German society. Whereas in the United States immigration is seen as something positive, in Germany it is often viewed rather negatively, he told DW-RADIO. Germany can learn a lot from the United States on the issue of integration of people with different ethnic backgrounds, Özdemir added. "We should also try to achieve a color blind society where it is not important where your parents came from but it is important what you try to contribute to the country in which you live," said Özdemir, who is a candidate in the 2004 EU parliamentary elections.

    Can the U.S. learn from the European experience?
    On the other hand, Germany's experience with European integration and swelling immigrant communities from Africa, Asia, India and Russia may rapidly be bringing about such change. Vangala Ram, a U.S. diplomat in Germany, is convinced that the United States also has a few things to learn. "I think it is a very interesting time to be in Europe as an American," Ram said. "We can see clearly that a community of 25 nations is developing although they have different languages and different living standards, that's clearly something that would interest us as Americans." If the tables have begun to turn in Germany, there has also been a change of attitudes in the U.S. After the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the U.S. position on immigration became less welcoming. U.S. citizens began to see immigration as a threat to national security. Measures taken since 2001 have indeed made life more difficult for immigrants, particularly for those coming from the Middle East. But Ram said he is hopeful that the country's tendency to be a home to immigrants will not decline. The U.S. will have to try and replicate the kind of assimilation of immigrants achieved in the 19th and 20th centuries, although the ethnic and religious diversity of immigrants has increased. "We've done that in the past and I am very optimistic that we are going to be able to do that in the future," he said.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    4/12/2003- For the first time in Belgian legal history, a man has been condemned to a penal sentence for racism. Hubert Defourny, leader of an extreme right-wing francophone organisation, was sentenced to five months in prison, a EUR 990 fine and a six-month ban on his civil and political rights. Defourny distributed a manifesto during the communal elections in October 2000 in the name of his Walloon Blok party, equating immigrants to delinquents and opportunists. Defourny had already been condemned twice by Belgium's ant-racism law - the Liege court took the milestone decision estimating that the accused was persistent in his actions and showed no evidence of making efforts to change. A former policeman, Defourny was earlier condemned in France for arms trafficking. Several racist-related cases are due to come through the Belgian legal system in the following months, including that of National Front leader Daniel Feret on 6 January. The National Front could become the first party to ever be banned from receiving public funding. Anti-racism groups hope the decision taken in the Defourny case will set a precedent for the severity of punishment against acts of racism.
    ©Expatica News

    3/12/2003- Another officer has resigned from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) over a BBC investigation into racism in the police. A GMP spokeswoman said the probationary officer, based in Cheadle Hulme, was "forced to resign" after a disciplinary hearing. It brings to six the total number of GMP officers who have quit over the revelations in the BBC documentary The Secret Policeman. The 31-year-old officer, who has not been named, was seen to make racist remarks in unbroadcast footage. In a statement on the GMP website, chief constable Michael Todd said he will not tolerate racism in his force.

    'Public faith'
    "Officers who believe that they can survive in my force whilst behaving in an overtly racist manner are deluding themselves - they cannot and will not," he said. "It is a small number of people who let us down. "However, the impact of their behaviour is extremely damaging to the service we provide and the public's faith in our ability to deliver with equal respect to all. "Overcoming this is a serious challenge not only to me as a chief constable, but also to all ranks of officers and staff and indeed society as a whole. "However, it is a challenge that we recognise, a challenge we take seriously and a challenge that together we are committed to tackling successfully." Undercover reporter Mark Daly, 28, joined GMP as a trainee officer and secretly filmed recruits at Bruche National Training Centre in Warrington, Cheshire, as well as officers on the beat. He was originally arrested, but will not now face charges. In total, nine officers have quit over the investigation - six from GMP, two from North Wales and one from Cheshire.
    ©BBC News

    3/12/2003- Research by the Institute of Race Relations shows that since the beginning of 1999, at least thirty-five murders with a racial element were committed in England, Wales and Scotland. This figure, when compared with the four years 1994 - 1998, when twelve murders with a racial element were committed, shows an alarming rise. For, the rate of such murders has more than doubled. One of the groups most at risk to serious racial violence is asylum seekers. Between 1999 and 2003, at least seven were murdered in unprovoked attacks. In 2001 alone, three asylum seekers were murdered - Gian Singh Nagra, Fetah Marku and Firsat Dag - all of whom were the victims of vicious racist attacks.

    And victims appear to be becoming younger. As recently as last week, two 16-year-old boys were found guilty of the manslaughter of 15-year-old Johnny Delaney. His family believe that Johnny was targeted because of his background - he came from an Irish Traveller family. Johnny was kicked to death, in May 2003, by two boys, who were part of a five-strong gang, that racially abused and then attacked Johnny and his friends as they played. The police treated the murder as racially motivated but the Judge, Mr Justice Richards, said that he did not believe race was a factor. At the trial, the 16-year olds, one of whom was an amateur boxer, admitted stamping on Johnny's head after he fell over attempting to run away from them. The other admitted kicking Johnny as he lay on the ground. Another witness, who tried to stop the attack, was told by one of the boys 'He deserves it. He's a f***ing Gypsy.' The Macpherson Inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which reported in February 1999, made recommendations about the investigation and prosecution of racially motivated crime. But it appears that its recommendations have been unevenly applied. In some investigations, the police have been open to considering the possibility of racial motivation, whereas in others they appear not to be. For example the Metropolitan Police rightly described the murder of Shiblu Rahman (2001) as 'purely racial'. On the other hand, it initially discounted the suspicious death of Shaun Rodney (2001) as suicide.

    In addition, problems often arise when cases come to court - sometimes the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) appears to underplay the possibility of racial motivation, sometimes the judges do. For example, judges rejected racial motivation in the murders of Jan Pasalbessi (2000), Glynne Agard (2000) and Johnny Delaney (2003). In the case of Abdi Dorre (2000) the CPS was lobbied by the family and lawyers before any charges at all were brought. Investigation and prosecution of racially motivated murders appear, despite the Macpherson recommendations, often to be found wanting. While figures on racial violence generally have shown an increase over the last few years, the police have often claimed that this was due to greater confidence in reporting of incidents, rather than a reflection of a real increase in attacks. However, no such claim could be made for the numbers of racial murders published here, as - unlike racial violence generally - suspicious deaths are always officially recorded. The IRR has been researching racial violence deaths since 1970. In this period, we have recorded 124 cases of killings in England, Scotland and Wales involving a racial motivation.
    Read the full list of racially motivated murders since 1991

    ©Institute of Race Relations

    4/12/2003- A village pantomime entitled Snow White and the Seven Asylum Seekers, banned by one community hall for alleged racism, has been called off for a second time following fears of a "punch-up". The author, Bob Harrod, who lives in Devon, cancelled the production after he was warned a far-right political party had posted support for his farce on a website. He denies anything in the panto is capable of being interpreted as racist. In the show, the asylum seekers work illegally at a quarry and live in the woods, eating only baked beans and never bathing. The show was to have been performed at Merton, near Okehampton, but the village hall committee prohibited the performance unless the title was changed. Mr Harrod declined to rename it. Later, the parish hall committee at Langtree, about 10 miles away, offered to host the show. Then names and phone numbers of performers were reportedly posted on a website. "It's got a bit nasty," Mr Harrod said yesterday. "People were threatening demonstrations. I had a fear of a punch-up between rival demonstrators. I felt the risk was too great. "It's sad - a hospital charity will miss out on £1,000."
    ©The Guardian

    4/12/2003- THE BBC has made the first television drama in more than 20 years about Britain's far-right. It was so nervous about reprisals against the film-makers that it recorded the project in secret. England Expects, which stars Steven Mackintosh as a security guard and family man who returns to his extreme-right past, was filmed under the neutral title Ray's Daze. Extra security guards were drafted in for the shooting of the drama in the East End of London. The film, which took more than three years to make, was kept secret from all but a handful of BBC staff, and followed a series of meetings between far-right activists, the writer Frank Deasy and the creative producer Nick Ryan. Mr Ryan, an award-winning writer, said: "We had to be very careful. Some of the people on the far-right don't take kindly to this type of thing." England Expects is the first serious dramatisation about far-right activists since the early Eighties depictions of skinhead bootboys in the Trevor Griffiths play Oi for England and Alan Clarke's Made in Britain. Mr Deasy said the central character in England Expects was far more complex than the stereotype of a right-wing thug. He said: "Ray Knight, played by Steven Mackintosh, is a control freak whose life is falling apart: he's estranged from his wife and daughter and his job is under threat. He blames other people ... foreigners, asylum-seekers, people he defines as other." Jane Tranter, the BBC's head of drama, said the piece was not about any organisation but aimed to show the way that extremist politics had become increasingly subtle. She said: "It takes a look at modern racism, which in many ways is a lot more insidious than the 'No blacks, no Irish' notices that were put up in the Sixties."
    © Independent Digital

    1/12/2003- On Saturday night, Kommersant reports, the students of People's Friendship University of Russia, still in grief after a recent fire, were attacked by a group of skinheads. Students from Jamaica and Columbia, two girls among them, were surrounded by approximately 30 people with shaved heads wearing heavy military boots. After a quick fight, the young people managed to escape and find a police patrol, which arrested nine teenagers. At the moment, only two are still behind bars, while the rest were released on after assurances were made in written form that they would not leave town. Their victims, although having been wounded, have not been hospitalized. For one of the students, Hernando Munos from Columbia, according to Izvestia, this was not the first encounter with aggressive self-proclaimed "patriots" - he has an iron pins installed in his fingers after a racist cut them with his knife during a fight.
    ©Russia Journal

    3/12/2003- If it is Western-style political correctness you are looking for, you do not go to political meetings in Russia where the star turn is Vladimir Zhirinovsky. And yesterday, in one of his last appearances before Sunday's Duma elections, the founder and leader of the party misleadingly named Liberal-Democrat was on top form. The man who emerged as the leader of the extreme right when the Soviet Union collapsed - and shot to prominence when he came third in Russia's first presidential race, remains one of the country's veteran campaigners and one of its more accomplished politicians. It is a decade since "Mad Vlad" scared Russia's new democrats and their foreign well- wishers with his ultra-nationalist demagogy and it is almost as long since the feared "Red-Brown" alliance between the Communists and Mr Zhirinovsky looked anything like an election-winner in Russia. But he is still a force to be reckoned with, and not just because he panders to the baser fears of Russia's poorest.

    Russia's leading polling organisation, VTsIOM-A, is forecasting that he will receive 8 per cent of the vote on Sunday. That will represent an improvement on the 5 per cent he won four years ago and the 14 seats his party won then. Addressing a parliamentary round-table discussion in front of cameras which he knew would relay his choicest soundbites in good time for the evening news, he accused the Russian government of doing nothing to reverse what he sees as the country's "catastrophic" decline. He called for state benefits and allowances to be paid exclusively to men, as only this would - in his view - strengthen the institution of the family. "Fathers would be ashamed to get the paltry 70 roubles per child mothers get at the moment", he said. Russia's borders, he said, should be closed to foreign immigrants to leave jobs for unemployed Russians; any foreign workers admitted should be allowed in only for specific projects, accompanied to the site, housed in guarded hostels, and deported afterwards. He also accused the United States - a favourite topic of his - of using the "ethnic" weapon against Russia. Washington, he said, had long ago calculated that there was no point in wasting costly military hardware on Russia. All it had to do was encourage the degradation of the Russian people that was already in train - and hugely successful it was too.

    The urgent need to halt Russia's decline is one of Mr Zhirinovsky's favourite themes, and yesterday's parliamentary forum on demography and immigration offered him the perfect platform. His hand gestures were so energetic that he knocked the stalk of his microphone out of shape several times. His passion and the loud rasping voice in which he expresses it make him a compelling speaker with a sure popular touch. Unlike many of the larger, more complacent political parties, Mr Zhirinovsky fights for each vote. He makes himself available; all his appearances are open to the media, he makes time to talk to people. His is a professional operation. His office telephones are staffed; his campaign literature is attractive and clear - with telephone numbers prominently displayed. His television adverts stand out because, in the 20-second time limit, they are almost alone in carrying a clear message.
    © Independent Digital

    1/12/2003- The next presidential election in France in 2007 will likely be the last attempt by far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen to take a shot at the top job, his daughter Marine told a magazine. "It is probable that 2007 will be the last presidential election for Jean-Marie Le Pen," she told the December-January issue of Optimum.Marine Le Pen has been groomed by her father to take over the reins of his National Front party when he retires. Jean-Marie Le Pen, 75, stunned France in last year's presidential elections when he managed to beat Lionel Jospin, the Socialist candidate and then-prime minister, in the first round to take on incumbent Jacques Chirac in the run-off. A public backlash against Le Pen gave Chirac a landslide win and firmly pushed the National Front into the political background, though Marine Le Pen, who is now the party's vice-president, plans to bring it back by widening its appeal and toning down its nationalist rhetoric.
    link beschrijving

    4/12/2003- Italian opposition figures accused Reforms Minister Umberto Bossi of racism and xenophobia on Thursday after he referred to immigrants as ''bingo bongos'' following a debate on the allocation of public housing. Bossi's comments were the latest in a string of outbursts from the raucous leader of the populist Northern League party. 'In Milan there are people who have worked a lifetime without a home. You work your whole life and then we give a house the to first bingo bongo that arrives? You must be kidding,'' Italian news agencies quoted Bossi as telling Radio Padania Libera. Opposition politicians slammed the comments and demanded an apology. ''For the umpteenth time the League has shown itself to be the point of reference for xenophobic, racist and populist thought that risks becoming a real threat to the daily life of so many migrants,'' said the Reformed Communist Party's Carlo Cartocci. Bossi has ignited similar rows in the past. He once suggested the Italian navy open fire on boats carrying illegal immigrants. ''This is an extremely serious incident and either the minister should apologise immediately or resign,'' said the Green party's Paolo Cento.

    1/12/2003- Abdullah Gül, Turkey's Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, has stoked up the debate on religion in the Constitution by saying that a reference to Islam and Judaism should be included in the text if Christianity is to be mentioned. Speaking at the Foreign Ministers' "conclave" in Naples, Mr Gül said - according to Turkish Daily News - "I told those who want a clear reference to Christianity that the history of Europe had to be examined, because there were not only Christians, but Muslims and Jews in the history of Europe". "Therefore if the Constitution has to mention Christianity, it should also refer to Judaism and Islam". Despite this, Mr Gül repeated his conviction that the Constitution should remain free of references to religion. "But we prefer the draft to remain with its existing form as a secular constitution", he concluded. The argument over religion is one of the most difficult to resolve in the negotiations over the EU's draft Constitution and Foreign Ministers were unable to make progress on the issue over the weekend in Naples. France and Belgium have traditionally objected most strongly to any reference to Christian heritage. But others, notably Poland, insist that such a clause be inserted into the text.

    4/12/2003- A reference to minority rights has been included in the draft constitution of the European Union after the foreign ministers from current EU member states and acceding countries reached a consensus at a recent meeting in Naples. Foreign Minister László Kovács told Hungarian news agency MTI that the proposal, which was initiated by Hungary, has now "passed the first test". Over recent months, Hungary has made consistent diplomatic efforts to rally support for the proposal to include minority rights in EU's list of fundamental values. Kovács also mentioned there was an extra window of opportunity to talk to those opposing Hungary's proposition before the meeting. Latvia, Estonia and Slovakia eventually acknowledged the compromise proposed by the Italian Presidency, while Austria, Finland, Slovenia and Malta reiterated their support for the motion. Kovács placed special emphasis on the backing of the Romanian Foreign Minister. While France did not bring up the issue, Spain approved the idea of including minority rights but urged "a more exact wording", Kovács explained. In his speech, Kovács pointed out that Hungary finds Italy's suggestion regarding minority rights acceptable, although it is somewhat different from the original proposal.

    Initially, Hungary urged the inclusion of a reference to collective ethnic and national minority rights while the recent draft only mentions individual minority rights. Asked if Hungary could get closer to its original objectives, Kovács replied, "We should not touch this draft. The speeches have made it clear this is the maximum we can achieve." Fidesz welcomed the draft Constitutional Treaty with a reference to minority rights, however they were not completely satisfied with the results. Deputy parliamentary party leader Zsolt Németh said, "We would have preferred if the original Hungarian proposal, a reference to 'the collective rights of national and ethnic minorities' would have been accepted rather than 'the rights of individual members of minorities'." The opposition party described the reference as "a legal tool which may help national minorities preserve their identity at the level of the acquis communautaire, the body of EU law, and contribute to the establishment of an effective minority protection framework in Europe as well as the emergence of autonomous minority communities." The draft of the Constitutional Treaty, along with the minorities proposal, will be finalized at the Intergovernmental Conference in Brussels on December 12-13. One day after the announcement in Naples, Fidesz welcomed the efforts of Hungarians living outside Hungary to establish their autonomy which, the party claimed, would "improve international relations as well as political and economic stability". Fidesz acclaimed the establishment of the Székely National Council and the preparations made to form the Hungarian National Council in Transylvania, both in Romania. However, Fidesz was concerned about "Romanian authorities' organized and illegal harassment of the organizers," and called on Hungary's government to act in order to counter what they called "the infringement of basic human and political rights".
    ©The Budapest Sun

    3/12/2003- A controversial EU study on anti-semitism, shelved after it found that Muslims and pro-Palestinian groups were behind many of the incidents reported in it, is now available on the internet. Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit and the European Jewish Congress, an umbrella group for Europe's Jewish organisations, have both put the report on their websites. Carried out by the European Union's Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), the 112-page report was suppressed earlier this year in favour of a fresh study, to be published in 2004, after staff at the centre questioned the definition of anti-semitism and its focus on Muslim perpetrators. A press release from EUMC says it "considered the work undertaken by the contractors to be of poor quality and lacking in empirical evidence".
    The report
    EUMC media release


    3/12/2003- Several major streets and freeways in Durban are to be renamed "to correctly reflect the city's history and to honour struggle heroes and heroines". The eThekwini municipality agreed yesterday to accept possible changes to the names of Victoria Embankment, NMR Avenue, Point Road, Alice, Broad, Stanger, Grey and Commercial streets, the southern freeway and the M4 towards Umhlanga as suggested by the city's Committee on Non-Racism, Non-Sexism, and Non-Discrimination. This is in keeping with the council's plan to rid the city of names of streets, monuments and statues which have connotations deemed offensive. The council approved that the public be engaged in a process of identifying substitute names for certain streets. The committee identified historical figures such as human rights activist Helen Joseph, human rights lawyer Bram Fischer, King Shaka and Albert Luthuli as possible replacement names. Durban Mayor Obed Mlaba said that, as they were still in a consultation process, "any of these names could be subtracted and more could be included. There are no names of streets that have been identified as targets ... the public will be given room to make suggestions".

    The chairman of the committee and Speaker of the eThekwini Council, Nomusa Dube, said that while the history of colonials was recognised in Durban, it was not a true reflection of the history of the people of Durban. Dube said the name changes would be "public- driven". She urged the public not to fight about the issue but to accept that the names of certain areas should be changed and that certain people should be honoured. Dube urged the public to suggest names of people from KwaZulu-Natal which should be accompanied with brief motivations. She said name change guidelines would be advertised all over the municipality and a programme would be devised to select the list of streets to be renamed. The Democratic Alliance was the only party to express "regret" about the changes. DA councillor Lyn Ploos van Amstel said she found it strange that the issue always became a debate just before elections. "Where there isn't a good reason for a change and business is going to be affected we will not support it." She said, however, that some street names were offensive and needed to be changed, but "streets such as the Victoria Embankment have a vast history for the city of Durban and could affect business". The council also intends erecting a Wall of Names in Medwood Gardens to honour people who fought for and were killed in the liberation struggle.
    ©The Mercury

    23/11/2003- Far-right and race hate groups want to use the Welsh language to gain a foothold in rural Wales, anti-racism campaigners have revealed. And recent weeks have seen increased activity from extreme right-wing groups in parts of South Wales, including Swansea, Newport and Blackwood. Posters have been put up specifically aimed at areas used by young people. The first annual meeting in Wales of the anti-fascist organisation Searchlight yesterday heard fears the BNP could seriously challenge for its first Welsh seat in next year's council elections. First Minister Rhodri Morgan told the meeting: "The BNP thinks of Wales as fertile soil. It has not worked for them yet but we have to be vigilant. "Nothing would please them more than to have a rural base in Wales." Campaigners said a united front with the Welsh Language Society and other groups was needed to tackle plans to use the language to campaign on racist policies. "It is important we alert them so they can combat this danger in Welsh medium schools and in the Welsh music scene," said Robert Griffiths, chair of Wales Friends of Searchlight. "Although it would be right to say at the moment that the problem of organised racism and fascism is not as great as in England, it would be stupid and complacent to say we were immune to it here in Wales." And Steve Silver, the editor of Searchlight magazine, said: "The BNP is likely to use issues around the language or around the European Union to try to persuade people in rural or farming communities that it is the party which speaks for them."

    WFS secretary Ian Titherington said that a fortnight ago BNP members from the west of England came to Dyffryn in Newport, Gwent, to hand out leaflets door-to-door. "They also canvassed the ward and went around with loud hailers," he said. "They are desperate for a foothold in Wales." He said Searchlight now plans to distribute a leaflet next month in Dyffryn, countering BNP claims about asylum. "The good news is that Wales is the weakest area for the BNP in the UK," he added. "The bad news is that over the next six months they want to make sure that changes. "They could be a real threat in the council elections, challenging in half a dozen or so wards." The meeting also heard about the activities of two small fascist groups. It was revealed that National Front members from London had been leaving leaflets in car parks in Swansea and that the British Movement had been flypostering areas of Blackwood where youngsters go to meet or go skateboarding. Last month Wales on Sunday revealed that the youth wing of the BNP claimed its support in Wales was "growing rapidly".
    ©IC Network

    24/11/2003- Britain's police forces have triggered a new row with the government's race watchdog, amid claims that attempts have been made to "sanitise" their poor record on dealing with racism. The Guardian has learnt of a row between the forces, the Commission for Racial Equality and the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) about how the commission will conduct its external inquiry into police racism. The CRE has asked the forces to complete an initial questionnaire, detailing their policy and procedures for training officers and identifying racists. But the process was interrupted a fortnight ago by Acpo, which sent an email to chief constables asking them to submit their replies to the association itself rather than direct to the CRE. Amid fears that the replies could be sanitised, or even censored, the CRE is understood to have told Acpo that documents will be rejected unless they are sent direct by the forces them selves. Such a rejection would leave the forces in serious difficulty because the inquiry is being undertaken under the CRE's statutory powers and they are obliged to cooperate. One senior source said: "This seems like an attempt by Acpo to protect the forces from proper scrutiny. The CRE are not interested in hearing from Acpo about their idea of best practice. They want to know what individual forces are doing around the country because that is what impacts on people."

    The investigation was launched with the blessing of the home secretary after last month's groundbreaking BBC documentary, The Secret Policeman, which showed officers bragging about their racism. The inquiry will examine whether race relations laws are broken during police recruitment, in training regimes and in schools for cadets. It will investigate the monitoring of conduct, the management of police behaviour, and the way forces are held to account. The inquiry will be conducted by a small panel backed up by lawyers and investigators. Parts will be held in public, and initial recommendations are expected next spring. The CRE chairman, Trevor Phillips, was unavailable for comment yesterday, but when he announced the investigation he said the public's reaction to the BBC exposé made such an exercise necessary. "What we are going to say to the police is that there are things required of you to do your job professionally," he said. "We are going to define those and lay them down." An Acpo spokesman said any dispute was the result of a misunderstanding. "It is not as if we were seeking to do anything with the information," he said. "We thought it would be easier because there is a deadline, and if there are any forces with replies outstanding we could chase them up and make sure the information does come in. We would not doctor any information." He said that Acpo was keen to help the inquiry. "We are very much cooperating. We want to help the CRE in helping these forces."
    ©The Guardian

    23/11/2003- A racist thug has at last been put behind bars after a three-year reign of terror against shopkeepers. John O'Neill, 19, was given bail six times by the courts for race attacks. But every time he was freed, he carried out fresh terror campaigns on Asians. At one stage, he was hit with a six-year restraining order by a court not to go near one of his victims. But that wasn't enough to stop O'Neill, whocontinued to target shopkeepers in a number of small towns withattacks on them, their shops and families. One victim was forced to flee Scotland because he feared for his life. Now O'Neill is starting an 18-month sentence, although underparoleruleshe will only have to serve nine months. His latest victims, shopkeeper Parveen Mohammed and her nephew, Shabeer Ahmed, were subjected to a year-long campaign of racist remarks, threats andabuseby O'Neill at their A and M store in Newarthill, Lanarkshire. Sentencing O'Neill at Hamilton Sheriff Court, Sheriff David Bicket added a second non-harassment order, banning him from entering or approaching their shop and its staff after his release. Scots-born Parveen, 38, said: ``We are glad O'Neill was sent away but know he will be out after only nine months.'' Anti-racism campaigner Robin Qureshi, of Positive Action on Housing, said the courts needtougherpowers to deal with serial racists.
    ©Sunday Mail

    The new Asylum and Immigration Bill expected in tomorrow's Queens speech will give a boost the far-right British National Party

    25/11/2003- Plans to take the children of refugees into care will lead to massive new costs for councils, meaning higher council taxes and increased resentment towards asylum seekers. The 1990 Trust warns that David Blunkett's new asylum Bill will be ruthlessly exploited by racist extremists like the BNP, causing an upsurge in racism, racial attacks and public disorder. Karen Chouhan, chief executive of campaign group and think tank The 1990 Trust said the legislation could turn into a ‘BNP charter.' She said: "It is increasingly clear that plans to take failed asylum seeker's children into care will not work. In fact it is likely to have the opposite effect. "The spiralling costs for councils looking after these children will inevitably mean higher council taxes. "This will be ruthlessly exploited by the BNP who will stir up even more anger at a local level. David Blunkett's new law could turn into a racists charter giving a massive and extremely unwelcome boost to the BNP." The far-right BNP already have a track-record in stirring up racism over asylum seekers which has seen them gain 16 councillors elected across Britain. One of the main issues has been the financial cost of asylum seekers to local taxpayers. Chouhan said the numbers of asylum seekers' children taken into care under the proposed new Bill is likely to dwarf the numbers of unaccompanied asylum seeker children already accepted by councils.

    She said: "We are talking thousands of children taken into care. This is inhumane – but it is also a policy doomed to failure. "Many asylum seeker adults who's claims have been rejected will believe that their children would be better off in care as they have no other options, and no support from the state. The parents will simply go underground and work illegally. "It is also likely that the Home Office plans will breach the Children Act, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the more recent Human Rights Act that guarantees a right to family life. "The Home Secretary David Blunkett's strategy seems to be to make life so unpleasant for asylum seekers that they will remove themselves. It will create untold misery and extreme hardship, but will fail in its aims to reduce numbers of asylum seekers. "It will also mean desperate asylum seekers will be pushed into criminality and illegal working." Critics believe that the Home Office's proposed new asylum law - the fifth in ten years - would mean that asylum adults would take the view that their children would be ‘better off' in care, and therefore the law would not act as a deterrent. It would actually encourage asylum adults to go ‘underground', working illegally, in Britain while their children were provided with education and support by the state. Taking children into care will almost certainly mean such children would have to be released into British society once they turn 18. It would be nonsensical to keep the children in care in a British environment for years only to deport them once they turn 18, making them ‘aliens' in the country of their birth.
    ©the Black Information Link

    27/11/2003— Rastafarian poet Benjamin Zephaniah has publicly rejected an invitation to accept an honour from the Queen, spurning it as a legacy of colonialism. Zephaniah, one of Britain's best known contemporary poets, announced he was turning down the invitation in an article published in today's edition of the Guardian newspaper, thus breaking the convention that those who reject honours should do so privately. The poet, who is black and grew up in England and Jamaica, had been recommended for an OBE award, or Officer of the Order of British Empire. But in a blistering criticism of Prime Minister Tony Blair and the monarchy, he railed against Britain's colonial past and its support of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Zephaniah said his proposed title reminded him of "thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalized." He added: "Stick it, Mr. Blair and Mrs. Queen, stop going on about empire."

    The Queen awards a series of titles — the highest accolade being a knighthood — twice a year on Blair's recommendation to individuals in recognition of exceptional achievements or services to Britain. Zephaniah's rejection of the honour echoes Beatle John Lennon's return of his MBE, or Member of the Order of the British Empire, medal in 1969 over Britain's stance on Vietnam and the civil war in Nigeria. "You can't fool me Mr. Blair. You want to privatize us all; you want to send us to war," Zephaniah said. "You stay silent when we need you to speak for us, preferring us to be the voice of the U.S." Zephaniah, who was nominated for his services to literature, questioned why he hadn't been considered for his work in animal rights, fighting racism or his anti-war campaigning. "I may just consider accepting some kind of award for my services on behalf of the millions of people who have stood up against the war in Iraq. It's such hard work — much harder than writing poems," he said.

    Zephaniah published his first poetry collection, Pen Rhythm, in 1980 and has become known for his distinctive "performance poetry." His latest collection Too Black, Too Strong addresses the struggles of black Britain. Recent honours lists announced by Buckingham Palace have been headed by a host of glittering music and film stars, backed up by leaders of industry and a few social campaigners. In the latest round, James Bond actor Roger Moore was named a knight and Helen Mirren, star of the Prime Suspect TV police dramas, became a dame. Fashion designer Alexander McQueen, TV's Naked Chef Jamie Oliver and Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop cosmetics chain, were also all honoured. Many people are nominated by the public and they are all notified by Blair's office in confidence before their names are passed to the Queen. Most people who reject the honour do so privately, but film director Ken Loach revealed some years later that he had rejected an approach. Zephaniah said he has nothing against the Queen herself, whom he met once backstage after he hosted a concert. "She's a bit stiff but a nice old lady," he said.
    ©The Toronto Star

    27/11/2003- A 12-year-old Turkish girl was been formally expelled from a state school in eastern France on Thursday because of her refusal to take off her Islamic headscarf, a representative for her family said. The girl, who had been suspended from classes since October 13, and her parents were informed of the decision at a displinary hearing, the representative, Thomas Milcent, told journalists. The principal of the Charles Walch high school she attended in Thann, Serge Blanchard, had maintained he was upholding school rules which banned ostentatious religious displays or ornaments among pupils. The clash between the girl's family and the school again highlighted a longrunning row in France over Islamic headscarves in schools. In October, two sisters at a Paris high school were suspended for refusing to remove their scarves. The girls' father, a Jewish human rights lawyer married to a non-practising Muslim, has been fighting that decision with the help of an anti-racist organisation. While virtually all politicians have declared themselves in favour of upholding the country's secular tradition in state institutions, they are split over whether a law should be imposed which expressly bans headscarves and other religious wear, such as Jewish skull caps or Christian crosses. A commission set up by President Jacques Chirac to look into the issue is due to publish its conclusions December 11. Last month Chirac hinted strongly that he supported a ban on headscarves when he told an audience in the northern town of Valenciennes that secularism was "not negotiable." "We cannot allow people to shelter behind a deviant idea of religious liberty in order to defy the laws of the republic or to threaten fundamental principles of a modern society such as sex equality and the dignity of woman," he said.
    ©Expatica News

    25/11/2003- French Justice Minister Dominique Perben has barred a woman from a court jury for wearing a headscarf. Mr Perben said the Muslim scarf, worn by the juror at a trial in Bobigny, north-east of Paris, was contrary to the principle of impartiality. He said he did not want open signs of religious commitment in French courts. The French Government has been split on whether to ban headscarves in public institutions because of its policy of strict secularism. A heated debate is continuing over whether the scarves worn by many Muslim women are acceptable in schools, courts and government departments. In recent months, several girls have been suspended from French schools for wearing them. France has the largest Muslim community in the European Union, numbering about five million people. Explaining his decision to have the woman dismissed, Mr Perben said: "The justice system must show its ability to be dispassionate and to be impartial and this is why this kind of outward demonstration is not acceptable." The woman had attended the jury selection procedure at the court in Bobigny without a headscarf, but wore one on the first day of the trial.
    ©BBC News

    26/11/2003- Vandals tried to set alight to a mosque in northern France on Tuesday night and scrawled two swastikas on its walls, police in the port of Dunkirk said. The attackers sprayed an inflammable liquid over the doors of the Omar al-Farouk mosque in Dunkirk town centre and set it on fire, but the blaze was quickly put out. No-one was in the building at the time. Police called to the scene found two upside-down swastikas on the outside wall. "This is the first time there has been an act of violence and an arson attempt against a mosque in Dunkirk. Whoever did it chose the end of Ramadan to make his point," said Bahssine Saaidi, president of the regional Islamic council. "But the friendly relations which we enjoy with the Jewish and Christian communities must not be allowed to suffer," he said.
    ©Expatica News

    24/11/2003- Voters in Zurich are set to decide on controversial new laws that would lead to the official recognition of non-Christian faiths, including Islam. But the proposals are being challenged by politicians from the Right, who have been accused of running an inflammatory campaign. One of the most controversial parts of the new legislation, which is due to be voted on in a referendum on November 30, is a move towards recognising faiths other than the three official religions in the canton. At the moment, canton Zurich only recognises the Protestant, Roman Catholic and the Old Catholic Churches. Under the proposals, other religions would be recognised as long as they fulfilled certain requirements. But the move is being strongly opposed by members of the canton Zurich branch of the rightwing Swiss People's Party and the centre-right Radicals. The People's Party claims that cantonal contributions - which are given to all recognised religions - would be used by Muslims for fundamentalist religious teaching. Party literature even shows a montage of the Zurich Münster with its tower replaced by a minaret and the words "it's a question of time".

    CriticismBoth the three recognised Churches and the country's anti-racism commission have heavily criticised the campaign. In a joint statement, the three Churches said that opponents' assertions were simply not true, because funds were not given for religious lessons. Gioia Weber from the Federal Commission against Racism told swissinfo that this was the case, adding that the Right's campaign bordered on being racist. "It's surely not advisable to publish false allegations like those which say that ‘Koran schools' would be financed by taxpayers' money," she said. "Tarring whole sections of society with the same brush borders on discrimination; it's unfair," she added. The three Zurich Churches say they have maintained a constructive dialogue with the city's Jewish and Muslim communities for many years. They fear that the anti-Muslim sentiment voiced by the Right could damage this relationship.

    Strict requirements
    Funding for recognised religions is intended to support services that are of use to society as a whole, and from which non-members might also benefit. Markus Notter, director of justice in canton Zurich, said that assertions that cash could be used for "Koran schools" were simply false. He said there were strict requirements that needed to be met before a religious community could gain official recognition. These automatically rule out sects, splinter or fundamentalist groups. The law for recognising religions sets out that among other things, a Church must carry out charitable activities. It is not allowed to have any political or economic goals. The faith in question must also have been active in Switzerland for 30 years, be organised democratically, recognise the Swiss legal system and exercise religious tolerance. Financial transparency is also required.

    26 different models
    A study by the anti-racism commission has shown that the country's 26 cantons differ greatly in their recognition of religions. Some, such as Bern, Basel City, St Gallen and Fribourg, have already recognised the Jewish religion. Others only recognise Christian Churches. Only in cantons Geneva and Neuchâtel are all religions treated the same. Other cantons have so far rejected such a move. But some are looking into the issue, which could have consequences for both recognised and non-recognised religious communities – as the Zurich example shows. Canton Zurich's Markus Notter says that a rejection on November 30 would almost certainly result in the official recognition of the Protestant, Roman Catholic and the Old Catholic Churches being called into question, and renewed public debate on the separation of Church and State.
    ©NZZ Online

    28/11/2003- The rightwing Swiss People's Party has become the biggest force in Swiss politics in just a decade, and is now demanding a second cabinet seat. In just eight years it has gone from being the smallest of the parties in government to the largest. The People's Party first entered government in 1929, when its predecessor, the Party of Farmers, Tradesmen and Citizens secured one seat at the expense of the Radicals. It remained the smallest of the four main political parties even after it merged with a number of smaller, regional parties to become the Swiss People's Party in 1971. But in successive elections in the 1990s it increased its share of the vote and in October it won 26.6 per cent of the popular vote to become the largest party in parliament with 63 seats. Its success has led to renewed calls for a second seat in government at the expense of the Christian Democrats, with its figurehead, Christoph Blocher, as the party's official candidate.

    When parliamentarians gather on December 10 to determine the fate of the six government ministers seeking re-election, they will also be deciding the future of one of the pillars of Swiss politics ­ the Christian Democrats. Political analyst Hans Hirter says that if the centre-right party succeeds in holding on to both its cabinet seats, it could find itself struggling to maintain its support in future elections. "If the People's Party follows through with its threat to walk out of government if its candidate is not elected, it could spell disaster for the Christian Democrats," he told swissinfo. "Their supporters will probably blame them for the political mess that would occur, and their vote at the next election could collapse." That prospect cannot be very reassuring to a party that has been a major political force and part of the government for more than a century.

    Catholic roots
    Its forerunner was the Catholic-Conservative Party, which in its heyday regularly won up to 23 per cent of the vote in nationwide elections, returning up to 66 parliamentarians. In 1970, in an attempt to broaden its appeal beyond its Catholic strongholds, it changed its name and positioned itself firmly at the centre of the Swiss political spectrum. The newly born Christian Democrats combined support for the economic policy of the centre-right Radicals with backing for the social policy of the centre-left Social Democrats. But since the 1980s the party's support has slumped with its share of the vote dipping below the 20 per cent mark in 1987, and in October's election accounting for just 14.4 per cent.

    Part of the explanation lies in the problems Switzerland has experienced in the past two decades, according to another political analyst, Andreas Ladner. Whereas the People's Party and the Social Democrats have offered their own strategies for dealing with problems such as economic slumps, rising unemployment, and spiralling healthcare costs, the Christian Democrats ­ along with the centre-right Radicals ­ have been blamed for not trying to provide solutions. Ladner says the party's traditional base of support and its religious roots are unlikely to be enough to ensure it remains a political force on a national level to the same extent as in the past. "The party has always done well in the cantons, but it is no longer a national force," he said. "It's no longer a force in the important larger cantons and the cities which have biggest influence on public opinion and the way the media covers politics."

    Rise of People's Party
    One of those cities, and Switzerland's largest, is Zurich ­ the home base of Christoph Blocher, the driving force behind the Swiss People's Party. Because Blocher is a populist, seen by many as being largely responsible for the People's Party's rise in fortune, Hirter says it could be in the interests of the two centre-right parties to have him in government - although neither is willing to give up one of its seats. "If he sticks to the principle of collective decision-making and consensus ­ as he has promised to do if elected ­ it could be a real chance for the Radicals and Christian Democrats to win back some of the support they've lost to the People's Party," he said. "He will have to make compromises in government and take difficult and unpopular stands on some issues, and the centre-right parties believe that could help them in the long term."
    ©NZZ Online

    Equality between men and women has still not been achieved in Switzerland, latest statistics reveal. Women are less educated, under-represented in the workplace, worse paid and more likely to do housework and bring up children than men. However, women have two clear advantages over men: they live longer on average and are less likely to get into trouble with the law. The latest study by the Federal Statistics Office shows that women come onto the job market with a substantial disadvantage ­ a lack of educational qualifications. Twenty-three per cent of women aged between 25 and 64 have no higher education credentials, compared with 14 per cent of men. The report also found that the choice of profession or subject studied at university was strongly influenced by sex-specific stereotypes.

    Part-time work
    More than half of all women work part time, compared with one in ten men, according to the report. While there are more mothers with children aged under 15 working today than ten years ago, 70 per cent of all working women are employed in non-managerial roles. With men, the figure is 50 per cent. Working conditions are worse for women, many of whom have short-term contracts or undertake menial tasks. More women than men are poorly reimbursed for their work ­ last year, 11 per cent of women in full-time jobs brought home a maximum of SFr3,000 ($2,300) a month, compared with just two per cent of men. Many women with families find themselves financially dependent on their partner. Only in one tenth of all households do both partners contribute equally to domestic expenses. Household chores are unfairly divided, with the lion's share falling on female shoulders, and that situation has not changed since 1997, according to the Statistics Office. Women spend an average of 31 hours a week looking after the family and home, whereas men contribute just over half that amount. In homes with children under the age of 15, this increases to 54 hours a week for women and 24 for men.
    ©NZZ Online

    27/11/2003­ The Brussels-based Centre for Equal Opportunities and Against Racism is to open offices throughout Flanders by 21 March next year. The offices, which will be run by local authorities and organisations involved in work with immigrant integration, youth and training, will teach local representatives how to define racism and deal with complaints. The Brussels Centre will meet representatives of the anti-racism offices once a month and help them to prepare court action against offenders. The idea to open offices throughout Flanders arose when the anti-racism centre realised it could not monitor the situation in the provinces with its small staff of only five specialists. Until now, Flanders had lacked easy-access local offices where people could complain about alleged racism, as well as accessible judicial assistance. Last year the centre registered more than 1,100 complaints, of which 26 were referred to the judicial authorities.
    ©Expatica News

    25/11/2003– Antwerp's Mayor, Patrick Janssens, has blamed children belonging to ethnic minorities for the city's weekend riots, and is asking their parents to act more responsibly. Janssens' comments came after police clashed with immigrant youths on Saturday on what was the first anniversary of the allegedly racially motivated killing of a Moroccan-origin schoolteacher. Up to 35 youths were detained by police after an afternoon of street clashes in the city, where 10 percent of the population is of North African origin. Janssen said the parents of the youths in question were partly to blame for the unrest for not keeping a tighter reign on their children and not teaching them to act more responsibly. Earlier, the mayor's office had refused a permit request for a demonstration to commemorate the death of 27-year-old teacher Mohammed Achrak. Achrak's death led to mass rioting last year; a 66-year-old retired Belgian teacher was later charged with Achrak's murder, with whom he allegedly had a long-standing feud.
    ©Expatica News

    21/11/2003- As a reflection of Belgium's multicultural reality, just under 10 percent of the country's population is foreign. While the EU component of this population has the right to vote in local elections in Belgium and in European elections, the non-EU contingent goes mostly unheard and unseen on the political radar screen. Despite enjoying many of the same rights as Belgians, thousands of long-term legal residents live in the political shadows. Whether of African, Middle Eastern, Asian, Eastern European, or American origin, these people lead their lives - for the most part - as decent, law-abiding citizens. These expatriates work, pay taxes, contribute to the welfare system, and obey the country's legal code but they cannot vote. That means they may walk and talk like citizens, but they differ in one important respect: although the decisions of the political apparatus affect them, they cannot hold politicians to account. Such political muteness can be frustrating and alienating because it sends a message that immigrants are welcome to pay but that doesn't give them the right to play.

    The right to participate politically has inched a small step closer. A Senate select committee adopted a draft bill that proposes to grant non-Union immigrants similar local voting rights as their EU counterparts. According to the proposed legislation, expats from outside the EU who have been living here for five years or more will be granted the right to vote in municipal elections but not to stand as candidates. The proposed right to vote is 'passive', meaning that for a person to be granted it they have to seek it actively. In addition to having to register, the draft legislation proposes that prospective voters must also sign a declaration that they understand Belgian law and will uphold the constitution. Although this is obviously designed to ease popular fears about the ramifications of granting expatriates the vote, it is entirely unnecessary and somewhat insulting. Voting is a fundamental democratic right that cannot be preconditioned regardless of a person's personal views. On a more practical level, just like citizens, immigrants engage in a tacit social contract that they will play by the legal and constitutional rules or face the consequences. Moreover, putting obstacles in the way of immigrants wishing to exercise this fundamental democratic right actually hurts the cause of democracy.

    Political resistance
    The usual suspects on the extreme right spoke out vocally against the draft bill: the Vlaams Blok in Flanders and its smaller cousin, the National Front (FN) in Walloonia. Although all the other Walloon parties expressed their support for the legislation, their Flemish counterparts were more reticent. On the Dutch-speaking side, only the socialist SP.A and its ally Spirit came out clearly in favour, while the liberal VLD and the Christian-democrat CD&V expressed reservations. The leader of the ruling coalition, the VLD, believes that only naturalised immigrants should have the right to vote. In the case of the Vlaams Blok and the FN, their motivation is easy to figure out. Convinced, for their own xenophobic reasons, that the country is overrun by foreigners, they want immigrants to leave, they don't want to make them feel more at home. The Vlaams Blok couches its arguments in the alarming terms that allowing people with 'alien values' to wield a lobby can derail the course of democracy and threaten the very fabric of society. What the VB really means by this is that giving non-EU residents the right to vote will damage the party's chances at the polls since few immigrants in their right mind would vote for them.

    The motivation of their mainstream counterparts is harder to pin down. Although xenophobia cannot be entirely ruled out, real politick seems to be the main driving force behind their reservations. Given that one recent poll found some 70 percent of Belgians are against granting immigrants the vote, it is perhaps unsurprising that centre and centre-right politicians are not lining up to defend the rights of this voiceless minority. In a telling admission, some CD&V representatives have warned that granting immigrants the vote could further bolster support for the Vlaams Blok. With all this talk about the importance of integrating immigrants, it rings a little hollow that there should be so much resistance to this project from the political centre. Jeannine Leduc, a VLD senator, cautioned that "the right to vote solves nothing" and it would actually be "deceiving immigrants" to grant them it. The senator is probably right that this proposal will not solve the economic and social difficulties encountered by many immigrants. However, it will send out a resounding vote of confidence in the immigrant community and will tell them that they are valued and equal members of society. Such an invitation to join the mainstream will also encourage young immigrants to take a more constructive and positive attitude towards their role in the community.

    Redefining Citizen X
    The question of immigrant voting rights is not exclusively a Belgian issue but has an international dimension. European countries and the United States are all grappling with this thorny issue. Italy is currently embroiled in row over whether or not to grant immigrants limited voting rights, which has provoked vocal opposition from the far-right Northern League. Across the Atlantic, local authorities in the United States are also struggling with the issue. New York is currently considering whether to allow green card holding foreign residents - who make up a significant percentage of the city's population - to vote in municipal elections. As a testimony to the increasingly cosmopolitan world in which we live, it is estimated that in the EU alone between 15 and 20 million people are legally resident but are not nationals of any of the 15 member states. With Europe's growing economic need for new blood to keep the economy turning and the welfare system alive for its ageing population, this trend is set to rise. Belgium and other parts of Europe need to learn from the lessons of previous large-scale post-war migrations. They need to address the frustration and marginalisation - and their attendant problems - currently felt by second and third-generation immigrants and avoid this occurring with more recent arrivals. The best way to do this is to regard immigrants as more than human resources and expand the definition of citizenship. In the more fluid times before the concept of the modern nation state took root, a citizen was simply the inhabitant of a city or a town who was free to take part in its civic life. Our overly restrictive definition of citizenry does not stand the test of the reality of the modern world. One day, in the not too distant future, countries will find themselves granting residents not only the right to vote in local elections but also in national ones. Despite the presence of the far right, Belgium has long been at the avant garde of European progressiveness and tolerance. In addition to being one of the founders of the EU, it has done much to give its minorities more rights, such as legalising gay marriages. Regardless of whether immigrants are 'aliens' or not, as productive members of society they have an inalienable right to be heard.
    ©Expatica News

    26/11/2003- In a bid to find more jobs for unemployed Dutch nationals, the Cabinet is considering closing the borders to East European workers for two years after the expansion of the European Union next year. A parliamentary majority has previously proposed refusing entry to workers from the new EU member states until 2006. Social Affairs State Secretary Mark Rutte has since lodged a formal proposal with the cabinet, which is expected to approve the plan later this week. But Rutte has also presented the cabinet with several alternatives. The first of which means the borders will be closed, but allows East European workers to obtain a work permit to enter the Netherlands if they have an employment contract, suggesting that they can be used if no Dutch nationals can be found for the work. A second alternative is to simply allow the free movement of labour from the East European countries — a strong principle of the EU — while the third option would be maintenance of stronger permit requirements. The state secretary has refused to give a preference for any of the alternatives. A parliamentary majority made up of the Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and populist LPF are concerned that the Netherlands will be inundated with cheap labour from countries such as Poland and Latvia, making it harder to find jobs for unemployed Dutch nationals. Cabinet CDA and VVD ministers are also concerned and believe that a two-year reprieve is necessary, but governing coalition partner Democrat D66 has its doubts, ANP reported. D66 Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst is in favour of the free movement of labour, while VVD Finance Minister Zalm has backed the temporary closure of Dutch borders, indicating that the cabinet is polarised on party lines. The number of EU member states will expand by 10 next year, and Germany and Austria have already resolved to close their borders for two years to East European workers. Other EU member states are considering following suit, RTL reported. The Dutch cabinet is expected to make a decision in favour of closing the nation's borders during its weekly meeting on Friday.
    ©Expatica News

    27/11/2003— Despite criticism and ongoing violent incidents, a special camp for unaccompanied underage asylum seekers (AMAs) will continue operation until at least the end of 2004. Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk is poised to advise the Cabinet of her plans to keep the Vught camp open at least one more year. A second camp at Deelen was scheduled to be closed on Thursday. A confidential memo newspaper De Volkskrant has obtained a copy of indicates that Minister Verdonk will maintain the present camp policy at Vught and that she is keen to gain more experience with AMA camps before a definitive evaluation is made. The camps have played a role in reducing the number of youth asylum seekers entering the Netherlands. A total of 6,705 applied for asylum in 2000, but just 1,019 have entered the nation in the first 10 months of this year. While Dutch authorities consider the fall in numbers a success, refugee organisations including Human Rights Watch (HRW), VON (Association of Refugee Organisations), VluchtelingenWerk (Dutch Refugee Council), NIDOS (organisation responsible for guardianship) and SAMAH (non-governmental support group) consider the price far too high.

    In a recent report sent to the UN Commission on the Rights of the Child, HRW investigations found "children's basic rights are frequently ignored or considered inapplicable during the consideration of their asylum and immigration applications". "It was surprising that the Dutch Government has gone so far out of bounds," says Julie Chadbourne, spokesperson for Human Rights Watch. "To be fair, maybe they didn't realise how far-reaching the consequences would be." The goal of the initially stringent AMA camps was to scare off young asylum seekers from travelling to the Netherlands. The Vught camp was opened in November 2002 and Deelen was opened in February 2003. The camps are designed to prepare the youths for a return to their land of origin. They were subjected to tough regulations modelled on rehabilitation programmes for young criminals, but eventual legal challenges and rebellious behaviour from the AMAs resulted in a relaxation of the regulations. Despite primary goal of returning them to their land of origin, only three asylum seeker camp residents have been sent home. The Deelen location has also been unpopular with the Ede municipality, which has protested about the camp, where 30 youths are kept. It demanded the camp be moved elsewhere due to permanent unrest among its residents. A large majority of the camp residents have already been transferred to other shelters and the remaining residents will be relocated on Thursday. The rental contract for the camp at Deelen had previously been terminated. But negotiations to re-sign a rental agreement at Vught continue and if the municipality refuses to grant the extension, Minister Verdonk will be forced to find another location. There are 150 AMAs in the Vught camp. A total of 16 Chinese youths were transferred to the Crailo asylum seeker centre recently after violence broke out between them and West African youths. A Chinese youth was stabbed in the fight. A large majority of the AMA youth come from Angola (137 in 2003 and 854 in 2002), but to prevent the arrival of more asylum seekers, the Netherlands has financed the establishment of an AMA shelter in the impoverished African country.
    ©Expatica News

    27/11/2003— Parliament is wary of a proposal to open up the market for integration courses, fearing that the Regional Training Centres (ROCs) — which presently have a monopoly in the sector — will suffer financially. Both MPs from coalition government parties Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD and the opposition parties expressed concern during a debate with Education State Secretary Annette Nijs on Wednesday. The ROCs in the four major Dutch cities raised alarm last week claiming that a planned EUR 57 million in government integration funding cuts and the removal of their monopoly will negatively impact turnover, meaning that investment in infrastructure and personnel will be hurt. The savings make up part of a record planned EUR 17 billion in budget cuts the CDA, VVD and Democrat D66 coalition Cabinet intends to make between now and 2007 to revitalise government finances. Despite the government's ongoing support for compulsory integration, the ROCs have been requested to tighten their belts also. But opposition party Labour PvdA warned of wasted investment should the ROCs — which already have several years experience in offering integration courses — lose out to other education institutes. The CDA and VVD urged Nijs to ensure that the ROCs — for which she is responsible — do not become victims of another department. The Justice Ministry supervises the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND), which together supervise integration and immigration policy. But Nijs said she would discuss with Integration Minister Rita Verdonk a "civil" introduction of market forces. She also said integration courses only yield the ROCs in the four major cities (Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague and Rotterdam) 5 percent of their turnover. The publicly-funded, ROCs presently have a monopoly on the provision of integration, or "inburgering", courses. Newly-arrived immigrants and those who have been in the Netherlands for some time are obligated to undergo a programme consisting of Dutch language and culture lessons. Anti-immigrant politician Pim Fortuyn attracted widespread support in claiming the Netherlands is full and urging the compulsory integration of immigrants. He was shot and killed in May 2002, but the integration remains a key component of government policy. Newcomers might soon be forced to undergo such studies in their land of origin before being allowed to enter the Netherlands. Successful participants will have the cost of their course repaid in full.
    ©Expatica News

    27/11/2003- The granddaughter of Italy's former fascist dictator Benito Mussolini is reported to be leaving the right-wing National Alliance party. Alessandra Mussolini is said to have made her decision after comments by Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini. Mr Fini, who leads the party in the governing coalition, denounced Italy's fascist past during a visit to Israel. Ms Mussolini said "what has been sanctioned is something incompatible with, and prejudicial to, my surname". Reuters news agency said party officials were meeting her in an effort to try to convince her to change her mind. She has said she will remain a member of the lower house Chamber of Deputies and join a group of non-aligned deputies. Mr Fini once described Benito Mussolini as the "greatest statesman of the 20th Century". But in Israel Mr Fini is reported to have described fascism as an absolute evil. In comments broadcast on Italian radio and television, he added that "laziness, indifference, complicity or cowardice ensured that so many Italians in 1938 did nothing to react to the appalling fascist race laws". The National Alliance is the successor to the neo-Fascist Italian Social Movement party, which was disbanded in the mid-1990s to form the new party.
    ©BBC News

    19/11/2003- Security services in various European countries have recently carried out major raids on neo-Nazi groups. Polish extremist groups in several cities are being investigated by the Internal Security Agency (ABW). The strike on neo-Nazis was conducted in several European countries. The extremists received their greatest blow from the British police. In October, the British arrested suspects, most of them members of the paramilitary group Combat 18 (the numbers 1 and 8 symbolize Adolph Hitler's initials). Around the same time, security services in Germany crushed a terrorist fraction of the group. The services found considerable amounts of weapons and explosives. The operation brought results in Poland as well. In late October, Polish special services received information from the British about an increased frequency of contacts between Polish and British neo-Nazis. What is certain is that Polish extremists published and distributed forbidden brochures and other materials. It is likely that in return, they received financial support, while members of Polish neo-Nazi groups were trained in Western Europe.

    Officers from the ABW searched nine locations in Warsaw, Cracow, Lublin and Lódz. Some of the addresses came from British police officers; the remaining ones were established during the investigation of Polish neo-Nazi circles. The key figures on the local fascist scene in Lublin were the K. brothers, sons of Tadeusz K., a professor at the Marie Curie-Sklodowska University (UMCS). Information from the operation shows that the men are the leaders of skinhead groups in Lublin and Swidnik. UMCS students who wish to remain anonymous say professor K. never concealed his resentment of foreigners, especially black people and Jews. According to the students, he would frequently digress during his lectures and speak about "foreigners destroying the Polish tradition." Questioned by journalists, he rejected all accusations, saying that neither he nor his sons had ever faced formal charges. So far, the rector of UMCS has not presented his stance on the issue, only saying that he is awaiting the results of the ABW's proceedings. Polish neo-Nazis are quite open in their views. They spread their ideology via the Internet. Polish Internet users have repeatedly advised the police and the prosecutor's office about websites that openly promote neo-Nazism, which, like in most European countries, is a penal offense in Poland. There is even a provision in the constitution banning such activities.
    ©The Warsaw Voice

    26/11/2003- A lawyer representing Ramin Sani, the Afghan man applying for asylum in Iceland, has written a letter to the Ministry of Justice suggesting that the Icelandic government is breaking international agreements by not granting Mr. Sani and his wife political asylum. "These people demanded a right which they have according to international agreements Iceland has signed. They were denied their rights," wrote attorney Katla Thorsteinsdóttir. The Office of Immigration has said that Mr. Sani does not meet the requirements for political asylum because the conditions in Afghanistan no longer merit asylum. Thorsteinsdóttir says that the couple, who have a brand new baby, have no job, no apartment and no medical insurance.
    ©Iceland Review

    20/11/2003- The Court of Szeged cut the financial compensation claim of two Roma men from Magyarcsanád in a recent ruling, from Ft2 million ($8,940) to Ft1.2 million ($5,364), explaining that the men were "more primitive than average". The compensation lawsuit had been launched by the two men after they had spent 15 months on remand in prison while a murder charge against them was being investigated. Miklós Gán, one of the men, told Hungarian news agency MTI, "No amount of money could compensate us for being locked up innocently. They drove us crazy…disgracing us." He said he had been crying a lot and lived on tranquilizers in the Szeged maximum security prison. They were arrested in 2001 after being accused of murdering a man whose body was found in a lake near Magyarcsanád. The police came across a young man who was believed to be in possession of the victim's shoes. It was on the basis of his testimony that the two Roma came under suspicion. The suspects denied having committed the crime and were finally acquitted in April 2002, partly because the young man had changed his testimony several times.

    Attila Harangozó, Chairman of the Court of Szeged, refuted press allegations that the decision to cut the amount of compensation was influenced by the fact that the plaintiffs are Roma, insisting that their ethnic origin was not even mentioned during the procedure. He added that the word "primitive" was not meant to label either man, but was simply quoted from a medical report. The lawyer of the two brothers accepted that the term "more primitive" may have come from a medical expert opinion courts usually use in crime cases in order to reveal the personality of the supposed perpetrators, but could not go along with the reasoning behind the ruling. "This [the report] should not have anything to do with the amount of money they should be paid as compensation," he insisted. Lawyer László Bihari at the Legal Protection Service for National and Ethnic Minorities also told The Budapest Sun the court had been mistaken to use an earlier medical report intended for entirely different purposes in a compensation case. Parliamentary commissioner for national and ethnic minority rights Jenô Kaltenbach refused to comment on the issue due to the lack of a binding verdict in the compensation case. According to his view, the key question is how strictly court practice sticks to the constitution, which stipulates that all citizens must be regarded as having the same level of dignity. In Parliament, Free Democrat Chairman Gábor Kuncze attacked what he saw as an escalation of discrimination against minorities and the spread of racism and intolerance. He also made reference to David Irving's recent remarks about Jewish pogroms in mtv show Éjjeli Menedék which "dishonored the memory of the 1956 Revolution".
    ©The Budapest Sun

    22/11/2003- The isolation, poverty and discrimination suffered by the three million Roma or gypsies of eastern and central Europe is about to land on the doorstep of the European Union as it takes in new members. Experts say those problems stem from the lack of education, or the poor quality of education available to the Roma. They have only a minute chance of entering higher education because of segregation from an early age, inferior schooling, absenteeism and, above all, their high drop-out rate. In Bulgaria, for example, Roma make up 20 percent of the children entering school at seven, but only two percent of students aged between 15 and 19 in secondary schools. "The education of the Roma is the key problem from which all their difficulties stem," said Mikhail Ivanov of the Bulgarian national council for ethnic and demographic questions. Segregation is a problem in all the countries, but the problems are particularly acute in Romania, which has a gypsy population of 1.5 million, of whom one in three are illiterate. "In many establishments I have visited recently, Roma children are made to study in separate classrooms that are often insalubrious," said Costel Bercus, of the Romani Criss association in Bucharest. "The decision to separate the Roma children from their Romanian comrades is taken by the school principals in violation of the law," he said. "They assign the children to classes according to the color of their skin." Bercus said a child constrained to study in one of the classrooms for Roma has "practically no chance of evolving and integrating into society."

    In the Czech republic, the Nova Skola (new school) association estimates 75 percent of Roma children are sent to special classes for problem children. In Bulgaria, Roma are sometimes sent to schools for the mentally retarded because they cannot speak the Bulgarian language, and about 70 percent are sent to inferior schools that have seen little improvement since Communist days. Under pressure from the EU to end such discrimination, countries claim to be making some effort to deal with the problem. The Romanian secretary of state for education, Gheorghe Sarau, says his country is one that offers Roma literature in schools, although there was no indication of how many students are taking the subject. The Hungarian government has promised to eliminate Roma-only classes by 2008. Bulgaria has promised to step up integration by creating mixed schools where Roma will form up to one third of the student body. The Czech republic is making scholarships available to Roma children who want to continue through high school. Here in Kosice, on the eastern fringe of what will be the enlarged EU next year, a couple of schools are trying to overcome the neglect and discrimination that surrounds the Roma by emphasizing their culture and teaching their language. "It is an experiment, since studies in the Roma language are still not accredited by the ministry of education," said Anna Koptova, principal of a private Roma school that opened in September, which seeks to help the Roma community break out of its isolation. "It is a standard school where Roma is studied as a foreign language," she added. "All the other subjects are taught in the Slovakian language." The school is financed by regional and national authorities. The government provides scholarships, while a Roma foundation pays the students' lodging and transportation costs.

    Koptova said the Roma community, which is expending at a rate far faster than the rest of the population, needs intellectuals, and the school here is a step in that direction. But so far, it has only 22 pupils. In Kosice, however, Roma make up about 70 percent of the 350-member student body at a secondary school specializing in the arts. The school emphasises two strong points of the Roma people, music and dance. "The Roma must start by having confidence in themselves," said teacher Ingrid Lucacova, 30, herself a member of the community. She said most students from outside the community are at first surprised to find that the Roma "have their own literary language, their culture and their history." The principal, Gejza Adam, described the place as a "school of tolerance where the majority cohabits with minorities." All the students, including those who are not gypsies, must learn the Roma language and study the culture and history of the community. "For me, the Roma culture is very important," said Tibor Mandy, 15, who dreams of becoming an actor. "I am proud of being a Roma." Adam said the ethnic tensions so much in evidence in Slovakia are absent at the school. The misty-eyed couples from different ethnic backgrounds who drift along the corridors in the breaks between classes seem to make the point for him. Zuzania Pavlickova, 17, a piano student, who is not a gypsy, said she wanted to know more about the Roma community. "And now I see that they don't all live like the Roma in the gypsy villages," she said. In fact, the desperate poverty of the villages, which often lack water and electricity, contributes to the negative image of the Roma community and further contributes to its isolation.

    21/11/2003- The European Union's racism watchdog has shelved a report on anti-semitism because the study concluded Muslims and pro-Palestinian groups were behind many of the incidents it examined. The Vienna-based EUropean Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia(EUMC) decided in February not to publish the 112-page study, a copy of which was obtained by the Financial Times, after clashing with its authors over their conclusions. The news comes amid growing fears that there is an upsurge of anti-semitism in European Union countries. Among many recent incidents, a Jewish school near Paris was firebombed last Saturday, the same day two Istanbul synagogues were devastated by suicide truck bombs that killed 25 and wounded 300. Turkey, which hopes to join the EU, suffered again at the hands of what are believed to be al-Qaeda inspired terrorists on Thursday with truck bomb attacks on British targets. Following a spate of incidents in early 2002, the EUMC commissioned a report from the Centre for Research on Anti-semitism at Berlin's Technical University. When the researchers submitted their work in October last year, however, the centre's senior staff and management board objected to their definition of anti-semitism, which included some anti-Israel acts. The focus on Muslim and pro-Palestinian perpetrators, meanwhile, was judged inflammatory. "There is a trend towards Muslim anti-semitism, while on the left there is mobilisation against Israel that is not always free of prejudice," said one person familiar with the report. "Merely saying the perpetrators are French, Belgian or Dutch does no justice to the full picture." Some EUMC board members had also attacked part of the analysis ascribing anti-semitic motives to leftwing and anti-globalisation groups, this person said. "The decision not to publish was a political decision."

    The board includes 18 members - one for each member state, the European Commission, Parliament, and the council of Europe - as well as 18 deputies. One deputy, who declined to be named, confirmed the directors had seen the study as biased. In July, Robert Wexler, a US congressman, wrote to Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, demanding the release of the study. Ole Espersen, law professor at Copenhagen University and board member for Denmark, said the study was "unsatisfactory" and that some members had felt anti-Islamic sentiment should be addressed too. The EUMC, which was set in 1998, has published three reports on anti-Islamic attitudes in Europe since the September 11 attacks in the US. Beate Winkler, a director, said the report had been rejected because the initial time scale included in the brief - covering the period between May and June 2002 - was later judged to be unrepresentative. "There was a problem with the definition [of anti-semitism] too. It was too complicated," she said. This week, Silvan Sha lom, Israel's foreign minister, proposed a joint ministerial council to fight what Israel sees as a rise in European anti-semitism.
    ©The Financial Times

    24/11/2003- Members of the European parliament are urging the publication of a report on anti-Semitism in the European Union buried by the EU's racism watchdog after the latter clashed with the authors of the study. The existence of the 112-page report, commissioned early last year by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), was revealed in Saturday's Financial Times. The EUMC's management board decided in February to shelve the study by the Centre for Research on Anti- Semitism (ZfA) at Berlin's Technical University after the authors concluded Muslims and pro-Palestinian groups were behind many incidents they examined. Beate Winkler, director of EUMC, said last week the paper had been rejected because the Berlin academics had been commissioned to study only the period between May and June 2002 - a time-scale later judged unrepresentative. In a letter to US congressmen who had enquired about the EU's apparent reluctance to release the study, Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, wrote that the work had failed to meet "general quality standards". In his letter, dated July 29 and obtained by the FT, Mr Solana wrote, "I have been informed that the draft report in question, as has been the case with a number of other reports, did not meet the criteria of consistency and quality of data." Juliane Wetzel, from the ZfA, yesterday rejected this interpretation, saying: "The study put the EUMC in a difficult situation because it singled out the group [young Muslims], which they [the EUMC] seek to protect. They refused to publish it because it clashed with political correctness." Armin Laschet, a German Christian Democratic member of the European parliament, yesterday told Financial Times Deutschland, the FT's sister newspaper, he would demand the European Commission publish the report without delay. "The grounds given so far [for not publishing the report] are not objective grounds. The fight against anti-Semitism must be conducted in a systematic way and not according to leftwing-rightwing considerations."
    ©The Financial Times

    Report to be published in early 2004

    26/11/2003- The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) rejected allegations contained in articles by the Financial Times dated 22/23 November and 24 November that it had "shelved a report on anti-Semitism in Europe because the study concluded that Muslims and pro-Palestinian groups were behind many of the incidents". The EUMC is in fact continuing its research on anti-Semitism and will publish the results early next year.

    "The EUMC is an independent body which places utmost importance on the quality, integrity and credibility of its research", said Bob Purkiss, Chair of the EUMC Management Board. "In this case, the Management Board, whose members are independent experts in the field of racism and xenophobia, considered the work undertaken by the contractors to be of poor quality and lacking in empirical evidence. I deeply regret that a collective decision of the Board, based purely on the insufficient quality of the work carried out by the Berlin Centre for Research on Anti-Semitism, has been used to discredit the important work which the EUMC has to do in the fight against racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Europe. The EUMC remains 100% committed to its ongoing research on anti-Semitism and all forms of racism and intolerance. This is why we are continuing our work on anti-Semitism and why we plan to launch the results of our research early next year". Mr Purkiss stated further that the Berlin Centre had presented some aspects of its work to representatives of Jewish organizations at an EU Round Table on anti-Semitism in December 2002, where the definition used for anti-Semitism had not received unanimous backing.

    On the question of identifying perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts, the Director, Beate Winkler, stated that "the EUMC has no difficulty in providing such information where it was substantiated. The EUMC is equally not in the business of stigmatising whole communities on the basis of the actions of racist individuals. Inaccurate information only provides further evidence of an attempt to discredit the EUMC. I have personally addressed this issue in speeches and interviews. Misleading information in the press may also further increase a sense of vulnerability and fear within the Jewish community and a feeling of their concerns being ignored."

    The EUMC report on anti-Semitism, which will be published in the 1st quarter of 2004, will be based on data and information collected by its network in all 15 EU Member States over 2002 and 2003. The report will also be based on a series of personal interviews currently being undertaken with representatives of Jewish communities across Europe. "Through our study we aim to contribute in a meaningful way to the debate on anti-Semitism in Europe and to put forward recommendations for fighting anti-Semitism effectively", said Purkiss.

    24/11/2003- The U.N. refugee agency on Monday slammed European Union proposals for asylum-seekers, saying they would not achieve the intended goal of harmonising treatment across the 15-nation bloc and could violate international law. In one of his fiercest attacks on the EU over asylum, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ruud Lubbers said the plan was so flawed that it might be better to withdraw it and wait for a "more propitious" moment to produce another. "I fear this directive will be reduced to a catalogue of optional provisions, including significant departures from accepted international refugee and human rights law," he said in a letter to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency. Asylum is a hot political topic in Europe and right-wing parties have used the issue of illegal immigration to make electoral gains. The UNHCR has long backed harmonising EU asylum rules so that those seeking protection know their rights. But over half of EU members have introduced new regulations, mainly aimed at curbing illegal immigration and asylum requests, since the drive to set EU-wide rules began, human rights sources say. UNHCR took particular aim at the draft's idea for so-called safe countries to which would-be asylum-seekers could be returned or even in some cases sent if their own country was not safe. It also objected to proposals allowing EU states to expel rejected asylum-seekers before their appeals are heard. In Brussels, a spokesman for EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino said the EU executive shared some of UNHCR's concerns and promised that no law would be passed that "contradicts...basic human rights standards."

    Deterioration of Standards
    The draft, debated by EU ministers for over a year, sets out 15 circumstances under which an asylum-seeker could be expelled before his or her appeal had been heard. The Geneva-based agency noted that in 30-60 percent of cases where asylum is granted because the applicant is seen to have refugee status -- meaning that he or she runs the risk of persecution at home -- this was only done on appeal. The possible forced return of people before their appeals are heard "would mark a serious deterioration of standards in most EU states and greatly increase the probability of a miscarriage of justice," Lubbers wrote. Lubbers warned that such a "serious lowering of standards by the EU would have serious repercussions elsewhere in the world", undermining UNHCR's attempts to strengthen refugee protection in the regions where most of them originate. Around three-quarters of the 20 million people of concern to UNHCR -- refugees, internally displaced people and asylum-seekers -- live in developing countries. Rights group Amnesty International welcomed Lubbers' letter, saying it also preferred to see the proposals scrapped rather than a continued erosion of the rights of refugees in Europe. The EU has set itself a year-end deadline for agreement on new rules for asylum procedures, initially put forward by the EU Commission, its executive arm. But talks between member states have been bogged down by a lack of will to change country laws.

    28/11/2003- Plans for common EU rules on asylum were yesterday shelved for a few months due to reservations from Member States and after concerns were expressed that the current text could violate international law. "The time is not yet right to move to a definitive approval of the document", Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said yesterday, adding that the next deadline for the ministers to approve plans for a common asylum policy is now May 2004. The United Nations Refugee Agency warned the Union on Monday that plans currently on the table could result in a substantial deterioration in standards for refugee protection. It also said that under the proposals, asylum seekers, including refugees, may be sent to countries with insufficient guarantees for their effective protection. "The battle is passed to the Irish Presidency", Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino said. The Italian Presidency's experts and EU ambassadors were working late into Wednesday night on this directive, but were unable to overcome Member State's reservations. "When the Italian Presidency inherited the document there were 239 reservations and now there are only 37", Mr Pisanu said. "It's reasonable to assume that the next Presidency will actually be able to deal with the remaining reservations by May".

    Political reservations
    The directive, which aims to harmonise procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status, is being held up due to reservations on the concept of the "safe third countries". This concept would allow EU states to send asylum seekers to specific third countries, deemed to be generally "safe", if the asylum seeker has passed through these countries on their way to their final destination. The idea in itself has not been fully endorsed by the EU ministers and it is still unclear whether there would be a list of such countries. Yet more progress was made on the "safe countries of origin" list, where if an asylum-seeker originates from a country on the list deemed to be safe, his or her claim for asylum in an EU state could be rejected or granted by an accelerated procedure. "There is agreement on a group of countries and then there is another group which still has to be examined by the Member States' experts", Commissioner Vitorino said. Another point of contention is the right of appeal for an applicant, which as the text currently stands, would allow the person to be deported before asylum appeals have been carried out. The Commission indicated that it has reservations on the issue of appeals. "The directive in its current form does not get our agreement on that specific section of the text", Mr Vitorino said. The UNHCR is expected to put forward new proposals on the table next spring.

    By A. E. Huggett

    27/11/2003- In his 1964 seminal work, Understanding Media, media analyst Marshall Mcluhan coined his famously cryptic line of "The Medium is the Message" whereby to the popular mind he sounded incredibly deep and totally shallow all at once. However, his message of how media affects culture and society is even more relevant today given the dominance of the Web on mass communications, commerce, and the free and unregulated exchange of information world wide. The Web can literally be seen as the physical manifestation of Carl Jung's Collective Subconscious whereby if it's been thought, it has a Web page. For the average, non-technical user the terms Web and Internet are exchangeable although the Web is a sub-division of the Internet. There are five divisions of the Internet: email, ftp (file transfer protocol), telnet, the Web, and I forget the last division but no, it's not spam, porno, or pop-ups. Unfortunately, international socialism, as evidenced by the unelected bureaucrats of the EU is using the pornography excuse along with race hate and religious intolerance to censor and control what's on the Internet.

    Over in Euroland the Euro-socialists are seriously going about establishing a real censorship not seen since Hitler's Third Reich; perhaps it's not a coincidence that in the UK, among certain conservative circles, the EU is often referred to as the Fourth Reich. The EU just passed an amendment to their Convention on Cybercrime that outlaws any speech these thought crime specialists deem as "any written material, any image or any other representation of ideas or theories, which advocates, promotes or incites hatred, discrimination or violence, against any individual or group of individuals, based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, as well as religion if used as pretext for any of these factors." If passed into law by the various national legislatures which comprise the EU, online books, such as Oriana Fallaci's The Rage and Pride, which is an honest and impassioned examination of Islamic immigration into the West or even The Bible, which is examined and reproduced extensively on the Web, could be deemed "hate speech" by Muslims in France and homosexual activists in the UK respectively. Any site which tries to honestly discuss and debate illegal immigration, the Iraqi War, cultural clashes, homosexuality, Israel's right to existance, or even conservatism itself can be declared a hate site. In the EU, as in any socialist society, politically correct speech shifts constantly as expediency, vengence, and fashion dictate. A year before this Convention on Cybercrime amendment was proposed, British server companies anticipated the coming censorship and started pressuring sites whose contents made them nervous. Web sites devoted to nostalgia, which carry the innocently charming children's books by Helen Bannerman or items about Golliwogs, felt the heat. Now, according to EU censors, even suspect or disapproved of links on a Web page devoid of what the Brussels bureacrats deem inflammatory can get the original site in trouble.

    This is the same mind set that passed an anti-blasphemy law in regards to itself in 1999 making it a crime to criticize or mock the EU. (Blasphemy according to the EU is extreme if you even dare criticize its monetary policies.) Whether the speech and thought crime inspectors of the EU will apply the Cybercrime amendment to all sites equally is open to speculation. Non-white ethnic groups are deemed incapable of being bigoted among the politically correct even though that is a universal human emotion. Asian Indians, as well as ancient Greek artifacts, use a decorative symbol of Life often mistaken for a swastika and censoring this symbol because it is similar to the nazi symbol would cause diplomatic and educational nightmares. Any objection to illegal immigration is tagged "xenophobic" and perfectly decent people of good will have been called "racists" for daring to question non-European cultural practices. Historians and history buffs could face the charge of racism and nazism if they collect WWII memorabilia. The EU also demanded that American sites follow suit even though our freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment. That means if an EU Web site carries links to American sites, which carry information or images of which the EU censors do not approve, that EU site can be punished. According to the Committee of Ministers responsible for this amendment, "The emergence of international communication networks like the Internet provide certain persons with modern and powerful means to support racism and xenophobia and enables them to disseminate easily and widely expressions containing such ideas. In order to investigate and prosecute such persons, international cooperation is vital."

    In 2000 French anti-racist groups demanded that Yahoo! remove Nazi memerobilia from its auction site because while the sales were aimed at American buyers from an American site, the objects themselves were still accessible to French Web surfers. An American judge, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, ruled that Yahoo! was an American site protected by the First Amendment and did not have to bow to European demands. Yahoo! lawyer, Mary Catherine Worth's three year old comments are still valid today when she said, "This has very broad implications for everyone, not only companies but also for individuals who operate Web pages here in the United States. Today the judge basically said it was not consistent with the laws of the United States for another nation to regulate speech for a U.S. resident within the United States." It's now three years later and that ruling still rankles the Europeans who are gearing up to block American sites much as China and Cuba do. According to Spanish Internet lawyer, Carlos Sánchez Almeida, "If European countries adopt the (anti-racism) amendment of the European Council in their legislatures, they'll also be able to block websites from the U.S.A., despite the First Amendment. Spain has already passed its own laws which allow their censors to block American sites which they deem non-compliant with their national laws. While the First Amendment is jealously guarded in the US, it should be remembered that in these last three years liberal judicial activism from local courts all the way up to the US Supreme Court has infected recent decisions. Associate Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is even on record saying that globalism is the driving force in his decisions in bringing American Constitutional law into line with foreign, ie. European laws. While it would not be easy to skirt the First Amendment, it could be done obliquely by putting the same pressure on server companies as experienced in the UK. As the Belgian lawyer for the Electronic Privacy and Information Center, Cedric Laurant, theorized, "This could lead to a clash of cultures. What will happen if the French police start asking local U.S. police to give them information about the people running a site?"
    ©American Daily

    26/11/2003- Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel has lost his bid to be released from prison while his immigration case is heard. Zundel's lawyers had argued in Superior Court that his continued detention was a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and also challenged the validity of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Ontario Superior Court Justice Mary Lou Benotto ruled Tuesday in favour of the Crown, which had sought a stay of proceedings on the grounds the matter should be dealt with in Federal Court. Zundel's lawyer, Peter Lindsay, said his client is disappointed with the decision. All Canadians should be concerned that the Immigration and Refugee Act allows people to be "incarcerated in solitary confinement for months or years without ever being accused of a crime,'' Lindsay said in a statement late Tuesday. In her decision Tuesday, Benotto wrote: "This court declines jurisdiction and grants the Crown's motion. "The application here is an attempt to bypass the comprehensive statutory scheme and usurp a process currently underway,'' said Benotto. "The applicant has not met the test to have this court assume jurisdiction and it would be inappropriate to do so.''

    Zundel, who has no criminal record in Canada and is not facing any charges, has been in solitary confinement since February after being deported to Canada for overstaying a visitor's visa in the United States. He is being held in jail on a security certificate while the courts determine whether he is a security risk to Canada and should be deported to his native Germany. The detention review to determine whether Zundel, 64, is a risk to Canadian security is scheduled to resume Dec. 10. When he was jailed in February, Zundel applied for refugee status in Canada. He was denied release by the Immigration and Refugee Board three times before Ottawa suspended the application May 2, one day after the security certificate was issued. Zundel, who has lived in Canada since 1958, fled to Tennessee to be with his wife before a January 2002 ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Commission that a website he controls spreads anti-Semitic messages. He remains in solitary confinement at Toronto's Metro West Detention Centre.

    Poll underlines urgency of anti-discrimination bill

    11/11/2003- Greeks found guilty of discriminating against religious or ethnic groups will face up to a year in prison under legislation presented by the Athens government in attempts to quash a rise in racist incidents. The measure, included in a new anti-discrimination law, follows a rash of confrontations with the growing immigrant population. One attack prompted a protest by Pakistani migrants in Athens. "This is a law whose aim is to try to guarantee the equal treatment of all people," said the justice minister, Philippos Petsalnikos. "More work needs to be done to ensure the smooth integration of immigrant communities." The bill, which aims to bring Greece in line with EU anti-discrimination standards, is expected to be approved by the Socialist-dominated parliament before the end of the year. Coming on the day in which the Simon Wiesenthal Centre issued a travel advisory to Jews thinking of visiting Greece in the wake of a spate of anti-semitic incidents, the poll revealed evidence of Greeks being the most xenophobic people in Europe. The poll, commissioned by the European Social Survey, showed most Greeks believed immigrants caused unemployment. More than 79% said they should be deported if caught committing a crime. By contrast, only 41% of Britons held the same views. More than 10% of Greece's 11 million-strong population are thought to be immigrants. Although the vast majority are Albanians, increasing numbers have begun to arrive, illegally, from the developing world.

    With Greece's proximity to the Middle East, most say they see the country as the easiest backdoor entrance to Fortress Europe. But human rights activists say "institutionalised intolerance" is such that the state has failed to assimilate the immigrants adequately, despite pledges to give many of them work and residence permits. The new law follows a rash of embarrassing incidents over the treatment of immigrants, including the refusal of state-run hospitals to offer them healthcare. While the media, politicians and church leaders regularly indulge in racist invective, classified ads in Athens frequently state "no foreigners" for home rentals. An Albanian boy, whose top grades had earned him the right to carry the Greek flag at a national parade, was prevented from doing so after nationalist protests. At least 25% of pupils in Greek schools are believed to be the children of immigrants, according to polls. Last week the Pakistani owner of a video store was badly beaten, along with a Pakistani bystander, by about 20 youths on motorcycles outside his Athens shop. The xenophobic attitudes have been increasingly blamed on the absence of a civil society in Greece and the lack of an anti-racist education in a country where children are still taught to take immense pride in their "ethnic purity". "It's not that Greeks are implicitly racist, they have just never been taught anything different," said Panayote Dimitras of the the Greek Helsinki Monitor. "Greece is at the point where most democratic European countries were before the second world war." While human rights groups welcomed the anti-discrimination bill, they questioned whether the country's ultraconservative judges and prosecutors would be prepared to implement it. "It's an important step but by itself it means nothing if the courts don't change their mentality and are allowed to ignore it with impunity," Mr Dimitras said.

    Immigrants under siege

  • Many villages impose night-time curfews on immigrants' movements, with some communities setting up vigilante groups to enforce the restrictions. There have also been incidents of border guards shooting at Albanians trying to enter the country
  • Greek newspapers often carry anti-semitic, anti-Albanian and anti-immigrant letters and headlines. Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated. Greece's 120,000-strong Turkish Muslim minority often complains of discrimination
  • Courts invariably refuse to prosecute cases involving racial hatred or incitement to violence
  • Hospitals regularly refuse to treat immigrants
  • Immigrant school children - accounting for 25% of pupils across Greece - are not allowed to take lead roles in national parades
    ©The Guardian

    14/11/2003- Germany is planning to build a memorial to commemorate the thousands of homosexuals persecuted under the Nazis. The memorial should complement a monument to the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust. "Homosexual victims of Nazism have been given too little attention in the past in Germany's culture of remembrance," said a government statement. The monument, planned for Berlin, will serve as a warning against the discrimination of gays and lesbians. Despite passing the Lower House culture committee, the project to build the gay victims memorial is still opposed by the conservative opposition Christian Democrats.

    Pink triangle
    The Nazi persecution of gays began in 1935, when all male homosexual activity was declared a crime. Gay clubs were raided, and homosexuals were forced to wear a pink triangle. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 of them were deported to concentration camps, where most of them died. Fifty thousand more were convicted as criminals. In the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen, near Berlin, living conditions for homosexuals were particularly harsh. Many were castrated or sterilised - their sexual orientation was seen as a threat to the purity of the Arian race. The Austrian Heinz Heger, who joined the camp in 1939, wrote: "Jews, gays and gypsies were the inmates who were most often abused and beaten by SS police and Kapos. "They were called the scum of society, who did not have the right to live on German soil, and therefore had to be exterminated. "But the last scum of this scum, that was us, the men with the pink triangle." The discrimination law against gays, paragraph 175 of the penal code, remained in force until 1957 in Eastern Germany and 1969 in Western Germany - a fact that prevented many from coming forward when WWII ended. A formal pardon for homosexuals convicted under the Nazis was issued by the German parliament only last year.
    ©BBC News

    14/11/2003– Controversy surrounding the issue of non-European immigrant voting rights in Belgian regional elections continued at the Senate Thursday, when parties opposed to the move delayed a vote on the policy proposal. The Flemish Liberals (VLD), Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V) and far-right Flemish extremist party the Vlaams Blok asked for the scheduled vote to be taken after a vote on the issue in a plenary session. The Senate agreed to the three-party request, delaying a result on the issue yet again. Another delay tactic employed by the Flemish parties against immigrant voting rights Thursday was filibustering, where the Vlaams Blok repeated word for word interventions from last week and the VLD spoke endlessly on the issue of Thailand's economic situation. Earlier, the VLD asked that the Ministry for the Interior supply detailed information on all of the 150,000 non-European foreigners who were refused naturalisation in Belgium, and why that permission was blocked. With each new time-wasting obstacle, the Commission has been forced to vote on the request before moving on. A survey by French-speaking daily Le Soir suggests 55 percent of Belgians are in favour of voting rights for non-EU citizens. It is estimated there are currently about 216,00 non-EU immigrants living in Belgium.
    ©Expatica News

    14/11/2003— The political party created by a city councillor expelled from Pim Fortuyn's Leefbaar Rotterdam (LR) for flirting with the extreme right would win six seats in the national Parliament if a general election was held now, according to a new poll. Despite the fact that 75 percent of people questioned said they had not heard of Michiel Smit, 8 percent said they would consider voting for his Nieuw Rechts, or New Right, party, news agency Novum reports. One percent of respondents said they would definitely vote for the party and 61 percent said they agreed with the party's call for guest workers to be repatriated to their home countries. It is unclear, however, if they would be in favour of this applying to the original guest workers of the 1950s, most of whom came from Italy and Spain, as well as later Turkish arrivals. Anti-immigration campaigner Pim Fortuyn emerged as a dominant force in Dutch politics last year. His LR city party took more than 30 percent of the vote in Rotterdam in the local election on 6 March 2002 and, despite the loss of Smit and two other councillors, it remains the leading element of Rotterdam Council's governing coalition.

    Fortuyn's national LPF party rocketed to power two months later with 26 MPs after Fortuyn was assassinated nine days before the general election on 15 May 2002. Due to internal wrangling, the LPF was dropped by its Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD partners 87 days into the life of the national coalition government. The LPF has always denied that Pim Fortuyn's tough stance on immigration was helping to popularise extreme right-wing policies in the Netherlands. Michiel Smit sits alone in the Rotterdam Council after he was ejected from the populist LR party in February because of his links to the extreme right Vlaamse Bloc in Belgium. He has hosted a working visit by Filip de Winter, the leader of the extreme Flemish party. Smit's party says it is willing to work with like-minded groups, but denies it is closely associated with the Nieuwe Nationale Partij (NNP), a party which opposes multiculturalism. The NNP denies in turn that it is a fascist or racist party, but admits some of its members used to belong to the extreme right Central Democrat CD party, which no longer officially exists. Smit is alleged to have made several racist remarks in relation to immigrants while a councillor for the LR party. The comment most often ascribed to him by his opponents is: "There is one thing worse than a Nigger, a white Nigger!".

    This refers to his alleged distaste at the way many native Dutch teens in Rotterdam have adopted the language, dress style and language common upon young, non-white immigrants in the city. White teens who behave in this way are sometimes disparagingly described as "whiggers", often on websites run by neo-Nazis. Smit claims that he is being unfairly portrayed by the media and anti-fascist groups in the Netherlands. Responding to the latest poll, Smit said: "It is clear that we will be represented in Parliament after the next general election".
    ©Expatica News

    There is something about the surface fix, single-mindedness of Dutch policies in relation to immigration and asylum that has a similar flavour and texture to the US war on drugs, and sometimes appears to stigmatise immigrants and asylum seekers in an almost criminal, interlopers light. But, as Freelance Mindy Ran discovered, most political parties in the Netherlands don't want to discuss the issue.

    12/11/2003- Recent statistics show that 48 percent of immigrants living in the Netherlands believe there are too many immigrants, a view backed by 65 percent of the native Dutch. If it were only as simple as too many people in a small space, perhaps the answers could be simpler too. But the statistical question of how many people can be sustained within any given geographic area is far more complex to answer. At play are a heady brew of societal influences that can have an impact on pure statistics: attitudes to race, new cultures, pressures like unemployment and inflation, feelings of security and participation, and the ability of support structures to function – to name just a few. The statistics quoted above can also show the way the issues are being oversimplified by both the Government and the bulk of the media. The attitude appears to be: if we don't talk about it too much, or look at the issues too critically, we can avoid challenging often hidden, preconceived notions that are simply easier to recycle and reinforce. There are also reports that suggest that life for "legal" immigrants is getting easier and the feelings of personal discrimination are dropping. But, the gap between those on the inside looking out and those on the outside looking in, is getting very wide. In an effort to begin to understand these issues, seven questions were posed to the following political parties: Labour PvdA, the Christian Democrat CDA, Democrat D66, Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF), and for the voice of those directly affected; the Association of Refugee Organisations VON. The CDA and D66 are currently in a coalition government with the Liberal VVD party and are involved in shaping the current get-tough policies on immigration. However, representatives of the two parties failed, for one reason or another, to answer the questions. The main opposition party, Labour PvdA, also dodged the issue, citing a sick press office for its inability to reply despite being given a month to do so. The reluctance of the three parties to discuss the issue is dealt with in an earlier feature entitled "a not so divine comedy."

    Erik Schreijen of the populist LPF party, founded by murdered anti-immigration populist Pim Fortuyn, did respond, as Peter Abspoel of the Dutch Association of Refugee Organisations VON.

    MR: Do you believe that the increasing number of immigrants/newcomers/refugees is fundamentally changing the nature of Dutch society? If so, give examples.

    LPF: Yes, we do think so. You only have to point out the bad position of a lot of women in Islamic families to see that. Recently, a Turkish girl was shot by her father because she had dated a boy. We have imported these customs as a result of immigration of a lot of people from culturally-backward countries. Because of that Holland is now confronted with problems we thought we got rid of: suppressing and beating of women, discrimination of homosexuals, etc.
    VON: It is certain that among parts of the native Dutch population attitudes towards newcomers have changed. The influx of newcomers is in itself changing the composition of the Dutch population. I think the determining factor here, and the relatively new phenomenon, is the fear for the consequences of globalization. This is rationalized by pointing out differences in culture, and especially religion that could lead to clashes or tensions. But I think that behind it all, is the fear that the West is not able to maintain a worldwide proletariat. UN Treaties and agreements, such as the Geneva Convention, stress the importance of providing basic care and humane treatment, as well as basic human rights, for all people. The Netherlands, along with other European countries, has signed these agreements which all share the criteria that asylum seekers are people first and seeking asylum second. Many of the Refugee Organisations, including Human Rights Watch, claim that by focusing the arguments on numbers, many of the primary criteria of these treaties are being overrun.

    MR: What is the most important criteria in terms of asylum and immigration policies for your party or organisation?

    VON: The primary criterion should always be that those who are in need of protection should not be refused.
    LPF: To get into Holland you must be a political refugee. Traumas etc. shouldn't get you in. We want to propose a quota-system for Holland whereby we can limit the amount of refugees we can accept.

    MR: Are you happy with the way Accelerated procedure works? Why or why not?

    LPF: Yes, the AC procedure is fast. Which is good for both the asylum seeker and the Netherlands.
    VON: We are not happy at all. It is a fiction that a decent submission of an asylum claim, let alone a decent judgment of a claim, could take place within such a short space of time. This view is corroborated by Human Rights Watch and researcher Nienke Doornbos for the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). It is necessary to stress that the consequences of the AC procedure are a violation of the non-refoulment principle (not returning a person to their home where their life or safety might be threatened) of the Geneva Convention, and is possible because of the rulings of the Council of State. Also, proof that supports one's asylum claim, which could not be obtained during the AC procedure, are not taken into consideration during any appeal phase. So, the majority of asylum seekers that are put through the AC procedure find themselves in a Catch 22 situation.

    MR: Do you agree there should be quotas on immigrants or refugees in cities as the Leefbaar Rotterdam party has suggested? Why or why not?

    VON: I don't think it would be a good thing to throw overboard the principle that authorities should not discriminate.
    LPF: Ref. our answer to question 2.

    MR: How do you feel the Netherlands compares to other European countries in terms of their treatment of asylum seekers and immigrants?

    LPF: The Netherlands is a small country, with the highest population density in the EU.
    VON:In most European countries asylum seekers aren't exactly welcome. But I think that in recent years, we've become champions in denying the truth about the working of the system we have created. If you are expelled by the system, you are not only denied elementary provisions; you are considered, at least by the authorities, to be non-existent. This unwillingness to see the human consequences of a 'successful' policy, is rather striking.

    MR: What is your party's or organisations stance on the withdrawal of benefits for long-term immigrants that cannot pass the Dutch Inburgering or integration test?

    VON: It is harsh to punish people unless you have proof that their failing to comply is deliberate; here failure is possible due to many circumstances that are not within the control of the individuals concerned.
    LPF: Immigrants that have not put enough effort into acquiring our language and our values cannot logically apply for the benefits of the society that is built on these values.

    MR: What is your response to the report by Human Rights Watch report on the Netherlands policies?

    LPF: The Netherlands is a humane country, distributing its money around the world for better human rights. The LPF thinks the conclusions of the Human Rights Watch don't do justice to this position. The Dutch government is and always will be the guardian of human rights in the world and especially in its own country.
    VON: It is sad that it had to come to this. We agree with the conclusion that the present refugee regime constitutes a breach of international human rights standards. What I do know, is that certain parliamentarians were very unhappy about the fact that the Human Rights Watch report on Dutch asylum policy got into the hands of CNN editors. Some thought we had given it to them.

    Many Dutch politicians probably feel that they are treated unfairly by foreign media (who do not shun qualifications like 'extreme right' because they still suppose they are ahead of others, on the humanitarian field, and only have lost something of their lead. What they fail to register, is that in their attempt to reform the practice, they have not only sacrificed some key values, but are actually offering them as a sacrifice for the public. It is this action, I think, that mainly stands out in an international context.
    ©Expatica News

    17/11/2003- A Labour PvdA MP has demanded answers from Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk in response to claims that rejected asylum seekers are being detained much longer than intended at a Rotterdam deportation centre. Lawyers with the Dutch Refugee Council (Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland) claimed on Sunday in the IKON radio programme The other World that rejected refugees are waiting much longer than the 28 days for their deportation. The refugees are detained in small, allegedly dark cells and the refugee council claimed a mother and a child had been detained at the centre — located at the Rotterdam Airport — for three months, Dutch associated press ANP reported. PvdA MP Jeroen Dijsselbloem said that Minister Verdonk recently promised that children would only be detained at the centre for a maximum of one and half days. "The minister has incorrectly informed us. In reality, the policy is different. That is unacceptable. It looks like we have created a kind of Guatanamo Bay in the Netherlands," he said. Guatanamo Bay is a US prison camp in Cuba that presently houses terrorism suspects. The jail has been the subject of much criticism, the most recent of which came from the International Committee of the Red Cross. But a spokeswoman for the minister said no one is being held longer than a month at the Rotterdam centre. She also said detained refugees get sufficient daylight in their cell and are occasionally allowed outside. The spokeswoman said the mother and child that Dijsselbloem referred to will soon be transferred. The MP has demanded that refugees who are detained too long, be transferred to better accommodation within the refugee detention system while they await deportation. The Netherlands has witnessed a sharp decline in asylum seekers entering the country in recent years after sharpening its entry regulations. Furthermore, it is also in favour of refugees seeking shelter in countries neighbouring the land of origin. But the government is also poised to offer an amnesty to asylum seekers who have been in the country for five years or more but are still waiting for a definite decision over the asylum request. Amid criticism allegedly a too narrow scope, the amnesty will give about 2,200 refugees are a residence permit.
    ©Expatica News

    The Netherlands has allowed same-sex marriages for 2-1/2 years. The change hasn't roiled the nation, but some issues are unresolved.
    By Marilyn Gardner, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

    20/11/2003- A week before Christmas in 2001, Anne Kester and Bernadette Meerdink entered the city hall in Nymegen, Netherlands, for an event they had long hoped for. At 4 p.m., in the presence of more than 40 relatives and friends, the two women exchanged marriage vows and wedding rings. "Getting married means that things are legal, and you are protected by the law," says Ms. Kester. She and Ms. Meerdink had lived together for almost eight years before the ceremony. The Netherlands lifted a ban on same-sex marriage in April 2001, a move that gives the country the longest track record in the world with an issue that is now roiling public debate in the United States. On Tuesday, the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts ruled that gay couples have a right, under the state constitution, to marry, and it told the legislature to change state law accordingly.

    What the Dutch experience shows
    More than two years after the Dutch parliament legalized gay marriage, what lessons does the move hold for other nations? One is that most gay couples will not rush to exchange marriage vows just because they can. An estimated 4,312 gay and lesbian couples married in the Netherlands in 2001 and 2002 - about 2.5 percent of all marriages performed during that time, by one expert's count. Another is that Europe's nation-by- nation (and America's state-by-state) approach to gay unions is producing a patchwork of varying laws that complicate legal and family issues. Another potential problem after gay marriage has become legal is deciding the rights of those who perform wedding ceremonies. Can they refuse to marry homosexual couples because of their religious beliefs? The Netherlands is now in the throes of sorting through some of these questions, an indication that ending the ban on same-sex marriage does not put an end to issues surrounding the debate. In the Netherlands, a secular society that has long been in the vanguard of homosexual rights, the social impact of gay marriage has been less dramatic than some people had expected. "It's difficult to notice a difference in general that has developed in the last two years," says Kees Waaldijk, who teaches law at the University of Leiden.

    Two types of legal protection
    Since 1998, the country has provided registered partnerships that give cohabiting couples, gay and heterosexual, almost all the same legal and economic rights of marriage. Given the choice, slightly more same-sex couples choose to marry rather than register their partnership. Reasons for marrying vary widely. "Some just want to be sure all the paperwork is in order," says Lousewies van der Laan, a member of parliament for the centrist Democrats 66 party. "Some do it for very romantic reasons - love." Many also see it as a symbolic act. "They want to show the world, their friends and family, and each other an official level of commitment," says Mr. Waaldijk. Activists say it is also a way of being treated equally. Even legal protections have limits, though. Other countries do not recognize Dutch same-sex marriages, creating problems for couples who travel or move. Katharina Boele-Woelki, a professor of private international law at the University of Utrecht, tells of two Dutch men living in Germany who came back to the Netherlands to be married. When they returned to Germany, authorities there regarded the men as cohabiting partners, with no rights as a married couple. Registered partnerships, now legal in approximately 10 European countries, also vary widely and do not cross borders. Ms. Boele-Woelki, who has recently published a book on the legal recognition of same-sex marriages in Europe, expects the confusion to continue. "All these new forms of cohabitation cause a lot of private international-law problems," she says. Within two or three years, she expects major changes in legislation. Another issue still to be resolved involves government registrars who perform same-sex marriages. A few have claimed the right to be excused, citing religious beliefs. Currently, they can refuse to marry a same-sex couple. But the issue is producing fierce debates in many local councils, says Henk Beerten, chairman of COC Netherlands, a gay and lesbian organization. He adds, "Some councils simply refuse to grant this exception."

    Conflicting rights
    Next spring the Ministry of Internal Affairs is expected to release a paper on the relationship among the fundamental freedoms - speech, religion, and the right not to be discriminated against - that are guaranteed by Article 1 of the Dutch Constitution. Gay couples claim the right not to be discriminated against, while some registrars believe their freedom of religion gives them the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples. One town did not renew the contract of a registrar who said she would not be available for same-sex marriages. The woman appealed. "We still don't know if she has the right to invoke her conscience," Waaldijk says. Adoption remains another legal issue. Same-sex couples can adopt children in the Netherlands, but usually not from abroad. Mr. Beerten thinks it is essential for homosexualparents to be able to adopt each other's children. If one partner dies, the other would have legal rights over the children. When the subject turns to divorce, Dutch observers say it is too early to track the breakup of same-sex marriages. Beerten thinks gay divorce rates will probably parallel those for straight marriages. Despite widespread tolerance for same-sex marriage in the Netherlands, opposition exists. Peter Kohnen, spokesman for the Dutch Bishops' Conference, reiterates the Roman Catholic position, saying, "The institution of marriage needs to be exclusively reserved for the relationship between a man and a woman." Even so, he finds that in general "people want the church to bless these kinds of relationships, as the church blesses normal marriages." Other churches also oppose gay marriage but accept it as a reality now that the law has changed, Beerten says. While fundamentalist religious groups are opposed, only a small percentage of the stricter Protestant political parties still think it should be abolished, Waaldijk says. The Reformed Political Party, a conservative Christian party, opposed gay marriage during parliamentary debates. "We base our view on the Bible," says spokeswoman Rudi Biemond. "According to the Bible, same-sex marriage is not allowed." Now, two years later, she expresses a tolerance that has become common. "I don't see that the outcome of the debate gives big problems in our society," she says. Calling Dutch culture "very individualistic," she adds, "Most people look on it as, it's not for me, but if people want it...." One evening, when van der Laan and her husband attended an AIDS fundraiser, they were seated at a table with eight gay men, all married. "It was very interesting for me to be in a minority as a heterosexual," she says. "It's the first time I realized what it's like to be in the minority. In a democratic society, how we deal with our minorities is a measure of how civilized we are. Homosexuals are a minority."

    Widespread debate important
    At the same time, van der Laan understands the need for widespread debate on the subject. She sees advantages in the Dutch approach, which involved a parliamentary vote rather than a judicial ruling. "The way we did it was getting a parliamentary majority," she explains. "It was quite broadly carried. It's a little different when elected political leaders decide what the next step will be, rather than judges. You need to be very sure that you have public support for this. Public support is very important."
    ©Christian Science Monitor Service

    17/11/2003- Switzerland should reduce or freeze development aid to countries which refuse to take back asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected. Monday's recommendation by a parliamentary commission is part of a revision of the Swiss asylum law. The head of the House of Representatives' commission, Charles-Albert Antille, said the move was designed to send a signal to uncooperative countries. He added that cuts would only be made to development aid funding and would not apply in situations such as famines. The proposal was backed by 12 commission members, with nine parliamentarians voting against. If approved, it will be up to the cabinet to work out details such as which countries would be concerned. Bern would also need to conclude readmission and transit deals asylum seekers' states of origin.

    Accelerated process
    On Monday, the commission also voted to allow a single judge instead of three to review an appeal made by an asylum seeker regarding a rejection of his or her application. In future, Swiss authorities would have only 10 days to turn down an asylum application. Where further clarification of a case was needed, a delay of up to three months could be imposed. The aim of the proposed amendments is to speed up the time it takes to process applications by reducing paperwork and the number of unresolved dossiers, says Antille.

    Other measures designed to speed up processing of asylum applications include the introduction of financial rewards for the fastest cantons, Antille said. Despite opposition from cities like Zurich, the commission also voted against lifting an employment ban on asylum seekers during their first three months in Switzerland. Asylum seekers who have stayed in a country deemed to be safe ­ according to a government list ­ before arriving in Switzerland, should wherever possible be sent back, the commission said. Parliament is due to vote on the proposals in May 2004.
    ©NZZ Online

    17/11/2003- President Jacques Chirac summoned an urgent cabinet meeting on France's growing wave of anti-Semitism on Monday, following a weekend arson attack that caused serious damage to a Jewish school in the Paris suburbs. Chirac was to assemble Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, Justice Minister Dominique Perben and Education Minister Luc Ferry for an afternoon meeting focussing largely on the protection of Jewish establishments, his office said. The meeting was due to start at 4:00 pm. After that he was to receive leaders of the Jewish commmunity, including chief Rabbi Joseph Sitruk, the director of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions (CRIF) Haim Musicant and the president of the Central Consistory Jean Kahn.

    The first floor of the Orthodox Merkaz Hatorah boys' school in a former factory building at Gagny east of the capital was totally ravaged in the blaze that broke out early Saturday. Police said the fire had almost certainly been started deliberately. Jewish leaders have been warning for more than a year of a growth of anti-Semitic tensions, especially in suburban areas of major French cities where Jews and Muslim immigrants from North Africa often live side-by-side. While denying accusations from Israel and American Jewish figures that France has become an anti-Semitic country, the government fears that violence in the Middle East is fuelling resentment among young Arabs and creating a dangerous anti-Jewish feeling. There are estimated to be around 500,000 Jews in France and around five million Muslims in an overall population of 60 million. Chirac's decision to call a special cabinet session sent a message that he is seriously alarmed by Saturday's arson attack, which Sarkozy said was clearly an act of anti-Semitism.

    A judicial investigation into the incident was opened, citing "wilful destruction committed as a result of a person's belonging to an ethnic group, nation, race or religion" - a crime introduced earlier this year which is punishable by 20 years in prison and EUR150,000 (USD 176,000) in fines. Chirac won himself a favourable reaction from French Jews when he became the first president to acknowledge the country's complicity in the Holocaust, but many resent what they see as his bias in favour of Arabs in the Middle East and feel he wants to court France's big Muslim vote. On Saturday the president issued a statement saying that "the French republic can tolerate no anti-Semitic act and schools more than any other place must be a place of tolerance and respect." In February rising communal tensions led France's education ministry to launch a campaign to stamp out anti-Semitism and other types of racism in schools. Israel's ambassador to France Nissim Zvili said Sunday that the "phenomenon of anti-Semitism in France has reached worrying proportions. There have been lots of attacks against Jews, against people and their possessions, and fear is becoming deep-rooted in the Jewish community." "Many Jews in France are wondering about their future in this country," Zvili said, adding that between 2,000-2,500 Jews were now leaving France each year for Israel.
    ©Expatica News

    19/11/2003- Asylum laws slashing the time people wait for a decision have been approved by the French parliament. The laws, taking effect next year, will speed up the time to process asylum applications from an average of two years to two months. The whole process is being streamlined, including the creation of new offices to deal with requests faster. Asylum applications have risen sharply in France in recent years, from 23,000 in 1998 to 52,000 in 2002. The figure is predicted to reach 85,000 by next year. The changes had already been approved in the upper house of parliament, the Senate, last month.

    In future, people applying for asylum will classified into one of three groups:
    Subsidiary protection - allowing residency in France for at least a year, for foreigners threatened at home but whose cases are judged not covered under the Geneva Convention
    Internal asylum - granted to people judged able to live in their own country protected by an international body
    Political asylum - full asylum rights in France.

    A list of "safe" countries of origin will also be drawn up, and asylum claims from those countries will normally be rejected. "France is determined to maintain its receptive tradition...(but) we cannot be led by emotion," said junior minister for co-operation, Pierre-Andre Wiltzer. He said the new rules were "fair and comprehensive". But critics accused the government of shutting the door to those in need. "Your government has failed in its humanity, It is a government with a hard heart, flagrantly abandoning France's hospitality... your policy is contributing to a machine of exclusion," said French communist MP Andre Gerin.
    ©BBC News

    17/11/2003- Police are investigating a dossier of threats made against journalists in West Yorkshire on extreme right-wing websites. The dossier has also been taken up by an MP who has sent it on to Home Secretary David Blunkett. It includes evidence that right-wing extremists are seeking the home addresses of journalists. The Leeds Branch of the National Union of Journalists prepared the dossier after photographs and names of some of its members appeared on an extreme-right website Redwatch. Those targeted include journalists simply covering anti-racist demonstrations and counter demonstrations in Leeds. But other linked websites Combat 18 and Blood and Honour, contain more sinister threats, in one case declaring open season on Yorkshire Evening Post reporters Peter Lazenby and Paul Robinson, who had written articles about the extreme-right British National Party. Peter had been involved in an investigation into the BNP before local elections in May, when the party was mounting a bid for seats on councils in West Yorkshire. The C18 website contained exchanges of messages between extremists and calls to scare off the journalists. But reporters are by no means the only targets. The websites have listed councillors, officials, MPs and even police officers. The NUJ dossier was sent to West Yorkshire Chief Constable Colin Cramphorn and Leeds Labour MP Hilary Benn, who forwarded it to Home Secretary David Blunkett asking what action could be taken. Since the dossier was published anti-racism groups elsewhere in the country have launched calls for action against the websites.
    ©Hold the frontpage

    18/11/2003- The division and mistrust between different ethnic communities that led to the Oldham riots of 2001 will get worse, the town's MPs have warned. In a stark assessment of the problems that still lie ahead, the three members of Parliament said the gulf separating Asian and white residents had not lessened and was, in fact, set to grow. And they revealed fears that desperate efforts to bring about a genuinely settled and tolerant atmosphere were fragile and under constant threat. The warning was made in a letter calling for additional money to boost Oldham's schools. The three Labour MPs — David Heyes (Ashton), Michael Meacher (Oldham West and Royton) and Phil Woolas (Oldham East and Saddleworth) — argued this would play a vital role in tackling concerns raised by the Ritchie Report in the wake of the violence. In a letter to council bosses that will also be seen by government education chiefs, the MPs wrote of a community still afflicted by breakdown. They stated: "We cannot emphasis too strongly the threat to social cohesion we continue to face as a result of the factors identified in the Ritchie Report."

    And while noting that significant new policies had been implemented, they added: "The level of division and mistrust is taking time to address. "Indeed in some aspects of policy, areas will get worse before getting better." They highlight educational segregation — with white and Asian children going to effectively mono-ethnic schools — as a key area in which ground is likely to be lost in the coming years. The letter goes on to make a powerful call for more money to be invested into schools, with better education viewed as the best hope for the future. It states: "It is of extreme importance to Oldham and, we would argue, to community cohesion in the North-West, that capital investment into our secondary schools takes place across the communities. "Educational segregation in Oldham is a result of community segregation but it must not perpetuate it." The letter has been sent in the wake of ongoing concern that despite apparent advances, little has changed beneath the surface in Oldham. In recent years, huge amounts of special government grants have been poured into the town, and a raft of well-intentioned projects has been set up. But a recent investigation by a committee of MPs has suggested these efforts are having little impact on the street.

    The MPs' letter adds weight to the fears top officials still have about underlying racial tension, and makes it clear that money will have a vital role to play. Billions of pounds for new schools and the refurbishment of existing sites is being made available under the Building Schools for the Future programme. Oldham Council has submitted a bid which, if successful, could see a massive programme of regeneration start in 2005-6.
    ©Oldham Chronicle

    20/11/2003- The former union boss Sir Bill Morris yesterday emerged as the favourite to lead an investigation into the Metropolitan police and racism. Mr Morris, who retired last month as head of the Transport and General Workers Union, has been asked to lead the Metropolitan Police Authority inquiry set up after the Met's efforts to secure criminal convictions against a senior ethnic minority officer failed twice. Superintendent Ali Dizaei was cleared of corruption at the Old Bailey in September, sparking accusations from black officers that he had been the victim of a racist witch hunt by the force. Sir Bill has met various people to discuss the post, including the MPA chairman, Lord Toby Harris, along with the Police Federation and the Black Police Association. The MPA inquiry will focus on whether the Met is more likely to subject ethnic minority officers to disciplinary investigations than white officers. It will also examine grievance procedures. It is understood that Sir Bill has yet to decide whether to head the inquiry, which is seen as a crucial step to rebuilding confidence in the force. He is expected to meet prospective members of an advisory panel soon. The MPA hopes that public hearings will start before Christmas. "Any inquiry would have to have a credible chairperson," said Lee Jasper, adviser on race and policing to London's mayor.
    ©The Guardian

    21/11/2003- One of the country's leading young actresses has accused the BBC of being scared of writing for Asians in its Scottish soap opera. Shabana Bakhsh, who played Zara Malik, a daughter in the main Muslim family in the drama River City, has attacked the corporation's attitude towards its Asian cast after being cut from the show. Ms Bakhsh claimed that the struggling show's viewing figures will plummet unless it starts to reflect Glasgow's large ethnic minority community. She said: "In a soap set in a multi-cultural city like Glasgow, you expect to see faces that are not just white Glaswegian." Ms Bakhsh, 22, has been paid off by the corporation despite being contracted until the end of the year in her role. Her character is away at college, but will not return. She is one of an Asian family of five which has left the show since it was first broadcast over a year ago. She said the show's scriptwriters may find writing for an Asian family "too difficult". The broadcaster appeared to be "walking on eggshells" with the Asian family, she said, and constantly asked her whether her character's clothes, actions and script were appropriate. This concern heightened during a storyline when her character became more interested in Islam.

    The actress said she felt "let down and disappointed" by her treatment by the BBC. "I had gone on record praising River City for its bravery in having an Asian family, and suddenly I was taken in and told my contract was being cut in half and I was to finish up in five days. It was really upsetting. Then slowly we found out that the whole family was being written out without any proper explanation." She added: "What River City did for me was amazing, but now I don't even watch it." Ms Bakhsh's fictional brother, Nazir, played by Riz Abbasi, and sister Jamilah, played by Laxmi Kathuria, were among the first to be cut in the drama, changes brought about by Carol-Ann Docherty when she became executive producer. Their fictional parents Hana, played by Mamta Kash, and Karim, played by Kriss Dosanjh, went too. Ms Bakhsh said that Ms Docherty had claimed that a survey showed that no viewers could "interact" with the Asian family. She said: "That's what made me think they were struggling for storylines for me. I was assured that it was not a question of racism because an Asian doctor has been brought into the show." A spokeswoman for BBC Scotland said: "Characters in soaps come and go as storylines evolve. All actors who work in soaps have to accept this fact. Since Shabana left the cast, two new Asian characters have been introduced. "Unless a character dies or is killed off, there is always the possibility of a return." Ms Bakhsh will appear in a new BBC drama, Freeview, to be shown around Britain in January, and she stars in Ae Fond Kiss, a film set in Glasgow to be released next year, directed by Ken Loach, the director of the award-winning movie Sweet Sixteen. River City was launched by the BBC in September 2002 at the cost of £10m, but the BBC, in its annual report, recognised that it had been "slow to engage viewer loyalty", attracting about 300,000 viewers.
    ©The Herald

    21/11/2003- A drive to get more intellectually disabled people into the workplace is to be undertaken by the COPE Foundation. RTÉ personality Miriam O'Callaghan launched a video in Mallow yesterday which will be used to highlight the value of employing people with such disabilities. COPE Foundation manager in Mallow, Jerry Mullane, said the scheme had produced results locally and it was now time to roll it out to the whole of north Cork. He said a drive to get young adults into the workplace had produced excellent results with around 30 employed on a part-time basis and a few in full-time positions. "All our jobs will start on a part-time basis with the hope that people will be offered more and more hours," Mr Mullane said. Getting real jobs, even just for a few hours a week, has proven a real boost for a number of COPE's service-users "Their level of confidence grows immensely by being out in society. Reports from employers have been extremely positive," Mr Mullane said. Some of the companies who have employed intellectually disabled people are Alps Electrical, Tesco, Dairygold, Cork County Council and McDonalds. Several managers appear on the video extolling the virtues of employing COPE clients and suggesting that other companies do the same. Mary Byrne thinks the scheme is a wonderful idea and it is now benefiting her daughter, Maura, aged 25. "Before she went on a work placement she had done courses in independent living, drama, communications and computers. She now works in Tesco a half a day a week and I'm hoping those hours will increase. It's given her great confidence," Mrs Byrne said.
    ©Irish Examiner

    Doubts hang over party's claim to have ditched its former hard-line nationalism
    By Anna McTaggart,IWPR's senior operations officer in Zagreb

    20/11/2003- Croatia's right-wing HDZ party is tipped to recapture power in elections next Sunday, overturning the left-wing government that took office in 2000. Latest polls showed a right-wing bloc taking a narrow lead in the polls with the HDZ as the single strongest party, marking a striking comeback since its resounding defeat three years ago. Although Croatia has set a target date of 2007 for EU membership, buoyed by the desire of more than 80 per cent of Croats to join the union, an HDZ victory could delay the process. When it ruled the country throughout the 1990s, Croatia endured international isolation owing to strong disapproval of its treatment of the Serbian minority, failure to cooperate with the war crimes tribunal in the Hague and a general perceived disregard for the rule of law and human rights. Since the centre-left took power in 2000, Croatia has made rapid progress to the point where European accession seems possible this decade in company with Romania and Bulgaria. The HDZ insists that if it forms the next government, it will honour Croatia's obligations towards the tribunal and last week the party also promised to speed up the return of Serb refugees.

    The party has moved to head off fears of a return to 1990s-style right-wing nationalism, claiming that it is the party most suited to taking Croatia into the EU. Leader Ivo Sanader has run a slick television and newspaper campaign, highlighting endorsements collected on a whistle-stop tour of European capitals during which he was received by centre-right politicians including Italy's premier Silvio Berlusconi. But at a local level, the HDZ has conducted a campaign in a different spirit, making stronger appeals to traditional nationalist sentiments. In a radio debate in October with current Social Democrat premier Ivica Racan, Sanader qualified his support for the Hague tribunal by saying he accepted the principle of cooperation but wanted "politicised" cases reviewed. The HDZ has demanded in particular a review of the indictment of the popular former army general Ante Gotovina, which they characterise as an attempt to stigmatise Croatia's armed struggle against the Serb-led Yugoslav army and its Croatian Serb allies who together occupied one-third of the country in the early 1990s, Split HDZ chief Zvonimir Puljic recently accused the Racan government of "fawning" attitude towards the Hague court, saying indictments against generals such as Gotovina ought to be "seriously disputed in front of the UN". This stance conflicts with the tribunal's insistence that no review is possible until the indicted suspect is in the tribunal's custody. As the tribunal's outreach coordinator in Croatia, Denis Besedic, spelled out, "The only place an indictment can be contested is before the court."

    The HDZ is in a dilemma as it ran the government during the 1995 Operation Storm for which Gotovina was indicted, and its identity is bound up with the victorious war for independence. Enthusiastic cooperation with the tribunal over an indictment connected to Operation Storm would undermine this position. The Gotovina indictment has loomed large at HDZ election rallies, where it is presented as an attack on Croatia's right to self-defence. At an October rally in Knin, a town that Operation Storm restored to Croatian control, the crowd signed petitions in support of Gotovina with enthusiasm. While the local head of the regional HDZ, Branko Milinovic, said "no one is going to judge our army", his colleague Luka Rebic added that instead of surrendering "our generals" to the Hague, a HDZ government would restore their dignity. Although the left-of-centre government had a patchy record of cooperation with the tribunal, the HDZ insists the left has betrayed the independence struggle and compromised Croatia's security. At a rally in Vukovar on October 14, the party claimed that if the left-of-centre coalition had been in power at the beginning of the war Croatia would now be without one-third of its territory. In Imotski, southern Dalmatia, Sanader said Racan's government needed to be replaced "because of the victims who fell in the Homeland War, because of the 35,000 invalids created by the war, because of the 130 dead heroes from Imotski, because of the widowed mothers, because of all those humiliated and deprived, and because of the [country's] defenders whose rights have been restricted". SDP candidates were pelted with eggs in Imotski some days after the speech. Sanader's sharp tone in Imotski contrasted with the image he sells abroad of himself as a reformist, moderate, pro-European figure, and it casts a question mark over his verbal commitment to allowing Serb refugees to return.

    Since the Operation Storm victory over rebel Serbs in the hilly Krajina region, UNHCR says only 100,000 of the 280,000 Serbs who left Croatia have returned. A recent Human Rights Watch report said there had been progress but that obstacles remained. The spokesperson for the OSCE mission in Croatia, Alessandro Fracassetti, said, "Unless the atmosphere improves, the choices refugees have to make will continue to be affected." Milorad Pupovac, president of the Serbian National Council, which lobbies for Serb rights in Croatia, said he had doubts about Sanader's sincerity in backing Serb returnees. Dismissing "trendy" calls for Serbs to return, he said what mattered was not verbal appeals but political decisions "that remove the obstacles to return - proper implementation of the amnesty law, enforcement of property rights, and economic revitalisation of war-affected areas". He added that any sign of the HDZ's conversion to the cause was important owing to its nationalist credentials. "It is significant that the party with specific responsibility for the situation of the Serbs has made such a statement," he said. Sanader's call for Serbs to return home sits uneasily with the tone adopted by HDZ speakers at rallies in the Krajina region. Many rallies have featured nationalist songs, and speakers have addressed the crowd as "dear Croats". At the Knin rally, Sanader himself thanked all those attending as "proud Croats and believers". At the same gathering, HDZ deputy president Andrija Hebrang said he welcomed all those who had returned following expulsion, but his words seemed directed to Croats expelled under the Serbs in the early 1990s rather than the Serbs expelled in 1995. Sanader said he supported the right of people to return to their property but added that this needed qualifying if it negatively affected Bosnian Croat refugees, many of whom fled to Croatia in the 1990s and live in former Serb homes. Luka Rebic also attacked the government's handling of the Bosnian Croats, whom he praised for assisting the defence of Dubrovnik against the Yugoslav army. The crowd's enthusiasm for the speeches showed the level of support the HDZ can expect from refugee settlers from Bosnia.

    Nevertheless, the HDZ will not net all the settlers' votes, as some Bosnian Croat leaders in Croatia have called on the community to vote for the extreme-right HSP, which until only very recently had been praising the second world war fascist Independent State of Croatia. Splits in the HDZ between left and right over Bosnia are visible. When it last ruled Croatia, the party took a colonial line towards the Bosnian Croats, but this stance has now been modified. The HDZ overruled some of the murkier candidates nominated by its more hard-line Bosnian sister, the HDZ-BiH, for a joint electoral list in the country's 11th electoral unit, a much-criticised arrangement under which the Croatian diaspora (mostly Bosnian Croats) gets a say in Croatian elections. Sanader has not disowned the diaspora's right to vote in elections and at the party rally in Vukovar he castigated the government for a lack of enthusiasm over the provision, saying he would personally bus in Croats from Germany to vote if necessary. The worse problems facing Serb refugee voters in neighbouring Serbia and Montenegro were not mentioned. In Imotski, Sanader attacked the Racan government for neglect of the diaspora and abandoning the Croats of Bosnia "when we are all one nation". "To the attack on Hercegovinians, I answer - I am also a Hercegovinian!" he said. Sanader has trodden a fine line between building up his international profile and maintaining local support at the grassroots. His rise to power followed the death of the former president and HDZ founder Franjo Tudjman in 1999. A power struggle brought the little-known Sanader to the helm after in-fighting between the factions had gravely weakened the party. By July 2000, public support for the HDZ had plummeted to 7 per cent. Sanader's leadership has transformed its fortunes and support has bounced back to around 35 per cent.

    The "new" HDZ has become vulnerable to attack in the process for betraying Tudjman's legacy and going soft on national issues. Analysts say the HSP stands to benefit at the polls. When Sanader told the Vukovar rally he would cooperate with neighbouring countries, including Serbia, his words were met with silence from the crowd. The party has also expelled former Croat general Ljubo Cesic Rojs - originally from Bosnia - who was blacklisted by the EU and the US. It cited his extreme anti-Serb views. Denouncing what it called his "hate-speech", the party said, "We reject and dissociate ourselves from all of Cesic's actions." The impassioned rhetoric heard at the HDZ's rallies in Knin, Imotski and Vukovar may be a calibrated response to this threat from the right, ensuring traditional voters are not alienated. Sanader's more conciliatory line remains unpopular with many party stalwarts. At a party congress in July this year, delegates booed an address by Doris Pack MEP, which reiterated the need to cooperate with the tribunal. And Hebrang contradicted the official line by defending Cesic Rojs as a "hero of the Homeland War", telling the newspaper Novi List in early November that he might "do much for us in the field" even after his de-selection. Fears of a complete return to the policies, rhetoric and style of Tudjman government are probably misplaced. Croatia's political atmosphere has changed since 2000, and the HDZ is unlikely to attempt a clean break with the direction the country has recently pursued. It will not be able to form a government without making a coalition, so will not be in a position to dominate politics as it did in the 1990s. From next Sunday, the HDZ may be in a position to prove its democratic pro-European credentials and dispel suspicions over its agenda.

    The EU enlargement commissioner Günter Verheugen in Zagreb on November 13 reminded Croats that while he welcomed the country's bid to join the EU by 2007, Croatia should bear in mind why it is not part of the group of 10 countries that will become members of the union in 2004.
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    Upcoming elections in Croatia highlights diaspora's disillusionment with its former political backers.
    By Nerma Jelacic (journalist with Studio 088 in Mostar) in Sarajevo and
    Tina Jelin (IWPR project manager in Bosnia and Herzegovina) in Mostar

    20/11/2003- Bosnian Croats are expected to abandon their one-time Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, patrons by voting for extreme right-wing parties in parliamentary elections being held in Croatia this weekend. For the first time since the end of the war, Bosnia's Croats - who are legally entitled to take part in their neighbour's elections - are likely to back a more nationalist party to represent them in the November 23 poll. Many of the estimated 350,000 Croats living in Bosnia - the biggest proportion of the Croatian diaspora - still dream of their regions of the country being annexed to Croatia and are increasingly unhappy with the HDZ, which once shared their goal, but has followed a less nationalist agenda in recent months. An opinion poll conducted last week by the marketing agency Promedia showed that 98 per cent of more than 5,000 Bosnian Croats questioned said they wanted to abolish the border with Croatia. But HDZ leader Ivo Sanader has played down his party's previous Greater Croatia ambitions, as this is seen as precisely the thing that has prevented the country from faster European integration. The change in the HDZ's attitude could most recently be seen in its refusal to put members of its Bosnian branch on the list of candidates to represent local Croats in the upcoming ballot. As a result of HDZ policy, Bosnia's Croats feel abandoned by what they see as their motherland, and are now unlikely to back the party with which they were once so closely associated. The minority continues to feel that its future lies with Croatia, not Bosnia - many of the community felt short-changed by the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war and split the country into two entities - Republika Srpska and the Federation. Even now, Bosnian Croats feel they were forced into the Federation and still entertain thoughts of establishing a separate entity or a union with Croatia.

    In Mostar, a local Croat, who gave his name only as Petar, spoke for many when he said, "The question of Croats in Bosnia will not be resolved until we secede. It's either secession or extermination. "The HDZ is not [the late president Franjo] Tudjman's any more, and the [politicians] we have here are too comfortable in their ministry chairs to care about the way the ordinary people are living." He along with many other disillusioned Bosnian Croats are expected to vote for an extreme right-wing coalition comprising the Croatian Block and the True Croatian Rebirth - a group led by Marko Tokic, a former HDZ minister who wants to establish a Croat republic in Bosnia. This will be a significant electoral blow for the HDZ, as the Bosnian Croat vote could help it form a government if, as is expected, it narrowly defeats the ruling coalition at the weekend.

    Croats living outside their homeland, like their Bosnian kin, are allowed to take part in Croatia's elections - their combined vote tends to represent between five to eight seats, depending on voter turnout. Bosnian Croats are the largest group of the electorate outside Croatia. In the 2000 elections, 110,000 of the 127,000 exile voters were from Bosnia, and they mostly voted for the HDZ. While the HDZ suffered a crushing defeat by a pro-European coalition in the 2000 ballot, opinion polls indicate that it is still the strongest single party in Croatia. However, analysts believe that Tokic's coalition could take advantage of the diaspora's loss of faith in the HDZ, and move in to take its voters. Tokic's ambitions for a Croat entity in Bosnia have not changed in the past two years, since the international community forced him to leave active politics after a failed attempt to set up an autonomous territory. In a pre-election speech to local Croat voters in Mostar, Tokic said he was proud of his actions in the past and underlined the right of the minority to have its own republic within the country - sentiments greeted with rapturous applause by the crowd. The Tokic coalition also includes Venera Kodric, wife of Dario Kordic, who has been sentenced to 25 years by the war crimes tribunal for his part in ethnic cleansing and other crimes committed during the war in Bosnia. Other members of the alliance have similar agendas designed to promote the wishes of Bosnian Croats for continuing close relations between them and Zagreb. Analysts argue that even if the ultra-nationalist coalition is elected to represent the diaspora, its members will have a very difficult job promoting its far-right agenda, as the Zagreb authorities will not want to damage their relationship with the international community and scupper Croatia's chances of European Union membership.
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    20/11/2003- Churches in North-Norway guarantee homosexuals that they will be welcomed without prejudice. The parishes of Svolvaer and Vagan promise that no negative words can be uttered towards gay churchgoers in their churches, a promise that is bound not to please everyone. In Svolvaer Church parish council member Yngve Henriksen hangs the rainbow colored flag used as homosexuality's banner. The flag is meant to show gays and lesbians that they are welcome here and can worship without fear of finding themselves the subject of a fiery sermon, newspaper Lofotposten reports. The two parish councils voted to do something to fight negative attitudes towards homosexuals. "The church has a sad history in that respect," parish educator Torbjoern Ollestad told the newspaper. Vagan Church was quick to fly the welcoming banner, Svolvaer debated the issue for over a year before an 8-2 majority raised the flag. Acting rector Gisle Melling pointed out that the decision will affect all who speak in the churches. "Everyone must respect the council's decision. This flag clearly states that no attacks on homosexuals will be accepted here. People who have other viewpoints must simply remain silent. That applies to priests as well," Melling said. The clergyfolk and council members stressed that the flag also symbolized a positive attitude towards homosexual clergy, including those that wish to live in partnership. Svein Tennes, leader of Svolvaer's parish council doesn't think the flag-waving is a good idea, and expects many parishioners will react. "I do not think this will help the homosexual cause. There are strong feelings about this in the congregation, and I don't think the flag is a good idea," Tennes said. Tennes said the gesture would only cause confusion since the clergy should tend to the interests of the entire congregation, without granting any special treatment and wondered if the door had been opened to demands for a flag for any group with a grievance.

    By Mr. Gerd Klestadt, vice president of ALNU (United Nations Association Luxembourg)

    On the 9th November 1938 the Nazis gave the order to destroy Jewish shops (over 1000) and to burn synagogues (in total 267). Simultaneously the first deportations to concentration camps started. A young Polish Jew shot and killed an employee of the German Embassy, Ernst von RATH on the eve of 27/28th October 1938 and thus set in motion the events of the 9th November. The young man, Heshel GRYSZPAN, an illegal resident in Paris was incensed by firstly, the deportation of his parents (together with 17,000 other Jews) to the East as a result of the Austrian"Anschluss" and secondly by the break-up of his homosexual relationship with the victim Von Rath. The "Endlösung" or the Final Solution was set in motion and resulted in the systematic extermination of Jews, Freemasons, homosexuals, physically and mentally handicapped, Jehovah's witnesses, communists, trade unionists, Sinti and Roma. The Final Solution represents the supreme expression of hate, intolerance, fascism, xenophobia, and above all of racism.

    Unfortunately, these phenomenons still exist in our world today, the world of the 21st century. How can we today judge the attitudes and actions of our neighbours in the Third Reich of 1938 when thousands of people, above all Jews, were in search of a safe place? It must be remembered that in July of the same year, 33 representatives from 33 different countries sat around the same table in Evian in order to find a solution to the German Jewish Refugee problem. What was the result of this meeting? ONLY 2 countries, Holland and Denmark, agreed to open their borders and offer asylum to the refugees.. The other 31 countries found arguments to keep their borders closed and thus refuse protection to these asylum seekers. Since the "Kristallnacht" on 9th November 1938, the situation has to a large extent not altered very much.

    We can, therefore, ask the question – what lessons have we learnt from history? Are we really sure that a refugee seeking a new home within our borders would be better off in his country of origin? Of course we have laws which must be respected, but is it absolutely necessary to always apply these laws to the letter? Shouldn't we show compassion, human warmth and understanding to each other and above all cooperation between people? By opening our hearts just a little won't it possibly help in the creation of better world for all mankind? As winter approaches let us think of those in need of human warmth, those on the streets, in the parks, the prefabricated shelters (as from December) all those people in difficulty and all those without a roof over their heads. We must not remain insensitive to their cries of help.

    Let us remember the European Year Against Racism with its motto – "All different, all equal".
    United Nations Association Luxembourg

    19/11/2003– The Council of Europe Ministers' Deputies have today adopted two Resolutions recognising the work done up until now by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) at the Council of Europe, and reinforcing their role within the 45-member Organisation. The NGOs represent a firm link between the Council of Europe and 800 million Europeans. Whether national or international, they draw the Council of Europe's attention to the effects of changes in European societies and the problems facing them. Moreover, they play a multiplying role as regards the results of activities led by the Council. The two texts adopted today outline a more important role for the NGOs as actors within the Council of Europe, in relation to their former statute. The Resolution on participatory status for international NGOs enhances their active participation in the Council's policies and programme of activities, alongside the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. It updates the consultative statute of international NGOs which has existed since 1952. The Resolution on the partnership between the Council of Europe and national NGOs recognises their role in implementing the Council of Europe's co-operation programmes, above all in the new member states.
    ©Council of Europe

    11/11/2003- The European Commission will unveil today, (11 November), its plans for the creation of an EU agency for the control of external borders to step up efforts in the fight against illegal immigration. This agency, which should become operational in 2005 and have a staff of about 30 persons, will support EU states on a European level in the training of their national border guards and on the return of third-country nationals who illegally enter the EU, sources told the Euobserver. But plans for the agency have raised concerns that it may be the first step towards the creation of an EU border guard. This notion has been fiercely denied by Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino, who said last month that this agency will "not replace the responsibility of member states to be in charge of their own border controls" but the aim is to have a more "coherent and efficient coordination" of land-border control, air-border control and maritime control centres.

    Germany, Italy and Greece co-ordinate
    Germany will co-ordinate joint operations at land borders, Italy at international airports and Spain and Greece at maritime borders. The Commission is also expected to stress that this agency will not have a policy-making role, nor would it make legislative proposals or exercise implementing powers. The Council is expected to reach political agreement on this proposal by the end of this year and will then formally adopt it after consulting the European Parliament. Tough political wrangling, however, is expected over the location of this agency, which would bring with it millions of euros in investment.

    17/11/2003- The effort of trying not to appear racist can be mentally draining - even for people who are not consciously prejudiced, say scientists. A team from Dartmouth College in the US found white people performed less well on mental tasks after an interaction with a black person. They suggest the test subjects expended mental energy - often subconsciously - trying to control racial bias. The study, which also showed that it is possible to carry out brain scans to detect racist attitudes, is published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. The researchers used a computer test to assess racial bias in 30 white people. The volunteers were deemed to be more racially biased if they took longer to associate white people with negative concepts, and black people with positive concepts. They then interacted with either a black or a white individual, and afterwards they were asked to complete an unrelated task designed to measure their mental performance.

    Separately, sophisticated scanning technology was used to measure brain activity when the volunteers were presented with photographs of unfamiliar black or white men. Lead researcher Dr Jennifer Richeson said: "We found that white people with higher scores on the racial bias measure experienced greater neural activity in response to the photographs of black males. "This heightened activity was in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area in the front of the brain that has been linked to the control of thoughts and behaviours. "Plus, these same individuals performed worse on the cognitive test after an actual interaction with a black male, suggesting that they may have been depleted of the necessary resources to complete the task." No such drop in performance on the tasks was recorded after people interacted with others of the same racial group. Dr Richeson argued that most people find it unacceptable to behave in prejudiced ways during interracial interactions and make an effort to avoid doing so - regardless of their actual level of racial bias. These efforts may leave people temporarily depleted of the resources needed to perform well on mentally challenging tasks. She told BBC News Online: "The study provides striking evidence for the theory that individuals perform worse on certain cognitive tasks after interracial interactions because they were attempting to control their thoughts, behaviour, and/or emotions during the interaction."

    Questions remain
    Professor Graham Richards, an expert in race and psychology at Staffordshire University, told BBC News Online that racial bias was not the same as overt racism, and was often something of which the subject was not conscious. He also questioned whether it was feasible to draw general conclusions from a small sample of volunteers, who were all young American university students. And he speculated that their response would not be replicated in other groups of people who, perhaps did not harbour a sense of guilt about the way black people were treated in their society. The issue of whether black people reacted the same way when interacting with white people had not been addressed either, he said. "This is an interesting finding but its broader significance, importance and generalisability simply cannot be ascertained or even sensibly speculated about at this stage. "Though not a criticism of the research per se one could foresee it being misused and misunderstood to imply that 'mixing with black people is bad for you'." Professor Alick Elithorn, an expert in neuropsychology from Oxford, said it was difficult to design research to examine racism as there were many factors which might cloud the issue. However, he said: "There does tend to be an age-related effect. The young tend to be inquisitive, inquiring and friendly, while older people tend to be more prejudiced and suspicious."
    ©BBC News

    7/11/2003- The editor of a leading French news magazine said on Friday that he was the victim of a witch-hunt after he was denounced as a racist for describing himself as "Islamophobic." Claude Imbert, founder of the right-leaning weekly Le Point, was condemned by the opposition Socialist party and by anti-racism groups after he told the 24-hour news station LCI that he regarded Islam as backward-looking and intolerant. "Personally I am slightly Islamophobic and I don't mind saying it. I am not the only one in the country who thinks that Islam ... is weakened by various archaisms - they way it demeans women, the way it wants to supplant the rule of law with the Koran - that make me Islamophobic," he said on October 24.

    The Socialist party issued a statement accusing him of promoting racism. "How could a man of culture like Claude Imbert make such hate-filled, intolerant and xenophobic remarks about a religion?" demanded spokeswoman Annick Lepetit. The Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP) described his comments as "extremely dangerous and all the more unacceptable because they encourage a worrying and unacceptable trivialisation of Islamophobia, behind which hides hatred of the Arab-Muslim population." It also demanded that Imbert stand down from the High Council for Integration, an official 20-member body that advises the government on immigration-related issues. In Friday's edition of Le Point, Imbert counter-attacked, accusing his accusers of trying to stifle intellectual debate. "It is for trying to draw a distinction between the critique of a religion and the execration of a race that the party of the politically pious is now trying me for witchcraft," Imbert wrote. "All I have done is put forward the arguments of an agnostic against a revealed religion, reinforced by the reaction of a French citizen to the erosion of our secular tradition," he said.

    France is in the grip of a bitter debate over what allowances the state should make for the country's five million Muslims, many of whom remain attached to controversial religious traditions - such as the wearing of headscarves by teenage girls. In the editorial Imbert angrily denied the charge that he was racist. "For 30 years I have been defending the idea of immigration. Not because it is inevitable, but because I believe it is a positive benefit for a cocooned, aging society," he wrote. But he repeated his view that Islam has been "ossified" for the last 700 years and is in need of a reformation similar to the process of intellectual modernisation that Christianity went through from the 15th century. "It is clear that a reform-minded, modernist Islam is trying to escape from the Middle Ages. It is equally clear that more and more Muslims are developing patterns of free thought that loosen the grip of religion. But this whole process can only exist if there is open criticism of dogma and practice," he wrote. Staff at Le Point were reported to be divided over their editor's views, and they were meeting Friday to decide what position to take.
    ©Expatica News

    7/11/2003- Germany's opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU), under fire in the wake of an anti-Semitic speech by one of its parliamentary deputies, found itself embroiled in a new row on Friday over a comment about Moslems by another CDU deputy. In Dresden, eastern German deputy Henry Nitzsche was the focus of controversy for comments to a business magazine about why the country's ethnic German-Turkish and Moslem voters do not vote for his party, the daily Saechsische Zeitung newspaper reported. According to the report, Nitzsche told the business manager publication "DS-Magazin": "A Moslem would rather let his hand rot off before he puts his cross on a ballot for the Christian Democratic Union". The news about the remark angered the state of Saxony's CDU Premier, Georg Milbradt, who told the paper that "beer table claptrap does not belong in politics". Hermann Winkler, head of the CDU party in Saxony, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, dpa that "Nitzsche should clarify the allegations and if necessary, apologize".

    Nitzsche, 44, is from the eastern German city of Kamenz. His election district includes the nearby city of Hoyerswerda, which gained international attention for attacks on foreign asylum-seekers in 1991 and has since become a focal point for neo-Nazi activities. His comments about Moslem voters come on the heels of a major scandal in the CDU over a speech by parliamentary deputy Martin Hohmann blaming Jews for the mass murders during the Russian Revolution. That speech has been blasted as anti-Semitic by all quarters, including critics within the CDU itself. Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy leader of the CDU faction in parliament, told the Berlin daily "Tagesspiegel" that the party had to have a serious talk with Nitzsche, as it already has done with Hohmann.
    ©Expatica News

    9/11/2003- Home to Germany's second-largest Jewish community, Bavaria's capital begins construction of a synagogue and cultural center that organizers hope will help the city's reestablished Jewish population flourish and grow. German President Johannes Rau on Sunday called on Germans to join together to fight for freedom and tolerance in the wake of a recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents in the country. Rau traveled to Munich to lay the foundation stone for a new Jewish Community Center in the Bavarian city. The presence of police and sharpshooters, however, focused attention on less fortunate developments in recent weeks. Two months ago, police foiled plans by right-wing extremists to bomb Sunday's event. Since then, 14 extremists have been arrested total – a fact not lost on the German president. "Whoever attacks minorities is planting a bomb in the foundation of our society," Rau said while laying the stone at the future synagogue and community center. Rau said he had been "distraught" by the idea that "right-wing extremists set on murder" had again planned an attack on a Jewish center on the 65th anniversary of the Kristallnacht Nazi pogroms. The extremists arrested in the incident are part of a group organized by 27-year-old Neo Nazi Martin Wiese. Prosecutors say they will seek to charge the group's followers with membership in a terrorist organization, following the discovery of 14 kilograms of explosives, including 1.7 kilograms of highly explosive TNT, they believe were intended for use in the planned attack. "We have to show that intimidation and violence don't set the climate in our country," Rau told the more than 600 people gathered at the event. Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber also attended, warning that "anti-Semitism can never again be allowed to become socially acceptable in Germany or anywhere else on the Continent." Stoiber added that all legal tools at the state's disposal must be used to fight what he called the "criminal lunacy" of right-wing extremists. "We won't accept that Jewish life has to be hidden out of fear of attacks," he warned. Meanwhile, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Paul Spiegel, called for increased vigilance in combating Germany's anti-Semites and warned against the "minimization of right-wing extremist" crimes.

    Remembrance and reconciliation
    Taking place on the anniversary of one of the Nazi's worst crimes against the Jews – which led to the destruction of synagogues, the murder of hundreds and the plundering of Jewish businesses – Sunday's event served as both a remembrance of the horrid event as well as a symbol of reconciliation. "This isn't just a day of unclouded joy," said Charlotte Knobloch, chairwoman of the Munich's Jewish community organization. Still, there was much to celebrate on Sunday. With the 57 million project, community leaders are seeking to restore Jewish life "where it used to be, in the city center." In addition to the new synagogue, a museum and cultural and community facilities will also be constructed by 2007. A kosher restaurant, Jewish school and daycare center are also planned. Despite the revelations in September of a possible attack against the facility, the local Jewish community has decided not to install high-security barricades, as cities like Berlin have assembled at Jewish facilities. Instead, organizers want a "meeting place of the cultures." To ensure the safety of visitors, center officials say they will work closely with police and install security cameras. "There won't be any walls or barbed wire," Munich Culture Community vice president Jehoshua Chmiel told the public broadcaster Bayerische Rundfunk.

    9,000 and growing
    For the local Jewish community, Germany's second largest after Berlin, the center can't come soon enough. The 9,000-strong Jewish community grew quickly after the fall of the Wall, with a major influx of Russian Jews with German ancestry. The community's existing facilities are buckling under the pressure of a growing population and, already, they are having trouble finding enough space to hold language and religion classes that aid the integration of newcomers. More importantly, perhaps, is that many see the construction of the complex as a further sign of the recovery of Munich's Jewish community. The city's original synagogue was destroyed by the Nazis on June 8, 1938. Shortly after, mass deportations of the city's Jews began to concentration camps. By April 30, 1945, American forces occupying the city were only able to register seven living Jews in the city.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    12/11/2003- A German state has begun moves to ban Muslims from wearing headscarves in schools. The bill was proposed by the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg following a supreme court ruling in September that allowed a Muslim teacher to wear a headscarf. The legislation is expected to gain approval from the state parliament early next year. Civil rights groups say a ban would hamper religious freedom but six other states are planning similar laws. "The aim of the law is to forbid state teachers from wearing symbols which could be regarded as political," said Erwin Teufel, state premier of Baden-Wuerttemberg. The region's Education Minister Annette Schavan said the headscarf was "seen as a symbol of cultural division and part of a history of repression of women". In September's ruling, the federal constitutional court ruled the state could not ban a female Muslim teacher from wearing a headscarf because there was no law against it. But the court also said German states could ban headscarves in schools if they passed new laws. The ban will not apply in religious education classes, and Christian and Jewish symbols will not be banned. Three states - Berlin, Hesse and Saarland - want headscarves banned in all public services.
    ©BBC News

    By Arie Farnam, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

    5/11/2003- When he was 5 years old, Yeton saw his grandmother gunned down by black-uniformed Kosovo Liberation Army soldiers. Then, his mother picked him up and ran out of the village toward the Montenegrin border. "I wish we could go back to our house and our friends," he says, now standing on a road outside a refugee shelter. "I wish we didn't have to be hungry anymore." Although four years have passed since they were chased from their homes by ethnic-Albanian militants seeking revenge for atrocities committed by the Serbian Army, many Kosovo Serbs, like young Yeton, have not given up hope that they might one day return. Last summer, leading ethnic-Albanian politicians signed an open letter welcoming minority communities forced to flee Kosovo after the 1999 war here to come back home. The message briefly revived hope among refugees like Yeton and his extended family, who have lived in refugee camps in Serbia since the war. This year Yeton and an aunt tried to return to their village of Gorni Petric in western Kosovo. But their road home quickly hit a dead end. "I went to visit our home, and our neighbors threatened me with knives and said we will be killed if we try to return," says Yeton's aunt, Vera Isaku. "Our houses have been burned and destroyed."

    It's a common tale among the 240,000 refugees and internally displaced persons from Kosovo, mostly Serb and Roma (Gypsy) minorities, who found refuge in Serbia, Montenegro or Macedonia. Another 60,000 minority refugees from Kosovo are scattered across the rest of Europe. In the past four years only about 7,000 non-Albanian refugees have returned to Kosovo. Kosovo was historically the poorest Serbian province, and Serbs have been drifting away for decades in search of better economic opportunities. However, it was once a haven for other minorities, such as the Roma, who often face discrimination elsewhere in Europe. The Kosovar town of Mitrovica once boasted the largest and most prosperous Romany settlement in the former Yugoslavia - 7,000 people, many of them skilled craftspeople and educated professionals. Today, not one of them is left, and their homes are rubble. Sadima Toska once had a cozy home in that Romany neighborhood but now she and her seven children live in a refugee camp in the Serb-controlled town of Svechin. After four years of UN rations, these camps, which still hold tens of thousands of refugees, are being cut off from food and water aid as international attention turns toward the Middle East. "Of course, I would go back home at the first opportunity," Ms. Toska says. "But I am afraid we would be killed. KFOR [the NATO-led peacekeeping force here] says they can't guarantee our safety."

    Attacks against minorities continue on a regular basis in Kosovo - everything from stone throwing to grenade attacks, arson and shootings - and most of the 100,000 Serbs and other minorities remaining in Kosovo are confined to isolated enclaves. Peggy Hicks, director of the Office of Returns under the UN administration of Kosovo, rates lack of security as the greatest obstacle to returning refugees, but the 70 percent unemployment rate in Kosovo does not help to bring émigrés back either. Serb leaders call the invitation by ethnic-Albanian politicians propaganda, but Ms. Hicks and other international officials say it is a sign of progress. "Until recently, no politician here would say anything positive about returns,"she says. "Now, Kosovar politicians have realized that minority returns are key to their own future." Kosovo's future remains in doubt. It is administered as a UN protectorate, though it is technically still a Serbian province, and Kosovar Albanians desperately want independence. Serbian and Kosovar Albanian officials have spoken recently of a date sometime in 2005 for final status talks, and a senior US official said Tuesday that such talks could begin in mid-2005 if Kosovo meets rule-of-law, democracy and other standards by then. The return of minority refugees tops the list of conditions for independence set by international officials. As a result, Kosovo's Albanian political elite issued the open letter welcoming the refugees back, although most of the population opposes the returns. "Kosovo is for Albanians," says Palaj village resident Azem Dedinca, voicing a typical view. "Serbs and Roma have no place here. They killed Albanians or they collaborated with those who did."

    In August, gunmen fired on Serb children swimming in a river near the Serb enclave of Gorazdevac in western Kosovo. The attack, which killed two youths, was timed just before 200 Serb refugees were expected to return to the area. The return was quickly aborted. Only 24 men managed to return to the nearby village of Belo Polje before the attack, and they have set up camp amid charred ruins of their former homes, guarded constantly by Italian KFOR soldiers. "It is like living in a prison," says Radomir Kostic, a returnee who left his family in Serbia to help rebuild his village. "How can I consider bringing my daughters and grandchildren back to a place like this? On the other hand, what choice do I have? We have no chance living as refugees. We are not welcome in Serbia. They call us Albanians and refuse to give us jobs. Faced with two kinds of nothing, I choose my nothing, and this is the only home I have ever known."
    ©Christian Science Monitor Service

    6/11/2003- The closure of the International Humanitarian Institute (IHI) in Minsk, said to be the only college where the history of Judaism and ancient and modern Hebrew is taught, has been interpreted by some Jewish activists as another display of state-sponsored anti-Semitism, following a rash of other incidents where the authorities tolerated or ignored incitement of hatred against Jews and their property, local media and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) have reported. But Jewish activists have also said that the closure of the IHI isn't necessarily a display of official anti-Semitism, as the president has ordered a mass campaign to reorder all educational institutions under state control and inculcate ideological training to ensure loyalty. There is also the possibility that competition between institutions could be involved, not without official connivance, as the IHI had planned to fund a new campus in the center of town with the help of foreign investors, valued at $32 million. Some Orthodox Church leaders who have helped the government rein in dissenting churches as well as other denominations may have been made uneasy by the presence of the courses in Judaica at IHI and the major donor support, not forthcoming for their own programs.

    Jewish community leaders told IWPR that the IHI came on the authorities' radar screen after the passage of a controversial law on religious belief last year that was explicitly designed to give pride of place to the Orthodox Church, and the signing of a concordat between the Orthodox Church and the state in June of this year. "There cannot be any equality [of faiths] because now religions are ranked, and the Orthodox Church comes first," Ivan Pashkevich, a deputy in the presidentially controlled legislature, told IWPR. Education Ministry inspectors were sent to the IHI and found unidentified "shortcomings" which led to the closure of the college. "This decision has political overtones," Galina Similo, a lecturer at IHI on Judaism, told IWPR. "Whatever the internal debates over the closure of the institute, the international community will see this as a revival of the old Soviet attitude to Jews," she said. Education Minister Alyaksandr Radkov denied the charges of anti-Semitism, saying "We treat all nationalities equally," IWPR quoted him as saying, and that the government was streamlining education. In one sense, he is correct: the Belarusian authorities are equal-opportunity oppressors. They have shut down a Belarusian-language lyceum this year and scores of newspapers and civic groups, and have also prevented various religious groups from conducting public events or building places of worship. Still, both Jewish and non-Jewish NGO activists and opposition leaders believe the government still holds the anti-Semitic worldview of the Soviet era, as officials occasionally let slip their attitudes in bigoted comments, or in their failure to speak out against violence against Jews and to protect synagogues, cemeteries, and the mass-grave sites of the Holocaust.

    Belarus, located in the region known as the "Pale of Settlement" in tsarist Russia, once had a population of at least a million Jews, but at least 800,000 were killed on what is now Belarusian territory, and many thousands fled abroad. Today, a mainly elderly population of between 25,000-50,000 people who identify themselves as Jewish remain. Others with Jewish roots hide their background to avoid discrimination, just as they did in the Soviet era. While other former Soviet republics have made progress in returning buildings to the Jewish community confiscated under the Soviets, in Belarus, authorities so far have turned over nine synagogues while continuing to house various official agencies in 34 other facilities once owned by the community, "Belarus Update" reported in July 2003, citing AFP and local media. Last summer, there was a rash of grave vandalizations, with more than 50 Jewish tombstones smashed in two Minsk cemeteries, Yury Dorn, head of the Jewish Religious Union, said. Seventy gravesites were also desecrated in Borisov and other localities, and "anti-Semites feel impunity" in Belarus, Dorn said, because the authorities dismiss such actions as unrelated to ethnic hatred and dismiss it as teenage "hooliganism." Officials contacted by AFP shrugged when asked to comment on the tombstone vandalism and said only police could decide to open criminal investigations, although law-enforcement bodies are totally under the control of the executive branch in Belarus. Even President Alyaksandr Lukashenka himself has been dismissive, calling the grave desecration accidental "hooligan action" and even implying that not native Belarusians, but foreigners could be responsible for the vandalism. The systematic nature of such "hooliganism" is tacitly admitted by the parliament's call last year -- uncharacteristically outspoken -- to stop the destruction of Jewish cultural monuments in Minsk, signed by 75 deputies. A 19th-century synagogue was demolished in 2001, and a parking lot was slated to pave over the ruins of a 17th-century synagogue.

    In September, Yakov Hutman of the World Association of Belarusian Jews protested a gas-pipeline excavation in Mozyr at the site of a house where about 40 Jews, including Hutman's grandfather, were said to have committed self-immolation in 1941 to avoid surrender to the Nazis. City officials deny the story, saying they have no documents to prove the allegations. No international Holocaust memorial sites make mention of the Mozyr events, although the language barrier and lack of access to the area have made it difficult for outside researchers to investigate such events. Relatives say the KGB archives contain reports of the fire. Indirectly, the Belarusian Culture Ministry acknowledged the story by putting the Mozyr site on a list of places for historical preservation, but local officials overrode the efforts to protect the site. As has often been the case in Belarus, officials invoke the equality of suffering of Jews and non-Jews in World War II as a way of downplaying the Holocaust. "Must we leave the city without gas because of Jews? I am not an anti-Semite, but Belarusians suffered no less than the Jews," Syarhey Kostyan, a parliamentary deputy from Mozyr, was quoted as saying by the "St. Petersburg Times" on 23 September. "Haaratz" quoted Kostyan as saying, "We live in a Slavic country, not a Jewish-Masonic one," on 20 November 2002, when he dissented from the appeal against the destruction of the historical synagogue sites signed by 75 of his fellow parliamentarians.

    Mozyr reportedly had a prewar population of 7,000 Jews, reduced to 1,000 today. Local activists have signed a petition to halt and reroute the pipeline and also stop construction of another building on a historic Jewish grave site. They had some success, in getting construction to stop, but the disposition of the remains of victims still remains at issue. In Hrodno, a similar story played out as local activists protested renovation of a soccer stadium which disturbed a Jewish cemetery, but then were unable to get authorities to abide by their pledge for a proper reburial. In another incident that rankled Jewish leaders, official commemoration of the anniversary of the hanging of anti-Nazi resistance members on 26 October 1941 once again failed to mention that Masha Bruskina, a 17-year-old resident of the Minsk ghetto, was Jewish. The plaque at the site of her execution does not indicate her name or her heritage. "The authorities have decided that it is better not to have any heroines than to have Jewish heroines," Union of Belarusian Jewish Organizations Deputy Director Basin told AP.

    Jewish organizations were alarmed at official tolerance of hate literature and speech at the All-Belarusian Union of Cossacks, blessed by the Orthodox leadership, Belapan reported 28 October, such as "Russkii vestnik," a conservative Russian Orthodox newspaper notorious for promoting such anti-Semitic myths as the "blood libel" claim of ritualistic murders of children. A brochure called for prayer to "save our Russian Orthodox Fatherland and our people from the Yid yoke that struggles against God." Jewish leaders called on the Belarusian Orthodox Church to condemn the distribution of hate literature at the Cossacks' conference. A Russian Orthodox Church spokesman told Belapan that he had no ties to the Cossacks, who were known historically to attack Jews and have continued to be associated with hate crimes to the present day. A week prior to the incident, President Lukashenka had gone on record as saying there was no enmity between denominations, although he implied with a comment about the "strong Orthodox community" and the "smaller denominations" that non-Orthodox groups had to fall into line. Jewish groups had tried to get the distribution of "Russkii vestnik" stopped in April of this year, and appealed to Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheiman to stop the publication in view of the Criminal Code's penalty for incitement of ethnic or religious enmity.

    This year, the Israeli Embassy in Belarus closed its doors, a move that the ambassador from Israel said was strictly related to cost-cutting measures that had led to embassy closures in a number of countries. Jewish groups were sorry to see Israel leave, because the embassy had provided some protection for them and had also encouraged and supported educational and cultural programs. The departure was unfortunate, Nikolai Butkevich of the Union of Councils of Jews in the Former Soviet Union told "RFE/RL (Un)Civil Societies." "The government in Belarus has by far made the least progress of any post-Soviet state in ridding itself of the ideology of state-sponsored anti-Semitism," Butkevich said. While Lukashenka has recently made a few positive rhetorical gestures to the Jewish community and to Israel, he has not disavowed his anti-Semitic comments of the past, he said. And actions belie the rhetoric, as the Belarusian government has targeted Jewish educational facilities for closure. "There has been very little effort on the part of officials to protect the Jewish community and its communal property from attacks by neo-Nazis," Butkevich said. Activists declared at least a small victory this week in getting Minsk city authorities to reverse a decision to discontinue the lease of a Jewish Sunday school that had rented space from a school for the deaf on weekends. After vocal protests from Jewish and human rights groups, officials said the school could continue using the space but there was some uncertainty about the decision because it had not yet been produced in writing. Already six other Sunday schools have been closed, and groups that meet informally and receive international support feel they are in jeopardy.

    Opposition says the move is anti-European and will lead to Hungarianisation of the south

    3/11/2003- Approval of the János Selye University, which is to open in January next year and primarily serve Slovak citizens of Hungarian ethnicity, stirred protests by opposition MPs and other groups who said the institution would be a tool for the gradual Hungariansation of the Slovak south. MPs passed a law on October 24 establishing the Hungarian university, as it is commonly called, in the southern Slovak town of Komárno, amid protests by the opposition, who insisted that the university would discriminate against Slovak nationals who did not speak Hungarian. The university will hold lectures in Hungarian, Slovak, German, and English. The establishment of the university is part of the cabinet's program and is in line with Slovakia's commitment to a European charter on regional and minority languages that binds the country to give greater access to university education to its ethnic minorities. In Slovakia there are about 500,000 ethnic Hungarianians who form about 10 percent of the population.

    Representatives of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) were happy with the passage of the law. Some parliamentary opposition MPs, such as Ludmila Mušková from the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), are considering initiating a motion in the Constitutional Court (ÚS SR) challenging the legislation as discriminatory. ÚS SR is a national authority that decides legal disputes. During a parliamentary discussion, Mušková said that the "creation of the university will contribute to the gradual Hungarianisation of Slovakia". She maintained that Slovaks who did not speak Hungarian would not be able to study at the university, despite the guarantee in the Slovak constitution that citizens have the right to study at every state-funded university. The establishment of the university, named after a well-known Hungarian academic born in Komárno, will cost Sk100 million ( 2.4 million). Jozef Markuš, head of Matica Slovenská (MS), a public institution set up to protect and preserve Slovak cultural heritage, agreed with Mušková. In an extensive piece published by the pro-HZDS Nový den daily on October 18, Markuš, who, paradoxically, is a brother of Slovakia's former ambassador to Hungary, stated that "the project of the Hungarian university as such includes an expansive element of Hungarianisation." He said that a possibly low number of applicants could lead the university to even accept Slovak nationals who partly spoke Hungarian and, by providing them with various stipends and other funding, would "try to gradually Hungarianise them". On October 27, Markuš said to The Slovak Spectator that he stood behind his comments and added that the project was also "questionable in terms of its financial aspect". "It is questionable whether such investment is necessary at a time when Slovak educational institutions are facing a difficult financial situation," Markuš said.

    Education Minister Martin Fronc said "money spent on education is never a waste". Fronc also disagreed with Mušková's opinion that the law on the Hungarian university was unconstitutional, saying that if it were true, "it would mean that other minority educational institutions could not work either." "The university will help increase the level of university education among the Hungarian minority," Fronc said. According to cabinet statistics, in 2001 only 5.3 percent of Hungarians living in Slovakia had university degrees, compared to 10.4 percent of those of Slovak origin. But other opposition MPs also protested the creation of the university: Dušan Caplovic from the Smer party dubbed it "a provincial and non-European act". "The creation of the university ... is in fact a way towards the declaration of a certain autonomous area where Slovaks will gradually be pushed out, or else assimilated," Caplovic said during the parliamentary debate. SMK deputy Erzsébet Dolník, who is also a member of the parliamentary education committee, dismissed the statements as untrue and said "similar [anti-Hungarian] arguments are repeated every time parliament votes on any Hungarian issue." Dolník told The Slovak Spectator that the university would increase the education levels of the Hungarian minority and also enable young people from the south to study at a university that is close to their homes, rather than travel long distances to other cities. More university-educated people will also help decrease the high unemployment rates in the southern Slovak districts, Dolník said.

    The institution will be Slovakia's 25th university and will consist of three faculties: pedagogical, economic, and theological. However, an evaluation of the university plan by the state's academic authority, the accreditation commission (AK), was also mixed. The AK only stated that in its opinion, Slovakia did not need another educational facility of higher education. The Hungarian university law has yet to be approved by Slovak President Rudolf Schuster.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    10/11/2003- The authors of a controversial report on the illegal sterilization of Roma women in eastern Slovakia said that the matter was far from being closed after the cabinet's investigations into the allegations found that no genocide had taken place in Slovakia. The Slovak cabinet recently discussed a report submitted by Deputy PM for Human Rights Pál Csáky that stated that illegal sterilization of Roma women had not taken place. However, summarising an investigation that lasted months, the report stated, "all administrative procedures were not always adhered to" during individual sterilizations. It therefore recommended that Slovak legislation on sterilizations be changed so that no doubts could arise in the future over the lack of the informed consent of women to their sterilization. In January this year, the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), a non-profit organization that promotes and defends the reproductive rights of women worldwide, and the Slovak Centre for Civil and Human Rights (POLP) non-profit advocacy group, released a report called Body and Soul that documented 110 cases of Roma women who were sterilized against their will in public hospitals in eastern Slovakia It also exposed other violations of Roma women's rights, such as verbal and physical abuse, segregation in maternity wards , misinformation in health matters, denial of patient access to medical records, and other racially discriminatory standards of care. Many cases documented in the report stated that women were never explained the consequences of sterilization and that some of them were made to sign documents that enabled the operation only minutes before the sterilization was carried out, and while some of them were already under anaesthetics.

    The allegations caused a massive stir in Slovakia and abroad. EU officials, human rights organizations, and members of the US congress expressed concern over the allegations. The Slovak cabinet launched a large-scale investigation into the matter through the Health Ministry. Police undertook a separate investigation under the suspicion of genocide by unknown perpetrators. In late October, Csáky's report stated that the allegations were not confirmed. "[The] Slovak cabinet considers this issue and this case a closed matter," Csáky said on October 29. As part of the report, a cabinet statement was approved condemning all forms of intolerance and racial hatred. But the authors disagree with the cabinet's conclusions. "It was positive to see that the cabinet launched the investigation, but the way the investigation was carried out raised doubts about the cabinet's willingness to reimburse the victims and punish the actors [of coerced sterilization]," Barbara Bukovská from POLP said to The Slovak Spectator. According to POLP and CRR, investigators intimidated Roma women throughout the investigation. EU officials were not completely convinced by the cabinet's findings. Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, suggested, in a statement issued on October 29, that the Slovak cabinet should accept "objective responsibility in the matter for failing to put in place adequate legislation and for failing to exercise appropriate supervision of sterilization practices, although allegations of improper sterilizations have been made throughout the 1990s and early 2000s".

    Csáky disagreed with the comments. In a November 4 interview with The Slovak Spectator he said, "in no case can we agree with such a statement". "Illegal sterilizations did not take place in Slovakia and so there is no failure to admit or take responsibility for something that did not take place. There really is not a reason to doubt the results of the investigation," Csáky said. Gil-Robles' report stated that "in view of the difficulties encountered during the investigations, and limitations surrounding them ... it is unlikely that they will shed full light on the sterilization practices". It also said that "it can reasonably be assumed that sterilizations have taken place, particularly in eastern Slovakia, without informed consent," although the commissioner said that it was never confirmed that an active or organized government policy of improper sterilizations has existed. EU ambassador to Slovakia Eric van der Linden told The Slovak Spectator on November 3 that his delegation in Bratislava had not yet received a copy of the cabinet's final report and he therefore could not comment on it. "I do not doubt that the cabinet has made an in-depth examination, but I am convinced that here and there such a case has happened. But I must underline that I am also convinced that it has not been the government's policy but the acts of individuals," Ambassador van der Linden said. Bukovská said that the victims would continue to seek legal redress in their individual cases. "The matter is certainly not closed. Some of the women are filing complaints against the investigation and they are determined to go to the Constitutional Court with their complaints, as well as to the European Court [of human rights] in Strasbourg," Bukovská said.

    The Slovak Constitutional Court is the highest court institution in the country that resolves legal disputes and also rules in cases where parties complain that their constitutional rights to a fair and objective trial were violated. Apart from introducing new legislation that would make sure no future sterilizations are carried out without a patient's informed consent, Gil-Robles said, the Slovak cabinet "ought, consequently, to undertake to offer a speedy, fair, efficient, and just redress". "The redress should include compensation and an apology," he stressed. Csáky responded, "if we are to take the word redress then it would only be in the sense of approving new legislation dealing with the terms under which sterilizations are carried out". "The terms will be much stricter as opposed to the current situation. That, however, does not mean that in Slovakia a process of illegal sterilizations took place, but rather that we will adjust our legislation in this area to a more modern system of perception of this issue," Csáky said.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    10/11/2003- "Why haven't our bishops apologized for crimes against the Roma? Why do we build [segregated] Roma churches? Why don't we hear the church react to racism?" Daniela Šilanová, editor of the Roma newspaper Romano Nevo L'il posed these questions and provoked a heated discussion at the Conference of Roma culture in Šamorin in late October. Present at the conference were several representatives of the church who spoke about the deep faith many Roma have in God. Daniela Šilanová's views ignited a discussion of the hypocrisy of many Christians as well as the absence of declarations against racism by the church. "Historians should speak about this," said priest Jozef Cerven. "If there were mistakes made by the church, then it should certainly apologize. The Holy Father apologized as the highest authority of the church. And if it becomes apparent that there are people who have been hurt, then most certainly that apology will come." Several Roma participants recalled experiences of intolerance when visiting churches, even though they were well dressed, clean, and had a good standard of living. Sister Athanasia, a Roma, suggested that, when blame for racism is laid, Christians need to be separated from the church. "People used to pull away from me too," she said when she recalled her early visits to church. "But this is not the church. These are people who are unaware." Alexander Mušinka asked for a more active role by the church in working with the Roma. "I can't say that the church is anti-Roma, but there is a lack of motivation from above that would [otherwise] motivate priests to really take advantage of the 'straight highway' they have to the Roma settlements," he said. "There are active individuals, but I don't see signals from the church that would morally push people to enter these communities."
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    10/11/2003- The final version of the Government's Action Plan for Implementation of the Framework Programme for Equal Integration of Roma in the Bulgarian Society has been approved by the Cabinet. It was drafted on the basis of the Framework Programme for Equal Integration of Roma in Bulgarian Society, created by the Human Rights Project in 1998. The framework programme was supported by more than 75 Roma organisations throughout the country and on April 22, 1999, was approved by the then Government. The Action Plan contains eight sections. One of the largest is dedicated to the implementation of anti-discrimination legislation. It lays down measures for education of police in using the anti-discrimination legislation. It insists on the introduction of obligatory rules for anti-discriminatory conduct in the job descriptions of schoolteachers. Most of the money provided under the regulations of the Action Plan is meant for combatting unemployment among Roma people. It envisages that 78 383 people will be guaranteed jobs. The plan has chapters on health care and education. According to them the appointment of assistant Roma teachers will be legitimised. Up to now school principals have not been able to hire them because there is no such position in the regulations concerning the public sector. About 1.2 million leva will be spent throughout the country on salaries of assistant teachers. They help teachers in the education of Roma children who do not know enough Bulgarian. Two million leva is provided for free textbooks for children in grade two, and for children of poor families. Under the Action Plan, 284 houses will be built for Roma families in Plovdiv. Under PHARE and UNDP projects, the infrastructure of Roma neighbourhoods in four other cities will be improved. About 55 000 leva will be spent on celebrations of traditional Roma holidays. The total sum for the implementation of the Action Plan is 271 199 431 leva. The total amount of money spent on different Roma programs by the Bulgarian Government in 2002 was about 12 million euro, which means that there is a 10-fold increase.
    ©Sofia Echo

    A NOT SO DIVINE COMEDY(Netherlands)
    Journalists often dine out on the stories behind the stories they report. Sometimes, behind the scene events become an integral part of the story itself. Freelance journalist Mindy Ran reports on the current obstacle course that is reporting on asylum and immigration issues in the Netherlands.

    It would almost be funny, if it wasn't so tragic. Thirty days of phone calls, emails, silly excuses, red herrings, evasion and broken promises. Yes, I am talking about the Dutch government, or more specifically, political parties. The idea was simple enough. It has long been clear that the Dutch media has not given enough attention to issues surrounding asylum seekers and immigration in general. When they do, it tends to be straight forward news reporting that does not look critically at the issues. For example: the Human Rights Watch report which alleges human rights abuse within the new asylum policies was almost universally ignored by the main stream Dutch press when it was first published. Yet, when recently forced back into Parliament because they had to answer the allegations before the UN by the end of the year, the coverage was simply of who said what, and did not look much further. So, in the interest of broadening our coverage of this pivotal issue, it was decided to produce a series of articles beginning with a simple overview to bring our readers up to date. Seven very basic questions were posed to the following political parties: Labour PvdA, Christian Democrat (CDA), Democrat D66, Lijst Pim Fortuijn LPF, and for balance, the Foundation of Refugee Organisations VON. After speaking to each of the press officers of each party, it was decided to send the questions in email form. This, they said, would make it easier and faster to answer. In fact, it appeared to make it easier to ignore.

    The PvdA was initially very enthusiastic about providing their policy positions: 'they would love to answer the questions.' After 10 days of no response, phone calls and follow up emails led to the information that the press spokesperson (one of two) was ill, and the other unable to cope. I was expected to believe, and respect, that one of the largest political parties in the country was unable to answer media questions because of the common cold. Further emails and phone calls more than a week later netted not a single response of any form from the once so-enthusiastic PvdA. Therefore, they are not included in the final article.

    Having heard nothing from D66 either, I contacted the press office and was told they had not received the email. Odd, as I had received no notice of this failed delivery. No matter, I sent it again and received the response that the questions were too detailed to be handled by a press spokesperson. They were being referred to their parliamentarian on the subject for a more comprehensive reply. It was understood that it should be handled sooner rather than later. More emails and phone calls later, I was promised by the press office I would get my answers shortly. A week on, I have yet to receive anything from D66 except empty promises. Therefore, they are not included in the final article.

    The real comedy began when trying to follow-up the initial email sent directly to the immigration parliamentarian of the Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's CDA. Every time I called, I was connected to the answering machine of one of the CDA MEPs (although this information was not on the answering machine message). This led to a highly confused conversation with a much harried sounding gentleman in Brussels, who did not appreciate me asking questions about Dutch policy issues. Calling back I was informed that the operator heard my voice and simply assumed it was an international question. No matter, could they please connect me to … (the name of their parliamentarian)? I was informed he was not with the CDA. Confusion deepening, I asked to start again at the press office. Could the press office connect me with the parliamentarian who had received my first email? Never heard of him, but here is someone who deals with asylum issues. Could they connect me with that person Yes. Speaking with his assistant I was informed the email had been deleted. Send it again. Ten days later, you guessed it, no response. Another phone call, another copy of the email, another promise to look at it. In the end the CDA has the courtesy to reply that they would not be replying as they were too busy to respond to seven basic questions they had had for over 30 days, But they did suggest I could trawl through their parliamentary papers to deduce them for myself. Hilariously, they also had to admit that their press office had "forgotten" that the MEP was a member of their party. The CDA is not included in the final article.

    According to a spokesperson for VON, who did respond and is included in the final article, this is a typical Dutch response. You can not get drawn into a conflict if you do not speak of it, or discuss it. To me, this is a ridiculous extension of the attitude often offered by requests of the police and government to co-operate with the press — if we ignore you long enough perhaps you will go away.

    What makes this so tragic is these issues go beyond the public's right to know, into the public's need to know. The policies and decisions made now effect the quality of lives, all of our lives, and there needs to be an open discussion among the public, in the press, and in the parliament. Perhaps they do not consider us important, because we are expatriates and often do not have the vote. But, we will not go away and will continue to ask the pertinent, and impertinent, questions.
    ©Expatica News

    11/11/2003— Despite ministerial approval, a Utrecht secondary school has abandoned plans to obligate first-year students to study the Turkish language due to a lack of funding. But the school director, Ton van Vught, said in the television current affairs programme Nova on Monday night that Turkish will now be offered as an optional subject, an NOS news report said. Students will be allowed to choose from three elective modern languages, Turkish, German and French. Students must study two electives, while English will remain compulsory. Dutch is a compulsory element also. The Roman Catholic school's proposal to make Turkish lessons compulsory drew sharp parliamentary criticism over the weekend. Governing coalition parties Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 opposed to the plan. But Education Minister Maria van der Hoeven said on Monday the school was allowed to introduce compulsory Turkish lessons in the first year because legislation allowed individual schools to offer their own courses. If parents approved, no other impediments stood in the school's way, she said. Despite the go-ahead, Van Vught said the St. Gerardus Majella school — a VMBO pre-vocational secondary school — decided against the compulsory lessons due to financial reasons. He said the school could not guarantee course continuity. The director also said the proposal — which was recently reported on in the magazine Levende Talen (Living Languages) — had been made public before its feasibility had been fully investigated.

    The school was investigating offering compulsory Turkish lessons due to an influx of Turkish students after the recent closure of two schools. Migrants already make up about half of the school's student numbers, Dutch associated press ANP reported. Van Vught said the change of plan had nothing to do with the 1,500 protest emails sent to the school, many of which originated from the right-wing movement Nieuw Rechts (New Right) of Rotterdam resident Michiel Smit. A parliamentary majority had also stood opposed to the plan, with the Christian Democrat CDA questioning why the Netherlands should make the study of the Turkish language compulsory. Governing coalition parties Democrat D66 and Liberal VVD said students of Turkish ancestry who already have language problems are more expressive with extra Dutch lessons. The Education Inspectorate was also hesitant about the plan, indicating that the language demands placed on first-year secondary students would be too severe. But Van Vught dismissed the inspectorate's concerns and said students are already asking when they can study Turkish and Arabic, which the school also hopes to offer in the future. He also denied talk that offering the languages would hinder integration. Education union AOb did not wish to interfere with a school's course policy, while union Onderwijsbond CNV said Turkish would simply be a normal modern language on offer should the Islamic country be granted entry into the EU.
    ©Expatica News

    Immigration praise for Italy, USA
    6/11/2003- At an immigration conference in Rome, Minister of Refugees, Immigrants and Integration, Bertel Haarder said that the EU has to 'strengthen the bastions of Fortress Europe,' to discourage refugees and asylum seekers arriving here from under-developed countries. Haarder stressed the government's initiative to spend more money on providing shelter for refugees in countries close to where they are fleeing from. He said that increased trade with under-developed countries would also help stem the flow of refugees. 'Immigrants continue to arrive on our shores, even though we've reached the limit of how many we can accept. We have to encourage them to stay at home. We can do that through increased trading with poorer countries. If we don't buy their goods, then we're going to have to accept that their citizens will continue to risk life and limb to get to Europe,' said Haarder. He praised his Italian hosts, who he said had proved to be very adept at getting immigrants into the workforce. But he said that immigrants to Denmark were often kept out of the labour market by a combination of high minimum wages and attractive social benefits. According to a new OECD report, whilst Denmark continues to struggle to find work for unqualified immigrants, in the US, virtually all immigrants find employment, and, on average, work more than the average US citizen.

    Boycott discrimination cabs, minister says
    Minister of Refugees, Immigrants and Integration, Bertel Haarder has got involved in a dispute between two rival taxi companies in Odense. Haarder has challenged Odense residents to boycott the Odense Mini Taxi firm, which has built up a reputation of being 'immigrant-free' by allegedly refusing to employ 'non-Danes,' and use Odense Taxi instead, where 24 percent of the drivers are from ethnic minorities. 'Let's just try and give minorities a chance to earn a living,' said Haarder, better known for his fiery anti-refugee rhetoric. 'People from Odense should boycott Odense Mini Taxi until it ceases its policy of discrimination.' The Danish People's Party reacted immediately by saying it was 'inadmissible' for a government minister to stick his nose in the affairs of a private company. 'He has no right to comment on who should and who should not be employed,' said the party's spokesperson on business Colette Brix. 'What private companies do has nothing to do with politicians.' A spokesperson for Odense Mini Taxi rejected the accusations of racism and discrimination and claimed that the immigrants who had applied for work at the firm hadn't been able to pass the road-knowledge test. 'Maybe its just too difficult for them. It's Odense Council who administrates the test, so ask them,' he said.

    Racist radio
    The much-criticised anti-immigrant Copenhagen radio station, Radio Holger has been shut down for a month by the Local Radio Advisory Board for transmitting 'racist messages.' In one incident earlier this year, a disc-jockey at the station, which is a mouthpiece for the racist 'Action Against Immigration' political party, said on the air that killing Iraqi residents would be perfectly legal, as long as Denmark is at war with Iraq. Meanwhile, Culture Minister Brian Mikkelsen is trying to stop another station, Radio Oasen, run by neo-Nazi Jonni Hansen, from receiving DKK 78,000 in public subsidies every year. The National Movement against Nazism described it as one of the 'peculiarities of Denmark,' that not only are Nazi stations allowed to transmit, but are also provided with government subsidies. Denmark is the only country in the world giving public funding to a radio station disseminating Nazi propaganda.

    No speak Danish
    Seventy percent of all immigrants in Næstved continue to stay away from mandatory Danish language lessons, even though they risk losing their social benefits. According to a survey from the Confederation of Danish Employers, Næstved council is the least successful local authority in the country in encouraging immigrants to learn Danish.

    Unions vs. immigrant authorities
    Leading labour unions warn of an influx of underpaid IT workers as immigration authorities look the other way. Trade unions HK and Prosa have warned of the emergence of organised trafficking in underpaid IT personnel. Both unions claim that companies have begun to use foreign middlemen to access IT power from India and Eastern Europe. In many cases, the workers are hired without legal employment contracts, as is legally required. Both unions have criticised the Immigration Service for turning a blind eye to the law in granting residence and work permits to foreigners. "We have repeatedly informed immigration authorities that there is no proof of employment in many of these cases. This is an absolutely fundamental legal requirement, and utterly crucial in determining whether wage and working conditions meet Danish standards. But the Immigration Service has completely disregarded our warnings," said HK/Privat political/economic consultant Morten Skov. The unions claim that several companies have begun to "rent" foreign workers via middlemen, in a bid to bypass regulations governing residence and work permits.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    Disturbance by illegal immigrants
    Some 100 illegal immigrants held at the Hal Far Immigration Centre caused thousands of liri worth of damage on Sunday when one of the detainees burnt a mattress in a corridor. The fire spread and damaged the soffitt and the centre's electricity system. While police from the Special Assignment Group calmed down the rowdy detainees, no one was injured. The detainees were then transferred temporarily to police headquarters in Floriana.

    Illegal immigrant hangs himself
    Having Previously threatened to commit suicide, a 31-year-old illegal immigrant hanged himself at the police HQ detention centre on Monday. Abdul Hakum Ghernout, an Algerian, was arrested in April 2001 for entering Malta as a stowaway. In January 2002 he was declared an illegal immigrant. His application for refugee status was twice turned down by the UNHCR. Having threatened to commit suicide he was referred to Mount Carmel Hospital, but released as he was not suffering from any mental disorder. On Monday he used a bandage that had been tied around his arm to hang himself from a window. First aid was administered when he was discovered but he was declared dead by the time the ambulance arrived.

    Columnist cleared of inciting racial hatred
    Columnist Simone Zammit Endrich on Friday was cleared of the charge of inciting racial hatred after the court of appeal upheld her appeal from a conviction handed down by a lower court. She was originally found guilty and fined Lm10 in connection with an article published in April 2002 in The Malta Independent.

    Fined for Hitler caricature
    The editor of In-Nazzjon was yesterday fined Lm100 after a magistrate ruled that a caricature depicting Labour Party leader Alfred Sant as Adolf Hitler, on a podium hung with a swastika, was defamatory. "Although, being a politician, Dr Sant was prone to a certain amount of criticism, and even ridicule, comparing him with a person of such abhorrence as Hitler was intolerable and such a comparison should never be used by the media to ridicule someone," Magistrate Michael Mallia said. The magistrate added that a test of whether the caricature could be held to be defamatory was the message that would be received by the ordinary reader of the newspaper. In this case, there was no doubt that at first impression the caricature identified Dr Sant with Hitler, a person associated with war, cruelty and atrocities committed in the name of Nazism. The magistrate ruled that the caricature, captioned "Alfred Sant: Jien biss... Jien biss... Jien biss", published in In-Nazzjon on June 20, 2001, was defamatory and he fined editor Joe Mikallef Lm100.
    ©Times of Malta

    7/11/2003- Camouflage-clad men have forced staff to leave the Moscow offices of the Open Society Institute founded by the US billionaire George Soros. At least 30 men stormed the offices and seized computers and documents in the raid, which began late on Thursday, the foundation's lawyer Pavel Kuzmin said. Mr Soros' senior policy adviser Laura Silber told BBC News Online that the foundation had responded by filing criminal charges. She said the 100 staff were locked out and "it is impossible to work in Russia now". A Moscow firm called Sector-1 which owns the building said it acted because of a rent row. But the institute's Moscow chief said the raid could be related to the crackdown on Russian oil giant Yukos. Yekaterina Geniyeva, who is currently outside Russia, was quoted as saying she could see "a certain connection" with the Yukos affair.

    'State capitalism'
    Mr Soros, whose institute aims to promote a civil society in post-communist Russia, sharply criticised the recent jailing of Yukos chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky. On Tuesday he warned that Russia "may now be entering a phase of state capitalism, where all the owners of capital realise that they are dependent on the state". His comments came in an interview with the weekly Moskovskiye Novosti, recently acquired by Mr Khodorkovsky. He denounced the 25 October arrest of the oil tycoon as "persecution". The foundation's lawyer said two lorry-loads of documents and equipment were driven away and the foundation had no access to its server and files. Ms Silber said the foundation had no temporary premises in Moscow. "We're in the clear over legal occupancy of the building, with full legal rights," she said, adding that the lease was valid until 2009. An important Aids prevention programme funded by the Soros institute is now jeopardised, she said.

    The Open Society Institute has been working in Moscow since 1987 and has spent nearly $1bn in Russia.
    ©BBC News

    7/11/2003- Norway is sending hopeful immigrants back at a record rate as authorities tighten procedures. For the first time the number of rejections will approach 1,000 in a year. The common cause for expulsion is the commission of a crime or refusing to leave voluntarily after failing to achieve residency. "Enforcement has gotten tougher," said Morten Hansen at the Directorate of Immigration (UDI). "We have gotten new routines for police for reporting crimes. There is no indication that immigrant criminality has increased," Hansen said. In recent years the expulsion rate has been between 700-800 persons a year. By October 1, 2003 there have been 748 immigrants sent out of Norway. Lawyer Stine Norboe, who has had a series of expulsion cases, strongly believes that there are many people with strong ties to Norway that are being treated badly as procedures toughen. "One has to differentiate between people who have no ties to Norway and people who have been here for a long time. It is a bad thing to expel people who have such ties to the country that they should be treated in the same way as Norwegians. Sending home people who have lived here since they were children, or have a wife and children in Norway, results in tragedies that we should be above causing," Norboe said.

    11/11/2003- Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Group Vice-chairman Salih Kapusuz called the turbaned defendant case a scandal, adding this was a sign of intolerance. When commenting on the issue, Kapusuz told the press at Parliament yesterday that the duty of the judiciary was to solve problems, not to increase tension among society. A Supreme Court of Appeals judge last week ordered a headscarved defendant to leave the court room, saying he could not allow her in wearing a headscarf. Kapusuz said those serving the public do not have the right to ignore the demands of the public, adding the case was a scandal. "Democratization, human rights and freedoms are the issues that we are concerned with. However in this case the right of defense has been violated and in such a situation it is not possible to talk about justice. This is not acceptable." "Attempts to restrict human rights and freedoms are archaic." Upon a question on the turban issue in Turkey, Kapusuz said, "This is not the first time a turbaned defendant has entered a court room and tried. They have for many years been tried at several courts. But this is not the case. I wonder if some circles wish to create tension among society. We do not want to be involved in such tension. Turkey is a state governed by law and Turkey has no time for such tension." The turbaned defendant case is the latest issue in a series of recent controversies to come to Turkey's agenda. Previously, another controversy surfaced after President Ahmet Necdet Sezer didn't invite the turbaned wives of some AK Party deputies to a reception at the Presidential Palace claiming they couldn't enter a state institution. The secular establishment in Turkey have serious concerns over AK Party's Islamic roots.
    ©Turkish Daily News

    11/11/2003- The Scottish Refugee Council is deeply disturbed to hear of the violent attack perpetrated in Glasgow on a family of asylum seekers from Afghanistan. We sincerely hope that the police will get to the bottom of this matter and apprehend the culprits. Unfortunately, harassment and abuse that sometimes escalate into violence are now a daily part of life for many asylum seekers in Glasgow. Our feeling is that incidents that are reported remain the tip of the iceberg. Many people are afraid to go to the police for fear of reprisals. The best efforts of many Glaswegians to welcome refugees to their city are being undermined by a senseless minority.

    Peter Barry of the Scottish Refugee Council's senior management team said:
    "We are increasingly operating in an environment where asylum seekers are scapegoated and blamed for everything that is wrong in Britain today. The politicians and journalists who create this climate should think long and hard about the impact of their words. People on the ground tell us that a negative article one day often equates to a fist in the face the day after. It is shameful that refugees who come here fleeing persecution end up being targeted again in Scotland."

    1.The Scottish Refugee Council is a non governmental organisation and the main charity in Scotland providing support to asylum seekers and refugees.
    2. According to Strathclyde Police figures, there has been a 60% increase in the number of racist attacks since asylum seekers began to arrive in Glasgow in 2000.
    ©Scottish Refugee Council

    As the Daily Mirror marks its 100th birthday, there is one part of the paper's history it is not celebrating. Chris Horrie unmasks an unlikely love affair with Oswald Mosley

    11/11/2003- It is one of the choicest pieces of journalistic dinner party general knowledge that the filthy right-wing Daily Mail was officially a fascist newspaper in the 1930s. The paper was burned on the streets after running the headline "Hurrah for the Blackshirts" and backing Oswald Mosley's plan to make himself Britain's equivalent of Adolf Hitler. No surprise then, so the conversational gambit goes, that the Mail is still beating up on asylum seekers today. What is less well known is that the Mail's former stablemate the Daily Mirror was just as pro-fascist. On Monday, 22 January, 1934 the Mirror ran the headline "Give the Blackshirts a helping hand". The paper went one further than the Mail, urging readers to join Mosley's British Union of Fascists, and giving the address to which to send membership applications. "As a purely British organisation, the Blackshirts will respect those principles of tolerance which are traditional in British politics," the Mirror told readers, complaining that "timid alarmists" had "been whimpering that the rapid growth in numbers of the British Blackshirts is preparing the way for a system of rulership by means of steel whips and concentration camps". This was nonsense, the Mirror said, the result of ignorance of the reality of "Blackshirt government" in Hitler's Germany: "The notion that a permanent reign of terror exists there has been evolved entirely from their own morbid imaginations, fed by sensational propaganda from opponents of the party now in power." The paper added that anyone who had visited Germany or Mussolini's Italy "would find that the mood of the vast majority of their inhabitants was not cowed submission but confididt enthusiasm." The Mirror's Sunday sister paper, then known as The Pictorial, followed up with a Hello!-style picture essay showing uniformed blackshirt paramilitaries playing table tennis and enjoying a sing-song around the piano while off duty inside the Black House, Mosley's barracks-cum-dungeon on London's King's Road. The Mirror and the Pictorial also planned a photographic beauty contest aimed at finding Britain's prettiest woman fascist - though Mosley personally objected to this, saying the paper was trivialising his movement.

    The author of the Mirror's "helping hand" article was Harold Harmsworth, the first Lord Rothermere, great grandfather of the current Daily Mail proprietor. Rothermere had inherited both papers from his older brother Lord Northcliffe, but had slowly sold off shares in the Mirror, enabling him to invest in the more profitable Mail. Surprisingly, perhaps, when the Mirror piece was published, he no longer owned the paper. But he still held considerable sway over the paper's board of directors, which he had appointed, including editorial director Harry Guy "Bart" Bartholomew - the man credited with creating the modern tabloid Mirror - and Rothermere's nephew Cecil King, who was to run the paper in its glory years of the 1950s and 1960s. The change of ownership did not at first change the paper's pro-fascist editorial stance. And when the change came it had more to do with money than ideology. Rothermere's right-wing propaganda had badly hit the paper's sales. Bartholomew and King's solution was to re-launch the paper as a New York-style tabloid aimed at a working-class audience. "Our best hope," King later wrote in his memoirs, "was to appeal to young, working-class men and women... If this was the aim, the politics had to be made to match. In the depression of the thirties, there was no future in preaching right-wing politics to young people who were in the lowest income bracket." When the political shift in the Mirror came it was cautious. The paper backed the Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin in the 1935 election, and then gradually adopted an anti-appeasement policy. But politics was far less important in the re-launched, tabloid Mirror. The paper cut its politics coverage by half and vastly increased its sport reporting, shock-horror pictures, lurid crime tales, cartoons, human-interest material and pin-up pictures. King and Bartholomew's American-style tabloid formula - put into action with enormous panache by legendary Welsh tabloid feature-writer Hugh Cudlipp - doubled the circulation to 1.5 million by 1939. During the war - in true tabloid style - the Mirror became super-patriotic, and won for itself the reputation of being "the soldiers' paper". Much of the paper's radical reputation rested on its demagogic attacks on the "Colonel Blimp" Conservative politicians and upper-class army officers who made such a mess of the war effort in its early stages. But the idea of the 1930s Mirror as a great champion of the anti-Nazi cause is largely mythical. And there is no indication that Cecil King ever changed his politics. King remained an admirer of Oswald Mosley, announcing in his memoirs that Mosley had been "the outstanding politician of his generation" and that his only mistake was to have "chosen the wrong side during the war".

    After the war, Cecil King came to run the Mirror with as much autocratic power as any proprietor. But wisely, he left the contents of the paper to Cudlipp, the man with the common touch. Despite the paper's reputation for supporting all things socially radical in the 1950s and 1960s, its editorial support for Labour was lukewarm. King still felt the Harmsworth-Rothermere blood coursing through his veins and loathed Labour's post-war leaders Attlee ("a complete drip") and Gaitskell ("a vain man without substance or principle"). He warmed at first to Harold Wilson, mainly because Wilson had promised to take the UK into the European Common Market. By the 1960s the theme of a "united Europe" standing between what the Mosleyites saw as a Mongolian-Asiatic Russia and a Jewish-Negro America had become an obsession with the exiled Mosley and also with King. Dumbfounded hacks at the Mirror were required to write article after article setting out the plan for "Nation Europa", which were then foisted on a mostly baffled Mirror readership. In 1968, after Wilson dragged his feet on Europe, and at the height of a run on the pound, King commandeered the front page of the Mirror to demand Wilson's removal from office. At the same time, amid talk of a military coup, King held a meeting with Mosley at his mansion outside Paris, sounding him out as a possible member of a "government of national unity". Peter Stephens, the Mirror's Paris correspondent sent a report back to Cudlipp in London (now contained in Cudlipp's private archive at Cardiff University) reporting that King had said that Mosley was still "an extremely brilliant man" who could "still make a useful contribution" to the running of the country. Stephens, astonished, had asked: "You are surely not thinking of including him in your replacement government?" King had replied: "Why not? People have forgotten about his past." In the event - after some further meetings with military officers and an audience with the potential figurehead Lord Mountbatten - King's plan for the establishment of a Mirror-led military dictatorship fizzled out and was written off as an act of insanity. King's role in the 1968 "coup that never was" is still controversial. But the fact remains that for much of the Mirror's admittedly brilliant 100-year reign as the self-proclaimed "Newspaper of the Century", it had a dark side which many now prefer discreetly to forget.
    © Independent Digital

    12/11/2003- Police have made six arrests for allegedly inciting racial hatred after a caravan with a Gypsy family painted on the side was set alight at a village bonfire celebration. The mock Gypsy caravan was burned at Firle, near Lewes, East Sussex, during the annual bonfire celebrations, amid concern about the tone of the event which had been expressed by some families who witnessed it. The six people arrested have been released on police bail. More arrests are expected to be made this week in connection with the incident - Sussex police anticipate up to 12 arrests could be made. The caravan carried a fake number plate, which read P1KEY (a derogatory term for Gypsies). It had been towed through the streets of the village in a parade before it was set alight on October 25. Organisers of the bonfire had denied the Gypsy tableau was racially motivated. But bystanders were encouraged to shout: "Burn it, burn it."

    Incitement to racial hatred, under the 1986 Public Order Act, carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years. It is an offence to stir up racial hatred through words or behaviour. The burning of the caravan follows a long-running dispute between residents and a Gypsy family, who this year set up a temporary home in a field. Superintendent Grenville Wilson, in charge of crime and operations at Sussex police's East Downs division, said: "We recognise the concerns being made across communities in East Sussex about events that happened in Firle. "A full, open and thorough investigation will uncover all issues in this case. We are working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service, which will decide if there is a case to answer." Charles Smith, chairman of the Gypsy Council, said the incident had not been surprising, as incidents of racism against Gypsies occured daily. "If they had burnt an effigy of a mock synagogue there would have been absolute outrage," he said. "But nothing was said when they did this to Gypsies. "Even though Gypsies are recognised by race relation laws, it still seems to be acceptable to do this sort of thing. "The problem is with the government. There has been no positive legislation regarding travellers since 1968."

    Richard Gravett, chairman of the Firle Bonfire Society, met officers for informal discussions a week ago. Afterwards, the society issued an unreserved apology to "anyone who was offended by the event" and stressed the motivation had not been racist. The society then withdrew from all Guy Fawkes activities this year and promised to consult more widely when planning future events. Mr Gravett had claimed their intentions had been misrepresented and misunderstood. "There was no racist slant towards any of the travelling community. If anything, it's actually completely the other way," he claimed. Several parents who attended the event with their children had expressed concerns. A resident said: "I can't believe the people of Firle and Sussex support this kind of sick stunt. What kind of message does this send to the kids who were present?" The Commission for Racial Equality has called for those involved to be pursued and punished. A spokeswoman said yesterday: "We welcome the fact that the police have treated this matter seriously. It is now a matter for them and there is not much more we can add." Its chairman, Trevor Phillips, said Gypsies and travellers suffer the most discrimination in this country. "This was definitely an example of incitement to racial hatred and you couldn't really get more provocative than this," he said last week. Lewes, four miles from Firle, commemorates its past as a Protestant stronghold each November 5 by burning an effigy of the Pope.
    ©The Guardian

    12/11/2003- The value of an organisation for ethnic minorities that has received more than £1m since it was set up three years ago has been brought into question. Social Justice Minister Edwina Hart has announced that she has ordered a "review and assessment" of the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (Awema) "in light of the funding it has received". David Davies, the Conservatives' equal opportunities spokesman, said, "According to answers I have received from Edwina Hart, Awema has received £1,073,172.91 from public funds since it was set up three years ago, including more than £750,000 from the Assembly Government and the rest from the Home Office. "Having looked at the organisation's accounts, it seems that the great majority of this money has been spent on staff wages and other means of keeping Awema going. The only tangible expenditure that I can identify is just over £15,000 spent producing Awema Times, their newsletter. I was astonished to read an issue of this newsletter that contained what seems to me to be an attack on the Assembly. It says, 'It is Awema's view that the BME [black and other ethnic minority] communities were never meant to be part of the New Politics in Wales. We were only tolerated to ensure that our votes came in on the night of the referendum.' It is difficult to think of a clearer example of biting the hand that feeds you. "I think it is outrageous that they will not disclose to me their staff salaries, which are paid from public funds. "It also seems that Awema's aims are very similar to those of the Commission for Racial Equality and that it is duplicating the work of that body. I know I am not the only person concerned about the amount of public money that has been pumped into Awema, but many are reluctant to criticise because they are worried they may be accused of racism. I fully support moves to make Wales a harmonious multiracial society with the full involvement of ethnic minorities, but I am not convinced that the public money spent on Awema could not be put to better use." Dr Rita Austin, the unpaid chair of Awema, wrote to Mr Davies last week saying she was not prepared to release details of individual staff salaries, although she made the point that Awema employees were paid in line with local government rates.

    Dr Austin told The Western Mail, "Mr Davies's points are misinformed and unsubstantiated. The CRE is a statutory body with statutory responsibilities, while we are in the voluntary sector. We do not represent individuals, but were set up by the Assembly to make high level contributions to the understanding of race equality matters in Wales. Currently we are compiling a response to a consultation document commissioned by the Assembly Government on these issues." Naz Malik, Awema's director, said, "Even though he sits on the Assembly's equality committee, David Davies seems to know very little about our work. I find it outrageous that he should accuse us of biting the hand that feeds us. It is our responsibility to state facts that the Assembly may find unpalatable, and that is what I was doing when I wrote our submission to the Richard Commission on the Assembly's powers that was reproduced in the Awema Times edition seen by David Davies. The fact is that there are no ethnic minority members of the Assembly." Mr Malik released a letter to him from Social Justice Minister Edwina Hart in which she told him Awema's work would be assessed. The letter said, "I very much agreed with your view that Awema should be judged by the quality of the work which it undertakes, and by the contribution which it makes to our shared agenda in Wales. As the organisation has developed and expanded, so it is right, as you suggested, that it should be assessed in just the same way as any other organisation which receives funds from the Welsh Assembly Government. "It seemed to me that it might be helpful to have just that sort of assessment made, so that we can arrive at an open and shared view of the contribution which Awema has already made, and to form a basis for our future engagement."
    ©IC Network

    13/11/2003- Scotland Yard has suffered another self-inflicted blow to its record on race after agreeing to pay damages of over £100,000 to a distinguished black officer it wrongly suspected of corruption, the Guardian has learned. Chief Inspector Leroy Logan was investigated for five months over an £80 hotel bill at a cost estimated by police insiders at a further £100,000. Supporters of Mr Logan, who chairs the Metropolitan section of the Black Police Association, say he was picked on and subjected to an investigation to neutralise his support for Superintendent Ali Dizaei. Mr Dizaei was cleared twice at the Old Bailey of corruption after a multi-million pound, four-year inquiry that his supporters called a racist witchhunt. The Iranian-born officer was cleared of two relatively minor offences. He had earlier been accused of drug dealing, involvement in prostitution and acts to pervert the course of justice, but was never charged. Black officers urged a recruitment boycott of their own force after Supt Dizaei was acquitted in September for the second time. A fortnight ago Supt Dizaei returned to work with £80,000 in damages and with the force admitting his integrity was intact, in return for him dropping legal action. The recruitment boycott was then called off.

    Mr Logan's employment tribunal against the force for racial discrimination and victimisation was due to start on Monday. Instead it is expected that he and the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir John Stevens, will stage a joint press conference where an agreed statement will be read out. In a rare admission the force will say: "It is not in the public interest to defend the case of racism and victimisation that was put by Ch Insp Logan." The Met will declare that the "conclusion of this investigation leaves Ch Insp Logan's integrity and reputation demonstrably intact", and that the officer "has made a significant contribution to policing and diversity issues in the capital". Settlement talks began a fortnight ago and broke down at least twice, according to insiders. The settlement allows the Met to walk away without admitting liability or that its actions were discriminatory. It also spares top officers, headed by the deputy commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, from being grilled by Mr Logan's lawyers. The statement will also say: "We look forward to continuing dialogue between the [Met] and BPA as to how we may speedily address the remaining matters of concern raised in recent meetings". This is a reference to a Metropolitan Police Authority inquiry into the alleged disproportionately high level of investigation of ethnic minorities by the Met's anti-corruption squad.

    Ch Insp Logan was an adviser to the inquiry into the failed Damilola Taylor prosecution and last month was praised by Sir John at a BPA conference. He was also praised by Sir William Macpherson's report into the Met after testifying before it, and in 2001 was awarded an MBE. Dr Richard Stone, an adviser to the Macpherson inquiry, which found the force was institutionally racist, said: "I've always been impressed by his professionalism and he seems to be the sort of police officer who all of us who are supportive of high quality policing would like to meet." He added: "A lot of energy, time and money has been spent investigating black po lice officers and I hope that will reduce now and will instead be devoted to investigating serious criminals. "I hope the settlements with Supt Dizaei and Ch Insp Logan are going to move the issues of professionalism and anti-racism by the Met more urgently up the agenda." The roots of Ch Insp Logan's ordeal start in the corruption investigation against Supt Dizaei, who was the BPA's legal adviser. Detectives from the investigation, code-named Helios, seized documents from the BPA, including an expenses claim from Ch Insp Logan. He was served with a disciplinary notice in June 2001 saying he was not entitled to claim £80 for a hotel bill. Detectives trawled through three years of Mr Logan's expenses, but found no wrongdoing.

    The Crown Prosecution Service declined to prosecute and the Met did not bring internal disciplinary charges. Mr Logan has said the ordeal left him feeling humiliated. Barrister Peter Herbert, a member of the MPA, said: "The decision to investigate Leroy Logan was not motivated by issues of fairness and anti-corruption but motivated by victimisation for his outspoken defence of Ali Dizaei and by racism against him personally. If his case had proceeded the Met would have lost heavily." Toby Harris, who chairs the Metropolitan police authority, had warned that the BPA boycott and strife in the force over race threatened to undo the progress made. The Met will hope that the settlement with Mr Logan will repair relations with Asian and black officers who were left in near open rebellion over the alleged victimisation of colleagues for reasons they believe were motivated by race.
    ©The Guardian

    12/11/2003- A Greek television station has been fined euros 100,000 (£69,530) for showing two men kissing. Mega television was handed the fine over a broadcast of its weekly drama Close Your Eyes. The National Radio and Television Council which imposed the fine called the scene "vulgar and unacceptable". But TV critic Popi Diamandakou called the decision "hypocritical" after shots of Britney Spears kissing Madonna at the MTV Awards were repeatedly shown. "The council tells us ... that it's OK to be tolerant but we shouldn't go too far," wrote Ms Diamandakou in the daily Ta Nea newspaper.

    Big bother
    The National Radio and Television Council ran into controversy in 2002 when it stepped in to a row about the Greek version of Big Brother. Its president, Vasillis Lambridis, originally pulled the reality TV show off the air claiming it had overstepped the boundaries of public decency. But he was over-ruled by other members of the television watchdog, and the show was allowed to continue, albeit moved from a 2200 timeslot to past midnight. In the UK, 21 complaints were received when Coronation Street recently screened its first gay kiss, but these were rejected by the Independent Television Commission.
    ©BBC News

    12/11/2003- Illegal immigrants who have been in Switzerland for more than four years should be granted an amnesty, following the example set by other European countries. The Swiss charity, Caritas, said on Tuesday that the current system of dealing with people on a case-by-case basis was simply not working. The charity said the lives of the country's estimated 70,000-180,000 illegal immigrants and the Swiss economy would benefit if they were granted legal status on a collective basis. But only 500 illegal workers had been granted residency since September 2001, said Jürg Krummenacher, the charity's director. According to Caritas, illegal immigrants are mostly employed in private households, the catering industry and on construction sites where they are paid minimal wages and are vulnerable to poor working conditions. Caritas said the very fact that they had found employment in Switzerland illustrated how vital they were to the Swiss economy, which needed to fill jobs in certain sectors. The Swiss authorities have so far refused to entertain the idea of a blanket amnesty, despite groups of immigrants occupying churches and other public buildings two years ago. Krummenacher says he doesn't hold out much hope that Caritas' proposal will come to fruition, especially given the growing popularity of the rightwing Swiss People's Party, which takes a hard stance against immigration. "But, on the other hand, Italy did accept a similar proposal even though it has a rightwing government," he said.

    In addition to the minimum four-year residency requirement, the Catholic organisation suggested two other criteria that illegal immigrants should fulfil before being granted legal status. They should show they have no criminal convictions and prove that they have sufficient financial means to support themselves, either through a job or help from relatives. Krummenacher stressed that any amnesty should not be extended to asylum seekers whose applications had been rejected. But he said it was time for a new approach towards those who worked without the proper papers. "People working illegally should not be treated as criminals," he said. Another recommendation is for the introduction of strict measures, discouraging employers from taking on illegal workers.

    The report referred to the example set by countries including Italy and Belgium, which have proved successful in tackling the exploitation of illegal immigrants. Since the 1970s the number of people granted legal status in these countries has been on the rise. But, Krummenacher says, this does not mean that these countries have attracted increasing numbers of illegal immigrants. "Italy has regularised immigrants on a collective basis several times in the last 20 or 30 years, and hasn't seen an increase in illegal immigrants," he said. The charity warned that the opening of the Swiss job market to EU nationals - a right that is being negotiated with the ten new EU member countries - should be accompanied by an easing of restrictions on less well-qualified workers who are not citizens of the EU. This would minimise the danger of creating even more illegal immigrants, it said.
    ©NZZ Online

    8/11/2003- Following on the "Congress on The Future of God" held at the Shrine of Fátima in October, EU interior ministers met in Rome last week to map out proposals on how to better integrate Europe's major religions. The meeting came in the wake of an Italian court ruling forbidding a school from displaying a crucifix in its assembly hall because it was considered to be an affront to Muslim pupils. The father of one of the Muslim children had told the court that his son had felt intimidated by the crucifix.

    The 15 interior ministers were told that the future of Europe depended on member states promoting understanding and respect for all religions. The Italian Interior Minister, Guiseppe Pisanusad, told the conference: "The dialogue among the three great monotheistic religions can play a fundamental role in integrating immigrants into European society." He said that the state certainly had the right to demand "adhesion" to its civic ordinances and policies, but it also had a duty to respect the cultural and religious values of new arrivals. The conference was attended by the head of the Paris Mosque, Dalil Boubaker, and the Catholic Archbishop Antonio Llovera. The leader of the German Jewish community, Charlotte Knobloch, was also present together with the Anglican Bishop Christopher Herbert and Bishop Athanasius Shatzopoulos, who represented the Orthodox churches.

    In his address to the conference the French interior minister, Jacques de Monteforte, said that France was in the process of drawing up new laws on the public display of religious insignia including crucifixes and pictures of Christian saints. In keeping with last month's Fátima congress, which called for the development of a "One World Religion" where individual faiths can live side-by-side under one umbrella, the interior ministers called for a coming together of European religions to establish peace and prosperity in the European Union. Religious observers at the conference suggested that there should be a sharing of mosques, Christian church buildings and other places of worship between the various faiths. They pointed to the example set by Pope John Paul II in Assisi in 1986 when he encouraged the leaders of the world's religions, including Buddhists and Muslims, to celebrate their religious ceremonies in the city's Catholic churches.
    ©The Portugal News

    12/11/2003- Disability organisations are calling for the new EU Constitution to ensure that all legislative measures concerning non-discrimination of disabled people are adopted by qualified majority voting instead of the current unanimity system. During an exceptional two-day meeting in Brussels the "European Parliament of Disabled People" (EPDP) laid down several demands to ensure the proper integration of disabled people into European society. "What better contribution to a social Europe can there be than an EU-wide protection against discrimination for Europe's disabled people", said Yannis Vardakastanis, the president of the European Disability Forum. European Parliament President Pat Cox assured the 300 delegates that the EPDP event has left MEPs with the duty to "follow up and deliver". Among other key things that the EPDP wants, is to make sure that the upcoming European Parliament elections are more accessible for people with disabilities, and for disabled candidates. 28 countries were represented when the European Parliament hosted the European Parliament of Disabled People for the second time. The event marked the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Standard rules on the rights of disabled people, as well as the European Year of People with Disabilities 2003.

    21st session of the Standing Conference of European Ministers of Education, "Intercultural education: managing diversity, strengthening democracy", Athens, Greece, 10-12 November 2003

    It is pointless to expect pupils to become democratic citizens open to intercultural dialogue unless these requirements are incorporated into teaching content and methods. The European Ministers of Education will be meeting in Athens from 10 to 12 November to discuss how to apply these concepts at school on the basis of a Council of Europe action plan covering curricula, school governance and teacher training. The concept of multicultural society, which is now a feature of all European countries, means much more than mere "awareness of diversity": it implies resolving the conflicts and misunderstandings that arise between majority and minority groups, whether for religious, ethnic or social reasons, and aims to replace confrontation with dialogue. In the Council of Europe's view, intercultural education helps to "manage diversity" and give the various communities a common citizenship that transcends people's differences. To address these aims, school curricula must reflect the reality of the cultures that coexist in each country, but also take care to give a balanced account of the different ideas and viewpoints, including where religion is concerned. Some subjects like languages, civics and history obviously lend themselves better than others to discovering cultures and promoting dialogue and democracy. They must make room for confrontation between sometimes antagonistic points of view and introduce pupils to the idea of discussion. Encouraging Christian pupils to talk about Islam, for instance, then Muslim pupils to talk about Christianity, serves both to start a dialogue and to dispel misinterpretations: this "intercultural encounter" will then benefit pupils in both groups for the rest of their lives. Lastly, intercultural education calls for new teaching methods, involving new technologies for example, and for a range of out-of-class activities. School as an institution must also adapt its aims and mode of operation to the principles of intercultural education, whether by ensuring access for all groups and improving its equal opportunities policy or by catering for the specific cultural and linguistic needs of all its pupils. Decentralising education, introducing new subjects like education for citizenship and improving day-to-day classroom governance can help further these trends. Lastly, teachers will also have to acquire new skills and encourage all pupils to take an active part in classroom processes. They will need to discuss sometimes controversial issues with them, such as religion, status, different cultures and girls' position in school and society, while helping them to express themselves in a democratic way. Likewise, teachers should have better training in "learning to live together": this includes communicating with communities and parents, irrespective of their culture and religion, but also dealing with "resistance to dialogue and cooperation" and incidents such as harassment, exclusion and violence.
    ©Council of Europe

    13/11/2003- Even if the African Canadian Legal Clinic can sort out its differences with Legal Aid Ontario and deal with a deepening rift in the community it serves, the clinic faces a number of other hurdles — including allegations that the workplace was "poisoned" and an ex-employee dehumanized by management. The allegations come in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed by a former employee who's seeking $550,000 in damages. Erica Lawson's suit makes serious allegations about treatment by the clinic and its executive director, Margaret Parsons. Parsons and the clinic are in the midst of dealing with public fallout from a Legal Aid Ontario audit that found mismanagement, possible misuse of funding, potential alteration of clinic membership to manipulate the outcome of board elections and inaccurate statistical entries that "inflated" the number of actual cases and referrals handled by the Bay St. clinic. The audit didn't find any fraud or misappropriation of funds. Parsons and the clinic's current board chair say the clinic, one of 79 in the province, is being singled out for scrutiny. Parsons, in particular, has labelled the treatment "anti-black racism in its purest form."

    Parsons, in a recent interview, would not comment on Lawson's ongoing suit. But Lawson's dismissal appears to be the incident that a clinic media release said "has led to a string of unsupported allegations." According to Lawson's statement of claim, the policy and research analyst was given a formal letter of reprimand on March 7 during a meeting with Parsons and Sheena Scott, the clinic's director of legal services. The reprimand called Lawson's behaviour "sulky, sullen and uncommunicative." Because the letter was going to be placed in her personnel file, Lawson asked for a chance to respond. It's alleged she was denied the opportunity, then returned to her office. From there, according to allegations in Lawson's suit that have not been proved in court, things turned from bad to worse: Parsons told Lawson to go home and "cool off," it says. When she refused, it's claimed, "Parsons entered the plaintiff's office, hovered over her in a threatening manner, and insisted she leave." Soon thereafter, "Parsons picked up the plaintiff's bags and threw them in the hallway outside the entrance to ACLC's office," alleges the suit. When Lawson stepped out the clinic door, it was locked behind her. A few days later, Lawson wrote to Parsons and Scott stating: "I feel the work environment is poisoned and I no longer feel safe coming to the ACLC in light of the abuse to which I was subjected on Friday afternoon. I am prepared to continue working from home ... until we are able to reach an amicable solution."

    On March 25, a letter was couriered to Lawson's lawyer indicating she was terminated. In a statement of defence, the clinic denies many of the allegations, including that Parsons behaved in a "threatening manner." While it does admit Parsons picked up Lawson's bags, the document denies the bags were "thrown" or "tossed." Parsons and the clinic, in their joint statement of defence, say they had concerns about Lawson's attitude and communication skills throughout 2002, and let her know this. On Feb. 26, 2003, Lawson "behaved in a rude and insubordinate manner" with the clinic's Sheena Scott, states the statement of defence. From then on, according to the document, there was an "overall deterioration" in Lawson's attitude and performance. The clinic and Parsons say in their defence that there was just cause for terminating Lawson, because of her "wilful and deliberate disobedience and based on her defiance" of instructions. Shortly after the board approved the dismissal, an e-mail sent to other board members from then-chair Evelyn Myrie and obtained by the Star, expressed grave concern. "I have spent more than 20 years in social and community development, fighting for equity and justice for marginalized communities. ... To terminate Ms Lawson without providing an opportunity to hear her side of the story flies in the face of fairness. How can we represent clients who have been unfairly treated by their employers when we too, have behaved ... in similar fashion with our own staff?" Myrie wrote.
    ©The Toronto Star

    No consensus among those attending joint working group.

    13/11/2003- Community groups voiced competing opinions as to whether collecting race-based statistics by police would accomplish anything, at a meeting of the Toronto police joint working group last night. "There isn't the level of trust," said Kevin Lee, co-chair of the city's race and ethnic relations committee. Although the police are not immune to racism, he said, the public would likely be uncomfortable with the process and question the use of the information. Lee was one of 20 delegates to share his views at Metro Hall on the recent release of a draft document, aimed at addressing the controversial issue of racial profiling. The meeting was the second of its kind since the release of the 110-page report last month which contained 19 recommendations, including considering the collection of race-based statistics. "Racial profiling doesn't exist" on the force, said Inspector Jim Dicks, president of the Toronto Police Senior Officers Organization. Police have a zero tolerance for racial profiling, he maintained. But members of a residents group would like the police to gather data to determine if racial profiling is a problem, said Sam Wilkes of the Toronto Residents in Partnership. Collecting such data should only be used to make this determination, he said, and to work toward solving any problem that may exist.

    Members of the group also had an opportunity to hear from criminologist Ray Lonsdale, who works for the Kingston police and who recently implemented a system there for gathering such data. The program, which started about six weeks ago, requires officers to keep statistics based on race. Lonsdale invited the group to look closely at Kingston's model before asking that the province step in with its recommendations. "I'm asking for your co-operation by working together in a partnership," he said, adding the two forces could learn from one another. The Toronto Police Service Race Relations Joint Working Group was formed as part of the police response to a series of Toronto Star articles last fall that offered statistical evidence suggesting Toronto police treat black people differently than white people in some instances. The group includes Toronto police officials and members of the Toronto Police Services Board. Chief Julian Fantino, who did not attend the meeting last night, has maintained that the force does not engage in and will not tolerate racial profiling. He took exception to the stories, which have won numerous honours. Recommendations included using the term "racially biased policing" rather than the term racial profiling, and that communication strategy be developed to reiterate a zero tolerance for racially biased policing.
    ©The Toronto Star

    30/10/2003- The Italian right wing reform Minister Umberto Bossi has hit headlines again saying that quotas should be introduced on immigrants as they are on goods. His comments have caused an internal row within Italy's government coalition as it holds the EU Presidency. Mr Bossi, from the right wing Northern League, which forms part of the government coalition, also said in a TV programme "Porta a Porta", that he sees the introduction of the right of vote to immigrants as a "risk", and an issue that could lead to the fall of the government. "Imports and immigration are two faces of the same problem", he said. "There is a need to introduce quotas both for immigrants coming to Italy as well as for goods, otherwise there would be social chaos", he said. His comments were slammed by the deputy premier Gianfranco Fini, who described Mr Bossi's comments as an "absurd comparison". "Putting on the same level immigrants and goods is indicative of the lack of consideration that minister Bossi has for human dignity", he continued. "I don't want to fuel another polemic, but remaining silent would give the idea that all the government shares this absurd comparison". Umberto Bossi's comments are not the first to be controversial. Last week he launched an astonishing attack on the EU, calling the European elite, "filthy pigs" and describing the euro as a "total flop".

    Thousands of Roma could be forcibly returned to Kosovo if, as seem likely, they turn down the offer of asylum in Macedonia.
    By Nikolaus Steinberg, independent researcher on ethnic conflict, in Skopje

    31/10/2003- Roma refugees who fled from Kosovo to Macedonia during the 1999 conflict are not expected to take up Skopje's offer of political asylum because many are under the false impression that they will be resettled in the West. The community could now face deportation back to Kosovo, despite international concerns for their safety. A new European Union-backed asylum package offered by the authorities - which gives the Roma benefits equal to those enjoyed by Macedonian citizens - now looks set to be ignored because some community leaders appear to have rejected it and encouraged their members to hold out for a new life in the West. The government's deal would give every refugee the right to work, access to the health and education system and state unemployment benefits of around 50 euro a month. But with only days to go before the November 6 deadline to apply for the deal, IWPR has learned that many of the 2,600 Kosovar Roma in Macedonia have little or no idea of what is being offered and mistakenly believe they could apply for asylum in an EU country or the United States.

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Macedonian government and a network of local and international non-governmental organisations share responsibility for both informing the Roma of their options and helping them with the asylum application process. However, NGO spokespersons say the task has been difficult as many refugees are spread across Skopje. Macedonian lawyers involved in the campaign say they have had to drive around the city tracking down Roma families now living in private accommodation. At the same time, local and international Roma leaders have encouraged the refugees to snub the government offer and hold out for asylum in the West - although their chances of achieving the latter are almost non-existent. Should they persevere with this vain hope, the Roma risk being deported back to Kosovo, despite United Nations warnings that it remains unsafe for them. Macedonian interior ministry spokesperson Mirjana Konteska told IWPR that refugees who refuse the asylum deal "will be treated as aliens and sent back to the countries they came from. Our policemen will find them, if not today or tomorrow, then the day after".

    This is not the first time that Roma leaders have gone against the international community's advice. In June, they backed more than 700 refugees in their attempt to cross the border into Greece, even though they new there was little chance of them being allowed to stay. Nicolae Gheorghe, advisor on Roma issues at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told IWPR, "The leaders were well aware that the refugees would not be admitted. "It was a protest and the leaders wanted an international audience to pay attention to their plight - but many refugees did believe they would be admitted, and many still do." The move may have drastically backfired. Since the standoff on the Greek border, the EU has put pressure on Macedonia to grant the Roma refugees formal status, which would make them ineligible to apply for asylum elsewhere. Having now done so, Skopje will have little sympathy for any Roma who reject the offer. To date, only 120 refugees have applied. As well as confusion over what the process entails, many are suspicious of the authorities' intentions. Others fear that they will lose their passports and papers if they accept asylum in Macedonia and mistakenly believe that they won't be able to go home when Kosovo's security situation improves.

    Reflecting these concerns, Bajram Berisha, a 20-year-old Roma father of four, said, "If I give them my papers, my family will be trapped here and we won't ever be able to go back to Kosovo." Skopje has already signalled its willingness to deport refugees, sending three Roma back to Kosovo last month after they were caught with fake travel papers. Isaac Robinson, a lawyer with the Norwegian Refugee Council, NRC, one of the main non-governmental organisations involved in the asylum process, said the forcible return of the Roma is now clearly on the cards unless they take up the government's offer. "When you deport three people at the same time as you are building an asylum process, the message you are communicating to refugees is very clear - accept our offer or you will be sent back," he said. Marija Bosse, president of a Roma community centre in Shutka, agreed that it was now clear that the dream of a life in the West was unrealistic. She argued the refugees should understand that the asylum offer is not only acceptable, but that it is their only viable option, "It's a good deal - they will get the same care as Macedonian citizens." The conflicting advice has left many Roma unsure of their next move. Hassan, a resident of the Katlanovo refugee camp, said he and his family had not yet come to a decision. "We are afraid to go back home but we still do not see any future in Macedonia," he said. Others say that given the choice between deportation to Kosovo and a life in Macedonia, they'll simply pay a trafficker to take them to the West. One refugee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "The traffickers want 10,000 euro for passage into Switzerland. I don't know where I'll get the money from, but I may have to try if there is no other way."
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    ACCEPTABLE HATRED(uk, Comment)
    Beneath the enduring hostility to Gypsies lies an ancient envy of the nomadic life
    By George Monbiot

    4/11/2003- Imagine an English village building an effigy of a car, with caricatures of black people in the windows and the number plate "N1GGER", and burning it in a public ceremony. Then imagine one of Britain's most socially conscious MPs appearing to suggest that black people were partly to blame for the way they had been portrayed. It is, or so we should hope, unimaginable. But something very much like it happened last week. The good burghers of Firle, in Sussex, built a mock caravan, painted a Gypsy family in the windows, added the numberplate "P1KEY" (a derogatory name for Gypsies which derives from the turnpike roads they travelled) and the words "Do As You Likey Driveways Ltd - guaranteed to rip you off", then metaphorically purged themselves of this community by incinerating it. Their MP, the Liberal Democrat Norman Baker, later told BBC South East that "there is an issue about the rights of travellers which has to be respected, but also the duty's on travellers to ensure that they treat the areas in which they are living with respect ... That did not happen in Firle earlier this year which is why the Bonfire Society has taken the act that they have."

    Racism towards Gypsies is acceptable in public life in Britain. Last month the Now Show on Radio 4 satirised "pikeys" running fairgrounds "with no safety documents". It would surely never crack jokes about "pakis" or "yids", or suggest that members of another ethnic group typically engage in dodgy business practices. When Jack Straw was home secretary he characterised Gypsies as people who "think that it's perfectly OK for them to cause mayhem in an area, to go burgling, thieving, breaking into vehicles, causing all kinds of other trouble including defecating in the doorways of firms and so on". Now all these people would doubtless claim that they are attacking not a race but a lifestyle. Jack Straw, for example, explained that he was not talking about "real Romany Gypsies ... who seem to mind their own business and don't cause trouble" but about "people who masquerade as travellers or Gypsies". It is, of course, true that not all traditional travellers are ethnic Roma, and not all Roma are travellers. But the same could be said of Judaism, which embraces both an ethnicity and a religious culture. We recognise that there is no moral distinction between attacks on Jews by people who object to their way of life and attacks on Jews by people who object to their race. We also recognise that racism is a matter of characterising a community by the behaviour of some of its members.

    The persecution of Gypsies has often been accompanied by questions, like Straw's, about their authenticity. In 1554, a British law explained that people calling themselves Aegyptians were in fact "false vagabonds", and condemned them to death. The report on the "Gypsy question" presented to Heinrich Himmler, which recommended their confinement to labour camps, asserted that "most Gypsies are not Gypsies at all" but "the products of matings with the German criminal asocial proletariat". One might have hoped for a particular sensitivity about the rights of traditional travellers. Between a quarter and half a million Gypsies were killed during the Holocaust: in many parts of Europe, the Nazis almost succeeded in eliminating them. Throughout eastern Europe, the Roma are still denied employment, herded into ghettoes and beaten to death by skinheads. In Britain, some 67% of traditional travellers' sites were closed between 1986 and 1993. In 1994, the government released local authorities from the duty to provide sites for travellers and introduced new laws penalising people who stopped without permission. In one act of parliament, it effectively destroyed their way of life. So why, despite so much evidence of persecution, are expressions of hatred towards Gypsies still acceptable in public discourse? Part of the reason is surely that they are trapped in a vicious circle: excluded from public life by racism, they are poorly placed to defend themselves against it. But it seems to me that there might be something else at work as well, the residue of a deeper and much older detestation.

    The conflict between settled and travelling peoples goes back at least to the time of Cain and Abel. Cain was a farmer, a settled person; Abel was a herder: a nomad. Cain killed Abel because Abel was the beloved of God. The people who wrote the Old Testament were nomads who had recently settled, and who looked back with longing to the lives of their ancestors. The prophets' constant theme was the corruption of the cities and the purity of life in the wilderness, to which they kept returning. All the great monotheisms were founded by nomads: unlike settled peoples they had no fixed places in which to invest parochial spirits. Yet the city, despite the execration of the prophets, won. Civilisation, from the Latin civis, a townsperson, means the culture of those whose homes do not move. The horde, from the Turkish ordu, a camp and its people, is its antithesis. It both defines civilisation and threatens it. We fear people whose mobility makes them hard for our settled systems of government to control. But, like Cain, we also appear to hate them for something we perceive them to possess: the freedom, perhaps, which the prophets craved.

    Of course, today the settled people are often more mobile than the traditional travellers. Across eastern Europe, Gypsies have been sedentarised by decree; in Britain they have been settled by the enclosure of their stopping places. Many of the Gypsies who travel across Europe today do so because they have been driven from their homes: Queen Mary's "pretended Aegyptians" have been transformed into "bogus asylum seekers". Yet, as our continued romanticisation of the Gypsy, or bohemian, life suggests, we appear to suffer still from a residual envy. We are a migratory people (our ancestors, in the savannahs of East Africa, were forced to move from place to place as the rain moved on) with the brains, the legs, the senses of creatures who were designed never to stay still. The lives of those we associate with perpetual movement often appear (whatever the reality may be) to be more desirable than our own. When the starving traveller in Cormac McCarthy's novel The Crossing arrives in town, the people there "beheld what they envied most and what they most reviled. If their hearts went out to him it was yet true that for very small cause they might also have killed him."

    Envy lies at the root of racism. Racists associate Jews with money and black people with sexual power, but our hatred of Gypsies may arise from a still deeper grievance, the envy of a people whose instinct for continual movement is frustrated by the constraints of the humdrum settled life. We wish, like Cain, to rise up and slay our brother, as the horde, not the civilised, are the beloved of the God of our creation. Could it be that it remains acceptable to hate Gypsies because it remains acceptable to romanticise them?
    ©The Guardian

    5/11/2003- Objective of the round table was discussion on perspectives of Roma community development and improvement of social conditions of Roma in Ukraine from the point of view of adoption of state program "Social and cultural renascence of Roma", signed by Vise Prime Minister of Ukraine D. Tabachnik. Overall number of Roma in Ukraine, according to the latest census of 2001, is more than 48 thousand persons, though real number is 80 - 100 thousand. Roma in Ukraine live practically in all the regions. More compact they live in Donetsk, Dnipropetropvsk, Transcarpathian, Mykolaiv, Odesa regions. Roma of central, east and south regions differ little from other residents. They do not wear specific clothes, their appearance is not very different from those around. However, Roma of these regions preserve the spirit of self-identification, and in a number of camps - language of communication. Life of residents leaves its mark on the life of Roma. With worsening of economical situation in Ukraine life of Roma sharply worsened. Discrimination and racism against Roma do not exist de jure, but exist de facto. It worsens even more difficult situation.

    About 30 persons were present at round table. Roma organizations were represented by Brovary (Kyiv region), Vinnitsa, Transcarpathian region, Izmail and Kiliya (Odesa region), Lviv, Odesa, Kharkiv, Chernigiv. Governmental structures were also represented - Institute of Legislation of Verhovna Rada (Supreme Council) of Ukraine (Kyiv), Department of Nationalities and Migration (Kharkov and Odesa regional state administrations), Regional Center on Employment and Regional Center of Health (Odesa regional administration). Non-governmental organizations were also represented by German Society of Odesa region and Women's Information Consultative Center (Kyiv). The work of round table was covered by mass media of Odesa, and also journalists from Roma newspaper "Romani Yag" were present. In their presentations the participants addressed to different aspects of life of Roma in Ukraine. Particularly, Yaroslava Reznikova, deputy head of Department of Nationalities and Migration, noted that as long ago as 1999 the Council of National and Cultural Societies of Odesa Region was created in the region. 7 Roma organizations work in the region. Not long ago the governor of the region had a meeting with their representatives. At the meeting they discussed both perspectives of development of regional program of Roma communities' development and negative problems, which demand solution. Regional administration tries to meet the demands of solving these problems however absence of economical base decreases effectiveness of work. In the educational sphere, in particular, absence of manuals and programs for Roma Sunday schools is noticeable.

    A case, which became known not only in Odesa region but all over Ukraine, was decision of gathering of Petrivka village (Ivaniv region) about expulsion of Roma. Office of Public Prosecutor abolished unlawful decision. Money was given (37 thousand hryvnas) for helping Roma families, which incurred losses, and family which suffered the most, got material help for purchasing a house.

    Olena Semjorkina (Institute of Legislation of Verhovna Rada of Ukraine) told about necessity of creation integral conception of politics on Roma. Absence of certain laws and legal acts creates additional obstacles in solving practical problems. One of such gaps is absence of precise legal regulations on creating and existence of Sunday schools. Schools, which national societies establish, are different from those, established by religious societies.
    Very important is still the problem of mechanism of Roma participation in governmental bodies, which are involved in issues of improvement of life of Roma community. This also regards to state program being discussed. Government puts all responsibility to city/town councils. They can solve some of the problems, but not great number of others.

    Eleni Tsetseku, the coordinator of projects of the Council of Europe, noted that for the last years European community more and more often addresses to problems of Roma. This is connected with several aspects:

  • protection of rights of minorities;
  • struggle with racism, xenophobia and connected types of intolerance;
  • elimination of social exclusion.
    While elaborating recommendations for government, it's important to make a stress on active and leading role of Roma in the process of realization of state program. For this a special body should be created (coordinative council, advisory committee, working group or other structure).

    Sergiy Ermoshkin, head of the regional Roma Congress of Odesa region, talked about importance to carry out self-census of Roma with the aim of defining their real number, in comparison with that defined by 2001 census, which is several times different from the real one.
    Another important question, requiring attention, is recognition of Crimean Roma as deported people. Absence of such documents apart the state forces Crimean Roma to register as Crimean Tartars to obtain appropriate status and help from the state. This leads to assimilation and dilution among other nationalities.
    All the participants expressed their vision of problems and ways to solve them with participation of the state. Besides, attitude to the adopted program was expressed. The participants said that they are not satisfied with the adopted program however they admit positive steps of the state for recognition of existing problem of situation with Roma in Ukraine. To change the situation it is necessary to get Roma community on the level of the program implementation with the aim of creating efficient mechanism of realization and monitoring of planned actions.

    Proposed recommendations for state program:
  • The program should have complex character and clear sections, e.g. education, culture, health, welfare, mass media.
  • Conducting self-census and system of passport giving to adult population is an integral part of improvement the situation of Roma in Ukraine, guaranteeing their rights to moving and choosing place to live.
  • Development of Roma people is impossible without studying its history, analysis, tendencies, etc. Center of Romology could undertake these functions.
  • Roma musical culture requires serious study, preserving and transference to future generations. To do this it is necessary to create musical educational institution, which would perform both educational and scientific functions.
  • Recognition of holocaust on Roma people and paying compensations to those who survived after it do not correspond with the scale it had. The state should raise this question again and make practical steps, as those who survived after holocaust are of declining years and their number decreases very fast. To get full information it is necessary to use archival organizations of Ukraine.
  • Health of Roma causes outstanding anxiety. Tuberculosis, illnesses of reproductive sphere, insufficient awareness of reasons of their existence require creating a system of Rooms for mother and child, first of all in camps. Regular invigoration of Roma children plays significant role in improving health of young generation.
  • Mass media often "adds fuel to the fire", by publishing materials of discriminative character, blaming Roma for different disorders. It is necessary to elaborate and spread the program of anti-prejudiced, anti-discriminatory study for journalists.
  • Roma women, who raise children, look after ill members of families should get a status of social workers. What is worthy of notice is experience of Kyiv city administration, which introduced experiment on giving such a status to mothers, who have disabled children.
  • To support higher education for Roma it is necessary to use assisting actions in form of quotas and other advantages during entering and study in higher educational institutions. Special attention should be paid to preparation of jurists among Roma youth.
  • The state should make constant investigations and monitoring of cases of Human Rights violations on Roma by officials of law-enforcement bodies.
  • In places of compact residence of Roma centers of legal assistance should be created.
  • With the aim to eliminate negative attitude to Roma in society, programs of anti-stereotypical character for state officials, pedagogues, medical personnel, etc. should be elaborated and implemented.
  • Long-term program of involving Roma in social life of the whole country should be in action.
  • To increase economical level of Roma it is necessary to create such programs, which would suit cultural traditions of people. For this it is necessary to define a list of traditional Roma crafts and create study programs of professional training and re-training of unemployed Roma. In the case of intention to start a private business - to give initial material assistance. Real legal opportunity for this exists, and there are also practices of such programs in some regions without addressing concrete groups of population.
  • Education for Roma children requires special attention. For this it is essential to elaborate conception of educational approaches for work with diversities, particularly, for classes where Roma children study. It is important to attract Roma children to preschool educational institutions to create groups of preparation for primary school.

    At the end a resolution was made. It contains thoughts and ideas, expressed during the work of round table.
    © ROMEA

    By Jeroen Bosch

    At the end of October, ultra-rightists from a shady outfit called "Stop Martijn' requested permission from the mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen to stage a protest picket. "Stop Martijn", a committee against paedophilia ­ almost exclusively composed of ultra-rightists from the fascist New National Party (NNP) and NieuwRechts (NR) ­ was, in fact, attempting to hold a picket in Amsterdam for the second time, the first attempt having been thwarted in August. As the name of this latest dodgy front organisation suggests, the right-wingers have targeted the Martijn Foundation ­ an organisation which tries to make paedophilia accepted in society ­ in a bid to to popularise their own organisation and ideas, to recruit among citizens who are concerned about paedophilia and to grab a bucketful of cheap publicity. Besides that, NieuwRechts wants to be an "action party", like the Socialist Party on the left, and that means taking its own sick ideas onto the streets. As befits the right-wing's well established lynch mob mentality, "Stop Martijn" also wants to publish the names and addresses of suspected paedophiles and argues that they should be chemically castrated or even subjected to the death penalty.

    Anti-fascists in Amsterdam have made it clear throughout that, while they in no way share the goals or the ideas of the Martijn Foundation, they have no intention of allowing ultra-rightists to become acceptable by abusing public concern about the issue. In August, "Stop Martijn" failed in its attempt to hold its picket outside the post office where the Martijn Foundation has its PO Box because its would-be participants were spotted by anti-fascists at an Amsterdam train station and chased away. In October, however, "Stop Martijn" was granted permission to hold a demonstration in Amsterdam, starting at the city's central station, on 25 October. As in August, anti-fascists in the city were already preparing to act against this provocation when they received unexpected assistance from NieuwRechts boss Michiel Smit, who very kindly posted the details of the gathering point of the right-wing demonstration on the Internet. On the afternoon of the demonstration, two ­ half-full ­ buses of NNP and NR members were travelling towards Amsterdam. Others opted to meet at the central station where they found themselves confronted by a large show of police force and then had to run to escape a group of about a hundred militant anti-fascists who chased them back onto the trains. Some of right-wingers were caught by the anti-fascists, a number of whom were later arrested, and given a good hiding. The turn of events alarmed mayor Cohen who immediately decided to ban the "Stop Martijn" demonstration on the grounds that "security was no longer guaranteed" and ordered the police to stop the buses which, by then, were just outside the centre of Amsterdam.

    All dressed up and with nowhere to go, the frustrated right-wingers were ordered out of the city despite loud protests from Smit and Florens van der Kooi, the chairman of the NNP. At a car park, in Leiderdorp, the humiliation of the right-wingers was complete as they stood forlornly with banners outside their buses and listened to speeches by their leaders. One of the buses later decided to travel to The Hague, where about twenty-five "Stop Martijn" activists were allowed to tramp around on the empty square in front of the Dutch government buildings. Smit has now announced that he will file a complaint against the city of Amsterdam (for reimbursement of travelexpences) and against Anti-Fascist Action and, of course, he will also attempt to demonstrate in Amsterdam again but such an event will probably only be allowed to take place in a desolate industrial area. Whether "Stop Martijn" will accept that and how its members deal with the internal rows that have broken out after the 25 October fiasco remains to be seen. Anti-fascists, however, are determined to prevent "Stop Martijn"… wherever it shows its face.

    5/11/2003- Oslo University's (UiO) online forum for religious history students has featured public discussion at a level one expert called 'toilet wall debate'. Students have aired discriminatory remarks insulting Muslims, Jews, and women and university authorities have stepped in, newspaper Universitas reports. A web site making up part of an interactive teaching project replacing seminars contained crass remarks and links to anti-Muslim content. The crudest comments, such as "we're boycotting classes because there are too many Jewish books", were posted in a chat section restricted to about 120 students. UiO has removed the offensive links and discussion but the chat, which contains anti-Semitic and sexist conversations, remains online, though with restricted access. "This testifies to a shockingly low intellectual level among students, even for pure anti-Semitism. This is a toilet wall debate, and the question is whether the university wants to be a toilet wall. It is an embarrassment to UiO that they have not managed to promote a better atmosphere for discussion than this," Monitor editor Tor Bach, an expert on extreme right-wing groups, told the student paper. The university's relevant student parliament contact, Torgeir Joergensen, condemned public discrimination and racism on university education web pages and demanded UiO implement a system to monitor their chat pages. The university agreed that ethical guidelines had been violated and the offending students have been warned and threatened with expulsion if there is repeat behavior.

    Muslims living in Norway must accept that they're a minority in a progressive, egalitarian-oriented society, claims Cabinet Minister Erna Solberg. Islam must be modernized, she says, but local Muslims claim they don't understand her criticism.

    4/11/2003- Solberg, the government minister who's charge of immigration and integration issues among other things, is making some controversial demands of Muslims who have moved to Norway or grown up in the country as first- or second-generation immigrants. In doing so, she's taking a brave stand. Solberg earlier this year was the target of death threats by a disgruntled Muslim asylum-seeker, and she also has been at the center of the storm around Mullah Krekar, the suspected terrorist who remains in Norway despite a deportation order. She suggests nonetheless that the burden of integration into Norwegian society lies as much with Muslims as it does with ethnic Norwegians who are part of the state church. After meeting with her British counterpart Beverly Hughes in London on Monday, Solberg is on the offensive. "The Norwegian Islamic community must make more progress, and see what's happening in other European countries," Solberg told newspaper Aftenposten. "Islam in Europe must function differently than it does in Islamic countries." In this regard, she claims, the Muslim community in Norway lags far behind. She's especially critical of the role that Imams play in Norway. "These religious leaders can't just be brought up from Islamic countries where Muslims are in the majority," Solberg said. "They have no understanding of what it's like to be a Muslim in a country where they're a minority. "They have to get more education, which they should get here in Europe," she continued. "It's especially important that immigrants learn what it means to live in a feminist society." Solberg is clearly intrigued by proposals in Great Britain that would require immigrants to take an oath of citizenship and pass an exam dealing with local society. The World Islamic Mission in Norway, claiming it doesn't understand Solberg's criticism, asked Solberg to explain what she means by "modernization," which she did on national radio on Tuesday. Divorce, for example, must be more easily available for Muslim women and follow the laws of the land, she said. Pro-forma and forced marriages must be banned and women in general must be accorded equal rights under the law. Amber Khan of the World Islamic Mission in Norway claimed Imams brought to Norway are required to learn Norwegian and adapt to new cultural codes.

    Bishop critical of minister's advice to Islam
    5/11/2003- Oslo's bishop, Gunnar Staalsett has warned Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Erna Solberg of the dangers of criticizing Islam after she told Norway's Muslims that they should modernize their religion. Staalsett fears that the statement will create a warped view of Islam. "There is naturally a need for reform in all religious communities, but an initiative from the government sounds a special note," Staalsett told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Staalsett is concerned that the minister's remarks can cause provide a mistaken image of Islam as a whole. "One should be very careful about portraying a religion from its worst sides," Staalsett said.

    1/11/2003- A German conservative MP provoked a storm of protest yesterday by claiming that the Jews were a "race of perpetrators" during the Russian Revolution whose actions were similar to those of the Nazis in the Second World War. Martin Hohmann, 55, an opposition Christian Democrat MP, made his remarks in a speech to his constituency in which he claimed that many Jewish Communists were active in the Soviet leadership and secret police execution squads during the October revolution of 1917. "With some justification, one could describe the Jews as a race of perpetrators," he said. "That may sound horrible but it follows the same logic with which one describes the Germans as a race of perpetrators." Mr Hohmann made his speech earlier last month but his remarks only reached a wider audience when broadcast yesterday.

    Paul Spiegel, the head of Germany's Central Council of Jews, said: "Mr Hohmann has reached into the lowest drawer of disgusting anti-Semitism with his remarks." Dieter Wiefelsputz, a Social Democrat MP, said that Mr Hohmann should resign. "There is no place for anti-Semtisim in the German parliament," he said. Mr Hohmann retracted his comments yesterday. "I describe neither the Jews nor the Germans as a nation of perpetrators," he said. But despite insisting in an interview later with ZDF television that he did not want to offend any one, he denied this was an apology. "It's not an apology. It's a statement," he said. Mr Hohmann, a right-wing conservative, has frequently been accused of holding extremist views. Two years ago he joined German neo-Nazis in opposing a landmark exhibition which exposed the crimes of the German army during the Second World War. He is also renowned as an opponent of tolerance towards homosexuals.
    © Independent Digital

    German Defense Minister Peter Struck has fired the head of Germany's Special Forces after he voiced support for anti-Semitic comments made by conservative MP Martin Hohmann

    5/11/2003- The anti-Semitism row that has dominated the German press over the past week erupted again in dramatic style on Tuesday when a top general in the German army was fired for expressing support for the comments made by Martin Hohmann, the conservative backbench member of parliament at the center of the storm. Brigadier General Reinhard Günzel, the head of Germany's prestigious special forces unit, the 1,000-strong elite Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK) which participates in foreign missions such as Afghanistan, was dismissed after writing a letter of support to the MP, praising Hohmann's speech in which he compared the actions of Jews in the Russian revolution with those of the Nazis. The revelations came to light after Hohmann appeared on Germany's public television station ZDF over the weekend, brandishing the letter from the 59-year-old General Günzel and backing away from an apology he made under pressure from opposition colleagues. "An apology would, I think, be a signal that the facts to which I referred are not correct," he said. "But the facts are correct."

    Letter of praise
    In the letter sent to Hohmann by the Special Forces commander, who had recently returned with his troops after serving in Afghanistan, Günzel allegedly wrote, "An excellent speech... of a courage, truth and clarity that you rarely hear or read in our country." Complaining about a climate in Germany in which those expressing nationalistic views were immediately labeled rightwing extremists, Günzel added, "You can be sure that you speak for the majority of Germans... Don't let the accusations from the dominant left camp put you off." After consultations with various officials, German Defense Minister Peter Struck decided to relieve Günzel of his post, a move seen by many in the ruling red-green coalition government as a brave stand against anti-Semitism.

    Damaging to Germany and army
    Struck told reporters: "This is about a lone, confused general who agreed with an even more confused statement made by a conservative member of parliament." He added that Günzel's views were not those of the army. "His remarks damaged the Federal Republic of Germany as well as the German Army," Struck said. "I have decided to relieve him of his command and to dismiss him. With that, the case is closed for me." A spokesman for the defense ministry added, "The removal of a general is a very, very rare occurrence. I am not sure whether it has ever happened before."

    Pressure on Merkel
    The defense minister's decision has added strength to the calls from the left for action to be taken by the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) chief Angela Merkel to fire Hohmann for his comments. To date, the party has only gone as far as to distance itself from the offending MP and remove him from his position on a parliamentary committee responsible for dealing with reparation claims by Holocaust survivors. He has not been fully dismissed. The German press has also focused on this angle and is beginning to exert pressure on Merkel in scathing editorials. The daily Süddeutsche Zeitung said on Wednesday, "Everything that applies to Mr. Günzel applies equally to deputy Hohmann... He should be expelled from the party caucus. Unlike Struck, however, CDU chief Merkel has not yet summoned up the courage to do this." The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung added that "the CDU must part company with Hohmann and his ilk." Deidre Berger, head of the American Jewish Committee office in Berlin told reporters, "We are certain that the CDU will take the necessary measures to deal with these issues," and called Struck's action "extremely encouraging."

    Jewish leader makes formal complaint
    Legal action could also be taken against Hohmann following complaints made by Paul Spiegel (picture), president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and an unnamed private citizen. Proceeding with the complaint, prosecutors in the central German city of Fulda opened an investigation on Monday, accusing the MP of incitement, slander and disparaging the dead for his comments in the October 3rd speech. Anti-Semitic remarks constitute a crime under German law. In his speech made on the anniversary of German reunification, Hohmann argued that Germans still shoulder the burden of Nazi crimes, but other nations with bloody pasts continue to play the role of "innocent lambs," citing the French revolution and the prominent role of Jews in the 1917 communist revolution in Russia. "With a certain justification, one could ask in view of the millions killed in the first phase of the revolution about the 'guilt' of the Jews,'' Hohmann said. "It would follow the same logic with which the Germans are described as a race of perpetrators.''
    ©Deutsche Welle

    5/11/2003- In the Schutzenhof pub in the centre of Neuhof, the single customer didn't want to speak about Martin Hohmann. "I don't want to face criminal prosecution too," he said, nursing a mid-morning beer and poring over a fax with the latest news on the anti-Semitism scandal that's propelled this town of 12,000 people into national headlines. Local Christian Democrat (CDU) MP Martin Hohmann is currently under investigation for inciting racial hatred after a speech he made here a month ago. In it, he suggested that Jewish people had served in leadership positions and death squads during the Russian revolution - making Jews culpable in the same way that Germans were held responsible for the Holocaust. "There was a calm atmosphere in the hall, nobody dared to say anything against Mr Hohmann," says Helmut Moeller, a Social Democrat (SPD) MP who witnessed the speech. "Afterwards there was polite applause. I felt unhappy about it and left.'" But many people in Neuhof, an orderly town of well-kept gardens and tidy streets, stand by Mr Hohmann. "He was just telling the truth - if you read history, you know what happened," said an employee at a car repair shop on the edge of town. "It's not just Germans who have done bad things. Other nations have too." A woman from a neighbouring office also stood up for Mr Hohmann. "He said it doesn't matter whether you're Jewish or German. He said people who forgot their religion did terrible things."

    However, Mr Hohmann also went to some lengths to prove his thesis about Jewish guilt for Bolshevik repression - quoting extensive historical statistics and even a 1920s book by car magnate Henry Ford. But while the national press has since mocked him as an amateur historian, the only journalist present at the speech itself was a freelance pensioner working for local newspaper the Fuldaer Zeitung. He failed to report the most controversial passages - apparently, he hadn't noticed them. "It was not the first time Mr Hohmann said something like this," says Stefan Schaaf, who also writes for the daily. "People here were not surprised about what he was saying, but by the national media reaction. We were too. There was real media hype." The content of the speech was only brought to national attention quite by chance a month later, when someone in the United States noticed it on the internet. Since becoming national news, Mr Hohmann has apologised for his views and been disciplined by the CDU. But the scandal keeps growing. The head of Germany's elite special forces, Reinhard Guenzel, was sacked on Tuesday for writing a letter of support to Mr Hohmann. It's prompted calls for an inquiry into extremism in the armed forces, and a war of words between politicians in Berlin. MPs from the governing Red-Green coalition have called on the CDU to follow the Defence Ministry's example and expel Mr Hohmann from the party. Analysts say this would be a lengthy process - fatally distracting the CDU as it battles to amend a raft of key government bills making their way through parliament. A move to push Mr Hohmann out might meet strong resistance. "I've known him for many years and he's no anti-Semite," says Gerhard Moeller, the CDU mayor of Fulda which is the biggest town in Mr Hohmann's constituency. "He stands firmly for German interests. But his speech makes incorrect historical comparisons. The party now expects him to focus on different issues."
    ©BBC News

    6/11/2003- Germany's Defence Minister, Peter Struck, has rejected claims that anti-Semitism is widespread in the military. Mr Struck on Tuesday sacked the head of Germany's special forces after he voiced support for an MP who has been accused of holding anti-Semitic views. Some MPs are concerned that General Reinhard Guenzel's attitude is not isolated among military personnel and have called for an investigation. But Mr Struck said that the military was "rooted in democracy". Mr Guenzel had written to the Christian Democrat MP Martin Hohmann praising his "courage" for making a speech which has sparked national controversy, by comparing the actions of Jews in the 1917 Russian revolution with those of the Nazis.

    'Undemocratic' leadership
    Rainer Arnold, a Social Democrat member of the parliamentary defence committee, said: "It must be urgently investigated how a person with this kind of mentality can become brigadier general - especially in the elite forces." A group representing serving and former officers called on Mr Struck to improve political education in the armed forces and to make promotions dependent on "democratic behaviour". "The army is not right-wing and undemocratic per se but a significant proportion of soldiers in leadership positions lack democratic awareness and commitment," said Helmuth Priess, spokesman for the Ak Darmstaedter Signal group. But Mr Struck said soldiers are taught about Germany's Nazi past and there are regular studies of soldiers' attitudes. "I am completely convinced that members of the armed forces and especially the KSK (elite forces), are firmly rooted in democracy," he said. "I have no reason to assume the general's views are shared - quite the contrary."

    Party under pressure
    The head of Germany's Jewish community, Paul Spiegel, praised Mr Struck for his swift decision to sack Mr Guenzel. But he called on the opposition Christian Democrats to distance themselves from Mr Hohmann. The party has removed the MP from two committees but party leader Angela Merkel is under pressure to expel him. German prosecutors have launched an investigation into Mr Hohmann's speech after a criminal complaint was filed against him. Mr Hohmann has apologised for his comments, saying that neither Germans nor Jews should be considered perpetrators of atrocities.
    ©BBC News

    5/11/2003- Swiss registrars could soon be granted the power to stop suspected marriages of convenience, if legislation currently being debated in the Swiss parliament becomes law. But marriage officials do not welcome the move, saying it's not up to them to play judge or policeman in matters of the heart. Is love always the basis of a marriage? Not always. Beatrice Rancetti, registrar in Liestal in canton Basel Country, remembers one particular case in which the bride was 50 years old and the groom just 18. Rancetti married the couple, but not without a few misgivings. This could all change. A week ago, a parliamentary commission voted in favour of Article 97a in the draft foreigners' law allowing registrars to stop a marriage ceremony if they think the couple are marrying under false pretences. It would permit the registrar to interview the bride and groom separately and to seek information from other government offices. Ultimately, the registrar would then have the power to refuse the marriage if he or she doubted the couple's love for each other.

    Not happy
    But registrars are not exactly overjoyed at the prospect at having to stop weddings. "We don't want to have to make the negative decisions ourselves," said Rancetti, who is also president of the Swiss association of registrars. Rancetti says that it would be better to work hand-in-hand with the Federal Office of Immigration, Integration and Emigration, as well as the relevant cantonal authorities. Even the Swiss Catholic Bishops Conference – the traditional promoter of marriage - has expressed some doubts, stating that a registrar who is meeting a couple for the first time can hardly be expected to ascertain whether they should marry or not. This view is also shared by the Anti-Racism Commission.

    The question of how to prove whether a marriage is one of convenience or of love is currently being looked into by the Federal Office of Civil Status. Marriages may be contracted in return for drugs or payment or so that a foreigner can stay in the country. According to Federal Office of Civil Status lawyer Michel Montini, the clues to look for are a large age difference between the engaged couple, an apparent absence of affection and a short period of acquaintance. These criteria generally agree with those already widely applied in the European Union. Switzerland is only one of a few European countries that has so far failed to take action against marriages of convenience. According to some estimates, marriages of convenience could account for as many as one third of all nuptials in Switzerland. Both the immigration office and Federal Office of Civil Status dismiss this figure, but say it is hard to know the exact numbers. "The estimated number of cases is high, but the detection rate is low," explained Hans-Peter Iselin, president of the association of cantonal migration authorities. Rancetti, too, has noticed that the trend towards marriages of convenience appears to be rising. "There aren't as many lovely marriage ceremonies as there used be," she said.
    ©NZZ Online

    Second-generation foreigners in Switzerland still face discrimination on the labour market even if they have lived in the country from an early age.

    6/11/2003- That is the conclusion of a series of studies into the integration of non-Swiss in the workplace, backed by the Federal Office of Immigration, Integration and Emigration. The results demonstrate that often the country of origin of a job candidate plays an important role for employers in deciding whether to consider particular applications. Other criteria, such as suitability for the position or appropriate qualifications, fall by the wayside. The studies found that people of former Yugoslav origin fared the worse. The surveys concentrated on the so-called "secondos", second-generation immigrants to Switzerland, who were either born here or arrived in the country at an early age. They often do not hold Swiss citizenship but possess long-term residency permits. Rosita Fibbi from independent research institute Swiss Forum for Migration (SFM) - and author of one of the studies - says the focus has too often been on the integration of foreigners. She says the difficulties that non-Swiss workers can face every day have not been adequately addressed. "What we came up with was that discrimination is a reality on the labour market - this is something that had never been imagined before. The new issue is how society treats immigrants that play the game of being willing to integrate in the country."

    Measuring discrimination
    For its study, SFM used a method devised by the International Labour Organization known as "practice testing" for the first time in Switzerland. These results measure the level of discrimination shown by a company towards a "type" of person applying for a post. SFM found that an Albanian speaker from former Yugoslavia faced a discrimination rate of 59 per cent in German-speaking Switzerland. In other words, if such a candidate sent 100 applications, he would most likely receive 59 straight rejections. The discrimination rate for a Portuguese candidate with the same qualifications was just under ten per cent.

    Peter or Mehmet?
    SFM created three fictional candidates, who "sent" applications to a number of Swiss firms. The "men" were given names like Peter, Afrim and Mehmet to denote ethnic origins from Portugal, Turkey and the former Yugoslavia. They were the same age, possessed identical qualifications - having completed their education in Swiss schools - had the same experience and were long-term Swiss residents. The vacancies were for jobs as bakers, watchmakers, mechanics, salesmen and receptionists. SFM then analysed the responses from prospective employers in the French, German and Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland. In one typical instance, Peter and Afrim applied for the same job as sales assistant. Three days later, Afrim received a letter from the company telling him that the post had already been filled. On the same day Peter got a phone call from the same firm, inviting him for interview. The study also found that foreigners were likely to come across a higher degree of discrimination on the job market if they applied in German-speaking Switzerland.

    Early seeds
    The seeds of discrimination are sown early in Switzerland, the studies found. According to Thomas Meyer of the project Transitions from Education to Employment (Tree), the process begins at school. Tree carried out a study for the Federal Office of Immigration, Integration and Emigration into the crossover from school to working life for young people. "Equality of chance is not present in the Swiss educational system from day one. Even if a migrant youth has the same competence [as a Swiss person] at the end of compulsory school, we can see from our study that the chances of getting an apprenticeship - which is the most important part of post-compulsory education in Switzerland - are hampered or restricted," Meyer said. The battle is made harder by the lack of legislation in Switzerland preventing discrimination against foreign workers, says Fibbi. "There is no special legal framework that forbids discrimination apart from Article 8 of the [Swiss] constitution, which prohibits it on the basis of origin," she said. Fibbi says that discrimination in the workplace has to be tackled first at the grassroots level. "Our first challenge will be to make people aware that this kind of situation is not normal and only when people share this analysis, can we [think about] what we can do and perhaps set up a legal framework that prohibits discrimination. I think we have a long way ahead of us."
    ©NZZ Online

    5/11/2003- A Latvian MP, accused of betraying his country's national interests, has been deprived of his observer seat in the European Parliament by the Latvian Parliament, the Saeima, in Riga. Socialist MP Martijans Bekasovs, who joined the GUE (European United left and Nordic Green) group in the European Parliament, circulated a letter to MEPs mid-September about minority rights in Latvia. In the letter, Mr Bekasovs said that non-citizens in Latvia, the vast majority of them Russian, cannot get jobs and cannot learn Latvian as there is no money put aside for them. Mr Bekasovs also noted in his letter that the status of the Russian language is being undermined. Russian is the native language for around 60% of inhabitants in Riga as well as the eastern region of Latvia, Latgale, says the letter. However, this language has not received the status of a second official language and is called "a foreign language", stresses Mr Bekasovs. In the letter, he also referred to the education reform that aims to gradually increase teaching in Latvian at secondary schools. According to Mr Bekasovs, children of non-Latvian origin will be forced to learn "only in state language [Latvian]" from September 2004. These statements caused heavy criticism in Latvia.

    Reactions in Brussels
    The first official reaction came from the Latvian ambassador to the EU, Andris Kesteris. In his response, on 23 September, Mr Kesteris stressed that the Russian language is freely used and the "Russian minority has every opportunity to participate" in the country's cultural life as well as civil society. Mr Kesteris also dismissed Mr Bekasovs' announcements about the planned education reform. He said Latvia has many state-financed schools for national minorities where children are taught in their native languages - but that the Latvian parliament in 1998 decided to gradually increase teaching in Latvian to help these children to integrate into society. "The law guarantees that [even after the reform] at least 40 percent of the total subjects [taught at school] remain in the minority language", says Mr Kesteris, adding that plans to introduce the reform on September 2004 have not been changed.

    Saeima's vote
    Mr Bekasovs' colleagues in the Latvian parliament, the Saeima, chose less diplomatic rhetoric, accusing him of "anti-state" actions. The conservative and nationalistic party "For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK" particularly stressed that Mr Bekasovs' letter contains incorrect information about the situation in the ex-Soviet republic - set to join the EU in May 2004. Therefore, they conclude, he should be the last to go to Brussels "acting as if he represents the interests of Latvia", said one member in a heated debate on 30 October. As a result, the majority of parliamentarians decided to halt Mr Bekasovs' mandate as observer to the European Parliament. The vote was 64 to 22 in the 100-seat Saeima.

    What's next?
    However, what was decided in Riga appears to be in contradiction to the European Parliament's internal rules as an observer can neither be changed or removed unless they resign or die, or their mandate naturally expires at the date of formal EU entry, in May 2004. It is also unclear who will take Mr Bekasovs' post now as his party announced that it would not send another person to the European Parliament to replace him, as he "has spoken the truth". The chairman of the GUE group, Francis Wurtz, echoed these opinions and protested against the decision taken by the Saeima in a letter he wrote to European Parliament President, Pat Cox. "He just said what he thinks. There was no misdemeanour involved", a spokesperson for the GUE group told the Euobserver. This matter is expected to be discussed at a high level in the European Parliament in the days to come. In the meantime, Mr Bekasovs promises to challenge the Latvian Parliament's decision at the Constitutional Court in Latvia and, if necessary, at the European Court of Human Rights. He says his freedom of speech has been violated and it shows how little democracy means in the Baltic country.

    30/10/2003- We are to be blessed with a new political party, Jobbik Magyarország, which translates as "Righter Hungary", as in more rightwing. Jobbik also means "better", thus cleverly combining both ideas in potential voters' minds. Chairman Dániel Kovács announced, "The Socialist-Free Democrat government has destroyed the economy and the countryside, which is why there is a need for a force that radically represents national Christian values." The right already offers several choices. On the far edge, there is the anti-semitic MIÉP party, which last week hosted Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the National Front in France. Despite its French friends, MIÉP is a marginal force in Hungarian politics and has no MPs. Moving to the centre, there is the centre-right MDF, which is allied with Fidesz in parliament. And there is Fidesz itself, which started out as a liberal grouping and then lurched rightwards, but still has liberal tendencies. Stray supporters of the Christian Democrats, and various fragmented Smallholder Party groupings are also up for grabs.

    So why the need for a new party?
    Surely nationally-minded Hungarians should rally behind Fidesz, and not split the right-wing vote to ensure the party's victory at the next election? Well, no. Jobbik Magyarország, if it does not collapse in the political in-fighting that usually plagues radical political groupings, could help ensure Fidesz's victory in 2006. Firstly, I think the national mood is shifting. The Socialists are looking distinctly shaky. Opinion polls alternately give Fidesz a small lead, or have the party at equal pegging with the left. Péter Medgyessy's achilles heel - his past as an agent in the Communist secret service - still weakens him domestically. Heckled recently by MIÉP supporters at a commemoration gathering, the Prime Minister had the same hunted look as when the D-209 first scandal broke in parliament, eyes darting from side to side like a schoolboy caught cheating in an examination. Opinion polls show that many believe corruption to be more widespread than under Fidesz, and the parlous state of the budget deficit portends trouble ahead. Of course, much of this could be the mid-term blues that afflict any government. Perhaps Hungary's entry into the European Union next May will herald a massive influx of grants and subsidies, and a new wave of foreign investment will soon revitalize the economy. To return to Mr Kovács, the keyword in his statement of Jobbik Magyarország's values is "radical". This I interpret as not accepting the "Euro-consensus", that EU membership, eventually entry to the Eurozone and always faithfully standing by the United States are a Good Thing. I think many more Hungarians think like this than say so publicly, for to question these is barely acceptable in polite society. As prime minister, Viktor Orbán showed a certain ambiguity on these issues, but never really stood against the Euro-Consensus. Anyway, Jobbik Magyarország. Here is the problem for the right. Fidesz lost the last election by a whisker, partly because they were seen as too nationalistic.

    MIÉP did not make it into parliament.
    Would Fidesz have entered a coalition with MIÉP? We will never know. But we do know that the prospect of such an unsavory alliance brought much international and domestic criticism. Under the leadership of István Csurka, MIÉP, and the "radical right" were perpetually marginalized. Answer: reposition Fidesz as a more centrist, broad-based grouping, as is happening, and replace MIÉP with a more acceptable, radical nationalist party. Which is politically sophisticated, not openly anti-Semitic and xenophobic, and seeks to represent itself as continuing a healthy tradition of Magyar nationalism. Most of the MDF is elderly and the party will soon fade away. If Jobbik elbows MIÉP out of the way, it could perhaps expect to pick up 5%-6% of the vote, maybe more. Enough to enter parliament. Jobbik Magyarország, new, fresh, untainted, might even win sufficient seats to form a coalition with Fidesz. And how could the European Union and United States complain about that?
    ©The Budapest Sun

    5/11/2003- Belgian Home Affairs Minister Patrick Dewael has announced that all apprehended illegal immigrants will be brought immediately to closed detention centres to await deportation, following the discovery of asylum seekers squatting in poor conditions in the port town of Zeebrugge. A group of 50 asylum seekers was discovered living in squalid conditions on Monday — they had begun squatting after refusing to leave the country. According to Zeebrugge residents, several similar shelters exist in the area with an estimated 100 refugees camping out at any one time with the hope of eventually reaching the UK. Within the past three months, 1,650 illegals have been apprehended in Zeebrugge, 60 percent of whom were discovered before attempting to reach the UK. The department for immigration has complained it lacks the means to accommodate such a large number of asylum seekers in closed asylum centres. As well as immediate detention, Dewael has suggested extra patrols in Zeebrugge and cooperation between the home office and embassies representing those immigrants proving the most difficult to repatriate.
    ©Expatica News

    3/11/2003- A year has passed since the Red Cross centre at Sangatte, near Calais, temporary home to tens of thousands of would-be immigrants to Britain, closed its doors but up and down the coast of northern France the traffic in humans continues. The Sangatte centre, which took in 68,000 foreigners in three years, was a source of acrimony between Paris and London, which accused France of turning a blind eye to illegal immigration. It has been demolished since the closure on November 5, 2002, and local authorities say the numbers of immigrants detained in the Calais area has dropped by four fifths. The senior local civil servant (prefet) Cyrille Schotte says there will always be pressure on Calais as long as Britain tempts immigrants but that a year has seen big changes. "Sangatte was 2,000 people being accommodated, fights between people-smugglers, an economic obstacle for cross-Channel transport companies and bad Franco-British relations," he says. "Today all that has disappeared."

    Would-be immigrants are still visible in Calais and local charitable groups do their best to look after them, with limited means. One radical priest has taken a young Iraqi into his home. Feeding centres have been set up and warm clothes distributed. But the nature of the would-be immigrants has changed and with the change have come racial tensions. Once mainly Afghans, Iraqi Kurds and Iranians these days they are made up chiefly of Iraqi Kurds and Sudanese and when they line up for their food they form two distinct queues "It's better like this," says a young Iraqi, sitting on a seaside rock to eat his meal. "Everyone has his territory." The cross-channel train and ferry companies have spent fortunes trying to ensure immigrants are kept out with fences, cameras, and scanners to to detect heartbeats and human breath. But still the immigrants keep coming. An expert people-smuggler can load 10 immigrants into a sealed truck in one minute, say local frontier police. The immigrants are hidden 200 to 300 yards (metres) away while the smugglers, equipped with cutters, shears, glue, needles and thread open up the back of the truck. At Calais a team of 30 frontier guards, often hidden in unmarked vehicles they call their submarines, keep watch at truck parks. During the space of one night monitored by AFP 22 Indians, Iraqis and Sudanese were caught and since the beginning of the year 264 smugglers have been detained. But finding the brains behind the operation proves harder; those who are caught do not talk, mobile phone calls are hard to track because the chips on the cards are changed often. Even more worryingly, violence is increasing: recently a loaded gun was found and the police wear bullet-proof vests.

    The closure of Sangatte has not solved the problem but it has displaced it, as more and more immigrants are picked up at ther Normandy ports of Le Havre and Ouistreham which have links with Portsmouth in southern England, though the Breton ports of Roscoff and Saint Malo have seen no increase. At Le Havre one British ferry operator reports 2,788 interceptions of immigrants in the first nine months of this year compared with 485 for the whole of 2002. Other immigrants head north into Belgium to Zeebrugge. But a rump remain at Calais, determined to take their chance by train or ferry. "Basically nothing has changed," says a human rights group. "But the extra difficulty of crossing makes the immigrants disperse. You don't have 1,300 people in the same place, but groups of 200 to 300, in Calais, Paris, the Normandy and Dutch ports."
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    3/11/2003- On 24 and 25 October members, candidate members and experts from 7 European countries and the USA met in Mainz, Germany for the second annual conference of the International Network Against Cyber Hate(INACH) on International law and Monitoring.

    INACH was founded in October 2002 by Magenta foundation, Complaints Bureau for Discrimination on the Internet(Non Governmental Organisation) and Organisation). INACH aims to combat hate on the Internet through education, monitoring, regulation, legal measures and in others ways. It has members in The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland and is aiding organizations in Denmark, France, Ireland, Poland, Russia and Sweden to set up Complaints Bureaus. INACH also works together with the Anti Defamation League in the United States.

    Day 1
    The first day of the conference was dedicated to Network developments. The participants were welcomed by Dr. Richard Hartmann from the Rheinland-Pfalz ministry for education, women and youth who stated that the ministry "expressly supports the objectives as well as the commitment of INACH" The INACH secretariat presented an overview of the work done in the past year. The two most important accomplishments being a 'How to' CD-Rom for starting complaints bureaus with all ingredients that are needed to start. Secondly the CaseBase was presented. CaseBase is a mutual database of racist/discriminatory websites with trans-national relevance. Another important development is interventions and presentations at several OSCE meetings by the Dutch Complaints Bureau for on Discrimination Internet on behalf of INACH. On initiative by France the EU has proposed a special OSCE meeting dedicated to Hate on the Internet to be held in 2004.

    Day 2
    After introductory remarks by Professor Bertil Cottier(Swiss Institute for Comparative Law) and Brian Marcus (Director of Internet Monitoring ADL, USA) all participants engaged in a lively discussion on developing international strategies using national and international laws and guide lines and on how to streamline monitoring of the Internet so al data that is collected is comparative. The 'sluitjeaan' website, a Jihad recruitment site with Antisemitic material on it was the perfect example of the power of international co-operation within the network. Sluitjeaan (join us) was made and maintained from the Netherlands, the main site hosted in India and had 5 mirror sites in the USA and elsewhere. The combined efforts of the Dutch complaints bureau,, ADL and another American organisation made it possible to have the site and all its mirrors removed within 2 weeks.
    The Belgian bureau, Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism, reported on their successful legal action against the makers of 'Free Historical Research' , a revisionist organisation, with a large multilingual website.
    The two examples also showed that there are many ways of combatting discrimination on the Internet, often just getting the material removed will suffice, other times legal action has to be taken.

    7/11/2003- "65 years after the destruction of our synagogue, again nazis planned to destroy the center of Munich's Jewish life", says Charlotte Knobloch, president of Munich's Jewish community. She reacted on German Neo-Nazis who were planning a bomb-attack against the building-site of Munich's new Jewish center on 9 November. The date for the attack was not chosen by accident. On 9 November 1938 a vicious pogrom took place in Nazi Germany, which is often seen as the symbolical beginning of the Holocaust.

    On 9 November, non-governmental-organisations in 38 European countries, coordinated through the UNITED network, commemorate the 'Kristallnacht' pogrom, which is often seen as the symbolical beginning of the Holocaust. They organize a.o. torchlight processions in Denmark and Norway, big anti-fascist demonstrations in Greece and France, school projects in Russia, Lithuania and Germany and exhibitions in Uzbekistan and Belarus.

    The strategy of finding scapegoats is not only historical, but used until today. With the enlargement of the European Union, a new group of people will become Europe's biggest minority: Roma. Roma are victims of discrimination, racism and prejudice in many European countries. In times of crises, Roma are used as scapegoats by politicians, media, as well as by the general public. Which is why this year's campaign wonders: "Who shall we blame now?". Which group will society focus on this time?

    Additional Information:
    UNITED for Intercultural Action is a network of 550 organisations all over Europe working against racism and fascism. Activities at the local level in the framework of the campaign around 9 November are carried out by organisations from 38 countries. The campaign is co-ordinated by the UNITED International Secretariat.
    A full list of activities is accessible here
    Please contact the UNITED office for further information. We will be happy to supply you with contact information of an organisation near you that is involved in this year's campaign.

    6/11/2003- Australian right-wing politician Pauline Hanson has been freed from jail after her conviction in August for election fraud was overturned. Ms Hanson, founder of the anti-immigration One Nation party, left jail on Thursday. "I got caught up in a system that I saw fail me and I am so concerned now for the other women behind the bars... and men," she said. The party's co-founder, David Ettridge, has also seen his conviction quashed. Ms Hanson's appeal was upheld unanimously by three judges on the Queensland Court of Appeal. They said her conviction was unsafe. Ms Hanson, 49, was not in court for the hearing, but a small group of her friends and family welcomed the decision. Her sister, Judy Smith, told reporters: "I am angry that she has been 11 weeks in jail where she shouldn't have been." Ms Hanson's supporters are now demanding a national inquiry into her treatment by the authorities. "There are questions to be asked at state and federal level about Pauline's investigation, prosecution and incarceration," said Bill Flynn, One Nation leader in the Queensland state parliament.

    Ms Hanson had been found guilty of fraudulently registering her One Nation party in the Australian state of Queensland. Prosecutors said that she had used the names of supporters as genuine members of her party in order to qualify for electoral $300,000 in electoral funding. She and David Ettridge each spent 78 nights in jail. Pauline Hanson was a former fish-and-chip shop owner who burst onto Australia's political scene in 1996 when she won a seat as an independent in the federal parliament on a platform opposing immigration and what she saw as handouts to aborigines. A year later she set up One Nation, along with David Ettridge. Their party won almost 25% of votes in a state election in 1998, but after that support began to fade, and Ms Hanson lost her own seat in a federal vote in the same year. Internal rivalries began to pull One Nation apart and Ms Hanson left the party last year to concentrate on her legal difficulties. Her conviction and jailing in August led to an upswing in sympathy and support. A BBC correspondent in Australia, Phil Mercer, says her release from jail could now re-ignite her political career.
    ©BBC News

    Suggestions and comments please to