Headlines 15 October, 2004

November 2004- Today there is much talk of the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. Critics also note the rise of Islamophobia after 9/11: Muslim immigrant youths have been exclusively named responsible for attacks against Jewish people and property. Yet there is one group that has always been the target of hatred and discrimination, a group which remains Europe's most unwanted: The Roma.

Would you like to have Roma as neighbors? That is the standard question in most polls addressing prejudices against Roma. Roughly two thirds of Europeans say no. Such is the case, for example, in Romania: In polls carried out in 2000, 75 per cent of respondents said they would not like to live next door to Roma. 85 per cent of the respondents to a 1991 Czech poll said no, with the figure remaining stable in 1996, when 87 per cent said Romani neighbors would be unwanted. The degree of animosity in neighboring Slovakia is just as high: In a poll conducted in 1999, 87 per cent of the respondents declared that they would not like to have Roma as neighbors. Moreover, 55 per cent said that they would not want to live in a Romani neighborhood. A poll conducted in Slovenia in 1995 gave a slightly more optimistic picture: Not quite every second respondent was opposed to having Roma in his/her vicinity. In France and Ireland, people were interviewed on the topic of campsites for Roma/Travellers. French municipalities of more than 5,000 people are legally obligated to make premises available for Travellers, but a number of communes have refused to do so. Asked whether they agreed with this policy of resistance, a slim majority of the respondents, 51 per cent, said they did. In Ireland the opposition to campsites for Travellers was even more pronounced, with 57 per cent in a 2000 poll declaring that they would not accept Travelers in their neighborhood.

Another issue is personal relations. In a poll conducted among Slovenian high school students in 1993, 60.1 per cent admitted to avoid any contacts with Roma. This attitude is the same throughout Europe: In the above quoted Irish poll, two out of three respondents declared that they would not like to work with Roma. In Romania the opposite question was asked in 2003: Only 11 per cent were prepared to accept Roma as colleagues! The same mentality of rejection exists when it comes to schools. In 1992 a research team asked ethnic Bulgarians whether they would let their children go to school with Roma. 89.5 per cent considered it to be unacceptable. More recently, Croats were asked whether they would want their children to attend classes with a majority of Romani children. 64 answered firmly in the negative. In 1986, Spanish children were asked whether they would accept Romani children as classmates: 27 per cent said no. And the closer the relationship, the firmer the rejection: In a survey conducted among Spanish school teachers in the late 1980s, almost half of respondents indicated that they would not like to have Roma as friends. In a poll conducted in Romania in 2003 only 12 per cent said that they would accept Roma among their friends.

The question of intermarriages is often seen as the litmus test for a person's real attitude towards people of another "race" or ethnic origin, and Roma are not considered acceptable partners by the vast majority of non-Roma Europeans. 80 per cent of the respondents to a Slovak poll stated in 1999 that they would never allow their children to marry Roma. Half of the respondents to a 1995 Portuguese poll said they would not like their children to marry Roma. Having Roma as family was considered acceptable by only 7 per cent of the respondents to the above quoted Romanian poll. Less than one per cent of the respondents to a poll conducted in Bulgaria could imagine marrying a person of Roma origin. No doubt, there is a general dislike of Roma in Europe. 71.1 per cent of the respondents to a Bulgarian poll from 1991 expressed a generally negative opinion of them. A persistently high level of aversion is also found in the Czech Republic, where a 1991 poll showed 90 per cent expressing a generally negative attitude. In 1994 this was 68 per cent, and four years later, 65 per cent. Similarly high figures were also found in Poland: In 1996, 71 per cent of the respondents to a poll declared that they had a negative attitude towards Roma. In 2000 there was a decrease to 55 per cent, but in 2003 there was an upswing to 65 per cent, making Roma the most disliked ethnic group in Poland. Crude anti-Gypsyism was also evident in Romanian opinion polls. When asked their general opinion of Roma in a 1995 poll, 74 per cent of the interviewed declared it was unfavorable or very unfavorable. The percentage of negative opinions expressed two years later was 67 per cent. In 1992 the Allensbach Demoscopic Institute interviewed Germans about their attitudes towards Roma: 64 per cent expressed dislike. Two years later these findings were confirmed by a survey conducted by another institute, with 68 per cent declaring not to like Roma. In one English poll, 35 per cent of the respondents showed open aversion against them.

If people are asked to distribute their sympathies and antipathies among different ethnic/cultural groups or nationalities, Roma arrive mostly at the bottom of the hierarchy. This was the case in a Bulgarian poll from 1991, where 71 per cent expressed rejection towards Roma. This was also the case in a French survey from 1999 and in a Slovenian survey of the same year. In a Polish survey from 1999, Roma were not the most disliked group – Belorussians took that spot – but they were, together with Jewish people, the group garnering the lowest level of sympathy. Roma also ranged at the bottom of sympathies in a survey conducted by the Spanish Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in 1998. They were followed by people from Arabian countries and Muslims. If people are asked to choose among groups marked by socially deviant behavior such as drug addiction and crime, or people marked by their nationality or ethnicity, Roma usually follow, in preference, directly after the former. This indicates that the rejection of Roma is based on the idea that they are socially deviant. The identification of the Roma as nomadic is one of the most widespread stereotypes.

Opinion polls hardly address the issue of the reason for prejudices. In Western Europe it is impolitic to ask people to be outspoken on the nature of their resentments. In Eastern Europe this type of questioning is common and sometimes done with great detail, as in a poll conducted in 2001 in Romania. Asked to choose from a list three characteristics that would best describe Roma, half chose dirtiness and thievery, 39 per cent laziness. In another poll conducted in Romania in 2003, 82 per cent of the respondents agreed with the statement that many Roma are in conflict with the laws. Thievery and dishonesty are frequently associated with Roma: 77.1 per cent of the respondents to a Polish survey from 2000 characterized Roma as dishonest; 67 per cent in a 1995 Hungarian poll declared that Roma are prone to crime by nature. This prejudice was replicated by a third of Hungarian history students. The 2000 Polish poll also subscribed overwhelmingly to the statement that Roma are unfriendly (56.3 per cent) and that they do not like to work. These prejudices are also present among children: In a 1979 poll of German children aged ten to fourteen, 61.5 per cent agreed that Roma are sometimes dishonest. 69.2 per cent believed that Roma make their living out of begging and stealing. Against this backdrop it is all too logical that many people hold Roma responsible for their own marginalisation. 43 per cent in Poland and 87 per cent of Czechs, both in 1991, believed that Roma were responsible for the hostility against them. Another consequence of these beliefs is many agree with radical measures against Roma, ranging from the deprivation of their citizens' rights to their physical elimination. 13 per cent of respondents to an Irish poll from 2001 disagreed that Travellers should have the same rights as the settled community. 51 per cent of respondents to a French poll agreed with the refusal of some mayors to make campsites available for Travellers. 47 per cent of the respondents to a Romanian poll conducted in 2003 believed that municipalities and cities should be able to refuse Roma the right to settle down in their commune. In the same poll 68 per cent of respondents agreed that Roma should be denied the right to travel abroad.

Animosity goes further with the approval of segregation by many respondents. Again in the same Romanian poll, 31 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that there should be places such as bars, restaurants, discos and shops where Roma are not allowed entry. 64 per cent believed that there should be particular places for Roma at schools and universities. 36 per cent believed that Roma should be kept apart from the rest of the society, as they are unable to integrate. In 1999 in Slovakia, 60 per cent answered affirmatively the question, "Are you in favor of measures that would have Romanies living separated from the majority population, with their own schools and so on?" 30 per cent of respondents to a Czech poll conducted in 1994 agreed that Roma should be confined to ghettos. About half of the respondents to a Czech poll in 1996 agreed that Roma should be driven out of the Czech Republic. A concomitant view was expressed by 40.7 per cent of the respondents to a survey conducted in 2000 in the Romanian city of Cluj-Napoca, and by 13 per cent of teenage students in a survey conducted at Spanish schools in 1986 and 1988. More than 50 per cent of the respondents to a Portuguese poll from 1995 opined that there are too many Roma in Portugal. The same kind of extremist and­indeed­genocidal thinking regarding Roma is displayed in the agreement of 48 per cent of the respondents to the above-quoted Romanian poll, that the state should take measures to stop the increase of the Roma population. This said, there is some public awareness of racism against Roma, but it does not match the prejudice's vigor. 41 per cent of the respondents to a French poll conducted in October 2000 considered that Roma/Travellers are among the most affected by prejudices. They were the fourth most quoted group after people from Maghreb countries and Africa. In a 2002 poll of French youth, 46 per cent believed that Roma are the most discriminated against. Here Roma came second after people from Maghreb countries, but before Black people and Jews. In an English poll from 2001, 38 per cent declared that they consider Roma to be the most affected by prejudices. The figures used in this paper are disparate and sometimes rather old. They mainly result from a search via the internet and serve one single purpose: To document that anti-Gypsyism exists as a prevailing attitude throughout Europe. Anti-Gypsyism is indeed deeply engrained in European culture and societies. Unlike with anti-Semitism, anti-Gypsyism has hardly been affected by any taboos or the adoption of at least a politically correct language. Likewise unlike anti-Semitism, anti-Gypsyism is still fuelled by ancient prejudices and stereotypes, the most common prejudice being that Roma are social outlaws. The fact that these stereotypes exist even in countries where there is hardly any visible Roma presence such as in Denmark, Luxembourg, Belgium and Malta only highlights their crudeness. Anti-Gypsyism is not only the source of discrimination and marginalisation. As with the past, it kills. The number of Roma who are aggressed, wounded and killed, for the sole fact of being Roma, is undocumented. Romani women continue to be sterilized in a racist attempt to reduce the number of Roma, whose growth is seen as a social threat.

European institutions and national governments need to document and monitor incidents of anti-Gypsyism as it is done for other forms of racism and racist violence. An EU-wide survey on anti-Gypsyism including all its forms ranging from popular anti-Gypsyism, racist violence by individuals and law enforcement officers as well as hate speed is urgently needed in order to make this social phenomenon become visible to the majority. It needs to be understood that anti-Gypsyism is not only an attack on the human dignity and physical integrity of Roma but also a threat to social cohesion. Integration is never a one way process. As long as anti-Gypsyism persists there is little chance for a peaceful coexistence of Roma and non-Roma.
Research done by Karin Waringo, European Roma Information Office
Polls by country are available by requests
European Roma Information Office

By Daniela Conti – Progetto Ultrà

The 8th edition of the Mondiali Antirazzisti has been played in Montecchio (Reggio Emilia - Italy) from 7 to 11 July 2004. The Mondiali is an annual, non competitive football tournament organised by Progetto Ultrà (Italy) and Istoreco (italy) in cooperation with FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe). This year 168 teams have been involved representing more than 20 countries, 40 national identities and a total of 6.000 participants, coming from all over Europe. Teams are male, female and mixed, without special rounds divided for categories: everybody play with everybody! The main target group of this 7-a-side multicultural football event are fans and migrant communities. Fans and migrant groups shared experiences about racism and discrimination in the stadiums and integration methods between migrants and local communities. For the first time a team from Palestine, one from Macedonia and a group of Nigerian who live in Hungary have been given the possibility to participate, thanks to the work of all the FARE network and the support of Regione Emilia-Romagna to obtain Visa for these groups More than 483 matches have been played split on 14 grounds, without referees, in order to underline the non competitive character of the event and to teach the teams how to self-regulate. The tournament has been won by Ultras Cava dei Tirreni, scond place for the team of Nigerians coming from Hungary African All Stars. At the Finals no regular matches have been played. The winners were determined through a penalty shooting. It should remind all players, that in life like in football, especially with penalty, it is sometimes only a question of luck, if you are privileged or deprived, winner or looser. Also the first Antiracist Basketball Tournament was organised by Italian ultras of basketball, who gave an important sign in the struggle against racism.

Mondiali are an occasion of meeting among people of different culture, religion, sexual orientation, countries and fans of clubs sometimes also enemy. In fact the goal of the manifestation is to demonstrate the conviviality among differences is not only possible, but is a richness for all the society. The event wants to demonstrate against each forms of discrimination, and for this reasons, all the groups are actively involved in the organisation and promotion of the event. People are hosted in 2 camping sites for the capacity of 3.000 people. Camping sites and services (toilettes, showers, parking area) were totally free of charge, as the participation at the tournament and concerts. The 2 restaurants and the 3 bars (managed by fan groups, migrant communities and local associations) had very cheap prices and all income has been used for funding the manifestation. At the entrance of the 2 camping sites a service of multilingual reception has been organised to supply all the needs.

To demonstrate the non competitive goal of the manifestation the more important prices are the special cups that have been given for activities against racism and Fair Play in sports. The cups given and offered by the migrant community Associazione Araba Novellara have been various and among all the most relevant were: the Mondiali Antirazzisti 2004 Cup assigned to Brigate GialloBlu Modena, who during all the years have been engaged in antiracist activities in schools and at the stadium, and who have been participants and volunteers during all the Mondiali, managing one of the restaurants from 7:00 in the morning to 4:00 in the night; the Kilometres Cup for the Palestinian team of Ibdaa, who have been for sure the team with the longest way to travel to be able to attend; the Invisible Cup was dedicated to the Sudanese migrants closed in the Humanitarian Ship Cap Anamur, blocked from the Italian and German government near by the European costs. For the Mondiali they were with us in an invisible presence. To offer a space of meeting and exchange, it was been built up the Piazza Antirazzista (Antiracist Square) who hosted the exposition of self-made materials picking the struggle against racism out as a central theme (articles, photos, t-shirts, stickers, banners…). Moreover, many debates took place at this meeting point. One of these debates organised by FARE has seen the participation of Paul Elliott, former defender of Chelsea and Pisa, who spoke about his experience as football player concerning racist abuse. He underlined the importance of acting and gave examples of what supporters and players can do to counter racism.

Since the beginning the Mondiali Antirazzisti chooses to support particular social projects, contributing to their realisation and promotion, as for example the project "El Estadio del Bae" for the upgrading of sports and cultural structures in Chiapas (Mexico); the project "Sport sotto l'Assedio" for supporting the sports activities of Palestinian children in Deisha. Moreover the Mondiali promoted the use of fair trade balls for all the sports manifestations. As every year, there has been a broad offer of musical entertainment and live concerts: the Italian band 400 Colpi; the the French Mastaya; the Catalan band Obrint Pas; the Italian DJ Kaos feat. DJ Trix, Moddi MC e Turi and the English Zion Train. The association of street artists Accademia dei Remoti presented a show with fire, that started at the camping site and arrived in the main Square of the village, where they proposed fireworks. During this march they have been accompanied by drummers and thousands of fans and locals followed this track, celebrating the idea of anti-racism, singing and presenting their flags and banners. In choosing the bands the organization has made a special attention to ethnic music, or who propose in their songs antidiscrimination messages, to underline the values of the manifestation. Describe in few words what is the Mondiali is difficult: it's passion and party, colours and football, music and arts, knowledge and friendship… It's better to come and live with us 5 day of demonstration the beauty of a multicultural society. Next edition will be from 5 to 10 July 2005.
More info on the website of Progetto Ultrà

The „Initiative against the Chipcard system" in Berlin is fighting against the German practice to refuse to give asylum-seekers and refugees cash money for their everyday expenses. Instead they get vouchers or electronic smart cards (chip cards) which are only valid in a few and mostly expensive shops that are not necessarily anywhere near to where the refugees live. We believe that the people should have the right to spend their money where they want to and cash is necessary, especially because you can't pay a lawyer with these so called "Sachleistungen". This practice of the German Law is racist and discriminating against people because they are not allowed to spend their money the way they plan their lives and they are made to stick out in shops because everybody immediately knows that they are refugees. Often racist harassment is a result of trying to buy something with these cards ­ it might be the cashier or the other people waiting in line who start to make comments about the refugees who "should go to work or leave instead of collecting social welfare". Because it is nearly impossible to get permission from the German Government to seek for a job and even harder to get one if you are actually allowed to, this is very hard on the people who are forced to waste their lives waiting for decisions from the law. With the 41 Euro a grownup person gets each month in cash it's not possible to pay a lawyer, public transport, a telephone bill, and special treats like cigarettes or alcohol (can't buy these with the cards) or presents for the family, that can not be found in supermarkets.

For four years now we have been organising actions, petitions and contacts between refugees and supporters ­ we try to find people who have cash and are willing to shop with the cards of refugees and give them back the amount in ‘real money' / cash, we organise information campaigns about and against this system and we try to attack those who are responsible for keeping this practice up on a political level. Last year the greatest success was that nearly all districts who gave out these cards cancelled their contracts with SODEXHO, the company which produces and earns a lot of money with racist discrimination. This company also makes a lot of money with their try to build up a private prison system in Europe. The one district who still gave out vouchers to refugees - which are even worse because it's not allowed to give money back if you don't spend the whole amount, making it necessary to go shopping with a calculator! ­ finally called a stop to this practice after we managed to find support from members in the local parliament and organised shopping actions, rallies and protests in front of the Social Security Office. By now (end of 2004) there are only two districts in Berlin left, where people are forced to take these cards. These are not easy to get at as they have a conservative and racist lawyer and local parliament, but we are working together with local Antifa groups and managed two shopping and information rallies in the last year, which were a pretty good success. Another thing we did this year was to get in contact with refugees who live in Brandenburg outside of Berlin who also get the chip cards and often live in very isolated places outside of town. For them it is even harder to buy everyday things with the cards and there have been attempts to criminalize them when they try to exchange the cards against cash. We got in contact with groups of refugees who are no longer willing to accept the discriminations against them and supported them in their struggle to inform the people and authorities of their will to fight against this system. There has been a strike of refugees in Kunersdorf in Brandenburg for three months where they would not take the cards when the social welfare people came to their camp, also they organised a rally and protests in the capital of the "Landkreis" (district), which have been the biggest political events in the place ever ­ thanks to those people who are willing to struggle against these laws!

If you are interested in getting in contact with us, if you want more information or happen to be in Berlin and would like to find out what and if something is going on or you know people living here who need support, you can mail us: konsumfuerfreiesfluten@yahoo.com
Initiative against the Chipcard system

An Interactive Exhibition on Peace Education
By Caecilia J. van Peski, an educational and cultural psychologist. She works for CISV Ltd., an international INGO that focuses on peace education and conflict transformation. Besides, she is as a trainer & developer in the field of culture and communication through Van Peski Consult, the Netherlands.

Is it possible to produce peace on a conveyor belt or in an assembly line? The Peace Factory uses the metaphor of a factory to teach peace education. Peace Education Projects the Netherlands is a charitable organization that believes that peace is something people can learn. It doesn't appear out of the blue, but is something to work on and learn about. Peace is something to do - an active verb.

The Peace Factory is a travelling exhibition presently touring through the Netherlands. Although it was designed for children and adolescents aged ten and up, adults will find it interesting and educational as well.

The Peace Factory illustrates how war and peace, past, present and future are interconnected. It combines realism and history with idealism and the future. While showing how these things are present in our world, the exhibition begins to shift the focus to the personal beliefs of the visitor. What are your own norms and values? How would you act in a certain situation? Would you fight for your own beliefs? Do you dare to stand up to what you believe in? By touching the visitor's own identity, individuals are forced to think about the consequences of their own day-to-day choices in moral dilemmas. Where do I stand? Visitors are actively challenged to examine their own opinions, choices and values.

Visitors enter the factory in pairs. Each pair is given a "roadmap to peace" that indicates a possible route. The roadmap also contains questions, the answers to which can be found while going through the exhibition. There are three different roadmaps of varying levels of complexity in order to accommodate both young and old. Upon entering the Peace Factory the sounds of a working factory are projected onto the visitor from every corner, creating realistic factory atmosphere. Visitors wear helmets, creating the illusion of construction workers walking around a building site. And, there is actual building taking place: Peace building!

The Peace Factory contains a total of fifteen machines, all made of synthetic fibre in a multitude of appealing colours. Visitors are invited to work with machines like the time machine, lie detector, regret tube, fact and opinion sorter, scapegoat mill, prejudice balance, tolerance measurer and violence roll. They use these different tools to explore a variety of concepts, discovering, for example, that although tolerance is a valuable asset, it also has its limitations. Freedom itself cannot be unrestricted, because the freedom of one individual can result in restrictions for others. Conflicts can be resolved in more than one way. Making agreements can be a way to find peace with your enemy. Joining resistance is heroic but also dangerous. What you perceive as innocent teasing of a child in your classroom may be seen as harassment in the eyes of the victim. Where do you draw the line?

The concept of the Peace Factory holds great promise for any organisation that works with children and adolescents, including exchange programmes, projects for refugees, and educational organizations. Not only in the Netherlands the Peace Factory can be a powerful educational tool when it comes to peace education. As we speak, other nations, including Algeria, Colombia, Spain, Italy, France, Russia, and Rwanda are working on their own Peace Factories, each with a focus specific to their particular history. The Netherlands and Germany are working on a shared Peace Factory that puts emphasis on their mutual conflicts during the Second World War as well.

Design: Jan Durk Tuinier and Geu Visser, 2004 for
Stichting Vredeseducatie (Peace Education Projects the Netherlands)

By Dr. Leonid Stonov (UCSJ's Director of International Bureaus in the FSU)

10/12/2004- Some results of the first year implementation of the sponsored by the European Commission project "Public Campaign of to Combat Racism, Xenophobia, Antisemitism and Ethnic Discrimination in the Multi-National Russian Federation" (managing by the Moscow Helsinki Group, Union of Councils for Jews in the FSU and affiliated Moscow Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law)

What legislation can be used today in Russia on hate crimes?
Many officers within Russia's law enforcement bodies, instead of using Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code or another law against the "Incitement of Ethnic, Race or Religious Hatred", now speak of the law's imperfection. Article 282 was written as a substitute for another law on the same subject, replacing Article 74 from the old Criminal Code of the Russian Federation in a mid-1990s reform of the Criminal Code. The new article has the positive additions in comparison to the old one, most important is that the necessity to prove "intent" regarding a hate crime was removed. Several other laws were added or amended which were important to this struggle against hate groups. Besides Article 282, Article 148 ("Prevention of Carrying out Rights on Freedom of Conscience and Religion") appeared in the new code, thusly improving the consideration given to hate crimes performed as religious xenophobia. Also, the content of Article 205 ("Terrorism") was supplemented to include the "threat to commit a terrorist act". These additions are important for our topic, because even the most radical nationalistic groups may not be ready to commit a terrorist attack, but can still terrorize a community with their threats. The use of guns was also reclassified as an aggravating circumstance.

Yet it seems that investigators and especially the prosecutors have forgotten about Article 63 from the Common Part in the Russian Criminal Code. In Section E of Article 63 ("The Circumstances Aggravating the Punishment"), it was established that crimes committed on grounds of racist, ethnic and religious hatred are considered aggravating circumstances. As the law enforcement bodies continue to prefer to qualify the cases on violent crimes with nationalistic coloring, instead of Article 282 these crimes are also prosecuted under more common criminal articles – hooliganism, severe bodily injury and several others (i.e., Articles 213, 115, 116). It then would be reasonable to include the qualified indications in these articles about hooliganism, severe beatings and wide scale violations of the order. Here is where aggravating circumstances should find their usefulness to increase the rate of punishment for criminals, as crimes of ethnic, racial and religious hatred, by law, are objectively considered more publicly dangerous than the same crimes with mere "every day" motives. The punishments handed out in these cases are in response to both the actual act and the criminal's motives, as condemned by the society. Nevertheless, this aggravating circumstance is practically not taken into account. In this case, law enforcement bodies cannot refer to their fallback excuse – the "imperfection of formulation." Everything here is understandable and obvious, although some improvements are possible and necessary. Many experts, including UCSJ, consider it reasonable to use motives of ethnic, racial and religious hatred as an additional indication of aggravating punishment under Articles: 139 ("Violation of Sanctity of the Home"), 167 ("Intentional Liquidation or Damage to the Belongings"), 212 ("Mass Confusion"), 213 ("Hooliganism"), 214 ("Vandalism") and some others.

The current Russian Criminal Code has formulations to classify hate crimes as a qualified sign, increasing the punishment, in the following Articles (besides the abovementioned Article 63): 105 ("Murder", Part 2, Section L), 111 ("Intentional Big Harm to the Health", Part 2, Section E), 112 ("Intentional Medium Harm to the Health", Part 2, Section E) And 117 ("Torturing", Part 2, Section "?"). The questions of punishment for infringement of ethnic rights and religious freedoms are touched on in different forms in the following Criminal Code Articles: 136 ("Violations of Equality of Human and Citizens' Rights and Freedoms"), 148 ("Preventing of Realizing the Rights on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Freedoms"), 239 ("Organization of Unity Encroaching on Personal Freedom and Citizens' Rights"), 354 ("Public Appeals to Unleash an Aggressive War").

It is natural to think that Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code can be improved. Now it contains three different types of corpus delicti. First is "Humiliation of the Dignity", i.e. does moral harm, and can be referred to the Civil Rights Legislation. It is possible and almost necessary to add the new corpus delicti to the Criminal Code, which should be in accordance with Article 4 of the International Convention of Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Secondly, the definition "Excitement of Hatred" can be divided to "Instigation to Discrimination", "Appeal to Violence", "Propaganda of Superiority or Inferiority", etc. A differing rate of punishment might be necessary for words versus actions, which has been left out of Article 282.

Parallel with criminal prosecution of hate crimes, decriminalization can also play a positive role in counteraction to extremism/chauvinism. Political decisions are important in this issue. First of all, the authorities need to react to speeches and decisions of their representatives (mayors, governors) and deputies on all levels. For example, the absence of a clear response from the authorities to the antisemitic statements of the former Krasnodar governor (and now representative in the Council of Federation, N. Kondratenko, who recently gave an aggressively antisemitic speech at a Beirut conference), to murders of human rights activists/experts on inter-ethnic relations (N.Girenko); from absence of security measures for judges leading to a higher number of victims, to indirect encouragement of ethnic, racial and religious violence. More symbolic and visible actions by high level officials are necessary in this sphere, if officials really want to finish with ethnic and religious hatred and crimes on this basis.

Simply speaking, citizens and the society in general in Russia can't be protected against racism, discrimination and chauvinism, but not because the Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure Code or Citizen Procedure Code are ineffective, or because incompetent, corrupt and dependable judges (as often happens) prevent it. The question is, can the state, as it is, perform its basic functions and duties to protect their people? Until now, the practice did not show optimism. The efforts of political leadership must play the bigger role.

By Natalia Sineaeva (Helsinki Citizens' Assembly of Moldova, IKV intern) and Rafal Pankowski ('Never Again' Association-Poland, Helsinki Citizens' Assembly of Moldova)
Many thanks to Leonid Savin for his valuable help.

14/12/2004- Ukraine is a leading topic in the international media today. We would like to offer our own Eastern European perspective on the recent events, differing from the mainstream opinion.

The post-Soviet republic appears on the front pages of all newspapers in Europe and the United States. Before the recent presidential elections the Ukrainian affairs and the Ukrainian political process almost did not interest the Western political elite, so accordingly, the Western media also.

Observers on the part of the OSCE and the Council of Europe have qualified the recent elections as non-democratic and with a big probability of fraud. The Ukrainian authorities are accused of not providing equal and civilized conditions for politicians engaged in the presidential competition. They also mentioned the lack of access to the media for the representative of the opposition ­ Viktor Yushchenko, supported by the strong political block "Our Ukraine", and manipulations of the press financed from the state budget in favour of the current prime minister Viktor Yanukovich.

The opposition parties demanded the results of the second round of the elections to be cancelled and immediately started to organize protests against the government. Under their pressure, the Ukrainian Parliament voted the election results invalid. The political crisis continues and numerous foreign mediators arrive in the country in the hope of bringing a solution to its problem…

Long before the announcement of the official election results some Western commentators and analysts had started to predict a ‘democratic revolution' in Ukraine, as it already happened in Georgia last year and in Serbia four years ago. They see analogies between the Rose revolution in Tbillisi and the Orange revolution in Kiev. All of them converge in the opinion that young demonstrators will bring down the authoritarian regimes and introduce a real democracy. The Western media coverage suggests that 1989 repeats: mass demonstrations all over the country, peaceful protests, the opposition versus a totalitarian regime...
And according to the global media, Yushchenko is pro-democracy, pro-West and pro-NATO, while Yanukovich is pro-Moscow and therefore anti-Western.

We believe it is a mistake to describe the current political crisis in Ukraine only in ‘black-white' colours, as, in fact, the situation is much more complex. And here the media and most of the observers are extremely biased. In fact, the biggest difference between the situations in Georgia in November 2003 and in Ukraine in November 2004 is that a vast majority of the Georgians was in favour of radical changes in their country and was against the then government and president Shevardnadze. But Yanukovich indeed has many supporters, especially in Eastern and Southern parts of Ukraine and many pro-Yanukovich demonstrations and protests occurred there. Sadly, they were almost unnoticed in the media. The official results of these elections can be real or at least close to real ones ­ almost half of the Ukrainians is for Yushchenko and the rest supports Yanukovich. Yushchenko supporters have been much more visible mainly because his campaign was well prepared and ‘orange demonstrations' ­ with their accompanying pop concerts, giant screens, free food and clothing - were not entirely spontaneous. They had been carefully planned and generously financed, mostly from US sources. Two names have been mentioned in the context of US backing for Yushchenko, among others, the former State Secretary Henry Kissinger and the former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

It seems that the conflicting opinions of people have separated the country into two parts. One of the main arguments of ‘election skeptics' is roughly the following: how is it possible for Yanukovich to receive more than 90 per cent of the vote in his home town Donetsk? A similar question can be posed: why Yushchenko received the same per cent of the votes in places such as the western town Ivano-Frankovsk? It seems obvious that falsifications took place during the elections, but not only from Yanukovich's side. The country does not have a strong democratic tradition and the democratic political culture is rather weak here. Many years should pass before truly democratic elections in Ukraine. And first of all there must be changes in people's minds by evolutionary way.

This ex-Soviet republic, bordering the Black Sea, Poland, Romania, Moldova and the Russian Federation, with a population of approximately forty eight million people, also shakes from deep historical, religious and language contradictions. It is a very diverse country. Ukraine culturally, religiously and politically is split into two parts ­ eastern and western. The numerical strength of the Russian speaking minority is huge in Ukraine ­ around thirty per cent of the population. They are geographically concentrated mostly in the eastern regions of the country in relatively large numbers.

Millions of voters belonging to ethnic minorities strongly backed Yanukovich in these elections, mainly because of the fear of ethnic nationalism (which includes antisemitism) allegedly disseminated by the supporters of Yushchenko. Are their fears justified?

Many of today's demonstrators and supporters of the Orange revolution are activists bussed from the western part of Ukraine (Lvov and Ivano-Frankovsk). This part of the country harbours a strong nationalist movement which is both anti-Russian and anti-Polish, frequently also antisemitic, and its goal is not democracy but the protection and promotion of the Ukrainian ethno-national identity. Many of the nationalists draw inspiration from their ideological predecessors of the 1930s and 1940s. Revising the country's history is a popular tendency among them, and it includes the justification of the wartime alliance with the Third Reich. Veterans ­ former volunteers of the Waffen SS organize marches there to express their patriotism and demand equal rights with ex-soldiers of the Red Army. It is possible to hear nationalistic songs originating in years of the Second World War in the crowd of ‘orange demonstrators'.

Several hundreds of young people from the neo-nazi group UNA-UNSO are active in these demonstrations. According to some witnesses, they have acted as security for the marchers. A leader of the UNA-UNSO had been elected to the parliament as an ‘independent' candidate in the Lvov region, supported by the "Our Ukraine" block. A rock group "Komu vniz" from Lvov, notorious for the promotion of fascist ideas, was among many pop and rock acts calling for young people to support Yushenko. Their main slogan is "Ukraine for Ukrainians". It didn't seem to provoke much revulsion from the organisers of the pro-democracy movement.

We have seen photos of nazi-skinheads participating in the ‘orange camp' in Kiev. Their political views are displayed openly with slogans such as "Skins for Yushenko" on their tents in the city centre ­ accompanied by such internationally known codes of the extreme right as "88" which means "Heil Hitler". While such extreme views are obviously alien to the majority of the demonstrators the tolerance for such open racism and antisemitism must be disturbing.

During the summer of the pre-election campaign, the Pan-Ukrainian Union "Freedom" and its leader Oleg Tyagnibok called all the nationalistic parties in the country to support Yushchenko in the elections. According to the statement, Yushchenko is the only real candidate of ‘national-patriotic forces'. The previous name of this organisation was the Social-National Party, and its role model was Jean-Marie Le Pen who visited Ukraine on its invitation a few years ago. The party symbol was very similar to the swastika. Oleg Tyagnibok is a member of the Ukrainian Parliament and represented the Yushchenko block "Our Ukraine".

Earlier this year Tyagnibok's speech in the Ivano-Frankovsk region, near the grave of Klim Savur, a commander of the wartime Ukrainian Insurrectionary Army (UPA), became a reason to initiate a criminal case against him. "They were not afraid, they took guns and went to the forest. They fought against Russians, Germans, Jews and others who wanted to occupy our Ukrainian land. Ukraine must be for Ukrainians. There is a fear of this Russian-Jewish mafia, which rules in Ukraine today" - said Oleg Tyagnibok. Later in other Ukrainian cities pamphlets with the headline "Rise up, honest Ukrainians! And kill all Russians" signed by the same person were distributed. The other goal of the pamphlet was agitation to vote for Yushchenko. And just recently Oleg Tyagnibok was among those who led the orange crowd storming the Ukrainian Parliament.

Another xenophobic case, which shocked Ukraine this year, is also connected with Yushchenko and his allies. The pro-Yushchenko newspaper "Village News", one the largest in Ukraine, published an article "Jews in Ukraine today: reality without myths" which claimed that 400 thousand Jews fought alongside Hitler's army in 1941. The Ukrainian Anti-fascist Committee initiated a prosecution of the newspaper for promoting xenophobia. The editor of the newspaper said: "I personally do not have anything against common Jews, but against a small group of Jewish oligarchs who control Ukraine both economically and politically. I believe the point of Zionism today is Jewish control of the world, and we see this process at work in Ukraine today". The court decided to close the newspaper, but the political block "Our Ukraine" started immediately a campaign in support for the publication. Important political allies of Yushchenko ­ Yulia Timoshenko and Alexandr Moroz issued a joint statement "Hands off Village News".

Yushchenko himself never took a firm line against nationalist and antisemitic trends in his political circle. And it is obvious they are not uncommon among his supporters. The leader of "Our Ukraine" must be aware of it. Indeed, media and international observers do not raise this point in their coverage of the political situation in Ukraine. They should do it.

Ukraine is not a homogenous country and ethnic, cultural and political diversity is there to stay. Minorities must also be included in the process of democratization. Would Yushchenko be able to realize it?

The example of Georgia with its unresolved conflicts with Abkhasia and South Ossetia can be educational here. After one year after the Rose revolution an activist of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly said: "We put so many efforts to de-ethnicize the conflict, but Saakashviki came and ethnicized it".

According to numerous observers, more ‘revolutions' in the post-Soviet space are in the pipeline for the next year. Moldova is another post-Soviet republic, which has borders with Ukraine and Romania. As a response to the ‘orange revolution' in Kiev, a flow of electoral emotions has already gripped Moldova. The right-wing nationalist opposition started to ask itself what the lessons the Republic of Moldova could learn from the presidential elections in Ukraine. Today Moldova is democratic, in contrast to Belarus. Moldova also has a multicultural society. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the country has been split into two parts, which led to a frozen conflict with a separatist republic in Transnistria. A renewed wave of nationalism can be very dangerous for the country's future, as it is one the major obstacles towards a peaceful resolution of the frozen conflict. Today the radical right-wing opposition receives support from the West.

Does anybody have guarantees that this far right opposition is less corrupt than the current Moldovan government, does anybody have guarantees that Yushchenko is less corrupt than Kuchma and Yanukovich, or Saakashvili is less corrupt than Shevardnadze? No.

All these countries should build a strong civil society and develop a political culture through deep changes in people's minds. They should build democracy without nationalistic tendencies and on the basis of multiculturalism. Corruption can be fought and eliminated only through long-term changes in society itself, the development of NGOs and education. It is not an easy path but we believe it is more desirable than the current wave of simplistic propaganda.

PS A few days ago a new colour appeared in Ukraine's polarised political spectrum. Young people in Kharkov started a green movement as an alternative to both conflicting orange (Yushchenko) and blue (Yanukovich) options. Their slogan is "We are for peace!". They hope to bring two sides together.

From the 1970's to the First Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Istanbul in 2004

11/12/2004- Like most of the countries in rest of the world, in Turkey a gay culture was born in sub cultures such as parks, bath houses, cafes and bars in especially big cities like Istanbul or Ankara.

Gays and Lesbians in 1970's Turkey
By the end of 1970's gays and lesbians who had more economic and educational independence began to establish communication with other gays and lesbians. An important step to establish a gay movement began in the city of Izmir by Ibrahim Eren. During the 70's he established therapy/ conversation sessions with gays and lesbians of Izmir while he was working at Izmir Environment and Health Organization. But the 1980 military coup shut down this organization with all other NGO's of Turkey. Ibrahim Eren left the country to escape from harassment. Living in Germany and other European countries, Ibrahim Eren learnt about anti-militarism, green movement and lgbt movements.

1980 – 1986 – Radical Democrat Green Party
1980 military coup crushed the freedom that Turkish people were enjoying since 1961. But this provided an opportunity for gays and lesbians to establish their own movement cause before they didn't have a choice but joining an existing left movement. Under those circumstances, Ibrahim Eren wanted to establish a party where anti-militarists, greens, gays, lesbians and transgenders can identify themselves. That's how the idea to establish a Radical Democrat Green Party was born but by 1987 they weren't able to resolve the issues, therefore they couldn't establish the party.

1987 – Hunger Strike Against Harassment
Beyoglu and Istiklal Street of Istanbul have always been an important meeting place not only for gays and lesbians but also transgenders as well. By 1987, the police harassment towards transgenders in that district intensified so much, however the media wasn't interested in what was going on. They preferred not to make comments on these issues. 37 gay and transgenders found the solution to seek help from the Radical Party which was on the process of establishment at the time. They started a hunger strike to protest the harassment towards them. This is the first action taken by the Turkish LGBT community to make their voice heard. Although no substantial success was achieved from the action, it raised attention both internally and internationally. Some successful figures of the time such as Rifat Ilgaz (author) and Turkan Soray (actress) supported their cause.

1988 – Turkish Transgenders Gained Legal Status
After a long legal struggle, in 1988 the 29th clause of the Turkish Civil Code was finally amended, to state that "In cases where there has been a change of sex after birth, documented by a report from a committee of medical experts, the necessary amendments are made to the birth certificate." But prejudice and violence towards transgenders continued.

1993 – Gay and Lesbian Pride Conference in Istanbul was Banned
A more visible Turkish LGBT movement began to appear after 1990's. The most notable event was the attempt to organize a gay and lesbian pride conference in Istanbul in 1993. A gay and lesbian pride conference (Christopher Street Day Sexual Liberation Activities) scheduled for July 2-6 1993 in Istanbul was banned on the last minute by the governor of Istanbul, apparently on the grounds that it would be contrary to Turkey's tradition and moral values and that it might disturb the peace. The governor allegedly sent men to many hotels in Istanbul, instructing them not to provide lodgings for participants. The next day, Turkish authorities detained 28 foreign delegates, most of them while they were on their way to participate in a press conference in protest of the ban. They were detained for over 5 hours, threatened with possible strip searches and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) tests, and deported on a Turkish airline to Germany. The organizers had previously received approval of the event from the Interior Ministry.

The most striking result of this event was the establishment of Lambda Istanbul which is one of the most important LGBT organization in Turkey at the moment. Lambda Istanbul was formed by a group of gays and lesbians right after the Istanbul city government banned the Christopher Street Day Sexual Liberation Activities. After the incident, the group that used to gather under the name "Gokkusagi" (Rainbow) took the name Lambda Istanbul. The group's first activity was to work with the organizations that aimed to prevent the spreading of HIV/ AIDS. Together with the AIDS Prevention Society in Turkey, they prepared the first Safe Sex Brochure addressing gay men. Lambda Istanbul became a member of ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association) in 1993.

1994 – Kaos GL, A New LGBT Group in Ankara and the First Gay and Lesbian Turkish Magazine
In 1994, a group of gay and lesbian gathered in Ankara to establish a LGBT group. They also started publishing a magazine to cover the LGBT issues in Turkey in 1994 which is still being published.

1995 – Gay and Lesbian Pride Conference in Istanbul was Banned Again
In September 1995, the second attempt for LGBT activities was stopped by the Istanbul City Government. This second antidemocratic prevention was announced to the world public through the Internet and Reuters by Lambda Istanbul. Despite Turkish media's lack of interest, it has taken place in the world media and Turkish Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Culture received overwhelming protests.

Dilemma of Turkish Lesbians in 1990's
In 1990's there were some attempts to establish lesbian organizations such as Sappho'nun Kizlari (Sappho's Girls) and Venus'un Kizkardesleri (Sisters of Venus). Lesbians in the existing LGBT organizations at the time were having problems identifying themselves as a part of the movement.

1996 – Repression Against Transgenders Intensified
Although Turkish transgenders were severely repressed since they were visible, before the 1996 United Nations Human Settlements Program (Habitat) conference was to be held in Istanbul, transgender people who used to live in Ulker Street, in the Cihangir district of Istanbul were driven from the area. They were arrested and subjected to brutal torture.

1996 - First LGBT Radio Show and First Attempts to Publish a Turkish Gay Magazine
In 1996, Turkish gays and lesbians opened a stand table in the HABITAT II Congress.
In 1996, Lambda Istanbul started a radio program in Acik Radyo (Open Radio) to broadcast to Turkish gays and lesbians. The same year, it also published two LGBT magazines, 100% GL and Cins (Gender), but they didn't last for a long time.

1996 – Establishment of LEGATO, the first LGBT group for Turkish Students
LEGATO, named after the Turkish acronym for Lezbiyen Gay Toplulugu, is a Lesbian and Gay Association that aims to connect and bring together homosexual Turkish college students. The idea of meeting at university campuses and bringing homosexual students together first came forward at the Middle Eastern Technical University (METU) in 1996. In the upcoming years, LEGATO was founded at almost all universities in Turkey. By 2000, LEGATO became one of the most important and active gay/lesbian organizations of Turkey that gathers homosexual university students, graduates and academicians from all over, with its raising member number which is now 350. Beside its continuous work on presenting the homosexual student image and culture at all platforms it takes place, and forming the conscious of homosexuality in Turkish society, LEGATO also stands by its basic aims like supplying the communication between homosexual students and common living areas at university campuses.

June 1997 – A Turkish Transgender Activist, Demet Demir, received Felipa de Souza Award
Demet Demir, a transsexual woman and the first person ever considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International because of sexual orientation, was given the 1997 Felipa de Souza Award for exemplary service to her community. The award was given on June 2, 1997 by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). Ms. Demir is from Cihangir, a district of Istanbul, and has worked on behalf of gay men, lesbians, transvestites, transsexuals, and sex workers throughout Turkey. She has been imprisoned numerous times, tortured, had her home broken into and her telephone cables cut in efforts to silence her. As of 2004, she still is working in collaboration with various non-governmental organizations for equal rights for sexual minorities.

1998 to Present – Bi-annual National LGBT Meetings
Since 1998, Turkish LGBT groups have been holding bi-annual meetings, in Ankara in the spring (Bahar Ankara) and in Istanbul in the fall (Guztanbul). The purposes of these meetings are to produce solutions to the problems of Turkish LGBT community. The participators discuss the needs and demands, methods of struggle and endeavors of organizing by Turkey's gays and lesbians. Also since 2002, some family members of gays and lesbians have been attending to these meetings. These meetings still continue as of 2004.

2001 – First Time, First Demonstration, May 1 Labor Day
For the first time in modern Turkish Republic's history, on May 1, 2001 Kaos GL participated in a May 1 Labor Day demonstration in Ankara with its own group, bans and signs. This was the first attempt for Turkish homosexuals to express themselves in a public place. That also paved the way for Lambda Istanbul to join the May 1 Labor Day Demonstrations in Istanbul in 2002 for the first time.

After 2000 – New LGBT Groups in Different Turkish Cities
After formation of LGBT organizations in Ankara and Istanbul, new organizations began to appear in other cities. In the city of Izmir, Pink Triangle Group and in the city of Antalya, Rainbow Group were formed. Also two bear groups, Bear Anatolia and Bears of Turkey, became more active in the recent years. With the help of Internet and the development of other communication techniques, the number of LGBT organizations that targets different aims and interests are expected to increase in the long term.

March 2003, Establishment of the First Turkish Gay Library
At Lambda Istanbul Cultural Center, a LGBT library was founded which includes books, human rights reports about LGBT issues, articles about LGBT/queer politics, publishes of some Turkish NGO's and gay-themed movies. With almost 1,000 books Lambda Istanbul Library has been functioning since March 2003.

May 2003 – Important Symposiums about LGBT Issues
In May 2003, there had been a symposium series about "Music and Gender Politics" at the Lambda Istanbul Cultural Center.
In mid May 2003, "Symposium about Discrimination and Violence Towards Gays and Lesbians" was held in Istanbul Bilgi University with the participation of Lambda Istanbul, Anatolian Bear Group and academics. During the symposium discrimination against gays and lesbians in psychiatry, law, psychology, sociology and social works were analyzed. Other topics held were: "Problems of Travesties and Transsexuals" and "Invisibility of Lesbians."

June 2003, First Openly Gay Pride March in Istanbul
In June 2003, Lambda Istanbul celebrated the 10th Gay Pride week and the anniversary of Lambda Istanbul's establishment. (Lambda Istanbul was formed by a group of gays and lesbians right after the Istanbul city government banned the Christopher Street Day Sexual Liberation Activities to take place in July 1993) For the first time in Turkey's history, about 50 gays and lesbians marched in Istiklal Street of Istanbul and issued a press statement at the end of the parade. The press statement pointed out "The Right to Live Proud" which is an indispensable part of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The statement also indicated the problems Turkish gays and lesbians face in their lives. Other events that followed the parade were: The traditional pride party, the show of the legendary movie "Stonewall", a symposium about the history of LGBT movement in Turkey, a symposium about "Gay Identity and Literature" with the participation of Stella Aceme and Kucuk Iskender, a poet recital with Julide Kural and a music recital with Vedat Sakman.

September 2003 – Lambda Istanbul Joined an International Conference in Istanbul
On September 27, 2003 Lambda Istanbul participated to "International Congress of Institute of Forensic Sciences" and joined to a symposium about "Murders Towards Gays and Lesbians".

Spring 2004-Meetings and Symposiums at Various Cities
In the spring of 2004, Kaos GL realized meetings in the cities of Diyarbakir, Ankara, Izmir, and Istanbul in order to come together with the gay and lesbian individuals and the human rights activists. Two new symposiums took place in Spring 2004. The first one is: "To Understand Sexual Identity and Sexual Orientation in Turkey" which was held on May 7, 2004 with the support of Istanbul Bilgi University. The second one was "Turkey, Identity, Queer" which was held for two days on April 2004 with the support of University of Bogazici.

January 2004 – Turkish Parliament Justice Commission Considered "Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation" a Crime
On January 29, 2004 Turkey's Parliamentary Justice Commission voted to alter the 'discrimination' clause in the Penal Code to include "discrimination based on sexual orientation" as a crime. Turkish LGBT activists praised the legislation that would result in criminal charges against a person who refuses anyone service, housing or employment on the basis of sexual orientation. If the law had passed, Turkey could have became the first predominantly Muslim country to pass such a law.

July 2004 – Hopes Were Crushed When Turkish Parliament Justice Commission Ruled Out Considering "Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation" a Crime
On July 6, 2004 The Parliamentary Justice Commission took up the discrimination clause and decided to replace it with the discrimination clause that exists in the Constitution. According to the Article No.10 of the Turkish Constitution, discrimination based on language, race, skin color, gender, political opinion, religion, denomination and similar reasons is prohibited but it does not directly refer to sexual orientation.

July 2004 – International Aspect to Turkish LGBT Movement: European Union and Turkey's Membership Application
International Lesbian and Gay Association of Europe (ILGA Europe) asked the EU Presidency to ensure changes in the Turkish Penal Code in order to amend articles that discriminate against LGBT people. ILGA Europe also called for issues surrounding human rights and acceptance of LGBT people in the accession countries including Turkey.

September 2004 – Gays and Lesbians Are Protesting
Demonstrators from Gay Right Groups marched with Women rights groups on September 15, 2004 in front of the Turkish Parliament to protest the proposed legislation which aims to make adultery a criminal offence and gives no reference to discrimination based on sexual orientation.

October 2004 – First Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Istanbul
Istanbul had its first gay and lesbian film festival, OutIstanbul, 1st International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival between October 1 and October 6 2004.
Lambda Istanbul

By Valentín Gonzalez

Movement against Intolerance demanded to the government and parliament a Hate Crimes Law to face the serious reality of the information included in the RAXEN report, in which it is clear the increase of the neonazi gangs and therefore the growth of hate crimes in Spain

Movement against Intolerance reminded that al last 60 people were murdered and hundreds were injured motivated by hate crimes in the last 10 years in Spain. Besides there are currently 70 operative neonazi groups with a militant membership of eleven thousand according to Interior Minister and sixteen thousand according to the nazi web site " The Censure of the Democracy" committed with hate ideology.

The RAXEN report warned about the 94 music bands self named as patriots, 50% assets playing in relative secrecy concerts and publishing CDs in which they spread their hate ideology of racism, anti-Semitism and related intolerance between thousands of youth people.

This was the situation about the issue in which we were focused in an electoral year, also worried about some public polls warning about the increase of prejudice about migrants inspirited in some political discourse saying falsely that migrants and delinquency was the same thing, at best under the indifference of the government.; when the worst crime against humanity committed in Europe since war of Balkans blasted as a terrorist and indiscriminate attack against the people of Madrid murdering 192 human beings and injuring more than one thousand people. All victims, a lot of them migrants, were citizens going to work that cold and sad morning of march.

The antiracism NGOs condemned without palliative the attacks and expressed their solidarity with the victims and also warned about the very likely increase of islamophobia. Movement against Intolerance in its statements and demonstrations insisted in the idea that the best way to fight against terrorism is fight at the same time against racism.

The year passed stigmatized by those dramatics events, history changed and it were defined a new awareness about the real threat of Islamic extremists terrorism. This situation made clear the requirement to face a new front against religious intolerance and in consequence to claim to the Islamic collective in Spain to be clear about this issue and work for eradicate any expression of Islam that could be discordant with the Human Rights Declaration. The imam at the Fuengirola´s mosque (small town in Andalusia) was accused and found guilty of incitement to the violence against women in application of the Spanish penal code.

At the same time, and in the first time in the sort history of Spanish democracy, a new Islamophobe discourse was being articulated and systematically and repeatedly broadcasted by important media groups. This had an ugly example in the statement made by the ex president Jose Maria Aznar in Georgetown university when he said that the fight against extremist Islamic terrorist begun in 711 when the Muslims came to Spain. Other evidence of islamophobia were placed in Seville, where a neighbours association agglutinated more than one thousand signatures adding to a proclamation against to put a Mosque in their district. In their previous stirring up campaign some pamphlets and posters compared Islam with terrorism were placed in the district.

The autumn came with the trial against Jose David F.S allegedly guilty of killing Ndonbele Augusto Domingos an Angolan teenager, in a night club of Alcorcon (Madrid). Movement against Intolerance prosecuted as civil action against Jose David F. S charging him with murder motivated by racism. A strong feeling of indignation invaded us when the jury claimed his innocent in a incongruous verdict disregarding crucial attestations and evidence, but the scandal arrived some weeks after the judgment, when some irrefutable evidence of intimidation of a witness who then lied in the court came into view. Ndombele´s parents and Movement against Intolerance are working for a new trial to have justice done.

At the end of the year another massive show of racism in football stadiums came to the light in the match between Spain and England ultras emulated "jungle noises" when black players from England touched the ball. The British government complained about this racist behaviour and the Spanish authorities made statements against it, but the coach of national team were nothing sensitive in his words avoiding ask apologies to the black players. A few weeks ago identical events happened in a football match in Malaga where Movement against Intolerance were distributing the red card against violence and racism in sports.

At the end of this difficult year we have to be aware of the important and difficult challenges that we will face in the next months in a world where the seed of hate ingrain in the middle of the silence, indifference and complicity of a lot ,and the activism of other a lot who works every day to eradicate intolerance.
Movement against Intolerance

13/12/2004- The Congolese Irish Partnership, CIP, is a non government organisation based in Ireland since April 2001. The objectives assigned to the CIP are various such as providing information and support to Congolese living in Ireland in matters concerning accommodation, education, legal issues, integration employment and discrimination firstly and secondly, the CIP want to be the link with other service providers to ensure an efficient and comprehensive network of support for the Congolese of Ireland and thirdly to highlight human rights violations, campaign for peace and lobby politicians in Ireland and in the European Union to speak on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In this way all our activities were well organised. In 2003, our organisation focused all activities on human rights where the Congolese population have been experienced a worst moment never happen in any place in the World including Africa. These human rights abuses were characterised mainly by rape, infection of HIV/AIDS, internal displacement, pillage of natural resources, war of aggression, death, divorce, malnutrition within the civilian population caused by armies of aggression, … The CIP has detailed his deep concern for all those situations to the Irish government through the minister of foreign affairs and to the Irish parliament's commission in charge of human right including the Joint Foreign Affairs. This year a protest march was organised by CIP upon the O'connell Street/Dublin where Congolese people expressed publicaly their concern about the war in their country.

Certain member of our organisation attended conferences in Dublin and abroad in connection with human right such as the opening day on Stop violence against women held and organised by Irish Section of Amnesty International on mai 2004 in Dublin, Infection on HIV/AIDS on September/October in Japan, in the 6th annual forum on human right organised on December by the Department of Foreign Affairs at Croke Park in Dublin.

The CIP has observed increasingly records of Congolese in Ireland and other countries around the world, seeking asylum as result or consequence of polluted situation in Congo. For oncoming days, the CIP planes to make a campaign which will take place in different place in Ireland with aim to raise awareness on the consequence of war and what could be the resolution in post conflict. The CIP has crossed difficulties to achieve his goal caused by finance's aspect. In this way the publication of his newsletters, his Assembly General Meeting, his different visits within the countryside were not organised, etc. In this context we will work hard to apply for funding to allow us to achieve different projects in our file.

THE WALL(Ireland)
We are living in an era of ‘building bridges'. Yet on the fifth of October a 30 ft concrete wall was erected in Finglas. This wall was strategically located across a bridge and completely blocked access to and from Finglas Village for over 80 families living on Dunsink Lane. These families were cordoned off from all local amenities: schools, doctors, shops, and the rest of the neighbouring population. Why was this action, undertaken by a Task Force comprising of Fingal County Council, Dublin City Council and representatives from An Garda Síochana, generally deemed acceptable? Why was there no public or political outcry at the severe infringement of a community's basic human rights? One may assume it is because this was a Traveller community. No other community in this country would wake up to find themselves in a walled ghetto. Furthermore no other community would be expected to tolerate it – indeed why should Travellers be expected to? The barrier - a disproportionate response flying in the face of integration and peaceful coexistence between two communities- served as a stark physical reminder of the other invisible walls and barriers in our society: barriers to health, barriers in accessing education, services and employment and perhaps even more impenetrable; the walls that exist in people's hearts and minds. The physical barrier in Dunsink may well have been removed but we need to be aware that, after all there is more than one type of wall; we need to be building real and accessible bridges to support Travellers social and economic inclusion, not blocking them.

The Wall
No one doubts the basic facts surrounding the erection of the concrete barrier at one end of Dunsink lane on October 7th. As the local Traveller community slept in their beds a 30 tonne wall of concrete was shipped into place, blocking access to schools, doctors, shops and a local church. A Garda checkpoint was installed at the other end of the lane and Traveller residents were subjected to vehicle checks and in some cases obliged to sign themselves in and out of their own street. The council claimed that illegal dumping and other criminal activities forced them to build the wall and that the community hadn't been consulted so that the 'element of surprise' could be used to catch the culprits. However the Gardaí made no arrests that morning despite claiming to have specific intelligence on a number of families engaged in illegal activities. Gardaí failed to take advantage of whatever 'surprise' element they might have had and soon found they had a more urgent issue on their hands; an angry community unwilling to accept the authority of the State to imprison them in their own neighbourhood.

The ill begotten barrier quickly became a magnet for restless youths from Traveller and settled communities, causing severe disruption to everyone. A visiting teacher to Finglas commented that Traveller attendance at the local secondary school had risen dramatically in the previous year, from 58% to 92%, while integrated after school groups marked an improvement in Traveller-settled relations. However in the days following the construction of this 'Monument to Racism' (a phrase coined by Martin Collins) 60% of Traveller children stayed away from school, retreating to the safety of their homes. The headmaster of the local boys' secondary school was forced to leave the grounds each morning and cajole his pupils back into the classroom. The ritual was repeated after lunch break and again as the boys headed home. As anyone who has ever been fifteen will recall, the temptation to congregate and challenge Gardai is often too much to resist. Pavee Point consistently denounced all anti social behaviour carried out during the Dunsink barrier protests but their statements were largely ignored by media and politicians anxious to demonise the Traveller organisation. According to an Irish Times report Gardaí were 'terrified of Pavee Point' but not too terrified to pick Asst Director Martin Collins out of a crowd of peaceful protestors and bundle him into a police van. He spent three hours in custody before being released without charge.

The media faithfully reproduced the clichés associated with Traveller issues, holding all Travellers responsible for the activities of a tiny minority while overlooking the primary act of anti social behaviour; the erection of Ireland's bite-sized Berlin Wall. And as reports came in from around the country it became evident that there were dozens of 'Dunsinks' occurring nationwide. In Co Clare alone, 40 cases are being prepared for the Human Right's commission in which Traveller families are challenging the construction of walls that seal off Traveller accommodation from surrounding neighbourhoods. The climate of hostility against Travellers encouraged media pundits to give free rein to their wildest prejudices; Irish Times columnist Kevin Myers described ‘traveller' life as 'diseased, alcoholic, illiterate, violent, misogynistic, low achieving... and most of all, short."

It took a Russian-born journalist to spot the contradictions; 'The appalling discrimination against Ireland's Traveller community has been my single biggest shock since moving to this country,' wrote Vitali Vitaliev, working for the Village magazine. He visited Dunsink and met local families, accompanied by respected photo-journalist Derek Speirs; 'Walls and barriers of all sorts are useless and counterproductive by their very nature. Instead of resolving an "issue" they create many new ones on top of it, with the initial "problem" remaining unsolved."
Pavee Point Travellers Centre Ireland

Donegal Local Development Company Ltd (DLDC) was incorporated in 1995. It is a true Partnership in that the structures are firmly in keeping with the Partnership model as understood and practised in Ireland. We are a local development company that exists to address the social, cultural and economic development needs of our catchment region, an area comprising 95 Electoral Divisions within Co. Donegal. We are "working in Donegal towards a better future for all."

Donegal, in keeping with so many other rural areas, continues to face problems around the socio-economic and cultural integration of all citizens to include Non-nationals, Refugees and Asylum seekers. Minority groups, including refugees and asylum seekers, are key target groups of Donegal Local Development Company Ltd under the Local Development Social Inclusion programme 2000-2006. DLDC has extensive partnerships and established inter-agency linkages with representatives from these target groups, who actively participate in DLDC's decision-making bodies. These bodies principally comprise DLDC's board of Directors, spanning the statutory, community and voluntary sectors, in conjunction with Sub-panel representatives which work practically with DLDC's programme co-ordinators in devising/delivering coherent actions and strategies on the ground. In particular, DLDC's Community Development workers and sub-panel members, have extensive experience working with minority groups on racism issues. Such experiences over the past year have included:

Donegal Town Asylum Seekers Support Group
DLDC has been working with the Donegal Town asylum seekers and refugees support group in the South of the County, since its establishment in May 2000. The company, spearheaded by our Community Development workers, proved a key stakeholder in mobilising and co-ordinating the support group to coincide with the first arrival of asylum seekers to Donegal Town. Since May 2000, the group has organised weekly consultation clinics for asylum seekers in the Cliffview House hostel, now the only direct provision centre in the County. The clinics provide a critical information service, enabling asylum seekers and refugees to integrate into the local community, and to actively participate in the activities therein. Funding for these consultation clinics has been provided annually under the Community Development strand (Measure B), of the Local Development Social Inclusion Programme (LDSIP). DLDC has continually worked in partnership with the North-Western Health Board (NWHB), the Countywide Network for Refugees and Asylum seekers, the D.S.F.A and other mainstream service providers to enhance/streamline service provision for asylum seekers and refugees in the locality. DLDC is also currently supporting a needs analysis, through the Donegal Town Asylum Seekers Support Group, which will enable the group itself to critically understand the elements and dimensions of its own diversity, given that individuals from 24 different countries, with intrinsically different needs, are now represented at the Cliffview hostel. The company's community links worker in the South of the County has also provided one-one support sessions, offering advice, guidance and assistance to asylum seekers and refugees. Through a series of information seminars and workshops, DLDC has been active in informing, engaging and educating the local community in respect of asylum seeker and refugee issues, and have facilitated relationship building between our statutory partners. A range of social activities were supported by DLDC to include evenings with other groups in Bundoran and Letterkenny, and a football team named "One Race" has been established. DLDC's Community Development team has worked actively in supporting the Donegal Town Asylum Seekers Support Group through these initiatives.

Diversity Awareness raising information days
On 10th February 2004, DLDC, in association with Donegal County Council hosted an awareness raising Information day on/for asylum seekers and refugees, in the Holiday Inn Letterkenny . This was part funded by the Irish Refugee Council. The day provided information, raised awareness and promoted an understanding throughout the wider community in Co. Donegal in respect of the National and International plight of asylum seekers and refugees, issues around integration and social inclusion within Co. Donegal. A panel of experts was convened from mainstream local and national statutory agencies within the County, agencies providing direct supports to refugees and asylum seekers. The event helped to raise awareness of the asylum process, the legalities of the system, the health, education and social welfare issues prevalent for asylum seekers and refugees, the current situation regarding all immigration into Ireland, the issues surrounding multi-culturalism and integration. Over 200 representatives from local/national statutory bodies, and the community /voluntary sector were in attendance.

Letterkenny Non-nationals, Refugees and Asylum Seekers Support Group
DLDC's Community Development team has also worked actively with ethnic minority groups and representatives within the North of the company's catchment region, particularly within Letterkenny. Letterkenny has an expanding non-national population, having approximately 150 asylum seeker/refugee families, and many more non-national families working and living in the Letterkenny area. DLDC's Community Development team has met regularly over the last year with the Letterkenny Non-nationals group, assisting in group formation, capacity building and management/organisation.

Other Support Initiatives for Minority Groups
During anti-racism week, 2004, DLDC organised a "Reeling Against Racism" week, a novel idea which engaged a large turn out amongst non-national groups, and explored issues around cultural diversity through the medium of music. DLDC has also assisted in the development and formation of a Donegal African Women's group, exploring prevalent issues with the group, and working in partnership with the Donegal Women's Network on integration issues. DLDC is currently the lead agency involved in organising a "presentation skills courses," for non-nationals within the company's catchment region. This has been organised after the company spotted certain gaps in the service provided to non-nationals within the catchment area and believed that this course could help them in their attempts to remain within the country.

DLDC has also worked in conjunction with Donegal County Council over the last three years in funding and supporting the Co. Donegal Equality Officer position, to advance the equality of opportunity agenda throughout its catchment region. The Company has also recently applied for further funds under the ‘The National Action Plan Against Racism' and are very expectant that these monies are forthcoming, so that the Company can continue to tackle the problems of Social Exclusion within the county and further the opportunities for cultural integration and understanding within the locality.

Some facts and numbers
In Portugal, immigrants are not even 5% of population and 11% of the working population. They come from more than 180 countries

In Portugal, 2001 Census counted
- 258.584 (legal) immigrants in 10.356.117 people (2,49%)
- 86.140 classic immigrant families with a total of 229.577 people, of which only 20,7% are women, and 729 stateless people
- Of these, 49.320 coming from EU countries (0,19%)
- Only 237 (0,43%) are non-paid workers
- 347.636 Portuguese born in other countries (ex-immigrants)
- 54.178 people moved into Portugal after December 31st 1999

Something has to be wrong:
Brazil - Non-caucasians are almost ½ of the population... almost all are poor
South Africa - Only 15% are caucasian... almost all the non-caucasian are poor
USA - 13% of the population is Afro-American... these 13% are 33% of the poor population in USA

The only race is the human race
(...) by chance, it happens that all those who are sure to be white or non-blacks, or vice-versa (...), are throwing out conversation. From the genetic point of view, in almost absolute ways the only thing that any racist can be sure of is that he is a human being. (...) to belong to a biological race is to belong to a population that exhibits a specific frequency of a certain kind of genes; individuals have only the human complement of the genes, in a very high number, however undiscovered, and the most of which is shared by all the people. When a man says "I'm white", the only thing he can be communicating scientifically is that he belongs to a population that has been confirmed to have a high frequency of genes that determine light colour skin, thick lips, hairs in several parts of the body, average high and so forth. Given that the population to which he belongs is necessarily an hybrid population – in reality, all the human races are hybrid -, there is no way of making sure that this individual has any genetic heritage of other populations. (...) So, all the caucasians could be well advised scientifically to say: "I'm probably in part black" and all black people could affirm with much exactitude: "I am probably in part white" (...). All racial identity, scientifically speaking, is ambiguous.
Marvins Harris in Patterns of race in the Americas

1. Where racism comes from
The concept of race was created by European scientists that searched – under the illuminist reason – to explain, classify and make hierarchies or homogenise all that exists in this world. Race was invented when Europeans met other people. Afraid and suspicious of what they do not know (not making themselves predisposed to know), these new people where classified by their looks. To this classification, another classification was added – geographical classification. After creating the necessary conditions, they began to speculate about the hierarchy, superiority and value of each of these "discovered" races. Strangely, these scientists concluded that the superior race was theirs, and found a superior justification for it (because science is the bigger reason, being allowed to go over respect and dignity) and for imperialism, colonialism, oppression and theft, that we know so well from out history. From here on, it was only a step that took us to the inauguration of a social and legal order that makes inequality a principle of society organization and that makes the pillage of the many a legitimate way of assuring the luxury of some.

2. Where migration comes from
Migration is one of the oldest phenomenons in history of humanity. Migration is nothing more than natural phenomenon of human mobility, consequence of the desire and need to better ones life and of its loved ones, or simply of the will to discover what is beyond our places.

Independently of having a more adventurous or a more surviving pressure as motivation, the migratory fluxes were always considered, throughout history, not only natural, as welcomed. The inversion of this positive value over the cultural exchange, hybridation and difference only happened with the Jewish migration. They were soon seen as a challenge to societies in general, due to their power and wealth, instead of simply being faced as always, as movements the can be provisory or permanent and are founded only in the search for better living conditions and integration in different communities. On the other hand, it cannot be forgotten that it was this capacity of mobility, of change and adaptation that have allowed the survival of humanity since pre-historic time, allowing us to evolve and face climatic changes, wild animals, etc. To migrate is much more than to be a ‘lousy' being coming from a ‘lousy' country that seeks to enter a ‘rich' country… each one of us can be and is a migrant, in a larger sense.

3. Racism is not only "an attitude of the heart"
Racism is not only an attitude problem of some people. Racism is a structural, social and cultural problem. It manifests itself in the most diverse ways in the most diverse dimensions – in looks, language, unemployment, poverty, exclusion, political participation, education, abandonment…
Racism is taught to us since our youth, in school, by family and friends, by television, by language. Racism happens by the manipulation of our thoughts and actions, convincing us of thousands of things, e.g., Arabs are terrorists, blacks are lazy, Eastern European are mafia people, etc.
Racism is more than to discriminate. It excludes, destroys, kills, impoverishes and makes people sad. It denies the other in its individual and collective existence; it rejects its look and history, at the same time. Even though we can easily recognize that diversity is a condition for the human existence, the truth is that this diversity is today constituted as a difference that founds and justifies oppression.

4. Racism has something to do with migration
What is a migrant? A migrant is solely a person that abandons its country, because there he doesn't have conditions to live. It is a person who fights for survival in another country that he knows to be more prosperous and offers an opportunity to live with dignity.

  • Why is it that these countries cannot give to their people a life in dignity?
  • Why is it that migrants always come to the same countries?
  • Is it true that poorer countries do not have immigrants?
  • Is it true that the ostentation of "rich" countries is offensive and appealing?

    But not all non-caucasians are immigrants!
    There are many daughters/sons of immigrants that have the nationality of the hosting country and continue being treated as foreigners. There are many who were never immigrants, because their families are for decades in the country, having no memory of were they came from or when they came. For instance, before the 25 April, the Portuguese revolution that installed democracy, everybody was Portuguese, under the colonialist empire: Angolans, East Timorese, Cape Verdians, San Tomese, Mozambicans, Portuguese. There had been already decades (or centuries) that thousands of black people were living in Portugal, and thousands of caucasian people in Africa and Asia. How to solve then the problem of nationalities that the new independences brought up… unfortunately, the right to choose or the jus soli principle did not prevail, the colour of skin did. Black people suddenly started being Africans and caucasian people Portuguese! Suddenly every country was full of immigrants and undesirable strangers! The rest of the story does not need to be told!

    Where is, after all, the ‘white human' supremacy and richness? The race supremacy is already proved to have been invented; richness is a result of illegitimate and unsustainable pillage and violence. What happens to immigrants, women and men, and by consequence to all the non-caucasians?

    They have no vote, voice or job!
  • Because they do not have the right colour, they are often not accepted in the jobs they are looking for.
  • Their competences are not accepted or recognized and are undervalued
  • Because they supposedly lack competences, they are poorly paid, having no working conditions and no social protection.
  • Politically, they are taken out of the agenda, without power to vote or access to political information, and unable to pressure state and its governors.
  • All this without talking about legalisations, employments, finances, schools, that are highly bureaucratic and make everything difficult.

    Consequently, we see poor ghettos, with instable families and in misery, children that do not have social support, no respect, no friends and no conditions to go to school, and if so, they go with empty stomachs and cannot study.
    Like this, it might not be difficult to verify that non-caucasians are poor and that probably the only way they can live and eat is being "outside-the-law".

    5. But there is more...
    Racism has to be constantly watched because, as any other way of discrimination, it is so naturalized in cultures and history that it always finds new and more complex ways of manifesting itself, becoming even more invisible. Racism is only one of the expressions of imperialism, conquest and domination that many call capitalist society.

  • Racism makes it over non-white human beings;
  • Sexism makes it over women;
  • Xenophobia makes it over people considered inferior or barbarian;
  • Adultocentrism makes it over children and youngsters;
  • Ethnocentrism/Occidentalism makes it over all other cultures;
  • Homophobia makes it over lesbians and gays
  • Legalism makes it over other forms of regulation of societies;

    Coming to the end of this list we understand that ‘poor and miserables' are all of these, and they make more than 80% of world's population. We also understand that very few are "able" to have power, money and human rights guaranteed: men, caucasian, heterosexual, rich and educated.

    6. There are no innocents
    "Those who receive the benefits of the system, although they did not actively engage in discrimination, are not innocent" (John A. Powell)

    I would like to finish with this idea, because it is very common to think or say "I am not a racist, because…" or "racism is already a crime, what else is there to do" or "racism is on its way to extinction". However, this kind of positioning, besides being the easiest, is also taught to us as a way of being demobilized and not seeing what happens around us. The truth is that "all of us individually end up building races everyday!"

    Imagine the various wrong attitudes one can have alone, loosing and wasting its diversity that is precisely what makes so beautiful.

    Now add millions of people that are doing the same.

    Add millions of people invested with political power, in government or cities, doing even more.

    And finally add people invested with economic power, enterprises and employers, doing much more!

    Is it so strange to say that all of us have something to do for Another World that is Possible Here and Now?

    7. Bibliography
  • Census 2001, Portugal
  • EUMC, Newsletter – Issue 18 – June 2003
  • EUMC, Racism and Xenophobia in the EU Member States – trends, developments and good practices in 2002 (Annual Report – part 2)
  • EUMC, News "Equal Voices" – Issue 14
  • Grupo Internacional de Trabalho e Consultoria – Relatório Geral; "Além do racismo - Abraçando um futuro interdependente"

    Throughout Europe, mainstream media are vital channels for information and communication for all groups in society. However, they generally do not yet reflect the diverse nature of our societies in an adequate way. This is true both for the composition of the staff of media companies and the representation of cultural diversity in media programming. These two perspectives are closely interconnected: the issue of fair portrayal is directly affected by recruitment policies, who is visible on the screen, how programmes are selected, etc. Both concerns should be considered together, not separately, as often is the case in media businesses today.

    New challenges have emerged since September 11, as media coverage increasingly affects the political agenda by connecting Muslim communities to terrorism and extremism. Unfortunately there are too few counterbalances to this, as people who work in the media still often have inadequate knowledge of the cultural and religious backgrounds of these "new Europeans", and the recruitment and involvement of people with different backgrounds in the national mainstream media is still limited.

    While commercial and public broadcasters struggle to attract audiences and survive in an increasingly competitive market, audiences themselves are becoming more multicultural. In some countries, ethnic minority groups are the fastest growing consumer force, and in some urban areas more than 50% of young consumers have an ethnic minority background. Thus, increasing diversity within the media is essential for the future sustainability and legitimacy of the national mainstream media as well as the full integration of the groups of "new Europeans" into the national societies. In some countries, burgeoning new "urban" radio stations are showing the way forward, attracting a young audience with innovative, mixed programming, showcasing the potential of a truly intercultural approach.

    Recently arrived migrants and refugees, however, are often not able to communicate in the language of their new country of residence and cannot access information provided by the mainstream media. As a result, they now often turn to satellite stations from their countries of origin. This can potentially negatively impact the process in which they come to see themselves (and are seen as) fully-fledged citizens of their new country. It shows the continuing need for vibrant minority community media that was underlined in the European Manifesto for Minority Community Media, which was presented to the European Parliament last May (www.multicultural.net/manifesto).

    The European Manifesto was the initiative of a European network of minority community media platforms, brought together by Online/More Colour in the Media. Online/More Colour in the Media (OL/MCM) is a European network of more than 300 broadcasters, training institutes, researchers and multicultural organisations in the European Union and beyond, which was set up to improve the representation of ethnic minorities in broadcasting. OL/MCM has initiated projects in the fields of employment, training, production and research.

    The overall aim of OL/MCM is to help create a rich, diverse media culture that will fully meet the needs and aspirations of national and pan-European multicultural societies. This aim can only be achieved through increasing the supply of both programming and other media products of high quality that present multicultural themes to the overall audience and targeted programming for minority groups. Equal participation of minority media professionals in the audio-visual, print and digital media labour market and intercultural awareness among both majority group and minority media professionals are essential to realise this goal.

    Essential, too, is awareness raising among media consumer groups and their empowerment in voicing their concerns on media coverage and effecting change. Last year, OL/MCM therefore organised a Week of Monitoring and a Week of Action in the course of the European Day of Media Monitoring (EDMM) project. They served to empower minority organisations and foster the dialogue between journalists and minority audiences. Both monitoring reports and national overviews of Week of Action events are online at www.multicultural.net/edmm.

    OL/MCM currently co-ordinates or facilitates activities of five networks and project partnerships:

  • MCM-Ethnomedia, the network of national platforms of minority media that created the European Manifesto;
  • MCM-Empowerment, the network of minority NGO's working to improve media portrayal of migrants and refugees that created the EDMM;
  • Equamedia, a network of national project partnerships funded by the EU Equal budget line;
  • Cream, a transnational project on career orientation and media education;
  • LOG in the Media, a transnational media literacy project.

    Last September, OL/MCM organised the European conference Tuning in to Diversity 2004, which was attended by more than 200 delegates from all over Europe. It represented a platform for researchers, schools of journalism, workers unions, public broadcasters, community media, NGO's and media education institutes. The delegates discussed practical strategies for implementation of diversity policies in the European media industry and they committed themselves to several follow-up steps.

    The conference especially focused on the involvement of future generations of ethnic minority groups, both as new, critical audiences and as professionals in the media industry. In fact, during the conference media talents from an ethnic minority background from different countries produced radio and television programs and news articles. At the end of the conference they presented their impressions to the delegates and gave their opinion on the impact of the results on their own future position in the media. On the conference website, www.tuning2004.nl, you will find sample video reports and radio broadcasts, as well as reports and presentations from the variety of workshops that took place.

    The workshops served to formulate a range of recommendations and necessary follow-up steps, both for the broadcasters, minority organisations and other participants themselves and the European Commission and European Parliament. They outline what steps are necessary to realise a European media reality in which all Europeans, minorities and majorities, can truly recognize themselves.
    Mira Media

    November 2004- It was with tremendous shock that we learned of the sudden death, from a heart condition, of our longtime Swedish correspondent Stieg Larsson on 9 November at the still young age of 50.

    Stieg, who was also the chief editor of Searchlight's Swedish sister magazine, Expo, was a leading international anti-fascist. He will be terribly missed by all who had the unforgettable privilege of knowing him, working with him and being one of his friends and comrades.

    Stieg managed to pack a vast amount of experience into his all-too-short 50 years, beginning with his poor upbringing in the forests of northern Sweden. His horizons were unlimited and, after enthusiastically doing military service, he travelled widely in Africa, witnessing bloody civil war in Eritrea at first hand.

    On his return to Sweden, he took up his profession of journalism, working as a news journalist, feature writer and brilliant graphics artist for the Swedish news agency TT. To his work he brought a razor sharp mind, and covered every major world news story as it broke and unfolded for almost two decades. His artistic abilities extended into the realms of painting and layout.

    At the same time as working for TT, and with the greatest conviction, he put his talents at the disposal of the anti-fascist movement, again as a writer and illustrator but most notably as a researcher whose knowledge of the Swedish and international far right could only be described as encyclopaedic.

    This expertise he constantly made available to the growing international anti-fascist network. His journalistic output for the network of anti-fascist publications, especially Searchlight for which he has written since the early 1980s, was huge, always guided by an acute news sense and a talent for separating disinformation from fact to get to the bottom of a situation.

    Stieg Larsson was unique and his contribution to the anti-fascist movement, the left and the cause of a better, more humanistic and more egalitarian society was inestimable. He never abandoned the boundless optimism, hopes and ideas that first led him to engage in political activity.

    He was the incarnation of internationalism with a record that was unmatched, whether it was his work in solidarity with Vietnam, his support for the Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, whose socialist government was so cruelly destroyed by infighting, murder and US invasion, or his later life's work of energetically combating racism, antisemitism, fascism and discrimination of all kinds, especially against women.

    The seriousness of the issues he dealt with never caused him to lose his ability to smile or to bury the sense of humour and warmth that fired his endless collection of hilarious stories and anecdotes. It is hard to imagine that he will never again sit with us and share them.

    A shy person, Stieg never lost his modesty nor his capacity to recognise good in others. The time he always had for other people – often accompanied by the invitation "let's meet over a cup of coffee and talk about this" – made him a much loved person.

    Stieg made big financial and health sacrifices for the anti-fascist cause, to which he gave everything and asked for almost nothing in return. For him it was results which led to a better world that made his sacrifices worthwhile.

    His greatest rewards he saw as his summer trips to the north of Sweden, the beautiful days when he and his family, went sailing or rested at their rented summer house in the Stockholm Archipelago, the hours he spent in the bookshops of London when the chance afforded, and a late-night glass of malt whisky after a hard day's work.

    It is an alarming irony that Stieg was taken from us just as he achieved his greatest ambitions: the consolidation of Expo and the development of its staff, and the publication of his crime novels – he had just signed a major contract to have a series of novels published. Those who read them will see Stieg's integrity, fearlessness and sense of justice in his young heroine, Lisbeth Salander, though her ways of putting things right are a far cry from Stieg's thoughtful and gentle manner.

    Stieg's advice to those he leaves behind might well have been that of his famous fellow Swede Joe Hill: "Don't mourn, organise!" though with the added down-to-earth injunction: "but have some fun doing so!"

    Our thoughts are with his family, whose support, advice, companionship and sometimes criticism were always so vital to him, and we extend our deepest sympathy to our comrades in Expo at this very dark and painful moment.

    Farewell, Stieg, and Salud!
    ©Searchlight Magazine

    By Didier Van der Meeren, Coordinator - Translation French-English : James Nugent
    This article is an attempt to present the possibles in the form of action undertaken daily within our association. This discussion we hope will lead to a constructive dialogue within the wider community.

    So what is a possible?
    We offer courses in French and computing to immigrants and their children, as well those receiving state benefits. For us, labels are dysfunctional when compared with colours, impressions and iridescence gained from direct and unique contact with our students. We frequently question ourselves over the influence we are able to exercise on a daily basis. How is it constructed? What expectations does it create?

    The question takes the form of a return. After an experience of exchange or training, each one returns home. What is the nature of the return and why is it rich in possibles? It's the return to or onto one's home of the consciousness of self, already enriched with multiple experiences. What must one do or think afterwards when meeting other men and women of the local community, or when confronted with those who stay home, neighbours, or loved ones, etc? Or after having spent your days with Khadrye for 6 months only to find her imprisoned for the « crime » of not being in possession of her papers.

    We would like to set up contacts with some heterogeneous groups, with those in power, and to identify policies in accordance with standards, to recognize and adjust our own identity, incorporate the identity of others as an asset, and fight alongside them in order that they may achieve political recognition.

    The possibility exists to construct a "policy" around a meeting of minds, a sharing of mysteries, adventures and myths. We consider ourselves fortunate in our training sessions to have been afforded this opportunity. The possibility to address recurrent problems from outside of power permits us to take risks and air political problems, while avoiding abuses of power or the reduction of questions to a simple response. Thus can we anticipate the awakening of a future rich in possibles, express our future hopes and desires beyond a simple admission of the state of being.

    What we feel needs to be established is to arrive at a critique of the notion of reduction, a distortion wherein the world of possibles is reduced to a point, a dimension, a closed standard, or to « an order to quit the territory ». The self sufficiency of the conscious self is thereby banished, leaving individuals to open up to each other. This being imperative : « Allow yourself to be embraced by the world, enhanced by its risks and possibles. Envisage without guarantees, establish yourself in a world responsive to your positionand choices. Envisage is to find the value of your bearings, but not to deduce. »

    A constructivist approach to knowledge requires us to put one's own conceptual categories under the microscope. How did Kadrye's abduction by the police affect our policy? What knowledge could we possibly accept about ourselves? Reactionism is considered here not as an affirmation of reflection in the making but rather as a poor defence which we will not allow ourselves to adopt. In fact we are that which we imagine ourselves to be, and responsible for the actions of others as if we ourselves had committed the acts. That which we had considered vital and well established would be better reconsidered as contingent and modifiable.

    Culture has value in itself, and rather than being a closed identity is constantly evolving and updating itself through human exchange in order to provide man with an individual response. On the other hand, expulsion and those who serve its cause revel in the satisfaction of its needs, orders and omnipotence. In its political form, it challenges the free circulation of desire, of migrations towards other political entities, and aims to impose order, a restrictive standard which contains the means for its own destruction, that of the standard of money. Migration which aims to set up alternative modes of socio-economic coexistence faces repression, especially when seeking answers to questions as yet uncensored. Expulsion thereby imposes the distinction between the normal and the anormal, between marginal instability and the conventional standard. We could say that exclusion completely ignores all arguments which complicate the totalitarian process.

    The existence of otherness must be seen and felt: once perceived it allows us to recognize its complexity. And the coexistence of men and women, forever intertwined, remains the main challenge.

    Through the richness and variety of our reciprocal destinies we can construct our training programmes, sollicit the participation of local community groups and collectives willing to undertake challenging political decisions and to take risks, and to create common ground wherein those formerly required to stay silent are given the possibility to talk. The coexistence of different but mutually inter-dependant and enriching policies which flow from one another, without needing to dominate, creates a desire to profit from the exchange of feelings, knowledge, affinity, in order to better understand and approach each other.

    We place ourselves at an exchange point between them and us, a seemingly unstable position, one in which we hope to understand them and to make them understand the same outcome, that of the freedom to replay.

    Allowing the other to exist is to accord him/her a place within an unsymmetrical environment. Democracy, insofar as it passes no judgments but rather creates a dialogue or an undertaking, airs each set of circumstances, each question, with all the risks involved; an environment is therefore provided wherein the airing of the problem itself can provide the solution. Both men and women allow such risks to exist, and to understand and express their needs and obligations in a discontinuous temporal space forever to be replayed.

    Thus, those who attempt to relocate their own conceptual categories and to refine them within other more risky forms open themselves up to an enormous field of possibles. We hope to realize such a project alongside our partners and students.

    The difficulty is to envisage an « us » which doesn't become an identity closed in on itself, but rather one which protects against hierarchical imposition; it must work towards a power contained in the form of integration of those elements still external to the rhizome of its manifestations. Empowerment is achieved in a manner designed to enlarge the sphere of action.

    Let's aim for a new way of resisting restrictives laws, in order to expand the network of possibles, and finally to allow our students to reinvent their lives.
    Le Monde des Possibles – The World of Possibles

    Diversity Managers play a key role

    There is no doubt about the growing interest in diversity issues across all types of organisations in the UK. Economic, social and political changes mean that private, public and voluntary sector organisations are putting in place policies and practices that acknowledge the importance of diversity. Over the past few years one measure of this development has been the creation of specific posts for diversity and equality managers. In major organisations they have been appointed not only to take care of the human resources aspect of diversity but, increasingly, to focus on product development and service delivery. But who are diversity managers? What do they do? We brought together three diversity managers – two from the private sector, one from the public sector – to discuss their work.

    Judy Greevy has worked in the diversity field for ten years with several different organisations. She was recently appointed as diversity manager with Centrica - a large utilities company with 40,000 employees, operating mainly in the UK, but increasingly also in North America.

    Niccola Swan, Equality and Diversity Director at Barclays faces similar challenges. She came into the diversity field in 2000, after twenty years as a career banker with the company. As one of the UK's major banks it provides financial services to a large customer base. It is also a global company with 75,000 employees.

    Zahida Ramzan took up the post of Equalities Co-ordinator for Fife Council in Scotland nearly two years ago. With 22,000 employees it provides a range of local public services to a mix or rural and urban populations. Judy, Niccola and Zahida took part in a roundtable discussion with Graham Shaw, a diversity consultant based in the UK.

    GS: What attracted you to your current post?
    JG: It's difficult to have a narrow focus when you are working on diversity issues. After working in the field for ten years I am convinced of the need for linking both employee and customer diversity. Increasingly they also have to be part of the corporate social responsibility work of an organisation. That's the focus of my current role.

    NS: I agree with this, but I can say that for me personal motivation has also been important. I spent 20 years as a career banker and was attracted to doing something different and challenging in an area that I had some personal empathy. My role is also strategic and across the company – I feel I can make a difference.

    ZR: I think the feeling of wanting to make a difference is important. Often people can face multiple disadvantage and this has an affect on the quality of their life. I wanted to see if I can change practice within the Council that could make a difference to the quality of someone's life "out there". I thought it was also important that people were able to access the Council's services in the way they wanted to.

    GS: What are the current diversity issues and priorities within your organisation, at the present time? How are you addressing them?
    NS: I think we have made good progress in the UK on issues around sexuality, religion and age. Some good things have happened on ethnicity and gender issues but we have more to do in terms of improving representation of these groups at senior levels. I think we have begun to move away from only focusing on the different strands of diversity to looking at broader themes – work-life balance, dealing with inappropriate behaviours, recruitment. In all these areas we have senior leader champions, supported in some cases by employee networks. The real challenge however is to change behaviours so that inclusion is a clear objective. We are also a global company and here it is still early days - progress is not as fast as we would like, although we have some good work going on in Spain and, increasingly, in our Investment Banking business, which is very international.

    JG: For us increasing awareness and understanding of diversity and inclusion is priority so we have developed a new training programme in modular and multi media format. We have a very diverse customer base and the way we respond to that diversity through appropriate service delivery strategies is really becoming most important. On the other hand the diversity of our workforce is also important. The increased availability of flexible working is a foundation for diversity. We are revising our policies and supporting practices coupled with behavioural training. We are also preparing for the impact of age legislation conducting research and developing guidance for our managers. Many of our staff are engineers and we are trying to improve the diversity of that group through work with education and training bodies and linking to community volunteering projects

    ZR: We also have to address both our internal and external diversity issues – staff and the people who use our services. So we have three main priorities at the moment. We need to ensure that we are providing information and communicating with our customers in a format that meets their needs. This means that, for example, if someone requires information in tape, Braille or a community language we can meet that request. Our staff need to know how to respond and customers need to know that we can respond to their needs. We need to improve the representative nature of our staff. We are comparing our workforce against Fife's population and taking steps to address any underrepresentation that exists. Modernising the recruitment process is important in doing this. We have begun the process of ensuring that equality is embedded in the community planning process by making links with local community planning partnerships. All of these areas will be "joined up" through the production of Fife Council's Equality and Diversity Strategy which is currently being revised – a new one will be produced this year.

    GS: What does your role as a diversity manager actually involve in relation to people inside the organisation?
    NS: I lead a team of 10 people at group centre who interface with different diversity strands, the theme champions and business E&D Managers. We develop team plans involving delivering training, networks, communications, benchmarking, getting and sharing best practice, work with various internal departments (especially HR and Marketing) to integrate diversity into day-to-day activity, overseeing customer and supplier work, overseeing objectives and measurement and so on. So direct involvement with the majority of employees is limited as our intention is to devolve responsibility to the businesses and to integrate diversity into all activity. The exception is our employee networks where we play a more "hands on" role – they are a useful source of information about priorities and progress.

    JG: For me it is the internal consultancy role that is most important – understanding business issues and the diversity implications. Sharing external knowledge, supporting programmes, identifying where diversity sits within existing initiatives. Diversity work is about change so helping the organisation and individuals do this effectively is also a key role.

    ZR: My job as Equalities Co-ordinator essentially involves having an overview of all the equality work being undertaken in the Council as well as dealing with the corporate approach to equality and diversity. I do this in a range of ways. I have to advise our different services of their legal responsibilities and keep them updated on impact of changes to legislation; support the implementation of equality and diversity in service provision; support the Fife Equality Forum in ensuring that equality is embedded in the community planning process; ensure that new employees receive an induction that incorporates an equality "message"; and having an equality input into the training for Council staff.

    GS: And what about externally?
    ZR: I have to ensure that disadvantaged groups are able to access council services through various means – information in alternative formats; physical access to buildings; funding voluntary organisations to carry out consultations with disadvantaged groups; any complaints of discrimination are acted on promptly; ensuring that voluntary organisations funded by the Council promote equality of opportunity in their employment practices and in the services they provide; and making sure that the Council's workforce is reflective of Fife's population.

    NS: I think that developing close links with a wide range of external organisations is very important. We take part in lots of best practice and networking organisations, including benchmarking, plus events with the UK Equality Commissions and MPs. The sharing of practices with others has been important is supporting our work in the company.

    GS: What advice would you give to anyone taking up a diversity manager role, especially in relation to developing successful strategies and initiatives?
    ZR: Being a diversity manager in a local authority, you need to gain senior officer/elected member commitment early on - the quicker you get senior staff on board the quicker you'll see results. You also need to set realistic goals and targets to measure progress over a period of time so that people both inside and outside the organisation see a difference. You need to make sure you keep people informed of what's happening. You must also ensure your own knowledge of what's happening in the equality and diversity field, locally and nationally, is up to date.

    JG: I think similar things apply in the private sector. You need to gain understanding of business priorities and build diversity case in relation to these. Gathering case studies to demonstrate value of diversity management - real examples from within the organisation – is important. And this helps gain support from as wide a range of people as possible including the most senior leaders.

    NS: I think there are some basic steps that are needed. Check on commitment and engagement of senior leaders before starting; build a fact base on employees, customers, local communities and suppliers; build connections with the main diversity organisations and undertake external benchmarking; engage senior leaders as champions and volunteers from all around the organisation to advise; do employee surveys to understand what priorities are; organise a clear plan of work; set measurable objectives; set up senior leaders group to provide direction and governance and monitor performance; build from diversity strands towards inclusive behaviours. Aim to do yourself out of a job through integrating diversity into the work of the organisation!

    GS: That's been a great snapshot of your valuable work. Do you have any final thoughts?
    JG: Try as hard as possible to avoid "badging" the work as "diversity" but emphasise good business and management practice and link your work into other initiatives.

    NS: Don't be discouraged – this takes much longer than you imagine; persistence and determination are essential; and don't let anyone off the hook!

    ZR: Being a diversity manager above all requires patience and determination – you don't see quick results. But if you stick with it, the long terms benefits can be immensely rewarding!

    GS: Thank you for your time!
    Stop discrimination

    30/11/2004- Muslims in Britain want greater recognition of their faith with the introduction of Islamic law for civil cases and time off for prayers during the working day, but are equally committed to greater participation in British life. A special Guardian/ICM poll based on a survey of 500 British Muslims found that a clear majority want Islamic law introduced into this country in civil cases relating to their own community. Some 61% wanted Islamic courts - operating on sharia principles - "so long as the penalties did not contravene British law". Many civil cases in this country deal with family disputes such as divorce, custody and inheritance. The poll also found a high level of religious observance with just over half saying they pray five times a day, every day - although women are shown to be more devout than men. The poll reveals that 88% want to see schools and workplaces in Britain accommodating Muslim prayer times as part of their normal working day. Alongside these signs of a desire for more recognition of their religion, however, the poll suggests that the Muslim community is perhaps more integrated than many might imagine, with 62% saying they number "a lot or quite a few" non-Muslim people among their closest friends and 35% saying they would consider marrying someone who was not a Muslim. There is also a strong appetite within the Muslim community to become a closer part of British life, with 40% saying they need to do more to integrate into mainstream British culture.

    The ICM poll was commissioned as part of a groundbreaking Guardian exercise to gauge the mood of Britain's younger Muslim generation. In addition to the poll, 103 young Muslims were brought together to discuss the most important issues facing their future, from identity and integration to the war on terror. The Guardian/ICM poll confirms that political support for Labour has halved since the 2001 general election and the Liberal Democrats have emerged as the leading political party within the Muslim community. The role of Britain in the Iraq war and Tony Blair's strong support for the war on terror which is widely seen by the Muslim community to be an attack on Islam, has undoubtedly played a part in eroding Labour's support among British Muslims. In the 2001 general election it is believed that 75% of those who voted backed Labour. The voting intention figures in this poll show that support in the Muslim community for the government is slipping away fast. In March, ICM recorded Labour support at 38% and it has now fallen a further six points to 32% of Muslim voters. This is nine points behind the Liberal Democrats who now enjoy the support of 41% of Muslim voters. Conservative support has also fallen in the last six months from 25% to 16%. Other parties enjoy the support of 10% of British Muslim voters with 4% going to the Greens and 4% to George Galloway's Respect party. The problem for the Liberal Democrats is that the poll shows turnout among the Muslim community is likely to be far lower than the general electorate with only 47% saying they "always or nearly always vote" compared with 68% of all voters.

    ICM interviewed a random sample of 500 Muslim people by telephone between November 15-21 2004. The data has not been weighted because there is no authoritative source of demographic information on the Muslim population. ICM abides by the rules of the British Polling Council.

    The big debate
    Eight tables, eight subjects, 103 young Muslims. Here are the reports of the discussions (moderated by participants).

  • Table 1 How would you describe your identity?
  • Table 2 What is the impact of the 'war on terror' on British Muslims?
  • Table 3 Do you want integration or parallel lives?
  • Table 4 Are you satisfied that the leadership of the community reflects your views?
  • Table 5 How do the faithful live in a secular society?
  • Table 6 The widespread perception is that Islam discriminates against women. Why is that so?
  • Table 7 What are the most pressing problems in your community?
  • Table 8 How hopeful are you about the future?

    ©The Guardian

    November 2004- Concern that religious tensions along the lines of those sparked in the Netherlands by the brutal killing of Islam-critical filmmaker Theo van Gogh could spill over into Germany has triggered a fresh debate among Germans about integrating the nation's large foreign population. Leon Mangasarian reports.

    Muslims comprise 4 percent of Germany's population
    While Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has stepped-up a campaign calling on the country's big Muslim community to fit with the country's laws and its democratic principles, leading political figures in the nation have claimed that multiculturalism has failed in Germany. This comes in the wake of a mass demonstration of Muslims in Germany against terror and growing alarm in the country over the torching of mosques, churches and schools in the Netherlands following the van Gogh killing. There have also been press reports of a link between the van Gogh murder and Germany, with claims that one of those involved in the killing in the Netherlands lived in neighbouring Germany. With 3.4 million Muslims comprising 4 percent of Germany's population, the question was put this way by a banner headline in the conservative Bild newspaper: "Is the hate going to come here?" asked the biggest selling tabloid. The Berliner Zeitung, a left-leaning paper in the German capital where about 200,000 mainly Turkish Muslims live, claims to know the answer: "The feelings of hated against the majority Christian society are growing." So far there has not been a high profile killing in Germany to match the stabbing and shooting of van Gogh. But a series of attacks on Jews in Berlin by Arab youths have sharply raised concerns. Germany's tough-minded interior minister, Otto Schily, spoke at the weekend of "a danger" to the country despite successes in integrating the majority of immigrants. Schily drew headlines earlier this year with a harsh warning to Islamic fundamentalists: "If you love death so much, then it can be yours." German opposition conservatives are demanding a ban on preaching in mosques in any language other than German. Calls for such a move were fuelled by a dramatic TV film secretly made in a Berlin mosque.

    Is the hate going to come here?
    "These Germans, these atheists, these Europeans don't shave under their arms and their sweat collects under their hair with a revolting smell and they stink," said the preacher at the Mevlana Mosque in Berlin's Kreuzberg district, in the film made by Germany's ZDF public TV, adding: "Hell lives for the infidels! Down with all democracies and all democrats!" Meanwhile, Opposition chief Angela Merkel has declared the multicultural society a failure. This was echoed by former Social Democrat Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in comments published in a German newspaper. "Multicultural societies have only ... functioned peacefully in authoritarian states. To that extent it was a mistake for us to bring guest workers from foreign cultures into the country at the beginning of the 1960s," Schmidt said. Speaking at the Muslims Against Terror rally in Cologne, Guenther Beckstein, interior minister of the mainly Catholic state of Bavaria, told more than 20,000 mainly middle-class Turks: "We ask of you: learn German, work with us, join in our celebrations." There are also demands for loosening German laws to make it easier to expel foreign extremists, after years of wrangles to win approval for deportation of radical Turkish Islamist Metin Kaplan, the self- styled 'Caliph of Cologne'. Udo Ulfkotte, a German journalist who has received death threats since writing a book critical of Islam titled 'The War in our Cities', underlines that many of the group responsible for the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US had lived in Germany. Asked about van Gogh's killing, Ulfkotte said: "The spark could jump over here at any time. We just need a provocation like in Holland. Islamists in Germany approved of (van Gogh's) murder and many of them actually cheered it." But other experts - while not downplaying threats - warn against being alarmist. Steffen Angenendt, a migration expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations and member of the German government's Council of Experts on Immigration and Integration, argues Germany is far better off than the Netherlands. Holland, says Angenendt, now faces "the rubble" of its failed policy of tolerant multi-culturalism, for which it was the European flagship during the past decades. Only limited efforts were made at integration in the Netherlands, after which the foreign communities were largely ignored, says Angenendt. Germany has three big advantages compared to the Netherlands, he argues. First is geography: Germany is not nearly as densely settled as the Netherlands and people have more room. "The Dutch feel as if they have no space," said Angenendt. A second plus for Germany is that unlike Holland the cities with big foreign populations, such as Berlin and Frankfurt, mostly do not have districts totally dominated by one group. Even Berlin-Kreuzberg, with its big Turkish community, is still a multi-ethnic society, he says.

    Opposition leader Angela Merkel has declared the multicultural society a failure.
    Thirdly, integration has generally worked better in Germany than in countries like the Netherlands, Angenendt says. This will improve further from January 1 when Germany's new immigration law comes into force. Under this legislation all new immigrants will have to take 600 hours German language instruction plus a 30 hour course on German society. In addition, 50,000 immigrants already here will be eligible to take the courses each year. A further point, not directly mentioned by Angenendt, is the fact that 75 percent of Germany's Muslims are from Turkey. A survey by the Islam Archive in Soest - which houses a major collection of Islamic books and documents - found that the majority of Turks in Germany do not practice their religion. Says Buelent Arslan, head of the German-Turkish Forum: "We have an Islam which is very influenced by Turkey and this is the most enlightened and secular." Still, even a small percentage of extremists is deeply worrying. Germany's Verfassungschutz - the domestic intelligence service - estimates there are 31,000 radical Islamists living in Germany, of whom several thousand are prepared to use violence. The biggest group is a Turkish movement named 'Milli Goerues' with 26,500 members, which fights against integration of Turks into German society. In a court case which set security establishment alarm bells ringing, a judge ruled last week week that Milli Goerues membership did not justify a German airport's bid to ban an employee from working within its security zone. The number of reported crimes carried out by foreign extremists in Germany almost tripled last year compared with 2002, warns the Verfassungsschutz.
    ©Expatica News

    By M. S. Ahmed, a free-lance writer, is featured on Media Monitors Network (MMN) with the courtesy of Crescent International.

    "Dutch politicians and other racists are now calling for tighter immigration rules, giving the false impression that these rules are too lax and need to be "updated". They conveniently ignore the fact that in 2002 those rules and procedures were so drastically revised that the New York-based Human Rights Watch (no friend of Islamic radicals) objected, as did other human-rights groups."

    9/12/2004- The Netherlands, which until now has always claimed to be more tolerant than the rest of Europe, is now openly hounding its Muslim population, on the pretence of fighting terrorism. The change has been brought on by the murder of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch film-maker, at the beginning of November, allegedly by an ‘Islamic radical'. Not only have attacks on mosques, Islamic schools and Muslims' homes become common, but immigration and security officials have stepped up their search and interrogation activities. Government ministers and opposition leaders, exploiting the public's anger at van Gogh's murder, have thrown their weight behind tougher immigration and asylum laws and procedures. They have also called for greater cooperation with the rest of Europe to fight ‘Islamic radicalism'.

    But by showing their resolve to "fight terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism", the Dutch have managed to reveal that they have not in fact been as tolerant of their Muslims as they claim to have been. They have discriminated against them and denied them opportunities for employment and education since their arrival (mostly 1960 onwards) from Turkey and Morocco. Moreover, the call for tougher measures against ‘radical Muslims' and immigrants began well before the incidents of September 2001 in the US. Almost immediately after the killing of van Gogh, Rita Verdonk, the immigration minister, told a crowd of 10,000 mourners that Dutch tolerance goes "this far, and no further" – implying that Dutch tolerance had been exploited and that such murders could not have happened in a less tolerant country. The almost 1 million Muslims in the Netherlands (5.8 percent of the population overall, and 13 percent in the biggest cities) have not been the recipient of good-natured or tolerant treatment, as more honest Dutch speakers have admitted.

    Even a close friend of van Gogh's has pointed out since his death how racist Dutch society is. Prem Radhakishun, a lawyer and broadcaster, said: "Thirty percent of Dutch people are racist, thirty percent are not and the rest do not know what they think." Over two years ago the then immigration minister made similar remarks, although he did not go quite so far. Hilbrand Nawijn said in a newspaper interview: "People say the Dutch are tolerant but I doubt that. It is not that they are racist, but they are much more conservative [than foreigners outside the Netherlands realise] when it comes to people being different." In 1991 Frits Bolkestein, the outgoing EU commissioner, felt it necessary to issue the warning that unless tough immigration measures were introduced, the "divisions within society" that were allegedly already caused by the "inflow of immigrants" could get out of control.

    Dutch politicians and other racists are now calling for tighter immigration rules, giving the false impression that these rules are too lax and need to be "updated". They conveniently ignore the fact that in 2002 those rules and procedures were so drastically revised that the New York-based Human Rights Watch (no friend of Islamic radicals) objected, as did other human-rights groups. Interestingly, one reason given for the alleged failure to act in the past, despite the existence of problems, by no less a person than Rita Verdonk, is so frank (perhaps unintentionally) that it shows how cynical the approach of the Dutch to immigrants must have been, despite their reputation to the contrary. In a newspaper interview two days after van Gogh's funeral, she said: "We have a lot of unrest in our society. For years it was not possible to talk about problems, particularly with regard to ethnic minorities. We thought they would go back where they came from after a while, but they didn't. We thought it was a multicultural society, but it wasn't."

    The Muslims have stayed, and have been paying a heavy price for not leaving, although Verdonk is not quite honest enough to say that. In fact she blames them for the failure of ‘multiculturalism', saying that they have become "increasingly inward-looking". Naturally she fails to mention the reasons, such as racism and lack of opportunities, that probably drove them "inwards". Security agencies have been providing dubious evidence for her biased analyses, warning of "radicalisation" of Muslims since the 1990s – admitting in the process that they have had Muslims under surveillance. The Dutch intelligence agency is on record as having said that "around 100 – 200 Muslims under surveillance at any one time". Mosques, schools and homes are also under surveillance, although it does not seem to prevent the attacks (burning, breaking etc.) to which they are now frequently subjected.

    The heightened war on Muslims in the Netherlands is attributed to the murder of van Gogh at the beginning of November. He was a self-declared enemy of Islam, and took every opportunity to blame Islam for all the problems of the world. In particular he claimed that Islam made slaves of women, and he encouraged Muslim women to join his war on their deen. Unfortunately he was able to find Muslim women (such as Ayaan Hersi, a member of the Dutch parliament) to collaborate with him. The script for his film, Submission, was in fact written by Ayaan, who is now in hiding, having renounced her people's faith and adding insult to injury by writing this blasphemous film. It is claimed that van Gogh was murdered by an ‘Islamic extremist' because of this film and his devoted service to the enemies of Islam.

    But two years ago there was another highly publicised murder: that of a renowned ‘gay' politician, who was also famously anti-Islam. Pim Fortuyn was in fact responsible for making anti-Islamic attacks popular in the Netherlands – putting the emphasis on the theory that Muslim immigrants stand for values opposed to Dutch traditions. As a ‘gay', Fortuyn would naturally be opposed to Islamic values. But despite his hostility to Islam, he was not murdered by an ‘Islamic terrorist' but by an animal-rights activist, a supporter of ‘Dutch values'. Needless to say, no one is therefore criticising animal-rights activists or their values.

    Instead, Dutch politicians, journalists, organisations and thinktanks are united in their belief that international terrorism (another name, they claim, for Islamic radicalism) must be fought by any and every means – including the abolition of rights of minorities, particularly Muslims.
    Source: by courtesy & © 2004 M. S. Ahmed
    Media Monitors Network (MMN)

    26/11/2004- A vast majority of respondents (88%) responding to the Commission's Green Paper consultation on 'Equality and non-discrimination in the European Union' said that the EU should step up its efforts to combat discrimination following enlargement. One of the Commission's first steps will be to issue a Communication on anti-discrimination before the end of 2005. Vladimír Špidla, the new EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, emphasised that this is a crucial area. 'As President Barroso told the European Parliament, fundamental rights and the fight against discrimination are a top priority for the new Commission. This Green Paper consultation gives us a solid base for a broad EU agenda against all forms of discrimination The Green Paper consultation received a strong response, with more than 1500 contributions sent to the Commission. Of these just over 1,000 were received from individuals, with the remainder coming from organisations or institutions.[1]

    Two EU Directives[2] approved in 2000 already ban discrimination in the areas of racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation. However, opinions are divided as to whether these new rules have yet had a tangible impact. National authorities, equality bodies and employers felt that the new legislation's effects had kicked in - but individuals and NGOs generally disagreed. Overall, 49% of respondents felt the new legislation had had limited or no impact. This may be due to certain Member States' delays in implementing the new rules. A similar split in opinion occurred on whether existing legislation provides sufficient cover. Some stakeholders want to bring the level of protection against discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, age, disability and sexual orientation into line with protection against racial discrimination. However, some (not least national authorities) feel that further legislative action in this area would be premature. Respondents felt that legislation is the most effective tool in addressing discrimination (34.2%), more than awareness raising (31.8%) and affirmative action (22.6%). But lack of awareness about people's rights featured among the most important obstacles in fighting discrimination, along with discriminatory attitudes and behaviour, and incomplete national implementation of legislation. Respondents recognised the important added value provided by EU funding, particularly the contribution made by the Community action programme to combat discrimination[3].

    They urged the Commission to continue its support for the efforts of national authorities, civil society organisations and others to combat discrimination, by providing opportunities for exchanges of experience and joint action at EU level. Respondents also considered that support for non-discrimination should be "mainstreamed" across a range of other EU policy and funding instruments, including the Structural Funds. The Commission's Communication will set out the broad agenda for following up on the issues in the Green Paper consultation, including how to involve all of the key stakeholders (national, regional and local authorities; civil society organisations; the social partnes; specialised equality bodies) in developing EU anti-discrimination policy and legislation. The Commission will also launch a feasibility study in early 2005 to examine possible initiatives to complement the EU legal framework for tackling discrimination.

    Detailed figures on responses to the Green Paper:


    US AND THEM(Denmark)
    By Lakambini A. Sitoy

    12/12/2004- Two Filipinas, one from Manila and one who has lived 33 years in Denmark, meet at the central train station, Kobenhavn Hoved­banegården. They embrace like old friends in the foyer, under the huge clock that tops the central pillar. Beneath it other people are waiting, shifting from one foot to the other and muttering into cell phones­in Europe, "at the station under the clock" is a convenient and unmistakable place to meet up. People stream past, intent on getting to the platforms below. Some have come on bicycles, which they have parked for the day on extensive racks beside the station. Trains roar in every minute or so. A digital display overhead announces the track and the train's destination and how many more minutes the commuters have to wait. The announcements over the PA system are in Danish, but English translations surface over the flow of unfamiliar syllables from time to time. This is a cross-section of Copenhagen's population. Most are Scandi­navian, but there are darker peoples too­Arabs, Turks, Africans, Asian types who might be Chinese or Indonesians, or Greenlanders­so many they are no longer remarkable. Everyone is dressed in dark coats or padded jackets, wool scarves at throats, the women in boots­long and leather, or sheepskin as is the fashion again this winter. From time to time, a woman in a head scarf and robes moves past. Over by one column, a group of young punkers sits in a loose circle, hair in spikes, noses pierced, silent.

    The Danish-Filipina is Filomenita Mongaya Høgsholm, founding president of Babaylan-Denmark and now its public relations officer. Stylish and outspoken, she seems bent on crushing the stereotype of the submissive Oriental woman. She settled here after marrying an engineer she met at Syracuse University, where she was finishing a master's degree in communications. Babaylan is a European-wide network of Filipino women's groups forged in Barcelona in 1992. The Denmark chapter followed in 1997. The word is Tagalog for "priestess." Among the group's aims are the creation of a forum for Filipino women in this part of the world, regardless of background; and to set up an atmosphere of debate and activity about migrant people, particularly migrant women's living conditions here. Babaylan uses the word "Filipina" loosely, to encompass temporary overseas workers, those who may be staying in a country illegally, those who are married to European men, and those who have acquired residency or become naturalized citizens. The daughters of cross-cultural/interracial marriages are even included, if they want to discover their roots, that is. The women make their way to a coffee shop, Estates, where the best coffee in Copenhagen is supposedly served. The Danes set store by the brew­they even have a song about coffee and bliss and a lovely woman called Nina, crooned by Povl Dissing, a singer beloved by the older set. Estates is a stark, modern version of Starbucks. The silver-top tables are small enough for knees to brush beneath, and the chairs are aluminum and blond wood. On the blackboard overhead is the selection­coffees from Africa and Latin America. On a sheaf of fliers displayed on the counter is an image of a thin, dark-skinned child in a tattered singlet. Like a guilt trip. All the customers are affluent-looking whites. Two women in their 20s, their blond hair knotted at the nape, occupy one table. A 30-ish man manages twin little girls, their faces painted and spangled from a kindergarten party.

    Babaylan-Denmark has worked to bring aspects of Filipino culture to this country, including a series of concerts by the De La Salle University choir last year, and a show of indigenous couture featuring the designer Ditas Sandico-Ong. However, the local reception has not been as warm as she had hoped. The Danes seem to gravitate more toward tourist magnets like Bali and Thailand, which have a battery of indigenous food, music, and imagery like costumes, temples and beaches. "They look at us as if we are not true Asian. We are not as ‘exotic' as other Southeast Asian peoples, and in their minds, ‘exotic,' or non-European, is ‘genuine.' We speak English too well, are too Americanized. They don't seem to accept our mestizo culture as valid in itself." According to statistics from the Philippine Embassy, there are 2232 permanent migrants and 4721 temporary migrants in Denmark. There is no way of telling how many illegal or undocumented Filipinos there are in this country. The women outnumber the men. Many work as chambermaids or au pairs. In the 1980s the Filipina acquired another face­that of the naïve, half-educated mail-order bride. "The Danish discussion on the issue was extremely black and white," says Høgsholm. "Some intellectuals and feminists emphasize the act of buying, the financial transaction in which the women were the commodity. They consider it a form of sex trafficking." Nowadays the mail-order bride issue has died down. Alarm over Islam has replaced it. A woman swathed in a head scarf would be more likely to elicit glares of resentment than an Asian face. But the stereotype of the Third World­er trading on her sexuality continues to haunt Fili­pinas here.
    "I've been quoted in the papers campaigning for improvements on how minorities should be treated," says Høgsholm." The following day I receive anonymous phone calls. They ring you up and say, ‘Prostitute!' The rightists are numerous, for such a so-called liberal society, and they are very, very organized."

    She narrates how, in 1995, she was mauled in front of the parliament building, Christiansborg Slot, by a bicyclist involved in a near-collision with her car. She got out to apologize and the cyclist punched her and slammed her to the pavement. He straddled her and choked her, spitting epithets like "sorte luder"­black whore. From among the stunned pedestrians and taxi drivers, someone finally called the police. The man was arrested. At the station, filing her complaint, Høgsholm was told that if she pressed charges the man might be slapped with a 1000 kroner fine, but no jail time. At the hospital, doctors refused to grant her an x-ray (free in this country), because she had no visible injuries. But blood cells showed up in a urine test. A doctor asked her, "Are you sure you're not having your menstruation?" Such assaults may be isolated. Høgsholm's assailant proved to have a police record for acts of violence, meaning he was probably the type to resolve conflicts­with anyone­with his fists. But incidents like these are what immigrants remember. Cumulatively, they reinforce the idea of racism in these parts. The many positive encounters with neutral, or even sympathetic, Europeans­and there are still many of those in Scandinavia­do little to erase the bitterness of such experiences, and the fear and wariness they create.
    The Manila Times

    By Dewayne Wickham

    4/12/2004- During the height of the civil rights movement, leaders of the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) had good reason to fear that their private communications might be intercepted. Back then, the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, the White Citizens Council and even FBI agents were looking for anything they could get their hands on to undermine these groups, which spearheaded the fight for racial equality. But now, these civil rights organizations have another reason to worry that their most tightly held communications might slip from their grip: Their content might cause supporters to desert them in droves. Take, for example, an unsigned letter sent recently to members of the NAACP's board of directors. It was a Machiavellian missive that sought to stoke a simmering dispute within the group's governing body. The letter accused Julian Bond, the board's chairman, of jeopardizing the tax-exempt status of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People with "partisan statements about the Republican Party, the president, his Cabinet and anyone else who may differ with him." In fact, the NAACP recently revealed that the Internal Revenue Service is reviewing its federal tax-exempt status as a result of a speech Bond gave at the group's annual convention in July. In that address, Bond blasted the president's education and economic policies, and his conduct of the war in Iraq. Of course, that kind of talk is no more partisan than the shots that several Roman Catholic bishops took at John Kerry during the presidential campaign. But the fact that Bond's words sparked an IRS investigation has helped fuel a firefight between board members loyal to Bond and those who support Kweisi Mfume. Mfume is the NAACP president who unexpectedly announced Tuesday that he is quitting his job at the end of the month. His supporters on the NAACP board are thought to be behind the unsigned letter, which contained this conspiratorial passage: "Some of us have formed a caucus to change the sad direction this board is going in. He (Bond) will be voted out soon when the time is right. ... We will be contacting you soon to join us. Our identities are secret and so will yours be." That kind of cloak-and-dagger intrigue among the NAACP's board members has to put a big smile on the faces of the group's enemies. But it hardly compares to the caustic memos that have flown back and forth between leaders of the SCLC, the church-based civil rights organization that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. helped create in 1957. For much of this year, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth ­ an 82-year-old disciple of King's ­ struggled to end the acrimony between the SCLC's top leaders. The enemies of today's continuing civil rights struggle ­ and they are many ­ are aided in their nefarious work by the strife within the NAACP and SCLC. They are aided and abetted by the petty rivalries and friendly fire that plagues these once-mighty civil rights organizations. While the Jim Crow racism that Roy Wilkins and King battled in the 1960s has been replaced by Jim Crow Jr. ­ a kinder, gentler form of racism ­ the NAACP and SCLC these men once led are in decline. Wracked by internal dissension, they are doing to themselves that which their enemies tried, but failed to accomplish.
    ©The Springfield News-Leader

    26/11/2004– The Vlaams Belang, the new name for Flanders' far right Vlaams Blok party, is being taken to court by an anti-racism group with the same name. The four trade union workers who formed the original Vlaams Belang on 8 November in Liege, announced their intentions on Friday. The Vlaams Blok re-named itself Vlaams Belang – Flemish Interest - on 14 November after the supreme court confirmed that the party was in breach of Belgium's anti-racism laws. The Liege trade unionists said they had deliberately set up the alternative Vlaams Belang group in a bid to highlight the dangers of the extreme right. "Faced with the rise of extreme right parties and the growing attention they receive in the media, we could not sit back and do nothing," said Pierre Heldenbergh. Their campaign aims to keep out elected representatives from the far right in the local elections in Liege in 2006. Democratic parties were trying all legal means to do so, said Secretary General of the Liege-based group Thierry Bodson, adding that their first move was to cheat the political party of its new name. Vlaams Belang mark two is believed to be less than impressed by the initiative, reportedly judging the move ridiculous. "The creation of this not for profit group 'Vlaams Belang' cannot stop a party of the same name from using it," the ex-Blok said a statement. The party pointed out that the Liege group would not be able to use the name in the elections.
    ©Expatica News

    1/12/2004- Belgium's crown prince Philippe has sparked a political row after publicly criticising Flanders' far right political party the Vlaams Belang. In an interview with Flemish magazine Story, the eldest son of King Albert II accused the party - previously known as Vlaams Blok - of "trying to destroy our country." "In our country there are people, parties such as the Vlaams Belang, which are against Belgium, and want to destroy. I can assure you that they will have to deal with me," he said, according to Belgian media reports. His remarks prompted a rapid rebuke from Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who reminded the prince that his constitutional role was not to get involved in the country's politics. "Even if I can imagine the prince is against certain parties that want to split the country, that does not correspond to the current and above all future constitutional role of the prince in our country," he said in a statement. "This role requires a certain reserve in comments, particularly about political parties, even if these parties do not want good for the future of our country," he continued. Prince Philippe made his comments to a Story journalist on a recent trip to China. The Vlaams Blok party was forced to change its name to Vlaams Belang last month after a court verdict outlawed the party for being racist. The party's popularity has surged in recent months, rising to second poll position in Dutch-speaking Flanders.
    ©Expatica News

    "Go West" stirs angry debate with its unprecedented depiction of a gay love affair in wartime Bosnia.

    By Aida Sunje and Mirna Mekic in Sarajevo

    26/11/2004- Sasha looks no different than any other Bosnian youth in his twenties. He is tall and well dressed. But in the last five months alone, he has been beaten up four times. His crime? He is a homosexual. He reported the first three attacks to the police but did not bother the fourth time because he does not believe they want to help him. "I cannot live in Bosnia the way I am," said Sasha, who has spent some time in Germany where he said he lived a normal life. But now fear for his safety has prompted him to start thinking about leaving the country. Police told me I should have stayed in Germany when I filed my complaints," he said, with a wry smile on his face. Sasha's experience is a fair reflection of Bosnian society's treatment of gay people. The message of one 18-year-old on the topic was loud and clear. "I would line them all up against the wall and execute them, so help me God," he told IWPR. The fact that homosexuality remains a taboo issue in Bosnia has not stopped film director Ahmed Imamovic from tackling it head-on, however. Imanovic's movie, Go West, about a love affair between two men during the height of the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, has stirred tensions and brought the debate to the ears of many who would otherwise know little or nothing about the subject. Many critics are furious. The editor of the Bosnian magazine Walter condemned Go West as "blasphemy". Others are simply puzzled. "I don't want my son to think weird things about me when he sees this movie and asks if this is what people really did during the war," one father who hasn't seen the film said. Others have stood up for Go West. Senad Avdic, editor of the magazine Slobodna Bosna, one of the few who has seen the unfinished movie, has called it a masterpiece. "It's a love story with open and unrestrained insight into the lack of tolerance in the horrendous circumstances of war," Avdic said. Imamovic has told the media his film aims to tell society that homosexuals are human beings like any others, who suffered just as the rest did during the war.

    The public debate reflects the harsh reality homosexuals have to deal with in a society that has slipped culturally as well as economically behind its western neighbours. "Go West has fully exposed just how immature some media are," said Svetlana Djurkovic, chair of the informal Q Association, which lobbies for gay and lesbian rights. She says the debate has revealed one glaring fact – "that our society is largely based on aggressive communication". According to a report by the Bosnia Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, gays and lesbians are fearful of expressing their sexuality and of the way society treats them. The committee stressed that laws were less of a problem than dominant social and cultural stereotypes based on prejudice and ignorance. "No one, no matter how different, should be discriminated or hated like queers in Bosnia are," Asim, a young homosexual from Sarajevo, told IWPR. The Helsinki committee and the Q Association know of numerous cases of violence against gay people, as well as threats and job losses. Neither organisation knows the exact number of cases for the simple reason that few are reported. The Q Association, however, does know of at least three gay men who have asked for political asylum in foreign countries, citing the discrimination they face at home on account of their sexuality. Madeleine Rees, head of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bosnia, is acquainted with Sasha's case. "He has complained to the police but feels they have not dealt with his case seriously," Rees said. Bosnia's constitution guarantees a high level of internationally recognised human rights and basic freedoms, with special emphasis on personal freedom and safety prohibiting any kind of discrimination. But laws on public order in both the Federation and the Republika Srpska, RS, contain articles that can be used against homosexuals. In the Federation, "threatening public morality" and "offending the patriotic, national, religious and moral feelings of citizens" are deemed breaches of public order and judges have considerable leeway to decide what counts as an offence to public morals. The three largest religious groups in Bosnia - the Islamic community and the Catholic and Orthodox churches - unite in condemning homosexuality as a sin. "The Islamic community follows the principles of faith, and we will support nothing that contradicts faith (such as the issue of homosexuals)," effendi Muhamed Lugavic, an imam from Tuzla, told IWPR. Most people routinely express feelings of contempt for gay people. "It's a hormonal disease," one passer-by in Sarajevo told IWPR. Another was prepared to let homosexuals do "whatever they want, as long as they stay out of my sight". Naturally, those belonging to this minority disagree. "Love can never be wrong. Love is what this society is so sadly deprived of," Djurkovic said. Asim sees some hope in the future. "It's a process that takes time and education, because people fear homosexuals as they would alien creatures, even though they communicate with them on a daily basis," he said. Asim emphasised that many people in Bosnia view homosexuals as sick, sexually deviant, perverts who do not differ from child molesters. They often assumed all of them have AIDS. Few think their neighbours, relatives and even children may be among them. Meanwhile, Sasha has asked international organisations to help him get a Canadian immigration visa. "I hope it doesn't take too long," he said, "so I can take a break and start living a normal life."
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    A TV show on homosexuality triggers strong negative reactions in Montenegro.

    2/12/2004- It seems incongruous given the small size and cozy character of Montenegro's capital, Podgorica, that a television program would cause a ruckus that leaves three police officers injured and lands several football fans in jail--but that's exactly what happened a few days ago. The trigger was Montenegro TV's first show on homosexuality, which aired on 26 November. Several dozen supporters of the football club Buducnost (Future), who call themselves Varvari or Barbarians, gathered in front of the TV building, hurled abuse at those inside, and tried to prevent the broadcast.

    The protests had also been provoked by an article in the daily Vijesti the previous day. The article quoted one of the guests on the show, Atila Kovac, as saying, "Boys from Podgorica are real pussycats." Kovac is the editor of Decko (Boy), the first gay magazine in Serbia and Montenegro. He denied having made such a statement. When police intervened against the protesters, three officers were injured and several of the Barbarians arrested, including a well-known young journalist, Darko Ivanovic, and other leaders of the fan club. Ivanovic hosts a show on a private Podgorica television station that deals with social issues and writes for the influential Montenegrin weekly Monitor. He explained why the Barbarians didn't like homosexuals. "Heterosexuals don't have this need to go out in the streets and to explain their sexual life. As long as [homosexuals] do it in rooms away from the public, or in their houses, everything is OK. [But] when they go out into Podgorica's streets, that's our business." He also said the Barbarians didn't like anything that came from outside the town. "Our philosophy can be summarized in the phrase ‘Podgorica to Podgorica citizens.' " "We support right-wing politics, which is better than to be a part of these idiotic political parties, from the government to the opposition. We have chosen another option, which is fascism in Podgorica's framework," he continued.

    Fear of difference
    Psychologist Verica Mirovic said the behavior of the Barbarians is rooted in their patriarchal background, their fear of difference, and their rejection of diversity. "They have one picture in their head that must not be damaged, and if anyone… has the courage to openly say things differently, it threatens the picture." Sociologist Srdja Vukadinovic agrees. Talking to Montenegrin media, he said, "It's all about the unwillingness to accept differences--not just national differences, but others as well." He said this resulted from an unwillingness to accept social modernization. Some figures suggest that around 4 percent of the population is homosexual, which would mean roughly 25,000 Montenegrins. "We know for certain that 32 homosexuals live in Montenegro," says Jelena Scepanovic of Free Rainbow--that's the number of our members." Free Rainbow is the only organization in Montenegro that defends the rights of sexual minorities. Widespread intolerance was evident in an informal street poll TOL conducted in Podgorica. "I wouldn't accept [a homosexual] as a neighbor or a friend, but everybody has the right to live his own life," a woman in her mid-20s said. A 30-year-old man said, "I don't have anything against them, but I think it's very hard for homosexuals to live in our city." His friend was more radical, saying, "I think homosexuals are the worst thing that could happen to our society." And it was clear from the TV show itself that the Barbarians' rage was shared by many. It wasn't just that Atila Kovac was heckled when he entered the TV building. Six students from Podgorica law school who were also on the program turned out to be no different from the Barbarians at the doors. "You are sick!" said one of them, while members of the public sent in text messages saying, "Should children watch this program?" or "Shame on you, you put a faggot on TV." Vukadinovic, the sociologist, is troubled by the fact that it was young people who showed the most animosity toward homosexuals. He expects the young to be promoters of modern ideas. But here, "These young people have the same codes like those who hated Croats, Muslims, Montenegrins, or Serbs. Violence is their primary tool of communication."

    Partial defence
    It can be argued that the Montenegrin intelligentsia failed this particular test. The great and the good didn't stand up to defend the rights of minorities or to calm the situation, and almost nobody from the so-called elites--intellectual, artistic, political--dared to criticize publicly the Barbarians or the students. Moreover, none of Montenegro's political parties deals with sexual rights and freedoms in its platform. The spokesman for the governing Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), Predrag Sekulic, said the issue of homosexuality "should be resolved carefully [by] taking into consideration the public attitude, tradition, and strong patriarchal structure of the western Balkan countries." Homosexuals wouldn't have much of a chance to advance in the Social Democratic Party, a pro-European DPS coalition partner, though spokesman Branislav Radulovic is against any kind of persecution. He explains, "They have to find a place in society, as long as they don't provoke conflict." The People's Party is more radical. It says homosexuality is a kind of deformity and that granting rights to homosexuals would be the same as giving someone the right to a speech impediment. The Liberal Alliance, according to spokeswoman Helena Vucetic, has no problems with homosexuals, but spokesman Dobrilo Dedic of the Serbian People's Party would feel "uncomfortable to have a discussion with homosexuals." Journalist Andrej Nikolaidis isn't surprised at the hostility that bubbled to the surface during the TV program. He thinks that the Barbarians are a logical product of contemporary Montenegro. "[Montenegrins] grow up with pictures of war and its consequences, in an intolerant atmosphere. For them, violence has no alternative. The [Barbarians'] hatred is no different from the hatred that engulfs this society--their only sin is that they publicly express it," he wrote in his commentary for Monitor.
    ©Transitions Online

    26/11/2004- The former editor of one of Russia's best-known dailies, who was fired following his paper's coverage of the Beslan school siege, has said that media control in the country is comparable to Soviet times. Raf Shakirov, who ran the Izvestiya newspaper until his dismissal following what he claimed was pressure from the Kremlin, said that televison news was dedicated to propaganda designed to make Russia appear better. He said that Russian television news would show only positive stories about Russia, but very negative ones about events in the West. "They describe strikes in London, and lots of problems in Western countries," Mr Shakirov told BBC News. "Here, we have only successes. It is like in the Soviet Union. It would be very humorous if it wasn't so gloomy."

    'They needed blood'
    Mr Shakirov illustrated his point with an example of a gang whose arrest for the killing of 40 people in an urban district was announced on television. "The news told me they were arrested and punished," Mr Shakirov said. "But I didn't hear, for a year before that, stories about this gang terrorising the population. "That's the manner of the news presented." Mr Shakirov lost his job following Izvestiya's coverage of Beslan, which questioned the official casualty figures and ran full-page photos showing the carnage. He suggested state media had downplayed the crisis in Beslan. Mr Shakirov said that he had been dismissed from his post after Izvestiya received three phone calls from people highly placed in the Kremlin, including the deputy head of administration and the president's spokesman. "They told us that they need blood," Mr Shakirov said. "At the same time, I thought, 'what is the way out?' One way was to resist, to insist on our right to cover the events. But if I did this, all the team would be fired, as at NTV [where journalists who refused to accept changes to the TV station were fired in 2001]. "So I preferred to resign by myself." Mr Shakirov suggested that another example of the media's manipulation was the rise of Boris Yeltsin, who received massive support from state television station ORT - ironically run at the time by oligarch Boris Berezovsky, now living in exile in the UK and a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin. "If you work for Berezovsky, you are not a journalist, you are a politician, and you should work for a political team," Mr Shakirov said. "All the journalists who work for Berezovsky, their projects are part of the team of Berezovsky... "Mr Berezovsky has this electoral machine in the media... he put Russian television under control, and then started to use it for his own purposes." These purposes, Mr Shakirov said, had included competition with his enemies and running election campaigns. "The most prominent example in this case is Yeltsin's rise, which was organised by the media, by presenting his election campaign," Mr Shakirov said. "This instrument proved to be very effective. That's why these instruments change when the people in power change."

    Media control
    Mr Shakirov said that in Russia's media, oligarchs wanted "total control" and "professionals" like himself and other journalists were not required. "We are working in different spheres," he said. "Anyway, all of those who are engaged in this business are engaged in the business of politics." And he said that his dismissal from Izvestiya was another indication of media control by the country's government. "They didn't express any reaction to me," he said. "They influenced my owner, and told him that he needed to dismiss me." However he added that he did not think other editors in Russia's print media would be overly influenced by what had happened to him. And he said that he was hopeful what had happened would not be the end of his career. "I was lucky to survive two coups d'etat - in 1991, and under Yeltsin when he fired the Parliament," he said. "So I have seen worse times. I'm optimistic in nature. We will see."
    ©BBC News

    The antics of a disturbed neo-Nazi elicit shameful statements from a wide spectrum of Hungarian politicians.
    By Balint Molnar, political analyst and journalist based, alternately, in Ottawa and Budapest.

    26/11/ 2004- The brief but well-publicized moment of fame last month for a small band of neo-Nazis and their eccentric leader inadvertently ensured that a dark day in Hungarian history would this year be commemorated by mass anti-fascist demonstrations and not by a few dozen loudmouth skinheads. This is commendable. Less so is the sometimes insidious, sometimes boorish, but almost always abusive exploitation of the loaded issue of anti-Semitism by politicians on both sides of the hardened front lines.

    Anti-Semitism has a sadly distinguished political career in Hungary. And arguably, nowhere was that career more pointless and ghastly than at its very bloody end--after the 15 October 1944 Arrow Cross coup d'etat. The Arrow Cross and their "Nation Leader" Ferenc Szalasi came to power in a German-assisted takeover, and in the few months of their reign, their name became synonymous with brutality and depravity. Their ideology, "Hungarism," proved to be a recipe for national suicide. No one was pleased, then, when this summer, out of the blue, posters touting the rebirth of Hungarism appeared on the streets of Budapest. As the media descended on the story, the people behind the posters--a small and brazen collection of neo-Nazis called the Hungarian Future Group--shot to media stardom. Their leader, 26-year-old Diana Bacsfi, proved to be a notably rich character, clearly enjoying the media's attention and rewarding them with plenty of provocative sound-bites and photo-ops. To start with, Bacsfi turned out to be an intriguing personality. A noted young poet, she also had a career as a lecturer on philosophy and ancient cultures. She has said some chilling and disturbing things about what should happen to Jews and Roma--"They should be forced to work for pure Hungarians and then pushed out of the country or eliminated"--and what, she believed, never happened: namely, the Holocaust. Little wonder that she was all over the news for much of August and September. An across-the-board consensus quickly emerged that she was a deeply disturbed individual with extreme views and a surprising knack for publicity stunts but without any significant support. Nevertheless, Bacsfi still managed to send everyone concerned into panic simply by announcing her intention to commemorate the Arrow Cross coup's 60th anniversary with a rally in front of the Terror House Museum, a downtown Budapest attraction located in a building that once served as headquarters for the Arrow Cross and later for the early Communist-era secret police. At this early stage, it would have been relatively easy for both government and opposition to create a semblance of unity by an all-party statement deploring Hungarism and pledging to defend democracy from this and other dead-end ideologies.

    Cheapening the Currency
    By the time both finally stumbled their way to releasing such a statement, though, it was clear that the neo-Nazi rally would be averted thanks to some inventive administrative tools and an overzealous Bacsfi, who was arrested the day prior to the planned rally. The country watched instead as politicians jumped at each other's throats with their usual zeal. The opposition accused the government of not doing enough to stop the Hungarian Future Group rally and of allowing the extremist misfits to parade around town, expediently setting the scene for the government to raise the specter of an anti-Semitic-leaning opposition at a time when re-election, despite the recent dramatic switch of prime ministers, seems as remote as ever for the Socialist-led coalition. As the deputy chairman of the conservative Fidesz opposition party, Zoltan Pokorni, put it, "Bacsfi is a virtual elephant" helping the Socialists to paint their opponents in the least favorable light and plant fear in the heart of swing voters. Not so, fought back government notables, charging Fidesz with being doubly disingenuous: first for demanding police action to shut down a legitimate, therefore constitutionally protected, demonstration, even if it took what Justice Minister Peter Barandy described as "underhanded methods" that are "not worthy of a democracy"--such as the police practice of citing traffic concerns in denying permits for various political demonstrations. The second charge was that Fidesz was, mildly speaking, equivocal in condemning extremist views. How could Fidesz leaders demand swift government action against Bacsfi and her motley crew of fellow racists, when people like Pokorni were attending the 10-year anniversary party of the weekly Demokrata, a publication that veers regularly into the muddy waters of Holocaust-relativism, hailing the Arrow Cross as Europe's last defenders and worse? And what about party leader Viktor Orban's call to his voters to subscribe to this paper? Unfortunately for Hungarians, both sides have a point. Fidesz's shrewd and cynical innuendos playing on deeply-rooted stereotypes are well documented. Orban and Pokorni may not be anti-Semites, but they are callous politicians who do not shy away from references to "bankers" and "Bolsheviks"--code words for Jews in many listeners' ears--when speaking to a partisan crowd. On the other hand--and this is a more recent phenomenon--the Socialists are increasingly coming to see the issues of fascism and anti-Semitism as something that can galvanize their widest constituency against Fidesz. Their boorish manner of addressing these issues, however, seriously detracts from the force of their otherwise legitimate criticism, and even worse, it cheapens the currency.

    A Day to Forget
    Consider their inept and highly distasteful invocation of the Holocaust last April, on Holocaust Memorial Day, no less, in order to bury Fidesz deputy head Pal Schmitt. Following embarrassing leaks from a Socialist campaign training session where the party's Israeli campaign adviser Ron Werber whipped canvassers into frenzy by calling for war against "the fascist Fidesz," Schmitt called on Werber to leave the country. In his reaction, government spokesman Zoltan J. Gal said Schmitt's comments on an "Israeli citizen, on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day" were "repugnant," strongly implying that Schmitt's comments had something to do with anti-Semitism. This self-serving use of the Holocaust in a petty political spat elicited dismay among many liberals, who otherwise have little sympathy for Fidesz politicos. Signs are many that the Socialists latched on to Diana Bacsfi as a convenient distraction from the ongoing problems of the coalition. When freshly crowned Socialist Party chairman Istvan Hiller addressed the 10,000-plus crowd in front of the Terror House, it was hard to escape the feeling that he was already rehearsing for the elections set for the spring of 2006. Similarly, at their separate gathering on 15 October, Orban and Pokorni shrewdly played their cards yet again by laying their wreaths in commemoration of Gabor Sztehlo, an evangelical minister who saved Jews during the Arrow Cross terror, emphasizing not victims but those handful who tried to save them. In any event, the conspiracy theories being spun in right-wing papers and internet forums about Diana Bacsfi as a Socialist agent-provocateur are beyond the pale of reason. So is Orban's self-righteous indignation at being called out over his sleazy manipulation of the flame of anti-Semitism. But the Socialists would do well to consider at least the long-term damage they cause their good fight by crying wolf once too often on this sensitive issue.
    ©Transitions Online

    5/12/2004- Polls have closed in Hungary in a double referendum on citizenship rights and the health care system. Voters were asked whether to offer citizenship to about 5 million ethnic Hungarians living outside Hungary. They were also due to decide on whether to ban the privatisation of state health services. The vote was turned into a showdown between the socialist government, which has campaigned against both measures, and the conservative opposition. It has also stirred up powerful issues of identity, patriotism and economics, says the BBC's Nick Thorpe in Budapest.

    Legacy of war
    Opposition parties said extending citizenship rights would be an opportunity to reunite the nation without changing borders. Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory and a significant part of its population when its borders were redrawn after World War I and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Those campaigning for a no vote argued that hordes of ethnic Hungarians could invade the country seeking welfare payments and other privileges. In an interesting reversal of roles, the conservatives argued that further privatisation of the hospital system would increase the cost of health care and leave poorer patients unable to afford many services. The socialist-liberal coalition government said only private investment would bring in the necessary funds to improve services. At the moment, ethnic Hungarians from neighbouring Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine and Austria wait years to get Hungarian citizenship. The referendum would require parliament to pass laws making it much easier. Above all it would be a symbolic gesture of solidarity from the 10 million Hungarians inside the country to the millions outside, our correspondent says.
    ©BBC News

    3/12/2004- Hungarians are voting on Sunday in a highly controversial referendum to decide whether parliament should draft a law on giving Hungarian citizenship to ethnic Magyars living outside Hungary's borders. The governing Socialist-liberal coalition is opposed to it, on the grounds that it might encourage large numbers of Magyars from less prosperous neighbouring countries to settle in Hungary. That would add a huge burden in terms of welfare, health and education costs. According to opinion polls, the majority of Hungarians support the initiative. But it is by no means certain that a sufficient number will turn up to make the vote valid. And even a vote in favour of granting citizenship would leave it to parliament to work out the details of the actual legislation. Although the outcome of the referendum is surrounded by uncertainty, it has already led to a dispute between Hungary and neighbouring Romania.

    'Insane initiative'
    Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who is facing a second round of voting in his country's presidential race on 12 December, has denounced the Hungarian initiative as "insane", and has criticised several of its provisions. "The idea that citizenship can be granted to compact ethnic groups, the way one spreads chemical fertilisers over a field, is totally incompatible with the provisions of constitutional law," he said. "Citizenship is granted to individuals." Mr Nastase is in a difficult position. Although he is ahead of his centrist rival, Traian Basescu, after the first round of the presidential contest, he needs to get support from two very different political camps to ensure his victory. Romania's ethnic Hungarians, united behind their party, the Democratic Unions of Hungarians in Romania, gained 6% of the vote in Sunday's parliamentary elections. Their party has already declared that it will give its backing - as it has done over the past four years - to Mr Nastase's Social Democrats in their effort to form a new government.

    But the other political factor, the ultra-nationalist and strongly anti-Hungarian Greater Romania Party, gained twice as many votes as the ethnic Hungarians. Greater Romania is beyond the pale as far as possible coalitions are concerned because of firm opposition to it from the European Union. But a substantial section of its supporters is needed for Mr Nastase's election. That may explain why he has turned up the volume of his rhetoric. And he is not alone. His Foreign Minister, Mircea Geoana, who is expected to take over as prime minister at the head of an incoming Social Democrat-led government, has implied that there would be problems for Romania's ethnic Magyars if they accept Hungarian citizenship. His comments, in turn, have been criticised by a senior ethnic Hungarian politician, Senator Gyoergy Frunda. "Mr Geoana knows very well, I think, that the Romanian Constitution allows dual citizenship. And, according to [recently] adopted changes, it grants access to public offices to people who hold dual citizenship."

    EU entry
    But for now, Romania's ethnic Hungarians are trying, on the whole, to keep out of the row. They are in a strong position because whoever forms the next government in Bucharest will need their support - if Romania is to have a viable government and be able to join the EU, on schedule, in 2007. In the meantime, they are hoping that the referendum in Hungary will succeed; and that the Romanian government will come to terms with that. But it is unlikely that this Sunday's referendum will put an end to the various arguments. If it succeeds, parliament may water down its broad provisions. If it fails, the whole subject of Hungarian citizenship may be revived in future if a more nationalist government is elected.
    ©BBC News

    Inconclusive results from Sunday's parliamentary elections mean that Romania's future government may depend on a far-right party.

    29/11/2004- The ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) gained a wafer-thin lead over the opposition in Romania's general election on 28 November, but a hung parliament may yet emerge and the opposition is crying foul. Exit polls had predicted a much clearer lead. But Monday morning brought a rude awakening for the ex-communist PSD. Partial results announced early on 29 November and based on returns from around a third of polling stations gave the coalition formed by the PSD and the Humanistic Party (PUR) about 34 percent of the vote--just one point ahead of its strongest opponent, the centrist Justice and Truth (DA) Alliance, which consists of the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Democratic Party (PD). According to the preliminary results, the nationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM) received around 13 percent of the vote, while the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians (UDMR) got around 8 percent, easily clearing the 5-percent threshold needed to enter parliament. Both the PSD and the DA Alliance have ruled out forming a coalition with Greater Romania. The vote for president split along the same lines: The current prime minister, Adrian Nastase of the PSD, got around 38 percent and Traian Basescu of the DA Alliance around 35 percent, while PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor surprised most observers by winning around 12 percent. Nastase and Basescu will now face each other in a runoff on 12 December, and the outcome may depend on how PRM supporters cast their votes. Should a hung parliament emerge, the presidential contest will be watched even more closely, since the president could play an important role in resolving parliamentary deadlock.

    Who's the winner?
    Prime Minister Nastase announced immediately after the polls closed that the PSD had won the election and would start negotiations for a new government. "Romania has proved once again that it is a stable democracy and that everything we've done for the country in the last four years has been worthwhile," he said. He was buoyed by the results of two independent exit polls that put his PSD ahead by between 2 and 4 percentage points. The polls put his lead in the presidential ballot at 6 to 9 points. Basescu of the DA Alliance stressed around the same time that the results of exit polls could be treacherous. "No party obtained more than 50 percent, so no one earned the right to govern Romania by himself. The battle for Romania will be in the second round of the presidential elections," he said. This assessment was borne out when partial results were made public early Monday morning, narrowing the ex-communists' lead. The co-leader of the DA Alliance, Calin Popescu Tariceanu, said he was "worried by the numerous irregularities registered during the election process." These concerns were shared by the PRM. One of the party's vice presidents said, "I'm sure we have more votes in reality. We couldn't possibly have lost half of our constituency since 2000. There were a lot of strange things that made us think about fraud." The opposition is now talking about challenging the result.

    The Ukranian model?
    Several nongovernmental organizations--as well as opposition politicians--had warned about potential irregularities well before the election. "The fraud could be as high as 3 percent" of the vote, Cristian Parvulescu, president of the Pro Democratia association, told the press in mid-November. "In a tight race, this could determine the winner," he added. Parvulescu said the most popular methods of cheating were the "shuttle," where a voter receives more than one ballot, and "political tourism," which allows a voter to vote more than once, in different places. PSD representatives said at the time that such scenarios were just intended to prepare the ground for contesting the results along the Ukrainian model. Ukrainian opposition supporters and international observers accuse Ukrainian election authorities of widespread fraud in favor of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in the bitterly contested presidential election that has paralyzed the country for more than a week. While there have been reports of irregularities in Romania, they seem to be less widespread than some observers anticipated--but in such a closely contested election, even small numbers could determine the winner. "There were things out there that were troublesome, but it's hard to say whether they would tilt the elections," a senior Western diplomat told Reuters. There were reports that PSD voters were bused to districts in Bucharest, presumably to vote a second time. In Cluj county, some 400 kilometers northwest of the capital, one of Pro Democratia's observers was ejected from a polling station after pointing out that electoral posters were displayed near the station and that some people entered the voting booths in pairs--violations of electoral laws. A bag with 1,500 blank ballots disappeared from the Mangalia railway station on the Black Sea coast, as did dozens of voting stamps all over the country. Many voters also complained about the poor quality of the ballots themselves--some contained the same page twice or were incomplete, and some were simply falling apart.

    Higher math
    The list could go on, but observers say it's hard to believe such incidents could lead to a cancellation of the elections even at the local level. So the big question now is, who will form the government? Even once the votes of parties that haven't cleared the threshold for parliamentary representation are redistributed among the four parties that have, no clear majority is likely to emerge. The UDMR, which represents the ethnic Hungarian minority in Romania and has been a traditional partner of all governments since 1996, will most likely be unable to fill the role of kingmaker. That would leave that role to the far-right, nationalist PRM. Observers say the PRM might choose one of two tactics: either supporting the government in parliament without formally joining the ruling coalition, or entering into an alliance with the PSD and the PUR. Given the various statements made during the campaign, the former scenario looks more likely. Given the open hostility toward the PRM from both the European Union and the United States, either the PSD or the DA Alliance would probably first try to exhaust all other options--the main one being forming a government with the Hungarian party. It is also possible that a group of liberals who are opposed to Traian Basescu might support a PSD government. Some observers, including Robert Turcescu, editor in chief of the daily ***Cotidianul,*** even think that Basescu, should he win the presidency in the runoff, could use his constitutional prerogatives to designate a prime minister from his own DA Alliance. But others say such talk is premature. "The vote is tight and I believe we will know the future cabinet's structure [only] in a week or so," said Razvan Mitroi, head of the political department of the Antena 1 TV station.

    PSD on top
    The 2004 poll is the fifth since the end of the communist regime--but the first in which current President Ion Iliescu is not running. It is also the first presidential election for a five-year, rather than a four-year, term, following a change in the constitution. Iliescu has been the PSD's most important leader and spent three terms at Cotroceni Palace, the residence of the Romanian president. His most overwhelming victory was in 1990, when he got over 80 percent of the votes in the first round. In 1992 and 2000, he won second-round victories against the center-right Emil Constantinescu and the far-right Tudor, respectively. He lost the presidency only once, in 1996, to Constantinescu. Like its leader, Iliescu's party, which originated in the National Salvation Front that dominated the elections of 1990, has been the major force in Romanian politics for the 15 years since the fall of communism, going into opposition for only four years following its 1996 loss to the center-right Democratic Convention coalition.
    ©Transitions Online

    1/12/2004- Romania's electoral bureau has rejected an opposition demand for parliamentary and presidential elections last Sunday to be annulled amid voter fraud claims. The request was made by Traian Basescu, head of the Justice and Truth Alliance, who alleged that election authorities handed extra votes to his opponent. Official results gave a narrow lead to the governing Social Democrats in both the polls. European election observers have expressed concern over possible fraud. The president of the electoral bureau, Emil Ghergut, admitted that there had been mistakes in the counting of spoilt ballots. However, he said that all errors had been corrected and that the results of the election should stand. The electoral bureau voted 21 to five to reject the opposition demand. Speaking on Tuesday, centrist party leader Mr Basescu said that malpractice at Romania's Central Election Bureau gave around 160,000 extra votes to Adrian Nastase, the current Romanian prime minister. With most votes counted, Mr Basescu's party trailed Mr Nastase by around 470,000 votes.

    'Sore loser'
    The challenger, who is currently mayor of Bucharest, also repeated claims made over the weekend that government supporters had been bussed between multiple voting stations in an organised fraud. "We have no doubt this is fraud, [and] we want the immediate dismissal of election authorities," Mr Basescu said. The vice-president of the Social Democrats (PSD), Miron Mitrea, insisted the election was fair. "The elections were proper, despite some questionable practices," he said, quoted by the AFP news agency. "There are some politicians who are sore losers and Traian Basescu is one of them," he added. Final results in the parliamentary election, the source of most disputes, are expected on Wednesday evening. "I am no longer [just] fighting for the presidency, but to restore democracy in Romania," he said.

    Observers' doubts
    Suspicion has focused on the introduction of a computerised electoral roll system for voters. An expensive EU plan to introduce "foolproof" voting cards was suspended by the Romanian government before the election. Instead, voters were allowed to vote at any polling station across the country. Mr Basescu and observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) both claimed the system was vulnerable to manipulation. The electoral register of 18 million names - out of a total population of some 22 million - was declared suspect as concern mounted over the result. The OSCE has said the vote appeared to be "professionally and efficiently organised" but officials have said they have not received an explanation for the use of a centralised electoral roll. Stephen Nash, head of the OSCE mission to Romania, told the Associated Press: "In the context of a closely contested election, this has the potential to affect public confidence." He urged that any allegations should be dealt with through "appropriate administrative and judicial processes."
    ©BBC News

    THE REVOLUTION TELEVISED(Ukraine, comment)
    The western media's view of Ukraine's election is hopelessly biased
    By By John Laughland, trustee of www.oscewatch.org and an associate of www.sandersresearch.com

    27/11/2004- There was a time when the left was in favour of revolution, while the right stood unambiguously for the authority of the state. Not any more. This week both the anti-war Independent and the pro-war Telegraph excitedly announced a "revolution" in Ukraine. Across the pond, the rightwing Washington Times welcomed "the people versus the power". Whether it is Albania in 1997, Serbia in 2000, Georgia last November or Ukraine now, our media regularly peddle the same fairy tale about how youthful demonstrators manage to bring down an authoritarian regime, simply by attending a rock concert in a central square. Two million anti-war demonstrators can stream though the streets of London and be politically ignored, but a few tens of thousands in central Kiev are proclaimed to be "the people", while the Ukrainian police, courts and governmental institutions are discounted as instruments of oppression. The western imagination is now so gripped by its own mythology of popular revolution that we have become dangerously tolerant of blatant double standards in media reporting. Enormous rallies have been held in Kiev in support of the prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich, but they are not shown on our TV screens: if their existence is admitted, Yanukovich supporters are denigrated as having been "bussed in". The demonstrations in favour of Viktor Yushchenko have laser lights, plasma screens, sophisticated sound systems, rock concerts, tents to camp in and huge quantities of orange clothing; yet we happily dupe ourselves that they are spontaneous.

    Or again, we are told that a 96% turnout in Donetsk, the home town of Viktor Yanukovich, is proof of electoral fraud. But apparently turnouts of over 80% in areas which support Viktor Yushchenko are not. Nor are actual scores for Yushchenko of well over 90% in three regions, which Yanukovich achieved only in two. And whereas Yanukovich's final official score was 54%, the western-backed president of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, officially polled 96.24% of the vote in his country in January. The observers who now denounce the Ukrainian election welcomed that result in Georgia, saying that it "brought the country closer to meeting international standards". The blindness extends even to the posters which the "pro-democracy" group, Pora, has plastered all over Ukraine, depicting a jackboot crushing a beetle, an allegory of what Pora wants to do to its opponents. Such dehumanisation of enemies has well-known antecedents - not least in Nazi-occupied Ukraine itself, when pre-emptive war was waged against the Red Plague emanating from Moscow - yet these posters have passed without comment. Pora continues to be presented as an innocent band of students having fun in spite of the fact that - like its sister organisations in Serbia and Georgia, Otpor and Kmara - Pora is an organisation created and financed by Washington. It gets worse. Plunging into the crowd of Yushchenko supporters in Independence Square after the first round of the election, I met two members of Una-Unso, a neo-Nazi party whose emblem is a swastika. They were unembarrassed about their allegiance, perhaps because last year Yushchenko and his allies stood up for the Socialist party newspaper, Silski Visti, after it ran an anti-semitic article claiming that Jews had invaded Ukraine alongside the Wehrmacht in 1941. On September 19 2004, Yushchenko's ally, Alexander Moroz, told JTA-Global Jewish News: "I have defended Silski Visti and will continue to do so. I personally think the argument ... citing 400,000 Jews in the SS is incorrect, but I am not in a position to know all the facts." Yushchenko, Moroz and their oligarch ally, Yulia Tymoshenko, meanwhile, cited a court order closing the paper as evidence of the government's desire to muzzle the media. In any other country, support for antisemites would be shocking; in this case, our media do not even mention it.

    Voters in Britain and the US have witnessed their governments lying brazenly about Iraq for over a year in the run-up to war, and with impunity. This is an enormous dysfunction in our own so-called democratic system. Our tendency to paint political fantasies on to countries such as Ukraine which are tabula rasa for us, and to present the west as a fairy godmother swooping in to save the day, is not only a way to salve a guilty conscience about our own political shortcomings; it also blinds us to the reality of continued brazen western intervention in the democratic politics of other countries.
    ©The Guardian

    26/11/2004- Germany's first professor for Islamic religion has criticised talk of an alleged Islamist threat in the country amid increasing political calls for foreigners to do more to integrate themselves into German society. Muhammad Sven Kalisch, professor for the religion of Islam at the University of Muenster, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa he was concerned that the difference between Islam and the western world "is being so exaggerated in the way it is now". Kalisch said if minorities cut themselves off from society "or are perceived to be cut off" it leads to mistrust. The Turkish ambassador in Berlin, Mehmet Ali Irtemcelik, also warned against Muslims being "unjustly placed in the dock". He told Focus news magazine to appear Monday that the Islamist issue was being "irresponsibly exaggerated". Only 3 to 4 percent of Turks living in Germany could be counted as Islamist, he said. The comments come amid warnings of an Islamic "parallel culture" in Germany in a debate which has been sparked by violence in the Netherlands following the killing of Islam-critical film director Theo van Gogh. In remarks to be delivered later Saturday, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder appealed on the country's 3.4 million Muslims to assimilate themselves better into German society. Schroeder said the wave of violence in the Netherlands and a firebombing at a mosque in Germany show there must be no "parallel cultures" in predominately secular and Christian Germany. "There can be no room for either lawlessness nor for parallel cultures in our society," he said in the speech to be delivered during ceremonies at Berlin's Jewish Museum honouring former German President Johannes Rau. "I call on Muslims in Germany to make greater strides in assimilating themselves into German society more fully," Schroeder said.

    Centre-right politicians have been making similar calls, with Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber telling the Christian Social Union (CSU) party congress in Munich Saturday that Christian values had to be defended. "Yes to openness and tolerance, no to Islamic headscarves," he said. Last week lawmakers in Bavaria passed legislation barring Muslim teachers from wearing headscarves at publicly-funded schools. Stoiber said immigrants should have to "declare their support for Germany and its basic values" and accept that Germany was a Christian country. The CSU congress agreed unanimously to support moves to cut welfare benefits for foreigners who were not willing to be integrated. Joerg Schoenbohm, the Christian Democrat Union (CDU) interior minister of Brandenburg state, meanwhile accused some foreigners in Germany of "forming ghettoes because they despise us Germans". Schoenbohm told Der Spiegel news magazine that foreigners in Germany should accept Germany's defining culture. "We shouldn't allow this common ground to be destroyed by foreigners," he said. In the debate on integration, opposition conservatives have been calling on all immigrants to be compelled to learn German. There have also been demands for a ban on preaching in mosques in any language other than German. Last week, Schroeder's Greens coalition partner called for establishing a Muslim public holiday in Germany as a reaction to violence in the Netherlands. Both Germany's Greens Environment Minister, Juergen Trittin, and the deputy chairman of the Greens in parliament, Hans-Christian Stroebele backed the move. But the proposal was roundly attacked by the opposition. Guenther Beckstein, the Bavarian interior minister, said it proved the Greens could not let go of their "starry-eyed" dream of a multi-cultural society which has long since "failed".
    ©Expatica News

    29/11/2004- In Europe's largest member state, a strong debate is taking place about the integration of Muslims and Islam into society. German interior minister Otto Schily told this week's edition of news magazine Der Spiegel that his long-term goal is that Muslims in Germany accept a 'European Islam' - which respects the vales of Enlightenment and stands up for the rights of women. An intellectual-political examination of Islam is part of a programme that he wants to press ahead with for the integration of immigrants, Mr Schily told the magazine. He said that the Germany's regions should be more rigorous about the possibility of deportation when integration efforts fail. "They have to make more use of being able to deport hate preachers and similar figures than they have up to now", said Mr Schily. Germany's opposition Christian Democrats are also pushing for more discussion about German patriotism. According to German daily Handelsblatt, the CDU leader of Hessen, Roland Koch, said that the CDU should become the party "that safeguards German interests". Edmund Stoiber, leader of the CDU's sister party in Bavaria, the CSU, told the tabloid Bild am Sonntag that everyone who lives in Germany must respect the values there. "I can imagine that every foreigner who wants to become German swears an oath to our Constitution - something that is quite normal in many other countries", said the Bavarian leader. "Whoever comes to us and after two, three years is not prepared to speak German, cannot become a German [citizen]", said Mr Koch to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. The CDU wants to see a debate on patriotism at its party day in a little over a week.

    29/11/2004- German employers and trade union leaders have joined forces to call for more to be done by politicians to improve the social integration of foreigners living in the country. The appeal comes amid a continuing debate on immigration in which politicians of the centre and right have been demanding more effort from Muslims and other foreigners in Germany to adapt to the German way of life. But employers' federation president Dieter Hundt and trade union federation chairman Michael Sommer said in a joint statement issued on Sunday it was up to politicians to create the conditions for a society "which offers room for different cultural identities and development opportunities". Hundt and Sommer said Germany had to succeed in giving everybody the opportunity of taking part in social, economic, cultural and political life irrespective of their origin and "with respect for cultural variety". It was also important that foreigners who had been living in Germany for a long time be given security of residency rather than have to renew short-term residence permits. Politicians have been warning of an Islamic "parallel culture" in Germany in a debate which has been sparked by violence in the Netherlands following the killing of Islam-critical film director Theo van Gogh. Last week, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder appealed on the country's 3.4 million Muslims to assimilate themselves better into German society. And just a few days later, former chancellor Helmut Schmidt said it had been a mistake to allow immigration in remarks which were heavily criticised by representatives of Germany's 2 million Turks, Germany's biggest ethic minority. The Social Democrat also attacked the idea of multiculturalism, saying it did not work in a democracy. "Multicultural societies have only ... functioned peacefully in authoritarian states. To that extent it was a mistake for us to bring guest workers from foreign cultures into the country at the beginning of the 1960s," Schmidt said. On Sunday, centre-right political leaders kept up their demands for foreigners in Germany to adopt the German way of life. The Sunday newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung said Christian Democrat (CDU) leader Angela Merkel was calling for a "patriotism debate", saying Germany's "power and public spirit" did not evolve "from the sum of individual interests but from a clear declaration to the nation and responsibility to the whole". Edmund Stoiber, the Bavarian premier who leads the CDU sister party CSU, told Bild am Sonntag newspaper foreigners applying for a German passport should have to swear an oath to the German constitution. All foreign children should be made to attend a German school, he said. Brandenburg state's CDU interior minister Joerg Schoenbohm called for "foreigner quotas" in city districts, schools and nurseries. Last week, Schoenbohm said foreigners in Germany should accept Germany's defining culture, saying "we shouldn't allow this common ground to be destroyed by foreigners". However politicians from the coalition SPD and Greens accused the centre-right of abusing the debate on extremism and terrorism. "Integration of the foreigners living in Germany has got nothing to do with international extremism and terrorism," SPD chairman Franz Muenterfering told Die Welt newspaper. "We want integration. We are a country of immigration," he said Greens chairman Claudia Roth accused the CDU/CSU of "preaching panic".
    ©Expatica News

    29/11/2004- Seeking to end debate within his own party, the head of a rightwing political party in Germany has vowed never to enter into an alliance with what he called "extremist scum" in the radical far right spectrum. Addressing delegates to a convention of his rightwing Republican Party, national chairman Rolf Schlierer dismissed talk of an alliance with the far-right National Party of Germany (NPD) and the even more radical German People‘s Union (DVU). In a keynote address, he said both of those parties were comprised of "extremist scum who have a political philosophy diametrically opposed to that of the Republican Party". Seeking to dispel efforts to create a rightwing alliance, he added, "We do not intend to traverse this path - the way of street battles and torchlight processions that brought such ignominy upon our nation in the 20th Century." Stating that the Republican Party stands for democracy, he went on, "We cannot work with these extremist scum who openly deride democracy."
    ©Expatica News

    30/11/2004- An ethnic Turkish member of Germany's ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) sharply crticised remarks by former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt last week calling the immigration of people from "alien cultures" a mistake. Lale Akgun, who is the SPD's expert on Islamic issues, expressed her "deep mortification" at Schmidt's comments made to the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper and called them a "fatal political signal". "I came to Germany in 1962 and today I am 51 years old," she wrote in an open letter. "I belong to those people whom you would now retroactively deny their legitimacy to live here in Germany when you call it a 'mistake' that to have brought in people 'from alien cultures'," she added. Akgun, who has a doctorate in psychology, said "I feel deep mortification" at Schmidt's comments. She also said his remarks were also mortifying "not only to the life accomplishments of the migrants of the first generation who worked hard, but were also a fatal political signal". Akgun said the question is now no longer one about whether immigration was right or wrong, "since what were talking about now is 50 years of the history of Germany, the joint history of Germans and immigrants". She said it might be that there remained a lot to be improved regarding the social integration of many youths in today's third generation. But she also pointed out that many immigrants could point to having succeeded in the university and in their professions. Akgun's open letter comes amid the controversy stirred by Schmidt's interview remarks the previous week in the Abendblatt, when the 85-year-old former SPD leader said it had been a mistake to allow immigration and also attacked the idea of multiculturalism. He also focussed on Germans' inability to cope with other cultures.
    ©Expatica News

    30/11/2004- Decades of consensus about a multicultural society have been thrown into question recently as leading German politicians suggest that minorities living in the country need to do more to fit in. "The notion of multiculturalism has fallen apart," said opposition conservative leader Angela Merkel in a recent interview. "Anyone coming here must respect our constitution and tolerate our Western and Christian roots." It was just one of a chorus of voices, from left and right, among politicians and the media. The debate centres largely around the three million-strong Muslim community - mostly Turkish, with Bosnians making up the next largest group, followed by people of Arab origin. It was sparked by the killing of Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh, and subsequent attacks in the Netherlands on Muslim and Christian sites. Fears that something similar could happen in Germany were fanned by a TV broadcast in which a secret recording caught an imam telling worshippers that Germans would "burn in hell" because they were unbelievers. This has been followed by a raft of new proposals for better integration of the Muslim community, against a backdrop of fears that Muslims in Germany inhabit a "parallel society" centred around mosques infiltrated by "hate preachers". "A democracy cannot tolerate lawless zones or parallel societies," declared Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. "Immigrants must respect our laws and acknowledge our democratic ways of doing things." Another politician suggested it should be compulsory for imams to preach in German, and sections of the media have judged that the debate marks the end of multiculturalism. "It's a quite frank debate on what we Germans expect of those people coming to us as immigrants," says Nikolaus Blome, commentator with Die Welt newspaper. "If multiculturalism means that it's OK for 30,000 Turks to live in a certain quarter of Berlin, and never leave, and live like they're still in deepest Turkey, then the term is now discredited."

    Mood shift
    The debate shows a marked swing in the atmosphere in Germany. Four years ago, a conservative politician was attacked from all sides for suggesting the country has a Leitkultur or "leading culture". As this previously unacceptable term resurfaced, former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt caused further furore by suggesting that the decision to invite "guest workers" to Germany in the 1960s had been a mistake. Poor command of the German language among Muslims has been singled out for particular criticism. When tens of thousands of Muslims took part in a protest against terrorism in Cologne recently, the German politicians who addressed the crowd gave them a blunt message: "Learn German." A new immigration law which takes force from 1 January contains compulsory language and civic lessons for new arrivals, but critics point out there is nothing for people from ethnic minorities who are already here.

    No help
    Erol Ozkaraca lives in the Berlin district of Reinickendorf, where the population is a mix of Germans, Turks and people from the former Soviet Union. Switching off the Turkish TV channel broadcasting into his living room, and taking a contemplative drag on his cigarette, he declares: "Germany has never been a multicultural society. The concept of multi-culturalism was never given a chance here." Mr Ozkaraca, a lawyer by profession, was born in Hamburg. His father came to Germany as a student in 1949, long before the "guest workers". "These politicians say: They don't speak German, they don't want to be part of German society, and they have their own structures. But I ask: Where are the courses where we can learn German? Where is the help to integrate us, to show - you are welcome and we want you here?"
    ©BBC News

    29/11/2004- Spanish police have arrested 19 neo-Nazis for attacking a man for being "dirty". The 30-year-old victim, who is black, was beaten-up in Madrid on Friday. He has had to have surgery for his injuries. He had a broken jaw and serious cuts to his lips and bruises all over his body. It was not clear if he had been attacked because of the colour of his skin or the way he dressed. Twelve of those arrested were teenagers under 18, police sources said. Among the gang were also four girls. Many were wearing neo-Nazi insignia. Some were found with military-style knives and sprays. A magistrate ordered all members of the gang to be held in custody. The police operation comes amid rising concern about racism in Spain following the racist chants made towards black England players at a friendly match with Spain on 17 November.
    ©Expatica News

    2/12/2004- Spain has confirmed press reports that their intelligence agents in Sierra Leone were watching a ship suspected of being used to smuggle illegal immigrants to Europe, and expressed annoyance that the information had been made public. The reports said that for three weeks Spanish spies had been keeping tabs on the unnamed ship anchored at Freetown on suspicion that the crew were planning to take between 500 and 1,000 people to Spain's Canary Islands. Confirming the reports, the Spanish interior ministry condemned the publication of "confidential information that could endanger an operation", adding that there was as yet no indication that the ship was due to depart or that it was carrying illegal immigrants. The Spanish daily El Pais said that the Spanish foreign ministry had asked a number of West African countries, including Cape Verde, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Senegal as well as Sierra Leone, to be on the lookout for people being picked up off their coasts by the vessel concerned. In August the Canary Islands governor, Jose Segura, said a ship was intercepted as it was about to leave the Sierra Leonean capital Freetown with 500 clandestine immigrants for the Spanish archipelago lying off northwest Africa, and the vessel's captain and crew detained. The interception of the ship, the Hollgan Star, was the result of a two-month investigation by security officials in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Spain, Segura said, hinting that further smuggling attempts were being planned. "Several old ships that are being repaired for use to smuggle migrants have been detected in different parts of western Africa," he added. The would-be illegal immigrants pay people-traffickers between EUR 1,200-2,025 each for the voyage, he said. On 15 October another ship, the MV Polar carrying 176 people, was boarded off the Canaries, seen as a back door to the European Union. The use of larger cargo ships coming from the Gulf of Guinea is news, Segura said. In the past smugglers have mainly used smaller vessels and operated off the coast of Morocco, much closer to Spain. Segura speculated that migrant traffickers had adopted this new strategy after enhanced cooperation between Spain and Morocco in cracking down on immigrant smuggling. Segura said organised groups "spot an old, abandoned ship, they offer to buy or rent it from the owner, and then do inexpensive repairs." More than 11,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended in Spanish waters around the Canaries and in the Straits of Gibraltar between January and the end of September, according to official figures. There is no official estimate of how many have arrived in Spain without being detected and many immigrants die at sea -- often by drowning – before reaching coveted Europe and better opportunities than at home.
    link beschrijving

    29/11/2004- Almost two out of five Metropolitan police officers failed a secret Scotland Yard "mystery shopper" test of their attitude to complaints about racism, the Guardian has learned. Officers posing as members of the public went to police stations all over London to make complaints about alleged racist behaviour by police. In nearly 40% of cases, the complainants were fobbed off and ignored. Senior Scotland Yard sources say the storyline involved claims that officers were being racially abusive. One complainant was allegedly told told not to be silly as "police officers don't behave like that". It is an embarrassing failure rate given the culture change police chiefs have sought since accusations of institutional racism arising from the inquiry into the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence. A Scotland Yard spokeswoman admitted: "We would expect a significantly higher percentage of these complaints being recorded." But a spokeswoman for the Met's Directorate of Professional Standards, which carried out the exercise, said the figures were well up on a similar test in 2002, when only 15% of complaints were recorded, compared with 60% this time. She refused to discuss the test scenarios or reveal which police stations were targeted, but said the exercise was thorough and detailed. No officer will face disciplinary action. "Initial findings seemed encouraging. Also, this time around we were testing a new and unfamiliar part of the complaints procedure," she added. "Following the results of the tests, a number of measures are currently under way to improve the knowledge police officers and staff have of the new complaints procedures. "These include face-to-face briefings, the setting up of an advice and guidance phone line and the roll-out of an internal publicity campaign." The tests were designed to check how staff were responding to new legislation which allows for third-party reporting, where the complainant witnesses an incident but is not the victim. The measures came into force in April when the Independent Police Complaints Commission was launched. The IPCC says forces had plenty of time to inform and train officers. An IPCC spokesman said: "We are very concerned if complaints are not being properly recorded. If anyone is faced with this situation they can appeal to the IPCC. They can call us on a low-cost number: 08453 002 002." The Met's Independent Advisory Group was not told of the test or its result, nor has it been asked for any comments on measures designed to remedy the failures highlighted. John Azah, the IAG chair, said: "While we would not necessarily have expected to have been consulted before the test, we are disappointed we were not informed afterwards and given the results." Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick, who oversees changes in how complaints are dealt with at police stations, said: "On reflection, it might have been a good idea to have informed the IAG."
    ©The Guardian

    30/11/2004- Tough powers allowing local authorities to force travellers off unauthorised sites were announced by the Government yesterday. The "temporary stop" notices will allow councils to remove unauthorised development or building work from a site and move on caravans. If travellers refuse, they can be taken before a magistrate, who can impose daily fines. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister also moved to increase support for legitimate sites, announcing that councils could apply for grants to cover the cost of residential sites. The Conservatives said the proposals were too little too late, while the Local Government Association (LGA) warned they may prove ineffective. Keith Hill, the planning minister, said: "We have made changes to the temporary stop notices so that local councils can not only stop an unauthorised site from growing, but they can require the removal of existing caravans." He added: "Local councils have asked us to empower them to deal with this problem so that's exactly what we are doing. This is a two-way process; we want to see councils taking a more proactive approach to delivering authorised sites." Ministers said houses and other permanent dwellings would be exempt from the new orders. Phillip Hammond, the Tories' local government spokesman, said the Conservatives would "if necessary, amend human rights legislation, so that it cannot be used to frustrate enforcement of the law". Chloe Lambert, the deputy chairman of the LGA, said: "Determined action by those intent on developing on land without planning permission could undermine any so-called additional powers. A clear message from a meeting we held today with our members to discuss the issue is that local authorities need stronger enforcement powers." Yesterday's announcement follows warnings that a "campaign of hatred" against travellers in some parts of the media could provoke violence.
    © Independent Digital

    Turn round the questions asked of black people and you may get the point
    By Gary Younge (chaired last week's Young, Muslim and British debate organised by the Guardian)

    1/12/2004- Sometimes it takes so long to figure out what's wrong with a question that you never quite get to the answer. At the forum on being British and Muslim organised by the Guardian last week, participants argued that some of the questions and issues being raised would never be put to white Christians, for example. These included: "do you have a duty to vote and/or participate in British political life?"; "do you have a responsibility to inform on political or religious groups who use violence to achieve political ends?"; and "do you want integration into British society or parallel lives? Why?" The reluctance to confront these particular questions didn't stifle debate, but it raises broader issue of how and when to withdraw from problematic dialogues.

    Sometimes, though not in this forum, questions can be so pregnant with assumptions that they are, arguably, better left unanswered. Not because they do not relate to important issues, but because they are so loaded with prejudice and crippled by ignorance, thoughtless in tone and reckless in content, that the manner in which they are put renders them incapable of addressing important issues. To engage with them would be to legitimise their bias. This is not an issue confined to race or religion. The victors in every battle do not just write history (and then rewrite it continually until the vanquished have either been disappeared or demonised beyond all recognition), they also frame the terms of reference for the present. Questions, and those who pose them, are never neutral, but are both informed and misinformed by the received wisdom of place and time. Nobody ever asks: "when did you first realise you were straight?" or "how do you balance fatherhood and work?" One day, hopefully, they might. But in the meantime some identities will be subject to relentless examination, while others coast by with eternal presumption. Those who ask the questions of others without interrogating themselves are effectively saying: this is our world, you're just living in it. So we inquire in our own image with all the limitations and prejudices implied. The point is not that we should ask tough questions of others - our best and only hope is that we all keep talking. But if you want a substantial answer, you must ask a substantial question. The respondent may meet you half way, but if the person asking the questions hasn't moved an inch, half of nothing will not take either of them very far.

    One of the most distinguished members of the panel at the Guardian forum, academic Tariq Ramadan, argued that turning their backs on the court of British public opinion, like a republican detainee before a Diplock judge, was not an option for British Muslims. "Just because they are not asking others does not mean that the question is not legitimate," he said. "You cannot get rid of perceptions by saying that your question is wrong. It's like saying to someone who says to you 'I'm scared. I feel that you are a threat to this society'. And you say 'No, It's not good to be scared'. If I am scared, I am scared. Now try to help me to put it in another way." Mr Ramadan has a point. If you are interested in conversing with the world around you, then you cannot simply ask people to change the subject every time a subject you do not like comes up. Such pre-emptive defensiveness stands little chance of winning over potential support and shows every sign of a lack of confidence in your ability to make yourself understood. We cannot choose the terrain on which these battles are fought; nor can we dictate the rules. These are subject to negotiation. But the reason some people get defensive is because they feel that they are forever being attacked. It's true that we have to work with what we've got. But sometimes the material we are given to work with seems so lame that I am tempted to take a day off. Before there can be negotiation there must first be goodwill - the desire to fill in the gaps of knowledge and perspective. A good question does not seek agreement but engagement; a point of contact; the recognition of at least the shred of commonality with the questioned. Without that, all we are left with is full-scale interrogation - the hostile questioning of the prosecution counsel: less of a conversation than a trial by presumption.

    It's time to flip the script, to lay bare just a hint of the assuming subconscious that infects the most common questions I have either been asked or heard. To ask the kind of questions of white, British people (some are just for Christians) that they often pose to "others" but are never asked themselves. I didn't make these up because I wouldn't know where to start. This is my world. For the next 500 words, you're just living in it. Do you think of yourself as white or British or both? Does it worry you that you got your job just because of your race? Where are you from? No, but really? Since this is where you live, don't you think you should try and integrate with other races more? Is your first loyalty to your God, or to your country? Is it true what they say about white guys? Given the genocide, slavery and colonialism unleashed in the name of Christianity over the last two centuries, do you feel your religion is compatible with democracy? Mr Grant, do you think of yourself as a white actor or an actor who happens to be white? I don't mind white people, but if they want to live here then why shouldn't they have to fit in with our traditions? Shouldn't the police be doing more to tackle white-on-white crime? Given the objectification of women in your culture and the rise in teenage pregnancies, don't you think it's time to ban young girls wearing make up? What do you make of the tribal conflict in Ukraine? I thought you asked for flesh-coloured tights? Don't you feel that this politically correct belief that we have to respect white people's feelings has stifled honest discussion and debate? Isn't it a shame that white people cannot pick more responsible leaders? What do you mean, you can't Morris dance? Don't you ever worry about being pigeonholed as a white person? Why aren't you doing more to check the rise in Christian fundamentalism? Who are your community leaders? Why should we balance our belief in human rights with our tolerance for Christians? What do white people think about Jews? How would you define "white" style? Mr Amis, why do you write about white people all the time? Don't you find that limiting? What are you doing for your people? Have you seen what the Bible says about women? Are you the token white guy? Don't take this personally, but why are white men so aggressive? Now the Olympics are over, can we finally admit that white people are genetically equipped to excel in archery and rowing? What is it with white people and homophobia? You know what white women are like, don't you? I understand that as a white person you come at this from a particular place, but can't you try to look at it objectively for a moment? Why do you people have such a chip on your shoulder? Don't get offended, I was only asking.
    ©The Guardian

    The application of standards to asylum seekers which are less than those expected by other residents is an abuse in itself

    30/11/2004- Speaking at a dinner at Kensington & Chelsea on 30 November Keith Best, Chief Executive of IAS, said that even in the most sophisticated democracies there lurks the potential abuse of power by Government collectively or by individuals. "Many years ago the late Lord Hailsham described it as "elective dictatorship". When a Government has a large majority and there is a weak Opposition there remain few Parliamentary checks and balances. If it is alleged that a Minister has abused his power, and the Ministerial Code of Conduct is very specific about how to avoid conflict between personal interests and public duties, there is no mechanism whereby this can be investigated in a disinterested way. There is no automaticity in the nature and extent of an investigation. Sir Alistair Graham, the Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, has expressed dissatisfaction with the ad hoc way in which Sir Alan Budd was appointed to investigate the Home Secretary and has suggested that at the beginning of every Parliament specific individuals should be appointed for that purpose. For the public to have confidence that there will be no perception of whitewash it is essential that the Government is not seen to be judge and jury in its own cause. That means an independent body not only investigating but also setting the parameters of the investigation into allegations of abuse of power. Such investigations need to be quasi-judicial with evidence taken in a recognised way and made publicly available other than for reasons of national security.

    "There remains the traditional check on excess executive action, namely the courts applying the law. As the Ukraine is discovering at the present time when politics fails the courts are the final bastion of a civilised society to prevent people turning to violence to resolve their differences. In the comfort of the modern day we should never forget that our Parliamentary system is a direct alternative to settling our disputes on the battlefield: you only have to see the sword-lines in the House of Commons to realise that. The Human Rights Act and the courts have been given a bad press, not least by Ministers who feel thwarted by them. The Home Secretary has been found by the courts to have acted unlawfully in immigration matters so many times that the answer could be obtained only at disproportionate cost: asked in a Parliamentary Written Question (no. 808 on 7 September 2004).

    "The value of human rights and the law generally is its universality ­ that they should apply equally to all people, as should any rules of society. The alternative leads to abuse and discrimination of excluded groups which, logically extended, leads to the appalling obscenities of the last century. Yet we have seen in asylum policy that discrimination and exclusion from standards that you and I expect as our right. It started with removal of benefits and denial of work putting individuals and families in danger of destitution (which effectively was overturned by the courts as being incompatible with our obligations under human rights), then we had vouchers which were as good as a label around the neck in a supermarket queue, the denial of in-country rights of appeal which is an effective denial of justice as well as other matters culminating in the criminalisation of new arrivals enshrined in the latest legislation. All this, of course, is against a backdrop of some of the most prejudiced and pejorative press comments we have ever seen and ignorant statements from Ministers such as the Leader of the House who should know better.

    "What is salutary is that the only checks on such abuse has been the decisions of the courts, before the Government then legislates to overcome those checks, rather than political and public outrage. What is demeaning for the Government and our country is the fact that it has stood in the dock of subjecting people to inhuman and degrading treatment. That besmirches us all. We must all wake up and be vigilant about abuse of power. Now they are coming for the asylum seekers but when will they come for us in further denial of civil liberties in the name of greater security? Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to relive them. Some of you may have seen the recent television programme "Who do you think you are?" in which David Baddiel went in search of the memory of his relatives who had escaped from Nazi Germany. Being enemy aliens, however, they were put behind barbed wire (rather like the American Japanese were on Ellis Island). In some matters our civilisation has not advanced very far.
    Immigration Advisory Service

    The Sunday Herald watches as extremist party gathers to spread racism in an area stunned by killing
    By Neil Mackay, Investigations Editor

    5/12/2004- It's a dreary Saturday afternoon on Glasgow's Paisley Road West. The only colour around comes from the array of tattered Union Jacks fluttering outside a few local pubs. Down the road, in the bar of The Swallow Hotel, just over 100 people – mostly men – are finishing their pints and their cigarettes and passing through an ad hoc security cordon to get inside one of the conference rooms. After a sweep with a metal detector by the burly security guards, they take their seats. On the walls there are Union Jacks, Saltires and banners promising a better life for the Scottish people. This is the BNP's Scottish end of year rally, held at what is a difficult time for Glasgow's southside. The area is still scarred by the brutal, racially motivated murder of Kriss Donald, the teenager from Glasgow's Pollokshields area who was killed by an Asian gang which set out to abduct and kill a white youth. To most people in Scotland – both whites and ethnic minorities – the BNP's actions are contemptible. Many feel the party is exploiting a tragic death for political capital. They also see the very presence of Nick Griffin, the BNP's controversial leader, at the rally as enough to undermine any attempt to build racial harmony in Pollokshields. There are those who argue that to give the party any publicity encourages the politics of hate. Others, however, believe that ignoring the BNP takes away the spotlight of scrutiny. Although the BNP say the rally is a belated nod to St Andrew's Day, the prospect of racial tensions in the area is obviously very much on their minds. When Nick Griffin was asked if he was using Kriss's murder for politically opportunistic ends, he replied: "Suppose the last piece of manufacturing industry closed on the Clyde next week. The SNP or the Conservative party would be there saying, ‘This is a bad thing.' "All political parties – when an event is happening which pertains to their core issues – are going to talk about it."

    The BNP's central message is that multiculturalism doesn't work and immigration should be reversed. The party believes Kriss's murder is evidence of that. "Far from racism being something evil that only exists when people like me stir it up, it is a fundamental part of being human," says Griffin. "So when you get different groups side by side in a place that is, by Western standards, quite poor, you are going to get that kind of thing happening." Griffin's argument is that inter-racial hatred is tribal and buried in our DNA. "There is a deep-seated primal hatred of the other which you can see coming out here in Glasgow." At the rally, a show of hands reveals that this is the first BNP event ever attended by about 60% of those in the room. Griffin says party membership has grown from 1300 when he took over five years ago to 8000 today. The BNP have also made small electoral increases, and now have a number of council seats, primarily in the north of England. One of the first speakers is a former young Conservative, reflecting the party's attempt to scrub out its street-fighting past and replace it with a more acceptable image. "Fundamentalist Islam" is the party's main target, and Griffin raises the spectre of Britain developing the kind of violent ethnic strife which is now gripping the once liberal bastion of Holland. The leader, the party hierarchy and voices from the floor return again and again to the theme of the white children of today becoming a racial minority in the future. This is a party in which the concept of fear is key. The fear of militant Islam, the idea of "the sound of church bells being replaced by the call to prayer" and the terror of an al-Qaeda strike are all central messages during the rally. But the party itself seems fearful of what its members see as an increasingly antagonistic state. Members feel persecuted. They believe that the Labour Party will one day ban the movement, and they talk of losing their jobs because of party membership. The rally venue was organised in secret for fear of left-wing groups picketing the event; as a result, many of those attending were only told at the last minute where it would be held. Meanwhile, Griffin has a permanent bodyguard of heavily built men around him, and security ensures every entrance and exit is closely watched.

    On the floor, members speak of their hatred of the IRA, paedophiles and Europe, and their love of the flag, the right to dissent and their country. The party faithful denounce the "liberal media" for its "lies" about the BNP. "Why do they hate us?" one activist asks. "They hate us because we love our flag and our nation." Political correctness is damned along with "spineless" politicians and police chiefs who fear being seen as un-PC. One speaker says: "What I'm saying to you is just what we talk about in the pub. Yet they call us racists and extremists?" Another speaker, to cheers and applause, says of Muslims: "They are not our people, and they never will be our people." He equates the killing of Kriss Donald with the Moors Murders. A litany of violent black-on-white crime is recounted. "Are we going to allow Kriss Donald to die in vain?" a speaker asks. The crowd shout back: "No!" The party wants all imams – Muslim preachers – to be "Western born and have Westernised moderate attitudes", and "preach in English so everyone can understand them". While Griffin accepts these policies could provoke a violent backlash, he claims: "That would be further proof of the fundamental idiocy of multiculturalism." Griffin believes Britain has the choice "between a sort of Islamic IRA operating out of ghettos in Britain, or the, still at present unthinkable, option of a massive reversal of immigration". He says there would be no forced repatriation in a BNP Britain, but all immigration would cease. Life under the BNP, Griffin admits, would be "culturally less comfortable" for Muslims. Halal meat would be banned leaving Muslims the option of "either becoming vegetarians or going back to Pakistan". The BNP leader says a "fully integrated British Asian", should be accepted in Britain. But would Griffin allow such an integrated Asian to marry his daughter? "No," he says. "And I wouldn't expect him to accept his daughter marrying my son. Either God or nature created human beings as different races. If worldwide racial integration is to be encouraged, then the end result is a world with no difference."
    ©Sunday Herald

    6/12/2004- The killer of Zahid Mubarek admitted today that racism did play a part in his actions, but blamed a racist culture at Feltham young offenders' institution for fostering his prejudices. Robert Stewart battered Mubarek, who was his cellmate, to death four years ago and was given a life sentence for the crime. In written evidence he told the inquiry: "I admit that racial prejudice played some part [in the murder]. The views I had then seemed to start when I was at Feltham." "Looking back, apart from my own ignorance ... these stemmed from the large number of black inmates and general racial tension in Feltham, and the cultural differences between London's young people and those where I come from," the public inquiry heard. He continued: "About half the prisoners in Swallow unit were black and a smaller number were Asians. I wasn't used to that, and there was clearly a lot of tension between blacks and whites. "Whenever you went into a cell at Feltham you'd see graffiti like swastikas, the initials KKK and thinks like 'Kill all niggers' ... The general perception in Feltham was that all whites were racist, and the black lads didn't like the whites. If a white guy gave a black guy a 'burn' (cigarette) he'd be seen as a traitor." In fact, Stewart told investigators that he got on "relatively well" with his cellmate, but attacked him in a bid to be transferred to another prison. They had small differences, including over cell duties such as sweeping and mopping, he said, "but that is not uncommon when there are two strangers locked up together for long periods of time". The institution's only ethnic minority officer at the time, Sundeep Chahal, has already told the inquiry that he did not experience any racist abuse or "banter" from other staff at Feltham, though he did receive racial taunts from prisoners. However, Mubarek's friend Jamie Barnes said he believed the officers were racist in their outlook, and that desirable jobs in the institution's servery were more likely to go to white inmates. He agreed that officers were not racist in the way they allocated cells. Mubarek was serving a three-month sentence for stealing razor blades from Superdrug. Stewart is now a prisoner at HMP Woodhill. The public inquiry, which reopened on November 18, is continuing and is expected to last three months. Its remit is to investigate and report on Mubarek's death, the events leading up to the attack and to make recommendations about the prevention of such attacks in the future.
    ©The Guardian

    1/12/2004- On the steps of the Prime Minister's official residence, Marienborg, on Tuesday, Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed 22 integration professionals for a discussion on the challenges of a multicultural Denmark. The Prime Minister took flack ahead of yesterday's Marienborg conference for failing to invite Muslim religious leaders - imams - to offer their insight on integration. Speaking with reporters after yesterday's conference, Anders Fogh Rasmussen defended that decision, and said he looked forward to additional meetings and continued dialogue with integration professionals. The PM allowed that it would be "natural" for Integration Minister Bertel Haarder to meet with Muslim religious leaders. "I'd like to meet with the imams. But as regards discussion on integration, it's not the imams we need to speak with. They don't have much grasp of integration, and if anything they're examples of poor integration. Imam Abu Laban has lived in Denmark for 20 years and doesn't speak Danish. Hopefully, he's not a role model for young immigrants," Haarder said after yesterday's conference. The Prime Minister expressed his support for a "new direction" in the national immigration debate. "It's important to shift the focus away from the heated debate on religion, and toward something that actually benefits the day-to-day work of integration. In this way, we can put more immigrants to work and offer them a more solid education - this effort shouldn't drown in the debate on religion," said Fogh Rasmussen, noting that yesterday's meeting emphasized the importance of education and new mentality in integration policy.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    6/12/2004- A group of Muslims has reported two Danish broadcasters to the police for airing the film Submission by murdered film-maker Theo van Gogh. Danmarks Radio and TV2 showed the film, which examines abuse against Muslim women, and put clips in news bulletins. Lawyer Laue Traberg Smidt, representing the group of 20 Muslims, said they were "deeply offended" by the broadcasts. Danmarks Radio said police had yet to approach them about the complaint. Van Gogh, 47, died in Amsterdam last month.

    'Massive coverage'
    In an open letter to police, Mr Traberg Smidt said the channels' "massive coverage of the case and its repeated use" of excerpts "seems rather an attempt to contribute to a confrontation and whip up a sentiment against Danes of Muslim faith". The lawyer said he represented a group of Danish Muslims, who wanted to remain anonymous "because they are afraid of unpleasant (reaction) in the current atmosphere". Spokespeople for both channels denied the claims. "We are not airing clips from the film to feed on sensationalism or to offend those who have been offended by it (the film)," said Danmarks Radio news director Lisbeth Knudsen. "We show these clips to put the debate over limited or unlimited freedom of speech into perspective." Van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death after receiving death threats following Submission's first broadcast on Dutch television in August. A 26-year-old Muslim has been arrested and charged with killing van Gogh.
    ©BBC News

    1/12/2004- Head teacher Jeanne van der Voort was at home watching television when she got the news that her school was on fire. By the time she arrived at the scene in Uden, a small town in southern Holland, the building was engulfed in flames. It took firefighters until 2am to extinguish the blaze. No one was hurt, but over 100 children of the Bedir Islamic primary school were left with nowhere for their lessons. "I was crying and shouting," said Jeanne. "In Uden there was no reason to be afraid. I was shocked this could happen in Holland. It was the latest in a series of attacks on Islamic sites across the Netherlands since the murder of controversial film-maker Theo van Gogh. He was brutally killed a week earlier in Amsterdam by a man of Moroccan origin linked to extremist groups. One of Mr Van Gogh's last films had caused fury with its criticism of the treatment of women in the Muslim community.

    'Emotional damage'
    Police in Uden are still investigating the school fire, but the perpetrators left their motives daubed on the walls of the charred building - "Rest in peace Theo van Gogh" said graffiti next to symbols of "white power". Now the children are back at school - albeit in a temporary building. Jeanne says the older pupils are still grappling with emotional damage. Across the Netherlands, the last month has been difficult. After Mr Van Gogh's murder on 2 November, uneasy questions about the country's reputation for multiculturalism are being asked. The school fire is evidence of a terrible backlash against the country's million-strong Muslim community. Even otherwise liberal Dutch believe there is a serious problem with Islamic extremism in the country that the government has so far ignored. "Sometimes there's suffocating political correctness in Holland," says Hans Teeuwen, a comedian and colleague of Mr Van Gogh. "We're so eager to be tolerant that we're sometimes unable to deal with questions that are so controversial, so difficult." Certainly Muslims in Holland now feel under pressure. At the El Mouahhidine mosque in east Amsterdam, the men gather for evening prayers. Their mosque has been a role model for building relationships with the local community. But even they felt the change in atmosphere after the Van Gogh murder. Said, a student teacher taking part in prayers, says the police were on guard at the mosque during the holy month of Ramadan. He didn't feel any personal danger, but thinks the action of one extremist in murdering Mr Van Gogh has damaged the whole Muslim community in Holland. But, he adds, it has opened up a necessary debate about how Holland treats its different ethnic and religious groups. Said says the government is not doing enough to make life easier for Muslims. "Integration has to come from both sides. It's not one way. There are two ways and they have to be open to each other," urged Said. "By tightening up rules, you won't get the effect you want."

    Crisis of confidence
    The Netherlands government is now considering how to tackle this crisis of confidence in society. Ministers feel the need to show a worried population that acts like Mr Van Gogh's murder will not happen again. As Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner has overseen a series of raids on suspected Islamic radicals in Holland since the Van Gogh murder. He wants more power for police and prosecutors to act against suspected extremists. He admits there is a general feeling of insecurity, and blames his predecessors for the threat of extremism. "Maybe it's partly due to a policy in the past being too relaxed on immigration, but also too relaxed on the social effects of immigration," he said. While there is no plan for an immigration clampdown yet, talking tough is clearly the order of the day. At a specially organised pop concert in Amsterdam, performers call on the audience to fight extremism in all forms. The words of one song sum it up: "I am not black, I am not white, I'm singing the colour of my heart." But such idealism may not be enough to remove the trauma inflicted on Dutch society in the last few weeks.
    ©BBC News

    6/12/2004— Almost all political parties in the Dutch Parliament have strongly criticised government plans to force Dutch people with a low education to undergo integration courses. MPs of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's Christian Democrat Party (CDA) said the integration course and examination should apply only to non-Dutch speakers. The small coalition party D66 joined with the opposition — Labour (PvdA), populist LPF, green-left GroenLinks and the Socialist Party — in voicing strong objections. News was leaked late last week that Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, a member of the Liberal Party (VVD), was planning to force all Dutch nationals to undergo integration courses unless they have completed eight years of schooling in the Netherlands. She decided on this approach after the ACVZ, a special committee on newcomers' affairs, warned that forcing immigrants alone to undertake an integration course would be discriminatory. Her plans are part of the government's mass shake up of immigration and integration policies. Verdonk wants immigrants who don't speak Dutch well to do an integration course in a bid to solve the social polarisation witnessed in the Netherlands in recent years. And while the CDA praised Verdonk for seeking methods to obligate immigrants to integrate, the party labelled her plans to force Dutch natives to also undergo integration into society as "nonsense". It said the minister's energies should be focused on immigrants. The PvdA said Verdonk initially wanted to force some 1 million people to integrate. Referring to the recent legal obstacles that have since arisen, the main opposition party nevertheless criticised the minister for trying to broaden the target group further. Studies indicated in October that forcing permanent dual national immigrants to undergo Dutch language classes breaches the principle of equality. A European treaty signed by the Netherlands could block it from making Turkish nationals doing the course. The treaty with Turkey states the Netherlands cannot impose additional obstacles to make it more difficult for Turkish nationals to immigrate to the Netherlands, marry a Dutch national or join family already in the Netherlands. Thirdly, the cost of the proposed integration courses is also expected to be high. In response to Verdonk's latest plans, PvdA MP Jeroen Dijsselbloem said integration should only be imposed on social security recipients and disadvantaged women. If women cannot be forced to integrate, funding should be made available to offer the courses on a voluntary basis. The ACVZ has advised Verdonk that everyone with less than eight years of Dutch schooling should sit an integration exam. It said to only force immigrants to follow an integration course would be discriminatory. In practise, the majority of people told to do an integration course will be immigrants because Dutch law prohibits children stopping their education before the school year in which they turn 17. Minister Verdonk has reportedly accepted the committee's advice and is expected to explain her policy in detail to parliament on Tuesday.
    ©Expatica News

    2/12/2004- Muslims in Switzerland have set up a new organisation to make their voice heard. The Forum for a Progressive Islam is hoping to attract people from all walks of life to engage in a debate about the Muslim religion. The woman behind the forum, Saida Keller-Messahli, told swissinfo there were many moderate Muslims in Switzerland, who have had limited opportunity until now to voice their opinions. According to Keller-Messahli, there are currently many religious Muslim organisations in Switzerland but no associations for those who do not necessarily practise their religion. The forum is hoping to plug this gap and to offer a platform to anyone who has an interest in Islam. "We want to be able to pose questions, hold discussions with no taboos and criticise in an intellectual fashion," said Keller-Messahli.

    Controversial issues
    One of the goals is to tackle controversial topics, such as draconian punishments meted out to criminals under Sharia law. "We want to show that Islam can be interpreted in a way that is compatible with human rights," stressed Keller-Messahli. As a sign of the forum's progressive nature, five of the seven executive committee's members are women and not all are Muslims. They include an Islamic scholar, journalists and Keller-Messahli herself. One of the members, Karl Gruber, is a Catholic and a member of Zurich's constitutional assembly. Switzerland has an estimated 300,000 Muslims, and the majority, like Keller-Messahli, are well integrated. Married to a Swiss doctor, she has lived in the country for nearly 30 years. She was born in Tunisia and, after her father went blind, spent five years as a child in the Bernese Oberland thanks to the intervention of the Swiss charity, Terre des Hommes. Later she studied for an arts degree at Zurich university.

    According to Keller-Messahli, a minority of Muslims in Switzerland have not accepted Swiss culture. "I am under no illusion that we will attract these people because they hold tightly to their view of the world. But they will have a place in the forum if they are willing to be tolerant of other people's opinions," she added. The new organisation is based in Zurich. But there are plans to open regional chapters in the future, once the forum gets off the ground. With a debate already taking place in Switzerland about whether Imams should be trained at Swiss universities, Keller-Messahli has this to say:
    "Any person who can read Arabic can interpret the Koran, [although] we accept that we are not all Koranic scholars." Keller-Messahli also hopes that the Forum will provide inspiration to those living in Muslim countries, who cannot express themselves freely.
    ©NZZ Online

    2/12/2004- The French island of Corsica is planning a weeklong campaign to bridge the gaps between followers of different faiths after racist attacks, particularly against Muslims, hit records high during the past months. Corsica prefect Pierre-Rene Lemas, the highest French government official on the island, decided to champion a solidarity week, recognizing the need to create a better understanding among the multi-ethnic residents, reported Liberation newspaper on Tuesday, November 1. He agreed with the representatives of the main faiths to organize the campaign on December 13-18 across the island, particularly in schools. The meeting, held on November 29, was attended by President of the Presbyterian council of the Corsican reformed church Jean-Claude Alegre, Regional Council President of the Corsican Islamic Culture Miloud Mesgathi and the island's Bishop Jean-Luc Brunin. The representative of the Jewish community apologized for not attending over health problems. The participants also brainstormed the best way to address increasing racist attacks on the island and increasing people's awareness on their grave repercussions.

    Mosque Protection
    Prefect Lemas decided during the meeting to beef up security measures around mosques in the island, after a Muslim cultural centre and prayer hall in the southern Corsican town of Sartene was attacked on Saturday, November 27. Unknown assailants fired several shots at the door and the bullets would have hit Imam Mohammad El-Atrache if he had not had the good sense to flattening himself against the wall. Prefect Lemas decided during the meeting to beef up security measures around mosques in the island. The CFCM has pressed for such a measure after the attack on Imam El-Atrache, especially that the assailants daubed a swastika and the slogan "Arabi For a" (Arabs Out in the Corsican language) on the walls of the prayer hall.

    Spiraling Racism
    Lemas regretted that at least 40 racist acts were reported in the French island since the beginning of the year, saying all residents must renounce violence and racism. Corsica, which is home to a strong nationalist movement, has recently seen an upsurge in attacks on Arab and Muslim immigrants. On May 22, 2004, the Moroccan flag was pulled out from the country's consulate and set afire by unknown attackers. A day later, a Moroccan owner of a meat shop was assaulted. Several attacks also targeted shops owned by Moroccan immigrants on July 7. On September 3, a house, owned by a Moroccan worker, was assaulted by attackers who daubed racist graffiti on the walls calling for the expulsion of Arab immigrants from the island. On October 21, a prayer hall set ablaze by unknown assailants. The island of Corsica and region of Île de France are home to the largest immigrants' community in France where 26,000 immigrants reside, according to a study by the French national institute for statistics and economic studies. Muslims of Moroccan origin make up half of the immigrants. French experts and activists in the field of human rights have warned of the unprecedented escalation of Islamophobia and racism against Muslims in France, estimated at six million. Several mosques in France have recently come under a string of racist attacks and arsons. Last March, two mosques were hit by arson attacks in the two cities of Seynod and Annecy. ©Turks.US

    7/12/2004- Delegates from around the world are meeting in Sweden to explore ways of combating so-called "honour killings". The international conference will also investigate other forms of patriarchal violence against women. The UN estimates 5,000 women are killed in the name of honour each year, mainly in the Middle East and Asia. The honour killing of a woman is usually carried out by her own relatives, when they believe she has brought shame on the family. This conference gathers key politicians from countries where such violence is thought to occur on a regular basis, and from other countries where patriarchal violence against women is perhaps less visible. They will try to map the extent of the violence and come up with ways to prevent it from happening in the first place.

    Women fleeing
    The Swedish government organising the conference admits that it is a tough task. Honour killings are not only a crime committed in less developed countries. This country was shocked three years ago when a 26-year-old girl, Fadime Sahendal, who was originally from Kurdistan, was murdered by her own father. He said she had brought shame on her family by going out with a Swedish man. Since then, youth shelters here say the number of young women fleeing violent men has been on the increase. The organisers of this conference are keen to underline that patriarchal violence does not belong to any one religion, and that it is wrong to perceive it to be a problem mainly in the Islamic world.
    ©BBC News

    US state with racist history votes to keep 'separate schools for white and coloured children' as part of constitution

    30/11/2004- During his inaugural address in 1963, the then Alabama governor, George Wallace, took to the steps of the state capitol and made a promise. Standing on the spot where Jefferson Davis had declared an independent southern confederacy just over 100 years before, he pledged: "In the name of the greatest people that ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny and I say: Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation for ever." Yesterday it looked as if he might get his wish, after a referendum in the state looked likely to keep segregation-era wording, requiring separate schools for "white and coloured children" in its constitution as well as references to the poll taxes once imposed to disenfranchise blacks. A narrow margin of 1,850 votes out of 1.38 million, or 0.13%, in a referendum on November 2, meant the state was obliged to hold a recount, which took place yesterday. But with no accusations of electoral fraud or any other irregularities, nobody last night expected the result to change. The ballot initiative sought to remove the most objectionable elements of the state's constitution which remain, even though they have been overridden by more recent civil rights legislation. They include passages such as:
    "Separate schools shall be provided for white and coloured children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race."
    And: "To avoid confusion and disorder and to promote effective and economical planning for education, the legislature may authorise the parents or guardians of minors, who desire that such minors shall attend schools provided for their own race ... "

    Almost 50 years since Rosa Parks was ejected from a bus in the shadow of the governor's mansion because she would not move to the back, most people thought the amendment to remove the segregation clause would pass fairly easily. "It was more ceremonial than legalistic," said Bryan Fair, a law professor at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. "The language in the constitution was already unconstitutional and this would have brought Alabama up to date. So it was surprising that something so clear and symbolic would be even close." Even the Montgomery Advertiser, not given to radical outbursts, backed it. "Amendment 2 is a valuable cleansing of a grievous stain on the state's image," it argued in an editorial shortly before the vote. "It should be ratified." But powerful groups and personalities on the right campaigned heavily against it, claiming that the amendment opened the door to lawyers to sue the state and raise taxes. They were most incensed by efforts to remove the section that denied that Alabamians had "any right to education or training at public expense". Opponents claim education is a gift from the state of Alabama, not an entitlement. "You open up that door, that is a trial lawyer's dream, to represent clients that have unbridled opportunity for mischief in raising taxes, tampering with private and parochial schools. It's unlimited," said John Giles, president of Alabama Christian Coalition. "Activists on the bench know no bounds. It's a trial lawyer's dream." Mr Giles's campaign was assisted by the former Alabama chief justice Roy Moore, who has become a local hero since he defied a federal court order to remove a two-ton slab of granite engraved with the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the Alabama supreme court. Mr Giles said he would have been happy to see the racist language go so long as the issue of education rights remained. But many in Alabama believe the taxation argument was simply a ruse for white southerners to flex their muscles, even on a symbolic issue. After the US supreme court ordered the end of segregation 50 years ago, many white southerners simply moved their children from state schools to private academies, often referred to as "seg academies" because they effectively kept segregation intact. Since then Alabama has provided the backdrop for some of the ugliest scenes during the civil rights era, from the bombing of a church in Birmingham that killed four little girls at Sunday school to the beating of marchers on St Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. "There are people here who are still fighting the civil war," Tommy Woods, 63, a deacon at Bethel Baptist church and a retired school administrator, told the Washington Post. "They're holding on to things that are long since past. It's almost like a religion."

    A statute banning interracial marriage in the state was struck down only four years ago by 59% to 41%, with a majority of whites voting against the change. This year Mr Moore's former aide, Tom Parker, was elected to the Alabama supreme court even after it became clear that he had been handing out Confederate flags while campaigning and had attended a function honouring the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. "It seems perfectly clear that a number of the people who voted against the amendment did so for purely racist reasons," said Mark Potok, spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Centre, an anti-racist monitoring group based in Montgomery. But in one of the most lightly taxed states in the nation the argument that the measure could raise the fiscal burden went a long way, some say. "In Alabama, if an opponent can label a policy as a tax, then 99 times out of 100 the policy fails," said Prof Fair, who is an African American. "Some folks in Alabama are assiduously holding on to what they call southern traditions which are traditions of white people being superior. But racism by itself is far too simple an explanation."

    Troubled past
    Since Alabama was declared a sovereign and independent state on January 11 1861, it has been a hotbed of racial tensions in the US

  • December 1955 Rosa Parks, a black seamstress, was arrested for refusing to give up her seat for a white passenger. Her action prompted the Montgomery Bus Boycott and earned her the title "mother of the modern day civil rights movement".
  • December 1956 The US supreme court banned segregated seating on Montgomery's public vehicles. The Rev Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks were the first to ride a fully integrated bus.
  • May 1961 The Freedom Ride, an integrated bus trip from Washington DC, through the Deep South, was formed to test the 1960 supreme court decision prohibiting segregation on buses and trains. It was greeted with violence in Anniston and Birmingham. The Freedom Ride eventually resulted in the interstate commerce commission ruling against segregation in interstate travel.
  • 1963 Birmingham bombings of civil rights-related targets, including the offices of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the home of A D King (brother of Martin Luther King Jr), and the 16th Street Baptist Church (in which four children were killed). Governor Wallace makes a speech at the University of Alabama protesting against federally forced racial integration; Vivian Malone and James Hood register for classes as first African American students.
  • March 1965 Six hundred demonstrators make the first of three attempts to march from Selma to Montgomery demanding the lifting of voting restrictions on black Americans. They were stopped by police at Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge, the pictures of the clashes with police were broadcast across the nation and caused a surge of support for the protesters.
  • March 1965 The Rev Martin Luther King led 3,200 marchers from Selma toward Montgomery in support of civil rights for blacks. Four days later, outside the Alabama state capitol, King told 25,000 demonstrators: "We are on the move now ... and no wave of racism can stop us."
  • On August 6 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.
  • Sept 2000 Selma elects its first black mayor, James Perkins, with 60% of the vote
  • May 2002 Bobby Frank Cherry is convicted of murder for his part in the bombing of Birmingham's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on September 15 1963, in which four black girls were killed.
    ©The Guardian

    Local fears of increased crimes and diseases prevent Labour Ministry from establishing orphanage

    15/11/2004- The local branch of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it would help Slovakia improve its asylum and migration policies. Given that several towns and villages in Eastern Slovakia have refused to let the Labour Ministry establish orphanages for refugee children in their areas, the UNHCR said it stands ready to make good on its pledge. The head of the UNHCR in Bratislava, Pierfrancesco Maria Natta, said in a recent visit to Košice that the UNHCR would "support all activities for the improvement of the country's asylum policies, including the building of new asylum centres in eastern Slovakia". The Labour Ministry is currently looking to establish two refugee support centres for unaccompanied minors. Only the village of Celovce near Košice has been receptive to the idea. Most of the municipalities considered as potential places to house the centre cited fear of disease and increased crime rates as reasons for refusal. The Slovak media reported that the citizens of Trencín even organized a petition against the initiative. "What happened in Trencín is the opposite of what happened in Celovce," Natta said. In Celovce, an NGO is busy working with locals to create a refugee centre. "The local mayor and the church were contacted in advance of the project, and the local population has been informed. Everybody in Celovce, as far as I know, has been open to help unaccompanied minors find solutions," Natta said. The supportive attitude demonstrated by the UNHCR is in contrast to statements made just a few months ago when the office sharply criticized Slovakia for granting the fewest number of asylums in the EU despite a sharp increase in applications. In 2004 for instance, Slovakia received more than 9,000 asylum applications but only recognized two. The 2004 figures prompted the UNHCR spokesperson, Mária Cierna, to remind the country that with 0.02 percent, Slovakia had the lowest rate in Europe. Local authorities defended themselves saying that most of the refugees coming into Slovakia see the country as merely a place of transition, and that the refugees would be heading further west to more affluent European states.

    Bernard Priecel, the head of the Slovak Migration Office, told The Slovak Spectator that his office was issuing permits under the Geneva Convention, which requires signatories to grant asylum to prosecuted persons. "Slovakia does not issue permits to economic refugees, and the majority of the people who come to Slovakia tell us openly during interviews that they are heading west for better economic conditions," said Priecel November 8. "It is true that we are strict [in granting asylum], but before Slovakia turns into a country that accepts economic migrants there needs to be a political mandate. There has not been such a mandate made," he said. While the UNHCR has been critical of Slovakia's low recognition rates, EU experts recently praised Slovakia's efforts. According to a Dutch organization that specializes in refugee issues, Slovakia is the best prepared of the 10 new EU member states in terms of implementing regulations related to the movement of asylum seekers within the European Union. The evaluation, which was concluded in October, involved Slovakia's Justice and Interior Ministries and the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service, the TASR news agency wrote. Meanwhile, an influx of immigrants to Slovakia has made the country fertile ground for various local and international smuggling gangs. According to recent data published by the Slovak Interior Ministry, the police have stepped up smuggler arrests this year. Interior Minister Vladimír Palko said that in the first half of 2003, police accused 60 people of illegally trespassing into Slovakia, 11 of which were also booked for organised smuggling. In the first half of this year, police nabbed 144 trespassers, 62 of whom they arrested for organised smuggling. Slovak authorities even accused 12 Slovak police officers of involvement in smuggling refugees into the country. According to police, smugglers charge 2,500 to 4,000 per person to get them across the border. "It is evident that the Slovak Republic has become the crossroads for two smuggling routes: from east to west from Russia and the Ukraine, and south to west from the Balkans, making for a mixed flow of migrants and refugees," the Slovak UNHCR office stated in early September. "The stricter border control with Austria forces applicants to surface in Slovakia and ask for asylum here. It is clear that their intention is to continue towards countries with a better economic condition, but also with a higher acceptance rate," the UNHCR noted.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    18/11/2004- The racist chanting by Spanish fans at Wednesday night's friendly international in Madrid has embarrassed the government amid fears it could damage the city's bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games. At Real Madrid's Bernabeu stadium, a couple of thousand Spanish fans hurled racist abuse at England's black players every time they came near the ball. The Spanish authorities have condemned the behaviour, but sadly the response came a little late in the day. It wasn't until Thursday afternoon that the Spanish government released a press statement condemning the football fans' racist chants. This was several hours after Britain's Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, had demanded some sort of response. In the statement, the Spanish government said the events were "intolerable" and that it "condemned unequivocally" the behaviour of the "small group" of football fans who acted in such a "regrettable" manner.

    Punitive measures
    At a press conference on Thursday morning about an unrelated matter, I asked Spain's Sports, Education and Science Minister, Maria Jesus san Segundo, for her reaction to Spanish fans making monkey noises at black football players. "I think it's unacceptable to behave like that in a football stadium but also in any other walk of life," she said. "It shows a lack of education. We're now introducing equality lessons onto the national school curriculum. Young people have to realise that regardless of sex, colour or culture every human being is the same. "I'm also meeting the [Spanish] secretary of state for sport to discuss possible punitive measures to deal with this sort of thing in the future." It won't be that easy though. This wasn't a case of right-wing hooligans having a go. As the centre-left newspaper El Pais noted, the racist chanting came as much from groups of well-heeled young Spanish men in the crowd as from the well-known football thugs labelled the "Ultras".

    Played down
    On the whole though, repugnance for the appalling show of racism was notably lacking in Spain's newspapers. The incident was reported but rather played down. Easily as much column space was devoted to criticism of English forward Wayne Rooney's behaviour on the pitch as to the Spanish fans' bad behaviour off it. Outside the Bernabeu stadium on Thursday, the reaction was mixed. Alejandro, a plumber, said the event was being blown out of proportion. "The kids' chanting last night was stupid but harmless. Football is always about insulting the other team. The racism wasn't meant seriously." His workmate Miguel agreed: "We Spaniards aren't more racist than any other country. Italy has problems with football and racism, doesn't it? It's much worse than here. "I mean look at our star players Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid), Ronaldo (Real Madrid) and Ronaldinho (FC Barcelona) - they're not white and we worship them."

    'Fans provoked'
    Alicia, a production manager, said she thought the Spanish fans' behaviour was much worse than usual because they felt the English press was looking for racism here. "All the English players arrived here in Spain wearing anti-racism T-shirts, as if this were the most racist country on earth," Alicia said. "I know this was in response to [Spanish coach] Luis Aragones' remarks a while back. But it was wrong of the English players and the English press to assume we are all like that. "So I think the fans felt provoked. They thought, 'If they want to see us as racists, then we'll behave as racists.' It's stupid but I think that's what happened." But Julia, a secretary in her 20s, said she was appalled. "I'm so upset at what happened. We all know a black player is the same as a white player. There's no difference at all," she said. Economics student Carlos said: "I was at the match last night and got really angry about what was happening. I hate the fact that this is the face of Madrid, of Spain, that was being broadcast the world over. "Most of us aren't so narrow-minded. People forget there were 80,000 fans at the stadium. Only a small minority behaved so disgustingly."

    'Friendly city'
    That was certainly the message that Madrid mayor, Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, was keen to transmit. "One small group of people cannot be seen as representative of attitudes in Madrid and Spain as a whole," he said. "Madrid has historically been a city open to the world, a friendly city in which nobody feels like a foreigner." No doubt concerned about the possible effect on Madrid's bid to host the 2012 Olympics, he added: "Spanish football and other sports clubs have players from many different countries and ethnic groups. "Here in Madrid alone, citizens from more than 180 different countries live side by side". Feliciano Mayoral, the president of Madrid's Olympic Bid Committee, said that he "rejects and condemns racism" in any form.
    ©BBC News

    19/11/2004- The Spanish Football Association has sent a letter to its English counterparts apologising for racist chanting during Wednesday's match. The Spanish FA also apologised for similar incidents during Tuesday's Under-21 international. "The FA welcomes the response and now looks forward to receiving details from Fifa on its investigation initiated on Thursday," said an FA statement. The FA is awaiting Fifa's reply after sending them a dossier on the abuse. The apology, written by general secretary Jorge P Arias, was in reply to a letter sent by the English FA. However, the dossier sent to Fifa by the English FA highlights its concern at the lack of action so far taken against Spain manager Luis Aragones for his pre-match inflammatory remarks. And if racism is proved, the Spanish FA could face a large fine or Spain could be forced to play games behind closed doors. The FA's head of media Adrian Bevington said that had the incidents occured in England, the technology is in place to ensure most of the culprits would be caught. "If that had happened in an English stadium, I'd hope those responsible could be identified through the use of CCTV footage and then be punished and prevented from attending future matches," said Bevington. "As we found and learned, the key thing along with any penalty is that education and campaigning is the way forward too." A Fifa statement on Thursday said: "We are concerned about the latest surge of racism and harshly condemn this. (Fifa) will demand explanations from the Spanish Football Association." Fifa president Sepp Blatter said there was, "no room whatsoever for racism or discrimination in our sport". He added: "The world is already too full of conflict that has its roots in racism and discrimination. Football has a positive influence." Early on Friday, Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos apologised "in the name of the Spanish government to anyone who may have felt offended by these expressions". "I have had the opportunity to comment and discuss it with my (British) counterpart Jack Straw and I again express that Spain is a country of tolerance where expressions of racism should have no place," Moratinos said. Sports minister Richard Caborn said: "I will write to my Spanish counterpart to express my outrage. I would like the Spanish FA to condemn the scenes. "I also expect Fifa and Uefa to fully investigate the issue. "There is no place for racism in football or modern society, and I strongly believe that action needs to be taken at the highest level."
    ©BBC News

    In the wake of the controversy over racist chants at the Spain vs England match, commentators claim Spanish society is attempting to come to terms with an immigrant population which has quadrupled in the past five years. Graham Keeley reports.

    24/11/2004- Much has been made of the controversy over the Spain vs England 'friendly' football match last week in which black English players were greeted with 'monkey chants' every time they touched the ball. SOS Racismo, a Spanish campaign group, warned the chants at the game were a symbol of the reaction of Spanish society to the fact it has now the fastest rising level of immigration in Europe. Campaigners fear more instances like those will follow as Spain struggles to come to terms with its rising immigrant population. "A few years ago it was bad to be a racist ... now there is more impunity," complained Begona Sáñchez, a spokeswoman for SOS Racismo. "This is not an isolated incident. It is a signal that, although the vast majority of Spaniards are not racists, this is something that is consolidating here." Campaigners welcomed the condemnation that eventually came from the Spanish authorities. But they warned that it was time that Spaniards, who were mostly upset that anybody should think they might be racists, took the threat seriously. "We have a problem with racism," said Esteban Ibarra of the Movement Against Intolerance. "Either this is stemmed now, or something grave will happen." But aside from last week's incident, what is the real situation with immigration in Spain and who are the foreigners living here? Kashif and Farisa Habib have been living in Barcelona for eight years. For them it is very much home and where they want to bring up their four-year-old daughter and baby son. Kashif, 33, has a well-paid job with a multi-national company, and 27-year-old Farisa has just left work to spend more time with their children. Both are Muslims whose families were from Pakistan but lived in Rochdale, near Manchester in the UK. The Habibs are typical of the kind of young professional family moving to Spain in increasing numbers.

    The numbers
    But although more and more people are arriving in Spain from other parts of Europe, the real picture of immigration is more complex. Many more foreigners earning a living here are from Latin America and Africa. The Spanish Foreign Ministry revealed the full scale of the numbers who are now settling in this country. The number of legal foreign residents soared to 3.3 million this year- four times the 1998 figure. Immigrants now represent 7.5 percent of the Spanish population of just over 42 million. In 2003, there were 323,010 new arrivals alone – a 24 percent rise on the year before. More than a third are people from the European Union. The British are by far the biggest contingent, with 105,479 permanent residents (6.4 percent of all foreigners). Next come the Germans with 67,963 (4.1 percent) settled in Spain. Other large communities are the Italians who make up 59,745 (3.6 percent), the French with 49,196 (3 percent) and the Portuguese, of whom there are 45,614 (2.8 percent). But the largest contingent of foreigners are the Ecuadorians, who make up 14.6 percent of the foreigners registered in Spain. Next come the Moroccans with 174,289 residents, or 10.6 percent and the Colombians with 107,459 people or 6.5 percent. Other large foreign communities come from Peru (57,593, or 3.5 percent), Argentina (43,347, 2.6 percent) the Dominican Republic (36,654, 2.2 percent), China (56,086, 3.4 percent), Cuba (27,323, 1.7 percent) Bulgaria (24,369, 1.5 percent) and Romania (54,688, 3.3 percent). Unsurprisingly, most immigrants move to the big cities to find work. The largest number of foreigners is in the capital, where 355,035 vie for jobs with the Spanish. Madrid's population of 'extranjeros' is predominantly from South America, though after that the number of Europeans appears to be rising. Barcelona, by contrast, has an African population which is also increasing, with 147,288 making up 16 percent of all foreigners Its place as a port may have a historical role to play in attracting more people from abroad. After these two major cities, Murcia, Alicante, Valencia and Malaga have large immigrant populations.

    The illegals
    Illegal immigration from Morocco and Latin America is a controversial topic in Spain. Each week many thousands of Moroccans make forlorn journeys in tiny, dangerous boats called 'pateras' across the sea to the mainland or the Canary Islands. Many have died or been arrested by the Spanish police and subsequently sent back. Often they have spent all their savings paying the human traffickers who arrange the journeys in the vain hope they could find a new life in Spain. More than 92,679 were repatriated in 2003. For the 'clandestinos', or illegal immigrants, who make it, working in the 'black' economy can be desperately hard. A 25-year-old painter from Mozambique, who arrived in Spain last year finds occasional work in Madrid, told of the difficulties. 'Miguel', who did not want to give his real name, said: "It is difficult to find work. "I have been for many jobs but when they know you have no official papers, they don't want to know. "When I did get work, the boss tried to cheat me out of money because he knew that I could not complain to the police." But he added: "I was lucky because I knew people here in Spain. If you know no-one it is very hard. I know of Africans living with up to 20 people in a room." Kashif Habib believes Spain is still adjusting to a rising immigrant population and its attendant problems. As an Asian, he has only experienced one instance of racism in eight years, but he believes some Spaniards will no doubt react against the tide of immigration. He said: "When I first arrived here, there were few immigrants from Asia, and now parts of Barcelona are like Pakistan. "I think Spain is today where Britain was in the early 1970s in terms of the numbers of immigrants living in the country and the feeling towards them. "In Britain there was a feeling of open racism whereas here it may be more or less open. But I think it is there. I believe there might be a backlash like this here in Spain."

    In June, illegal immigrants staged large-scale demonstration in Barcelona, in which hundreds stormed a cathedral and staged a sit-in brought the issue to head. It proved hugely unpopular and was condemned by unions and other groups who might be sympathetic to this issue. So perhaps the backlash has started? Campaigners have long been demanding a change in the regulations governing how immigrants can get legally registered. Already, Socialist prime minister Jose Lluis Rodriguez Zapatero has promised that by next year, those with six-month contracts will be able to apply for residence and work permits. The Socialists claim this will bring many 'illegals' into the system. In exchange for legal status, they will of course pay tax and social security payments, which the state has so far missed out on. The government believes this will benefit Spain, whose birth rate is still one of the lowest in Europe; more foreign taxpayers will finance the increasing cost of caring for the country's rising elderly population. But critics have said new system will be unworkable; the 'black economy' will continue unabated, with bosses being reluctant to offer contracts to illegal immigrants is they they think they can pay less to illegals. Despite potential penalties for not providing contracts, many believe most employers will continue to avoid offering contracts to illegal immigrants. And, even if immigrants are 'legal residents', will this make any difference to how they are perceived by mainstream Spanish society?
    ©Expatica News

    26/11/2004- Uefa will consider television evidence and "other information" before deciding whether to take action against Real Madrid for the racist chanting which marred their Champions League tie against Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday. Sections of the Bernabéu crowd are alleged to have made monkey chants towards Leverkusen's Brazil defenders Roque Junior and Juan dos Santos, and television cameras captured a small group of Madrid supporters making Nazi salutes. Neither incident was included in the referee's report, but Uefa is still set to investigate. European football's governing body said in a statement: "During the Group B game at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium, fans were seen making Nazi salutes while racist chanting was heard." The incidents came a week after England's black players were racially abused at the Bernabéu in an international friendly that Spain won 1-0. Real Madrid issued a statement on Wednesday condemning racist behaviour, but said yesterday they were unaware of any incidents. The club added that the Uefa president Lennart Johansson, who watched the game beside the Real president Florentino Perez, had not seen problems, either. Television images, reproduced yesterday in the Spanish press, showed bare-chested members of Real Madrid's Ultra Sur group making the Nazi salute during the fixture. The Uefa announcement comes in the midst of a debate over the extent of racism in Spanish football. Spain's government was forced to apologise for fans' behaviour after the England match. The Real Madrid defender Roberto Carlos revaled that he was a victim of racist chanting during Saturday's 3-0 away defeat to Barcelona. "The chants against me were racist treatment," he was quoted as saying. "They [the fans] have treated me well in Barcelona, but I do not understand what happened on Saturday. It is pity that in the 21st century these things keep occurring."
    ©The Guardian

    21/11/2004- The embattled Football Association of Ireland has come under fire from another quarter this weekend: anti-racist campaigners. Sport Against Racism Ireland has claimed the association is indifferent to its campaign against racism and sectarianism in the game. The head of the anti-racist campaign, Frank Buckley, said the association had failed to engage with a 10-point plan backed by Uefa, the European football body, to counter these problems. Buckley said his group would 'bypass the FAI' and contact Eircom League clubs directly. So far three clubs - Bohemians, Shelbourne and Drogheda United - have signed up to the charter, and Drogheda has warned in its match programmes that anyone caught making racist or sectarian chants will be banned from its ground for life. Uefa provided 33,000 to each member of the pan-European anti-racist network Farenet to fight racism and bigotry on and off the pitch. 'Over the last three years we sent many letters to the FAI asking them to support the 10-point plan. 'They just seem to be indifferent to our campaign, which is all the more important after the events in Madrid last week,' Buckley said. Football associations across Europe have adopted similar Uefa-backed plans. Buckley called on the Irish association to open talks with its northern equivalent, the IFA, to combat racism and sectarianism in soccer throughout Ireland. He praised the IFA's 'Let's Give Sectarianism the Boot' campaign. Michael Boyd, the northern association's community relations officer, said it has met Buckley's group. 'A lot of its work we would see as overlapping with our own "Football for All" campaign and we should certainly meet again,' he said. No one was available from the FAI this weekend to comment on Buckley's claims. The Republic's football chiefs did put up posters for a match against Australia last year calling on supporters to stop booing players from other nations because their dislike the teams the visitors play for in the domestic game.
    ©The Observer

    In Madrid and Antwerp, Russia and Corsica, racist cries are heard beyond soccer stadiums
    By Will Hutton

    21/11/2004- This year, the Asian Cup was pockmarked by an ugly racism. The Japanese football team was consistently and extraordinarily abused by Chinese fans. Racist chants during the final went unheeded by 12,000 Chinese police and security forces. Besides this, events in Madrid's Bernabeu stadium, where part of the Spanish crowd at last Wednesday night's fixture monkey-chanted at England's black players, look rather less extraordinary. There is a new and ugly sentiment abroad and it's not just in Europe. In Asia, Russia and even the USA, despicable prejudices about 'the other' held by the majority of the indigenous population are never far from the surface, but after a period of decline and apparent cultural agreement that they are unacceptable, they are re-emerging. One of the ways human beings have defined their identity and sense of belonging from time immemorial is by both insisting on what the tribe shares and by insisting on what the tribe is not, so validating prejudices against other human beings who offend any moral, religious or ethical code. Philosopher Peter Singer has argued that because humans are endowed with an innate moral sense, the human group within which we unambiguously acknowledge reciprocal moral claims has been expanding, from members of the same cave, to the tribe and now to all humanity. It comes as a shock to find that in 2004, he is wrong; any gains that have been made are precarious and easily reversed. Being inside the moral circle for a vocal and growing minority is conditional on the colour of your skin and, as poisonous still, on what culture and religion your skin colour might indicate you belong.

    Political correctness is often attacked, but words do matter. It mattered that some time before the game in Madrid, the coach of the Spanish national team, Luis Aragones, had called Arsenal's Thierry Henry a 'black shit' and had not withdrawn the remark. If a man in a leadership position can say that and get away with it, a cultural benchmark is established. Once the sentiment is articulated, it becomes a social fact. Some thousands of Spanish fans took their cue from their team's coach and gave vent to the newly minted and legitimatised racism. But the larger question is why the feelings are there and why they seem to be mounting in so many EU member states. Spain accepts five times more immigrants than Britain; Madrid's booming economy has needed its immigrant population to quintuple to 14 per cent over the last four years. But anti-campaigners warn that racist reactions are less and less subterranean. Spain is not alone. In France, especially in Corsica, racist and anti-semitic attacks are on the rise; there have been more in the first nine months of this year than in the whole of 2003. Jean-Christophe Rufin, vice president of Médicins sans Frontière and Goncourt Prize winner, in a report last month for the French government said that if the rise went unchecked, it would ultimately be harnessed by organised political forces for menacing ends. Those convicted of anti-semitism, he found, shared common characteristics, such as a 'lack of bearings, a rootlessness, a loss of identity, a sense of social frustration and failure, a disintegrated family'. In other words, being themselves lost, they found meaning by withdrawing the moral circle from those with a different colour.

    But it is Belgian and Dutch societies which are most convulsed by racism. Both have large Muslim populations concentrated in their ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam but now spreading beyond; a simmering racist reaction has been raised to fever pitch by the murder of film-maker Theo van Gogh by an Islamic fundamentalist. Racist acts against Muslims are growing explosively, reciprocated by Muslim death threats against prominent politicians; Belgian socialist Mimount Bousakla, who criticised senior Muslim figures for not condemning the murder, is in hiding while Dutch conservative Geert Wilders, who wants the closure of radical mosques and a ban on non-Western immigration while better education and employment opportunities for Muslims are found, is under permanent police protection. Immigrant and indigenous Dutch and Belgians are redrawing the moral circle to exclude the 'other'. Opinion poll support for parties and politicians claiming to speak honestly about the situation - in other words, those who say that Muslims are the problem - is climbing to new highs. It is a tinderbox. The question is what to do about it. If Rufin's analysis is right, then part of any response must be to tackle rootlessness, fragmentation and dissociation, which is easier said than done in societies where geographical mobility is rising and mass employment in manufacturing, once a fundamental underpinning of community and neighbourhood, is declining with deindustrialisation. Globalisation and the rapid pace of change are removing the anchors of societies; rapid immigration of the type seen in Holland, Belgium and Spain only adds to the brew. The exposed and marginalised communities in host societies feel under threat; they respond by putting up a moral fence against the outsider, the threatening, free-riding 'other'.

    And if the 'other' is part of the same race and culture as the targets of the 'war against terror', then there is further legitimisation of rank prejudice. Here, some strains of radical Islam have raised the temperature by effectively excluding non-Muslims from their moral circle, in some cases even appearing to endorse the beheadings and revenge killings we have witnessed in recent months. White and Islamic racism clash head to head; the result is a potential calamity. Majorities on both sides of the divide must resist the pressure to join the closing moral circle. Protestant and Catholic extremists in Northern Ireland have touched depths of inhumane depravity in their long war, as have Basque and Corsican separatists; majorities in Britain, France and Spain have understood that the depraved, quasi-racist behaviour of extremists is not representative of all Northern Irish Catholics and Protestants, Basques and Corsicans. But then they were white. Precisely the same rule applies to Muslims. We cannot allow there to be any cherry-picking about who falls inside and outside our moral circle; monkey chants at black footballers are as dangerous as Nazi insignia on synagogues or accusations that Islam is a religion disposed to murder. Every individual warrants moral respect; any qualification can only challenge that general truth. Down that route lies perdition. European societies, our own included, are being put to the test, as are others worldwide. Europe must not be found wanting again.
    ©The Observer

    19/11/2004- German-born Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a close advisor of Pope John Paul II, has issued a strong attack against "secular Europe", which he accuses of "decadence", "intolerance" towards Christians and ostracism towards God. In an interview published on Friday by the Italian daily La Repubblica, the cardinal speaks of a Europe that is living through a major transformation - from one based on Christian culture to an aggressive and at times intolerant (form of) secularism". "Secularism is no longer neutral," the cardinal said, it is beginning to transform itself into an ideology that imposes itself through politics and does not leave any room to the Christian and Catholic vision." Cardinal Ratzinger, who is considered one of the most conservative voices in the Roman Curia, heads the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a Church body formerly known as the Inquisition. The congregation seeks to spread sound doctrine and defend those points of Christian tradition which seem in danger because of new and unacceptable doctrines", the Vatican's website explains. His interview in La Repubblica contributed to an ongoing debate in Italy on the role of Christians in Europe. The debate was sparked by the European Parliaments rejection of Rocco Buttiglione - an Italian Catholic politician - as European Union commissioner because of his ultra-conservative views on women and homosexuality. Some Catholics in Italy now speak of feeling persecuted in Europe because of their ideas. In an apparent reference to the Buttiglione affair, Cardinal Ratzinger said God was being "marginalised" by modern day society. "It appears almost that, in politics, it has become indecent to talk about God, as if it represents an attack on the freedom of those who do not believe," he said. "A society in which God is totally absent self-destructs. We have seen this happen during the totalitarian regimes of the past century," he added. Cardinal Ratzinger reiterated his opposition to homosexuality, describing Spains recent decision to allow same-sex marriages as destructive for the family and society, but also acknowledged that Christians were finding it increasingly hard to make themselves understood.
    ©Expatica News

    20/11/2004- Leading German politicians have said Muslims will have to integrate themselves better if they wish to remain in the country. This coincides with conservatives' calls to emphasize patriotism and Christian values. Speaking at his party's convention in Munich, Bavarian Premier and Christian Social Union (CSU) leader Edmund Stoiber demanded a clear commitment from immigrants to the basic values of German society. "Yes to openness and tolerance, no to Islamist head scarves," Stoiber told delegates, who unanimously voted against a Turkish EU membership and for cutting social welfare benefits for foreigners who are unwilling to integrate. Stoiber, who called on young Germans to reclaim "traditional German values" such as a willingness to perform, discipline, punctuality, a sense of duty and politeness, received backing from several other conservative leaders.

    A German leading culture?
    In an interview with German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, Jörg Schönbohm, the interior minister of the eastern German state of Brandenburg, rehashed demands for a so-called German Leitkultur, or leading culture, which had been at the center of a heated debate several years ago. "Anyone who comes here has to accept the German leading culture," said Schönbohm (photo, below), a member of the CSU's sister party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). He added that Germans share a common language, values and laws. "We cannot allow foreigners to destroy this common basis," he said. Conservatives should also pay more attention to patriotism and Christian values to prevent voters from shifting to right-wing extremist parties as happened in recent state elections, he added. Bavarian Interior Minister Günther Beckstein agreed with Schönbohm's calls for a leading culture. "Multi-culturalism, as propagated by the red-green (German government) for years, has proven to be illusionary," he said.

    Schröder warns of "conflict of cultures"
    German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder meanwhile also called on Muslims to better integrate themselves in German society. Schröder warned of a "conflict of cultures" and said Muslims "must clearly and without misunderstanding demonstrate that they accept our legal order and democratic rules." He said that the state had to insist on the fact that "our willingness to integrate corresponds to a willingness to be integrated on the part of those who come here." In his speech, to be delivered later on Saturday when Berlin's Jewish museum offers a tolerance prize to former President Johannes Rau, Schröder emphasized the importance for foreigners living in Germany to learn the language. "Without linguistic abilities, no integration and no dialogue can take place," he said.

    Unfair treatment?
    Calling on German leaders to promote active participation of foreigners in local government and volunteer organizations, Sigmar Gabriel, a former Social Democratic premier of the northern German state of Lower Saxony, said the state should also push for more immigrants in the country's police force. "The state has to say: We need you," Gabriel said. German politicians have been debating the integration of the country's estimated three million Muslims following the killing of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a suspected Islamic extremist on Nov. 2 and the resulting tension and violence in the neighboring country. But Turkey's ambassador to Germany, Mehmet Ali Irtemcelik, told Focus newsmagazine that it was unfair to put Germany's Muslim community in the dock. Saying that only 3 to 4 percent of Turks living in Germany were Islamic radicals, Irtemcelik called on politicians to work with millions of his countrymen willing to integrate themselves into German society.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    23/11/2004- Amid concern over rightwing extremists in Germany, a trial begins on Wednesday against four neo-Nazis on terrorism charges in connection with a plot to blow up a Munich synagogue last year. Prosecutors say they will seek to prove the neo-Nazis, who had obtained 1.7 kilogrammes of bomb-making TNT for the attack, were also planning other bombings in the Bavarian capital. The four men going on trial belonged to a neo-Nazi group called the "Southern Comrades" and include its leader, Martin Wiese, 28, and three of his followers, also in their 20s. According to German Chief Federal Prosecutor General Kay Nehm, the evidence shows the group were preparing to set off a bomb on the synagogue site near Munich's Jakobsplatz square to disrupt the cornerstone-laying ceremonies last 9 November. The group bought explosives in Poland and tested them in small blasts in remote areas, officials say. Police seized a total of 14 kilogrammes of explosives in September, including the 1.4 kilogrammes of TNT high explosive. The group had intended to hide their bomb in a sewer pipe under the site. In mid-August last year, the plot was cancelled after several members of the group were questioned by police. Police arrested the men in September and discovered the explosives. Nehm said the group had also contemplated setting off a bomb in the Marienplatz, Munich's main square and a magnet for tourists. It also considered attacking persons it considered leftist, including the state Social Democratic leader, Franz Maget. The date of the synagogue foundation ceremony - 9 November - is full of symbolism: It would have been 65 years after Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938, when Nazi thugs vandalised and burned synagogues all over Germany and their policy of persecution of Jews was turned into the naked violence of the Holocaust. It also marks the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's abortive Munich Beer Hall Putsch on 9 November 1923, which his fledgling Nazi party attempted to seize power violently. Today, most German Jewish community centres are under almost permanent police protection for fear of attacks by Islamists or neo- Nazis, with roads outside closed to traffic and the compounds walled off. The Munich trial opens after far-right political parties made strong gains in two regional elections in September. In eastern German Saxony state, the anti-immigrant National Democratic Party (NPD) won 9 percent, while in Brandenburg state the German People's Union (DVU) garnered 6 percent. Under Germany's proportional representation system both parties will gain seats in the state parliaments for having crossed the 5 percent hurdle.
    ©Expatica News

    25/11/2004- Efforts to move forward plans for a Sinti and Roma Holocaust monument have become bogged down again in the German parliament over the word "gypsies". Members of all major political parties expressed dismay that no compromise has been found as yet on avoiding use of the term. A compromise plan to dedicate the planned Berlin memorial to "all persons called 'gypsies' by the Nazis" failed to win support for passage on Wednesday. At issue is whether the Sinti and Roma groupings represent all traveller peoples who were persecuted by the Nazi regime.
    ©Expatica News

    21/11/2004- An estimated 15,000 people attending a mini festival in Amsterdam have been told all communities in the city have to stand by each other in the face of the racial tensions of recent weeks. Major Dutch pop acts came up with the idea of the Stay Close! concert in the wake of the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam on 2 November. All performers emphasised at the Sunday concert that the people of Amsterdam, regardless of their colour, religion or race, have to remain close by each other. At least 20 mosques and churches around the Netherlands have been targeted by arsonists in tit-for-tat attacks since Van Gogh's assassination. He was an outspoken critic of Islam and a Muslim man, 26, has been arrested for his murder. A note pinned to Van Gogh's body with a knife warned that MPs Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders, as well as MP Jozias van Aartsen, the leader of the parliamentary faction of the Liberal Party (VVD), would be killed next if they did not stop criticising Islam. The artists taking part in the two-hour concert included Marmoucha dakka, Ali B., Blof, Lange Frans and Kane. The audience was a good representation of Amsterdam's 170 nationalities. People of all ages and colour crowded together in the city's Museumplein on a cold and wet afternoon to enjoy the music and support the call for harmony. The event was hosted by Dolf Jansen and Howard Komproe, who expressed surprise at some of the reactions to the killing. Referring to deputy prime minister Gerrit Zalm's "declaration of war" on extremists, Komproe asked: "We are still talking about the sober and common sense Dutch? I haven't witnessed much of this in the last few weeks." The concert was opened by drummer Marmoucha dakka, followed by rapper Ali B. who told the crowd that various Dutch artists had formed a "front" against intolerance.
    ©Expatica News

    22/11/2004- Theo van Gogh was a kind of high-brow Howard Stern, a clown-provocateur who called one Muslim activist "Mohammed's pimp," and routinely dismissed others as devotees of sex with goats. The Dutch filmmaker and columnist, a distant relative of the great painter, was perhaps a walking warning sign of the rupture in a Dutch society known for its embrace of multiculturalism and tolerance. But when he was ritually killed on an Amsterdam street three weeks ago, allegedly by a Dutch-born Islamic extremist with ties to a global jihadi network, he became a symbol of something else: Europe's vulnerability to acts of terror and its unmet challenge of integrating the increasingly disaffected Muslim minority that lives within its borders. The aftermath of what some are calling "the Dutch September 11th" has ushered in some of the ugliest ethnic violence - and toughest government responses - in recent memory. It also has highlighted how terror networks find recruits among Europe's alienated Muslims. And it is promoting anguish among Muslim Dutch residents whose condemnation of such violence has not spared them accusing glares, public accostings and, sometimes, worse. "A guy came up to me in a coffee shop three days ago, and said: 'I hope you are not Muslim,' " recounted Egyptian-born Sayed Mansour, who has lived here since 1985. "Someone did something horrible, and the whole community is blamed." Horrible it was. After he was chased down and shot, van Gogh had his throat slit, and a note was impaled on his body threatening politicians critical of Islamic conservatives. The killing - apparently in response to Submission, van Gogh's recent film about abused Muslim women in which verses of the Koran are shown written on naked female backs - stunned and enraged the country. Twenty mosques were vandalized or burned. Several churches then were bombed in apparent retaliation. As security services swooped in to arrest terror suspects in the Hague, one detonated a hand grenade, wounding three officers. Authorities detained a Muslim translator for the Dutch intelligence agency on suspicion of leaking secrets to terror suspects. "The jihad has come to the Netherlands," proclaimed Jozias van Aartsen, a leading member of parliament. The center-right government rolled out a series of antiterror proposals that, in the words of one commentator, "make the Patriot Act look like 'Kumbaya.' " Some foreign news accounts have spoken of a "loss of innocence," but in fact the Netherlands lost its innocence about immigration and ethnic relations long ago. After decades of policies that encouraged Turkish and Moroccan "guest workers" to live apart in segregated enclaves, the Dutch government has been trying since the mid-1990s to figure out how to deal with the schism separating many of the country's 945,000 Muslims from the rest of society, even as it imposed one of Europe's most restrictive immigration laws to reduce the flow of newcomers.

    In recent years, it had become clear that the country had what officials call "an integration problem." Some Muslim immigrants weren't bothering to learn Dutch, and some were embracing fundamentalist ideologies that do not share the Dutch reverence for tolerance and freedom of speech. At the same time, a crime problem among Moroccan youths fueled racism and discrimination. Flash-point incidents - antigay statements by conservative Islamic clerics, for example, or allegations of police abuse against Moroccans - have become commonplace. Experts say the divisions are exacerbated by a culture of global Muslim grievance, transmitted through the Internet and Arabic satellite channels, that includes fierce anger over Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories and U.S. actions in Iraq. In the 1960s, the Netherlands recruited uneducated guest workers on the assumption that they eventually would return to their home countries, said Han Entzinger, a professor of migration and integration studies at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. When they did not, the Dutch promoted a "multiculturalism that in fact included little respect for others and maybe even little acceptance," he said. "It was a kind of indifferent form of 'live and let live.' " The Netherlands' population of 16.1 million is one of Europe's most ethnically diverse, with nearly 3.1 million residents of foreign backgrounds, according to the national statistics office. Muslims are 5.8 percent of the Dutch population. Among the newcomers are immigrants from such former Dutch colonies as Indonesia and Suriname, as well as South Asians, East Asians and Eastern Europeans. Also among them are 352,000 Turks and 302,000 Moroccans, by the government's count. Many live in the major cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, where residents of foreign origin are expected to make up a majority within a decade. Poverty and unemployment among those two groups are high. But the man charged with van Gogh's murder, Mohammed Bouyeri, 26, is not disadvantaged - he is a university-educated ethnic Moroccan who was born here and speaks fluent Dutch. He was part of a network of extremists who were under surveillance by intelligence agents, and there is evidence linking the network to those who carried out the Madrid, Spain, train bombings that killed 191 people in March. So on one level, the killing poses a discrete problem for the Dutch: how to root out terrorists in their midst. But on another level, it highlights a thorny culture clash over free speech and civil discourse.

    Since the rise of right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn, who made a career out of criticizing Muslim extremism and loose immigration policies (and who was killed in 2002 by a deranged non-Muslim assailant), some Dutch people have felt free to make what many Muslims consider to be deeply offensive statements about Islam. After the van Gogh murder, the Dutch justice minister, Piet Hein Donner, was so concerned about extreme rhetoric that he proposed stepped-up enforcement of an anti-blasphemy law to curb "hateful comments." But his proposal quickly was criticized by other cabinet members, including the immigration minister, Rita Verdonk, who argued that Muslims were simply too sensitive to criticism. In a speech after van Gogh's funeral, Verdonk, a former prison warden, used the terms "us" and "them" in a manner that angered many Muslims. Although some Muslims have said publicly that van Gogh got what he deserved, the majority appear to deplore the killing. Indeed, Entzinger said, his studies show that most Dutch Muslims share the public values held by the rest of Dutch society. In Amsterdam's predominantly Moroccan neighborhood last week, a sign in a coffee-shop window said: "He was murdered for his words. Out with extremism." In another coffee shop down the street, Mohamed Kacem, 35, a Moroccan-born taxi driver, was rolling one of Holland's famously legal marijuana joints. "You have to catch the extremists and punish them," he said in fluent English. "This is not good. It's not Islam." But, he said, van Gogh's antics had long made Muslims wonder: "How far can you go in insulting someone?" "You can't murder someone for what he says," Kacem said, "but I think there should be a law against insulting religion." Prem Radhakishun, a lawyer, broadcaster and close friend of van Gogh's, said he feared the country was in for a tough time. "We're going to see extreme white people thinking that they can do [anything] they want, and extreme Muslims thinking that they have to defend themselves," he said. "I think no one has the answer at the moment."
    ©Philadelphia Inquirer

    25/11/2004— Three boys have been arrested for the arson attack that destroyed a Muslim primary school in the Dutch town of Uden two weeks ago. The suspects, whose ages range from 14 to 15, were arrested in the last few days. Public prosecutor Charles van der Voort told a press conference in the town on Thursday that the three are also part of a group of six teenage boys suspected of attempting to burn down the local mosque. Police have not uncovered any evidence that the six are connected to right-wing extremist groups or were involved in other attacks. The destruction of the Muslim school was the most serious incident in a spate of tit-for-tat attacks on Muslim properties and Christian churches following the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam on 2 November. A 26-year-old Muslim man was arrested for the killing.
    ©Expatica News

    22/11/2004- Muslims in Britain are suffering soaring levels of Islamophobia and discrimination based on their faith, rather than the colour of their skin, a report published today says. Experts warned that significant numbers of British Muslims, particularly young men, are being marginalised by the inequalities they suffer compared with white and other ethnic groups. Of British Muslims, 80 per cent said they had suffered Islamophobia. The study, published to launch Islam Awareness Week, calls on the Government to do more to tackle discrimination and engage the Muslim community in society. Sher Khan, a spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, said: "There is a real potential for Muslim people to become increasingly isolated within Britain, which goes completely against the idea of trying to create a more cohesive society. It is not going to be possible to achieve integration unless the concerns of British Muslims are addressed by the Government." But he added: "It has to be a two-way process. British Muslims have got to build bridges and be proactive in terms of integrating with the rest of society." The report, by the Open Society Institute, found that since the 11 September attacks 80 per cent of Muslims said they had been subjected to some form of Islamophobia. Two thirds of British Muslims felt they were perceived and treated differently from other groups, and 32 per cent said they had been discriminated against at British airports because of their religion.

    Between 2001 and 2003, the number of Asian people stopped and searched under the Terrorism Act rose by 302 per cent, compared with 230 per cent for black people and 118 per cent for whites. The report warned: "The high number of stop-and-searches, and the gap between the number of searches and actual arrests, charges and convictions, is leading to a perception among British Muslims of being unfairly policed, and is fuelling a strong disaffection and sense of being under siege." One in three Muslims felt that the Government was doing too little to protect the rights of different faith groups in the UK. The report also found that as well as suffering overt verbal and physical attacks, British Muslims are among the most economically and socially disadvantaged groups in the country. They have the lowest employment rate of any faith group, at 38 per cent. The unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds runs at 17.5 per cent for Muslims, compared with 7.9 per cent for Christians and 7.4 per cent for Hindus. One in three Muslims of working age has no qualification, the highest of any faith group. Four out of 10 Muslim children live in overcrowded accommodation, compared with 12 per cent of the population as a whole. Two-thirds of the Muslim population live in the 88 most deprived districts of England, and as a faith group, they have the highest rates of illness. There are 1.6 million Muslims in the UK, 3 per cent of the population. The Muslim community is also one of the youngest; one-third of those who follow the religion are under the age of 16, compared with one-fifth of the population as a whole. The average age of Muslims is 28, 13 years younger than the national average. Years of social and economic disadvantage, coupled with the suspicion they have come under after the terror attacks in the US, has led to the increasing demonisation and isolation of young men, researchers say. The report concludes: "While policy is moving in the right direction, progress is still not enough to enable some of the real and rapid changes now required. "Muslim young men have emerged as the new 'folk devils' of popular and media imagination, being represented as the embodiment of fundamentalism. "To be a British Muslim is defined solely in terms of negativity, deprivation, disadvantage and alienation." It calls for better representation of Muslims in public life, such as the education and criminal justice systems, and more targeted policies aimed at narrowing the inequality gap between the Islamic community and other ethnic groups. The report also suggests offering Arabic as a modern language option in schools, and including Muslim civilisation in history lessons. For the majority of Muslims, the issue of their faith is more important than their ethnicity, the report says. The high commissioner of Pakistan urged British Muslims to do more to fit into society. Dr Maleeha Lodhi said better integration would help to "beat the extremists" - in terms of both racism towards Muslims and Islamic fundamentalism. "You can integrate without assimilating, so you are part of British society," she said.

    'They were glaring at me and then picked up some stones'
    Dr Sara Saigol, a hospital doctor, lives in Manchester with her husband, Khalid Anis, a dentist, and their three children. She was born in Britain and had never experienced Islamophobia until one terrifying afternoon last summer. As she walked along a main road in Manchester with her children, three men on a building site began shouting "Paki" at her. "They were glaring at me, and then started picking up stones and looking as if they were about to throw them at me," she said. "I had a double buggy and my daughter skipping behind me, so I couldn't go very fast.I was very intimidated and completely shocked. "The majority of British society is nothing like that but I couldn't believe that these men were doing this on a main road, and in a multicultural place like Manchester." She went on: "It is difficult to know ... whether it is racism based on the colour of my skin, or Islamophobia based on the fact I was wearing a hijab, but I think it was based on the way I was dressed. There has been a change in the way Muslims are perceived since 11 September 2001, and the way we are portrayed." Her husband agrees: "Our local mosque was vandalised recently and people I know have been abused in the street. "The discrimination can be very subtle. If there is a bomb attack, it is always described as Islamic terrorism, but when Amir Khan was boxing for Britain in the Olympics, he was described as being a Bolton lad; nothing was mentioned about him being a Muslim. "People ask me if it is possible to be British and a Muslim. Of course it is. I find the question ludicrous."
    © Independent Digital

    We hardly hear words like 'nigger' now for one reason: generations of politically correct people fought against them
    By Johann Hari

    26/11/2004- Michael Howard is playing a dangerous game. This week's Conservative party political broadcast was a naked rant against "political correctness". An array of white people - and one token Asian - were shown talking about their fear of crime. Michael Howard then explained - with a pained expression - that the reason for this terror is the "handcuffing" of our police by the forces of political correctness. Starting next year, extra measures will be put in place by the Labour government to stop the police harassing innocent black people. The reasons are stark and simple. A young black man is still six times more likely to be randomly stopped by the police than a young white guy. Black drivers of smart cars complain they are constantly pulled over for the unofficial offence of "Driving While Black". This police harassment - quite apart from being wrong and racist in itself - actually increases crime, because it makes the black community more reluctant to co-operate with police investigations. Howard knows this. He knows the new measures - which require the police to log each person they stop and take a quick note of it - were strongly recommended by the public inquiry into Stephen Lawrence's murder as "necessary to tackle institutional racism in the police force". He has decided to play politics with it anyway - and in the most inflammatory way. The Tory leader has chosen publicly to charge - in a broadcast entirely free of Afro-Carribean victims of crime - that "political correctness gone mad" is feeding lawlessness. It doesn't take an expert to join the dots between his statements: if you stop harassing black men, crime will grow. Howard likes the charge of "political correctness" so much he has decided to use it as a spear in the general election campaign. This summer, he laid out his approach in a remarkable speech. He said PC was "driving people crazy" and "playing into the hands of extremists". Yet the only evidence for this "cancer" that Howard and his army of full-time researchers could come up with was a handful of trivial anecdotes. You know the drill: a council refusing to hang the St George's flag during a football match, a few prisoners allowed to claim a "right" to hard-core porn, and so on.

    Why the lack of examples with real victims? Easy: because the stories always trotted out as evidence of the excesses of PC - the banning of "Baa-Baa Black Sheep" and so on - turn out to be urban myths. Far from being a "left-wing tyranny" and "a thought-crime", political correctness exists far more in the wild imaginations of the right than in everyday life. When PC does impinge on our daily lives - as in the Government's new police proposals - there is a very good reason for it. But for all the intellectual emptiness of his speech, Howard got the headlines he wanted - "Tory boss savages PC". "Political correctness" has become a generic term used by the right to slap down the extension of equality to minority groups without seeming like monsters. Few people will openly admit they believe it's acceptable for the police to bully black men, or for gay people to be denied equal rights, or for grossly abusive terms to be used about the disabled or women. Instead, they simply sneer at everybody who actually wants to end these abuses. How do these people imagine words like "nigger", "faggot" and "kike" faded from public discourse? We hardly ever hear them now for one reason: earlier generations of politically correct people fought against them. Minorities - supported by, yes, decent left-wingers - made it clear that they were unacceptable. Michael Howard, of course, implies he would always have been on the side of decency in the past; it's just now that things are "over-stepping the mark" that he has turned against all progressive reforms. He boasts today, "I have supported all sensible measures to combat race, disability and sex discrimination. I support civil partnerships [for gay couples]." There's only one problem with this: it's not true. For him, every decent step has been a step too far. Howard personally piloted Section 28 - the most nakedly homophobic piece of legislation introduced in the past 50 years - through the House of Commons. He chided all the Labour MPs who warned that it would lead to homophobic bullying and teenage suicides as - you guessed it - "politically correct".

    It gets worse. He refused - flatly, bitterly refused - to launch a public inquiry into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence when he was Home Secretary. If his stubborn policy of hear-no-racism, see-no-racism had prevailed, we still wouldn't know about the endemic racism in our police force, and there would have been even more poorly-investigated black deaths and more racist murderers walking free. (So much for him being "tough on crime".) "Censorship! Censorship!" the right cry when these facts are pointed out. "Why are you trying to silence people? Why can't people be free to use the words they are comfortable with?" This sounds appealing at first. I believe free speech is the most important right in a democracy, and if anybody wanted to enforce PC codes legally, I'd be totally against it. But in ordinary social discourse, there always have to be limits. Nobody except the BNP wants to bring terms like "Paki" back into our schools and newspapers. So, outside the far right, we are all merely haggling about where the boundaries of offensive speech should lie: a female "chairman" here, a "crippled" there. These are plodding adjustments to our speech, and they are always slowly happening. Who now, for example, remembers terms like "Hottentots" and "piccaninnies"? But that doesn't make for a rabble-enraging speech; it doesn't allow white wealthy Tories to believe they too are victims of persecution by a silent, unseen élite. So Howard ignores it. If you want to understand the nature of this anti-political correctness scam - and what it panders to - take a look at the people who are routinely praised for being "gloriously politically incorrect". In a quick search of press cuttings, I found two people who repeatedly receive this accolade: the late Denis Thatcher and the Spectator columnist Taki. Ah yes, Denis, that old cove. According to his daughter Carol, he would refer to black people as "coons", and vigorously lobbied for the white supremacist apartheid regime in South Africa. How glorious. How incorrect. And then there's Taki, who thinks he is terribly brave when he writes that "Britain is being mugged by black hoodlums" and praises the French fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen as "a hero".

    Of course Michael Howard does not agree with these ugly positions. But he is knowingly using language that makes some of the ugliest people in Britain look brave for "standing up to the PC thought police". And he is desperately trying to stigmatise anybody who believes black people should be free to walk the streets of this country without the police hassling them. People who know him well assure me Michael Howard is not personally a bigot. Fine. Then he is something worse: a man who is choosing to tango with bigotry for electoral gain.
    © Independent Digital

    24/11/2004- Islamic preachers and other spiritual leaders from abroad could soon have to take courses to help them integrate better into Swiss society. The government proposal comes at a time of growing public debate about the role of Muslims in a multicultural society such as Switzerland's. The justice ministry is planning to submit the plan to the cabinet within the next few weeks, according to the Federal Office of Immigration, Integration and Emigration (IMES). "Imams have a great influence on people whom we cannot reach very easily," said IMES spokesman Mario Tuor. "It is important that they do not only preach the Koran but that they also show the members of their community which values and rules, such as equal rights for men and women, prevail in Switzerland," he added. Under the plan, drafted last year, short-term and temporary residency permits would only be granted to applicants who have taken special integration and language courses. The regulations would also apply to Imams who travel to Switzerland to lead prayers in mosques during the holy month of Ramadan. The draft proposals specify that the courses would only be introduced if they were found to be in the public interest. Earlier this month Switzerland's Catholic and Protestant churches proposed that Imams who lead prayers in Swiss mosques should be educated at Swiss universities. Richard Friedli, professor of divinity at Fribourg University, said a study was being made into the various forms of Islam in Switzerland. Initial preparations are also underway at Basel University for the education of Imams in Switzerland.
    ©NZZ Online

    22/11/2004- Swiss churches have proposed that Imams who lead prayers in Swiss mosques should be educated at universities in Switzerland. But Ueli Maurer, president of the right-wing Swiss People's Party, says that there is "no place" for Islamic courses in a Christian country like Switzerland. The plan to educate Imams was put forward by the Swiss Bishops' Conference and the Swiss Protestant Church Federation. Agnell Rickmann, secretary-general of the Bishops' Conference, said he was "convinced" it would make sense to create structures for a course for prayer leaders, in an interview with the ‘NZZ am Sonntag' newspaper. Rickmann, who is head of a working group including both Catholics and Muslims, said the training was a "reasonable demand". One of the leaders of the Protestant Church Federation, Markus Sahli, argued that for the integration of Muslims in a liberal society such as Switzerland's, it was important that their spiritual leaders were not simply "flown in from anywhere".

    Customs and traditions
    Sahli said that such training would familiarise Imams with one of Switzerland's languages, and with the country's customs and traditions. It would also include the role of women in Swiss society. A university education course would also help Islamic spiritual leaders to "look critically at their own position", he added. The proposal for training courses for Imams was originally an idea from Muslims themselves. Farhad Afshar, who is president of the coordination centre of Islamic organisations in Switzerland, put forward project ideas years ago to the universities of Bern, Basel, Lucerne and Geneva. Basel University looked into the plans four years ago but they were put on ice because of what were termed "difficulties of organisational integration". But now there is movement on the issue, with the idea of creating an Imam training course in the city. Two of the four political parties in the Swiss government have supported the education plans.

    Equal treatment
    The president of the Social Democratic Party, Hans-Jürg Fehr, said he backed "equal treatment of religions". In view of the number of Muslims in Switzerland, there was a "need for a well-educated people", he added. And Doris Leuthard, president of the Christian Democrats, said she hoped for positive results from any such training. However, Maurer from the Swiss People's Party is fundamentally opposed to the idea. "Switzerland is a Christian country," he said without compromise, arguing there was "no place" in it for Islamic courses at state universities. Maurer added that he did not believe that Imams educated in Switzerland would be any less radical than their colleagues from abroad. "A certain fanaticism is simply part of this religion. Studying in Switzerland will not change that," he added. The delicate issue of radical Islamism may come up for discussion at the winter session of the Swiss parliament in Bern. Christian Democratic MP Maurice Chervrier has urged the government to state its position, asking whether it considers radical Islamism to be "a threat" and if it will call for a study on the issue.
    ©NZZ Online

    Norway's Labor Party has proposed a mandatory course in Norwegian language and culture for those who intend to preach religion after Islamic Council Norway's spokesman Zahid Mukhtar refused a clear repudiation of the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

    24/11/2004- Islamic Council Norway (IRN) welcomes the proposal. The group has supported similar ideas before and expressed hope that this time authorities would back the idea up. "We have long wished that the imams (Muslim spiritual leaders) who come to Norway learn Norwegian and gain knowledge about Norwegian society in the course of their first year. It is extremely important when one is to communicate with the young. But we see again and again that politicians come with such proposals without realizing them," said deputy IRN leader Imran Mushtaq. Mushtaq said authorities must improve Norwegian education for all new arrivals, and Hafiz Mehboob ur-Rehman, imam at the Islamic Cultural Center, agrees. "I want to speak the language as well as most Norwegians but it isn't easy because I used up my education quota before I learned the language well enough," ur-Rehman said. "It is important to understand the language of the society one lives in. I am ready to start a Norwegian course today if I get more hours," the imam said. Labor Party leader Jens Stoltenberg said that Muslim representatives damage the fight against fear of foreigners when they create doubts about van Gogh's death. "There are limits to our tolerance. Our society is built on values that apply regardless of religious faith," Stoltenberg said, and added that he was not afraid to give the impression of following in the wake of the controversial Progress Party. Stoltenberg said that Progress Party leader Carl I. Hagen was intelligent enough to balance his criticism of Islam without falling on the side of racism, but that Hagen "builds walls where we build bridges". Stoltenberg said that the integration of immigrants was the Labor Party's new challenge, after having helped the working class and women.

    24/11/2004- A new international study finds that youth from an immigrant background are at least as content as their Norwegian counterparts. "Youth with an immigrant background say that they are satisfied with life. It is good for their self-image to be part of a group and they do not let condescending remarks influence their lives," said psychologist David Lackland Sam at the University of Bergen. Sam is one of the researchers taking part in the ICSEY (International Comparative Study of Ethno-cultural Youth), which examined 8,000 youngsters between aged 13-18 in 13 countries and gauges their adaptation to society. In Norway 500 teenagers living in Oslo, Drammen, Trondheim, Bergen and Stavanger - with roots in Vietnam, Pakistan, Turkey, and Chile - took part. Lackland Sam believes the results are startling because they defy the conventional wisdom that immigrants have it worse than natives. On the question of how content they are with their lives, the immigrants came out on top in all countries studied. Lackland Sam pointed out that in contrast to many other studies of immigrant background, this one was controlled for the socio-economic status of parents, gender and length of residence - in other words, a minority youth with unemployed parents is not compared with a Norwegian teen with working parents. A few factors indicate that some classic obstacles have gotten worse for immigrants. "After Sep. 11, 2001 it has in many ways become more difficult to be dark-skinned. Many have also become more skeptical towards Muslims," said Viggo Vestel at NOVA (Norwegian Social Research).

    26/11/2004- Integration Minister Bertel Haarder has urged Muslims in Denmark to develop a new, modern and more pro-Western variant of Islam, which explicitly disavows violent elements in traditional sharia law "Educated Muslims should take the lead in developing a democratic form of Islam that fits in with our own democracy. A version of Islam like this would be duly respected. Anyone who clings to the undemocratic portions of sharia law will face big problems in Danish politics," said Bertel Haarder. Haarder's comments were directed primarily at Copenhagen imam Fatih Alev and former local politician Fatima Shah, who resigned from Social Democratic party politics in Herlev after openly advocating sharia law in a published interview. "In recent days, we've heard several Muslim politicians claim that sharia law is a package deal, including stoning and hand-cutting. But in so doing, they're enslaving themselves to a Muslim tradition that has no place in modern society. They must distinguish between parts of sharia - it's not like Christians still go around in sandals and tunics," said Haarder. Imam Fatih Alev rebuffed Haarder's calls for a more "Western-friendly" Islam. "He wants to forcibly integrate us on the basis of his own subjective understanding of Islam. It is patently impossible to develop a 'Christianized' Islam," said Alev.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    23/11/2004- Some 12,000 asylum seekers and other migrants have been waiting for more than three years for their application to stay in Belgium to be dealt with. According to an article in Tuesday's edition of Flemish daily, De Standaard, the Forum for Asylum seekers and Migrants are calling for all those in such circumstances to be issued with papers. According to an official statement made last August by Belgian Interior Minister Patrick Dewael, all refugees who have applied for asylum should expect a decision within three years for families with school children or four years for couples without children or single people. But Pieter Degryse from the organisation "Refugee work, Flanders" says this promise has not been kept. Applicants' lives are extremely restricted, with many not allowed to work. Around 400 protesters recently gathered outside the headquarters of all of Belgium's major political in a bid to improve the situation. Another demonstration is planned in a couple of weeks.
    ©Expatica News

    23/11/2004- An official report presented to the French government Tuesday paints a damning picture of racial discrimination in the workplace and recommends a series of measures including the mandatory introduction of anonymous CVs. According to the report, young people of Arab and African origin are up to five times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the French population, while their chances of even achieving an interview are severely reduced as a result of their name and skin colour. In education the number of Arabs and Africans gaining access to top flight university courses and the elite "grandes ecoles" is decreasing, while problems at primary and secondary level mean that schools are "incapable of ensuring basic literacy among non French-speaking immigrants." "For reasons linked to our history and which are the result of policies conducted over half a century, the principle of equal opportunity rings hollow in the ears of millions," the report says. "It may well be inscribed on the pedestal of the republic and the marble of our constitution, but for many it is just that - a principle - and in no way a reality. Socially relegated and geographically concentrated, these people are the ones that equal opportunities forgot." Drawn up by a comittee headed by the former president of the insurance giant Axa Claude Bebear, the study argues that it is not just bad morals but also bad economics to deprive France of a huge number of often well-qualified workers. "The situation we are in is doubly absurd. Companies are ignoring a considerable human resource, and young people - many with degrees - are excluded from our collective project," it says. Quoting recent academic studies it says that young people from so-called "sensitive areas" - the high-immigration council estates that surround most French towns and cities - are "between three and five times more likely to be hit by unemployment than others." An investigation conducted in Paris revealed that a young man of European appearance and name was granted 75 interviews when he sent out his resume, while a person with exactly the same qualifications but of North African origin was given just 14.

    Unemployment among graduates of immigrant origin is abnormally high, the report says. The rate is five percent for people of French origin, 7.2 percent for foreigners from inside the European Union and 18 percent for foreigners from outside the EU. One of the biggest obstacles to any attempt to tackle the problem is France's refusal to draw up official statistics based on racial origin, on the grounds that this is an infringement of the principle of equality for all, the report's authors found. Large companies were being asked to practice non-discrimination but had no means of discovering where the problem lay. "Businesses have no idea of the number of minority members in the work force, nor the type of jobs they hold nor their level of education," the report says. The study was issued at a time of growing debate in France about whether to opt for British- and American-style "positive discrimination" in order to promote the integration of minorities. President Jacques Chirac is opposed but his ambitious rival on the right Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is in favour. Bebear's report takes a nuanced line, calling for "positive mobilisation" and recommending a series of moves to encourage recruitment among what it called the "visible minorities ... people living in France whose skin-colour distinguishes them in the eyes of most of our citizens." In order to ensure true competition among candidates for a job, all CVs sent to medium and large companies should be screened before arriving at the human resources department so that names and photographs are removed, the report says. Companies should be allowed to conduct regular statistical analyses to determine the extent and nature of immigrant employment; they should be encouraged to sponsor the higher education of promising pupils from poor areas; and recruitment to "grandes ecoles" and other elite institutions should be diversified. Bebear's study coincided with an equally scathing report from the government's financial regulator the Cour de Comptes on the failures of France's policies of integration. "The situation of a large part of the people who came in the latest wave of immigration is more than disturbing. Not only does it lead to often disgraceful situations, it is the origin ... of serious social and racial tensions which are heavy with menace for the future," it says.
    ©Expatica News

    Abortion was legalised in France 30 years ago this month. But while some 220,000 abortions are performed in the country every year, campaigners say women seeking termination face 'an obstacle race'. Karine Perret reports.

    25/11/2004- Three decades after then health minister Simone Veil legalised abortion in France, women seeking a termination still face many obstacles, according to health workers and pro-choice groups. The rate of abortions has remained almost constant in the last 15 years, from 14 per 1, 000 women in 1990 to 14.3 in 2002, according to a recent government report. About 220,000 abortions are performed every year in France. "We have won a lot," said Maya Surduts, spokeswoman for a group coordinating the activities of pro-choice and family planning activities. "But obtaining an abortion still remains an obstacle race." This remains true even after a change in the law in 2001, under the auspices of then minister Martine Aubry, extending from 10 to 12 weeks after conception the period in which an abortion can be carried out. "It is a law on paper, but its application remains problematic," said Marie-Laure Brival, a campaigning gynaecologist and obstetrician who is also vice-president of the National Association of Abortion and Contraception Clinics. The first obstacle many women face, according to pro-choice groups, is the difficulty in getting an appointment to see a medical practitioner. "Because the number of doctors carrying out terminations is limited, the waiting period can easily stretch to three or four weeks, and that is too long," said Maïté Albagly, secretary general of the Movement for Family Planning (MNPF) In addition, she said, four out of 10 private clinics in the Paris region have closed abortion units in the past two years because the procedure is not considered profitable. The Aubry amendment allows girls under the age of 18 to undergo an abortion without parental permission - although the assent of at least one adult adviser is still required - but Albagly said some public hospitals and private clinics still refuse to accept young women as patients unless their parents authorise a termination. Another feature of the 2001 Aubry law was to allow doctors to administer the so-called abortion pill outside the hospital or clinical environment. The pill, known as RU486 or by its French brand name Mifegyne, consists of a molecule called mifepristone and is used in conjunction with prostaglandins to expel the embryo in early pregnancy.

    But only in July, 2004, did Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy sign the decree that allows women to obtain the pill on prescription from their doctors. Surduts says the government still has not got around to allowing reimbursement for the pill by the French national health service, but a spokesman for the health ministry said a circular adding mifepristone to the list of refundable drugs is in the works. Brival said many doctors were not exactly friendly to the idea of abortion. They say women are careless about taking precautions, while in fact "two thirds of the women who abort are practising contraception". She said some clinics still refuse to admit women more than 10 weeks into pregnancy, despite the change in the law. The union of independent gynaecologists and obstetricians (Syngof) says that France does not do enough to prevent unwanted pregnancies, particularly in school, although a law passed in 2000 permits nurses in junior and secondary schools to dispense emergency contraceptives, or so-called ‘morning-after pills'. The pro-choice associations remain wary about the activities of radical pro-life groups, which they say have been encouraged by the views of US president George W Bush. In the 1990s, radical pro-lifers staged a series of highly publicised raids on abortion clinics, chaining themselves to hospital equipment in some cases. Such activities are now punishable under criminal law, but to some extent, Surduts said, abortion "remains taboo" in mainly Roman Catholic France, and there is a great deal of resistance to it.
    ©Expatica News

    Racism has reared its ugly head in Malta, perhaps beyond tolerable levels, Family and Social Solidarity Minister Dolores Cristina said yesterday. The recent frequent arrival of irregular immigrants seems to have shocked Maltese society, she added.

    24/11/2004- A few years ago racism was not felt so much, the minister said, but the sudden surge of irregular immigrants in recent years seems to have created a certain animosity among the Maltese people. "The theme of this campaign represents a philosophy that is close to heart," she said. "It is by embracing every person's unique characteristics that we may grow and mature. Diversity is a fundamental element of the beauty of life, without which life would probably be very dull." The minister was speaking at the launch of a year-long awareness campaign entitled Sahha fid-Diversita' (Strength in Diversity), which will be coordinated jointly by the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities and the Jesuit Refugee Service – Malta (JRS). The campaign, funded by the EU's Community Action Programme to Combat Discrimination, will focus mostly on schools, promoting the concepts of diversity and encouraging students to take a stand against discrimination. MLP spokesman Marie Louise Coleiro echoed the minister, saying: "It seems that in so far as we are asked to give a donation to help a distant country in difficulty there are no problems, but when it comes to sharing with needy people at close range, it's a different story," she said. Explaining that her comment was general and that there were many people who did their best to help ethnic minorities living in Malta, Ms Coleiro explained that there are others that still show discriminatory attitudes. The campaign will consist of various open-air events, conferences and seminars throughout the year. JRS' project coordinator Tesfamichael Beraki Mekonen, an Eritrean national who has been given refugee status, explained that the campaign will concentrate around an outreach programme with some 35 to 40 schools, various seminars and conferences as well as a human rights walk, which will be held on Saturday 11 December. Furthermore, a set of billboards will be set up in various prominent locations to promote the message with wider audiences. There will also be publications that will be distributed widely both inside and outside schools.

    The school outreach programme will be launched in December and will include experiential learning sessions. The schools targeted are mostly secondary schools both in Malta and Gozo. The students will be given practical examples of the difficulties faced by disabled people and members of ethnic minorities. They will also be able to discuss the matter with disabled people and refugees who will attend the sessions and share their experience. JRS director Fr Pierre Grech Marguerat said his organisation was very happy to receive an invitation, by the National Commission for People with Disabilities (NCPD), to join forces on such a project. JRS has been carrying out educational campaigns on a small scale for a number of years in Malta, but nothing of this scale, he said. The Jesuit service has active projects in a number of countries, in which the beneficiaries are not necessarily Catholic or Christian. Furthermore, he added, they have been implementing a campaign at St Aloysius College over the past months. Asked whether he thought Maltese law made adequate provision to punish racism, Fr Grech Marguerat said that the law, amended two years ago did provide the necessary punishments, but was only used once when a meagre Lm10 fine was imposed. NCPD president Joe Camilleri said that the commission had always fought against discrimination, adding that the invitation to the JRS to join forces for the sake of the campaign was merely an extension of their work. In this way the commission will be making available its experience as an organisation that has worked against discrimination. He said that even though, up to a few years ago he was under the impression that the Maltese people were generally open minded, recent events have proven that there is a racist element within our society.
    ©Malta Independent Daily

    25/11/2004- Many people predicted that Ukraine would rapidly divide in two after it became independent in 1991 following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Foreign politicians, diplomats and experts pointed to what seemed cataclysmic political fault lines that they predicted would lead to upheaval, possible civil war, but certain division. Of its 48 million population, eight to 10 million are ethnic Russians, most of whom want closer links with Moscow. The Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych, backed by Vladimir Putin, has ruthlessly exploited ethnic Russian passions to recreate a vestige of a Moscow-led political bloc. But many Russian-speaking Ukrainians support the opposition. The opponents in the presidential election were the pro-Russian Mr Yanukovych and the pro-Western liberal candidate, Viktor Yushchenko. The opposition accused the government and Mr Yanukovych of stealing the election, allegations supported by the EU, the US, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe and Nato. Mr Yanukovych emphasised the differences between parts of the country, while Mr Yushchenko stressed the ties between all parts of the nation. In medieval times much of the territory of present-day Ukraine was the powerful state of Kievan Rus, centred on Kiev. Prince Volodymyr, the ruler of this state, accepted Christianity for himself and his people. Russia traces its existence and its church from Kievan Rus and that is why many, even liberal, Russians find it difficult to accept Ukraine's independence.

    The Kievan Rus empire fell apart after Mongol invasions. Those who remained on the steppelands were joined by serfs or noblemen escaping from Polish lords or the rule of the Tsars. These people banded together in military groups who became the Cossacks to defend their lands from Tatar invaders and incursions from Russia and the Polish empire. Ukrainian protesters trace their passion for democracy to the Cossacks, who elected their leaders. In the 18th century, the Cossacks were overwhelmed and their territory divided between the Russian empire and the Austro-Hungarian empire. Ukrainians in the west were cut off from their countrymen under Russian control. The western and central regions of the country have a population that is mostly ethnic Ukrainian and Ukrainian speaking. Most of western Ukraine is Uniate Catholic. Western Ukraine was for centuries part of the Hapsburg empire and between the world wars it was part of Poland. Until Stalin annexed it at the same time as Hitler occupied the rest of Poland, the people of western Ukraine had not experienced Russian rule. Although the rulers of western Ukraine were often harsh, Ukrainians retained their language, customs and national identity. The people of eastern Ukraine were Ukrainian Orthodox Christians and spoke the same language as their compatriots in the west but gradually Russia chipped away at Ukrainian identity. Mr Yushchenko said: "When Putin speaks of his people in a country spanning 11 time zones, he doesn't talk about west and east Russians, he talks of Russians. Yanukovych speaks of different Ukrainians because he wants to divide and rule. But Ukraine is one and undivided."
    © Independent Digital

    21/11/2004- Biographical details of three million Jews killed in the Holocaust are to be posted on the web for the first time. Israel's Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, said it was a "duty" to ensure that the six million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis will not be forgotten. The museum called its website a "work in progress" and said it would work to retrieve the details of every victim. The database is partly based on more than two million "pages of testimony" given by survivors, family and friends. "Yad Vashem undertook to retrieve the names of the Jewish victims and to preserve their memory," the Jerusalem-based centre said. "This is the moral duty of the Jewish people - our last respects to the victims." The information can be accessed in either English or Hebrew. Details include date and place of birth, marital status, residence and date and place of death if known. There is also a link to an image of the "page of testimony" submitted to the centre. Yad Vashem has been compiling information on Holocaust victims for more than 50 years. Some 1,500 staff were put to work a decade ago to turn written testimony into digital information, spokesman Esti Yaari told the Associated Press. "We are also launching an 11th-hour drive to get more information because we realise that time is running out," she said of the remaining three million whose details are not on the site.
    ©BBC News

    A Democratic Unionist mayor today defended his response to racial attacks in his area after he was urged to take a stronger line.

    8/11/2004- Craigavon Mayor David Simpson disputed Sinn Fein claims that his response to a petrol bomb attack on a Portuguese family in Portadown on Saturday night was minimalist. And he also called on republicans to go to the police if they had any evidence of loyalist paramilitary involvement in racial intimidation and violence. The home of a Portuguese woman and her two-year-old child sustained scorch damage to a front window and wall in the attack which occurred on the Armagh Road at around 8.20pm. Witnesses saw a tall, thin man in dark clothing running away in the direction of Armagh Road and Church Street Junction. Police have urged to other people in the area who saw anything suspicious to come forward. Sinn Fein Assembly member John O`Dowd criticised Mr Simpson after he said a multi-cultural day was being planned in the council for young people to tackle racist attitudes. Mr O`Dowd said it was widely known that members of the Ulster Volunteer Force were behind racial attacks and unionist leaders should immediately confront the problem head-on. "This minimalist response from the Mayor of Craigavon will give little comfort or succour to those members of the migrant worker community in Portadown who are being threatened and intimidated now," the Upper Bann MLA argued. "Many people are aware that the UVF is behind a whole series of racist attacks in Portadown which has forced people from their homes and has also seen people assaulted and, in one case, stabbed and seriously injured. "The reported cases of intimidation are only the tip of the iceberg of a sinister campaign by the UVF in and around Portadown which is centred around a protection racket organised by members of that organisation."

    Mr Simpson said the multi-cultural day had been planned for a long time and was not a response to the latest attack. The DUP mayor, who is also an Upper Bann MLA, replied: "John O`Dowd says the UVF is involved in racial attacks in this area. "I think the onus is on him to put any evidence he has before the PSNI, so police officers can investigate it. "As for criticism of my handling of this issue, firstly the multi-cultural day has been planned for some time. I referred to it at a recent trade union event and is not a response to this incident. "I am also holding a meeting today with local residents in the area where this attack occurred and the family. So we are taking this very seriously. "But I have to say, I normally take what John O`Dowd says with a pinch of salt." Portadown has a number of Portuguese families living in the town, employed in local factories. It isn`t the first time the community has been targeted. In August, the homes of two Portuguese families were targeted when a number of people kicked and battered in the doors of their flats in Moeran Park in an early morning attack. Members of the Filipino and Vietnamese communities have also been victims of racial attacks in the town. Mr O`Dowd, who leads Sinn Fein`s group on Craigavon Council, said today the campaign of racial harassment in the area urgently needed to be confronted and stamped out. "The Mayor of Craigavon should be taking the lead on this, not by talking about a multi-cultural event next year, but by calling the party leaders within Craigavon Council together immediately to organise a council-sponsored anti-racist rally in Portadown immediately."

    Migrant workers attacked in Lurgan

    10/11/2004- Police in Co Armagh were today hunting a gang who carried out a suspected race attack which left three Latvian men in hospital, including one with stab wounds. The men, all in their 20s, were walking through Lord Lurgan park in Lurgan at around 9pm yesterday when they were approached by several men. One of the men was stabbed in the arm. The other two victims were kicked to the ground and beaten. A police spokesman said that while detectives had yet to formally interview the three Latvians, initial inquiries suggested it may have been a racially motivated attack. Detectives have appealed for anyone in the park at around the time of the attack to contact police. Jonathan Bell, local DUP councillor and DPP member, condemned the attack and called for local residents to assist the police investigation. "The people of Lurgan must look at this as an attack on the whole community. These are human beings with human rights and this in no way reflects the feelings or attitudes of the vast majority of people in Lurgan," he said. Sinn Fein Assembly member, John O'Dowd, said it was clearly racist and totally wrong. "Those responsible for this attack are in no way representative of the local community," said Mr O'Dowd. He added: "I intend to meet up with members of local community groups, clergy and others to discuss what steps can be taken locally to prevent any reoccurrence of this attack and to try to seek to reassure other members of the migrant worker community." The attack followed the targeting of the homes of several Filipino hospital workers in north Belfast early on Monday morning. A number of houses in the Skegoneill and Fortwilliam areas were daubed with graffiti and several cars were damaged. Sinn Fein blamed loyalist paramilitaries for orchestrating the attacks. To highlight opposition to the increasing number of attacks on ethnic minorities, the Anti-Racism Network is due to hold a protest in north Belfast tonight. Spokesman Dominic Adams said: "There is no room for these attacks in our society and people should be able to live free from attack and intimidation, no matter where they come from."
    ©Belfast Telegraph

    If you're not mad already, you soon will be. That's what the government's Mental Health Bill means. 12/11/2004- It has often been said that no matter how far politicians go in being tough on asylum seekers, the issue never goes away. Fears and prejudices of the public increase, the right-wing press and the Conservative Party call for even tougher action. And the downward spiral continues. So it is with public fear of the mentally ill. A diet of newspaper stories about murders, and hunts for escapee mental patients, have reinforced the fears and prejudices that focus attention on the protection of the public rather than the care and rehabilitation of those affected. The Mental Health Bill is widely seen as a populist measure aimed giving authorities extra powers to apprehend, detain and medicate anyone suffering from mental illness who poses a potential risk to ordinary citizens. We fear that not only is this a retrograde step, but that even if it wins a few favourable headlines for the government, it will fail to make people sleep easier at night.

    The killer facts are that the mentally-ill are far more likely to be a risk to themselves than anyone else, and that one in four of us are likely to develop some form of mental instability in our lifetimes. In this context protection of the public becomes a minor issue. A third killer fact is that Black African-Caribbean people, men in particular, are six times more likely to sucked into the mental health system through the current system of ‘sectioning' than white people. There is no medical evidence that African-Caribbean's are more disposed to mental illness. That means the current picture is as a result of being treated differently. In other words, racism. African-Caribbean's are also more likely to be locked up in high security facilities, and more likely to be given a higher dose of medication. So what is going on that could result in such a situation? Is it the case that when a white professional sees a black person acting, in their view, strangely they are more likely to diagnose this as mental illness? With the figures pointing to an alarming evidence of racism in the system you would assume that addressing this would be a government priority. Unfortunately not. The new draft Mental Health Bill does not even refer to tackling disproportionality in the race and ethnicity of mental health patients. Instead it seeks to sweep away the limited safeguards that currently exist to stop innocent sane people being wrongly detained and medicated.

    The old system required two doctors to approve a ‘section'. The government plan to abolish this method and allow one hospital psychologist to authorise detention and medication. That means the police – who already disproportionately stop and search black people – will be able to pick up anyone suspected of mental illness and cart them off to the nearest hospital. Under the proposed new system the likelihood of an overall massive increase in numbers people classified as mentally ill can be expected. The fear has to be that African-Caribbean's will be even worse hit. The Mental Health Bill also seeks to widen the definition of what constitutes mental illness. The government plan to reduce this to ‘a disturbance in the functioning of the mind.' That can mean anything to anybody. I might, for instance, consider that crowds of football fans chanting in a city centre are falling foul of this definition. The meaning of these words matters greatly. It could mean that Christian evangelicals are detained if they engage in street preaching. Speaking ‘in tongues' would almost certainly carry the risk of medication. Yet these examples not only pose no risk to the public, but are also an entirely legitimate state of mind. Just different to the norm. Paranoia is currently a major reason for sectioning. The proposed Bill is likely to make things worse. States of paranoia normally pose very little, if any, risk to the public. But even more to the point, they do not necessarily mean someone should be sucked into a mental health system. There may be good reasons why someone is paranoid, or it may be a passing phase that can be treated with sensitive support.

    Compulsion – the detaining and medication of patients against their will – is a highly ineffective way of addressing mild mental fluctuations. There is evidence that the mental health system itself makes people mentally ill. Basically, if you're not mad already, you will be. The government wants a proactive approach to pick up dangerous mentally-ill people before they commit a crime. But their Bill is only likely to pick up more people who need support but not forced treatment or detention. The risk of ‘miscarriages of justice' – sane people unfairly branded mentally-ill – will also increase. The Bill has been criticised by the influential Mental Health Alliance – an umbrella body representing all the top charities. They condemn the proposed law as being based on ‘prejudice, ignorance and fear rather than hope and recovery.' But not only is it ill-conceived, it's ill-executed too. Last year the government was forced to axe the Bill after it was panned by experts as a complete dogs dinner. This second version is little better. Suspecting it would be torn to threads, panicked and unusually put the Bill through an extra tier of parliamentary scrutiny. Anomalies in the legislation are now being ironed out by a Commons scrutiny committee, as MP's correct problems that Health Department civil servants did not. The Bill is now unlikely to come before parliament in the traditional way until after the general election. We do not want to see it again at all. The Bill is mad, bad, and dangerous to know. We want to live in a society that helps, not condemns people. Which understands mental illness, not breeds fear and ignorance of the condition. One that has humanity not headlines as its' motivation.
    ©the Black Information Link

    12/11/2004- Liverpool is to become home to the world's first permanent transatlantic slave trade museum. The £10m centre of excellence, provisionally titled the National Museum and Centre for the Understanding of Transatlantic Slavery, aims to be open to the public in 2007. The new museum will expand on an existing gallery, Against Human Dignity, which is already part of the city's Maritime Museum. It is hoped to also introduce a new research institute which will develop further understanding of the slave trade. National Museums Liverpool director Dr David Fleming said: "We want to replace that gallery with something bigger which addresses issues of racism and makes it much more relevant to the modern world." Dr Fleming believes that the full story of the slave trade is currently not being properly addressed. Although the British side of the story is often explored, in order to correct any misapprehensions about the slave trade, the African and transatlantic version of events must also be told. The Daily Post understands that one of the most likely sites of the new museum is the old Granada studios next to the Maritime Museum. Liverpool played a prominent role in the slave trade in the late eighteenth century and the trade was central to the development of the city and its economy. Dr Fleming said: "Much of the wealth of Liverpool was based on profits of the slave trade. Remnants of the slave trade can be found in the architecture of distinguished landmarks around the city, including the Town Hall. Although slavery is still considered by many to be a very sensitive issue, NML is adamant the new centre is not intended to reopen wounds. Dr Fleming insists that guilt should not be the factor that prevents the issue of slavery being confronted. "The fact that it's an unpleasant story, and that not enough people know about it, shouldn't equal guilt. It's been unfairly neglected because of guilt," he said The new museum should be up and running to coincide with the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade and it will become a major tourist attraction. NML is positive the exhibit will prove to be a big success. Dr Fleming added: "This is an ambition of ours. NML feels very strongly about this project. It will become a must seel."
    ©IC Network

    Fifa could act after England U21s subjected to racist abuse

    17/11/2004- The Football Association will make representations to their Spanish counterparts ahead of tonight's friendly to ensure that there is no repeat of the racist abuse aimed at England's U21 players. Carlton Cole and Darren Bent were subjected to racist chants during the first-half of last night's 1-0 defeat, with Glen Johnson later receiving the same treatment. The actions of the Spanish fans could not have been more ill-timed after the controversy which has surrounded senior Spain coach Luis Aragones since his alleged racist remarks about Thierry Henry. The FA are therefore planning to write to Uefa and Fifa to detail their concerns following the Under-21 game. FA chairman Geoff Thompson was, meanwhile, planning to speak to his Spanish counterpart ahead of tonight's senior friendly in Madrid to stress his concern that there is no repeat in the Bernabeu. FA head of media Adrian Bevington revealed: "Geoff Thompson will be speaking to his counterpart in the Spanish FA to make him aware before tonight's match of our concerns from last night's Under-21 game. "We will also be writing to both Uefa and Fifa to make them aware of the jeering that took place during the Under-21 game. We would, of course, hope that this does not occur again this evening." A disciplinary charge could yet be brought against the Spanish FA, with Fifa revealing that any FA complaints would be "set against the background of Fifa's code of conduct". England's senior players had pointedly worn anti-racism T-shirts during their training session in the Bernabeu yesterday in the wake of Aragones' comments about Henry last month. The Spain coach nevertheless claimed his "conscience was clear" as he did little to end the row by then launching into an apparent attack on the British Empire's record in Africa. He told English reporters: "I am not a racist, but you lot will write what you want. You are like wolves after the deer. "I have a lot of black friends who have explained to me that the English were after them in the colonies."
    ©The Guardian

    9/11/2004- A lesbian couple were granted leave today to challenge the Government in the courts for refusing to recognise their same-sex marriage. Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan, from Brittas in Dublin, claimed they were unfairly denied tax relief available to married couples by the Revenue Commissioner. In the High Court today, Mr Justice McKechnie said the couple's legal team had successfully met the requirement for an arguable case and were entitled to a judicial review. He said the applicants had claimed the Revenue Commissioner's actions had violated the 1937 Irish Constitution and also had been in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. He pointed out that the case was not simply about tax bands or the extent of allowances for a married couple. He said it would have profound importance not only for same sex couples but also for society as a whole. He added that a number of deeply held customs and practices would be up for consideration with the institution of marriage at the centre of this. "It is right to say it touches on far reaching issues," he said. Justice McKechnie warned that the decision to grant the judicial review offered no comment on the ultimate outcome of the case. He reserved the questions of costs and granted senior counsel for the two women Dr Gerald Hogan four weeks to prepare a plenary summons. Zappone, a public policy research consultant and a member of the Human Rights Commission, and Gilligan, an academic, have lived together as a couple for 23 years. They are joint owners of two properties, their residential home at Brittas in Dublin and their holiday home in Cahirciveen, Co Kerry. They were married at a legal ceremony in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on September 13 last year. When they returned to Ireland they applied to the revenue commissioner for tax credits as a married couple but were told that the provision of Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 only related to a husband and a wife. While the Act did not define husband or wife the revenue commissioner said they were using the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary. Outside the court today, Zappone said she and her partner were delighted with the outcome. "Twenty-three years ago we made a commitment of life partnership to each other. We have been exceptionally blessed with our unconditional love for and our fidelity to one another. "Yesterday and today are simply the first steps to seek legal recognition of our lifelong love and faithfulness," she said. "This case is about equality, fairness and human rights as our legal team have ably outlined in the court." Zappone thanked family and friends, their legal team and Equality Authority for their support.
    ©Irish Examiner

    8/11/2004- Police patrols are to be stepped up in a Netherlands city where tensions are high after a bomb at an Islamic school. The mayor of Eindhoven has ordered extra security for mosques and schools following the blast on Monday, which severely damaged the school building. Police said the bomb could be among a series of possible revenge attacks for the killing of film-maker Theo Van Gogh by a suspected Islamic radical. Van Gogh is to be cremated in a public ceremony in Amsterdam on Tuesday. Mosques in several Dutch cities have been the targets of vandalism and failed arson attempts since he was shot and stabbed last Tuesday. Mayor of Eindhoven Alexander Sakkers said additional patrols would give round-the-clock protection for all Muslim places of worship and education in the city. They include five mosques used by the 20,000 or so Muslims among Eindhoven's total population of 210,000. The school bombing at 0230 GMT on Monday blew out its windows and doors, as well as those of neighbouring buildings, but no-one was hurt.

    Attacks 'feared'
    "Eindhoven is shocked, very shocked, by a cowardly deed in the middle of the night when normal citizens are sleeping," Mr Sakkers said. Ayhan Tonca, chairman of the Contact Group for Muslims and Government, told Associated Press that the Muslim community feared further attacks. He said: "We had seen a number of incidents of arson already but this was a full-scale bombing. "We can only be grateful it was in the middle of the night and not when the children were at school." Mr Tonca, whose organisation represents 300 mosques in the Netherlands, said some had already appointed their own guards during prayers. He insisted the government must do more to protect Islamic sites to prevent security fears escalating. Driss el Boujoufi, deputy head of the Ummon association for 90 Moroccan mosques in the Netherlands, told Agence France Presse surveillance had been heightened. But, he warned, most of the 90 mosques did not have the means to ensure security around the clock. A number of demonstrations are planned to coincide with Van Gogh's funeral. Several men, all believed to be Islamic radicals, have been arrested in connection with the film-maker's death.
    ©BBC News

    9/11/2004- Twelve hours after the front windows and main door of his four-year-old son's school were blown out by a bomb, Khalid Abdelrahim peered past the police barrier to study the damage. "The people in Holland are good, but the politics here is not," said Mr Abdelrahim, who fled from Iraq to the Netherlands a decade ago. "Now I will have to try to find a new school for my son." In Eindhoven yesterday few doubted that the attack on an Islamic primary school in the early hours of Monday was an act of retribution after last week's murder of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch film-maker who had criticised abuses of women in Islamic marriages. The bombers struck the Tariq Ziyad Ibnoe school at around 3.30am local time. It was not an isolated incident; in recent days there have been arson attacks against mosques in Huizen, Breda, Rotterdam and Utrecht. Posters insulting Islam that showed pictures of pigs' heads were plastered on a mosque in Rotterdam, while an immigrants' centre in Amsterdam was daubed with red paint. Yesterday in racially mixed, middle-class Frankrijkstraat, the school's lawn was covered with glass shards as children's paintings fluttered in the smashed windows. No one was injured but the blast, which local Muslims say is the third incident in a year, seemed designed to send a message. The school is one of the first Islamic schools in the Netherlands and many fear that this is just the start of attacks against the Muslim community. At the local mosque, one worshipper, who said he came from Morocco and gave his name as Mimoun, describes the growing unease of his community. "We are not safe now," he said. "If they make a bomb and put that in an Islamic school, maybe the next target will be the Islamic centre and the mosque. This was a reaction after [the murder of] Van Gogh. But why must all Muslims pay the price?"

    In 2002 the Netherlands was shocked by the assassination of the maverick anti-immigration campaigner Pim Fortuyn, who was murdered in the car park of a television network. Last week a similar fate befell Mr van Gogh, a descendant of the 19th-century artist, who had made a name for himself as an outspoken commentator on social issues such as immigration. Although neither a politician nor a conventional right-winger, Mr van Gogh was an enemy of political correctness. The action that seems to have sealed his fate was the making of a film with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born Dutch MP who renounced Islam. Screened in August, the fictional work, called Submission, condemned the religion's treatment of women, and outraged Muslim groups. As he made his way to work, Mr van Gogh was shot, then had his throat slashed. His killer left a note pinned to his chest with the knife used to attack him. Police arrested a 26-year-old man of Dutch and Moroccan nationality, who is suspected of having links with extremist Islamic groups. Five others were detained after subsequent raids. While the murder of Mr van Gogh has received condemnation from all sides, there is less unanimity about who is to blame for the climate of fear. Reacting to Mr Fortuyn's success and to his campaign slogan, "the Netherlands is full", the centre-right coalition government has put immigration near the top of its agenda. It believes community relations will be eased if immigrants integrate better. But its policies have made immigration an explosive issue. The minister responsible, Rita Verdonk, has outlined plans to improve knowledge of the Dutch language among immigrants and to repatriate up to 26,000 failed asylum-seekers.

    A speech made by Ms Verdonk after the murder of Mr van Gogh last week was described as "Hitlerian" by one immigrant group. Meanwhile, the Deputy Prime Minister, Gerrit Zalm, said the Dutch cabinet had declared war on Islamic extremists. Even the handling of the murder inquiry has proved politically controversial as the Amsterdam chief public prosecutor, Leo de Wit, criticised the Justice minister, Piet Hein Donner, for releasing the text of the letters left with Mr van Gogh's body. One contains a direct threat to Ms Hirsi Ali and mentions two other politicians: the Liberal parliamentary leader, Jozias van Aartsen, and the Amsterdam mayor, Job Cohen. The publication of the letters was hardly calculated to calm tensions. Mr van Aartsen later claimed that the Netherlands was in the grip of a jihad and urged increased surveillance of potential Muslim extremists. The result is a febrile atmosphere as the country prepares forMr van Gogh's cremation today. Outside the Tariq Ziyad Ibnoe school, one young man, who calls himself Mohammed A, said: "It is not just the Muslims but the Dutch, too, who are afraid - afraid of each other." He added: "There are extremists on the Dutch side and in the Moroccan and Muslim world. But these are a minority. The politicians and the media must stop inflaming the situation. What we need is to start talking to each other."
    © Independent Digital

    10/11/2004- The Dutch film-maker whose brutal murder sparked a spiral of racial violence in the Netherlands was cremated yesterday amid appeals for an end to a spate of attacks on mosques, schools and churches. On a bitterly cold Amsterdam night, the public heeded calls from municipal leaders not to turn up en masse but to follow the ceremony at home on TV. Theo van Gogh, a descendant of the 19th-century artist, was shot, stabbed and had his throat cut last week. Police later arrested a 26-year-old man who had dual Dutch-Moroccan nationality and was suspected of links to radical Islamic groups, after a shoot-out in an Amsterdam park. Anneke van Gogh, the victim's mother, told mourners that she could hardly believe the extent of her own hatred when she heard how her son died. "My body was filled with hatred - it was a completely new experience," she said. But there were concerted efforts to defuse the tensions caused by the killing that sent shock waves through the nation and has led to reprisals, including the bombing of a Muslim school in Eindhoven. Molotov cocktails caused minor damage at churches in Utrecht and Amersfoort on Monday night after six similar incidents at Muslim buildings, including the explosion in Eindhoven. No injuries were reported at any of the attacks. Yesterday, more than 70 members of Dutch-Moroccan organisations cycled through Amsterdam, wearing T-shirts proclaiming "We don't tolerate extremism", and Muslim groups agreed to distribute literature to mosques to help combat the growth of radical elements. The Dutch Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, described the bombing of a Muslim school in Eindhoven as "abhorrent" and demanded an end to the violence. He called for better dialogue between the communities and ordered police and justice officials to respond to breaches of tolerance. Mr van Gogh's coffin was draped with flowers and set alongside a bottle of wine and his tattered personal organiser for the funeral service, which was witnessed by about 500 people - about 200 of whom were from the media - at Nieuwe Ooster cemetery in Amsterdam. The Dutch Deputy Prime Minister, Gerrit Zalm, was among the mourners and a former minister, Josias van Artsen, wept as one of the film-maker's favourite songs "Perfect Day" was played. Two sisters of Mr van Gogh delivered eulogies, while outside hundreds followed the service on giant screens. They included a woman carrying a banner stating "Stop the hate" and an old man in a sweater emblazoned with "Fxxx fundamentalism".
    © Independent Digital

    10/11/2004— An Islamic primary school in the Brabant town of Uden was destroyed by fire on Tuesday night in a suspected arson attack linked to the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh last week. A fireman confirmed to news agency Novum that the words "kutmoslims" (cunt Muslims) was found on one of the school's windows. The message "Theo R.I.P" was also written on a school wall and the term "white power" was found elsewhere. The fire at the Bedir School started at about 8.45pm and flames were seen leaping out of the school roof. At about midnight the school on the Bronkhorstlaan was considered to have been completely destroyed. Police suspect arson as the cause of the fire and have confirmed that several slogans were found daubed across the main entrance of the school. School director Ismaïl Taspinar contemplated that if Van Gogh had seen the fire, he would have thought it was "horrible" also. "So I am not sure if Theo will rest in peace," the director said. Van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death in Amsterdam on 2 November and an alleged Islamic militant, 26-year-old Dutch-Moroccan Mohammed B., has been arrested on suspicion of the killing. Van Gogh recently completed the film "Submission", which casts an accusing eye on domestic violence in the Islamic community. The film is considered one of the prime motives of his murder. In the aftermath of his death, a series of arson attacks have been reported at Islamic mosques and an Islamic primary school was severely damaged in an explosion on Monday morning. Eindhoven has since resolved to permanently guard several Islamic buildings. Meanwhile, Uden Mayor Joke Kersten said that threats have been made against Muslim organisations and authorities placed Islamic property under greater surveillance. Despite this, authorities were unable to prevent the suspected arson attack. Police met with the school's management on Tuesday morning to discuss additional safety measures, but no decision was made to implement intensified security. There is insufficient capacity to permanently guard the 20 Islamic buildings in Uden. Police also said on Tuesday that unknown culprits threw a bag of excrement through the window of the Moroccan consulate on the Calandstraat in Rotterdam on Monday night. No arrests have been made.
    ©Expatica News

    10/11/2004- Many Dutch liberals fear that yesterday's public funeral service in Amsterdam was an occasion not just to mourn the murdered film maker, Theo van Gogh, but also the demise of their nation's reputation as a bastion of toleration and racial harmony. Van Gogh's murder last week by an Islamic extremist has provoked a series of attacks on mosques, culminating in the bombing of an Islamic school on Monday. Muslim institutions have been given extra protection, but the authorities admit that it is impossible to guard them all. They are not the only ones under siege. Several politicians, threatened with death by extremists, have been forced into hiding. That this breakdown in relations has occurred in the Netherlands, which only five years ago was considered the most liberal country in Europe, bodes ill for the rest of the continent. The government has pledged to arrest any Muslims who make murderous threats. It would be wrong for the Netherlands to curtail its tradition of free speech in the face of such intimidation. Van Gogh's film on women and Islam may have offended some, but he had an absolute right to make it. The government has a duty to protect anyone who faces threats simply because of the views they hold. The thousands of Dutch Muslims who have condemned the murder, but who find themselves at risk from revenge, also have a right to expect protection. The worst response would be to start persecuting the law-abiding Muslim majority in the name of rooting out fanatics. There can be no justification for treating all Muslims as potential terrorists. Sadly, public opinion in the Netherlands has been shifting to the right for some time and there is a risk that Jan Peter Balkenende's government will make the wrong decisions. His Christian Democratic Party, which came to power two years ago in the wake of the murder of Pim Fortuyn, has made a series of moves designed to appeal to the growing xenophobic and anti-Islamic rump of the Dutch electorate. In this time of crisis, the Dutch must do everything in their power to preserve their traditions of free speech, but they must not allow institutionalised Islamophobia to be the price they pay.
    © Independent Digital

    12/11/2004- The tension that has been brewing for many years in the Netherlands has reached flashpoint and the country is now rife with mistrust. The Dutch government made things worse by allowing Deputy Prime Minister Gerrit Zalm to "declare war" on extremists — only for MPs to distance themselves from his fighting talk because they were worried it would evoke an "us and them" mentality, further widening the social divide. To regain control of the situation, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende is urging a population angered by the brutal murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh to remain calm and respectful of each other's rights. But the government must take a firmer stance — rather than simply urging inter-community dialogue — and instead resolutely lead the nation to calmer waters. All sides of the community are at fault — both native Dutch and the Islamic community. (The large Surinamese and Antillean communities appear not to count at all in the current climate of pitched religious tension.) There are two extreme views at the crux of the problem confronting 21st Century Dutch society:
    There are people who claim the right to kill in the name of Allah to prevent freedom of speech. But then there is the oft-heard attitude that "Muslims can live here, but not next door to me". A startling recent survey also found that 40 percent of Dutch people hope Muslims no longer feel welcome here. The government needs to work harder to tackle both problems.

    And where do expats stand in all this?
    Many of us might consider ourselves safe from the battle because we aren't Dutch and the majority of us aren't an "immigrant" per se. We have the right passports, most of us aren't Muslims and we can leave for "greener pastures" if push comes to shove. This gives us a unique perspective on the situation. We have all felt the heat of the government's rage against immigration. We have all experienced the Dutch curiosity coupled sometimes with blatant disrespect for other cultures. Sometimes, we are guilty of the same. But those of us who have worked hard to learn the local language and fit in can be forgiven for being annoyed by the failure of many immigrants to learn Dutch and worse, scorn the basic norms and values of the country. Integration policies aimed at those who refuse to adapt to Dutch society are also enmeshing some expats who have voluntarily tried to "fit in". The anti-immigration policies of the Dutch government are a source of discontent, but are backed by a large section of the population. Social polarisation has thus become a pressure cooker and we have a right and a duty to demand the government provide both security and an environment in which all foreigners who are willing to contribute to society are given a chance to do so. The inter-cultural cold war first threatened to ignite with the assassination of anti-Islamic politician Pim Fortuyn in May 2002. Suspicion was initially focused on the Muslim community, but justice was served by the conviction of a killer, Dutch native Volkert van der Graaf. Now comes the murder of Van Gogh and again public outrage. The murder suspect Mohammed B., 26, is a suspected radical Muslim, so it is easy for some people to assume all Muslims are at least partly to blame. Dutch politicians have latched onto this conclusion and are busy demanding the government gets tough with Islamic extremism.

    The Cabinet is moving to ban radical mosques and deport imams who incite extremism. It is also expanding security, intensifying the surveillance of suspected extremists and has promised to punish the arsonists. All the while, the killer and reactionary thugs who burn mosques and churches in tit-for-tat retaliation are chiselling furiously at the foundations of a society once considered the bastion of tolerance in Europe. A black pit of racism and extremism has opened up — and expats, in common with everyone else, will suffer unless the country's politicians stand true on their promises to both reach out and impose measures to enforce law and order. Expats should encourage this process by being open to dialogue and compromise ourselves. We should applaud the Islamic lobby group CMO which has unveiled plans to actively stamp out radicalism in mosques and respond to anti-Islamic attacks. We should support grassroots initiatives such as the one which saw Eindhoven residents form a symbolic human shield around the city's bombed Islamic primary school to condemn terrorism in all forms. We should applaud the Council of Churches which has opened an information lined operated by Muslims and Christians. By the same token, we should be proud to receive one of the 25,000 peace coins distributed in Amsterdam. We are here at the forefront of change and these are the reactions that must be headlined to sharpen the belief that the Netherlands will overcome the efforts of a violent few who wish to split society apart. Expats could of course take the easy option and side with one side against the other. But that famous Dutch tolerance is threatened from all sides and with a nation at a modern-day crossroads, apathy and racism must not win out.

    This does not mean we should blind ourselves to the obstacles. Amsterdam University professor Meindert Fennema has pointed to the problem of criminal immigrant youth gangs "terrorising" the city of Amsterdam. The short film "Submission" — made by MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Van Gogh shortly before his death in Amsterdam on 2 November — painted a stark picture of domestic abuse of women in Islamic households. It is also true that some immigrants want the financial benefits of Dutch society while ignoring the associated laws and obligations. These are huge, but not insurmountable, differences and socio-economic problems to overcome to bring the communities together. We should help remind everyone that the country thrives best when there is peace and understanding between its various communities. War, on the other hand, will only result in misery.
    ©Expatica News

    12/11/2004— During a meeting with young Moroccans in Amsterdam, Queen Beatrix has emphasised the equality of all in a bid to help restore Dutch social harmony following the murder of Theo van Gogh last week. Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen said on Wednesday the Queen had rang him to ask how she could contribute to solving the present crisis in the Netherlands. She had also wanted to express her concern over the situation, he said. Queen Beatrix visited Moroccans in a multicultural youth centre in Amsterdam West. The young people were meeting at the centre to establish a "think tank" which will advise the Amsterdam Council on issues affecting the city's youth. The Queen's unannounced visit was prompted by the death of Van Gogh and the unrest it caused. The arrested suspect, Mohammed B., 26, comes from Amsterdam West, as do several other Islamic terrorism suspects arrested in connection with the murder. And once seated between Cohen and Social Affairs Alderman Ahmed Aboutaleb at the youth centre on the Overtoom, the Dutch monarch listened behind closed doors to a discussion waged between the young people. The discussion — which was initially based on several propositions — eventually turned into a spontaneous conversation, also involving Queen Beatrix, news agency nu.nl reported. When the meeting was opened to the public, the Queen was presented with a list of 18 points advising how the Netherlands should move towards the future. Point one said that terrorism will not be tolerated. The young people taking part also suggested authorities should investigate the causes of extremism and that a mentor system should be established involving family members. Present community projects should also be intensified and expanded, they said. The Government Information Service (RVD) had indicated Thursday that the Queen would soon demonstrate her involvement in efforts to ease tensions in society, Dutch public news service NOS reported. The announcement came amid demands for Queen Beatrix to urge for public reconciliation. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende later said the Queen was sympathising with all those affected by the series of mosque and church arson attacks committed in the aftermath of Van Gogh's murder.
    ©Expatica News

    17/11/2004- The brutal murder of Theo van Gogh and the attacks on mosques, churches and schools have shocked the country. People are afraid of increasing radicalization of religious extremists and a growth in right-wing extremism. They wonder how we can keep on countering the schocking events which have a great impact on the way in which the different etnic groups live together in the Netherlands.

    That is why Magenta foundation, together with Radar , has taken the initiative to take-out a one-page big advertisement in the Algemeen Dagblad on November 17, with a statement titled 'Dutch Citizens by conviction'. 560 organizations and persons put their signature under the statement. Dutch Citizens are still adding their name to the webversion. Those signatures are shown at the bottom of the page in blue.

    Dutch Citizens by conviction
    The Netherlands is inhabited by Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, religious and non-religious people. Men and women, young and old, heterosexual and homosexual. All people, with so many differences that sometimes you wonder, what do we still have in common?

    Together we constitute the Netherlands, a country with an interesting history and a challenging future. The Netherlands is many countries and many people; a country of unity in diversity, continuously searching for a renewed identity. That goes with trial and error.

    The enormous pace in which society changes sometimes leads to lack of understanding, fear and detachment: we live next to each other but not with each other, and extremism rears its ugly head. Irritations sometimes run so high that it is very tempting to take frustration out on others. Fragmentation of society is lurking around the corner, which is a downright shame, because especially those differences and similarities make the Netherlands the special place it is.

    That is why we urgently appeal to everyone who feels responsible for, and involved with the Netherlands:

  • Give the good example: living together concerns all of us;
  • Be tolerant but not indifferent;
  • Speak freely about problems, but don't put the blame on others;
  • Don't exclude people but involve them in solving the problems;
  • Do not confuse candor with bluntness;
  • Do not fear differences, fear division.
  • Look for what unites us;
  • Treat others with the respect you would like to receive yourself;
  • Choose a worldly and livable Netherlands. To be able to live in freedom, solidarity is necessary.

    That is the core of Dutch History. Let it also be the strength of our national identity.

    Although we're not all born in the Netherlands, we gladly sign, as Dutch citizens by conviction.
    Magenta foundation

    7/11/2004- Several thousand demonstrators marched through France on Sunday in a protest at racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination itself overshadowed by divisions over participation by a group with links to Islamic fundamentalists. Organisers said some 8,000 people, while police said 2,500 people took part in the the biggest march, in western Paris, boycotted by SOS-Racism and Jewish groups because of their discontent at participation by the fundamentalist linked union of Islamic organisations of France. Mouloud Aounit, the secretary general of the Movement Against Racism and anti-Semitism (MRAP), which organised the demonstration, criticised the organisations which did not take part, saying that they had chosen to keep the Jewish population "in a bunker". Fouad Alaoui, the Secretary General of the Islamic group, called the boycott "irresponsible, irresponsible, badly thought out. The fight against racism and anti-Semitism is a national cause, nobody should keep out of it." France, which is home to Europe's largest Jewish community estimated at 600,000, has seen a sharp rise in anti-Semitic acts in recent years. Some five million Muslims also live in France.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    9/11/2004- Belgium's highest court is set to deliver its verdict on whether the Flemish far right Vlaams Blok party is a racist organisation. The Blok has appealed against a lower court ruling, which if upheld would leave the party facing financial ruin. The lower court found organisations affiliated to the party guilty of racism. Recent opinion polls suggest the Vlaams Blok is the most popular party in the northern region of Flanders. Should the ruling be upheld on Tuesday, the Vlaams Blok will lose access to state funding - a financial disaster which would in effect shut the party down. Its leaders are already prepared for that, making plans to launch a new party with a new name. They are toning down some of their statements and even if the verdict of racism is delivered, there is every chance the new party will pick up where the old one left off - as the most popular political group in Flanders. The Vlaams Blok makes the political establishment in Brussels very uncomfortable. They regard it as extremist and xenophobic. For years, other parties have combined to shut it out of national and regional governments. But as a tactic that has not really worked. Support for the Blok's policies of independence for Flanders and little tolerance of immigration has continued to grow.
    ©BBC News

    10/11/2004- Belgium's highest court has ruled that the Flemish far-right Vlaams Blok party is racist. The ruling means the Blok will lose access to state funding and access to television which will, in effect, shut down the party. The Blok was appealing against a court ruling which stated that it was guilty of violating anti-racism legislation. Recent opinion polls suggest the Vlaams Blok is the most popular party in the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders. It garnered almost a quarter of votes in regional and European elections in June. The party campaigns on an anti-immigration platform. It also wants independence for Flanders, home to six million Dutch speakers. Party chairman Frank Vanhecke said he was shocked at the ruling. "Exactly 15 years after the Berlin Wall came down and the people of East Germany and eastern Europe regained their freedom, it was confirmed today that in the Belgian state, democracy and freedom of speech are under threat," he said.

    Vlaams Blok's leaders were prepared for the ruling, and are making plans to launch a new party with a new name, Vlaams Belang, or Flemish Interest, Belgian media say. The High Court's ruling is final and cannot be appealed. "In order to preserve our party members from prosecution, we are now forced to disband," said Mr Vanhecke immediately after the judgment. "Today, our party has been killed, not by the electorate but by the judges." The party had been toning down some of its statements, but there is every chance the new party will pick up where the old one left off, says the BBC's Chris Morris in Brussels. At the weekend, its members voted to modernise the party's statutes and tone down its views on immigration, saying non-European immigrants wishing to remain in Belgium should adopt Belgian rules and values. The Blok had once advocated that all non-European immigrants should be returned to their home country.

    'Bury Belgium'
    The Vlaams Blok makes the political establishment in Brussels very uncomfortable as they regard it as extremist and xenophobic, our correspondent adds. For years, other parties have combined to shut it out of national and regional governments, but this tactic has not really worked, he says. "We are the democratic voice of an ever growing number of Flemings who, in an entirely non-violent way, want to put an end to Belgium," Mr Vanhecke said on Tuesday. "Our electoral strength is causing panic amongst the Belgian establishment. We will establish a new party. This one Belgium will not be able to bury; it will bury Belgium."
    ©BBC News

    10/11/2004- Belgium's highest court has ruled that the country's Flemish nationalist party, the Vlaams Blok, is racist. The decision means that Europe's most successful far-right party will be forced to disband - and re-form under a new name. The ruling - confirming an appeals court judgment that the party was guilty of racism and discrimination - means that the Vlaams Blok can no longer benefit from state financing, while anyone who continues to work for it will henceforth be committing an offence. A quarter of voters in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern half of Belgium, support its policies - independence from Belgium and repatriation of immigrants, especially Muslims.

    Growing popularity
    Its popularity has surged relentlessly - from 10.4% in 1991, to 12.3% in 1995, 15.4% in 1999, and 18% in 2003. This year's 24.1% in the Flemish regional election included 250,000 extra voters compared to the previous year and made it the biggest single party. It is kept out of power only by the so-called "cordon sanitaire", an agreement among all the mainstream parties to exclude it from any coalition government. But many observers believe the cordon sanitaire itself brings the Blok votes. Professor Stefaan Walgrave of Antwerp University says it is precisely the Vlaams Blok's pariah status, perennially kept out of government, that helps to increase its popularity. "The difference here, compared to other countries, is that this party is seen as fighting against the establishment. By always being kept in the opposition it can claim to be the only party fighting for ordinary people against the political elite." But the Vlaams Blok has also taken strides to soften its image and become "respectable". Some years ago I watched Vlaams Blok skinheads urinating on a Belgian flag. Nowadays its suave, well-dressed and suntanned leaders prefer to spread the word not at raucous political rallies but at barbecues and cheese and wine evenings. At one such event last month in Schoten, a suburb of Antwerp - where more than a third of voters support the Blok - 100 party activists sipped wine and assured me: "You won't find any skinheads here".

    Defending Flemish identity
    Indeed, the public was, not exactly genteel, but stolidly middle-class - good burghers of Flanders outraged both by the way they feel they subsidise the French-speaking south of Belgium, and by the influx of foreigners into the country. The party's leader, Filip Dewinter, says the Vlaams Blok's goal is to defend the Flemish identity, both by securing independence from Belgium, and by keeping out immigrants. He is unashamed about singling out Muslim immigrants, and denies that this kind of talk leaves him open to accusations of xenophobia or racism. "Not at all. I think we should recognise that cultures are different and not all cultures are equal. "When I see Muslim culture I think that our culture is superior. Our values, our way of life are superior and we have to say so. I don't think the way of life of Muslims is compatible with our way of life." Floating around the cheese and wine tables was Marie-Rose Morel, who with her beauty-queen looks is the epitome of the new-look Vlaams Blok. At 32 she is the party's youngest MP. "What attracted me to the party," she says, "is that they are very straight, they don't play political games, and say what they mean."

    A softening approach?
    Dewinter acknowledges that this amounts to populism, "if by populism you mean breaking taboos and saying what ordinary people think, even if it's politically incorrect". The party last weekend softened its approach on immigration, and renounced its call for the repatriation of large groups of non-European immigrants "unless they reject our culture and certain European values". Dewinter told a Flemish newspaper: "A woman who wears the veil in public is demonstrating that she is not integrated and must draw the consequences." Dewinter and his colleagues were prepared for Tuesday's court ruling, already considering a new name for the party that will emerge from the Vlaams Blok's ashes. "Perhaps the Flemish People's Party, or Flemish Freedom Front, or Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest)," says Dewinter. Some even suggest renaming it simply "Vlaams Blok+". Analysts here believe that the move will simply increase its status as the underdog of Belgian politics, and persuade even more Flemish people to vote for it.
    ©BBC News

    LET THEM IN?(Belgium)
    Has the time come for Belgium's political establishment to re-think the way it deals with Flemish extremism?

    November 2004- The spectacle of Flanders' racist, far right party, the Vlaams Blok, thumbing its nose at the Belgian justice system and changing its name to get around a court ruling that could have seen it lose hundreds of thousands of euros in State funding turned more than a few stomachs this week. But the fiasco of the Blok's rebirth as Vlaams Belang also brought home another very uncomfortable truth. For the foreseeable future it seems this racist, intolerant, bigoted party is here to stay, whatever it chooses to call itself. The question is what to do about it. The official response so far to the Vlaams Blok/Belang has been to adopt the 'ostrich' approach. The so-called 'cordon sanitaire' – the agreement between mainstream political parties in Flanders not to enter into power sharing pacts with the far right party – is the political equivalent of moderate politicians sticking their heads in the sand and pretending the far right Flemish extremists do not exist. The problem is of course that the Blok/Belang not only exists, it is also enjoys incredible support. In regional elections this year, the Blok emerged as the single most popular party in Flanders, a ranking that was confirmed in two separate opinion polls carried out last month. Faced with such evidence, is it still realistic to exclude the far right party from the Flemish government? The fact that it is at present barred from power is arguably one of the main reasons that support for the Blok/Belang is running so high. The situation allows the party to portray itself as a victim, persecuted by a leftist, undemocratic Belgian state - a stance that clearly strikes a chord with very many Flemish voters. The Blok/Belang's exclusion from government also means it has never really had to show how any of its ridiculous, hateful and simplistic policies might actually work in the complex political reality of top level government.

    Up until now the party has essentially gained support by sloganeering, rabble rousing and mud slinging. It has booed from the sidelines rather than being obliged to come up with constructive strategies for dealing with real issues. A stint in the regional government would, one suspects, show up the party's nasty, vindictive, self-obsessed policies for the populist, hateful and above all unworkable rubbish they are. Giving the Blok/Belang what it is asking for would also oblige those who voted for the racist party to face up to their actions. One suspects many Blok voters back the party as a protest gesture, knowing there is little chance of it ever getting into power. If they actually thought they could seriously be putting far right extremists into government with a vote for the Blok/Belang, would so many of them really support the party's racist, anti-Walloon claptrap? At an international level, the reaction from Belgium's European partners to a Flemish government with far right members would be likely to be harsh - and quite rightly so. When right wing extremists belonging to Joerg Haider's Freedom Party were elected to the Austrian government in 2000, the country was branded a European pariah state. Other governments refused to consider Austrians for any key jobs in the Union's institutions and the country was shunned on the EU stage. No one suggested that the far right politicians in Austria had not been elected democratically. But other EU countries made it very clear to Austrian voters that if they wanted to use their democratic rights to make choices most people found abhorrent, they should not expect to find themselves with very many friends. Flemish voters should not be surprised at the same reaction if the Blok/Belang got into power. No-one likes being called a racist, but, as last week's court ruling confirmed, that is exactly what anyone who supports this spiteful, divisive, small-minded organisation is. So perhaps the time has come for a change of tack. Ignoring the Blok/Belang does not seem to have succeeded in laying to rest this hateful party. Perhaps it's time to give it enough rope, so it can do the job itself.
    ©Expatica News

    19/11/2004- A British orthodox Jew and aide to a local rabbi was shot dead in Antwerp yesterday, heightening racial tensions in Belgium's second city after recent turbulence in neighbouring Netherlands. The Belgian authorities said it was too early to tell whether the murder of Moshe Naeh, 24, who had four children, was linked to an upsurge of anti-Semitic acts in Belgium, adding that there was no evidence of a racial or extremist motivation Nevertheless the attack has shocked the sizeable Jewish community in a city with a combustible ethnic mix, and which is a stronghold of Belgium's far-right, anti-immigration Flemish nationalist party, the Vlaams Bloc. Mr Naeh was shot in the head as he unloaded his car in front of his home. Two passers-by, who found Mr Naeh at 2.20am, initially believed him to be the victim of a car accident. He died 14 hours later in the city's St.Vincentius Hospital. Police have all but ruled out robbery as a motive, since Mr Naeh's wallet and watch were not taken.

    The Belgian authorities refused to confirm that Mr Naeh had been carrying a large sum of funds from the synagogue, money which was not taken. The victim's friends denied that claim yesterday. The authorities are investigating motives for the attack other than racial ones and expect to make a statement today. Mr Naeh, a theology student who also worked at the Mercatorstraat synagogue, was a well-known member of the Jewish community and identifiable as part of the Hassidic congregation because of his dress. As the news that Mr Naeh had died reached the synagogue yesterday afternoon, Joseph Brand, a friend, said: "This was not a coincidence and this was not about money. He was 24 and not the type you would expect to be carrying money. He was a guy who just about makes ends meet. He had no real private life. He was either at home or here doing his job." One member of the congregation blamed the murder "either on racists or Arabs". But another said: "We live in peace and freedom with all our neighbours. We are not involved in politics and we respect all other cultures and all other people. I cannot imagine any reason why this should happen." Tensions have been heightened across the region since the murder in neighbouring Netherlands of Theo van Gogh, who had made a film critical of the treatment of women in Muslim society. That sparked attacks there on mosques and a school, and a mosque was attacked in eastern Belgium last week in an apparently related incident. Laurette Onkelinx, the Belgian Justice Minister, said yesterday she and other politicians had received death threats. Mimount Bousakla, a Belgian Senator, went into hiding after receiving threatening phone calls. Senator Bousakla's parents emigrated to Belgium from Morocco and she has criticised some aspects of Islam including forced marriages.

    With a Jewish community of up to 20,000, and about 50,000 immigrants of North African origin, many believe the city will try its hardest to down play any racial element, for fear of exacerbating tensions. Asked if he had confidence in the Belgian investigators, Mr Brand replied: "Personally, no." Nevertheless, the type of attack did not suggest any link to previous attacks, to specific far-right groups or to Islamic terrorism. Dominique Reyniers, a spokeswoman for the Antwerp Public Prosecutor, said: "I would like to stress there is no evidence of a racially motivated crime. The investigation is following other avenues, although robbery is considered unlikely." There had already been increased security since June, when a 16-year-old Jewish student nearly died after being stabbed outside his school. Days later, a 43-year-old Jewish man was beaten unconscious. Jewish groups have said there has been a rising tide of anti-Semitic crimes in Europe since 2000, when tensions between Israelis and Palestinians worsened in the Middle East. Belgium's official anti-racism centre said in July it had registered as many anti-Semitic incidents in the first half of 2004 as in the whole of 2003. Last week Patrick Dewael, Belgium's Interior Minister, promised to clamp down on Arabic-language radio stations and websites in Belgium that were spreading anti-Semitic and anti-Western propaganda.
    © Independent Digital

    12/11/2004- The southern German state of Bavaria has become the latest of the country's federal states to ban Muslim school teachers from wearing headscarves. The Bavarian parliament approved the measure after Culture Minister Monika Hohlmeier argued that the headscarf was a symbol of the repression of women. Three other German states - Lower Saxony, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Saarland - have already imposed similar bans. Displaying Christian and Jewish symbols will still be allowed in Bavaria. More than three million Muslims live in Germany and many have complained that the laws restrict their freedom to express their religion. In the state of Hesse, the headscarf ban applies to all civil servants. But Ms Hohlmeier said the headscarf had become a political symbol which was widely abused by Islamic fundamentalist groups and was not consistent with democracy, equality and tolerance. "It's true that the veil of Islamic fundamentalist groups as a political symbol has been massively abused," she told German television. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Greens, who rule in a coalition on a national level, voted against the ban in the Bavarian parliament, adding that it was questionable from a legal point of view. The issue has been fiercely debated in Germany since Fereshta Ludin, who was denied a job in Baden-Wuerttemberg in 1998 because she wore a headscarf in school, went to court. She argued that the German constitution guaranteed her religious freedom. Last September, the federal Constitutional Court ruled by five votes to three that, under current laws, she could wear the scarf. But it also said new laws could be passed by individual states banning them if they were deemed to unduly influence pupils. In France, there is similar controversy about a ban on the wearing of religious symbols by pupils in state schools.
    ©BBC News

    A proposal for the enforcement of German as a spoken language in mosques has erupted in Germany as politicians look for ways to reform the country's integration policy in the wake of violence in the Netherlands.

    16/11/2004- A regional politician's proposal that prayers in German mosques should be said in German was greeted with dismay on Monday amid fears that anti-Muslim attacks may spread over the border from the Netherlands. Annette Schavan, the Christian Democrat education minister for the state of Baden-Württemberg and a contender for the state's premiership, made her radical proposal at the weekend because, she said, "we can no longer accept that prayers in mosques should be said in languages that cannot be understood outside the Muslim community." Schavan's proposal comes in the wake of the torching of mosques, schools and churches in the Netherlands following the killing of film director Theo van Gogh, whose work was strongly critical of Muslims. Her suggestion drew a sharp reaction from the leaders of the more than two and a half million Turks who live in Germany. "This is nonsense -- terror can be spread in any language," said Kenan Kolat, the co-president of the Turkish Community in Germany. Cornelie Sonntag-Wolgast, a representative of the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) on the national parliamentary committee for domestic affairs also criticized the proposal. "We cannot suspect each and every person... of violence just because they say their prayers in Arabic," said Sonntag-Wolgast. Volker Beck, a spokesman for the Greens, the junior partner in the governing coalition, said Schavan's proposal was "completely exaggerated" while liberal FDP interior minister Max Stadler criticized Schavan, saying her proposal for the state to enforce the German language in mosques was "an offense against basic law." Werner Schiffauer, a cultural professor said, Schavan's plan was "out-of-touch and impractical", a view supported by Jürgen Micksch, the chairperson of the intercultural council in Germany. Professor Schiffauer stated that there was little money available to provide language training for the large numbers of Islamic preachers in Germany and that, in addition, many foreigners living in Germany stayed for only a short time and were dependent on mother-tongue services while they were there. However, Nadeem Elyas, the chairperson for the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, agreed with the proposal. Elyas explained that a lot of mosques already translate their prayers and sermons and offer simultaneous audio feeds in both Arabic and German. The council, he said, is made up of 19 organizations and about 500 mosque municipalities in Germany, not all of which cater for purely Arabic speakers. Elyas added that German, Turkish, Arabian, Albanian, Bosnian and Persian Muslims all worship in Germany and many have different language requirements.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    17/11/2004- German opposition and government members reacted with anger Wednesday to calls by the Greens party - which serve in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's coalition - for establishing a Muslim holiday in the country. Bavarian state Premier Edmund Stoiber, a member of the Christian Social Union, slammed the idea as "sending out a totally wrong signal." Opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader Angela Merkel - who is the daughter of a Protestant pastor, said: "Germany is a country with Christian and Western roots. This identity must be reflected in our holidays." The sharp criticism followed calls Tuesday by Greens Environment Minister Juergen Trittin and deputy head of the Greens in parliament, Hans-Christian Stroebele for a Muslim holiday in reaction to violence in the Netherlands following the killing of Islam-critical film director Theo van Gogh. "Exactly such a sign is needed given the attacks in Holland," said Stroebele, who like Trittin hails from the party's "fundi" left-wing. Muslim leaders were quoted in Bild newspaper as cheering the proposal. "It's a magnificent recommendation!" said Ali Emari, chairman of the Islamic Community in Hamburg. Askar Mahmut, General Secretary of the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Association said a Muslim holiday was "long overdue." But Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) are markedly cool to the proposal following a failed bid earlier this month to abolish the German Unity Day holiday in a bid to boost the economy. SPD Interior Minister Otto Schily slammed the proposed Muslim holiday as "absurd." Some of moderate Greens members also distanced themselves from the idea. "Nobody would dream of proposing to Saudi Arabia that they should celebrate Pentecost," noted Greens parliamentary leader Katrin Goering-Eckardt. Bild, which is Germany's biggest selling tabloid, splashed the proposed Muslim holiday across its front page. "By the beard of the Prophet - send Trittin into the desert wilderness!" declared the paper on its front page, which included a photo-montage of the minister with a turban and thick beard. A further photo-montage showed thousands of Muslims bowed in prayer in front of Berlin's Reichstag which houses the federal parliament. There are about 3.4 million Muslims living in Germany out of a total population of 82 million. In a related development, officials were considering whether to deport a Turkish Muslim preacher in Berlin for making strongly anti-German comments in a mosque which were filmed and shown on TV. The preacher, who has been identified only as Yakup T., was shown in ZDF public TV at the Mevlana Mosque in Berlin's heavily Turkish Kreuzberg district saying: "These Germans, these atheists, these Europeans don't shave under their arms and their sweat collects under their hair with a revolting smell and they stink ... Hell lives for the infidels! Down with all democracies and all democrats!"
    ©Expatica News

    Religious minority groups have signed special agreements with the Croatian government, but will this end their marginalization?
    by Vedran Horvat, Zagreb-based journalist specializing in social and migration issues.

    12/11/2004- A sense of optimism is spreading among small religious communities in Croatia as more and more of them are benefiting from a liberal legal regime. The passage of the 2002 Law on the Legal Status of Religious Communities was followed in the summer of 2003 by a drive to register the roughly 50 minority religions in Croatia; a large majority of these groups has now acquired the full protection of the law. This protection has been reaffirmed by special agreements concluded last year between most traditional minority religions and the government. In September, the U.S. State Department praised these developments in its annual report on religious freedom in the world. The special agreements are modeled on the three that Croatia concluded with the Holy See in 1997 formalizing the dominant role of the Catholic Church, notably in the police and armed forces. (Negotiations on a fourth agreement are still ongoing and concern the return of, or compensation for, nationalized property, a point noted in the State Department report.) That similar, though less favorable, agreements have now been signed with other religious groups suggests that a new social reality may be emerging in a country where 87 percent of a population of 4.3 million is Roman Catholic. Indeed, the Catholic Church says that the 1997 accords made the recognition of minority religions through similar agreements possible.

    On the margins
    But the influence of the Church--together with the high share of Catholics among the population--has also created a social climate where the formal equality of religious communities amounts to very little. Many of the small Eastern religions are still waiting, if not to be registered, then to be socially accepted. The 1991 to 1995 war in Croatia made the Catholic faith an even more salient feature of public life, firmly establishing it as the wellspring of national and cultural identity. Population shifts also swelled the number of Catholics in the country. Many minority religions felt compelled to sign the special agreements, as they provide additional guarantees of their rights in such areas as education, access to the media, or pastoral care. Of the larger minority groups, only the Jewish community is still negotiating; agreement has been delayed by the government's reluctance to return nationalized property. The fact that almost all traditional religious communities saw a need to sign these agreements points to their tenuous social recognition. The presence of religious minorities in the midst of a homogenous society still provokes ambivalent feelings. This particularly applies to new religious movements, which to a large extent have not signed these agreements. Some experts are also raising questions about the legal equality the new accords supposedly ensure. Davorin Peterlin, director of the Keston Institute in the United Kingdom, notes that in Croatia, "The Roman Catholic Church is more equal before the law. Not only because the agreements--the so-called concordats--with the Holy See preceded the law, which was then regulated based on them." According to Peterlin, the concordats are international documents and therefore have more weight than the constitution. By contrast, the agreements with other religious communities are ordinary documents to be implemented domestically. Peterlin explains, "If the government had signed the agreement with the Croatian Bishops Conference and not with the Holy See, their status would be the same [as the new agreements]." Nonetheless, he agrees that the recent law is a significant improvement. "The adopted law is a satisfactory compromise, and I think that most religious communities share my opinion," Peterlin notes.

    Paul Mojzes, a well-known American sociologist of religion and editor of the journal ***Religion in Eastern Europe,*** is not surprised that not everyone is happy. He says minority religions, except for the most established ones, might even have lost ground after the fall of communism. "During the communist period, some of these churches received equality with the large communities, at least on paper. It wasn't much, but somehow it gave them a sense of recognition. Since the collapse of communism, it seems that in both majority Catholic and Orthodox countries, though with great variation from country to country, minority religious communities are being relegated to the margins and sometimes actually denied the right to operate," Mojzes says. He attributes this to "overzealous local authorities and priests, but at times high government officials [who also] block registration and deny permissions for activities for which in truly free societies permission could be obtained without difficulty." Indicative of the legal pitfalls inherent in the law is its minimum requirement of 500 members for any group to register. Groups that fall short--typically those that emerged over the last 10 years--are relegated to the status of nongovernmental organizations and are recognized as religious groups only after a five-year waiting period. Peterlin seconds the view that this is a source of unequal treatment. "The state does not have a right to arbitrate and to define the criteria (such as the number of people or theological content) of a ‘real faith'. … Not just the number of people in a community, but also the distinction between new and traditional should be irrelevant for registration," he says.

    A problem of attitude
    A key problem specific to the countries of former Yugoslavia is the ethnic dimension of religious identity. According to Mojzes, "Recent wars have only more strongly brought about this identification [of religion with ethnicity] because it was of mutual benefit to both the state and the Church to insist on the identity of every Croat as a Catholic. Actually, the Catholic Church among Croats is sometimes so exclusive that it seems to provide no real space to its members who are non-Croatian." This statement doesn't make sense to Bishop Vlado Kosic from the Zagreb archdiocese, a proponent of ecumenicity and dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and other religious communities. He points to the legal equality of religions and says, "As the largest religious community in Croatia, the Catholic Church broke the ice by signing the agreement with the state and thereby opened the door for others to do the same." While careful to maintain that no religious group should feel inferior, Kosic confirms that better relations exist with the so-called historical churches, that is, those communities that have been present in the area for many centuries. He adds that it is hard to maintain good relations with new religious movements since they are trying to win new members by converting Catholics. Gordan Pandza, a Croatian journalist for the daily Vjesnik who writes on religious affairs, is not convinced. He persistently warns that "The Catholic Church tends to be friendly … in public, while its true interest is the full Catholic evangelization of Croatian society, for which it uses every opportunity at all levels of society, from kindergarten to the government." One example is a recent row over optional yoga classes in schools as part of physical education, an offer the Church sought to suppress. "Minority religious groups are not a real problem for the Catholic Church and are not perceived as a serious rival as long as their influence with the young population doesn't increase," Pandza says.

    Little respect
    The provisions of the law and the pronouncements of Church representatives do not always fully reflect social reality in Croatia. Pandza says that the Church rarely misses an opportunity to emphasize that the beliefs of the new religious movements run counter to the spirit of Christianity and do not lead to an authentic life. In a broader sense, Pandza says, "Minority religions cannot be satisfied only with the goodwill of the government and a liberal law. More social respect and recognition, not just mere tolerance, are very much needed. This is especially true in the case of small communities such as Buddhists, Hindus, or Baha'i, which are highly marginalized." Nonetheless, the Croatian Baha'i community has been recognized under the law thanks to its decade-long presence in Croatia, despite having only 130 registered members. The largest established religious minority in Croatia has a somewhat different set of concerns. The Serbian Orthodox Church was among the first to sign a special agreement with the Croatian government. Metropolitan Jovan Pavlovic says, "So far, we are very happy with the attitude of the Croatian government toward our position in Croatia, and we welcome the ongoing process of return of property, both to us and to our believers." Despite unresolved problems relating to the return of forests, land, and real estate, Pavlovic, whose jurisdiction includes Zagreb, Slovenia, and Italy, doesn't hide his satisfaction with the recent cooperation with state ministries, notably those for education, culture, and finance. The analyst Peterlin confirms that the Serbian Orthodox Church is treated equitably. "Even though there are still some tense feelings at the local level, I think that the government is trying to implement the law," he says. Pavlovic hopes that the current Croatian government will stay the course of improving relations with religious minorities and go beyond nice gestures such as the visit to an Orthodox Christmas celebration by Prime Minister Ivo Sanader. The head of the Islamic community in Croatia also says the law is being implemented fairly. Mufti Sefko Omerbasic, who represents 56,777 Muslims, points to just one problem area: "So far, only the religious practice in the army has not been regulated. This affects around 100 Muslim soldiers who cannot enjoy their religious rights to pastoral care at the moment." Omerbasic is glad that a decision has recently been made to proceed with the construction of a mosque in Rijeka, the country's third largest city. In his view, relations between the Islamic community and the Catholic Church in Croatia are cordial. "By regulating their own rights with the state, the Catholic Church helped us to find our [own] place in the law," he says. These feelings are also echoed by the representative of the 2,000-strong Baptist community in Croatia.

    The long road from legal protection to social recognition
    Small religious communities from the East, though satisfied with the implementation of the law, feel more marginalized than traditional groups. For example, the more-than-1,000 members of Hare Krishna in Croatia face social isolation despite the fact that the group has had a presence in the country for close to 20 years. The community's vice president, Renato Petek, says, "We have no official contacts either with the government or with the Catholic Church, except at an individual level." This could change, however, with the planned conclusion of a special agreement that would recognize Hare Krishna marriages and religious instruction in schools. Sinisa Zrinscak, a sociologist of religion and professor at the Faculty of Law at Zagreb University, agrees that legal protection and social recognition are two very different things. "Except for the minimum membership requirement for registration, we can speak of a very liberal law, even in comparison to similar legal models in EU countries. The law enshrines a broad spectrum of rights," he says. At the same time, "Social context and tradition, which shape the prejudices and attitudes toward minority religions, are far more important than legal status." The two years since the law's passage have shown that while legal equality is important, social attitudes are harder to change. Says Peterlin, "Croatian society still has great problems in recognizing the value of pluralism in a democratic sense. In the religious context, the members of minority religious communities are often perceived as suspicious or stigmatized as sectarians."
    ©Transitions Online

    18/11/2004- Switzerland's largest retailer, Migros, says it will not impose a ban on the wearing of Islamic headscarves by its female employees. In a statement on Thursday, it said it would decide each case on an individual basis and "take into account the interests of Migros customers, management and employees". Migros added that it was concerned with the issues of hygiene and safety, as well as with protecting its staff from verbal or physical abuse. Spokeswoman Monika Weibel told swissinfo that a Zurich branch last week gave permission to one female Muslim employee to wear her headscarf to work, which may have set a precedent leading to Thursday's decision. The employee in question made the request last August, sparking an internal debate about the issue. Head of personnel at Migros Zurich, Urs Stolz, told the "Tages-Anzeiger" newspaper that some customers had reacted with "shock" when they saw the woman wearing the headscarf. But Stolz said Muslims should have the same rights as other religious groups, and "Jews and Sri Lankans wear yarmulkes and turbans at Migros without any problem." Commenting on the issue at a Catholic meeting in August, cabinet minister Moritz Leuenberger said a blanket prohibition on the Islamic headscarf would not help to build peace among religions. For its part, the Islamic Cultural Foundation in Geneva, which also administers the mosque there, said it accepted a ban on headscarves in the public administration, "but it is unacceptable that this would be extended to the private sector". In 1997, the Federal Court turned down an appeal by a Geneva teacher who wanted to wear her headscarf to work. The court said allowing her to do so contravened the principle of sexual equality. Weibel told the newspaper, "Le Temps", that the court's ruling had little relevance in Migros' case since it concerned a school "which has a mission to educate and explain practices to its pupils. "In a company it is different," she said. "We have to respect the autonomy of our employees."
    ©NZZ Online

    19/11/2004- A Swiss expert on Islam has welcomed a decision by the country's leading retailer, Migros, not to ban the wearing of Muslim headscarves. But in an interview with swissinfo, Stéphane Lathion, president of the Group of Research on Islam in Switzerland, said the move was unlikely to lead to changes elsewhere. On Thursday Migros said there would be no outright ban on the wearing of Islamic headscarves, following a request by a Muslim female employee in Zurich. But the retailer said it retained the right to decide on a case-by-case basis. Lathion, a senior lecturer in sociology of religions at Fribourg University, published a book, "Muslims in Europe", in 2003.

    swissinfo: What kind of message does the decision taken by Migros send out to Switzerland as a whole?
    Stéphane Lathion: First of all, this is a positive step. It is recognition of the Muslim presence in Switzerland, seen here in an agreement between employees and their employer.

    swissinfo: But is this decision likely to resonate in schools and public life?
    S.L.: I don't think so; firstly, because in Switzerland the cantons don't have the same legislation covering religion. In Geneva or Neuchâtel, for example, secularism is understood as being an absence of all religious symbols. Migros' decision will not change this. It won't have any impact on schools either, where there are good arguments for limiting the influence of religion.

    swissinfo: In your opinion, how is the headscarf issue viewed by the Swiss population?
    S.L.: The situation in France has a major impact on people's thinking, especially in French-speaking Switzerland. When a row about the headscarf erupts in France, its effects are felt in French-speaking Switzerland. And supporters of a strong secular society take advantage of the situation to relaunch the debate here in Switzerland. Saying that, Switzerland is not France. I don't think you will find in Geneva or anywhere else in western Switzerland the kind of scenes witnessed in certain French districts where girls go to school wearing a burka. I think it's a shame that the headscarf issue is always surrounded by polemic. Here in Switzerland, the situation is such that we can examine the validity of the various arguments and then impose restrictions. I see in this approach a form of respect. And that's why the stance taken by Migros is a good one. In adopting a more inclusive and longer-term approach, we would avoid situations where Muslims feel they are discriminated against, which is sometimes the case.

    swissinfo: How do France and Germany deal with the headscarf issue?
    S.L.: In Germany they tend to work on a case-by-case basis, which is due to the country's federal system. As for France, there's an unbelievable amount of tension over Islam. Provocation by certain Muslim groups is a fact. This fuels the fears of non-Muslims and leads some moderate Muslims to demand safeguards.

    swissinfo: And what is the significance of the headscarf?
    S.L.: There are many reasons why women wear the headscarf. For certain women, the headscarf is a political statement. But these women remain very much in the minority. For most Muslims who wear it, the headscarf is a sign of identity, mainly religious, but also cultural. There is a danger of pigeonholing the majority because of the actions of an active, spiteful and provocative minority, who wear the headscarf as a political symbol. To put them in the same basket is intellectually dishonest, and it poisons the debate.
    ©NZZ Online

    10/11/2004- Euro-MPs today launched a new drive to "name and shame" EU governments not deemed to be enforcing European legislation banning discrimination against minorities. The move is part of a campaign to reinforce the ethnic minority voice" across Europe, said London Labour MEP Claude Moraes, who will head the new cross-party group. The group will highlight Islamaphobia and anti-Semitism in Europe following the terrorist atrocities in American in September 2001. "There is a raging debate over integration in EU countries and we will ensure a parliamentary voice for millions of ethnic minority EU citizens – that is at the heart of this new all-party group of MEPs launched today," said Mr Moraes. He added: "The group will be bold in its activities, which will include naming and shaming member states that are reluctant to enforce EU legislation prohibiting discrimination against minorities. "This is an exciting development in the European Parliament. With the backing of key NGOs like the EU Social Platform, and European Network Against Racism, we will provide a robust ethnic minority voice in Europe at a critical and sensitive time on issues of integration, multiculturalism and the rise of far-right and anti-immigration populist political parties across the EU." Mr Moraes is an Asian MEP with an established record of tackling immigration and anti-racism issues. The new group's membership includes the first MEP of Roma origin, Hungary's Lívia Járóka, and Germany's Feleknas Uca, the first MEP of Kurdish origin.
    ©The Scotsman

    After Dutch filmmaker's murder, growing tensions reveal deeper issues with minority integration
    By Shada Islam, Brussels-based journalist specializing in EU policy and Europe's relations with Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

    17/11/2004- The killing of controversial Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh by a suspected Islamic extremist and the subsequent spate of retaliatory attacks on Muslim targets are a damaging blow to relations between European Union's 15 million Muslims and their host communities. Dutch violence has also spotlighted the need to speed up the integration of Muslim immigrants in the EU and opened a debate on the place of Islam in an increasingly secular Europe. Van Gogh, who had just made a controversial film condemning Islam's treatment of women, was shot and stabbed in Amsterdam as he cycled to work. Van Gogh's killer has been identified as 26-year-old Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch-Moroccan. Another five alleged Islamic radicals face charges of forming a terrorist conspiracy to murder van Gogh. The outpouring of anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant sentiments in the Netherlands after van Gogh's murder reflects a harsh new reality in a country once known for its tolerance. Van Gogh's brutal slaying has been condemned by Muslim groups in the Netherlands, anxious to distance themselves from the crime. Nonetheless, a recent poll conducted by Dutch TV showed that 47 percent of all people in the Netherlands now feel less tolerant of Muslims. Since the van Gogh murder, mosques have been set on fire and bombs exploded in Islamic schools across the Netherlands. Many Dutch politicians, including members of the ruling center-right coalition (Christian Democrats and Liberals) have lashed out against the country's one million Muslims. Deputy Prime Minister Gerrit Zalm has declared a "war" on Islamic extremists. Rightwing Dutch MP Geert Wilders wants all mosques attended by radicals to be closed. The EU's outgoing internal market chief Frits Bolkestein, also a Liberal from the Netherlands, has latched on to the fact that van Gogh's killer is of Moroccan origin (but also Dutch) to ask the Moroccan king to stop "his" citizens from engaging in terrorist acts. It was not in Rabat's interest, said Bolkestein, to be seen as an "exporter of murderers." But is it in the Netherlands' interest to be known as a country where people in power, when faced with a very public national trauma, are unable or unwilling to control their language and emotions? Responsible politicians in a mature European democracy must show grace under fire, says Claude Moraes, a Socialist member of the European Parliament who heads the assembly's recently launched group on anti-racism and diversity. "Politicians need to be more thoughtful," says Moraes. There is also concern that far right parties in the Netherlands are exploiting van Gogh's murder to foment further conflict with the Muslims in the country.

    Racial and religious violence in the Netherlands is prompting serious worry in the rest of Europe: Political leaders fear that the bloody events may signal the beginning of a new, more violent phase in already-tense relations with their own Muslim minorities. Van Gogh's killing and the subsequent anti-Muslim hostility is potent proof that despite their public wishes to avoid a "clash of civilizations" and strong efforts to build bridges with Arab and other Islamic countries, European governments have done little to engage in a real dialogue with their own Muslim citizens. Islamophobic sentiments are certainly on the rise throughout Europe, according to reports published by the Vienna-based Center for Monitoring Racism and Xenophobia. The September 11 attacks on US cities and the Madrid railway bombings have made ordinary Europeans increasingly wary of their Muslim co-citizens. While tough measures are clearly needed to clamp down on Islamic extremist groups, terrorist organizations, and networks linked to Al Qaeda, crackdowns are further inflaming inter-community and inter-religious tensions, making the integration of Muslims even more difficult. One result of this widening divide has been the radicalization of young Muslims. While young women are wearing headscarves to underline their Islamic identity, young Muslim men are being tempted by the "seductive discourse" of radicals, says Marco Martiniello of the Center for Ethnic and Migration Studies at the University of Liege. The fact that even multicultural societies such as the one in the Netherlands have failed to eliminate discrimination, with Muslims facing racism at school and unable to secure good jobs or find proper housing, is a further strain on inter-community relations.

    "Discrimination and exclusion" of Europe's Muslim minorities is a fact of life, Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk admitted recently. "Young people feel rejected by society," Verdonk recognised, adding that integration of Muslims was difficult because they "don't speak the language, lack appropriate training or education and have little knowledge of society." Societies such as the Netherlands, which appear to embrace diversity, often create false "aspirations of equality" among immigrants which can then turn to feelings of deep frustration when discrimination persists, says Martiniello. As a result, even "well-integrated young Muslims feel distanced from the host society, which can breed alienation and tensions," admits an EU official. The increasingly emotional debate about Turkey's planned membership in the European Union has also brought long-held prejudices, based on Europe's historical clashes with Islam, back to the fore. Some of the political discourse on Ankara's bid to join the EU is openly Islamophobic, with politicians, especially in France and Germany, warning against the dilution of Europe's Christian values. French Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin cautioned recently against Turkish entry, saying it was dangerous to allow "the river of Islam to enter the river bed of European secularism." There is a growing rift between a secular Europe, which espouses progressive values on issues like abortion and gay marriages, and a religious minority that holds a more conservative view of the world. While Muslim unease with Europe's secularism is often in the news, Christians are also anxious about the erosion of their values, says Meindert Fennema of the Institute of Migration and Ethnic Studies in Amsterdam.

    Many politicians in the Netherlands and elsewhere are insisting that immigrants must "assimilate" into European societies, completely giving up their religious and cultural identity, says Martiniello. This has taken the focus away from the concept of "integration," which allows for diversity. EU governments have few options, however. European leaders at a summit in early November admitted the need for legal migrants to compensate for domestic labor shortages and an aging population. An EU report published last year said that the working age population in the 25-nation bloc was set to fall from 303 million to 297 million by 2020, and to 280 million by 2030. Immigrants are deemed essential to develop Europe's information technology sector and to bolster overall economic development – advancements necessary for the EU to meet its ambitious goal of becoming the world's most competitive economy by 2010. "Immigration can help in filling current and future needs of EU labour markets," the report said. The dilemma for EU leaders, however, is that while the economy needs immigrants, European society is not in welcoming mode. Before they can recruit workers abroad, governments will have to put money, time, and energy into making sure that immigrants, especially Muslims, are able to become part of the economic, political, and social mainstream. Allowing in more immigrants without ensuring the integration of those who are already in Europe will mean more clashes like those in Netherlands.
    ©Yale Center for the Study of Globalization

    8/11/2004- The right-wing government of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has angrily denied charges of racism against its coalition partners, accusations made in a U.N. report on xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia released here. The 20-page report, which will go before the current session of the U.N. General Assembly ending mid-December, identifies "two openly xenophobic parties," the National Alliance and the Northern League, in Berlusconi's coalition government, which has held power since June 2001. "The representatives of these parties spread racist and anti-immigrant discourse in Italian society and have obtained the adoption of a particularly strict immigration law (the Bossi-Fini law, named for the leaders of these two parties), which was recently called into question by the Italian constitutional court," says Doudou Diene, a U.N. special rapporteur on human rights, in the report. In a letter to Diene, Ambassador Paolo Bruni of Italy says his government was surprised to see the two coalition partners included in the "list of openly racist and xenophobic political and para-military groups." The letter says Rome was also surprised to find the Italian government referred to as another example of a coalition government "between the right and extreme right." "I wish to recall that the National Alliance and the Northern League are member parties of a government which has made the fight against racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, a priority of its political action," Bruni wrote. The controversial Bossi-Fini law, he pointed out, "contributes to the prevention and combating of clandestine immigration and its criminal exploitation, thus improving quality of life of immigrants and discouraging the trafficking of human beings." U.N. special rapporteurs, added Bruni, have the "paramount duty" to check the veracity of the information they receive.

    In his report, Diene says racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are also on the "upswing" in the rest of Europe. "New targets of discrimination -- immigrants, refugees and non-nationals -- have now been added to the traditional victims of these scourges: Jews, Arabs, Asians and Africans," he notes. Diene says the rise in racism worldwide followed the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sep. 11, 2001. "The rebirth of racist and xenophobic movements in Western Europe today needs to be analysed against the background of the socio-economic changes taking place, including the politicisation of immigration." In Western Europe, Diene says, the resurgence of extremist right-wing politics has been seen as a phenomenon caused by economic crisis or rapid influx of non-occidental immigrants into hitherto "homogenous" societies.

  • In France "the leading racist and xenophobic party" is the Front National, led by Jean-Marie Le Pen, who garnered 17 percent of the national vote in the 2002 presidential elections, according to the report. One of the main goals of the Front's platform, "based on hate and exclusion," is to give preference for jobs and housing to nationals and Europeans, "and immediately expel all illegal immigrants."
  • In Germany, the three main xenophobic and anti-Semitic parties are the German People's Union, the German National Democratic Party and the Republicans, adds Diene. The latest annual report of the country's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution reports there were 169 extreme right-wing groups in Germany by the end of 2003 (compared with 146 in 2002). "As in other countries, the German extreme right-wing parties are increasingly using the Internet to spread their racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic messages," Diene says.
  • In Britain, the leading extremist political group is the British National Party (BNP), which in the 2003 election obtained the best result ever by an extreme right party since the 1970s. A study conducted by the European Union Accession Monitoring Programme states the BNP has honed its "racism into a specifically anti-Muslim message." A new racist party, the 'November 9th Society', which was established in 2004, "openly proclaims its status as a British Nazi party with a platform based on the theories of Hitler and the superiority of the Aryan race," according to the U.N. study.
  • Following Austria's 1999 election, the extreme-right Freedom Party (FPO) became the country's second most popular, with 27.7 percent of the vote, and joined the conservative People Party in the government. "The Austrian experience also illustrates a grave danger threatening democratic systems in Europe and throughout the world: the influence of the extreme right on traditionally democratic parties," says the U.N. report.
  • In the Netherlands, the major peddlers of hate and xenophobia have been right-wing parties such as the Centrumdemcraten, Nieuwe Nationale Partij, the Nederlands Blok and a host of other extra-parliamentary groups.

    The study also singles out racism in Belgium, Spain, Switzerland and Russia. The situation is Russia is "becoming particularly worrisome, with an increase in violence against foreigners, particularly Caucasians, Asians and Africans." The study finds that North America, defined as the United States and Canada, is an area of contrasts. The two countries are not only haven for countless immigrants from around the world -- the promised land of wealth and equal opportunities -- but have also developed "some of the world's most racist and xenophobic ideologies and movements." Even after slavery ended and equality was proclaimed by U.S. law, the vast majority of native Americans, African Americans and now Latinos, "live in the poorest and most marginalized social sectors," says Diene's report. The number of extremist groups in the region, such as the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi groups and people's militias, is believed to have reached at least 540 by the late 1990s. "To this is added the post-Sep. 11 situation, which has brought a resurgence of activity among racist and xenophobic groups and increased the level of violence, in particular against specific individuals and communities: Muslims, Arabs and Asians." Due to its geographical proximity to the United States, Canada is not immune to these phenomena, the report adds. "Groups that preach racial or ethnic hatred do exist there." The study also identifies racial groups in Asia (including in India and Japan), Africa (including Rwanda and Sudan), South America (including the indigenous people in Peru, Bolivia and Guatemala) and the Middle East (including Lebanon and the West Bank and Gaza) whose members are victims of discrimination. "The current realities of racism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia and related intolerance should be acknowledged as major threats to peace, security and human development," it concludes.
    ©Inter Press Service

    17/11/2004– Internet auction house eBay Inc. said Wednesday it would limit the use of racial slurs after U.S. city officials complained the offensive terms were being used to advertise lawn jockeys and other antiques. eBay customers will still be able to bid on figurines, post cards and other historical items that reflect an era when racial stereotypes were common, but they won't be able to find them by typing words such as "nigger" into the Web site's search engine. Instead, they will have to use terms like "black Americana." Officials with the National League of Cities asked eBay to make the change early this year after finding that sellers used offensive terms in their listings. "I think it perpetuated racism because it said, 'This is how we view this piece,'" said Philadelphia city councilwoman Marian Tasco. City officials said other online sellers should consider taking such steps as well. Racially offensive material has been a sensitive subject for online sellers. A French judge in 2000 ordered Yahoo Inc. to block users in that country from accessing auctions for Nazi daggers and concentration-camp uniforms. Yahoo pulled Nazi gear from its auction site but got a U.S. court ruling saying it did not have to obey a French court. eBay prohibits the sale of Nazi uniforms and other items that "glorify hatred, violence, or racial intolerance." But the auction site, where up to 5,000 new items are posted each minute, has allowed the sale of "lawn jockey" statues of smiling black men in livery outfits, "Tar Baby" soap and other historical items that portray racial stereotypes. Some black Americans have taken an interest in these items as a sign of the progress they have made since the U.S. Civil War. Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby maintain collections. The new policy bans offensive words and phrases and states that "sellers must ensure that the language in their listings shows appropriate sensitivity to those in the community that might view it." It does not apply to items that have slurs in their titles, such as Richard Pryor's 1974 comedy album "That Nigger's Crazy."

    MANAGEABLE XENOPHOBIA(Russia, opinion)
    By Andrei Kolesnikov

    2/11/2004- Foreigners are becoming the only real political force in Russia. Not only has the Ukrainian nation brought forth radical changes to Russia's migration laws — I am referring here to the latest initiatives to ease the registration rules for Ukrainians staying in Russia and introducing dual citizenship. In today's Russia foreign citizens are also the only people who protest against the policy of the party and the government, arbitrariness and lawlessness. Last Sunday St. Petersburg saw a demonstration staged by foreign students, timed to the birthday of the scholar and human rights activist Nikolai Girenko, killed in June this year. The students carried portraits of Girenko, of Tajik girl Khursheda Sultanova and Vietnamese student Vu An Tuan, who perished at the hands of practicing xenophobes. Some 500 people took part in the march, which, of course, is not much. But the protest revealed a characteristic trend: even if Russia has a real political problem at present, which in several years may become a problem of electoral, social or some other nature, that problem is xenophobia. Tolerance is a problem that is of both a political and economic nature. It is political because, judging by the high incidence of racially motivated acts, for the most part ruthless and 'targeted', ethnic intolerance is becoming increasingly attractive, including in the electoral sense. Tolerance is also a problem of an economic nature as the increasingly aging Russia with its labor market structure undermining the GDP growth badly needs a foreign workforce. Only those in charge of migration regulation and registration procedures fail to understand the essence of that simple truth. And such a situation is fraught with risks far more serious than the occasional manifestations of household nationalism, mentioned recently by Vladimir Putin.

    Household nationalism very quickly gains a strong hold on the minds of people and then obtains the status of governmental policy. Remarkably, a wave of violent attacks on foreigners occurred in October against a backdrop of statements made by certain politicians and state officials who speak the so-called "language of enmity". A Vietnamese student was killed in St. Petersburg, placards reading "Criminal Southerners — Get Out of Pskov!" were seen in the Pskov region. An Egyptian was battered; then there was a statement by the chairman of the committee on economic policy of the Moscow City Duma Irina Rukina, who said: "Ordinary Muscovites are envious of gastarbeiters getting richer by the day… As a result, foreigners get robbed, battered, killed." Legislative initiatives envisaging tougher restrictions on non-residents are well-known. They were followed by a proposal tabled by the Moscow City Duma committee on legislation and security to amend the law on the right of citizens of the Russian Federation to freedom of movement and to authorize each region to "restrict entry for residents of other regions". Public opinion polls prove that such an approach has popular support. Should those initiatives be implemented not only foreign laborers, but also Russian nationals will lose the right to move freely within the boundaries of their own country. The language the authorities use speaks for itself. Just listen to the words the cast-iron Russian governors use in their speeches! Mr. Tkachev, the young and promising successor to Batka Kondrat (the ultra-nationalist ex-governor of Krasnodar Region Kondratenko) who is even seen by some political analysts as a possible successor to Mr. Putin, sets up 'filtration camps' for migrants. Governor Gromov of the Moscow region supports the idea of establishing 'deportation camps'. The deputy head of the Federal Migration Service, Mr. Tyurkin, exclaims with Hamlet-like emotion: "Employers have challenged the entire controlling system!" What system — a system of camps?!

    Interestingly, the problems of xenophobia in Russia are handled by bureaucrats more or less in charge of governing the economy. 'Gastarbeiters' earn more, the 'indigenous' envy them and attack them with steel bars. Employers turn a blind eye to that and give jobs to migrants. But who is stopping those people that are envious from getting their backsides off their sofas and starting work, and those in charge from adopting migration laws that would boost economic growth, instead of impeding it? In Russia everything is 'manageable'. Our democracy, where a mass electorate gives up communist ideology and adopts nationalist views is manageable. Our economy run by presidential envoys on boards of directors in privately-owned companies is manageable. Our migration organized through filtration camps is manageable. Our xenophobia is also manageable. In this system the authorities, seeking to prevent violence, itself adopts the language of enmity. But such methods do not work as the October statistics have shown. Voters ignore the authorities and racially motivated attacks continue. If this tendency prevails, in three years from now they will cast their votes not in favor of a manageable nationalist but for an unmanageable fascist. The authorities have a choice: either cancel democracy altogether or make what could be the last attempt to settle those problems taking into consideration the economic interests and personal safety of citizens.

    On both the federal and local levels, Russia's government must send a strong message that hate crimes will not be tolerated--or it will surely face a further increase in interethnic violence.
    by Nickolai Butkevich, research and advocacy director at UCSJ: Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union.

    4/11/2004- In the weeks since the horrific massacre in Beslan, both Russian and international media have warned that the passing of the traditional 40-day mourning period in the predominantly Christian republic of North Ossetia, the site of the attack, could lead to reprisals against Muslim neighbors. Thankfully, this scenario has not yet come to pass. However, a wave of assaults and murders elsewhere in the country would seem to indicate that Russia's myriad nationalist hate groups around the country are taking their own form of "revenge" on any visible minority they can find, Muslim or not. While hate groups and racist violence long ago became regular features of Russian life, the post-Beslan climate seems to have emboldened neo-Nazis to commit even deadlier crimes than usual. St. Petersburg's 15,000-strong foreign-student community is bearing the brunt of the violence. On the night of 13 October, more than a dozen skinheads stabbed a Vietnamese student to death in the downtown area. Suspects detained in relation to the murder were later released for lack of evidence. Dark-skinned foreign students in the elegant former imperial capital are regularly insulted and beaten, and murders are becoming more frequent, as demonstrated by a sign held by a Vietnamese student at a recent protest rally reading, "We came here to study, but we're leaving in coffins." To the credit of the local authorities, Governor Valentina Matvienko condemned the murder as a "monstrous crime." Deputy Governor Oleg Virolaynen met with foreign students, urging them not to leave the country and promising to take measures against extremist violence. But these promises were not enough to stop the skinheads. On 17 October, a Congolese student was assaulted by three youths and ended up hospitalized with head injuries. On 20 October, chain-wielding assailants beat an African student from the city's Polytechnic Institute.

    From Russia, with violence
    Other racist attacks have occurred recently outside of St. Petersburg as well. On 14 October, four men beat and stabbed two Uzbeks in Dolgoprudny, near Moscow, killing one of them. In the southeastern Siberian city of Chita, two teenagers killed a Chinese national the same day. In the "Golden ring" city of Vladimir, 200 kilometers east of Moscow, four assaults on foreign students took place in September alone, and in the central Russian city of Rostov, the violent neo-Nazi movement Russian National Unity reportedly patrolled city streets in the days immediately after the Beslan massacre, openly wearing their trademark swastika armbands. In the Russian capital itself, a 30-year-old Egyptian was beaten in what prosecutors initially classified as hooliganism but later deemed a hate crime. Luke Awona Zoah, a Cameroonian soccer star who plays for the Moscow team Spartak, was beaten by several unidentified attackers in late October. He was hospitalized with head injuries and will not be able to train with the team for several weeks. A 36-year-old Nicaraguan, Manuel Martinez Gonzalez, was attacked by two youths earlier in October inside the Smolenskaya metro station. Two teenagers have been detained in connection with the assault, both of whom are "being checked for membership in skinhead gangs," according to the news website Regions.ru. In response to this bacchanalia of violence, Russia's dysfunctional government is as usual speaking with two voices. On 19 October, President Vladimir Putin gave a speech in Moscow calling for society to unite with the government against xenophobia. "Not just state agencies, but society too needs to quickly react to any incident of xenophobia and religious intolerance," the president said. Though he failed to reconcile this call for societal activism with his government's increasingly repressive policies against the human rights movement, Putin's words may help to calm the situation.

    ‘The most ethnically tolerant country'
    On the other hand, when one of the country's top police officials publicly belittled the seriousness of the recent attacks just two days before, Russian neo-Nazis must have felt that they had friends in high places. On16 October, Lieutenant-General Vladimir Gordienko, head of the criminal investigation department of the Interior Ministry, told a press conference that there "has been no explosion of criminal activity against citizens of other countries here," according to the 18 October edition of Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He then claimed that ethnic hatred is not motivating the attacks, saying, "They are indifferent to ethnicity; if the criminal and the victim were of the same ethnicity, the result would be the same." Gordienko concluded with the jaw-dropping statement that, "Judging from my experience of speaking with colleagues from other countries, Russia is the most ethnically tolerant country." Moscow's mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, while on the one hand vowing action against extremist nationalists, went so far as to claim that there were "microscopically few" neo-Nazis in Moscow. Meanwhile, instead of stemming the tide of extremist violence, some reports indicate that police are engaged in a witch hunt against Muslim women wearing head scarves. The 28 September edition of Izvestiya reported that many devout Muslim women in Moscow are no longer leaving their homes unless they are accompanied by male relatives, out of fear that their hijabs, or head scarves, will attract the attention of police or violent racists. There have been several incidents already of veiled Muslim women being assaulted in the city, and police are reportedly under informal orders to detain all women in hijabs because of recent terrorist acts committed by so-called "black widows." In Russia's third largest city, Nizhny Novgorod, local Muslim leaders issued a fatwa this month declaring that Muslim women can walk the streets unveiled in order to minimize the threat to their safety. Clearly, Putin and other responsible Russian officials should not want Russia's numerous ethnic and religious minorities to feel like second-class citizens whose safety is not their government's concern. That is why, in the wake of Beslan, a crackdown on neo-Nazi groups should be as important as the country's struggle against terrorism. Officials who feel otherwise should be immediately replaced. To do any less could open the door to even larger explosions of interethnic violence, endangering the security of the entire country. Such an outcome, which is still entirely preventable, would make the butchers of Beslan very, very happy.
    ©Transitions Online

    5/11/2004- A leading refugee rights group accused the Russian government on Friday of pressuring Chechen refugees to return to their homes in Chechnya, sometimes using threats of eviction or withholding humanitarian aid. The Norwegian Refugee Council denounced the measures by the Russian government to bring an appearance of stability to the breakaway region, Reuters reported. In view of the lack of security and the shortage of adequate housing and sanitation, nobody should be pressed to return to the war-torn region, its report said. "There continues to be serious concerns about the authorities pressuring displaced Chechens into returning to Chechnya despite the high security risks in the republic," Reuters quoted the report as saying. "Security checks in internally displaced persons' (IDP) settlements, eviction threats, the removal from humanitarian distribution lists, and the suspension of utilities ... contributed to spreading the feeling among IDPs that return was the only solution," it added. Some 150,000 Chechens, who have fled two conflicts in the past decade, are scattered across Russia, according to the independent Geneva-based body. They include 43,000 in neighboring Ingushetia where authorities closed the last of six tented camps last June. Russia, which says the conflict is all but over, has made improving living conditions in Chechnya a key plank in attempts to undermine separatists.

    Fury over bar staff's fancy dress outfits

    2/11/2004- A South Belfast bar was at the centre of a race row today after admitting that staff dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes during a Halloween fancy dress party. Doormen at Vaughan's bar and grill on the Lisburn Road donned the sinister outfits just hours after 1,500 people took to the streets of Belfast to protest against racist attacks in Belfast. One irate father told today how he refused to allow his daughter to go into the bar after seeing bouncers dressed in white cloaks and hoods checking ID on the doors. However, the bar has defended the bouncers' outfits as "just a bit of fun" and said they had not received a single complaint on the night. One Belfast father, who did not want to be named, said: "My daughter wanted to go to Vaughan's on Saturday night so I drove her up to the door. "When I got there I saw that all the doormen were dressed in white robes and pointy hats with KKK written on the chest. "They were stopping people at the door and checking ID. "I could not believe what I was seeing, it was absolutely abhorrent. I refused to let my daughter go into the bar because it just was not right. "I thought it was unbelievable in the current climate of racist attacks in south Belfast and the fact that the anti-racist march was in the city centre on the same day." Vaughan's is near the loyalist Village area which has seen a concentration of racist incidents reported in the last year. Vaughan's general manager Jacqui Keenan said: "We did not mean to offend anyone and we had no complaints on the night. "We had people dressed up as Ian Paisley, Adolf Hitler, German soldiers, nuns and bishops - it was just meant to be a bit of fun. "The doormen only wore the hooded tops for the first part of the night and then they took them off because it was too hot. "We have people of all races who come here and everyone who was here on Saturday night had a great time and no-one was offended." But Davy Carlin, of the Anti-Racism Network, said: "This has huge connotations of overt racism. I think it was insensitive to wear such outfits. "I don't think white supremacy should be encouraged by any business. You can't walk into most bars wearing football strips and yet here's someone at the door in KKK attire."
    ©Belfast Telegraph

    3/11/2004- Representatives from the PSNI and the Policing Board are to give evidence to a parliamentary inquiry into hate crime. The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee is conducting the inquiry because of concerns over hate crime. A preliminary report by the committee said the problem was significant. It criticised the government for not including attacks against the disabled in the hate crime category. The law has since been extended to include this. On Saturday, up to 2,000 people attended a rally in Belfast's city centre calling for an end to racism. The event was organised by the Anti-Racism Network and the Chinese Welfare Association under the slogan 'No Excuses'. Speakers from the Chinese, Muslim and gay communities called for the government to do more to stop attacks against them. The organisers of Saturday's march said it was an opportunity for people to stand together to show their utter rejection of race hate. They also wanted to reassure members of ethnic minorities that they had support and solidarity. Figures released last week, showed that more than five racist or homophobic attacks take place in Belfast every week. Attacks in north Belfast doubled between April and September this year, the city's District Policing Partnership was told. Over the 183-day period there were 129 so-called hate crimes recorded throughout the city. In the previous year, some 226 racial incidents were recorded across Northern Ireland, resulting to date in five known prosecutions. In May, the Northern Ireland Affairs committee said police figures were underestimating "hate crime" levels by a "considerable margin" because victims were failing to report attacks.
    ©BBC News

    FILM MAKER MURDERED(Netherlands)
    By Jeroen Bosch for Alert! and Antifa-Net

    3/11/2004- At 8.45 on the morning of 2 November, the controversial Dutch columnist and film maker Theo van Gogh (47) was murdered in Amsterdam, while cycling to work. Police later arrested a 26-year-old Dutch Moroccan who had shot van Gogh and stabbed him to death in a killing reminiscent of the murder of right-wing populist Pim Fortuyn in 2002. Van Gogh's assailant had tried to escape through a park but police were able to catch him after a shoot out in which he was shot in the leg and a bystander and police officer were wounded. Police later searched two houses. The motives for Van Gogh's murder are, at the time of writing still unclear, but the secret Service, the AIVD says the suspected killer had contact with the radical Islamic Fundamentalist milieu around Samir A, a Rotterdam man arrested in July on suspicion of preparing an attack on the parliament building in The Hague. Although the AIVD knew about van Gogh's killer, he was not being monitored. For the media circus that took to the TV screens within minutes of the murder, the man is an "Islamic fundamentalist" offended by the way Van Gogh had written and spoken about Islam. Van Gogh was an outspoken columnist and TV personality who defended freedom of speech "by all means". "By all means" frequently meant, for him, insulting and offending people, most of all the Netherlands' Muslim community. As a result, argument, fights and controversy always surrounded him. Why it was necessary for Van Gogh, who saw himself as a "political fool", to insult people so badly so deeply is not clear. What is clear, though, is that he had embarked on a kind of "crusade" against Islam, calling Muslims in the Netherlands "the Fifth Column of goat- fuckers".

    As a film maker, Van Gogh's latest project was a short film called Submission, about the abuse of Islamic woman in the name of the Koran, a movie he made together with the equally controversial liberal democrat parliamentarian, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ali has been criticised for attacking Islam in a bid to emancipate Muslim women. Hirsi Ali is one of the politicians who stood up after Fortuyn to try, in their words, to "democratise" Islam in the Netherlands and is under heavy guard after receiving numerous death threats. Van Gogh, on the other hand, always refused protection, although he, too, was regularly threatened on the Internet. Although Van Gogh made critical movies like Submission, he also filmed projects about migrant youngsters who lose track of society, become criminal and try to become "resocialised". He also made a much-appreciated TV series about the relationship between a Moroccan boy and a Dutch girl, screened two years ago on public television. His latest– just finished – project was a film, called 0605, about the murder of his inspiration, Pim Fortuyn, in whom he saw a partner in his defence of freedom of speech and in his fight against what he termed "backward Islamic culture". It will be broadcast in December. On the evening of 2 November, 20,000 people gathered in central Amsterdam at the request of Van Gogh's family and the city's mayor, Job Cohen, for a loud protest in defence of the freedom of speech. Cohen himself, also a "victim" of Van Gogh's verbal jibes, spoke together with Integration and Refugee Policy Minister, Rita Verdonk, and warned Islamic extremists "This is is far enough!" In The Hague, several ultra-rightist youths were arrested at the railway station, on their way for a demonstration, called for by the fascist New National Party.It is not hard to predict that right-wingers and fascists will try to benefit from the currently inflamed atmosphere of Islamophobia, racism, revenge and threats. All the calls for the defence for the freedom of speech as the core of democracy will be useless, however, if these prejudices and emotions win. Respect, tolerance and mutual understanding are equally core aspects of democracy and they have to be defended, by the authorities and by society as a whole.

    Free speech fundamentalist on a martyrdom operation
    By Rohan Jayasekera, Associate Editor of Index on Censorship.

    3/11/2004- If maverick Dutch journalist and moviemaker Theo van Gogh was a fundamentalist believer in the right to free expression, his 2 November murder may have been his very own 'martyrdom operation'. Rohan Jayasekera comments on the disturbing legacy of a man who believed in free speech, whatever the consequences. The Dutch vernacular is thick with words that defy translation into English, or indeed anything else, so wrapped up as they are in cultural meaning. 'Gezellig' is one. It means comfy, cosy, slightly self-satisfied. The problems of the world excluded by curtain-less windows. 'Gedogen' is another. It means tolerance, but also something more, like a kind of polite endurance of something unpleasant. For years this supposed tolerance has masked blunt acceptance of reality. The Dutch know that prostitution and drugs cannot be legislated out of existence, but they can be legislated out of sight. If the law cannot prohibit an unpleasant problem - and the Dutch do not care to solve it - then it is politely endured and efficiently managed. This is the quintessence of Gedogen. This does not stop the Dutch from basking in rich pride at their global reputation for tolerance, even while knowing that it is a reputation based on misunderstanding capped by mis-translation. The quality of their pride in Gedogen is Gezellig. These are verbs that only function in Holland, and then only when spoken in Dutch by Dutch people. Many of the country's tens of thousands of fluent Dutch speaking residents of Arab and Muslim descent have tried to make them work for themselves and their families. In vain. By definition, as verbs, literally in meaning and in the actions they describe, they are exclusive. To the 'native' Dutch, that's not their problem. Nevertheless, for the white folk of Holland , the progenitors of the Afrikaner, history's most exclusive, reclusive, deluded race, their comfortable reliance on Gedogen to manage the uncomfortable realities of life has taken a series of knocks since the rise and violent death in March 2002 of the maverick anti-immigration campaigner Pim Fortuyn. On Tuesday 2 November it took another with the stabbing and shooting of film director Theo van Gogh.

    Van Gogh, a descendant of the mad genius Dutch painter, did not so much cultivate controversy as hunt it down, flog it to death in public and sodomise its corpse. It was the political crisis that followed Fortuyn's murder, coming shortly after the September 11 attacks on the US , which created the perfect stage for his style of free expression. Holland looked askance at its million non-white and non-Protestant Christian neighbours and cried out with fear. Van Gogh made films and wrote books built on a perverse desire to celebrate the horror that the Dutch felt for these strangers in their midst. He reminded them at every turn that Gedogen had failed. Like Fortuyn he sought out his fiercest critics and provoked them into maddened fury. Cleverly he would often seek out the most extreme and ignorant opponents for his public battles, reinforcing the perception that only the extreme and ignorant opposed him. The inevitable violence of their response was grist to his mill. And over years he reinforced Fortuyn's achievement: To turn the debate about minority rights and integration in the Netherlands into a baying dogfight. Theo van Gogh was the Jerry Springer of Dutch social-political discourse. The result, to use a word that doesn't need translating into Dutch, is bullshit. In the wake of Fortuyn's death and across the stage set up by van Gogh, have come some of the most ardently stupid opinions in Europe . Politicians, social scientists, policemen, teachers, journalists, all have fallen over themselves to reduce complex issues of migration, race, religion and social responsibility to idiot sloganeering. The late mayor of Tilburg , Johan Stekelenburg would have been jeered anywhere else in Europe for claiming that black people of Caribbean descent needed a "close watch" and that in their case, "the law should not be slavishly followed". Dutch supermarket tycoon Jan Blokker would have been ridiculed for his call for a police ‘arms race' with black robbers. Rotterdam police chief Jan Wiarda got ministerial support instead of the sack when he cheerfully tore up the fundamental principles of Holland's 500-year-old justice system and urged the courts to apply tougher sentences on non-white defendants - on the grounds that could expect worse in their former home countries.

    The idea that poverty and racism might have a part in the problem was dismissed by all these cretins as 'political correctness'. Non-white Dutch families are three times more likely than white ones to be living on below average incomes. Almost 25 percent of non-white Dutch people aged 15 to 64 were on social security at the end of 2000. The Dutch justice ministry reported that the jobless rate among non-western immigrants was about 10 percent in 2002, compared with about three percent among the 'native' Dutch. For any supporter of free expression, this can be agony. For the right to free speech really does include the right to freely talk crap. Fortuyn had created a new land where the spoken language was bullshit and where van Gogh could become its poet laureate. Artistically van Gogh's shock-horror work looked juvenile. And his working relationship with the Somalia-born Dutch MP Ayann Hirsi Ali - a lost soul, tormented by personal experience and embittered into a traumatic loss of faith - appeared faintly exploitative. Rational Muslim voices found it hard to be heard over the din. Van Gogh's journalist colleagues did not help. The European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations concluded in February 2002 that Dutch reporting on minorities was one-sided and negative. The report found that Dutch journalists sidestepped the problems of minorities, and quizzed them instead on their knowledge of Dutch and their (alleged or perceived) criminal backgrounds. This is abuse of free speech, and for Dutch migrants, it is censorship of their views to boot. It does liberate in one way though. Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh may have freed the Dutch from their responsibility to rationally debate a crisis with a cultural context - such as the publication of The Satanic Verses, or the evil brutality meted out to Iraqi hostage Margaret Hassan. But it also allows us without fear of public sensitivity to applaud Theo van Gogh's death as the marvellous piece of theatre that it is. In a sensational climax to a lifetime's public performance, stabbed and shot by a bearded Islamic fundamentalist, clattering off his bike to die in the street, Theo van Gogh is now a martyr to freedom of expression. His passing was then marked by a magnificent barrage of noise as Amsterdam turned out onto the streets to celebrate his life and death in the manner that the great man himself would have truly appreciated. And the timing! Just after he finished his long awaited biographical movie about who else but Pim Fortuyn. Bravo, Theo! Bravo!
    ©Index on Censorship

    3/11/2004- When the populist politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated two years ago, it was said the Netherlands had lost its innocence. By comparison, film maker Theo van Gogh's murder has evoked sensations of déjà vu, rather than disbelief. But that does not mean the fall-out will be any less serious. In 2002, the revelation that Pim Fortuyn's killer was a very Dutch environmental activist, and not a Muslim, had a sobering effect on the angry mobs who were ready to go on the rampage, torch in hand. But this time, there were eyewitness descriptions of the murderer's traditional Moroccan jallaba. And then there was the manner in which Van Gogh was killed: his throat was reportedly cut, bringing to mind the words of an angry Muslim only a few months ago that people like Van Gogh who blasphemed against Islam should be "slaughtered like pigs".

    Racial tension
    "Today is the day I became a racist," was one of the typical reactions that appeared on Dutch websites on Tuesday, even before it had been officially confirmed that the killer was of Moroccan descent. Other reactions were more extreme, calling for Hitler to be brought back from the grave or for all "foreigners" to be deported from the Netherlands at once. Meanwhile, several websites for Dutch Moroccans were taken offline when people wrote in to express their approval of the killing. Dutch Muslim leaders such as Ayhan Tonca were quick to distance themselves from these extreme reactions, saying that even if they had found Van Gogh's films and newspaper columns blasphemous, Muslims "must strongly protest that this kind of assassination is not accepted by the Muslim community." A large number of Dutch Muslims were among the crowd protesting against the killing in Amsterdam's Dam Square on Tuesday, carrying banners with slogans such as "not in the name of my Islam".

    MPs under pressure
    The government, meanwhile, appeared eager not to repeat the mistakes the main political parties had made two years ago, when they were accused of downplaying the importance of what had happened. Jozias van Aartsen, leader of the Liberal VVD Party, was one of the first to suggest a link between the Dutch Moroccan arrested for the murder and "terrorism." "Democracy is in danger," was Mr Van Aartsen's unambiguous comment. And Rita Verdonk, the immigration minister whose tough policies have proved increasingly unpopular with the Dutch public, was one of the main speakers at the mass demonstration in Dam Square. Still, the politicians will have to defend themselves against accusations that they closed their eyes to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.

    A close friend and colleague of Theo van Gogh, columnist Ebru Umar, said she did not think the government would act even now: "This is the Netherlands, nothing will happen." And Somali-born MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who worked with Van Gogh on his controversial film called Submission, said it was an "outright scandal" that the government had not offered him better protection. Fortuyn's assassination in 2002 triggered a fierce anti-government backlash and the left-wing Labour Party saw its vote almost halved in the elections that followed. This time, with a right-wing government in power, the sense of disillusionment is even stronger, as many people feel they are running out of non-violent alternatives. "Van Gogh may not have survived," warned the Dutch daily De Stem, "but his dedication to freedom of speech should survive, and you cannot defend that freedom with violence against a whole group". The daily De Volkskrant meanwhile said Muslims "will have to accept that, in a democracy, religion, too, is open to criticism - this applies to Islam no less than to Christianity". "Theo van Gogh in this respect always purposefully went to the limits of decency. Many have regularly had reason to feel hurt or offended by him. In a democracy, those who want to defend themselves against this can go to court. Any other curtailment of free speech is inadmissible," it commented.
    ©BBC News

    5/11/2004— A Utrecht mosque was damaged by fire on Friday morning in what the Union of Moroccan Mosques described as an arson attack. Police said the fire extinguished itself, but the mosque, which is still under construction, suffered substantial smoke and soot damage. Police have launched an investigation.The mosque association said flammable liquid was found at various places in the building, but because the mosque had not been furnished the fire had been unable to spread. The culprits entered the building through a smashed window. A union spokesman said mosque officials reacted with shock to the fire, but had remained calm. Due to the fact the culprits left nothing behind, the motive for the fire is not known. The mosque is scheduled to open in about two months and the fire is not expected to delay the opening.
    ©Expatica News

    3/11/2004- Record numbers of immigrants are being granted permits to work in Ireland, the country's Justice Minister Michael McDowell said Monday as he launched a week-long campaign against racism in the workplace. Last year, for the first time, race was the No. 1 issue dealt with by the country's equality watchdog. Almost a third of the files handled by the Equality Authority involved breaches of employment protection laws based on race including excessive working hours, non-payment for overtime, illegal deductions from pay, lack of holiday pay, harassment and dismissal. Mr. McDowell said the country -- which for decades had experienced waves of emigration -- now has record numbers of people coming from abroad to work.
    ©Globe and Mail

    6/11/2004- The rise in homophobic attacks in London, shown by the horrific murder of David Morley, is something we must address to ensure that this never happens again. We live in an increased climate of intolerance created by the rise of the far right in this country and a culture of homophobia in schools. The government only recently repealed section 28, which stated that lesbian and gay relationships were not valid, and still lesbian and gay partnerships do not have equal respect in law. Instead of a considered look at all the factors creating bigotry, hatred and violence, media coverage has linked the attack to the single issue of homophobic Jamaican reggae artists (Barman's murder brings call to ban homophobic singer, November 3). There is no doubt these lyrics are vile, or of their effect on lesbians and gay men in Jamaica. But focusing solely on this gives the impression that homophobia is something that has been imported from other, majority black, countries. Sadly, these lyrics are only one element of many in a homophobic culture in Britain. The gang who allegedly murdered David was overwhelmingly white. David Morley had previously been on the receiving end of hate crime, during the nailbombings, and an alliance of the lesbian and gay community and the black community opposed this hate crime. At this critical time, we must continue to campaign together.

  • Denis Fernando, Lesbian And Gay Coalition Against Racism
  • Pav Akhtar, NUS black students officer
  • Kirsten Hearn, Regard, National organisation of Disabled Lesbians, Gay Men and Bisexuals ©The Guardian

    The Danish People's Party is prepared to sabotage talks on the 2005 national budget if the government refuses to strike a clause from the public school curriculum reform making Islam required reading for high-school students

    5/11/2004- Under the Denmark's new high school curricular reform, passages from the Koran will become required reading for Danish teens - and the right-wing Danish People's Party is so up in arms about it that they're prepared to use it as a bargaining chip in upcoming national budget talks. The party has taken its grievance to the office of Finance Minister Thor Pedersen, after failing to convince Education Minister Ulla Tørnæs to amend the new standardised lesson plan for religion, in which Islam is part of the subject's so-called core curriculum. "We don't want Islam being equated with Christianity. We don't want Islam to be required reading. But the minister hasn't listened to us, and has refused to change it. Ergo, we are forced to pursue this matter at the highest levels and raise the issue during national budget talks," said Danish People's Party education spokeswoman Louise Frevert. Danish People's Party chief budget negotiator Kristian Thulesen Dahl confirmed to Jyllands-Posten that the party felt the issue to be so imperative that they would use national budget talks as "an occasion" to discuss it with high-ranking members of the government. The Danish People's Party believes instruction in the basic tenets of Islam should be an optional part of school curriculum - on par with Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism. Neither Finance Minister Thor Pedersen nor Education Minister Ulla Tørnæs were available for comment yesterday, but Conservative MP Lars Barfoed and Liberal MP Rikke Hvilshøj have flatly refused to use Islam as a bargaining chip in national budget talks. "This matter has nothing to do with the national budget. We will handle the drafting of this country's budget responsibly. It will be very unfortunate indeed if the Danish People's Party is allowed to sabotage budget talks in this manner," said Lars Barfoed. Talks on the 2005 national budget began earlier today, with Finance Minister Thor Pedersen's meetings with the Danish People's Party and other opposition parties. The government's first concession to the Danish People's Party will be an agreement on the repatriation of rejected asylum seekers. The right-wing party has demanded that the government make a precise timeline for the return of rejected refugees to their home countries, and supports cutting development aid funds to countries that refuse to accept their own citizens. The next step will be negotiations with the Socialist People's Party and Christian Democrats on a series of partial budget agreements. Several sources told Jyllands-Posten that it was likely that the government and Socialist People's Party will agree on a small-scale cultural agreement that will free up subsidies for afterschool activities for children from low-income homes. Another partial agreement - and one less assured of success - is a children's aid package with the Christian Democrats, which would provide financial support to families on the brink of divorce.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    An Iranian woman who has lived in church asylum in Oslo for two and a half years has received permission to live in Norway, despite having had four applications rejected. Only long and concerted efforts prevented the woman and her child from being sent back to mortal danger.

    4/11/2004- The woman and child came to Norway in 2000 to visit family members and then chose not to return to a threatening and violent husband. Her husband accused here of infidelity and she was threatened by her in-laws' family. Amnesty International argued that she would risk being lashed or stoned if sent back, and the woman went from an asylum center to a church hall, where members of the parish worked to secure her residence in Norway. Her application was turned down four times before she was finally accepted. "The authorities have argued that the woman could have received protection from Iranian authorities. This has never been a real option for her. We found principle weaknesses in their attitude and we found that documentation from serious human rights organizations were ignored," a church member told Aftenposten's evening edition. "What we in the parish have contributed is the collection of information. We have been in touch with countless authorities, sent letters to functionaries, politicians, the government and bishops. We have also had free assistance from the Norwegian Bar Association (DNA)," the source said. Only a parliamentary ruling that expulsions involving children not being actively processed were to be reexamined in a positive way came to the Iranian woman's rescue. Arild Humlen, head of the DNA's committee for asylum and immigrant law, believes Norway's screening process is far to strict. "I don't know the details of this case but I can nevertheless say that Norway has an extremely low approval rate. In a study of 44 nations the average (approval rate) is 14.5 percent while Norway approves residency permits in just 2 percent. In my opinion we are so strict that we to a great extent do not meet our obligations to refugee and human rights conventions," Humlen said.

    BLOK ON THE BLOCK(Belgium)
    4/11/2004- Belgium's extreme right Flemish party, the Vlaams Blok, could soon change its name in order to get round a court ban, it was reported on Thursday. La Libre Belgique reported that the Blok was planning to re-name itself Vlaams Belang if a Belgian appeal court upholds a legal ruling made earlier this year, which found the extremist Flemish party broke the country's anti-racism laws. In a landmark case in April, a Ghent court found the Vlaams Blok guilty of publishing overtly racist propaganda to stir up "hatred against foreigners, with the principal targets being north Africans and Turks." The court said doing that flouted the 1981 Belgian law that outlaws racial discrimination. The judgement dealt a huge financial blow to the party. The court fined three associations linked to the Blok EUR 12,400 each. The party is also set to lose EUR 4 million a year in state funding if the judgement is upheld.
    ©Expatica News

    By Jeroen Bosch for Alert! and Antifa-Net [with thanks to De Fabel van de Illegaal]

    3/11/2004- The Austrian ultra-right industrial band Der Blutharsch has been forced to cancel a planned concert in Tel Aviv, Israel, following widespread protests and demands from members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, that it be banned. Israeli MP, Yossi Sarid, who had asked the major of Tel Aviv and the country's justice minister, told the Jerusalem Post: It is clear why Der Blutharsch wants to perform in Israel. They want to be legitimate, have an ‘Israeli passport' and then become persona grata everywhere else. Against their critics, they can then say ‘Who are you to call us fascists? The survivors of the Holocaust invited us.' The cancellation of the Tel Aviv concert was only the latest: in March 2003, a concert was cancelled in Clausnitz in Germany and, in December 2003 a concert was cancelled in Chicago after protests mobilised by Searchlight supporters and Antifa-Net members in the USA. On 28 September the band performed a concert, attended by known right-wing extremists, at the LVC music centre in the Netherlands city of Leiden. Before the concert, Anti-Fascist Action and the Leiden-based anti-racist organization, Fabel van de illegaal (Myth of the illegal), informed the LVC centre of their objections to the concert but the LVC insisted that the band's performance was a matter of "artistic freedom". Der Blutharsch, whose members invariably perform in black clothing and military belts, was formed around an Austrian, Albin Julius, and openly flirts with nazi occultism. Julius is keen fan of the Austrian right-wing extremist, Jörg Haider. Haider makes stands the government should have taken earlier, he told the Greek Neo-folk/Dark Wave magazine L'ame Electrique. Julius also said in the interview that he did not regard Haider as extreme right-wing. In another interview, with the German Gothic magazine Black, he stated that he hoped that Europe would consist again of ‘national states' and that there would be ‘finally a halt to migration'.

    At concerts and at production sessions, Douglas Pearce of the British far-right Neo-folk band Death in June often provides Julius with musical assistance. The name of Pearce's band is a reference to the day Ernst Röhm, the leader of the Hitler's brown-shirted Sturmabteilung (SA), was murdered, together with the rest of the SA leadership, by the SS in June 1934. Despite this, Death in June's logo is an SS Death's Head symbol and the band's members frequently dress up in SS uniforms. Death in June was the first right-wing band to perform in Croatia at a time when the civil war at the Balkan was raging and Pearce and the band spent time hanging around the headquarters of the fascist HOS-militia. They have also, in interviews with various Dark Wave magazines, voiced approval for the pogroms against Roma and refugees in early 1990s Germany. Another musician who performs from time to time for Der Blutharsch is Boyd Rice who also parades regularly in SS uniform and is a good friend of Bob Heick, führer of the US nazi organization, the American Front. On the Internet, one can find the two posing together in fascist uniform. Rice is also fan of so-called Social Darwinism, the ideology of the survival of the fittest and is member Church of Satan's ‘council of nine'. During Der Blutharsch concerts, Julius is also sometimes assisted by ex-Death in June member, Ian Read. On Death in June's CD ‘Brown Book', Read sang the infamous ‘Horst Wessel'-song which is outlawed Germany. During the 1980s, Read was involved in rightist circles in the UK, notably the Rune-Gilde. He is founder of the bands Sol Invictus (Black Sun) and Fire + Ice, and was member of the British nazi crank David Myatt's Order of the Nine Angles.

    In Dutch extreme right-wing magazines like the Nationale Beweging's (National Movement) paper Nieuwe Bezem (New Brooms), Der Blutharsch is described as one of the more radical bands from the scene, which openly flirt with Nazi occultism. In this, the fascists are quite correct. Der Blutharsch is in love with nazi aesthetics. For a long time, its logo was a Sig rune, the stylised S in the SS insignia, but now they have replaced it with the Iron Cross, a German military symbol originating from the Prussian liberation struggle against Napoleon at the beginning of the nineteenth century. After 1939, Hitler retained the Iron Cross as one of his most important Nazi military decorations and all kinds of Iron Cross-emblazoned nazi kitsch is touted for sale on Der Blutharsch's website. It also figures in the video Gold gab ich für Eisen on which Der Blutharsch the German guest player Wilhelm Herich is seen screaming ‘Free Pinochet! Freiheit für Pinochet!' in a gesture of support for the decrepit Chilean ex-dictator. In another video fragment, a bottle with a swastika label is held up for the camera. And, on the same video, the band plays ‘Lisa Pien', the Finnish version of the popular Second World War song ‘Lili Marleen' and dedicate it to the European volunteers of the SS. Der Blutharsch's CD covers are awash with references to Nazi Germany. A CD, titled ‘The pleasures received in pain', features the work of the German Nazi painter, Ferdinand Staeger, while another CD – Der Sieg des Lichtes ist des Lebens Heil – displays a painting by the German Nazi artist, Werner Peiner. Der Blutharsch also uses the first four lines of the Hitler Youth's ‘Marching Song'. Der Blutharsch recently released a joint album with the Italian fascist band Zetazeroalfa which belongs to ‘Rock Identity Italy', a New Right music formation whose main aim is to present fascism in a ‘nice' way. This is not Der Blutharsch's first joint venture: it has, in fact, previously released a collaborative album with the Italian New Right band Ain Soph which is fond of quoting the fascist mystic, Julius Evola. Albin Julius does not just sing. He also runs the Hau Ruck! music label which has released an album ‘Odessa vine ill Bello', on which you containing Italian fascist marching songs from the time of Benito Mussolini.

    In their letter to the LVC, AFA and Fabel van de illegaal wrote: ‘By giving Der Blutharsch a stage, you appear to have a policy of closing your eyes to the use of Nazi symbolism, with the danger of allowing it to become normality'. The LVC did not agree. Though accepting that the website of Der Blutharsch is ‘provocative', it still saw reason to hire the band, on the grounds of ‘artistic freedom'. The LVC also used the supposed approval of the not-yet-cancelled Tel Aviv gig and laughably claimed there would be no right- wing audience, because ‘Der Blutharsch is not appreciated by extreme right groups.' AFA and De Fabel van de illegaal then informed the press and local councillors in Leiden. Some of the councillors reacted furiously and demanded that the city council should put pressure on the LVC to cancel the concert. Henri Lenferink, the city mayor asked the police to investigate Der Blutharsch but nothing came of it. An ultra right band, it appears, has to do a lot to be banned on legal grounds or for threatening public order. AFA and De Fabel then leafleted at another gig at LVC a few days before the Der Blutharsch concert, calling on those attending to protest to LVC's management. Despite this, the concert went ahead and Der Blutharsch duly performed in black uniform and sporting the Iron Cross. Among the hundred or so in attendance were known right-wing extremists like Jasper Velzel (see Searchlight August 2002), convicted in 2002 for the possession and distribution of racist, nazi and Holocaust Denial music through his mail order outlet, Berzerker Records. Velzel was acquitted for possession of swastika badges and SS Death's Head's, because the prosecutor could not prove the stuff was meant for distribution. Velzel is an activist in the nazi National Movement and is drummer for the hate rock band Brigade M. Another extremist present was Alwin Kerkhof who was convicted in 2003 for racist remarks. Kerkhof used to be active in the fascist Nieuwe Nationale Partij (NNP) and was also an activist in NieuwRechts. On 4 March this year, he was arrested together with two prominent members of the Jonge Fortuynisten, the youth branch of late Pim Fortuyn's party, the List Pim Fortuyn (LPF). Masked with balaclavas, the trio had threatened a photographer at his home. Jeroen van Valkenburg, yet another notorious right wing extremist was present at the Der Blutharsch concert. Van Valkenburg belongs to the New Era Productions music label (see Searchlight July 2004), which organised a black metal concert, at which the French fascist and anti-Semitic bands Ad Hominem and Seigneur Voland performed, in a youth centre in Bladel near Eindhoven on 17 April.

    3/11/2004- Suggestions that Europe is being flooded with refugees is exaggerated, the UN high commissioner for refugees Ruud Lubbers has said. The number of asylum seekers arriving in Europe is at its lowest in years, he believes. "We need to step back from the notion that Europe is being flooded with asylum seekers", writes Mr Lubbers in the Guardian. In 1992, around 680,000 people claimed asylum in the EU member states, while last year, the number was under 350,000, points out the UN official. According to Mr Lubbers, the present level of immigration is manageable and the EU should not be allowed to undermine its commitment to human rights and refugee protection. The EU could provide many answers to immigration and asylum problems, he said.

    EU summit to focus on asylum issues
    Mr Lubbers' comments come ahead of the European Council summit starting tomorrow (4 November) in Brussels, where the ministers will discuss asylum issues. Over the past years anti-immigration sentiment has risen in Europe and many EU member states are under pressure to cut the number of asylum seekers. The pressure group Amnesty International has also sent an open public letter to EU heads of state and government urging them to match its ambition to promote fundamental rights with concrete policies that are coherent and properly resourced. "While welcoming the commitment to a single asylum procedure, Amnesty International is concerned that the common asylum system is to be based on low standards". There are many questions to be answered with regard to the EU's stated ambitions to control immigration, provide humanitarian assistance and support capacity building if protection obligations are to be fully respected, states the open letter. During the summit EU leaders are expected to increase the block's power over asylum and migration. According to Atzo Nicolai, the Netherlands' minister for Europe, the ministers will agree during the summit that the EU will have a common asylum procedure and a European asylum office by 2010.

    6/11/2004- Europe's Leaders yesterday promised to create a common asylum system by 2010 and backed a host of initiatives including a plan for a rapid reaction force of EU frontier guards. At a summit in Brussels, EU heads of government agreed to boost exchanges of sensitive information, to co-ordinate laws on child maintenance and inheritance, and to axe the veto on all asylum and immigration matters except legal migration. Although the use of majority voting in justice issues is sensitive, the UK backed the move because it has a separate opt-out on justice policy. That means that the Government can take part in negotiations but is not bound to implement the policies agreed. That arrangement, described by Tony Blair as "the best of both worlds", is controversial in other EU countries, and yesterday Jan Peter Balkenende, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, which holds the EU presidency, called on Britain not to undermine agreed policies. The Dutch premier said there had to be "one reality" in Europe on asylum and immigration policy, adding: "We are stressing the importance of following the same line. That is the message to the UK." British officials stressed that the UK has so far opted into all EU asylum and immigration decisions, and that Ireland and Denmark have similar arrangements. Yesterday's agreement on a five-year work programme marks a significant acceleration of efforts to co-ordinate justice and home affairs policy at a pan-European level. In the wake of 11 September and the Madrid bombings, the ease of cross-border travel and the increase in drugs and human trafficking, leaders have concluded that the problems cannot be fought at a national level. The French president, Jacques Chirac, hailed the measures as "an important step towards harmonising our legislation and boosting Europe's efficiency in these matters". The EU's ambitious agenda also includes moves to enforce decisions on family law, including maintenance and inheritance, making it impossible to evade court orders by moving to another European country. Mr Balkenende said: "We will work on a European legal area where you cannot got off scot-free by absconding to another member state."

    The initiatives have raised fears among some non-governmental organisations which are worried about the erosion of civil liberties. A spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said: "It is good to see the momentum stays, but it must be translated into real protection for refugees both inside and outside the EU," adding: "There is a lot of work to be done." The document agreed yesterday argued: "Freedom, justice, control at the external borders, internal security and the prevention of terrorism should, henceforth, be considered indivisible within the Union as a whole." Though it calls for a study on the feasibility of creating "a European system of border guards", the agreement was only to establish teams of experts who can be parachuted into emergencies to offer advice. The five-year blueprint gave no commitment to press ahead with controversial ideas, championed by Germany and Italy, to create EU asylum camps in north Africa. Instead it ordered a study on the possibility of joint processing of asylum applications outside EU territory. After objections from the UK and other nations to the idea of an EU asylum agency, the document was watered down to include a reference to the possibility of a European "support office for all forms of co-operation between member states on asylum". Other initiatives include a common visa policy, more investigative powers for the EU's police agency, Europol, and closer co-operation among national law enforcement agencies in case of terrorist attacks.
    © Independent Digital

    3/11/2004- "Ivana" from Ukraine still lives in fear, despite escaping her ordeal as a prostitute. Her tale of modern slavery is typical of those forced to work off enormous travel debts - the costs of being smuggled into western Europe. Enslaved by the smuggling gangs "they are deprived of their freedom, abused, beaten, raped - they are clearly exploited," says Helga Conrad of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE is co-ordinating action to combat the gangs. Ivana - not her real name - told BBC World Service's Slavery Today programme how she left her home in Ukraine when promised job abroad as a waitress. In her early 20s, she was trafficked to work as a prostitute in Birmingham, central England.

    Police in the UK have discovered growing numbers of trafficked women in the country's brothels. Ivana was kidnapped by a gang of people-traffickers and smuggled around Europe for six months. "Then three huge men came into the room and threatened me. They demanded to see my body. They made me lift up my top and show them my breasts," she said, recalling the night she was taken. "There was nothing I could do to fight them." Following her kidnap, she was smuggled into Macedonia. When she got to Greece, she was sold to an Albanian man, who took her to the UK via Italy. "The first time he raped me, I fought him off for half an hour - but he was a massive man, and I am quite small," she recalled. "He was really crazy. He beat me all the time - even out in the street - with his hands, his feet, his belt. My body was just black. "He used to make me work every day - even when I had my period. I used to see six, seven or even more customers a day. And I never saw any money from the work - he sometimes didn't even give me food."

    'The dream has gone'
    Only after a cleaner at the brothel saw her bruises following a particularly savage beating did she escape. "I thought about killing myself by throwing myself out of the window of the brothel. But the cleaner saw how sad I was, and with the help of two other prostitutes, carried me into her car. "I was so scared, because I knew if my pimp caught me, he would definitely kill me. "When I left my country I thought I would be able to make money and buy a flat back home for my son and for me. "Now this has happened to me, that dream has gone. Everything has gone." Ivana says she lives in fear her pimp will find her again. If he does, she believes he will murder her. Ms Conrad of the OSCE says that sometimes women "will accept and know that they're going to work in prostitution". "But what then occurs to them, and how they have to perform and how they are treated, is something that they wouldn't have expected before."

    Ex-trafficker's story
    One former trafficker, now working with the authorities and living at a secret address, told Slavery Today how his former gang would operate. "Most of the time we would use professional recruiters, but at times we would kidnap women and children ourselves," he said. "The children were taken to be sold in Italy, and the better-looking women were kept as prisoners and made to work as prostitutes. "The men were transported wherever they wanted to go." He also said that the youngest child who had been abducted was around 18 months old. "I have heard that sick children are sold and made into beggars. "The healthy ones are kept and trained to work for the Mafia, to deal drugs, to murder - whatever they are capable of. "I've also heard that some children were sold for organs. This also happened with men and women, depending on the demand." And he admitted to often using force to capture people. "If they didn't want to be separated from their families, we'd hit them until they did what we wanted," he said. "Generally threats are made that another family member will be murdered if orders are not obeyed." Working in Eastern Europe, the gang would drive trafficked men into Slovenia, from where they would be transported, to look for work on places such as building sites. Others were transported from Bosnia to Croatia by boat, across the river Sava - which was controlled by the gang. From there, they would be taken north to the Hungarian border, where they would be smuggled through a forest.

    Bribery allegations
    The former trafficker, currently preparing to give evidence, also claimed that he knew of highly-placed officials who had been bribed by the smuggling gangs. This was seemingly confirmed by Munir Podomlak, the leader of Croatia's Partnership For Social Development - an anti-corruption campaign that is sheltering the former trafficker. Mr Podomlak said the man had revealed information covering trafficking in five countries, and accused diplomats and policemen "one way or another involved in crimes." He insisted that authorities had "not really" been eager to help. He could only say that of the five countries involved, two were being more thoroughly looked at - one is in western Europe, and one in eastern Europe. "They are probably going to do arrest in the coming months based on this case," he said. "Our first impression, from talking to law enforcement agents in those two countries, is that they're also a little bit nervous about the level of this case - how senior the people involved are. "Something much bigger is behind it, which we have no knowledge of."
    ©BBC News

    22/10/2004- The Spanish government will offer legal status to immigrants who have contracts for six months, it was reported Friday. Immigrants could arrange legal status in Spain from outside the country, the Spanish daily El Mundo reported. They will also be allowed 'three months grace' while they apply for legal status once they are living inside Spain. Government sources told the newspaper that the revised Foreigners Law will include clauses which mean immigrants who work in the agriculture or building sectors will only need a contract of just three months to be able to apply for legal status. If they can show that they have had a series of short-term contracts this would also entitle them to apply for legal status. Domestic workers will be able to apply to become legal workers if they can pay social security. They need to demonstrate that they work for up to 30 hours a week and can get a six-month contract from their employers. The government will close its round of consultation talks next Tuesday with various unions and business groups over the proposed changes. Almudena Fontecha, immigration spokeswoman of the UGT union, said: "Now there will exist a guarantee for those immigrants who have a contract and have enrolled in the social system and who support the system." But critics have said the system is not practical and many employers will be reluctant to provide contracts as it will cost them more.
    ©Expatica News

    In a plan aimed at cracking down on the burgeoning labour black market, Spain is making it easier for illegal immigrants to get residence permits. Graham Keeley reports.

    27/10/2004- Spain's Socialist government is to take a bold gamble with immigration, one of the biggest issues facing the country. In an effort to bring illegal immigrants into the state system, the government plans to make it easier for them to get residence permits. The idea behind this is to stop illegal immigrants working in the black economy, which is huge in Spain, and to get them to pay taxes and social security. Spain has one of the lowest birth-rates in Europe but has a growing population of pensioners. Commentators of varying political persuasions observe the country needs more immigrants to pay social security and taxes in order that the State can support the elderly. They also claim these immigrants are essential to do the jobs many Spaniards regard as below them, despite an unemployment level of 10 percent. But knowing that welcoming more immigrants into the system might have serious social and political repercussions, prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has sought to strike a deal with business leaders and the unions to ensure these changes are accepted. Jesus Caldera, the minister for work and social affairs, has agreed a deal with the CEOE, the confederation of Spanish businesses and the two biggest unions, the UGT and the CC OO.

    The new Foreigners' Law
    From the New Year, Spain is to reform the existing Foreigners' Law to grant residence permits to immigrants who can show they have a valid work contract for at least six months. Immigrants also have to show they have been registered with their local council for at least six months. Once they fulfil these conditions and are given conditional approval, they are registered with the social security authorities and start paying contributions to the system. The government will also want to grant residence permits to those immigrants who blow the whistle on unscrupulous employers — bosses who hire immigrants without a work contract. Immigration Secretary Consuelo Rumi said the plans were about "easy the integration of foreigners" and also about fighting the black market in immigrant labour. "This does not mean we are going to give papers to all foreigners. Let that be very clear," she said. The government also intends to promote legal immigration by delivering three-month visas, designed to give immigrants time to find work in Spain before applying for residence. Those foreigners who work in the agriculture or building sectors, where short-term contracts are standard, will need only a three-month contract to be able to apply for legal status. Or they could have a series of short-term contracts. Domestic workers, another sector traditionally open to illegal immigrants, will qualify for residence if they pay social security, but they need to demonstrate they work for up to 30 hours a week and can get a six-month contract from their employers. Residents of countries which feed most of the illegal migration towards Spain will be given priority for visas.

    Praise and criticism
    The plan has provoked strong reactions from supporters and critics. Almudena Fontecha, immigration spokeswoman for the UGT union, said: "Now there will exist a guarantee for those immigrants who have a contract and have enrolled in the social security system and who support the system." But Ana Pastor, the social affairs spokesman for the opposition conservative Popular Party, said: "This has not done anything but create more tension and will mean foreigners will be sacked." Critics believe nothing will change and the vast black economy, which is thought to employ 800,000 illegal immigrants, will carry on unabated. Those who ask for contracts will simply be fired. Many immigrants have not even heard of the reforms. Mohammed, 20, a Bangladeshi, who speaks no Spanish, smiled when we informed him of the changes. "No work, no friends, no family," he said. "I want to be a waiter." But in contrast, Katia, a Peruvian in her 30s who worked as a dietician in her own country, said: "What I have seen since I came here is a lot of exploitation. I think these reforms will be a positive thing."

    Europe's front line
    Against this background, Spain has another battle against illegal immigration. Madrid is to ask the European Union for increased funds, to strengthen border controls and facilitate the expulsion of illegal immigrants — arguing that Spain is at the frontline of what is a Europe-wide problem. "Twenty-three percent of clandestine immigrants who manage to enter Europe do so via Spanish territory," Rumi said. Spain faces a steady tide of people, mainly north and sub-Saharan Africans, trying to reach the European Union either by the Canary Islands or across the Strait of Gibraltar separating Morocco and Spain at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. Non-governmental organisations estimate that at least one million people, out of Spain's 2.6 million-strong immigrant population, are in Spain illegally. Most are Moroccans and Latin Americans. Authorities in Morocco, one of the main departure points for immigrants bound for Spain, have already stepped up their cooperation with Spain in the fight against illegal immigration. At the same time, people-smuggling gangs have started to ferry boatloads of people from coastal west Africa towards the Canary Islands. Spain has recently discovered that even the most sophisticated police technology is unable to stem the tide of immigrants at its southern border. For some years, Spanish police have been using an electronic surveillance system known as SIVE, which includes watchtowers and mobile units with radars and infra-red thermal cameras. The system detects the small boats or 'pateras' as they are known, as soon as they leave the shores of Morocco. As a result of using the SIVE system, the number of people arriving by boat from Africa went down by 17 percent to 11,473 to the end of September, the Spanish daily El Pais claimed. But still relief organisations say they cannot cope with the daily arrivals.
    ©Expatica News

    26/10/2004- The Canary Islands are Europe's winter sun playground, attracting up to 10 million tourists every year. But now the continent's southernmost border is no longer just a tourist destination - it is being used as a staging post for illegal immigrants who want to enter Europe. On a Sunday night Red Cross volunteer Humberto Rodriguez is on an emergency call-out. Fuerteventura is the closest of the Canary Islands to Africa. Humberto has been told of a boatload of immigrants picked up by the coastguard. This is the second time he has been called out in one night. "We've been told to wait here for around 40 people coming here by small boat," says Humberto. Then they come out of the night - 24 Africans, all from Sub-Saharan Africa, and 15 people from Kashmir. The coastguard had plucked them out of a tiny boat. One of the passengers appears to be very ill after the 100km (60-mile) Atlantic journey from Africa.

    Under pressure
    Thousands are coming every year to the Canaries. Fuerteventura alone saw 7,000 people come like this last year - and the numbers are growing. Local authorities say they need help with the massive influx of illegal arrivals. "We are the biggest port of entry for those coming on small boats illegally into Europe," says Natividad Cano Perez, in charge of immigration on Fuerteventura. "But we get no help and no recognition from the European Union that this is the case. It means all our resources are diverted to dealing with the immigrants - we need more money and recognition from Spain and Europe." The Red Cross looks after mothers and babies who have come on boats - and any others who are ill. In one of these facilities, we met Gladys from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her trip to Europe was through Morocco, where she was told the Canaries was the easiest route in. She paid 700 euros ($896, £486) for passage in a tiny boat to Fuerteventura. She was was eight and a half months pregnant at the time. "There were 35 of us in the boat and it was horrible," said Gladys. "I had never heard of Fuerteventura before. We paid money not to come to Fuerteventura, but to come to Europe. "We have come to Spain and after Spain we will find our way to London. We don't have money to take the plane and they don't want to give us a visa. "If I asked today in my country 'Give me a visa to come to England' they would not allow me to get a visa." Gladys managed to make it here before she gave birth. She now wants to go to London. After speaking to Gladys, we get another call. Another boatload of illegal immigrants is on the way, escorted by a helicopter into Fuerteventura's main port. Eighty-one people have been picked up this time - all from Sub-Saharan Africa. Tied onto the back of the coastguard boat are the two battered dinghies used for the crossing. Humberto is here again to give the new arrivals clothing and food. "They come every day of every week. We can't cope with it. It just doesn't stop," he says. The coastguard say they never turn people away in these dangerous waters. New arrivals know that if authorities fail to organise repatriation after 40 days they will be set free. With security only getting tighter around the rest of Europe's shores the Canaries have become a very attractive destination.
    ©BBC News

    28/10/2004- Unemployment and terrorism are the main concerns facing Spain, according to a poll published Thursday. The authoritative Centre for Sociological Investigation found immigration has moved to third place in the concerns of Spaniards. The poll found 62.6 percent of people questioned said unemployment – now standing at 10 percent – was the biggest problem which faced the country After that, 44.4 percent said that terrorism was the country's major concern while 21.9 percent ranked immigration as the biggest issue. In an earlier poll, only 5 percent said they believed immigration was Spain's major concern. The fourth major issue is housing according to 19.4 percent of those questioned. In terms of problems which personally affected those questioned, 33.4 percent said unemployment was their biggest worry, while economic problems ranked second, with 19.3 percent saying this concerned them. Housing came close behind, with 18.2 percent of those questioned saying it was their biggest worry. Other problems facing Spaniards were job insecurity (17.7 percent), economic problems (12.4 percent), drugs (10.3 percent) and political problems (7.4 percent). A notable change in this poll was how people ranked domestic violence as a national problem. Only four percent of those questioned said it was the country's most important issue, whereas eight percent gave this answer in an earlier poll. The poll was carried out amongst 2,847 people in 168 towns or cities across Spain with a margin for error of less than two percent.
    ©Expatica News

    23/10/2004- The United Nations refugee agency says the Italian government has changed its mind and agreed to accept requests for asylum from 13 Turkish Kurds. The refugees were discovered two weeks ago in a freighter container unloaded in the southern port of Gioia Tauro. They were put back on the vessel by the Italian authorities and denied permission to disembark. The UN agency had said Italy's refusal to consider their asylum claims was a breach of international conventions. The Italian Interior Ministry said it had changed its stance because the Kurds had indicated they would give political reasons for their asylum claims. The Kurds, who are all male, were allowed to leave the boat at the Sicilian port of Augusta. "This decision shows that Italy is adhering to its international obligations," Laura Boldrini, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told Reuters news agency. The group of 13 males, at least two of whom are said to be under 16, claimed to be Kurdish asylum seekers from Turkey. They had been stranded at sea off Malta, as the ship's owner refused to return them forcibly to their homeland. The UNHCR said the Italian authorities refused to hear their asylum claims and put them back on the ship. It said that under European Union law, it was Italy's responsibility to hear the claims. A UN representative in Malta described conditions on board the ship as extremely tense. At least one of the asylum seekers had reportedly attempted suicide, since being refused entry by the Maltese authorities. Earlier this month, officials criticised Italy for its treatment of asylum seekers from north Africa.
    ©BBC News

    23/10/2004- Renewed ethnic tensions and uncertainty over final status talks overshadowed Kosovo's general election Saturday, the second in the province since the 1998-99 war between Serbian forces and ethnic Albanian separatists. The vote for the 120-seat assembly is seen as a test of the international community's efforts to build a multi-ethnic democracy in the southern Serbian province, administered by the United Nations since NATO bombing forced Belgrade troops to withdraw in June 1999. But it has been marred by calls for ethnic Serbs to boycott the vote over security fears after 19 people died when mobs from the ethnic Albanian majority rioted through Serb villages in March, the worst violence here since the war. Some 2,000 extra NATO peacekeepers have been deployed to Kosovo to secure the election. The Kosovo force (KFOR) is already the North-Atlantic alliance's biggest mission with some 19,000 troops in the field. Kosovo police spokesman Refki Morina said police were also out in force, with all 6,000 local officers on duty "to ensure security and safety". UN officials said no incidents had been reported in the first hours of voting and turnout was just over five percent of 1.3 million registered voters. Kosovo's chief UN administrator, Soren Jessen-Petersen, said the election marked a "turning point" and would set the stage for a UN review of democracy standards early next year and possible talks on final status. He urged the province's ethnic Serb minority to participate and vowed to make their safety a top priority. "Kosovo's Serbs need legitimately elected leaders who can engage with the challenges ahead," he wrote Saturday in the International Herald Tribune. "Since ethnic Albanians rioted against minority Serbs in March, the damage has begun to be repaired and Kosovo has moved forward," Jessen-Petersen said.

    Serbs stay home
    But in the northern, mainly Serb town of Zvecan a lone voter had cast his ballot 90 minutes after the polls opened. Kosovo Serb leaders gathered in a nearby Orthodox church to light candles a symbol of hope. "We haven't noticed that elections are being held today," said Milan Ivanovic, a prominent Kosovo Serb. However another Serb politician, Oliver Ivanovic, said he would encourage his supporters to vote. "It is obvious that there is no other solution, that only with our energy and powers we can take up responsibilities for our future," he said. Ethnic Albanians demand complete independence from Serbia but ethnic Serbs and the government in Belgrade insist that the territory is an inalienable part of the former Yugoslav republic. Analysts believe a boycott will deprive the Serbs of legitimate leaders to participate in any future talks on the province's status and the future of the UN protectorate. Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova, an ethnic Albanian, said the vote was "a great and important date for the independence of Kosovo. I believe that all citizens will vote as these elections are important for the formal recognition of independence," he said after casting his ballot. More than 33 political groups and 30 independent candidates are taking part in the election. The latest surveys show that no party will win enough votes to control the parliament and form a government by itself. Some 12,000 local and international observers are on hand to look for irregularities. The first unofficial results are expected this weekend.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    Wiesenthal Centre to French Interior Minister: "Investigate Advocacy and Financing of Terrorism and Antisemitism by Union of Islamic Organizations of France"

    29/10/2004- The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has given the French Interior Minister, Dominique de Villepin, a report - based on the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF) website - entitled "The True Face of UOIF:Antisemitism, Advocacy and Financing of Terrorism and the Call to Jihad". In a cover-letter, the Centre's Director for International Liaison, Dr.Shimon Samuels, urged the Minister "to conduct a full enquiry into the report's findings, based on the UOIF's own Internet site, which should lead to the dismissal of the UOIF's current leadership and a call for its condemnation and replacement by the moderate voices of French Islam. Samuels stressed that "the Government of France has, in good faith, invested an official representative body of the Moslems in France, to parallel similar umbrella councils for the Jewish and Protestant minorities. The authorities' trust has been betrayed by the hijacking of UOIF by extremists. While the UOIF presents itself as a cultural association aimed at Moslem integration in France, it is, apparently, a radical political organization linked to the Islamist European Council for Fatwa and Research in London, headed by Sheikh Yousouf Al-Qaradawi. The report adds that, "through the Welfare and Aid Committee for Palestinians (CBSP), a French registered financier of terrorism, banned in the United States, UOIF raises funds for the families of HAMAS suicide bombers, by encouraging donors to "adopt an orphan for a mere 50 euros".

    Samuels' letter cites a small selection of antisemitic statements from the UOIF site's Forum, explaining that this is not a free and unsupervised chat-zone but one "moderated" by Mr. Boukhzer, who is presented as the Communications Director of UOIF.

    • 7 March 2004 "55 Zionist soldiers have desecrated two mosques in Nablus" (attributed to AP)
    • 10 July 2004 "Here is a video of the bomb attack that sent to hell, Inch Allah, dozens of SS soldiers of the Nazi army Tsahal"
    • 25 August 2004 "Do not tell me that there are no Jew/Zionist lobbies…this a true cancer, a tumour for the planet and humanity"
    • 25 August 2004 "Zionist lobbies and their contacts, like Daniel Pipes, press the American-Zionist government to forbid Tarik Ramadan from teaching Islam in the USA. The average American sees Moslems as bloody monsters, as they are taught by the propaganda masters and criminals of Tel Aviv. To preserve the good image of the Zionist entity."
    • 26 August 2004 "…do not worry about American pressures on Israel. We, the Jewish People, control America and the Americans know it." (attributed to Ariel Sharon speaking to Shimon Peres on Israeli radio).
    • 4 October 2004 "All these multinationals in the hands of French Zionists are involved in financing Zionist terrorist operations around the
    • world, funding presidential and electoral campaigns so that, one day, they will have a financial return from the puppet they have elected… You can see the cacophony of the French Zionist occupation government of the puppet Raffarin, ravaged by the low blows dealt by its Zionist component, enraged to see Israel finish its days without recourse…"
    The Centre urged the Minister to publicly condemn these statements and, "in view of the proposals of the Jean-Christophe Rufin Report on Antisemitism in France, of 19 October, to take disciplinary - including appropriate legal - measures against their authors and dissociate the Government of France from the UOIF, nullifying its competence to represent the Moslem Community of France. Samuels concluded that "UOIF is a threat to Moslem welfare, to inter-community relations, to the values of the Republic and to French national interest in pursuing balance in the quest for Middle East peace.
    ©Simon Wiesenthal Center

    24/10/2004- A French Jewish student group that planned a hard-hitting campaign against anti-Semitism using the figures of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary on Sunday agreed to tone down its message. The campaign posters, which were due to appear in French newspapers and magazines from Tuesday, each featured one of the Christian icons with the words "Dirty Jew" scrawled on them. Underneath read the slogan: "Anti-Semitism: what if it concerned us all?" But the French Union of Jewish Students (UEJF) said Sunday in a statement that its plans had met with negative reaction, particularly from the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA). LICRA said it viewed the planned campaign as "shocking" and potentially counter-productive. The student union said its revised campaign would be unveiled on Monday. Its president Yonathan Arfi told AFP the campaign had been misunderstood "perhaps because it reflects the difficulties and the contradictions in which we live. "We take note of this but we are disapppointed," he added. The UEJF had hoped the disturbing images would help draw attention to the problem of anti-Semitism, with acts targeting Jews on the rise in France. Many of the acts have been blamed on disaffected youths from France's estimated five-million-strong Muslim community, although some have also been attributed to far-right extremists. UEJF president Arfi had earlier justified the choice of iconography for the planned campaign by saying the images "speak to everybody and the message is fundamentally Christian: Jesus was the first anti-racist" militant. "Jesus and Mary are Christian and also Muslim figures, something which affects every French person," he said. "As far as I am concerned, anti-Semitism is a public problem similar to AIDS, road safety or smoking." The Roman Catholic Church did not not officially react to the posters.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    28/10/2004- Nicolas Sarkozy, France's ambitious finance minister who sees himself as president one day, has suggested shaking up his country's century-old separation of state and religion, partly as a way of reaching out to disaffected Muslim youths. He makes the suggestion in a book on the subject due out Friday which asks whether 1905 legislation enshrining France's strictly secular governance is "obsolete". The 172-page book has sparked a furious debate among France's political classes and main religions. Based on interviews with Sarkozy, its central idea of scrapping the section of the law banning the state from subsidising religions runs counter to principles adhered to by virtually all MPs, both in the conservative ruling UMP party and on the left-wing opposition benches. But Sarkozy, the country's most popular politician, relishes being the focus of debate and has used it to elevate his profile to a point where he is seen as President Jacques Chirac's most likely challenger in 2007 elections. In the book -- written by a philosopher, Thibaud Collin, and a Dominican priest, Philippe Verdin -- Sarkozy ponders how to "invent Islam in France" and turn it into "a precious example for all the Muslim world" while maintaining its basic identity. "One of the biggest challenges in the century that is beginning is the struggle in the Muslim world between moderate Islam and the fundamentalism of certain currents," he is quoted as saying. He says that in French suburbs with disaffected Muslim communities, "it is much preferable for youth to have spiritual hope than to have in their head the religion of violence, drugs or money."

    He argues that, more generally, the state should be allowed to help finance the construction of mosques and other religious buildings, especially those of minority faiths struggling to assert themselves in a predominantly Roman Catholic country. French Justice Minister Dominique Perben summed up the resistance of most politicians by telling a Protestant magazine, Reform, quoted in Le Figaro newspaper, that "I really don't see the usefulness of rewriting this law. To those who want to modify it, I reply: let's be careful." In his previous job as interior minister -- a role which also put him in charge of handling relations with religions -- Sarkozy set up an umbrella body for Muslim associations in France and deployed police units to crack down on crime in suburbs with significant Muslim immigrant populations. As finance minister he has moved with similar zeal, often gaining more attention than Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Chirac by stepping beyond the traditional bounds of his office. Tackling a fundamental principle of the way France is run is just another example as he positions himself to take over as UMP leader next month -- a change that will force him to give up ministerial duties. Chirac, who jealously guards his traditional domain of charting France's overriding principles, has made no public comment on Sarkozy's proposition, but Le Figaro said the private response from his office was a firm 'no'. The newspaper added that, according to sources close to the finance minister, the next big speech expected from Sarkozy was one on homosexuals in society.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    Police accused of human rights abuse and racial discrimination

    25/10/2004- Two independent investigations of the Metropolitan police's four-year pursuit of a senior officer of ethnic minority origin are being held, the Guardian has learned. The Met spent more than £3m investigating the Iranian-born Superintendent Ali Dizaei for alleged corruption. He was twice cleared of criminal charges, and it is claimed that he was subjected to a racist witch-hunt. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating complaints by seven friends and associates of Mr Dizaei about the behaviour towards them of detectives who investigated Mr Dizaei in Operation Helios, during which he was put under surveillance and his office phones were tapped. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) is to hold a separate hearing into whether the tapping of his phones breached the human rights of the people he was speaking to. The IPCC investigation is being carried out by Charles Clark, deputy chief constable of Essex. He is looking into allegations that Met officers discriminated against people of Iranian origin and breached the privacy of innocent people. A third claim is that the investigating officers were oppressive when questioning Mr Dizaei's associates. Among those making complaints are Ali Ghavami, a diplomat; Mr Dizaei's uncle; and several friends. Mr Dizaei's solicitor Eddie Parladorio is also a complainant. He said: "I am disappointed that it has taken over two years to investigate these complaints. "We are now delighted that Essex police have been appointed for this purpose and await the outcome with interest." The IPCC confirmed that its investigation was not criminal, and could lead to disciplinary charges only if detectives were found to have behaved wrongly. The IPT will examine complaints from members of the Black Police Associations whose conversations with Mr Dizaei were listened in to by investigating officers. Some of these conversations concerned advice that Mr Dizaei was giving to officers suing the Met for discrimination, in his role as the BPA's legal adviser. The tribunal will decide whether police actions were lawful.It is also expected to examine whether the surveillance and photographing of Mr Dizaei and people he met broke human rights laws. The Met has always defended the conduct of Helios, and the judge at Mr Dizaei's first trial said the police had acted properly. The Met said he was unfit to be a police officer, but after the trial cleared him it reversed its position. He returned to work a year ago with the force declaring that his integrity was intact. He received £80,000 compensation and agreed to drop his complaints against the officers who had pursued him, and an employment tribunal claim for racism which, police insiders said, could have cost the force £1m if he had won. Since then he has been promoted to chief superintendent. He had been tipped to be a chief constable before he was suspended in 2001 for allegedly endangering national security, abusing drugs and using prostitutes. The Met is also bracing itself for the report of an inquiry chaired by Sir William Morris into its discipline procedures, set up after Mr Dizaei's second acquittal.
    ©The Guardian

    27/10/2004- Thirty-five Merseyside Police officers and staff are being investigated after offensive emails were allegedly found on their work computers. Emails about black and gay people and women - the exact content of which has not been revealed - were detected by the force's computer monitoring system. Those under investigation risk disciplinary action or possibly loosing their jobs. The force has announced tough measures for those who will breach the rules. "These emails are offensive either in terms of their racist, homophobic or sexual content and we will not allow them to infiltrate into offices or stations," said Grahame Barker, assistant chief constable of Merseyside Police. He went on to say that most people who had received those emails had deleted them straight away, while others had kept and, in some cases, forwarded them. "Just to be in possession of an email of this type is a serious breach of our standards and to forward them is absolutely unacceptable," Mr Barker added. He said the outcome of the investigation was difficult to anticipate, but added that "stringent measures" would be enforced to monitor email. He added that all 6,200 staff would be reminded they had a responsibility to communicate "with integrity and responsibility". Inspector Irene Afful, chairperson of Merseyside Black Police Association, said: "Literature of this nature is offensive and has no place in a professional organisation such as Merseyside Police." The force has warned staff they face disciplinary action if found in possession of offensive email. The email system will be "cleaned" to remove any trace of the messages.
    ©BBC News

    BBC News Online Magazine

    27/10/2004- Jesus has been named the top black icon by the New Nation newspaper. Their assertion that Jesus was black has raised eyebrows in some quarters - so what colour was he? Just as no one will ever produce proof for the existence of God, the question of Jesus's colour may always be a matter for personal belief. Was he white, white-ish, olive-skinned, swarthy, dark-skinned or black? There are people who believe he was any one of those shades, but there seem to be only two things about the debate that can be said with any degree of certainty. First - if the past 2,000 years of Western art were the judge, Jesus would be white, handsome, probably with long hair and an ethereal glow. Second - it can almost certainly be said that Jesus would not have been white. His hair was also probably cut short. Yet the notion that Jesus was black - highlighted this week in a survey of black icons by the New Nation newspaper which ranked him at number one - is genuinely held by some. One school of thought has it that Jesus was part of a tribe which had migrated from Nigeria. And Jesus probably did have some African links - after all the conventional theory is that he lived as a child in Egypt where, presumably, his appearance did not make him stand out. The New Nation takes it further: "Ethiopian Christianity, which pre-dates European Christianity, always depicts Christ as an African and it generally agreed that people of the region where Jesus came from looked nothing like Boris Johnson," the paper says. As light-hearted evidence that Jesus was black, it adds that he "called everybody 'brother', liked Gospel, and couldn't get a fair trial". But the truth, says New Testament scholar Dr Mark Goodacre, of the University of Birmingham, is probably somewhere in between. "There is absolutely no evidence as to what Jesus looked like," he says. "The artistic depictions down the ages have total and complete variation, which indicates that nobody did a portrait of Jesus or wrote down a description, it's all been forgotten."

    Traditional depictions
    Dr Goodacre was involved in the reconstruction of a Middle Eastern first century skull for the BBC's Son of God programme in 2001, which resulted in a suggestion of what a man like Jesus might have looked like. He advised on hair and skin color. "The hair was the easiest - there's a reference in Paul which says it's disgraceful for a man to wear long hair, so it looks pretty sure that people of that period had to have reasonably short hair. The traditional depictions of Jesus with long flowing golden hair are probably inaccurate." Deciding on skin colour was more difficult, though. But the earliest depictions of Jews, which date from the 3rd Century, are - as far as can be determined - dark-skinned. "We do seem to have a relatively dark skinned Jesus. In contemporary parlance I think the safest thing is to talk about Jesus as 'a man of colour'." This probably means olive-coloured, he says.

    'Fascinating' debate
    Professor Vincent Wimbush, of California's Claremont Graduate University, who is an expert on ethnic interpretations of the Bible, says the matter of the historical colour of Jesus seems to him a "flat, dead-end issue". "He's of Mediterranean stock, and it's quite clear what that means. We see people like that in the world today, and that should end the matter." The fact that the debate rages on regardless is fascinating, he says, because of what it says about people's other issues. The artistic representations of Jesus which are so familiar are not necessarily a negative thing, Dr Goodacre says. There is "theologically something quite profound" in the fact that throughout history people have tried to depict Jesus in their own image. "This is not a rough image of themselves people have been depicting. It's an ideal image of themselves, painting Jesus as something they are aspiring to. "Things have changed a bit in recent culture because people are conscious of the need to be challenged by him and shocked. I think that's why in more contemporary representations, even those coming from a white, western background, people will think very carefully about the representation." Even the world of film is catching up, albeit slowly. Robert Powell had famously piercing blue eyes in Jesus of Nazareth in 1977. And although Jim Caviezel, who played the lead in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, also has piercing blue eyes, by the time the film was shown they had miraculously become brown.
    ©BBC News

    27/10/2004- Ethnic minority households living in rural areas can experience isolation, and may even suffer from racist language and violence as a result of white communities' fear of the unknown and unfamiliar, according to a new report published today. The study by the University of Leicester depicts a countryside worlds away from the cosy imagery with which it is typically associated and echoes claims made recently by the Commission for Racial Equality chairman, Trevor Phillips, that it is a place "in which people from ethnic minorities feel uncomfortable". Key concerns in the report, Rural Racism, include the 'invisibility' of racist crimes, which tend to go unnoticed by rural agencies, authorities and policy-makers. There was a lack of consideration given to the growing number of ethnic minority rural inhabitants and visitors, it suggested. As well as charting the different forms rural racism can take the editors of the report also compiled ways in which harassment can be tackled. Research conducted in Suffolk outlined how a particular racial harassment initiative had helped to tackle prejudice in the area and the study said this work might be applied in other rural districts. The report also suggested introducing elements of diversity and multiculturalism into classrooms, an initiative which has been shown to be a particularly effective way of confronting prejudices amongst schoolchildren in largely white, rural areas. Neil Chakraborti, lecturer in criminology and co-editor of the report, said: "We have found disturbing levels of racial prejudice and victimisation in various rural environments, and yet have encountered complacency amongst many policy makers and stakeholders in rural affairs who remain reluctant to even acknowledge the existence of racism." The research also explodes the long-held assumption that racism is largely a problem confined to urban locations and underlines it as an issue which has serious implications for ethnic minorities and policy makers. Jon Garland, co-editor of the report, said: "Rural Racism seeks to highlight key issues, concerns and preventative strategies that are belatedly receiving recognition at a local and national level. In putting together this book, it is our sincere hope that we can raise awareness of issues that have, to date, received far too little attention."
    ©The Guardian

    Optimistic liberals are wrong. Britain is still far from being an integrated society
    By Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality

    29/10/2004- No one could ever accuse Cristina Odone of lacking courage. However when you pick an argument on the minefield of race and ethnicity, as she did in her Times article on Wednesday, you had better come armed with something more than sunny optimism. A few facts might prevent your argument blowing in your face. Odone, the deputy editor of the New Statesman, suggests that recent reports from the Commission for Racial Equality, the BBC and YouGov amount to an allegation that "racism has a stranglehold on British society". These reports show that white Britons hardly ever mix socially with non-whites, and that ethnic minority Britons are eight times less likely to visit the countryside. But what the CRE finds remarkable is that these facts are true in spite of the tradition that has made this country a beacon of tolerance over nearly a thousand years. The CRE's case is that economic, social and cultural integration of this country will not come about by itself. If the passage of time led inevitably to a more integrated society, how is it that 50 years after the first wave of colonial migrants arrived on the Empire Windrush, we can predict with certainty that a black British man is now twice as likely to see the inside of a jail cell as he is ever to sit in a university tutorial? And why are young ethnic minority Britons twice as likely as their elders to have a circle of friends which completely excludes whites? No one likes these facts, but it is the CRE's job to be honest about these matters. Hopeful liberals such as Odone, dazzled by their own cosmopolitan experiences, suppose that what they see in their own lives is typical. She looks at London streets where black and white people saunter arm-in-arm and concludes that they demonstrate progress towards happy integration. And she claims that the 2001 census figures which show "mixed race" as the fourth largest ethnic group in the UK as confirmation. If I did not know better I too would take the several "mixed" marriages of long duration that I know of as evidence to support her optimism.

    Unfortunately, the complete picture tells a different story. This is not a tale of happy "multi-culti" families. About 22 per cent of white British children are in families headed by a lone parent. But in the case of the African-Caribbean/white children, that figure is 55 per cent. In the real world, a majority of these children live with a white mother, separated from their fathers, often in poverty. Let me be clear: I blame the (mostly black) fathers. But whoever is to blame, can anyone possibly regard this as a good template for the future? We do know that it must be part of the reason that children of mixed race perform less well than whites at school — though they still do better than their black cousins. The temptation to make personal experience our guide in the area of race arises from a dangerous complacency. Most liberal-minded folk would like to think that since they are not hostile to people of a different race, racism is a disease of the uneducated, unenlightened and socially backward — football hooligans, British National Party supporters, policemen. You could call this the Bad Guy Theory. But the Bad Guy Theory does not explain why Indian-heritage children do nearly twice as well as Pakistani-heritage children at GCSE. If the difference were simply a matter of teacher attitudes you would have to believe that most British teachers were bigoted — and that their prejudice was directed solely at the Pakistani pupils and never at their Indian classmates. Both suggestions defy common sense. Nor does it explain why the prosperous district of Southall in West London, which has the largest concentration of Sikhs outside India, is now the least creditworthy address in England. Is this because bank managers are evil anti-turban racists? No. It is probably because most Sikhs do not like to borrow, and so their limited history of loan repayment leads to low credit ratings. Perhaps the truth is that none of us wants to admit is that we ourselves may be partly responsible for the persistence of much racial inequality — sometimes with the best of intentions. In the 1980s, the inner-city teacher who taught his class the names of a list of African kings and queens, or enthused her class with the delights of the samosa did it for the best of motives. But we now know that they should probably have listened to the anguished pleas of black parents who wanted their children to do the basics — reading, writing and adding up, rather than worrying about their self-esteem. Today some of those children still can neither pick up a book and read the names of the kings and queens nor decipher the samosa recipe.

    Racial inequality in Britain does not arise solely because of the ill-will of individuals. Poverty plays a part, but if racial bias were driven by class differences, Asian, black and white men of similar age and qualifications should earn the similar salaries. They don't: the average ethnic pay "penalty" — the cost of being born black or brown — remains stuck well above £5,000 a year. The solutions are complex. We need persuasion, government action and more vigorous enforcement of existing anti-discrimination laws. We also need a thorough review of our progress on race equality before we embark on high-risk ventures such as combining several very different kinds of existing equality regulation under one body. But above all we need informed, sober reflection about why a nation of essentially non-racist, fair-minded people should, 60 years after the Windrush docked, still be so far from becoming a truly integrated society.
    ©The Times Online

    28/10/2004- The true extent of homophobic attacks in Belfast has been revealed, with new figures suggesting more than 5 hate crimes based on anti-gay feeling or racism take place in the city each week. The revelation has occurred during the current the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee visit to the province, which is intended to help find solutions to some of the problems minority groups in Ulster face. It is also looking into the proposed hate crime legislation, which will help local judges offer harsher sentences for crimes motivated by prejudice and discrimination. The committee has previously been told that police officers need more specific training in how to deal with lesbian and gay victims of crime, so as to help engage with the community more directly. According to the BBC, racist and homophobic attacks in some parts of Belfast have doubled between April and September. A total of nearly 130 attacks took place during the period, with anti-gay attacks ranging from verbal abuse and graffiti to death threats and stabbings. Some members of the District Police Partnership are calling for the local police service to consider surveillance in the fight against hate crimes, as well as a tougher stance on repeat offenders. Homophobic attacks in Northern Ireland have continued to dominate the news in recent months, particularly those attacks in Derry and Belfast. However, some gay rights groups say the true numbers are consistent, but work done by local police has encouraged more people to come forward and report the crimes, without fear of being dismissed.

    28/10/2004- Momentum was building today behind an anti-racism carnival-style rally to be held in Belfast city centre at the weekend. The Anti-Racism Network (ARN) has urged the public to come along to the demonstration which leaves the Art College at 2pm on Saturday before making its way to the City Hall. Plans for the rally come in the light of recent statistics revealing that more than five racist or homophobic attacks take place in Belfast every week. According to figures given to the Belfast District Policing Partnership recently, there were 129 so-called hate crimes recorded throughout the city over a recent 183-day period. Attacks in north Belfast doubled between April and September this year. ARN spokesman Steven Alexander said the demonstration has been endorsed by community groups, trade unions, minority ethnic organisations, political parties and many more. "Racist attacks have appalled people right across Northern Ireland and their support for the rally will clearly demonstrate that racism is something we don't want here. "The theme for the rally is 'No Excuses', because people are fed up hearing lame justifications for racist behaviour. "Myths about 'immigrants taking our jobs' or being 'a threat to local culture' are exactly that - stories with no basis in reality." Mr Alexander said the figures presented to the DPP made for "very worrying reading". "I welcome the support from every organisation that is supporting our rally, and the fact that we have political support from right across the political spectrum shows how united our community is against racism," he added. Mr Alexander said the event is supported by the Chinese Welfare Association, the Belfast Jewish community, the Indian Community Centre, the Belfast Islamic Centre, the Multi Cultural Resource Centre, the Latin American Support Group, Travellers Movement of NI, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Unison, T&GWU, Nipsa and the Belfast Trades Union Council and many more.
    ©Belfast Telegraph

    28/10/2004- Justice Minister Michael McDowell yesterday took a swipe at those who opposed June's citizenship referendum accusing them of dishonestly peddling gross untruths. Speaking as the legislation to implement the referendum's decision - the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Bill - was laid before the Dáil, Minister McDowell said the tone of the No campaign had been offensive and shallow. "I think that I could be forgiven for noting, at this stage, the virulent and offensive tone adopted by many of the more vocal opponents of the proposal - a tone which looks so empty, so shallow and so strident in the cold light of day at this remove," he said. Mr McDowell also lashed out at opponents who had branded the referendum as racist. "Gross untruths were peddled to the public, ironically, by those who claimed that the Government were manufacturing reasons and facts to support their case. "Nobody on the Government side ever exaggerated or made false claims in the course of the debate. "Nobody on the Government side levelled personal or offensive accusations against their opponents." Promising new legislation to cover all aspects of immigration and migration into Ireland, Minister McDowell said work was already underway on a comprehensive new bill. But Labour justice spokesman Joe Costello told the Dáil the new bill had been promised before. He said the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform published a strategy statement for the years 2001-2004, which set itself the specific objective of further developing an immigration policy for the State. "To date, in the latter days of 2004, we have seen no framework, no legislation and no policy development," he said.
    ©Irish Examiner

    Swedish Integration Minister Mona Sahlin says Denmark's immigration law is no problem for Sweden, where several Danes have settled with foreign-born spouses to escape strict Danish regulations

    28/10/2004- Swedish Integration Mona Sahlin says Sweden has had no problems as a result of Denmark's crackdown on rules for family and spousal reunification - she says it's Denmark's problem that so many Danish citizens with foreign-born spouses have settled in nearby Malmø to escape the 24-year age rule and so-called "connection requirement" enforced by Denmark. Sahlin spoke with Ritzau news bureau after a political conference at Malmö University with her British colleague Fiona Mactaggart and Danish MP Ejvind Vesselbo, who was sent in place of Integration Minister Bertel Haarder. "It's really a problem for Denmark, in my view. We have widely disparate views (on immigration), which we've discussed for years. Sweden has a lot of new residents who've moved here because they don't believe they can get married in Denmark. It's not a problem for us. Denmark has no mosque, so quite a few Muslims come to Malmø every Friday. They shop a little and then they go back to Denmark. But it's important that we discuss this issue, because it's based on essentially different viewpoints. This meeting is a good initiative, so Sweden, Denmark and Great Britain can learn from each other - despite our differences," said Sahlin. Sahlin said she hoped regional integration would stay on the agenda after January, when Denmark replaces Iceland as the chairman of the Nordic Council of Ministers for 2005. "When Sweden held the chairmanship, we had a discussion with Bertel Haarder at the ministers' summit. We discuss things - we don't rake each other over the coals. Denmark makes its own decisions, and we in Sweden make ours," said Sahlin.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    29/10/2004- One month after voters rejected plans to ease citizenship restrictions for some foreign residents, an exhibition is focusing attention on the state of integration in Switzerland. A series of black-and-white photographs depicts the reality of life in areas with sizeable immigrant populations. The exhibition, entitled "La Suisse plurielle" ("The many faces of Switzerland"), is currently on display at the Käfigturm, a small exhibition space in the centre of the Swiss capital, Bern. Andreas Schilter, director of the Swiss government's Political Forum that is hosting the exhibition, said the aim was to show how the Swiss and immigrant populations live together. "This is a good moment to pick up on the issue… even though it was down to chance more than anything else, because we didn't know when the citizenship votes would be held when we were planning the show," Schilter told swissinfo. "The reality is that around 20 per cent of the Swiss population are foreign… and we wanted to document what everyday life is like for them. So you'll find that there is a story behind every photo."

    On assignment
    Photographers were dispatched to areas with a high density of foreigners in the country's three main language regions: a district in Bern, a suburb of Lausanne and an area just outside the city of Lugano in Italian-speaking canton Ticino. Ursula Markus spent one month photographing life in Molino Nuovo, a densely populated region north of Lugano described in the exhibition notes as a "prime example of poor planning". "It's a small community and is actually a very ugly place. There isn't even a central square where people can meet," she said. "But I found that in a place like Molino Nuovo, where there are a lot of foreigners, there is also a lot of tolerance. The fear starts only in places where people do not come into contact with other nationalities," she added. One of the most striking sequences of photographs from Molino Nuovo focuses on a young Sri Lankan boy, who is first seen sitting alone in a corner of a kindergarten. "Gobigan had only been at the kindergarten for a couple of weeks and couldn't speak the language. I was very lucky, because I managed to capture the period when he was trying to make eye contact with another boy… and today they're the best of friends."

    Visual image
    The exhibition of photographs comes only weeks after political commentators also pointed to the power of the visual image in their analysis of the rejection of nationwide votes to ease citizenship restrictions for second- and third-generation foreigners. Analysts argued that the rightwing Swiss People's Party, which published controversial campaign posters showing dark-skinned hands grabbing at Swiss passports, had succeeded in scaring the electorate into voting against the plans. Former parliamentarian Francis Matthey, who currently serves as president of the Federal Commission for Foreigners, agrees that the political campaign has led to a climate of fear. "People are afraid… but an exhibition like this can help to fight against the country's tendency to turn in on itself," said Matthey. "Many of these photos show the successful integration of Swiss and foreign children, who go to school with each other and play together. So what you see in this exhibition is good news for the future of Switzerland. It is the parents who concern us, not the children."

    Depicting reality
    Though many of the photographs focus on children, others depict the reality of life for those who have already grown up. One picture shows a mother looking after her baby during a language class. Another is of a Congolese woman who has taken a cleaning job in an old people's home in Bern. The exhibition of 90 photographs coincides with a programme of public seminars and debates on the subject of integration. Swiss President Joseph Deiss, together with politicians from both Left and Right, will take part in a series of round-table discussions. "These events are important because they show that we are doing more than just exhibiting a series of photos," said Andreas Schilter. "And given the topic of integration, we are expecting some very lively and intense debates."
    ©NZZ Online

    29/10/2004- The detention of asylum seekers violates their right to freedom and incites racism among the population, and therefore other solutions must be found, Fr Pierre Grech Marguerat of the Jesuit Refugee Service said yesterday. Fr Grech Marguerat made this remark in reaction to questions from the floor after the launch of a JRS Europe document entitled Detention in Europe: Administrative Detention of Asylum Seekers and Irregular Immigrants. He said: "Arbitrary, indefinite detention of irregular migrants, as well as detention policies, have always occupied a top position on the JRS' agenda." Fr Grech Marguerat said the JRS does not agree with the government's policy of detaining illegal immigrants. "It does not act as a deterrent, it does not help in establishing people's identity; instead it criminalises them, normalises exclusion and administrative imprisonment – which also sparks xenophobia and racism – and is an enormous financial burden," he said. He said it was gravely worrying that detention has been shifted from being a means to facilitate the removal of designated individuals to becoming a reception policy for all. "The policy is also in stark contrast to the recent political agreement with the EU Council for Justice and Home Affairs, which stipulates that no EU member shall hold a person in detention for the sole reason of being an asylum seeker," he said.

    Fr Grech Marguerat said the JRS-Europe document, issued on 1 October, was extensive and was intended to inform, alert and serve as an advocacy tool on the rights of detainees. "It contains an overview of detention centres (including Malta), EU detention policies and national legislation, as well as the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) and public international law," he explained. He appealed for the European Parliament and the Council of Europe to draft a common definition of detention and detention centres and to compile and update a publicly accessible list of detention centres in the whole of Europe.He said JRS-Europe asked the European Commission to set up an EU system and body, independent of the detention centres, to monitor and report on the development of national legislation on detention and detention practices in Europe. He explained that the document also contained a list of criteria regarding which people should not be put into detention. These include pregnant women, children, older children, people with psychiatric problems and post-natal mothers. "We have seen some improvement with children who arrive in Malta, but more still needs to be done. With a policy of detention, we are making the Maltese people think that these people are criminals whereas law clearly states that they are not," he said.

    He said that the European Human Rights Commissioner had paid a visit to various Maltese detention centres and said that conditions were not good enough. "Take Safi barracks for example; there are 350 people living in tents. It rained last Tuesday night and they had to bed down for the night in mud," he said. "There are no set standards. We have a situation where soldiers are looking after these people and they cannot do so satisfactorily because they do not have the right training," he said. The JRS also says that Malta's processing of asylum applications is not quick enough. "People have waited months and even up to a year for their application to be processed and that was not good enough. Things have improved and applications are processed within a few months. But a couple of months in detention is still harmful," said Fr Grech Marguerat. Fr Marguerat said the full extent of trauma caused by such detention could not be quantified. "Detention does lead to racism and xenophobia. The Maltese people only see these asylum seekers in a bad light, because only negative things appear in the media," he said. He also said that pictures of immigrants arriving in Malta, handcuffed and being taken to court had been circulated around the world. "Also the fact that Malta and Europe have a closed immigration policy does not help in the slightest. Such a situation is leading to the plight of refugees and asylum seekers being undermined because economic migrants get thrown into the mix," he said. Fr Grech Marguerat said that all relevant stakeholders needed to get together to properly discuss the issue to find alternatives to find a solution. "Detention is not a deterrent, and we need to find an alternative," he concluded.
    ©Malta Independent Daily

    25/10/2004- EU ministers are set to meet in Luxembourg this Monday (25 October) to try and agree a wide-ranging programme of immigration and asylum law. Justice and Home affairs ministers are set to discuss the so-called Hague Programme, which sets out a five year plan for closer asylum and immigration cooperation. On the table are plans to create a common EU border guard, a European public prosecutor, as well as coordinating migration policies. Under domestic pressure from the opposition Conservative Party, UK Home Secretary David Blunkett has insisted London will not accept a common European Union asylum and immigration system, the Times reported. Mr Blunkett's announcement indicates tough negotiations on the deal which is scheduled to be approved by heads of state and government on 5 November. A Home Office spokesman was quoted by the Telegraph saying: "We won't sign up to an EU processing centre, any common border guard that would involve taking away our own border controls or any new EU consular service". The UK and Denmark both have legal "opt-outs" from the EU Justice policies written into the existing treaties. The Hague plan is a follow-up of the program adopted at the Tampere European Council in 1999.

    Common application centres
    The Hague Programme includes proposals of a common European Asylum system before 2010. The Council is expected to start discussions in early 2005 on return procedures for migrants, who do not have the right to stay legally in the EU, according to the draft plan. A new European Refugee Fund will be set up to divide the financial burden of refugees among member states. Integration of third-country nationals is also part of the plan. A rapid reaction force of national experts is being considered which could "ultimately be converted into a European Corps of border guards" and should be examined as part of a mid-term review of the Program in 2007. Minimum standards for national identity cards are also foreseen and a common visa should be established in the long term, according to the plan. Controversial plans to set up reception camps for refugees outside the EU is not mentioned directly in the draft proposal, but the Commission will be called to submit "a proposal on the establishment of common application centres" in 2005. The plan sees complete exchange of information between police forces by 2008, which could spark a need for common EU rules on data protection.

    Outside the scope of treaties
    Parts of the Hague Programme fall outside the scope of the existing EU treaties, but would be part of the EU competencies after the adoption of the European Constitution. The new Constitution will change the decision-making mechanisms and introduce qualified majority votes in a number of areas related to justice and home affairs. European framework laws can be introduced in all areas, where the EU has harmonised the legislation, according to the new Constitution. Minimum rules with regard to the definition of criminal offences shall be adopted by the same procedure as was followed for the adoption of the harmonisation measures.

    Swiss accept in Schengen
    Monday's meeting of EU ministers will also see Switzerland sign the Schengen agreement and possibly agreement over a proposal to strengthen criminal law against ship pollution. Three countries, Greece, Cyprus and Malta have been holding up the proposal, which would introduce a ceiling for the maximum fines and set jurisdiction for offences committed outside the territory of a Member State.

    27/10/2004- Euro MPs today claimed victory in their battle over the anti-gay European Commissioner. They cheered and applauded in the Strasbourg parliament as the commission president Jose Manuel Barroso gave up the struggle to steamroller his plans through against vehement opposition to outspoken Italian Rocco Buttiglione. Mr Barroso said he needed "a few weeks" to reconsider his plans - and he emphasised his determination to work closely with MEPs in the interest of Europe. His contrite performance was in stark contrast to yesterday's efforts to brazen it out against mounting protests at Mr Barroso's decision to give Mr Buttiglione the sensitive job of running EU policies on civil liberties and fundamental rights despite his views on homosexuality and the role of women. Last night Mr Barroso realised he would almost certainly lose today's vital vote of approval for his team. Instead he came to the chamber today to announce he was not submitting his team for approval and would be holding new consultations with EU leaders and MEPs. Mr Barroso said he had listened intently to MEPs and needed more time to consult "so we can have strong support for the new commission". He added: "It is better to have more time to get it right." Then he flattered MEPs by declaring: "These last days have demonstrated that the European Union is a strong political construction and that this Parliament, elected by popular vote across all our member states, has indeed a vital role to play in the governance of Europe." Mr Barroso said the Parliament and the Commission had a common democratic commitment to reinforce European integration. The applause of approval also included some boos - a reflection of continuing antagonism towards Mr Barroso for refusing to move Mr Buttiglione to a less sensitive job as soon as MEPs complained about him. Mr Barroso gambled on the European Parliament backing off at the last minute as it has done on many previous occasions when confronting the Commission.

    Today the Parliament's president, Josep Borrell, said both Commission and Parliament were now "exploring political virgin territory". Under the EU Treaty the new commission should take office on November 1 after the express approval of the European Parliament but, with Mr Barroso now not submitting his team for approval, that could not happen. The next few weeks will see intense political negotiating between the Parliament, the Commission and EU leaders. Vital to the talks will be Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who nominated Mr Buttiglione and will not be pleased at his rejection. Mr Barroso must now shuffle his pack while leaving most of his team, including Peter Mandelson, unchanged. Meanwhile the outgoing Commission team will stay on in a caretaker role until the problem is resolved. Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said the premier was in regular contact with Mr Barroso. The spokesman said: "We support the efforts he is making to get agreement. The reception he received in the European Parliament suggests there is support for the way in which he is handling the matter. "We will do all we can to help but it's primarily a matter for Mr Barroso and the European Parliament. "It's for the President-elect to take the lead on this. "What's happened is the perfectly proper scrutiny by the European Parliament. What we are seeing is the European Parliament in action in the way that is laid down." EU leaders will gather in Rome on Friday to sign the new constitutional treaty. Mr Blair's spokesman accepted they may inevitably discuss the Commission but said there were no plans for a special meeting. The heads of government also gather in Brussels next week for a routine summit, which could also see further talks on the affair if it is not resolved by then.
    © Independent Digital

    27/10/2004- Migrants face increasingly harsh conditions around the world, from exploitation in the workplace to frequent episodes of xenophobia or racism to detention if their status is irregular, a UN human rights expert has said. Gabriela Rodríguez Pizarro, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said today that the phenomenon of people smuggling was also worsening, and driven by criminal organisations. In a report to the General Assembly on her work between August 2003 and August this year, Ms Rodríguez Pizarro stated there has been "a continuing deterioration in the human rights situation of migrants". The rights of migrants were being ignored during debates in countries about immigration policy. Countries around the world must now ratify the global conventions protecting the rights of migrant workers and their families and outlawing the illegal trafficking of people, she added. The Special Rapporteur also called for the overhaul of traditional ways of managing migration, saying they were no longer effective in an "increasingly globalised world where people in poor States can see obvious and large disparities in wealth and development". Welcoming some initiatives that promote public consultation in the framing of migration policy, Ms Rodríguez Pizarro said that countries should share responsibility for accepting and dealing with migrants, rather than treating the issue as one of internal security or specific economic interests.

    The sentiment that a woman's place is at home seems to have gained ground again

    17/10/2004- Labour market researchers and trade unions warn that the position of women in the labour market is being seriously undermined. Finland is suddenly speaking about the value of domestic work once again - and by chance at the same time that Ministry of Finance Permanent Secretary Raimo Sailas proposed that the right to day-care services should be limited. The ministry as well as the business sector are advocating the abandonment of special raises for low-income sectors and general raises across the board in collective wage agreements. "This represents a return to male providers and a male-dominated family model where women are shown their place at home by the stove", comments Professor of Sociology Harri Melin from the University of Turku. According to Melin, the aforementioned demands reflect clearly the ideology that is now running rampant in Finland: the desire to save in the expenses of a welfare state. "Proposals that would weaken the position of women in the labour market represent a clear step towards dismantling or diminishing the public sector", Melin explains. Finland faces a tough equation: the coming wave of retirements will decrease tax revenues but also add to the need for municipal services. Now there is an attempt to cut services by having women care for children and the elderly at home. "Perhaps municipal expenses would fall, but at the same time, the number of jobs available for day-care personnel would decrease. And what is forgotten in this model is that the employees of for example hospitals and health centres, who are predominantly female, could not come to work if there was no functioning day-care", observes Director Leila Kostiainen from the Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees. Even the unemployed must be at the disposal of the job market at all times. This cannot be managed if there is no day-care available for their children, Kostiainen points out. Tuire Santamäki-Vuori, the Chairwoman of the Trade Union for the Municipal Sector, is also concerned. "Now there is a clear phase that romanticises caring for children and relatives. If working-age citizens wish to care for their loved ones themselves, that is OK, and it must be so. But they must not be morally obligated or forced to do so." In addition, long periods of home care mean that the caregivers are absent from the job market, making a return to work more difficult, Santamäki-Vuori continues.

    What is contradictory in the demands is that Finland will face a labour shortage in the coming years. "Those who make these demands are not looking further ahead than a couple of years. Finnish society will never survive without the labour market efforts of women", says Chairwoman Jaana Laitinen-Pesola from the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals. Also, the average education level of women is higher. "If they stay at home, we will face an impossible shortage of skills. Who will then cure the ill and teach; where will the business professionals be? How would Sailas solve this equation?" Harri Melin asks. Perhaps that is what this is all about, fears Jaana Laitinen-Pesola. "I would like to believe that no one wants to see women between the stove and the fist, but these comments have come mainly from the mouths of men. With women better educated than men, is this the empire striking back?" Although women have more advanced degrees, the effect is upside-down in wage statistics. "Finland's weaknesses are fixed-term jobs and the wage gap, which is clearly unfair relative to the education level of women", says Anna-Maija Lehto, who studies the labour market at Statistics Finland. This problem is not alleviated in the least by the pressure to increase local income bargaining and profit-sharing wage schemes, Lehto explains. "Women have received much less in the way of bonuses, and the sums they get are clearly smaller than those paid to men." This threat has been observed in the industrial sector as well. Chairman Erkki Vuorenmaa from the Finnish Metalworkers' Union has even accused Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen of supporting a wage model that would lower the wages of low-earning citizens and women. "Advocating home care is traditional Centre Party ideology. I could cautiously say that its new coming has begun after the Centre assumed power again", Professor Melin says.
    ©Helsingin Sanomat

    Losing business to immigrants, Spanish shoe workers in Elche recently set fire to Chinese warehouses.

    18/10/2004- When Spanish workers in Elche, a longtime shoe-producing town in the coastal province of Alicante, set fire to several Chinese shoe warehouses three weeks ago, many feared that the incidents were motivated by anti-Chinese racism - a troubling sign of things to come. Placards scrawled with phrases like, "No Chinese!" and "Stop immigration!" at a protest six days after the vandalism fueled this perception. But others suggest that the incidents have less to do with racism than with changes to Spain's economy. As Spain struggles to become an economic power in Europe, immigrant laborers are increasingly coming into conflict with native workers who approach work and the workplace with very different attitudes. Although the first Chinese immigrants arrived here in the early 20th century, their numbers have grown rapidly over the past two decades. Today it is estimated that there are between 50,000 and 100,000 living in Spain. They may be causing resentment, however, not because of their numbers (there are far more North African and Latin American immigrants), but because many Spaniards feel that their economic practices threaten age-old social customs, employment norms, and labor relations in Spain. This nativist anxiety is exacerbated by larger concerns over changing work patterns both in Spain, where regulations may even encroach upon the sacred siesta, and across Europe, where debates are brewing about standardizing Sunday and late-night work hours.

    Tough to compete
    In particular, many Spaniards are frustrated by the increasing control Chinese immigrants have taken of grocery stores and other small businesses traditionally owned by Spaniards. These days, most have Chinese owners who keep the shops open on Sundays and late into the night. Becaro Brothers is an exception; it is one of only a few grocery stores in La Latina neighborhood still run by Spaniards. "This store has been operating for more than a century and a half," says its owner Rosa, who emphasizes that it was always family owned, even when it sold just olive oil, butter, or chorizo. Rosa is set to retire in nine years, but she doesn't think her business will last that long. "In the last year I've been approached at least five times by the Chinese, begging me to sell them the store." Although she would prefer to keep the business in her family, she notes that, "You have to work hard to make a store like this run, and hardly anyone can do it anymore, except the Chinese." It's a feeling echoed at one of the neighborhood's other Spanish-owned groceries, La Gran Perla. "The Chinese work round the clock," says its owner, "never stopping for afternoon siestas or holidays or Sundays, and they're putting us out of business." The Chinese, however, contend that they are simply practicing good business. In an underground Chinese shopping corridor beneath Madrid's Plaza de España, Susana, a young mother from China, recalls why she immigrated. She came to Spain 12 years ago, she says, "because it looked beautiful in pictures." Today, she runs a small grocery store with her family in Móstoles, on the outskirts of Madrid. "In the store we work hard," she explains. "If you work in Spain, you make money." Manolo, a well-dressed Chinese man who says he took his name from the first Spaniard who befriended him, freely admits that it was economic opportunity that brought him to Spain. "I prefer China, but the money here is too good. Everyone needs us. We work hard, night and day, no holidays. We work hard now so we can return to China later and enjoy life there with the money we make here." For many Spanish, that kind of attitude clashes with traditional values that privilege family, friends, and leisure over moneymaking. But those values are also being undermined by the demands of Spain's attempts to enter the global marketplace. In Elche, for example, about 10 percent of the shoe businesses are owned by Chinese, who have not only extended work hours, but have increased production and cut workers. The Spanish shoemakers, on the other hand, have watched their production fall 12 percent and their number of workers drop 4 percent in the past year. It is that desperation, say observers, that drove Spanish workers to attack the Chinese businesses.

    Economic frustration, or racism?
    After the Elche attacks, Spain's minister of foreign affairs met immediately with the Chinese ambassador to assure him that the government would take all measures to ensure the safety of all people in Spain. And the Chinese Embassy here quickly set up a hotline in Spain for Chinese to call in case of discrimination or attack. Still, many deny that race was a driving factor behind the vandalism. A spokeswoman for the UGT, one of Spain's biggest labor unions, says that "the UGT has an office that determines the maximum number of work hours for its members, according to the Law for Foreign Workers. And because some foreigners, like the Chinese, are violating these norms, the laws are being renegotiated by the unions, the government, small-business organizations, and immigrant organizations. The goal is to shut down the underground businesses that do severe damage to the legitimate ones." The official, who declined to give her name, notes that the "problem is not the Chinese in particular, but immigration as a general phenomenon, and how it affects labor in Spain. The Chinese aren't a problem any more than any other foreign population here." Chinese here take the Elche attacks seriously, but see it as an isolated incident. If anything, say observers, Chinese residents may not be mindful enough of lingering discrimination. For now, their businesses are thriving, and any problems they encounter are, in their view, market-driven. Tony, a member of the Association for Chinese in Spain, shares the view of many of his fellow immigrants. "The events in Elche had nothing to do with the factories being Chinese. It was the result of an economic problem, and it was inevitable."
    ©Christian Science Monitor Service

    18/10/2004- Racist attacks are on the increase in a North Wales town, hit by two nights of violent clashes between Kurd refugees and locals. Last night Wrexham council chiefs pledged a high-profile anti-racism campaign, amid fears more attacks could be going unreported. It comes as a report was yesterday released into the background to the rioting, which erupted on the town's Caia Park in June last year. Rioters as young as 13, some wearing Osama bin Laden masks, showered police with petrol bombs, stones and wood as officers struggled to regain control of the estate. Violence was sparked when a window was smashed at a Iraqi Kurd's home, then locals attacked a Kurd, leaving him with head injuries, and later fighting centred around the Red Dragon pub. Police used CCTV footage to track the culprits and bring them to justice. Compiled by Wrexham council's strategic director Malcolm Russell, the report said there were only 12 refugees staying on the estate, out of 38 in the whole of Wrexham. He says lessons must be learned from the riots, and lists recommendations, from closer working with police to monitoring migrant workers. But his report also reveals race crime is on the increase, mainly against workers from new EU countries, and Portugal, tempted to Wrexham in search of work, but who end up living in cramped conditions. There were 205 racially motivated incidents in Wrexham between April 2001 and March 2004. More than 55% were assaults, and the number of incidents increased in the last year.

    "While the level of reported race incidents is currently low, there are signs it is increasing," said Mr Russell. "It seems likely there is a relation-ship between this increase and the growth of the minority ethnic population. "There is clearly a need for the Wrexham community to acknowledge this issue which may - partly because of its size - remain hidden, and respond to it." Wrexham Community Safety Partnership will now develop a high profile anti-racism campaign for the county. The partnership will also look at a smoother system for recording racial incidents and develop an inter-agency approach to monitor and deal with racist crime. After the riots, council chiefs took the controversial decision to stop local councillors having a say whether refugees should be housed in their wards. Mr Russell said: "Under the procedure, local elected members had been notified of persons being considered for allocation of housing in their wards and allowed to provide observations and comments in writing. This was now felt to be a potential obstacle to appropriate rehousing of the refugees." The report listed a raft of recommendations to prevent a repeat of the Caia Park riots and tackle other race crime. They include the council rejoining the All Wales Local Authority Consortium for Asylum Seekers and Refugees. The Wrexham Refugee and Asylum Seekers Support Group should also be offered cash help. Ways of integrating asylum seek-ers and refugees into culturally sensitive services to promote race relations also need to be developed. In addition the council has to monitor the increasing number of migrant workers moving to Wrexham, their support needs, and their impact on local services. Access to the council's control centre during emergencies is to be restricted to authorised personnel only. Council leader Neil Rogers insisted Wrexham would still only take its allocated share of refugees. "There are lessons to be learned and we now want to go out to consult with the community across Wrexham and work with partners such as social services, probation and youth offending teams. There has been a lot of good work since the trouble and we are now looking at moving on." After the riots it was revealed a specialist Caia Park police team had been cut to one officer. Since then a host of new measures has been put in place, including a new six-strong police team, a crime car, community initiatives and neighbourhood wardens. Figures out earlier this year showed crime has fallen.

    Trouble timeline

  • June 22, 2003
    8pm Police report two groups fighting armed with sticks. Earlier an Iraqi Kurd was admitted to hospital with serious head injuries. Police turn up and the groups disperse.
    8.50pm CCTV spots 20 ethnic minority men and 15 white men fighting with a variety of weapons. Police arrive and both groups disperse.

  • June 23
    10am North Wales Police receive intelligence violence may flare again. noon Council chiefs decide to take action and open emergency management centre.
    5.30pm Wrexham Refugee and Asylum Seekers Support Group and the emergency welfare team find alternative accommodation for refugees in local church hall
    7.05pm CCTV requested to search for a vehicle with three people inside wearing bin Laden masks shouting racist abuse. Vehicle stopped and occupants arrested.
    7.45pm CCTV spots youths spraying racist graffiti. A youth is later arrested.
    9.25pm Cameras spot about 50 white men leaving Queensway social club heading toward Y Wern. They clash with police and regroup outside Red Dragon.
    9.30pm Three refugee youths spotted walking to the Red Dragon pub armed with knives. Police arrest them.
    9.45pm 50-strong group bombard police line on Prince Charles Road with bricks, stones and bottles. Extra officers drafted in to assist.

  • June 24
    1.30am Clear up begins. 10am first of a raft of meetings between community leaders and police get underway to share information and discuss ways forward.
    11.30am Press conference broadcast nationally with message to keep calm.

  • June 25/26
    Public meetings held between police, council officials and locals to address concerns.

  • June 27
    25 refugees relocated to Clwyd House.

  • July 2003
    All refugees at Clwyd house moved into fresh accommodation or new areas.

  • August 2003
    Further public meeting in Caia Park with action plan presented by task group on a way forward.

    Punished for role in the chaos
    Fifty people were handed more than 80 years in total behind bars following the riots. Two boys aged 16 and 17 received a total of 11 years and eight months custody for their part in the violence. The youngest, just 13, escaped custody but was tagged and put under supervision. The judge said what started as a race battle had degenerated into an excuse to injure as many police officers. And lawyers said the scenes resembled World War III. Riot squad officers were drafted in to help local police. Locals pelted them with petrol bombs, stones and wood.
    ©IC Network

    18/10/2004- An inquiry into the way gypsies and other travellers are treated by town halls and the police was launched by the Government's race watchdog today. The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) is investigating whether local authorities respond properly to gypsies' needs. CRE chairman Trevor Phillips will visit two gypsy sites in east London as part of the review. His deputy, Sarah Spencer, will make a trip to another site in Leeds. Mr Phillips said: "Discrimination against gypsies and travellers appears to be the last `respectable' form of racism in Britain. "There is no room in Britain for discrimination of any kind. "And yet complaints of racism from gypsies and travellers are on the increase." He added: "The CRE's top priority is to secure better site provision - with this issue being identified by many gypsies and travellers as the most significant problem facing them in Britain today. "There are not enough sites and those that exist are often in polluted environments far from public services." The research will focus on the way town halls evict gypsies and travellers and deal with planning issues and site provision. It will also look at police eviction powers and the effect policies have on travelling communities' education and health. Mr Phillips went on: "We need to find out exactly what is happening on the ground in local authorities - are they providing sites? "If so, are these close to basic facilities such as schools and health services? "Are they addressing the needs and responsibilities of all groups within their areas? "Do they play an active role in minimising any tensions that arise between gypsies and Irish travellers and other communities? "We also need to know where local authorities are solving problems and managing to provide decent services for gypsies and travellers." The deadline for submissions to the inquiry is December 5 and the CRE is providing a freephone number for contributors to record their comments on 0800 0831717. Earlier this year members of a bonfire society escaped prosecution for inciting racial hatred by burning a caravan bearing effigies of adults and children, along with the number plate "P1 KEY". Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald said he could understand why the display last October in the East Sussex village of Firle near Lewes caused public outrage. But there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against individual members of the society for inciting racial hatred or for public order offences, he said. Earlier this year the CRE criticised a Labour Party pamphlet which attacked rival Liberal Democrats for supporting travellers' site. The watchdog branded the leaflet, which was distributed in the Llanedeyrn and Pentwyn wards in Cardiff in the run-up to June's local elections, a "disgrace".
    ©IC Network

    20/10/2004- Teachers' leaders are seeking talks with Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, after being told they cannot stop a local council appointing British National Party (BNP) members as school governors. Councillors in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, have voted to allow the dominant party in each ward to take seats on local governing bodies under a reorganisation required by new government regulations. The decision means that the BNP could take 10 or 11 seats on governing bodies as they fall vacant in the Mixenden/Illingworth ward on the outskirts of Halifax, where the party has two councillors. The BNP has indicated that it will take up four school seats already vacant. The NUT sought legal advice on the issue last week and has approached Mr Clarke after it was told that it could remove the party's councillors from governing boards only if they failed to attend meetings. "One member of the BNP on a governing body is one too many," said Steve Sinnott, the NUT general secretary. The Department for Education and Skills has overhauled governing bodies to make them more accountable and representative of their communities.
    © Independent Digital

    22/10/2004- The Lord Chancellor is investigating whether a judge made a racist remark towards a black witness. But tape recordings made at the hearing have gone missing. James Boylam, 46, a children's care officer who lives in Chester, was giving evidence at a Wrexham small claims hearing in July when John Brimelow, a deputy district judge, gestured towards him and said: 'You are the nigger in the wood.' Mr Boylam said: 'I thought at first my ears had deceived me.' Judge Brimelow ruled against Mr Boylam's partner, who had brought the case, but after a protest set aside his judgment. A new hearing was held before a different judge and the decision was reversed. The case involved a dispute about £1,000-worth of plants, between Mr Boylam and his partner and a woman doctor who bought their home. Mr Boylam, of Wrexham, said the judge had also commented that the case was straightforward, and was 'black and white'. He said: 'I had no problem with the use of this phrase. But when he said 'nigger in the wood' I just couldn't believe the words I was hearing. 'I felt my treatment was patronising and belittling. Everyone I have told about this is outraged. 'I felt the case was tainted, that I was a black person from Liverpool against a white female doctor.' He said when he requested a transcript of the first hearing he was given a list of addresses to which it could be sent. He chose a Sussex firm, but later had £70 refunded and told the two tapes that had been sent were blank. 'I want this to be thoroughly investigated because a blank tape is no use to me,' he said. 'How could it happen? Was there a fault with the machine?' He added: 'When I complained about what he said, Judge Brimelow told me he was not a racist and it was probably an expression from his schooldays. I'm not after blood but want a full apology for the way I've been treated.' At his Chester home on Sunday the judge said: 'I didn't remember using the expression on the day but at the time I apologised to Mr Boylam if I had done so. Obviously he doesn't accept my apology. 'Mr Boylam was a witness in the proceedings. While I didn't accept the substance of his grievance, I ordered a re-hearing and the original proceedings were set aside. 'I thought the matter had been closed by the apology I gave him for the item he says I said. For whatever reason, he didn't accept it.' Judge Brimelow said about the tapes: 'I don't understand why, for whatever reason, they didn't come out.' But, he said, the complaint was being investigated by the Lord Chancellor's department. A spokesman for the Department of Constitutional Affairs said: 'An investigation is under way.'
    ©IC Network

    By Jenny Bourne

    18/10/2004- Since the Beslan school siege tragedy, levels of racial violence in Russia have spiralled. Six racist murders have taken place in the last few weeks. If your name has an ending which says you're from the Caucasus, if you are recognisably Muslim, if you have darker skin, if you are from Africa or south-east Asia, or if you are in any other way seen to be foreign, you are in danger in Russia today. Racial violence has been on the rise since the break-up of the Soviet Union and the mass migrations from the former republics to Russia, in the wake of unemployment and economic problems. But the decade-long war with Chechnya has fuelled ethnic tensions. And now the Beslan school siege and the downing of two planes, allegedly in terrorist incidents, are leading to extremely serious attacks on innocent civilians on an unprecedented scale. In the weeks since the siege, an Uzbeck migrant worker in Dolgoprudny, north of Moscow, died after a street knifing on 14 October. A Vietnamese medical student was stabbed to death outside his dormitory in St Petersburg. An Indian businessman was shot dead outside his Moscow office. A Muslim woman in the eastern city of Asbest was raped and tortured to death. The 45-year-old mother of three had the words 'death to terrorists' written on the back of her naked body. In Vladivostock, the weekend after the siege, a North Korean was beaten to death. In the Urals, a group of youngsters attacked Armenian and Azeri cafes and a relative of one owner was burned to death. These are the reported fatalities. In other attacks - on Armenian cafes - people have ended up in hospital with brain injuries, their properties burned to the ground. Mosques have been attacked and daubed with racist slogans. An imam in the Bashkiria Republic was battered around the head. A Kenyan student was beaten up in Voronezh, just yards from the scene where Amaro Lima (from Guinea Bissau) had been stabbed to death earlier in the year. A Syrian family were attacked in their own home by a gun-wielding gang. Four men of Caucasian descent were attacked by skinheads on a Moscow metro train and left with fractures and knife wounds. The Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, which monitors the far-right, estimates there are at least 50,000 skinheads in Russia, with concentrations of over 1,500 in large cities like Moscow and St Petersburg. It believes there are around 20 to 30 racist murders each year and estimate that the number is increasing, as the authorities fail to deal with the problem.

    Police distrusted
    One obvious stumbling block is the police force itself. In a significant number of the cases cited above, police describe the motive as hooliganism and not racism. Nor are police officers themselves free of guilt for such attacks. On 9 September, two Moscow policemen beat up a man they stopped at a metro station for a routine document check, because his name suggested he was of Caucasian Muslim descent. Probably something of a daily occurrence. But the man they had stopped, Colonel Magomed Tolboyev, happened to be a famous, somewhat revered, former cosmonaut. The case attracted media interest and the Moscow interior security directorate has been forced into instituting an official inquiry. The police by-and-large are distrusted by campaigners and human rights organisations, and considered to be part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. When the Interior Ministry announced plans in June to assign police representatives to all rights associations (allegedly, so as to deal more swiftly with complaints) Human Rights Watch denounced the initiative as smelling 'of old Soviet times'. In July and again in August the Moscow police raided the offices of Moye Pravo (My Right). This had been set up to protect people from police harassment after German Galdetsky, a student campaigning against police sexual abuse of illegal immigrants, was shot. 'People are scared', said the chair of Moye Pravo. 'they feel the need to protect themselves from the police instead of the police protecting them.'

    Campaigners attacked
    Lone, brave individuals like Galdetsky, who try to expose organised racism and fascism, are at particular personal risk. And it is not at all clear that the risk comes entirely from within neo-Nazi circles.
    On 19 May, a gang (of people who refused to identify themselves) raided the home of Aleksei Cherepanov - an anti-fascist journalist who had written about the persecution of illegal immigrants in Krasnodar. He had earlier been arrested on charges of drug possession. He denies ever having used drugs.
    A month later, Dr Nikolai Girenko, a 64-year-old scholar, was gunned down as he went to answer the doorbell at his St Petersburg apartment. He had devoted himself to eliminating racism and fascism and had worked as an expert witness in many criminal cases.

    Alexander Brod, head of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, predicts that the number of skinheads will grow to 100,000 if the authorities do not take measures to combat extremism. 'Racism isn't unique to Russia, I know it exists in Europe and America', an Armenian singer, who was almost beaten to death in the New Year, told a US reporter. 'But unlike Russia, in those countries it is prosecuted and the state pursues specific policies to combat it.'

    More information on developments in Russia will be included in the IRR's European Race Bulletin no 49.
    ©Institute of Race Relations

    18/10/2004- Alain Menargues, head of news at the state-owned Radio France International, resigned from his post Monday after he was accused of anti-Israeli bias. Promoting his new book "Sharon's Wall" on the wall being built to separate Israel from Palestinian centres of population, Menargues more than once described Israel as racist, earning condemnation from the government as well as RFI journalists and Jewish groups. Speaking on LCI television on September 30, he said: "You say Israel is a democratic state, let me rapidly add that it is also a racist state .... The law of return only concerns Jews. What is the basis of Zionism? It is to make a state for the Jews." On another occasion he said, "What was the first ghetto on the world? It was in Venice. Who made it? The Jews themselves, in order separate themselves from the rest. Afterwards Europe put them in ghettoes." The foreign ministry said that Menargues' description of Israel as racist was "unacceptable" and journalists' unions at RFI called on management to "assume its responsibilities." The vice-president of the France-Israel association Gilles William Goldnadel said the remarks were made "in the context of a deep-rooted anti-Jewishness and the fact they were made by a director of RFI, the voice of France abroad, shows there is a sense of total impunity." Menargues has rejected the charges against him, saying "Israel is a country like any other and like the others it must be criticised. There is no exception in my vision of the world, no country is above international laws." Menargues, 57, is a Middle East specialist who has spent many years in the region. He was named to his current post, which bears the rank of deputy director-general, in July. Israel and Jewish groups have long accused France of pursuing policies that are biased to the Arab world.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    Report singles out rise in organised anti-semitism

    20/10/2004- Mounting racism and anti-semitism in France represent "a radical threat to the survival of our democratic system", according to a government-commissioned report presented to the interior ministry yesterday. The 50-page report by Jean-Christophe Rufin, a humanitarian aid specialist turned bestselling novelist, said "a specific armoury" was urgently needed to fight the growing risk of racist and anti-semitic sentiments giving birth to "organised political forces". The interior minister, Dominique de Villepin, said the police had recorded 123 racist attacks and 294 threats in France in the first nine months of 2004, as well as 166 anti-semitic attacks and 584 threats. The totals were higher than for the whole of last year and were "utterly unacceptable in a country like ours", he said. Mr Rufin, who based his conclusions on police data and a large number of interviews, said that contrary to popular belief the majority of anti-semitic acts in France were not carried out by supporters of the far right and disaffected youths of north African origin. "Anti-semitic acts are the work of a far more diverse group of French people who use Jews as their scapegoats," said Mr Rufin, who is a former vice-president of Médecins sans Frontières and Goncourt prize-winning novelist. "Attacks and threats against French Jews are a social phenomenon at once new, evident and extremely preoccupying."

    France, which likes to portray itself as the cradle of human rights, is highly embarrassed by the recent sharp rise in anti-semitic and racist acts. Aside from regular instances of desecration of cemeteries and swastika graffiti on Jewish property, offences have in cluded firebombings of synagogues and verbal abuse in schools. The country is home to western Europe's biggest Jewish and Muslim communities - around 600,000 Jews, and an estimated 5 million Muslims. Last month President Jacques Chirac made a stirring national appeal for racial and religious tolerance as part of a campaign against attacks, which he said were "spreading insidiously". Mr de Villepin welcomed Mr Rufin's report, saying it was a "personal but extremely useful contribution" to a crucial debate, and that its conclusions "deserve to be studied very carefully indeed". Mr Rufin said the evidence showed that most people found guilty of anti-semitic acts in France shared common characteristics, such as a "lack of bearings, a rootlessness, a loss of identity, a sense of social frustration and failure, a disintegrated family". Pronounced anti-Zionism amounted to a form of anti-semitism and should be equally reprimanded, he said. "Anti-Zionism legitimises the Palestinian armed struggle even when it targets innocent civilians," he said. "Thus it could also legitimise violent acts committed in France. By the same token, accusations of racism, apartheid and nazism against Israel could by extension put France's own Jewish population in danger." Among possible ways forward, Mr Rufin urged legislation specifically targeting anti-semitic and racist acts. French law generally views racial motivation as an aggravating factor in an attack, not as an offence in itself. The public expression of anti-semitic or racist views or insults is covered only by the highly complex and unwieldy 1881 Press Act. "This was an act designed to promote and defend the freedom of expression," Mr Rufin said. "It is completely unsuited to the job it is now called on to do."

    He called for enforceable regulations to combat racism and anti-semitism in schools, including at primary level; "clearer, more complete and more transparent figures" to allow for international comparisons; and evidence of how many cases were successfully prosecuted. Mr Rufin also recommended the foundation of a National Observatory on Racism and Anti-Semitism, and said special vigilance was needed in media broadcasts. He said it was "extremely difficult" to be precise about racism - as distinct from anti-semitism - in France because of the "wide variety of its forms of expression" and the fact that "the very foundations of the French republican model forbid citizens from being distinguished according to ethnic or religious criteria". He added, however, that most racist violence, as opposed to discrimination, was the work of small minority groups acting in accordance with a warped ideology. On Corsica, which accounts for half of all racially-motivated violence in France, locals explain their treatment of north African immigrants as "a fight against crime and drug trafficking", Mr Rufin said.
    ©The Guardian

    19/10/2004- Three Sikh boys in France have gone to court after being excluded from school under a law banning conspicuous religious symbols and clothing. The Sikhs normally wear turbans to wrap their uncut hair, and say they compromised by wearing only small cloth coverings - or under-turbans. Two Muslim girls were banned from their school in Mulhouse, eastern France for failing to remove their headscarves. Officials imposed the ban at a disciplinary meeting on Tuesday. Two more girls could face a ban when their cases are examined in other schools in the town on Wednesday. The law was came into force last month with the stated aim of safeguarding the secular nature of the French state. France's education minister says about 70 students are still defying the ban - most of them Muslim girls. The minister, Francois Fillon, said Sikhs were expected to obey the law like everyone else. "There is a Sikh community which is very small, which poses no problem, but the law applies to everyone," he said. School authorities in the northern Paris suburb of Bobigny have prevented the three boys taking lessons at their secondary school. The boys had tried to reduce their turbans but their "concessions" had been fruitless, Jasvir Singh, one of the three, told French TV. The court is expected to make a ruling on the case on Wednesday. Included in the ban are Muslim headscarves, Jewish scull caps and large Christian crosses.
    ©BBC News

    22/10/2004- Three more Muslim schoolgirls in France have been expelled for disregarding a law banning religious insignia from the country's schools. Five students have been expelled under the Secularity Law, which Muslim groups have called a form of discrimination against Islam. Rodolphe Echard, the headmaster of Louis-Armand school in the eastern city of Mulhouse, announced yesterday that a 17-year-old female student, identified as Manele, would be removed from school. The girl had returned after the summer holidays wearing a headscarf, which she later replaced with a bandanna. In another case in the same city, Tuba, 16, was expelled from the Lavoisier school. A third girl was barred from the Jean Guehenno school in the northern town of Caen on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Dounia and Khouloude, 12-year-olds of Algerian origin, became the first to suffer disciplinary action in accordance with the law. They were told to leave the Jean Mace junior secondary school at Mulhouse after refusing to remove their headcovering. They, too, had replaced their headscarves with bandannas, but their head teachers deemed it an insufficient compromise. The controversial act, which went into effect at the beginning of the academic year on 2 September, states that schools must attempt to persuade recalcitrant students to remove the items. It is only in cases when the students persist in refusing to comply that they can be expelled. Students can appeal against such a decision. French education ministry figures put the number of students breaking the law at 72, implying that teachers were able to convince a majority of the more than 600 girls who appeared at school with headscarves to remove them. François Fillon, the Education Minister, called the measure a success. Education authorities have had an additional reason to be gentle in the way in which they enforce the legislation. The Islamic Army of Iraq, a group that claims to have kidnapped the French journalists Christian Chesnot and Christian Malbrunot and their Syrian driver, who are in their third month of captivity, has demanded the law be abolished. The government refused.
    © Independent Digital

    22/10/2004- A young Muslim woman who is standing for election to the Basel City parliament on Sunday has sparked debate over the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in public life. Kadriye Koca considers the scarf a mark of her faith and says she would like to continuing wearing it, if elected. But questions have been raised in Basel about whether a headscarf-wearing Muslim woman can really be considered truly integrated in Switzerland. Controversially, 32-year-old Koca is standing on behalf of the centre-right Christian Democrats, a party which is proud of its traditional Catholic roots. But as one of 130 candidates on the party list, Koca is far from being guaranteed a place in parliament.

    Rita Schill of the party's Basel City secretariat admits that the Christian Democrats could alienate voters through the choice of Koca. But she says the Turkish-born candidate, who came to Switzerland when she was 15, is active in the community and would make a good member of parliament. "Mrs Koca is a good example of a Turkish woman who is very well integrated in Switzerland. But she is a practising Muslim, and that's the reason the headscarf is important to her," Schill told swissinfo. "I know some people aren't very accepting of the headscarf, but we don't want to lay down rules about what people in the new communities in Basel can wear. "She is an intelligent young woman who has a good grasp of our party manifesto, and I think she's well placed to enter parliament and earn the respect of others," added Schill. Koca has been quoted as saying she would continue to wear the headscarf, if elected. But when contacted by swissinfo, she refused to be drawn on the issue. A rightwing member of the cantonal parliament has introduced a motion calling for the banning of all religious symbols within the chamber.

    Dress code
    The election comes at a time when attention is already focused on the place of the Islamic headscarf in Swiss society. The country's biggest retailer, Migros, has asked its Muslim checkout staff not to wear the scarf. Anyone who insists on wearing it at the workplace risks being moved to a position where they have no contact with customers. Rival Coop says it will allow the headscarf, while the country's big banks Credit Suisse and UBS point out that the scarf is not part of the normal dress code. Cabinet minister Moritz Leuenberger has also entered the debate. In an article published in the "NZZ am Sonntag" newspaper, Leuenberger warned that a ban on Islamic headscarves – such as the one introduced in schools in France – could hamper integration in Switzerland. "By infringing religious freedom, a ban could have the effect of making Muslim women cling to their religion even more, which in turn could prevent their integration in Swiss society," said Leuenberger. For Kadriye Koca, religion need not be an obstacle to feeling at home in Switzerland. "I want to contribute something to Swiss society, because I feel so accepted here," she told the "Tages-Anzeiger" newspaper. "And if I'm not elected this time, I can always try again in four years."
    ©NZZ Online

    20/10/2004- A landmark decision on hierarchy in European law has been taken by the German Constitutional court. The Court on Thursday (14 October) found that it is not obliged to hold to the rulings by the European Court of Human Rights. According to Germany's Constitutional court, rulings by the Strasbourg court are "interpreting aids" which have to be taken into account but not strictly followed if they contradict German constitutional law. The court justified its decision by saying the German Constitution (Grundgesetz) is worth more than the Human Rights Convention agreed under international law. Under the German system, international law is at the level of a simple national law. The German judges found that while the constitution wants Germany to be in a community of free states it does not mean giving up the "sovereignty" of Germany. They say that German courts, therefore, should neither enforce the Human Right's rulings in a "schematic" way nor ignore them altogether. The ruling came about after an unmarried father wanted access to his child. A German national court denied him this even though the European Court of Human Rights in a previous ruling had said that it is a human right for the natural father to have access rights to his child. The European Court of Human Rights was founded in 1959 and overviews the upholding of human rights in the 46 countries that are members of the Council of Europe.

    Last Wednesday, Brøndby Council voted down a measure that would allow the Islamic Burial Fund to buy a plot of land adjacent to the Holbæk Motorway. The rejection could delay plans for Denmark's first Muslim cemetery by half a year

    21/10/2004- A seven-year battle to establish Denmark's first Muslim cemetery ended in defeat last Wednesday. Brøndby City Council voted unanimously against allowing the Islamic Burial Fund to buy a plot of land to use as cemetery ground - even though the group's DKK 3.2 million offer was well within range of the council's asking price. ‘We could not approve the offer because it did not cover the bidding conditions. These conditions were clearly spelled out in the bidding material and have been common knowledge to everyone since 2001. But the Islamic Burial Fund tried to change the bidding terms right before the vote. We couldn't take it seriously. It's not Hjallerup Street Market here - if there was any aspect of the bidding material that the Islamic Burial Fund wanted to discuss, they could have raised the issue before,' said Gert Raasdal, second deputy mayor of Brøndby Council. Raasdal would not elaborate as to which parts of the Muslim group's offer were so objectionable. Last Wednesday's debate took place in a closed session. ‘It wasn't our intention to derail the Muslim cemetery project. But if this group wants to buy land from us, they must follow the rules and respect the zoning requirements,' said Raasdal. Daily newspaper Berlingske Tidende reported that the issue of how much building could take place - and what kind of buildings could be erected - was at the heart of the Brøndby dispute. The chairman of the Islamic Burial Fund, Kasem Said Ahmad, disputed this claim in an interview with Jyllands-Posten. ‘We expect to use two-thirds of the land area for burial plots. By our calculations, the bidding material doesn't grant enough space for that. But it's a technicality,' said Kasem Said Ahmad. The Islamic Burial Fund has worked since 2001 to establish the first Muslim cemetery on land bordering the Holbæk Motorway.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    21/10/2004- The National Association for the Blind staged a demonstration to raise political awareness for the lack of support for blind citizens in society. Forty-six-year-old blind piano tuner Christian Skov spends hours each day travelling between customers from his home in the village of Arnum - difficult trips made even more inconvenient by a public transportation system that fails to consider the needs of visually impaired travellers. Loudspeakers with stop announcements are being phased out on many city busses, and bus timetables are rarely made accessible to the blind. ‘There have been times where I've considered quitting my work, simply because the added expense and hassle of public transport isn't worth my salary. So far, I've tried not to let the inconvenience dictate whether I can do my job like anyone else,' said Christian Skov. The National Association for the Blind staged a protest in Copenhagen to open the eyes of politicians and the ‘seeing society' to the daily struggles of blind people in an increasingly digitalized world. The group is lobbying for a law that would give the legally blind and visually impaired equal status to other disabled groups in applying for aid funds. While wheelchair users are currently eligible for state-subsidized handicap-accessible cars, blind people have no such option open to them. The National Association for the Blind is also campaigning for mandatory technical aid facilities - such as sound signals at crosswalks - in all public buildings and areas. According to the group, Denmark has the worst library service in Europe in terms of ‘talking books,' large-print books, and Braille books for the blind.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    More and more immigrants and their descendants are flocking to socioeconomic ghetto areas across the country

    22/10/2004- New Integration Ministry figures reveal that the percentage of first- and second-generation immigrants concentrated in the country's five most economically depressed residential areas is on the rise. Three-fourths of today's residents of Århus neighbourhood Bispehaven are first- or second-generation immigrants, compared to less than half 10 years ago. Odense's notorious Vollsmose quarter is two-thirds inhabited by immigrant families, compared to less than one-third a decade ago. The highest concentration of immigrants nationwide is found in Århus' Gellerupparken housing project, and Copenhagen's Mjølnerparken project, with 84 percent and 92 percent respectively, compared to 68 and 64 percent 10 years ago. Since 1999, immigration officials have assigned all incoming refugees to selected councils. Refugees assigned housing in one council are required to stay in that council for their first three years in Denmark. In spreading refugees arbitrarily across the country, immigration officials hoped to prevent the emergence of immigrant ghettos, but a study from the National County and Municipal Research Institute (AKF) has found that many families make a beeline for predominantly non-Danish areas as soon as their three-year housing requirement is up. Integration Minister Bertel Haarder says the continued concentration of immigrant and refugee families in certain areas underscores the need for additional efforts to prevent ghettos. "Once their three-year commitment is done, many of these refugees want to move closer to their families and countrymen. If this is where they feel most secure, then they're welcome to do so - as long as they're gainfully employed," said Haarder. Last spring, the government launched a new strategy designed to prevent the spread of ghettos by allowing housing officials to turn down welfare families from council flats in areas with a high concentration of welfare recipients. Because up to 80 percent of immigrants in the five ghetto areas are dependent on welfare, the rule was primarily directed at this population segment. Henning Kirk Christensen is director of the National Association of Public Housing Boards and chairman of the Højstrup Housing Board, which manages Odense's Vollmose housing project. Speaking with daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten today, Christensen said he was not surprised by the development. "If people don't integrate in the community they're initially assigned, then they'll move once the three years are up. Vollsmose doesn't have the best reputation to begin with - and the vicious cycle is only reinforced once wealthier families move out, and additional pressure is placed on area public schools and institutions," said Henning Kirk Christensen.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    21/10/2004- Budapest showed the world how unwelcome a tiny neo-Nazi party is in Hungary on Friday with an estimated 25,000 demonstrators turning out to protest. Traffic in downtown Budapest came to a near stand-still as police sealed off Andrássy út, and the Dózsa György út area of the former Procession square (Felvonulási tér), and the surrounding streets prior to the gathering. While Associated News was reporting a crowd of 25,000, police estimates had between 10,000-15,000 demonstrators, including most of the current Socialist led government. The protest marked the 60th anniversary of the coming to power of the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross regime of Ferenc Szálasi, and centered around the House of Terror Museum on Andrássy út in Budapest's District VI. It was also intended to counter a march by the neo-Nazi Hungarian Future Group (MJCs), who had intended to honor the 1944 anniversary, but announced the day before that it had called off its demonstration. The MJCs group made the decision after police detained their leader, Diána Bácsfi, on October 14, for disturbing peace and giving offensive and banned Nazi-style salutes in public. Ironically the police had originally issued the MJCs a permit to hold their demonstration, but observers, at the demonstration, believed that pressure from the junior government coalition liberal party Free Democrats (SzDSz) had forced the minister of interior (in charge of police) to cancel the permit. They added that just to be safe side the SzDSz's New Generation youth group had staged an advanced gathering to reserve the area in front of the House of Terror Museum during the week as a counter to any pro-Nazi demonstration. The museum stands where Szálasi's feared Arrow Cross Party headquarters (and later the equally despised Communist secret police ÁVO) once was. The site is now dedicated to the victims of Fascism and Communism. Many bystanders claimed they had relatives or friends who had been brutally tortured or murdered in the building over the years. A letter from President Ferenc Mádl was read to the crowd, at the demonstration, in which he embraced the recent declaration signed by the caucus leaders of all four parliamentary parties denouncing the Fascist (Arrow Cross) ideology. Mádl did not attend the demonstration, as he was in Rome.

    Hungarian press reports said that while anti-Fascists demonstrated at the Terror House, radical right-wing groups demonstrated at the Soviet memorial, opposite the US Embassy, on Szabadság tér in Budapest's District V to protest against what they called Hungary's "real problems". Press reports said that the right-wingers dubbed the anti-Nazi demonstration in front of the House of Terror Museum "an effort to distract attention". Former Socialist (MSzP) prime ministers Péter Medgyessy and Gyula Horn accompanied by current Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, the SzDSz leadership and several distinguished leftwing personalities all laid wreaths at Terror House Museum. Fidesz President Viktor Orbán laid wreaths to commemorate the late József Antall, Hungary's first post-Communist PM (at Ferencziek tere in Pest's District V), and Protestant Pastor Gábor Sztehlo (on Táncsics Mihály utca Budapest's District I). Zoltán Pokorni, Deputy President of Fidesz said in speech of tribute that, during the Arrow Cross terror, Sztehlo saved the lives of thousands of refugees and some 2,000 Jewish children who were smuggled out of Hungary under the protection of the International Red Cross. In a Sunday morning breakfast show on Kossuth Rádió, Orbán said that the government had turned "the sad anniversary of the Szálasi coup into a propaganda tool". Meanwhile, the National Investigation Office (NNI, the Hungarian version of the FBI) announced on Monday that it has started legal procedings against Bácsfi. Emese Horváti, NNI spokesperson, said the accused and seven others are suspected of using symbols of dictatorship and causing vandalism. They are likely to face up to five charges of pasting posters depicting dictatorial symbols in the inner city during the month of August. During questioning investigators learned that Bácsfi and an accomplice had on three instances vandalized public memorials under monumental protection. Investigators said that Bácsfi had admitted covering the City Park statue of Winston Churchill in red paint and daubing an Arrow Cross and a Swastika on its base on July 24 this year. Bácsfi had also admitted pouring red paint on the Endre Ságvári plaque on Budakeszi út in Buda's District II on August 30. Police suspect the same group poured red paint on the memorial to holocaust victims in front of the Novotel park known as the Gesztenyéskert (Chestnut garden). Police said that Bácsfi had admitted to all of the crimes. According to Bácsfi the MJCs will now hold its commemoration on October 24 at a new public cemetery in Rákoskeresztúr, in Budapest's District XVII. She also announced the MJC will take legal action against a police officer who claimed that it had no right to demonstrate when it had already been given a permit for their October 15 commemoration event on Andrássy út. "This is the public violation of our constitutional right to a gathering," Bácsfi was quoted as saying on Hugarian television.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    22/10/2004- Despite the efforts that Cyprus is making to stand by its international obligations on refugees, it is still a country dealing with xenophobia and prejudice against an increasing tide of immigrants, according to one human rights observer. A UN report on refugees in Cyprus highlighted a number of problems faced by immigrants, including lack of refugee travel documents and ID cards, high rents for accommodation, discrimination in employment, and the need to have adequate knowledge of the Greek language. Refugees also reported to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) the lack of information available regarding their rights. One notable complaint was the hostility and racism they faced in society, with several complaining of being typecast and named as "black" or "Arab". According to the report, there are currently 400 registered refugees in Cyprus while thousands of others have sought asylum from the Cypriot authorities. At the beginning of October this year, there were 7,975 asylum applications pending. UNHCR representative Betsy Greve noted that the government of Cyprus had contributed to a great extent to solving some of the problems faced, but underlined that more could be done. Law Commissioner and President of Ethnopad (the National Organisation for the Protection of Human Rights) Leda Koursoumba told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that she agreed there was a problem of xenophobia and prejudice in Cyprus. She noted that there were a huge number of people coming from abroad seeking work or asylum or both, and mainly from non-EU countries. "There is a problem in that some speak dialects of languages that we can't find interpreters for. Also many come from the Green Line area as well. These are problems that I recognise, but notwithstanding that, there is xenophobia here, especially of colour," she said. The human rights officer maintained that the problem was in all sections of society. "This is not just illiterates, but upper society too, although no one admits it." Koursoumba highlighted that the biggest prejudice could be seen with foreigners who were not from western countries. "This is probably due to general stereotypes and prejudices, and the history of the island. I don't wish to get into an analysis of the reasons, but there is a history of isolation and tragic events in Cyprus. Added to that are the incidents that have never occurred here before like burglaries in your neighbourhood. For this, you get the prejudiced assumption that the mavrous or ‘blacks' are to blame," she said.

    Koursoumba said she recognised the problems brought by large numbers of asylum seekers coming to the country, but that the problem would not be solved by a wrong handling of the situation. "Refugees find it difficult to integrate in schools and neighbourhoods, and this reflects on to their children. They learn to hate the authorities and the prejudice." As a country, however, Cyprus was making an effort to abide by refugee conventions and the EU laws but many practical problems still existed," said Koursoumba. "How will they process all the applications? There is a big number with plenty of backlog. They have problems with the language and the lack of staff." The ETHNOPAD President said the country had legal problems dealing with the application process. Under the laws, applicants have the right to appeal a decision, but without interpreters and adequate staff, this was impossible. "This slows down the process," she noted. "We need more staff to clear pending applications. It would cost less to Cyprus to bring more staff in and process applications than keep applicants here and provide them lodging, grants, jobs, schooling, as we are obliged to do. "This way we would eliminate a lot of the applications that don't stand. But even if you know someone is lying in their application, they still have human rights, and you can't imprison them. They must be processed," she said. Koursoumba noted that prejudice existed even among government officials. "We have had a lot of complaints about civil servants who often in the past, didn't even know the rights of asylum seekers. The government is trying but there is a lot more to be done." Koursoumba said one way to deal with the prejudice was to let time and EU accession take its course and open people's minds to other ethnicities. "By nature though, we accept people of our religion and our colour, and are more reserved towards others," she added.
    ©Cyprus Mail

    Prosecution launches closing arguments in Holocaust denier's deportation hearing

    20/10/2004- If Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel is allowed to remain in Canada on the basis that he is aging and out of touch, Osama bin Laden could one day make the same claim, a federal prosecutor argued yesterday. Prosecutor Donald MacIntosh said that Mr. Zundel's bid to avoid deportation to Germany relies on the viewpoint of a motley crew of white-power advocates and racist skinheads who say he is a spent force. "If Osama bin Laden were present here and this court had to decide whether he is a threat to security . . . he could find some young al-Qaeda members that would say: 'He's old and out of touch,' " Mr. MacIntosh said. "It would be a travesty of justice." Launching closing arguments yesterday in the deportation hearing of Mr. Zundel, 65, Mr. MacIntosh said the "old-and-out-of-touch defence" became a familiar refrain during the 18-month hearing. He warned Mr. Justice Pierre Blais of the Federal Court that were he to give it any credence, it "would be contrary not only to all the jurisprudence, but would bring the administration of justice into disrepute." Judge Blais must decide whether it was reasonable for the federal Justice Minister and Minister of Employment and Immigration to invoke a rarely used security certificate in order to deport Mr. Zundel as a threat to national security. Created to combat terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, the controversial security-certificate procedure allows for evidence to be presented to a judge in strict secrecy. The defence is left to guess at the evidence. Mr. MacIntosh said yesterday that for 30 years, Mr. Zundel has assiduously portrayed himself as an intellectual pacifist, all the while covertly associating with a who's who of right-wing extremists. "Mr. Zundel has no credibility whatever," he said. "In every case, he has characterized his associations with the most violent racists as being totally benign and totally innocent." He told Judge Blais that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is not alleging that Mr. Zundel has been an active participant in terrorist acts, but rather, that anyone who provides the intellectual fuel for violence is equally dangerous to national security. The government has a duty to act against purveyors of racist and anti-Semitic material if it "fosters violence or incites people to commit violence or creates an atmosphere conducive to violence," Mr. MacIntosh said.

    A key defence witness at the hearing -- Mr. Zundel's former lawyer, Douglas Christie -- testified earlier this year that Mr. Zundel has often expressed contempt for many of the very same extremist leaders the government alleges he associates with and advises. However, Mr. MacIntosh played down Mr. Christie's testimony yesterday, saying he is a "close friend" of Mr. Zundel's who has lost his objectivity. "He has a very rose-coloured view, a benign view, of Mr. Zundel," he said. Mr. MacIntosh lavished praise on Judge Blais for his conduct in the case. He said the judge has carefully balanced national security against Mr. Zundel's rights as a non-citizen who has nonetheless lived in Canada for most of his adult life. However, he said that Judge Blais must factor another important consideration into the mix -- foreign relations. "The ministers had a bona fide belief that the integrity of Canada's international relations were affected by Mr. Zundel's dissemination of anti-Holocaust material into Germany, Austria and 40 countries around the world," Mr. MacIntosh said. "Canada has a duty to do something about this. Mr. Zundel seeks to destroy the multicultural fabric of society." Mr. MacIntosh also cautioned Judge Blais to ignore Mr. Zundel's attempts to condemn Jewish community leaders for lobbying the government to get rid of Mr. Zundel. This kind of lobbying is perfectly acceptable in a participatory democracy, he said. "They are entitled to attempt to influence members of Parliament," Mr. MacIntosh said. "To deflect attention, Mr. Zundel is raising all these red herrings."
    ©Globe and Mail

    Blais guilty of dispensing 'secret justice,' lawyers for Holocaust denier assert

    21/10/2004- Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel's lawyers have accused a Federal Court judge of running an error-plagued deportation hearing that "cheapens and degrades" the justice system. In scathing arguments that took them into terrain where few lawyers have dared to tread, defence lawyers Peter Lindsay and Chi-Kun Shi accused Mr. Justice Pierre Blais of actively embracing the secrecy of Canada's anti-terrorism law. The federal government has invoked the law's security-certificate procedure in an attempt to deport Mr. Zundel as a threat to national security. The lawyers said that what they called Judge Blais's "misguided and unchecked" approach to national security has meant that Mr. Zundel -- whom they described as a long-time pacifist with no criminal record -- has been plunged into an 18-month ordeal of solitary confinement and legal unfairness. They said Judge Blais seems unable "to even understand simple submissions," and that a colossally unfair proceeding has devastated Mr. Zundel's right to fairness and brought the justice system into disrepute. Evidence in security-certificate proceedings is presented to the judge in secrecy and not revealed to the defence.

    "Maybe no one cares, because this is only the notorious and reviled Ernst Zundel," Mr. Lindsay and Ms. Shi said in a written submission. "But it is not only Ernst Zundel. The apparent approach of the court in this case cheapens and degrades all participants in this important part of our system of justice -- and our system of justice itself. Mr. Zundel is thus at the mercy of a secret proceeding and of the judge conducting it. "Secret justice, dispensed in the way it has been in this case, is no justice at all. It is Mr. Zundel's plea that this court look at the mistakes it has made and change its approach with respect to this matter, in order to appear more even-handed and fair." The defence attack was the culmination of steadily mounting frustration in the courtroom. Mr. Lindsay and Judge Blais have had repeated testy exchanges in recent months, usually over Mr. Lindsay's right to call or cross-examine witnesses. The defence has tried twice to have Judge Blais -- a onetime solicitor-general of Canada -- recuse himself. An appeal of his refusals will be heard next month in the Federal Court of Appeal. Mr. Lindsay argued in court yesterday that the proceeding is a perversion of what the security-certificate legislation was intended to do, that is, to roust out genuine terrorists who could wreak havoc on the country. Mr. Lindsay said the secrecy provisions have allowed government lawyers to produce next to no evidence in the public segments of the hearing. Meanwhile, behind closed doors, he said, they have inevitably trotted out a melange of hearsay and baseless accusations that cannot be challenged.

    "The public case is non-existent," Mr. Lindsay said. "It is devoid of evidence. It is an ocean of innuendo and implied involvement of Mr. Zundel in inspiring other people to commit acts of violence or terrorism -- without ever providing any proof . . . "The public case goes far beyond guilt by association," he continued. "It is guilt by contact. I don't say this easily, but it makes McCarthyism look reasonable." Mr. Lindsay said that Judge Blais has heard persuasive evidence that, far from inciting young hotheads of the far right to engage in violence, Mr. Zundel has denounced violence and condemned those who indulge in it. He said that Mr. Zundel has built his life around peacefully arguing that the Holocaust has been exaggerated, resulting in the unfair vilification of the German people. Otherwise, Mr. Lindsay said, his client lived a blameless life in Canada for 42 years, never producing a single pamphlet or newsletter that advocated violence. "According to the Crown, Mr. Zundel apparently woke up one morning in 1990 and became a terrorist," Mr. Lindsay said. "Here is this great purveyor of literature who distributes material all over the world, yet they can't come up with one [item] showing him advocating violence." Mr. Lindsay said there is great irony in Mr. Zundel having repeatedly become the victim of violence. He said that his client's home was vandalized and ultimately burned down. Mr. Zundel has also been attacked outside the courthouse and received any number of death threats and letter bombs, Mr. Lindsay said.
    The case has adjourned until early November.
    ©Globe and Mail

    18/10/2004- The new European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, is under mounting pressure to strip Italy's designated justice commissioner, of his role in anti-discrimination policy after he made another gaffe at the weekend. Rocco Buttiglione, who had already called homosexuality a sin and said marriage allowed women to be protected by a husband, has now slighted single mothers. On Saturday, the Italian media reported that Mr Buttiglione, a devout Roman Catholic and friend of the Pope, told a conference: "Children who don't have a father but only a mother are children of a mother who is not very good." He later issued a strong statement denouncing the reports, claiming he was speaking about international relations using a metaphor and had been quoted out of context. Mr Buttiglione told Corriere della Sera newspaper: "There is a hate campaign against me; everything I say is wrongly interpreted." But Mr Barroso is being urged either to switch Mr Buttiglione to another job, or to strip him of responsibility for anti-discrimination work. A week ago a committee of the European Parliament voted to reject Mr Buttiglione's candidature. Though that was non-binding, MEPs could throw out the entire commission when they vote next week in Strasbourg. The socialist group, the second largest in the parliament, has threatened to vote against the commission, and yesterday the Liberal Democrats, the third biggest bloc, followed suit. One possibility, short of a full reshuffle, is to move all anti-discrimination policy to the social affairs commissioner.

    Graham Watson, leader of the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats in Europe, said: "Mr Barroso cannot ignore the vote of the committee. He has to do something substantial to show he listens to what parliament is saying and respects us. If he wants to be sure of a majority he has to swap portfolios." He said if Mr Barroso "does nothing", the 88 Liberal Democrats would vote against his whole commission. The alliance backed the president when the parliament voted on his nomination earlier this year. Mr Buttiglione, who had taken a high-profile stance in favour of the European Union setting up asylum-processing camps in north Africa, was always a controversial choice for the justice and home affairs portfolio. But his failure to temper his language has made some concession from Mr Barroso almost inevitable. Although this would involve loss of face, the alternative is to risk a close vote in Strasbourg next week. One MEP said last week: "We have a justice commissioner who appears to believe that refugees belong in camps, women belong in the kitchen and gays belong in hell." Another said Mr Buttiglione, who has said publicly he would rather renounce his job than his beliefs, had got into the frame of mind of a "Catholic martyr".
    © Independent Digital

    22/10/2004- The controversy over the appointment of Italy's proposed representative to the European Commission took a new turn last Tuesday when an Italian government minister launched an attack on European lawmakers who opposed the nomination. Mirko Tremaglia, minister for Italians overseas, tore into European Parliament members, using an offensive term in Italian suggesting most of them were homosexuals. "Poor Europe; the ‘Culattoni' are in the majority," he said. The outburst followed a vote by the European Parliament's civil rights committee to narrowly reject the nomination of Rocco Buttiglione - by 27 votes to 26 - as Justice Commissioner. During a meeting with the committee Buttiglione had described the homosexual act as a "sin" and that the role of women in society was to have children and be protected by their husbands. The vote, however, is not binding on Portugal's new European Commission President-designate Durão Barroso, who has backed Buttiglione. Barroso said he has full confidence in his team despite the European Parliament's refusal to endorse Buttiglione because of his views on gays. "The European Commission President-designate maintains his confidence in the entire team, including Mr. Buttiglione," Barroso's spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde told reporters in Brussels. She added that Mr. Barroso would take into account the opinions of the Parliamentary committee, but he was waiting for the collective view of Parliament as a whole. "We are confident, and hope to have the confidence of the European Parliament and to have a positive vote on October 27th on the appointment of the Barroso commission, four days before it is scheduled to take office. For the moment there is no plan B," Ahrenkilde said. Speaking to members of the European Parliament, Barroso confirmed that he was confident Buttiglione was committed to the values of the Charter of Human Rights "forbidding any discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation." He concluded by saying: "A society based on tolerance allowed for differences of opinion." Not only did the parliamentary committee reject Buttiglione as Justice Minister, it also rejected by 28 votes to 25 a proposal for him to be given a different portfolio that would allow him to serve on the Commission. The committee's French chairman Jean-Louis Bourlanges said he would issue an opinion against Buttiglione being nominated for any portfolio. The Italian had previously appeared before Parliament's legal committee, which gave a favourable opinion on his suitability to serve as Justice Commissioner.
    ©The Portugal News

    22/10/2004- The row over Italian justice commissioner-designate Rocco Buttiglione was stepped up last Wednesday as a senior Vatican official said the case illustrated how Roman Catholics were the object of discrimination in Europe. In an interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica, the Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano made no direct reference to the Buttiglione case, in which the Italian's nomination as European commissioner was rejected because he had referred to the homosexual act as being sinful. However, the cardinal said: "That is not the first time that Catholics, Christians, men of the Church find themselves confronted by problems of this type and in danger of becoming victims of isolation and discrimination." Although damaging to the Italian's chances of winning the support of the whole Parliament, the vote in itself is not binding, as EU legislators have to vote the entire team into power, and cannot reject individual nominees. In the interview Sodano, the second most powerful cardinal in the Vatican, also said that the Catholic Church's real problems lay elsewhere other than with arguments over gay rights. "The big problem of the future will be our relations with the Islamic world. It is a challenge that does not only concern the Church," he said, referring to Muslim Turkey's application to become a member of the European Union. Talks between Brussels and Ankara are scheduled for next month and it is expected that a likely date for Turkey's accession to the Union will be no later than 2015.
    ©The Portugal News

    22/10/2004- José Manuel Barroso, the new European commission president, yesterday risked provoking an institutional crisis in the EU by defying MEPs' calls to dump Rocco Buttiglione, an outspoken opponent of gay and women's rights, as justice and civil liberties commissioner. Armed with a half apology from Mr Buttiglione for any offence he might have caused gay people and women, Mr Barroso effectively challenged his critics within the European parliament to have the guts to vote him and his entire 24-strong team out of office on Wednesday - two days before the signing of the EU's new constitutional treaty. The president, asserting his authority by taking personal charge of the EU's non-discrimination policies and assuming powers to sack incompetent or corrupt commissioners, made plain he was counting on splits among his opponents and abstentions to win an "absolutely convincing" majority next week. But socialist, liberal, Green and other leaders warned Mr Barroso that he would have to make further, substantial concessions by early next week if he and his commission were to avoid a heavy defeat - or, at best, win such a slim majority his team would be left a lame duck for the five-year tenure. Martin Schulz, leader of the 200-strong socialist group, accused the president of going back on his word after conceding on Tuesday that he would strip Mr Buttiglione, an Italian Catholic, of his civil liberties responsibilities. He dismissed as "cosmetic" Mr Barroso's decision to set up a shadow team of commissioners, chaired by himself, to monitor his performance. Mr Schulz, whose group voted against Mr Barroso's appointment in July, said his members would vote as a bloc against the entire commission if there were no change of tack by the president. But he added: "Barroso has until next week. If he gives Buttiglione another post, we can come together."

    Mr Barroso can count on the full support in parliament of just two of the eight political groups: the 268-strong centre-right European People's party (with one unknown Tory dissenter), and the 27-strong Union for Europe of the Nations. Graeme Watson, leader of the 88-strong liberal group, said he would be hard-pressed to recommend the Barroso compromise and his members would be split. If a majority of the 732 MEPs votes down the Barroso team next week in Strasbourg, the EU will be left with a political vacuum, forcing reluctant national governments to propose and agree on a new executive commission or, at the very least, carve up a redistribution of existing portfolios. Mr Watson warned that support for Mr Barroso was "sapping by the day" and the mood recalled that of 1999 when parliament forced the resignation of the commission, headed by Jacques Santer, over charges of sleaze. But a confident Mr Barroso, speaking in English and French, tried to win over his critics by claiming that his commission, which includes eight women, was the most advanced, progressive ever. He said it would make basic human and democratic rights, including non-discrimination, a key priority. But he created confusion by leaving Mr Buttiglione with his complete portfolio, rather than switching him to another job, and by appointing the shadow team to monitor the EU's civil liberties policies. Sarah Ludford, a Liberal Democrat MEP, said this made Mr Buttiglione a "castrato". Mr Schulz dismissed Mr Buttiglione's letter as "not credible" after the former Berlusconi cabinet minister admitted that he should not have publicly described homosexuality a "sin", and declared himself for the charter of fundamental rights. Meanwhile, the president, claiming that he had responded to his critics, said: "Regarding this issue as a holy war is the last thing Europe needs. "I don't believe there will be a Catholic/non-Catholic split or one between secular and Christian Europe." Amid evidence that Neelie Kroes, the new competition commissioner, had failed to disclose lobbying activity on behalf of Lockheed Martin, the arms contractor, Mr Barroso said that this commissioner had now agreed to accept further limits on her intervention when conflicts of interest arose involving her business past. The Greens' leader, Dany Cohn-Bendit, said that this move made her a part-time commissioner.
    ©The Guardian

    19/10/2004- France and Spain combined yesterday to derail plans to reduce migration into Europe by setting up EU asylum-processing camps in north Africa. Two days of informal talks in Florence among interior ministers of the five biggest EU nations ended in deadlock and a firm and public rejection of the idea from Paris. The response is a blow to Italy and Germany who had pushed the idea as a method of combating the flow of migrants from Libya to the Italian coast. The initiative was also backed by the UK, which had put forward similar ideas last year, only to be rebuffed. With human rights groups hostile to the initiative, the revived Italian-German plans met a similar fate yesterday. The French Interior Minister, Dominique de Villepin, said after the meeting at a Florentine villa that "for France, it's out of the question to accept transit camps or shelters of any kind". He added: "It is not for Europe to take this issue forward." Spain's Interior Minister, Jose Antonio Alonso, also expressed opposition, saying the camps would not give humanitarian guarantees. Critics say that refugee centres in countries such as Libya would not be able to guarantee the legal or human rights standards expected in Western Europe. They also argue that they may attract illegal immigrants and people-traffickers in the same way as the Sangatte camp in Calais did. However, the German Interior Minister, Otto Schily, said that setting up the camps would mean migrants would not need to embark on a "life-endangering trip across the Mediterranean, but would have the possibility of making such an application outside the borders of the European Union". The three governments that back the idea must now decide whether to shelve it, to try to win the backing of a total of eight governments and proceed as a group of EU nations, or whether to pursue it outside an EU framework.

    The opposition of France is a significant blow since the government in Paris will be unwilling to see any new area of European co-operation proceed without it. In the wake of yesterday's disagreement, Italy's Interior Minister Giuseppe, Pisanu, made only a general call for the EU to "help transit countries which agree [to co-operate] to control their borders and improve their capacity to repatriate illegal immigrants". Instead, he focused on the backing given by the five interior ministers to plans to introduce digital fingerprinting for EU passports from as early as 2006. David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, attended yesterday's meeting but left early and without speaking at the press conference. A Home Office spokesman said there was "a pressing need to tackle flows of illegal immigration at source, working with countries of origin and transit. "We believe that the focus should be on working with third counties to strengthen their capacity for dealing with migration management." The issue of immigration has been highly sensitive in Rome because of the steady flow of people crossing from Libya aiming for the Italian island of Lampedusa. Each year, tens of thousands make the dangerous crossing often in rickety boats or rubber dinghies. Italy has been criticised for a new policy of quickly repatriating migrants who arrive from Libya - a tactic human rights groups say denies people the chance to apply for asylum. With the onset of autumn, more difficult sailing conditions and the arrival of fewer migrants, the political temperature has lowered in Italy. The European Commission has already agreed to help fund a less controversial project, backed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, designed to help African countries improve their asylum and immigration procedures.
    © Independent Digital

    1/10/2004- A court in southern Russia sentenced three young men to long prison terms on Thursday for the racist killing of an African student, a day after President Vladimir Putin called for more tolerance in society. Footage shown on Russian television showed the court in Voronezh convicting two men aged 20 and 22 and a student of 16 on charges of murder and fomenting racial hatred. The older defendants, both manual workers – one of whom was described as the main "ideologist", were given sentences of 10 and 17 years each. The student was given nine years in jail. A prosecutor was shown setting out testimony that the three had repeatedly struck a medical student from Guinea-Bissau in February and then stabbed him after he had fallen to the ground. Books promoting racial supremacy and demographic policies of Nazi Germany were found at the homes of the trio, former members of the far right-wing Russian National Unity group. In remarks on Wednesday, Putin urged Russians not to give in to hatred he said extremists were trying to encourage to thwart the Kremlin's drive against terrorism – intensified after recent attacks blamed on Chechen separatists. Those attacks have been accompanied by incidents reflecting a rise in brutality and mistrust against people clearly identified as non-Russians. Much of it has been directed at Muslims from southern Russia and nearby ex-Soviet states. The accounts of the Voronezh trial said the defendants only partially admitted guilt. All denied espousing racial hatred. Roman Ledenyov, sentenced to 10 years as an accomplice, told the dead student's relatives he understood the seriousness of the charges. "But please believe us that long sentences will be just as difficult for our families as this is for you," he said from the metal cage used for those accused of serious crimes.
    ©Russia Journal

    15/10/2004- A group of people beat and stabbed a 20-year-old Vietnamese student to death in this northern Russian city, the police said Thursday. The Interfax news agency said the attackers were "presumably skinheads," while the ITAR-Tass news agency called them "extremist-minded thugs." The city police service, which detained six suspects, declined to characterize the attackers. Hundreds of Vietnamese and other Asian students gathered overnight and into daylight Thursday to protest the killing of the student, whom Interfax identified as Vu An Tuang, a first-year student at the St. Petersburg Polytechnic Institute. "How many more deaths?" said one poster held by the protesters. "We only study here. Why do they kill us?" questioned another. Dark-skinned immigrants from the poverty-stricken area that was Soviet Central Asia and from the Caucasus Mountains region, as well as other foreigners in Russia, are frequent targets of violence by skinheads and other extremist groups. The nongovernmental Moscow Bureau of Human Rights estimates that about 50,000 skinheads are active in the country, and human rights groups have accused authorities of doing too little to combat a growing tide of hate crimes. Alexander Zhukov, deputy city prosecutor, said the foreign students had complained about a lack of basic security, including a streetlight at the place where the Vietnamese student was killed. He said that the students alleged that the police did not always react to their complaints. The St. Petersburg authorities said they would take steps to provide security for foreign students.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Is a proposed relaxation of citizenship laws a benefit or a danger for Armenia?
    By Tigran Avetisian, journalist with Aravot newspaper in Yerevan.

    13/10/2004- With parliament soon likely to remove the clause from the Armenian constitution banning dual citizenship, people here are debating what its introduction would mean for the country and the millions of Armenians worldwide. The introduction of dual citizenship could potentially lead to a radical change in the relationship between the Armenian state and the millions of Armenians who live outside it, from Georgia and Russia to the USA and Uruguay. On different calculations, the official population of Armenia is no more than three million, while between seven and ten million Armenians live elsewhere in the world. The issue of what sort of status diaspora Armenians should be given has divided the country since it regained independence in 1991. The constitution of 1995 explicitly outlawed the idea of dual citizenship but the administration of Robert Kocharian, president since 1998, is much warmer towards the concept. Supporters of dual citizenship argue that its introduction would enable the Armenian diaspora to render assistance more effectively, increase foreign investment into the country and in bring expatriate Armenians psychologically closer to their historical motherland. Madlen Minasian, US citizen and director of communications for the Kafeschian charity, said that dual citizenship would inspire many diaspora Armenians like herself, who want to pay back a "debt to the motherland". Minasian is not worried about the technical details of the arrangement, saying "As for military service it is a fairly broad concept. This issue should be sorted out by the authorities. People can pay their debt to the homeland by working in the social or other spheres. "The main thing in passing a law on dual citizenship is the inspiration factor. Thanks to this, the majority of our compatriots living abroad will make a contribution to developing the motherland."

    The nationalist Dashnaktsutiun party, which is a member of the coalition presently in power in Armenia, is the strongest advocate of the plan. Dashnaktsutiun is one of the traditional Armenian parties, which was established at the end of the nineteenth century outside Armenia and remained active in the diaspora throughout the period of Soviet rule. It was only able to start functioning again in 1991. "The lifting of the prohibition on dual citizenship remains one of the most important issues today in the draft of constitutional changes," Armen Rustamian, one of the leaders of Dashnaktsutiun, told IWPR. Opponents of the idea say that it is fraught with unforeseen consequences and could surrender sovereignty to people in other states. Stepan Grigorian, spokesperson for Armat, a political science research centre founded by former officials in the Ter-Petrosian administration, warned, "Dual citizenship cannot be partial or half-and-half, as the present government insists. This makes no sense. Citizenship means having the right to vote and being elected and the danger of this, is that as a result, the government of Armenia could be influenced from abroad." Grigorian argued that by allowing dual citizenship, Armenia could endanger some parts of the Armenian diaspora, "In Georgia, for example, Armenians would come to be seen as a fifth column, as a potential factor of instability." The analyst also pointed out that dual citizenship was only possible where a bilateral agreement could be struck with another country. But this can be problematic. For example, Russia, which has probably the largest Armenian population outside Armenia, allows dual citizenship, but President Vladimir Putin suspended its effect in 2001. "This is a very typical example," said Grigorian, "Russia and Turkmenistan have an agreement on dual citizenship, but it was quickly suspended when problems arose in areas such as military service, and the disclosure of and punishment for criminal offences."

    Tigran Torosian, pro-government deputy speaker of parliament, is one of the strongest supporters of the plans and says that Armenians should not be intimidated by them. "Of course, this does not mean that an individual with dual citizenship should have all the same rights as a citizen living in the Republic of Armenia, particularly regarding the right to vote and the right to be elected," he said. Precise definitions should be codified by additional changes to the constitution or by law, he added. Political scientist, Vardan Pogosian, the deputy chair of the National Democratic Party, proposes a flexible arrangement that sets residence in Armenia as the primary criterion for receiving citizenship. "Let the Armenian diaspora receive dual citizenship, but with regard to political rights, those who do not permanently reside in Armenia should be differentiated from those who do. For those who do decide to live here and make Armenia their home, it would be simply immoral to deprive them of their right to vote and be elected," he said. Pogosian said that this would have to be tightly controlled, "A large number of Armenians live abroad. And if around 10 million foreign Armenians were to receive full Armenian citizenship, then this would mean that special restrictions would need to be imposed during government elections. Eligibility to vote on the competence of the government would apply only to residents of Armenia." Legal expert Hrair Tovmasian said he doubted that diaspora Armenian businessmen would see their status change much under a change of law, as they felt well protected already in Armenia and the authorities tried to keep up good relations with them. The exception, he said, is the right of property ownership, which does not extend to foreigners. Analyst Stepan Grigorian finally pointed out that dual citizenship is a two-way process and will not work without reciprocal steps from other countries. In the Armenian case this could lead to renewed emigration, he warned. "Even to suggest that we sign a dual citizenship agreement with some country, it must be understood that it should not be asymmetrical," Grigorian said. "So, if a French citizen can become an Armenian citizen as well, then an Armenian citizen should be able to become a French citizen. Well, what do you think, in which direction would the flow of people start to go then?'
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    8/10/2004- The lecturers' union Natfhe today criticised universities for dragging their feet over implementing laws concerning race equality in employment. The union is also pressing for new pay agreements being worked out this year to be assessed against race relations legislation, or universities would face a "barrage" of employment tribunal claims. A survey by the funding council Hefce found one in five institutions were making only limited progress towards fulfilling their obligations under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 (RRAA). The survey covered 66 universities and colleges - a further four did not submit reports. "Two-thirds were progressing reasonably or positively. About 13% could be said to be making impressive progress, while around 20% were, for various reasons, more limited in their progress," said the report published last month. The survey looked at institutions' policies on paper, not how well they were being implemented. The head of the union's universities department, Roger Kline, said: "The Hefce report shows that a substantial number of universities are dragging their feet when it comes to monitoring the numbers of black and ethnic minority staff." He said many institutions were still not publishing essential data on the ethnicity of staff. "Even worse, many fall well short of their minimum legal obligations. Some of the worst performers are significant national institutions like Manchester University, which did not even respond to Hefce's survey." He added: "These laws were introduced to challenge institutional racism following the death of Stephen Lawrence. It is four years since the Race Relations Amendment Act was introduced, yet British universities still remain a desperately pale place. The average black full-time lecturer is paid £4,300 less a year than their white counterpart. Universities need to start changing their policies - they're still not doing nearly enough. "Natfhe has formally asked Hefce to instruct universities and colleges to undertake a race impact assessment of their proposals to implement the framework agreement on pay, otherwise employment tribunals may soon be packed to the rafters with higher education discrimination claims." The Hefce report said: "Institutions in areas with larger black and ethnic minority populations tend to have made better progress than those in areas with low black and minority ethnic demographic profiles. While this may not seem surprising, it indicates that some higher education institutions in predominantly white areas are struggling to develop effective ways of attracting staff and/or student candidates from beyond their local communities. "However, a significant number of such institutions are trying new and innovative methods, with positive results, such as targeted advertising in ethnic minority media, recruitment drives in more diverse areas within the region, reviews of recruitment and selection procedures, and commissioned research into the causes of low ethnic minority recruitment." Firm leadership and commitment from senior levels were required to ensure race equality was recognised as a key strand of the equalities agenda, said the report.
    Review of progress in race equality
    ©The Guardian

    9/10/2004- Around 1,000 protesters have been taking part in an anti-racism demonstration in Swansea city centre. The event was organised following the death of an Iraqi Kurd in the city last month. Kalan Kawa Karim, 29, was attacked outside a city centre pub in the early hours of 6 September. A 26-year-old man has appeared in court charged with his murder. More than 40 organisations were represented in the demonstration, which began at the city's Guild Hall. The march stopped for a two-minute silence outside the Potters Wheel pub, where Mr Karim was attacked, and flowers were left on the railings. The march had the backing of the local council, Wales TUC, and members of the Welsh assembly. Swansea council leader Chris Holley and AMs Andrew Davies and Leanne Wood were among those addressing the demonstrators. "The march in Swansea is making an important statement," said Ms Wood, who represents South Wales Central. "To us on this march, racism is abhorrent - we will fight it, and we will defeat it." Martin Chapman from the organising committee said he had been hoping for "a very big protest indeed". And, he added : "Our call has reached all corners of Swansea, our supporters have been addressing school assemblies and leafleting in their streets and workplaces. "Swansea will be united against racism."
    ©BBC News

    12/10/2004- Ministers are determined to press ahead with legislation to set up a single equality body, despite the Commission for Racial Equality's unexpected rejection of the merger with the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission. The deputy minister for women and equality, Jacqui Smith, told the Guardian yesterday that no single body had a veto on the merger and she wanted to put the legislation on the statute book before the general election next year. "All the other equality bodies and business, and the Disability Rights Commission supported the proposals that we consulted on with respect to a single commission," she said. "The priority now is that we make progress, but clearly in a way that reassures the CRE and its stakeholders that actually a new body will strengthen the ability to tackle racism wherever it occurs. But to do that we need to make progress and get on with it. "Nobody has a veto over this process ... But we are looking at and talking to the CRE about all of their concerns and what is going to be necessary in the new body to maintain for all the groups some of the 'strand specific' work that they do. "This is not about saying that all discriminations are the same." Asked if the new body would go ahead without the CRE, she said: "I don't believe we will get into that position." She made it clear that the merging of the discrimination watchdogs into a commission for equality and human rights was not about setting up a new "very big lobby group" but the creation of a "modern light touch regulator". She confirmed that the early work of the new commission would include drawing up a new equality act, which would untangle some of the shortcomings and complexities of the existing discrimination laws. These included the fact that it was not yet illegal to discriminate in employment on the grounds of age. There were "some quite difficult issues, especially about extending [protection against ageism] to the provision of goods, facilities and services. "I would expect the commission to look in detail at these inconsistencies across the legislation and whether and how the consistency might be created between the different groups."Ms Smith confirmed that she expected the bill, to be introduced this autumn, to redeem Labour's 1999 pledge to introduce a wider duty on the public sector to promote equality between men and women. This would put equal opportunities work on the same footing as the new duty on public bodies to promote racial equality. The role of the new equality and human rights commission was boosted by Tony Blair's announcement in his Labour conference speech of the decision to extend the ban on religious discrimination to the provision of goods, facilities and services.
    ©The Guardian

    12/10/2004- English football clubs and governing bodies could face legal action if they fail to tackle racism at management and administration level. Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said clubs that fail to comply with an anti-racism action plan launched yesterday would be dealt with using the CRE's statutory powers. He was speaking at the launch of a CRE report which reveals that English football has failed to tackle racism within its clubs and governing bodies. The report, which coincides with the Kick Racism out of Football week of action, found that despite strong ethnic minority representation among players, the overwhelming majority of managers and administrators are white. Questionnaires circulated among all 92 Premiership and Football League clubs found that less than 1% of off-field positions, including boardroom posts, managers and coaching staff, were held by non-white employees. There are only three non-white managers among the 92 clubs, and every member of the Football Association's board and its 92-member governing council is white. The game has a familiar problem with its recruitment policies: 75% of clubs operate informal systems that contribute to the lack of ethnic minority representation. The majority of professional clubs have no equal opportunities training, and many also lack suitable policies. In a demonstration of the priority given to equal opportunities within football, 25% of clubs did not respond to the questionnaire.

    "Football's authorities and clubs are not taking racism seriously enough," Mr Phillips said. "They are clearly not doing enough to promote equal opportunities off the pitch and remove the barriers that prevent ethnic minorities working at all levels of the sport. "And despite efforts by clubs and organisations, racism still remains a problem on the terraces and prevents black and Asian supporters going along to matches to support their teams." The CRE yesterday also announced details of an action plan which has been agreed to by the major stakeholders in the game, including the FA, the Premier League and the Football League. Under its terms, clubs will have to adopt an equal opportunities policy by July 2005, review recruitment policy by November 2005, tackle under-representation by April 2006, and submit to evaluation by a review team led by the FA. Recruitment is a particular concern, particularly at county FA level where an "if your face fits" approach leads to traditional hierarchies being reinforced. Mr Phillips warned that if clubs did not comply then action would be taken. "The game has to reform itself," he said. "Nothing will change unless people act, and the first thing to do is for clubs and administrators to write down what the real picture is. "If we get two years down the line and people have not met the action plan they have to realise this is not because they didn't know they had to, it's because they didn't want to, and we are playing a different game with those people." Jonathan Hall, director of governance at the FA, welcomed the report and said it was right to recognise the lack of representation of ethnic minorities. "The report obviously highlights areas where there is room for improvement and we recognise that," he said. The sports minister, Richard Caborn, said the government supported the week of action and was confident that the CRE's plan of action would be embraced. "We have come a long way on the terraces and we need now to build that into it," he said of the report findings.
    ©The Guardian

    15/10/2004- The crisis over claims by Italy's incoming EU Justice and Home Affairs commissioner that homosexuality is "a sin" deepened yesterday, as his future colleague, Peter Mandelson, described the remarks as "unwise". Mr Mandelson, who is due to take up the post of Trade commissioner in November, intervened as pressure mounted on Rocco Buttiglione, whose views have infuriated MEPs. Speaking to the BBC at a conference in Budapest, Mr Mandelson said that it was "unwise" of Mr Buttiglione to express his views on homosexuality during a confirmation hearing conducted by MEPs. Some arguments were best deployed in academic seminars rather than at political gatherings, Mr Mandelson added. The row has raised the prospect of a clash between the European Parliament and the new European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, who has so far stood by Mr Buttiglione. Yesterday, there was speculation that Mr Buttiglione, a staunch Roman Catholic, would stand down after he said he would rather renounce his job than compromise his principles. However, his aides later said these words were not meant to imply he was thinking of quitting. On Monday, a committee of MEPs rejected the candidature of Mr Buttiglione. Although they cannot get rid of an individual, they can vote down the whole European Commission on 27 October. This nuclear option is unlikely, however, because the parliament is splitting down party lines and centre-right MEPs are likely to target socialist commissioners-designate in retaliation for the attacks on Mr Buttiglione. However, many MEPs are incensed that Mr Barroso appears intent on ignoring the first ever clear vote by a committee against an individual. Most believe Mr Barroso will have to either strip Mr Buttiglione of the civil liberties aspects of his job, or give additional undertakings to ensure that fundamental rights are safeguarded. Martin Schulz, the leader of the socialist group in the European Parliament - the second largest bloc of MEPs - said of Mr Buttiglione: "His comments on women and gay people make him entirely unsuited to the role allocated to him. You cannot build a Europe for the 21st century based on 19th-century values." He added if Mr Barroso fails to take action regarding Mr Buttiglione, "we will propose that the socialist group vote against confirmation of the new Commission". Graham Watson, the leader of the 88-member Liberal Democrat group, has said he may not be able to back the Commission, and Greens, left-wingers and Eurosceptics are likely to vote "no". The row is a blow to Mr Barroso who had discretion to allocate all 24 portfolios in the Commission. MEPs have criticised other appointments, including that of the incoming Competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes, who has had to deny her wide business links could cause a conflict of interest. Mr Mandelson's comments reflect the wider disdain for Mr Buttiglione's remarks. The Swedish premier, Goran Persson, has accused him of"sensational lack of judgement". At his hearing in the parliament, Mr Buttiglione described homosexuality as "a sin", but said he would uphold the rights of gays. He also argued that the aim of marriage was "to allow women to have children and to have the protection of a male". In an interview on Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Buttiglione said: "I don't know if I have the faith to have my head cut off for my beliefs, but I have enough faith to renounce a job in the Commission if need be."
    © Independent Digital

    In the Anamorava region, the survival of ethnically-mixed workplaces and villages defies stereotypical images of a segregated society.
    By Lumnije Berisha, Dardan Bekteshi and Srdjan Antic in Kamenica/Dardane and Gnjilane/Gjilan

    8/10/2004- The backs of Serb villagers in Kusce, 47 kilometres south-east of Pristina, are twisted from years of carrying heavy churns, full of milk, to the village square. There, they line up in front of the KABI dairy, owned by Ruzhdi Kastrati, which makes yogurt and other diary products in Kosovo. Jovan Milic, 50, admits he was once sceptical about working with Albanian traders. "I doubted I would get paid on time, as we don't have much contact with Albanians," he said. "But when I saw people were getting paid on time and the fee was attractive, I decided to stop making cheese. It pays better to sell milk to this Albanian factory." The ethnically-integrated workforce in Kusce may sound unusual in Kosovo, which is better known throughout the world for bitter divisions. But the dairy in Kusce is only one of several examples in south-east Kosovo of Albanians and Serbs coming together more readily than they do elsewhere. Ethnic relations deteriorated sharply in Kosovo when Slobodan Milosevic's regime took power and scrapped Kosovo's autonomy in 1989, forcing most Albanians out of their jobs in the public sector. Since the end of the 1999 NATO bombing campaign, which resulted in Serbian forces withdrawing from Kosovo, the remaining Serbs have lived mainly in closely guarded enclaves, fearing retaliation when they venture outside. The number of Serbs south of the main enclave that lies on the Serbian border is not known exactly. The European Stability Initiative, however, in a report in May, estimated that they make up some 75,000 of the 130,000 Kosovo Serb population. The usual picture is that there is almost no interaction between the communities. But that does not correspond with the situation in the area known as Anamorava, lying on the Morava river valley. Apart from Gnjilane/Gjilan town, Anamorava covers three other municipalities, namely, Kamenice, Novo Brdo and Viti/Vitina. The area is far more ethnically mixed than any other in Kosovo, about 30 per cent of the population being non-Albanian, including Serbs, Roma, Ashkali and Croats.

    The Borovci Brothers brick factory, 15 km south-east of Gjilan, is another example of an ethnically mixed workforce. Mustafe Borovci, the director, says the Gnjilane/Gjilan municipality retained an ethnically mixed staff as a condition of its purchase from the Kosovo Trust Agency, KTA, which the UN has charged with selling off Kosovo's socially-owned firms. "Since 2002 when we won the bid to buy the factory, we have fulfilled the part of the agreement obliging us to employ equal numbers of Albanians and Serbs," Borovci said. Borovci says he fired two non-Albanian staff since then, both Romas, but not for reasons related to their ethnic background. "They were not eager to work," he said. "The main condition for employment in this factory, apart from being a good worker, is to agree not to discuss politics." One of his youngest employees, Marko Markovic, 20, from the nearby village of Birivojce, said in two years of work in the factory he had encountered no problems from Albanian colleagues. "We don't talk politics - we just talk about our everyday matters and tell jokes," Markovic said. The language of communication between the workers is Serbian, which is rarely heard in towns in Kosovo these days. Marko stressed that both sides freely agreed to use Serbian. "The Albanians don't mind using Serbian, as they know Serbian better than we know Albanian," he added. Arsim Krasniqi, 31, an Albanian employee, agreed that cooperation had proved preferable to confrontation. "We can't ignore each other - that's a part of life," he said. "We have accepted that fact." Nazim Qehaja, 50, admitted that the setup in the Gjilan brick factory was far from representative of inter-ethnic relations in the rest of Kosovo. "If people in Drenica could see how we work here with Serbs, they would be surprised," he said, referring to the central region of Kosovo that has traditionally harbored rebel movements, including the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, which led the fight against Serb rule in the 1990s.

    But in south-east Kosovo, apart from examples of mixed working environments, there are also villages comprising Serbs and Albanians who maintain social contact. Pointing to his physical proximity to his Serbian neighbour, Ramush Latifi, 54, a driver from the village of Kmetovc, said, "You see this wall? This is the only thing separating my house from Stojko's – nothing else." His neighbour, Stojko Totic, 74, a pensioner, said cordial relations between their two families dated back at least a hundred years. "In our village, Serbs and Albanians always lived together with mutual respect," Totic said. "I don't know what it is like in other villages." Ramush Latifi maintained that Stojko's 30 years of working experience in far away England had a lot to do with his ability to accept Albanian neighbours. "He became more western and doesn't care about politics," he said. Latifi and Totic agreed also that Albanians in the Gjilan/Gnjilane area are more ready to co-exist with Serbs than Albanians elsewhere in Kosovo, largely because there was less killing in this region in the 1999 conflict, compared to other areas. Stojko's nephew, Novica Stojkovic, 40, said local Serbs do not feel threatened by their Albanian village neighbors but by Albanian newcomers in the towns. "We live peacefully here because we are all natives," he said. "Our families have known each other for hundreds of years. But among newcomers, feelings of hatred towards Serbs are more prominent." The two-day wave of ethnic violence in Kosovo in March, which left 19 dead and more than 4,000 displaced, did not leave the Anamorava region untouched. A villager from Kusce, who did not want to be identified, said at the height of the violence on March 17 he was attacked by an angry mob in Urosevac/Ferizaj and beaten up. His Albanian assailants appeared to be retaliating against an attack on Albanians in the northern town of Mitrovica, which occurred on the same day. "It was the scariest moment in my life as when the riots happened I was stuck in a traffick jam in Urosevac and some Albanians recognised me as a Serb and attacked my car," said the 25-year-old. According to the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe, OSCE, the March riots displaced about 200 Serbs in south-east Kosovo, and some 40 houses in the Gjilan/Gnjilane area were burned. The return of displaced people in Kosovo, most of whom are Serbs, is a precondition for the opening of discussions on the final status of Kosovo, expected to begin in mid-2005. But in the Anamorava region, most Serbs who have not already left Kosovo, seem to have accepted a future involving peaceful co-habitation with Albanian neighbours, whatever Kosovo's future status may be. "No matter what the resolution of our final status is, we will just say ‘Amen'," Stojko Totic said.
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    Serbs, in particular, lack basic physical security in what remains a violent environment
    By Marek Antoni Nowicki, Ombudsperson for Kosovo

    8/10/2004- As you read this article, you are likely to be going about a "normal" day at work, getting dressed, drinking coffee or tea, or perhaps preparing children for school. At the back of your mind, worries about running late may be making you feel uneasy. Perhaps you lack help with paying bills or household tasks. Then there are those of you who are unemployed, frustrated and worried, who are searching for work or business in the newspapers or via friendly contacts. For non-Albanian communities in Kosovo, mainly Kosovo Serbs, however, going about a normal day triggers far more palpable anxieties - security concerns and fear. On an average day, preparing children for school often means relying on an escort, sometimes by Kosovo Protection Forces, KFOR, teams or by the local police. Not long ago, it was common to see Serb children walking to school laughing and behaving without a care, while an armoured vehicle followed only few meters behind. Going to work also means little. Too few non-Albanians are meaningfully employed. Those who are employed are limited by what they can do outside their village enclaves, provided an escort is available. Others who have farmland go about their work only under the watchful eye of KFOR forces. A military presence is not always readily available, prompting families to hold back from sending children to school if it lies outside the village enclave. Without protection, Serb farmers are inclined to stay away from their lands, many of which have been abandoned because of security concerns. In some cases, the land is worked by armed neighbouring Albanian farmers. We are talking about the year 2004, not 1999. Ethnic tensions create a very real security situation in Kosovo that is aggravated by the perceived lack of safety among vulnerable non-Albanians. Over the past five years, Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanians have relied heavily on the military protection of KFOR to feel safe. Coming to terms with why and how they have reached this point is crucial. It is of particular importance when one is reminded that peacekeepers will remain in the province only for a finite period. What then?

    The feeling of insecurity among Kosovo Serbs and other non-Albanians is based on past negative experiences of violence. How secure can people be expected to feel in their village enclaves when over the last five years they have suffered a series of violent acts? In addition to random killings, there have been assaults, bombings, thefts and incidents of arson and stoning. Seldom have perpetrators been identified or brought to justice, contributing to a perception that these acts can be committed with impunity. One of my Serb interlocutors, who lives not far from Pristina, was robbed nearly a dozen times in the last few years. He was a prosperous farmer but now all his equipment, machinery and livestock, down to the last cow, have been stolen. He reported each theft to the police but they failed to identify any suspects. The police complained that no one cooperated to locate the suspects. Repeated failures like these on the part of law enforcement officials have further undermined any perception of security and trust among this segment of society. During many discussions about security in Kosovo, I have heard too frequently, even from politicians, that security is the responsibility of KFOR and the police forces of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK. Of course, KFOR and the UNMIK authorities play a considerable role in this respect, but true security can only be supplied by one's neighbours and surrounding communities. A recent appeal made by the troubled Ashkali people of Vushtrri/Vucitrn underlines this point. After returning in 2002, following a call from the UNMIK authorities, the families were again forced from their homes in March, when they again lost all their material possessions. For the past six months, these families have been living in the confines of a French military base for their own protection. After failed attempts to relocate outside Kosovo, several of these families appealed to Kosovo municipal leaders, asking not for extra security precautions but simply for acceptance by their neighbours. They are right. Their neighbours can be the only real custodians of their safety.

    Building up feelings of security is a long process. The violent events of March significantly (if not irreparably) damaged confidence-building measures made between these embattled communities. The latest wave of violence left a traumatic emotional imprint and painfully reminded non-Albanian communities of 1999, when violent reprisals against Serbs and Roma were at an all-time high. On several occasions, victims of the March violence told me they would not feel safe in their newly-rebuilt homes. The EU High Representative Javier Solana, on a recent visit to Kosovo, said, "Schools and houses have been rebuilt but I want to see people returning and living there. If people do not live in these houses, the work remains unfinished." This "unfinished job" is directly related to security perceptions. It also means efforts to change this perception. This is a long, complicated, multi-dimensional, process. The March events showed that violence in Kosovo may reappear at anytime. Small-scale acts of violence and attacks have, in fact, continued unabated in various places, even though KFOR troops have deemed the security situation to be "relatively calm" and have scaled back their troop presence in favour of other global priorities. In the final analysis, March demonstrated how easy it was to destroy the relative "calm" that prevails on the surface of Kosovo's society. From a post-March perspective, we can see this proved misleading to many of the international players.
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    10/10/2004- A German court has ruled that a regional ban on Muslim teachers wearing headscarves in state schools must also apply to Christian nuns, reports say. The south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg passed a law in April, preventing teachers from wearing Islamic-style headscarves. But Germany's highest administrative court says the law must apply to all faiths, Der Spiegel magazine reports. Last year, the Constitutional Court said states could ban headscarves.

    No exceptions
    "Exceptions for certain forms of religiously motivated clothing in certain regions are out of the question," the federal judges of the Federal Administrative Court wrote in their ruling as quoted by Der Spiegel, in an advance copy of its Monday issue. A copy of the ruling was not available. The court's decision means that nuns, who often work in state schools in the predominantly Roman Catholic Black Forest region of Baden-Wuerttemberg, will have to remove their habits before going into classrooms. But the author of the legislation in Baden-Wuerttemberg, law professor Ferdinand Kirchhof, said the nuns' habits were "professional uniforms" and so not subject to the ban. Baden-Wuerttemberg's parliament - dominated by a coalition of the opposition Christian Democratic Union and liberal Free Democrats - backed the legislation almost unanimously. Another five out of 16 states are in the process of passing similar legislation. The issue has been fiercely debated in Germany since Fereshta Ludin, who was denied a job in Baden-Wuerttemberg in 1998 because she wore a headscarf in school, went to court. She argued that the German constitution guaranteed her religious freedom. Last September, the federal Constitutional Court ruled by five votes to three that, under current laws, she could wear the scarf. But it also said new laws could be passed by individual states banning them if they were deemed to unduly influence pupils. In France, there is similar controversy about a ban on the wearing of religious symbols by pupils in state schools.
    ©BBC News

    10/10/2004- Banking on their success in recent state elections, the leaders of Germany's right-wing extremist parties have said that their groups will form a coalition during the 2006 national election. Udo Voigt, the leader of Germany's far-right National Party (NPD) told German newsmagazine Der Spiegel that his group would merge with the German People's Union (DVU) led by Gerhard Frey. "We have agreed to run on a common platform," Voigt said, adding that he would meet with Frey this week to finalize the agreement and come up with a name for the new coalition. The two parties managed to win seats in the eastern German states of Brandenburg and Saxony in elections in September, partly because they had agreed not to run against each other: While the DVU campaigned in Brandenburg, the NPD focused on Saxony. That success convinced party leaders to push for a permanent cooperation, Frey told Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper in an interview on Saturday. "We're recommending that DVU and NPD will not compete, but unite forces in state, national and European elections," he said. NPD leadership to include neo-Nazis Voigt also confirmed reports that his party was planning to include known neo-Nazis in its leadership. He said the two men, Thomas Wulff and Thorsten Heise, were expected to help attract young people to the party. "It's a signal for many young people that they shouldn't just have fun on the streets, but should participate in the political process," Voigt said.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    11/10/2004- Many young asylum seekers who arrive in Norway alone have virtually no support systems around them and live under circumstances that wouldn't be allowed by juvenile authorities. One child welfare group wants responsibility for them taken away from immigration officials. The Norwegian chapter of the international group Save the Children (Redd Barna) claims in a new report that state juvenile authorities should look after the young refugees, and offer them the care any other Norwegian child would receive if left without parents or guardians. Many of the underage refugees have fled war and violence in their homelands, but get little or any comfort or support when they arrive in Norway. One 16-year-old boy who escaped from the Taliban in Afghanistan four years ago wound up left completely alone in an asylum center in Bardu, when all the staff there took off for Christmas holidays. He has no doubt what refugees like himself need: "Good, close contact personnel, people who understand a bit of psychology and who can teach us a few things about how to live in Norway," Safir Taghizadeh told newspaper Aftenposten. He hopes the new report by Redd Barna will help others avoid the cold reception he met on arrival. So does Redd Barna head Gro Brækken. "These children are afraid, distraught and lonely," she told Aftenposten. "They don't get any peace, any structure or any privacy in asylum centers that are designed for adults and poorly staffed as it is." Brækken believes young refugees should immediately be placed under the care of juvenile authorities, adding that many would be better off in foster homes while their cases are being processed, instead of asylum centers. Simply granting more funds won't solve the problem, she says. "This will demand more staffing, development of competence and it will cost a few million kroner," Brækken said. "But the result would be that underage refugees would enjoy the same rights as other children without parents in Norway."

    7/10/2004- Lesbian parents Carla and Marie-Laure recently made French legal history by winning the right to raise their three young children. But here they tell Beatriz Lecumberri that official recognition is one thing, popular acceptance quite another. "We just want to show that we are a normal family and that our girls are growing up in a happy environment," Marie-Laure said as she and Carla served breakfast to Giulietta, Luana and Zelina, all conceived by artificial insemination. On July 2, 2004, a Paris judge set a precedent by officially recognising the lesbian couple's union, granting them permission to establish "a legal link between each of the parents and the children as well as joint exercise of parental authority". In the family home, full of drawings, toys and photographs of the children, the talk is all about the new school term, dancing lessons and the birthday party of the little girl next door. "Much of French society lives in a bubble, and judges us from afar without knowing anything about us and without imagining that we have a much happier life than so-called happy families," said Carla, a 46-year-old photographer and adoptive mother of the three girls. Their victory was obtained in two steps. A judgement on June 27, 2002 first made it possible for Carla to adopt the children that her partner Marie-Laure had borne. Then a further judgement on July 2 this year gave them shared parental custody. "We have always told our daughters that a dad gave his little seed so that they could be born but that they are the fruit of years of reflection and profound love, because two women can love each other as much as a man and a woman. They know we are atypical but not abnormal," said Marie-Laure, 45, a graphic artist. Much of French society lives in a bubble, and judges us without imagining we have a much happier life than so-called happy families To those who accuse the couple of living in a "world of women" where their daughters, aged 10, 7 and 5 will grow up hating and rejecting men, both women respond by bringing out albums full of photos of uncles, cousins, teachers, neighbours and pals from school.

    With no appeal in the case forthcoming from state prosecutors within the statutory period, the verdict in favour of the couple took legal effect in mid-August. The judge ruled that the two women provided the children with "the attention appropriate to their age with care and love." But neither woman thinks that a legal precedent has been set. "We even believe that given the negative reaction of some members of the government, other couples will have even more problems, because there will be measures put in place to prevent a positive outcome." "The school head teacher, our parents and neighbours have all spoken up in our favour...the judge did not give in to prejudice and decided that we were good mothers," said Carla, adding: "even if some people think that society will shortly collapse as a result." The two women remember all too well the initial rejection they were confronted with from the parents of other children at the school and the stony silence that greeted their children when they arrived at the kindergarten. Today, many of these same people have thanked Carla and Marie-Laure for showing them the reality of a loving lesbian couple and have congratulated them on their legal victory. "Mentalities change and the law has to change with them," Carla said. In this family, when a child shouts "Mum" there are always two people ready to react.
    ©Expatica News

    15/10/2004- French lawmakers clashed Thursday over Turkey's potential membership in the European Union in a closely watched parliamentary debate emblematic of the soul-searching the issue has prompted across the Continent. From geography to geopolitics, advocates and skeptics argued for three hours over the pros and cons of starting membership talks with the predominantly Muslim country on Europe's southeastern fringe. But most appeared to agree on one thing: It was largely a symbolic exercise since there was no formal vote at the conclusion of the session in the National Assembly, France's lower house of Parliament. In his opening comments, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin sought to play down the divisions by stressing that Turkish accession would not happen for at least a decade. "Neither Europe nor Turkey are ready for membership," Raffarin told the National Assembly. "Turkey remains very far from Europe today, politically, economically and socially." But the prime minister added that a stable and democratic Turkey was in France's interests. Five months after the EU welcomed 10 new, mostly Eastern European countries in its midst, the question of Turkey's potential accession has split several European countries down the middle. But nowhere has it penetrated the political agenda as profoundly as in France. With polls showing that three-quarters of the French people are opposed to Turkey's 40-year attempt to join the EU, French public opinion is among the most hostile across the union.

    President Jacques Chirac, who is in favor, is finding himself at odds with many legislators from across the political spectrum. Thursday's parliamentary debate, demanded by members of his own center-right party in anticipation of the decision by European leaders on Dec. 17 on whether to allow Turkey to formally begin membership talks, was widely perceived to be a ploy by the president to appease opponents of Turkey's entry without giving them a real say. According to Michel Rocard, the former Socialist prime minister, the debate is less about Turkey, than about France itself. As unemployment remains stuck near the 10 percent mark and politicians are stepping up their rhetoric about companies taking jobs to countries with lower wage costs, the French are deeply concerned about globalization in general and European enlargement in particular, Rocard said. "What's happening here is a psychodrama - Turkey is more a scapegoat than anything else," said Rocard, a member of the European Parliament and also a member of the Independent Commission on Turkey, a pro-Turkish panel of former European officials and other leaders. "Turkish accession has become a catch-phrase for all the doubts the French have about the European Union these days," he said in an interview. In a measure of how entangled Turkey has become with the wider European debate, France's opposition Socialist Party agreed on Tuesday to a series of conditions under which it would back Turkish membership. The EU should not enlarge further, the party said, unless it reformed its institutions, boosted its budget and laid the groundwork for fiscal harmonization, a catalogue of France's failed demands during talks on the draft constitution in June. There is another reason why the French may have greater reservations toward Turkish entry than many other Europeans: France has the largest Muslim population across the EU - five million citizens, mostly of North African origin.

    The failure to fully integrate immigrants, leaving many stuck in run-down suburban areas with high unemployment and crime, has clouded the issue of Turkish accession, said André Kaspi, a history professor at the Sorbonne. From the recent debate about banning Muslim head scarves in public schools to concern about terrorist cells in France, many worry that Turkish entry may lead to an influx of radical Islam into the EU, Kaspi said. Such worry surfaced in sharp exchanges during Thursday's parliamentary debate. François Bayrou, whose Union for French Democracy opposes Turkish membership, said it would weaken the EU's political unity. A leading Socialist legislator, Jean-Marc Ayrault, countered that skeptics were conducting "politics of fear," instead of realizing that Turkish membership would demonstrate that Islam and democracy were compatible. While in Britain, Ireland and Italy as well as Scandinavia and most of Eastern Europe the debate has caused little controversy, in Germany, Austria and the Benelux countries it has also turned into a fierce battle of the minds. Unlike in France, where both main parties are split over Turkish accession, in Germany it has firmly pitched the governing Social Democrats against the opposition Christian Democrats. Germany has Europe's largest Turkish population. "The main challenge in Europe today is to define Europe's identity," Kaspi said. "What is a European? Where does Europe end?"
    ©International Herald Tribune

    14/10/2004- European Parliament president Josep Borrell Thursday furiously attacked a French far-right member of the European Parliament who questioned the existence of Nazi gas chambers used in the Holocaust. National Front member Bruno Gollnisch had this week said that "historians might question the number of deaths" in the Nazi genocide of the Jews and on the gas chambers' existence, said: "It is up to historians to decide." Borrell condemned "in the firmest possible manner" the remarks by Gollnisch, who was speaking on Monday in his home city of Lyon in response to a report on Holocaust denial by French historian Henry Rousso. The head of the European Union assembly, calling for Gollnisch to be prosecuted, told a news conference that the remarks "revolt us, insult us, shock us". "Mr Gollnisch, be aware that I'm shamed to have heard a European deputy put in doubt by such scandalous affirmations the existence of the gas chambers... One cannot deny history, one cannot contest the Holocaust," Borrell said. "I hope that you will be answerable to justice for these calumnies." The controversy sparked by Gollnisch recalls a huge row that erupted in 1987 when National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen described the gas chambers as a "detail of history".
    ©Expatica News

    15/10/2004— Amid a turbulent week for the Dutch gay community, better news came on Thursday with the announcement that a new federation representing both young and immigrant gays will be launched in The Hague on 9 November. The former chairman of The Hague wing of gay lobby group COC, John Blankenstein, said there was insufficient representation at the moment for immigrant and young gays. He said the furore surrounding gay youth magazine Expreszo this week had demonstrated this once again. Many Christian and immigrant schools refused to accept or trashed the Education Ministry-funded magazine, prompting an investigation. The distribution of the magazine was designed to reduce discrimination against gays and lesbian students and teachers in schools. The matter prompted the Social and Cultural Planning Office to demand a new study into the feared decline in acceptance of gay people in the Netherlands. The demand won backing from the Dutch Parliament. But some schools said that the magazine was rejected because of its content rather than the subject matter. A "tolerance test" in the magazine included questions in relation to seeing a neighbour having sex with a goat and gave a multiple choice answer involving Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende masturbating. Meanwhile, Blankenstein said accounts of physical violence in schools, spitting at gay teens and abuse are never found in official reports. He asserted that the country has not yet achieved the level of gay emancipation that politicians claim, despite the fact that gay marriages have been legalised. The new federation will campaign for the acceptance of the newest generation of gay people. Blankenstein said his generation finally dared to walk the streets without shame after 30 years of work and that it should not take another 30 years for the new generation — both native Dutch and immigrant — to do the same. But Blankenstein warned that young and immigrant gays will need to take the campaign up themselves. "As an individual, you get nowhere in these sorts of matters. You must combine forces," he said.
    ©Expatica News

    11/10/2004— Dutch Education Minister Maria van der Hoeven has launched an investigation into why dozens of secondary schools refused to accept copies of gay magazine Expreszo last week. Some schools dumped issues of the magazine in paper recycling bins. At least 400,000 copies of the gay youth magazine were distributed — partly with ministry funding — to almost every Dutch secondary school at the start of October. The initiative was designed to educate people about the problem of discrimination against gays in the education system. But a large number of schools refused to accept the magazines, sent them back or threw them into the rubbish or recycling bins out of concern the publication would provoke negative reactions from students and parents. Christian schools and schools with a large migrant student body took the lead in rejecting the magazine. A majority of Dutch MPs are concerned about the discrimination against gay students and teachers and will discuss the issue on Tuesday. The Liberal VVD, Labour PvdA, green-left GroenLinks and Democrat D66 parties have asked Education State Secretary Clemence Ross to allocate more funding to the issue. Both Van der Hoeven and Ross have said they have made combating discrimination of gays and lesbians in school a priority and they want to know why the Expreszo magazines were discarded, newspaper Algemeen Dagblad reported. The government ministers have placed the responsibility on the schools themselves. But they are also demanding that the schools explain whether they are rejecting the idea of showing homosexuality in a better light or are opposed to the approach used in the magazine. Besturenraad, the organisation of Christian education, has accused the government of acting "extremely carelessly" in assisting with the distribution of the magazine. It said the way in which it was done was "unbelievably dumb", claiming the magazine arrived unannounced with normal post, news agency ANP reported Monday. But magazine Editor-in-Chief Merijn Henfling had said on Saturday that "it appears again that there are still many schools where students are better off not saying they are gay", news agency Novum reported. Henfling is keen to learn from schools how they wish to tackle the intolerance of young gays and lesbians. He said this discussion could be prompted by placing the Expreszo magazine in school canteens. The magazine includes interviews with celebrities about their image of homosexuality, a photo page depicting gay couples kissing and a tolerance test. The magazine is now distributing gay-friendly stickers to students via its website, which recorded a quintuple increase in visitors on Sunday.
    ©Expatica News

    By Jeroen Bosch

    13/10/2004- On 5 June this year, the police of The Hague violently broke up an attempt by 350 anti- fascists to block a demonstration by a ragbag of fascist Nederlandse Volks Unie (Dutch People's Union) members and supporters. To halt the protest, the police had to arrest 330 of the anti-fascists and, in so doing, discard all the guidelines for non-violence and for public safety that they usually apply. So what happened? Officially, the slogan of the NVU-demo was "Against US aggression" but, just a day before the D-Day commemoration, it was turned in a retro-protest against the Allied landings in Normandy in June 1944 that signalled the beginning of the end of Hitler's Third Reich. The nazis – sixty from Belgium and Germany including a pitiful 30 from the Netherlands itself – walked through an empty park in The Hague, surrounded by police in riot gear, and carried a banner with the slogan "Combat Zionist Oppression". The demonstration itself was an open display of antisemitism, with Constant Kusters, the NVU's leader, claiming before the demonstration that the Jews‚ control the US government. Although the police confiscated a flag with a Celtic cross, the international symbol for White Power among Nazis, all manner of nazi symbolism was on show, including the Wolfsangel, Triskels (swastikas with three legs), the number 88 (Heil Hitler), SS Death's Heads and T- shirts from Blood & Honour Deutschland which is outlawed in Germany. Even the Celtic cross-flag was displayed again by the Belgian Groen Rechts contingent headed by Wolf Kuss. And, for the occasion, two of the Germans present wore Waffen SS uniforms. Despite all this, the police did not intervene, saying said that the "boundaries of tolerance were not in any way broken". This happens every time a nazi demonstration is staged in the Netherlands: the police always promise to step in and confiscate "racist material or slogans", but they never do, hiding behind operational complications and claiming "it was too dangerous to go in and arrest people". Maybe this time, however, they were too busy bashing anti-fascists who dared to exercise their legal right to show disagreement with the mayor of the Hague's decision to let nazis parade freely in the streets and to oppose the ideas, intimidation and mobilisation of fascism.

    After 350 anti-fascists had gathered in the centre of The Hague for a legal counter- demonstration and occupied the nazi march route, The Hague police, in full riot gear, surrounded the crowd and, with plain clothes police and police horses, laid into the anti- fascists, lashing out with fists, batons and boots and trying to make arrests. As was to be expected, several people were injured, one with a broken arm, and had to attend to hospital. Over 330 anti-fascists were arrested. Some of these were threatened and insulted in police cells before being sent home with fines. Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) has denied that the behaviour of the anti-fascists was aggressive and emphasised that it only acted in self-defence. It has also gathered witness statements about the police violence and presented them to the city mayor and all parties on the city council. All the arrested anti-fascists were fined which means they can be prosecuted if they do not pay. AFA is now providing legal help to those arrested and will assist if the police decide to go for mass prosecutions and trials. More likely, however, is the prospect that the public prosecutor will throw out the charges because of a lack of evidence. The complaints of the protesters are, nevertheless, very serious and charge that the police violence was deliberate and unprovoked, that the plain-clothes police wanted to fight, inviting people to resist and that police did not allow those injured to get first aid. Some demonstrators were knocked unconscious from blows to the head. One badly injured anti-fascist was dragged along the ground by the feet and up onto a bus by the police, hitting his head on every step. The bus driver, however, did not want to deliver him to the police station because he "did not want him to die" in the bus. The victim was then dragged out again to be told: "Then you can die here, you bastard". Later he was taken away in an ambulance, but was arrested again, only being released at a train station in the middle of the night.

    Those arrested and carted off to police stations say that the humiliation and insulting continued there, even if the violence lessened. Some people were held handcuffed for four hours and ignored and taunted when they needed a toilet or medicines. Other insults by the police shocked even hardened anti-fascists. For example, when one group of arrested anti-fascists was led away, one of the police snarled: "Now we go to the gas chambers". Another one said "these people don't belong in this society and remarks like "Can we beat them up again?" and "Left scum" were also heard. In the end, people were released without having spoken to a lawyer and banners and placards were confiscated, as well as the car that AFA had used for the sound equipment (the latter subsequently sawn into pieces by the police) and some buckets in which AFA had collected money among the demonstrators. A considerable number of personal items belonging to demonstrators also "disappeared". The fear now is that the police are trying to close the book on the events of 5 June and that their behaviour on the day might mark the adoption of new, and much more brutal than previously, tactics to deal with anti-fascists.

    In the second article in our series on Dutch residence permits, Mindy Ran talks to some expats who have wrestled with the application process. Most of people interviewed requested that their names not be used because the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) was given the opportunity to respond. It has not done so.

    14/10/2004- The majority have had a rough time; catch 22s, contradictory information, unduly long procedures, mistakes, inability to find basic information, and an IND staff who seem to be ignorant of their own policies, to name but a few. The latest legal and administrative change, in a long series of changes, occurred on 1 October this year. It was aimed specifically at streamlining the process for foreign professionals by abolishing the need for a work permit for non-EU expats earning over EUR 45,000 per year. But, as one of our readers discovered, it is not yet quite as simple as that. As a self-employed IT professional from the US, one of our readers was used to problems and catch 22's. This is his third year in the country. "You have to sort of go into business without actually being permitted to go into business," he explains. Waiting for a permit meant that he was unable to work for the first year. When he applied for renewal, the IND sent a letter asking why he had no income. Now he is hoping to qualify for the new ruling that abolishes work permits. "I contacted Expatica because the information I received is ridiculous," he says, referring to a phone conversation with the IND help desk, after October 1, about the new procedures. "They said that while this is the law – the details have not been clarified, the procedures have not been decided, and the exact rules have not been written." He was told he would have to wait until the 1 January to apply for work, but in the meantime the new work permit rule would probably be applied to the top 50 Dutch companies only. This reader has a problem with giving unfair advantages to large companies while ignoring middle to small companies; "Capital is supposed to be capital, there is not supposed to be special interest."

    Another of our reader's fits the professional profile yet even he has been lost in confusing and conflicting information. It all started out well enough for this seasoned banker from the UK; he arrived with a work contract for a large bank in April. Within the first few days he had received a Sofi number and had his passport was stamped by the then still existent Foreign Police, or Vreemdelingpolitie. "That's when it all went terrible," he says. "Opening a bank account was a nightmare. If this is the way they treat a new senior employee – what the hell are they doing to the paying customers?" Unfortunately, he arrived at exactly the point of changeover. "As far as I can work out, I was given exactly the right documents by the Foreign Police the first week I arrived but, they said they couldn't deal with this anymore." He is required by the bank to have "the correct legal status", but no one seems to be quite sure whether this is simply a "proof of residence" (proof that you are registered with your local town hall) or a "residence permit". He was told at one point that an EU citizen is not eligible for a residence permit; "not that anyone seems to know." After over EUR 20 spent on phone calls, he was still unsure of where to take the documents. When he finally arrived at city hall he was informed that there was no way to know how long it would take, that the system was "very, very unfriendly to foreigners" and that it could take months and probably would. As we go to press, he is about to have his first appointment, not for a decision — but to fill in the forms. He is still unsure whether his company actually requires a residence permit or simply proof of residence, and they do not appear to know either.

    Another reader has had a terrible time with the lack of basic information and was sent on a merry-go-round for several months while IND staff seemed unsure of where to find his documents. A 3rd world immigrant and economist, he has been here for 8 years. He applied for his extension in January and after several months of silence, he became alarmed. "When I called, they were unsure where the documents were kept," he says. "I kept getting shifted from offices in Rijswijk to Zwolle to Den Bosch to Hoofdorp. Most of the time the people on the phone were either too abrupt or they didn't listen." He became so exasperated at the lack of progress he called the IND complaint line. They promised a letter within 6 weeks. When that did not arrive, he went first to the National Ombudsman, and finally to a lawyer. "I stopped counting how much money I wasted on these calls because I was afraid if I kept track I would do something stupid," he says. "This is not good for a service that cost me EUR 890." Recently he has received notice not to call anyone, but to wait until he received a letter to pick up his renewal at city hall. He is still waiting.

    Only one reader who responded had a better outcome with the IND than with the old Foreign Police. She is a Business Analyst originally from US but was living in Switzerland for several years before coming to the Netherlands. When she moved here in 2003 she found it impossible to get information and eventually simply showed up at the Foreign Police. Her complaints about the old system seem to echo the ones made about the new one; no answer on the phones lines, staff that gave a different answer each time, and eventually the realisation she had been given the wrong forms. "They were so rude and wouldn't believe the mistake was theirs," she says. In April of this year, she applied for an extension expecting the worst. "I called the IND in July," she continues. "They picked up the phone after two rings which was amazing. I was told I would get a letter in four days. I was sceptical, but the letter arrived and I got my permit for 5 years. It's really strange that some people have such a terrible experience and some people don't."
    ©Expatica News

    15/10/2004— Dubbed by green-left GroenLinks opposition MPs as "inhuman", Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk has confirmed plans to force Dutch residents to earn a net monthly income of EUR 1,319 before being allowed to bring their foreign partner into the Netherlands. Verdonk presented her legislative proposal to the Dutch Parliament on Thursday night, explaining the new income level demand will increase to 120 percent of the minimum wage. This represents a rise of EUR 230 on current regulations. MPs had demanded the explanation from the Liberal VVD minister because it remained unclear whether the proposed requirement was a gross or net income, news agency ANP reported. In a two-part plan, Dutch residents will also in future need to be aged 21 — instead of the present 18 — before they can bring their foreign partner into the country. The new regulations will come into force from 1 November and are designed to reduce immigration for the purposes of marriage. The Cabinet believes marriage immigrants do not integrate well into Dutch society. A parliamentary majority made up of the Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD, Democrat D66, populist LPF and small Christian party SGP have backed the proposals. The parties said these were the first step towards a full package of policies aimed at stimulating integration. Furthermore, the LPF is also calling on Minister Verdonk to demand that marriage immigrants possess adequate housing. The minister said the proposal needed further examination. Starting from mid-2005, non-European Union nationals who wish to immigrate permanently to the Netherlands will be required to pass an integration exam in their home country prior to arrival. The Netherlands is believed to be the first country implementing such plans, but expat workers, students and academics will be excluded from the pre-arrival integration exams. Opposition parties Labour PvdA and the Socialist Party (SP) raised doubts about the effects of the proposals, with the PvdA demanding instead that more stringent education demands be imposed on the entry of marriage immigrants. PvdA MP Jeroen Dijsselbloem also said claimed there were legal issues still remaining that will eventually be fought out in court. But the SP said placing an education demand on immigrants would be too arbitrary and lead to a social divide. It also opposed calls for marriage immigrants to have adequate housing, pointing out that there is already a housing shortage for young starters. Green-left GroenLinks was unbridled in its criticism of the plans though, calling them inhuman and out of proportion. MP Naima Azough said it was bizarre that the Cabinet saw marriage immigration as a threat to public order and society. The proposals are the latest moves by the Dutch government aimed at restricting immigration. New arrivals are already being subjected to forced integration courses and tougher laws have greatly reduced the number of asylum seekers since being introduced in April 2001.
    ©Expatica News

    13/10/2004- On 7 October 2004, in a major test case, the Budapest Metropolitan City Court of Appeals (Fõvárosi Ítélõtábla) upheld the first instance court decision, dated 1 June 2004, by which the Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County Court ordered the primary school in Tiszatarján and the local governments of Tiszatarján and Hejõkürt respectively to pay damages in the total amount of 3 650 000 Hungarian forints (approximately 14600 euro), with accrued interest, to nine families whose children have been unlawfully kept in a segregated class and taught based on a special (inferior) curriculum from 1994 to 1999, in the absence of any prior certification declaring them mentally deficient and unable to attend regular classes. All of the children affected, most of them Romani, came from families with low income and social standing in the community and have accordingly had difficulties in asserting their legal rights and interests in the education context. The complaint, filed in 2001 by attorney Lilla Farkas as part of a joint strategic litigation project undertaken by the Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI) and the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), was based on the school psychologists' assessment that rather than being afforded additional support for their learning difficulties, it was "in the children's own best interest" to be placed in a special class for the mentally deficient, disregarding their age, pedagogical and psychological authority, and ultimately even the prescribed legal procedure. Moreover, following their segregation, the plaintiffs, otherwise pupils with normal IQs, were taught by an unqualified student-teacher and bullied by their peers as "retarded", thus further adding to their stigmatization.

    In its judgment of 7 October 2003, the Budapest Metropolitan City Court of Appeals concluded that the segregation of the plaintiffs by the school and the local authorities was in breach of the Hungarian Public Education Act. It also stressed that as a result of this practice the plaintiffs have suffered and will continue to suffer profound psychological harm. In addition, the court held that the school had clearly failed to recognize and address the plaintiffs' learning difficulties and had instead chosen to administer an inferior curriculum which has jeopardized their future development. The court pointed out that on completing their studies the plaintiffs will suffer additional disadvantage in terms of diminished chances for further education as well as with regard to their employment opportunities compared to their peers schooled on the basis of the regular curriculum. Finally, the court concluded that the local authorities of Tiszatarján and Hejõkürt, in their capacity as funders and supervisors of the school in question, did not secure and maintain its lawful operation and held that this in and of itself amounts to major negligence. NEKI and the ERRC welcome the ruling of the Budapest Metropolitan City Court of Appeals as a crucial precedent establishing that segregation and stigmatization of children with learning difficulties is both morally unacceptable legally untenable. Throughout Europe, pupils of Romani origin suffer racial discrimination in education. Their overwhelmingly disproportionate placement in special schools or special classes for the mentally deficient, or in other forms of substandard, stigmatizing schooling arrangements, can have no reasonable and objective justification.
    ©European Roma Rights Center

    14/10/2004- Diana Bácsfi, leader of the neo-Nazi group Hungarian Future Group (MJCs) will not be leading her planned ceremonial event to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the rise to power of the infamous Nazi Arrow Cross leader Ferenc Szálasi on October 15, as she was arrested on Monday morning. "I will appeal," Bácsfi told the judge of the Budapest Pesti Központi Kerületi Bíróság court on Monday after she was charged with indecent public behavior and sentenced to 10 days imprisonment. The events leading to Bácsfi's arrest started on Friday morning when she and some sympathizers pasted posters in one of Pest's more affluent areas, Zugló (District XIV). Police passing by noticed the posters and detained Bácsfi and a collaborator. However, the two were released from police custody shortly afterwards. But by 11am on Friday Bácsfi appeared in front of the House of Terror Museum (where she was due to hold her October 15 commemoration) and reportedly dedicated her initials on a poster placed there by anti-Nazi campaigners led by the national daily newspaper Népszava. When journalists showed up at the scene, Bácsfi greeted them with a Hitler salute. This prompted police to detain her for a public order disturbance and she was placed back into custody. According to MTV television, Bácsfi told the court that she had not intended to shock anyone with her salute. This was not accepted by the court, which declared that her "scandalous" behavior was publicly threatening and sentenced her to 10 days imprisonment. Bácsfi said that she had only planned to have her photo taken and place her signature and then hold a press conference in a different location. Police officer Károly Hamar, responsible for law and order in front of the Terror House Museum, said that he first asked Bácsfi and her associates not to participate at an event that was being held there on Friday. After they objected he ordered them be detained. After the court hearing Bácsfi told reporters that she considered herself a "political hostage".
    ©The Budapest Sun

    14/10/2004- Spain said Thursday it had serious reservations over plans to create large holding centres in North Africa for Europe-bound migrants as the number of immigrants inside the country rose to three million. "We will not support a project that does not respect humanitarian concerns and human rights," Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said at a press conference. The move comes as it emerged 7 percent or three million of Spain's population of 43 million are immigrants, according to figures released Wednesday by the National Institute of Statistics. Meanwhile, speaking ahead of a meeting by the European members of the G8 - Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, Alonso said he was concerned over certain problematic" aspects, particularly where the centres would be and who would operate them. Italy and Germany are strongly backing the proposal to confront the growing problem of clandestine immigration, with thousands of immigrants arriving on Europe's southern shores every year eager to take part in the continent's economic and social riches. France and Spain are opposed, while Britain has yet to express its opinion. Interior ministers from the so-called G5 countries are to meet Sunday and Monday in the Tuscan city of Florence to discuss immigration, terrorism and organized crime - and the controversial proposal by Rome and Berlin figures at the top of the agenda. Italy is particularly affected by clandestine immigration, with officials saying in September that more than 10,000 would-be immigrants had entered the country since the beginning of the year.
    ©Expatica News

    15/10/2004- The National Association for the Blind will stage a demonstration to raise political awareness for the lack of support for blind citizens in Danish society. 46-year-old blind piano tuner Christian Skov spends hours each day traveling between customers from his home in the village of Arnum: difficult trips made even more inconvenient by a public transportation system that fails to consider the needs of visually impaired travelers. Loudspeakers with stop announcements are being phased out on many city busses, and bus timetables are rarely made accessible to the blind. "There have been times where I've considered quitting my work, simply because the added expense and hassle of public transport isn't worth my salary. So far, I've tried not to let the inconvenience dictate whether I can do my job like anyone else," said Christian Skov. Throughout today, the National Association for the Blind is staging a protest in Copenhagen to open the eyes of politicians and the "seeing society" to the daily struggles of blind people in an increasingly digitalized world. The group is lobbying for a law that would give the legally blind and visually impaired equal status to other disabled groups in applying for aid funds. While Danish wheelchair users are currently eligible for state-subsidized handicap-accessible cars, blind people have no such option open to them. The National Association for the Blind is also campaign for mandatory technical aid facilities - such as sound signals at crosswalks - in all public buildings and areas. According to the group, Denmark has the worst library service in Europe in terms of "talking books," large-print books, and Braille books for the blind.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    16/10/2004- The Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said last week that together, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Greece could stem the rising tide of illegal immigrants flooding into southern Europe. He said that conservative estimates put the number of immigrants encamped in Libya and waiting to cross over to Europe at over one million. Berlusconi was speaking after he had met with Portugal's in-coming President of the European Commission Durâo Barroso. According to Berlusconi, illegal immigration into Italy is one of three priority issues facing his government, and unless the country gets to grips with it the problem will become unmanageable. "Italy is giving absolute priority and a great deal of importance to immigration policy, border controls and the fight against terrorism." Berlusconi told Barroso in Rome last Wednesday. At a news conference welcoming Barroso, the Italian prime minister stressed that it was of paramount importance that Italy and Portugal, together with other southern European countries, act in concert to counteract people smuggling gangs engaged in illegal immigration trafficking. During the conference he confirmed that more than 800 illegal immigrants from North Africa had been deported last weekend from the Italian island of Lampedusa, which is located about halfway between Italy and Libya. The Italian Interior Minister Guiseppe Pisanu has signalled a new get-tough policy designed to dissuade not only North African but also Middle East and non-EU Eastern European immigrants from heading to Italy and beyond. However, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned that any attempts by Italy, Portugal and Spain to deport immigrants before their appeals for asylum are heard would be counter to international law. The UNHCR has given its tacit approval for the EU to set up camps in North Africa to house would-be asylum seekers looking to enter Europe provided their appeals are vetted thoroughly. Berlusconi's meeting with Barroso took place shortly before the Italian prime minister headed for Libya where he attended the official opening of a new gas pipeline. During his visit last Thursday he met the Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Gaddafi for the second time in six weeks. During their three hour meeting Gaddafi assured Berlusconi that his government was doing its utmost to prevent North African immigrants and refugees, who are flooding into Libya from neighbouring states, crossing over into southern European countries. The EU recently lifted an arms embargo on Libya allowing member states to supply Gaddafi´ s government with military surveillance aircraft to help track down sea vessels carrying illegal immigrants across the Mediterranean into southern Europe. Berlusconi told the AFP news agency that each day upwards of 200 illegal immigrants are arriving in Italy and a further 500 are being smuggled into Spain, Portugal and Greece.
    ©The Portugal News

    9/10/2004- From being ridiculed as anti-humanitarian, discriminatory and contrary to UN human rights legislation, the idea of North African transit camps to house asylum seekers looking to move to Europe is gaining momentum. At a meeting last Saturday of European interior ministers in the Dutch North Sea resort of Scheveningen, the EU Commission agreed to study the proposal in greater detail – a far cry from last month when the Commission gave short shrift to the idea. "We are not entirely comfortable with this camp idea in terms of how it would work in practice," said EU Commission spokesman Pietro Petrucci. He added that the Commission was now treating the proposal in a serious rather than a sceptical manner. Under the proposals suggested by Britain, Germany and Italy, the camps in Libya, Tunisia and Morocco would house asylum seekers from Africa until their applications for entry to the EU had been considered. The German Interior Minister Otto Schilly and his Italian counterpart Guiseppe Pisanu, had championed the setting up of the camps to stem the rising tide of illegal African immigrants being smuggled into southern EU states, including Portugal. During last week's meeting in Scheveningen the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers addressed the EU interior ministers by video-link from New York. He said that in principle he was not opposed to the camps provided they were run as reception centres offering hospitality to inmates with all the necessary administrative facilities in place to ensure speedy consideration of asylum applications. The US Attorney-General John Ashcroft, who attended the meeting, said that Washington considered the asylum camp idea as "plausible" and an important part of the West's fight against terrorism. He added that the camps would serve to "shake out" any would-be terrorists and that the EU and the US should work closer in exchanging security information on terror groups operating within Africa and Europe. During the past two months there has been a gradual shift towards accepting the establishment of North African asylum camps by EU member states. EU new comers Latvia, Poland and Hungary have all thrown their weight behind the proposal and Austria has proposed to the Ukraine that it sets up similar camps within its territory to house refugees fleeing south from the crisis in Chechnya. The only negative response has been from Scandinavian countries, with Sweden warning that the camps would contravene the Geneva Convention on refugees and leave the EU Commission open to possible legal action by human rights groups. In a separate development last Thursday, the European Interior and Justice Commissiner, Portugal's Vitor Vitorino, after talks in Brussels with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees agreed to set up centres in North Africa to house would-be immigrants intercepted in the Mediterranean. The centres will be established in Mauritania, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and Morocco and funded by the EU. Vitorino told reporters: "The centres will not treat asylum demands for EU countries, although migrants will be offered the chance to apply for asylum in one of the five North African states concerned."
    ©The Portugal News

    11/10/2004- A European Parliament committee has narrowly voted to oppose Italian Rocco Buttiglione as the EU's next justice commissioner, officials say. Mr Buttiglione outraged some members of parliament when questioned about his views on homosexuality and women. The verdict of the Civil Liberties Committee is not binding. But observers say it is an embarrassing setback for the new commission. Mr Buttiglione is due to take office at the commission on 1 November. Jean-Louis Bourlanges, a French liberal MEP in charge of the EU's parliamentary committees, said the verdict "signifies the refusal of the nomination of Mr Buttiglione". The Civil Liberties Committee voted 27 to 26 against the appointment of Mr Buttiglione, Italy's European Affairs Minister. They then voted 28 to 25 against Mr Buttiglione's re-appointment to another post within the commission. However, the European Parliament does not have the power to veto individual members of the commission and can only endorse or reject the entire 25-strong team. The parliament will vote on the new commission on 27 October. Correspondents say Mr Buttiglione's views on issues such as homosexuality, which he considers a sin, have prompted unease at the commission.

    'Traditional vision'
    A devout Roman Catholic said to be close to the Pope, he has also expressed strong opinions on the role of women in modern society. "The family exists in order to allow women to have children and to have the protection of a male who takes care of them," he said. "This is the traditional vision of marriage that I defend." He has also said that the reason behind the low birth rate in Europe was that women were concentrating too much on their careers and not enough on having babies. The parliament's president, Josep Borrel, has described some of Mr Buttiglione's comments as shocking, saying that perhaps if he were in charge of beetroots it would not be so serious. Johannes Swoboda, an Austrian social democrat influential in marshalling opposition to the appointment, said the nominee's views may take on political significance. "Mr Buttiglione made it clear that his private opinions will influence the way he will handle the portfolio," he told the BBC's Europe Today programme.

    'Right man'
    "This is a very sensitive portfolio which is dealing with discrimination and non-discrimination. "A man who openly discriminates against homosexuals and who is openly for reducing the role of women cannot deal with these affairs in the commission," he added. But German conservative MEP Eva Klampt denied that Mr Buttiglione would let his personal beliefs influence his policy-making. "I believe he is the right man for the right job. This is really discrimination against a man who has a personal religious belief. "He made it very clear there should be no discrimination for anyone, not for homosexuality, not for race or for religion."
    ©BBC News

    11/10/2004- The European Court of Human Rights will hold a hearing in Strasbourg in the first six cases brought against Russia arising out of the situation in Chechnya, on Thursday 14 October 20041.The six applicants are represented by lawyers at the Russian human rights organisation, Memorial, together with lawyers from the London-based European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) . The applicants allege that their relatives were killed or injured by the Russian military in Chechnya in 1999 or 2000, in violation of the right to life (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and the prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3). Two cases concern the circumstances surrounding the deaths of five of the applicants' relatives in Grozny at the end of January 2000. The mutilated bodies of the applicants' relatives were found with numerous stab and gunshot wounds in the Staropromyslovskii district of Grozny. The applicants claim their relatives were the victims of torture and extra-judicial killings at the hands of the Russian armed forces. Three applications arise out of the Russian military's aerial bombing of a convoy of civilian cars, as the residents of Grozny tried to avoid the fighting there on October 29, 1999. The Government has admitted that the attack was carried out by two SU-25 military planes, firing air-to-ground rockets. As a result of the bombing, the first applicant was wounded and her two children and daughter-in-law were killed; the second applicant was wounded by shells in the neck, arm and hip; and the third applicant's car containing her family's possessions was destroyed. The sixth application concerns the Russian military's aerial and artillery bombardment of the village of Katyr-Yurt on 4 February 2000. As a result of the bombing, the applicant's son and her three nieces were killed. The Government has admitted that the attack was carried out by two SU-25 planes, firing FAB-250 bombs. The applicants in all six cases also allege that their right to an effective national remedy (Article 13) has been violated. The applicants have submitted that the investigations into the deaths of their relatives were ineffective since all the investigations have been closed or suspended without the perpetrators having been identified and appropriate action having been taken against them. Four of the applicants will attend Thursday's hearing in Strasbourg.

    There are 5,000 Internet hate sites now compared to one 10 years ago

    12/10/2004- The federal government is preparing to introduce a sweeping round of legislation that would combat the "explosion" of hate sites on the Internet and outlaw human trafficking, "the new global slave trade," Justice Minister Irwin Cotler says. He also wants to encourage more police departments across Canada to set up their own special hate crimes squads and for those squads to work together more closely and better coordinate their efforts. "We have to send out the message unequivocally, as a government and as part of our shared citizenship and shared values, that our Canada is one in which there will be no sanctuary for hate and no refuge for bigotry," he said in an interview. "We will use all the panoply of remedies to bring that about. Legal remedies, intercultural dialogue, promotion of multiculturalism, anti-discrimination law and policy. A national action plan against racism." This year has seen an increase in "both the incidence and intensity of hate crimes," said Cotler, including the firebombing of the Talmud Torah Jewish day school in Montreal and the torching of a mosque near Toronto. While Cotler says Canada has "the most comprehensive legal regime to combat hate of any comparable democracy," he says it can do more particularly when it comes to the Internet. "Where in 1995 you had one hate site, today in 2004, 10 years later, we have 5,000 hate sites. You have had an explosion of hate on the Internet." Traditionally, Canadian legislators have been reluctant to tackle Internet content because the web's international nature makes it difficult for any country to enforce its laws. Canada must work in conjunction with other nations, the minister says.

    In addition to adopting domestic legislation to fight "cyber hate,"Cotler said Canada has to ratify the Council of Europe convention on cyber crime as well as its optional protocol with respect to combating hate. Countries that adhere to the convention enter a framework agreement concerning information sharing and law enforcement, creating what Cotler describes as "a culture of human rights to combat a culture of hate." The Organization of American States has made combating hate a priority, as have justice ministers from G-8 countries, he said. At a meeting of G-8 justice ministers in Washington last May, they decided to attack cyber crime, "which is really cyber hate and cyber terrorism and cyber pornography," said Cotler. Combating hate on the Internet is just one of the steps, said Cotler. "We need to ensure that we've got anti-hate units for investigative and enforcement purposes in federal policing and security forces across this country." As for human trafficking, Cotler called it "the fastest growing criminal industry in the world" that's a $10-billion criminal industry globally. The problem is now so extensive that an estimated one million people are being trafficked around the world as part of the new phenomenon of "trans-national crime." "Trafficking in persons [is what] I have also called the new global slave trade, because what we are talking about here is literally the bartering and bonding of women and children and it has collateral violations in terms of sexual assault." The key to combating the trade is to break the linkages between source countries, transit countries and countries of destination, Cotler said. "Canada cannot allow itself to be used as a country of transition or a country of destination." But human trafficking itself is not currently against Canada's Criminal Code, said Cotler. While there are prohibitions in immigration laws, police have to resort to charging human traffickers with other offences such as kidnapping, forcible confinement or assault in order to charge them with a crime. Cotler plans to change that.
    ©Vancouver Sun

    13/10/2004– Some 25 years after the adoption of a landmark global treaty on the rights of women, no country in the world has achieved total equality between the sexes both in law and in practice, the Committee overseeing the United Nations convention said today. In a statement to mark the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Committee said discriminatory laws remain in many of the 178 States that are parties to the pact. In other countries, the laws might promote equality but informal discrimination remains. The Committee cited laws about marriage, divorce, property inheritance, ownership of land and access to loans and credits as examples of where women still lag behind men in their formal rights. "Criminal law, especially in relation to sexual violence and crimes, continues to be discriminatory, inadequate or poorly enforced," the statement added. Women are forced into early marriage or polygamous situations, widows are maltreated, girls are denied the same educational opportunities as boys and access to reproductive health care is often limited. Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette told a roundtable held at UN Headquarters to celebrate the 25th anniversary that "the Convention remains the most solid global tool in the work for true gender equality in the home, the community and society; and for freedom from discrimination, whether perpetrated by the State or by any person, organization or enterprise." Ms. Fréchette said there has been great progress since 1979, noting the introduction of constitutional provisions enshrining gender equality and laws explicitly banning gender discrimination, and the establishment of equality commissions. Committee reports show that many countries have recently taken steps to correct years of historical inequality or discrimination between the sexes. In Bangladesh, for example, the constitution has been amended to enlarge the number of national parliamentary seats reserved for women. In Latvia, discrimination against women in the workplace is now prohibited, and in Angola, which is recovering from decades of civil war, a national ministry has been created for the promotion and development of women. But, Ms. Fréchette added that women continue to suffer from violence in their daily lives, remain "significantly under-represented in public life" and endure widespread sexual harassment in the workplace. New Zealand Governor-General Dame Silvia Rose Cartwright, a former member of the Committee monitoring the Convention, told the roundtable that inequality is counter-productive because women who suffer from discrimination will have less economic value than they could otherwise enjoy. She also voiced concern that so many nations continue to hold reservations to key articles of the Convention, thus weakening its impact in those States. Some countries, however, have withdrawn either all or part of their reservations since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing was held in 1995, including France, Ireland, Lesotho and Mauritius.
    ©UN News Centre

    1/10/2004- A new survey puts the Roma population in Slovakia at 320,000 - far more than census numbers but less than recent estimates. The new survey, carried out by a group of sociologists hired by the office of the cabinet's plenipotentiary for Roma communities, indicates that 320,000 Roma live in Slovakia in 1,575 settlements. The survey contrasts sharply with the most recent national census, in which 89,000 Roma are identified. Population experts had estimated that the Roma population in Slovakia was somewhere around 500,000. The survey does not include Roma who have not registered a permanent stay in the country. Experts estimate that tens of thousands of Roma are migrating between Slovakia and the Czech Republic, according to the Pravda daily. The sociologists, having visited all of the settlements, identified 150 of them as segregated. They found that 46 have substandard infrastructure, including the absence of sewers, roads, and access to fuel and drinking water. Of these, 12 did not have electricity.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    The comparatively good social standing of Macedonian Roma has deep historical and newer political roots.
    by Eben Friedman, Senior Research Associate at the European Center for Minority Issues in Flensburg, Germany.

    "We Roma have been loyal, are loyal, and will be loyal to the state in which we live."
    --a member of the Suto Orizari municipal council

    1/10/2004- Scholars believe that Roma came to what is now the Republic of Macedonia sometime between the 13th and 15th centuries. Since their arrival in the Balkans, Roma have generally coexisted peacefully with the surrounding non-Romani populations, with the persecution of Roma common in other parts of Europe the exception rather than the rule. Most of Macedonia's Romani population survived the Second World War, demonstrating continuity with an established pattern. According to the population census of 2002, there were 53,879 Romani citizens resident in Macedonia, accounting for 2.66 percent of the total population. Informed estimates from local Romani organizations throughout the country, however, suggest that the actual size of the Romani population is approximately twice the official figure. Assuming the accuracy of these estimates, Roma are Macedonia's second-largest minority, after ethnic Albanians.

    One among equals
    Macedonia's Romani population is predominantly urban. About half of all Roma in Macedonia live in the capital, Skopje, with the municipality of Suto Orizari on the outskirts of the city home to the largest concentration of Roma in the world. Approximately 80 percent of Macedonian Roma speak Romani as a first language. There are sizeable concentrations of Macedonian- and Albanian-speaking Roma in western Macedonia, as well as smaller enclaves of Turkish speakers scattered throughout the country. Working against the tendency of post-communist regimes to distinguish between national minorities on the one hand and ethnic minorities on the other, and to place Roma in the latter category, the preamble of the 1991 constitution of Macedonia makes explicit reference to Roma as a national minority, like the Albanians, Turks, Vlachs, and "other nationalities" resident in the country. The explicit inclusion of Roma in the Macedonian constitution can be attributed in large part to the efforts and position of the Romani elder statesman Faik Abdi, who played a role in drafting the document. In similar fashion, Macedonia's 2001 constitution--revised following the armed conflict that year between Macedonian government forces and the ethnic-Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army--places Roma on the same level as the country's Albanian, Turkish, Vlach, Serbian, and Bosniak 'communities'.

    Loyal to the fatherland
    As members of a relatively small minority in a country often sharply divided along ethnic lines, many Roma in Macedonia have emphasized their loyalty to the state and to its titular nation, the ethnic Macedonians. I witnessed the bequeathing of this line of thinking from one generation to the next at a seminar in a Suto Orizari primary school, where the (Romani) principal, Saip Iseni, explained to a classroom full of Romani pupils the need for Roma to be "even more loyal" to the Republic of Macedonia for lack of an ethnic homeland state. Also telling is that the Suto Orizari municipal council--made up overwhelmingly of Roma--conducts its meetings in Macedonian, despite legal provisions allowing official business to be conducted in the language of a given ethnic community in municipalities in which at least 20 percent of the population belongs to that community. In other ways as well Romani citizens make clear their loyalty to the Macedonian state. Consider, for instance, privately owned Romani media outlets. One, the Roma Times newspaper, devotes 30 percent of its news space to articles in Macedonian, and the Romani television station BTR Nacional broadcasts the same evening news program twice: once in Romani (with a Romani anchorwoman) and a second time in Macedonian (with an ethnic-Macedonian anchorman). Romani political figures in Macedonia share a consistently expressed interest in cooperating with their ethnic-Macedonian counterparts. The 1999 program of the Party for Complete Emancipation of the Roma of Macedonia (PSERM), for instance, presents Macedonia as "our only common community" and the party as "committed to complete sovereignty of the Macedonian state, fatherland of the Macedonian people, that is, the Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Roma, Vlachs, Muslims, Serbs, and other nationalities that live on the territory of the Republic of Macedonia." One party member told me, "There is no greater Macedonian than I." Although over 90 percent of Roma in Macedonia are Muslim, PSERM's program also contains a promise to act on the international level to ensure recognition of the autocephalous Macedonian Orthodox Church. Like the PSERM, the United Party of the Roma in Macedonia (PPRM) presents itself as committed to Macedonian sovereignty and views favorable interethnic and interconfessional relations as a condition for the stability of the state. The PPRM's leader and presently the sole Romani representative in parliament, Nezdet Mustafa, has on numerous occasions both before and since the 2001 violence voiced concerns that the activities of ethnic-Albanian political leaders toward the reconstitution of Macedonia as a bi-national state of Macedonians and Albanians will hurt not only the Romani population, but also the republic as such. Expressions of loyalty from Mustafa's erstwhile political rival, the former parliamentarian Amdi Bajram of the Union of the Roma in Macedonia, on the other hand, came in the form of more categorical statements that he would always vote with the majority in parliament.

    Kosovo's unhealed wounds
    Roma have successfully put across their sense of loyalty to the ethnic-Macedonian population throughout the history of independent Macedonia, as evidenced by the celebrations in April 1993 on the UN's recognition of Macedonian independence, when Roma were bused into Skopje for the occasion but ethnic Albanians were not. A 1997 publication of the Macedonian Foreign Ministry entitled "The Situation of Roma in the Republic of Macedonia" conveys a similarly benign view of the Romani population, stating that this minority "is characterized by a high degree of integrity and a clearly expressed feeling of belonging to the Republic of Macedonia." Following the 1999 NATO air campaign in Serbia, when a large portion of Kosovo's Romani population fled to neighboring countries, many made their way into Macedonia. Although the conditions in the refugee camps were arguably better than what Roma can expect to this day in Kosovo, the 2,000 or so Roma from Kosovo who have remained in Macedonia have not generally managed to successfully integrate into the resident Romani population, and some Macedonian Roma cast aspersions at their co-ethnics from Kosovo, calling them violent and untrustworthy. While the Kosovo crisis seems not to have affected Romani-Macedonian relations, relations between Roma and ethnic Albanians in Macedonia worsened, with ethnic-Albanian views of Roma as pro-Serb reinforced in Macedonia by rumors that Romani parliamentarian Amdi Bajram had threatened to send a contingent of Romani troops from Macedonia to help the Milosevic regime's crackdown on Albanians in Kosovo. Additionally, although Roma apparently fought on both sides of the 2001 armed conflict in Macedonia, there are no signs that relations between Roma and ethnic Albanians have improved or that relations between Roma and ethnic Macedonians have deteriorated. The unusually favorable relations between Roma and ethnic Macedonians in the current atmosphere of Macedonian-Albanian tensions seem to owe much to a longstanding concern with preventing Roma from identifying with other Muslims in general and with the ethnic-Albanian population in particular. Beginning with the replacement of the equivalent of "Gypsy" with "Rom" in the federal census of 1971, and continuing through the breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, first Yugoslav and later Macedonian authorities undertook various measures to encourage the preservation and cultivation of Romani culture, perhaps most notably through Romani-language broadcast time and primary-school instruction. In extending cultural rights to Roma, Yugoslav authorities devoted particular attention to largely Albanian-inhabited areas in Macedonia and Kosovo. Thus, as late as the mid-1990s, Romani programming in Kosovo far exceeded the number of hours broadcast in Serbia proper and in Vojvodina combined, despite the fact that the latter two regions were home to over twice as many Roma as was Kosovo. The effective removal of Kosovo from Serbian control seems to have brought a change in this tacit policy, as suggested by the elimination of Romani broadcasts at Radio Nis (whose signal can be captured in Kosovo) in 2002. In this manner, ethnopolitical competition goes far toward explaining not only Macedonian, but also Serbian policy toward the Roma under communist and post-communist governments alike.

    Less disliked than most
    While stereotypes of Roma as dirty and untrustworthy are alive and well among non-Roma in Macedonia in general, the 59 percent of ethnic-Macedonian respondents to a 1996 survey expressing an aversion to Roma was lower than the same population's responses concerning aversion to Jews, Turks, Bulgarians, and, leading the pack, Albanians, who were disliked by 87 percent of respondents. In fact, the only groups inspiring more confidence than Roma among ethnic Macedonians were Serbs and Vlachs, each evoking negative responses in 44 percent of respondents. Negative stereotypes of Roma may be commonplace, but fears about disintegration of the state and population growth commonly expressed by ethnic Macedonians in reference to the Albanian minority are not generally applied to Roma. This was brought home to me by a number of ethnic-Macedonian taxi drivers throughout the country, who upon finding out that I had come to Macedonia to conduct research on the Roma, usually reacted with friendly amusement, telling me Roma were a peaceful people. Similar attributes of gentleness and mildness are sometimes applied to themselves by ethnic Macedonians, suggesting that they view themselves as having at least one important and positive characteristic in common with Roma. The same drivers by no means displayed a Pollyannaish view of interethnic relations, judging from their frequent complaints about the Albanian minority. Shortly after I arrived in Skopje to conduct field research in early 2000, I had occasion to meet the 14-year-old son of the ethnic-Macedonian woman who owned the bakery just outside the front door of the apartment building where I was staying. The boy had been attending a private language school to learn English, and his mother wanted to know if she was getting her money's worth, so I agreed to give her my opinion on the matter. Once the baker's son and I had exchanged the usual introductory pleasantries, he began to ask me about what I was doing in Macedonia. I explained, intentionally using the term "Gypsies" so as--I thought--not to overwhelm him with unfamiliar vocabulary. Then I asked if he had understood what I had said. "Yes," he replied, "but here we call them Romi."
    ©Transitions Online

    3/10/2004- The U.S. Helsinki Commission said last week that it had discerned a pattern of human rights abuse of Gypsies, also called Roma, in Russia. The commission, an independent federal agency, encourages compliance with the Helsinki Final Act and other commitments of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as it is formally named, especially respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. In Russia, with a population of 144 million, 183,000 people declared themselves to be Roma in the 2002 census, though it is believed their number may be several times that figure. Some Roma leaders put their numbers in Russia at around 1.2 million. According to Dimitrina Petrova, executive director of the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), "the economic and social situation of the Roma in Russia deteriorated during the first decade of post-communism at a speed much higher than of any other ethnic group." The image of Roma also suffered. Mrs. Petrova said racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance had a strong anti-Roma basis and played a role in their economic marginalization. Racist speech against Gypsies, Jews and people from the Caucasus republics feature among the new hate ideologies of Russia, she said. This discrimination is reinforced by Russia's internal-security policy, she said, through references to rhetorical "wars," she added. The "war against terrorism," the "war against corruption," and the "war against drugs" focus on those three most stigmatized groups. Moreover, the war in Chechnya and terrorist attacks have led in recent years to a preoccupation with security at all levels of public life.

    In the absence of anti-discrimination efforts by the government, Roma are subjected to discrimination in nearly all areas of public life, Mrs. Petrova said. Though the term "discrimination" appears in the Russian Constitution in the context of equal pay and employment conditions, no definition is offered by the law. The 2002 Federal Law on Citizenship of the Russian Federation guarantees equal rights to all citizens, she said, but doesn't mention access to citizenship regardless of race or ethnicity. Roma Ural, the only Roma nongovernmental organization in the Sverdlovsk region, located 1,000 miles east of Moscow, monitored television and printed regional media. Most of the reports about Roma were negative, often representing them as enemies of society and criminals. Alexander Todokhov, director of Roma Ural, cited a documentary, "A large and terrible invasion of drug dealers, mainly Gypsies, in Ekaterinburg" -- the administrative center of the Sverdlovsk region -- which was broadcast several times a day for a week. "In those places where they were forbidden to sell drugs, they gave up their places of residence to invade the capital of the Ural to sell death, kill us and our children. ... Drug money very quickly was turned into luxury palaces. ... Gypsies were leading a beautiful and very contented life on the blood and bones of citizens." The Russian news media contributes to the perpetuation of anti-Roma racism by creating a strong association between Roma and crime, Mr. Todokhov said. The news media keep identifying Roma as the main actors in the Russia drug trade, using "drug-dealer" and "Gypsy" interchangeably. "The results of the monitoring confirmed the trend that media create and develop negative stereotypes about the life of the Roma community," Mr. Todokhov said. "Furthermore, journalists do not have objective information about Roma, preferring to use stereotypical terms." Anti-Roma sentiment in Russia has given rise to violence and abusive treatment against them. ERRC research has shown that police violence against Roma is widespread.

    Leonid Raihman of the Open Society Institute -- a private foundation in New York City that serves as the hub of billionaire George Soros' foundations and organizations in more than 50 countries -- said police abuse against Roma frequently occurs in two situations. "The first is when Roma are stopped on the street or approached in marketplaces and railway or bus stations for identity checks. The second is when the police conduct raids in Roma settlements," he said. According to the ERRC, Roma are stopped on the street for document checks more frequently than others. If they lack valid personal documents, especially residence registration on their passport -- which is often the case -- they are taken to the police station. There, they are threatened with long detention, big fines and further complications. "The rule of law simply doesn't work. Most Roma do not know their rights and can be easily manipulated," said Mr. Raihman, explaining that Roma think the only way to be released is to pay a bribe. ERRC officials said Roma settlements are raided by the police and special anti-drug units at any time of the day or night. When no drugs are found, the police threaten to "plant" drugs or use other forms of intimidation to extort money. According to a report to the ERRC by a Roma man from Dyagrevo in Ryazan -- a region in the center of Russia -- on Aug. 22 the settlement was raided by six masked police officers who were drunk. They broke into houses and demanded that Roma give them money. Several people, including women, were beaten. They left the settlement with at least 10 Roma captives. According to the man's report, the police demanded 60,000 rubles (about U.S. $2,000) for their release. The Roma were released the same evening after the families collected the money and gave it to the police. Kidnappings and extortion of Roma are becoming more and more frequent, Mr. Raihman said. Their presence is often regarded as a source of sure income by law enforcement officers.

    "The seemingly endless cycle of bribes leads to further economic marginalization of Roma," he added. "When a family has spent all its money and jewelry to pay bribes, as a next step, they sell their car if they have one. Next, they sell their home. For some time, it is possible to live with relatives in crowded rooms. And in the end, we meet the victims as homeless persons in the street or at the communal dump." According to the ERRC, Roma suspects are tortured and ill-treated in police custody, and in some instances physical abuse has resulted in deaths. The ERRC has also documented numerous violations of the fundamental rights of Roma by officials of Russia's criminal-justice system. ERRC officials said such discrimination is incompatible with international human rights standards of fair trials. According to Mr. Raihman, Roma defendants are kept in pretrial detention more often and for longer periods than non-Gypsies. They are sentenced to imprisonment for longer terms than non-Roma for the same offense. ERRC research also shows that Roma victims of human rights violations have rarely been able to obtain redress from a court of justice. They are frequently subjected to threats and other psychological pressure to withdraw their complaints. "A serious and complex problem for Roma in Russia is the widespread absence of personal documents," said Mr. Raihman. In practice, the Russian internal passport system is repressive, and its most frequent victims are people who physically differ from others -- particularly migrants and members of ethnic minorities. Roma pay bribes to conclude their numerous encounters with police because obtaining personal documents seems to be even more difficult for them than paying bribes. ERRC research shows that large Roma communities throughout Russia live in severe poverty and do not have access to basic social and economic rights such as education, adequate housing, health care and employment.

    In 2003, Roma Ural carried out research into the educational situation of Roma children in Ekaterinburg. The findings confirmed that 55 percent of children between 11 and 17 do not attend school. Mr. Todokhov explained that many Roma parents, illiterate themselves, find it impossible to cope with difficult and arbitrary requirements imposed by local officials. Moreover, humiliating treatment of Roma children by teachers and fellow students also plays a role in the exclusion of Roma from education. In Cheboksary -- capital of the Chuvash republic in the center of European Russia -- there is a separate room on the ground floor reserved for Roma children in the main school attended by Roma and non-Roma. This classroom is used by Gypsy children aged 7 to 14. The Roma children also say that at the ceremonies opening each school year, they sit separately from non-Roma children. Urging the integration of the Roma into modern society, protection of Roma rights, and overcoming negative stereotypes of Gypsies, Mrs. Petrova appealed to "the U.S. government to use its economic and political weight to improve their condition." "We have to strengthen democracy and human rights in Russia," she said.
    ©The Washington Times

    1/10/2004- A 15-year-old French Muslim girl has beaten the ban on Islamic headscarves in schools by shaving her head. Cennet Doganay was banned from classes for wearing a headscarf - as it went against the new law banning religious signs in schools, introduced this term. At school on Friday she said: "I will respect both French law and Muslim law by taking off what I have on my head and not showing my hair." Many Muslims believe modesty requires women to cover their hair in public. The issue of wearing the hijab - as the traditional headscarf is called by Muslims - has sparked controversy across Europe, with states taking different approaches. France decided to ban all religious symbols in state schools, including large Christian crucifxes, Sikh turbans and Jewish skullcaps. As the law was introduced in September, schools were told not to automatically exclude pupils who arrived wearing headscarves, but to try and avert a showdown through dialogue.

    Cennet, whose family is of Turkish origin, had only been allowed into the study room at her school in Strasbourg since early September, as they negotiated her return to class without a headscarf. With her newly-shaven look, she was allowed into school on Friday. She told journalists waiting outside: "I respect the law but the law doesn't respect me." Her mother said Cennet had tried everything "a beret, a bandana - but they still refused to let her into class". "She has been traumatised since the start of term. But all she wanted to do was go to school like everyone else," she told French news agency AFP. Reports say about 120 schoolgirls across France insisted on keeping their headscarves at the start of term, but most have since given in under threat of expulsion.
    ©BBC News

    2/10/2004- A mosque under construction and an adjoining building serving as a provisional house of worship in the southern French town of Aubagne were attacked by arsonists early Saturday, according to judicial officials. While there was no damage at the new building site, the temporary mosque was severely burned, firemen at the scene said. While four to five thousand of Aubagne's 43,000 residents are Muslims, according to a spokesman at the mayor's office, there have never been tensions in the community. "For the time being we have no leads on the perpetrators or the motivation for such an act," said a police spokesman. "We are moderate people and we have no room for fanatics," said Ben Younes Khaldi, a spokesman for Aubagne's Muslim community. France, which is home to Europe's largest Muslim and Jewish communities, has seen an increase in attacks on both communities in the last few years. In the first seven months of this year 160 violent anti-Semitic acts were recorded as opposed to 75 such acts during the same period last year. While many blame young, disaffected members of France's Muslim community for attacks on Jews, some believe nationalist extremist groups are responsible for targeting both communities.
    ©Expatica News

    4/10/2004- Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister, Patrick Dewael, does not believe all cultures are equal, it was reported on Monday. Dewael's statements, directed particularly at some Muslim cultures, were published on Monday in Flemish newspapers De Standaard, Het Nieuwsblad and Het Volk. He said he could not understand why women were forced to cover up in a burka or why they were kept prisoners in their own homes. He added that he could not accept a religion that did not recognise the separation of church and state. Dewael met on Friday with the leader of his political party, Bart Somers, and with Flemish minister, Marino Keulen, to discuss drawing up concrete proposals on life in a multicultural society.
    ©Expatica News

    4/10/2004- At least 17 people drowned off the coast of Tunisia when their boat sank while trying to reach Italy illegally, the Tunisian authorities say. Another 47 are missing, presumed drowned. All those on board were from Morocco and Tunisia. The news came as a row erupted over Italy's decision to send migrants back to their point of departure. Three planeloads of migrants were flown to Libya on Saturday, and a further 800 people are due to be expelled. The Tunisian navy says the immigrants' boat sank only an hour after it had sailed for Italy. Eleven people were rescued and the search for possible survivors is continuing. The latest tragedy at sea is the latest in a long series of accidents involving the trafficking of thousands of would-be immigrants to Italy from small ports in north Africa.

    Entry point
    In an abrupt change of policy, the Italian government decided at the weekend to send three planeloads of migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East on the small island of Lampedusa back to Libya. Hundreds of migrants have arrived in the past few weeks on the island, the nearest geographical point of arrival in the European Union from north Africa. Refugee groups have expressed concern that the migrants had been denied access to proper asylum procedures. The director of the Italian Council for Refugees, Christopher Heine, told the BBC that many of the migrants came from countries such as Sudan, with severe conflicts and human rights violations. "Not giving these persons the possibility to claim asylum in a European country is totally contrary to all the rules and regulations and international conventions," he said. The United Nations' refugee agency says it has written to the Italian and Libyan governments, requesting access to the migrants. "We would request that everyone gets a chance to be assessed to see who needs protection and who does not," a spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

    Abuse fears
    Those who survive the dangerous journey to the tiny island of Lampedusa used to be taken to reception centres on Italy's mainland. However, Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said the government would continue send the migrants to Libya to cope with what he described as an emergency. Libya is not a signatory to the UN's Geneva Convention on refugees and has been accused of widespread abuse of migrants. It is unclear what will happen to those refugees, although the UNHCR says it believes they are still in Libya. The Italian authorities believed many migrants sail from Libya in small boats run by people smugglers. Italy has promised to give Libya equipment to detect and halt the boats, with training also pledged. At least 1,200 people are currently in the island's only reception centre, designed to hold up to 200 people. A spokesman for Medecins Sans Frontieres, which treats migrants as they arrive in Lampedusa, told the BBC that conditions inside the centre would be extremely difficult.
    ©BBC News

    4/10/2004- The UN has asked for access to migrants landing illegally in Italy as Rome presses ahead with the mass expulsions by air that began at the weekend. The UN's refugee agency said it wanted to ensure genuine refugees were not expelled along with illegal migrants arriving by sea from North Africa. Italy has sent at least 11 planeloads of migrants to Libya since Friday, in a dramatic change of policy. It acted after more than 600 arrived on the island of Lampedusa in one night. Up to 600 people are known to have been deported and the tough policy has caused mounting concern among humanitarian agencies. The plight of desperate illegal migrants who are often put to sea in old boats by human traffickers was highlighted by news that a ship had sunk off Tunisia on Sunday, with the confirmed loss of 22 lives. On Monday, an Italian warship intercepted a wooden boat crammed with some 150 people in international waters off Lampedusa and summoned the Tunisian navy to escort it back to the North African coast. Others were spotted heading from Libya to Lampedusa in a rubber dinghy, according to an Italian coastguard quoted by the Associated Press news agency.

    Demand for access
    Raymond Hall, director of the UN refugee agency's (UNHCR) Regional Bureau for Europe, said all asylum-seekers "should have access to a fair procedure". "UNHCR should have access to them and we stand ready to assist Italian authorities in ensuring that those who do need protection get it," he said. He added that the agency appreciated the "very strong pressures" on Italy. His comments joined a chorus of criticism of the Italian policy. Stefano Savi, director of Doctors Without Borders in Italy, said Italy had a humanitarian duty to potential refugees. "Many of the men and women who head to Italy are making dangerous trips to flee war and persecution," he said, in a statement issued jointly with Amnesty International. The African Union condemned the expulsions, complaining that immigrants' human rights were "less and less observed by authorities of host countries". Libya is not a signatory to the UN's Geneva Convention on refugees and has been accused of abusing the rights of migrants. However, Italian officials quoted by AFP news agency said they were allowing arrivals from Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia access to the asylum process, while those from other countries were being expelled.

    'Assault on Italy'
    Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu spoke of an "assault on the Italian coast... by criminal gangs who ruthlessly cash in on illegal immigration". In an abrupt change of policy, the Italian government decided at the weekend to start sending migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East back to Libya by plane. Italy's interior ministry undersecretary Alfredo Mantovano told the La Stampa newspaper on Monday that sending migrants back was a method the country would use "increasingly". "If they know they will be sent back, maybe they won't set off?" he said in La Stampa newspaper. At least three flights reportedly took off on Monday. The island is the nearest geographical point of arrival in the European Union from north Africa.

    Back to Libya
    The BBC's Rana Jawad reports from Tripoli that the migrants will be held in detention centres before being flown back to their country of origin. The Tunisian navy rescued 11 people from the boat which sank on Sunday - only an hour after setting off for Italy carrying would-be migrants from Morocco and Tunisia. "Half an hour after they left, the boat split under the weight of the passengers and broke in two, throwing everybody into the sea," said one witness. As of Monday, 42 people were still missing, believed drowned. Navies from European Union countries are due to start patrolling international waters around Lampedusa this week, in an attempt to deter people trafficking.
    ©BBC News

    4/10/2004- Italy stands accused of breaking the Geneva Convention on refugees by putting many of the latest migrants to arrive on the island of Lampedusa straight on a plane back to Libya without giving them the chance to apply for asylum. Italy's Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu insists his government is still respecting international law, while trying to show would-be immigrants that it is not worth the high risks involved in trying to reach Italian soil. But Christopher Hein, of the country's Council for Refugees, told the BBC that Italy is now violating the Convention. The Italian government calls the situation on Lampedusa an emergency. Its facilities for dealing with large numbers of refugees or migrants have for some time been overwhelmed by the scale of the influx. Occasionally, boats full of refugees have been turned away before reaching Italy's shores. There is little public support for measures to give the boat people a more generous welcome. Italy is on the front line. Its frantic efforts to stop the outflow of "boat people" setting out from North Africa have so far come to little. Libya's leader Colonel Gaddafi has agreed in principle to accept help in stemming the movement of large numbers of people from Africa, the Middle East and further afield through Libya towards Europe. But criminal gangs of people-smugglers on the Libyan coast are still sending out boats overloaded with refugees who are fleeing from war, poverty or persecution and hope for a better life inside Europe.

    Transit camps
    The latest disaster to be reported is the sinking of a refugee boat off the coast of Tunisia, with the death of up to 60 people from Tunisia and Morocco. The exodus across the Mediterranean is now reminiscent of the outflow of boat people from Vietnam in the 1980s and the mass exodus of refugees from Bosnia during the war there in the 1990s. No solution to the crisis is in sight. Italy and Germany have proposed a radical new policy for the EU - helping to run transit camps or centres in countries close to those which produce large numbers of refugees. That could include Libya and Tunisia, which are close to the conflict in Sudan, and Ukraine which is close to Chechnya. But in view of practical and legal problems, EU ministers who debated the proposals last week could only agree to study them and give more technical and practical support to transit countries. Libya has not even signed the Geneva Convention on refugees. It has been accused of exploiting the outflow of boat people to advance its goal of getting more financial and political help from Europe. Faced with public anxiety about the high number of asylum applications in recent years, other European governments have taken steps to bring the numbers down. They include new entry visa restrictions and tougher rules on applying for asylum.

    Business 'need'
    One result of these moves has been to shift the burden of dealing with asylum-seekers more to countries at the EU's land and sea borders, like Italy and Poland. Ironically, Italian business leaders are among those who say that Italy and other EU states now need more immigrants to fill employment needs and prevent a sharp population decline. The man who is due to become the next EU's Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, Rocco Buttiglione, says EU-run transit camps might also serve as places for selecting candidates for regular immigration into the EU. But the obstacles are many. Most European governments want to satisfy their own populations that they are not making immigration too easy. Meanwhile, refugees from poor countries are dying in large numbers trying to reach Europe. Millions are also driven to work illegally in EU states because their status is illegal or unclear. Six years after the EU first decided it should have common rules on asylum and immigration the pressure is growing for them to devise new, just and effective policies on both.
    ©BBC News

    6/10/2004- Italy has resumed the forced expulsions of migrants to Libya, brushing aside criticism from the United Nations. The UN refugee agency says the expulsions, which first started at the weekend, are preventing migrants from applying for refugee status. After the flights were halted on Tuesday, at least two military planes carrying refugees left the southern island of Lampedusa on Wednesday. Italy says the expulsions will continue in the short term. UNHCR envoy Juergen Humburg has accused Italy of preventing the agency from meeting the migrants. The expulsions were triggered after more than 600 people arrived on Lampedusa in one night. More than 1,000 migrants, all claiming political asylum, have arrived by boat from North Africa in the past few days. The island is the nearest geographical point of arrival in the European Union from North Africa. Italy has sent about a dozen planeloads of migrants to Libya since Friday. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is due to visit Libya on Thursday to discuss the crisis. Earlier, the Italian interior ministry said in a statement: "The process of expelling illegal immigrants who arrive by sea will be completed over the coming days as the situation evolves." No official explanation was given for the suspension of the flights on Tuesday.

    Mr Humburg, sent to investigate the situation, left Lampedusa on Tuesday after he was denied entry to the detention centre where the latest arrivals were being held. He said the Italian government had to find ways to identify the asylum-seekers and the refugees among them. "It is not acceptable from our point of view to reject these people just because they arrive in big numbers," he said. "Even if we have mass influxes of people who are fleeing persecution and human rights violations, we cannot make it a question of numbers. They should be given access to a safe country, to asylum, to protection." The Italian government has defended the policy, saying the repatriations will discourage people from setting off. Mr Berlusconi's trip to Libya will be his second in less than two months. He is expected to discuss with Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi ways of stemming the numbers of illegal immigrants heading for Italy. Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgham told the BBC that the country was working with Italy to tackle immigration from "different dimensions". A boat carrying 21 illegal immigrants arrived on Lampedusa overnight - the first arrivals in three days.
    ©BBC News

    8/10/2004- As the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, arrived in Libya to discuss how to handle the tide of illegal immigrants from North Africa, Tripoli claimed to have repatriated up to 40,000 illegal immigrants and arrested several people traffickers. Italy airlifted illegal immigrants to Libya this week in an attempt to deter would-be asylum-seekers from Africa, despite the United Nations' criticism of Rome's fast-track expulsions. Last week, some 1,700 refugees arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa, 110 miles off the African coast, in a flotilla of rusty old boats. These are the people who have been subjected to the airlift. "Libya is a victim of illegal immigration," the Libyan Interior Minister, Nasser al-Mabruk, said. "This is a tax we have to pay for our geographical location, our long land and nautical borders. Italian authorities asked Libyan authorities for their assistance. Libya has accepted this demand and returned them [the migrants] back to Egypt. The number is 1,000 people and they were returned on Italian flights and Italy is paying for the cost." In return for Libyan co-operation, Italy has been urging the European Union to lift sanctions against Libya to enable it to buy military surveillance equipment to help detect illegal immigrants. Italian authorities believe all the boats in the latest flotilla sailed from Libya, although most of the immigrants were from other countries. A UN spokesman said in Geneva yesterday that Italy had granted the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, access to those remaining, but it had come "too late" The UNHCR had accused Rome of breaking international law by not allowing its officials to interview the migrants on Lampedusa before they were flown out of the country. "We have been advised by the Italian government we can have access to Lampedusa," Ron Redmond, the UNHCR chief spokesman, said. "Unfortunately from our point of view it is too late. There are only about 200 people there now. Everybody else has been sent elsewhere." The UNHCR demands access to detained migrants to determine whether they were fleeing war or persecution, something which would entitle them to apply for refugee status.
    © Independent Digital

    4/10/2004- More than a decade after the former Yugoslavia was torn apart by war, nationalists have performed well in elections in Bosnia, Slovenia and Serbia, highlighting the ethnic divisions of all three nations. The ruling nationalists among Croats, Muslims and Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina, who led their fellow countrymen into the war of the 1990s, won in at least 99 of 142 municipalities in local elections on Saturday, according to preliminary results. The results, issued by the electoral organisers, said that the Croatian Democratic Union, the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), founded by the war crime suspect Radovan Karadzic, and the Muslim Party of Democratic Action were well ahead. Analysts say that the low turnout of 45.5 per cent allowed the nationalists to make gains. They say that Bosnia suffers from a combination of voter apathy ­ particularly among young and urban voters ­ and deeply ingrained nationalism. The two stem from the same source, that little has changed since the war ended in 1995. The reconstruction of the Bosnian entities, the Muslim Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic of Srpska, remains slow, despite billions of dollars of overseas aid. Unemployment is as high as 40 per cent in some parts. Few of the hundreds of thousands of Croats, Serbs and Muslims who fled the war between 1992 and 1995 have returned. They settled in the West, most of them starting a new life.

    The three parties in Bosnia used their campaigns to spread the fear of other ethnic groups. The shadows of the past remain particularly strong among Bosnian Serbs, but the moderate Union of Independent Social Democrats made some gains against the hardline SDS. In Slovenia, after an extemely tight parliamentary election, the Prime Minister Anton Rop last night conceded defeat to the centre-right opposition. Janez Jansa's Slovene Democratic Party, the rising star of the right, narrowly won the highest share of the 90-seat parliament with 29 per cent of the vote, beating the ruling centre-left Liberal Democrat party by 8 per cent. Analysts say that Slovenes, despite the country's accession to the European Union in May, are tired of almost 12 years of rule by the liberals. Rightist feelings were a factor in Slovenia before it embarked on the road to independence in 1991. A Democratic candidate meanwhile narrowly clinched the post of Belgrade mayor on a turnout of 30 per cent, while a Slobodan Milosevic ally apparently won in another key city, Novi Sad, the capital of the northern Vojvodina province, indicating a deep split across Serbia, preliminary results showed. Nenad Bogdanovic's victory in Belgrade, reported by the independent CeSID monitors, will bring relief for pro-Western groups in Serbia, where recent gains by hardliners had threatened to set back efforts to move Serbia-Montenegro closer to the European Union and Nato. Belgrade's mayor has wide authority and supervises the budget of the city of 2 million people. It is the third most powerful post in the republic, after those of prime minister and president.
    © Independent Digital

    5/10/2004- The Dutch Justice Ministry has launched an investigation after the embattled Immigration and Naturalisation Service IND was accused of supplying incorrect information about immigrants who have applied for a residence permits. The IND has been the focus of severe criticism in recent months because of serious delays in processing applications from expats and other immigrants. The latest accusations ­ levelled at the immigration service by the Dutch Association of Municipalities (VNG) and the Dutch Association of Civil Affairs ­ have only added to the controversy. Both groups claim that since councils were given the task of issuing residence permits and application forms in April, they have often been given the wrong information by the IND. They also claim the IND is also failing to deliver the promised ICT support. Expats and other immigrants used to have to file applications with the Foreign Police, or Vreemdelingpolitie. But at the end of 2003, Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk announced the system would be improved by transferring the process to the IND. In turn all information about expats and immigrants have been added to the same, single, large database as other residents (GBA, or gemeentelijk basis administratie), to be administered by each local council. The IND has effectively become a "back office" authorising permits and visas. All applications and paperwork are handled through local city halls, which would also act as a portal to other essential offices (e.g. Sofi number and tax registration, residence registrar, etc.) The NVVB claims the transfer of tasks is in chaos, with a spokesman claiming that the IND still uses paperwork while municipal councils are focused on completing tasks digitally. The Justice Ministry has promised councils ICT support, but that is not materialised, he said. As a result some foreigners are being incorrectly awarded certain rights, while other rights are being incorrectly refused.

    The four largest Dutch cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, have joined with the VNB and NVVB in sending a letter to the Justice Ministry alerting it to the situation. Minister Verdonk reacted by telling MPs she will launch an investigation to determine how IND operations can be improved. The investigation will be carried out by the auditor's office. The accusations are the latest in a string of bad publicity for the IND. Lawyers told a parliamentary hearing on 13 September that IND staff are ignorant of their own procedures and that their unwillingness to investigate case files leads to long delays in issuing residence permits. Since the IND took over the tasks of the foreign police in December 2003, computer problems have led to considerable delays in the issuing of residence permits. Verdonk has promised to clear 90 percent of applications older than six months by the end of this year. But the Amsterdam Council complained last month that due to the delays, thousands of new immigrants cannot start their compulsory integration courses. It gave a Verdonk a deadline of 15 October to resolve the situation or face a damages bill amounting to hundreds of thousands of euros. The Justice Ministry will respond to the ultimatum later this week.
    ©Expatica News

    MLA's anger at delay in clean-up

    5/10/2004- A government agency was today preparing to remove racist stickers from lampposts in the Coleraine area. Roads Service vowed to act after an East Derry MLA claimed the stickers had not been removed three months after he first complained about them. However, the agency said it was not aware of the problem until contacted by the Belfast Telegraph and asked to respond to Mr Dallat's claim. East Derry SDLP MLA John Dallat, who has campaigned vigorously against racism in his Coleraine constituency, said the stickers were a blight on one of the town's main shopping districts. The stickers, which appear to have been posted by members of Combat 18, bear a variety of racist messages according to Mr Dallat, including swastikas and anti-immigration and "keep Ulster white" slogans. Mr Dallat was strongly critical of those who had stuck the fly posters up as well as Roads Service for allowing them to remain in such a prominent position. He said: "The small but highly prominent posters spewing out a variety of hate messages were attached to streetlights in Abbey Street "It beggars belief that the Roads Service did not rush remove these hate messages when first erected." He claimed he had been told that a fear of paramilitaries was the reason for delaying action, adding: "What about the threat these racist messages generate for minority communities in the area? "Who cares about the danger they are exposed to as long as we have these publicity stunts continuing in the Coleraine area. Were these stickers put in Abbey Street to intimidate individuals? I am told by workers in the area that they probably were." A spokesman for the PSNI said that the force had not received any complaints about this specific issue but that any complaints received would be promptly investigated. "New (hate crime) legislation which came into effect on September 28 does not introduce any new offences but does allow courts to increase the sentence of anyone convicted of an act believed to be a hate crime. "Any incident reported will be recorded as racial, homophobic, disability, religious or sectarian where the victim or any other person, including police officers perceives it to be so motivated." A spokesperson for Roads Service today said that they "had not been aware of the issue" but had, subsequent to our query, sent an officer to investigate the incident. It was pledged that the offending articles would be removed this week.
    ©Belfast Telegraph

    Remarks that trigger dismay in some Tory circles

    7/10/2004- David Davis gave warning yesterday that Britain's traditional values were at risk from the scale of immigration into the country and promised substantial cuts if the Tories won power. Mr Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, told the Conservative conference that Britain was already the most densely populated big country in Europe and the level of immigration was far too high. Immigrants could fill six new cities the size of Birmingham over the next three decades, he said, and pledged to take action "before it is too late". His remarks were criticised as opening the party to accusations of racism and there were signs of private dismay among some Conservatives as they risked triggering the first row of the conference and overshadowing carefully planned party messages. Mr Davis told the conference that immigrants were not evenly distributed within the country but went to areas that were already the most overcrowded. This put a burden on housing, health, education and public services in areas where that burden was already heaviest. "A Conservative government will substantially cut immigration into Britain. Uncontrolled immigration endangers the values that we in Britain rightly treasure," he said. "We Conservatives understand how vital it is not to threaten what makes this country so tolerant, so decent, so respectful of other people's rights and, yes, so welcoming of people who come here." Immigration would be central at the next general election. Extremist parties were already seeking to exploit fears and resentments that existed and criminals ran the trade in illegal immigration, he said. Mr Davis added: "For that reason, too, we must act to secure the future, including the future of our settled immigrant populations, before it is too late." The hardline tone of his remarks, and the way in which his speech was seen as enhancing his credentials, should he again run in a future party leadership contest, caused anxiety among some party officials in Bournemouth. One leading moderniser on the Tory front bench also expressed private dismay at his remarks about immigration and there was public criticism from Keith Best, chief executive of the Immigration Advisory Service, and a former Tory MP and candidate for Vauxhall, who said that it could trigger accusations of racism.

    Mr Best told the BBC: "I think it is regrettable. It is opening up old wounds, which could lead to allegations of racism underpinning the whole thing. I don't think it is going to help the Conservatives. What we need is to have a sensible, reasoned debate about how we simplify the system." Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "Michael Howard said yesterday that as the son of parents who were given asylum in Britain he owed his life to this country. It is hypocritical for him to now deny modern-day refugees the same opportunities." Mr Davis said that a Conservative government would bring back 24-hour checks on people entering and leaving British borders, process asylum applications overseas, the policy once dubbed "asylum island", and enforce limits on the total number of immigrants allowed into Britain each year. Within a month of taking office a new points-based system of immigration based on the Australian model would be introduced and an annual limit set below the current figure. Liam Fox, the Conservative co-chairman, denied that the speech gave scope for opponents to accuse the party of racism, saying: "If they decide to do that, they will make rational debate even more difficult. They would need to think long and hard before making such a preposterous accusation. Politicians have to discuss these issues in a rational and responsible way." Elsewhere in his speech, Mr Davis promised to provide 20,000 prison places over five years, taking Britain's prison population to 100,000 over five years, in order to scrap the early-release scheme. There was some confusion over how this pledge would be funded after Tory officials released a briefing note saying that the £760 million cost should be compared with more than £1 billion that society would save from imprisoning prolific criminals. Mr Davis, however, told The Times that the capital cost would be met from savings elsewhere in Whitehall found by David James's report of waste in government ministries.
    ©The Times Online

    6/10/2004- In a nearly barren apartment here, Najma Ramadan, 3, a curly-haired blonde wearing tiny bear-shaped earrings, climbed the walls one recent evening, from pipe to pipe. The little girl's toys sat far away, in boxes in South Bend, Ind., where her father, Tariq Ramadan, was to have taken up residence in August as the Henry Luce professor of religion, conflict and peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame. Nine days before his family's scheduled departure for the United States, Mr. Ramadan, 42, a Swiss theologian of Egyptian descent who is probably Europe's best-known Muslim intellectual, received an urgent message from the American consul in Switzerland: Washington had just revoked the visa granted him after a security review last spring. Neither Mr. Ramadan, a preacher of self-empowerment to European Muslims, nor Notre Dame was offered any explanation. They have since learned that the government received some information that caused it to "prudentially revoke" the visa pending an investigation, which has yet to occur. But the nature of that information - is Mr. Ramadan accused of a link to terrorism, of espousing terrorism, of terrorism itself? - has not been revealed. "It's still not clear to him or us who turned him down and on what grounds," said the Rev. Edward A. Malloy, president of Notre Dame. "We have no reason to think that he's a mole or an underground instigator. He seems to be an above ground, forthright advocate of what some refer to as moderate Islam and we see him as a really good fit for our peace institute,"

    The Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, where Mr. Ramadan was to have held a joint tenured appointment with the classics department. For years Mr. Ramadan, a trim, telegenic man with a soft, measured voice who condemns the use of violence in the name of Islam, has been chased by allegations that his public face of moderation conceals an extremist core. Mr. Ramadan is the grandson of Hasan al-Banna, one of the most important Islamist figures of the 20th century, and for many of his detractors that alone makes him suspect. It also gives him a considerable platform, and in Europe, Mr. Ramadan is not just a professor but a high-profile intellectual who has produced 20 books, hundreds of articles and scores of lecture tapes that are hot sellers in Muslim immigrant communities. In much of his work, Mr. Ramadan tries to define a blended identity for Muslims in the West, arguing that one can be both fully Muslim and fully Western. His message to European Muslims is: reject your feelings of victimization, take part more fully in your countries of residence and demand your rights. That message has been perceived as threatening by some Europeans who fear that a growing Muslim population will lead to the dilution of national identities or the Islamization of Europe. Further, Mr. Ramadan's pungent political views have antagonized a diverse lot, from French intellectuals to Egyptian government officials, from supporters of Israel to Saudi clerics. "When you are trying to create bridges, you are in the middle," Mr. Ramadan said. "You are too Western for the Muslims, and too Muslim for the Westerners. Controversy is natural. But this particular controversy about whether I have a secret life as a terrorist or extremist is so old that, frankly, it's - what's the word? - boring." Notre Dame aggressively scrutinized Mr. Ramadan's résumé and body of work before hiring him, and Father Malloy, who interviewed Mr. Ramadan, said he hoped Washington would reconsider its decision to bar him. A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, Russ Knocke, declined to offer any reason for the revocation of Mr. Ramadan's visa. Another government official, who requested anonymity because he was consulting classified information, said the revocation was based not on Mr. Ramadan's beliefs but on "his actions." The official would not elaborate. Mr. Ramadan, expressing frustration with the vagueness of such an accusation, said, "My conscience is clean, my activities are transparent and my file is empty." A senior European counterterrorism official who has investigated Mr. Ramadan said European intelligence services had never turned up proof of wrongdoing on his part. The official added, however, that he thinks the United States is wise to keep him out because of what he referred to as the professor's "dangerous" ideas.

    Courted by U.S. Universities
    Sitting in stockinged feet before the computer in his otherwise empty home office, nibbling on Swiss chocolate, Mr. Ramadan said news of the last-minute visa revocation upset and confounded him. He has traveled to America without problems more than 30 times in the last five years, he said. These travels included a visit last fall to the State Department, where he delivered a lecture on European Muslims to diplomats and officials from the F.B.I. and C.I.A., he said. Mr. Ramadan has lectured Scotland Yard officers on European Muslim communities, too. Mr. Ramadan said he had received offers for a tenured faculty position not only from Notre Dame but also from an Ivy League university and, at a time when American students were hungering for greater understanding of Islam, he was courted by other top-tier schools, too. "A scholar like him, who's thoroughly Islamic but has his feet firmly planted in the modern world, is - I won't say a pearl beyond prize, but certainly a pearl," said Thomas W. Simons, a former ambassador to Pakistan and author of "Islam in a Globalizing World" (Stanford University Press, 2003). Others sharply disagree. Lee Smith, who writes about Arab culture, pronounced Mr. Ramadan a "quieter and gentler" jihadist in The American Prospect last March. And earlier this fall, two Middle East scholars, Daniel Pipes and Fouad Ajami, portrayed the Swiss intellectual in op-ed articles as a dissembler and a wolf in sheep's clothing. Several academic groups, however, from the American Association of University Professors to the American Academy of Religion, protested the government's action as an effort to infringe on the free exchange of ideas. American Muslim groups questioned the government's ability or willingness to distinguish between what they see as Muslim moderates like Mr. Ramadan and extremists. And the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs in Chicago expressed "deep concern" that the unexplained visa revocation was "one more horrific example of government suspicion, intimidation and exaggerated allegations against Muslims and Muslim communities."

    Good Match Seemed Likely
    After several visits to Indiana, Mr. Ramadan accepted the offer from Notre Dame because he found there people "of faith and principle who wanted to build a space of mutual trust," he said. Notre Dame, in turn, liked the fact that Mr. Ramadan is a practicing Muslim and not a detached scholar, giving him greater authority when he talks about the Koran as a "living text" open to contemporary interpretations. Still, several professors expressed reservations about Mr. Ramadan's hiring because of his reputation in some corners of Europe as a militant disguised as a moderate, according to the Rev. Richard McBrien, a professor of theology. In his campus visits, however, Mr. Ramadan's dynamic teaching style made a powerful impression, said R. Scott Appleby, director of the Kroc institute. Notre Dame was looking for a scholar who could "lead us into interreligious dialogue and intrareligious dialogue and religious-secular dialogue," Mr. Appleby said. Mr. Ramadan's approach "was rooted in a kind of spirituality and a scholarly method that was innovative and original and very fruitful. "He has developed his own philosophy, his own synthesis of the West and Islam," Mr. Appleby continued, "drawing from Nietzsche on the one hand and Islamic philosophers on the other. He has critiques of capitalism and globalization, integrated into Islamic ideas. At the same time, he is challenging Islam to become more universalist, to embrace democracy, to help shape democracy. "

    A Troublesome Grandfather
    In 1928, Hasan al-Banna, Mr. Ramadan's maternal grandfather, founded the Muslim Brotherhood, a revivalist movement that advocated a return to Islam as a defense against Western colonialism and decadence. In 1949, Mr. Banna was assassinated at the age of 42. Mr. Ramadan never knew his grandfather; he studied him. He is critical of his grandfather's sloganeering - "The Koran is our constitution" was one motto - disagrees with him about "many things about the West," and scoffs at the idea of an Islamic state. But he says his grandfather is misremembered in several ways. For instance, although the history of the Muslim Brotherhood is dotted with violence, and the group gave rise to more militant organizations, Mr. Banna himself was not personally violent, nor did he legitimize violence, Mr. Ramadan said. His empathy for the poor was admirable, Mr. Ramadan said, and his thinking was more nuanced than many followers and critics understand. Mr. Ramadan has said repeatedly that he is unaffiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which renounced violence in the 1970's but has been periodically banned in Egypt, as it is now. He has relatives who are members but, he said, "they are not happy with me." Still, Mr. Ramadan's genealogy is a big part of what makes him suspect to European intelligence services, just as it is what affords him a platform from which to preach about making Islam more modern. "People make a big issue about his lineage," said Ingrid Mattson, a professor of Islamic studies and Muslim-Christian relations at the Hartford Seminary. "But there are millions of Muslims who will listen to him precisely because of it. That's why it's crazy, keeping him out. " In the late 1950's, Mr. Ramadan's father, Said, settled in Geneva after fleeing Egypt during a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Said Ramadan set up an Islamic center that became a European outpost of the Brotherhood, drawing visitors like Malcolm X. As a youth, Mr. Ramadan said, he was not particularly committed to Islam. He was athletic, playing soccer with a semiprofessional team, studious, and, it seemed, a born teacher. In 1986, at 24, he became the very young dean of a Swiss high school. That year, he also married Iman, a fair-haired Swiss woman who converted to Islam. Mr. Ramadan had known Iman since he played sports with her brother as a child. In the late 1980's, Mr. Ramadan, who by then had advanced degrees in philosophy and French literature, founded the Helping Hand Cooperative, taking students to developing countries to do volunteer work and meet such humanitarian luminaries as Mother Teresa. His commitment to Islam grew slowly, he said, starting after the Iranian revolution in 1979, when the image of Islam began to be "tarnished" by association with fundamentalism. Years later, it hit him that he was transporting young Swiss to open their minds to other cultures while at the same time hiding his own identity. He decided to go public as a Muslim and to further his Islamic studies. In 1991, Mr. Ramadan spent a year and a half in Egypt studying Islamic sciences and, on his return to Switzerland, pursued a doctorate in Islamic studies and began lecturing immigrant audiences. When Mr. Ramadan's father died in 1995, the Swiss government warned him that the Egyptians would arrest him if he accompanied the body home for burial, Mr. Ramadan said. He believes that it is because he provoked the Egyptian ambassador to France during a television talk show by attacking Egypt's human rights record. Late that same year, France barred Mr. Ramadan. Although rumors circulated that he was kept out because of ties to an Algerian terrorist, Mr. Ramadan said he believed that it was due to pressure from the Egyptians. He challenged the ban and it was lifted, but it lingered as a stain on his reputation, which, he said, is why he finds the American ban so troubling. "The assumption of guilt does not get put to rest easily," he said.

    The Proper Place of Muslims
    In 1996, while spending a year in the Britain, Mr. Ramadan started to define in writing his ideas about Western Muslim identity. Some Western Muslims identify themselves as a people apart, he writes in his latest book, stewing in an "unhealthy victim mentality" and an "us against them" mind-set. Instead, they should liberate themselves by developing a "rich, positive and participatory presence in the West," which would include sending their children to public schools, getting involved in community politics and taking part in interfaith dialogues. In the last year, Mr. Ramadan became the de facto representative of the French Muslim community in confronting the government's ban on Islamic head scarves in the schools. Recently, he appeared on a televised French debate during which he was badgered about his support for what other guests kept calling "the veil." How could he favor forcing women to cover themselves? they asked. In a calm voice, Mr. Ramadan responded that he would neither force a woman to wear a head scarf nor force her to remove one. It was a human rights issue, he said, and yet once the ban became law and the choice for French Muslim girls was between going to school and wearing their head scarves, his advice was to attend school. Last fall, also on television, Nicolas Sarkozy, then the French interior minister, challenged Mr. Ramadan to prove he was a moderate by telling Muslim women to "take off their veils." Mr. Ramadan refused. Mr. Sarkozy also challenged him to call for the abolition of the stoning of adulterous women, which is mandated by a strict reading of Islamic law. Mr. Ramadan called instead for a moratorium on stoning. "That way, you start a dialogue," he said. "I won't change any thinking in the Muslim world if I issue a blanket condemnation of stoning to please the French interior minister." But Mr. Ramadan was attacked fiercely for refusing to take an absolutist stance. He was also, to his regret, lumped together with his older brother Hani, whom he calls a "literalist" Muslim. Hani Ramadan lost his job in Swiss education after publishing an essay justifying the stoning of adulterous women. Mr. Ramadan himself set off a storm in France last fall when he wrote an online essay criticizing several French Jewish intellectuals for being "biased toward the concerns of their community" by defending Israel - in its construction of a barrier in the West Bank, for instance - and supporting, to varying degrees, the Iraq war. These positions, he wrote, betrayed the intellectuals' commitment to universal values. If Muslim intellectuals, he wrote, were expected to denounce anti-Semitism and terrorism committed in the name of Islam - which he does repeatedly, he said in an interview - why didn't Jewish intellectuals bear a similar responsibility to condemn "the repressive policies of the state of Israel" and to oppose discrimination against Muslims in Europe, he asked. Bernard-Henri Lévy, a prominent European intellectual, promptly labeled Mr. Ramadan a champion of double talk and said he had written an "anti-Semitic text." The label of anti-Semite stuck to him even though, Mr. Ramadan said, he has been decrying anti-Semitism in the Muslim world for years. Mr. Ramadan's notoriety in France is now such that his publisher decided his next book will be called, "Should We Make Tariq Ramadan Shut Up?"

    The Road to Notre Dame
    After receiving an American visa last spring, Mr. Ramadan rented a spacious house near Notre Dame, shipped his family's belongings there and enrolled his four children in school. Mrs. Ramadan lined up a position as a consultant to an interfaith dialogue at the Center for Women's Intercultural Leadership at St. Mary's College in South Bend. She was looking forward to working outside the home, and to enjoying "America's famous openness" to cultural and religious differences, she said. Now they are in limbo. One recent evening, at about 9 p.m., Mr. Ramadan's phone rang and he pounced on it. Finally, it was the lawyer from Notre Dame with news. The State Department, she said, had alerted the American consulate in Switzerland to schedule an appointment for Mr. Ramadan to reapply for a visa. A fair and thorough review was promised. "I will call first thing tomorrow," he told his wife when he hung up. "There are no guarantees, and, she says, nothing is likely to be decided before Nov. 2. But at least we can take action."
    ©The New York Times

    7/10/2004- The rightwing People's Party has called for legislation to prevent people holding two passports, warning it could demand a nationwide vote on the issue. It comes after Swiss voters rejected moves to make it easier for young foreigners to become naturalised. The People's Party announced its intentions on September 26, shortly after the vote. Its leaders want parliament to repeal the 1992 law on dual citizenship, which allows freshly minted citizens to keep their old passports. Previously, new Swiss had to give up their old nationality. "You cannot serve two masters," said Ueli Maurer, the president of the People's Party, who does however admit that it is not a simple issue. "My wife, who was American, had to give up her passport." The party has had dual citizenship in its sights since it issued its current political programme in 2003. "You cannot buy Swiss citizenship, it must a real and conscious choice," wrote its authors. The populist movement has since said that it must keep a promise made to voters. In May, party representative Jasmin Hutter, with the support of 37 other parliamentarians, called on the government to repeal the law. She believes that dual nationality should not be allowed, since it gives new citizens the best of both worlds without having to make a choice. The government is expected to give its answer in November. Not everybody is happy about the People's Party's latest manoeuvres. "When I think of all the Swiss expatriates who have a second passport and vote here, it drives me mad," said Jacques-Simon Eggly, joint vice-president of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA). "Even if the new legislation wasn't retroactive…, it would still mean that a Swiss person moving abroad would have to cut their ties with their homeland, something I find absurd in our day and age," he added.

    Large numbers
    In Switzerland alone, there are half a million people who benefit from dual citizenship, according to the last federal census in 2000. This simple fact means that many politicians are uncomfortable with the idea of meddling with the country's nationality laws. Pierre-François Veillon, a People's Party representative whose wife is a dual national, says that you have to look at the facts. "In French-speaking cantons, especially those bordering France, there are a lot of dual citizens," he told swissinfo. Veillon admits his party's initiative comes at a bad time. "I'm not against dual citizenship, and politically speaking, I think we have more important things to worry about right now," he added. Among the 612,000 Swiss abroad, 70 per cent have two passports, and around 90,000 vote regularly. A large majority of these voters accepted the government's proposals to ease citizenship requirements on September 26. Jean-Paul Aeschlimann, the other vice-president of the OSA, says that the People's Party is making a mistake. "Either they have forgotten about the expatriates, or they have decided to punish the Swiss abroad who don't vote for them," he told swissinfo. The justice minister, Christoph Blocher, will defend the government's position in parliament in November. Blocher, a member of the People's Party, was personally opposed to easing citizenship requirements. He has asked the Federal Office of Immigration, Integration and Emigration to consider what should be done about dual citizenship. So far three options are available. Switzerland could stick with current legislation, return to the pre-1992 situation, or make dual nationals give up one of their passports.
    ©NZZ Online

    7/10/2004- The Council of Europe said human rights in Chechnya were "catastrophic" on Thursday, just as the region's new president said things were improving. The Council's Parliamentary Assembly said Chechen rebels, Russian troops and local security forces were all guilty of human rights abuses. President Alu Alkhanov attended the assembly in Strasbourg just days after being sworn in. He said Chechnya was "moving in the right direction". Mr Alkhanov, the region's former interior minister, was the pro-Moscow candidate in elections in August. He won a landslide victory after his main rival was barred from running. A resolution passed by the Council of Europe on Thursday said the election "did not fulfil the basic requirements for democratic elections". Four of the last five Chechen leaders have been assassinated. The latest to die, Mr Alkhanov's predecessor, Akhmad Kadyrov, was assassinated in the Chechen capital, Grozny, in May.

    Peace conference
    Mr Alkhanov said recent measures to step up law enforcement in Chechnya, and Russia more generally, were already bearing fruit. "I think we will catch more terrorists and prevent more terrorist attacks," he said. He also gave a cautious welcome to plans by the Council of Europe to hold a pan-Chechen peace conference later this year. Officials said they aim to have one participant per 1,000 inhabitants of Chechnya. "I am not opposed to talks with groups of people that have peace in Chechnya as their objective," Mr Alkhanov said. However, he said he would not sit down with people who used armed force.
    ©BBC News

    8/10/2004- Spain coach Luis Aragones apologised Friday for making a racist comment against France and Arsenal player Thierry Henry. Aragones claims he was trying to motivate striker Jose Reyes ahead of Spain's World Cup qualifier against Belgium when the incident occurred He told Reyes that Henry was a "black piece of shit". Television microphones picked up on him referring to the Frenchman by using racist language while telling Reyes he was better than his Arsenal team-mate. Aragones said: "In the first place, I want to make it clear that my intention was never to offend anyone. For that motive, I have to say that I have a clear conscience. "What I said can only be interpreted in the atmosphere of the team and of a coach who has the obligation to motivate my players to obtain the best results. "To do this, I was using colloquial language. "All I can do is apologise to the people who could feel offended and repeat it was never my intention to disrespect anyone." The incident brought public criticism of Aragones in Spain where his behaviour has been described in some newspapers as "unacceptable" and there were calls for his resignation as manager for bringing the national side into disrepute.
    ©Expatica News

    1/10/2004- The EU remains divided on plans to create camps in North Africa where those seeking asylum will have their applications processed. German interior minister Otto Schily is expected to present the controversial plans to his EU counterparts today (1 October) at an informal meeting in Scheveningen, the Netherlands. Although details of the plans are still not clear, many delegations have voiced scepticism about the proposals. Swedish minister for migration and asylum policy Barbro Holmberg on Thursday rejected the idea as creating more problems than solutions. "Our borders must remain open for asylum seekers while closed to illegal immigrants. Sending back asylum seekers to camps is not relevant. I believe reception camps create bigger problems than they solve", she said, according to Dagens Nyheter. Spanish interior minister José Antonio Alonso also voiced his concerns over the human rights implications of the plans. "Europe cannot allow itself to make a moral, judicial or political backwards step", he said according to EFE. The French government is also said to oppose the idea. However, the plan has received backing from the Italian and UK delegations who are keen to stop the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean. It is not known whether the plans would mean potential asylum seekers would be detained or what recourse they would have to legal advice. Human Rights groups have also voiced concerns over the human rights situation in some of the countries cited as potential locations. Although Libya, Morocco and Ukraine have been floated as possible locations, it appears Libya is the only willing host. Morocco has rejected the idea, and rumours that there are also plans to set up such camps in Ukraine were met with anger earlier this week by Kiev, which said it had not been consulted.

    6/10/2004- Failure to approve the launch of European Union membership talks with Turkey would amount to "institutional racism", it was claimed today. A landmark announcement is expected from the European Commission paving the way for the start of formal accession negotiations – more than 40 years after Turkey first made overtures to the then six– nation Common Market to join the club. Anything short of a clear recommendation to EU governments that such talks should get under way now would send the wrong signals to Turkey's majority Muslim population, according to Labour MEP Richard Howitt. Mr Howitt, Labour's foreign affairs spokesman in the European Parliament, and British representative on the Parliament's delegation to Turkey, said there was a risk of "double standards" if Turkey is rebuffed so soon after the EU open its doors to ten more countries, eight of them former communist bloc states in central and eastern Europe. Turkey has faced repeated setbacks in its efforts to woo the the EU, largely because of the country's poor human rights record. Pegged to a series of "association agreements" for decades, the country's status in the EU relationship rose in 1999 when Turkey was officially recognised as an "EU candidate". A significant change of pace on sweeping political reforms came in 2002 with the election to power of the Justice and Development Party. That hugely boosted the chances of launching of moving towards full-blown accession talks. But even a few weeks ago there was a new setback, with an attempt by the Turkish parliament to push through new laws making adultery illegal. Prime Minister Recep Erdogan swiftly rebuffed that when he saw the EU's reaction – but the fact that Turkey could even consider such a move while bidding to join the Union has left some politicians hesitant about opening the door to membership any wider.

    Nevertheless, the Commission will signal a green light to the Turks at long last – coupled with strict conditions that the EU would not hesitate to pull the plug at the first sign of any backsliding on human rights and democracy. Mr Howitt commented: "Further conditions or postponement of the accession talks cannot be justified, two years after Turkey was promised a decision now 'without delay' and forty years after Turkey first expressed its European ambitions. "Arguments about a European identity, scare stories about mass migration or supposed public opposition are quite simply euphemisms for what would constitute 'institutional racism' by the European Union. He said inflammatory language used by some politicians about 'the Islamification of Europe' and a 'fundamentalist backlash' should not be allowed to play any part in the decision on Turkey's future. "Anything less than a firm date for the talks would seriously undermine the achievements of political reformers in Turkey – the Commission's decision should confirm a multicultural Europe, with Turkey on a one-way road to membership." Even with a green light today, no-one expects Turkey to be fully ready to join the EU for at least another ten years.

    London's Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford, said Turkish membership talks were a reward for Ankara meeting the political and economic conditions laid down so far by the EU. "Turkey has made a big effort in the last 5 years and deserves a green light for EU talks. "The EU should play a central role in monitoring the progress of reforms as membership talks advance. "Turkey's accession would have a big impact, and there will be hiccups on the way to a successful conclusion. But the prize of a dynamic and vigorous secular Muslim country with a rich history and culture joining the EU is one worth fighting for." SNP MEP Ian Hudghton said eventual Turkish membership of the EU would benefit both, but added: "There must be strict conditions attached, particularly in relation to human rights and the Turkish regime's treatment of the Kurdish minority. "Whilst I welcome, up to a point, a mechanism for slowing up or even halting the negotiations if Turkey fails to make progress on human rights, this falls well short of what we would have hoped for. This is putting the cart before the horse – saying to Turkey we'll start negotiations but we still expect you to make progress on human rights is the wrong approach. Real progress on human rights must come first before talks on joining the EU can follow, not the other way round." Fellow SNP MEP Alyn Smith said: "Europe's heads of government will make the final decision on this when they meet for their December summit. Between now and then we need to see intensive lobbying so that Turkey isn't handed a blank cheque for EU membership. "We'd welcome Turkey's eventual accession to the EU, but not before it has made and has been seen to have made real progress on human rights. Any early start to negotiations would be premature in the extreme."
    ©The Scotsman

    6/10/2004- Italy's new European commissioner for justice introduced himself to the parliament in Brussels yesterday by describing homosexuality as a sin and defending calls for asylum camps in north Africa. But Rocco Buttiglione promised that his personal beliefs would not affect the way he does his job. Mr Buttiglione, the commissioner-designate for justice and home affairs, and a close friend of Pope John Paul II, told MEPs: "I may think that homosexuality is a sin; this has no effect on politics unless I say that homosexuality is a crime." He added: "The rights of homosexuals should be defended on the same basis as the rights of all other European citizens. I would not accept the idea that homosexuals are a category apart." Mr Buttliglione is well-known in Italy for his strong religious views and is reputed to have learnt Polish in order to read the Pope's works in the original. Yesterday he defended the traditional notion of heterosexual marriage with men in the role of protector of women. The Labour MEP Michael Cashman said: "Some of the things he said about homosexuals are very worrying. His definition of marriage was very narrow." The Labour MEP Claude Moraes, argued that the nomination of Mr Buttiglione was a "retrograde step" and an "abrupt and brutal end to the current regime in the Commission on questions of civil liberties, migration, protection of minorities and respect for women". Mr Buttiglione won backing from centre-right MEPs over the plan for asylum centres in north Africa, and said he did not oppose an initiative to agree lists of safe countries to which asylum-seekers can be deported. The idea of setting up processing centres outside the EU is being pushed by Germany and Italy, backed by the UK.
    © Independent Digital

    8/10/2004- The incoming Italian Commissioner has been strongly criticised by Josep Borrell, the European Parliament chief, for his conservative views on homosexuality and the role of women in society. "It does not seem to me that in this day and age, we can have people in charge of justice - especially of justice - who think that", said Mr Borrell to French Europe 1 Radio of Rocco Buttiglione. "In Spain, personally, I would not want to have a justice minister with those views", said said Mr Borrell. His words came after the Italian on Tuesday (5 October) told MEPs that homosexuality is a sin and that marriage is so that women can have children. Some MEPs were also outraged by the fact that he appeared to be prepared to let his moral views influence his policy. "I am ready to seek dialogue, which is normal in a democracy, but if there is a proposal that is contrary to my moral principles, I would oppose it", said the Italian. Legally, MEPs can only reject the whole team of Commissioners and not individual commissioners. However, they could ask the incoming Commission president, José Manuel Durao Barroso, to request that Mr Buttiglione withdraw his candidacy.

    Who is who?
    But, this is all wrapped up in different family politics in the European Parliament and there has been some muttering among groups about why certain Commissioners have been approved and others not. The European People's Party, to whom Mr Buttiglione belongs, has so far expressed satisfaction with his performance. "He is an excellent candidate", said a spokesperson "it is just some have chosen to attack him for his religious views". The Greens and the Socialists, however, are outraged by the Italian's views. Meanwhile, EPP insiders wonder why the Socialists have given the nod of approval to László Kovács, the new energy commissioner and a Socialist, who was widely seen by conservative and Green MEPs as having given a very poor performance. The Greens said his hearing was an "offence to the parliament". "We thought the enquiry was rather heavily focussed on technical issues" countered a Socialist spokesperson referring to Mr Kovacs' hearing. And the Danish Commissioner, who is Liberal, was given the thumbs up by the Liberal group in the parliament, but slammed by the Greens and the Socialists. The Socialists said Mariann Fischer-Boel's hearing was "deeply discouraging". The Commissioners' hearings, which finish on Monday (11 October) will be discussed by the different political groups next week. Asking for a re-shuffle of the portfolios may be one way of diffusing the strong feeling about Mr Buttiglione, among others, but all groups have so far suggested that it is too early for such a decision to be made. Mr Barroso will meet with the leaders of the political groups the following week to discuss his team - however that is just days before the parliament as a whole is to vote on the 25-person college.

    4/10/2004- Canadian officials have too long ignored the threat to Indigenous women in Canadian towns and cities. Many are missing, some have been murdered and Canadian authorities are not doing enough to stop the violence, says Amnesty International in a report, Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada, released today.

    "All women have the right to live in safety and dignity but overt cultural prejudice and official indifference have put the Indigenous women of Canada in harm's way," says Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International. "As a priority, the Governments at all levels in Canada must work with Indigenous women in the country to ensure that no more ‘sisters' are ‘stolen' from their communities as the result of discrimination and violence."
    The report is being released as part of a global campaign to stop violence against women. The report tells the stories of Indigenous women and girls who have gone missing or been killed in Vancouver, Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg, and draws on wider public information in concluding that this is a serious human rights concern. Lack of consistent reporting and comprehensive analysis by Canadian police and government agencies of violent crimes against Indigenous women leaves many unanswered questions about the scale and sources of violence. It is Amnesty International's view, however, that the social and economic marginalization of Indigenous women has placed far too many women in harm's way. The reality of this threat is borne out by the suffering inflicted on so many Indigenous families, sometimes more than once. In one family, over three decades, there have been two murders.

    On 12 November, 1971, Helen Betty Osborne, a 19-year-old Cree student from Manitoba, was abducted by four white men in The Pas and then sexually assaulted and brutally killed. A provincial inquiry found that police had long been aware of white men sexually preying on Indigenous women and girls in The Pas but "did not feel that the practice necessitated any particular vigilance."

    Three decades later, on 25 March, 2003, Felicia Solomon, a 16-year-old cousin of Helen Betty Osborne, failed to return home from school in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Two months later in June 2003, body parts identified as those of Felicia Solomon were discovered. Her killer has not been found. "When will the Canadian government finally recognize the real dangers faced by Indigenous women?" says Darlene Osborne, a spokesperson for the family. "Families like mine all over Canada are wondering how many more sisters and daughters we have to lose before real government action is taken."

    The report makes the following links between discrimination and violence against Indigenous women in Canadian cities:

  • Despite assurances to the contrary, police in Canada have often failed to provide Indigenous women with an adequate standard of protection.
  • The social and economic marginalization of Indigenous women, along with a history of government policies that have torn apart Indigenous families and communities, has pushed a disproportionate number of Indigenous women into dangerous situations that include extreme poverty, homelessness and prostitution.
  • The resulting vulnerability of Indigenous women has been exploited by Indigenous and non-Indigenous men to carry out acts of extreme brutality against them.
  • These acts of violence may be motivated by racism, or may be carried out in the expectation that indifference to the welfare and safety of Indigenous women will allow the perpetrators to escape justice.

    The report also notes the failure of federal and provincial governments to implement many of the recommendations made by past commissions and inquiries into the welfare and safety of Indigenous people in Canada. Timely implementation of these recommendations would have helped reduce the marginalization of Indigenous women in Canada and thus increased their safety. The report recommends urgent measures that governments must implement to improve protection for Indigenous women. Police forces must work with Indigenous communities to develop protocols to ensure appropriate and effective police response to reports of missing Indigenous women and children. All governments must ensure adequate, long-term funding of the frontline services needed by women to escape violence. Comprehensive national research on the magnitude of the problem is immediately needed. Action must be taken to recruit more Indigenous police and to train others to understand the complexity of Indigenous issues. And there needs to be a commitment by all agencies and levels of government to ensuring the full participation of Indigenous women in the design and implementation of the policies that directly affect their welfare. "Violence against women is a global human rights crisis, to which all governments must give priority attention. Here in Canada, the double-jeopardy discrimination of gender and Indigenous identity has contributed to the disappearance and murder of so many Indigenous women -- this must now end," says Irene Khan.
    Full copy of the report: "Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada"
    Amnesty International

    5/10/2004- Delegates at racism conference have removed reference to Arabs, Jews and Christians from a document summing up past abuses against blacks, deciding it would too divisive, officials said Tuesday. The delegates were debating a constitution for the Global African Conference at the gathering in Suriname's capital of Paramaribo. Initial wording in the preamble said blacks suffered ``2,000 years of terrorism and white and Arab criminal supremacy.'' The preamble also referred to ``the various holocausts experienced by African people as perpetuated by Europeans, Arabs, Christians and Jews.'' A committee struck the language and trimmed the constitution from 39 to 16 pages, said David Commissioning, a spokesman for the conference. ``The drafting committee felt it was unwise to make a list of oppressors of black people, naming some groups and not others,'' Commissioning said. ``We did not think that the organization should put itself in that position, and no list of oppressors would ever be final.'' The draft still refers to ``a white criminal supremacist world view and manipulation of language, class, and differences in physical characteristics.'' The constitution also sums up the current situation of blacks. The six-day conference, which runs through Wednesday, is bringing together more than 200 delegates from the United States, Canada, Europe, the Caribbean, Africa and Latin America. The Global African Conference was established during a 2002 meeting in Barbados, billed as a follow-up to the 2001 U.N. anti-racism summit in South Africa. Like in Barbados, organizers decided to exclude non-blacks from some deliberations, saying issues like slavery were too painful to discuss in front non-blacks. But only one non-black, a Surinamese of East Indian descent, tried to enter the meetings, and he was allowed in. Delegates were also discussing efforts to sue Britain's Queen Elizabeth II for billions of U.S. dollars in slavery reparations, including land claims. On Monday, Jamaican lawyer Miguel Lorne said he lost the case in Jamaica's High Court because he couldn't prove the island's blacks were direct descendants of enslaved Africans. Lorne said he now has new DNA evidence and would take the case to the United States in August. Surinamese Dr. John Codrington presented new DNA findings at the conference, which he said shows that millions of blacks in the United States, Africa and the Caribbean have the same DNA markers and are directly related. Codrington, who studied blood diseases and DNA technology in the United States, presented a study showing blacks in Suriname, the United States and parts of West Africa and Ethiopia had the same type 17, 19 and 20 sickle cell markers. Lorne said he would bring the case to U.S. courts using laws allowing litigants to file claims against countries and corporations for acts committed outside the United States. He said Jewish groups won millions in reparations from Germany in U.S. courts after the Holocaust and black groups plan to do the same.
    ©Associated Press

    6/10/2004- Delegates from 25 countries vowed at a racism conference Wednesday to unite efforts to seek reparations from corporations and countries that were involved in slavery. Wrapping up the six-day meeting, the Global African Conference adopted a constitution calling for the creation of a committee to oversee lawsuits demanding reparations for the descendants of African slaves. There was no decision on when the committee would be named. "Never before have Africans been so united on one issue,'' said Ray Winbush, a psychologist from Morgan State University in Baltimore and author of the book "Should America Pay? Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations.'' More than 200 delegates gathered in this South American country for the second meeting of the Global African Conference, an attempt to forge an international movement. The first meeting was in 2002 in Barbados and was billed as a follow-up to the 2001 anti-racism U.N. conference in South Africa. Winbush said the reparations movement was given a boost when the United Nations declared the trans-Atlantic slave trade a "crime against humanity'' in 2001, giving "African people from all over the world legal status'' to sue nations and companies. "The argument that this happened a long time ago, these are irrelevant questions,'' Winbush added. "You have a moral duty not to commit crimes against humanity and these companies didn't do that. Neither did these nations.'' Winbush estimated there were more than two dozen efforts worldwide seeking reparations from governments and companies. In January, a federal judge in Chicago dismissed a lawsuit by descendants of slaves in the United States seeking reparations from tobacco companies, railroads, banks and other corporations they claimed profited from slavery. Winbush said that case will be appealed.
    ©Associated Press

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