By Jeroen Bosch , Anti-Fascist Action, PoBox 2884, 3500 GW Utrecht, The Netherlands

At the 24th november 2000 the city-council of Assen decided to abject the protests of the Turkish Cultural Foundation. The city-council thinks that the initiative of Nicolai Romachuk has to be seen as 'a personal initiative' and that statements about the genocide on the Armenians 'are to be considered as thoughts in which the city-council cannot and wil not interfere.' The eight federations, working together in The Turkish Comite, will, according to Gundogan from TCF (in august 2000 responsible for the e-mailbombattacks against the Assen town hall and several members of the city-council) fight this decision 'with all democratic means.' They went to court. The head of The Turkish Forum, G. Genc, said that the city-council of Assen made a 'political statement which placed them right in opposite of the whole Turkish community'. Genc challenged the city-council to come with prove of the genocide on the Armenians. He also announced the plan for a Turkish statue, to commemorate de death among the Turks during the period 1906-1922. He called for all Turkish people and organisations to ask the city-council for such a statue.

Meanwhile, in the Dutch parlement the support of an official recognition of the genocide on the Armenians, is poor. Spokesman Hoekema from D'66 speaks for almost all of the parlementarians if he states: "There was a terrible large scale murder on a population. That is an unevitable fact. But do we have to officialy state that, ninety years later? (…) We are in a critical dialogue with Turkey. It is difficult enough as it is."

At the 24th of april there will be the first memorial meeting in the Netherlands at the statue in Assen. The court case of the Turkish Cultural Foundation was laid of by the judge. It remains the question whether the Turks, and especially the fascist Grey Wolves, will stand quietly aside as the Armenians commemorate their deaths. We call for alertness from anti-fascists during this period.
Also see article January 2, 2001 I CARE News

Britain has one of the worst track records in hunting down and prosecuting suspected Nazi war criminals, according to a report by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. The centre says Britain has had only minimal success in dealing with the perpetrators of the Holocaust and it is urging the government to take urgent steps to improve the prosecution of suspected war criminals. Britain fares badly in the centre's new table comparing the efforts of the 18 countries which are suspected of housing the most war criminals. Britain was placed in the "minimal success" category, with countries such as Argentina, Croatia and Costa Rica. Scotland, which following devolution deals with its own extradition requests, fares worse than the rest of Britain. The report dismisses Scotland's efforts as "insufficient or unsuccessful". The table, which the centre's Jerusalem-based Nazi hunting operation plans to publish annually, was yesterday described as unfair by a former British army Nazi hunter. Lord Janner, former MP and secretary of the all-party war crimes group, said the idea that it was possible to rank the Nazi-hunting efforts of countries was "ludicrous". Efraim Zuroff, director of the centre's Jerusalem office, said: "At least we can try our hardest to ensure the perpetrators do not live out their lives in peace and tranquillity. We urge every government which faces this problem to maximise its efforts to ensure that as many as possible of the criminals are forced to pay for their crimes." Lord Janner said: "This league table makes no distinction between commitment and results, nor does it take into account the circumstances of the country assessed both during the Nazi period and after." Dr Zuroff's study points out that Britain has prosecuted no cases since the former Belarussian policeman Anton Sawoniuk, 79, was convicted of war crimes two years ago. The retired British Rail ticket inspector was given two life sentences. Criticism of Scotland is based on its failure to prosecute Anton Gecas, a Lithuanian living in Edinburgh, who has been accused of the murder of up to 32,000 people. The US was the only country to be graded "highly successful" in the first Nazi War Criminals Prosecution Status Report. It was the first country to use immigration and deportation procedures, rather than criminal procedures, to deal with war criminals and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre is keen for this method to be adopted globally.
©The Guardian

It is not often that the subject of race enters the debate in leadership elections in Japan, a country which claims a 99% level of "ethnic purity". But the issue surfaced in bizarre manner yesterday, when a prime ministerial candidate said Japan should aspire to become a country that attracts "rich Jews". "This might be arbitrary and biased, but I think the best country is one in which rich Jews feel like living," said Taro Aso, minister for economic and fiscal policy, one of four challengers for the leadership of the Liberal Democratic party and therefore the succession as prime minister when Yoshiro Mori steps down next week. The comment is in one sense progressive: until now, LDP politicians would not have dreamed of suggesting that Japan should be for anyone but the Japanese. But his singling out of the wealthy members of one particular group does nothing to change the impression that many Japanese leaders are guilty of racial stereotyping and averse to accepting needy immigrants. Japan has accepted fewer than 10 economic refugees in the past decade. Mr Aso, a rising LDP star related to the imperial family, said the presence of rich Jews was a benchmark of success, because they were attracted to countries that were free of racial discrimination and had good law and order, low taxes and a strong national defence.
©The Guardian

Most victims of racist incidents in England and Wales are white, Home Office statistics show. Police deal with three race-related complaints from white people for every allegation from an ethnic minority victim. But racist incidents in general fall disproportionately heavily on black, Asian and other ethnic groups. They represent six per cent of the population, but suffer up to a third of incidents. The survey suggests that people from ethnic minorities are more likely to be subjected to threats, rather than racially motivated crimes, than whites. They are also less likely than white people to report incidents to police, possibly reflecting a lack of confidence in the authorities. In the past few years, since the Stephen Lawrence murder and the Macpherson inquiry examined the Metropolitan police's handling of racially motivated crimes, much effort by the 43 police forces in England and Wales has focused on dealing with ethnic communities. From 1986, police forces collected information on racist incidents using the definition"Any incident in which it appears to the reporting or investigating officer that the complaint involves an element of racial motivation; or any incident which includes an allegation of racial motivation." But since 1999, when the Macpherson report was published, they have adopted the definition that a racist incident is "any incident perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person". Analysis of racist incidents, including threats, reported to researchers, shows that incidents fell from 382,000 in 1995 to 280,000 in 1999. In the same period, racially motivated incidents against ethnic minorities fell from 143,000 to 98,000. This means that the percentage of white victims rose in that period from 63 per cent to 65 per cent. Racist incidents recorded as crimes rose from 11,878 in 1995 to 47,814 in 1999. Survey estimates show that 172,000 of the 382,000 incidents in 1995 were reported to police, compared with 150,000 of the 280,000 total in 1999. Incidents reported to police by ethnic minorities fell from 41,000 in the same period. Metropolitan police experience since Macpherson is that reports of racist incidents rise when the police publicise their efforts to deal with them.
©Daily Telegraph

More than 200 illegal immigrants have been arrested trying to enter Spain - one of the biggest groups ever to have been intercepted by the Spanish authorities. The 216 people, all of whom came from north and sub-Saharan Africa, were arrested on the Andalucian coast on Thursday. Civil guards found over 100 people crammed into two launches near Tarifa. The others landed and were arrested on shore. So far this year civil guards have arrested more than 2,500 people. Last week 130 would-be immigrants arrived in the Canary Islands - a Spanish territory - from Sierra Leone. Officials fear that improving weather will tempt even more people to cross the narrow Straits of Gibraltar which separate Spain from the African continent.

Dangerous crossing
Thousands of people make the hazardous journey every year in the hope of a more prosperous life in Europe. It is estimated that hundreds die annually in the Straits of Gibraltar because of the strong currents and the heavy sea traffic. Earlier this year Spain tightened up its immigration laws bringing in emergency procedures for deporting foreigners without the right papers. The clamp-down sparked protests across Spain by immigrants who feared up to 30,000 people could face deportation.
©BBC News

The firm that runs Oslo pub "Valentinos" has been fined NOK 30,000 following a racism conviction. A court accepted that a Ghanaian man was barred from the pub simply because of the colour of his skin. This is apparently the first judgement of its kind in Norway, based on an understanding that for some time the pub has excluded guests because of their skin colour or ethnic background. People who do not look Norwegian are asked to show a membership card or student ID, even though other guests are not. The bouncer standing guard the night the Ghanaian tried to come in told the court he was often instructed by the owners not to admit immigrant guests. He said he didn't remember why the Ghanaian man was not allowed into the pub that particular April evening in 1999. The owners were also ordered to pay court costs of NOK 10,000. They have continued to deny the charge of racism, and claim the Ghanaian was barred because he was intoxicated.

The Hungarian parliament refused Wednesday to discuss measures which would make Holocaust denial a punishable offense, with officials stressing that such a move threatened freedom of speech. Parliament rejected a discussion on a change in the law which would impose sanctions on those who denied the Holocaust, as requested in a proposal tabled by the country's largest party, the Socialists, who are in opposition. "Punishment in this case cannot fit into the constitutional order, because the constitution stresses freedom of opinion," State Secretary of the Justice Ministry Csaba Hende told parliament, quoted by MTI news agency. Hungarian parliament held its first ever commemorative session Tuesday for the 600,000 Hungarian Jews and thousands of Hungarian Roma who perished in the Holocaust, sent to extermination camps by pro-Nazi Hungarian authorities. Hungarian Jews had welcomed the ceremony, but called for laws to be passed to ensure that those who denied the Holocaust were punished.
©Central Europe Online

The Open Society Institute has just released a report on the housing and social care made available to the Roma minorities of Central Europe. In the report, called On the Margins, human rights lawyer Ina Zoon claims that local authorities in the Czech Republic have segregated housing policies that abuse the human and social rights of the Roma minority, and she has provided a list of recommendations to resolve the situation. Nick Carey spoke to Ina Zoon and asked her how widespread such segregation is in the Czech Republic:

Ina Zoon: There are two processes. One is the process of evictions and the creation of ghettos, and building up racial segregation. Another one involves preventing Roma applicants from getting back into municipal housing, as limited as this housing is in the Czech Republic. So I would say that the first part of the process is systematic. We can it throughout the entire Czech Republic. It is hardly possible today to find a municipality where you will not find a Roma ghetto somewhere on the margin of the city, so I would say that it is quite systematic and not only tolerated but fostered by local authorities.

Radio Prague: What is being done in the Czech Republic to try to prevent this?

IZ: Well, unfortunately, I don't see much. The Czech authorities do not recognise the existence of racial segregation in the Czech Republic. It is simply denied. Discrimination is recognised, but not racial segregation. But I definitely hope that this will change in the future.

RP: What are your recommendations for change?

IZ: Well, the recommendations deal first with the adoption of coherent anti-discrimination legislation, in line with the race directives of the European Community. The second recommendation is a thorough review of Czech legislation and especially the decisions of local councils, and the elimination of provisions that have a discriminatory nature. Another recommendation is the creation of a coherent system of monitoring of the respect for social rights.

RP: What reaction do you expect from local authorities and the national authorities in the Czech Republic?

IZ: The local authorities are different, but from the national authorities I expect a more open reaction and especially from the bodies that deal with human rights. Of course, the temptation for the Czech authorities, as is the case for other authorities, is to deny the existence of racism and to deny the existence of discrimination, which is the usual, defensive first moment. I definitely hope that the Czech authorities will be able to overcome this first temptation, consider the recommendations calmly and adopt whatever measures they consider appropriate.
©Radio Prague

Children continue to be sold into the domestic, agricultural and sex industries in Africa despite the slave trade being officially banned in the early 1880s. The forced labour is a growing widespread problem in West and Central Africa often as a result of parents' ignorance or poverty, aid agenices have said. The United Nation's children's agency UNICEF estimates 200,000 children are traded each year in the region. Some parents hope they are handing over their children to a better education or job, while others embroiled in poverty are looking to offload their children for financial gain. Children, between the ages of seven and 18 are sold mostly from Benin and Togo, ending up in the relatively wealthy oil-exporting neighbouring areas around Lagos in Nigeria and Libreville in Gabon. Other countries importing child slave labour are Nigeria, Niger, Bukina Faso, and others as far afield as Bangui in the Central African Republic. Social services in the UK took two 11-year-old Benin children into care after they were believed to have run away from Nigerian and Benin expatriate families. Alfred Ironside, spokesman for UNICEF told CNN: "We are very concerned about it and working hard to overcome it. "It is our number one programme in West Africa alongside taking care of the refugees." He added: "The slave trade never stopped in West Africa."

Recent publicity surrounding the rust-bucket ship, MV Etireno, which had been refused port at Libreville in Gabon and then Douala, in Cameroon, while reportedly carrying between 25 and 250 children believed destined for the slave trade, sparked an international search. Benin Social Protection Minister Ramatou Baba Moussa denied her government knew about the human smuggling, but did not rule out involvement by shipping and port officials. And Benin's government resists describing the modern practice of trafficking as child slavery. But international officials say the term is an accurate one and that the transport of children from Benin, a small country of six million people that is one of the world's poorest nations, has been well known among anti-slavery groups for the past five years.

Slavery 'still a reality'
British Foreign Office minister Brian Wilson said: "The plight of the children on board this ship serves as a timely reminder that slavery and bondage are still realities in the world." International conferences have taken place in Africa in an effort to combat the trade and encourage the pursuit of various international agreements which outlaw slavery including the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Organisation of African Unity's African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The number of trafficked children being intercepted at the Benin border has risen from 117 in 1995 to 1081 two years later, UNICEF has reported. In 1997, Benin police arrested five West Africans caught preparing to ship 90 child slaves to Gabon after they had bought the youngsters in Benin and Togo for as little as $1.50. Despite international efforts the slave trade has continued thanks to a combination of delusion, economic need, and ignorance. The MV Etireno gained publicity where others have often been overlooked because of the international alert issued by the Benin Government -- though later it emerged there could actually have been two ships. The government said ports had twice refused to allow the vessel to unload its child cargo, and issued arrest warrants for the ship's captain, crew and three businessmen. The trade is not restricted to three businessmen though -- UNICEF's Ironside said it was a "fairly sophisticated and large network involved." But it is not a particularly lucrative market. Families sell their children, mainly girls, for between $1.50 and $14 who are then passed on and sold to work as domestic servants, and market traders, while boys work in the cotton and c "The children don't eat well, they work long hours every day, and they are victims of frequent corporal punishment."
Figures compiled by the non-governmental organisation in Benin,Enfants Solidaires d'Afrique et du Monde (ESAM)on behalf of Anti-Slavery, showed that 99 percent of those trafficked from Benin to Gabon were girls. The report said: "Interviews would suggest that girls are preferred as they are less likely than boys to rebel as they get older. "The cost of preparing daughters for weddings may also be significant in terms of why more girls are sent with traffickers than boys." Ironside said UNICEF has found the main problem it faces in trying to combat the sale is poverty. "It is our number one problem, with more than 40 percent of people living below the poverty line," he said. Togo-based WAO-Afrique said traffickers or brokers often scout for families with more children than they can easily support. ESAM's report suggested that more parents are accompanying their children across the initial border before entrusting them to traffickers in Togo or Nigeria. Otherwise a "certain amount of delusion goes on among families," added Ironside. "Some believe they are sending their children away to have a better education." Children embark on often dangerous journeys which ESAM said "involves considerable hardship resulting in the deaths of some children." On arrival, they face cruelty and poverty from their sponsors, mainly women, who are often known as "aunties." Those who manage to escape and return to their homes are subsequently trafficked again. Children from Benin who are trafficked tend to receive better treatment from Gabonese families but those who work for Benin expatriates and other West African countries face working days of between 14 hour and 18 hours a day. If they are employed as market traders they often have to carry heavy loads of up to 30 kilogrammes on their backs and walk long distances of up to 25 kilometres each day to sell their goods. Some girls who fail to show enough earnings are forced into sexual exploitation and prostitution, the ESAM report added. Better co-operation between international organisations and the countries involved is necessary, as well as improved awareness on the regional level, Anti-Slavery said. The Benin government has only five small ships to try and tackle the situation. Britain's Brian Wilson urged British manufacturers of cocoa products to be scrupulous in choosing suppliers and ensure that they do not profit "unwittingly or otherwise" from the slave labour of children. National laws may require amendments to establish extra-territorial jurisdiction, to allow the prosecution in once country of an individual who has committed a crime of trafficking in another country, Anti-Slavery said. Children should also have better access to education, health services and employment. Anti-Slavery said: "Parent and Women's Associations, along with other non-governmental organisations, should carry out workshops and education programmes to make parents and children aware of the consequences of trafficking and its dangers for the child and the community."
©Cable News Network

The anti-racism election pledge produced by the Commission for Racial Equality lays down a set of principles for good practice and conduct by all those involved in political campaigns in national, local and European elections.

The CRE says: "Sticking to these few basic principles will ensure that all political campaigns are conducted fairly and free from racial hatred and prejudice."

This is the full text of the document:

"I, the undersigned undertake to:

1) represent the interests of all my constituents, regardless of race, sex, colour, religion or any other discriminating factor, and promote good race relations

2) reject all forms of racial violence, racial harassment and unlawful racial discrimination

3) not publish, or seek to have published by others, or in any way endorse any material, including pamphlets, leaflets and posters, likely to generate hostility or division between people of different racial, national or religious groups, or which might reasonably be expected to do so

4) ensure that in any dealings with the public, including door-to-door and telephone canvassing, no words or actions are used which may 1 encourage, instruct or put pressure on others to discriminate; or l stir up racial or religious hatred or lead to prejudice on grounds of race, nationality or religion

5) make sure everyone involved in my (my party's) campaign for election pledges to abide by these principles, and call on all those involved in promoting or reporting political debate, especially the media, to do the same.

In endorsing this declaration, I (the undersigned) accept responsibility to ensure that every alleged breach is properly investigated by my party, and that appropriate action is taken against any candidate, party member or person acting on behalf of the party or a candidate, who knowingly fails to comply with these principles.

This could include their removal from any formal role on behalf of my election campaign or that of the political party I represent, and a public disavowal by that party."
©BBC News

A ship carrying 600 illegal immigrants, mostly Kurds, has been allowed to disembark in the southern Italian port of Gallipoli. The immigrants, some of whom are Iranians and Sri Lankans, are reported to have paid about $2,000 each for their passage from Turkey. Police said the crew appeared to have abandoned the ship or mingled with passengers to escape detection. The immigrants, including 200 children and five pregnant women, were taken to emergency reception centres. The unregistered ship was left adrift about five miles off the port of Gallipoli on Saturday night, when some of those on board reportedly contacted authorities by mobile phone. Thousands of illegal immigrants try to enter Italy each month, but they usually come in much smaller craft. This is one of the largest groups to have reached Italy's shores. The Iranians and the Sri Lankans are expected to be sent back but the future of the Kurds is still unknown.

Election issue
Last November, 877 refugees, mostly Kurds, arrived at the Italian port of Taranto aboard aUkrainian vessel which had sailed from Istanbul, a month after nearly 500 people arrived in the southern Italian port, also from Turkey. Initial reports suggest that the latest boatload also came from Turkey. BBC Rome correspondent David Willey says immigration is a major issue at the moment in Italy, with a general election on 13 May. Both candidates for prime minister, media magnate Silvio Berlusconi and former Rome Mayor Francesco Rutelli have pledged to crack down on illegal immigration. The Italian incident comes less than two months after a ship containing 900 Kurdish migrants was abandoned off the French Riviera, renewing Europe's debate about how to deal with the problem of people trafficking. Smugglers can collect thousands of dollars per person to bring would-be immigrants to western Europe from Asia, eastern Europe and north Africa.
©BBC News

The judiciary must get more means to act against asylum seekers that engage in criminal activities. Currently, misbehaving asylum seekers with a temporary permission of stay can only be expelled if they have spent at least nine months in jail within a period of three years. Justice State Secretary Ella Kalsbeek wants to reduce the nine-months term in order to deal with the problem of police arresting the same persons time and again. Aliens who break into cars repeatedly, are indeed prosecuted, but may never reach the nine months' imprisonment total, Kalsbeek illustrated earlier this year. The state secretary however does not favour more stringent measures against criminal asylum seekers who are still in the application procedure. She considers that the judiciary has sufficient means in this field. Kalsbeek also snubbed plans for a national inquiry into crime among asylum seekers, as put forward by the conservatives (VVD), Christian democrats (CDA), and the Christian mini-party SGP. There are no clear indications that the number of crimes committed by asylum seekers is on the increase, according to the state secretary. Kalsbeek will however allow police to compare asylum seekers' fingerprints with those in the judiciary's files for crime solving. But, the proposal of VVD and CDA to move lawbreakers from the regular reception centres to separate facilities fell on stony ground with Kalsbeek. That would only cause more problems, she considers.
©Netherlands Info Services

Belgium has recorded an increased number of Slovak Romany asylum seekers since visa requirements for Slovaks were abolished in early April, Pravda writes today saying that several dozen Romany families left for Belgium over the past ten days. "These facts are embarrassing particularly for Belgian state bodies as well as political circles because Romanies from eastern Europe have permanently been a source of worries for local authorities," Pravda writes. According to the paper, the number of Slovak asylum applicants has also increased recently in Finland, Norway and Denmark. The Belgian government late last year tightened regulations with the aim of preventing abuse of the asylum and immigration procedure which now takes a maximum of three weeks. During the time asylum applicants do not get financial assistance amounting to the welfare minimum, but only material aid. That is why Belgium is surprised by the growing number of asylum applicants from Slovakia. The European Fifteen decided in March to resume visa-free relations with all EU candidate countries. This measure is not binding on Britain and Ireland which continue to apply visa requirements in relation to Slovakia. Belgium as well as some western countries had imposed visas on Slovakia due to big numbers of Slovak Romanies applying for asylum.
©Central Europe Online

One of Israel's leading scholars of the Jewish Holocaust has angrily compared the country's Nobel prize-winning Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, to a holocaust denier after an interview in which Mr Peres made the astonishing claim that the Armenians – 1.5 million of whom were slaughtered by Ottoman Turks in 1915 – never experienced a genocide.

Mr Peres' statement appeared in the Turkish Daily News prior to a recent state visit to Turkey; the paper says he went so far as to refer to the Armenian account of the mass slaughter as "meaningless". Israel Charny, the editor of the distinguished new two-volume Encyclopedia of Genocide, has written to Mr Peres, expressing his shame at the remarks and accusing Mr Peres of going "beyond a moral boundary that no Jew should allow himself to trespass". Dr Charny, who is also executive director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem, has reminded the Foreign Minister that Israeli academics signed a public declaration at a recent holocaust conference in Philadelphia stating that the Armenian genocide was factual. To the fury of Armenians, and of Dr Charny, Turkey is funding a worldwide campaign to deny the facts of the Armenian holocaust which was unleashed by Ottoman rulers against Turkey's Christian minority in the First World War. Tens of thousands of Armenian men were executed by Turkish forces in 1915, and their families deported to the Syrian desert where they were systematically plundered, raped and butchered by Turkish gendarmes and marauding Kurds. At the time, the British Foreign Office denounced the Armenian holocaust (Winston Churchill first used the word about the Armenians) although today's British Government, apparently fearing Turkish displeasure, initially tried to prevent Armenian participation in this year's Holocaust Memorial Day.

Dr Charny, who devotes 45 pages of detailed factual evidence and copies of documents on the Armenian holocaust in his encyclopedia, was among those Israeli historians who refused to give in to Israeli Foreign Ministry pressure when Turkey objected to the inclusion of the Armenian slaughter in a 1982 holocaust conference in Tel Aviv. Dr Charny says Mr Peres telephoned him then, urging him "not to insist on including the subject of the Armenians".

When Adolf Hitler was preparing the Nazi extermination of Europe's Jews, he asked his Wehrmacht generals if the world any longer remembered the Armenian genocide; but Israel has often adopted an ambiguous attitude towards the 20th century's first holocaust.

Unwilling to antagonise its present-day Turkish ally  and in some cases unwilling to compare Armenian suffering with that of European Jewry  the Israeli Foreign Office persuaded the Jewish Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel to withdraw from the 1982 conference's debates on the Armenians. In Dr Charny's unprecedented letter to Mr Peres, he says: "It seems that because of your wishes to advance very important relations with Turkey, you have been prepared to circumvent the subject of the Armenian genocide in 1915-1920 ... it may be that in your broad perspective of the needs of the state of Israel, it is your obligation to circumvent and desist from bringing up the subject with Turkey, but, as a Jew and an Israeli, I am ashamed of the extent to which you have now entered into the range of actual denial of the Armenian genocide, comparable to denials of the Holocaust."

The Turkish newspaper states Mr Peres said Israel should not determine a "philosophical position" on the Armenian holocaust. "We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred. It is a tragedy what the Armenians went through but not a genocide." If Mr Peres has been quoted accurately  and he has made no attempt to correct the newspaper  his remarks will deeply offend millions of Armenians. It is standard Turkish policy to refer with contempt to Armenian suffering as "allegations" and to downgrade the Armenian holocaust as a mere "tragedy". To the relief of the millions of Armenians descendants of the 1915 bloodbath, Dr Charny has never wavered. His encyclopedia states bluntly that both the Armenian and Jewish genocides were the products of state-initiated policies. "The Armenian genocide occurred under the circumstances of the Turkish revolution and the First World War," it says, "while the [Jewish] Holocaust was a product of the Nazi revolution and the Second World War."

Turkey maintains, despite US diplomatic evidence at the time, that the Armenians were mere vict the bodies of thousands of Armenians in the Turkish countryside in 1915, many of them knifed to death. "A massacre, however horrible the word may sound, would be humane in comparison," he wrote.
© Independent Digital

The government's asylum policies have come under fire from the British Medical Association. The organisation has published a handbook that attacks the way asylum seekers are dispersed around the country and forced to buy goods with vouchers. The policies have been central planks in Labour's efforts to forge a "firm but fair" system for refugees. But the BMA says they have been cut off from support groups and doctors have been left struggling to cope with the needs of vulnerable people arriving in communities without warning. The government has come under further pressure from 28 of its own backbenchers who signed a Commons motion attacking the voucher system as "stigmatising and degrading". They called on ministers to abandon it "without delay" and return to the system of benefit support. Both developments come shortly after Downing Street countered claims Labour had been using the race issue to stifle debate on its policy on asylum seekers. On publication of its handbook the BMA said it "deplores the hardening of attitudes towards asylum seekers in this country".

Doctors struggling
The organisation goes on: "The BMA is opposed to the detention of asylum seekers and to the voucher scheme and is strongly critical of the way the dispersal of asylum seekers has been managed. "Asylum seekers have been cut off from support and advice from existing refugee community groups and doctors have struggled to cope with the needs of vulnerable people arriving without warning, planning, or language support services." Overall the handbook is aimed at helping doctors deal with human rights violations they encounter anywhere in the world.

Race row
It will almost certainly ensure the race row sparked by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook last week rumbles on. On Monday Home Secretary Jack Straw attacked William Hague for being too "weak" to contain Conservative splits on race. At the same time Downing Street played down the failure of some Labour MPs to sign the Commission for Racial Equality's anti-racism pledge by saying there had been no edict on the issue. A fierce political row developed when the shadow chancellor Michael Portillo and several other Tory MPs refused to sign it. Mr Hague, insisting his party was not in any way racist, has said: "Labour politicians try to censor any discussion (of asylum) by labelling all who raise the issue as racist. "It is a shabby and contemptible ploy."
©BBC News

An EU delegation arrived in Sarajevo, Tuesday to seek ways of stemming the flow of thousands of illegal immigrants who pass through the Balkans region en route for what they hope will be a better life in the west. "We hope that we could propose measures aimed at limiting the flows to some extent," Graham Leese, a British delegation member, told journalists. Leese said the EU was very concerned about illegal migration through the Balkans countries, and organized crime associated with it. During their two-day stay in Bosnia, the delegation was to meet with local authorities and international representatives working on the issue. Last week, officials from Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia and federal Yugoslavia met in Sarajevo to discuss illegal migration.
©Central Europe Online

An organization representing Albania's ethnic Greek population said on Monday that Greeks were boycotting an Albanian national census because it did not include questions about ethnic group. "All the Greek community is boycotting the census procedures in a sign of protest because the nationality and religion of citizens are not included in the questions," the Omonia organization said. Albania's last census in 1989, which did contain a question about ethnicity, indicated 1.8 percent of Albania's 3.2 million people were ethnic Greeks. The Greek population believes the actual number is higher and would like this officially confirmed so that ethnic Greeks can press for better recognition of their rights as a minority. The Institute of Statistics, which is carrying out the census this month, said the questions had been based on United Nations criteria, which do not include ethnicity. "This census is done for demographic and socio-economic purposes to give policy-makers data on how many citizens there are in Albania, where they live and in what conditions," the institute's director Milva Ekonomi told Reuters. Greece last year alleged voting irregularities in Albania's local elections. Results of the current census should be known in February 2002.
©Central Europe Online

The Roma of Macedonia, traumatized by the persecution of their brethren in neighboring Kosovo, have given their full loyalty to the government in Skopje in its struggle against ethnic Albanian rebels.
"We are loyal to Macedonia and we have a duty to defend our country," said Mustafa Miljenje, a senior official of the National Union of the Roma Macedonia (SRM), the main political force of the country's Roma population. The Roma oppose the "terrorists," Miljenje said in a reference to the recent clashes between the ethnic Albanian separatist guerrillas of the National Liberation army (NLA) and government forces.
Estimated at about 60,000 people out of a total population of two million, the Roma community in Macedonia is mostly concentrated in a shanty district at the dead-end road from Skopje to the neighboring hills. But they also live in the areas around the predominantly Albanian western town Tetovo, the scene of violent clashes between the NLA rebels and the security forces in mid-March. There, members of the Roma community told AFP, "children and their parents sleep with their clothes on" so they can flee at any moment since "Albanians do not like Roma." In Sutka, a poor, dust-swept suburb, houses are made of used bricks and cartons and exhausted horses pull wooden carriages packed with poorly-dressed children through the streets. Women collect wood for heating or wash clothes at the taps by the main road, where 1970s-era Mercedes cars pass by decorated with garlands and plastic dolls on the back windshield. Near an old merry-go-round, painted in the red and yellow of the Macedonian flag, other children play ball on a make-shift field, with goals marked by stones. The Roma community owns two private television stations, SUTEL and BTR, and one daily newspaper, Roma Time, with a circulation of about 3,000. Among the issues often covered are sports and culture, and the election of Miss Roma in beauty contests held in January and July. But a fear of war still prevails despite an at least temporary halt to the fighting with rebels from the large ethnic Albanian minority. "I am afraid of war and terrorists, but I will never give up my Macedonia, I will never leave," Majda, a 33-year old mother of four, insisted.Nearby, a woman threatens to throw a shoe at a black cat, as if hoping to castaway bad luck. A smell of lilacs in bloom is mixed with strong smell of grilledcoffee grounds, prepared from old traditional recipes -- on stoves dating back to another era. "We are the poorest community in Macedonia, some 80 percent of Roma live on welfare," Miljenje said. "A family of four gets about 40 dollars per month." But this situation "is nothing compared to horrible fate which has hit the Roma in Kosovo," he said. Since NATO-led peacekeepers arrived in the now UN-run Serbian province Kosovo in June 1999, Roma and other non-Albanian minorities have come under a series of sometimes deadly attacks by extremists from the majority Albanian population. Accused by the Albanians of taking sides with the Serbs during the 1998-99 Kosovo war, Roma felt they had no other choice but to flee the province. A police-guarded Roma refugee camp is situated near Sutka, where children flying kites get them tangled in the chain-link fence surrounding the premises.
©Central Europe Online

German Interior Minister Otto Schily is contemplating a scheme to disable foreign Web sites which pander to neo-Nazis by ordering them struck with denial of service (DoS) attacks, Der Spiegel reports.

In response to the high-profile DoS attacks last year, Schily established an Internet Task Force to protect Germany's critical infrastructure. Schily seeks to transform its role into something more like a "rapid deployment force," the magazine says.

The government believes such attacks would be legal, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Dirk Inger. Such attacks would represent "the defense of our system of laws against illegal attacks by those who consciously exploit the international medium of the Internet."

Mind you, the Web sites in question would be hosted overseas, presumably in compliance with local laws. In the USA, for example, hate speech and Holocaust denial are protected by the First Amendment, though they are crimes in Germany.

Not surprisingly, a lot of German neo-Nazis skirt their own laws by publishing their rubbish abroad, especially in the USA where it's perfectly legal.

The German Supreme Court ruled a week ago that laws regarding Nazi material can affect people who publish it "on the Internet, on a foreign server that is accessible to Internet users in Germany." This is hardly a surprise, as Germany has a rather long history of ignoring the sovereignty of other nations which it happens to consider itself superior to.

Obviously Schily has noodled out the fact that no country will honor an extradition request for someone accused of making Nazi materials available to German Netizens, unless the accused is committing a crime recognized by the second country.

Hence his brilliant idea of sponsoring script kiddies to perform extrajudicial attacks to disable the Web sites directly. Of course that's a crime at the moment, but perhaps the German courts will make an exception such that it would be legal for hackers to disable sites that publish wrong-headed ideas which bother the German government.

So if this plays out, Germany would become one of the few countries that doesn't prosecute hackers because it's the one of the few countries that outlaws a specific body of evil thoughts. Quite a nice bit of pretzel logic, we must allow.
©Central Europe Online

Young Albanians forced into prostitution tell of their sorry plight
Albanian women told a committee of the Council of Europe meeting in Paris on Monday grim tales of being auctioned off like cattle and of enduring brutal psychological pressure designed break them, to turn them into uncomplaining prostitutes. "They are auctioned off like animals. If they're blonde and pretty, the bids are higher. Then they're trained for their future trade. They're raped, tortured and psychologically broken until they submit. It's a real slave market," said Briseida Mema, describing the techniques Albanian pimps use on women to supply western Europe with prostitutes. Mema belongs to the Independent Forum of Albanian Women. Also invited to the hearing on the burgeoning trade in women and their sexual enslavement were parliamentarians, police specialists and representatives of private aid organisations, including a number from eastern Europe. The camps where the women are inducted into the sex industry also exist in countries of the former Yugoslavia. Calls for classifying trafficking in women as a crime against humanity have been growing stronger recently. According to Socialist MP Lydie Err of Luxembourg, it represents a new type of crime against humanity which remains relatively unpunished. Where charges are filed, he says, they often result in sentences and fines below those imposed on dealers in drugs and arms. Fearing revenge attacks by their tormentors, many women who have escaped from prostitution withdrew their agreement to publicly address the committee. Philippe Boudin, director of the French Committee Against Modern Slavery, puts the number of non-EU women forced into prostitution in the European Union since the collapse of communism in 1989 at 500,000 to 600,000. Every year, another 120,000 or so join their sorry ranks. For the traffickers and pimps, business is booming, says Don Cesare Lodeserto, head of the Regina Pacis womens' shelter in Lecce, Italy. The introduction of the euro has only boosted earnings. Experts at the United Nations put turnover in the global sex-slave trade at seven to 13 billion dollars. The EU declared war on the illegal trade in women back in 1999. Several directives aimed at harmonising and stiffening relevant laws are currently being examined by the council of ministers. As yet, none has been passed into law. So far, only Belgium and Italy have declared the trafficking of women for the prostitution industry as a crime and taken steps to provide help to victims of ruthless gangs of human traffickers. In Belgium, for example, escaped women can assume a new identity if they wish.
©Frankfurter Rundschau

Boatloads of Refugees Becoming Routine
Barely two weeks before the big Easter Week tourist rush in his tidy seafront resort, Mayor Spyros Platimesis awoke to the kind of 3:30 a.m. telephone call he's come to dread.

Another dilapidated ship smashed against the rocks in a storm. Another load of illegal migrants dumped on his little island town of 5,000 inhabitants. Another chaotic race to rescue them, doctor them, shelter them, feed them -- and keep them from escaping.

In the two years that Platimesis, 53, has been mayor, last Sunday's incident involved the fifth boatload of migrants to be washed ashore, grounded or stopped by the coast guard near Karystos on the southern tip of Evia, Greece's second-largest island. But this group was the biggest by far -- 467 men, women and children from 14 countries, packed as tight as the daily catch in the hold of an 84-foot-long Turkish fishing trawler. When the mayor began rousting city council members from bed, the first two that he reached thought he was playing an April Fool's joke.

"I ordered up city buses, police patrol cars -- anything we had that moved," said the mayor, who personally picked up three immigrants he spotted on the roadside leaving the scene of the shipwreck. He sent all the bedraggled storm survivors to the two largest facilities in town -- the waterfront cultural center, with its four toilets, and an unused car ferry with one toilet. "This is 10 percent of the town's population," a frustrated Platimesis said. "I'm struggling as mayor because nobody else is taking care of a problem that happens all the time."

It is a story repeated with alarming frequency on islands and coastlines across Europe -- from the ports of Turkey through the Greek isles to the shores of Italy and France -- as smugglers of humans increasingly turn from overland routes to the sea to transport their illegal cargoes from some of the world's most impoverished, war-ravaged and politically precarious nations.

Last year, 52 boats -- an average of one a week -- jammed with migrants foundered or were captured on the Greek islands and shorelines -- nearly double the number recorded just two years earlier. Scores more were nabbed by Turkish and Italian police forces, many after being abandoned by their crews or after running aground in foul weather. Overall, Greek authorities arrested 259,403 illegal immigrants last year, a 39 percent increase over the previous year, according to government records. Authorities admit they cannot calculate the number who slipped through its borders undetected.

While many European countries, including Greece, have reinforced land border security in recent years, smugglers have turned to the route of least resistance -- the largely unpatrolled shipping lanes and high seas. "The problem is becoming worse every day," said Mihalis Khrisokhoidhis, Greece's minister of public order. "It's not a Greek problem, it's a European problem. What do we do with all these people?"

International law enforcement and immigration agencies say human smuggling is beginning to compete with drug trafficking as the most lucrative business for international crime mafias. The shipment of human cargo that landed on the rocks about 3 1/2 miles from the center of Karystos last Sunday morning reportedly earned smugglers nearly $1 million.

Most of the travelers on the rickety fishing trawler Medine paid $2,000 for transit from the eastern Turkish port city of Canakkale to the Italian coast, according to more than a dozen of the passengers, who came from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and the Horn of Africa. They were crammed below decks in fish holds with no toilets and only stale bread to eat, passengers said.

But after 22 hours and less than one-third of the way to Italy, violent seas began tossing the small orange vessel. With its rusting, unused fishing gear and its red Turkish fla bread he could find. "I didn't have any other choice," he said. "We couldn't leave them starving." Some of the children and three pregnant women, including one eight months along, were taken to the local hospital.By Sunday night, town officials had organized local women to cook gallons of soup for more than 350 migrants camped on the floors and between the rows of seats in the town cultural center's auditorium, a room draped with blue velveteen curtains. Another 100 passengers -- mostly men traveling without families -- were bedded down in the cold, dark belly of an out-of-service car ferry just across the street from waterfront cafes, where severely pruned trees offered natural canopies and freshly caught octopuses were strung on ropes to dry in the sun. By Tuesday afternoon, with a three-day stubble covering his face and a room full of city officials and aid workers assembled around the table in his smoke-clouded office, Platimesis had lost all patience.

"The municipality is falling apart," he said, tugging at his thinning gray hair. "We could handle the 40 or 60 that arrived in the past, but not nearly 500. My cultural center is wrecked. I've got sewage problems -- the pipes are all backed up. The municipality worked hard to have a nice place for people to go." "It's an emergency situation," interjected Frangiski Chronopoulou, a representative of the U.N. refugee agency office in Athens. "Let's all be patient. We can't throw them out to the sea, nor can we move them to another municipality." At the other end of the table, nuns working with the Red Cross and the deputy mayor were drawing up a list of needed items: underwear, clothes, toys for the kids. Police had only just begun the bureaucratic process of attempting to sort through the would-be migrants. Some were expected to apply for political asylum, although aid workers say most know that Greece has one of the most cumbersome and restrictive asylum policies in Europe. Most will be deported; some from more precarious nations such as Afghanistan or Iraq will likely be released and will continue their journeys to other European destinations.

"There's supposed to be a proper contingency plan for these situations," Platimesis continued as the meeting wore on, his voice getting louder with each sentence. "But every time, we just go from pillar to post. Who's going to clean the place up? Who's going to provide the supplies? I was told by the highest-ranking officials that those people would be out of here by Monday and nothing's happening!"

City officials were fretting over the approach of one of the biggest tourist holidays of the year: Easter Week, with its crush of vacationers from Athens, 3 1/2 hours away. "All the city services are concentrated on this situation," groused Deputy Mayor Dimitrios Bayiatis. "We're not going to be able to provide proper services for the tourists and the local people. The city will get a bad image."

Javed Wazair, 22, an Afghan from Kabul, has a glorious image of this city, though he doesn't even know its name. He and nearly 50 relatives sold their houses, cars and furniture to finance the journey that ended here so abruptly. "There is no life in Afghanistan. We had no hope," he said. "Here, we can have hope."

As for the Medine's three Turkish crew members, on Tuesday they were tried and sentenced to 9 1/2 years in prison -- seven days for each of the smuggled migrants, plus one year on a related charge. Yesterday, a Greek newspaper, the Independent, reported that all three would be allowed to buy their way out of serving their terms by paying a fine of up to $100,000 -- likely to be paid by the smuggling ring that hired the crew.
©The Washington Post

On the occasion of 8 April – World Roma Day – the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) points to the increasing number of assaults on Roma and the high level of open and disguised discrimination of this population group. The HLC has since the beginning of the year reported several attacks on Roma by groups and individuals advocating racist views. The most recent took place in the Banjica district of Belgrade where a large group of Roma was assailed by skinheads and, in an act of open discrimination, paramedics refused medical attention to some of the injured.

Practice has shown that the police are ineffective in such situations, usually reacting by taking down the particulars of the offenders and issuing verbal warnings. The recent extraction by force of a statement from Miroslav Milic, an 18-year-old Rom, by four unidentified police officers at a Belgrade police station is also characteristic of the attitude of police toward Roma. The ongoing law enforcement reform should therefore include training in dealing with incidents with ethnic and racist backgrounds. The HLC hopes that its initiative for the adoption of legislation against racial discrimination will be supported by all relevant factors in society and encourage law makers and the public at large to help to change the outlook toward all minorities.

Yugoslavia is a member of the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. These two organizations marked the World Roma Day with events around Kosovo. The HLC was represented at the event in Prizren by its Executive Director Natasa Kandic.
©Humanitarian Law Center

The German Government has banned 20 small neo-Nazi groups since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Its application to outlaw the extreme right-wing National Democratic Party itself is now being considered by the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe. But the government's strategy is rapidly changing. It now wants to break the stranglehold that extreme right-wing groups have on their own members. The policy is to provide help and support, particularly to vulnerable young people who want to quit the violent skinhead groups, or Kameradschaften. Such groups have been blamed for a wave of anti-foreigner violence. The so called "exit" schemes, costing up to a $45,000 per head, could see disillusioned neo-Nazis receiving protection from their former comrades, help to find a new flat and support in finding work or training.

Teenage rebels
And there will be support for families with neo-Nazi children - families like Martina's, who live in a pretty village fountain in rural western Germany. There are no concrete blocks, no depravation - just fields and farms. It is the last place you would expect to encounter a problem with Germany's extreme right. But Martina's normal, middle class family was driven apart when her teenage son and daughter joined a far-right skinhead group called the White Power skinheads. "We just noticed that the children had changed," she said. "They had become ice cold, like stones and had no feelings. "At first we responded by telling them off, giving them lectures and forbidding them to do things, but that didn't work." Martina refused to give up on her children and eventually pulled them both out of the neo-Nazi scene. Her language is now that of psychotherapy rather than confrontation. Martina's daughter, Katja, is just 16. She still has cropped hair, though now dyed bright colours, and she is working through the experience. She cites "personal reasons" and problems at school and within the family for joining the group. Tiny in stature, and likeable today, she was once full of hate. "I knew what the Nazis had done," she said. "You could use it to provoke society. "We would shout 'Adolf Hitler' in the street and I was proud when they thought we were idiots. "I felt we were against everyone."

Will it work?
The government's exit strategy is designed to help families exactly like Katja's. Despite having quit the scene, Katja said she still gets mobile phone SMS text messages from ex-comrades wanting her to resume her activities. She is under intense pressure to return to the group. "There are young people joining the skinhead or neo-Nazi scene, who are not really extreme right-wingers," said Junior Home Office Minister Cornelia Sonntag-Wolgast. "They just look for life in a group and they have no other contacts, so we try to get inside these groups, talk to them, and get them away from the scene. "Afterwards you have to help them. " The Federal Government now wants to take the battle to the top. They want senior neo-Nazis to give evidence against their erstwhile comrades in return for more lenient treatment in the courts. One expert who already runs a fledgling exit-programme that has successfully turned round several neo-Nazis, told me anonymously he was critical of the government approach. "They have to want to change themselves," he said. "If the government wants to concentrate on the high ranking activists they need a different strategy. "I don't think it will be very successful. They are usually ideological committed and fanatical." Others have warned that offering support to former neo-Nazis may send the wrong signals. But Cornelia Sonntag-Wolgast confirmed that direct payment had not been ruled out, although she was aware of the danger that paying neo-Nazis to leave might even encourage more people to cash-in. "That mustn't happen," she said.

Moving on
In Katja's bedroom the word "Hate" is still scrawled on t scheme is designed to help young people like her from sliding back into the scene under the weight of peer group pressure. Katja's mother Martina was a member of the peace and love generation. She has tried to do the right thing for her family. But holding a confiscated red stained baseball bat with a Swastika in the handle, she said it had not been easy. "My daughter has kicked people on the ground," she said. "And that's very, very difficult to accept. "But I know if my children had gone to prison I would still never have given them up". For some experts, that softly-softly approach to winning back her children means understanding too much and condemning too little. For them, the victims of racial violence have to remain centre stage.
©BBC News

Many asylum seekers pass from one European country to another before applying for asylum. Although the European Union has been trying to harmonise its asylum procedures, there are still differences in the kind of reception an asylum seeker can expect. The reasons for going to a particular country are numerous - and range from money to language and cultural links. But asylum seekers are often accused of shopping around, and their applications for asylum are sometimes not considered on the grounds that they came through a "safe third country". In 2000, just under 400,000 asylum seekers lodged applications for asylum in the 15 EU countries. The biggest groups came from Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran - all countries from which there may, in the eyes of EU governments, be legitimate reasons to flee. But only about a quarter of the asylum seekers were granted asylum status in 1999, the latest year for which there are figures. By the end of the last decade, there were still 200,000 asylum applications pending in EU countries, more than half of which were in the UK. The size of the backlog - and the subsequent time it takes for an application to be processed - is sometimes another factor in an asylum seeker's choice of country.


In 2000, the UK received the largest number of asylum applications of any EU country, leading to fears that the country was being perceived as a "soft touch".
However, the number of asylum seekers who were recognised as genuine more than doubled to 72.5% between 1998 and 1999, undermining suggestions that most of the asylum seekers are bogus.

Key facts
Number of asylum applications 2000: 97,860
Recognition of asylum-seekers in 1999: 72.5%
Percentage granted refugee status in 1999: 12.1%
Cases still pending 1999: 102,870

Asylum-seekers receive an allowance of roughly $176 a month (£30 a week), two thirds of which is in vouchers. They can apply for the right to work after six months, but if they find employment they lose their voucher benefits.

Asylum seekers must prove they are destitute to qualify for state accommodation. They can be housed either in hostels, local authority housing or detention centres across the country.

Asylum seekers have access to free health care. Expert psychological treatment for victims of torture is provided for asylum-seekers in London and south-east England.

Education is compulsory for children up to 16, and is free up to 18.


For years Germany admitted the largest number of asylum seekers of any EU country, but was overtaken by the UK in 2000.
In the last 10 years the number of asylum seekers in Germany has more than halved. The backlog of cases pending has been reduced from over 80,000 in 1996 to approximately 40,000 at the beginning of 2000.

Key facts
Number of asylum applications 2000: 78,760
Recognition of asylum-seekers in 1999: 13.5%
Percentage granted refugee status in 1999: 11.3%
Cases still pending 1999: 65,860

Monthly pocket money has been reduced to $38 (80DM). All other assistance is given in kind.

All asylum seekers are placed in reception centres where they stay for up to three months before being housed elsewhere.

Asylum seekers are examined for contagious diseases on arrival, but psychological assistance is hardly ever available at reception centres.

Aslyum seekers who have arrived since May 1997 do not have the right to work at any stage during the asylum determination process.

School is not compulsory, but children have the right to education if it is available. It is rare for children to be taught in their mother tongue, or to have extra German language lessons.


The Netherlands used to be fairly generous in comparison to other EU states in its treatment of asylum seekers, but has recently introduced stricter measures.
Asylum seekers arriving in the Netherlands via another EU country are not entitled to accommodation in reception centres.

Key facts
Number of asylum applications 2000: 43,890
Recognition of asylum-seekers in 1999: 15.6%
Percentage granted refugee status in 1999: 2.5%
Cases still pending 1999: none

Asyum seekers receive a one-off allowance, in addition to weekly pocket money and clothing allowing. If food is not provided at the residence centre, the allowance is equivalent to about $162 a month (39 euros a week).

All asylum seekers are placed in reception centres where they stay for the first three months before being housed in residence centres, hotels or boarding houses.

Asylum seekers are offered a general medical check-up on arrival, and can be referred to a specialist by the doctor at the reception centre.
Aslyum seekers are allowed to work for 12 weeks a year.

School is compulsory for children between five and 16, but asylum seekers are not entitled to advanced education. Dutch culture and language classes are usually provided at the residence centres.


For a small country, Belgium has a large number of asylum seekers. It has more asylum seekers per 1,000 inhabitants than any other EU country. (It takes 4.2 asylum seeker per 1,000 inhabitants, compared to the UK's 1.7).

Key facts
Number of asylum applications 2000: 42,690
Recognition of asylum-seekers in 1999: 32.4%
Percentage granted refugee status in 1999: 32.4%
Cases still pending 1999: none

Asyum seekers receive a one-off allowance, in addition to weekly pocket money and clothing allowing. If food is not provided at the residence centre, the allowance is equivalent to about $162 a month (39 euros a week).

Asylum seekers are normally assigned to either an open or closed reception centre on arrival, although they can obtain their own accommodation.

There is a mandatory test for tuberculosis, and an HIV test is recommended. Asylum seekers staying at reception centres qualify for free healthcare, and two specialised centres for psychological treatment have been set up.

Aslyum seekers have the right to work after their application has been received, and initial processing has been completed.

School is compulsory for children until the age of 18.


The French government is struggling to find accommodation for the tens of thousands of asylum seekers that arrive in the country each year.
On average it takes about six months for an asylum seeker to be allocated to a reception centre. To qualify for a temporary residence permit asylum seekers need to make an appointment with the local authorities, for which there is a four month waiting list.
This discourages anyone who does not have friends or relatives in the country from even applying.
The UK has also complained that the French are not doing enough to stop asylum seekerscrossing the border into the UK.

Key facts
Number of asylum applications 2000: 38,590
Recognition of asylum-seekers in 1999: 19.3%
Percentage granted refugee status in1999: 19.3%
Cases still pending 1999: none

Asyum seekers without friends or family in France usually have to struggle alone due to overcrowding at the reception centres. Many end up in homeless accommodation.

Asylum seekers receive a one-off allowance of $283, in addition to a monthly allowance of $255 for those not accommodated at reception centres.

There is a mandatory test medical test for asylum seekers staying admitted to reception centres. The larger centres provide psychological care once or twice a week.

Aslyum seekers have no access to the labour market.

School is free and compulsory for children until the age of 16. There are no specific integration programmes or state-sponsored language classes.


Estimates suggest that only a third of all asylum seekers in Austria benefit from federal care.
Austria only provides federal care to those asylum seekers who are unable to provide for themselves through their own means and efforts.
Asylum seekers who are considered not to be in need include those in possession of a mobile phone, and those who are citizens of a member state of the Council of Europe.
Also asylum seekers who are absent from their accommodation for more than three days lose their entitlement to federal care.

Key facts
Number of asylum applications 2000: 18,280
Recognition of asylum-seekers in 1999: 56.6%
Percentage granted refugee status in 1999:41.7 %
Cases still pending 1999: 11.080

Asyum seekers granted federal care are provided with accommodation in private pensions or federal-run centres. Otherwise they rely on non-profit organisations and night shelter.

Those on the federal care programme are entitled to a monthly allowance equivalent to $323 (348 euros).

There is a mandatory test for tuberculosis at reception centres.

Aslyum seekers receiving federal care may be employed in auxiliary activities directly connected with their accommodation (eg cleaning, maintenance)

School is compulsory for childrenbetween the ages 6 and 15. Children who do not speak German may take language classes for two years.
©BBC News

A Polish governor has ordered the closure of a disco that angered Jewish groups when it opened in a former tannery where Auschwitz concentration camp inmates worked and died, a spokesman said Tuesday.
Provincial Gov. Ryszard Maslowski decided to overrule authorities in Oswiecim, the Polish name for the southeastern city of Auschwitz, and revoke a permit for the disco. ``This decision will be carried out in the near future, and the disco will leave the building of the former tannery,'' his spokesman, Artur Paszko, said by telephone from the governor's office in Krakow. He said the decision was based strictly on the governor's judgment that that the disco violated local building codes and other regulations.
The dance club, about a mile from the main Auschwitz camp and museum site, opened last summer after city authorities brushed aside protests and granted a permit.

The disco's owner, Rafal Waliczek, said Tuesday he had not received any order to close. ``As for today, we are still playing,'' he said.
The club has enraged camp survivors and organizations in Poland and abroad, who argue that running a disco near the site of the Nazi camp set up during the German occupation in World War II showed a lack of respect for the 1.5 million people who perished in Auschwitz. The location also drew objections from the Solidarity-led government of Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, whose foreign minister, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, 79, is an Auschwitz survivor.

Historians say many of about 1,000 prisoners who worked in the tannery died there, and that the building also was used to store property and hair of Jews killed in the gas chambers.

Waliczek argued at the time that the club was well outside a 100-yard deep commercial-free zone set up around the Auschwitz memorial. Oswiecim's mayor, Jozef Krawczyk, said he would propose another location for the disco, farther from the camp, the national daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita reported.

Paszko of the governor's office said the disco's operator had failed to win approval from neighbors, including an international youth meeting and prayer center. He said the disco also had failed to obtain authorization from the local construction authority to turn the building into a restaurant and a dance club. The governor revoked the decision acting on a motion from the youth center.

Over the past few years, Jewish organizations have protested other plans to build a mini-mall across from the Auschwitz museum. The project has been limited to a visitor center.
©Associated Press

In this seven-square-mile patch of Spain on Morocco's northern coast, the poverty of Africa and the promise of Europe are separated by two high-rise metal fences that stand about five yards apart and are topped by razor wire.

Police officers man sentry posts along the fence, trying to keep Africa out. But every night, Africa comes -- Moroccans and Algerians, but also Nigerians, Sierra Leoneans, Mauritanians, Cameroonians and Malians, all trying desperately to make it over, or through, or under, or around the fence, to set foot here in the closest touchstone of European sovereignty.

"That barbed wire is too high," said Abu Uza, a 30-year-old from Sierra Leone who came here fleeing the civil war and poverty he knew back home. "I almost entered four times and they caught me. The fifth time, I got it." He made it by swimming along the coast and entering on the one side of Melilla not closed off by a fence. "I can swim very well," he said, smiling.

Melilla is a historical anachronism, a far-flung part of Spain that, like another Spanish enclave, Ceuta, farther west, lies across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain proper. Spain does not consider these places to be colonies, but rather integral parts of Spain. Melilla, with an official population of about 65,000, has been a Spanish city since 1497 and was never part of what is now Morocco.

For the rest of Europe, where there is growing concern over a rising tide of illegal immigration, Spain is often viewed as the continent's soft underbelly, the easiest and closest place for African job seekers to enter a European country.

The continent is rapidly moving toward its goal of having no internal borders. The Scandinavian countries became part of Western Europe's passport-free zone this month; Spain is already part of it. That means that once illegal immigrants make it into Spain, they can easily move to France, the Netherlands, Britain or wherever there might be work.
For most, that is the dream of Europe -- work, some money to send back home, a better life.

"I left Nigeria because of the economic squeeze," said Melvin Uldeh, 29, who describes a lengthy journey that took him through Chad and Libya and then over the Melilla wire, on which he cut his foot badly. "I took the first step, I took the second step, and I never looked back. And I won't look back until I get where I want to go."

A university graduate with a degree in political science, Uldeh said "common sense" told him to make the trek to Europe. "In Nigeria, you have no chance. You can't stay there. You can't survive."

But there are rules on who can legally come to Europe, and fences with razor wire to keep everyone else out. Still, "no law is rigid," he observed. "Whatever law is, man made it. Whatever the law is, it can also be bent."

He wonders why Europeans go to such trouble to keep immigrants out. "The kind of jobs these people take are jobs they don't want to do," said Uldeh, who still hobbles on his cut foot. "Trying to put up the barbed wire or tighten the border won't really solve the problem. . . . These people are coming because they want greener pastures. You can't stop them from coming there."

Farther Than It Looks
Not everyone makes it over the fence so quickly.
Melilla is just within sight for 28-year-old Valdo and five other Cameroonians who have been living on the side of Gourougou mountain, outside the wire on Moroccan soil. From the mountainside, Melilla looks every bit the picture-perfect old Spanish town, with its cafes and gracious Spanish avenues lined with sun-splashed yellow buildings.

Valdo and dozens of other Africans who have been trying for six months to cross the border live in a garbage dump a five-minute taxi ride up the mountainside from the Melilla gate. Their only beds are rocks. Blankets are layers of old coats that they wrap around them to ward off the chill. They subsist on food brought by sympathetic local residents and Christian missionaries.

Valdo and the others have tried repeatedly to get past the fence. "We put up with this definitely because we want the chance to go inside," said Valdo, who asked that his last name not be used, speaking in French for the group. "We want to work. Then we'll go back to Cameroon and die there." "Look at our condition," he added. "We don't eat, or don't eat well. We can hardly sleep. It's because we can't find work at home. . . . We have the hope of going to Europe."

There are fewer than 30 Africans living on the mountainside now, Valdo said. There were many more, until Moroccan security forces launched a recent operation that swept up the ones who did not hide. Valdo said he believes that those who were captured were dumped at the edge of the Sahara, where they probably turned around and returned for another try.

"The big gate is the Sahara desert," said Joan Ignasi Soler of Doctors Without Borders, an aid agency assisting immigrants in Melilla and those who arrive by boat on Spain's southern coast at Tarifa. "From Nigeria or Mali, they go to the south of Algeria, or the south of Morocco. They wait in the mountains. . . . They wait for the chance to jump inside Melilla."

Under an agreement between Morocco and Spain, Moroccans caught entering Melilla illegally are immediately sent back. But sub-Saharan Africans can't be sent back -- Morocco won't take them, because they're not citizens. Instead, they are fingerprinted and given a formal expulsion order that gives them 15 days to leave the country, in effect a two-week grace period to find work or head for another country in Europe. Many immediately apply for "papers" -- permission to stay as political refugees and work -- and settle in for a lengthy wait for a decision.

Claims of Discrimination
In Melilla, all arriving women and some men are allowed to stay at a special immigrants' center. The others set up makeshift tents along a dry river bed or stay in an abandoned Spanish military bunker on a hillside, waiting for their cases to be heard. Those at the center get regular meals and c "There is racism," said Harazi Ould Sidina, a 30-year-old Muslim from Mauritania, who was living at the abandoned army bunker. He had just received his expulsion order. "The people from Mali, Guinea Bissau, they can come today and go [to Europe] next week," he said, alleging that Europe tries to keep out Muslims.

Those without papers often try novel ways to reach the Spanish mainland. Hiding in the trunks of passenger cars on ferries that traverse the Strait of Gibraltar is a favorite ruse. Up the coast, at the Moroccan city of Tangier, many immigrants attempt the dangerous crossing -- eight nautical miles -- to Tarifa at the Spanish mainland's southernmost tip. Many have died when the motorized rafts that they ride, some of which also smuggle drugs, capsize.

In January, Spain approved a new immigration law aimed at stemming the flow of illegal immigrants, saying job seekers must apply in their home country and produce a return ticket and a valid job offer. But most immigrants ignore it. They work in the "black economy," taking jobs such as harvesting crops. And with its fast-growing economy, low birthrate and aging population, Spain relies on immigrants to meet many of its labor needs.

Not all immigrants are from Africa. A few come from places much farther afield such as Iraq and Kashmir. Last week, there was one Palestinian in the town's records. They are all using Melilla as an entry point. And some have even made the trip here inadvertently.

Abdul Amr Obaid came here from Basra, Iraq, after selling all his land and paying a smuggler $3,000 for a space on a crowded ship. "He said to me I was going to Spain," Obaid said. "But we came here to Melilla." He arrived with 20 other Iraqis. They and a handful of other Iraqis have been staging periodic hunger strikes and demonstrations in Melilla's town center, demanding better treatment and political asylum. Obaid, 47, who said he was a physician in Iraq, said he is trying to reunite with his wife and children in Oakland, Calif. "I want to go to my family in U.S.A.," he said. "I leave Iraq because the government is no good. Maybe kill me someday." Now that he has made it to this isolated corner of Europe, Obaid is not so sure of his decision. This is "Spain, yes. But not Spain. If this is Europe, I will go back to Iraq!"
©The Washington Post

Beirut Bans Holocaust Revision Session
The Lebanese government has canceled a conference that Holocaust revisionists planned to hold in Beirut, following an outcry from unlikely allies, including the World Jewish Congress and Arab intellectuals and leaders. The scheduled March 31 meeting on Revisionism and Zionism was being organized by the U.S.-based Institute for Historical Review, and the Swiss group Verite et Justice, whose director was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 1998 under Swiss laws forbidding denial of the Holocaust.

Responding to local and international opposition, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri announced Friday that the government would not allow the conference to take place. Hariri told the Daily Star newspaper that granting the group an Arab venue to air its views at a time of Middle East tension would hurt Lebanon's efforts to rebuild its government and improve the economy after a 15-year civil war and 22-year Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon.
"Lebanon has more important things to do than holding conferences that hurt its international standing and smear its name," Hariri said.

Conference organizers criticized the decision as an affront to freedom of speech and alleged it was engineered by the United States and the international Zionist movement to suppress their belief that the killing in Nazi Germany of 6 million Jews during World War II has either been greatly exaggerated or fabricated altogether to extort money and political support for Holocaust victims.

Groups like the Institute for Historical Review have organized similar conferences in the United States. Their views are censored in some European countries under postwar laws prohibiting efforts to play down the Nazis' systematic slaughter. The group's effort to bring its debate to the Arab and Muslim world backfired, creating a rare moment when world Jewish leaders, Arab academics, and the Israeli and Arab media saw eye to eye on an issue.

"Arab intellectuals are outraged by this anti-Semitic undertaking," wrote a group of 14 Arab academics and artists, including figures such as the Lebanese poet who goes by the name Adonis, and Palestinian intellectual Edward Said. Holding the meeting in an Arab country at a time when the Palestinians are engaged in daily violence with the Israelis, they said, would weaken legitimate Arab grievances against the Jewish state by associating them with the anti-Holocaust fringe. Their viewpoint was echoed by Israel's Haaretz newspaper and by the prominent London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat, which editorialized that the conference "disgraces Lebanon."

The 14 academics and intellectuals "are taking a stand which bolsters intellectual integrity and political sense in the Middle East, during a period of crisis and distress," the paper wrote. Few details of the conference had been made public. Even as organizers began requesting passport information from journalists, the location of the four-day meeting had not been disclosed.

Lebanese Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said at a cabinet meeting that he suspected the entire thing was a hoax, "completely unfounded and . . . part of a political and diplomatic disinformation campaign against Lebanon."
©The Washington Post

After an eight-month pause, the Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj Elementary School in Obrenovac near Belgrade is reintroducing elective Romani language classes for Roma children.
With the financial support of the Serbian Ministry of Education, Romani language classes were introduced on an elective basis in all grades of this elementary school last year. They were attended by 126 children, of whom 23 first-graders. Instruction was provided according to a program drawn up by the Yugoslav Roma Cultural Organization, and took place in a specially equipped classroom.
After 5 October last year, the school's new board discontinued the Romani classes, which included elements of national culture. At the initiative of the Humanitarian Law Center and the Rom Society of Obrenovac, and with the full support of the Ministry of Education, the classes will resume after the Easter vacation.
Roma in Serbia do not have regular Romani-language education in either elementary or secondary schools and there are few teachers qualified to provide instruction this language. Roma children can attend Romani language classes twice a week only in a few schools, mainly in Vojvodina.
©Humanitarian Law Center

The Austrian far-right politician Joerg Haider has lost his libel case against a leading political scientist who accused him of trivialising the Nazi regime. Mr Haider took Professor Anton Pelinka to court last year over comments he made to Italian television. "In his career, Haider has repeatedly made statements which amount to trivialising National Socialism," Mr Pelinka told RAI television. "On the whole, Haider is responsible for making certain National Socialist positions and certain National Socialist remarks more politically acceptable," he said.

Possible precedent
The Vienna supreme court ruled these comments were not defamatory, overturning a previous decision. Last May a lower court fined Mr Pelinka 60,000 Austrian schillings ($4,500) over his remarks, raising concerns that freedom of speech may have been damaged by the inclusion of Mr Haider's Freedom Party in the governing coalition. "This is a good verdict for Austria and for Austrian democracy," said Mr Pelinka after the ruling in his favour. It is thought that the decision may influence verdicts in a number of other cases involving the notoriously litigious Mr Haider. Mr Haider has accepted the court's decision, saying it was part of his "professional suffering". "Since my capacity to suffer is unlimited and has grown with the years I will cope with that," he said.
©BBC News

A frenzied hunt off the coast of West Africa for a ship believed to be carrying children into slavery ended Tuesday when authorities in Benin found only economic migrants aboard the vessel. The authorities were trying to determine whether the ferry that pulled into port Tuesday was the ship suspected of smuggling child slaves and believed to be wandering for days in the Gulf of Guinea. The MV Etireno was met at the main Benin port of Cotonou in the predawn hours by aid workers, officials and police.The arriving ship carried passengers, including dozens of unaccompanied children. Aid workers and officials in Benin had suggested that there were some 180 child slaves on board, drawing attention to a sordid trade. The United Nations Children's Fund, meanwhile, kept up an alert for the possibility that there was another ship carrying slaves that might try to dock along the western coast of Africa.
Interpol has reportedly been looking for a second ship.
No move was made to arrest or question any of the ship's crew in Benin. There was also no sign of a businessman and two others against whom international arrest warrants had been issued in connection with the trade. Officially there were 139 people on board after a two-week journey of about 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles). The children who disembarked from the ship were apparently in good health and will be interviewed to determine if they are victims of West Africa's flourishing child slave trade, said a children's rights activist, Alfonso Jaggli. Among the passengers - mostly women with a few men - 43 unaccompanied children were found on the boat and were taken to two children's shelters, where they were fed and allowed to rest ahead of questioning. It was not clear how the children got onto the ship, and it could not be ruled out that they were being smuggled into slavery, Mr. Jaggli said. Esther Guluma, a Unicef representative in Benin, said that none of the children had any documents or papers, "so it is very difficult to tell whom they belong to." Suggestions in Benin that there were child slaves on board the Etireno came from aid workers after the ship left Cameroon last Thursday. As the boat chugged slowly off the isolated villages of the Nigerian coast, out of contact with the authorities, aid workers and officials in Benin grabbed the world's attention with fears for the safety of the children and calls for a proper search. Nicolas Pron of Unicef in Cotonou said that he did not know how the confusion over the boat had arisen. Mr. Pron insisted that the Etireno was the boat that had been sought in the belief it carried slaves. The Benin government had earlier suggested a mix-up with another Nigerian boat, possibly off Equatorial Guinea and possibly carrying Nigerian children."We are pleased that the world is turning its attention to this issue," Mr. Pron said."If there were not child slaves on that boat there are other boats trafficking children."

Despite international efforts to curb the trade, child slavery persists in West and Central Africa. Unicef estimates that at least 200,000 children are trafficked in the region each year. Many child slaves from countries such as Benin, Togo and Mali end up working on plantations producing cocoa and other cash crops in Gabon and Ivory Coast. Others work as domestic servants. Some girls are forced into prostitution. In Geneva on Tuesday, Unicef called for international mobilization against child slavery in West and Central Africa.
©International Herald Tribune

The award winning novelist Nadine Gordimer could be taken off the curriculum in some South African schools because officials say her writing is racist. The author, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1991, had several books banned under the apartheid regime. Now officials in the province of Gauteng have recommended that her book July's People, published in 1981, be taken off its reading list for schools on the grounds that it is "deeply racist". Other works recommended for removal include several of Shakepeare's plays damned as being racist, sexist or not uplifting.

"Deeply racist"
July's People tells the story of a white family which shelters in the home of their former servant, who is black, as racial tensions in a futuristic South Africa erupt into civil war. The government officials are reported to have described the book as "deeply racist, superior and patronising" in a report on reading lists for the equivalent of A-Level students. Nadine Gordimer reacted angrily: "To be called a racist as a white South African and as someone who stayed here through all of the worst time and as someone who identified closely with the struggle - that is just very insulting." The novelist - who campaigned against censorship during the apartheid era - said: "If the selectors of fiction are looking for moral lessons against racism, few could be more telling than the situation in this novel." She said the report by the officials of Gauteng province "echoed amazingly the language and attitudes of the old apartheid censorship board".

Shakespeare shunned
According to reports, the same education body also wants many of Shakespeare's plays taken off reading lists for older teenagers. Plays such as Anthony and Cleopatra and Othello were branded racist; Julius Caesar was said to be sexist because it elevates men. King Lear fared the worst as it "lacks the power to excite readers and is full of violence and despair". Works which escaped criticism included Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice.
©BBC News

Geneva, 30 March 2001

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues and friends,
It is a pleasure to join you today.
Let me begin by paying tribute to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, whose decision not to seek a second term I respect, but greatly regret. Her tenure has seen important achievements. She has raised global awareness of the oft-neglected economic, social and cultural rights, and in particular the right to development. Despite meagre funding, she has expanded the global presence of the Office of the High Commissioner. And she has been a forceful advocate of all human rights for all people, especially for the most vulnerable members of the human community.

I would like to assure you that the High Commissioner and I will seek in the months ahead to continue this progress and, in particular, to ensure the success of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Already, regional preparatory meetings have been held in Dakar, Santiago, Strasbourg and Tehran. Expert seminars have taken place in different parts of the world. The High Commissioner has presented elements for a draft Declaration and Programme of Action, which, taken together with the outcomes of the regional meetings, should provide a good basis for further discussions. Our non-governmental partners are hard at work. And the public has begun to pay attention, as some of the more contentious issues make their way into the headlines.

This is a crucial moment. It is time to consider what message we want the conference to send. It is time to bridge the differences that have emerged. And it is time to focus on ensuring that the conference does for the word "Durban" what the Earth Summit did for "Rio de Janeiro": make it synonymous with a vision of progress for all humankind. Racism and intolerance plague all countries -- scarring our societies, marring our work for peace. Some discrimination is all-too-familiar. Women are targetted for rape during war, for exploitation at work and for abuse at home. Immigrants are attacked, and their customs are mocked. School textbooks often ignore the contributions, or even the existence, of indigenous peoples. State spending frequently neglects the needs of minorities. Mass media are sometimes used to spread false and ugly stereotypes. Politicians -- democrats as well as dictators -- use race-based appeals to seek and maintain power.

In the past decade or so, we have seen new types of intolerance, new targets, and new tools with which to spread it. People with HIV or AIDS have been ostracized. Although human beings have always been on the move, the intensified cross-border movements associated with globalization are seen by some as a threat, prompting a retreat from openness. And the Internet, a tool with extraordinary power to educate and enlighten, can also be a high-tech messenger of hateful words and dehumanizing imagery.

All of this is deeply troubling in itself, as well as a hindrance to development. It is also a perfect breeding ground for armed conflict and massive flows of refugees and displaced persons, as we have seen repeatedly over the past decade. People who are excluded or marginalized, who are denied legitimate channels to participate and feel at home in their society, and whose attempts at peaceful protest are met with repression, often end up resorting to extreme measures, including violence.

The United Nations has mounted a vigorous response. Almost all peacekeeping operations in recent years have had human rights components. Our development agencies focus heavily on good governance and the rule of law. The General Assembly has proclaimed this year the "Year of Dialogue among Civilizations". The international criminal tribunals have sought to fight impunity, and to promote justice and accountability. Within a short period of time, we hope to see the International Criminal Court come into effect. These steps have made an important start in turning the tide. Still, it is less than a decade since apartheid was abolished, and the world is not yet free of bondage and forced labour.

The Holocaust should have demonstrated, once and for all, the nightmare of totalitarian power wedded to perverse and hateful theories of racial superiority. But in the last decade we have again witnessed genocide, as well as the growth of far-right parties with overt or covert racist programmes.

And while we have built up an impressive array of laws, institutions and independent watchdog groups, the people who suffer most from the denial of their human rights are often unaware of their rights, and beyond the reach of these mechanisms. So we must take our efforts to a higher level. That is the heavy burden facing the World Conference.

Despite what some critics say, I am convinced that world conferences are not a waste of time or money. The United Nations conferences of the 1990s have given the people of the world a series of dynamic blueprints for progress on key issues such as the environment, the advancement of women and, not least, human rights.
The World Conference against Racism has similar potential to reach deeply into the lives of people, and give them both help and hope. It can build upon the foundations provided by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Let me stress here that it is crucial for states to cooperate with the Committee created by that Convention.

As we have seen from the regional meetings, the conference process also offers a pulpit from which to air grievances, share experiences, and bear witness. This platform is especially valuable for issues that do not normally receive a wide hearing. Indeed, conferences allow us to become surrogate voices. We carry into the conference rooms the concerns of people who cannot speak for themselves, because they or their families are at risk, because they are in prison, or worse, because they have been killed or "disappeared". We bring the testimony of children. Indeed, were this conference to be solely an exercise in raising public awareness and rousing the collective conscience, that would be reason enough to hold it.

But of course, our main business is to redirect public policy, and leave a lasting imprint on the workings of Governments. They are the main violators of human rights, and bear the main responsibility for promoting and protecting them. For that, we must look to the conference declaration and programme of action. Language from conference documents often finds its way into national laws and constitutions. The documents inspire the creation of new institutions and new protections for human rights defenders. They help spur changes in curriculum, enabling us to start early in teaching tolerance and respect for diversity to our children.

The documents are strong statements of global solidarity and shared values. At their best, they are powerful tools of peaceful, fundamental change. So I urge you all to work towards a solid, credible Declaration and Programme of Action. We need a document that looks unflinchingly at ourselves and at the flaws in the societies we have built. We need a forward-looking document that acknowledges and builds on the past, but does not get lost there. We need a document that all people can recognize as their own. And we need a document that inspires all people, not just Governments, to do their part. We would not be here today, nor will we make progress, without the involvement of civil society. The private sector, too, has a key role to play; one of the core principles I have asked companies to embrace in the Global Compact is to eliminate discrimination in hiring and in the workplace.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The work to achieve active tolerance will take years, if not generations. Living together in harmony is the fundamental human project. There are fine examples of real and lasting success in every part of the world. Let us emulat

The Council of Europe's racism commission says it is deeply concerned about Austria's "use of racist and xenophobic propaganda in politics" and complains that current legislation is insufficient to combat the problem. In a report released Tuesday, the European Commission Against Racism also criticized Britain, saying racism there was "particularly acute" against asylum seekers and refugees. The commission also detailed continuing problems in Albania, Macedonia and Denmark. Some of the harshest criticism was reserved for Austria, where Viennese elections on March 25 were rife with anti-foreigner rhetoric. During those elections, the Freedom Party carried out a campaign that exploited old prejudices and new fears, the report said. Although that strategy vaulted the party into the national government last year, it did not work in March, when the party was trounced.

"Of deep concern is the use of racist and xenophobic propaganda in politics," the report on Austria said. "Most of the existing legal provisions aimed at combating racism and discrimination do not appear to provide for effective protection against these phenomena."

Regarding racism directed at asylum seekers and refugees in Britain, the report said, "This is reflected in the xenophobic and intolerant coverage of these groups of persons in the media, but also in the tone of the discourse resorted to by politicians in support of the adoption and enforcement of increasingly restrictive asylum and immigration laws." The British home secretary, Jack Straw, early this year proposed drawing up an international list of safe nations whose citizens would be barred from seeking asylum. Mr. Straw said certain asylum-seekers from oppressive nations could be pushed more quickly through a speeded-up application process, while those from safe nations could be excluded from applying altogether if the European Union and other international bodies agreed to compile such a list. He added that asylum-seekers should be required to apply for refugee status before reaching EU nations, rather than when they get there, as happens now.

In recent years, EU nations have toughened asylum rules in an attempt to stem the number of refugees seeking shelter within their borders. In 1999 alone, more than 250,000 applied for asylum.

©International Herald Tribune

Nine white members of a South African rugby club have been charged with murder after a black teenager was killed while allegedly trespassing on a white-owned farm. An iron gatepost was tied to the body of 19-year-old Tshepo Matloga before it was dumped in a 100ft deep reservoir. The body was recovered only after it began to rot and floated to the surface. The killing is a setback to South Africa's attempts to rid itself of the divisions of the past, and there have been accusations that the police investigation was hindered by senior white officers. The nine rugby players, aged between 19 and 34, had finished Saturday morning training at the Noordelike club in Pietersburg, capital of the Northern Province. After watching a televised rugby match at the clubhouse, one of the group, Riaan Botha, 28, invited the others back to his family's private hunting farm, Inderhiken, near Dendron. According to Capt Ronel Otto, a police spokesman, the men were then involved in a gun attack on three black men. She said: "All five of their dogs were killed and it is alleged that the murder victim also died at this time." The first officers to reach the scene reported seeing a body lying on the ground. It was on the other side of a fence but the police made no attempt to recover or guard it, continuing their search and discovering the bodies of the five dogs. By the time they returned, the body had gone. Subsequent investigations led them to believe it had been dumped in the nearby reservoir. A police search was started but it was made hazardous by the depth of the lake and the presence of about 150 crocodiles. The nine men, all members of the rugby club but not of the same team, were subsequently arrested and charged with the murder of Mr Matloga and the attempted murder of Alex Motlokwane, another of the alleged trespassers, who was injured. The body eventually resurfaced and was identified by relatives yesterday as Mr Matloga's. The accused were remanded in custody last Thursday and will appear in a Pietersburg court tomorrow when bail applications will be heard. Rugby, long a totem of Afrikaner strength, became a symbol of the "rainbow nation" when Nelson Mandela wore a Springbok shirt at the World Cup final of 1995. Joey Graff, the black president of the Noordelike club, has developed training programmes that include players from all racial groups.
©Daily Telegraph

Human rights violations in Southeast Anatolia over February and March show an increase on 'Black Month' January's figures. Data reaching IHD offices in Diyarbakir show developments are not at all promising

A report prepared by the Human Rights Association (IHD) offices in Diyarbakir showing the statistics for recorded human rights violations in East and Southeast Anatolia over February and March was made public on Monday. The report contains data showing a bleak picture and that the demanded improvement on what is known as the "Black Month" of January 2001, was not seen over February or March. On the contrary, an increase was noted in some categories of human rights violations. Among the factors noted in the report are that the Human Rights Provincial Boards set up by government directive have not positively affected the figures and that consequently on both paper and in practice no change has been seen in the preservation of human rights. Noting that there has been a serious increase in the number of lives lost in armed clashes, the report also states there has been an upsurge in recorded incidents of torture and inhuman practices, although they are outlawed in the Turkish Penal Code and despite government pledges to end illegal interrogation methods. According to data from February and March, there has been a 600 percent increase in the number of torture incidents recorded when compared to the same period in 2000.

Mystery continues
The report states that even though it has been 68 days since Diyarbakir police chief Gaffar Okkan and five police officers were assassinated and 67 days since Peoples Democracy Party (HADEP) district chairman for Silopi Serdar Tanis and district secretary Ebubekir Deniz went missing while in Gendarmerie custody, these incidents have not been cleared up. In addition, other developments have increased the number of question marks to the veil of mystery. The report asks whether the killing of Hasan Sariagac, said to be the mastermind behind the Hizbullah murder of Okkan, when he could have been taken alive was not the result of a desire to cover up the assassination. The report further states that despite all the data available, those who were responsible for HADEP members Tanis and Deniz going missing are still in public office and this in turn creates further concern in the community that the basis for new human rights violations in the region is being formed. The report states that violence and trauma directed at minors in Viransehir on Jan. 9, 2001 was repeated against minors celebrating Nevroz (Persian New Year) on Mar. 21, 2001 in Tatvan. Minors taken into police custody, interrogated and formally arrested in Diyarbakir for allegedly stealing Cola were allegedly subjected to similar abuse. The provision in the Law on Emergency Rule Management Procedures and Emergency Rule exempting Emergency Rule administrations from judicial supervision was generously abused in February and March, said the report. Public Sector laborers, nurses, teachers and so on who are members of labor unions and members of other professional groups continue to be sent into "internal exile". The Diyarbakir IHD report on human rights violations over February-March 2001 also touches on the National Program that has been prepared as Turkey's response to the Accession Partnership Document as Turkey tries to join the European Union. It also mentions the Nevroz celebrations. The National Program is said to be a government plan that is a far cry from responding to criticism regarding democracy and human rights in Turkey as well as one being unable to meet those demands. The report states the program keeps out of public life the different cultures and identities living in the same region and refuses to acknowledge their existence. The program cannot, says the report, be accepted nationally: "This program is not based on Turkey's 1,
Demands for medical treatment: 2 .

©Turkish Daily News

President Sam Nujoma has repeated his attacks on Namibia's homosexual community. Two weeks ago he told students at the University of Namibia that all homosexuals should be "arrested, imprisoned and deported". Now he has urged local officials in northern Namibia to identify homosexuals in their communities in order for them to be arrested. His latest comments were made in the town of Okahao on Sunday, Namibia's media reported. "Traditional leaders, governors see to it that there are no criminals, gays and lesbians in your villages and regions," The Namibian quoted him as saying. "We in Swapo have not fought for an independent Namibia that gives rights to botsotsos (criminals), gays and lesbians to do their bad things here." During his speech, Mr Nujoma was also reported to have called on Namibian women not to sleep with foreigners and urged the return of tradional marriages as a way to combat HIV and Aids. Amnesty International have criticised Mr Nujoma's "vilification and persecution of people for their sexuality" and said that it violated fundamental human rights.

Gay fear
After President Nujoma's comments two weeks ago, members of Namibia's gay community said they were "appalled by the malicious and hateful comments made by the president" and said they were afraid for their safety. Article 10 of Namibia's constitution outlaws discrimination but makes no specific mention of sexual orientation. Last year Namibia's Home Affairs Minister Jerry Ekandjo was reported to have urged newly graduated police officers to "eliminate" gays and lesbians "from the face of Namibia". In a speech in December 1996 President Nujoma said that "homosexuals must be condemned and rejected in our society".
©BBC News

Once again on 21 March, the airwaves were resonant with voices from community radio stations world wide, who dedicated the day to commemorate International Day Against Racial Discrimination, anniversary of the massacre in Sharpeville in 1960. Under the banner of "Radio Voix Sans Frontières", more than 600 community radio stations from throughout the world joined forces in a multilingual co-production that was unique in bringing together broadcasters from different countries and cultural backgrounds, in its combination of old and new technologies, in its local and global outreach, as well as in the process of preparing the 24 hour event with restricted resources and an uncountable amount of enthusiasm.

This was the fourth year for the flagship activity of AMARC, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters. Radio Voix Sans Frontières was transmitted by satellite channels in North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific. It was also live streamed on the Internet, from where it was relayed by hundreds of local AM and FM community radio stations. Many of the local community radio partners contributed their own programmes as part of an interactive global partnership. Others rebroadcasted programmes and combined them with local actions and events. The broadcast consisted of two "channels", an international and a European one, each of which was a mosaic of pre-recorded and live programmes, contributed by nearly 80 community and free radios world wide.

The central hub station of the broadcast was in Johannesburg, South Africa at the Centre for Democratic Communications, and regional hubs were located at Orange 94.0 in Vienna, Austria and Radio Centre Ville in Montreal, Canada. At the international and regional hubs, a continuity team of presenters and technicians put together the incoming programmes and connected live from one studio to another.

Highlights of the International programme included:

  • Co-production of broadcasters from Southern Africa (South Africa, Zambia, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho) which resulted from a training course on "using digital sound" in Johannesburg.
  • the Link Lusofono, a collaboration between Portuguese speakers from community radios in 12 countries, on the different experiences of racial discrimination in their specific contexts;
  • Interview by FIRE, Feminist International Radio Endeavour in Costa Rica, with Gabriela Rodriguez, Special Rapporteur of the United Nations for Human Rights and Migration, who talks about women in armed conflict and the need for education about their rights.
  • Programme on Roma rights in Europe, with testimonials from Roma activists in five Central and Eastern European countries.
  • Kurdish New Year Nawroz special: dedicated to Kurdish prisoners worldwide

    Both the international as well as the European channels of the broadcast have been archived and sections will be available soon for downloading and re-broadcasting on the Voices Without Frontiers website. Considering that the World Conference Against Racism and Xenophobia is going to take place in September this year in Durban, South Africa, Radio voix sans frontières was an important statement on the role that community radios play in eliminating racial hatred.
    Voices Without Frontiers

    By Rafal Pankowski, Warsaw, Poland

    In January, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe reelected the Polish MP Marcin Libicki as its vice-chairman. Libicki, a man with a long record of far-right activity, is a member of the Polish right-wing extremist group called The National Right (Prawica Narodowa PN). In an article for the daily Gazeta Wyborcza, he tried to deny his PN membership but his involvement was subsequently proven by the Polish anti-fascist magazine Nigdy Wiecej (Never Again).

    The PN was formed in the mid-1990s as a radical antisemitic and racist organisation closely modelled on the French fascist Front National. Its publications have featured, among other things, Holocaust-denial articles written by the late former SS general, Leon Degrelle.

    The FN's leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has frequently been acknowledged by PN politicians as their role model and they have published a Polish translation of Le Pen's Hope, a long-winded interview, in book form. They have also been regular participants in the FN's annual St Joan of Arc festival in Paris each May.

    Though a small organisation, the PN has managed to infiltrate the mainstream right. In 1996, it joined the Patriotic Camp, a coalition of several centre-right parties, and subsequently hooked up with a broad alliance seeking to dislodge the post-Communists who returned to government in 1993. This alliance, which now governs Poland, the Solidarity Election Action (AWS), embraces a wide range of political positions, both liberal and conservative.

    As a result, activists from the National Right (PN) have been able to ride into the coalition – a success their French idol, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has never been able to equal – on the back of the conservative right.

    Some PN members, such as Libicki, are also members of other influential right-wing organisations such as the National Christian Union (ZCh-N) which is likewise part of the ruling bloc. The PN's leader, Krzysztof Kawecki, is a deputy minister of education while another PN-linked AWS politician, Marek Biernacki, is now minister of internal affairs.

    After the election of post-communist Aleksander Kwasniewski to the Polish presidency in 1995, the PN staged a demonstration in memory of Eligiusz Niewiadomski, the far-right fanatic who murdered the first president of independent Poland in 1922 because he regarded him as a Jewish Masonic puppet.

    PN supporters were encouraged to join the rally with posters bearing the slogan "Stolzman out!" and displaying Kwasniewski with a revolver at his head. According to these latter-day antisemitic fanatics, "Stolzman" is Kwasniewski's real surname. Later on, Libicki defended Niewiadomski's high-minded motives in a parliamentary statement.

    Recently, Libicki criticised a report on right-wing extremism presented to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, ludicrously claiming that there is no such thing in Poland. His other activities include an anti-gay rights campaign launched in the summer of last year, as well as parliamentary lobbying to exclude Polish Jews living abroad from compensation for property confiscated from them by the state after 1945.
    Never Again Association

    He Gets 14-Year Term in U.K. Smuggling
    A Dutch driver was found guilty Thursday and sentenced to 14 years in jail for killing 58 Chinese immigrants found suffocated in the sweltering airless container of his rig when it arrived in Dover after a Channel crossing last June. Perry Wacker, 32, of Rotterdam, was convicted on 58 counts of manslaughter and, along with an accomplice, Ying Guo, 30, of South Woodford, England, of conspiracy to smuggle illegal immigrants into Britain. Miss Guo, an interpreter whose name and mobile phone number were found in the belongings of many of the victims, was sentenced to six years. Her role was to bail the refugees out of detention centers if they got caught and to forge asylum papers.

    Testimony in the six-week jury trial showed that Mr. Wacker had closed the only air vent to the cargo container during the five-hour ferry journey from Zeebrugge in Belgium on a hot day and then had gone above and eaten dinner and watched two films while his passengers perished. The only survivors, Su Di Ke, 20, and Ke Shi Guang, 22, testified that as the air ran out, the immigrants frantically hammered and kicked at the sides of the vehicle and screamed for help, but their cries went unheard. Kent police released a statement after the sentencing describing the immigrants' harrowing last moments. "It was one of the hottest days of the year, and the victims had discarded much of their clothing inside the lorry," the statement read. "Realizing the seriousness of their predicament, members of the group started banging on the walls of the lorry with their shoes. No one came. "Panic set in, but it gave way to resignation that no one was coming, and they were going to die. They settled down, held hands and ate tomatoes because, in China, it is believed that you should not die on an empty stomach. You should not be a hungry ghost." Justice Alan Moses of Maidstone Crown Court told Mr. Wacker that he had "demonstrated cynical exploitation" of his victims.

    The court heard that the immigrants had paid so-called snakehead gangs based in China up to $20,000 each to help them get into Britain. Their trip took them by air from Beijing to Belgrade and then by car and van through Hungary, Austria, France and the Netherlands, with safe houses and local gang leaders at the various stops. On June 18, they were packed into the back of Mr. Wacker's truck and crates of tomatoes were then stacked to the ceiling at the rear to conceal their presence. When they left Rotterdam, the air vent was tied open, and they were given four buckets of water. More than 4,000 commercial vehicles pass through Dover's busy Eastern Docks terminal daily, but customs officials pulled Mr. Wacker's rig over because it fit a profile developed to identify trucks suspected of carrying contraband. Officers reacted with horror to the discovery of the bodies of the 54 men and four women scattered across the floor behind the tomato crates. The two men who survived had been the last to be put aboard and were able to remain alive on the last of the air available by pressing themselves against the floorboards. Mr. Wacker knew what the consequences of his closing the vent might be, the court heard, because a friend of his also involved in smuggling refugees had told him how a trip two months earlier almost ended in a similar disaster. The friend, Leo Nijveen, was carrying 50 Chinese immigrants in an identical container on the same route and heard them bang on the walls when their air began to run out. He let them out but was arrested when crew members saw the refugees on the deck. Mr. Nijveen was released for lack of evidence, and his freight company was fined $150,000. Mr. Wacker testified he had not participated in loading the truck's contents and had no idea there were people inside, but his fingerprints were found on the tomato crates, and cigarette butts with his DNA were David Wilson, the service's chief of intelligence, said there had been a dropoff since the grisly discovery at Dover in June.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Talks in Macedonia, aimed at working out a political solution to the tensions between majority Slavs and minority Albanians, have so far failed to deliver results. There is strong international pressure to find an accommodation, which would undercut support for the Albanian militants. Many other countries in Central and Eastern Europe have already tried to deal with similar problems. Outside former Yugoslavia, none of the ex-Communist countries have conceded the principle of territorial autonomy for minority communities. Macedonia describes itself as "the state of the Macedonian nation". The Slovak Constitution contains a similar formulation. In each case, the main minority groups - Albanians and Hungarians respectively - would like to change "nation" to "citizens", but so far without success. Both countries remain, explicitly, "national" states.

    National minorities denied
    Poland provides an interesting illustration of how thinking about minority issues has evolved. Under the Communists, the existence of national minorities was effectively denied, all citizens were held to be Poles. Today, several minority nationalities are acknowledged: Germans, Ukrainians, Belarussians, Lithuanians - together accounting for some 3% of the population. They have their own churches, schools and state-subsidised cultural organisations and the Germans have two MPs.

    No autonomy
    But there is no question of allowing regional autonomy of the kind granted, for instance, by Italy, to German-speaking Southern Tyrol. Slovakia's 1999 minority language law allows for Hungarian to be used in official contacts in areas where Hungarians comprise at least 20% of the local population. But discussions on regional government reform have made little headway, with Hungarians complaining that proposals presented so far would divide up the Hungarian-speaking areas, combining them with larger, Slovak-speaking territory. However, since 1998, Hungarians have formed part of Slovakia's governing coalition and much of the tension has subsided.

    Improved relations
    In Romania, also home to a large Hungarian minority, relations have improved in the past few years. Nevertheless, attempts to bring together the main Hungarian-speaking areas into one larger administrative unit have been rejected - as have demands for the restoration of the historic Hungarian university in the ethnically mixed city of Cluj. Hungary itself officially recognises 13 minority ethnic groups, which are empowered to set up local "minority self-governments". However, the powers of these bodies are very vaguely defined and communities have to be resident in Hungary for at least 100 years in order to be eligible.

    Genocide and expulsions
    The ethnic make-up of much of Central and Eastern Europe is itself the result of massive "ethnic cleansing" during and immediately after the Second World War. The greater part of the large Jewish population perished in the Holocaust, 13 to 14 million Germans were expelled from the region; as were several million Poles from what are now parts of Lithuania, Belarus andUkraine. Throughout the region - in the Czech Republic, Slovakia Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia - Gypsies, or Roma, remain at the very bottom of the social heap: poor, despised and subject to daily harassment and racial abuse. Several million strong, they are traditionally Europe's largest nomadic people. hey make no territorial claims, but their high birth rate and continuing social alienation are seen by some pessimists as a potential ethnic time-bomb.
    ©BBC News

    Bruno Megret, leader of an extreme right-wing breakaway group that with France's National Front, announced on Sunday that he would stand in the country's presidential election next year. A split two years ago between the National Front's controversial leader Jean-Marie Le Pen and his ambitious lieutenant Megret, 52, led to the creation of a new party, the National Republican Movement (MNR) headed by Megret. Megret, attending an MNR national convention here, told journalists: "For the first time the MNR will have a candidate in the presidential election, placing it on an equal footing with its opponents in terms of political and media treatment." The 2002 presidential election would be a key one for the far right, because it would be his rival Le Pen's last and his first, he said. But Megret said whether he stood depended on whether his party could collect the required 500 votes of elected representatives to entitle it to submit a candidate for the election. So far it had collected 130, he reported. The Front National (FN) party is a xenophobic party that advocates shipping foreigners home and whose leader contends the Nazi gas chambers were a detail of history. The party has been riven by internal dissensions and has slumped in the polls. In European elections in 1999 neither it nor the MNR scored more than six percent. Bruno Megret is the crown prince who dared challenge the cult supremacy of Front founder and king, Jean-Marie Le Pen. Born in Paris in 1949, Megret studied at France's most select schools -- the Louis-Le-Grand high school and the prestigious Polytechnique, which produces the country's top civil servants -- and has a Master of Science degree from the University of California at Berkeley. His entry into politics came in 1979 when he joined the Gaullist Rally for the Republic party. Two years later he jumped ship to the National Front, apparently more out of political ambition than conviction. He widened his power base in February 1997 by having his wife elected mayor of this southern town of Vitrolles.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    More than 3,000 people attended the burial on Saturday of a black South African teenager allegedly beaten to death by nine white men in the latest in a series of racial attacks.
    About 20 policemen watched as the crowd performed the ''toyi-toyi'' protest dance, chanted anti-apartheid slogans and sang freedom songs while 19-year-old Tshepo Matloga was buried near the Northern Province town of Pietersburg.

    Nine white men aged between 19 and 34 allegedly killed Matloga two weeks ago, after they found him and two friends hunting rabbits on a farm. One of his friends was shot in the leg but escaped. Five hunting dogs were found shot near Matloga's body. Officials and witnesses said police were called to the scene and found Matloga's body, but it disappeared when police left it unattended.
    It was found in a crocodile-infested farm reservoir about 125 miles away, weighed down with a gatepost.

    The attack on Matloga was the latest in a spate of apparently racially motivated violence in South Africa, which underscores the fragility of race relations seven years after the end of apartheid.

    ``Racism is alive and kicking in a country whose constitution is hailed as being among the best in the world. Yet we have no law to curb the scourge,'' columnist Abbey Makoe wrote in the Saturday Star newspaper.
    Angry speakers at Matloga's funeral, who included provincial government officials and local business leaders, urged an end to what they described as continuing racism in the region.

    Tom Boya, the local head of the National African Chamber of Commerce said in an impassioned speech that the government should expropriate land ``owned by the racists.''
    Matloga's killing sparked angry demonstrations in Pietersburg. On Thursday, a magistrates court was forced to abandon the bail hearing for the nine accused after angry blacks overran the courtroom.
    The bail application was postponed until Wednesday to allow the state to carry out further investigations.

    Racial tension was heightened in the province this week after a court acquitted a white manager accused of painting a black girl white for allegedly stealing from her shop, but found her black assistant guilty. She was given a suspended sentence.

    The judgement has caused some South Africans to call for a council to review sentences passed by the courts and for an anti-racism act, currently outlawed under the constitution.

    Profile raised by anti-fascist campaigners leads to higher than average turnout
    In Thursday's Beckton by-election, covering the Canning Town area of south Newham, the fascist British National Party received 17.12% of the vote without running any active campaign. The BNP gained 163 votes in a seat won by Labour with 384 votes. The turnout for the election, at 24.3%, was higher than expected so close to the General Election, a tribute to the work of east London anti-racist organisation, Newham Monitoring Project (NMP), which leafleted every household in the Beckton ward, warning that the BNP were standing. Nevertheless, the election demonstrates that there is a solid core of racist support in Canning Town and that a more concerted effort by the far-right must be met with vigorous opposition by anti-fascists. In the forthcoming General Election, NMP will again be organising in south Newham, encouraging local people to vote against the BNP.
    A spokesperson for the Newham Monitoring Project Anti-Fascist Campaign said:

    "The BNP represent a threat to black people living in the south of the borough and any increase in support for fascist candidates always leads to an increase in attacks on our communities. At the moment, the Nazis are disorganised and divided among themselves, but there is clearly a racist minority in Canning Town that forms a base of support for fascist ideas. We intend to remain vigilant and to organise opposition to the BNP whenever and wherever they push their poisonous racism."

    For more information on NMP and its campaigning activities, call us on 020 8555 8151.
    ©Newham Monitoring Project

    Mary Robinson has reversed her decision to step down as the UN human rights chief and asked for a one-year extension to her current term, UN officials and human rights groups said Monday. Two weeks ago, Ms. Robinson announced that she would leave her post as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the end of her current four-year term in September, saying she thought she could do more outside the "constraints" of the United Nations system. But UN officials said that after expressions of regret at her impending departure from many quarters, she decided to reconsider and ask for a one-year extension. There was no immediate successor waiting in the wings to replace her, and the extension would give Secretary-General Kofi Annan added time to find a qualified candidate - unless she decided to seek a further extension - the officials and human rights groups said.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    11:29 Tuesday April 3rd 2001
    UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today confirmed that he had persuaded Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson to stay in office for another year. Speaking in Kenya, where he and Mrs Robinson are attending a meeting of UN heads of agencies, Mr Annan said the former Irish president had received many messages from world leaders urging her to reconsider her decision to leave the office in September. Mrs Robinson was quite vocal in her criticism of countries she felt were not upholding human rights during her term, which began in 1997. She had made her decision not to seek a second term because she felt the office was under-funded and under-staffed.

    Austria began paying out compensation Monday to people whose property and assets were seized during the country's Nazi era. Initial payments of $7,000 to all surviving victims of Nazi persecution were agreed as part of a deal brokered in Washington in January, an accord designed to protect Austria from future lawsuits by Nazi victims. Heinz Fischer, president of Parliament, said the first recipients were Herbert Anderson in Britain, Eugene Bauer in the United States, and Ernestine Brande, who lives in Vienna. He said a total of 21,000 such payments were to be made. Claimants have until Feb. 22 next year to register compensation demands, but Austria is at the same time trying to contact those with entitlement.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    German parliament applies to ban NPD

    Germany's Bundestag (parliament) has again repeated its claims that the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) is ideologically fettered to Hitler's NSDAP, or Nazi Party, and has formally applied to have the small party outlawed. The government's battle against right-wing extremism is to proceed in other arenas, too, with a broad majority in parliament seeking an injection of substantially more cash for the fight. Two months after the Social Democrat Interior Minister Otto Schily entered his request for the ban, the Bundestag and the upper house, or Bundesrat, will on Friday submit their applications to the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe. The dossier compiled by the Bundestag includes detailed information on how the NPD "imitates Nazism," said MP Michael Buersch, a Social Democrat in Berlin. The NPD's affinity to Hitler's Nazi Party is demonstrated by its ideology of "Reich" (Empire) and "Volksgemeinschaft" (National Community), said Buersch. In addition, it possesses "only a tactical attitude to legality" and glorifies Nazism. The evidence for this, said parliament's constitutional lawyers Guenter Frankenberg and Wolfgang Loewer, was garnered mainly from publicly accessible sources such as speeches and articles by NPD officials. In its application for a ban, the federal government places more emphasis on additional evidence collected by the intelligence services. The Bundesrat, according to the Bavarian state government, is meanwhile focussing its application on the "aggressive and belligerent posture" with which the NPD pursues its goals. The ambitions of the far-right to create "nationally-liberated zones" in the public domain plays an important role here, with Social Democrats and Greens stressing that the parliamentary applications were only one component in the fight against the far-right. The parties of the centre-left coalition government confirmed that they had received backing for the application from the liberal Free Democrats and the ex-communists of the PDS. The joint application will be debated by all parties on Friday in a special session of the Bundestag. Politicans are expected to voice calls for the government to "perpetuate" the fight against right-wing extremism and continue paying the current sum of 22.5 million dollars annually in future years. But no agreement was reached with the main opposition alliance of Christian Democrats and their Bavarian partners, the CSU. The parties of the "Union" as they are known, say they want to fight all forms of political extremism and not just the right-wing variety. The Berlin section of Germany's extremism watchdog, the Verfassungsschutz, has reported that an "online cameraderie" of right-wingers is forming on the Internet. The network serves to organise and prepare for actions, said the government agency on Wednesday. So far, it has no details of membership numbers.
    ©Frankfurter Rundschau

    'Like-minded' countries band together at UN human rights conference

    Each spring, Geneva plays host to a huge debate on human rights as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights - which has become the global organisation's third-most important political forum after the Security Council and the General Assembly - convenes in the Swiss city for six weeks. Prominent guests are expected - like French President Jacques Chirac and the new Congolese head of state, Joseph Kabila, both of whom intend to speak at the conference at the end of this week. On Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (Green Party) flew to Geneva for a few hours to take the podium after a statement by his Austrian colleague, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. In a departure from the normal rules of diplomacy, Fischer confessed in full public view that Germany, too, had problems implementing human rights. "It is intolerable and shameful for my country that violence against foreigners and people of different skin colour has occurred increasingly often again in Germany," he said. Prior to his appearance before the Commission, Fischer visited UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson. "I told her that she has done outstanding work, and that we regret that she was not available for a second term of office," he told the press before taking his leave of spring-like Geneva and flying back to snowy Berlin. Appearing before the human rights Commission remains something of an honour. Only 53 of the UN's 189 members have a seat on the gremium. Places are reserved for the five permanent members of the Security Council. The other seats are allocated among the "normal" UN member states on a rotating system according to geographical criteria. The actual human rights situation in member countries plays no special role in this selection process. To be sure, many subjects are open for debate. To which rights is a person entitled regardless of their origin and skin colour? And what is more important: freedom of expression, or the right to work and to have a roof over one's head and sufficient food? Seventeen "like-minded" states have now tabled a resolution calling for an end to all the confrontations and finger-pointing. But a cursory glance at the list of "like-minded" states makes the plea for harmonious cooperation seem a little disingenuous: Algeria, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Vietnam. The common denominator among them is that they all more or less brazenly disregard the rights and fundamental freedoms of their citizens. Indeed, quite a few of them have come under fire from the human rights Commission. The "like-minded" countries also want to ban non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from the Commission's annual conference. Human rights activists considered it a big victory when, several years ago, more than 200 NGOs already recognised officially by the UN were granted observer status. The group of 17 is attempting now to turn back the clock. Their motion aims to shut the NGOs out of the proceedings once again and to forbid them from distributing what the group calls humorous and politically-motivated materials in the conference buildings. It is true that not all of the NGOs buzzing around the human rights Commission are beyond reproach. In many cases it is difficult to determine who is behind the organisation and who provides its funding. In some quarters, defending human rights and going to bat for other humanitarian concerns has grown into quite a business - one that depends on donations for its survival. But generally speaking, the NGOs and the press can be credited with having mobilised broad public opinion in favour of protecting victims of tyranny. Resolutions from Geneva are not likely to leave despots trembling, but media reports that resonate far beyo West of demanding that developing countries respect every basic political freedom while not caring one iota about their economic or social problems. Economic globalisation, they say, has further exacerbated the gap between rich and poor. The Commission showed a certain amount of understanding for this point of view by appointing "special rapporteurs" on the issues of the rights to education and food and access to adequate housing. But academic exercises like these are not enough. The privileged of the world must prove that they wish to bestow not only civil rights on the globe's five billion poor, but acceptable living conditions as well. German Foreign Minister Fischer characterised the split between those who support civil and political rights and those who support socio-economic rights as wrong. All human rights are equally important, said Fischer, and must be advanced and implemented simultaneously. On the "like-minded" states' motion that the Commission no longer censure individual states, Fischer had this to say: "If the representatives of these countries think their arguments through to the end, they have no interest in weakening the UN." Operating in the middle of this minefield is the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In interviews, Mary Robinson has explained her decision to step down from this difficult UN post when her first term ends in September with a lack of political and financial support from the West. And in fact, the UN spends a mere two per cent of its budget on human rights. Neither has Ms. Robinson had the fortune of being deluged with voluntary contributions. Yet the background to her departure apparently also involves differences over vision. There are rumours of conflicts between her and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who once elevated human rights to a concern that should permeate the work of the entire organisation. Today, Annan's goals are more modest. It seems the worldwide implementation of human rights will remain on the agenda for generations.
    ©Frankfurter Rundschau

    Britain has been accused of being racist and intolerant in its treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. A report from the Council of Europe's racism commission says that a "xenophobic" attitude is evident in the media, political debate and government policy. Tuesday's report also details continuingproblems in Austria, Albania, Macedonia and Denmark. But it found that intolerance of refugees and asylum seekers was "particularly acute" in the UK. The report said this was "reflected in the xenophobic and intolerant coverage of these groups of persons in the media". But it also criticised the "tone of the discourse resorted to by politicians in support of the adoption and enforcement of increasingly restrictive asylum and immigration laws".

    Home Office Minister Barbara Roche said the report contained a series of "very serious factual inaccuracies". "For example it claims discriminating behaviour by immigration officials at borders yet of the 89m passenger arrivals in the UK last year there were only 40 complaints of racial discrimination against the service and one was upheld," she said. Eva Smith-Asmussen, who was one of the research team behind the report and is herself Danish, insisted there were inherent problems in the UK such as racist chanting at football matches. "There's a certain resentment in the population [against asylum seekers] and this is being boosted by certain media and certain politicians," she told the BBC. However, she said that the aim of the report was to help and not criticise. The Council of Europe praises Britain for making progress in tackling some forms of racism but warns that the UK's anti-racist laws are not always effective. Earlier this year, Home Secretary Jack Straw called for an EU-wide agenda of action to stem the rising level of asylum seekers arriving in Europe. Mr Straw outlined possible changes including forming a list of "safe" countries from which applications would be refused and forcing refugees to apply for asylum before they reachBritain.

    Record asylum figures
    In 2000 the number of people seeking asylum in the UK reached record levels, with a total of 76,040 individual applications. The real number of people arriving in the country is likely to be much higher, as many have dependents and others enter illegally. But Home Office figures show that the number of people claiming asylum in February was the lowest monthly total for almost two years. The 5,520 applications were down 13% on January's figure - the lowest since May 1999 - with the backlog of outstanding claims almost at a seven-year low.
    ©BBC News

    South Africa's indigenous people, known as Khoisan, are demanding better treatment from the country's government. Khoisan, previously called Hottentots and Bushmen, were dispossessed by the colonialists and oppressed by the apartheid regime, and now they say they are being marginalised in South Africa. At a conference, which ended on Sunday, they argued for legal protection of their culture and language. Since the end of apartheid the Khoisanhave gained limited recognition and projects have been set-up to preserve indigenous culture. South Africa's Deputy President Jacob Zuma said that he detected a growing sense of pride amongst the country's indigenous people. He told delegates: "You have taken charge of your own heritage and your own destiny." Mr Zuma also acknowledged the important role that the Khoisan have played in the country.

    Approximately one million South Africans (2% f the population) are believed to have Khoisan origins. But many have assimilated. Few people speak any of the indigenous languages or maintain a traditional lifestyle. Delegates at the conference wanted the Khoisan identity to be recognised in the constitution and for their languages to be taught in schools. They were also concerned about the issue of land restitution. The existing law only applied to land seized after 1913. The Khoisan say that they were dispossessed long before that. They are urging the government to look into land thefts dating back to 1652.
    ©BBC News

    The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this morning concluded its fifty-eighth session after examining reports on efforts by the Governments of Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Japan, Portugal and Sudan to implement the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Further, the Committee examined the situation of the implementation of the Convention in Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Togo, whose periodic reports were seriously overdue. The Committee, the first body created by the United Nations to review actions by States in fulfilling their obligations under a specific human-rights agreement, held question-and-answer sessions with Government delegations from the presenting countries. All 157 States parties to the Convention are required to submit periodic reports to the Committee, which consists of 18 Experts.

    During its three-week session, the Committee Experts also spoke extensively about the World Conference against Racism, which will be held in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 7 September. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who will be acting as the Secretary-General of the World Conference, briefed the Committee about preparations for the gathering. Since the Millennium Summit was held last September, five new countries signed the Convention, bringing the total to 157, she said. Further, three new countries made the declaration under article 14 of the Convention, which recognizes the Committee's competence to receive and review complaints from individuals about violations of the treaty. Mrs. Robinson also said she had sent letters to all Heads of Government of countries that had not ratified the Convention or made the Article 14 declaration, urging them to do so. In closed meetings during the session, the Committee Experts dealt with communications received from individuals or groups of individuals who claimed that their rights under the Convention had been violated by a State party and who had exhausted all available domestic remedies. So far, 30 State parties have made the declaration under article 14. The Committee's fifty-ninth session will be held from 30 July to 17 August at the Palais Wilson in Geneva. At the three-week session, Committee Experts will examine periodic reports from Cyprus, Viet Nam, Ukraine, Italy, Morocco, Sri Lanka, the United States of America, China, and Trinidad and Tobago.

    Concluding Observations and Recommendations on Country Reports

    On the fifteenth report of Argentina, which was presented to the Committee on 6 and 7 March, the Committee noted among positive aspects the measures taken by Argentina to strengthen the National Institute to Combat Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI); the activities of the Institute, such as organizing training seminars for primary and secondary schoolteachers to embrace pluralism, training courses for law enforcement officials, publicity campaigns in the media and the establishment of a mechanism to receive complaints and take action thereon by mediating and intervening in the courts; the measures designed to give greater autonomy to the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs, to build its capacity and to elaborate a national plan for indigenous peoples; and the recent ratification of the Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (ILO Convention No 169). Among the concerns, the Committee noted the absence in the periodic report of detailed information concerning the representation of indigenous peoples in the civil service at the federal and provincial level, in the police and judicial systems and in Congress; the State party's statement that the territories where indigenous peoples had settl and prison officials, particular attention should be given to the dissemination and implementation of the Convention; and that steps be taken to address the difficulties INADI was experiencing in covering the entire national territory with regard to receiving and handling complaints of racial discrimination.

    On the fifteenth and sixteenth reports of Iceland, which were presented to the Committee on 7 March, the Committee noted as positive aspects Iceland's efforts with regard to the prevention of ethnic discrimination and to ensure equal rights and protection from discrimination for the growing immigration and foreign-born population; the 1995 amendment of the Constitution that provided extensive additions to human rights provisions; the publishing of its reports and the concluding observations of the Committee on the Internet home page of the Ministry of Justice, and for their distribution to the media which facilitated and stimulated growing public interest and debate on human rights issues; and the introduction of new curricula for nursery and primary school levels, with increased attention to the role of schools in facilitating the integration of children from different cultural backgrounds without the loss of their ties to their own culture. The Committee acknowledged the more favourable treatment received under the naturalisation laws in cases where the applicant was stateless. It also noted that Icelandic nationality was lost by persons who acquired another nationality by their own application, while dual citizenship was allowed for foreign nationals who acquired Icelandic citizenship. The Committee recommended that Iceland investigate fully the possible existence of associations advocating racial discrimination and take appropriate action; that Iceland ensure that the provisions of the Convention were fully reflected in existing legislation; that Iceland review carefully the allegations of racial insults and threats suffered by immigrants and that it consider additional ways in which the formulation of formal complaints in any such cases should be encouraged.

    On the initial and second periodic reports of Japan, which were presented to the Committee on 8 March, the Committee noted among positive aspects Japan's efforts to consult with a number of non-governmental organizations in the preparation of its reports; the legislative and administrative efforts made by the State party in order to promote the human rights and the economic, social and cultural development of some ethnic and national minorities; the recent jurisprudence recognizing the Ainu people as a minority people with the right to enjoy their unique culture; the efforts made to raise awareness about existing human rights standards, particularly the publication of the full texts of fundamental human rights treaties on the web site of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, including the Convention; and the similar dissemination of the State party's reports on the implementation of treaties and the concluding observations of the respective UN monitoring bodies. Referring to areas of concern, the Committee noted with concern that the provisions of the Convention had rarely been applied by national courts; that the only provision in the legislation of Japan relevant to the Convention was article 14 of the Constitution; that racial discrimination as such was not explicitly and adequately penalised in criminal law; statements of discriminatory character made by high-level public officials and, in particular, the lack of administrative or legal action taken by the authorities; discrimination affecting the Korean minority; and that elementary and lower secondary education of children of foreign nationality in Japan was not compulsory. The Committee recommended that the Government take more resolute measures to prevent and counter acts of discrimination against the Korean minority; the Government train public officials, law enforcement officers and administrators with a view to combat prejudices which lea the State party's domestic law, and could be invoked directly before the Courts; the on-going reforms with regard to the administration of justice and the setting up of a National Commission for the reform of the justice system; the announcement by the delegation of the forthcoming establishment of a new National Advisory Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights; the initiatives taken by the Government in the area of human rights education; the recognition in the Algerian Constitution of the Islamic, Arab and Amazigh components of Algerian identity, and further, the efforts to introduce the teaching of the Amazigh language in schools. The Committee noted that it was concerned about absence of statistical data on the ethnic composition of Algerian society; about the Law on the Generalization of the Arabic Language, which prohibits the use of languages other than Arabic in various fields; about the inadequate provisions in domestic legislation to address diverse aspects of racial discrimination; about Algeria's failure to comply fully with all requirements of article 4 of the Convention; and about the inadequate functioning of the High Commission on Amazighness. The Committee recommended that Algeria provide information on the composition of the population; consider incorporating in its domestic legislation a prohibition of racial discrimination; provide detailed information on the application of the provisions of article 5 to the nomadic groups in the next report; and that the next periodic report contain all available information on complaints and court cases relating to racial discrimination, and also information on the right of individuals to see adequate reparation for any damage suffered as a result of such discrimination.

    On Portugal, which presented its ninth periodic report on 12 and 13 March, the Committee cited among the positive aspects the enactment of a new law modifying the regulations on the entry, stay and departure of foreigners with a view to introducing penal legislation in Portugal against the illegal trafficking of migrant workers as well as an enlarged definition of the beneficiaries of family reunification; enactment of a 1999 law and a corresponding 2000 law prohibiting discrimination in the exercise of rights on grounds of race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin, which contained a non-exhaustive list of discriminatory practices and provided for administrative sanctions for conduct falling under that list; the establishment of the Commission for Equality and against Racial Discrimination; the establishment of the Consultative Council on questions of immigration and the participation in it of representatives of immigrant associations; and the information provided by Portugal about the sentences handed down by the competent courts in the case of the demolition of Gypsy dwellings in Vila Verde. Listing areas of concern, the Committee noted the lack of detailed information in the periodic report about the number of complaints of racial discrimination brought before the Portuguese courts as well as the corresponding decisions, and recommended that the next report include information in this respect; discrimination against illegal migrant workers in some industrial and services sectors; and that the report did not contain detailed information about the effective enjoyment by ethnic groups, including refugees, foreign workers, Gypsies and citizens who obtained Portuguese nationality after independence of former colonies, of the rights contained in article 5 of the Convention. The Committee recommended that authorities continue to monitor incidents of racial discrimination and take appropriate steps to deal with them; take measures to ensure that discrimination against illegal migrant workers in some industrial and service sectors comes to an end and that the principle of equality among all workers was fully respected; Portugal take measures to inform the population in general, and the most vulnerable groups in particular, about the possibility of b the foundation for the compensation of persons to forced labour. Referring to areas of concern, the Committee listed repeated reports of racist incidents in police stations as well as ill-treatment inflicted by law enforcement officials on foreigners, including asylum seekers, and German nationals of foreign origin; the fact that Germany had not made the declaration provided for in article 14 of the Convention; and the increase in 2000 of racist-related incidents and xenophobic and anti-Semitic crimes. The Committee recommended that Germany reinforce its efforts to prevent and combat racial discrimination, including through further studies and research, in order to understand fully the reasons for the recent increase in racial violence and to devise appropriate measures; continue seeking solutions to tackle the problem of racist propaganda on the Internet; provide updated information on the number of persons of foreign origin in the police forces; provide updated information on the new draft anti-discrimination legislation in the field of both civil and labour law; and that it provide updated information on the numbers of persons who had been convicted following racist incidents.

    On Sudan, which presented its ninth, tenth and eleventh periodic reports on 14 and 15 March, the Committee noted among the positive aspects Sudan's increasing willingness to cooperate with some of the United Nations bodies, international agencies and non-governmental organizations in the field of human rights, including on matters relating to racial discrimination; that international treaties ratified by Sudan formed part of domestic law and the information that treaties took precedent over national legislation in case of conflict; the adoption by a national referendum of the 1998 Constitution; the efforts by all parties to implement the Khartoum Peace Agreement; and efforts to put into place a legislative framework, based on the common law system, to ensure the protection of constitutional rights and freedoms and in particular the 1998 amendment to the Criminal Act, making racial discrimination a specific crime. As concerns, the Committee noted the lack of details in the report concerning the demographic composition of the population; continuous reports and allegations regarding the abduction by armed militia of primarily women and children belonging to different ethnic groups; the forced relocation of civilians from the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups in the Upper Nile region and reports that the relocations involved significant military force resulting in civilian casualties; and the large number of internally displaced communities within the territory of Sudan due to the civil war and natural disasters. The Committee recommended that Sudan do everything in its power to achieve a peaceful settlement of the war, which undermined efforts of combatting ethnic, racial and religious discrimination; provide in its next report full details on the composition of the population as requested in the reporting guidelines of the Committee; continue to establish a domestic legal order giving full effect to the provisions of the international conventions, and to ensure effective and equal protection remedies through the competent national tribunals and other State institutions against any acts of racial discrimination and related intolerances; and implement immediately effective measures to guarantee all Sudanese, without distinction based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, freedom of religion, opinion, expression and association, the right to security of person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm, the right to study and communicate in a chosen language, and the right to enjoy their own culture without interference.

    On Georgia, which presented its initial report on 15 and 16 March, the Committee noted amongst the positive aspects that Georgia had made important progress in the area of legislative reform; had ratified a large number of international and necessary measures to facilitate the return of Meskhetians and the acquisition of citizenship by them; provide additional information on the role, responsibilities and achievements of national institutions; and that Georgia widely distribute its reports and the concluding observations to the public.

    On Greece, which presented its twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth periodic reports on 16 and 19 March, the Committee, citing positive aspects, noted the self-critical approach of Greece's reports, and by the commitment of Greece to the Convention; that since the submission of its last report, Greece had ratified a range of international human rights instruments, and had signed -- although not yet ratified -- the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities; and the information provided in the report and by the delegation concerning the extent to which courts and other tribunals and administrative authorities give direct effect to the provisions of international human rights instruments in their decisions, and the attention given by courts to the case law of international judicial or quasi-judicial bodies when interpreting human rights instruments. The Committee was concerned about Greece's characterisation of the 'Muslim minority of Western Thrace,' notwithstanding its historical and legal origins within the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne on the grounds of consistency with the Convention. The Committee recommended that Greece take note of its General Recommendation VIII on the right of each person to self-identification; build upon its educational programmes at all levels in order to counter negative stereotypes and promote the objectives of human rights and tolerance; pursue further its dialogue with representatives of the Roma, Pomak, Albanian and other linguistic minority populations, with a view to expanding as necessary the available range of multi-lingual educational programmes and policies; explore and implement appropriate remedies, including the possibility of reinstatement of citizenship, for the benefit of persons who had lost their citizenship in the past; and provide, in the next report, comprehensive demographic data disaggregated by race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin different from the majority or from other groups in the population.

    Bangladesh Bangladesh
    On Bangladesh, which presented its seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh reports on 19 and 20 March, the Committee, citing positive aspects, noted affirmative action programmes undertaken to ensure the enjoyment of the rights contained in article 5 of the Convention by the socially and economically disadvantaged groups, in particular the tribal population of the Chittagong Hill Tracts; the signing of the 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord, and the implementation of certain of its provisions; and the importance accorded by Bangladesh to the educational curriculum as a means to spread awareness of human rights among the population and, in particular, the emphasis given to the inclusion of human rights standards, as set out in the different UN Conventions. Among the concerns noted by the Committee were the lack of details in the report on the demographic composition of the population; that racial discrimination as such was not explicitly and adequately prohibited and penalised in criminal law; reports of human rights violations by security forces present in the Chittagong Hill Tracts affecting the trial population, including reports of arbitrary arrests, detention, and ill-treatment; the slow progress in implementing the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord; and the poor living conditions in the refugee camps for Rohingyas. The Committee recommended that Bangladesh provide in its next report information on the composition of the population, in particular, the disaggregated information on the economic and social status of all ethnic, religious and tribal minorities, as well as their participation in public life; consider giving full effect to the UN office Geneva

    Long-awaited second legalisation will soon get underway as governmentallows undocumented foreigners who have been living in Greece since April 2000 to apply for residence
    Undocumented migrants who can prove they have been living in Greece since April 2000 will have the opportunity to secure legal status, following a last-minute amendment to the government's immigration bill. Greece's second legalisation procedure will begin once the new law, approved by parliament on March 28, is published in the Government Gazette in mid-April. An earlier version of the proposed law stated that only those undocumented migrants who have been living in Greece since 15 November 1999 would be eligible to apply for residence and work permits. The amendment, giving newer arrivals some leeway, was introduced by Interior Minister Vasso Papandreou on March 27 - less than 24 hours before the law was passed by the 300-member parliament. The one-year requirement was welcomed by migrant and human rights groups which had repeatedly called for a more "flexible" legalisation process. Greece's National Human Rights Commission (EEDA) and the New York-based Human Rights Watch had stressed the need for a second legalisation that took into account the reality of the migrant situation. An estimated 800,000 economic migrants live in Greece, and face the day-to-day fear of being deported if caught by police. Under the new legislation, undocumented migrants who entered the country before April 2000 can apply for a residence permit at their municipality or local council. They must submit a photocopy of their passport or other travel documents and a statement verifying that they have been in Greece for at least one year. They must also provide documents that prove they have been residing in Greece at least since April 2000. According to interior ministry officials, suitable documents include: bank accounts opened before April 2000; an official statement indicating their child or children have been attending public school since that date; or a rental contract. If the applicant lives in a town with less than 20,000 residents, they can submit a letter from their local community chairman affirming that he or she has been living in Greece for 12 months or more. The application must be submitted within two months of the law's publication in the Government Gazette. Successful applicants will be issued a residence and work permit valid for six months. Within those six months, they are required to obtain from the justice ministry verification that they have no criminal record as well as a health certificate from a state hospital. Migrants who do not have a criminal record, do not suffer from an illness that poses a threat to public health (according to the World Health Organisation) and who possess stable employment and are insured with a social insurance fund, will be granted a one-year residence permit, which can be renewed. After five years of residence, the migrant can apply for a two-year residence permit. After a total stay of 10 years , he or she can apply for a residence and work permit of unlimited duration. The six-month permit costs 50,000 drachmas. After that, it costs 100,000 drachmas for a permit valid for one to two years, 150,000 drachmas for those valid for two to six years and 300,000 drachmas for permits valid for more than six years. According to the law, this second opportunity to secure legal status is open to all undocumented migrants as well as migrants appealing a rejection - by the Organisation for the Employment of Human Resources (OAED) - of their application for a Green Card in the first legalisation procedure. Additionally, those who registered with OAED in 1998, but were unable to submit a Green Card application, are also eligible. In this case, they should also present certification (veveosi) that they had registered. As for migrants who currently possess a Green Card ©Athens News

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