Some want to take the Roma to school

24/5/2004- Unlike the EU, which rebuked Eric van der Linden, its ambassador to Slovakia, for saying that Roma children should be educated in boarding schools, Roma leaders in Slovakia are embracing the idea. In a May 1 interview on Dutch television, van der Linden said: "It may sound simplistic, but we may have to, I'll say it in quotation marks, 'force' the Roma children to stay in some kind of boarding schools, from Monday morning until Friday afternoon, where they will be continuously subjected to the system of values that is dominant in our society." Van der Linden's words have caused outrage among Roma activists, who accused him of suggesting the violent separation of Roma children from their parents. Although van der Linden denied those allegations, the European Commission (EC) banned the diplomat from commenting on the topic of the Roma. Reijo Kemppinen, the chief spokesman for the EC, described the comments as an "unfortunate choice of words" and "regrettable". An NGO called the European Roma Information Office (ERIO) even demanded that van der Linden leave his diplomatic post and started a protest against his statements and the slow reaction on the part of the commission. "Defending the separation of children from their parents so that they are raised according to the values of the majority is absurd. It is a policy of forced assimilation," Valeriu Nicolae from the ERIO told the Slovak news channel TA3 on May 14.

But some Roma politicians and activists in Slovakia agreed, even though van der Linden chose to use unfortunate words. Alexander Patkoló, head of the Slovak Roma Initiative, said the idea "came at the right time and is great". Another group, the Slovak Roma Council, also welcomed the idea. Frantiaek Guláa, head of the council, said that Roma education levels could profit from the idea. Ladislav Fízik from an unofficial Roma body called the Roma Parliament also welcomed the idea. "[Van der Linden] mentioned one possible way of solving the Roma issue. I don't see any problem with that. His statement may be a bit unfortunate because he did not specify what children it would include. I believe he did not mean small children, but teenagers," said Fízik. Branislav Slyako, press secretary with the EC delegation in Bratislava, told The Slovak Spectator on May 17 that, respecting the EC's decision, the ambassador would no longer comment on his previous statements. Before van der Linden was banned from speaking on the topic, he explained to Slovakia's state-run news agency TASR, as well as to several other Slovak media, what he had meant. He said he was not suggesting the forced separation of Roma children from their parents. "In a democracy it is not possible to force children to leave their parents. However, it is possible to try and convince them that it is in the interest of their children to have them attend the boarding schools," van der Linden told TASR. Van der Linden also said that, when he talked about forcing children to attend the boarding schools, he had used the phrase in quotation marks and had meant the "active persuasion" of the Roma. "I am sure that all Roma parents would be happy if they knew that their children were going to get a better chance at getting an education and a job and, as a result, potentially improve the living standard of the whole family," he said on May 13.

Slovak Roma leaders have approved the idea of boarding schools. Patkoló called it a possibly "effective step in the improvement of the educational level of the young Roma generation". Another Roma representative, activist Tibor Loran, told TASR that van der Linden, in his opinion, had suggested the "possibility of systematic education in the civilised conditions of boarding schools, [something] that could help many Roma children in the third millennium." Official Slovak bodies, however, are not preparing an more information about the performance of their children. The plan also aims to change the Slovak education system to a multicultural type of learning and prevent segregated Roma classes. It is estimated that there are 400,000 to 500,000 Roma in Slovakia, although only about 90,000 stated that they were Roma on the national census. Many Roma, especially in eastern Slovakia, live in rundown settlements segregated from nearby villages, often with no electricity or running water. There are about 600 such settlements in the country.
©The Slovak Spectator

24/5/2004- Expanding incomes. Record output. Booming investment. These were the headlines for Slovakia in 2003. Salaries here grew faster than in any other European nation, foreign investment poured in, and a new Kia car factory meant that this small central European country would produce more automobiles per capita than any other country in the world by 2006. But that, as it turns out, is only half of the story - representing only half of the country. Economically, Slovakia is cut neatly in two. The western half, with its modern highway system, is getting richer as each new investment contract is signed. The eastern half, with its impoverished Roma population, is falling further behind. When Slovakia joined the European Union on May 1, two of the country's eastern regions were instantly among Europe's poorest. Slovakia's economic east-west divide is the story of the newly expanded EU writ small. New member states from the Baltic to the Balkans are still struggling to improve their economies and infrastructure; incomes in these countries remain a quarter of the EU's in 2002. Their success will have an important effect on European unification as a whole, say experts. "There is a real feeling of us versus them," says Bill Baker, an American social worker based in the eastern town of Kosice. "People here tend to ... look to the west and think, 'They are connected to the highway network, they don't have a Roma problem,' and everyone in the east feels left out and forgotten."

Within Slovakia, nowhere is the disparity more evident than in Kosice, a racially mixed city of Slovaks, Hungarians, and Roma. A regional capital in the 16th century, the town is now an economic backwater with only one major employer, a US Steel factory. "We have the impression that we have been forgotten about," says Adriana Slovjakova, spokeswoman for Kosice's mayor. In Bratislava, Slovakia's capital, the unemployment rate is a modest 4.2 percent and hovers close to 10 percent in other western provinces. In and around Kosice, joblessness exceeds 23 percent. Inadequate transportation connecting eastern Slovakia with European markets has also driven away foreign investment. While many of the roadways in the west have been rebuilt to handle increased truck traffic, the east is still largely cut off. According to Kia, the car manufacturer which just signed an $826 million contract to build a factory in northwestern Slovakia, eastern Slovakia wasn't even considered. "Infrastructure was the main factor in our choice of location," says Kia spokesman Miroslav Chlemar. "Kosice has an airport and the river isn't too far away, but there are no good roadways. This was a big and an important part of locating in the west." Even more intractable are the conditions facing the region's Roma, or Gypsy, population of an estimated 400,000 - one of the largest in Europe. According to social workers in Kosice, 70 percent of Slovakia's long-term unemployed are Roma - a group that makes up only 10 percent of the population. Roma riots across eastern Slovakia in late February, sparked by across-the-board cuts in unemployment benefits to just under $36 per month per person, highlighted the issue.

"If you took the Roma population out of eastern Slovakia, you would see an unemployment rate similar to that of western Slovakia," says Mr. Baker. "I don't see how you are going to cut unemployment if you don't solve the Roma issue. They are not trained for any sort of skilled job and are condemned to menial labor." While the country is beginning to address the problem - in part because of EU pressure - many see the lack of political will stemming from a high level of racism in Slovakian society. "Even well educated people in Slovakia say that it is the Gypsies' own fault that they are destitute," says Ludomir Slahor, professor of economics at the University of Bratislava.
©Christian Science Monitor Service

21/5/2004­ The Dutch government plans to scrap the law allowing third generation migrants to maintain dual nationality. Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said it is "not permissible" for this group of people to have two passports. The plans are part of the Cabinet's response to the Blok Commission report into Dutch integration policy. The Cabinet said it agreed with the commission's findings that the integration of many immigrants has wholly or partially succeeded. Despite this, the Cabinet also said on Wednesday afternoon that too many immigrants lived too far removed from Dutch society, Amsterdam-based daily newspaper Het Parool reported. Verdonk said ministers not only intended to abolish the right of third generation migrants to hold dual nationality, but that it also considered dual nationality undesirable in general. The Cabinet intends to devise other measures against dual nationality, measures that will also affect other generations. Verdonk could not say how many people would be affected or reveal the plans in greater detail. The minister said she was aware the proposals would prove difficult for some migrants, such as those from Morocco. The Moroccan government prevents its nationals from giving up their citizenship. The Cabinet will try to bring about change via diplomatic channels. According to the Cabinet, dual nationality hinders integration. "People who choose for Dutch nationality, show that they are willing to integrate," Verdonk said.

Under the government's plans, naturalisation will be accompanied with a special ceremony. Local ceremonies will be held nation-wide and the intention is to add extra gloss to naturalisation. Minister Verdonk also plans to work with the Islamic community to devise a special course for imams. The course would involve learning the Dutch language and norms and standards and means that imams will not need to be recruited abroad. MPs in the Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, had requested that restrictions be placed on dual nationality. The Parliament has also demanded that imams be forced to undergo a type of integration course. Under other plans, the Cabinet spoke against forcing the spread students to create multi-racial schools. But new schools may only have among its student population, a maximum of 80 percent that is classed to have a disadvantage. These children are said to have an "achterstand" and are often migrant children. Furthermore, cities will gain greater funding to create greater diversity of accommodation to reduce the concentration of low-income households and to improve suburban liveability. The Cabinet also believes that the emancipation of women and employment play an important role in integration, but it is opposed to positive discrimination to recruit migrant workers into the workforce. The Blok Commission was set up last year to investigate Dutch immigration policy over the past 30 years. It handed down its findings in January 2004 and said a large number of immigrants fully or at least partially managed to fit into life in the Netherlands despite the apparent failure of government integration policies. The report did not specifically label integration policies as a failure, but said integration took place in the Netherlands "in spite of" rather then "thanks to" the policies of successive governments. Commission chief and Liberal VVD MP Stef Blok said he was pleased that the Cabinet had taken on the investigation's findings. The findings were initially sharply criticised and its recommendations labelled as weak, but Blok said the Parliament has since come around also and that this was a pleasing contrast to the situation in January.
©Expatica News

23/5/2004- WITH elections all over Britain only 18 days away, the far-right British National Party is trying its best to look respectable. They hope voter concerns about asylum seekers and immigration policy will help them win seats in Europe and on local councils - and propel them out of the political shadows. To allay the fears of moderate voters they have outlined new policies on mainstream issues such as health, education and transport, and claim in their literature: "We are NOT racists, Nazis or thugs". But today the Sunday Mirror reveals the bigoted reality behind the party's attempts to portray a voter-friendly image as they contest 410 seats in the June 10 elections. We worked for two weeks with senior figures such as the BNP youth president Tony Wentworth. We heard a hate-filled speech by party leader Nick Griffin and spent time with several of the party's European and local council candidates as they prepared for the vote which could put them into positions of power. The dossier compiled by our team shows the party's non-racist claim to be a blatant lie. We witnessed sickening, hate-filled rants against ethnic minorities including the vile claims that:

  • Lazy immigrants are responsible for the hospital superbug MRSA.
  • West Indians flood the UK with guns and drugs.
  • Muslims are raping or marrying "our" women.
  • Asylum seekers have caused the rise in the number of rats in cities.

    Our investigation began when we infiltrated a 200-member strong BNP rally at the Avenue social club in Failsworth, a run-down suburb of Manchester. Our reporters posed as a couple who had moved to the area after becoming disillusioned with life in London. They were welcomed into the fold after telling BNP members that their family had been the victims of "anti-white" discrimination. Sitting at the rear of the hall packed with men with skinhead haircuts and a handful of pensioners, we heard party leader Nick Griffin outline his race-hate phil- osophies in a 30-minute rant against Britain's multi-cultural society. Smartly dressed in an attempt to give himself an air of credibility, he claimed the West had grown "complacent and flabby" and followers of Islam were taking advantage of this. He claimed "Muslims are killing off our young men and want to rape or marry our women." Fanning the flames of hatred still further, he added: "The BNP is the only party warning of the dangers of radical Islam, and as the growth of this fundamentalism spirals out of control, people will remember we were right all along." BNP cultural affairs officer Jonathan Bowden then made the ridiculous claim that the hospital superbug MRSA was as result of "lazy immigrants employed to clean hospitals failing to do their jobs for the last 10 years". Then he claimed cities are infested with rats as a result of immigrants and asylum seekers' "unclean living and failure to tidy up after themselves".

    Our reporters were later introduced to the BNP's north west elections campaigns organiser Beverley Jones and her husband David, one of the party's nine Euro MP candidates for the region. The next day they met three party activists in Hyde, East Manchester and were told to post copies of a newsletter called Freedom From The EU around an estate. The letter included the misleading claim that a million east European gypsies were about to flood the UK and that a further eight million would arrive when the EU expands again. The leaflet denies party members are "thugs, Nazis, or even far right" and says that some BNP members are World War Two veterans and Jews. Our investigators were told not to debate any of the lies in the leaflet and to avoid confrontation but to get the leaflet though as many letterboxes as possible. The reassuring language is all part of the BNP's aim to win a record number of seats in the elections. Other parties fear they could win their first seat in Brussels due to the complex system of proportional representation. L later blamed Britain's problems with gun culture on West Indians. He said: "Gun culture is a black thing. Whites who want to buy a decent car go to work and save up, but they want it now, now, now and that's why we get all these hijackings and car jackings. "Drug culture is also West Indian. They want easy money and they've got the people of this country hooked on drugs. Whites are being suppressed. We are second-class citizens culturally because of mass immigration. The authorities don't want to look as though they are racist, so they give them this and that, now the ethnics have loads of money." Williams also told how the BNP would "obviously" prevent more mosques from being built if they get enough members on to local planning committees. He said: "Muslims are building mosques all over this country. There are over a thousand already and they want more. People are afraid to speak out because they think they will be labelled racist." He added: "I do not believe in tolerance. To me tolerance is being a doormat - you get walked all over." Ranting about the racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, he said: "If you mention blacks like Stephen Lawrence or whoever (of an ethnic minority) gets killed it's front page news. He claimed that if a white man was attacked by a gang of blacks, no one would be arrested because the black community would "keep its mouth shut". Tony Wentworth, leader of the young BNP since 2002, is a student at Salford University and is planning to canvass at its halls of residence in the next few days. He's unlikely to get a warm welcome. Students have formed a protest group called Salford United Against Racism in an attempt to get him booted off the campus.
    ©Sunday Mirror

    24/5/2004- A leading black barrister could have his licence suspended for breaching Bar Council rules on media interviews. Peter Herbert, chair of the Society of Black Lawyers, is accused of expressing personal opinions about an ongoing case. It is the first time such action has been taken and he has launched a case of racial discrimination. But the Bar Council denies it is racially motivated and says it has a proud record of promoting diversity. In the United States the sight of lawyers giving interviews to the media before, during and after their clients appear in court is routine. But in the UK the Bar Council has always maintained that lawyers should not make any personal statement about their client's case and can only read out statements from those they represent. Mr Herbert, who is also a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, is charged with "conduct likely to diminish public confidence in the administration of justice". Three years ago Mr Herbert faced a disciplinary hearing on the same charge but was acquitted. If found guilty at the hearing on Tuesday, Mr Herbert could have his licence suspended for up to three months.

    Radio interview
    The case stems from comments Mr Herbert made to the media in August 2002 after defending Carole Baptiste, a social worker involved in the Victoria Climbie child abuse case. In spite of being summonsed to give evidence, Baptiste repeatedly failed to appear before Lord Laming's public inquiry into the death of the 10-year-old. She became the first person to be prosecuted for failure to attend a public inquiry and was fined £500. After the verdict Mr Herbert spoke to reporters outside the court and next day gave an interview to Radio 4's Today programme during which he used phases such as "I believe"' and "I think" . The Bar Council asserts the case was still active at the time as Baptiste could have decided to launch an appeal and the use of the first person by Mr Herbert constituted expressing a personal opinion.

    Other ethnic minority lawyers are backing Mr Herbert, claiming he is being targeted for his high-profile stance on race matters, including racism within the legal profession. Barrister David Nieta said he had no doubt the Bar Council's action was racially motivated. "He's been a champion for racial equality in the legal community and I can't imagine there's any other reason," Mr Nieta said. Other black and Asian lawyers were not surprised by the decision to take action against Mr Herbert, Mr Nieta added. "They have to toe the line, be careful more than a white lawyer. Once you're in the legal system you became aware it's not racially correct." However, the Bar Council has refuted allegations of racism. A spokesman said 20% of new entrants to the Bar in 2003 were from ethnic minorities. 'We also stand 100% by our record on promoting diversity through the first and most comprehensive equality code to form a part of the rule book of any profession," the spokesman added.
    ©BBC News

    26/5/2004- A leading black barrister has been reprimanded by the Bar Council for breaching rules on media interviews. Peter Herbert, chair of the Society of Black Lawyers, had faced the prospect of a ban by the disciplinary panel. The charges related to interviews he gave after a client was found guilty of failing to appear at the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie. Mr Herbert, the only barrister ever to face such charges, accused the panel of racism and said he intended to sue. The disciplinary action followed a complaint from Lord Laming who chaired the Climbie inquiry which looked into the circumstances surrounding the death of the eight-year-old at the hands of her carers. Mr Herbert told BBC News Online the disciplinary panel had not taken all the circumstances into account. He said the morning of a radio interview when he used phrases such as "I think" and "I believe", he had been under "intense personal stress" due to a family matter. "I can't think of a worse allegation to make against a person who has as much integrity as myself and was speaking in dire personal circumstances I found myself that morning," Mr Herbert said.

    Three years ago Mr Herbert faced a disciplinary hearing on the same charge but was acquitted. He has already launched a case against the Bar Council claiming the disciplinary action was racially-motivated. The Bar Council has vigorously denied the allegation of racism. But Mr Herbert said he believed the guilty ruling against him proved there was racial bias within the legal profession. "Far from having learnt the lessons of last time, in the disciplinary hearing it was quite apparent that I had to establish my innocence to the criminal standard of proof, effectively standing justice on it head. "I think it's an obvious indication that racism of the most direct kind and bias is still alive and well and living at the Bar of England and Wales," he said. As well as suing the three panel members, he intended to appeal their decision to the next Bar Council level, Mr Herbert added.
    ©BBC News

    22/5/2004- A battle for the dark soul of France's far-right party, the National Front, exploded into the open yesterday when several senior party members defied their leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and attended a two-day dissident conference in the Rhône valley. Amid allegations that the NF had been taken over by a "modernising" coterie, led by M. Le Pen's youngest daughter, Marine, senior party members ignored a direct order from the party leader and met members of other far-right groups in the town of Orange, north of Avignon. The conference, organised by the town's NF mayor, Jacques Bompard, who has been estranged from Le Pen for several months, could signal the beginning of a long-expected leadership struggle within western Europe's most powerful far-right party. Senior figures in the xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-European and anti-American party have been dismayed by the rise of Mme Le Pen, 35, and her attempts to move the NF towards a more "modern" agenda on issues ranging from abortion to the European Union. Long-festering resentment burst into the open in recent days when M. Le Pen abruptly dumped senior party figures from prominent positions on the NF regional lists of candidates for the European parliament elections next month. They were replaced by relatively obscure party members close to Mme Le Pen. In protest at the increasingly arbitrary running of what has always been an authoritarian party, many NF activists in the Marseilles-Nice area boycotted a pre-election rally by M. Le Pen in Toulon last week. "Le Chef" found himself addressing a half-empty hall - something unprecedented in the recent history of a party founded on worship of the nation, the flag and the leader. M. Le Pen, 75, flew into a public rage and threatened punishment of anyone who attended the two-day conference organised by M. Bompard this weekend. "There is only one leader in this party and it is me," he said.

    The crisis within the NF resembles in some ways the internal squabbles which led to a split in the party in early 1999, when the de-facto number two, Bruno Mégret left to form his own far-right group, the Mouvement National Républicain. Observers of the NF believe, however, that the present crisis may be even more cataclysmic. M. Mégret's ambitions and limited loyalty were well-known. In this case, M. Le Pen has fallen out with some of the most stalwart and, previously, loyal members of the NF. Marie-France Stirbois, 59, an NF Euro MP and the widow of one of the founders of the party, was dumped from the party's European election lists in the Provence area 10 days ago. She launched a tirade against the Le Pen family in the virulently anti-NF newspaper, Le Monde, yesterday. Confirming that she intended to go to the meeting in Orange, Mme Stirbois, who has considerable support in the movement, said: "I observe that a coterie of a few people now holds a mischievous influence over Jean-Marie Le Pen. They have managed to sever him from his true friends in the movement "It seems to me that M. Le Pen and his entourage are trying to eliminate anyone who might oppose the so-called wishes of Marine Le Pen to modernise the programme of the National Front ... but the essence of the party has always been to stick to its core values and not try to please everybody." The core of the quarrel is partly ideological but mostly personal. Marine Le Pen has made it clear that she believes that the NF should adopt at least a veneer of modernity, especially on issues of personal freedom, such as abortion. This has annoyed the fundamentalist catholic strand of a party of many different tribal allegiances. Mme Le Pen's rise has also alarmed supporters of the party's number two, and presumed successor to M. Le Pen, Bruno Gollnisch. When M. Gollnisch mildly complained in public last week about the dumping of Mme Stirbois - an unprecedented rebellion for him - he was shouted down by M. Le Pen. © Independent Digital

    23/5/2004- Plans by a green politician to conduct France's first gay marriage have riven the French left, causing public rows between long-time friends and allies and even within the country's highest-profile power couple. The Socialist former prime minister Lionel Jospin ended a long silence on the internal affairs of the Parti Socialiste last week by attacking its decision to support the principle of same-sex marriages. His criticism amounted to an attack on the policies of François Hollande, his one-time protégé and successor as Socialist leader. Mr Hollande's problems do not end there. His support for gay marriages has also been publicly repudiated by one of the rising stars of his party, Ségolène Royal, the former education minister - who is also his partner of 25 years and mother of their four children. They have never publicly disagreed before. But she, like many other leading Socialist figures, believes that the decision to support gay marriages is both morally dubious and politically ill-timed. "The Socialist Party has rebuilt its credibility on its capacity to provide solutions on the big issues," said Ms Royal. "On delicate issues we should assert a right not to have a simple answer to everything." In other words, just when the Socialists had re-emerged as a credible future party of government, they have been distracted by what many activists - and even many homosexual activists - see as a peripheral problem.

    Although same-sex marriages have become a hot political question in the US, they have not been a burning issue in France, which has allowed "civil pacts" between homosexual couples since 1998. The pace has been forced by one of the leaders of the French Green Party (Les Verts), who insists that gay marriage is a question of fundamental human rights. Noel Mamère, a Green deputy, the Green candidate at the last presidential election in 2002 and Mayor of the small town of Bègles, near Bordeaux, plans to use his mayoral powers to conduct France's first gay marriage on 5 June, just when the country is remembering the 60th anniversary of D-Day. The government has declared the marriage to be void in advance, on the grounds that the French civil code specifies weddings can only occur between men and women. The government has formally threatened to punish Mr Mamère if he goes ahead with the wedding (without pointing out that he faces a maximum fine of 4.25, or about £3). Mr Mamère, a former TV presenter given to flamboyant acts of self-publicity, insists that the civil code does not limit marriages to couples of different sexes. "This is part of my struggle for equal rights in this country," he said. His initiative generated a debate on same-sex marriages within the Parti Socialiste, the main party of opposition. Mr Jospin, who retired as Socialist leader after his defeat at the presidential election two years ago, chose this moment to make an unexpected return to the domestic political scene. In an opinion article in the Journal du Dimanche, he accused some activists on the left of trying to make gay marriages into a litmus test of the bien-pensant, or politically correct. Marriage exists, first and foremost, to protect children, he said. "Children are not a commodity, which can be procured by a couple, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. A child is a person born from a union - of whatever kind - between a man and a woman."
    © Independent Digital

    27/5/2004- Authorities in south-west France have told a mayor not to go ahead with plans for the country's first gay marriage. Noel Mamere, mayor of the Bordeaux town of Begles and a leading member of parliament for the Green Party, had said he would conduct the marriage. But the public prosecutor of Bordeaux has declared his opposition and ordered Mr Mamere to abandon his plans. The wedding plans have sparked public debate, drawing condemnation from the government and church leaders. The mayor had said he would perform the marriage of Bertrand Charpentier and Stephane Chapin on 5 June. He said there was nothing in French law to prevent it, and that it was unacceptable that gays did not have the same rights as other French citizens. Civil unions between same-sex partners have been legal in France since 2000. However, gay lobby groups say these fall short of legal marriages as they do not come with benefits such as adoption rights or the same fiscal advantages. But public prosecutor Bertrand de Loze has now sent a fax to the mayor, saying: "In your capacity of civil servant, you are hereby forbidden from celebrating the planned marriage. "As an officer of public authority, it is important that you refrain from any initiative designed to undermine the application of the law."

    Social life
    French Justice Minister Dominique Perben has expressed his opposition to the marriage and told parliament last month that he intended to ask the Bordeaux prosecutor to block the marriage. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bordeaux, Jean-Pierre Ricard, has condemned the plans not only on religious grounds but also as a means "to support the founding principles of social life itself". Same sex civil marriages are allowed in the Netherlands and Belgium. Some other European countries, like France, allow only civil unions. The new Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has said he is in favour of allowing same-sex marriages.
    ©BBC News

    27/5/2004- The row over France's first gay marriage intensified Thursday after the state prosecutor in the southwestern city of Bordeaux said the ceremony which is due on June 5 will be illegal. Bertrand de Loze gave formal notice that the marriage will be declared null and void a day after the bans for the wedding of shopworker Jean-Luc Charpentier and nurse Stephane Chapin were posted at the townhall of the suburb of Begles. The mayor of Begles, Green party deputy and former television presenter Noel Mamere, stirred up nationwide debate last month when he declared his intention to celebrate the country's first homosexual marriage - forcing politicians and religious leaders to formulate a response. Loze sent a fax to Mamere warning that "as a functionary of the civil state, you are forbidden to celebrate the marriage which has been announced.... It is important that as a person in whom public authority is vested you abstain from any initiative that will lead to a breach of the law." However Mamere insisted Thursday that he would see his plans through to their conclusion. "The initiative is a political one," he said, arguing that the law needed to change to take account of society's growing demands for equality. The prosecutor took his cue from Dominique Perben, justice minister in the centre-right government, who has said that French law required officiating mayors to verify that couples to be married were indeed a man and a woman. "Any official who carried out a homosexual marriage would be committing a fault, an irregularity. The marriage would be invalid," Perben said. Mamere has been attacked by conservative politicians for seeking to stage a publicity coup, and his initiative has divided the left - with Socialist party leader Francois Hollande supporting plans to legalise gay marriage but former prime minister Lionel Jospin coming out strongly opposed.

    President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin both said they are against gay weddings, but instead proposed further strengthening the civil contract known as the PACS which was introduced in 1998 to give more rights to cohabiting couples. One of the arguments used by Chirac's party the Union for a Popular Movement against Mamere's initiative is that when the Socialists introduced the PACS against strong oppposition from pro-family groups they argued that it would obviate calls for full-scale gay marriage. The president of the French conference of bishops Jean-Pierre Ricard said that homosexual unions could not be equated with those between a man and a woman because they were devoid of any notion of procreation. "If our society gives so much importance to marriage between man and woman, it is not just to recognise the constitution of a couple... but because marriage also ensures the renewal of generations," he wrote in a diocesan magazine. Charpentier and Chapin have left Begles because of the media attention, and are staying with a friend in Marseille. They told a local newspaper Thursday they were not surprised by the prosecutor's decision and were determined to proceed with the wedding. The pair have said they will take their case to the European Court of Human Rights if the marriage is rendered void. The mayor of the city of Marseille on the Mediterranean coast has said he will celebrate a gay marriage on June 19, Liberation newspaper reported Thursday, and a handful of other mayors have declared themselves willing in principle.
    ©Expatica News

    26/5/2004- After years of acrimonious talks and two failed attempts to push through a controversial immigration law, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder managed to secure a deal with the opposition conservatives. Putting aside three years of cross-party bickering, Schröder and opposition leader Angela Merkel announced on Tuesday they had struck a compromise that will allow non-European foreign workers to immigrate to Germany for the first time in decades. "We've reached a political agreement," said Schröder who had kicked off the final round of talks on the controversial law by offering to include some of the demands on security issues put forth by the Christian Democrat Union (CDU). The law, which was originally drafted in 2000 to help recruit talented immigrants to fill a shortage of skilled labor, had become bogged down in fears that it opened the door for foreign extremists to enter the country. An ensuing partisan dispute broke out with the conservative CDU linking any agreement on immigration to demands for tougher measures against terror suspects. Schröder's compromise reflects some of these concerns by including a clause that allows foreigners to be expelled from Germany on the basis of circumstantial evidence of danger and calls for immigrants to be screened by the domestic intelligence agency. The Greens, the junior coalition partner in Schröder's government, had adamantly opposed the inclusion of any such anti-terror measures and until Tuesday had threatened to abandon the talks if the CDU's demands were not dropped. But in the end, Schröder could count on their support and announced optimistically, "We're going to have a modern immigration law."

    Opening the doors
    The compromise plan, which allows non-European nationals to immigrate to Germany for work, essentially reverses 30 years of immigration policy. Although Germany has 7.2 million foreigners and takes in newcomers, primarily Russians of German ancestry and asylum seekers, it has effectively been shut to foreign workers from outside the European Union since the 1970s. Schröder said the new law would give a boost to Germany's businesses which are suffering from a shortage of skilled labor, especially in the IT branch. Industry leaders had urged the parties to reach a deal, arguing that despite a 10.5 percent unemployment rate, there were not enough skilled workers in the country to fill all the openings.

    Hammering out the finer details
    Speaking to the press, Merkel said, "It's now worthwhile to work together on the final details of a draft for the legislation." Representatives from Schröder's Social Democrats, the Greens and the CDU along with their Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union and the neo-liberal FDP will hammer out the finer points and present parliament with a draft of the new law by June 17. Schröder said the SPD and Greens would not make any further concessions to the conservatives. "The compromise is not up for any further negotiations," he said.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    After five years living in Georgia, worried Chechen refugees look to the West for salvation.
    By IWPR's editor/trainer in the Caucasus, Sebastian Smith in Duisi

    27/5/2004- When she fled Chechnya through snow and rocket fire almost five years ago, Kaifa Astayeva thought of Georgia as a life-saving sanctuary. Today, she is desperate to leave. Squeezed with her five children into a single room in Duisi, in the Pankisi gorge north-east of Tbilisi, Astayeva, 39, wept as she recounted her escape while under attack from aircraft, over the Caucasus mountains in late 1999. But, like many other of the 3,856 Chechen refugees registered in Georgia, Astayeva now wants to flee again  this time to the West. "We need to get out of here  beyond the ex-Soviet Union," she said. Refugees recite the misery of life in the Pankisi, but increasingly they also voice fears about Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili's drive to cooperate with Russia, including sealing off Chechnya. "We want to leave," said refugee Mausar Gaskayev, 44, standing in a muddy street on the edge of Duisi. "Being on the border is dangerous." Although their numbers are small, the Chechens in Pankisi are a still major political issue in Georgian-Russian relations. Until 2002, significant numbers of guerrillas were believed to use the steep, wooded valley and its string of villages about 50 kilometres from Chechnya as a rear base for their operations. Crime, including kidnapping, was also beyond the control of the Georgian authorities. That has changed since a series of police sweeps that began in early 2002, and with the improved security, Georgian troops have reduced their presence in the area from nine to five checkpoints. Yet Chechens, worried that Saakashvili has struck a deal with the Kremlin to hand some of them back to Russia, feel less safe than ever.

    In February this year, two Chechen men vanished shortly after being freed from Georgian custody in Tbilisi, only to reappear in the hands of Russian police. The Georgian government denied accusations that it spirited the two Chechens to Russia in February. "We don't need secret extraditions," said Saakashvili. Refugees say they were reminded of the extra-judicial arrests plaguing Chechnya. Under former president Eduard Shevardnadze, five Chechens were extradited, despite widespread concern from human rights groups over the treatment they might receive in Russia. Saakashvili has repeatedly stated his willingness to help refugees. But he has also attacked what he calls the threat from Wahhabism, a Saudi form of Islam that has taken root among more radical guerrillas, while being rejected by the overwhelming majority of Chechen Muslims. "We will carry out the most severe measures against them.& We have not donated Pankisi to the Wahhabis," Saakashvili was quoted as saying recently. Refugees took this as a general threat. Naveed Hussain, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, in Georgia, called for sensitivity. "There are certain political statements made, and the refugees are directly affected by these statements," he told IWPR. "They feel it very strongly & and that's why they want to be resettled." According to Bhakta Gurung, head of the UNHCR field office in Akhmeta, near the Pankisi valley, "hardly two or three per cent would say no" to resettlement in a western country. The process, though, is painfully slow. Since 2003, just 38 Chechens have left Pankisi for new countries, including Canada, Sweden and Finland, according to the UNHCR. Another 17 "cases," meaning either individuals or families, have been accepted by host countries, but not yet allowed to leave. This year, UNHCR hopes to speed up the process and win approval for 100 cases. Canadian representatives met refugees less than a month ago. Yet even at this rate, it is clear that only a small portion will be able to go. Because each country de of Ziaudin's generation, who have known only war, chaos and life as refugees, have had virtually no education. In the cramped room that is home for her family of four children, Kameta Temirbulatova thanked Georgia and the UNHCR for saving them. "But now my goal is to leave," she said. "Not for ever – just to give the children a chance."
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    26/5/2004- Two NGOs working in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia have criticised the El Ejido town council plenum for demanding a pardon for two men who kidnapped and beat three Maghreb country nationals, two of whom they suspected of a robbery. Even more worrying, is that an appeal for a pardon was signed by a very high proprtion of the inhabitants of El Ejido (around 50,000 out of 60,000 who are in the municipal census). El Ejido was the town in which a racist mob unleashed a wave of attacks on Maghreb country nationals, their homes and businesses in February 2000 (see Statewatch bulletin vols 10 nos. 1 & 2). Also: El País 21.5.2004.

    Statement by Andalucía Acoge and Almería Acoge
    Andalucía Acoge and Almería Acoge express their indignation for the backing that the plenum of the El Ejido town council is offering to the two attackers of three Maghreb country nationals, asking for them to be pardoned. The Supreme Court recently confirmed their 15-year sentence [note: in fact 13 years, six and a half for each defendant] for kidnapping and beating the three migrants with baseball bats. Through this political decision, the town council is legitimating acts with racist components and promoting the appearance of more actions of this nature. In this way, the local corporation worsens the existing social fracture, instead of promoting coexistence and the closening of relations between all its citizens. Both organisations consider it inadmissible that a public administration should support racist and anti-democratic behaviour. They consider that El Ejido town council should protect the interests of its entire citizenry, regardless of its origins and legal status. Andalucía Acoge and Almería Acoge call on the executive branches of the PSOE and PP to express their disagreement with the initiative by the El Ejido town council plenum, obliging both groups in the town council to withdraw the request. (19.5.2004).
    Statewatch translation of the original Spanish

    27/5/2004- The new Spanish government was accused of "hypocrisy" Thursday over its stance on a controversial law on foreigners' rights. The non-governmental organisation SOS Racism called on the Socialist government of Jose Lluis Rodriguez Zapatero to reverse the previous administration's changes to a law relating to foreigners. The group said despite promises while in opposition to change the Foreigners' Law, the PSOE party had not made any moves to do this. SOS Racism urged the government to immediately reverse parts of the law which limit the rights of illegal immigrants to form unions, hold meetings, demonstrate and to strike. The group claims the parts of the law break the UN's Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which was ratified by Spain in 1979. "This government has not shown any desire to change policies on immigrants brought in by the Popular Party government," said a statement by SOS Racism. The group claims the law discriminates against immigrants who have not registered with the authorities. The previous government tightened up regulations allowing police to check with council records when they wanted to find suspected illegal immigrants. They are also able to check with transport companies if they suspect that illegal immigrants could be transported into Spain.
    ©Expatica News

    26/5/2004- Spain has been accused of a series of human rights abuses in a report published Wednesday by Amnesty International. The human rights group's annual report said unlawful executions, 'disappearances', torture and mistreatment were carried out in Spain last year. The report said: "The armed Basque group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), Basque Homeland and Freedom, carried out shootings and bombings, some of them fatal. "There were a number of apparently reckless shootings by Civil Guard or police officers. "Many immigrants drowned attempting to reach Spain by sea from North Africa. Detainees made allegations of torture and ill-treatment." It said terrorist suspects suffered from a lack of safeguards against ill-treatment. But it added: "A new law more than doubled the maximum period that suspects could be held incommunicado. The government continued to categorically deny the existence of torture. "Unaccompanied foreign children aged 16 or over faced expulsion in circumstances that could contravene international law. "There were continuing allegations of ill-treatment or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in reception centres for children. Almost 100 women were killed in incidents of gender-based violence." The report said abuses were carried out in 157 countries throughout the world. It made particular mention of human rights abuses carried out by the United States in Iraq. The Spanish media have widely reported the claims made against the United States. But they have failed to mention the claims against Spain.
    ©Expatica News

    26/5/2004- Bulgaria has made numerous positive steps towards improving the human rights climate in the country. According to Amnesty International's spokesperson Lidya Arroyo, the adoption of two bills over 2003 has mostly contributed for that progress. Those are the legal framework for establishing the Office of an Ombudsman, which entered into force in January 2004, and the comprehensive anti-discrimination law, adopted last September, establishing an independent Commission to provide protection against discrimination. Among the main deficiencies singled out in Amnesty's Report 2003 on Bulgaria are the bad conditions for people with mental disabilities living in social care homes, as well as reports about police ill-treatment and torture of detainees, mainly from Roma communities. Lidya Arroyo reiterated that Libya's death sentences of five Bulgarian nurses had schocked Amnesty, which considers it impossible to carry out a fair trial with evidence exerted by torture.
    Amnesty Report 2003 about Bulgaria

    27/5/2004- Amnesty International has condemned Switzerland's police for using excessive force against foreigners and asylum seekers. In its 2004 report, the human rights group also raised concerns about restrictions on the right to asylum in Switzerland and the xenophobic rhetoric of the Right. The main criticism in Amnesty's report was directed at the United States. The organisation said the US-led "war on terror" was "bankrupt of vision" and "had made the world a more dangerous place". But Switzerland did not escape scrutiny - as in previous years, Amnesty found fault with police handling of foreigners and asylum seekers. Last year the organisation highlighted a handful of cases in which excessive force was used against non-Swiss  black Africans and Muslims in particular. This year's report - which documents the human rights situation in more than 150 countries - cites examples of police mistreatment of detainees in cantons Geneva, Zurich and Bern. Amnesty drew attention to a police raid in canton Glarus on a hostel for asylum seekers. It said the asylum seekers  many of whom were naked  were bound hand and foot, blindfolded and photographed. One 16-year-old was so frightened that he jumped out of a third-storey window and was seriously injured. Amnesty said it was also concerned about the introduction of tougher asylum restrictions in Switzerland and xenophobic statements during last autumn's parliamentary elections. It said that across Europe an upsurge in nationalism and attacks on refugee rights had bolstered racism and discriminatory practices towards minorities. It also deplored violence against women, which it described as "a major problem" in Switzerland.

    No change
    A spokeswoman for Amnesty's Swiss section told swissinfo that the problems in Switzerland were the same as in previous years. "The situation is stable," said Manon Schick. "But in 2003, in contrast to previous years, no deaths resulted from the forced repatriation of asylum seekers." And she said the problems identified in Switzerland were common to many of its neighbours. "These deviations have to be seen in a European context. A large number of European countries are taking a tougher line on asylum," said Schick. "And we have also documented police violence in Germany, for instance." Boël Sambuc, deputy head of the Federal Commission against Racism, said too little progress was being made. "The problems continue and we have not seen the right measures taken to deal with them," Sambuc told swissinfo. "The commission is particularly troubled by police violence towards foreign minorities." Sambuc said the commission wanted to see an independent complaints authority set up to investigate allegations of police brutality.

    Police brutality
    Geneva police were also criticised for "excessive and unjustifiable" force during a demonstration in March against the World Trade Organization and during protests in June against the G-8. Schick said the examples cited by Amnesty showed that not all cantons were applying the law correctly. "Federal law doesn't need to change, but the cantonal judicial authorities need to apply existing laws better. "The Glarus affair shows that there are gaps in the training some cantons give to their police." Amnesty further condemned the use of Taser electric shock guns as a means of restraint in some Swiss cantons. Schick said the organisation was calling on the cantons to consider the impact of these weapons before deciding whether to use them.

    Violence against women
    Another problem area highlighted by the human rights organisation was domestic violence. It said that in Switzerland 40 women died every year as a result of violence suffered in the home. A survey showed that one in five women in the country aged between 20 and 60 suffered some form of domestic violence. Despite federal and cantonal efforts to address t ©NZZ Online

    Europe and Central Asia Regional overview 2004

    26/5/2004- Governments across Europe and Central Asia continued to use the so-called "war on terror" to undermine human rights in the name of security.Among the steps taken by governments were regressive moves on "anti-terrorist" legislation, attacks on refugee protection, and restrictions on freedom of association and expression. Simplistic rhetoric about security, immigration and asylum, together with an upsurge in populism, bolstered racism and discriminatory practices towards minorities across the region. The lack of political will shown by the European Union (EU) to confront human rights violations within its own borders was increasingly disturbing, particularly in light of the planned accession of 10 new member states in 2004. Those responsible for violations, including torture or ill-treatment, continued to enjoy impunity.

    'War on terror'
    Under the auspices of combating "terrorism" governments continued to undermine human rights in law and practice. By the end of the year, 14 foreign nationals who could not be deported remained interned in the United Kingdom (UK) under legislation that allowed for indefinite detention without charge or trial, principally on the basis of secret evidence. Those detained in the UK under "anti-terrorism" legislation were held in high-security facilities under severely restricted regimes. Spain continued to ignore long-standing recommendations by various international bodies to introduce greater safeguards for suspects held under "anti-terrorist" legislation, and indeed planned to more than double the time which certain people could be held incommunicado. A judge also closed the only entirely Basque-language newspaper and 10 people associated with it were held under "anti-terrorist" legislation in moves that appeared to be injurious to the right to freedom of expression. The authorities in Uzbekistan used the "war on terror" to justify a continuing clampdown on religious and political dissent. At least 6,000 political prisoners remained in jail there and members of independent Islamic congregations were among those who faced detention and intimidation. In Turkmenistan, a wave of repression continued, following an alleged assassination attempt in November 2002 on the President, with scores of people convicted after blatantly unfair trials amid credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment. Government efforts to limit asylum provisions and immigration benefited from the new language of "national security" and "counter-terrorism", with an emphasis on control rather than protection. In Italy, for example, there were fears that some asylum-seekers were forced to return to countries where they risked grave human rights violations and that some individuals, expelled on grounds that they posed a danger to national security and public order, had no opportunity to challenge the decision in fair proceedings. The human rights perspective remained lacking from the thinking of the EU on asylum, which continued to promote a further sealing off of the EU at the expense of international protection obligations.

    Racism, discrimination and intolerance, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, continued to be a major concern across the region. Manifestations included institutional racism in the spheres of economic, social and cultural rights. Discrimination against Roma was widespread in many states in the region, often affecting virtually all areas of life including access to education, housing, employment and social services. Many people seeking to return home after being displaced by war in the western Balkans faced discrimination on ethnic grounds, particularly with regard to accessing employment, education and health care. This acted as a barrier against the return and reintegration of mino reported from across the region, including in Albania, Moldova, Romania and Serbia and Montenegro, where reports of such treatment were common and credible. In Turkey, torture and ill-treatment in police detention remained a matter of grave concern, despite some positive legislative reforms. In Germany, an intense public debate on the permissible use of torture occurred after it emerged that a senior police officer had ordered a subordinate to use force against a criminal suspect. Some states, such as Belgium, Italy and Switzerland, lacked fundamental safeguards against ill-treatment in police custody. In other states, such as Greece, Macedonia, Portugal and Spain, there were reports of reckless or excessive use of firearms, sometimes resulting in deaths. In several countries, conditions in prisons as well as in detention facilities holding asylum-seekers and unauthorized immigrants, were cruel and degrading. In some states, people with mental disabilities were treated inhumanely  in social care homes in Bulgaria, and through the use of cage beds in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.

    Many states lacked independent scrutiny mechanisms to address such violations, a problem compounded by the continued failure to accept accountability at EU level for human rights observance by member states. In some states impunity for human rights violations continued. In Turkey, the ratio of prosecutions of members of the security forces to complaints of torture and ill-treatment filed by members of the public continued to be pitifully low. Russian Federation security forces continued to act with virtual impunity in the conflict in the Chechen Republic, amid ongoing reports of their involvement in torture and "disappearances". Continued impunity for wartime violations remained a concern in the western Balkans. Although some people suspected of war crimes were transferred to the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, others continued to evade arrest, some apparently protected by authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro. Thousands of "disappearances" that occurred during the 1992-1995 war remained unresolved. Although there were some domestic prosecutions for war crimes, lack of political will and deficiencies in the domestic justice systems led to continued widespread impunity.

    In Belarus, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, dissent from official policies in civic, religious and political life was systematically and often brutally repressed. Human rights defenders in a number of countries faced threats and detention, including in Turkey where a range of laws and regulations was used to frustrate their activity, and in Azerbaijan where a campaign by the state-sponsored media against several prominent human rights defenders culminated in violent attacks on their offices and raised fears for their safety and that of their families. In both these countries, as well as in other states such as Italy, Greece and Switzerland, police were reported to have used excessive force against demonstrators. The lack of effective redress for human rights violations in countries in Europe compounded concerns about proposals under consideration which would have the effect of curtailing redress available at the regional level in the European Court of Human Rights. Member states of the Council of Europe proposed adding new admissibility criteria to the only international human rights court where individuals enjoy the right of direct petition.

    Violence against women
    Human rights violations against women and girls continued across the region. In the context of trafficking and forced prostitution, there were concerns that victims were being failed by the judicial systems in source, transit and destination countries. Domestic violence was also an entrenched problem across Europe and Central Asia, from Belgium to the Russian Federation. Contributory factors included states regarding domestic violence as belonging to the "private sphere"; a lack of legal provisions in compounding the punishment inflicted not only on the prisoners but also on their families. Executions took place in secret, with family members and friends denied the chance to say goodbye; in many cases families were not told for months whether their relative was alive or had been executed. They were also not told where their loved one was buried. None of these three countries published comprehensive statistics on their use of the death penalty.

    Action for human rights
    Although human rights remained under attack across the region, action to promote and protect fundamental rights continued. Many voices highlighted that human rights and security are not incompatible, but indivisible and interdependent. Human rights defenders continued their work despite harassment, intimidation and detention. Social movements responded to a range of human rights concerns in the region, bringing together activists across borders, with forums such as the Second European Social Forum in Paris, France, in November providing opportunities for regional coordination of popular activism. Strong regional intergovernmental bodies, including the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, continued to play key roles in promoting and protecting human rights.
    ©Amnesty International

    26/5/2004- The Human Rights organisation Amnesty International has heavily criticised the EU today (26 May) for not doing enough to protect human rights within its own borders. In its annual report, which documents the human rights situation in 155 countries and territories in 2003, Amnesty also reports on human rights violations in 21 of 25 EU member states. Only Cyprus, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands are not mentioned in the Amnesty report. However an Amnesty spokeswoman was quick to tell the EUobserver, "that does not mean that no violations take place in these countries. It simply means that we did not get information this year or could not accurately check it". One of the main concerns of the organisation is the damaging effects of the fight against terrorism on European human rights. "Under the auspices of combating "terrorism", governments continued to undermine human rights in law and practice", the report says. The United Kingdom is singled out as a particularly bad example. "By the end of the year (2003), 14 foreign nationals who could not be deported remained interned in the UK under legislation that allowed for indefinite detention without charge or trial, principally on the basis of secret evidence". The Amnesty document observes a new Europe-wide rhetoric, dominated by terms such as "national security" and "counter-terrorism", which has contributed to limiting asylum provisions and immigration. Asylum seekers in Italy, for example, had no opportunity to challenge the authorities' decision to expel them as they supposedly posed a danger to national security. Also with regard to asylum policy in general, the report states, "The human rights perspective remained lacking from the thinking of the EU, which continued to promote a further sealing off of the EU at the expense of international protection obligations".

    Individual EU countries are criticised in the report for various reasons. Germany is lambasted for an incident of torture, whereby a police chief ordered a police officer to use force against a suspect. An Ethiopian national died during forcible deportation in France. Spain is attacked by the human rights organisation for damaging the freedom of expression and assembly, after Basque media and political parties were declared illegal. Complaints about racist ill-treatment by law officials came from Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. People with mental disabilities were treated inhumanely in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, according to the report.

    These different forms of human rights abuses in member states cannot be sufficiently addressed at the EU level, Amnesty complains. The organisation calls for a human rights agency at an EU level to be funded by the EU, with sufficient powers to investigate and have access to documents in member states. According to an Amnesty spokesman, this agency would also need to have the power to make public recommendations to member

    25/5/2004- A Europe-wide survey has found that the increasing popularity of right-wing and extremist parties is due to the perceived degradation of socio-economic changes and employment conditions among European workers. The SIREN project, funded under the European Commission's 'Improving Human Research Potential and the Socio-Economic Knowledge Base' sub-section of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) was presented during a workshop on xenophobia and racism that took place in Brussels on 24 May. SIREN, which conducted interviews in eight European countries, found that over the past five years, European workers have been feeling increasingly frustrated over their working conditions. They complained about a decrease in job security, mounting stress levels and incessant competition, uncertain employment and low income. Those factors have lead to people feeling more and more receptive to xenophobia, racism, populism and right wing parties. The study also found that those who have benefited from the changing conditions, the so called 'modernisation winners', were increasingly developing 'an aggressively competitive political stance' as well. Albeit for different reasons, the survey found that these people were just as sympathetic to the message of the extreme right. The report, therefore, urges European leaders to realise the Lisbon agenda in order to 'help address the roots of far-right extremism.'

    'Right-wing populism and xenophobia threaten the very foundations of Europe, whose richness lies in diversity and tolerance,' explained European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. 'But a simple condemnation of racist or intolerant political movements is not enough: we have to understand the origins of the malaise. EU research demonstrates that when faced with low working standards, job insecurity and an overall deterioration of quality of life, some people are attracted by far-right sirens. Creating more and better jobs, realising the Lisbon agenda in its entirety is vital'.' The restructuring of the private and public sector has left European workers, and especially older workers, with higher levels of job insecurity and poor working conditions that in the past. Dissatisfaction with this situation has led to increasing electoral support for extremist parties. 'Cuts in welfare spending and fewer social protection mechanisms have also led to perceptions of greater social insecurity. Precarious employment and living situations also contribute to people feeling powerless, unable to plan for the future and more susceptible to extremist parties. Increased job competition, losses and stress in a deteriorating work climate also lead to people feeling a sense of injustice,' explained the European Commission. The workshop was organised with the aim of finding solutions to the problems raised by the SIREN project, namely, 'workers' perception of political powerlessness and politicians' perceived lack of interest in the workers' world.' It was agreed that the current crisis of representation at both national and European level must be tackled urgently.

    Read the full report and the recommendations
    Further information on the 'Improving Human Research Potential and the Socio-Economic Knowledge Base' programme

    27/5/2005- More needs to be done to stamp out female genital cutting, according to the Swiss branch of the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef). The charity is warning that anyone found guilty of carrying out the procedure in Switzerland could face up to ten years in prison. Unicef estimates that as many as 130 million women in Africa have been subjected to genital mutilation – the practice of cutting away part or all of the external female genitalia. The practice is traditional in some African and Asian societies and can cause long-term suffering to the girls affected. Victims report pain and complications in sexual intercourse, menstruation and urinating, which can persist for the rest of their lives. According to latest available statistics, around 20 per cent of gynaecologists in Switzerland have seen women who have undergone genital cutting as children. In the majority of cases the patients concerned were immigrants from Somalia, Ethiopia and West African countries. Unicef cannot say whether cases of genital mutilation are more or less prevalent in Switzerland than in other European countries. "What we know is that in countries with large migrant populations the prevalence will be higher than elsewhere," said Unicef Switzerland's head of information, Alexander Rödiger.

    Prosecution possible
    This week the Zurich-based charity published details of a new report aimed at clarifying uncertainty about whether the Swiss legal system includes provision to prosecute individuals who perform acts of genital mutilation. "We wanted to know whether Swiss law protects children who are in danger of being mutilated… and we found that if a doctor wants to practise genital mutilation he or she can expect to end up behind bars," Rödiger told swissinfo. Unicef cites reported cases of doctors illegally entering the country to perform female genital cutting in Switzerland. But the charity points out that it is not just medical professionals who could find themselves on the wrong side of the law. "Often parents do not know that they can be punished for agreeing to allow the genital mutilation of their children," said Rödiger. "Our study found that they can be prosecuted under Swiss law if they take their daughters outside the country for genital mutilation," he added. Unicef is calling on the Swiss authorities to ensure that all migrants who arrive in Switzerland are informed that "mutilation of this kind has consequences". "One conclusion of our report is that much more needs to be done to raise awareness among parents from countries like Somalia and Burkina Faso that such acts of mutilation are forbidden," said Rödiger.

    Patient confidentiality
    Regula Schlauri, a lawyer from canton Zug and co-author of Unicef's report, says one obstacle to successful prosecutions in Switzerland is that gynaecologists who discover evidence of mutilation do not have to report their findings to the police. "The rules are different in every canton, but in general patient confidentiality means that doctors are not legally obliged to pass on information about suspected cases of genital mutilation," said Schlauri. While the authorities in France have prosecuted several cases of female genital cutting, no similar action has been taken in Switzerland. One case against a father who stands accused of forcing his two daughters to undergo an operation to cut away part of their genitalia is currently pending in canton Geneva. "It's a question of a lack of knowledge," said Rödiger. "People often don't know that mutilation exists… so I think that if we can raise awareness of the issue then we will see cases [being prosecuted] in future."
    ©NZZ Online

    27/5/2004- A few months after the Allied victory in World War II, 24-year-old Capt. Harold Montgomery returned to the General Accounting Office here to reclaim his job with the U.S. Post Office Department. Since leaving 4 1/2 years earlier, Montgomery had led a heavy weapons company of the Army's all-black 92nd ``Buffalo Soldiers'' Infantry Division up the western coast of Italy through barrage upon barrage of German fire. He had watched wounded men die as shrapnel sliced through the plasma bags set up to give them transfusions. He had grinned and waved as cheering residents of liberated cities pressed flowers and bottles of wine into his hands. But when he walked into the GAO's grand, high-ceilinged lobby, it was as though time had stood still. A large plaque honoring postal employees who had served in the war did not list Montgomery or any other African American veterans, he recalled. And a personnel manager informed him he would not receive a pay raise given to returning white soldiers. ``To hell with that,'' retorted Montgomery, who resolved to find other work.

    As the dedication of the National World War II Memorial here approaches, the memory of their homecoming still gives Montgomery and many other black veterans a bitter twinge. At this weekend's events honoring the roughly 1 million African Americans who served in the war, they will recall a fight waged on two fronts: against fascism overseas, and against the racist laws and attitudes at home. African American newspapers of the time called it the ``Double V Campaign.'' And although the victory over the Axis powers was complete, the results of the second struggle were decidedly mixed. The nation's unparalleled need for troops gave thousands of African American soldiers, including many in noncombat service units, the chance to prove their mettle and put to rest the assertion by military brass that they lacked the courage, discipline and intelligence to fight effectively. But black soldiers generally received few medals for their accomplishments. They were kept in segregated units, made to sit behind German prisoners of war during USO concerts and banished from the very streets they had liberated once white nurses moved in. For James Strawder, one of more than 2,000 black soldiers who answered Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's call for black volunteers to replace white soldiers killed during the Battle of Bulge, the final indignity came after Germany's surrender: The volunteers were immediately transferred back to all-black labor units as their white comrades in arms were being sent home or given more dignified assignments. Strawder and the 200 other black volunteers at his Army post refused to work. When their commanders threatened to court-martial and execute them for insubordination, the men marched to the stockade and dared them to go ahead.

    ``I had already risked death (in battle), I didn't give a john,'' Strawder, now 83, recalled. The Army relented and allowed the men to return home on a ship bearing other combat troops. But President Harry Truman did not issue his order desegregating the military for three more years. ``I was really disgusted with this country,'' Strawder said. ``I was angry, and I stayed angry for years.'' Strawder, like the overwhelming majority of blacks participating in the war, was assigned to a service unit--in his case, a quartermaster company at an air base near Cambridge, England, early in 1943 to build landing strips, dig ditches and clean latrines. Four days after the D-Day invasion, they were shipped to northern France to bury the dead. ``There were hundreds of bodies all over the place,'' Strawder said. ``We'd spend day after day loading them on trucks. Lordy, was it sickening.'' Combat was not an option. Before the war, the Marines and the Army Air Corps barred blacks outright. The Navy accepted them only as cooks, stewards or longshoremen. The Army had only a handful o blacks for two combat battalions. Several thousand more were trained for depot and ammunition companies. Though technically not combat units, some companies repulsed fierce attacks by the Japanese in the Pacific. Meanwhile, the Army began deploying black combat troops, including such storied units as the 92nd Infantry Division and the 761st ``Black Panther'' Tank Battalion, which led a 183-day thrust from France into Germany. Montgomery was in the first contingent of the 92nd Infantry to land in Naples, Italy, disembarking in the summer of 1944 in pitch darkness. So many wrecked boats blocked the harbor that the men had to walk from their transports to shore on a long network of narrow planks, swaying unsteadily under the weight of their packs as German fighter planes strafed them and Allied anti-aircraft guns boomed back in reply. As Montgomery reached the dock, he began to make out a new sound ``like the roar of a crowd in a ballpark,'' he said. Hundreds of black service troops--cooks, stewards and laborers--had gathered to cheer the arrival of the first black combat soldiers in Italy.

    Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., the African American commander of the Tuskegee Airmen, was careful to impress on his men the special responsibility they had as representatives of their race, said Charles McGee, who left college to join the Airmen and flew missions over Europe out of southern Italy. At a briefing soon after McGee's arrival, Davis sternly warned the pilots to stick close to the bombers they were assigned to escort into Germany rather than peel off to engage German fighter planes in glamorous, but unnecessary, dogfights that would leave the bombers vulnerable. ``He said, 'If any of you go happy hunting, I'll court-martial you,' '' McGee recalled. Some pilots chafed under the rules, which prevented all but two from shooting down the five enemy planes required to become an ace. But McGee took pride in the result of Davis' policy: The Airmen, then flying as the 332nd Fighter Group, did not lose a single bomber to an enemy fighter. McGee, now 84, went on to a 30-year career in the Air Force. Today, he still hosts friends from the 332nd for lunch at least once a month --receiving them in a suburban Bethesda, Md., house packed with photographs and paintings of him in the red-tailed P-51 Mustang he flew during the war. Montgomery, now 83, also turned to the military after his disappointment at the Post Office, serving in Korea and rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Strawder, who became a truck driver, was haunted by how easily combat can turn men into killers. ``We were angry young men,'' he recalled of the black soldiers in his unit. ``We used to say, 'If we don't kill these Germans, they'll come home and become our bosses.' '' But for Strawder and other black veterans, time and the nation's growing recognition of their sacrifice has helped salve the wounds. When he learned that some of the events surrounding the memorial's dedication will honor African Americans, he gave a smile free of rancor. ``It does my heart good that they are giving us credit,'' he said.
    ©The Washington Post

    ASYLUM CENTER?(Hungary)
    13/5/2004- Hungary's accession to the European Union has brought speculation from some quarters that the country could be flooded with refugees. Hungarian daily Magyar Hírlap claimed that there could be as many as 10,000 refugee applications made this year. But Dr Ágnes Garamvölgyi, Refugee Case Director at the Immigration and Citizenship Office, has played down the large figures quoted by the press for refugees coming across Hungary's borders. "The overall issue is not predictable," Garamvölgyi told The Budapest Sun. "We do expect more refugees to come this year. This is in part because we are now an EU nation. It is also because Hungary has changed from a transit country to a destination country." Garamvölgyi explained, "In the past, refugees and asylum seekers may have claimed temporary residence in Hungary before moving on to seek refuge in other nations. Now they are applying for refugee status here. "More than 50% of Hungary's borders represent the external border of the EU with Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, and Croatia," she continued. "Therefore, we expect that the majority of refugees will come from these countries. However, we are also expecting some refugees to be sent back to Hungary from other nations," she explained. "Hungary had 2,401 people claiming refugee status in 2003," she added. "This year we expect that figure to be between 3,000-4,000. Our centers can cope with 3,000 refugees at once, in an emergency situation, and we have a budget for emergency measures. "At the moment our centers are at one-third capacity," Garamvölgyi stated.

    Andrea Szobolits, the Public Information Officer at the UNHCR office in Hungary told The Budapest Sun that EU membership would not necessarily mean the opening of refugee floodgates. "The UNHCR believes that Hungary's EU membership will not automatically lead to a dramatic increase in the number of asylum-seekers coming to this country. "On the contrary, the number of applications in Europe and the non-European industrialized countries continues to fall. In the European Union the number of asylum claims fell last year to 288,100 [a decrease of 20 % compared to 2002], the lowest level since 1997." In Hungary, she added, the 2,401 applications lodged in 2003, was 63% less than in 2002 (6,412) and 75% cent less than 2001 (9,554). This year, 528 people applied for asylum in Hungary and 35 were granted refugee status. The main nationalities being Georgian, Afghan, Iraqi and Iranian. "It is highly unlikely that this average of 100-150 applications per month would radically change due to Hungary's new EU membership," the UNHCR spokeswoman explained. "Asylum-seekers and refugees in Hungary are looked after by the Interior Ministry's Office of Immigration and Nationality, which provides them with legal protection and social care, in compliance with the relevant Hungarian and EU norms and regulations. "Hungary is also prepared to meet the needs of persons who may be returned to this country once the Dublin Regulation becomes fully operational in practice Europe-wide," Szobolits said. "The number of such persons is impossible to predict, as the Dublin Regulation only came into force last September and it still has not been fully and extensively applied in the countries concerned. But the influx of tens or even hundreds of thousands of new asylum-seekers, as has recently been mentioned in some press articles, could be considered "virtually impossible", she said.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    THE SILENCED MINORITY(Belgium, comment)
    Caryl Phillips's vision of a European multicultural society was shattered when he talked to writers in Flanders, home of the EU's largest elected right wing party
    By Caryl Phillips

    15/5/2004- The puzzled Nigerian girl looks at me and asks, "Are you a black man or a white man?" We are in a bar in Antwerp's red-light district where the girl's job is to sell her body to white men, many of whom are supporters of the far-right Vlaams Blok party. Her native Nigeria is far away. My accent and demeanour baffle her. The young girl does not fully understand the European world around her. She does, however, understand racism and I am prepared to pay her if she will share her thoughts with me on this subject. To reach the bar I had walked past large windows featuring bored bottle-blondes from Moldavia, Bulgaria, and other eastern European countries, girls who sat painting their nails or listening to music from portable CD players. Their pimps, faces decorated with walrus-like moustaches, stood in the street, stamping their feet against the cold. Chris de Stoop, a Belgian writer in his mid-40s, pointed to a window with a black prostitute. "She's from Ghana. They've been here for over 10 years." Slightly built, De Stoop looks a decade younger than his age. On these streets he is well known. His book about the trafficking of human beings for prostitution, Ze Zijn Zo Lief, Meneer (They Are So Sweet, Sir) (1992), was a succès de scandale in Belgium. He continues: "The Nigerians can't afford to rent windows so they work out of the bar. They go with clients to cars, to cheap hotels, or to the bushes." He pauses. "It can be dangerous."

    A few months ago a Belgian friend of mine directed me to a website with the subtitle: "Caryl Phillips: A New World Order". The website was clearly some kind of Dutch language think-tank for the far right, and it featured chatroom commentary on interviews I had given to Belgian newspapers about my collection of essays, A New World Order (2001). Among other things, I said that whether we liked it or not we were all becoming multicultural individuals. This was not only inevitable, it was also highly desirable. Clearly not all my readers in Flanders felt the same way. Some of the "guests" who volunteered comments on the site tried to be reasonable, while others had little time for such niceties. The pithy comment, "transport the darky" caught my eye, as did the logo of the Vlaams Blok party on the home page. In later visits to the site I noticed that the logo had been removed and replaced with a line drawing of Jacob van Artevelde, a 14th-century Flemish national hero, under the heading "Heil Artevelde". Nevertheless, the link between the site and the Vlaams Blok party remained clear.

    Belgium is a small country, a little larger than Wales, with French-speaking Wallonia to the south, and Flanders to the north. In Flanders the people speak Flemish, almost identical to Dutch. At the last election in Flanders the Vlaams Blok took 33% of the popular vote in Antwerp. It is the largest elected right-wing party in Europe, and its policies are unashamedly racist. The other political parties in Flanders have constructed a cordon sanitaire around it and chosen not to deal with it, yet it continues to attract popular support. In fact, the party's organisational power is becoming increasingly efficient, and has more in common with Jean-Marie le Pen's National Front in France than with the British National Party. According to De Stoop, the growth of the Vlaams Blok has to be seen in the context of the history of Flanders. The main city of Antwerp was the Manhattan of the late-medieval period, a restless, self-confident port of immense culture and vitality. Then came the disaster of 1585 when the city fell to the Spanish; thereafter, the vast majority of the influential citizens fled to Amsterdam. For 250 years Flanders was kicked like a football between various European superpowers, and the Flemings were made to feel like second-class citizens. In 1830, Antwerp and Flanders once more became free and part of the new country of Belgium, but now the region laboured heavily under the double yoke of French influence and poverty. At this time Flanders, with Ireland, was the poorest country in western Europe and many people chose to migrate to the United States. However, Flemish identity remained strong, even though Flemish socio-economic muscle continued to atrophy. After the second world war Flanders began to revive, but it did so slowly as it continued to bear the baggage of insecure identity politics. Increased immigration in the late 60s and 70s, particularly from Morocco, served only to exacerbate anxiety. Borgerhout (or "Borgerocco" - as the right-wingers like to call it) is a part of the city that had been described to me as Antwerp's "ghetto". As I walk its streets I see a number of brown faces, but there is nothing about this tidy neighbourhood that is "ghetto-like": 70-80% of the immigrants in Antwerp are either Moroccan or Turkish, while Poles make up the largest contingent of eastern Europeans. Black Africans from south of the Sahara are a small minority. Antwerp also possesses a sizeable Jewish population, about 20,000 of whom are Hassidic, many involved in the diamond trade. A long strip of diamond stores extends the full length of one side of Antwerp Central train station, but this hardly qualifies as a discernible Jewish "ghetto". In fact, as I walk around, it is clear that, compared to Brussels or Liège, Antwerp seems to be a more or less "white" city, which leads me to speculate that this electoral sympathy for the right might indeed be motivated by factors other than race and immigration.

    De Stoop had explained to me that, in his opinion, the Vlaams Blok has always portrayed itself as a party struggling against Belgium and, to some extent, France, as it seeks to achieve Flemish independence. However, in recent years its fortunes have risen only after adding an anti-immigration stance to its cause. By hijacking "immigration", "security" and "crime" as party issues, the Vlaams Blok has bolstered its carefully constructed position as the party of tough-minded mavericks and nationalist martyrs. If the questions on the street are - Can I keep my home? Can I keep my job? Can I speak my own language? Will I be safe at night? - then the Vlaams Blok has the answers. The party assures people it will make them secure in their own Flemish environment. It is a seductive promise made all the more enticing by the promise of some degree of cultural purity. I meet Mark Schaevers, the editor-in-chief of the leading Flemish weekly magazine, Humo, in a bar in Brussels. He says it used to be the strategy to write off the Vlaams Blok as idiotic right-wingers, but he insists that these days its supporters are dangero independent, societies. The newly fluent, interdependent Europe has little choice but to recognise and embrace multiculturalism. In fact, it could be argued that coming to terms with the reality of this new vision of ourselves is the biggest social and cultural challenge the continent has faced since the Renaissance, but in order to rethink ourselves and our societies we need to move beyond the double speak of opportunistic politicians who think it legitimate to pose helplessly xenophobic questions such as: "Why don"t they like our values?" De Stoop and I sit in a restaurant overlooking the River Scheldt. I ask him what Flemish writers are doing to tackle the problem of the Vlaams Blok. I know that he and others, including Tom Lanoye, the city poet of Antwerp, have been vocal. "But some writers," says De Stoop, "don't want to give attention to the Blokkers." As we wait for another beer, I can't help thinking about Joseph Conrad, who wrote about how European identity is shored up by identifying the outsider. He was a man who was avowedly political around issues of belonging and the plight of newcomers, being himself an itinerant. I think about his story "Amy Foster", and how the stranger arrives in an English village and never quite fits in. And, of course, I think about Heart of Darkness. I think also of Hugo Claus, perhaps the best known of Belgian writers, who when asked about the Vlaams Blok by Le Monde in 1997 replied, "The fact that they exist and indulge in fascistic grousing puts the other parties under the obligation to set themselves apart from these ideas." Sitting here in Antwerp, Claus's city, this seems a strangely coy response.

    Lanoye, on the other hand, is not coy at all. Immediately cordial and quick to share his views, Lanoye is clear about the role of his own writing and its relationship to activism, a clarity that has been sharpened by his spending a part of each year in Cape Town. "In South Africa aesthetics and politics work together, despite the fact that politics works within the boundaries of compromise. However, in Flanders, politicians often try to use art by, for example, quoting me out of context." As for the Vlaams Blok, he is quick to condemn it as anti-intellectual. He laughs as he points out that none of its followers wears glasses. "They don't want to appear to be weak." However, he is clear about their role. "They have a nationalist agenda to create a republic of Flanders, and it may well eventually happen. The truth is they are violent in speech and more racist than Pim Fortuyn was in the Netherlands, or Jörg Haider is in Austria." When I ask him why he continues to live in Antwerp, he is quick to defend his city. "Antwerp is one of the most avant-garde cities in Europe in terms of fashion and music, and in a sense the Vlaams Blok has created a space for a counter culture. The city has a register of gay marriage, and a powerful theatrical tradition." But Lanoye is clear that his city is at a crossroads. He tells me that some gays may vote for the Vlaams Blok if they have been gay-bashed by Moroccans. And some Jews vote for it because, although they know the "Blokkers" collaborated with the Nazis during the war, they also know that the Vlaams Blok will try to stop the building of mosques. "The stupid logic is that the enemy of my enemy must be my friend. As the city poet of Antwerp I have felt opposition towards my adopting an activist role, but a writer must always take an individual stand."

    Later, in my hotel room, I wonder again if the rise of the right in Flanders can be so simply explained by an insecurity about the Flemish identity coupled with a more recent fear of immigration. I decide that even if these are the two principal reasons, until the victims of the far right start to construct their own narratives, very little will change. It is important that writers such as De Stoop and Lanoye speak out on these issues, but in the end the transformative and politically decisive narratives, particularly those that engage with racism, must come also from within the non-white Belgian community. But, as Lanoye pointed out to me: "One of the devastating effects of the Vlaams Blok is that it has become more difficult to give money for education and language training to immigrant communities." The truth is that non-white writers in Belgium have no visible role in society. In the Netherlands, second-generation Dutch voices such as Hafid Bouazza, Yasmine Allas and Moses Isegawa are strong and established. This is also the case in France and in Britain, but non-whites in Belgium have yet to find a literary voice. This is all the more disturbing given the fact that according to the recent EU-sponsored European Observation Centre for Racism and Xenophobia survey, Belgium was the second most "actively intolerant" country in Europe with regard to minorities. Some narrative balance would appear to be in order. I call De Stoop and ask him if he can arrange for me to meet some African prostitutes. I decide that if anybody can give me a measure of Belgian racism, they will. As we walk through the red-light district, De Stoop tells me that first we will visit Frank Cool and his "Kettlepatrol", the Keteltje being the name of the bar where, according to De Stoop, the Nigerian prostitutes congregate. I look puzzled at the thought of this detour, but De Stoop reassures me. "You'll see." He stops and presses the buzzer to a nondescript door. De Stoop speaks Flemish, so I can follow only the essence of what he is saying. However, I understand that we will not be admitted. He waits a moment, says something else, and the door opens.

    Frank Cool has a long grey pony tail and his face, body and clothes have all been well-occupied. A former tug captain, he has spent most of his life on land living in Antwerp's red-light district. He leads us up a flight of rickety stairs to the first floor where De Stoop and I sit gingerly on a third-hand sofa in a cramped room that used to be a squat until Frank persuaded the city government to give him the house so that he could look after Nigerian prostitutes. He and his "Kettlepatrol", two of whom sit in the room with us, are white Belgian men with a "special interest" in looking out for Nigerian girls. Some of the men have criminal records, but Frank insists none is involved with the Vlaams Blok, which according to him is not true of the brothel owners, pimps, and a number of the local police. As he begins to explain how the girls are trafficked to Belgium, there is a loud scratching behind me. One of the "patrol" men laughs out loud and says, "Rats and mice everywhere". Having explained that the girls are aged between about 16 and 22, and that they are trafficked in on tourist visas as maids or relatives with false names, Frank invites me to look around their "quarters". Upstairs there are four "bedrooms", and the sullen girls are either coming in, or preparing to go out to work. They sleep in shifts, continually rotating, and all of them will remain in servitude for as long as it takes to pay back the debt to their trafficker. Frank's organisation makes sure the girls are screened for HIV, that they eat and have a place to sleep. However, when I see the deplorable sleeping conditions, I shudder to think what they would do without Frank. Although there are 300 Nigerian girls working as prostitutes in Antwerp, at Frank's there is room for only 20 at any one time. The scene at the Keteltje is surreal: 100 bored Nigerian girls are packed into this tunnel-like bar, and they outnumber their clients 10 to one. They have arrived at a time of great recession and prospective clients are not as plentiful as they once were. Frank knows each girl by name, and he greets them warmly. He has, at some point, won them over with his gifts of chewing gum, Bibles, and condoms. As we make our way through the crush of girls, the barman hands Frank a present for his house: a jumbo-sized box of washing powder. Frank turns to me and confesses: "Some of the girls stink." I ask Frank if I can talk to one of them about racism in Belgium, and he says: "Yes, I will arrange it."

    Once we have established that I am a black man and not a white man, the girl seems prepared to talk. She sits in a demure fashion, her hair neatly straightened, looking uncannily like a Sunday school teacher. "I have been here four years, and things have got much worse," she says. "The people in the town don't want black people. Some of them use us and won't pay. But if I complain I am worried about being thrown out of the country." I ask "Cynthia" what the Vlaams Blok means to her. She looks at me with surprise. "The Blok people hate us. They are not good people, and there are many, many of them." When I suggest not all Belgian men are like this, she puckers her lips. Then, with a sense of cynical resignation, she turns to me and concedes. "No, not all the men." How, I wonder, would she know a Vlaams Blok man? She is firm now. "I know a man who does not like black women." I give her 10 before signalling to De Stoop that it is time to leave. Later that night I wake up and realise that I have been dreaming in the first-person voice of a black prostitute. But this is not my story to tell. Others in Belgium will have to tell it. I get out of bed, log on, and look again at the offending website. One man is trying to say something. "Maybe I'm missing something," he says, "but what's wrong with Mr Phillips's view of a multicultural society?" I can answer his question. What is wrong with Mr Phillips's view of a multicultural society is that it presupposes that people like "Cynthia" will be able to write, sing, paint, or dance their stories, and that they will have an audience. Mr Phillips's multicultural society works only if there is a reciprocal exchange and, hopefully one day, a commingling, of narratives.

    Given the present-day absence of non-white narrative voices in Belgium, the situation is troubling. Having authority over our own story, and the means to tell it, is the most potent weapon that any of us are able to utilise against the corrupt vision of the far right. In Flanders there is much work to be done.
    ©The Guardian

    16/5/2004- On the sixtieth anniversary of a Sinti and Roma revolt in Auschwitz concentration camp, German President Johannes Rau on Sunday said more should be done to keep the memory of these heroes alive. On May 16, 1944, about 6,000 Sinti and Roma in Auschwitz had resisted orders to get on trucks that would take them to the gas chambers. Armed with improvised weapons made out of tools, they hid in their barracks and eventually managed to get SS officers to abandon the transport. About 3,000 of those participating in the revolt were later sent to other concentration camps where some of them survived. The others, mainly women, children and older people, were murdered. Altogether, the Nazis deported about 23,000 Sinti and Roma from eleven European countries to Auschwitz. Sixty years later, Sunday's ceremony at the German foreign ministry in Berlin for the first time didn't just focus on the extermination of Sinti and Roma under the Nazis, but also highlighted the desperate courage camp inmates displayed in resisting their murderers, said Romani Rose, the chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma.

    Calls to speed up erection of memorial
    Rose added that the German government should act swiftly and build a proposed memorial for Sinti and Roma Holocaust victims near the parliament building and the Brandenburg Gate. It will be situated near the memorial currently under construction for Jewish Holocaust victims as well as a third memorial that will be erected to honor homosexuals who perished under the Nazis. "We're calling on you to no longer delay the erection of the memorial," Rose told the audience that also included German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. Rau responded by strongly criticizing any attempts to suppress, deny or play down the genocide of Sinti and Roma. "You stood up against barbarianism in Germany's darkest hour and thereby held on to the inviolability of human dignity," Rau (photo) said, addressing Auschwitz survivors in the audience. "For that, you deserve our respect and that's why your courageous behavior should be much better known than it is today." Referring to the continuing discrimination many of Europe's 8.5 million Sinti and Roma still face today, Rau said everything should be done to prevent this. "If the inconceivable is not to happen again, we have to make sure in our daily lives that people from different backgrounds, different religions and different cultural traditions live together with esteem and respect," Rau said.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    16/5/2004- Thousands of people joined a demonstration through central Paris Sunday to condemn a recent spate of acts of anti-Semitism in France including the defacing of a memorial for Jewish soldiers killed in World War I. Called by the group SOS-Racism and supported by France's main Jewish organisations, the march from Place de la Republique to Bastille was attended by well-known political figures including Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe, Socialist party leader Francois Hollande and Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy. Recent weeks have seen a series of anti-Semitic attacks, including the spraying of swastikas and Nazi graffiti at the memorial for Jewish fighters at the World War I battleground of Verdun, and acts of vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in Alsace in the east and a synagogue in the northern town of Valenciennes. The main part of demonstration walked behind a banner reading "I am marching against anti-Semitism." However a separate section at the rear was organised by a number of left-wing and civil rights groups, which wanted to extend the theme to "all forms of racism". "The effectiveness of the fight against anti-Semitism will be achieved via the struggle against all racism. Anti-North African racism, anti-Muslim racism and anti-Semitism are two sides of the same coin," said Moulud Aounit of the Movement against Racism MRAP. Meanwhile Veterans' Affairs Minister Hamlaoui Mekachera led a ceremony at the Fleury-devant-Douaumont memorial outside Verdun -- where 360,000 French soldiers died in 1916 -- and read out a message from President Jacques Chirac condemning the defacement there. "I call on every French man and woman to be on the alert, to reject hatred, to respect one another," the message read. "Anti-Semitism, racism and mutual hatred are profoundly opposed to the values that all French people share. "The unspeakable acts which were directed at the Douaumont memorial are a collective wound. By insulting the memory of soldiers of Jewish faith who gave their lives for the country, they are an offense against the country as a whole," the president's message said. The centre-right government issued a statement via spokesman Jean-Francois Cope vowing to mobilise efforts against anti-Semitism and other forms of racism. Cope also said an international conference on the Internet would take place in Paris next month in order to draw up guidelines on race-related content. France saw an upsurge in assaults on Jewish people and property after the start of the Palestinian intifada three and a half years ago. Most of them have been blamed on disgruntled members of the country's large Arab minority, though neo-Nazi fringe groups are also active.
    ©Expatica News

    Austria agrees to build a prison in Romania for some of its Romanian inmates. Is it logical outsourcing or the start of a new way of segregating Europe?
    by Razvan Amariei

    17/5/2004- It started with the West looking eastward for cheaper food, clothes, accommodation, and labor. Now Austria has become the first Western country to take advantage of lower costs in the post-communist world by building cheaper prisons. The Austrian government on 11 May agreed to finance the building of a prison in Romania to house 250 Romanian inmates who will be transferred from Austrian penitentiaries. The prison, which is likely to be built in the vicinity of a city in western Romania--sources from the Romanian Justice Ministry have mentioned Timisoara, Oradea, and Cluj as the most probable locations--will cost approximately 3.5 million euros ($4.2 million) to build. The Austrian government hopes that cost will be quickly recouped by the savings in running the facility. "In Austria the cost of keeping an inmate is about 100 euros ($120) per day; in Romania it is one-tenth that," Austrian Justice Minister Dieter Boehmdorfer said. "And more than that, the cost of building a prison in [Austria] is 10 times [what it costs to build] in Romania." According to Boehmdorfer, the 370 Romanian detainees now in Austrian penitentiaries cost the Austrian government 13.5 million euros ($16.3 million) per year. He hopes that moving two-thirds of the Romanian prisoners to a new facility in their native country will mean a savings of 9 million to 10 million euros per year. It was Boehmdorfer--a member of Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPO)--who first came up with the idea of building a prison in Romania, but the project was quickly picked up by his colleagues in the Conservative Party and by Romanian authorities. During a visit to Vienna in January 2004, Romanian President Ion Iliescu and then-Justice Minister Rodica Stanoiu discussed the subject with their Austrian counterparts. The two sides lauded the project as good for both countries--reducing costs for Austria and providing a new prison for Romania, where prisons are currently 15 percent over capacity. Stanoiu--who was forced out of government in a cabinet reshuffle in March--signed a bilateral agreement on the prison in Vienna shortly before her ouster. On that occasion, she advocated the new project with another argument: "According to the European Convention for Prisoners' Transfer, it is better for a person to be jailed in his own country, where he knows the language and can easily get in touch with his family and his friends," she said. She also stated that the project would lead to further cooperation between the two countries.

    The numbers in black and white
    According to April 2004 statistics from the Romanian Penitentiary Service, Romania's 35 jails, six hospital-penitentiaries, and three rehabilitation centers house 41,817 inmates. However, the facilities were designed to hold a maximum of 36,270 prisoners. The incarceration rate in Romania stands at around 200 for every 100,000 inhabitants, as compared with 690 in Russia, 375 in Latvia, 120 in Hungary, 55 in Croatia, and 30 in Slovenia. Meanwhile, a total of 8,300 prisoners are held in Austrian jails, and 3,300 of them are foreigners. "Sixty percent of prison inmates in Vienna are foreigners, while in some prisons close to the borders, this figure can go as high as 98 percent," Boehmdorfer told Austrian journalists. Austria's incarceration rate (85 per 100,000 inhabitants) is below the European average, but the number of prisoners has increased by 21 percent since January 2002. The idea of an Austrian prison in Romania was accepted without any disputes by the Romanian opposition, but it was a harder sell in Vienna. Austrian Green Party spokesperson Terezija Stoisits criticized the government's proposal to send home even those Romanians still awaiting trials. She said--in quot nongovernmental organizations--including Amnesty International Austria--from expressing doubts regarding the project and the way European standards will be followed in the new prison. That aspect worries some of the Romanian inmates now incarcerated in Austria as well. According to a senior official at the Romanian Penitentiary Service who wished to remain anonymous, many prisoners who could be transferred back to their native country seem afraid that Romanian authorities won't be able to run a prison according to Western standards. "Of course that there are also many inmates who are happy that they will be able to get visits from their wife, children, or parents or to watch Romanian television stations instead of the Austrian ones," the official told TOL. Public opinion also seems divided. Most people seem indifferent, but some are strongly against the project. "They should keep them, because we already have to take care of so many criminals," said Maria Florea, a retiree from Bucharest. Others feel responsible for their nationals. "It's not Austrians' fault that a lot of Romanians are committing crimes there. They are our criminals and we should take care of them. The most important thing is to prevent them from leaving Romania again," said Daniel Tudor, a young lawyer from the city of Brasov.

    Unwelcome guests
    Since January 2002, when Romanians were allowed to travel into the Schengen zone without visas, Austria has become a favorite destination for both Romanian tourists and criminals. According to Austrian police statistics, crimes committed by Romanian citizens rose by approximately 50 percent in two years. Most of the offences involved theft and burglary, and public backlash has been strong, especially given the numerous media reports about the issue. In September 2003, some Austrian officials went so far as to say they would consider vetoing Romania's planned entry into the European Union in 2007 because of the rising crime rates. Similar problems have been reported in other Western countries, including Italy, Spain, and France. In fact, Romania signed an accord similar to that signed with Austria with Italian authorities in 2003, but it is not clear yet who will finance the building of the prison, and the project has been postponed. If the trend holds, it seems that many eastern inmates will be sent, sooner or later, to their countries of origin. Michael Neider, director general of the Austrian Prison Service, said that building and operating prisons across borders could become a model for the European Union, the Prison Privatisation Report International (PPRI) reported.
    ©Transitions Online

    18/5/2004- The Bar Council has become embroiled in an increasingly bitter row with one of Britain's leading black barristers that is set to end in a high-profile test case before an employment tribunal. Peter Herbert, a judge and member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, alleges that he has been victimised by the Bar Council after twice facing disciplinary action for speaking to the media. The case, to be heard by an employment tribunal in July, is expected to pave the way for other barristers who feel they have been racially discriminated against by their profession's ruling body. A further three black and Asian barristers are preparing to join Mr Herbert in his action, while the Commission for Racial Equality has agreed to investigate his claims. Mr Herbert, who also chairs the London Race Hate Forum, will submit evidence to support his claim that a disproportionate number of black and Asian barristers are tried for disciplinary offences. His lawyers will contrast this with the fact that only two white barristers have been disciplined for racism. Mr Herbert made legal history three years ago when he became the first barrister to be called before a tribunal for allegedly breaching the Bar's code on publicly commenting on cases in which they are instructed. He was cleared of any wrongdoing.

    Next week he is to face a second hearing after being accused of breaking the same rule when he defended the social worker Carole Baptiste, his client, after she was convicted of failing to testify in the inquiry into the death of the eight-year-old Victoria Climbie. Lord Laming, the Climbie inquiry chairman, complained to the Bar that Mr Herbert breached his professional rules when he described the prosecution of Ms Baptiste as an example of institutional racism. Ms Baptiste was the first person to be prosecuted for obstructing a public inquiry. Mr Herbert is alleged to have made the comment on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on 28 August 2002. A number of senior public figures have written to the Bar to express their support for Mr Herbert. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Stevens, says: "You continue to be quite rightly recognised for your commitment to issues of equality and fairness." Mr Herbert has received similar letters of support from Lord Ouseley, a former head of the Commission for Racial Equality, and Lord Justice Sedley, a Court of Appeal judge. The employment tribunal case will hear evidence of how a number of white barristers have escaped disciplinary action even after being convicted of a criminal offence. Mr Herbert will contrast this with the cases of two other black barristers disciplined after becoming embroiled in business disputes. The Bar Council is to defend the case. A spokesman declined to comment on it, but said: "The fact that 20 per cent of new entrants to the Bar are from ethnic minority backgrounds is clear proof that the Bar as a profession is the most attractive to them that there is in the country. We also stand by our record on having the first and most comprehensive equality code there is."
    © Independent Digital

    20/5/2004- A revenge attack in Nottingham has been condemned by the National Assembly Against Racism (NAAR). Derek Senior, 50, was shot and seriously injured only days after four white men were jailed for attacking him in a pub. Mr Senior had given evidence against his attackers, and it is believed he was shot as an act of retribution. Secretary of the NAAR, Lee Jasper, said the shooting was "directly linked to his courageous stand against racists". He said: "'We are outraged by the attempted murder on Mr Senior. "Racists cannot be allowed to terrorise our communities, and they must not be allowed to escape justice on this occasion." Police have said they are "massively outraged" by the shooting and vowed to hunt down the gunman. Nottinghamshire's Assistant Chief Constable, Peter Ditchett, said on Tuesday: "I am going to hunt you down; we are going to find you, we are going to convict you and you can ponder your future in front of the prison bars." Mr Senior was shot on Monday on Harmston Rise in Basford. He is in hospital in a stable condition.
    ©BBC News

    20/5/2004- Travellers have been blamed for causing organisers of a nationally popular Norfolk horse fair to cancel it indefinitely. Watton Horse Fair has been going for 35 years but in recent years residents have felt besieged by the large numbers of people flooding to the town. After this year's first auction, fears mounted when a security guard was beaten up by three drunken men and reports of shoplifting, vandalism and petty crime in the town rose. And human faeces littered nearby Wayland Wood, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and fields surrounding Hall Farm. The fair on May 9 also caused terrible traffic queues and smeared the road with mud. Auctioneer Tyrone R Roberts, from Dereham, told the EDP last night that the rest of this year's planned fairs were cancelled due to a small minority spoiling it for the majority. However, the National Romany Travellers Alliance (NRTA) said cancelling it was a "knee-jerk" reaction and called for proof that travellers were to blame for the problem. During a meeting between Mr Roberts and the farmer who owns the land, it was agreed they would review the decision next year. Mr Roberts said: "Over the last few years, we have attracted members of the travelling community who would roll up two days before the fair. "While we have about 6000 people at the event, there have been about 30 people causing trouble and hassle. "We have taken the decision to suspend the other two we've got booked for this year, on July 11 and September 5, in the hope we will discourage those people causing the problem. We will look at it again for next year. He added: "We are not prepared to put up with this level of anti-social behaviour."

    A spokesman for Watton Town Council said: "There was a considerable amount of damage and people told a recent public meeting they felt they could not leave their properties during the horse fair. They felt under siege in their own homes." Newsagent Chris Edwards said: "In my view the horse fair has now outgrown Watton. "The whole nature of the event has changed dramatically both in size and, unfortunately, in the conduct of the people who attend. "We have thefts in our shops, and some of the customers from the horse fair can be rather intimidating to staff. People on industrial estates and residents feel threatened, and there is more vandalism." But Jake Bowers, spokesman for the NRTA, said: "Horse fairs are a part of English culture. There is a lot of racism across the eastern counties, stereotyping the 'thieving traveller', but these are old stereotypes. "It needs to be determined if travellers did cause those crimes – and sometimes some do commit crime, because that is the same with any community – before events like horse fairs are cancelled," he said. "I am sure it is a knee-jerk reaction and would encourage organisers to think through their reactions." Watton police spokesman Sgt Alan Roberts said officers were aware of local concerns about the problems. "When you have got a large group of people from a different community coming into anywhere, whether it's local soldiers or non-local travellers, there will be an effect, and a lot of it is in perception," he said. "But there certainly is an increase in crime."
    ©Norfolk Eastern Daily Press

    CRE does not rule out legal action against clubs

    20/5/2004- The Commission for Racial Equality says targets should be set for football clubs to increase the number of ethnic minority staff or face legal action. It says too many clubs are merely paying lip service to cracking down on racism in the sport, with the majority not even adopting equal opportunities policies. The controversial recommendation arises from a survey in England and Wales conducted by the CRE and seen exclusively by the Guardian. The survey claims that most clubs, particularly those in the lower leagues, are not doing enough to tackle racism. The CRE surveyed the Premier League, the Football League, all their 92 clubs and the Football Association, asking them for detailed information on what they were doing to combat racism and adopt equal opportunities policies to increase non-white representation. All but one of the Premier League's 20 clubs took part in the CRE survey, and 19 out of 24 first-division clubs. In the second division, however, only 16 out of 24 clubs took part, and only 11 of the 24 clubs in the third division responded.

    The survey found that while most clubs in the Premier League and the first division had equal opportunities policies only five clubs in division three and 12 in division two had them. Only six clubs in the Premier League carried out ethnic monitoring of staff, three in division one and none in divisions two and three. The CRE claims that despite the large presence of black players its survey shows that football is predominantly a white men's game and that most clubs are not doing enough to increase the number of non-white staff. The game's governing bodies are also dominated by white men. The report praises Premier League clubs for addressing race issues both on and off the pitch, but claims that more needs to be done in the lower divisions. The CRE survey found that most clubs outside the Premier League are not doing enough to increase the number of non-white fans. A spokesman for the CRE said: "Most clubs do not even ethnically monitor staff so it shows that they are not taking the problem seriously. There are plenty of warm phrases and lip service being paid within the game towards racism but it's not being backed up by formal, positive action." The CRE said it had not ruled out taking legal action against clubs and against football's governing bodies if the equal opportunities issues were not tackled. Copies of the report have been sent to all 92 clubs and the game's governing bodies, but the CRE insisted that it wanted to work with them to draw up a plan.

    Kick-it-Out, Britain's main football anti-racism group, has criticised the CRE, claiming that it needed to take more positive action to encourage change within the game. Lord Ouseley, chair of Kick-it-Out, said: "The CRE is the one body, because of its regulatory role, that has the power to bring about change. Unless it is forcing the pace then football will be reluctant to make changes." A spokesman for the Premier League said yesterday: "The Premier League is at the forefront of coordinating best practice and implementing ideas for widening the game's support among ethnic minorities through club-based community initiatives."
    ©The Guardian

    17/5/2004- UEFA, the European Union's Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) co-host an international conference in Braga, Portugal on Wednesday. The conference is about using sport to combat racism, and the venue - Parque de Exposições de Braga - is appropriate, given the forthcoming UEFA EURO 2004™ final round in Portugal between 12 June and 4 July. Athletes, non-government organisations, local elected representatives of European institutions and academics will be present. "We wanted to take advantage of Portugal's high profile as UEFA EURO 2004 host, to show the potential of sport for preventing racism and xenophobia," said Anders Gustav, chairman of the CoR Commission for Economic and Social Policy (ECOS) and mayor of Stockholm (Sweden).

    Multicultural Europe
    "Europe is becoming increasingly multicultural. It has expanded to include new countries and is the most popular destination for immigrants and refugees from all over the world," he added. "Common ground has to be found to bring people together. Sport is a good way of defusing tension. Fair play and respect for others are essential on a football pitch. In addition, there are players of different nationalities in most teams. It is a good example of peaceful coexistence and success." Braga is one of the Portuguese cities hosting EURO 2004™ matches, and the conference will be an opportunity to take full advantage of Braga's experience. Francisco Soares Mesquita Machado, the mayor of Braga, explained, "Sport is a powerful medium for forging links between people from different backgrounds. Social cohesion is a daily concern for a town or region." The conference will be a forum for the exchange of good practice in the area of combating racism in sport. Discussions will take place on what local and regional authorities can do to prevent racism and xenophobia, and how they can organise sporting events which encourage understanding and tolerance.

    Multicultural tradition
    To open the proceedings, Feliciano Barreiras Duarte, state secretary, assistant to the minister for the presidency, will talk about Portugal's experience as a former emigration country which is now receiving immigrants and has a strong multicultural tradition. Other speakers include John Kellock (EUMC), Angelo Brou (Euro 2004, S.A.) and Patrick Gasser (UEFA), Joe McDonagh, former president of the Gaelic Athletic Association, Pedro Velazquez Hernandez, action coordinator, European Commission DG for Education and Culture, Albertino Gonçalves of the University of Minho (Portugal) and Lionel Arnaud of the University of Rennes (France). The Committee of the Regions was set up by the Maastricht Treaty in 1994. Its task is to issue opinions on draft European Community legislation with local or regional impact. The CoR has 317 members, all of whom are elected local or regional representatives. By virtue of their dual role (they are both local and regional representatives and European representatives), they serve as a channel of information to the public, but they are also the voice of towns and regions in the EU. The members of the CoR provide Brussels with the local and regional point of view. The CoR is a direct link between the EU and the public. Set up in 1997 and based in Vienna, the EUMC is a decentralised EU body which helps to combat racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism throughout Europe.

    19/5/2004- The Immigrant Council of Ireland has claimed that the Government's proposed changes to citizenship laws would have a profoundly negative impact on the lives of children. Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, the chairperson of the council, said the proposed citizenship referendum would create two classes of children in Ireland, with their legal position determined by the status or actions of their parents. She said this would recreate the situation of almost 20 years ago when the children of unmarried parents were treated as second-class citizens. The Immigrant Council is calling for a "no" vote in the referendum and has the support of former US Congressman Bruce Morrison, who believes the proposed constitutional amendment would be counter to the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.
    ©Irish Examiner

    19/5/2004- It could take up to eight years before all ten of the new member states join the EU's open borders area, according to a new report published on Wednesday (19 May). The report, by the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), says an evaluation of whether new member states can protect the external borders of the EU from illegal immigration and cross-border crime is likely to take place only after 2007. And then, only two countries a year will be inspected, meaning that it could be 2012 before every new member state has joined the border-free zone, known as the Schengen area. "Even in a relatively optimistic scenario it may not be until 2012 that the last of the 10 new member states will be able to join [the] Schengen zone", says the report. On top of this, it is also not clear, says the report, whether the new member states will be required to join Schengen as a group or will be admitted on a country by country basis. Since 1 May, travelling within the EU of 25 has been possible with an ID card instead of a passport but checks will still be carried out at the current EU borders until the internal borders are lifted. The report concludes that the "enlarged EU is not only running into danger of creating first and second class EU citizenship ... but also building a new barrier between the EU and its eastern neighbours". It recommends that deadlines be set up which are subject to more public and parliamentary scrutiny.

    STUCK AT THE STARTING GATE (Canada, comment)
    18/5/2004- Why are new immigrants to Canada earning 24 cents on the dollar less than they did 35 years ago? This is a big question for a country that now accepts a higher proportion of immigrants than at any other time since the early 1900s. Once there was hope that the problem was a temporary one caused by recession. However, new data yesterday from Statistics Canada show that, even in good times, immigrants are struggling a great deal. It's hard to know what to do about it without knowing why immigrants' prospects have diminished. Are they under- educated, or educated for the wrong things? Do they have language difficulties? Are their credentials not respected? As Asia and Africa have become more common sources of migrants, has racism become more pronounced? The Statscan study does not settle these questions. What it tells us is that those from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia in particular are having a tough time. Their foreign experience is not respected, and their schooling is valued less than that of Western Europeans. Although Canada is justifiably proud of its open immigration policy, which purports to attract the best and brightest from all parts of the globe, it is clear that the rapid adjustment has met some snags. Between 1965 and 1969, two-thirds of immigrants to Canada were from Western, Southern and Northern Europe. Between 1995 and 1999, about 54 per cent of this country's immigrants were from Asia. During the 30-year interval, the job market became more difficult for all new workers, including the Canadian-born. But that is not the whole story, since new immigrants from the United States and Mexico still earn 14 to 16 cents on the dollar more than those from Asia. Why are immigrants from the new source countries faring worse? The Statscan study offers several possibilities. A lack of proficiency in English or French is one. It may also be that, because the social safety net is more developed today than three decades ago, these immigrants are able to spend more time studying English and upgrading their credentials before looking for full-time employment. Another possibility is that Canadians are more likely to discriminate against or be skeptical about newcomers from especially distant lands. More work needs to be done to create institutions that can appraise the value of foreign credentials, and give advice to employers. Still another possibility is that the bulk of today's immigrants are unfamiliar with Canadian labour markets or lack access to social networks. Or perhaps fewer people from Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe are skilled migrants, and more are refugees, the study says. Canada relies on immigrants for most of its labour-force growth. It needs to make the best possible use of all its workers. It does not seem to be doing so right now. One answer is to put in more stringent standards for Canadian experience and for proficiency in either of Canada's official languages. The federal government tried this in 2002, but softened its stand last year. That may turn out to have been a costly mistake. Canada could simply advise new immigrants to be patient -- to trust that their children will thrive. But this is defeatist and expensive for all concerned. Better to have tougher rules for skilled migrants on entry, and then to work harder at ensuring that deserving foreign credentials are respected.
    ©Globe and Mail

    Rivals agree that race still divides Americans

    18/5/2004- Fifty years after the Supreme Court outlawed school segregation, President Bush on Monday acknowledged that "habits of racism" still linger in America, and his Democratic opponent John Kerry said the nation's schools remain "separate but unequal." Bush offered his assessment of race relations during a visit to Monroe Elementary School in Topeka, Kan., the symbolic epicenter of the desegregation movement. The school's efforts to exclude black students led to the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on May 17, 1954, in the case known as Brown v. Board of Education. The 50th anniversary Monday of the court ruling forced racial issues to center stage in the presidential campaign. A few hours before Bush's visit, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry offered his views on race relations at a ceremony outside the Kansas state capitol here. Both candidates agreed that more needs to be done to reach the goal of educational opportunity for all. On the campaign trail, Kerry advocates more federal spending on education; Bush stresses his support for standardized testing and local control of schools. "While our schools are no longer segregated by law, they are still not equal in opportunity and excellence," Bush told a mostly white crowd of about 4,000 outside the Topeka school. "Justice requires more than a place in a school. Justice requires that every school teach every child in America." Kerry told his Topeka audience that Bush deserves part of the blame for inequality in education. He criticized the president for failing to push for full funding to carry out the 2002 No Child Left Behind law. "You cannot promise no child left behind and then pursue policies that leave millions of children behind every single day," Kerry said, calling the new law "a promissory note to all of America's families that must be paid in full." About 38 percent of black students and 42 percent of Hispanic students attend schools that are virtually all-minority. After fairly steady progress in narrowing the achievement gap in the 1970s and 1980s, black students have fallen behind their white counterparts in recent years. "Today, more than ever, we need to renew our commitment to one America," Kerry said. "We should not delude ourselves into thinking that we have reached our goal." Although the 1954 ruling failed to deliver on its promise of ending school segregation, Bush said the decision was a milestone because it removed the legal underpinning for racial discrimination. "Fifty years ago today, nine judges announced that they had looked at the Constitution and saw no justification for the segregation and humiliation of an entire race," he said. "The system of racial oppression in our country had lost its claim to legitimacy, and the rising demand for justice would not be denied."
    ©The Sun Herald

    17/5/2004- Massachusetts has become the first US state to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples. There were jubilant scenes in the city of Cambridge, which began issuing licences to gay and lesbian partners from midnight (0400 GMT). Friday saw the US Supreme Court reject a last-ditch attempt by conservative groups to stop same-sex marriages from becoming legal in the state. The issue has divided opinion and politicians across the US. In Cambridge, gay and lesbian couples queued for marriage licences outside the city hall - which opened as the law came into force.

    Hot issue
    The first people to apply were Marcia Hams and her partner of 27 years, Susan Shepherd. "I'm shaking so much," Ms Hams said as she filled out the paperwork. "I could collapse at this point." Officials are now distributing the licences and the first weddings are expected later on Monday. Towns and cities across Massachusetts are preparing to process large numbers of applications from gay couples. The Supreme Court ruling upheld a decision by the state's highest court. It said that denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples violated anti-discrimination laws. The Massachusetts ruling has fuelled heated debate across the country - and the controversy has been particularly intense in an election year. President George W Bush has called for an amendment to the US Constitution that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. His rival John Kerry - who is a Massachusetts senator - is also opposed to same-sex marriages, but favours a more limited form of legal recognition.
    ©BBC News

    20/5/2004- Based on a look at the past, social historians predict that after initial resistance, same-sex marriages will eventually gain public acceptance. For almost nine years, Valerie and Jacqueline Fein-Zachary have considered themselves married. On Monday, the rabbi who conducted an elegant ceremony for the couple in 1996 will make their status official by signing their marriage license - something he can do now that same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts. Finally, says an elated Valerie Fein-Zachary, a physician in Boston, "we're fully equal, fully recognized by the state." For gays and lesbians across Massachusetts, this dawning of official state recognition of their relationships has produced a week of sheer euphoria. Amid the streamers and confetti, the flowers and well-wishers, it is almost possible to overlook the fact that the status of gay marriage in the state will not be fully settled until voters cast ballots in 2006. It also remains to be seen whether the Massachusetts law will have the domino effect gay-rights advocates hope it will, or whether it will harden resistance of opponents and stir a major backlash. If US history is any guide, either scenario is possible. History shows that big legal milestones in social movements - from voting rights to interracial marriage to school desegregation to women's rights - often engender resistance, sometimes violent resistance, when they are first enacted. But over time, they do tend to shift the status quo in favor of the minority group, and so, many social historians predict that gay marriage is here to stay.

    Legalization of same-sex marriage is a defining moment, and regarded as such by the gay community. But legal experts and activists are thinking beyond the present euphoria to possible ramifications. Looking back at social movements such as feminism and civil rights, whose progress has been more like the tortoise than the hare, Cheryl Jacques, president of Human Rights Coalition, a gay rights advocacy group, emphasizes the need for time and patience. "Fifty years after Brown [v. Board of Education], we are still grappling with equal treatment in its true meaning for African-Americans," she says. "Racism didn't go away just because the laws changed, and homophobia won't go away just because the laws change. But it's an important place to start." Steven Mintz, a professor of history at the University of Houston, cites the legalization of interracial marriage in 1967 as another example of how once-controversial social issues can gain public acceptance. "To most of my students, it is just inconceivable that there was ever a time when interracial marriages were forbidden," Professor Mintz says. "My suspicion is that in 25 years, gay marriage will be viewed as one of those fundamental turning points in much the same way."

    Some activists with long memories trace the beginning of raising public awareness of gays back to June 1969, when five nights of riots involving gay men and police took place outside the Stonewall Inn, a gay gathering place in New York's Greenwich Village. Among other defining moments, they list the 1978 killing of Harvey Milk, a gay city supervisor in San Francisco, and the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay teenager, in Wyoming. "Each one of those stripped away a layer of denial about whether gay people were truly human, and whether they were worthy," says Gretchen Frasier, president of Greater Boston Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and mother of a gay son. She calls the legalization of same-sex marriage "a baby step in a long line of stepping forward, stepping back." Stephanie Coontz, a historian at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., views same-sex marriage as part of a dramatic redefinition of marriage over the past 30 years that affects both heterosexuals and homosexuals. She calls this shift, which has taken place over the past 30 years, "only gay marriage has increased name-calling and violence against gay students. "Kids hear their parents talk at home, whereas before they may never have heard them discuss gay people," says Pam Garramone, director of a PFLAG program in Boston called Safe Schools. "If they're speaking in a negative way," she adds, "that gives their child license to beat up or make fun of gay youths, or those who are perceived to be gay." For black gays and lesbians, stigmas exist within their own community, where many remain relatively invisible. "A lot of African-Americans tend to think that one's gayness supersedes their blackness - that you can't be both," says Jasmyne Cannick of Los Angeles, a spokeswoman for the National Black Justice Coalition. "They think that because I'm a lesbian, I belong in West Hollywood [with whites]." Before the marriage debate took center stage, she says, black newspapers typically ignored gay and lesbian issues. Now editors are taking notice. So are some black pastors who had previously shunned gays.

    Making same-sex marriage legal in Massachusetts is "just the beginning," cautions Martha Nussbaum, a professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago. "There's going to be a long process of thrashing things out, nationally and internationally." For opponents of gay marriage, Dr. Nussbaum says, it will take more than a court decision to "persuade the unpersuaded" and end stigmatization. Fein-Zachary, awaiting her marriage license, agrees. "We're all hopeful that our friends and neighbors will understand that this is really about love and commitment and respect for families that are different from each other." Jonathan Rauch, author of "Gay Marriage," puts it this way: "It's a new day, but we shouldn't expect too much."
    ©Christian Science Monitor Service

    By Suzette Bronkhorst, ICARE News

    11/5/2004 A arson attack Thursday night (6 May) partly destroyed the office of 'People Against Racism'. Due to quick action taken by one of the PAR workers, who happened to work late, the fire was limited to one room, which was completely destroyed. 3 Computers, the photocopier, a scanner, the telephone switchboard and all the furniture went up in flames, making it impossible to reach PAR as well as rendering them incapable of doing their work. Perpetrators of the attack have to be sought in the Slovak neoNazi scene, according to Daniel Milo, chairman of People Against Racism:
    "PAR is the most active organisation in Slovakia in combatting racism and rightwing extremism. We initiated many criminal proceedings against neoNazis, provided legal help to victims of racially motivated crimes, we constantly educate the public about the danger neoNazi groups pose for society as a whole and last but not least we succeeded in changing the approach of police towards neoNazis. Most of neoNazi activities are now being curbed or forbidden. There have been no concerts, big meetings or demonstrations in last two years; all of the most important extremist music groups are being prosecuted, many movement leaders are in jail or awaiting the trial in custody. We have received many threats from neonazis in the past by email, phone and post. However nothing really serious did happen until now. This arson attack is a sign of fear and hate, but it is not our fear it is their fear and that is why they are so desperate. We will not stop our activities, on the contrary, we want to further strengthen the cooperation with police and the authorities to put even more pressure on them."

    As you read this PAR is working very hard to clean up their office, restore phone connections and replace equipment which was lost in the fire. They are already partially operational, fully operational will take longer, as the organisation needs to replace their lost equipment, which wasn't insured.
    People Against Racism

    8/5/2004 French police foiled an attempt to bomb a synagogue outside Paris overnight, the ministry of the interior said on Saturday. In a statement, it said a crudelymade device was meant to explode in the garden of the synagogue in the village of VilliersleBel, northwest of the capital. Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin "strongly condemns once again these intolerable acts against the memory and safety of people, notably those against places of worship." De Villepin noted that the bomb attack came after the "hateful desecrations in the Herrlisheim Jewish cemetery in the eastern region of Alsace in early May and the memorial in Douaumont for Jewish soldiers who died for France" in the battle of Verdun during World War I. The chief rabbi of the eastern city of Nancy, Daniel Dahan, told AFP that the attacks marked an "escalation since they targeted not only the memory of Jews but Jews who spilt their blood for France." Roger Benarrosh of the council of Jewish institutions in France expressed his "indignation at the repetition of antiSemitic acts. "Every day we learn of new attacks, of new desecrations. It's a habit we refuse to accept," he said. Several Jewish cemeteries have been vandalised in recent weeks in different parts of France. Hundreds of people took part Saturday in a silent gathering at a Jewish cemetery in eastern France where more than 100 graves had been painted with antiSemitic slogans and swastikas, police said. The silent protest in front of the cemetery near the town of Colmar close to the German border drew more than 300 people and passed off without incident, one of the participants told AFP. The gates to the cemetery remained closed. The desecration of the headstones on April 30 has provoked indignation in France. Leading Jewish, Muslim, Roman Catholic and Protestant leaders, as well as the Education Minister Francois Fillon last week held a multifaith ceremony in front of the Jewish cemetery. Local authorities are to organise the cleaning up of the graves and the local public prosecutor has opened an inquiry.
    ©Expatica News

    10/5/2004 A senior Belgian priest who recently caused outrage with his comments about gays is to speak at a conference organised by a farright church group, it was reported on Monday. Belgian news agency Belga said Cardinal Gustav Joos will be speaking on 13 May at a conference organised by a group called 'Belgique et Chretiente' (Belgium and Christianity). The senior Catholic cardinal, who recently caused widespread anger when he branded most gay people 'perverts', will be speaking about "Christian obligations to be respected and family values to be defended." Analysts say that Belgique and Chretiente (BC) has clear links with farright parties in Belgium. They point out that its president, Alain Escada, was a member of both the Front Nouveau de Belgique (New Belgian Front) and the Front National (National Front), two of Belgium's bestknown Frenchspeaking farright parties. They add that Escada also founded a proNazi and virulently antiSemitic magazine called 'PolemiqueInfo'. Analysts say BC states that one of its aims is to fight against "antiChristian and antiBelgian" racism and that the group is openly homophobic.
    ©Expatica News

    13/5/2004 Belgium's far right Flemish party, the Vlaams Blok, has launched a new telephone service that allows people to denounce anonymously suspected illegal immigrants living in Belgium, it was reported on Thursday. The new hotline, which will initially operate in Antwerp, has already been branded as a 'nazi' initiative by some of the antiforeigner Blok's opponents. "The Blok has shown its real face: they are nazis," said Belgian senator Isabelle Durant, a member of the proenvironment Ecolo part when she heard about the Vlaams Blok's latest initiative. "It's almost like Flanders in 1933, when informers denounced people," she added. Durant argued that the telephone service would do little to deal with the issue of people living illegally in Belgium. "This has nothing to do with helping people in danger and everything to do with denunciations based on suspicion," she said. But the Blok insists its new hotline will help tackle what it believes is a real problem. "We are not trying to do the police's job or to encourage denunciations," said a spokesperson for the farright party. "There are many other telephone services like this that people can call when they have problems," he added. A Gent court ruled recently that the Vlaams Blok regularly breaks Belgium's antiracism laws.
    ©Expatica News

    14/5/2002- Belgium's far right Flemish party, the Vlaams Blok, has scrapped plans to set up a controversial telephone hotline that would have allowed people to denounce suspected illegal immigrants. On Thursday evening the Blok announced that it was withdrawing its plan to introduce the anonymous telephone service, which would initially have been put in place in Antwerp, one of the far right party's political strongholds. The Blok's U-turn followed widespread criticism of its plan from all sides of the political spectrum in Belgium. On Thursday Belgian interior minister, Flemish Liberal Patrick Dewael, firmly denounced the Blok's initiative. "Every citizen who witnesses an offence - and living in Belgium illegally is clearly one - must report it. But he or she must report it to the police, not a political party," he said. Other politicians were equally scathing. Flemish socialist Stijn Bex said he "did not want to live in a society with 10 million police officers." Earlier in the day Ecolo parliamentarian Elisabeth Durand branded the Blok's plan a "Nazi" initiative.
    ©Expatica News

    14/5/2004- The Belgian army will for the time being stop using its aircraft to expel illegal immigrants, Belgian Defence Minister Andre Flahaut has announced. Flahaut made the announcement on Friday and the move means two expulsion flights planed for the coming week will be cancelled. According to Belgian news agency Belga, Flahuat's private office says the decision is linked to staffing problems. The army apparently does not have the personnel free to carry out the flights. A large number of Belgian soldiers are currently serving overseas and those that are working in Belgium will next month be granted time off in lieu of overtime hours worked, Flahuat's office is reported to have said. But other analysts argue the decision is an political move by Flahaut ahead of next month's European and regional elections. Flahaut is a socialist and forced repatriations are not popular with many of his core voters. In addition Belgian Interior Minister Patrick Dewael has said he is keen to find alternative methods for sending illegal immigrants home from Belgium, arguing that in his view army flights are not the best option.
    ©Expatica News

    10/5/2004 Norwegian soccer club Sogndal scored a major victory over arch rival Brann of Bergen on Sunday, but the joy was shortlived. Sogndal's popular American player Robbie Russel was both heckled and spit on by Brann fans, and the racist behaviour left him furious. Russel and his teammates should have been able to celebrate and relish the 31 victory over Brann. Instead, Russel exploded in the locker room after the match, calling the racism he encountered the worst thing he's experienced in his sports career. Russel, who has played for Sogndal since 2001, says he was subjected to racist slurs during the match, and that one of Brann's female fans spit at him in the face when he neared the sidelines to kick a ball back into play. The 24yearold player said he complained to a nearby referee, but was told to just quickly make the kick and keep playing. Russel, who also plays for the US' national squad, claimed the Brann fans also threw cigarettes, cups and halffull bottles onto the field. He was pleased that while Brann's fans behaved badly, several Brann players came into Sogndal's locker room after the match and apologized for their own fans' actions. Brann's captain, Cato Guntveit, also came into the Sogndal locker room later and extended his own apology. "This sort of thing shouldn't happen," said Sogndal coach Jan Halvor Halvorsen. The match's chief referee told newpaper Aftenposten that he personally didn't witness the racist acts to which Russel said he was subjected. He said it was up to Norway's soccer association to decide whether any punitive action should be taken.

    11/5/2004 Scores of wouldbe immigrants suspected of marrying Norwegians to obtain residence permission are getting the ultimate wakeup call these days. It's all part of an effort to expose marriages of convenience, and kick offenders out of the country. Norway's immigration agency (Utlendingsdirektoratet, UDI) and local police have literally started pounding on suspects' doors early in the morning, reports Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Their aim is to check whether couples claiming to be married are indeed living together. In one case aired on NRK Tuesday morning, police and UDI officials had to pound several times on an Oslo door before the occupants opened up. And then the Norwegian woman registered at the address had to admit her foreign husband wasn't there. Instead, another man was sleeping in her home. "There are quite a lot of relationships that don't prove to be real," police sergent Sirit Christensen told NRK. She and her colleagues, charged with enforcing UDI regulations, say they often suspect that marriages presented as cause for residency in Norway exist only on paper. Police in Oslo alone have around 70 suspected cases on their list, and recently made investigation of them a higher priority. "We don't know how big the problem is, but we're looking into it more closely," Espen Aas of the Oslo Police District told NRK. Officials are often alerted by wide age differences between the spouses, or tips on financial transactions between the parties. Suspicions are hard to prove, however, thus the early morning wakeup calls. Marrying a Norwegian is one of the surest ways to obtain residence permission in Norway. Wouldbe foreign spouses, however, initially only receive temporary residence permission, which must be renewed every year for three years. Only after three years, with a valid marriage still in place, can the foreign spouse obtain a settlement permit. Otherwise, deportation looms, if no other grounds for residence exist.

    4/5/2004 More than 2,000 immigrants, a significant proportion of which are Roma, have been told by the UK Government that, due to the expansion of the EU on May 1, they are no longer considered to be asylum seekers. There are currently nearly 2,500 people seeking asylum in the UK from the 10 accession nations, including Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia. On April 5, the UK Home Office issued letters, asking them to vacate the properties they were living in by May 1. The reason for the eviction is that from May 1 the government considered them to be EU citizens, and no longer eligible for support. EU nations are officially recognized as "safe" and free from organized persecution. Asylum seekers can continue their application, but given their home countries' new standing within the European community, a positive outcome would be much harder to come by. The Home Office has also deemed these people no longer eligible for state benefit, so they must find their own accommodation and work. The High Court has warned of a raft of legal challenges to the government's decision, all at the expense of the British taxpayer. There have also been calls for a transitional grace period for people to find new accommodation but these have been rejected by the government. A spokesman for the Home Office told the BBC, "The situation is that as of 1 May any support they were receiving, quite rightly, will end as they will cease to be eligible. "They will have three choices. The first is to go home or leave for another EU country. The second is to register as workers under the scheme for new member states. The third is that if they remain in the UK they must be selfsupporting. Those are the options. We have done everything that has been expected of us," he said. "Local authorities have powers to provide temporary accommodation for families in extreme circumstances. There may be cases where we have to provide support to prevent breaches of the Human Rights Act but these will be minimal."
    ©The Budapest Sun

    HOW BLACK CAN ONE BE? (uk, comment)
    How 'black' should black people be if they want mainstream success? As black as they want to be, I hope
    By Kwame KweiArmah

    11/5/2004 I was driving with my 12 year old son the other day and, not having spent as much time with him as I would have liked of late, I tried to do the fatherson general catchup thing. You know the routine: "How's school? How's it going with the girls? Am I a good dad?" (The last question, of course, being the only one of real interest to me.) After the obligatory monosyllabic grunt to question one, the cocky smirk that accompanied grunt number two, I was relieved that, in response to question three, he actually asked me a rather interesting question in return. "Dad, are you always gonna write about, well, how can I say it, culture?" Sensing his pleasure at having successfully avoided using the bword, I pressed for further clarification. "Well, you know ..." "No I don't." "All right, black. Are you always gonna write about black stuff?" My son is not alone in this inquiry. Having grown up watching the likes of Spike Lee and August Wilson answer this question time and time again, I have a readymade answer filed under "race, art and representation". I didn't give him my stock answer (which, by the way, is, "Why do you never ask David Hare if he is always going to write white stories?"), because it was more interesting having him tell me why he felt the need to ask that question. What became glaringly apparent was that that my son was afraid for me. He was articulating a conundrum that has always dogged the elevated members of my community. How black can I be? Or, more perceptively, how long can I be black for, if I want mainstream success? I (for one) grew up with the received wisdom that you only spoke of race when you had to. At all other times: avoid, avoid, avoid. We bestowed a huge sense of achievement on social commentators who no longer needed to deal with race issues to be defined, or with black actors who no longer needed to play black characters to be celebrated. There is no two ways about it, one can feel boxed in when contacted by the media to comment on race issues, and not contacted that often to comment on other areas of serious discourse. All the same, I have a problem with the old rule of "race avoidance", because in my opinion it marginalises and makes secondclass anyone who is actually happy to speak from his or her cultural perspective. For me, issues of race are not just about racism; there is so much more to having a black world view than the doom and gloom rhetoric of oppression.

    For instance, one could examine the US/UK special relationship by means of a discussion of the roles of Condoleezza Rice, the most powerful black woman in the world, and Baroness Amos, the leader of the House of Lords. They have very different personal politics, but share the fact that each occupies a position we could scarcely have dreamed of a black woman holding 10 years ago. Please don't think I am insensitive to the fear that to remain too conspicuously black is to risk failure. Nor am I accusing anyone who has chosen to quietly drop the conspicuous markers of black cultural identity of "sell outism", "coconutism" or whateverism you choose. I do ask the question, though: do we still see Trevor McDonald or Lenny Henry as black? Or are they simply Trevor and Lenny? If, when they first entered our consciousness, they had behaved in an ostentatiously AfricanCaribbean manner, would they have been the household names they are today? I fear not. But this is a new day, paved by the great sacrifices of those who were out there when the streets were cold, so I believe it is incumbent upon this generation to enter the mainstream on its own terms and, most importantly, that the mainstream allow them to do so. I have gone the long way round but well, son, to answer your question, I simply say: yes. I hope I will always want to write about thin ©The Guardian

    13/5/2004 A teachers' union has raised concerns about a school governor who is a candidate for the British National Party. Tony North, who is standing for the farright party at the European elections, is a parent governor at Furzeham County Primary in Brixham. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) said his influence as school governor should be closely monitored. BNP Devon chairman Mr North says that politics do not enter the job.

    'Divisive force'
    The call came as a secondary school teacher chosen as a BNP candidate in the European elections, was suspended from a school in Solihull, West Midlands after protests by the teachers' union NASUWT. The NUT has already voiced its concerns about the BNP taking school governor posts in order to get a foothold in schools. Governors can influence the appointment of teachers and headteachers. John Bangs, head of education at the NUT, said: "The BNP has started targeting schools and it is a major problem. "We do not want to see BNP governors, because we do not want any potentially divisive force in schools. "Parents need to ask themselves what they expect from governors and whether they are right for all the children in the school." He added: "He was elected, but now it is a question of being very careful and monitoring whatever contribution he makes." Mr North, 56, BNP candidate for the elections in June, was elected last year by fellow governors at the school, which his two children attend. He told BBC News Online: "The NUT's attitude shows a lack of knowledge about the governors' jobs. "You leave your party behind when you step inside the school gates. "My last role was to arrange an allotment for the children to grow vegetables. "The NUT are the ones who are bringing party politics into this."

    'Democratic process'
    He denied that the BNP was targeting school governor posts. "It is absolute nonsense. We have to go through a democratic process like everyone else." Head teacher Andrew Kinder said in a statement: "I can confirm that Mr North is a parent governor at the school, but I'm not prepared to discuss his private or political views. "The school has in place a diversity and inclusion policy which includes issues such as racism, and I would expect all members of the school governors board to support this policy, irrespective of their political views." Education authority Torbay Council said it had received no complaints from parents about the appointment of governors at the school. Appointments were the responsibility of the school and it had full confidence in the school's judgement. A spokeswoman said: "We have no powers in this respect. "Any breach of school policy would be a matter for the head and the governors." A Department for Education spokeswoman said members of the BNP were free to stand for election to school governor posts, but all governors had to comply with guidelines. "All school governors, once elected or appointed, must comply with the laws of the land, including the legislation on race discrimination. "Governing bodies have a specific duty to promote equality of opportunity and to promote good relations between persons of different racial groups."
    ©BBC News

    14/5/2004 Ken Livingstone, Steven Norris and Simon Hughes today put on a rare show of unity to urge London voters to turn out to defeat the openly racist British National party in next month's elections. The three candidates for London mayor launched a joint campaign with Operation Black Vote under the slogan: "The racists are more dangerous than ever they are voting." The main parties fear that a low overall turnout on June 10 would make it easier for the BNP to pass the 5% hurdle which would give them a topup seat on the London assembly. Mr Norris, the Conservative candidate, said it would be a "stain on London" if the racehate party was elected, whilst Mr Livingstone told reporters: "Politicians often ask you to vote for them but on this occasion I am just asking you to vote." Mr Hughes, trailing the other two men in the polls, but hoping to make a final runoff and win on voters' second preferences', warned the BNP could "sneak a seat through the back door of voter apathy". Mr Livingstone said: "The BNP is a farright party that thrives on race hate. Every vote Londoners cast will make it more difficult for the BNP to get elected." "[A BNP seat] would deal a devastating blow to community relations in the most diverse city in the world." The mayor added: "They stand for racism, bigotry and the destruction of the trade unions. They have no place in the London assembly, the European parliament or the local council anywhere in Britain." Mr Livingstone is chairman of the Unite Against Fascism campaign, which also includes leading trade unionists and church leaders.

    Mr Norris said: "I am appalled at the prospect of the BNP getting an assembly member elected. "London is the greatest city in the world and if the BNP win a seat it would be a stain on the capital's reputation." Mr Hughes said: "It is vital that as many people in London turn out to vote to ensure that the BNP does not sneak a seat through the back door of voter apathy. "Voters from all communities in London must send a message to the BNP that they are not welcome in the capital." Members of Unite Against Fascism (UAF), an antiracist group, are also meeting at the House of Commons to drive home their fears about the BNP's prospects for power. Thousands of leaflets, bearing the message "Use your vote to stop the BNP", are being distributed across London today. A London assembly seat would give the BNP greater public recognition and the benefits of office including staff and resources, the UAF argues. By taking a topup London list seat, the farright party could also claim to have panLondon support. Labour list candidate for the assembly Murad Quershi said: "It's a simple message we are putting across. Most Londoners do not support racism and fascism. But this majority needs to vote on June 10 if we are going to stop the BNP." That message was backed up to today by the home secretary, David Blunkett, who called the BNP "vile, racist" and holocaustdeniers. Mr Blukett, who is also MP for Sheffield Brightside, wrote in the Yorkshire Post: "I understand some of the worries and concerns my constituents have, but my appeal to them today is not to support the vile, racist politics of the British National party. "My message is clear. I know that most people who vote for the BNP are not racist, but if you vote for the BNP you will be putting racists into public positions of power and authority even though you are not a racist yourself. "You will be supporting a party which denies the Holocaust existed and is inspired by Nazi Germany."
    ©The Guardian

    13/5/2004 Politicians from both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland must stand up to people responsible for an increase in racist attacks, an Assembly member urged today. Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey, who was preparing to meet Liberal Democrat Northern Ireland spokesman Lembit Opik and Labour MPs separately at Westminster today, urged all sides to face down those behind attacks on ethnic minorities in Belfast and elsewhere. With the Northern Ireland Select Committee currently carrying out an inquiry into plans to tackle hate crimes, Mr Maskey said he would be raising the effectiveness of legislation as well as funding for ethnic minority groups and organisations. "In recent times there has been a marked increase in the volume of raciallymotivated attacks, particularly here in Belfast and in parts of Upper Bann and in the activities of various right wing groupings," the South Belfast MLA said. "Those of us in political leadership have a responsibility to challenge this directly. Political parties have to make it clear that there is no place in our society for the sort of racism and intolerance which has sadly been on the increase."

    South Belfast has been plagued by a series of attacks on minorities. The most recent incident was on Wednesday when a Chinese woman was punched in the face and verbally abused on her way to work. The assault occurred in the Lower Crescent area but no complaint was made to police when they answered a call. There have also been attacks on members of the Ugandan, Chinese, Pakistani and Filipino communities, with some of the worst incidents occurring in the loyalist Village area of South Belfast. Members of the loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Volunteer Force are believed to have been involved. There have also been racial attacks in nationalist areas. Last month, the world heard about racial violence in Northern Ireland when the president of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal Arroyo condemned an attack on two Filipino couples in Craigavon, Co Armagh. President Arroyo said she would be seeking assurances from the British government about her citizens' safety in Northern Ireland. As he prepared for today's meetings, Mr Maskey recalled how the 1998 Good Friday Agreement set about creating a tolerant and peaceful society in Northern Ireland not just for nationalists, republicans, unionists or loyalists but all communities. Racism, he said, had to be confronted and challenged vigorously from whatever quarter. "To that end we will engage with people from across the political spectrum who are prepared to stand together to confront racism," the Sinn Féin MLA said.

    DO SURFERS REALLY LOVE TO HATE?(Europe, comment)
    By Will Sturgeon

    12/5/2004 The Internet has always provided a platform for airing extreme views both for and against everything from art and celebrity to race and religion. While this may always have been the case Internet filtering firm SurfControl has recognised a growth in the number of hate sites aimed at specific races, religions and minorities within society. Those who promote homophobia, racism and religious persecution have all found their way online and are finding it the ideal way to voice their opinions from the comparative safety of their homes with the added benefit of a global audience. The lack of regulation on the Internet is seen by most as a good thing and freedom of speech is held up as a basic human right in most developed countries. And long may that continue to be the case. There are of course lines which cannot or should not be crossed. Sites which promote illegal activities or contain illegal, or illegally acquired or created content should be taken down but establishing that to be the case is not straightforward. While I'm loathe to address specific topics, we could of course go through a checklist of issues. Take child pornography as an example. Of course any site promoting or propagating explicitly illegal sexual content involving children should be taken down. But few issues are that clear cut.

    In France for example reference to the Nazi occupation and the Holocaust are illegal. As such in 2000 the French government and Yahoo! came to legal blows over an online auction of World War II memorabilia. Even though Yahoo! hosted the auction out of the US where the First Amendment is held dear, the French government wanted the content blocked as it does all reference to the subject. But is this really ever a road we want to go down? Just because something is controversial, provocative or even upsetting to many the precedent we could be setting with sweeping rulings on what is permissible and what isn't is potentially of far greater concern. Especially if measures are taken to ensure all content conforms with all international laws. Even though some matters of this ilk such as the recent case of the antiSemitic Jew Watch website may appear more clear cut than others, once you start setting precedents you're then faced with the question of where do you stop? There was outcry when Google's site was blocked in China for failing to filter search results for outlawed spiritual movement Falun Gong. Civil rights campaigners drew up petitions to get the block lifted. More recently there was outcry again when Google's site failed to block the Jew Watch site. Campaigners drew up a petition to get a block put in place. So the precedent being demanded is unclear. The power of Google means it will never be all things to all people. We're also kidding ourselves if we think searches for 'Christian', 'Jew', 'Muslim', 'Hindu', 'gay', 'homosexual', 'black', 'Asian', 'Protestant', 'Catholic' or whatever will return only positive search results. The price we pay for freedom of speech is that the voices of the extreme, the unpopular and the unwelcome will occasionally be heard. Search engines are a barometer of the times we live in and at times that fact must be understood as being sad but true. The Internet represents the global society. It shows us what is out there and what others have to say about all issues. If the fact that opposition, oppression or isms of any kind exist is something which comes as an unwelcome surprise then perhaps some people aren't ready for the Internet.

    14/5/2004- The European Commission has said it regretted comments by its representative in Slovakia, who suggested that Roma (Gypsy) children should be taken away from their families during the week and put into boarding schools to ensure their education. But the commission did not indicate that the ambassador, Eric Van der Linden, would be removed from office, despite calls for his resignation from European campaigners for Roma rights. The EU has been spending considerable amounts of money to improve the lot of millions of Roma Gypsies in central and eastern Europe, many of whom are unemployed as a result of poor education. As Slovakia and nine other countries joined the EU on 1 May, ambassador Eric Van der Linden gave an interview to Dutch television where he described poor education as the root cause of poverty for the Roma community. "It may sound simplistic, but we may have to, I'll say it in quotation marks, force Roma children to stay in a kind of boarding schools from Monday morning until Friday afternoon, where they will continuously be subjected to a system of values that is dominant in our society," he said. Mr Van der Linden suggested that Roma parents may agree to send their children away if they got financial incentives. He had made similar comments in a BBC interview earlier this year. It is believed that Roma represent up to 10% of Slovakia's 5.5 million people. In some parts of the country, unemployment among the Roma is 100%. The European Union has funded many housing and educational projects for the community and there is no suggestion that Mr Van den Linden's views have in any way influenced that policy.

    But the European Roma Information Office (ERIO) has complained about Mr Van den Linden's latest comments. Reijo Kemppinen, the chief spokesman for the commission, described the comments as regrettable, but indicated that the ambassador would not face any serious reprimand. "We have agreed that he will no longer give interviews on this topic and our line is well known," he said. "We work together with the Roma community and the national authorities to improve the living conditions for Roma children and their families. "Our policy has nothing to do and will never have anything to do with forcing anyone, either the children or their parents, to leave their homes to go to boarding schools. "That was an unfortunate choice of words in an interview that otherwise was quite good and talked about the important things that we are engaged in in this respect." A spokesman for ERIO, Valeriu Nicolae, told the BBC the European Commission's reaction was "totally ridiculous". "If that were to happen with any other European nation, it would cause a huge diplomatic scandal," he said.

    No easy solution
    But he admitted the European Commission had probably done more than any other institution to improve the plight of Roma in Europe and to ensure the respect of their rights. I asked Mr Nicolae what his solution was to the lack of education for Roma children, recently identified by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as one of the biggest obstacles facing the community. He agreed there was no easy way out, explaining the difficulties in his Romanian hometown, Craiova, in the south of the country. "There are lots of people living on the garbage dump. For those guys, it's very hard to go to school. Why? If you go to school, the other children make fun of you because you stink," the Roma rights spokesman said. "Of course you stink, you don't have running water at home and you live on a garbage dump. You always stink. "Second, when you go to school, everybody thinks you're a thief. So as long as this poverty - and the UNDP report you were quoting says that that over 80% of Roma live under the poverty line - that it is the minority with the worst situation in Europe when we talk about poverty. ©BBC News

    Almost 50 years after the brutal killing, the Justice Dept. is seeking other suspects believed to be involved

    11/5/2004 The Justice Department yesterday reopened the investigation into the death of Emmett Till, a 14yearold black youth whose 1955 murder illuminated the racism of the South and ignited the emerging civil rights movement. It's been almost half a century since Till's body, brutally beaten and shot because he purportedly whistled at a white woman, was dragged from a river in Mississippi with an industrial fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. No one has ever been convicted of the crime, although it has been known almost from the beginning that at least two men, Roy Bryant and his halfbrother, J.W. Milam, both now dead, kidnapped Till at gunpoint from the home of relatives in the middle of the night in August 1955. They were tried later that year by an allwhite jury and quickly acquitted. Assistant Attorney General R. Alexander Acosta said yesterday that the department believes others also were involved and he intends to track them down. "This brutal murder and grotesque miscarriage of justice outraged a nation and helped galvanize support for the modern American civil rights movement," Acosta said. "We owe it to Emmett Till, and we owe it to his family, we owe it to ourselves, to see whether, after all these years, some additional measure of justice remains possible." The Justice Department will investigate the case jointly with Mississippi state officials. The federal statute of limitations bars the department from bringing federal charges, but Acosta said Mississippi officials have a number of state charges that can still be brought, some of which could call for the death penalty.

    The department was spurred to reopen the case largely because of fresh attention the murder has received in recent documentaries, most notably one still being completed by Brooklyn filmmaker Keith Beauchamp. Till's mother, Mamie Till Mobley, died in Chicago last year at 81 after crusading for decades for justice on behalf of her son. Several months after their acquittal by an allwhite, allmale jury in 1955, Bryant and Milam sold their story to Look magazine for $4,000. They described how they beat Till, tortured him and shot him through the head before throwing him in the Tallahatchie River. The precise details of what actually transpired on the hot August day that led to the killing is not known. Till had come to Money from Chicago to visit his greataunt and greatuncle, Moses and Elizabeth Wright, for the summer. After a day of picking cotton, he and his friends went into a small grocery store owned by Bryant to buy bubble gum. Bryant and Milam were out of town, so Bryant's wife, Carolyn, a recent high school dropout and beauty pageant winner, waited on Till. Newspaper accounts at the time say Carolyn Bryant said Till whistled at her. Till's mother later said Till would often whistle to get over his stutter. At trial, Carolyn Bryant testified that Till also made "ugly remarks" and touched her hand. Three days later, on Aug. 28, when Bryant and Milam returned home and heard the story, the two stormed into the Wrights' home at 2:30 a.m., pointing guns at family members and dragging Till from his bed. The prosecution presented three eyewitnesses to the kidnapping. The jury returned a notguilty verdict in 67 minutes.

    The advent of political freedom in Kosovo has not freed women from the widespread notion that serious education is men's business.
    By Zana Limani and Driton Maliqi in Pristina and Peja (Both are attending a Pristina-based IWPR journalism course supported by the OSCE.)

    29/4/2004- In the family home in Peja, western Kosovo, 23-year-old Afërdita Gruda and her older sister Merita spend most of their day at home, doing the odd bit of housework, watching television and flipping through Kosovarja, a popular gossipy magazine. Neither has much chance now of a career, after quitting school on reaching the end of the elementary level. Both abandoned study under family pressure. "My grandmother insisted we leave," Afterdita said. "She said there was nothing for us to learn there." The sisters' "choice" - such as it was - is all too typical in a society still governed by most Albanian's conservative moral code, which tells women their role in life is to perform household chores and not "waste" time on education. The result is that after decades of campaigns to improve schooling for both sexes in Kosovo, there is still no equality between the education of men and women. According to Hazbije Krasniqi, of the Womens' Democratic Forum, an NGO covering women's rights based in Peja, western Kosovo, illiteracy among women remained high well into the 1990s in remote rural areas such as Zahaq, a village 7 kilometres east of Peja. "We found that almost 90 per cent of the women, young as well as old, had not spent one day in school in their lives," Krasniqi said.

    Under the Serbian regime, Albanians were too preoccupied with surviving Milosevic's repression to give much attention to the matter. But after the political earthquake of 1999, the Womens' Democratic Forum started a rural projects in areas like Zahaq, including courses in reading and writing. Five years on, however, there remains a mountain to climb. Statistics show women are far less privileged than men when it comes to education and according to the Statistical Office of Kosovo, SOK, only about half Albanian girls aged 15-18 attend school at all. That alarming figure dovetails with joint findings produced by the Institute for Development Research, Riinvest, a not-for-profit research body based in the capital, Prishtina, and the World Bank. Published on March 31, 2004, this research said only half Kosovo's women aged 25 to 64 had received even a basic primary education. By way of contrast, the percentage of girls pursuing higher education in advanced European societies, such as Sweden and Finland, exceeds 90 per cent. Hava Balaj, head of the adult learning section in the Ministry of Education and Technology, says female illiteracy in Kosovo has actually worsened since the 1990s. "The number of illiterate women and girls increased during the 1990s and continued to do so [even] after the end of the NATO bombings," he said. The causes of this phenomenon are many, ranging from poverty and conservative attitudes to such banal factors as lack of transport.

    A study in 2001, conducted by Kosovo's education ministry and the UN Development Fund for Women, UNIFEM, said many of the factors that contribute to a high "drop-out" level in school-age girls in other countries are present in Kosovo. "The reluctance of parents to send girls to distant schools, a lack of women teachers and lack of financial resources", were among the leading causes that the report listed. Hava Balaj, from the ministry of education, says that in rural communities, when families choose between educating a daughter and a son, the son always comes first. "They believe that investing in a son is good value, since he is more likely to support the whole family with his education when he grows up," Balaj said. Balaj added that girls dropped out of higher education in large numbers in the 1990s after the Serbian rural parts than for 300 students to travel a long way to high schools in town centres," he said. But the problem of women's education in Kosovo is not all to do with money. Kosovar society is conservative and girls face pressure to marry early, ruling out any chance of higher education. Motrat Qiriazi says the average marrying age for girls in villages around Prizren is around 18 or 20. Those who go on to higher education, and pass this all-important threshold face the prospect of remaining single for ever. "Most women in the older generation who finished higher education never married," said Sanije Vocaj, of Motrat Qiriazi, in Mitrovica. Unsuprisingly, many girls feel discouraged by this and leave school early. In Afërdita's family in Peja, three of her five brothers have gone on to high school, while she and her sister dropped out. She hopes that some or all of her brothers will go to university. "I tell them everyday that they should study hard because school is important," Aferdita added, wistfully. "When you are educated you can get a good job, have your own money and be independent."
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    The ethnic violence that rocked the protectorate was whipped up by irresponsible television journalism, report says.
    By IWPR staff in London

    30/4/2004- In a damning report on the conduct of Albanian broadcast journalists during March's riots in Kosovo, an OSCE body has accused major broadcasting outlets of whipping up ethnic tension in the territory and contributing to a mood of vengeful persecution through sloppy, tendentious and biased reporting. "Without the reckless and sensationalist reporting of the events of March 16 and 17, events in Kosovo could have taken a different turn," the report says. "They may have not reached the intensity and level of brutality we all witnessed, or have taken place at all for that matter." The report by the Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media, an OSCE institution, accuses the broadcast media of putting a "spin" on the drowning on March 16 of a young Albanian boy near the tense and deeply divided town of Mitrovica, so as to give viewers the impression that it was an established fact that local Serbs were responsible for his death. In fact, the OSCE/RFOM report goes on to say, the facts surrounding the boy's death remain inconclusive while the disinclination of broadcast media to include doubts or reservations about his death helped to inflame ethnic passions. "The media displayed an unacceptable level of emotion, bias [and] carelessness... The reporting on the evening of March 16 on the three main Kosovar TV channels, in particular, deserves the strongest criticism," the report says.

    "The performance of Radio and Television of Kosovo, RTK, during the riots and on the evening before should be viewed with special concern since this is the only public broadcaster in the protectorate. "There is no evidence that the media presented the news after having checked all facts, or that it was in a position to know for a fact that the children had been victims of a ethnically-motivated crime. It seems they did not even listen carefully to their own interviews with one of the children who survived the incident." The report includes a blow-by-blow analysis of how the story unfolded on Kosovo's television screens from March 16 onwards, and it examines the way in which the broadcast media pieced together disconnected elements from one of the surviving children's accounts to create its own version of events. Referring to an interview which one of the surviving children gave, it remarks, "The child referred to a distant Serb house, Serbs who had sworn at the children and a dog they had been afraid of. At no point during the interview does the young Albanian say 'we were chased by a group of Serbs with a dog'. Instead, the TV stations chose to spin the story as if that had actually occurred. The general public was left to believe, beyond any reasonable doubt, that a despicable ethnically-motivated crime had happened."

    The OSCE/RFOM report was especially critical of the fact that broadcasters gave very little air time to any voices urging caution, "The time given to Tracy Backer, UNMIK regional police spokesperson, to put the authorities' view of the events, was 12 seconds." It says that much greater space was given to "expert witnesses", including some from Albanian human rights groups who were not at the scene but who on air unreservedly endorsed the thesis that a boy had been killed by "a group of Serb bandits". The report notes that when Becker went back to the local media outlets, including RTK, and "appealed for people to stay calm and stay home", stressing further that "we had no evidence to support the rumour of Serbians killing Albanian children", her interview was not aired, as far as they knew. In spite of the fact that on March 17 violence began to spread throughout Kosovo, the report continues, Kosovo television stations continued to present the report of the drowning of the boy in the same way as on the previo information gets across to ordinary people. They need "to take action in order to ensure that its message is represented in a fair and consistent manner in the future".
    Read the OSCE report
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    3/5/2004- The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bratislava doubts whether Slovakia's asylum policy is prepared for European Union entry, the SITA news wire wrote. The spokesman for the UNHCR Office in Slovakia, Zolo Mikeš, says the office is mainly concerned about the growing number of asylum-seekers that preceded Slovakia's European Union entry. However, the number of asylum cases granted has not increased. In the first three months of this year, Slovak authorities did not grant asylum to a single applicant - a fact that the UNHCR considers an indication that the country is unable to respond to the EU demands of central European countries, whose borders are now the EU frontier. As of May 1, when the Dublin agreement took effect, people who request asylum in Slovakia and then move on to Austria are to be sent back to Slovak territory. Over the first three months of the current year, 2,531 immigrants applied for asylum in Slovakia, which is more than double the number from the same period of 2003 - when 1,249 applied. The fact that no one was granted asylum might cast doubt on the functioning of the asylum system, said the head of the UNHCR Office in Slovakia, Pierfrancesco Maria Natta. Of all European countries, he said, the Slovak Republic grants asylum to the fewest people.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    29/4/2004- New immigration rules risk leaving non-European Union nationals out in the cold. The Swiss parliament is to debate controversial measures to curb illegal immigration and crack down on abuse in the labour market. During next week's special session, the House of Representatives is scheduled to discuss amendments which would endorse a two-tier immigration policy. It would affect nationals from countries outside European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Agreement (Efta) countries who make up 46 per cent of immigrants in Switzerland. The reforms foresee limiting immigration to high-skilled labour and people with special qualifications. Any changes would not affect EU citizens and nationals from Efta countries (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) who are already covered by existing agreements on the free movement of people.

    Two-tier system
    The government says the amendments to the immigration law are designed to put several measures - in place since 1998 - on a firm legal footing. It is also keen to stress that the revisions, while tightening the screw on illegal workers and human traffickers, would also promote integration. But three of the country's main political parties remain unimpressed and have voiced strong opposition ahead of the debate. The centre-left Social Democrats object to a two-tier system which gives priority to EU and Efta nationals. "It is a bad law. It is inhumane and unfair to citizens from countries outside the EU," said Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, a Social Democrat parliamentarian. The centre-right Radical Party has its own concerns. Parliamentarian Philipp Müller has asked for nearly 50 changes to be made to the draft law which he claims is not thought through properly. "The existing draft will never win voters' approval," he said. The rightwing Swiss People's Party, for its part, has called for the reintroduction of seasonal work permits for unskilled labour employed in the tourism industry and the agriculture sector.

    Step forward
    The Catholic charity, Caritas, has welcomed the draft law but with certain reservations. "Compared with current regulations the new law is a step in the right direction and it will help foreigners to integrate into society," said the organisation's Ruedi Illes. But Caritas and other non-governmental organisations have reservations about plans to limit to five years the right of foreign nationals to take their families to Switzerland. Illes also criticises politicians who are unwilling to tackle the problem of illegal immigrants. "Many illegal immigrants in this country work in a very difficult situation and there are no plans to try and find political solutions," Illes told swissinfo. There is also support from the country's employers who hope stricter controls will benefit the labour market. "All in all we agree with this long-term strategy of the government to attract skilled labour to Switzerland," declared Ruth Derrer Balladore of the Swiss Employers' Association Derrer said the stagnating economy meant that many foreign workers with limited language skills and professional qualifications were facing increasing problems. There is concern, however, in the Swiss business community about a possible rise in the number of foreigners if parliament agrees to ease restrictions on the families of immigrants. The association of small and medium-sized enterprises has come out in favour of a proposal for temporary permits for so-called seasonal workers, but industry has voiced scepticism. The Senate, the other parliamentary chamber, is due to discuss the amended law at a later date.
    ©NZZ Online

    The BNP manipulates dormant folk memories of British identity
    By Jeremy Seabrook

    1/5/2004- The British National party is expected to make gains in the council elections in the former mill towns of Lancashire and West Yorkshire and in Black Country sites of industrial dereliction. But its "success" should be judged less in terms of seats won than in its disturbing ability to connect with an older story of the meaning of Britishness. The BNP finds powerful echoes in the places of broken working-class identity, where disused railway lines, rusty metal and buddleia have been landscaped into retail gallerias and upmarket housing. But the rising appeal of the far-right party conceals an even more important secret than its insight into the lives of the evictees of industrialism - a secret which mainstream politicians, church leaders and many left-leaning intellectuals deny. The BNP recognises that industrialism in Britain has proved a less-lasting influence than we imagined upon our sense of who we are. As it passed away it uncovered dormant myths on which the BNP has been able to draw. The tale the BNP tells today, in the rundown streets of the fearful old and the disinherited young, is about the spread of an alien creed, aided by the fifth column of an enemy within, and of hordes of migrant strangers at our border. The detail - "islands of Islam in our communities", "a race relations industry kowtowing to the apologists for terror", even "the imminent extinction of the white man" - however ghoulish, is less significant than the narrative of the nation in danger; for this resonates strongly with earlier versions of these islands in jeopardy.

    In her account of the creation of British identity in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the historian Linda Colley identifies protestantism and empire as its principal components. "Popery" - a word now found only in the vocabulary of archaic bigots - remained the enemy until Catholic emancipation in 1829. For the BNP, Islam is the new Popery. The superstition and malevolence once projected on to Catholicism appear to be made manifest once more in the fanaticism and extremism which new holy warriors believe they have located in Islam. Folk memory is a powerful generator of fables for those who know how to manipulate them. Fears of invasion - by the Spanish in the 16th century, Stuart claimants to the throne in the 18th and the French during the Napoleonic wars - were the second determinant in the forging of British patriotism. Our resolve to defend the country against all comers was rooted in the belief that the British people, uniquely free, chosen by providence as custodians of true religion, were manly, bluff, uniquely courageous.

    With Catholic emancipation, the fading sense of protestant uniqueness and the disappearance of the imminent invasion threat after 1815, this aspect of Britishness retreated deep into the psyche; the imperial identity took on a more central role. The symbol of the British lion embodied a benign power which could nevertheless show its claws when necessary. This sense of imperial destiny was disrupted by industrialism. The factory system led to unprecedented upheavals and the development of a new, potentially radical, sensibility. A national division of labour evolved, suggesting that other forms of consciousness than those derived from the reflected glory of empire might become a major influence on people's sense of who they were. The growth of trade unions against the ravages of industrialism appeared, for a moment, to dominate the formation of popular identity. New fears of invasion and the war against fascism lent a progressive inflection to old struggles, and confirmed the left in its faith in the progressive instincts of the people. A joint celebration of both British and working-class identity was tangibly expressed in the set who we are with who we have been. Today's fear and resentment have been transferred on to thoroughly contemporary figures. The violent changes associated with globalism have torn millions of people up by the roots: refugees and migrants, set in movement across the world, are easily portrayed as besieging these islands. Indeed, they are said to pose a double threat: not only has our imperial power lost control over uncivilised people, but those very people are now among the millions ready to risk their lives to reach our fabled shores of wealth and tolerance. When this "invasion" of the world's poor coincides with the alleged power of an overweening Europe, a direct link is made between our defunct imperial power and our lone struggle against the devious, covetous Europeans. "New" antagonisms metamorphose out of ancient ones. Indeed, they offer a familiar affirmation of who we are - a visceral recognition that we are indeed on ground known to us, to which there can be only one response: the xenophobic anger kindled by popular newspapers. The dramatis personae have changed, but the scenario remains the same. "They" are jealous of our way of life; "they" want to take from us what is ours.

    The BNP's rhetoric makes this explicit. "What the Spanish, French and Germans tried to do and failed, Islam succeeded, and did so without firing a shot. There are now places in Britain where the Queen's writ no longer runs but Sharia rules." They speak of "the Islamification of British society" and of "boatloads of migrants". They declare "an unarmed Armada is nevertheless an invasion force". A rhetoric of appeasement is drawn upon: purveyors of political correctness, including the police, "bend over backwards" and wear "kid gloves" in responding to Islamic aggression. "Progressives" who believe that industrial society still determines our identity are mistaken. Perhaps we are at last seeing the real meaning of "modernisation", to which the eager New Labour erasers of memory remain so committed. No wonder they are so agitated by the BNP, which, they fear, may have a more popularly plausible story than theirs of who the British really are.
    ©The Guardian

    Chief constables want change in law to boost ethnic minority officers through positive discrimination

    3/5/2004- Ethnic minority police officers would be promoted and recruited ahead of white colleagues as a way of boosting the fight against terrorism, under radical plans being drawn up by Britain's top police officers. The Guardian has learned that the Association of Chief Police Officers is discussing with the Home Office proposals to introduce positive discrimination across the service in England and Wales. The scheme would also see selected black, Asian and female officers offered entry into the police service not as constables, but in promoted posts, up to the rank of inspector. The reforms would need new legislation as positive discrimination in favour of women and ethnic minorities is illegal as the law stands. The scheme would mean decisions on selection and promotion not being made on merit alone, but also on race and gender. It would go far further than that produced by the Metropolitan police, which is limited to fastracking black recruits into training. Acpo says the plan would help redress deficiencies in the police service's knowledge and skills because the ranks are still too white and male. Britain's top officers say the fight against terrorism is being hampered because there are too few ethnic minority officers to make links with communities who may hold vital intelligence.

    Peter Fahy, chief constable of Cheshire and spokesman for Acpo on race and diversity, said the scheme was not just about social justice, but helping the police to tackle terrorism and serious crime more effectively. Mr Fahy said: "It is a matter of operational need. The lifeblood of policing is intelligence. The only way you can get intelligence and information from communities is if you have officers who have the confidence of those communities." He said the British fight against terrorism relied on local bobbies feeding intelligence up the chain to Special Branch and the intelligence services: "You need to have a relationship with your local community before they have the confidence to bring anything of concern to you. It's about having officers from that background who can create good relationships in the first place as local beat officers." The Cheshire force led by Mr Fahy saw 10 officers resign after the BBC Secret Policeman programme exposed shocking levels of racism at a police training school. The Acpo plans were drawn up after the programme showed the limited progress the police had made in cracking down on racism in the ranks.

    After the Macpherson report the government set every force the target of having the same proportion of officers from ethnic minority communities as the area they serve. But Mr Fahy says those targets will be missed without sweeping reform: "We need to entertain some of the things we have ruled out in the past." Advertising campaigns have boosted the numbers of people who meet the standards to be trained as officers, but Mr Fahy says would-be recruits are still too white and too male: "We are largely attracting people from the same section of society as before." Acpo have put no specific proposals to ministers, but have raised the question of amending the law to allow positive discrimination. "The government would have to enact the necessary legislation," Mr Fahy said. Ray Powell, chairman of the National Black Police Association, opposed the plans: "We are not in favour of positive discrimination nationally. There may be a case for it in some Metropolitan Police boroughs where the demographics justify it." Iqbal Sacranie, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "The police have not really been successful at understanding the community and establishing and retaining trust so as to build confidence." Police chiefs stress candidates would have to meet a minimum standard of competence and do not believe the quality of polici
    ©The Guardian

    4/5/2004- The end is nigh for signs in Welsh shops and pubs which declare: No Gypsies or travellers. The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) in Wales has announced that it plans to get rid of all such notices within two years. Although discriminatory signs have been illegal for nearly 40 years, the CRE says they are still being used. But a leading Gypsy campaigner said she thought the problem had all but died out and was surprised the CRE was focussing on it. People are being urged to report any signs so that the CRE can take action. Chris Myant, director of the CRE in Wales said it was "high time" the signs were stamped out. "It has been offence to display an advert or sign which discriminates against certain groups since the Race Relations Act came in 1965," he said. "If you saw a sign banning black people from a shop there would be outcry, yet signs banning travellers and Gypsies are still being used. "This is something we need to address and over the next two years we aim to eliminate the problem in Wales," he said. Mr Myant said the CRE would work closely with Gypsy and traveller groups as part of its two-year "agenda for change". "Wales is not the largest place in the UK and this means that this is something we can achieve," said Mr Myant

    Public racism
    "We want people to let us know if they see a sign of this nature and we will do something about it - we have the powers. "This has been unlawful for almost 40 years and yet these sorts of signs are being used. "People know exactly what they are doing when they put these signs up and they think they can get away with it. "The main area where it happens is in pubs and some shops especially where there is a travelling community. "It is public racism and we want to eliminate it in Wales by May 2006. "It is not the biggest or the worst problem in Wales but it is one thing we can do something about," he said. The CRE is relying on the support of the public to report any discriminatory signs or notices in businesses across the country. Sylvia Dunn, president of the National Association of Gypsy Women, said she was surprised that the CRE was focussing on the signs because they seemed to have largely disappeared. "I haven't seen any for years and years," said Mrs Dunn, of Essex, who used to be a regular visitor to Wales. "But if you see one you just walk into the pub and tell the landlord to take it down because he's not allowed to have it." Mrs Dunn said a group of Gypsy women reacted to a similar sign in Ireland by simply sitting in the pub talking for hours until the landlord relented and served them. She urged the CRE to concentrate on such issues as accommodation. "Signs were a big problem at one time, but if they were now, I think I'd have heard about it," she said.
    ©BBC News

    5/5/2004- The Department of Health is to appoint a £95,000-a-year "equality tsar" to spearhead efforts to rid the NHS of racial discrimination and gender bias. Although ministers have not announced the initiative, an advertisement was placed in the Society section of today's Guardian, seeking a "high flyer with a strong reputation for promoting equality" to act as a human rights champion throughout the health service in England. In February the government gave a lukewarm response to an inquiry into the death of David "Rocky" Bennett, which described institutional racism in the NHS as a "festering abscess" damaging the reputation of the service. The inquiry, under Sir John Blofeld, called for an ethnicity tsar to spearhead reform of mental health services to avoid any repetition of the experience of Mr Bennett, a Jamaican-born Rastafarian who died in Norwich after being pinned face down on the floor for 28 minutes by at least four nurses. In March Sir Nigel Crisp, the NHS chief executive, launched a 10-point action plan on race equality. A spokeswoman said the job would focus in the first year on developing Sir Nigel's plan, but would subsequently involve a wider remit on every aspect of human rights.
    ©The Guardian

    7/5/2004- A helpline for race hate victims has had 250 calls. But a unique, confidential service is helping to tackle the problem, as Julie Cush, found out At home in Zimbabwe, Lucille was regularly beaten to a pulp with sticks. Living in Newcastle she faced the torment of being spat at in the street, called a monkey, having bricks lobbed through her window and her flat burgled. Sometimes the 34-year-old wonders why she made England her sanctuary. It's 18 months since Lucille, her husband and their eight-year-old daughter and son, aged two, fled the brutal regime of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe. The couple were members of the Movement for Democratic Change and lived in fear of being thrown in prison for daring to want to live in a free country. After months of terror they'd had enough and boarded a plane for London in the hope of asylum.

    They were giving up a lot.
    Lucille has A Levels and had a good job as an equipment buyer in a hospital. Her husband worked for a leading chain store and although not wealthy by any means, had a reasonably comfortable existence, living in their own flat. Lucille also had to make the difficult choice to leave her mother behind, who, by association, was regularly attacked in her home by Mugabe's men who used their fists, batons and sticks. "All we wanted was the chance to live in peace. We wanted to work and to bring up our children without fearing who might come to the door. "We were so happy when we arrived in London - the chance of a new life, but it all went wrong very quickly. "The authorities found us a home in Benwell and the racial abuse started. In a way I can understand why we were targeted at home because it was all about politics and what we stood for. But here we became victims just because of the colour of our skin - being black was all it took. "My husband and I were used to it but when it affected our children we asked for help. One time my daughter was playing in the yard and a group of teenagers came with balloons filled with water and started throwing them at her. "She was traumatised and couldn't play out for ages afterwards. " It's a sad fact that most victims of racial abuse wait until they have suffered nine or 10 incidents before approaching the authorities for help.

    Lucille contacted Newcastle's Racial Harassment Prevention Team - the only service of its kind in the North East - and the team helped re-house the family in Gateshead. They talked about trying to take her persecutors to court, but didn't pursue it - getting away was enough. Lucille and her family are still waiting to hear if their application for asylum has been successful, but in the meantime the four are happy where they are. They live on benefits of £137 a week, and Lucille is studying three days a week at college to be a nurse. Her husband is also re-training to work in computers. The Racial Harassment Support Group was launched in 1991 by Newcastle Council. In January it was given a new home in Jesmond Road West, Newcastle, and re-launched under the name of the Racial Harassment Prevention Team. It is currently helping 70 families in the city. The recent high profile National Front march and growing support for far right, extreme political parties has meant that case workers on the project are reluctant to be identified. In the present climate they believe they are as vulnerable to threats and harassment as many of the families they try to help. Hotspot areas for trouble include Cowgate, Elswick, Byker and Fawdon where there is a high concentration of asylum seekers and ethnic minorities. And those who get the worst treatment are the ones who are easily identifiable as a minority such as Turks, Iraqis and Iranians. "We tend to find that most people will not report trouble until they have been subjected to nine or 10 incidents," a case worker explained. "These range from having their car vandalised, being spat at in the street and being verbally or physically abused or just generally living in fear of violence. "The first thing we do is arrange a meeting with the client to discuss a plan of action. "If they are not comfortable with one of our three case workers coming to their home we can arrange to meet elsewhere. "We currently deal with a lot of overseas' students and will meet them in their university library if they want."

    The Racial Harassment Prevention Team can help victims in a variety of practical ways - support applications to move house, help them report assaults to the police or get legal advice through interpreters. "If we are helping asylum seekers we have to warn them that if they want to be moved then it is through the National Asylum Scheme (NAS). "This means they don't have a choice and they could be moved anywhere in the country. "This can be frustrating. I had a case where a family was moved out of an address because they were having problems, and the NAS suggested putting another family in the same house. "This was because Mohammed Dica, 38, who was jailed for eight years for deliberately infecting two lovers with HIV. London Crown Court heard how Dica, convicted of biological grievous bodily harm, left one victim pregnant after pretending he'd had a vasectomy to get unprotected sex. The Appeal Court has now overturned Dica's conviction and ordered a retrial, remanding him in custody until then. Also the life-threatening infection tuberculosis thrives on poverty and in war conditions and many unsuspecting refugees fleeing persecution unknowingly carry it with them. Reports of racist incidents have increased in the Northumbria Police area during the past year, according to official figures. Force-wide statistics show two of the three categories for recording racist crimes have seen increases in the number of incidents recorded. For the year 2002/03, there were 54 incidents of racially or religiously-aggravated wounding but for 2003/04 the recorded level had risen to 107. Incidents of racially or religiously aggravated harassment had risen from 633 in 2002/03 to 690 the following year. The only category which has seen a dip in reports has been racially-aggravated common assault which recorded 71 incidents in 2003/04, down from 125 the previous year.

    Coun Nick Forbes represents Moorside in Newcastle's West End and is also chairman of the Council's Equalities Board. He does not believe the city has a worse problem than anywhere else with hate crimes, but is concerned about the re-emergence of far right groups. He said: "Racial intolerance is less of a problem than it was a couple of years ago. "But, unfortunately, some people get so worked up that they think that every person who is not white is an asylum seeker, even if they are British through and through. "It is unfortunate that we have to have such a service as the harassment prevention team, but we have to stamp out racism and racist violence. "There is no place for the nasty politics of the far right and we must beat them comprehensively." In a year the Newcastle team can take on an average of 200 cases and the response can range from offering advice on the telephone to taking perpetrators to court. More than 250 victims of racist abuse in Newcastle have been encouraged to report incidents thanks to a 24-hour helpline set up a year ago. The Agency Against Racist Crime and Harassment (Arch) also helps victims identify problems at an early stage before it develops into something more serious. Neil Denton, community safety officer at Arch, said: "Racist abuse can have a very damaging effect on people's lives but often goes unreported because people don't know where to turn to get help. "There are three main reasons why people do not want to report incidents. "They fear they will be relocated or that nothing will be done. Incidents also go unreported because of lack of information - people don't know how to go about getting help." The free Arch helpline, including to all mobiles, is linked to a live translation system in 100 languages. It is one of the first in the UK using electronic systems, offering automatic access to the most relevant agency to meet a victim's immediate needs. Organisations involved include Victim Support, the Racial Harassment Support Group and the Asylum Seeker's Unit. The number is: 08000 323288.

    Toon star backs campaign
    Newcastle United star Lomana LuaLua has revealed how he fled his war-torn African homeland as a nine-year-old asylum seeker. The 23-year-old, currently on loan to Portsmouth, fled the Congo with his family to seek refuge in the UK. Backing an Amnesty International campaign to stamp out racism, he said: "Asylum seekers don't come here to mess things up or be bad. They come for help. "My dad just told me one day we were going to London for a holiday, and I've lived in this country ever since. Fighting is still going on where I'm from and hundreds of innocents are killed daily." Amnesty International has joined forces campaign group, Show Racism the Red Card, to launch the A Safe Place drive. It has produced a video and pa ©The Evening Chronicle

    4/5/2004- Two years of talks to try to hammer out an agreement on German immigration reform are in danger of collapse with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats battling to keep the reforms alive after the junior member of his coalition, the Greens, pulled out of the cross-party negotiations. While the conservative Christian Democrat-led opposition said Tuesday that they were prepared to press on with the negotiations, the Greens decision to abandon the talks have led to an outbreak of tension within Schroeder's ruling coalition. Interior Minister Otto Schily, who is also a member of the Social Democrats, roundly criticised the Greens' move as threatening the Schroeder coalition. The tensions which have emerged over the new immigration law have raised the possibility of the negotiations to push through the law being handed over to party leaders. The latest stumbling block in the marathon negotiations on the immigrations reforms has been the opposition's insistence that the security provisions for detaining foreign extremists and terrorists should be toughened up. While Schily and the Social Democrats have agreed to the request, the Greens have rejected it claiming that the opposition was trying to make political capital out of the talks and a result of the dispute walked out of the talks. The cross-party talks on the new immigration law follow the government's failure to push the reforms through the opposition-controlled upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat. Widely supported by German business, the law represent another step in the opening up the nation's labour market to foreign workers with the law aimed at people from non-European Union nations. The proposed immigration reforms, which would bring German laws into line with nations such as Canada and Australia, follows Berlin's moves to liberalise Germany's antiquated citizenship laws and the introduction of a US-style Green Card to encourage skilled labour to come of the country. Indeed, German business sees the new immigration laws as a way of helping to meet skilled labour shortages in the nation.
    ©Expatica News

    7/5/2004- After a week of growing tensions over the government's immigration reforms, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's ruling Social Democrat-Green Party is planning to make what could a last-ditch effort to gain opposition support for the changes. In the wake of moves by the Green Party to pull out of the negotiations with the conservative-led opposition over the new immigration law, Schroeder is to hold talks with opposition leaders to try to establish whether an agreement was possible. This follows a round of coalition talks in Berlin Thursday and Friday aimed at trying to break the deadlock over the new immigration law that was introduced into parliament more than two years ago. But the Christian Democrat-led opposition blocked the reforms in the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, where it has a majority, resulting in the new laws being dispatched to a special parliamentary mediation committee where they have languished ever since. Since then, 12 rounds of talks between the government and the opposition have failed to break the impasse over the laws. The latest obstacle in the marathon negotiations on the immigrations reforms has been the opposition's insistence that the security provisions for detaining foreign extremists and terrorists should be toughened up. While the government has agreed to the request, the Greens originally had rejected it claiming that the opposition was trying to make political capital out of the talks and a result of the dispute walked out of the talks. They have since agreed to return to the talks. Widely supported by German business, the law represent another step in the opening up the nation's labour market to foreign workers with the reforms aimed at people from non-European Union nations. About 7.3m foreigners live in Germany, representing about 9 percent of the population, which the highest proportion in the European Union. Germany, however, lacks immigration laws, which would allow it to regulate the flow of skilled workers into the nation. The proposed immigration reforms, which would bring German laws into line with nations such as Canada and Australia, follows Berlin's moves to liberalise Germany's antiquated citizenship laws and the introduction of a US-style Green Card to encourage skilled labour to come of the country. Indeed, German business sees the new immigration laws as a way of helping to meet skilled labour shortages in the nation. Germany's shortages of skilled labour, however, comes at a time when the country has been hit by high unemployment, which have also made the immigration reforms unpopular in the electorate. Faced with soaring deficits across its welfare system and a rapidly agreeing population, Germany also needs to consider drawing in immigrants as a way of addressing problems in its social state.
    ©Expatica News

    7/4/2004- French film legend Brigitte Bardot has appeared in court to deny charges of inciting racial hatred in a book. Bardot, 69, was defending herself over her best-seller, A Cry In The Silence, in which she said she "opposed the Islamisation of France". The actress-turned-animal rights campaigner apologised in court, and said: "I never knowingly wanted to hurt anybody. It is not in my character." If convicted she could face up to a year in jail or a fine.

    Literary shortcomings
    Bardot appeared in the Paris court on Thursday, wearing a black jacket and trousers and leaning on a cane. She wore red plastic flowers in her hair. In her book she wrote about issues such as racial mixing, immigration, the role of women in politics and Islam. Bardot acknowledged her literary shortcomings in court. "Certainly, I'm not Balzac," she said, referring to master 19th Century French novelist Honore de Balzac. "The court noticed," replied judge Catherine Bezio. Bardot has previous convictions for inciting racial violence after criticising in print the Muslim practice of slaughtering sheep. Despite Bardot's apology in court, she also spoke out against racial mixing and expressed worries about the "infiltration" of France by Islamic extremists. "Among Muslims, I think there are some who are very good and some hoodlums, like everywhere," she said. The prosecutor asked for Bardot's conviction but said the court should decide any penalty. A verdict is expected in June.
    ©BBC News

    5/5/2004- Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk's plan to deport 26,000 rejected asylum seekers in coming years is at risk as municipal councils battle with the government over the establishment of special expulsion detention centres. Following the recent rejection by Dokkum and Eindhoven municipal councils to the establishment of an expulsion centre in their region, the construction of a deportation centre at Crailo has also been abandoned. Minister Verdonk refused to meet conditions Laren and Hilversum municipal councils placed on the creation of the expulsion centre, newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Wednesday. The centre will thus need to be located elsewhere. But the refusal means that the government has failed to establish an expulsion centre at its tree intended locations. The government's deportation policy is thus facing mounting problems, newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Thursday. The expulsion centres play a crucial role in the deportation plan, but there is now serious doubt whether the government will meet its scheduled opening of the first expulsion centre, pencilled in for this summer. To clear a backlog in asylum seeker applications with the immigration service IND, the Cabinet resolved earlier this year to grant a residence permit to about 2,300 long-term asylum seekers. A further 26,000 were to be deported and despite protests, criticism from MPs and resistance from the association of Dutch municipalities VNG, the Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, backed the plan in February.

    Hilversum and Laren wanted to co-operate with the establishment of an expulsion centre, but had demanded almost 20 extra police officers. The councils also demanded funding for the education of asylum seeker children. But a spokesman for the Justice Ministry - which includes the IND - said the councils were demanding too much and there was insufficient basis for continued talks. The ministry is now in talks with other, unnamed councils. The unexpected decision to end talks with Laren and Hilversum comes despite the fact the Justice Ministry was drawing up a letter n Monday to inform the councils that part of their demands would be met. The Laren and Hilversum mayors have refused to comment on the sudden turnaround. But Jan Nagel, the chairman of Leefbaar Hilversum - the largest party on the Hilversum Council - said on Monday he did not expect that the municipality would abandon its demands. He said the conditions for the creation of the expulsion centre had been determined by Mayor Ernst Bakker in consultation with all party leaders. Nagel also said the demands were reasonable. Meanwhile, the central asylum seeker authority given the task of setting up the expulsion centres, COA, said it was disappointed with the turn of events. COA is capable of quickly converting asylum seeker shelters into expulsion centres. But experience has taught that municipal councils need much more time to work through the creation of an asylum seeker centre, especially if the local population is resisting its establishment. The Employees Council of the COA has since requested management to be flexible with personnel who refuse to work in an expulsion centre. A large number of COA workers could soon lose their jobs or be transferred due to the declining number of asylum seekers. Due to tougher regulations, the number of requests for asylum lodged with Dutch authorities has fallen from 43,560 in 2000 to just 13,402 last year. The COA works council is also concerned that those who refuse on principle to work in an expulsion centre will be placed on a transfer list or laid off.
    ©Expatica News

    7/5/2004- Norwegian right-wing extremists are using the web to recruit and spread propaganda. The anti-racist magazine Monitor claims Kripos does little or nothing to stop the development. According to Monitor, the number of right-wing websites in Norway has increased from 39 to 50 since last year, reported the Norwegian paper Dagsavisen. "There are about 200 to 300 active right-wing extremists here," said Tor Bach, editor of Monitor, to the paper. "We have discovered that they run about 50 websites. When one in six extremists runs a website, it's obvious that they see the Internet as an important tool for propaganda and recruitment." It is Kripos, the National Crime Investigation Service in Norway, which is the main unit to fight racist websites. Monitor is now complaining about the work the unit is doing. "We have surveyed Kripos' annual reports from the last three years. The word racism does not exist in any of them," Bach said. "At the same time the plan was compiled, Kripos was going to establish a hotline for racist websites. Today, two years later, there is still no phone number." Bach claims the Norwegian Police Security Service should have had the responsibility to keep tabs on the right-wing extremists, including the Internet. According to Monitor, the Norwegian right-wing extremists are also very active on a number of chatting sites on the Internet.

    29/4/2004- European and North American states have pledged to fight a growing wave of anti-Semitism in the West. The 55 members of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the resurgent Middle East conflict could never justify attacks on Jews. The countries promised concrete action, such as effective monitoring of anti-Semitic acts, and education programmes. An EU report said attacks had risen in many states - the sharpest increase being a six-fold rise in France. Jewish leaders said such attacks could not be excused as legitimate political protests about the policies of the Israeli government.

    Yellow star
    The two-day conference concluded with the OSCE unanimously agreeing the "Berlin Declaration". It announced "unambiguously that international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism". In a moving moment to end the event, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, the current OSCE chairman, handed over a yellow star, like the one his grandfather had been forced to wear during World War II, to his German counterpart Joschka Fischer. "I can fulfil the legacy of my grandfather and return the yellow star to the Germans," he said. He said the conference showed Europe was taking anti-Semitism seriously. "We are particularly concerned that this hostility toward Jews, as individuals or collectively, has manifested itself in verbal and physical attacks and in the desecration of synagogues and cemeteries," he said. "I believe our conference in the last two days has made a significant contribution to making our collective response to anti-Semitism more credible." Mr Fischer said: "This declaration is not enough. Implementation is now crucial in the follow-up. "As long as Jewish kindergartens have to be guarded, as long as people cannot wear a kippa (Jewish headcovering) on the streets... our work is not done." The declaration committed the countries to compiling reliable statistics on anti-Semitic and other hate crimes, and to teaching children about the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed by the Nazis. Outside the conference, Israeli President Moshe Katsav named a street in Berlin after the assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, an architect of the now abandoned Oslo Middle East peace accords.
    ©BBC News

    By Magdi Abdelhadi, BBC Arab affairs analyst

    28/4/2004- As the European Union gets bigger and more diverse with the entry of 10 new members in less than a week, the question of European identity and minorities will once again spring to the fore - including that of Europe's largest religious minority, the Muslims. Two contrasting images of Muslims living in Europe caught my attention over the past few months. One is of Muslim girls in France demonstrating against the ban on ostentatious religious symbols in public schools. They wore Muslim headscarves and at the same time had their bodies wrapped in the French flag, a clear expression of a desire to be integrated into French society, but without losing their distinct identity. The second picture is of angry young British Muslims burning the Union Flag and shouting slogans in support of Osama Bin Laden outside a London mosque, a dramatic articulation of their radical rejection of Western values. Between these two positions lies a vast majority of silent Muslims who have over the years gone about their lives without attracting much media attention for most of the time.

    Rapid growth
    Muslims in Europe have grown from a few hundred thousands in the 1950s to an estimated 12 million across the continent, many of whom still suffer marginalisation, unemployment and poverty. While the first generation of Muslims - mainly labourers from North Africa and Asia - suffered from problems of adjustment, their sons and daughters are now torn between belonging to the culture of their parents and that of Europe. The rise of militant Islam and attacks related to it on European soil has presented the Muslim communities with a very serious problem. Muslim leaders feel the need to distance themselves from violence committed in the name of Islam, without laying themselves open to charges of abandoning the faith. This has led to calls to develop what has been described as EuroIslam: an Islam in tune with democratic values and less dependent on doctrines imported from the Middle East.
    ©BBC News

    30/4/2004- EU interior ministers on Thursday managed to forge a deal on a crucial piece of asylum legislation after years of wrangling. The legislation sets out common EU rules on granting and withdrawing refugee status. The deal was agreed only two days before the 1 May deadline and EU enlargement - narrowly avoiding the situation where the controversial issues would have had to be agreed on between 25 member states. The rules deal with matters such as the right of access for an asylum procedure and include criteria for prioritisation and acceleration of applications. The ministers wanted to abolish differences in asylum benefits among EU states to eliminate "asylum shopping", when asylum seekers pick the country that offers them the most advantageous conditions.

    Safe countries
    Member states agreed to establish a minimum list of safe countries of origin, whereby asylum applicants coming from those countries will have their application denied by an accelerated procedure. Although in the coming months there will be an assessment of countries which may be included in such a list, there is already an initial list of countries which, besides Romania and Bulgaria, "may also be suitable for inclusion". These are Benin, Botswana, Cape Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Ghana, Mali, Mauritius, Senegal and Uruguay. There will be no EU common list of "safe third countries", a concept which would have allowed EU states to send asylum seekers to specific third countries, if the asylum seekers had passed through on their way to their final destination. But EU states will still be allowed to have their own national list of such countries considered as "safe". Refugee and human rights organisations had raised concerns that such a concept could lead asylum seekers to be sent to a country where they have never been or which does not provide sufficient protection for refugees. The UN refugee agency UNHCR said it "still has some problems" with the agreement reached and expressed concern that some people may be sent away from the country where they asked for asylum before the outcome of the appeal. A spokesperson for UNHCR told EUobserver that in some EU countries, 30-60% of refugees were recognised only after appeal. "The UNHCR urges EU states to ensure high standards of refugee protection are maintained when this directive is implemented in national law". Besides the agreement on this directive before the looming 1 May deadline, the ministers also formally adopted the directive setting out common definitions of who qualifies as a refugee, on which political agreement between EU states was already reached in March.

    First phase of Common EU asylum system
    Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino said that Thursday's agreement "means that the first phase of the Common European Asylum System has now been established". However he added that the "level of ambition [in the adopted text] is lower than the initial proposal". "I regret that but at this stage it is the best agreement that we could get", Mr Vitorino said. He also said he is "totally sure" that this directive is in line with international obligations. The approval of this asylum directive will also bring about significant changes to how further legislation in this area will be adopted. The European Parliament will now be able to amend the Commission's proposals through "co-decision" and EU ministers will be able to reach an agreement with qualified majority voting instead of unanimity. This directive will be adopted after the European Parliament has given its opinion.

    By Dick Oosting, Director, Amnesty International EU Office in Brussels

    3/5/2004- The official accession to the European Union of ten new member states on 1 May ought to be good news for human rights. Protection of fundamental rights was a critical aspect of the accession process. Candidate countries were scrutinized for years to ensure that their laws and practices were brought in line with EU norms. The reality is not quite so reassuring. While they are supposed to have passed all the tests to become members of an EU that prides itself on being a Union of values, in practice there are still some serious problems in the new member states. These relate to broad areas of the administration of justice, while discrimination against minorities, in particular Roma, remains a painful reality. However, all EU members are equal, so on 1 May the scrutiny effectively stopped. In any case, joining the EU is no guarantee that rights will be respected - human rights violations do occur within the EU and they are not just isolated incidents. Amnesty International's reports on human rights abuses cover most European countries, some of which show disturbing patterns of abuse by law enforcement personnel including ill-treatment, torture and excessive use of force, which is regularly allowed to go unpunished and often has a clear discriminatory element. But when it comes to human rights, the general picture is that Europe looks abroad rather than at home. The EU Council of Ministers in particular has shown itself remarkably unconcerned about the incidence of human rights abuse within the EU. For years, the domestic human rights question has been ritually dismissed as a matter of national responsibility for which the EU has no competence. The adoption of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and its inclusion in the proposed new constitution has not changed that attitude, rather it has reinforced a tendency to take for granted the quality of human rights performance at home. Amnesty International has long been pointing to the need for the EU to address the issue of observance of human rights within EU borders, and to establish accountability at EU level for EU members. The enlargement of the EU reinforces this need. An important first step must be to recognize that the Commission's role as 'guardian of the treaties' must include the protection of fundamental rights. To be fair, there has been movement, although not enough. The European Parliament in its annual reports has underlined the need for scrutiny at EU level and facilitated the establishment in 2002 of a Network of Independent Experts to report on human rights compliance within the EU.

    The Commission presented a Communication in October 2003 on the application of Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union, which allows for action in the case of a persistent breach of common values, or the threat of such a breach. The only response of the Council so far has been to catch everyone by surprise in December 2003 with the decision to turn the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia in Vienna into a human rights agency, with, as yet, an unspecified role. Concern about observance of human rights is not just a matter of compliance at national level. There are significant developments at EU level across a broad range of EU legislation and action in the fields of asylum, immigration, and judicial and police cooperation that help shape and determine the future of rights protection in Europe. With a renewed focus on counter-terrorism, the measures that are taken must be rigorous in respecting human rights standards if they are not to backfire. Amnesty International has repeatedly urged the Commission and the Council to close the gap between rights and security. Ultimately, it is not the respect for human rights but the breach of those rights which may jeopardize international efforts to confront ©Amnesty International

    by the European Roma Information Office

    7/5/2004- If the Roma are to be truly welcome in the enlarged EU, policy-makers must start treating them as people rather than agenda items. A few weeks ago, the Roma of Trebisov buried Radoslav Puky. The 29-year-old man was found dead in one of the city's canals a few days after thousands of police and troops descended on Slovakia's deprived east, where in February a desperate population of mainly Roma had risen up against severe cuts in social benefits. Despite Puky's broken rib cage, the prosecutor in charge of the investigation into his death concluded that the Rom had drowned. For Puky's fellows, though, he is a victim of police persecution and of the ongoing discrimination against Roma in Slovakia.

    The wages of exclution
    Slovakia is among the countries that joined the European Union on 1 May, a model perhaps when it comes to the application of neo-liberal recipes to a capsizing economy, but certainly not a model with regard to the integration of its Romani minority. A World Bank report from 2003 found, for instance, that the number of Romani settlements had increased dramatically since the end of the 1980s and that the number of Roma forced to live in these settlements had likewise increased. A January 2004 country report by the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, a Council of Europe body, concluded that "the Roma minority remains severely disadvantaged in most areas of life, particularly in the fields of housing, employment, and education" and that the proclaimed goal of improving the situation of the Roma "has not been translated into adequate resources and a concerted interest and commitment on the part of all the administrative sectors involved." Last year, the UN Development Program found that the Central and East European Roma lived under conditions close to those of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, with one out of six regularly facing hunger. The UNDP also warned that the region's countries might quickly see the opportunities provided by EU accession slip away if they fail to integrate the Roma: "The risk is that, if postponed, the cost of finding solutions … will be immeasurably higher and will have few chances of success," the survey said, adding, "The human security costs of exclusion will spiral, potentially resulting in political extremism and setbacks for the democratic process." It is now more than a decade since the European Union started pushing the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to improve the situation of their minorities, in particular the Roma. In 1993, the EU adopted the so-called Copenhagen criteria, and subsequently human rights and the rights of minorities have been part of the requirements a country must meet if it wants to join the EU. Much has been done since. Acting for the most part under pressure from the EU and international organizations, the applicant countries signed international conventions protecting the rights of minorities and banning discrimination. Anti-discrimination laws were adopted and self-representative bodies for minorities installed. Most of the acceding states today have strategies for the inclusion of their Roma communities, which most of the current EU members paradoxically lack.

    Two-faced policies
    But this is obviously just one side of the coin. On-the-ground discrimination against Roma continues, and it remains largely unpunished. Last November, Olga David, a Romani woman from Petrosani in central Romania, was beaten to death by private security guards who caught her stealing coal. Central and Eastern European media continue to spread racially biased reports about Roma, fostering stereotypes and prejudices. Political representatives have no reluctance to engage in a racist discourse where Roma figure as second-class citizens or not as citizens at all of countries where Roma have lived for centuries. While the European Commission has carefully monitored these developments and regularly prodded these countries to improve the situation of the Roma, Roma rights activists have recently sensed that the attention to human rights issues is wavering. The EU seems today too preoccupied with the economic situation in Central and Eastern Europe and in the West to care much about human rights and the rights of minorities, which are in any case internal matters of the member states and not within the competencies of the Union. It is telling that neither the act of turning the army against a civilian population nor the alleged police abuses and mistreatment of people, mainly Roma, reported by human rights organizations in Slovakia, received any rebuke from Brussels.

    The EU has always taken an ambiguous stance toward the situation of the Eastern and Central European Roma. It advocated for their rights while they stayed in their countries, but its individual member states have systematically rejected their claims as soon as they left them. Hundreds of Romani asylum-seekers from Romania, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic saw their asylum applications rejected on the grounds that they were considered mere economic refugees. Four years ago, the Belgian authorities deported a group of 74 Roma asylum-seekers from Slovakia, for which Belgium was later condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for violating the prohibition against collective deportations in the European Convention on Human Rights. Only in a few instances has the plight of the region's Roma been acknowledged, such as in 2001 when France granted asylum to several Roma from the Hungarian village of Zamoly, where they had seen their houses demolished by the city council and been exposed to death threats. The Union itself lacks a policy to address the plight of the Roma. Discrimination is widespread, not only in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe but also in the old member states. The UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recently concluded, for instance, that Roma in Spain continue to be discriminated against in almost all fields of social life and recommended to the Spanish government that it "take all the necessary measures in order to overcome prejudices and negative stereotypes in order to put an end to any form of discrimination." Oberwart, an otherwise obscure place in Austria, earned a Europewide reputation when in February 1995 four Roma were killed by a pipe bomb targeted at them. Just a month ago, two Romani girls from Romania died in Lyon when the makeshift dwelling where they lived caught fire. The teenagers belonged to a larger group of Romani asylum-seekers from Romania and the former Yugoslavia who had settled on wasteland in the city center. True, it was not racism that killed them, but they died from the lack of concern from the French authorities in charge of receiving the asylum-seekers.

    Needed: A new leaf
    The EU's Helsinki Summit in December 1999 ended with a vague recommendation that "[s]pecial attention should be paid to the improvement of the situation of those groups which do not form a majority in any state, including the Roma." It further stated that the Union "is committed to working to achieve this objective together with the Council of Europe and the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe]." It is revealing that this item was put under "External Relations," thus leaving open the question whether this was something that concerned the EU member states themselves or only their relations with others. Some of the later EU presidencies engaged to organize regular meetings dealing with issues affecting Roma, but no real commitment, no clear agenda came out. At the European Commission level, several directorates-general deal with issues affecting Roma, but there is no integrated approach and no single telephone number (as Henry Kissinger put it) to call when seeking an answer to the multiple and linked problems affecting Roma. There is, for instance, no effective way of tackling the poor school performance of Romani children if social discrimination, poverty, deprivation, and bad housing conditions within the Romani communities are not addressed at the same time. EU enlargement brings new opportunities and risks. The unification, once the enlargement is complete, of 8 to 10 million Roma in a single political space, will give Roma new opportunities to unify their voices and to bargain together for an end to discrimination and for their recognition as equal citizens. But with this opportunity there is also a risk that the Roma more than ever before will be tossed to-and-fro between the national and the European levels with no authority ultimately taking responsibility to ease their plight. In the wake of enlargement, a commitment is requi This essay first appeared in slightly different form on the website of the European Roma Information Office. Based in Brussels, ERIO is an independent organization founded in 2003 to establish and maintain a Romani presence in major European institutions.
    ©Transitions Online

    21/4/2004- Foreigners living in Spain have had their rights and liberties damaged by law changes brought in by the last government, a pressure group claimed Wednesday. SOS Racism attacked changes made to laws governing foreigners which were introduced by the conservative government of Jose Maria Aznar. They appealed to the new Socialist administration to reform the law which they claim has led to more than one million foreigners 'disappearing' in the system. The law change was designed to stop illegal immigration, but the group claims it has forced many legal immigrants to 'hide' from the system for fear of being deported. In their annual report, the group claimed the legal changes had led to a rise in racism. Isabel Martínez Luna, of SOS Racism, said the legal changes had led to many foreigners "falling into the hands of mafias" in order to find work. They had no other route to become legal citizens and had been deprived of their rights. She said that at least a million people were in this "shameful" situation which could not be resolved until the law was reformed. Two basic changes have allowed police access to city council housing records and allowed them to carry out checks on transport companies in an effort to stop illegal immigrants being brought into Spain. SOS Racism called on the government to allow foreigners to make their situation legal without having to return to their own countries to obtain visas. They also claimed since the 11 March terrorist attacks there had been a rise in 'islamaphobia' in some parts of Spain.
    ©Expatica News

    22/4/2004- The head of Spain's Foreigners' Comission said Thursday border controls could be improved. García Santalla, who was attending a conference in Salamanca in western Spain on the treatment of foreigners, said: "In this way of we have to extend the frontier controls with technical measures in order to improve controls before people arrive there." He said penal controls on foreigners were the same for all Spaniards. The only difference is Spaniards who break immigration laws face six years in jail while foreigners are simply expelled. García Santalla said those immigrants who cannot find work in Spain can finish-up breaking the law. He added that the law changes which were introduced in recent years should be modified. He said that there were three laws governing foreigners and it was "an excess". Santalla said to modify these laws would not present a problem. He said the government's decision to make one person the head of the police and the Guardia Civil would improve coordination in this area.
    ©Expatica News

    20/4/2004- It is increasingly likely that non-EU foreigners wishing to settle permanently in the Netherlands will in future be required to complete an integration course in their country of origin following approval of the proposal by the Council of State. A majority of MPs have already indicated they are in favour of the plan and Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said on Monday that the Council of State — which advises the government on legislation — had also largely approved the proposal. If the plan is implemented, the Netherlands will become the first nation to demand non-European Union immigrants complete a pre-arrival integration course in their country of origin, news agency ANP reported. The proposal is primarily focused on a foreign partner or family moving to the Netherlands to be with a Dutch national or resident. About three quarters of second generation migrants — particularly people of Turkish and Moroccan descent — marry someone from their country of origin. Besides compulsory integration courses, the government has also resolved in future that Dutch residents must earn at least 120 percent of the minimum wage and be 21 years old or more before being allowed to bring their foreign partner into the country. The plan states that immigrants must also be aged at least 21. Minister Verdonk said that migrant youth do not object to the plans and a series of meetings with young Turkish and Moroccan people had indicated that many of them did not wish to have a foreign partner. She said they were happy they were not under pressure any longer to "import" a partner. The Netherlands is experiencing a backlash against immigration, leading to calls to force foreigners to study the Dutch language and culture to assist their integration. The Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, must first vote on the legislative proposal before the pre-arrival integration courses can be implemented. Immigrants from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are excluded from the requirement to complete a pre-arrival integration course.
    ©Expatica News

    21/4/2004- The Dutch government is poised to crackdown on illegal residence in the Netherlands as the immigration service IND gains more manpower to track down and deport foreigners. The number of detention cells will also be increased. In addition, the Cabinet also intends to take tougher measures against landlords that rent accommodation to illegal immigrants and against companies that employ illegal workers, newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Wednesday. But illegal immigrants will not be deprived of healthcare and education. Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said people deserve "decent treatment" and that medical help for children and during a pregnancy should always be supplied, RTL reported. Coalition parties the Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 had agreed in the government accord last year to crackdown on illegal immigration. The intended measures are outlined in a proposal Verdonk will present to ministers on Friday. Researchers from the Erasmus University estimated in 2002 that between 112,000 and 163,000 illegal immigrants are living in the Netherlands on average every year. The looming crackdown is aimed at thwarting illegal renting at exorbitant prices and means that rental contracts can be broken if inquiries indicate that landlords have rented homes out to illegal immigrants. In the case of illegal subletting, the official tenant might also lose their home. Employers will be threatened with stiffer fines if they employ illegal workers. Social Affairs State Secretary Mark Rutte had previously announced his willingness to increase the fines from EUR 900 to EUR 3,500 per illegal worker. More raids will thus be carried out and employers will also be forced to pay retrospective social security premiums and taxes if the illegal immigrant has worked there for six months. That bill could amount to EUR 6,000. But against the wishes of the CDA and the Rotterdam Council, the cabinet is expected to stop short at declaring illegal immigration a criminally prosecutable offence. This would have required changes to the temporary detention system. Government ministers who worked on the latest proposal did not wish to adjust the temporary detention system because of the existing prison cell shortage in the Netherlands. They also said the primary goal was to deport illegal immigrants and the temporary detention prior to deportation would adequately serve as the temporary detention for illegal immigration.
    ©Expatica News

    22/4/2004- Somali-born MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali demanded on Thursday the closure of an Amsterdam mosque that sells books supporting female circumcision, beating wives and the murder of gay people. The Dutch Parliament is to hold an emergency debate about the El Tawheed mosque next week. MPs want Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner and Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk to explain what they intend to do about the book "De weg van de moslim". The publication — translated as The Way of the Muslim in English — is said to advocate violence against women and killing gay people. Gay people should be thrown head first off high buildings. If not killed on hitting the ground, they should then be stoned to death, the book allegedly suggests. In her column in newspaper Algemeen Dagblad, Hirsi Ali — who was raised as a Muslim — went one step further and called on the government to close the mosque. The MP has been a strident opponent of Islamic teachings on women and gay people. The Liberal VVD party MP said it was time for the Justice Ministry to indicate whether it intended to go to court to have the mosque banned. Hirsi Ali said the latest revelations about the book advocating beating women and killing gay people was the last straw. Closure of the mosque was a question of "political will", she wrote. "This mosque has been warned repeatedly by the authorities that intolerance against non-Muslims and undermining the law is unacceptable in the Netherlands," Hirsi Ali said. "The Way of the Muslim" is one of the publications on sale at the El Tawheed mosque. Earlier this month the mosque was at the centre of a storm about another book available at its open day organised to help combat the mosque's negative public image. That book "Fatwas of Muslim Women" says that women who lie deserve 100 blows and the husband's duty of care for his wife is negated if she refuses him sex or leaves the home without his permission. One of its most controversial aspects is the call for Muslim girls to be circumcised. A fatwa is an official statement or order from an Islamic religious leader.

    MPs in the Dutch Parliament have indicated they want the second book, "The Way of the Muslim", banned if it supports violence towards women and killing gay people. VVD parliamentarian Geert Wilders has called for the emergency debate next week. Another MP, Mirjam Sterk of the Christian Democrat CDA, said imams (Islamic religious leaders) must distance themselves from the book's content. If not, the imams must be prosecuted or deported. An Islamic cleric was deported from France to his native Algeria on Wednesday after he caused uproar by his endorsement of wife-beating and polygamy. Clerics at El Tawheed feel they have been unfairly singled out in the media as part of a wider campaign against Islamic institutions in Europe. MPs and media commentators attacked the Amsterdam mosque previously when one of the imams referred to non-Muslims as "firewood for hell". He also forbade Islamic women from leaving the family home without the permission of their husbands. RTL Television reported on Thursday a cameraman was assaulted when a news team attempted to buy "The Way of the Muslim" at the mosque. Eventually RTL's female reporter managed to buy the book, albeit while accompanied by police protection.
    ©Expatica News

    23/4/2004- The Netherlands is being called to order on European-wide concern that it is violating human rights by its plans to deport 26,000 asylum seekers who did not qualify for a residence permit under a recent amnesty. The Council of Europe — which consists of 45 nations and is involved in efforts to defend human rights — will hold a debate next week about the Dutch government's deportation plans, described as the largest forced exodus in Europe since World War II. Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot — who is currently the council chairman — will be required to defend the government's plans during a meeting in Strasbourg, France, on Wednesday 28 April, newspaper De Volkskrant reported. The Netherlands decided earlier this year to grant a residence permit to 2,300 long-term asylum seekers to clear a backlog in cases with immigration service IND. But howls of protest greeted the decision to deport 26,000 over a period of three years. The debate in the Council of Europe has been stirred up by a Hungarian politician, who — according to unnamed sources — has attracted "broad support" from other nations. Of note is that there are just two debates that have been given an "urgent" nature: one on the Dutch deportation policy and on Kosovo, where renewed ethnic tension led to the deaths 19 people recently.

    Kosovo — a province of Serbia-Montenegro — and much of the Balkans was the scene of "ethnic cleansing" in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. But diplomats concede that the debate over the Dutch asylum seeker policy is more embarrassing than the Kosovo issue because the Netherlands is currently the chair of the Council of Europe and accuses many other nations of human rights abuses. It has been raised within the walls of the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry that Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende should not travel to Strasbourg when member states meet to discuss the deportation issue. But the Christian Democrat CDA leader dismissed the advice. Meanwhile, the day before the council is scheduled to discuss the deportation issue, the European Parliament will also discuss the Dutch euthanasia policy, which legalised assisted suicides in April 2002. The policy was recently criticised in a report from Swiss and British politicians. But others claim that the criticism does not go far enough. Critics claim the introduction of euthanasia legislation has led to "an alarmingly high number of cases of euthanasia without an explicit request". It is also alleged that Dutch medics do not always report an assisted suicide, as required by law. The Dutch euthanasia law allows assisted suicide if the patient officially requests to die, is suffering from extreme pain or a terminal illness and a second medical opinion has been sought. The Netherlands was the first nation to legalise euthanasia.
    ©Expatica News

    RACISM AMONG THE YOUNG(uk, comment)
    20/4/2004- Forever Friends. One Scotland, Many Cultures. This country is not short of slogans spreading a message that Scotland is a tolerant land comfortable with the different ethnic and religious groupings in its midst. The message is often targeted at children, who are Scotland's future. Indeed, they are encouraged to produce slogans to convey a sense of the pluralist country they should like to grow up in. But is the message having any effect? Figures produced by Glasgow city council, Scotland's biggest local authority, suggest that in a significant number of cases the answer is a depressing no. The council's education department produces annual reports on the number of racist incidents in its schools. The trend is, unfortunately, consistently upwards. According to the latest figures, for 2003, three types of reported incidents show a significant increase. These are physical assaults, racist graffiti and instances of ridicule based on cultural differences. Last year there were reports of racist incidents affecting more than 1800 pupils. The council found that, in two-thirds of cases, those responsible clearly understood that their actions were racist. What is especially worrying about the latest report is that most perpetrators were aged nine or 10 (covering 28% of all incidents, followed by 13-year-olds and 14-year-olds (23% of incidents). The Scottish Executive and the country's sporting authorities have identified young people as having a key role in speaking out against racist behaviour or language. The figures from Glasgow city council suggest that the source of the problem lies to a degree in the age groups (and younger) which should be in the vanguard against racism, but are actually practising it. Schools seek to instil values of tolerance, respect for others and their way of life and good neighbourliness in pupils. Clearly, in a number of cases, these values mean little or nothing. Perhaps more direct intervention is needed to tackle racist attitudes before they become ingrained. Certainly, Glasgow, a city that prides itself on offering a warm welcome to strangers, cannot afford to be complacent, especially when it is home to many asylum-seeking and refugee families. Children are impressionable. In most cases, it should not be too late to change attitudes. That can happen only if attitudes in the home, often the source of prejudice, are changed, too.
    ©The Herald

    22/04/2004- Ron Atkinson was tonight counting the cost of a racist outburst which shocked the world of football and forced him to resign from his post at ITV Sport. The pundit, whose contract to write expert analysis for British newspaper The Guardian has been terminated by mutual consent, emerged from his Worcestershire home this morning to insist he was not a racist. The furore surrounding Atkinson erupted after it emerged that he had made an insulting racial remark about black Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly, believing he was off-air. Atkinson, 65, is understood to have called Desailly a "f****** lazy nigger" after Chelsea lost 3-1 to Monaco in Tuesday night's Champions League semi-final first leg. Talking at the gate of his imposing, partially-timbered home in the village of Barnt Green, Atkinson apologised for the tirade, which was heard by viewers in the Middle East. Asked why he had resigned rather than try to cling on to his broadcasting job, the former Manchester United manager replied: "I thought I had put ITV on the spot."What I said was obviously unacceptable."He stressed that he thought his comments were not being transmitted, adding: "We didn't hear it until the following day. I was only talking to myself, into a monitor set."I had taken off the headphones and whatever. I was looking at some playbacks on the game."At that stage I was thinking more as a fan. At the end of the day, we all wanted to see them go through to the final and thought they had a wonderful opportunity." Atkinson said: "I apologise, I owe him (Desailly) and anyone else I have offended an apology."It was not meant as a racist comment, it was meant in anger and really because I wanted them to win." The commentator said he had not yet started to consider alternative lines of employment, telling reporters: "I have got to get this out of the way first."

    A statement released by the The Guardian said: "Our contract with Ron Atkinson to write a weekly football column has been terminated with immediate effect by mutual agreement." Atkinson had worked for the broadsheet for four years, penning a Friday column and offering analysis on Mondays. Ironically, the flamboyant ex-footballer, who also managed West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa, Coventry City, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday, devoted a chapter of his memoirs to the subject of racism, describing himself as a "committed champion" of black footballers and calling for "a mature, reasoned approach" to tackle the problem. He nurtured the talent of football's version of The Three Degrees - Cyrille Regis, Brendan Batson and Laurie Cunningham  during his first spell as manager of West Brom between 1978 and 1981. Atkinson, who today cited his involvement with the trio as proof that he was not racist, said he had been offered words of sympathy by black players. "One of the pleasing things is that a number of black players have come out today and been supportive. "I have had Cyrille (Regis) and 'big' Paul Williams both on the phone. "I was one of the first, if not the first, to play black players." The remarks were broadcast by channels in the Middle East, where the live feed had continued to run after full-time. An ITV spokesman said: "We do not in any way condone the comments in question, which were not broadcast as part of ITV's coverage, but were made in an off-air conversation after the game. "It was a regrettable lapse by a respected and experienced broadcaster who has been part of the ITV sports team for many years." Black Tory peer Lord Taylor of Warwick said it was "entirely right" that Atkinson had offered his resignation and that ITV had duly accepted it. He said Atkinson's reputation as a pioneering coach for his work and support of black footballers during the 1970s had now been tarnished. "What he said was totally unacceptable and just because it was off-air is no excuse whatsoever," the peer added. Lord Taylor, a member of ©Ireland On-line

    22/4/2004- Unemployment among black and Asian people is two-and-a-half times worse than jobless rates for white men and women and is even higher among some ethnic groups, a new report shows. The Government was urged to introduce extra measures to help reverse a rising trend after being told that racism was still blighting the lives of Britain's black workers. Research for the TUC showed than unemployment rates among black and Asian people were lower than in 1990 and had worsened for second generation British born descendants of immigrants. The figures hid specific problems for some ethnic minorities such as Bangladeshis, whose unemployment rate was one in five, said the TUC. In a report being launched at the opening of the TUC Black Workers' conference in Torquay, the Government was urged to make employers promote good race relations. Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said: "Black and Asian workers have not gained equally from Britain's expanding economy compared to the white workers. "To begin to reverse this trend the Government's New Deal, welfare-to-work strategy, must become even more effective. "Unions give a high priority to equality at work and we are working in partnership with many employers and the Government to establish fairness. But racism is still rife in too many of Britain's workplaces." The New Deal for Young People had a worse record in finding jobs for young black workers in London and the Midlands than elsewhere in the UK, said the TUC.

    22/4/2004- A French politician has said he will conduct his country's first same-sex wedding in June. Noel Mamere, Mayor of Bordeaux in south-west France and a parliamentary deputy for the Green Party, said he would marry the men in nearby Begles. He said there was nothing in French law to prevent it, and that it was unacceptable that gays did not have the same rights as other French citizens. Civil unions between same-sex partners have been legal in France since 2000. However, gay lobby groups say these fall short of legal marriages as they do not come with benefits such as adoption rights or the same fiscal advantages. Mr Mamere said: "There's nothing extraordinary about marrying two people of the same sex in the European Union. "Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands have done it already and the new Spanish prime minister... has put it in his political programme," he told the Reuters news agency. He said the men asked him last week to perform the ceremony this summer, after he pledged to marry any same-sex couple that asked him.
    ©BBC News

    20/4/2004- Swastikas were daubed on the door of a mosque in the eastern French city of Strasbourg and two rubbish bins set on fire without causing damage to the building, police said Tuesday. An anti-Arab slogan with grammatical mistakes was also scrawled on the wall of the mosque, used mostly by members of the city's Turkish community. The mosque's imam, who lives in the building, heard a noise in the early hours of Tuesday and put out the fire, according to mosque officials."This hateful act is aimed at the whole Muslim community and is part of a local climate in which acts of a racist and Islamophobic nature are becoming more frequent," Abdelhaq Nabaoui, president of the Alsace regional council of the Muslim religion, said, listing several "similar" events in recent weeks in the region. Last week an attempt was made to burn down a mosque at Haguenau near Strasbourg and two swastikas were daubed on its walls. Swastikas were also painted on the walls of a funeral parlour in another small town near Strasbourg and an arson attempt made on it, Nabaoui said. In early April five tombstones - four Muslim, one Jewish-- in the military cemetery in the Strasbourg district of Cronenbourg were desecrated by swastikas.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    23/4/2004- Attempts by the French government to ban the wearing of headscarves by Muslim schoolgirls in state schools threaten to dissolve into confusion and farce. A draft explanation of the law, circulated to schools, specifically bans headscarves and other "religious signs" but exempts Sikh turbans and other "traditional" forms of dress. Teachers' unions assailed the circular yesterday as "hypocritical" and unworkable. What was to stop Muslim girls claiming that their headscarves were traditional in their communities or families, the teachers asked? "This document is unworkable in its present form. It calls for the respect of certain principles and then offers all kinds of ways of undermining them," said Patrick Gonthier, secretary-general of the Unsa education union. The ministerial advice states, among other things, that religious bandanas are banned in schools but "non-religious" bandanas are permitted. How can anyone tell the difference, teachers said yesterday? "They are asking for trouble," one headmaster in the Oise département said. "Everyone is going to come to school wearing a bandana." The Education Minister, François Fillon, admitted that the advice to schools was "not perfect" and might be changed after consultation. It is becoming clear, however, that the law passed in March - intended to restate the principle that state schools were strictly "secular" or non-religious - is likely to create an even greater muddle than before. There were always doubts whether new legislation was needed, despite a series of acrimonious, local disputes between school boards and pupils on whether Muslim headscarves should be allowed in state schools. The government said that the new law was required to make it clear that religious forms of dress in the classroom contradicted the principle of "secularity" - or religious neutrality - on which the French republic was founded.

    After complaints from Sikhs and other minorities, the ministry of education issued a nine-page circular this week to clarify the new, clarificatory law. Negotiations will now take place to clarify the clarification. Teachers unions and opposition politicians said the inevitable consequence would be a flurry of deliberate challenges to the law - both sincere and mischief-making - when the new rules take effect in September. The problem has arisen because the education ministry has bent over backwards to answer the complaints of ethnic minorities, especially France's small Sikh community, which found itself caught up in the row without being consulted. Since the Sikh turban is claimed to be customary rather than directly religious, it escapes the ban under the definition. The circular said that the ban covered "all symbols and forms of dress which manifest an ostensible religious allegiance and which are worn to make the wearer instantly identifiable". It went on to list the Muslim headscarf, Jewish kippa and out-size crucifixes as examples of such banned symbols. But it went on to say that the law does not extend to to "traditional forms of dress", or clothes that demonstrate attachment to a culture or a "vestimentary custom". That exemption applies even when the forms of dress are worn, in other circumstances, for religious reasons. School boards and teachers unions said yesterday that the last sentence made a mockery of the new law.
    © Independent Digital

    23/4/2004- The French interior minister, Dominique de Villepin, said yesterday that the country must urgently begin training Muslim clerics in a moderate Islam that respects human rights and the republican code. Addressing a meeting of local prefects a day after he deported an Algerian imam who was in favour of stoning women, Mr De Villepin said they should not think twice about expelling any foreign preacher who advocated violence, hatred, racism or human rights abuses. But he said France had to "face the issue of training imams. I ask you to help the Muslim faith get organised better and more quickly so that a real 'French Islam' can emerge." The problem of radical Islamic clerics preaching a message contrary to French law and values is a pressing one: government figures show 27 Muslim prayer leaders have been deported on public order or human rights grounds since 2001 - more than half of them since last July. Abdelkader Bouziane, the 52-year-old imam of a Lyon mosque, said in an interview that the Koran authorised husbands to hit their wives, that polygamy was right, that women were not men's equals and that music was a sin. Asked whether he approved of the stoning of unfaithful wives, he replied: "Yes." He was deported on Wednesday, a week after Abdelkader Yahia Cherif. The self-proclaimed imam of Brest in Brittany had asked his congregation to "rejoice in the Madrid bombings" that killed 191 people.

    According to the interior ministry, France's 5 million-strong Muslim community, Europe's largest, is ministered to by between 1,000 and 1,500 imams. Only 10% of them are believed to be citizens, less than half speak French, and "probably a majority" are illegal immigrants. Most hail from abroad - 40% from Morocco, 24% from Algeria, 16% from Turkey and 6% from Tunisia - where any advanced religious training they receive is increasingly likely to be in fundamentalist Islamist views that clash with secular French laws. "The majority of imams preaching in France are self-taught or have had no formal religious education," said Abdellah Boussouf, an imam from Strasbourg who is working on a training scheme to be run by France's moderate National Muslim Council. He said Muslim imams in France should have a modern education - ideally a university education in both social sciences and Koranic studies - as the best guarantee of the religion's "harmonious future existence within a modern and secular western state". Dalil Boubakeur, chairman of the Muslim Council and rector of the Paris Grand Mosque, condemned the Lyon imam's comments. "Islam is not a religion that beats its women, kills its babies, and wants the west dead," he said. He acknowledged it was up to the Muslim community to take responsibility for training "homegrown" imams who were familiar with French life. But he said little would be achieved without state aid - which could contravene France's strict laws on the separation of church and state. In the meantime, many experts warn that fundamentalist Islam is making increasing headway in France's still overwhelmingly moderate Muslim community. A report by undercover police said 32 imams in the Paris region could now be considered radical. One expert on Islam in France, Antoine Sfeir, said radical foreign imams often found an all too willing audience in France's rundown immigrant suburbs. "The kids there already watch Arab stations on satellite TV, with their bloodthirsty slogans and anti-western propaganda," he said. "They've already been totally radicalised."
    ©The Guardian

    21/4/2004- Muslim leaders have expressed fears of a "witch-hunt" against the 300,000-strong community in Switzerland. Their alarm follows government revelations that members of half a dozen militant Islamic groups are operating secretly on Swiss soil. The Federal Refugee Office on Tuesday confirmed a report in "Le Temps" newspaper that these groups include the Tunisian Islamic Front; Hamas, the Palestinian militant Islamic group; and Algeria's Islamic Salvation Front. Spokesman Dominique Boillat told swissinfo his department was working closely with the Federal Police Office to monitor the situation. "We are responsible for asylum seekers and if we suspect that people could be dangerous to the safety of this country then we have to signal this and they will then be placed under surveillance by the police," he said. "Sometimes these people have contacts with terrorist groups or they could be contacted here in Switzerland by terrorist groups and later used for arms trafficking."

    Police surveillance
    News of a militant presence and police surveillance operations have prompted alarm among Switzerland's Muslims that the community will now be hounded. These fears were stoked in January this year when Swiss police arrested eight foreign nationals suspected of links to last May's terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia . Hafid Ouardiri, spokesman for Geneva's Islamic Cultural Foundation, said he was "terrified" that people would mistakenly link Islam with extremism. "This is beginning to become unbearable," he said. "People are going to confuse a tiny minority with the great majority of Muslims." Similar concerns have been raised by British Muslims following a series of high-profile arrests related to alleged terrorism offences. Nadia Karmous, the head of the cultural association of Muslim women in Switzerland, said she was astonished to hear that radical groups were active in the country. "As far as we're concerned, there is no rise in Islamism, but rather an increase in Islamophobia," she said.

    Boillat categorically denied that the authorities themselves were involved in any systematic targeting of Switzerland's Muslims. But he admitted that the government had become more sensitive to potential threats in the wake of the September 11 attacks in the United States. "We would like to reassure the Muslim community that there is no witch-hunt by the authorities," said Boillat. "The impression the public is getting is that there is a real problem - which there isn't. We are concerned about a very, very small number of people, and we have the means to control [them]." Professor Reinhard Schulze, director of the Institute for Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Bern, said he believed the situation was being blown out of all proportion. Schulze maintains that out of a Muslim population of around 300,000, there are only one or two extremists or "Jihadis" likely to be actively in contact with terrorist groups. He says the majority of those being monitored by the Swiss authorities do not pose a threat. "These people do not represent a danger to Switzerland, because Switzerland is not a target for these groups," he explained. "They consider Switzerland a place of refuge and not a place to carry out operations."

    And he sympathised with Muslim leaders who fear a whole community is in danger of being demonised. "It's understandable. Even if there are one or two people in contact with terrorist organisations, they are not representative of the Muslim community as a whole. You cannot blame the whole community," he said. "My impression is that the officials are exaggerating the situation a bit and maybe contributing to the impression that there is a witch-hunt going on. I can understand why the Muslim community is worried about this." Jürg Schertenleib, spokesman for the non-governmental Swiss Refugee Council, takes a similar view. He says the authorities are right to take action where there is a clearly identifiable threat. But he warned against giving the impression that Switzerland was a hotbed for Islamic fundamentalism. "We shouldn't forget that in many other countries the authorities are using the pretext that someone is a terrorist to justify repression," he said.
    ©NZZ Online

    21/4/2004- The government has criticised several cantons and communes for preventing people aged 65 and over from standing for political office. In a report published on Wednesday the government said imposing an upper age limit was discriminatory and should be scrapped. "From a socio-political point of view these age limits are unnecessary and inappropriate," it said. "History has shown that older people are capable of great things in the fields of politics, culture or science." A debate over age discrimination in politics was triggered in August 2002, when the community of Madiswil in canton Bern fixed an upper age limit of 70 for local council candidates. An investigation by the justice ministry found that four cantons - Bern, Glarus, Appenzell Inner Rhodes and Appenzell Outer Rhodes - have an age limit of 65 for members of the cantonal government. However, in only one of them, Appenzell Inner Rhodes, is the age limit strictly observed.

    Age limit
    According to the report, 17 cantons have introduced an age limit of between 64 and 75 for members of advisory committees. Pro Senectute, the Swiss organisation for the elderly, said it welcomed the government's recommendation and its opposition to upper age limits for those standing for political office. "A fixed age limit is unnecessary. If those aged 65 or 70 are still able to work full-time and their voters think they can do it, then they should be allowed to," Kurt Seifert of Pro Senectute told swissinfo. "The report points out the difference between honorary positions and full-time jobs, and I think excluding the elderly from voluntary jobs is unconstitutional," he added.

    Ageing population
    The government report said the cantons had to take into account the demographic trend towards an older population. It noted that life expectancy in the western world had risen since 1880 from 42 to 80 years of age. "Stressful jobs often prevent people from doing community work. Once people have reached their retirement they have more time and it would be wrong to stop them from taking on a political role," the report stated. When the decision was taken in Madiswil two years ago, the "Seniorenrat", a commission that monitors potential discrimination against the elderly, lodged a complaint against the Bern cantonal authorities. It criticised the office that had examined the legality of the Madiswil decision and demanded an official inquiry.
    ©NZZ Online

    23/4/2004- A court ruling branding a Belgian far-right party as racist and imposing fines on key supporters has dealt a damaging blow to one of Europe's main ultranationalist forces, newspapers reported on Thursday. The party, the Vlaams Blok, part of a far-right surge in Europe in recent years along with the National Front in France and the Freedom Party in Austria, was found guilty of breaking antiracism laws by an appeal court in Ghent on Wednesday. The court ruled that the Vlaams Blok regularly portrays foreigners as "criminals who take bread from the mouths of Flemish workers" and found it guilty of "permanent incitement to segregation and racism." The Vlaams Blok's leader, Filip Dewinter, led the party to a score of 30 percent of the vote in his Antwerp region and of 17.9 percent in national elections in May 2003. He is hoping to build on that at regional elections in June for which polls credit the party with 22 percent support in Flanders. Despite its electoral successes, the Vlaams Blok has been isolated and kept out of national power by other mainstream parties in Belgium. The verdict cannot lead to an immediate ban on the party because "the Belgian constitution does not allow for a party to be banned," said political analyst Pascal Delwit. But the ruling has undermined its foundations, he added. "The Vlaams Blok faces an existential choice: remain an anti-establishment force or become a civilized party," said the Flemish economic daily De Tijd. Financially, the court fine - which party leader Dewinter condemned as "political murder" - risks depriving the Vlaams Blok of substantial income. The appeal court fined three associations that are linked to the Vlaams Blok E12,400, or $14,880 dollars, each for breaking anti-racism laws. The associations, which mainly manage the party's finances, were condemned for relations with a "racist organization." The finding could make financial backers cut links with it, said De Standaard, a Flemish-language newspaper.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Is it too late to save the culture and language of a North Caucasian minority?
    By Fatima Tlisova , freelance journalist in Karachai-Cherkessia.

    21/4/2004- "The forest is dying along with our people." An elderly forestry worker with heavily veined hands has a contemplative and resigned expression on his face as he says these words. The forest in question is next to the village or "aul" of Elburgan, not far from Cherkessk, the capital of Karachai-Cherkessia at the foot of the Caucasus mountains. The ancient woods are being felled for timber, while the local Abaza people are slowly losing their identity and culture. Ramazan Kamov, the elder of Elburgan - the second largest Abaza village - laments the fact that only three children were born there over the last year. "What kind of future are we leaving for our children? I can't see the Abaza people existing in the future, and that hurts me so much! We keep waiting for someone to come and save us, but these are vain hopes. "To survive, we must fight and set all the alarm bells ringing. But instead we are already losing heart." The main reason the modern-day Abazas are losing their identity is because few of them speak their native language, especially in the towns. In villages, the older generation continues to speak Abaza, but for those under 30 years old, Russian is now the main means of communication. Mukhamed Tkhaitsukhov, a well-known Abaza writer, fears it may already be too late. "In 20 years time at the most, we will cease to exist as a nation, as an ethnic group. In Abaza schools in the auls, education will be conducted entirely in Russian. There will be no more speakers of the language left, and thus no nation! Somewhere up there they are passing laws about us, but only a faint echo of that reaches us, and we see no practical action. We are knocking on the doors of various officials, but to no avail." Albert Jandubayev, the headmaster at a school in the village of Inzhich-Chukun, 45 kilometres from Cherkessk, said that the Abaza language needs direct support from the authorities if it is to survive. "Any changes to the curriculum on the ground require additional funding - extra jobs for teachers or at least extra pay for their overtime," he explained. "But even if a village school headmaster is prepared to bear such expenses on his meagre school budget, there is no guarantee that his initiative will get approval from the top. That's why it is such a problem for the Abazas to learn their native language."

    Karachai-Cherkessia, one of the most diverse regions of the Russian Federation, is home to about 16 ethnic groups. According to the republic's constitution, five of them have the status of "indigenous nationalities" - Russians, Karachais, Circassians (or Cherkess), Abazas and Nogais. Abazas have been listed in the "Red Book," a list of endangered "peoples of the Russian Empire" compiled by Estonian scholars. But this has had no practical impact on their life. The Abaza are an indigenous people of the north-western Caucasus, related to the Abkhaz and the Circassians but quite distinct from them. Their language most resembles the tongue of the Ubykh ethnic group, the last speaker of which died in Turkey in 1992. In the 18th century, the Abaza had a large population, according to accounts from European travellers in the Caucasus. They lived by raising livestock and were famous for their herds of pedigree horses. After the end of the devastating Caucasian wars in the 1860s, the Red Book records, the Abazas, along with their more numerous Circassian cousins, were subjected to mass deportation to the Ottoman Empire, and only 9,000 out of 50,000 remained in their homeland. Nowadays, according to statistical data, the Abaza population in Russia numbers around 30,000, almost all of them in Karachai-Cherkessia. Despite their small numbers, the Abazas are a strong political force in Karachai-Cherkessia and have been ab addressing the issue. Neither the federal authorities in Moscow nor the republican authorities in Cherkessk are investing money in the cultural survival of small ethnic groups. The Abaza leaders were encouraged by a federal law in 1999 and a republican law in 2001, both of which promised to protect the rights of small indigenous peoples. But Shchors Chagov, the chairman of the Abaza society, said their initial hopes were disappointed. "Neither the budget for 2003, nor the budget for 2004 on the federal or regional level have provided funding in the framework of this law on small nations," he said. Another problem for the Abaza is that they have no single political centre in Karachai-Cherkessia, and their villages are located in different administrative districts. Local parliamentary deputy Uali Evgamukov is an Abaza who spent many years in the United State and still owns a dancing school in Miami. He says he returned to his homeland to "help revive the economy, attract investment and develop links with American businesses". But he is discouraged by what he found on his return. Evgamukov said, "I don't see any prospects for young people, they don't yet exist in our republic. Nor do they exist for our nation. We have no clearly defined administrative territorial centre." A plan to create a single Abaza district has long been under discussion, he said, but nothing has been done. President Batdyev blamed budgetary problems for the failure to implement the change, but other officials say they are afraid of a potential spate of land claims. In the Abaza villages, all this is barely a topic of conversation, as people worry about unemployment and earning their daily bread.
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    A self-help group is a tentative step towards getting society to recognise homosexuals.
    By Zhanna Alexanian, reporter for the weekly Web bulletin, in Yerevan

    21/4/2004- Eight gay men and a transsexual met in a Yerevan café recently to discuss plans to form what will be Armenia's first gay and lesbian rights organisation and start to lift the taboo on homosexuality in the country. None of them were from the capital. Although invited, Yerevan homosexuals declined to attend the first meeting. Those who did show up were from four other Armenian cities: Gyumri, Idjevan, Goris, and Echmiadzin. The gathering was prompted by an announcement posted on the website of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Armenians of France, calling on the gay community in the home country to get together and discuss how to best protect their rights. "We formed a group we called the Self-Help Group, Grigor Simonian, a 23-year-old gay man from Gyumri, told IWPR. "We must come out and openly admit we're gay. How can we complain, or assert our lifestyle, unless we publicly admit we're gay?" But the majority of Armenian gays and lesbians think it is too early to institutionalise themselves, as neither the wider community, nor they themselves, are ready. They say the first goal is to foster awareness and tolerance in society at large. "They must accept us for what we are, acolytes of same-sex love," said Grigor. "We must embrace our true identities. It's our life, and no one has the right to interfere." Armenian gays and lesbians find each other on the internet, but many are then too afraid to meet in person. For many, furtive emails are their first attempts to come out of the closet. "I was brave enough to take charge of organisational matters," Grigor said. "I feel no need to hide the fact I'm gay, but no need to flaunt it either."

    Grigor said the main reason he initiated the self-help group was his determination to overcome his own fear and shame. But even he has not told his parents that he is homosexual. After graduating from the sociology department at Yerevan State University, Grigor lives and works in Gyumri, where he has been living in a rented apartment, separately from his parents, for the last five years. When his parents inquired about his frequent trips to Yerevan, Grigor did tell them that he goes there to organise gay and lesbian gatherings. "They think I'm doing this out of my excessive organisational zeal. I'm not going to tell them more than that. They'd be very upset." Gyumri is a city where conservative traditions are very deeply rooted. Grigor is pessimistic about the likelihood of Armenian society ever accepting homosexuals. "As a nation, we have zero tolerance for men and women who do not procreate. This cannot be changed, not even if all the barriers - intellectual and other - are removed," he said, wistfully. But a self-help group may be just what Armenian gays and lesbians need at the moment. The more people join, the more secure and accepted they will feel. At the same time they are receiving information about sexual health and HIV/AIDS. Grigor is convinced a sense of togetherness will make gay and lesbian Armenians feel much better. More and more people are attending the gatherings. The third meeting drew some 50 participants, including 15 lesbians and transsexuals from Yerevan. The organisation has not been formally founded, but the participants say that is the next step. Gays and lesbians say they have always had a hard time in Armenia in the face of deep-rooted prejudice and bias. "Although I have never experienced violence, I often find threatening notes on my door when I come home. Threats are a part of our daily lives," said Grigor.

    In August 2003 Armenia abolished an article in its penal code prescribing severe punishment for male homosexuals. The infamous Article 116 recommended five-year prison sentences for men found guilty of homosexuality. Mardirossian, human rights officer at the Yerevan office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told IWPR her office has not received any complaints from individual gays or lesbians. The Armenian Helsinki Group is probably the only local NGO that gays and lesbians trust. They frequently involve the NGO and its head, Michael Danielian, in their troubles. "They call me when they get in trouble with the police. I go and bail them out," Danielian told IWPR. He cited about two dozen cases when the police, knowing that someone is gay, have tried to extort money from him. Danielian said gay people much prefer to pay rather than let the police inform their families and employers they were gay, and bear the stigma. Homosexuals face a tough time when they do military service, said Danielian. "Once, a whole regiment went without food for several days, because they did not want to sit at the same table with a homosexual," said Danielian. The taboo against homosexuality is so strong that if a conscript openly admits he is homosexual, then his tableware is kept separately and gay soldiers are not allowed to do any kitchen work, cook or handle food. Another problem is that army doctors have been known to send conscripts to mental institutions after "diagnosing" them with homosexuality, after which they are exempted from military service. "I believe homosexual men have the right to do their civic duty and serve in the military," Danielian said. "But fellow soldiers and officers must learn to treat them with respect. They are regular citizens just like the rest of us."
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    20/4/2004- Online games that allow children to "shoot" illegal immigrants, Jews and blacks are among the thousands of extremist Web sites described in a report by an international human rights organization. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which has been tracking hate Web sites for nine years, describes in the report released Monday more than 200 of about 4,000 online hate sites it monitors. The group said it has seen a surge this year in the number of sites that promote terrorist recruitment, urging young people to join "holy wars" and become suicide bombers. The report includes sites that deny the Holocaust, theorize September 11 conspiracies and glorify al Qaeda. The more common hate sites feature racism, anti-Semitism and gay bashing. "People need to realize how much hatred there is ... and the extraordinary technological advance of people who are spreading these lies," said New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, who attended the news conference where the report was released. Some of the most troubling, he said, are sites that appear to be educational, like a Web site on black civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. that is actually run by a racist organization. Such sites could fool schoolchildren doing research, Miller said. The Simon Wiesenthal Center uses the report to help inform parents, teachers, public officials and law enforcement. The intent is not to interfere with free speech and shut down the sites, said Mark Weitzman, director of the center's Task Force Against Hate. "This is for public awareness," he said.
    ©Associated Press

    21/4/2004- A first-of-its-kind U.S. exhibit documents how the Nazis attempted to create a ``master race,'' from murder and forced sterilizations to the less violent urgings of ``10 Commandments for Choosing a Mate.'' By the time the Nazis arose last century in Germany, biologists had shown that genes can determine a baby's hair and eye color. From that, the Nazis argued that eliminating what they called the inferior genes of the ``Jewish race'' or the ``Gypsy race'' would help develop Germans into a master race to rule the world.
    One of the exhibits at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum shows a metal case with 20 glass eyes and a skin color chart. Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race opens on Thursday. The museum says it's the first exhibit in the United States to deal with the subject. The Nazi version of genetics was out of date long before they took power. But they pressed ahead, blending political racism with science. ``Nazism is applied biology,'' said Rudolf Hess. Adolf Hitler's deputy. The Nazis furthered the development of what they promoted as a blue-eyed, golden-haired master race by issuing documents like ``10 Commandments for Choosing a Mate.'' ``Remember that you are a German,'' warned the first commandment. Others note that genetic makeup spreads far beyond a parent and urge Germans to choose mates only with ``Nordic blood'' and stay away from non-Europeans. The commandments, issued by the Reich Committee for Public Health, is included in the exhibit in a book called ``May I Marry My Cousin?'' There's also a sample of an official Nazi decoration: the ``Honor Cross of German Motherhood.'' A simple version went to mothers of four or five properly Aryan children, the silver version to mothers of six or seven. The gold cross was reserved for women who had eight or more.

    More ominously, Nazi authorities worked to rid themselves of the expense of keeping alive the mentally defective, whom they called ``life unworthy of life.'' That began soon after they took power with a ``Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring.'' Those affected included the feebleminded, schizophrenics, manic-depressives, the deaf, blind and epileptic, the severely deformed and chronic alcoholics. Special hereditary health courts approved sterilization of an estimated 400,000 Germans. A cartoon from a high school biology textbook shows a worker with rolled-up sleeves, bowed under the weight of two degenerate-looking figures on his back. ``You're helping carry these,'' says the caption. During World War II, more than 5,000 children with birth defects were killed in special German hospital wards and their parents received falsified reports of the cause of death. the museum says. Organizers of the exhibit estimate that 200,000 German patients considered incurable were killed during the war. A photocopy of a letter on exhibit, signed by Hitler, orders ``euthanizing'' one group. As for the genetic experiments, ``the Nazis had trouble with skin color,'' says Paul Lombardo, professor of law and bioethics at the University of Virginia. Adapting science to their own beliefs, they considered the people of the Indian subcontinent to be Aryans, though many had darker skins than many Africans. Though the human genome has now been mapped, years of work remain to be done to determine what combinations of genes are responsible for diseases and human characteristics. The idea of race has changed greatly over the years, and experts disagree on just how many races there are. Before World War II several countries had programs for sterilizing people considered likely to produce unfit children. At one time as many as 30 U.S. states had laws that made it possible, Lombardo said. In 1927 Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, known as a supporter of civil liberties ©The Guardian

    The recent violence in Kosovo was largely a consequence of a failure to integrate its minorities.
    By Stephan Müller

    8/4/2004- Both the international administration in Kosovo and local Albanian politicians are equally to blame for minorities not being accepted as equal inhabitants there. The failure of the international administration started when it turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed in the summer of 1999 when the Albanians, expelled by Serbian regime, returned to Kosovo. Serbs, Roma and others were killed in mob violence as KFOR simply watched. Whole settlements were burned down. According to UNHCR, after NATO's arrival, about 230,000 people left (including Serbs and other minorities) and their property illegally occupied. Since 1999, attacks against minorities have decreased considerably, but hardly any perpetrators of the violence have been brought to justice. Discrimination against minorities remains widespread, which has been recognised by the international community in different human rights reports, but not eliminated in practise. Most international officials have adopted the views of the Albanian majority, and the requests of the minorities have been subordinated to those of the majority. In fields such as reconstruction, employment and access to education, the Albanians and the international administration have accepted discrimination. From the start, the international administration lacked a comprehensive minority policy. It failed to create basic conditions either for the integration of minorities, or for their return. From 2001, an evolving minority policy also pursued double standards. While focusing on Serbs, the other communities, such as Bosniaks, Gorani, Roma, Ashkali, Egyptians, Turks and Croats, were neglected.

    The Serbs living in their enclaves or north of the River Ibar in and around the northern part of Mitrovica at least control their local politics, society and economy. The other communities live alongside Albanians and barely participate in politics, society and economics. Discrimination and lack of economic perspective are especially marked among Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians. The international administration, however, has focussed on Serbian participation in Kosovo structures and in barely sustainable return projects. Some Serbian villages were reconstructed, but these Potemkin structures have needed constant protection and have not contributed much to the goal of reconciliation. Provoking an entirely unjustified envy among their Albanian neighbours, they have turned into new enclaves with limited contact with Albanians. The hypocrisy of the international administration is illustrated by the fact that Roma, Ashkali or Egyptians - equally in need of reconstruction - have seen no comparable effort, in spite of the fact that several communities have returned, some of them after being forcibly returned from western Europe. The international administration felt comfortable with the illusion of building up a multi-ethnic society. It could not admit its failure, because the war in 1999 was conducted in the name of human rights and it governs the province. In addition, several western European countries were determined to send their refugees from the region back to Kosovo and Roma, for example, could only be deported to a functioning multi-ethnic Kosovo. The international administration's biggest failure was that it did not scrutinise the Albanian majority's attitude towards minorities and did not develop a consistent policy to counter this negative attitude.

    Albanians make up the overwhelming majority in Kosovo and have obtained a right to determine policy. However, this should not include the right to decide who is allowed to live in Kosovo or who can study at the University of Pristina. In several places, returns and the reconstruction of houses were blocked. Non-Albanians hardl committed. The media plays a crucial role in maintaining these attitudes. They portray Serbs as enemies and Roma as collaborators. Reports of violent attacks against minorities tend to suggest the Serbs themselves are the perpetrators, not the Albanians, and that Serbs have committed these crimes to destabilise Kosovo and prevent its independence. Under these circumstances and considering Kosovo's depressing economic prospects, the people behind the pogroms can always find young men willing to use violence against minorities. These young men are aware that a large section of society does not consider them criminals, but as heroes of the independence struggle. Albanian politics and society need finally to wake up. They should look into their own shortcomings and scrutinise their politics and society. So far they have not done so, fearing this could jeopardise the goal of all Kosovo Albanians, which is independence. The international administration should undergo a similar process. It should admit its failure, develop a new approach and not play down the consequences of pogroms. The recent mob violence may have ended the efforts to build up a Kosovo for all its ethnic communities. It may also have ended the dream of the Albanians of an independent and united Kosovo.

    Stephan Müller worked for two years, 2000/2002, with the OSCE Mission in Kosovo as Advisor on Minority Affairs. He is now a Budapest-based freelance political consultant on former Yugoslavia issues.
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    Five of the 10 countries set to join the EU on 1 May did not appear on the map 15 years ago.

    13/4/2004- Among them was Slovenia - a former Yugoslav republic sandwiched between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea, with a century-long history of foreign domination. Its two million people can count themselves lucky. They emerged practically unscathed from the bloody wars that tore up Yugoslavia - and now enjoy the highest living standard of all the EU newcomers. But in a controversial referendum earlier this month, Slovenians voted overwhelmingly to deny residence rights to thousands of people from other parts of the former Yugoslavia. These people are known as the "erased" because they were removed from population records after Slovenia declared its independence in 1991.

    'The erased'
    The Grand Union cafe in the capital Ljubljana is - like most of Slovenia - stylish and comfortable. It feels much more like central Europe than the Balkans. But under the crystal chandeliers, Alexander Todorovic, a bearded ethnic Serb, has a story that sounds very much like the Balkans. Mr Todorovic settled here 20 years ago after marrying a Slovenian. But in 1993, when he went to register the birth of their daughter, he was told he did not exist. He had failed to apply for residence after Slovenia became independent, so his name had been erased from the records. Mr Todorovic was told illegal foreigners could not be parents to children born in Slovenia - so he could not be registered as the baby's father. He watched a Slovenian official punch his ID card and his driving licence to make them invalid. Mr Todorovic now heads the Association of the Erased, fighting for the rights of some 18,000 people from the former Yugoslavia. They all face expulsion after losing their jobs, pensions and health insurance. In Slovenia's recently refurbished parliament, there is concern that "the erased" could claim huge damages - some say as much as the country's annual budget. But for the right-wing opposition - which pushed for the referendum on "the erased" and scored a major political victory ahead of this autumn's general elections - the debate is less about money than loyalty to an independent Slovenia. Barbara Medved Spiletic - who is running for the European Parliament for the Slovenian Democratic Party - insists some of "the erased", like Mr Todorovic, should never get residence rights because they basically want the old Yugoslavia back. She says Mr Todorovic was an aggressor to Slovenia because he was among those who opposed Slovenian independence. She admits he may not have killed anyone, but he should still be defined as an "aggressor."

    Awkward neighbours
    This emotional argument about the past may seem strange just when Slovenia should be looking to its future inside Nato and the EU. But that is exactly why nationalism seems to be on the rise, says Ali Zerdin, deputy editor of Slovenia's best-selling weekly, Mladina. He says because the negotiations with the EU are over, people do not feel that they are somehow monitored by the EU - and they believe they may speak whatever they want. Safe inside the big Western clubs, small countries like Slovenia are starting to deal more confidently with their history and their awkward neighbours. In the past, Slovenia has had troubled relations with both Italy and Austria, but Croatia remains its most difficult neighbour. Over a decade after the break-up of Yugoslavia, the two countries still have a raft of border and financial issues to settle. I went to the border on Slovenia's Adriatic coast to meet Josko Joras. He is a Slovenian citizen who says he lives in Slovenia. But the Croat authorities claim his house and land are actually on their side of the border. In 2002, Mr Joras even spent a couple of weeks in a Croatian jail for bringing home a dishwasher without paying customs dues. But now the Croatian border guards stan Rupel said. But Mr Rupel knows that it is easier to take a country out of the Balkans, than to take the Balkans out of a country. Young Slovenian film director Damian Kozole also hopes that his country will open up as it joins the EU - rather than become more nationalistic. "We are claustrophobic because we've lived quite a safe and prosperous life until now, and we've had very little to do with people from different backgrounds," he said.

    Visions of Europe
    His most recent film, Spare Parts, told the uncomfortable story of a Slovenian people smuggler. Mr Kozole went back to the Slovenian-Croatian border for his latest film - a wry contribution to a series of short films called Visions of Europe. The films - co-ordinated by the director, Lars von Trier, with contributions from acclaimed directors such as Aki Kaurismaki and Peter Greenaway - will be aired on 1 May. Mr Kozole got the idea after the Slovenian football team was defeated by the Croats in the qualifiers for the Euro 2004 championships, he said. His film shows two Slovenian workers putting up new EU signs along the border. From the other side, a Croatian farmer is watching with some alarm. "Friends, you are going into Europe," he shouted. "And you're going to the European championships - so each of us gets something,"one of the Slovenians replied. "But where would you rather go?" the Croat asked. "To the football championships. And you?" the Slovene asked. "To the EU," the Croat said.
    ©BBC News

    Muslims in France feel "stigmatised" by a new law which will outlaw Islamic headscarves in schools, a male Muslim leader has said.

    12/4/2004- Lhaj Thami Breze called for the law to be applied "flexibly" when he addressed an annual gathering of thousands of Muslims at Le Bourget, outside Paris. The ban on religious symbols in schools will come into force at the start of the new academic year this autumn. It is meant to underpin France's strict separation of religion and state. Mr Breze, president of the Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF), said France risked moving from integrating minorities to excluding them. He called for a mediatory mechanism to be established to allow the law to be implemented as smoothly as possible and to promote compromise. It was, he said, "all about peoples' consciences" and "girls' futures". Speaking to journalists, Mr Breze also reportedly suggested girls learn how to use bandannas as "discreet headwear". Some of those attending the gathering began collections to pay for private tuition for girls who refuse to take off the scarf, AP news agency reports. Speaker after speaker denounced the ban, the agency noted.

    'Happy in France'
    Proponents of the ban on religious insignia in the classroom argue it equally applies to Jewish skullcaps and Christian crucifixes but Muslim groups around the world have attacked the ban - many denouncing it as an assault on the human rights of France's five million Muslims. However, UOIF spokesman Boubaker El Hadj Amor suggested the new law was "minor in a Muslim person's life". "In spite of everything, and despite setbacks in the process of integration, Muslims are happy in France," he said. Mr Breze said for his part that the situation of Muslims in the country had been "steadily improving over the past 20 years".
    ©BBC News

    9/4/2004- The most terrible things can happen in the most normal of towns. Walking in Ilford, Essex, (about an hour's drive from London) a 17-year old Muslim girl, wearing the traditional headscarf, made her way to school on a Monday morning in March. Just before she went to class at Ursuline College, this young girl, who remains anonymous, was abducted by a middle-aged man. He bundled her into a white van and drove off to a local park where the fundamentalist Christian tried to "save her soul" by demanding at knifepoint that she convert to Christianity. As she refused, petrified and crying, he cut little crosses into the back of her hands and sides of her arm, small scars that have started to heal but will remind her forever of this terrifying ordeal. That concluded after an hour with the man dropping off the frightened girl - a woman repressed by Islam, he told her - back at her sixth form college.

    'It would be like the Ku Klux Klan dominating media coverage in the United States'
    The Muslim community in the United Kingdom has been increasingly in the spotlight since 9/11, and following the Madrid bombings last month and arrests that took place last week of nine young British-born Muslims, five subsequently charged, the glare is red-hot. While it is a misnomer to talk about "the Muslim community" as it is hugely diverse, many feel under pressure, demoralised and disheartened because of what is perceived as the constant denigration of their religion. "What exasperates the community," explains Inayat Bunglawala, spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella group set up at the behest of the government after September 11, "is how a radical element within the community has been able to so monopolise media coverage of their affairs. It would be like the Ku Klux Klan dominating media coverage in the United States. You get a very distorted impression." While the vast majority of young Muslims are law-abiding citizens, there is a pervading sense that the way the community is portrayed is as if radical Muslims inhabit every mosque. "That," says Shareefa Fulat, director of Muslim Youth Helpline, "can add to the sense of isolation." The 2001 census recorded that there were 1,6 million Muslims in the UK, (the number now is probably closer to 1,8 million) and it is the second-largest religion after Christianity.

    'You get a very distorted impression'
    There are more Muslims, mostly Sunni, here than Sikhs, Hindus, Jews and Buddhists combined, and more than 50 percent of Muslims are British-born. For many there has never been tension between being British and being Muslim, but many Muslims feel there is a lingering sense that they are the enemy within. "The Islamic faith lays great stress on leading good clean lives," continues Bunglawala. In the wake of Madrid the Muslim Council issued a letter to the UK's thousand mosques urging Muslims with any information about terrorist threats to contact the police because it is an Islamic duty to help save innocent lives. While the Muslim community struggles to find a collective voice, it's not always clear where the leadership lies. There is an acknowledgement that mosques can act as recruiting grounds for potential Islamic terrorists, which was one reason that the Muslim Council issued their letter. Baroness Uddin, a Labour peer born in Bangladesh, has criticised the fact that there are no credible leaders and as a result feels that the situation will only deteriorate further. Still, many young Muslims feel excluded on several levels. "You don't have to face direct racism to feel discriminated against," says Fulat, "it can just be the lack of alternatives." In a culture in which pub life predominates, this social setting can be uncomfortable. Some young Muslims feel that they will never fit in, and just accept that as a way of life. Unemployment rates among ©Independent Online

    A teachers' union is considering how to defend itself from infiltration by members of "racist and fascist" organisations.

    13/4/2004- Delegates at the NASUWT teachers' conference voted to explore a rule change to allow it to exclude members of organisations such as the British National Party. And it is to campaign for a law change to defend the rights of trade unions to deny membership to such people. No evidence was presented that the NASUWT had been targeted, but teachers said other unions had been.

    Books defaced
    Some teachers also spoke of racist behaviour among their pupils, echoing concerns raised at the NUT teachers' conference over Easter about children being recruited outside school gates. Katie Rowley, a religious education teacher from Wakefield, said books had been defaced and some children openly referred in classes to a neighbouring city as "Pakiville". But much of the debate at the NASUWT annual conference, in Llandudno, focused on whether the target of their energies should be people's actual membership of far-right organisations, as the motion proposed - or their behaviour. Arguing that the key thing was behaviour, John Hemingway from Birmingham said he found racism repugnant. But how would someone's membership of an organisation be determined - would there be a "witch hunt"? The BNP was a legitimate political party. "If people want to belong to a legitimate organisation that is their right," he said. "Belonging to an organisation is a democratic right: their racist behaviour is not." He was supported by primary school head teacher Ava Packer, who came to England from Jamaica at the age of five. "As a black person, it goes without saying that I feel personally repulsed by racist and fascist organisations but black people don't need more legislation, there's already plenty that serves no purpose whatsoever," she said. "It's the manifestation of racist behaviour, however subtle, that needs to be focused on and challenged."

    Southampton teacher Peter Tippetts argued that to act against someone for belonging to an organisation was inherently wrong. It was "taking their own values of saying 'the company that you keep is enough to judge you by'," he said. This was "absolutely crazy". But Oldham history and geography teacher Frank Hunt said he had experience of classes being selected for disruption - with threats that young BNP members would target citizenship classes. "It is organised in the pupils and organised in the parents, and we have got to fight that organisation," he said. And Terry Bladen from the union's national executive said it was not some sort of philosophical debate that was needed. He said teachers were called at home after speaking against far-right organisations. He said they were told: "That brick through the window last night: guess where it came from? "We know which school your children go to. We know which route your children take to school."

    Need for change
    Another executive member, Dave Battye, said that as things were, he could stand as a BNP candidate in an election and "you could do damn all about it". The union was currently "shackled" by its rules. The motion would allow it to fight back against "a corrupt scheme of infiltrating trade unions". In the event, the conference decided overwhelmingly that membership of "racist and fascist organisations" was the key. After the vote, the union's deputy general secretary, Chris Keates, said it would now explore changing its rules to prevent members of the BNP from being members. Asked how they would be identified, she said people might become aware of their activities and report them. "But I'm not going to pretend it's an easy thing to do. The TUC is wrestling with this as well," she said. People were joining trade unions then, if they were expelled for racist activiti ©BBC News

    14/4/2004- The British government's record on human rights came under fierce attack from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission at a major international conference today. UK Chief Commissioner Professor Brice Dickson said it was regrettable that, while in some respects there had been positive progress in establishing systems to protect human rights in Northern Ireland, there had been "alarming failures" by government to introduce measures to address "critical problems". Professor Dickson used the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva to accuse the government of failing to support the Commission itself. He said the government had "badly failed to support" the Commission over the past 12 months. More than three years after it submitted a report - required by law - making a case for increased powers for the Commission, the Government had still not definitively responded. "Thus, contrary to what is required by the UN's Paris Principles, my Commission still has no power to compel anyone to provide it with information," he said. The government had also failed to appoint new members to the Commission to replace those who, for a variety of reasons, had left over the past 18 months. "The refusal to fill the vacancies has reduced the expertise, resources and authority of the Commission, rendering it less effective than it otherwise might be," said the professor. He accused the government of failing to defend the independence and expertise of the Commission "when we have been under unfair attack from politically motivated quarters, including from the Government of Ireland".

    The Commission was an important part of the peace process, said Professor Dickson. He hoped the UK government would soon give it the "respect, powers and resources it deserves". The most serious and systematic violations of human rights in Northern Ireland continued to be by paramilitary organisations, he reported. During 2003 it was estimated there were 11 murders by paramilitary groups, 156 non-fatal shootings and 149 serious assaults, he said. "Astonishingly the police and the prosecution services do not seem to record how many people are charged with such shootings and assaults," he added. The Commission remained disappointed that the British government had not yet put in place a system for preventing and investigating deaths which was fully compliant with international standards. "There are still over 2,000 unsolved murders dating from before the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Many of these have, in our view, not been effectively investigated," said Professor Dickson. Inquest system reform was long overdue, he said and the British government had not adequately responded to the right of many families to know the truth about how their loved ones died. He said the Commission wanted to see the involvement of international experts in the public inquiries due to be held into allegations of state and security force collusion in loyalist murders following the recent publication of the Cory Reports. The professor reported that there had been no deaths in police custody in Northern Ireland in the recent past, but he raised concerns about six deaths in prisons within the past two years. It appeared they may all have been suicides, but the Commission was trying to determine whether the Prison Service was doing enough to prevent such deaths by providing good quality psychiatric care and examining whether the service had an adequate system for investigating such deaths.

    In a further swipe at the UK government the professor said the Commission was "deeply disturbed" by the fact that when immigrants, including asylum applicants, were detained in Northern Ireland, they were held in a maximum security prison alongside convicted terrorists. "The UK government has failed to give assurances that it will end this practice," he said. He added: "Nor h ©Ireland On-Line

    16/4/2004- Residents of a Sealand housing estate have expressed disgust after properties were sprayed with BNP slogans. Vandals have also sprayed Chester City FC slogans alongside swastikas and the logo of the British National Party. 'It's disgraceful,' said one resident, who did not wish to be named. 'My kids get up every morning and see those messages. One night it just seemed to go mental and some people decided it would be a good idea to vandalise our property in this vile way. 'We have friends who are Chester fans and I don't want my children believing fans of the club are racists. ' The graffiti has been appearing over the last month and this week the football club has condemned the actions of the vandals. 'We have a good reputation as a family club,' said general manager Dave Burford. 'We have no problems with racism at the club and if ever something starts inside the ground the people involved are ejected immediately. 'Chester City is committed to keeping racism out of football, unfortunately we cannot control the actions of people outside the ground. Other than the slogans they have sprayed there is no confirmed link with the club so we cannot comment further.' Residents have been trying to get Graffiti Busters, the group of young offenders equipped with special machinery to clean paint from walls, for four weeks but without success. 'There seems to be a waiting list of some kind,' said the resident. 'It's taking forever and we still do not know if they are coming.' Cllr John Griffiths has been trying to get Graffiti Busters out for residents too. 'It's terrible for them,' he said. 'The slogans on the walls are despicable. I am hoping Graffiti Busters will be able to come out by the weekend because it's a serious problem, especially as there are a lot of children down there who we don't want reading the kinds of words that are on the walls.'
    ©IC Network

    13/4/2004- Slovakia's cabinet appointee for Roma issues lashed out at the Slovak government for neglecting its strategy to integrate local Roma communities, as its measures have served to segregate rather than integrate one of Europe's poorest minorities, the news wire TASR wrote. Speaking at a meeting on the 2005 - 2015 Decade for Roma Integration initiative in Budapest, Klára Orgovánová said that the recent Roma riots against social reforms should have sparked a discussion of the minority's problems, but that never happened. "I had expected the developments to cause us to more deeply discuss our actions, the developments, and the lesson for the future. Unfortunately, such a discussion has not transpired either at the political or societal level," she said. Last April the Slovak government adopted a strategy to integrate Roma communities into the rest of Slovak society. But the reforms and measures of ministers seem to ignore the strategy, and implemented measures have frequently contributed to the further segregation of Roma communities.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    PIM FORTUYN'S LEGACY(Netherlands)
    By Jeroen Bosch

    April 2004- After three years of populist "revolt" by the movement to which the late Pim Fortuyn gave his name, it is time to draw up the balance sheet, examine what is left of Fortuyn's ideas and see whether his List Pim Fortuyn (LPF) and some similar purely local parties managed to realise Fortuyn's plans for the salvation of the Netherlands. In editions of Searchlight going back to 2002, one can trace the chronology of events: from Fortuyn's rise on the wave of Islamophobia and law and order rhetoric in the Netherlands in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks in the US, to the murder on Pim Fortuyn on 6 May 2002 and the subsequent catapulting of 26 of his disciples - representing 1.6 million votes - into the Dutch parliament in the May 2002 elections.

    In 1998, after four years of economic prosperity and four years of the"purple" coalition of Social Democrats (PvdA), rightist liberals (VVD) and Democrats (D'66), some signs of what was to come were already visible on the political landscape. While the differences between the Social Democrats and rightist liberals had virtually vanished, the Christian Democrat opposition was in internal crisis and the left parties, GroenLinks and Socialist Party, were too small to act, some populist smart guys decided to organise under the name "Liveable" in Hilversum and Utrecht. From being political zeroes, these first two "Liveable" outfits became the biggest party in Hilversum and in the Netherlands fourth biggest city, Utrecht. Their brand of politics was unprecedented: anti-establishment, anti-political culture, their programme was a bizarre mish-mash of pro-referenda "power to the people" politics, environmental issues and "small is beautiful"-type opposition to big public projects. Their membership was largely composed of inexperienced people or dropouts from other parties. In the slipstream of Fortuyn's entry into politics in 2001 and his adhesion to Leefbaar Nederland (Liveable Netherlands), his supporters - and other people seeking political success - started founding local parties with the magic name "Liveable" throughout the country.

    The mushrooming of these parties in 2002 had a dramatic effect, not least their election to councils in the most obscure places in the Netherlands. Some of those, too, are still there but, overall, their influence is negligible. But what of Fortuyn's ideas? In February this year, the LPF founded a scientific Institute to try to make an overall program out of Fortuyn's thinking. That this has still not been done is probably the best indication that his ideas were an incoherent and contradictory collection of slogans, books, one-liners and interviews. Fortuyn did not have an ideology, opting to cannibalise ideas from all varieties of political belief, including the radical left's ideas of grass roots democracy, social democracy's views on the right to social care, some Christian democrats values, lower taxes from the liberals and a hatred of the welfare state, feminists and foreigners from the conservatives and ultra right.

    His fans were mostly attracted by his television-appearances, in what experts call the "mediacracy". In fact, the media tried to break Fortuyn by confronting him with his simple solutions for complex problems but, at the same time, it needed him as a livewire to be pitted against the other, colourless, political leaders. Fortuyn appearing in your show meant a huge boost in viewing figures and the name of the programme splashed all over the newspapers the next day, when Fortuyn again delivered a controversial one-liner. After his murder, his supporters curiously blamed the media for "demonisation" of their idol and forced them to justify their editorial decisions. In response some media established an ombudsman or a weekly editorial to explain their choices what news to bring and all media put more energy to bring the 'voice of the man in th and Islam-bashers, Camiel Eurlings and Wim Camp from the Christian Democrats. Besides the harsh anti-refugee laws invented by the "purple coalition" some years ago, and now being implemented by the CDA-VVD-D'66 government, there are also harsh measures being introduced on integration, the penal code, control in public places, education and the distribution of social groups in the Netherlands' big cities. How far this all is Fortuyn's legacy - or just a combination of the threat of terrorist attacks and the overall feelings of insecurity and suspicion of foreigners - is hard to say. Recent polls show that a majority of the Dutch feel that their culture is threatened and that they blame migration. The solution, they think, is to close the borders. Leefbaar Rotterdam (LR), which was led by Fortuyn in the 6 March 2002 elections, still has 13 seats on Rotterdam the city council. Recent polls indicate that it would lose at least 10 seats if elections were held now. LR leader Ronald Sorensen thinks voters are satisfied with what his party accomplishes, but that they only see the pragmatic, zero tolerance, city mayor, Ivo Opstelten, as the force and face behind law and order changes in Rotterdam. This has left LR having to work on a campaign to show that it was the author of all the proposals to make Rotterdam, in their eyes, a safer place.

    Fortuyn showed that there was political vacuum in the Netherlands. That vacuum is still there, space being available for the emergence of politicians without a party, without ideology and with a pragmatic attitude to rule the country unhindered by party discipline or the collectivism of the traditional party system. It is self-appointed Fortuyn adepts like Michiel Smit, from the right wing extremist party, NieuwRechts, who is running as a candidate in the coming Euro-election, that are desperately trying to fill that vacuum. The rise of Fortuyn also gave many racist and fascist groups and Internet initiatives much confidence, giving them a path into the electoral power base. So far, however, they have failed to capitalise on it. What the Fortuyn "revolt" brought above all is an even wider variety of racists and people who hate "the left" than ever existed before in the Netherlands. Sadly, the traditional Dutch political parties are also steeping their snouts in Fortuyn's trough to win the votes he left, widening the gap between rich and poor, between migrants and the Dutch, even more. Migrants feel more and more marginalised and even the most moderate democrats on the Dutch political scene, D'66, now even want them to exclude them from social benefits for their first seven years in the Netherlands. A society based on the survival of the fittest, it comes close to what Pim Fortuyn wanted.

    14/4/2004- The head of the populist Samoobrona party expressed praise for Adolf Hitler's employment policies in remarks published Wednesday by a Polish newspaper. "In the beginning of his activities Hitler had a really good programme," party leader Andrzej Lepper told the daily Zycie Warszawy. Samoobrona (Self Defence) is among the most popular Polish political parties. "If he wouldn't have gone in the direction of fascism and genocide, he would really have gotten Germany on it's feet. He eliminated unemployment, created a broad front of employment," Lepper said. "Then I don't know what happened to him, who influenced him so that he went in the direction of genocide. He was probably the greatest criminal of history," Lepper said. Various personalities cited by Zycie Warszawy expressed shock at Lepper's statements, with some suggesting legal action should be taken against the legislator. "Statements which glorify fascism or other totalitarian systems are crimes prosecuted under the criminal code," Antoni Kurek, a prosecutor with Poland's Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) Nazi and Communist-era crime authority told the newspaper. Under Poland's criminal code, public propagation of fascism or totalitarianism is punishable by up to two years in prison. "There are politicians in parliament who have forgotten how great a criminal Adolf Hitler was and how much harm he did to Poles," said Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, Poland's former foreign minister and a survivor of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp. "From the very beginning of his activity, Hitler conducted purges. He eliminated unemployment by massive arms manufacturing, which lead to war," said renowned Polish sociologist Jadwiga Staniszkis. Lepper's Self Defence party has shot to the top of popularity ratings in Poland, with recent opinion polls showing it taking either first or second place. It's success comes as registered unemployment has soared to record levels near 21 percent and a series of high-level corruption scandals has eroded public confidence in the governing ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). But while Self Defence was able to garner almost 30 percent public backing, another recent survey also showed nearly 50 percent of Poles believed Lepper was incompetent while some 40 percent thought he was a liar.
    ©Expatica News

    8/4/2004- Like many Roma here, Janos Kozak grew up in poverty with parents who never finished elementary school. There was no money for shoes, school supplies, or, when Mr. Kozak proved a top-notch student, to pay exam fees. "I had the knowledge in my head and I wanted to go there and take the exam, but we couldn't pay for it," he recalls. The $20 fee was "a fortune" for his family, and it nearly derailed his ambitions to finish high school, he says. But officials in his hometown of Tisazafured agreed to loan his mother the money, and today Kozak is attending university. Kozak's story is unusual. Most Roma - also known as Gypsies - in this part of the world don't make it beyond primary school and live in dire conditions. But the region's leaders are under increasing pressure to improve the Roma's circumstances, as eight Eastern European nations prepare to join the European Union on May 1. With membership comes a host of tough minority rights laws, as well as lucrative agreements for the free movement of labor that will not be extended to the new members as long as millions of their citizens live in conditions that some liken to sub-Saharan Africa. A 2003 study by the United Nations Development Program found that 1 in 6 Roma in Central and Eastern Europe face "constant starvation," and their unemployment rates are as high as 80 percent in some countries. In extreme cases such as Slovakia, Roma have been pushed into designated ghettos on the edge of their cities, while at school their children are sometimes moved to separate playgrounds. "The largest ethnic minority in Europe is also the most discriminated against," says Dimitrina Petrova, executive director of the European Roma Rights Center in Budapest.

    A difficult history
    Roma are thought to be descended from a mix of peoples who lived on the Indian subcontinent in the 11th century and then migrated to the Balkans, appearing in Central Europe around the 15th century. Enslaved in Romania and prohibited from entering towns in much of the rest of Europe, Roma lived at the margins of society, often not speaking the local languages. They were victims of repeated pogroms, and an estimated 220,000 to 500,000 were killed in the Nazi Holocaust. Roma now account for 10 percent of the population of Slovakia, 3 to 5 percent of Hungary's, and 3 percent in the Czech Republic. Accession has spurred these three countries in particular to address the Roma's problems.
    "A lot of concrete things have been done to improve the situation of Roma in this country, and most of them are due to pressure from the EU," notes Czech political analyst Jiri Pehe, who was an adviser to former President Vaclav Havel. Under EU pressure, Czech authorities have pledged to implement affirmative action plans in housing, education, and employment. Slovakia has hired social workers to visit Roma slums, and plans to open two college-preparatory high schools for Roma children. Hungary is in the process of desegregating its public school system - where most Roma children are placed in separate remedial classes - with the help of a $36 million EU grant. Mr. Pehe says he has no doubt that these policy measures will be carried out, but he says they only begin to address the underlying problem. "This is a problem that is not only legal and constitutional, but also cultural, so it will take many years before the situation is truly satisfactory," he says. Ian Hancock, a Roma who served as his people's special ambassador to the United Nations throughout the 1990s, says education is key, as real progress will take place only when the region's Roma have a cadre of educated representatives. "The only way we are going to stop being reliant on outsiders is to have our own teachers, attorneys, scientists, engineers, and physicians," he says. But there is a long way to go. In Hungary, less than a third of Roma children enroll in secondary education, compared to 90 percent of eliminating the Roma's problems," says Agnes Daroczi of the Hungarian Institute for Culture. "It's in the Western countries' interest to do this because otherwise they may receive a mass of people with terrible problems."
    ©The Christian Science Monitor

    16/4/2004- U.N. Commission of Human Rights adopted the resolution condemning appeasement of Nazi and extremist rallies and meetings, on Friday. The project of this resolution was brought in by Russia. 36 of the 53 countries at the session in Geneva voted for this resolution. 13 voted against it. 4 countries abstained. The resolution condemns the contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerance. In particular, it contains "deep concern" in connection with "favoring of" former members of SS. Deputy minister of foreign affairs Yuri Fedotov quoted by Interfax news agency said that the states of European Union, Japan and USA voted against the resolution. He said that he did not understand it. He also mentioned that "in several countries, the communities of former SS members activate virtually in a legal form. This is nothing but a revision of the result of Nurnberg decisions."

    Voted against:
    Australia, Austria,Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States.

    3/4/2004- As a new campaign to kick racist abuse out of amateur football is launched, BBC News Online's Liam Allen talks to a coach with first-hand experience of the problem. Joss Johnson has been involved in football for more than 20 years and says he has experienced racism on a regular basis throughout that time. He now coaches at Leicester's Highfield Rangers Football Club, which he says has a "rich mix of ethnically diverse" players. He told BBC News Online: "My experience of racism stems from my involvement as a player, as well as a coach - I've seen it on the field and off the field. I've experienced it myself in terms of verbal and physical abuse." Mr Johnson, 42, says that his players experience racism week-in, week-out. He says this is largely verbal, although he is convinced that some challenges on the field of play constitute "racially-motivated malicious intent". "The problem is, though, that malicious intent is hard to prove", he said. He is proud of the way his players react to racist taunts but says that they can only take so much. "We try to teach them discipline and how to deal with it but sometimes it's hard."

    'New forms'
    Mr Johnson said he would be "here all day" if he had to recount every instance of racism in football he had experienced but some stick in his head more than others. "Recently a seven-year-old boy came off the pitch and said to his coach 'why are they calling me a paki?'", he said. He says European asylum seekers who play for Highfield receive the same amount of abuse as black and Asian players. "Racism takes many forms, we're talking about on-field abuse for asylum seekers - that's the new form of racism. "I have a friend in a pro club who, because of his race and his facial growth, he is constantly being called Osama."

    Punched and attacked
    One of the worst instance of racism he has seen culminated in a protracted series of disciplinary hearings. In November, 2002, an incident in a Highfield game led to a 15-year-old black player being punched and attacked by a white player from the opposition team. The game was promptly abandoned and both clubs were fined for causing the game to be abandoned. At an appeal against the decision, on the grounds that it was the racially-motivated attack that had caused the game to be abandoned, their case was dismissed. Eventually, a further appeal at the Football Association's Soho House resulted in the charges being dropped. Mr Johnson says the case was a perfect example of the drawn-out, expensive and time-consuming disciplinary process which puts black players off making complaints. Unusually, Mr Johnson says, the club's case was eventually proven to be correct because the match referee had made a note of the 15-year-old player's attacker making racist remarks. Unusual, says Mr Johnson, because "there are not many referees who are prepared to stand up and say there was a criminal act committed on the pitch". "The ones that do tend to find themselves isolated", he added.But Mr Johnson, an active campaigner against racism in football, remains hopeful that things can change for the better. He points to the work of organisations like Kick It Out as reasons to be more hopeful about the future and says that educating children from a young age about the values of good sportsmanship can remove ignorance. But in the short term, says Mr Johnson, the problem continues. "I can absolutely guarantee you that this weekend in the Leicestershire leagues, and in individual leagues all over the country, there will be some form of racial abuse."
    ©BBC News

    A school yesterday banned children from wearing England soccer shirts in case they incited racial tension.

    3/4/2004- Parents of pupils at Grange School in Stourbridge, West Midlands, were told their children could not wear anything with the England motif during a non-uniform day to mark the last day of term. The decision followed attacks on the school by vandals spraying graffiti offensive to white people and the school did not want to heighten tensions. Cyrille Regis, who played for West Bromwich Albion, said: "There's nothing wrong in wearing the colours of your team. It's all about respect and tolerance." He added: "Everyone should have pride in where they come from and be able to wear their team's shirt." Nick Barron, a spokesman for the FA, said the England shirt was "for everyone, black or white, male or female, young or old, wherever they live. "You don't have to be English to support England or wear an England shirt. "During the last World Cup, there were hundreds of thousands of Japanese wearing England shirts. They were so popular you couldn't buy them for love or money." Leon Mann, a spokesman for the Kick It Out campaign, which aims to eliminate racism in football, said: "Essentially, the shirt belongs to a multi-cultural England." Dudley council education authority said the ban covered the team shirts of all nationalities, not just England. Angus Adams, education spokesman, said: "I firmly believe the decision will help to decrease tensions rather than inflame them."
    ©BBC News

    4/4/2004- Jean-Marie Le Pen, the right-wing extremist, is set to visit Britain amid concern the country's far-right movement is making political gains from fears over immigration and terrorism. The French leader of the National Front has been invited by the British National Party (BNP) to be guest of honour at a gala dinner where he is expected to make a speech about immigration. The £80-a-ticket fund-raiser, hosted by Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, is scheduled to take place on 25 April in the West Midlands. The venue is being kept secret to prevent anti-racism protesters from disrupting the meeting. The influence of the far right in Britain is of increasing concern to the Government. Yesterday, Labour MP Martin Salter took the unprecedented step of calling on people to vote for opposition parties - even the Tories - to prevent the BNP from winning seats. "If you want to stop your country degenerating into chaos, if you don't want to see racist graffiti, if you don't want to see racial tension and violence, you should vote for whoever is best placed to beat the BNP," said Mr Salter, deputy leader of Labour's parliamentary campaign team and Reading West MP. An exit poll study carried out by the Labour parliamentary campaign team and the anti-fascist organisation Searchlight revealed there is a significant anti-BNP vote in Britain, with up to 20 per cent of the electorate deliberately choosing the party most likely to keep out the BNP. Mr Salter said that inviting Mr Le Pen "blows the gaff" on attempts by the BNP to disguise its "racist credentials". This is the first time in more than a decade that the French politician, who is in his 70s, has addressed a far-right meeting in Britain. Mr Le Pen speaks no English and would have to address the BNP meeting in French. Last week, Mr Le Pen's party headquarters at Saint-Cloud, near Paris, confirmed that he had received an invitation to speak in Britain but said that he had not yet decided whether to accept. However, a BNP spokesman said: "As far as we are concerned he has already agreed to come." Mr Le Pen's expected visit coincides with an increase in race crimes against immigrants, especially Muslims. Figures published this week by the Crown Prosecution Service are expected to show that religiously motivated attacks against Muslims outstrip those against any other religious faiths in Britain.
    © Independent Digital

    Labour talks tough, yet Britain benefits from high numbers of foreign workers

    6/4/2004- It is a sign of how vulnerable the government feels over immigration that Tony Blair will today take personal charge of the issue at a Downing Street summit. After years in which it managed to keep immigration off the agenda, the government is now caught in a cleft stick. Labour's tough rhetoric, particularly on asylum, has been matched by the largest inflows of new workers into Britain for several decades. What Mr Blair now fears is that this carefully constructed compromise will come unstuck, with talk of the country losing its identity as it is "swamped" with immigrants. The fact that a YouGov poll at the weekend suggested that one in six voters would be prepared to support the British National party indicates that government fears about immigration being a potential vote loser at the next election are well founded. The allegedly porous nature of Britain's borders has suddenly become the political issue of the moment, costing the government one of its high-flying junior ministers, Beverley Hughes, last week. Yet the government has largely bought the Treasury argument that more immigration is a good thing for the economy, plugging the gaps caused by skill shortages and offsetting some of the burden of an ageing population. The reason Labour has sought to have its cake and eat it is fairly simple to understand. While the liberal middle classes benefit directly from inflows of unskilled workers from abroad in the shape of cheaper nannies, cleaners and workmen around the house, allowing them to outsource the more inconvenient parts of their everyday lives, the government's core working class support tends to see migrant workers as competition for a limited pool of unskilled jobs. As with trade, the benefits of more openness are not evenly distributed.

    But there may be other factors at play. Researchers at University College London found a high correlation between people holding racist views in the British Social Attitudes survey and those who are hostile to immigration. Opposition to further immigration from the "old white" Commonwealth is much lower than to immigration from ethnic minorities. The latest figures show that net migration is having an effect on the demographic make-up of Britain. In 2002, net migration resulted in the population increasing by 153,400 - though some estimates suggest that illegal immigration means the total is actually higher. Counting arrivals and departures of non-Britons, a net 244,500 foreigners entered the country. Similarly, a net 91,100 of Britons left to live overseas. In terms of economics, the government has no problem with this, and indeed believes the reason Britain is the destination of choice for low-skilled workers from eastern Europe is down to more plentiful job opportunities. Net migration tends to be linked to the state of the economy: it was low in the early 80s and early 90s when unemployment was high. The fact that the YouGov poll showed that more than 50% of voters believe immigration should be banned or limited to 10,000 a year is a real headache. A relaxation of controls on Romanian electricians may meet with the approval of the Treasury, but it may not be politically expedient to do so, given the furore stirred up by the Beverley Hughes affair. The rationale for more immigration was spelled out in Gordon Brown's pre-Budget report in 2002, which announced not just an expansion of the highly skilled migrant programme, designed to attract the brightest and best foreign workers into Britain in order to make good skills shortages, but an approval of all forms of immigration. "The government recognises that those with very high skills are not the only people who contribute to the economy. Migrants with lower or intermediate skills may also complement the skills of the domestic population and help raise likely to have a negative effect on wages and labour standards. The economic evidence cited by the government argues that immigrants make very little difference to the labour market outcome of native-born workers. In a paper prepared for the Home Office, researchers at University College London compared the unemployment rates of regions and found that there was very little difference in the jobless rate in places with high levels of immigration.

    Selling job
    "The perception that immigrants take away jobs from the existing population, thus contributing to large increases in unemployment, or that immigrants depress wages of existing workers, do not find confirmation in the analysis of data laid out in this report." Not all labour market economists agree with this assessment. In the United States, where immigration has a longer history and more analysis has been done, there is evidence from the biennial State of Working America that "immigrants compete disproportionately with the least skilled US workers, and therefore have generated pressure to lower wages for those without a high school degree since the end of the 1970s". For the government, the solution lies in its analysis of what the problem actually is. If immigrants really are competing with low-skilled native workers, then short of sealing off Britain's borders completely, the best solution is boosting the pay packets and skills of those most threatened. If the real threat to low-skilled workers comes from a different source - technological change or the decline of union protection - then ministers have a big selling job on their hands to stop immigration becoming a convenient scapegoat for all that is wrong with the bottom end of the labour market. If, however, the problem is straightforward racism among its core vote, the government could be in the sort of severe political trouble that warrants the hands-on involvement of the prime minister.
    ©The Guardian

    WHY TREVOR IS RIGHT(comment, uk)
    Multiculturalism no longer provides a satisfactory answer to the complex nature of today's race relation issues
    By Polly Toynbee

    7/4/2004- Reason is irrelevant: the water metaphors always win. Images of human tidal waves flooding the land with asylum seekers also swamp the facts. It hardly matters that 153,000 net immigration and asylum seekers do not "flood" 58 million people in this 92% white land. It's no use pointing out that the NHS wouldn't last the night without continuous immigration. For this was never about objective facts in a time when all statistics are now dangerously disbelieved. This is about how people feel - both the migrants and the increasingly unwilling "hosts" (80% of whom are not in a hospitable mood). So No 10's summit yesterday was a necessary act of crisis-management. It will help for the National Audit Office to verify all immigration figures and for mini taskforces to check visa-issuing embassies. Of course registrars should query fishy weddings. But MigrationWatch, the Tories and their press will pour their poison over any figures. The hard political task is to calm the way people feel. Borders are not "out of control", though with 90 million visitors, there will always be some illegals. Asylum decisions need to be made faster, with the refused removed rapidly: lowly young executive officers on £16,000 a year confronting confused applicants clueless on presenting their case slows down the system with bad initial decisions. Those things are improving, yet even so, people still have not unreasonable fears. Terrorism warnings lead to fear of foreigners. The fewest houses built since 1920 and a doubling in house prices makes competition for housing with newcomers feel real. Pay in the south east and elsewhere is kept unnaturally low by immigration: the minimum wage should rise. A tough work inspectorate is needed, as demanded by the TUC, to ensure immigrant workers don't take worse pay and conditions. And how is it that unemployed, neglected Bangladeshi and Pakistani boys are left in danger of turning fundamentalist while there is still a demand for imported, unskilled labour? All these are reasonable concerns to be met.

    Trevor Phillips, chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, has taken a brave stand in this anxious atmosphere. Calling for greater integration of separatist Muslim communities, he proclaims that "multi-culturalism" has had its day. That breaks a taboo on the left, but acknowledges the growing disquiet out there where race is often less important than culture. When a generation of Lenny Henrys and Meera Syals made it possible to invite others to laugh with them about their own communities, those communities entered into the canon of Britishness. White kids talking Brixton hip-hop may not signify much so soon after Stephen Lawrence's murder, but the most dangerous divide now is in culture - and that means Muslim: ask the BNP. British Muslims arrested last week as terror suspects had families as British as Meera Syal's - yet culturally they inhabit another universe. By acknowledging this, Phillips breaks with unctuous, unthinking platitudes about the richness of all diversity in a multicultural society, as if any difference was a self-evident asset. On the day a 17-year-old Muslim is charged with conspiracy to cause explosions, it doesn't feel so. Phillips says it was an error to let alien communities stay in their silos. He wants more teaching of British cultural values, even of Dickens and Shakespeare, and not just to black Britons but to white children, whose heritage is lost in a kind of cultural paralysis. Restore history to something more than a cursory trip around glib moral lessons to be learned from Hitler. Embrace modern British values that include laws on equality for women. Muslim teaching on women staying one step behind will not do: respect for religion cannot take precedence over respect for British law. union flag that we mocked in the 1960s, worn as Carnaby Street bell-bottoms, does symbolise laws and values. So the sight of Muslim fanatics burning it outside the Regent's Park mosque is just as outrageous as the sight of BNP football hooligans waving it as they charge at Turkish football fans. It is our collective symbol. We blush to see it carried into wars we do not wish to join or plastered on the face of drunken, racist oiks. Most on the left are internationalists, inclined to regard community as a matter of choosing like-minded company: we feel closer to a US democrat or German SPD than to some British europhobe Tory. The left is lofty about the racism and insularity of those who fear migrants. But the context has changed. Sometime soon, one or more Madrid-type horrors is expected in Britain with hundreds dead and thousands injured. Maybe a dirty nuclear bomb in a suitcase will blow up all over London or Manchester. Parliament is already a fortress. Atrocity will be done in the name of a rogue crazed creed, destroying the infidel for reward with heavenly virgins. Insatiable and unrealisable, there is no negotiation, no peace process, only long endurance in the face of lunacy. We will talk of causes: the Iraq war, the disgraceful failure of Bush-Blair to press peace on Israel-Palestine. We will admit blame for discrimination, school failure and unemployment among Bangladeshi and Pakistani young men. But we are looking into the face of an insane and unassuagable cult. No kind of multiculturalism "understands" this. Which is why Trevor Phillips is right to see the danger to race relations ahead and take a crystal-clear policy direction now alongside the Muslim Council of Britain, with its wise letter asking mosques to report on terror suspects. It is hardly surprising that the whole toxic bundle of questions on immigration - legal and illegal - has brewed together under this fearful threat from a cult of west haters. There will be no surprise, either, if the Tories use any minor immigration scam to stir ill-founded fear of chaos on the borders, especially as May 1 EU expansion day approaches.
    ©The Guardian

    7/4/2004-'Once I was on a bus in the middle of the day when someone threatened to slit my throat. She was about my age. I was sitting quite near the back of the bus and I knew I couldn't reach the driver. My legs turned to jelly . . ." That was Helen's most terrifying experience of hate crime in the Capital. The fact she was subjected to a death threat in broad daylight in the city is shocking enough. But what is even more appalling, is the only reason she was targeted was because she is disabled. The 36-year-old mature student, who does not want to be identified further for fear of repercussions, suffers from a rare condition similar to cerebral palsy which causes her to shake and make involuntary movements, affecting her mobility and speech. Luckily, she says, seconds after she was threatened, a friend got on the bus and sat next to her, prompting her would-be assailant to fall silent and leave the bus without carrying out the threat. But it was not an isolated incident. And this woman is not an isolated victim. Almost 50 per cent of disabled people in Scotland questioned in a survey published earlier this week said they had experienced verbal abuse, threatening behaviour and/or physical attacks because of their disability. Of those victims, one in three said they were attacked at least once a month. One in three also said they changed their daily routine to avoid abuse and one in four claimed they had been forced to move home to escape hate crime. Like other victims of discrimination, disabled people are singled out because they are different. But while racism and sectarianism are increasingly recognised and targeted by government initiatives, campaigners say prejudice against disabled people is not. The research, by the Disability Rights Commission and Capability Scotland, has sparked renewed calls for a change in the law to bring in tough punishments for people who commit crimes motivated by prejudice against the disabled.

    Helen says: "Thirty years ago it used to be acceptable to call a Pakistani person a Paki. Now it is not. But I don't want to have to wait another 30 years to feel safe. We need to change the law now. "It was last year when the woman threatened to slit my throat on the bus. It was horrendous. She accused me of looking at her friend 'funny'. I don't know if she actually had a knife or not but I was really scared. Thankfully a friend got on the bus and sat next to me. "The woman got off the bus before me and I tried to make eye contact. I felt: 'Why did you pick on me? To pick on the most vulnerable people in society you must have problems'. She knew she was wrong, though. She put her head down and looked the other way. When I got off the bus I burst into tears." The abuse she has suffered has always been carried out by strangers and at one point she experienced threats of violence or verbal attacks every month, often at bus stops at night. So far, she has escaped physical injury, but the emotional pain can be intense. "One time I was in the supermarket and a woman turned to her friend and said, in front of her two young children: 'Look! It's the lady off Thunderbirds!' I was just trying to do my shopping like everyone else and my heart just went. I thought: 'I'm not normal'. It brought home to me how different I was. "The mother's friend did say: 'That wasn't very nice' but what chance do her children have if that's what their mother is like? I just had to get out."

    Born able-bodied, Helen was suddenly struck by a rare condition at the age of 13 which rendered her disabled. Ironically, her first experience of prejudice took place in a college for disabled people. "I was called a spastic by another student. I was quite shocked by that, that it happened in a segregated college. But that type of thing happened all the time. It was almost accepted. I think in a funny kind of way they were trying to toughen us up for the rea it happens. But their hands are tied because they need witnesses and people are not going to come forward." However, she still wants tougher legislation brought in because its very existence would make her feel more protected. "It would be good to know I had that protection. And I think I would use it if I was physically attacked."

    The DRC has consistently called for changes in the law to recognise hate crime against disabled people, with tough penalties for convicted offenders. DRC Scottish director Bob Benson says: "This report provides concrete proof that many disabled people live in constant fear of attack and harassment. It is completely unacceptable that in the 21st century people find themselves victims of physical and verbal abuse and other types of crime, simply because they are perceived to be different. "Public opinion in Scotland is strongly in favour of criminalising such behaviour - an overwhelming 88 per cent of respondents in a recent DRC survey felt harassment of disabled people should be made an offence." The official definition of hate crime is criminal behaviour motivated by malice or ill will towards a social group. The Scottish Executive set up an arms-length Hate Crime Working Group last summer to consider the calls to create harsher punishments and a specific offence for crimes aggravated by prejudice against social groups purely because of their age, disability, gender or sexual orientation. The group is engaged in a public consultation exercise which is due to finish at the end of this month, after which it will report findings back to ministers. An Executive spokesman says: "Quite clearly there is no place in Scotland for crime motivated by prejudice or discrimination. The Hate Crime Working Group was set up to look at these issues and this research [from the Disability Rights Commission and Capability Scotland] will contribute to the consultation exercise which the working group is carrying out." Meanwhile, people with disabilities are left to cope with the horrendous abuse which they suffer throughout Scotland. Studying sociology has helped Helen gain an insight into the problem, which she copes with through a combination of counselling, humour and optimism. "I am generally a very positive person - you have got to be. You have to laugh sometimes as it is so ridiculous. I'm not obsessed about it. Being threatened or called names is not uppermost in my mind every time I go out. You can't think like that or you would end up in the Royal Edinburgh [psychiatric hospital] - or Saughton Prison. "I don't laugh at the time, though, and I have counselling and a life coach. I didn't have either just for this [hate crime], but every little helps."
    ©The Scotsman

    By Brian Walker

    8/4/2004- Half a tonne of ammonium nitrate fertiliser found in storage premises near where I live. Police swoops, sealed streets and a wave of arrests. Was this Belfast relived or what? Should we panic? Thankfully not, not yet anyway, with only one 17-year-old charged so far out of a total 24 arrests. Panic over? You've got to be kidding. Immigration minister Beverley Hughes has resigned over a visa scam in Romania! Are we about to be swamped by Polish plumbers, Czech call-girls and one-legged Romanian roofers? Has the war between the civilisations begun? A visit to my local deli, the Polski Slep, for herrings in sour cream and sausage restores calm. Outside is a group of young mothers, all English born, chatting interchangeably in Polish and estuarine, the local London dialect that passes for English. Their Polish identity wouldn't have registered at all in non-Polish company. Poland is one of eight eastern countries joining us in the EU in three weeks time. Romania follows on in 2007. In a real sense Poland has been part of Ealing for 60 years. Asylum-seeking Polish pilots fleeing Hitler's invasion touched their fighter planes down in outer London aerodromes and like their neighbours the Czechs, fought like heroes in the Battle of Britain. I've just finished reading "Uprising 44", a gripping account by Norman Davies of Polish wartime resistance, climaxing in the Warsaw uprising of 1944, crushed by the Nazis while the Soviets looked on. I experienced their courage and optimism at first hand during the Solidarity movement's challenge to communism in the 1980s. It would put us to shame. We could do with a bit of Polish vision in Ulster. Two of the best-read people in Eng. Lit. I've ever met were Romanians. They were so disappointed when I admitted that while I'd read the novelist Malcolm Lowry, I hadn't been to his famous creative writing classes. "Why are you so incredibly well read?" I asked. "Because the regime wouldn't let us read anything political and they thought novels were harmless," they replied. "In return we had to spy in all our students and report them to the secret police every day." Then one of them began to sob.

    For Romanians, Poles and the rest, the lesser problems of adjusting to capitalism have taken over. They're welcome in my kind of Europe any day. Of course it's misleading to idealise a people through the best of their history, just as it's wrong to demonise others with the worst of theirs. Poles and Romanians will find it easier to integrate because they're white. How do we cope with blatant racism towards people with darker skins? In a phrase, we can begin by making contact. Contact doesn't work miracles; it won't remove fears of gangs of black rudeboys nor easily stifle those fastidious little shudders at the sight of a single ethnic group in the mass. But contact begins to humanise, it teaches you to accept the racial rough with the racial smooth. Tony Blair has belatedly called for " an honest debate" about race and not before time. He could contribute some facts for a start. First, no more coyness about black crime, please. Second, we still don't really know why Bev Hughes resigned. Was she covering up visa scams or did she really forget she'd been told about them a year ago? And why are there any asylum seekers from Romania at all, apart from gypsies who are a Europe-wide issue? There are broader questions about the economic value of immigrants that will always be in dispute. But there are basic facts that may or may not offer reassurance. London is changing. My own borough of Ealing has an ethnic minority population of 43%, up 26% in a decade. There are two mainly ethnic private schools round the corner. Most girls wear scarves but all of them speak estuarine English just like whites, know wa' ah mean? Overall, according to the 2001 census, 92% of the British po ©The Belfast Telegraph

    8/4/2004- Race-hate crime is on the increase in Gloucestershire with the number of defendants prosecuted jumping by six per cent. A report by the Crown Prosecution Service revealed that 23 reports of race-hate crimes were received by prosecutors in the county from the police in 2002-03, compared to 18 in the previous 12-month period. This rise is smaller than the average national increase, which saw the total number of defendants increase by 12%, rising from 3,728 to 4,192. But education officer on Gloucestershire Race Equality Council James Oaten was positive about the increase in prosecutions. "What we can get from these figures is that more people are now feeling safe in reporting racially aggravated issues as the problem has been publicised better and people realise the perpetrators won't get away with it," he said. A senior police source added: "We will not tolerate racial abuse in any form in our force area and any complaints will be investigated thoroughly and, if appropriate, charges will be brought. "The increase merely reflects the increased awareness in the community of the need to combat racism." In Gloucestershire, all 23 of the people charged with offences by police went on to face magistrates, crown or youth courts, with 21 of those then found guilty. Nationally, of the 4,192 cases received by the CPS from the police, prosecutions were brought against 3,116 defendants - 442 more than in 2001-02.

    A sudden increase in race-hate charges by police in Gloucestershire and nationwide is thought to have taken place because of a pledge by the Crown Prosecution Service and the police in May 2002 to crack down on the crime. In that month, a damning report from an independent inspectorate to the CPS found that prosecutors were wrongly reducing charges in more than one in four racist incidents. Charges of racially aggravated crimes were regularly downgraded to remove the race element, while in other cases prosecutors accepted defendants' guilty pleas to the crime minus the racial aggravation. Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald said: "We are working closely with police to build strong cases and continue to achieve a large number of guilty pleas at court." And he said that new charges of Religiously Aggravated Crimes would also be pursued by police and the CPS with increased vigour in coming months, amid reports of rising anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. "Religiously aggravated crime is still a relatively new piece of legislation, but with the work we are doing to communicate our policies I hope that members of all faith communities will have the confidence to report crimes directed against their beliefs," said Mr Macdonald. "The CPS takes all of these offences particularly seriously because they are motivated by discrimination and hate and represent an assault upon our diverse society." Between the time that the offence of religiously motivated crime was created in December 2001 until April last year, there were 18 cases finalised, but only eight convictions. A Gloucestershire Police spokeswoman said racial incidents were closely monitored by specially assigned officers. Where evidence existed it was passed to the CPS. "Gaining the trust and confidence of all communities is vitally important," said the spokeswoman.
    ©This is Gloucestershire

    8/4/2004- Two separate Garda investigations have been launched in Galway after two prominent anti-racism activists received threatening messages during the past week. In one incident a Nigerian local election candidate was sent racist hate mail, while a local anti-racism campaigner was threatened with rape if she continued to oppose the upcoming referendum on nationality. Orla Ní Chomhraí was shocked when an anonymous caller contacted her before last week's meeting of groups opposing the referendum and threatened to send a group to rape her and another speaker if she appeared at the meeting. The man, who initially spoke to another person in the house, rang back in the early hours of the morning, but she hung up on him when he began using racist language. Ms Ní Chomhraí, who attended the meeting as scheduled, warned this week that the upcoming referendum and the number of myths surrounding non-nationals could fuel an increase in racist incidents in the coming months. "It is feared that the lead-up to the referendum will see an increase in this sort of abusive behaviour, both towards immigrants and people who stand up for their rights," she said. "This just proves the point that the actions and comments of the Government encourage racist views and abuse. I think the lead up to the referendum will see an increase in these sort of comments and possibly even in racist attacks." Ms Ní Chomhraí, a member of the Socialist Workers' Party, is also a prominent member of the newly formed Campaign Against the Racist Referendum, a group comprising members of Residents Against Racism, the Green Party, Sinn Féin, the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, the Belfast Anti-Racist Network, and Cómhlámh. Local election candidate Tokie Laotan received a letter last month telling her to get out of the country, but she has resolved to continue with her election campaign. The Nigerian mother of three, who has lived in Galway for the past two years, is calling on other election candidates to condemn attempts to intimidate non-nationals and their supporters. "I never thought to withdraw my candidacy," she told the Galway Advertiser. "It makes me more determined than ever to go through with it. I want to work on ways to get people to report such incidents. "Racist mail will not deter me from campaigning for a more tolerant, equitable, and just society. I am more determined than ever that our city council should reflect the intercultural make-up of our city."

    The letter, which has been passed on to gardaí for analysis, bears a Dublin postmark and reads: "You foreign bastards and harlots should f*** off back to your own countries. We did not fight for independence to submit to another foreign invasion and a race relations industry that costs a fortune. F*** off!" Local anti-racism groups have broadly condemned the letter, which was sent anonymously to the Catwalk Model Agency where Ms Laotan works. The Galway City Partnership is currently drafting an anti-racism strategy for the city, which will seek to address racist incidents and communications. "We must ensure that we have an anti-racism policy for Galway city to combat all forms of racism," said Charlie Curry, chairperson of the group Action for Equality. "It seems more and more likely that an effective anti-racism strategy would include specific recommendations to deal with effective enforcement and compliance." Elaine Harvey of the Galway People's Resource Centre warned that such incidents could damage Galway's reputation if they are not challenged. "If Galway becomes known as a city that does not tackle racism properly then we could lose out on vital investment to other cities which actively promote and embrace diversity," she said. A spokesperson for Galway Garda Station confirmed that gardaí had received a complaint and an investigation into the source of the letter was under way ©Galway Advertiser

    6/4/2004- Isak Mathis O. Hætta, a member of the Sameting, Norway's Sami parliament, will not be prosecuted for racism after a listener brought charges after hearing the politician call immigrants "darkies" on a radio program. Police dismissed charges against the Kautokeino man on Tuesday, Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reports. Vadsø woman Anne Holder was offended by Hætta's language and charged him with violation racism laws. NRK said that Holder was disappointed with the police decision to drop the case and she planned to appeal the decision to the district attorney. The incident occurred during a debate program on NRK Sami Radio and the police commission of Øst-Finnmark, Ketil Haukaas, has assessed freedom of speech as the most important factor in this instance. Hætta's remarks sparked widespread controversy due to the fact that he is also a member of an ethnic minority. He also said he had no regrets about his choice of words, saying he had every right to call immigrants "darkies".

    2/4/2004- A rare coalition of parties in the Swedish parliament - the Riksdagen - has joined together to try and defeat the government's proposal to restrict access to its labour market for citizens of new EU member states. According to an agreement presented today (2 April), a majority in the parliament opposes the government's proposal. Six parties, which do not usually agree on policy have formed this blocking majority: the Conservatives (Moderaterna), the Christian Democrats (Kristdemokraterna), the Liberals (Folkpartiet), the Centre Party (Centerpartiet), the Greens (Miljöpartiet) and the Left Party (Vänsterpartiet). This leaves the ruling social democrat party as the sole supporter of labour market restrictions. "This is very unusual and very interesting, because it shows that the government has no party to reach a compromise with", Mauricio Rojas MP of the Liberal Party told Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. The government must now either support another party's motion or find itself outvoted in the parliament. The second alternative may be the more likely option, according to Mr Rojas because the government could then later absolve itself from blame if problems occur after enlargement.
    The parliament will vote on the government's bill on 28 April.

    6/4/2004- 90 percent of this country's refugees and immigrants aged 21 to 30 are observant Muslims. One of every three claims to be extremely religious. "Islam is my identity&" 22-year-old Dina El Attar told daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten today. El Attar, an engineering student, was born in Denmark, wears the traditional Muslim scarf, and practices Islam more observantly than her Egyptian-born parents do. Dina El Attar is part of a group of Danish Muslims aged 21 to 30 that a recent survey found represented one of Denmark's most religiously devout demographics. But according to Dina El Attar, the practice of Islam doesn't necessarily mean that these young people are poorly integrated in Denmark. "Isn't integration about becoming part of society?" El Attar asked, adding that 99 percent of the young Muslims she knows are pursuing a post-secondary education and are eager to make a contribution to Danish society. "Islam does not automatically mean that one rejects Danish democracy. On the contrary, Islam commands us to take responsibility for ourselves and do something active, rather than complain about things," said El Attar. Dina El Attar told Jyllands-Posten that she couldn't understand why the rising importance of Islam for many young Muslims had sparked so much controversy in Denmark. "It's because we've been forced, to a greater degree, to confront our religion," said El Attar.

    Dina El Attar was 16 years old before she began to question matters of faith. She began wearing the Muslim scarf at the age of 20. "Like all teenagers, I felt I needed answers. The Danish culture can be hard to handle, because there are no set boundaries or credos. I started reading books about Islam, and I discovered that it's a whole lifestyle. It tells you how to conduct yourself and your life," said El Attar. Fatih Alev, a practicing imam and deputy chairman of the National Muslims' Association, told Jyllands-Posten that he had also registered a rising interest in Islam among young people. "There's no doubt that young people are increasingly getting interested in religion, but it is not a protest against Danish society," said Alev. Alev told the newspaper that young people in Denmark were redefining Islam: practicing a "purer" variant of the religion, expunged of cultural traditions such as forced marriages, which made their brand of Islam much more reconcilable with life in modern Danish society. "It's Islam situated in a Danish context that's winning adherents and causing fewer problems. These young people are well-integrated and successful, and I don't believe there is any reason to worry," said Fatif Alev. But Manu Sareen, an ethnic affairs consultant for Copenhagen Council, has cautioned against the development. "We could face the rise of a huge group of young minorities who define themselves solely on the basis of their religion, and who do not fundamentally feel a part of Danish society. That's an unfortunate development," said Alev. "We should keep our eyes open. I'm already hearing from young people who feel disenfranchised from the job market, for example, and who use this religious devoutness as a form of protest, especially in the lower classes," said Sareen.

    Tim Jensen, a professor in religious studies at the University of Southern Denmark, agreed. Jensen spoke with weekly newsletter Ugebrevet A4 this week. "The reaction of young Muslims is understandable and unavoidable, given the kind of rhetoric spread by the government and the (right-wing) Danish People's Party. These young immigrants may have older siblings who've been unable to get a job or the kind or education they want. And so these younger people are indirectly telling us to 'Shove it!'" said Jensen. Integration Minister Bertel Haarder says that's simply not so. "It's nonsense. All our polls indicate that Muslims feel less discriminated against now than they did several years ago. Religiosity, and ©The Copenhagen Post

    4/4/2004- Since the beginning of April, asylum seekers whose applications have been turned down are no longer entitled to welfare benefits. For former parliamentarian, Angeline Fankhauser, these new measures risk leaving people destitute. The government's decision to cut welfare benefits for failed applicants is part of a controversial programme of public spending cuts totalling SFr3.3 billion ($2.6 billion). The asylum sector is one of the hardest hit, with spending to be slashed by SFr137 million over the next three years. The government believes that by cutting welfare payments it will deter bogus asylum seekers from coming to Switzerland. But some cantons, towns and aid agencies say the measures are too harsh. Fankhauser, a centre-left Social Democrat, who focused on rights for asylum seekers during her time in parliament (1983-1999), is among those voicing their concern.
    swissinfo-interview: Andreas Keiser (translation: Joanne Shields)

    swissinfo: You left parliament over four years ago. How do you think asylum policy has evolved since then?
    Angeline Fankhauser: First of all I have the feeling that asylum policy is disappearing off the political agenda. I have noticed that things are becoming tougher and tougher. Little by little, the aims of those opposed to asylum seekers are becoming reality. The human rights movement has been sidelined. I have the impression that asylum policy has become a purely bureaucratic issue. This generation is more concerned with terrorism and war. Human rights lacks sex appeal.

    swissinfo: Since April 1, failed asylum applicants no longer have access to welfare benefits. The government wants to save money and at the same time encourage these refugees to leave the country. What do you think about this decision?
    A.F.: It's serious. I wouldn't go as far to say we are starving these people, but we are pulling the carpet out from beneath their feet, in the hope that they will disappear. It's a disaster.

    swissinfo: Aid agencies for refugees are worried that asylum seekers who have been turned down will now get caught up in crime. Do you agree?
    A.F.: In many poor countries, people survive rather than live. It is surprising what lengths people go to in order to stay alive. This leads to crime, and also represents the end of a stable society. So, our asylum policy no longer has anything to do with the real needs of human beings.

    swissinfo: The new measures concern asylum seekers whose applications have been turned down. Do you have any doubts over the procedures behind these decisions?
    A.F.: No, I think the procedures are in order. But the regulations for these procedures are not always put into practice. Migration and asylum policies are indicative of the state of our modern society. The most important aim is still to ensure that the situation in a refugee's home country improves. People who are able to lead a normal life in their country don't try to flee.

    swissinfo: A large part of the population supports the toughening of asylum policy. What do you make of this?
    A.F.: The argument is fuelled by so-called "abuses" of asylum. In the beginning we played down the issue, saying "abuse" was not the most important aspect of asylum policy. I still stand by this. But we should have analysed the issue more closely. Many Swiss hadn't expected asylum seekers to make the most of their rights under Switzerland's democratic system.

    swissinfo: What do you say to Swiss people who are scared that asylum seekers bring about an increase in violence at school, drug trafficking, etc.?
    A.F.: Crime is a reality in our society. It is a fact that refugees are partly responsible for criminal acts. But we mustn't generalise. I applaud measures taken to combat crime, but we can't treat asylum seekers differently because of what they are. Of course I don't want delinquent asylum seekers to show up. The problem is we can't just send them back to their countries. We must find out which countries are letting their criminals leave. Generally speaking, we lack the means to improve integration and reunite people with their families. It's not just up to the refugees to adapt. When I was a child, people in big cities were scared of people from towns, or other cantons, particularly poor children. I saw a confrontation between poverty and wealth. I think the main thing Swiss people are scared of is poverty.
    ©NZZ Online

    4/4/2004- Slovenes voted Sunday in a referendum on granting ethnic minorities rights as legal residents, an issue that has ignited nationalist sentiment in this tiny Alpine country. More than 18,000 people, known widely here as the ``erased,'' were removed from the national population registry a year after Slovenia declared independence from the old Yugoslavia in 1991. The group, including Bosnians, Croats and Serbs, fought to have their rights restored - and a court ruling backed them. But Slovene nationalists opposed the ruling, arguing that the fledgling country would expose itself to lawsuits by people who suffered as a result of being ``erased.'' The referendum asked whether the court ruling reinstating the rights of the group should be annulled. ``It is a shame that they were erased, but the country will go bankrupt if it has to pay compensation,'' said Miha Sentjak, a bus driver in downtown Ljubljana. ``We've come too far to let the country go down the drain just like that.''

    Leading politicians and human rights advocates have urged people to boycott the nonbinding referendum, which they say is an affront to minority groups. Early turnout figures indicated that interest in the referendum would be low. Some 1.6 million voters in the tiny country south of Austria were eligible to cast ballots. The first unofficial results were expected late Sunday. Hundreds of demonstrators marched through the capital to protest the referendum, chanting anti-nationalist slogans and burning fliers that called for people to vote. ``It is a manifestation of racism, intolerance and extreme nationalism,'' said Tanja Rener, a sociologist. ``The mere holding of the vote is a loss for democracy and human rights and a victory for those who preach about blood and territory.'' The ``erasure'' came in the turbulent days of Yugoslavia's bloody disintegration into independent republics in 1991.

    Ethnic Slovenes were automatically given Slovenian citizenship after the country of 2 million seceded from the Yugoslav federation, while people of other ethnic backgrounds were required to apply for citizenship in the new nation. Those who had not done so within a year were simply deleted from the national register without any public warning or announcement - effectively losing their right to permanent residency, a precondition for state privileges including pensions and health benefits. Thousands of people lost their jobs and some were deported for not having proper documents after being arrested for minor offenses such as jaywalking. Sead Kalabic, who moved from Bosnia to Slovenia almost 30 years ago, was among the erased. A veteran who almost died fighting in Slovenia's 10-day secession war from the Yugoslav federation, Kalabic later worked in a coal mine. He discovered he was erased after he developed a lung-related illness and was denied medical treatment at a state hospital. ``They said I did not exist, that maybe I did fight in the war, but on the other side,'' Kalabic said, almost in tears.
    ©The Guardian

    5/4/2004- Human rights groups and political leaders expressed dismay Monday over an overwhelming vote in a nationwide referendum against restoring basic rights to thousands of non-Slovene residents. Some 95 percent of voters in Sunday's referendum opposed reinstating permanent residency and other rights to more than 18,000 people - mostly Bosnians, Croats and Serbs - whose names were stricken from state records following Slovenia's independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. Only 4 percent supported last year's Constitutional Court ruling that recommended the government restore rights to the group, widely known here as "the erased." Although the referendum was not legally binding, analysts believe it is a litmus test ahead of parliamentary elections in the fall, indicating rising nationalist sentiment in the tiny Alpine country of 2 million. "Referendum Disaster for Ruling Elite," as the front-page headline of the daily newspaper Vecer on Monday.

    "The outcome is a bad omen for the left-of-center government in upcoming elections," said political analyst Peter Jancic, hinting that nationalists could topple the centrist government, which has dominated Slovene politics since independence. While lamenting the result, a member of the ruling Liberal Democrats, Bogdan Biscak, tried to put a positive spin on the outcome by underscoring that the vote was not legally binding. "Having no consequences for the final solution of the erased, the outcome is totally irrelevant," he said. Still, others worried about ramifications abroad for the country, which recently became a member of NATO and joins the European Union on May 1 along with nine other mostly ex-communist countries. "This is a sign of growing nationalism, xenophobia and racism," said Boris A. Novak, a poet and human rights activist. "Not only is it a disgrace but a dangerous wave that can spread to other issues and other minorities." Slovene nationalists opposed restoring rights to the erased, arguing that the fledgling country could be forced to pay billions in punitive damages.

    Leading politicians and human rights advocates urged people to boycott the vote, which they considered an affront to minority groups. More than a third of the 1.6 million eligible voters cast ballots. Hundreds of demonstrators marched through the capital, Ljubljana, to protest the referendum, chanting anti-nationalist slogans and burning fliers urging people to vote. The "erasure" came in the heady days of Yugoslavia's bloody disintegration into independent republics in 1991. Ethnic Slovenes were automatically given Slovenian citizenship after the country seceded from the old federation, while people of other ethnic backgrounds were required to apply for citizenship in the new nation. Those who had not done so within a year were simply deleted from the national population register without any public warning or announcement. They effectively lost their right to permanent residency, which is a precondition for other state privileges, such as pensions and health benefits.
    ©The Ledger

    5/4/2004- Russia's St. Petersburg University has just released the results of a nationwide survey of young people aged 16 to 26, gauging their views on extremism and xenophobia. Reports of attacks against foreigners in Russia's major cities have increased in recent months, raising concerns about what some see as a rise in aggressive nationalism. But the author of the St. Petersburg survey says the results actually indicate an overall decrease in extremist views among Russia's young people and are cause for cautious optimism. The death in a Moscow hospital last week of an Afghan man, a week after he was beaten into a coma by a group of skinheads, made headlines. But the foreigner's murder was not an isolated occurrence. In March, a 21-year-old Syrian student died in St. Petersburg after being pushed by football fans in front of an oncoming metro train. In February, assailants knifed to death a student from Guinea-Bissau in the city of Voronezh. That same month, police blamed skinheads for the murder of a 9-year-old Tajik girl in St. Petersburg as she walked with her father and cousin, who were also injured in the attack. Non-fatal beatings of foreigners in large cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg are reported almost every week, prompting ambassadors from several African countries to lodge an official appeal with the Russian Foreign Ministry for better protection of their citizens. Are large segments of Russia's population tilting towards aggressive xenophobia as some human rights activists are warning? The author of the latest nationwide survey of attitudes among Russia's youth says no.

    Professor Anatolii Kozlov, of St. Petersburg University's Social Studies Institute, spoke to RFE/RL about the results of the brand-new study, whose results are based on interviews with 1,500 Russians aged 16 to 26 in small towns and large cities across the Russian Federation. Kozlov says this group represents a new generation of Russians, who came of age in the tumultuous post-Soviet era, when all the old certainties and previous set of values essentially vanished, forcing them to adopt a new outlook. Young people, says Kozlov, are therefore a good mirror of the current state of Russian society. And he tells RFE/RL that despite obvious flaws, this mirror reflects well on the progress Russia has made. Racism and ethnic Russian chauvinism definitely exist, especially in Russia's large urban areas. But Kozlov says this must be seen in the context of the enormous change that cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg have undergone in the past decade. And it is a change to which young people are adjusting.

    "We talk about nationalism. In the big cities, it is a problem, because they have turned into ethnic melting pots," he says. "There has been a very high inward migration. Remember that at the end of the 1980s St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) was 91 or 92 percent ethnic Russian and today about 22 or 23 percent of the population is made up of migrants who have arrived in the past decade. So what do you think? Of course it's a shock. Of course it leads to a certain confrontation. But I don't think it's so terrible. People are getting used to each other. They are not battling each other. [The newcomers] are settling into niches -- empty niches." Twenty-nine percent of those interviewed by Kozlov's team identified themselves as "more or less nationalist." When pressed further to define what nationalism meant, they cited cultural pride, pride in their history, traditions, and literature. Two-thirds of those questioned said they felt no nationalist sentiments and only 6 percent of those surveyed said they could imagine themselves joining an extremist group. Kozlov says what appears to be an upsurge in violence against foreigners and non-ethnic Russians reflects the violent tactics of an increasingly isolated minority, which has found it imp would contact the police was a mere 7 percent. So progress is being made. Again, he says Russians' "passive attitude" must be viewed in the context of a corrupt police force and a reluctance to be seen as an informant. "Haven't our so-called 'democratic forces,' for decades, been promoting the idea that if you call someone, if you report something, you are a stooge, a shameful informant? This can't but impress itself on people's psyches," he says. "In Russia, we have a very specific attitude to such calls. You have to take into account our difficult history. So that's why we have such [low] numbers. But I think that as time goes by, there will be more calls." Aleksandr Petrov, of the Moscow chapter of Human Rights Watch, faults the authorities themselves -- especially at the regional level -- for doing little to defend the rights of ethnic minorities within Russia. "The state, at least officially, advertises its opposition to extremism but unfortunately, in practice, the work of state bodies -- especially on the local level in the regions -- conveys the opposite message," he says. "There are many cases, if not of the local authorities directly targeting ethnic minorities, then at least of them turning a blind eye to [extremist violence] against minorities."

    The war in Chechnya and the scores of terrorist bombings blamed on Chechen militants have had a profound influence on public attitudes across Russia. A majority of those surveyed expressed xenophobic attitudes against Chechens and this is something that is not likely to subside soon, says Kozlov. "On the whole, I would say that the level of negative attitudes towards Chechens -- as offensive as this may be to [Chechen President] Akhmad Kadyrov, who has protested this -- is very high," he says. "The numbers hover around 70 percent. But this does not mean people harbor aggressive feelings. Their attitude is just negative and this is reflected in answers to a whole series of questions, such as: 'Would you want your son or daughter to marry someone from the following ethnic group?' We list a whole set of ethnic groups and when we come to Chechens, 68 percent of respondents answer negatively. According to the latest numbers from the VTsIOM [sociological institute], which asked people whom they would prefer to have as a work colleague, the negative attitude towards Chechens was reflected once again." To sum up, racism -- especially directed against ethnic Chechens -- continues to be all too common in Russia, as does passivity on the part of those who are witnesses to violence. But aggressive xenophobia, according to Kozlov and his team, has become a marginal phenomenon and extremist ideologies have lost their sway among the overwhelming majority of young people. All in all, says Kozlov, it's cause for cautious optimism.

    8/4/2004- One man died and 20 people were injured early Wednesday as dozens of youths armed with metal bars and chains rampaged through the central clothes market in Volgograd, local authorities said. Officials said that the man died after between 50 and 60 attackers, variously described as being teenagers and between the ages of 21 and 25, targeted traders from the Caucasus and Central Asia who worked in the market. The police detained 26 people and were investigating whether the attack was racially motivated, Interfax reported. The dead man was a 21-year-old ethnic Tajik from Afghanistan, Itar-Tass reported. Law enforcement agencies were divided Wednesday on what had caused the young man's death. Regional Interior Ministry chief Pyotr Chipur said that a coroner's examination showed the man died of a heart attack, while an official at the regional prosecutor's office said he died of a head injury.

    The attack on the market, which started at about 8:40 a.m., lasted for about an hour, officials said. One of the market traders, whom Rossia television identified as Mirza Mukhamad from Afghanistan, said that the attackers were wearing masks. Mukhamad, who was hospitalized in a city hospital, had bandages around his head and a black eye. Images of the market broadcast by NTV television showed several market stalls destroyed and numerous bloodstains on the ground. An unidentified man from Afghanistan told NTV that the attack "was planned against us." Volgograd officials told Interfax that the attack could have been organized either by a local criminal group fighting for influence in the market or by local skinheads. Chipur said police had arrested the attack's ringleader, but did not elaborate on whether he belonged to a criminal gang or a group of skinheads. But he suggested the attack had likely come after a refusal by market traders to pay protection money to criminal racketeers. The attack bore some similarities to an attack in the city in October 2002, when a gang of young men attacked people from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, killing three men. Prosecutors said at the time that they could find no motive for the attack.

    Immigrants from former Soviet Central Asian republics and the Caucasus region, as well as other darker-skinned foreigners in Russia, are often the targets of attacks by skinheads and other extremists. Victims have often accused the police of not investigating complaints of racially motivated violence. Sergei Lukashevsky, an analyst with human rights organization the Moscow Helsinki Group, said that the authorities often prefer to turn a blind eye to extremism. "Often the police are on the skinheads' side," he said, adding that police sometimes tip off skinheads in advance of raids against them. "The skinheads then organize their attacks in other places, where there are no police patrols." Government officials admitted last month that racially motivated violence was a serious problem in the country. "Today Russia is threatened not by juvenile delinquency but by the appearance of extremism," Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev told a meeting of top law enforcement officials. It was necessary to take "exhaustive measures to liquidate extremism," he said. After Nurgaliyev's comments, the Interior Ministry announced it would cooperate with the security services to fight against extremism among young people. But Lukashevsky said that harsh measures alone were unlikely to work. "Russia needs to educate its citizens to become more tolerant toward foreigners, if it wants to fight the roots of the problem," he said.

    Lukashevsky said a media survey he had carried out showed that biased reporting should take a share of the blame for inciting racial hatred, in particular for cultivating an atmosphere of xenophobia toward immigrants. "While the authorities may have learned how to express themselves to avoid stirring racial hatred, our press still has a long way to ©The Moscow Times

    6/4/2004- A Slovak politician, labeled by Western governments as an extreme nationalist and autocrat, could become the country's head of state after beating all his rivals in the first round of presidential elections this weekend. Vladimir Meciar, a former prime minister, led Slovakia into international isolation after his administration was accused of corruption, muzzling the media and the political opposition, and abusing human rights for its treatment of the Roma and other ethnic minorities in the country. His party lost parliamentary elections in 2002 in large measure because the electorate heeded warnings from the European Union and NATO that Slovakia would not be invited to join those organisations with Meciar as leader. However, results announced following Saturday's presidential elections showed that Mr Meciar has bounced back dramatically winning the first round with a third of all the votes cast for 10 candidates. He and the runner up, Ivan Gasparovic, go into the second, final round, on April 17. The biggest shock on Sunday was that the pro-government candidate, Slovakia's foreign minister, Eduard Kukan, was knocked out after being pushed into third place by a former close ally of Meciar's, Ivan Gasparovic. Slovakia's current president, Rudolf Schuster, came fourth and also drops out. The result is embarrassing for Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda whose country is one of the ten new members joining the EU on May 1.

    Mr Dzurinda led the opposition parties which ousted Meciar in 1998 and seemed to have eradicated Meciar as a political force by beating him again in 2002. Mr Meciar, a 61-year-old former lawyer, draws his support from blue-collar nationalist voters and was the chief architect of the 1993 peaceful split of former Czechoslovakia into the Slovak and Czech republics. He and Mr Gasparovic campaigned on a platform opposing the government's social reforms, which have cut painfully into welfare benefits in a country with 20 percent unemployment. Analysts said a low turnout - less than half bothered to vote - and corruption scandals dogging the ruling coalition benefited Mr Gasparovic. Mr Meciar who was previously opposed EU and NATO membership now says he is a "changed man" but it is unlikely the Brussels and the defence alliance have substantially changed their opinion of him. However, his rival for president, Mr Gasparovic, is now regarded as the more extreme nationalist. The president's role is largely ceremonial but he can veto legislation. Whoever wins is likely to upset remaining reforms on health, welfare and education the fragile government, which has no overall majority, says are vital to meet EU criteria. One observer said: "This is a bad result for Slovakia. In the West Meciar is regarded as the devil but everyone in Slovakia knows that Gasparovic was the devil's right hand." The only consolation for Mr Dzurinda was that a referendum called by the opposition to force an early election failed because of low turnout this weekend.
    © Independent Digital

    Nationalist's election victory in Slovakia highlights trend

    6/4/2004- The victory of the nationalist Vladimir Meciar in Slovakia's presidential poll this weekend illustrates a broader rise of "populist" forces in former East bloc countries just as they join the European Union. Analysts and diplomats say this trend will complicate the integration of new members into the EU even if the risk of such forces actually grabbing power in any of the new members and seriously disrupting EU business remains low. "I doubt there is a danger of the populist forces gaining power in any of the accession countries," said Dariusz Rosati, a former Polish foreign minister. "But they will be a ball and chain for governments in some of the new member countries, forcing them to focus on domestic issues at the expense of the European issues." Such populist parties tend to be nationalistic and skeptical of the benefits of EU membership and the free markets that go with it. Polls show that in Poland, Hungary and others countries among the eight formerly Communist states joining the Union on May 1, they will do well in elections to the European Parliament in June. With governments of the 15 existing members also facing electoral losses and pressure from more EU-skeptical parties, the mood in an enlarged EU of 25 could well be tense. "This will create a rocky ride for the EU in the first years after enlargement," said Heather Grabbe at the Center for European Reform in London. Optimists insist, however, that East European populists will share the fate of counterparts to the West. They point out that France's Jean-Marie Le Pen, Italy's Gianfranco Fini or Austria's Jörg Haider have either proved unable to translate protest votes into power or have mellowed enough to become part of the mainstream.

    EU diplomats said Meciar, Slovakia's prime minister in the 1990s, was a case in point after his recent declarations that his past anti-Western diatribes and autocratic ways were mistakes he would not repeat if, as expected, he completes his first-round victory by winning a presidential runoff next week. "I don't think the idea of Meciar as president greatly scares anyone," a Brussels-based diplomat said. Analysts say a potent cocktail of emotions seems to be fueling the surge in support for anti-market and EU-skeptical parties across Eastern Europe:

  • Reform-weariness is key as 15 years of belt-tightening and restructuring after decades of Communist rule have hit many livelihoods. Support for populist parties often reflects nostalgia for the certainties of the Communist past.
  • Anxiety about EU membership shot up just months before May 1. Moves by existing EU countries to further curb newcomers' access to labor markets have reinforced the feeling among East Europeans they will be second-class citizens.
  • Widespread corruption among many governing politicians and the weakness of government institutions feed the perception that only elites have benefited from post-Communist reforms. Surveys show protest votes flowing to the populists.
  • Deep divisions on left and right in most EU newcomers show that the true consolidation of the political scene is still elusive, further eroding support for mainstream parties.

    In Poland, by far the biggest newcomer, the populist resurgence is seen as most dangerous. Opinion polls show close to one Polish voter in three would support the populist and anti-EU Self Defense party of the former farmer Andrzej Lepper. Another 10 percent would back extreme rightists, possibly allowing the two groups to form a government. Such a government could even attempt to take Poland out of the EU - although it would most likely fail to muster enough support for such a radical course. Poles voted strongly in favor of EU membership in a referendum only last year. "There was a very, very positive reaction to the proposal," said the Irish defense minister, Michael Smit deploy quickly to African hotspots and says they should be able to operate in a variety of hostile terrain, from jungles and deserts to mountains and cities. The drive to develop an EU defense wing was launched in the 1990s after the Europeans were criticized for their failure to stop the wars that tore apart Yugoslavia or the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Under a strategy paper adopted by leaders in December, the EU now wants to move quickly to stabilize potential trouble spots before they develop into major conflicts. The teams of highly mobile troops would give the European bloc the means to do that, acting under a U.N. mandate and handing over later to U.N. forces, which take more time to assemble.

    EU foreign policy representative Javier Solana said bloc also need to speed up its political response to crises. "We have to have a rapid system of decision-making and rapid planning," he told a news conference. The battle group proposal represents closer defense cooperation among the EU's "big three," who fell out last year when Britain backed the United States over Iraq. Relations were further harmed when Paris and Berlin pushed plans for a separate EU military headquarters which London - and Washington - saw as a threat to NATO unity. In a compromise reached last year, they agreed to set up a smaller "planning cell," which they insist will be used to coordinate European missions without duplicating NATO's headquarters role. On the second day of the two-day meeting, ministers will discuss plans for the EU to take on its biggest military mission to date: replacing the NATO force that has kept the peace in Bosnia since the war ended in 1995. The EU is due to take control of the peacekeeping force of 7,000 at the end of this year, with Britain assuming a lead role. However details of the changeover have yet to be finalized and NATO is expected to maintain a role to help with counter terrorism and efforts to catch war crimes suspects.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    8/4/2004- Bulgarians can be proud of their level of ethnic tolerance, many will tell you. Others do not agree. Bulgarian people will be much more tolerant for the 'otherness' in people once they stop repeating how tolerant they really are. UK citizen Mark Bossanyi said this at the launch of a campaign entitled Racism - Spot it and Stop It, organised by the Interethnic Initiative for Human Rights Foundation around the annual European-wide Action Week Against Racism. Since March 21 was declared International Day for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by the General Assembly of the United Nations as a reaction to the massacre of 70 demonstrators in Sharpeville, South Africa, in 1960, Bulgaria has become one of the thousands of places to commemorate the event and to take action against discrimination. "Racism and ethnic discrimination exist in all countries around the globe. This could be said to be a flaw so typical of humans," Bossanyi said, adding that racism and discrimination are frequently hard to recognise. Thus, this year's campaign headed by United for Intercultural Action initiating practices against racism, nationalism and fascism and supporting migrants and asylum seekers, aimed to raise awareness among people towards racism in everyday life. Anti-racist education is necessary to empower people to resist racist propaganda and furthermore the campaign targeted to make racism visible in order to erase it, including our own prejudice towards others.

    "To be tolerant means to be ready to try to understand people who are different from oneself, to put ourselves in their situation and to recognise that the social environment in which we have grown up restricts our own ability to understand certain things about others. It requires a readiness to be self-critical," Bossanyi told The Echo. For him, to be 100 per cent convinced of our own tolerance is by definition intolerant, because it implies that "others" are to blame for any problems in our relations with them. As in a marriage, there is never only one side to blame. "Tolerance is not a genetically-determined quality, miraculously present in Bulgarians or in any other ethnic group without them having to put any effort into it," he said. Defining, spotting and dealing with racism and discrimination is something that Bulgaria still needs to work on. "The development of human rights in Bulgaria is contradictory," the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) said in their annual report on the state of human rights for 2003 which was presented at the end of last month. Krassimir Kunev, chairperson of the BHC, said that there had been progress made with the laws adopted on protection against discrimination, and the law providing for the appointment of an ombudsman, as well as an instruction of the Interior Ministry giving detainees the right to have a lawyer, a doctor and to inform close relatives. "Many Bulgarians tend to be self-critical when they compare their own society with Western European and American societies, whom they perceive to be 'more developed'. Whether that is true or not is highly debatable. But that self-criticism usually disappears when many Bulgarians compare themselves with Asians, Africans and minorities within Bulgaria," Bossanyi said.

    According to the BHC, in 2003 human rights protection in Bulgaria achieved successes mainly in improvement of the legislative and institutional framework. The Act on Protection against Discrimination has been effective from January 1 and is a significant advancement in the sphere of combating discrimination is a number of areas of public life. It sets up an administrative body with effective powers to investigate and punish discriminatory acts and turns the burden of proof from the victim to the perpetrator. In May, Parliament adopted the Ombudsman Act (effective from January 1), which sets up a formal system of advocacy in cases when actions and inactions of was fairly common, and still occurs now. The legislation set standards that made it socially unacceptable or offensive to express racist or discriminatory views. This has had a definite effect on society in the past 28 years and a significant proportion of people in the country genuinely understand what tolerance means. "Unfortunately, among some sections of British society, it is still not uncommon to detect a belief that despite everything, British society is the fairest, the most democratic, the most developed," Bossanyi said. Among these people, a veneer of tolerance masks a deep-seated attitude of superiority and is very patronising. There is still a fairly common self-congratulatory belief that British colonial rule was somehow "fairer" than the rule of other colonial powers or that of the newly-independent colonies, he said. British legislation against racism is not effective enough in restricting the practices of the gutter press (the "yellow" newspapers, as they are called in Bulgaria) to increase their sales by inciting intolerance and hatred against immigrants, usually based on spurious arguments and misleading statistics, Bossanyi said. This problem is becoming increasingly serious and is generating an environment in which the public fails to object to unacceptable practices to restrict immigration.

    "In Bulgaria, the first specific law against discrimination came into force at the beginning of this year. It was adopted not because the political elite considered it desirable, but because it is one of the requirements for EU accession," Bossanyi said. Parliament adopted it very reluctantly, because like a huge majority of institutions in Bulgaria, the prevailing belief is that "there cannot be ethnic discrimination in Bulgaria because Bulgarians are tolerant". For Bossanyi the Communist authorities of 1944-1989 spoke of racism as something unique to the West, where they "beat Negroes", and that, since communist society is almost perfect, racism and discrimination could not possibly exist at home. This element of the communist mindset has survived with great resilience until now, and finds expression in Bulgarian institutions and in politicians' claims about the "Bulgarian ethnic model" as some kind of a model of tolerance. "A common reaction is to say that 'the Gypsies only have themselves to blame for their ghettoisation'," Bossanyi said. This refusal to accept any share in the blame is far from tolerant. "The intolerance I have come across in Bulgaria is often latent and passive, not characterised by open conflict but by deeply entrenched prejudices kept under the surface in order to keep out of trouble. Like almost everywhere in the world, many of the media succumb to the temptation to increase their sales by writing what their readers feel most comfortable reading confirmation of their prejudices," Bossanyi said.

    An unhealthy preoccupation with history has to a large extent been responsible for a great deal on intolerance in Bulgaria and its neighbouring countries. "Claiming to fulfil the need to improve the self-esteem of Bulgarians, nationalist historians have taken great pains to present Bulgarians as the victims of their neighbours or of the "great powers", Bossanyi said. He also added that it is striking that nationalist historians in almost all of Bulgaria's neighbouring countries also present their own ethnic group as the victims of their neighbours. This victim mentality is another way to avoid having to be self-critical and see things from other people's point of view. "It is an easy mentality for the media to sell," he said. According to the Interethnic Initiative for Human Rights Foundation, Bulgarians have always been tolerant on a day-to-day level, they have always been good and friendly neighbours and have never experienced problems. Good neighbours bear nothing in mind against a Hassan, a Samuel or an Ivan, they will land a hand by giving salt or flour when a neighbour is in need, they will celebrate family holidays together. Problems come only when Hassan turns up to be the bos framework for protection from ethnic discrimination. It sets up a special body with effective powers to investigate and punish discrimination and turns the burden of proof of discrimination in accordance with Directive 2000/43 and Directive 2000/78 of the European Commission. "In 2003, Roma continued to be subjected to discrimination in the spheres of employment, healthcare, education, housing, and the criminal justice system," the BHC said. It was common practice not to let any people of Roma origin into public swimming pools, cafes or even cinemas, according to the foundation. US ambassador James Pardew also praised Bulgaria for making much better progress in treatment of ethnic minorities than its Balkan neighbors. "Bulgaria is much ahead in its ethnic tolerance in comparison to the other states on the Balkans," Pardew said in the southern town of Kardzhali on March 11, Bulgarian News Network reported. Moreover, there had been progress shown in the tolerance for minorities in both the state and public field. "Two Roma business centres will be set up, in Sofia and Bourgas, to provide consultations and ideas to Roma on how to launch their own business," Deputy Social Minister Roumen Simeonov said at a news conference in March. This particular project is part of the project for Roma Employment of the Social Ministry's JOBS initiative. The BHC said that Roma access to health care had deteriorated compared to previous years when the health care system identified individuals with unpaid health insurance benefits and excluded them from health services. "Roma were seriously affected by this measure," BHC said.

    But Bulgaria proved to be actively taking measures in its tolerance campaign with the adoption of the Action Plan on the Framework Programme for Equal Integration of Roma in Bulgarian Society, which specifies its engagements in several programme points. Bulgaria has been criticised in the annual report of the Council of Europe's expert body on combating racism European Commission against Racism and Intolerance as a place with existing stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination against minority groups, particularly Roma, as well as against immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Bulgaria. In the report examining racism, xenophobia, anti-semitism and intolerance in Bulgaria ECRI said that there had been positive developments. Meanwhile the reports detail continuing grounds for concern for the ECRI. "There are still serious problems connected with the excessive use of firearms and force by the police against Roma, and ECRI emphasises the problem of segregation of Roma children in schools," the report said. Reports on human practices, mistreatments and happenings of discrimination have created an image of Bulgaria that it has intolerance for otherness. However, Bulgarian National Television has a news bulletin in Turkish at 5.10pm.

    Since March last year the international Roma newspaper Defacto has been distributed in Bulgaria and Roma news spread through the newly established, first in its kind in Bulgaria, Roma Information Agency (R.I.A) Defacto. Both the newspaper and the news in the website of R.I.A. are distributed in English and Bulgarian at "Everything that we do is for the good of all Roma all over the world," said Toma Nikolaeff, director of Roma Information Agency R.I.A. Defacto and International Roma weekly newspaper Defacto. They aim at popularising and preserving the Roma culture, religion, identity, traditions and customs; to create contacts between all Roma in the world. According to Nikolaeff their aim is also to present Roma organisations, activists and to inform the Roma community for various events, initiatives, activities and others. "The Bulgarian ethnic model does not work where the social and economic rights of minorities are concerned," Krustyu Petkov MP of Coalition for Bulgaria said in February during a roundtable discussion on Bulgaria's ethnopolitical prospects. "Bulgaria has emerged as a typical example of a country with significant and growing ethnosocial an ©Sofia Echo

    Ethnic communities to be strengthened. Blueprint expected to include advertising, funding for new crime-prevention programs.

    8/4/2004- A national action plan to combat racism will call on law-enforcement agencies to set up special hate-crime units and establish initiatives to educate Canadians about the evils of hate, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said yesterday. The plan, which is at the final stage of cabinet approval, was designed, in part, to fight growing anti-Semitism such as the firebombing of the United Talmud Torahs school in St. Laurent school on Monday and racially motivated incidents against Jews and Muslims in Toronto. The 10-chapter blueprint is expected to include advertising to get the message out that racism is poison, measures to strengthen ethnic communities, and an influx of new money into crime-prevention programs aimed at reducing racist acts. "We will have a national action plan to counter racism and that, I think, in all its components, will be an effective and comprehensive approach," Cotler said in an interview. "It has panoply of initiatives. It has an education component. It has a legal component and it has an inter-cultural dialogue component ... (because) we have to mobilize a constituency of conscience in this country." Cotler said Canada already has strong hate-crime laws and effective federal and provincial human-rights commissions to fight discrimination against minorities, but he noted it is "not always appreciated that we have one of the most comprehensive legal regimes anywhere in the world."

    Ottawa wants to reinforce the vast array of legal tools that are available to tackle racism and to encourage the police to take effective action to stamp it out. "We may not appreciate the legal remedies that we already have that can be put into place in matters of this kind," Cotler said. "We may have to see if our law -enforcement officers - just as we have set up special units as particular types of crimes that have emerged - we may have do that kind of training with respect to hate crimes." Cotler said the multimillion-dollar and multiyear action plan against racism and bigotry will also have a heavy emphasis on teaching Canadians about hate and to encourage community leaders to preach tolerance and resist political extremism. The Heritage Department is at the helm of the multi-department scheme, which is expected to be unveiled in the coming weeks. "It is all about social inclusion, building on a multicultural society," said Fred Sherman, spokesperson for Jean Augustine, the minister responsible for multiculturalism. "The whole issue of how we build this country is something we have to look at. "It's not going to be a flick-of-a-switch approach, it's going to be a comprehensive long-term approach to deal with the challenges that we face in building our society." It is the first national anti-racism program undertaken by the government and is considered necessary in light of growing incidents across the country involving several groups, particularly Arabs and Jews. "It couldn't be more timely," Sherman said. "(Racism) is a Canadian reality and it has to be addressed. ... There are so many different groups we're dealing with." For instance, there has been a dramatic rise in attacks against the Jewish community, including Monday's firebombing. Jewish leaders from several organizations met last week with Prime Minister Paul Martin to push for federal action. The federal program is not expected to be a copy of one that is under way in France, where the government has told schools and colleges to screen films such as Schindler's List, Sophie's Choice and The Pianist, as part of a new government guide to sensitize French citizens in light of a growing anti-Semitism that is believed to be linked to the deteriorating situation in the Middle East.
    ©Montreal Gazette

    26/3/2004- A Russian court has barred Jehovah's Witnesses from operating in the capital, Moscow. The court ruled that group's practices broke up families, encouraged suicide and threatened its members' health by not allowing blood transfusions. Lawyers for the group said the ruling was a step back for democracy and was reminiscent of Soviet rule. They said they would appeal the verdict both in Russia and to the European Court of Human Rights. "Religious minorities are often a litmus test for where a society is going... this is an ominous signal," the group's lawyer, John Burns, said. In an interview outside the courtroom, Vasiliy Kalin, a Jehovah's Witness official, expressed his disappointment at the ruling. "In the Soviet time a Russian had to be an atheist," he said. "The situation has changed and a Russian must be Orthodox now." A Russian law from 1997 recognises only four traditional religions - Orthodoxy, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam.

    Prolonged battle
    The court case against the Jehovah's Witnesses began in September 1998 but was suspended six months later as the court asked experts to examine literature published by the Jehovah's Witnesses. Human rights groups said at the time it was an important test case which could have a lasting impact on minority religions across Russia. In February 2001 a Moscow court refused to ban the local activities of the Jehovah's Witnesses. But an appeals court later that year overturned this ruling, allowing prosecutors to relaunch proceedings against the group. Jehovah's Witnesses claim 11,000 followers in Moscow and more than 133,000 throughout the whole of Russia.
    ©BBC News

    31/3/2004- An Afghan man has died in a hospital in Moscow, a week after he was allegedly beaten by a gang of Russian skinheads. Abdul Wasi, a 27-year-old market trader, was attacked with bottles and metal bars as he walked home. Mr Abdul, who leaves a three-month-old daughter and a Russian wife, stayed in a coma for a week before dying of a brain haemorrhage on Wednesday. The attack came as a nationwide survey revealed high levels of xenophobia among Russia's youths. The poll - by St Petersburg University's social studies institute - suggests that one in three young Russians describe themselves as nationalists. One in 10 of the 16- to 19-year-olds said they would take part in "nationalistic pogroms" if paid to do so.

    Russian police believe that Mr Abdul was beaten unconscious by a gang of skinheads as he was walking home at night. Other Afghans in the Russian capital are concerned that brutal beatings are becoming routine, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Moscow reports. She says one man told her he was afraid to let his family out alone on the streets. Representatives of other ethnic minorities in major Russian cities also say they are being increasingly targeted by gangs of racist teenagers. A nine-year-old Tajik girl died last month after being stabbed by suspected skinheads in St Petersburg.
    ©BBC News

    28/3/2004- People in Rome have gone to the polls - although no Italians took part in Sunday's election. Immigrants living in the capital were choosing four representatives on the city council. Some 30,000 immigrants have registered to vote and many hope that the ballot will be the first step towards them receiving full local voting rights. At stake are seats on each of Rome's 20 municipalities. Results are expected on Monday. Among the 50 candidates are a Romanian law student, a Pakistani businessman and a Ukrainian nurse, reflecting the diversity of Rome's new population. There are more than 100 ethnic groups represented in Rome.

    Limited rights
    The potential councillors have canvassed first and foremost their own ethnic groups, but all have pledged to work for the interests of all immigrants. At least one of the seats must go to a female candidate even if she is not among the top four. There has been criticism that while the four immigrants chosen will participate in all council meetings and can propose local legislation, they cannot cast a vote in the council. The BBC's Frances Kennedy in Rome says immigrant representatives hope that the vote will be a step towards giving immigrants full voting rights in local elections - but that requires national legislation. Last October the leader of the right-wing National Alliance party tabled a proposal to this effect. The idea caused a split in the centre -right coalition and was criticised by many of the party faithful.
    ©BBC News

    20/3/2004- The Finnish Red Cross says that racism and discrimination are a serious threat to the integration of immigrants into Finnish society. In a press release to mark the UN's Day against Racism on Sunday, the Red Cross notes that studies indicate that some immigrants are afraid to leave their homes for fear of racist attacks. Kristiina Kumpula, acting Secretary-General of the Finnish Red Cross says that Finland cannot afford a situation in which immigrants have to fear racism in their everyday lives. "The future of Finish well-being is in diversity." Kumpula says. In addition to the most dramatic forms of racism, such as physical assaults, and defamation, many immigrants complain of constant discrimination and isolation in their everyday lives. Studies indicate that up to half of immigrants in Finland have experienced some kind of racism. Half of those applying for work say that they have been refused jobs because of their ethnicity. Between 300 and 400 racially-motivated crimes are reported to the police each year, but the real number of racist crimes may be much higher, as many victims are either afraid to report the crimes to the police, or do not think that it would make any difference.

    28/3/2004- Johnny Olsen, a notorious convicted killer and neo-Nazi, has confessed to two bombings in Oslo in the 90s. Olsen, 41, decided to purge his guilty conscience after viewing Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion of the Christ, newspaper Dagbladet reports. On Saturday evening Olsen, one of Norway's most feared men, walked into the offices of Dagbladet and confessed to two bombings of Oslo's Blitz House, a self-styled 'counterculture center' that is a gathering spot for young left-wing radicals. Olsen turned himself in to police late Saturday and claimed he would provide them with details that would prove he was responsible for the bombings. Olsen said that he had decided to confess after watching the The Passion of the Christ". "He said that it was the film that made him realize that he had to show his hand. He has been preoccupied with Christianity, guilt, punishment, atonement, suffering and conversion during the 10 years I have known him," said Olsen's lawyer Fridtjof Feydt. "It has been a long process but the Jesus film made the difference. Now he shows true regret and is ready to make amends," Feydt said. "It is important that two of Norway's worst attempted assassinations are cleared up. It is my way of creating more peace in the world," Olsen told Dagbladet. Olsen had been trying to lead a quiet life in recent years and in a 2000 interview with Dagbladet said he hoped to break with right-wing nationalist groups and settle down to a normal life. Despite this wish and his professed faith in God, he continued to have active links to violent extremist circles, though in recent years he was absent from headlines. Olsen was sentenced to 18 years in prison after the double murder of two youths on a remote forest road in Hadeland in 1981. He was released on probation after serving 12 years. Olsen was involved in a series of violent clashes with Blitz and anti-racist groups and was convicted of shooting at anti-racism activists and threatening members of Blitz. Police suspected Olsen of the Blitz bombings in the mid-90s but never managed to connect him to the crimes. The Passion of the Christ has had similar effects on American viewers. A Texas man recently confessed to murder and a Florida thief turned himself in after watching Gibson's film of the final hours of Christ's life.

    31/3/2004- New measures to stop welfare benefits for rejected asylum applicants could boost the number of people living in Switzerland illegally, warn support groups. But the government says the move will ease pressure on the system by deterring bogus asylum seekers from coming to the country. The new measures, which come into force on Thursday, are being implemented by the Federal Office for Refugees as part of a controversial government savings plan, which aims to cut public spending by SFr3.3 billion ($2.6 billion). The budget for the asylum sector, which is one of the hardest hit by the cuts, will be reduced by SFr137 million over the next three years. The office believes that stopping welfare payments for asylum seekers whose applications have been turned down will put pressure on them to leave Switzerland. The government says the measures will also lead to long-term savings by deterring refugees from coming to the country in the first place.

    "Through these measures, we want to make Switzerland a less attractive place for people whose asylum claims are ill-founded and [who abuse the system]," said Mathias Stettler of the Federal Office for Refugees. With the federal authorities no longer providing welfare benefits, it will be up to the cantons to provide so-called emergency aid in the form of short-term food supplies and shelter for those forced to leave the country. The government will give cantons SFr600 per asylum seeker to cover the cost of emergency aid. Cantons will also receive SFr1,000 for every person they send back to their country of origin. But the Swiss Refugee Council believes that many cantonal authorities are ill-prepared to cope with these demands and will fail to make these refugees aware of their right to the aid. "We are concerned that, as a result of the measures, many people will decide to stay in the country illegally and will be drawn into crime," Jürg Schertenleib of the Refugee Council told swissinfo. Schertenleib explained that the inevitable rise in homelessness and crime, along with the cost of emergency aid, would eventually drive up costs for cantons and facilities such as homeless shelters. Another consequence, he added, is that failed applicants would be incarcerated while awaiting deportation – a measure which would also add to the costs.

    The cantons have had over a year to prepare for the new measures, but Stettler admits that not all of them may be ready for them. "The problem is that until now the cantons have had very little experience in dealing with people asking for minimal [emergency] aid," Stettler told swissinfo. "But it is the cantons' responsibility to take appropriate measures – it is not up to the federal government to provide regulations." Stettler also acknowledges there is a risk that some failed applicants will go to ground in a bid to stay in Switzerland, although he believes the number who do so will be negligible. "We already have a lot of foreigners living here illegally," he said. "There will be about 4,000 people [whose applications are turned down] this year. Of these, a small number might stay and require emergency aid." The number of asylum seekers dropped by 20 per cent in 2003, with 20,806 applications. Meanwhile the number of rejections rose to 7,818, compared with 6,445 rejections in 2002.
    ©NZZ Online

    29/3/2004- A rightwing extremist has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a fellow gang member. Two accomplices were handed 16-year sentences by a district court in the Swiss capital, Bern. All three were accused of murdering 19-year-old Marcel von Allmen for allegedly betraying their secret racist fraternity, the "Order of Aryan Knights". Von Allmen was beaten to death and his body dumped in a lake in February 2001. During sentencing on Monday, judge Thomas Zbinden said the crime left behind the impression of a plan that had been "minutely planned". The 25-year-old leader of the extremist group and his 24-year-old accomplices were all convicted of murder and attempted murder. The three men were also found guilty of planning the murders of another Swiss citizen and a foreigner between 1999 and 2000. The public prosecutor had asked for a life sentence for the main protagonist, and 18 years for both his accomplices.

    Four men were originally arrested in connection with the crime, a few days after von Allmen's body was found. They were all aged between 17 and 22 at the time. The four told police they had punished von Allmen for breaking the extremist group's code of silence. Von Allmen was allegedly lured to the gang's hideout and beaten to death with an iron bar. His body, which showed torture marks, was then tossed from an 80-metre-high cliff into the lake. Weights had been tied to his ankles.

    District court
    The fourth defendant, aged 17 at the time of the killing, was found guilty of murder in December 2001 by a youth court. The trial of the remaining three suspects was postponed several times to allow for the preparation of psychiatric reports. Von Allmen's murder shocked local residents and prompted a series of public protests against violence. "These proceedings are necessary for the local people to come to terms with what happened," said the president of the local community, Simon Margot.

    The Order of Aryan Knights was reportedly set up in 1999 by two of the defendants to fight against the presence of foreigners in Switzerland. However, police in Interlaken said they had no record of crimes being committed against foreigners prior to the arrests. According to Hans Stutz, a specialist on the extreme right in Switzerland, there were 105 racist-related cases in 2003, compared with 120 in the previous year. Offences included verbal racism, the distribution of racist leaflets, denial of the Holocaust and acts of violence. Stutz, who has monitored the rightwing scene in Switzerland since 1989, compiles an annual report on behalf of the Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism.
    ©NZZ Online

    Marine Le Pen is the pretender to her father's National Front throne. As she prepares to stand for election in Paris tomorrow, John Lichfield reports on the modern face of the French far right

    20/3/2004- Father and daughter march into the hall, arm-in-arm, with matching, melon-slice smiles. The warm-up - "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" and French popular tunes from the 1930s - gives way to portentous Wagnerian chants, dramatic light effects and to the rhythmic baying of the frontistes. "Le-Pen-Le-Pen-Le-Pen-Le-Pen." Everyone says that Marine Le Pen is a dead ringer for Jean-Marie, her dear old dad. Her estranged mother, Pierrette, calls her youngest daughter "le clone". There is a clear family resemblance: the jutting chin, the pompous stiff-legged walk, the wrestler's physique. As they stand together on stage, there is also something softer, less vulgar, less brutal, about Marine, 34. With her long, loose, blonde hair, her rumpled, charcoal suit and her pink T-shirt, she might be a young businesswoman or a teacher. Imagine the actor, Stephen Fry, in drag. This is the last big, far-right rally before the first round of the French regional elections tomorrow - Marine Le Pen's first solo flight in politics. She is the standard-bearer for the National Front - papa's party and the Le Pen family business - in the greater Paris area, the Ile-de-France, which is not the most fertile ground for Lepennism. It is her first big, political trial: the test of whether she can emerge as a new force within the party, and eventually, its leader: someone who can give the NF a life after Jean-Marie, and a more moderate and modern image.

    Fascism with a pretty face? Nationwide, everything looks good for the NF, two years after Jean-Marie Le Pen shocked France and the world by reaching the second round of the presidential elections (only to be steam-rollered 82 to 18 per cent by Jacques Chirac and a wave of national revulsion in the second round). True, M. Le Pen managed to get himself kicked off the ballot paper in the Marseilles-Nice area last month after he failed to prove that he had any local connections. The old immigrant-baiter was declared an illegal immigrant in his own country. Nonetheless, the final opinion polls put the nationwide score of the NF tomorrow at around 14 to 16 per cent. The NF usually out-polls the polls by two or three points. The anti-immigrant, anti-European, anti-American party will not win any regional governments in the second round next Sunday but it will probably do well enough to hand serial victories to the left and humiliate the centre-right President, M. Chirac, and his Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

    Everything favours a big far right (and significant far left) headline score tomorrow: economic downturn; the Islamist terrorist threat to Europe; renewed talk of corruption within M. Chirac's party; opposition to the modest economic and social reforms attempted by M. Raffarin; low turnout through indifference towards politics and especially regional politics. Above all, M. Raffarin - who presented himself as a man of "La France d'en bas", the little people - has failed to reverse the growing conviction of a swath of the working and lower middle classes that France is run by, and for, a narrow, Parisian elite. In the long term, the result which may matter most is Marine Le Pen's in the Ile-de-France. For years now, haters of Le Pen Snr (and 77 to 85 per cent of French people regularly say that they cannot stand him) have clung to one unalterable statistic: M. Le Pen's age. He is 76 in June. He will be 78 at the next presidential election (a little old, even for the gerontocratic politics of France). Without him, everyone once agreed - inside the Front and outside - it would be difficult to keep the extraordinary coalition of mutually hating tribes within the NF together: the Vichy sentimentalists; the Algérie Française die-hards; the extreme conservative Catholics; the royalists; the anti-EU sovereigntists; the pagan white supremacists; the covert neo-Nazis; the jew-haters; the Arab-haters; the ex-Communist blue-collar workers; and the small shop-keepers. M. Le Pen's nominal number two, Bruno Gollnisch, is a charisma-free academic, who could not cause an explosion in a fireworks factory. M. Le Pen's one-time deputy, Bruno Mégret, who was kicked out and formed his own party five years ago, has virtually disappeared without trace.

    In the past two years, a new, and unexpected, pretender has emerged to Le Pen's throne - Marine. To the fury of M. Gollnisch and many others on the traditionalist wings of the party, the youngest of Le Pen's three daughters, the toughest, the most politically talented, has been pushed, partly by herself, partly by dad, to the front of the stage. Marine is detested by many people within the NF. She is a woman in a man's party in a country where women have rarely prospered in politics. She is a divorcée. She has dangerously liberal views on some things. (She is pro-abortion, pro-contraception and vaguely pro-European). She chooses not to push all the old, anti-Semitic, racist buttons, coded or otherwise, manipulated by her father (although she pushes some). Marine once said: "I am not far right. Far right is ... the people with small brains, who like to wear grey-green uniforms and big boots and hate anyone who does not have a white skin." It is Marine's declared intention to make the NF respectable, to de-demonise it; to bring it into the 21st century; to give a veneer of coherence to its incoherent programme of big tax cuts and vastly increased spending (on whites only). She wants to move into the territory occupied by M. Chirac's centre-right party, the UMP, and destroy it. At a minimum, she wants the NF to copy the Italian and Austrian far right and become younger, more plausible and better dressed.

    On this night, in a modern hall on the far southern outskirts of Paris, it is Marine who speaks first. She is no great orator. If anything she quietens the hall. She speaks about the issues in the Ile-de-France: taxes and trams, social allowances and transport strikes. And immigration. Immigration. Immigration. Marine cites all monetary figures, without apology, in euros. Papa still never talks in anything but francs. After 30 minutes it's dad's show. He abandons the lectern and prowls up and down the stage, like an American TV preacher or a stand-up comic. He is by turns funny, violent, vulgar and self-pitying. The speech is mostly not about the Ile-de-France, nor even about France, but about Le Pen; his persecution by the political elite; his scandalous exclusion from the ballot in the south. Then, abruptly, and adroitly, he predicts the "Third World War". The train bombings in Madrid are, he declares, the first "skirmishes" in a war which will leave as many casualties as the First World War. This time the enemy lies within, in the enclosed, communities of Islamic immigrants, ready to break out at any moment and "sow desolation" in France. The rally, excited again, roars its approval. Later that night, it is Marine who appears on a television news show, charming, convincing and calm. M. Le Pen, although compelling on stage, is generally poor on the screen, like a bad-tempered bull-dog. He has appeared little on television during this campaign.

    Marine Le Pen was born in 1970 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a rich, western, inner suburb of Paris. At the time her father was a political curiosity who wore a pirate's eye-patch. He was a marginal and much-jeered figure who kept the flame of far-right opinion just about alive during the 1950s and 1960s when Gaullist nationalism and state interventionism presided over France's remarkable recovery from the Second World War. To make ends meet, he ran an obscure publishing company which specialised in pornography. His big breakthrough came in the European elections in 1984, when Marine was just 14. Two years later, her mother, Pierrette, left home. The three daughters stuck with dad. Her eldest sister, Marie-Caroline, was already 24, her middle sister, Yann, was 21. It was Marine, 16, who spent most time with her father and came most directly under his influence. "I never had a crisis of adolescence. I never rejected my father or my mother," she once said. "Then my mother left in disgusting conditions, which dragged us all through the mud. That's when my adolescent crisis came." In 1986, in the midst of a general election, Marine's mother, Pierrette Le Pen, in an act of revenge, posed naked for the centre-fold of the French Playboy. It was at that moment, Marine says, that she formed the "shell" that she needed to make her own career in politics. Her older sister, Marie-Caroline, was also attracted to a political career but deserted dad five years ago when her husband became part of Bruno Megret's NF breakaway party. The sisters remain bitterly divided.

    Marine originally chose a career in the law. As a young, on-duty lawyer, she was once allocated the case of an Algerian immigrant, fighting deportation, and won. She cites this case today as an example of her racial tolerance. Her law practice failed to prosper, largely she says, because no one wanted to consult a Le Pen. In 1998, she became the chief legal adviser to the NF. Marine married a lawyer and has three children, five-year-old Jehanne (the real name of Joan of Arc, an official NF heroine) and four-year-old twins, Louis and Mathilde. She and her husband split three years ago and she re-married an obscure National Front official called Eric Iorio. Marine Le Pen first emerged as a political figure in her own right with a series of confident television appearances during the presidential and parliamentary election campaigns two years ago. Her rise has been resisted, up to a point, by party apparatchiks and even grassroots party members, who reduced her from 10th to 36th in popular ranking in the national committee at the NF conference in Nice last year. With her father's help, and the support of a band of other "modernists" in the party, Marine has continued to ascend, nonetheless. One of her backers on the national committee, Jean-Pierre Schenardi, says that the survival of the NF depends now, not on Jean-Marie, but on Marine. "We can't let the old guard, welded to ideological, philosophical or religious attitudes, hold us back. Otherwise, we will end up meeting in a telephone box," he said. Even before the present campaign, Marine had been wooing business leaders - up to two dinners a week - to explain that the NF is changing and was never as bad as the hated media portrayed it. With her warm smile and her barmaid's self-deprecating laugh - she loves especially to joke about her own size - Marine goes down well in small gatherings. The more extreme NF positions, she implies at such meetings - even the pledge to take France out of the EU - could be negotiable.

    Does her moderate, modern exterior hide a moderate, modern interior, as many NF die-hards fear? Marine Le Pen says that she is a nationalist, rather than a racist. Much of what she says could, if you switched the word "immigrant" for "asylum-seeker", appear in a Daily Mail or Daily Express editorial. But occasionally the mask slips. Throughout this election campaign, Marine has said that 95 per cent of immigrants in France are unemployed. The real figure is 20 per cent. Marine's particular area of responsibility in the NF is the youth movements. The Front National de la Jeunesse is run by one of Marine's greatest supporters, Samuel Maréchal, her brother-in-law, husband of her self-effacing older sister, Yann. (The NF truly is a family business). Every young person who came to the Paris rally this week was handed a little brown plastic bag on behalf of the Marine Le Pen and Samuel Maréchal's youth movement. Each little bag contained a copy of the NF youth magazine Agir, with an article about "superior races". It also contained four posters. One showed a skinhead threatening immigrants,carrying a baseball bat, holding a pit-bull by the collar. The caption was "You are fucking France ... Clear off!" Another poster said "End immigration" and had a crude cartoon of a half-Bin Laden, half-Jewish-looking figure in a fez. The others showed a blonde, blue-eyed young woman and a blonde blue-eyed baby, presented as typical ethnic French people, threatened with unemployment because of immigration.

    Marine is blonde and blue-eyed. Few French people are. A strange obsession with Aryan purity lies only just behind the veneer of modernity in Marine Le Pen's de-demonised National Front. Her declared medium-term aim (before or after Jean-Marie bows from the scene) is to attract young votes, and, crucially, women's votes, and make the National Front the single largest party in France. People who know the NF well from the inside say that the problem for Marine, and the party, is the same as it has always been. It cannot move forward (even under camouflage) without © Independent Digital

    20/3/2004- David Blunkett faced embarrassing questions last night after it emerged that the home secretary's special adviser on race believed the law should not stop white employers discriminating against black job applicants. Matt Cavanagh argued that it should be left to firms to decide who they wanted to hire, acknowledging it might make good business sense for a company to employ only white staff if it believed its customers were racists. The disclosure of the Whitehall aide's controversial views, outlined in a book entitled Against Equality of Opportunity published two years ago, triggered disbelief as senior Labour figures questioned the former Oxford academic's suitability for a post in a government committed to expanding opportunities. Mr Cavanagh, a well-paid management consultant before he was taken on by Mr Blunkett last October, cited the example of a firm aware of the prejudices of its clients when recruiting workers. "A company realises that its customers, who are predominantly white, tend to prefer to do business with white staff. Depending on how strong this preference is, it might be rational for the company to discriminate against black applicants on the basis that, for this reason alone, they tend to be less good at the job," he wrote. The special adviser stated : "Perhaps we wouldn't naturally describe what the employer is doing as unfair", before going on to suggest that, while an employer was translating prejudice into effect, it should not be unlawful unless there was "unwarranted contempt" or very extreme discrimination.

    "At the very least he is left with dirty hands. But perhaps this is not the kind of wrongdoing that warrants state intervention. We might think that whether he keeps his hands clean is a matter for his conscience alone," wrote Mr Cavanagh. The special adviser's views shocked Labour MPs. David Winnick, a member of the Commons home affairs select committee, said only somebody who was "psychotic" would question anti-discrimination laws. "I would be most surprised if anyone who is an adviser to a cabinet member could hold such absurd views that we challenged and fought against 40 years ago," he said. Marsha Singh, another Labour member of the committee, said she was surprised that "anybody with that type of philosophy is at the heart of the Labour party. Equal opportunities is a central theme of this administration." Asked this week if he still believed the law should not prevent employers discriminating against ethnic minority job seekers, Mr Cavanagh replied: "I'm not sure I still stand by it; it's a complicated area. The question I'm trying to raise in that book, written for an academic philosophical audience, not a political audience, is irrelevant to what I do now." A lecturer in philosophy at St Catherine's College, Oxford, between 1996 and 2000, he said he had wanted to "loosen the debate" on questions of equality and meritocracy when it was published in 2002. He opposed discrimination but was eager to discuss how best to deal with it.

    A spokesman for Mr Blunkett said: "What has been written is an academic, philosophical analysis. It's not a programme for political action and David is the politician who makes the decisions at the end of the day. "He has spent 40 years in elected politics developing equal opportunities. He was aware of the contents of the book when he appointed Matt but, if you choose a political philosophy lecturer as an adviser, he will have grappled with philosophical and theoretical arguments that they did not necessarily sign up to in their entirety." Mr Cavanagh's views on employing women are similarly controversial. He accepts in his book that it is rational for employers to discriminate against women under 40 because they may take time off to have babies. He argued, however, the state owed a "debt of gratitude" to women for having babies, so discrimination should be barred. Mr Cavanagh also criticised what he ter ©The Guardian

    Six months ago the Met was in crisis - millions had been wasted on fruitless investigations of leading members of the Black Police Association, new accusations of institutional racism were in the air. Simon Hattenstone meets four officers who were in the eye of the storm then and have now come out the stronger

    20/3/2004- Long before he was infamous, Ali Dizaei was famous. He was frequently cited as the person most likely to be Britain's first non-white police chief. It had even been suggested that he would get the very top job: that he would be the first black officer to head the Metropolitan police. And then came the mudslinging. The Metropolitan police began investigating Dizaei in August 1999 and he was suspended in January 2001, accused of misuse of drugs, sex with prostitutes, divulging confidential information, unregistered business interests, accepting gratuities, swindling expenses, perverting the course of justice and having undermined national security. By the time he was tried last year, all charges had been dropped, bar two: perverting the course of justice (over where his car had been parked) and misconduct in public office (relating to a £270 expenses claim). After an estimated £7m of public money had been spent on the investigation, he was acquitted on both counts at two Old Bailey trials. Even then, the rumour mill had it that Dizaei, who was born in Iran, would never serve in the police force again. We were reminded in newspapers that Dizaei had lied about where he had left his car in September 2000 (he admitted he had not told the truth, fearing he would get into trouble with his boss for ignoring an order not to attend a meeting of the Black Police Association). More damagingly, we were reminded that he made threatening phone calls to girlfriend Mandy Darrougheh after she left him, saying, "I will take such revenge on you that, like a dog, you will be sorry. You will never treat me like this again. Mandy, I am going to declare war on you and I have declared it as of now. See what I will do to you. From now on, you are dead." That was indisputable - he had said terrible things to her - but what we were never told, he says, was that the police also had tapes proving that, 20 minutes after the abusive messages, he and Darrougheh had made up; the relationship continued for another six months before they split up amicably.

    We first meet in September 2003, just after the expenses case has been thrown out of the Old Bailey - the prosecution was forced to admit that, rather than overclaiming £270 from the Black Police Association(BPA), Dizaei was owed around £400. Not only does the Met have the "Dizaei problem", it has the "Logan problem". Almost £1m was spent investigating detective chief inspector Leroy Logan, another leading light in the BPA, over an £80 expenses claim. Logan has been cleared of any wrongdoing, no charges have been brought, and he is taking the Met to an employment tribunal for victimisation. At this point, the relationship between the Met and its black police officers is at an all-time low. It appears that the force has hounded two of its most senior - and most politicised - black officers, and the BPA says their experience is representative of that of many others. It is threatening to boycott the programme to recruit more black officers. Its argument is simple - if our officers are still facing such victimisation, how can we possibly recommend new black recruits to join? This is catastrophic for the Met, undermining its claim to police the capital even-handedly. Many black officers, Dizaei included, believe this new crisis is a backlash against the Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. When Macpherson famously concluded that the Met was "institutionally racist", black officers felt vindicated. At the same time, many white officers felt disempowered - Glen Smyth, the chairman of the Police Fede thinking was, 'It will send a very clear message to the rest who is the boss. We can reclaim some of the turf that has been lost as a result of the Lawrence inquiry.'" But, ultimately, he says, the operation went further. "Put yourself in my shoes for a minute. Imagine there were 44 people you worked with who got up every morning for three years, with all the executive power at their disposal, all the money they wanted, and their aim as they chewed their bacon sandwich was to put you in Brixton prison, and they got you almost to the door of the prison ... imagine, how do you think of them, how do you think of your employer?" The 44 people he refers to are the officers who formed Operation Helios, the team created to investigate him in 1999.

    On January 18 2001, Dizaei was asked to report to assistant commissioner Mike Todd. He was told that Todd wanted to congratulate him for being accepted on to the senior commanders' course that would see him fast-tracked into the Met's top rank. He wore his best suit for the occasion. But as he arrived at Cannon Row police station, four senior officers told him that he'd been under secret surveillance for more than a year and that dozens of officers were currently carrying out forensic searches of his family home, office, car, gym locker, and his girlfriend's home. When he was told that he was accused of corruption and was a threat to national security, he burst out laughing. But when none of the other officers joined in, he began to feel sick. At his trial last year, documents disclosed to the defence revealed the lengths to which Helios officers were prepared to go to find something of which they could accuse Dizaei. These are just a few examples:

  • Investigate for any missing items at police stations defendant served and then see if found in house search. Eg laptop missing in Kensington. Contact Supt Bennett at Reading Police Station re stamps going missing in 1980s.
  • Investigate defendant's car speedometer to see if it is working OK to prove mileage claims.
  • Investigate if Thames Valley would want to take action since defendant was in possession of a police nametag from his days in that force.
  • Fly to south of France to obtain statements from a concert-goer re sale of concert tickets.
  • Identify black PC who worked with defendant 16 years ago
  • Obtain the immigration file of every person known to defendant.
  • Trace and take statement from every taxi driver who has given defendant a receipt since 1998.
  • Investigate with dry cleaners to see if defendant had got a discount for dry cleaning his jeans.

    At Dizaei's first Old Bailey trial, it was revealed that chief superintendent Barry Norman, who led Helios, sent a letter to both the FBI and Los Angeles Police Department asking for help in the investigation of Dizaei because, "This operation is our last opportunity to prevent him from going on to the strategic command course and becoming a chief officer." All in all, Helios took 7,000 actions, 3,000 statements, 3,000 exhibits, and tapped 3,500 telephone calls. Dizaei was given the surveillance name Mozart. Friends of his (mostly Iranian, all from ethnic minorities and none of them ultimately charged with anything) were also given composers' names: Chopin, Elgar, Bach, Strauss, Ravel, Verdi, Wagner, Holst, Mahler, Brahms, Orff, Haydn, Puccini .

    Ali Dizaei joined the police in 1986 and rose quickly from sergeant to inspector to superintendent. He became more and more outspoken, often taking the Met to task and informing successive home secretaries that the police were failing black people. As he describes all this, he addresses me in the same assertive manner he must have used to countless senior officers. "You, for example, as chief superintendent running Notting Hill, have you considered why a black person is six times more likely to be arrested than a white person? And why is it when you walk into most police stations, all the pictures of villains stuck on the wall are black? Are there no white villains in London come easy, but it always came.

    After his master's degree, he applied to the police, aged 24, at a time when the Met was desperate for high-flying black officers, and the recruitment ads promised the earth. His father wasn't convinced. He told him that he hadn't put him through 10 years of private education just for him to be PC Dizaei, and that he'd walk the beat with officers who had struggled to pass three O-levels and didn't have much oil in their lamp. "He had serious concern as to whether I'd be accepted here because he'd witnessed the very overt racism of the 70s." So had young Ali. He had been chased by skinheads. But that was the past. Every organisation needs its bricklayers and its architects, he told his father, and he was going to be an architect. Even his father's worst forebodings could not have prepared him for the reality. "Very quickly I found the way I speak, where I come from, my colour, my religion, became an obsession among my colleagues. It was breathtaking. Every joke was about my background, every comment linked to the fact that I came from Iran, and that we're all heathens there, and we kill people and chop people's hands off. I remember a sergeant at my training school, every time I went past him he'd pretend he had a grenade because the Iranian revolution was on at the time." As soon as he finished his probation, he took the sergeants' exam. While his boss provided time for other aspirant sergeants to revise, he sent Dizaei on foot patrol around the streets of Reading at night. "It made me more determined - I passed it and came in the top 20 nationally out of 10,000, which qualified me immediately to apply for the accelerated promotion scheme, which is like the crème de la crème of the police force."

    Dizaei is an unlikely mix - swaggering and gentle, invincible and vulnerable, suspicious and generous. I ask what made him such a good officer. Well, he says, he always had a strong vision of how policing should be delivered, and he came up with good initiatives - for example, introducing police surgeries in Reading. "We rented a room in the local community centre and said to the public come and speak to us about any minor thing. We were only PCs at the time." No one has ever doubted Dizaei's ability. But many have doubted his character. He has been called arrogant and flash ("flash Arab") more times than he can remember. And while it's true he stands out, in his cowboy boots and shades and long suede coats, he is convinced that if he were white, different words would be used - outspoken, strong, assertive, say. Between 1987 and 1990, PC Albert Bernard and Dizaei were beat bobbies together. Today, Bernard is still a PC, and they are still good mates. "There are two sides to Ali, bless his cotton socks. At heart he's like a little kid. Out of uniform he's friendly, buoyant, polite, the life and soul of the party. When he's got the Queen's uniform on, he's completely different - so professional and businesslike. I always judge police officers by their understanding and reasonability, if that's a word. And his understanding was always good, and he was very reasonable. But he also had an arrogance, a confidence in himself that sets him apart from any officer I've known. Ali's the type of person you either love or hate." Bernard thinks it is amazing that he has survived the past four years. "A lesser man would have crumbled. But he's passionate about policing, you know. Last year, on the eve of the Met dropping their allegations, he asked me, 'Albino, what would you do if you were in my shoes?' and I said, 'I'd get the hell out of here' and what he said was, 'It's not about the money, it's about doing the right thing.'" As Dizaei, now 41, continued to progress through the ranks, he came across more obstacles. In 1999, he had to overcome opposition when he wanted to apply for promotion from chief inspector to superintendent; he threatened to go to an employment tribunal. "When you join the force, there is a presumption of incompetence unless you prove otherwise." And that is why, he says, beginning to be taken seriously and aggrieved members knew that if they wanted something, they should see Ali Dizaei about it. "I soon realised that black officers are not going to come to us as an association wanting us to organise curry evenings, they would come to us because they have had enough. So this networking forum quickly became mobilised and people like me who were legally qualified got almost daily referrals - people didn't want a shoulder to cry on, they wanted help in suing the force." The top brass thought of him as a dissident. "They thought I was the brains behind the BPA - wrongly so, because many of my colleagues in the BPA are far smarter than me."

    He called the Met strategically naive, arguing that simply increasing the number of black police officers, as Lord Scarman had suggested in his 1980s report after the Brixton riots, would not increase the confidence of black people in the Met: it didn't matter what colour officers were if their attitudes went unchanged. "It's like trying to cure a brain tumour with a Lemsip." He has always enjoyed his soundbites. The point he returns to time and again is that the Met never thought through the new recruitment policy. "The whole issue of diversity and race relations within policing came on the blind side of the police force because none of those people who thought it was a wonderful idea to change the structure of the organisation, by bringing in people who think differently, act differently, thought there might just be a bit of a problem." It was assumed, he says, that all the new black and Asian officers would eat in the canteen and drink in the Nag's Head because that is what cops have always done, with no thought that they might have other ideas.

    Dizaei was not surprised when he was suspended. For his PhD, Dizaei explored the issue of black policing in America and discovered the same pattern there 40 years earlier. After the race riots of the 1960s in the US, the Kerner Commission concluded that America needed more black police officers. Black officers entered the profession with high hopes which were soon thwarted. They set up a networking forum with the approval of police administrators, which then became mobilised into more militant associations that decided to demand rights. "They said if you don't give us rights, we're going to get them through the courts, which they did. And what did the police administrators do? They basically said, 'Fuck you, we'll take you on.' They took on a guy called Renault Robinson who set up the first black police association in Chicago. They tried to do him for not wearing his cap. Actually, it's freaky when you look at what they did to him and what they did to me and Leroy Logan. They tried to pay informants to incriminate him, which they did with me. And what did Robinson do? He took them to court and won. He beat Chicago's political police machine, and ever since the US National Black Police Association have hit a different horizon. Well, isn't that exactly what's happened over here?"

    Detective chief inspector Leroy Logan meets me in the reception area of New Scotland Yard by the memorial to officers killed in the course of duty. He is well built, exudes gravitas, a man of considerable presence. Logan is chair of the Met's Black Police Association, the biggest branch of the BPA. Two years after the Metropolitan police began to investigate Ali Dizaei, they started to look at the colleagues he networked with, basically members of the BPA. They combed the books and finances of the BPA, calling it collateral intrusion. In June 2001, Logan was served with a disciplinary notice for wrongly claiming £80 expenses after a night in a hotel following a BPA conference. Logan recognised it as an oversight, paid back the money, but the police decided to press ahead anyway. After three years trawling through Logan's expenses, no evidence of wrongdoing was found. The investigation was estimated to have cost almost £1 million. Like Dizaei, he says he was anticipating an attack on his probity. "I felt it coming fr talks easily here, about his past, how he studied to be a scientist, worked as a research technician at London's Royal Free Hospital before deciding to join the police, aged 26. "I think what spurred me on was that, two months before I joined, my father was badly beaten up by police officers in Holloway. He was 57, and he wasn't your standard yob. He was a long-distance driver who had double-parked to pop into a chip shop near where we used to live in Islington, and the officers came by and said he was blocking the highway. My dad said, 'Can I just measure it?' but before he could do anything, they clubbed him and he was battered black and blue." As Logan tells the story, even he seems surprised by his reaction: "Even though you would have thought the last thing I should do is join the police service, there was something in me saying that you've got to be part of the organisation to move that organisation on, to challenge those sorts of people's attitudes and behaviour." His father, he says, was horrified. "He couldn't believe I was joining the organisation that beat him up. I told him they needed more black people and, you know, you can't steer a ship from the shore." It wasn't only Logan's father who was dismayed. Nobody could understand his intentions - he was regarded as a turncoat. "My family and friends said, why are you going into a racist organisation that persecutes us, and I questioned myself on that several times, but I believed I was being called to do it." Most of his colleagues didn't see it that way, though. "I used to represent the division for football, and we were driving from King's Cross to Surrey and they were making comments about black people and females, and a lot of it was focused on me. This was my team-mates. Fortunately I had a good game, so they were quite positive coming back. As we parked at King's Cross hours later, I said, 'If I wasn't present on the bus, what would you have talked about?' I think a lot of it was about testing my mettle, it wasn't just about being racist, it was can we get to him." Did he rise to the bait? "Yeah, I did. But not the way they thought I would. They wanted me to show that I was vulnerable, but I told them, 'I had a career before I joined this organisation, and I'll have a career afterwards. I wonder how many of you can guarantee that. Some of you are just fit to do police work, and some of you have got to question how fit you are to be police officers.'"

    Logan was praised in Sir William Macpherson's report for his testimony, and was awarded an MBE in 2001. He made considerable progress in the Met, if not at Dizaei's spectacular rate. The two weren't exactly mates, but they worked closely together in the BPA, stressing that retention was as important as recruitment (three times as many black officers fail to complete training school) and exposing the way non-white officers tended to be overscrutinised for a mistake and underpraised for fine work. "My case was always linked to Ali's. This is one of the things I didn't want to say downstairs because ears were flapping. The inquiry team realised they'd spent a lot of money and there wasn't a lot to show for it, and they thought the BPA was incompetent and corrupt. So they started looking at the Home Office money we had and the Met money we had. I think they lost objectivity and were on a personal vendetta. They thought, take the shepherds out and the sheep will scatter - divide and rule."

    The Metropolitan police strongly denies the allegation that Operation Helios was an attempt to undermine the BPA. "We don't believe that Operation Helios was racist in motivation or motivated by internal politics," a spokesman says. "It was an investigation into an allegation of corruption and unprofessional activity by an individual officer, and the Metropolitan police takes the integrity of its officers and staff very seriously. We must investigate any allegations of wrongdoing. And that's the case regardless of rank, race, gender. Before the first trial of Supt Dizaei began, there were several weeks when Supt Dizaei's defence lawyers attempted to make exactly this argument, and the recorder of London, the most senior judge at the Old Bailey, rejected this argument and found the investigation had been properly conducted."
    ©The Guardian

    20/3/2004- Retired detective chief inspector David Michael was one of the founder members of the BPA 10 years ago. Actually, he says, its roots go back to a series of seminars held in Bristol in 1990. The seminars were organised by the Met because it realised that many black officers were unhappy in their work, and they wanted to know how to improve their lot. "Out of the seminars the Met formed an equal opportunities committee, and there was not one black person on it." He smiles. In that year, he also lodged his own employment tribunal case against the police for racial discrimination and victimisation. How different it was from the day he joined the Met on his 19th birthday in December 1972. Michael was a golden boy, a natural leader. "At Hendon training school, the class instructor told us to pick a class captain, and the vast majority decided they wanted me to be the class captain. And when we took it back to the class instructor, who was a sergeant, he bounced it back and told the class to have another go. For me, that was one of the defining moments. But I didn't make an issue of it." Michael, as the first black officer in Lewisham, soon came to be regarded as a role model, the face of the future. He was even featured on television and in newspapers.

    Before we meet, he tells me to look at his website, which features stories about officers who have been victimised; not simply those who experienced racism, but women who were discriminated against and one former officer who was dismissed for refusing to attend an on-duty drinks party. Famous quotes are scattered around the website. One of Michael's favourites is by abolitionist Frederick Douglass and dates back to 1857. "Those who profess to favour freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without ploughing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its waters." Michael joined the police before the introduction of the Race Relations Act in 1976. "Crude racist language and behaviour were accepted everywhere - in the canteen, in police cars, in the front office. Black people were referred to as coons, wogs, spades, spooks, all those sorts of things. And it went completely unchallenged by supervising or senior officers." But the strange thing is, Michael says, most of the officers who were so hostile to black people were well-intentioned towards him. "My colleagues at the time did not personally abuse me, though my experiences later on proved different. They'd say, 'We don't see you as a black person, we see you as just one of us. We just see you as a cop.' " They would tell him they were sure that if he went back to Dominica, where he was born, he could become a sergeant or even higher. "I used to think, why are you saying that, I'm a Metropolitan police officer, so in a sense they were making the decision that I wasn't to aspire to anything apart from being a foot soldier in the Met." But he did make progress: slow, steady progress from constable to sergeant to detective inspector, before hitting what he perceived to be a glass ceiling.

    The David Michael who helped found the BPA was a very different man from the starry-eyed youngster who joined the police. Whereas he had spoken passionately in defence of the Met, now he was using his eloquence to expose his employer. He was always quick to praise the good - even now, he wants to stress that there have been great forward-thinkers leading the Met, such as Robert Mark and Peter Imbert - but he also drew attention to the bigotry. "I think I was the first serving police officer in Britain to stand up at a conference and say that racism is endemic in the Metropolitan police - that was in November 1995. It caused a furore." When he returned to work, even junior officers were openly hostile to him. He had to explain himself to the deputy commissioner of police, the Just before the tribunal was due to start, the Met settled with him. "It was March 13 1998, which so happened to be the last day of part two of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, which I gave evidence to." Like so many police officers, he has a good head for dates. He received compensation and was welcomed back to work by the then commissioner, Sir Paul Condon. By now race was a huge issue, and the last thing the Met wanted was headline stories about the first black officer in Lewisham taking his employer to court. Even so, Michael was greeted with renewed hostility on his return. "He [Condon] showed me the greatest humanity and on a personal level treated me very well. Unfortunately, this was repudiated by others in the organisation who stuck two fingers up to him." Michael served his full 30 years before retiring a year ago, but after he returned, and despite a promotion to chief inspector, he realised that his career had been stymied. He spent a great deal of his final years in the Met advising black officers who had been victimised. Michael recites the names of wronged black officers like a mantra: Sandra Locker, Joy Hendricks, Raj Ranjan, Norwell Roberts (the first black man to be accepted into the Met in 1967, he had his buttons torn off his uniform by fellow officers and bananas thrown at him from patrol cars) and, perhaps most famously, Gurpal Virdi, the sergeant who was sacked after being accused of sending himself and others racist hate mail. And now Michael's youngest daughter is considering joining the police. He says he would do nothing to dissuade her. "Although I have discussed all these experiences with you, I wouldn't want it to be lost how proud I am of the many significant achievements I gained in my 30 years in the British police."

    Gurpal Virdi, 45, is a quiet, dignified man with a generous smile and a nervous laugh. He has been back at work for two years. When we met at his house a couple of years ago, he was almost in tears as he told me how the police ransacked his home in 1998 as if he were a terrorist. The thing he kept returning to was that his children were there. "They even searched the kids. It was April 15 ... the same day the Titanic went down." Back then, Virdi had complained about racist hate mail that he had received at work. On the day they raided his house, he discovered he was the chief suspect - the allegation was that he had sent out the hate mail to prove that there was racism in the police force because he was bitter at still being a sergeant after 16 years of service. The police also alleged that the Sikh officer was aggrieved because he had been ignored when he suggested that the stabbing of two Asian people had been racially motivated. Virdi was found guilty and sacked. Two years ago, he told me, in a barely audible tone, that he had hit such a low he had considered killing himself. Today he is all smiles and hearty handshake. He talks about the work he's now doing with the community, under the aegis of the Met's most senior black officer, assistant commissioner Tarique Ghaffur. In January 2002, the Metropolitan Police Authority's 200-page Virdi report concluded he'd been falsely accused of sending racist hate mail to himself and other ethnic minority officers, and had been "convicted" by a kangaroo court. Meanwhile, an employment tribunal ruled he had been falsely dismissed for an offence he couldn't have committed. He eventually received about £240,000 compensation.

    Perhaps the most astonishing thing of all was that Virdi decided to rejoin the force when he was cleared. But he says he had no choice.What was his first day back like? "It was weird." He laughs uncertainly. "I was very nervous. You're thinking, how many eyes are on me? What are people thinking? How many knives are going to go into my back?" A couple of years ago, Virdi said he thought the police had changed for the better post-Macpherson, but now he's unsure. "There is a commitment from the top and there is a commitment from the bottom, but we have a cancer of middle management that is unwilling to chan racism is not exclusive to the Met. Virdi tells me the one thing everyone is talking about at the moment is The Secret Policeman, the BBC undercover documentary shot in a police training college in Cheshire that revealed rampant racism and resulted in seven officers resigning. (One of them, PC Rob Pulling of North Wales police, was captured wearing a Ku Klux Klan-style hood and saying that he believed Stephen Lawrence had deserved to die.) "All the ethnic officers were delighted by the programme actually because it was something they'd been saying for many years," Virdi says. "With the white officers there was shock, horror and denial in some quarters." By early November 2003, things had finally come to a head - the boycott coupled with the documentary forced the issue. David Blunkett personally intervened to broker a deal between the Met and the BPA. Logan is to be paid £100,000 compensation and agrees to drop his employment tribunal, Dizaei is to be paid £80,000 compensation and reinstated, and there is to be an inquiry, chaired by former TGWU leader Sir Bill Morris, into the way in which Scotland Yard examines allegations against its own staff. In exchange, the BPA is to end its boycott of the recruitment programme. Although Morris stressed that it will not focus purely on prominent individuals and will not concern itself solely with race, the inquiry is largely a result of the collapse of the cases against Dizaei. It is expected to hear from more than 100 black officers who feel they have been mistreated by the Met.

    In late January 2004, I meet Dizaei at the BPA's London HQ. He is back on the fast-track to promotion (of 74 officers currently being fast-tracked, only two are from ethnic minorities), preparing to start his senior commanders' course. He looks so different - instead of the jeans and cowboy boots, he is packed tight into a uniform. It's going to be a strange six months, even by Dizaei's standards - while he is on the course, he will be giving evidence to the Morris inquiry. Dizaei has been away in Iran seeing his family, but in his absence there have been more news stories about him. He is issuing libel writs against Associated Newspapers and the Sun. "Look," he says, "they've done it again", and shows me a story about his "extravagant" lifestyle. "They think people like myself and members of the public will just put their tail between their legs and walk away. But I will remortgage my house if I need to fight a defamation action. Simple as that. I trained as a lawyer and I put my money where my mouth is. I think my battle has just finished with the Met, but it has just started with the newspapers." He estimates that the Met would have been willing to pay him a seven-figure sum to leave quietly, but he insisted on returning to the £60,000 a year job he loves.

    He suggests we get coffee from Victoria station. As we walk down the street, he says that, in one way, it is wonderful to be back at work. "Incredible. When I walk through the police station, invariably every black and Asian officer comes up and shakes my hand." And the white officers? "They simply acknowledge my rank." It's different with the public. "I was at Victoria station the other day buying a paper and I had men in grey suits coming to me and saying well done." In some ways, he says, returning to work has been extremely uncomfortable. "I don't trust anybody. I don't leave my bags in the office. I carry everything in a suitcase which I lock; I don't put anything on my office computer - I have a laptop; I don't use the work phone unless I'm ringing another superintendent. It's almost like I have two angels on my shoulders - one is saying, 'Be careful, be careful' and the other is saying, 'Don't let these bastards change your life'." He talks about the many black officers who have quit the force because of the treatment they faced from white colleagues and superiors. That is why, he says, it is so important that there have been David Michaels and Gurpal Virdis and Leroy Logans and Ali Dizaeis - survivors, officers who have come thr shortages that I had because of my absence ... Now I'm looking forward to moving on." In six months' time, he should have completed his senior commanders' course. Could he conceivably become a commander when he still has so many enemies in the Met? "I recognise that," he says, "and you know, three months ago, people were saying, 'Come on, is it conceivable that you will ever wear a uniform again and be an operational superintendent?' Well, I'm now back in uniform and last night I was making operational decisions." Yes, he says, of course he thinks he should get the job. But does he think he will? "I really do believe if I don't get a job, it would not be because of my competence to be a commander. Now the question is about acceptability. Remember, I'm the dark angel - the demonisation of Dizaei has been a clear strategy." And what if they find him unacceptable? "I think I have to be realistic. Part of the pantomime was muckraking and some of the mud has stuck. But you know, they'd better be good, extremely good, in refusing me for the right reasons because they know that I don't take No easily."
    ©The Guardian

    As the police crack down on the trade in illegal jobs, Anushka Asthana reports from Salford on the reality of life on the immigrant front line, and three refugees tell of the struggles they have faced
    By Anushka Asthana

    28/3/2004- In a street in Salford, the man at Number Seven has been asking the council for years to fix his fence. It hangs away from the garden, swinging in the wind, with only a few patches of splattered paint left to show it was once white. As I park my car I notice him looking suspiciously across the road. Following his eye-line, I find myself staring at a house that has all the curtains drawn tight. The front window is covered with smears from dozens of eggs. At another house there is a hole in the glass where a stone has broken through. Later I find out why the man is peering at these houses. He is bitter that the council, which, he says, has given him so little, has provided two properties on the street to house families seeking asylum. Inside one of those houses is a 21-year-old woman called Leyla. She came to Britain from Somalia in search of a better life, but has failed her claim and appeal. Her hopes for the future were wiped out six months ago when she returned home to find her keys no longer fitted the lock to her door. Since then she has moved from family to family, staying on floors until they ask her to move on. As a failed asylum seeker, she has no benefits, no home and no right to work. Were it not for the kindness of families offering her shelter, she would be destitute. The man across the road is not alone in feeling bitter. Asylum seekers are an isolated group in the UK. Vilified in fear-mongering headlines and subject to increasingly draconian measures by the Government, they are the latest in a long list of scapegoats. I went to live with Leyla because I wanted to find out what life is really like for people who have travelled thousands of miles to escape a country - to discover their motivations and to understand how it feels to step out of Somalia and find yourself in a predominantly white and working-class Northern suburb.

    It takes less than five minutes to drive up the A6 from Manchester to Salford, but it feels like a different world. For, while Salford has benefited greatly from the regeneration of the Quays and the opening of the Lowry Arts Centre, it remains one of the more deprived cities in Britain, sitting in the shadow of its thriving neighbour. In this part of Salford, there are no squares filled with beautiful sculptures and fountains and no streets lined with multi-cultural restaurants, delis and designer shops. Instead there is row upon row of worn-down and boarded-up terraced housing. I knock on the door of the house that Leyla is supposed to be in, but there is no answer. I try twice more before the door-handle turns and a shy-looking woman peeks her head around it. She looks younger than 21. I walk into a room with three women and a man - everyone seems nervous. On the television is a video of Somali women singing. The small lounge has basic furniture sitting on thin blue carpets. The seats are pushed up against the walls. The house has heating and water, but the wallpaper is peeling and there is damp on the ceiling. There is only a dull light and it is cold. A kitchen chair becomes a table when one woman brings me a cup of tea. She has a deep scar across her face, which looks as though it was made by someone taking a bite out of her cheek. The women begin to talk. They say they fled Somalia because they were raped, they saw their sons, husbands and fathers killed. They lived every day in fear. So far the Government believes one of them, Mariam, and has given her and her two daughters residence. One more, Fathia, is waiting with her three sons. 'Salford is OK,' says Mariam, who lives at another house near by. 'Some people good, some people b fluent because of the time she spent in a college.

    On the first evening we go for a walk. At the end of the road there is a park where teenagers are making a bonfire. We pass them, but then Leyla says she prefers to avoid the area. As we turn to go I hear someone shrieking. A boy is leaning forward and screaming. To my horror, he is screaming at us. I can't hear at first, but it soon becomes clear. 'Asyyylluuum,' he hollers. 'Get the fuck out of here. Blaacky.' His friends all start laughing. So does Leyla. As we walk away she does an impression of the boy. She leans back her head, holds up her arms and yelps: 'Asylum, blacky.' She turns it into a joke, but it reminds me of the past. My parents came to England in 1975 and I grew up only ten miles away from Salford. When I was a child people would sometimes scream 'Paki' at me and my brother. When I was six or seven I wished I was white and would ask my mum not to wear traditional clothes in public. But that stopped years ago and I am proud and comfortable about my race today. The kids who shouted at us are a new generation. They also want to abuse those different to them. But the focus has changed from anyone who is not white to asylum seekers. Being sworn at by a stranger always upset me and I am surprised at Leyla's calm and amused response. 'It is not all right for people to do that,' I say. 'It is not all right for people to launch eggs at your window or scream abuse at you.' She tells me that Salford is fine, and has got better over the past two years. 'It gets really bad when it snows,' she says giggling. 'They throw snowballs at the house.' A month ago a boy covered a stone in snow and threw it at her. We return and eat food with the others. That night we are both given beds to sleep in at Mariam's house. All night Leyla tosses and turns. The next morning she tells me she can't stay here much longer. These families have been incredibly kind, but they are also scared. If anyone from the council comes round to the house, Leyla has to hide in the bathroom or a storage cupboard. If she ends up on the streets it will be worse. 'I can't sleep at night,' she says hugging her knees, her eyes glazing over. 'All the time I worry about my situation. I want to get married, I want to have a family, I want to work. Now I can't do any of that. But Somalia is not safe to return to.' We walk down to the house that she used to live in. 'When the key didn't work I tried for two hours before I realised what had happened,' she says. 'Life felt so useless from that day. At least if I had a husband or children, but I am so alone. That night I went to the Salford Rapar building and screamed. I just stood outside crying.'

    Salford's Refugees and Asylum Participatory Research Project (Rapar) provides a place for people to go to for information and help and researches how dispersal is working. Inside Leyla is with friends. She passes me a piece of paper that outlines Fathia's story. It says her husband left her and her sons when she was gang-raped. Her family was locked into one room while four men attacked her with knives and guns. She claims to have been bitten in her cheek until blood was drawn. That is the scar I noticed when I first arrived. Listening to personal stories instead of statistics, I feel only sympathy. I ask them how they feel when they read that many Brits do not want asylum seekers here. 'Why would anyone hate me?' says one of Leyla's friends, who has also failed her claim. 'I have nothing, no food or money, nothing.' But life in Salford has a positive side. Each day at 3pm we go to pick up the children from school. They career around shouting and playing with the other children. In less than a year they are all fluent in English. Mariam has two daughters who would have nothing if they were in Somalia. But here they have an education and are safe. 'For me, I thank God and I thank the British Government,' Mariam tells me. 'When I came here everywhere people were kind to me and my daughters. You can't say no to children.' She saw her son killed in with her. She only speaks broken English: 'We smile to try to forget, so we don't cry any more - so the children don't see cry. They will be happy here.' The phone rings and Fathia's youngest son picks it up. He hold his hands in the air and gasps 'police', and then bursts out laughing. At only six years old he is aware of their situation. His mum tells him I have come to take him to Somalia and he screams 'no'. The chances are he will be allowed to stay. But Leyla has no hope left. Sitting in the lounge, I become very aware of the clock ticking by and try to imagine what it would be like if there was nothing to look forward to. Every month Leyla is required to sign in at a local building to show she is still here. She never tries to deceive the authorities. 'People have been dumped in Salford, but without resources,' says Dr Rhetta Moran, a senior research fellow at the Revans Institute with overall responsibility for the Salford Rapar project. 'There was no additional support for local practitioners. There is not one immigration solicitor in the whole city. And it leads to bitterness because this is a place where locals have been making their own demands on the council for years.' Moran thinks that adjusting to this situation is as hard for those seeking asylum as the indigenous population. 'They are the most vulnerable people in the country,' she adds. 'It is a waterfall of suffering and we just see a tiny part of it. Again and again we see feelings of isolation, loss and anxiety.'

    During my time with Leyla, I have felt eyes looking at me wherever I go. Children are happy to scream abuse at asylum seekers. But she doesn't mind being a scapegoat, she doesn't mind the screaming or the eggs. It is ten times better than being raped. At least here she was able to tell her story more than once. Where she comes from there was and is no appeal system - her boss just threw boiling water on to her legs if she ever complained. As I leave Leyla, I tell her she must not give up hope. To that she simply laughs and says: 'I hope if you tell our story it might make everything better.'

  • Names have been changed.
    ©The Observer

    30/3/2004- Seven doctors are suing the British Medical Association for racial discrimination after it failed to back them in legal claims of racism in the NHS. Two of the doctors have won payouts of hundreds of thousands of pounds after private legal action which they paid for when the BMA declined to support them. The sudden slew of cases has led to charges that the BMA is "institutionally racist" and could plunge the association deeper in debt. The BMA is overspent by £7m. Last week, the BMA lost an appeal against an award of £815,000 to an overseas doctor whom it refused to back in a claim against the NHS, after a tribunal ruled two years ago that the association had been guilty of racial discrimination. The award, which with interest amounts to almost £1m, is believed to be the largest in a racism case. It was made to Rajendra Chaudhary, a general surgeon who qualified in India and came to Britain in 1986. After 10 years of further training in hospitals he found himself barred from becoming a consultant. When he tried to bring a case against the NHS for race discrimination, his application was refused because it was out of time, so he sued the BMA for wrongful advice and failing to support him. He won his record payout after an employment tribunal ruled that the BMA's procedures for assessing race discrimination cases were themselves discriminatory.

    The case has provoked other doctors disgruntled at the lack of support from the BMA. A joint application by five hospital doctors, to be heard in May, includes four who say the BMA failed to support them in individual cases against hospital trusts, Hospital Doctor magazine says. The fifth, the general surgeon Vijay Jadhav, has already won £635,000 in a case he brought against the Secretary of State for Health last year after he was repeatedly turned down for consultant posts, and he is claiming additional damages against the BMA for failing to back his claim. In a separate case, Indrani Wijesurendra, an anaesthetist, won £149,000 last October in a case against East Kent NHS trust which the BMA had also refused to back. Mr Jadhav, who now works at Kingston hospital as a "staff-grade" surgeon, one rung below a consultant, says he spent £100,000 bringing his private action after the BMA refused him support. Halfway through the case, after Mr Jadhav's barrister had said his chances of winning were high, the BMA changed its mind and offered support, but only if Mr Jadhav agreed to switch to the BMA's lawyers. Mr Jadhav refused. He said yesterday that the BMA had refused to take up the cases of overseas doctors after changes to medical training in 1996 put them at a disadvantage. "They knew we were disadvantaged but decided not to challenge it. They just accepted what the Department of Health told them. "The Chaudhary case proves they had such a policy of not assisting us in our race discrimination claims. The BMA is institutionally racist. "This is not just my experience," Mr Jadhav added. "When any overseas doctor has a case against any part of the medical establishment, the BMA tries to waste time handing out advice so the case becomes out of time. I know many other people who have lost cases because of the BMA."

    The BMA said yesterday that it was committed to tackling racism in the NHS and had taken on 36 race discrimination cases in the past six months. But it could support cases of any kind only where its lawyers judged there was a better than 50 per cent chance of success. The association said it had spent £150,000 in legal fees defending Mr Chaudhary in three race discrimination appeals and one employment tribunal, independently of the case he brought against the BMA. Dr Nizam Mamode, until January a senior member of BMA leadership, said: "All these doctors had strong cases, which is why several of them have won compensation despite the BMA's lack of support. There are certain parts of the BMA which are bia © Independent Digital

    31/3/2004- Educational experts have challenged the Government to provide specialist teachers in Citizenship in order to stem the growing tide of Islamophobia post 9/11. University of Leicester staff and students have highlighted the need for changes in the curriculum in order to promote an inclusive national identity. Their views are expressed in the latest edition of the journal 'Race Equality Teaching'. Professor Audrey Osler, Director of the Centre for Citizenship Studies in Education at the University of Leicester, said citizenship education can transform the curriculum. Her views are echoed by University of Leicester graduate Kirsty James, a former PGCE Citizenship student (2002-03) and a teacher at a City of Leicester School. She suggests how teachers can promote an inclusive national identity. She challenges the Government to provide more specialist teachers of Citizenship. She writes: "The events of 11 September 2001 have profoundly changed British society. There is increased racism and a worrying rise in Islamophobia. Citizenship education is about overcoming the barriers to is about protecting democracy, from anti-democratic forces such as organised racism and xenophobia."

    Chris Spurgeon, an English teacher at Hamilton Community College in Leicester describes a school project which encourages students in Years 7 and 8 to consider how and why they have ended up in that school in the City and to explore their physical journeys and feelings. It includes established students from white and Asian communities as well as new arrivals from countries as diverse as Zimbabwe, Portugal and Kosovo. It focuses on the many cultures and on the challenges facing the city. Tasneem Ibrahim, a research assistant in the Centre for Citizenship Studies in Education (CCSE) at the University of Leicester draws on her experience as a project officer in the Department for International Development - funded project on the national global dimension data base of resources for teachers. Former CCSE colleague Dr Raul Pardinaz-Solis, now based at Skillshare International in Leicester explains how we have trained East Midlands teachers to develop global perspectives in the classroom.

    Clive Billingham, advisory teacher for multicultural education in Leicester, describes a project undertaken in partnership with Leicestershire Police and the Haymarket Theatre as a result of police concerns about racist abuse of Asian women by children on a local housing estate. He describes how he worked with children at Merrydale Junior School and Northfield House Primary to make a video which is now used by schools across the city and nationally to raise awareness about racial bullying and harassment. He says: This resource helps schools to explore racist harassment as a specific and identifiable form of anti-social behaviour, with deep historical roots and significant social consequences. The 'Throwing Stones' video provides opportunities for teachers to work with children to discuss these issues. Professor Audrey Osler says: "Leicester teachers have considerable expertise in working with children to increase their understanding of cultural diversity and challenge racism. At the Centre for Citizenship Studies in Education we aim to support teachers in sharing the expertise with their colleagues across the country." The teachers' journal 'Race Equality Teaching' provides excellent practical advice for teachers - both those working in multicultural environments like Leicester and those working in rural environments with children who have little direct experience of other cultures.
    More information

    30/3/2004- Home Secretary David Blunkett has suspended all immigration applications from Romania and Bulgaria in the wake of the latest row on migrant checks. The Tories will step up pressure on Immigration Minister Beverley Hughes in a Commons debate on the issue. A British diplomat in Bucharest has been suspended for claiming migrants were allowed to stay in Britain despite warnings about flawed applications. Mr Blunkett says he is freezing claims while the row is investigated.

    Downing Street is urging people not to rush to judgement. Saying inquiry officials would travel to Romania and Bulgaria, the prime minister's official spokesman said: "This is a serious allegation and will be taken seriously by the government. The test of that has been the government's response to them." Tony Blair still "absolutely" had confidence in Ms Hughes, he added. The home secretary will defend Ms Hughes in Tuesday's Commons debate as the Tories renew their calls for her resignation after the new claims. James Cameron, a civil servant in the British embassy in Bucharest, e-mailed his concerns to shadow home secretary David Davis. Mr Davis has accused the government of a cover-up, but Ms Hughes says she will not quit or be forced out of office. The civil servant, who now faces disciplinary action, has accused officials of ignoring advice that applications from Bulgarians and Romanians and other eastern Europeans were based on forged or suspect documentation. The Tories are alleging that there was a system of weakened checks in order to clear a backlog and will make the affair the centrepiece of an opposition-led debate on immigration on Tuesday.

    Hotline promise
    Mr Blunkett told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I intend to suspend all applications, not just the fast-track, from Romania and Bulgaria as from this morning until we get to the bottom of this." Senior immigration and nationality official Ken Sutton, who investigated previous concerns, is being asked to reopen his inquiry. The home secretary also offered staff a hotline to raise their concerns without fear of suspension. He said the public would be understandably bewildered in the wake of a spate of claims about the immigration system and he asked people to listen to the facts. "I carry ultimate responsibility and accountability for what goes on and I will answer for it today in the House," he added. Mr Davis said Mr Cameron had claimed checks waived by Sheffield immigration officials, which led to the suspension of whistleblower Steve Moxon, were the "tip of the iceberg". "The government's attempts to cover up information this man sent me knows no bounds," he said. "After smearing one civil servant, they now suspend a British consul for doing what he feels is his public duty, namely telling Parliament what Beverley Hughes left out of her account of the whole immigration system." He said he had only now released the e-mail because he had not known who the official was until last Friday.

    Political ends
    Ms Hughes accused Mr Davis of political opportunism in waiting three weeks before releasing the text of the e-mail. She told BBC Two's Newsnight: "They simply want to use this material for their own political ends to fuel people's fears about immigration and keep a bad story running." The minister said she had not known the details until Monday. Mr Cameron had been interviewed by the Foreign Office last week but he had not offered a copy of the e-mail. Last week the Mr Sutton's inquiry found a decision to waive checks in Sheffield on eastern Europeans seeking to come to Britain to set up businesses had been taken by junior staff without ministers' approval.
    ©BBC News

    27/3/2004- Mohammed Lazizi, who fled a bloody military crackdown in his native Algeria, seems a model candidate for political asylum. After 11 years in the Netherlands, he speaks fluent Dutch, juggles three jobs, and teaches judo to handicapped children in his spare time. Instead, Lazizi faces imprisonment and expulsion to his volatile and violent homeland. The Netherlands, once one of Europe's most open countries, is undergoing a fundamental shift that will turn away immigrants by the tens of thousands. Virtually every European government is cracking down, but none as fiercely as the Dutch. Last month, its Parliament adopted a one-time measure to deport 26,000 rejected asylum seekers, and the government is preparing to open "expulsion centers" this spring where entire families will be detained pending deportation. The first to go will be about 3,000 asylum seekers who have exhausted all possibilities. No one, it seems, is immune -- not even Sarah Chmoun, 79, and her husband, Chabo, 84, a couple who are handicapped and suffering dementia, and are cared for by their Dutch son and five grandchildren. Both are threatened with deportation to Syria, their home country. "If I'm such a nuisance to the Dutch government, they should just kill me here," said Sarah Chmoun. "I don't need to be sent all the way back to Syria to die on the streets." When she came in 1993, the doors were wide open for those seeking refuge from persecution -- 433,000, or 2.7 percent of the Dutch population, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. When her husband arrived seven years later, the Dutch were having second thoughts. Until now, rejected applicants were ordered to leave but not forcibly expelled. So most stayed illegally, as did Lazizi and the Chmouns.

    But increasingly, like many native Europeans, the Dutch feel overwhelmed by immigrants from the Muslim east, Africa and former Dutch colonies who often form an underclass in crowded cities with high crime rates. The Netherlands is one of the most densely packed countries on Earth. Its 3 million first- or second-generation immigrants are 19 percent of the 16 million inhabitants -- nearly twice the proportion of Germany. Cities such as Rotterdam are one-third immigrant, and studies say that figure will rise to 50 percent by 2017. "An uncoordinated stream of immigrants leads to social tensions, overtaxing of the welfare state, disturbances in the labor market and development of `concentration neighborhoods' in the big cities," Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said. A gradual clampdown that began in 2000 has cut asylum applications by 70 percent, compared with declines of 36 percent in Germany, 38 percent in Britain and 60 percent in Belgium. To discourage newcomers, the Dutch increased prices for residency documents by as much as 600 percent, cracked down on illegal labor, introduced compulsory language and citizenship courses, and made it much harder for an immigrant to import a spouse. The parameters of the debate were transformed by the 2002 election campaign, when maverick politician Pim Fortuyn voiced an opinion many shared but were ashamed to say out loud: There's no room for more immigrants. Fortuyn was assassinated nine days before the election, but his ideas resonated among Dutch who think the high taxes they pay for their social safety net shouldn't be spent on immigrants. Fortuyn's party won 10 percent of the vote and a place in a coalition government, where its ideas were co-opted by mainstream parties.

    Thousands of refused asylum seekers already have been put on chartered flights, many to unstable countries such as Somalia and Afghanistan. The new expulsion procedure will begin at closed-door centers at sites such as converted army barracks, each with room for several hundred inmates. The government will be able to keep them there for up to four months, and they will be offered counsel rulings are binding on European countries.

    Like thousands of others who have exhausted Dutch asylum procedures, Lazizi has been asked to cooperate in his own unwilling departure by obtaining travel documents from the Algerian Embassy, but the embassy refused, he said. Lazizi left Algeria in 1993 shortly after his Islamic Salvation Front party was outlawed and its leader assassinated. Under military rule, thousands of political opponents have been killed or gone missing and disappearances still occur, according to Human Rights Watch. "The military came to power, and supporters of the party were oppressed or detained in prison camps in the desert," Lazizi, 31, said in an interview. "You have to stay silent and live under oppression. I couldn't do it." He got a grant to study Dutch at Amsterdam University and graduated as a sports therapist. Although refused residency and a work permit, he illegally holds a full-time carpenter job and works as a sports therapist and judo teacher in the evenings. "If you're caught with 3 kilograms of cocaine at the airport, you're free to walk because of prison cell shortages," Lazizi said. "But for us they build special expulsion centers."
    ©Associated Press

    30/3/2004— The Nieuwe Rechts (New Right) party in the Netherlands has received support from the radical right-wing ahead of the upcoming European elections. Nieuwe Rechts (NR) was set up by Councillor Michiel Smit after he was expelled from Pim Fortuyn's Leefbaar Rotterdam (LR) for allegedly flirting with the extreme right. Former parliamentarian Wim Elsthout has written a letter calling on members and supporters of Centrumdemocraten (Centre Democracy or CD) to rally behind NR's European election drive, it was reported Tuesday. Elsthout entered the Dutch Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, in 1997 for the CD as a replacement for the deceased Cor Zonneveld. He lost his seat the following year. Regarded as the heir apparent to CD founder Hans Janmaat (1934-2002), Elsthout is best known as a former councillor in Haarlem. He gained national notoriety in 1987 when he wrote a letter to the local newspaper advocating the scrapping of dog tax. He proposed instead that Turks and Moroccans could be put to work cleaning up dog excrement from the streets "because they came here to do the dirty work". A court later imposed a suspended sentence and fined him NLG 500 for his remarks. Calling on CD supporters to help the NR, Elsthout said in his latest letter: "It is high time to unite in a movement against the political nation squanderers responsible for the large number of immigrants in our country, the enormous insecurity and criminality as well as the growing poverty among our people". In the run up to the general election in January 2003, he advised people to vote for the LPF party. He has now lost faith in the LPF and the city party, Leefbaar Rotterdam. "One bright spot in the political darkness is the rise of Michiel Smit's party," he said. Smit is alleged to have made several racist remarks in relation to immigrants while a councillor for the LR party. The comment most often ascribed to him by his opponents is: "There is one thing worse than a Nigger, a white Nigger". This refers to his alleged distaste at the way many native Dutch teens in Rotterdam have adopted the language, dress style and language common among young, non-white immigrants in the city. White teens who behave in this way are sometimes disparagingly described as "whiggers", often on websites run by neo-Nazis. Smit claims that he is being unfairly portrayed by the media and anti-fascist groups in the Netherlands.
    ©Expatica News

    31/3/2004- Seven out of 10 native Dutch believe the Netherlands has its own culture, but a majority of these people believe the nation's cultural identity is threatened and that immigrants must be compelled to learn the language and local culture. About 75 percent of native Dutch people who took part in a TNO/Nipo survey said the Netherlands had its own specific culture. Queen's Day, Sinterklaas and skating are three of the main trademark symbols of Dutch culture, according to a survey to be featured on the KRO Reporter television programme on Wednesday night. Some 85 percent of this group said Dutch culture was "very important" for them. Some 86 percent said they were personally proud to be Dutch, newspaper Trouw reported. People of Surinamese and Antillean origins were slightly less proud of Dutch culture ­ 67 percent and 69 percent respectively. Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles were colonised by the Dutch. Respondents from the other two main national groups in the Netherlands, Moroccans and Turks at 52 percent and 54 percent were even less positive about Dutch culture. Some 66 percent of native Dutch and 42 percent of newcomers said Dutch culture was at risk. Among Dutch people, 27 percent singled out immigration as the greatest threat, 16 percent blamed failing integration and 18 percent pointed the finger at the EU. Immigrants opted instead to blame poor upbringing/education (20 percent). Integration failures came in second place on 15 percent. Some 60 percent of Dutch people feel that newcomers should be forced to learn the Dutch culture and language and about half said the Dutch border should be sealed to new immigrants.
    ©Expatica News

    19/3/2004— All politicians in the Netherlands have been called upon to take part in the gay pride 'Roze Zaterdag' (Pink Saturday) celebrations in Enschede this year to protest against rising intolerance in the country. Overijssel Province council members Symone de Bruin and Frank Weijnen made the call in a letter on Friday. Roze Zaterdag, or Pink Saturday, takes place in Enschede and other cities around the Netherlands on 26 June. The two politicians say that there is a growing intolerance towards gay people among certain groups in society and among VMBO secondary school pupils. This is increasing resulting in rude comment in the street and even physical violence, De Bruin claimed. De Bruin hopes the presence of politicians and other leading figures at the gay pride procession will help to turn the tide. "As politicians we are often not treated as representatives of the group in society we come from, but rather on the basis of facts and policy. Now let us show that gay people are everywhere, at all levels of society." De Bruin said that it is not always clear who is gay and who is not, so the letter has been sent to all public officials in high office including the lower house of parliament, de Tweede Kamer.
    ©Expatica News

    19/3/2004- Spanish Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he was in favour of allowing same-sex marriage, it was reported Friday. His government will draft a law to put gay unions and marriage on an equal footing, he told Spain's Telecinco television channel. He said same-sex marriage was a characteristic of a "modern and tolerant society". The conservative outgoing government of the Popular Party had rejected several calls to allow same-sex marriages. Zapatero swept to a surprise victory in general elections Sunday. Legalising gay unions was one of his campaign pledges. In the interview he did not set a time-frame for the change. Spain is an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country and the Vatican condemns same-sex marriages.
    ©Expatica News

    Lecture by Mary Robinson

    22/3/2004- The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), a Budapest-based international public interest law organization, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) and Minority Rights Center (MRC), two Belgrade-based human rights groups, have just filed a direct joint civil action with a court in Belgrade against the Kurir daily newspaper over a hate speech incident. In the 27-28 December 2003 weekend edition, the paper printed in its "Joke of the Day" column a text suggesting that killing Roma is a legitimate recreational activity. The use of words such as "Gypsy", "hunting", and "killing" clearly constitutes incitement to racial hated and discrimination as well as racially-motivated violence targeting Roma. The text also describes Roma as people who scavenge food from garbage containers, thus holding them up to derision and belittling the serious social and existential problems faced by this minority in Serbia and throughout Europe.

    By publishing the text at issue, Kurir acted in violation the Serbian Constitution, the Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro, the countrys Charter on Human and Minority Rights and Civil Liberties and numerous binding international instruments containing a ban on hate speech and incitement to discrimination and racially motivated violence. In its General Recommendation no. 15, of 23 March 1993, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination explained that states are required to penalize both the dissemination of ideas based upon racial superiority or hatred and incitement to racial hatred. It then went on to stress that the prohibition of the dissemination of all such ideas is compatible with the right to freedom of opinion and expression ... [as] ... the citizen's exercise of this right carries special duties and responsibilities ... among which the obligation not to disseminate racist ideas is of particular importance.

    Under the recently adopted Serbian Public Information Act, actions for hate speech may be filed by both persons who are members of the racial/ethnic group directly affected as well as human rights organizations in their own capacity. In this particular case, organizations whose mandate is the protection of human rights appear for the first time as plaintiffs before a Serbian court, along with Mr Petar Antic, Executive Director of the Minority Rights Center and himself a Rom, whose human dignity has been violated by the "joke" in question. The plaintiffs are requesting the court to find that the text constitutes hate speech and to issue a ban on the paper publishing this or any other text that foments discrimination, hatred or violence against Roma. They are also asking that Kurir be ordered to print without comment the courts judgment in its entirety and pay financial compensation to Mr Antiæ for the mental distress suffered as a consequence of the violation of his personal dignity. Since the racist "joke" is currently still on the paper's Internet website, the ERRC, HLC, and CPM have also asked the court to issue a mandatory injunction for its immediate removal.
    Additional information on the situation of Roma in Serbia and Montenegro
    ©European Roma Rights Center

    30/3/2004- All would-be immigrants seeking residence in Norway will soon have to sign a declaration confirming that they understand that forced marriages and female circumcision are forbidden under Norwegian law. Officials hope the move will enhance human rights, especially for women.Cabinet Minister Erna Solberg, who has responsibility for immigration issues, said the new written declarations will be demanded of all men and women seeking residence permission or asylum in Norway, beginning this autumn. Genital mutilation and forced marriages are illegal in Norway, yet they continue to occur within immigrant communities. Solberg told newspaper Aftenposten that Norwegian authorities must make a new effort to make all immigrants aware that it's illegal to force women into arranged marriages or subject them to female circumcision. She said information on the subjects and acknowledgement declaration forms are being translated into a variety of foreign languages, so that no prospective immigrants can later plead ignorance. Norwegian immigration officials will also be given the authority to question would-be immigrant families whether any underage females already have been subjected to circumcision. A database will also be set up, registering everyone who has received such information and signed declarations confirming that they understand it. "This will primarily be directed at ethnic groups that have a tradition of this," Solberg said. Norwegian embassies in countries where forced marriages and female circumcision occur will also be required to distribute information about Norwegian laws against the practice, when local citizens apply for visas to Norway.

    31/3/2004- Following weeks of controversy over Islamic headscarves, municipal lawmakers Wednesday barred Berlin city employees from wearing "visible religious symbols" of any kind. The compromise legislation, adopted by the majority Social Democrats and former East German Communists now known as the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) effectively bans the wearing of Moslem headscarves, Christian crosses, Jewish skullcaps and Sikh turbans by school teachers, police officers, firefighters, court officers and municipal office workers. The new legislation caps weeks of public debate, particularly in Berlin which has a large Moslem community consisting primarily of immigrants from conservative rural regions of Turkey, where women routinely wear headscarves. Some 136,400 Turks live in Berlin, representing 5 per cent of the total Turkish immigrant population in Europe. "We felt this was the only fair compromise," said PDS lawmaker Marion Seelig after Wednesday's decision. "We believed that if we prohibited Moslem schoolteachers from wearing headscarves it was only right to prohibit people of other faiths from openly displaying symbols of their religions." The city-state Berlin thus becomes the sixth state in Germany to bar headscarves, following similar legislation in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Hessen, the Saarland and Lower Saxony.
    ©Expatica News

    31/3/2004- EU interior ministers have acheived partial success on controversial plans to create a Europe-wide asylum policy. Human rights groups however remain troubled over the unresolved elements. EU interior ministers met in Brussels on Tuesday to make yet another effort to hammer out a Europe-wide asylum policy. The meeting took on an added sense of urgency with the ministers struggling to comply with a self-imposed May 1 deadline, the date on which ten new countries join the EU. Ending almost six years of acrimonious negotiations, they reached a partial breakthrough on key aspects of the legislation. The ministers agreed on a set of criteria establishing who can apply for asylum. However, they could not agree on some procedural points determining how such requests should be handled. Certain aspects of the latter, including a proposed plan to allow for the deportation of asylum seekers to "safe" third countries, have come under heavy fire from human rights organizations. The ministers will meet again at the end of April to take up the issue again, but according to the German Interior Minister Otto Schily, "it could be close".

    Germany drops opposition to asylum criteria
    The breakthrough came after the German government dropped its long-standing opposition to a policy determining who is eligible to apply for asylum, specifically the recognition of asylum seekers who are fleeing non-state persecution , like men who are being pursued by drug cartels or women who face female genital mutilation. The expected approval of a sweeping new immigration law in Germany, which has led to a compromise on key issues between the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Greens and the conservative Christian Democratic opposition, cleared the way for Schily to adopt a more conciliatory tone. Under the rules agreed on Tuesday, the EU will not only offer protection to people who are refugees according to the 1951 Geneva Convention, they will also offer so-called subsidiary protection to victims of non-state persecution.

    Human rights groups protest key points
    Not good enough, say some human rights groups. Following the recent election of anti-immigration parties in several European countries, asylum policy remains a politically loaded and divisive issue. Human rights groups -- citing the increasingly restrictive nature of the EU policies -- have publicly objected to key aspects of the draft, namely the still unresolved questions over how asylum requests will be handled. In an unprecedented move, several groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), jointly called on the EU to scrap the agreement, claiming it violates international law. At issue are two aspects of the proposed agreement. The first deals with a suggestion in the directive on the use of a "safe country of origin" concept, which means the EU would compile a list of "safe countries" and asylum requests from persons originating from these countries would be considered illegitimate. The second issue is a so-called "safe third county" concept, which means asylum seekers can be deported to a third country deemed safe. Neither was resolved at the meeting on Tuesday and has been put off until the end of April. "These proposals would deny some asylum seekers access to full and fair procedures, and it would transfer them to countries outside Europe," said Ben Ward of Human Rights Watch. "We're deeply concerned that the EU is trying to get other countries to shoulder its responsibilities." Daphne Bouteillet Paquet said the ministers should forget the proposals and start again. "We feel we have no option but to call on the EU to scrap this proposal on asylum procedures, which has been shaped in reaction to populist pressures and fears whipped up about a non-existent flood of refugees into the EU," she said.

    ©Deutsche Welle


    30/3/2004- The head of the United Nations' refugee agency is warning lives may be at risk if European Union members approve tough new asylum rules. Ministers from member states are meeting on Tuesday to try to agree a pan-EU asylum policy. But Ruud Lubbers, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), says the proposals may breach international law. One refugee agency claims the UK government is urging EU partners to lower standards of treatment. EU members are committed to harmonising asylum laws, with countries most affected by the recent growth in applicants leading the debate.

    Proposals on the table
    According to the draft proposals, interior and justice ministers from across the EU are considering tough new criteria on how people can seek refugee status. One of the proposals thought to be on the table on Tuesday is a Europe-wide list of countries which are considered safe, from which asylum seekers are presumed not to be genuine. The UK's version of the list, already in force, has been attacked for including countries with poor human rights records. The UNHCR warns further proposals could lead to the deportation of applicants to countries they may have travelled through without considering whether they would be at risk. Rejected asylum seekers may also face deportation before an appeal is heard. Mr Lubbers said the EU proposals flew in the face of commitments made by the member states to protect the right to seek asylum while they harmonised national policies. He said: "The numbers of asylum seekers coming into the EU has dropped sharply and is continuing to do so. "There is no need to focus so single-mindedly on reducing standards and trying to deter or deny protection to as many people as possible."

    'Experts ignored'
    Campaigners, led by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, accused EU members of ignoring recommendations from international experts. Daphne Bouteillet Paquet, of Amnesty, said: "We have no option but to call on the EU to scrap this proposal which has been shaped in reaction to populist pressures and fears whipped up about a non-existent flood of refugees into the EU. "We no longer regard this proposal as credible." The countries believed to be pushing for a tightening of rules include the UK, Germany and Austria, say campaigners.

    'Driving down standards'
    Maeve Sherlock of the Refugee Council said: "The UK Government is playing a central role in driving down standards across Europe. "It is pushing for some of the most controversial aspects of legislation currently making its way through Parliament in Britain to be incorporated into a common European system." But a spokesman for the Home Office denied the charge, saying the UK government is working with EU partners to create a fair asylum system. "At the same time, it is essential that the Directive should allow Member States to respond to their particular asylum difficulties," added the spokesman. "The UK is currently carrying out important reforms of the domestic asylum system which must be reflected in the [proposed] directive. "A vigorous effort is being made to conclude negotiations with a directive which will reflect the needs of member states and improve the position of refugees."
    ©BBC News

    31/3/2004- Anti-Semitic attacks in Europe have surged over the past few years, but there is no evidence this can be attributed mainly to Muslim perpetrators, according to a European Union report released today. The report by the EU's anti-racism watchdog, the first large-scale study on anti-Semitism in Europe, singles out Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the UK as countries where anti-Semitic attacks rose in 2002 and 2003. Based on data collected in the EU's 15 member states, the Vienna-based European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), author of the study, concludes that action by the EU and member states working together can tackle the problem effectively. The EUMC was at the centre of a controversy last November after the Financial Times revealed it had shelved a previous study on anti-Jewish attitudes in Europe that concluded Muslims and pro-Palestinian groups were behind many of the attacks. The EUMC claimed the study, compiled by researchers from the Centre for Research on Anti-Semitism at Berlin's Technical University for, was of unsatisfactory quality and based on insufficient data. The decision to withhold publication faced hefty criticism from the European parliament and the European Jewish Congress, which later took the initiative to publish the German researchers' report.

    The new 344-page report, a 22-page summary of which was obtained by the Financial Times, will be unveiled today in Strasbourg at the margins of the plenary session of the European parliament. It does not draw on the findings from the initial study and is accompanied by a second, 48-page report compiled from interviews with Europe's Jewish communities. The summary says: "There is a wide variety in the reliability and detail of information specifically on the perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts and therefore in the generalisations that can safely be made about them." The EUMC says the data collected in Germany shows evidence some anti-Semitic attacks are committed by immigrants, particularly Muslims. In Denmark, the incidents are "typically" ascribed to "young males with Arabic/Palestinian/Muslim background." The definition of anti-Semitism used in the study differs from the definition of the Berlin researchers, who categorised some anti-Israeli behaviour as anti-Semitic. According to the new report, incidents in which Jews are targeted as Israelis - regardless of whether they are Israeli nationals or not - are "not anti-Semitic, because this hostility is not based on the anti-Semitic stereotyping of Jews". Such incidents and attitudes, however, "constitute a serious threat to basic European values and democracy," says the report.
    ©The Financial Times

    31/3/2004- The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which is meeting in Geneva, is discussing proposals which would oblige multinationals to respect human rights. A Swiss non-governmental organisation has called on commission members not to cave in to pressure from big business. The Berne Declaration says international firms must not be allowed to evade their legal responsibilities towards employees and the environment. The Human Rights Commission meeting is considering the "norms of the responsibility of trans-national companies and other business enterprises with respect to human rights". Adopted by the UN's Sub-Commission for Human Rights in August last year, the norms - still at an early stage - bring together existing treaties and instruments on human rights and business practices, and explain how they can be applied to companies. But the text of the agreement adds that it is up to individual states to ensure respect for the norms. The document covers such topics as minimum salaries, transparency, corruption and sustainable development. The Berne Declaration says that the norms go further than the voluntary initiatives that are already in force, such as the UN's Global Compact, an agreement between the UN, private sector and civil society dating from 1999.

    First step
    But while the NGO welcomes the discussion as a first step towards creating human rights legislation for multinationals, it warns that the proposals risk being sidelined or weakened. "The norms are threatened by the big economic lobbies who are putting pressure on governments," said the Berne Declaration's Florence Gerber. "The Berne Declaration is not asking for the text to be adopted by the commission  it's too early  but we are asking for it to be reworked and publicised so that all the parties concerned can give their opinion on it," she told swissinfo. She added that it was important that human rights and business was properly regulated. "The problem with multinationals is that they are everywhere and often manage to escape their legal responsibilities, which instead often fall on the shoulders of their subsidiaries, subcontractors and suppliers," said Gerber.

    Swiss position
    International reaction to the norms has so far been mixed. The Berne Declaration says some countries, including the United States, are against the proposals. Jean-Daniel Vigny, who represents the foreign ministry at the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights  where Switzerland is an observer - says there is no official Swiss position. He added, however, that the country would only sign up to norms that apply to other countries  not to companies. But he said that Switzerland does support continuing discussion. "Switzerland also wants to make sure, contrary to some countries that want to suppress this topic, that it remains on the agenda of the discussion of the sub-commission," he told swissinfo. The country is also a supporter of earlier human rights initiatives such as the Global Compact.

    According to the Berne Declaration, some Swiss companies have given their support to the norms. "Novartis and ABB are part of the Global Leader initiative created by Mary Robinson, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and have shown themselves willing," said Gerber. "This group is made up of seven multinationals who decided in 2003 to respect the norms as they are, in order to make their own codes of behaviour." But Gerber says that not all Swiss multinationals have taken such measures. "Nestlé isn't as progressive, but is part of the Global Compact." When contacted by swissinfo, the food giant confirmed that it had integrated the guiding principles of the Global Compact into its business principles. Spokesman Marcel Rubin said that it supported the protection of human rights within its sphere of influence, and ensured that its companies wer ©NZZ Online

    University of Maryland, March, 17 2004

    Dr. Sadat, President Mote, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
    I am deeply honored to have been invited by Dr. Jehan Sadat and the University of Maryland to deliver this year's Sadat Lecture for Peace, and to receive an honorary doctorate from this distinguished University. It is humbling to give a lecture established in the memory of President Anwar Sadat, a leader who demonstrated that peace is possible, even in the most difficult of circumstances, if there is vision, courageous leadership and bold action.

    In this context of peace and conflict our thoughts go out to the victims of bombing outrages a few short days ago in Ashdod, Israel and those devastating bombs in Madrid just a week ago, aimed to kill and injure as many innocent civilians as possible. Yes, we were all on that train.

    Language can be important in defining actions and in shaping reactions. I have always argued that terrorist bombings against civilian targets, no matter how appalling their scale, are not war but vile acts of criminality. Indeed, at a certain scale the perpetrators commit crimes against humanity under international law. The focus and determination of civilized nations to hunt down such criminals, their supply lines and money trails, should not be blurred by conferring on them the status of being at war. It has been disturbing to hear words like ‘appeasement' used to denigrate the democratic electoral process of the Spanish people, who have a long and stoic experience of combating terrorism.

    Today is Saint Patrick's Day and members of the Irish diaspora around the world – and our many friends here in the United States – are especially mindful of the complex, difficult, long-drawn-out steps in forging a peace process in Northern Ireland. The title I have chosen for my address is The Journey to Peace: Finding ourselves in the other. It reflects what, for me, was President Sadat's great insight as a leader. He understood, in reaching out to the people of Israel that he was reaching out, not so much to a different nation or culture, but to a shared human desire for acceptance, security and dignity.

    It is, I believe, that ability to acknowledge the equal dignity and rights of each person which is most lacking in our world today.

    Despite the advances in technology and communications that link us more closely than ever before, there remains the reality of division at so many levels in our world. We see these divides between rich and poor, between women and men, between different religions or ethnic groups, between citizens and migrants. We know as well that these divides are at the core of so many of today's conflicts.

    In my experience, both as President of Ireland and as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, such divides were all too evident when I visited some of the globe's most catastrophic conflict zones. I listened to civilian victims, government leaders and combatants alike in places both near to home, like Northern Ireland, and far away, such as Rwanda, Chechnya, Colombia, East Timor, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan.

    A common thread in each situation was an unwillingness on both sides to see ‘the other', or ‘the enemy', as an individual with hopes and dreams, and with equal rights. I saw how patterns of discrimination in a society drove wedges between communities. And, all too often, I saw how corrupt and undemocratic governments fueled intolerance and denied people basic rights, thereby precipitating dissent and rebellion.

    But you might ask, if the problems and their consequences are so clear, why does it continue to be so difficult to act differently, and accept, as Maya Angelou put it in her wonderful poem, Human Family, that "We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike"?

    I believe that getting at the answer requires, first of all, that we learn to deal more constructively with a very basic human emotion – fear. As we all know, fear comes in many forms. Fear of difference, fear that economic or social position is threatened, fear that identity could be lost in an increasingly globalized world - all bring about a range of reactions, and if pushed to extremes, to hatred, intolerance and violence.

    You can find signs of contemporary individual and group fear just by looking at public perceptions of current issues. Last year, for example, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press published a survey conducted in 44 countries which revealed that, although people generally have a favorable view of increased economic connections commonly associated with globalization, sizeable majorities of those polled said their "traditional ways of life" were being threatened and agreed with the statement that "our way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence". A similar finding can be seen in an EU poll released just last week which found that while the majority of Europeans agreed that there was an economic need for more immigrants, eighty percent still want a tightening of passport and other entry controls for foreigners as part of a European Union asylum and immigration policy. Clearly, fear is one of the drivers of such seemingly contradictory views. And unfortunately in Europe today there are politicians and political parties only too willing to exploit those fears.

    If fear is a main factor, education and factual information provide a remedy. For example, how many people have really considered the demographic realities that developed economies are currently facing? Aging populations and changes in the workforce make it imperative that industrialized economies increase immigration if they are to sustain themselves.

    Moreover, how many realize that money sent home by migrants to their families – in the form of remittances – is a growing source of income that is vital to many countries? The International Monetary Fund reported that in 2002 alone remittances from migrants were around $100 billion, as compared with only $51 billion in global development assistance. How many more people would be forced to leave their homes if not for the remittances coming from their family members abroad?
    As avenues for legal migration become more and more limited, would-be migrants have increasingly resorted to illegal entry and unauthorized stay. This has fuelled the activities of human smugglers and traffickers who show little respect for the humanity of their cargo. Unknown numbers have died in transit and those who do reach their destination often find themselves trapped in a cycle of abuse and exploitation - giving a new face to slavery in the modern era. They are part of a growing population of undocumented immigrants who find themselves vulnerable to exploitation in employment, to racist crime, and to security measures in the context of the ongoing ‘war on terrorism'. Can any of us say that we truly identify with the situations faced by millions of today's migrants?

    The public debate in most countries around migration has thus far been marked by negativity, hostility and fear of migrants. What is needed today is a new approach, anchored in human rights, that acknowledges both the potential problems and benefits for receiving and sending countries.

    At the international level, a Global Commission on International Migration has been established to study these issues further and make policy recommendations to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2005. I am pleased to be a member of this Commission which must seek to reframe in a more positive way the migration debate, to understand that the rights of people who have left their countries in search of greater human security must be protected and that governments – both sending and receiving – must be accountable. Last month, at the Commission's first meeting in Stockholm, Commission members agreed that political leadership on this issue is vital.

    In a speech at the White House last January to announce new proposals on US immigration policy, President Bush set out some of the problems that need to be addressed. The President noted:
    "As a nation that values immigration, and depends on immigration, we should have immigration laws that work and make us proud. Yet today we do not. Instead, we see many employers turning to the illegal labor market. We see millions of hard-working men and women condemned to fear and insecurity in a massive, undocumented economy."

    President Bush went on to say that the challenge was to make US immigration laws "more rational, and more humane". I recognize the importance of focusing on working closely with Mexico as it is the source of at least three-fifths of the United States' undocumented immigrant population. At the same time, I would point out the need to reflect seriously on policies concerning those from other neighboring countries who seek refuge and economic opportunity in the United States. The present situation in Haiti comes to mind.

    Present U.S. policy towards those seeking to flee Haiti risks violating obligations under international law. According to reports from U.S. based groups such as Human Rights First, Haitians currently interdicted at sea are not informed of their right to seek asylum and are not interviewed by any U.S. official to determine whether or not they are in danger of persecution if returned.

    As difficult as a new inflow of refugees would be to manage, we should call on the government to recognize that no migrants should be returned to Haiti if the situation there is so dangerous that their safety cannot be assured.

    Important as the current focus on migration is, it should not cause us to neglect other forms of discrimination and intolerance which persist in the world today. One of the most disturbing of these is anti-Semitism. Much recent media coverage of anti-Semitism has centered on the situation in Europe where synagogues and Jewish cemeteries have been defaced and Jews have been physically attacked on the streets. While many in Europe will point out that the situation today is a complex one that cannot be easily equated with historical anti-Semitism on the continent, it is vital that Europeans take effective action to stop these reprehensible events.

    Nor should we forget the anti-Semitic diatribes so common in the Middle East. Even in the United States, on some prestigious college campuses, there have been attempts to cast Israel as a pariah state and equate its actions with those of South African apartheid, a first step toward questioning Israel's right to exist. Allow me to reflect briefly on an experience during my term as High Commissioner when I came face to face with such anti-Semitism. It was in a setting I had hoped would be one of tolerance and respect - The Durban World Conference against Racism.

    I should give some brief background on the Conference for those of you who may not be familiar with this event which took place the first week of September 2001, just days before the terrible attacks on the U.S. on 9/11. The decision to hold this Conference, the third UN global forum to address the subject of racism, was taken by the General Assembly in 1997. It was decided that the Conference should address in a comprehensive manner all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related contemporary forms of intolerance, that it should be action-oriented and focus on practical measures to eradicate racism, including measures of prevention, education and protection and the provision of effective remedies for victims.

    I should also explain my own role. At its session in 1998, the UN Commission on Human Rights requested the UN Secretary General to designate the High Commissioner for Human Rights as Secretary General of the World Conference. It is common for a Secretary General of a UN Conference to be a senior UN official who is mandated with the main responsibility for the preparations for and secretariat functions of the Conference.

    The decision to hold this conference in Durban, South Africa was fitting given the country's own legacy of racism and its inspiring example of reconciliation. As Secretary General of the Conference, I was determined to play a role in helping make it a global event which would encourage each society to ask itself hard questions. Is it sufficiently inclusive? Is it non-discriminatory? Are its norms of behavior based on the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? How best could the Conference confront the many horrors of racism - from slavery to the Holocaust, from Apartheid to ethnic cleansing - and agree comprehensive measures to prevent them from happening again? To encourage positive thinking, I had earlier presented a Vision Statement of positive commitments, under the patronage of Nelson Mandela, which more than 80 Heads of State signed and which I hoped might influence the government debates.

    Unfortunately, some participants, both inside and outside the Conference, wanted to make the conflict in the Middle East, which at the time had entered a new phase of violence, the principal focus of Durban. At the Non-Governmental Forum, a parallel meeting which, as is common practice at UN conferences, was also held in Durban to coincide with the inter-governmental discussions, some participants resorted to blatant anti-Semitic speech and activities to convey their message.

    And so, at a Conference in which we were supposed to be defending human rights values, we found ourselves faced with appalling bigotry and intolerance. I and many others condemned such language and, in the circumstances, I refused to recommend the final NGO document to the Conference.

    Meanwhile in the Conference itself, which was, of course, inter-governmental, attempts were also being made to insert unacceptable language concerning Israel which had first emerged  in brackets, and therefore not as agreed text - at the Asia regional preparatory meeting for the Conference which was held in Tehran in February 2001. I should point out here that, as is the practice in UN conferences, governments, during regional preparatory meetings, are entitled to place on the table for discussion issues they consider relevant. Such issues are then discussed and negotiated in a lengthy process that ultimately reflects a global consensus in the final document. Usually agreement is reached in the last hour of the final day!

    The decision by the U.S. and Israeli governments to leave the Conference before its conclusion was regrettable because it occurred during intense efforts to remove the un Now, more than two years later, I find that many people want to understand what happened in Durban, yet few here in the United States are aware of the real progress that was actually made. The final Declaration and Program of Action are powerful tools for lobbying governments, educating people, empowering civil societies and establishing frameworks for dialogue. Their specific calls and strategies for countering anti-Semitism, challenging rising xenophobia and protecting minorities, indigenous peoples, migrants and other vulnerable groups should be used and not disregarded out of hand.

    Equally important, Durban created an opportunity for victim groups around the world, many of whom had been without a voice on the world stage, to articulate their concerns and engage their governments in a new and powerful way. Groups representing the Roma, the African-Descendant communities in Latin America, migrants, the Dalits of India and many other marginalized peoples found in Durban an energizing place to forge new alliances and strengthen grassroots efforts to address the problems they faced at home.

    Perhaps what people in the U.S. most want to know is: what lessons can we learn from the Durban experience in countering anti-Semitism today? I would say, first, that governments everywhere must acknowledge that anti-Semitism is a virulent form of racism and that anti-Semitic acts need to be seen as violations of international human rights law. Its governments need systematically to monitor and report on hate crimes, and to adopt aggressive measures to prosecute those who are responsible.

    Second, I believe we must all be vigilant in distinguishing legitimate criticism of acts by the Israeli security forces – which have raised serious and legitimate human rights concerns - from the anti-Semitism that masquerades as concern. While rightly condemning suicide attacks and other assaults against civilians, the global community must set and honor clear lines in the debate about current Israeli practices with respect to the Palestinians.

    Supporters of Israel need to recognize that criticisms of Israeli policies and practices are not in and of themselves anti-Semitic. Many human rights groups here and elsewhere are sharply – and I believe rightly - critical of some of Israel's practices, such as targeted killings, based on the application of universally accepted international human rights norms. The Jewish community should engage in this discussion, and use its influence to challenge the government of Israel whenever its policies and security forces violate these international standards.

    At the same time, those who advocate for the rights of Palestinians must ensure that their criticisms and related actions do not become broadside attacks against Jews and the Jewish State. It is at this point that they become racist. The conflict in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians -- and by extension much of the Arab world -- will become even harder to address if the rhetoric continues in this way; if anger against Israel continues to spill over into broader patterns of antagonism against Jews, and if the speech devolves into outright racism and calling into question Israel's right to exist.

    And just as there has been a rise in anti-Semitism, so also, in the aftermath of 9/11, there has been a sharp increase in Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment. Families and even whole communities live in fear or endure new levels of hostility. Students are unable to obtain visas, academics cannot attend conferences and people worry about traveling out of the country and being unable to return.

    All of this leads me to a final point that I believe we must look at together in an open and honest way. There are some, in this country and elsewhere, who suggest that human rights concerns, including the specific issues of discrimination I have been raising this evening, might get in the way of winning the peace or the war against terrorism. But experience throughout the world, including my own homeland of Ireland, demonstrates that this is wrong thinking. We must, and do, condemn and combat terrorism. But there can be no stable peace, no true human security without human rights and real public participation. There can be no true enjoyment of human rights by all where some are excluded by discrimination and prejudice.

    Can the future be different? Can we come to accept greater shared responsibility for realizing the rights which we proclaim as being basic to a life of dignity for every individual?

    Let me share with you the deep sense of hope and encouragement I experienced just last week in Ireland. In a hotel near the border with Northern Ireland I had been invited to address a conference of local community groups from areas such as North Belfast and North Dublin where local people over several months had been working through a rights-based approach to their problems. The theme of their conference was ‘participation and the practice of rights in making connections and owning outcomes'.

    I met senior citizens from both communities, and women from the Shankill Protestant and the Falls Catholic women's centres in Belfast. I met youth workers, former prisoners and community activists, all engaged in a conscious attempt to relate human rights standards to their local experience in poor housing estates and inner city environments. In the process, they had forged close friendships across the religious and political divides of the past. They were living Eleanor Roosevelt's philosophy, that if human rights are to matter at all they must matter ‘in small places close to home.' ‘It isn't easy,' they told me, ‘but the experience has bonded us together'.
    I am also encouraged by examples of innovative thinking here in the United States. Some of you may be aware of a report issued last year by the Migration Policy Institute, titled America's Challenge which, among other recommendations, proposes the creation of an independent national commission on integration to address the specific challenges of national unity presented by post-September 11 events and actions. The report recommends that such a commission should be guided by the principle that the long-term interests of the nation lie in policies that strengthen the social and political fabric by
    "…weaving into it, rather than pulling out of it, all immigrant and ethnic communities. In the post-September 11 world, this means paying special attention to the experiences of Arab and Muslim communities, as well as to South Asian communities who are sometimes mistaken to be Muslim or Arab."

    The report calls for new policies that consciously and systematically prevent stigmatization of Muslim and Arab communities and actively see them as adding to the social, political, and security strengths of the country. It highlights the importance of educational instruction about Islam and Muslims in schools and workplaces and encourages interfaith dialogue at national and local community levels.

    The report points out that promoting tolerance and pluralism is a huge challenge. Like any other ethnic or religious minority, the Muslim population alone cannot dispel the prejudices about its communities and religion. In the end, it is up to all of us, including our governments, to share this responsibility, to find ‘the other'.

    I conclude with a simple truth which President Sadat understood so well: whether our world becomes a more brutal or a more peaceful place, rests in our own hands. Human rights have become the world's common benchmark for justice but they have yet to become our common framework for action. In giving his life for peace Anwar Sadat gave inspiration to generations to come. Yes, the challenges ahead are formidable, the familiar catalogue of problems and future obstacles remains to be faced. Yes, we have a long road to travel before human rights will be secured for all. But I am convinced that this is a time when civil society world-wide can make its voice heard as never before.

    If we can overcome doubts and fears, if we can build on shared values and learn to recognize ourselves in ‘the other', this century can, after such a tragic beginning, become one of human development and human security for all - a century of human rights and peace.

    Thank you, Dr. Sadat, for your vision in keeping alive your husband's ideals.
    University of Maryland


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