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NEWS - Archive for August & September 2003

August & September 2003 Headlines

































  • Headlines August 22, 2003

    19/9/2003- Russia's leading human rights groups on Thursday announced a project to monitor cases of racism, anti-Semitism and ethnic discrimination that have flourished in Russia. In a three-year project sponsored by the European Union, rights groups will also provide legal advice to victims of persecution and urge authorities to take stronger action against abuses, said Alexander Brod, the director of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights. "Xenophobia, racism and ethnic discrimination pose a serious threat to Russian society," Brod told a news conference. "We will share information with the law-enforcement structures to prompt them to take adequate action." Russia's extremist and neo-Nazi groups have targeted dark-skinned immigrants from poverty-stricken former Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus Mountains region, as well as Africa, East Asia and other distant regions. Last year, several outdoor food markets in Moscow, which are staffed mostly by traders from the Caucasus and Central Asia, closed on Hitler's birthday to avoid violence. Also last year, a booby-trapped sign reading "Death to Jews" exploded in the face of a woman who tried to remove it from a roadside outside Moscow. Several similar signs, some with real explosives and others with fake bombs, were later found across the country. "Xenophobia has become a routine thing here, like pollution in Moscow's air," said Leonid Stonov of the Union of Councils for Jews in the former Soviet Union, or UCSJ.

    The attacks have prompted widespread calls for tougher police action. In the past victims have sometimes accused police of ignoring their complaints. President Vladimir Putin recently signed a law aimed to crack down on extremism, but human rights groups said it was flawed and undermined by selective enforcement. The Moscow Helsinki Group said the number of racist attacks against foreigners and minorities continued to increase in 2002 and that police have refused to acknowledge the problem.
    ©Associated Press

    Non-government groups fear government will use "dialogue" process to control them.
    By Fedor Sumkin in Almaty (Fedor Sumkin is the pseudonym for a journalist in Almaty)

    17/9/2003- The Kazak authorities are promising an open, unconditional meeting to improve their relationship with the non-government sector - but even before the talks get under way, many organisations fear the real agenda is to curb their freedom. The Civic Forum, due to take place in the capital Astana this October, is modelled on a similar event already held in Russia. It has been headlined as Kazakstan's first ever attempt to bridge the gap between government and the "third sector", a concept which includes a huge diversity of non-government organisations, NGOs, working on anything from human rights abuses to local social concerns. When NGOs met earlier this month to pick delegates and discuss tactics for the meeting, many came away feeling that the selection process had been hijacked by pro-government NGOs. Although they sound like a contradiction in terms, "government-organised non-government organisations" or GONGOs are a feature of post-Soviet Kazakstan and other Central Asian countries. At best, they fulfil a real function while remaining closely tied in with the authorities; at worst they are set up and sponsored by government in an attempt to sap public support - and funding from foreign donors - from active NGOs.

    NGO representatives who turned up for the meeting, organised by the mayor's office in Kazakstan's second city Almaty, found themselves presented with a list of pre-selected delegates, which was pushed through without any real discussion. There was a vote, but many eyewitnesses said the process was confused with many procedural irregularities. "These elections were fixed in advance," said Roza Akylbekova of the Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law. "Attempts to discuss this or that [alternative] candidate were simply swept aside." The choice of candidates from Almaty was particularly important, since about one in three NGOs are based in the city, Kazakstan's former capital. Most of the delegates selected to represent Almaty had close links to the city government. There was uproar as people stood up to complain about some of the most significant omissions from the list: leading human rights campaigners Yevgeny Zhovtis and Ninel Fokina, and Valentina Savostina, who heads Pokolenie, a pensioners' movement. "The selection criteria were correct, but for some reason it was organisations that did not meet them that were selected," Akylbekova told IWPR. Almaty deputy mayor Akhan Bijan, who chaired the meeting, denied any fixing had gone on, "All the delegates on the list were selected by the meeting's organising committee, which consists of NGO representatives, so you shouldn't be putting this question to me."

    The discomfort felt by participants was all the greater because the October forum has a controversial new NGO law on the agenda, which they fear will cut away at their rights. If the conference is packed with pro-government people there will be little chance of real debate. "It is most likely that the pro-government NGOs will vote for a law that is similar in nature [i.e. favouring the government]," said Svetlana Pozniakova, representing an NGO that works with young people. She predicts that the Civic Forum will be no more than an exercise in window-dressing for the Kazak authorities,"International organisations which are invited to attend the Astana forum will witness a dialogue between pro-government NGOs and government agencies. "And then no one will be able to criticise the government if it adopts a law which restricts the activities of NGOs." Pozniakova is concerned that the new law will allow NGOs to be defined as "socially beneficial" and "not socially beneficial" - terminology that would allow the government to close down at will any organisation that it does not like.
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    22/9/2003- The liberal New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) party wants to reach an agreement with its conservative coalition partners over a law it says is a vital part of the country's legislative commitment before entering the EU in May 2004. ANO representatives said the approval of an anti-discrimination law, which the former cabinet, led by current PM Mikuláš Dzurinda, had promised but failed to pass during the previous election term, must be finally achieved. The law would grant non-discrimination rights in various spheres of life to members of social, racial, sexual, and other minorities - including women and disabled people; it would also ban and introduce punishment measures for discriminating against individuals on the basis of their religious faith or political opinions. Though PM Dzurinda, leader of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), has remained diplomatic in his response to the ANO plan to address the issue in the upcoming coalition council meeting, a senior coalition member, the conservative Christian Democrats (KDH), continues to reject the law. The KDH claims that the EU has never required Slovakia to pass legislation that, if passed, would gradually enable homosexuals to get married and adopt children - issues that the KDH strictly opposes.

    Even in the EU, there are states that do not presently have legislation similar to this, which was recommended to current and future members by senior EU bodies to ensure legal equality for all members of their respective societies. ANO MP Eva Cerná, who is a member of the cabinet's special commission set up to resolve the anti-discrimination issue, said that in her frequent meetings with EU officials, her EU counterparts have been highly interested in how Slovakia intends to resolve the issue. "They said that they don't care whether we have a single anti-discrimination law or we insert [anti-discrimination clauses] into individual laws, but they want us to have the legislation resolved by the time we enter the EU," Cerná said. The latter solution seems more likely to ensure Slovakia's compliance with the EU recommendations. KDH favours the strategy of reviewing all existing laws, but those whom the legislation is expected to help would prefer to have legislators approve a single anti-discrimination law.

    Mariana Šípošová, spokeswoman with the Otherness Initiative, a gay and lesbian umbrella organization, said to The Slovak Spectator: "For us, as well as for other minority groups, it would be more acceptable to have a single anti-discrimination law approved." "It would also be more simple because approving one law is less time-consuming than going through all the respective legal norms, as the KDH are suggesting," Šípošová said. KDH chairman Pavol Hrušovský has restated several times since the debate started that his party refuses to approve a single anti-discrimination law, seeing it as a gateway for homosexuals to claim adoption and marriage rights equal to heterosexual couples. "We have other, more serious problems in Slovakia, and I am asking: what do we need the anti-discrimination law for?" Hrušovský said. "We are prepared to revise laws if we find that they involve elements of discrimination. We are ready to eliminate those elements."

    In one TV discussion, Hrušovský even attacked ANO chairman Pavol Rusko, who, while insisting that the country needed the anti-discrimination legislation, had accused KDH of refusing the law simply because it conflicted with the Christian political agenda. Hrušovský then replied: "But I am asking you a specific question - do you want homosexuals to be able to get married in Slovakia? Do you?" Homosexual activist groups see this as a clear indication of KDH's attitude towards the minority. "They [KDH] are clearly intolerant of homosexuals," said Šípošová. The anti-discrimination law was prepared by Pál Csáky, Deputy PM for EU integration; on September 1, the cabinet initiated a campaign promoting the legislation. But the draft has remained in Csáky's drawer, and the campaign has been marked with a minor scandal: the cabinet logo had to be pasted over shortly before the distribution of the large-scale campaign posters. This immediately prompted speculation that the move was a result of KDH's opposition to the legislation and consequently also to the Sk1 million ( 24,000) cabinet campaign. In addition, the state-run Slovak Television (STV) has refused to air ads that were also part of the cabinet campaign, with STV's manager stating that the spots lacked necessary information value. Most recently the opposition Smer party announced at the start of September that it would propose its own draft of the anti-discrimination law, building its proposal on the cabinet's draft. Although some opposition parties, such as the Slovak Communist Party, have already said they will support the draft when it comes to parliament, ANO refused to speculate whether it would back the law if it fails to be agreed upon by all the ruling coalition members. "We don't want to speculate on whether or not we will support Smer's proposal," ANO MP Jirko Malchárek said to the Slovak daily SME.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    19/9/2003- France's interior minister threatened Thursday to close any mosque in France that is considered extremist and to expel any Muslim prayer leader who preached a radical message. In an interview in the daily Le Figaro, the minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, also pledged to deny visas to Muslim participants in conferences who did not respect the values of the French state. "The Muslims are not above the law, but they are not below the law either," Sarkozy was quoted as saying. "Because I have reached out my hand, I can be very firm against all fundamentalist movements." More than any other official in France's center-right government, Sarkozy has sought to set strict limits on the behavior of the country's growing Muslim community. He has spoken of creating an "official Islam for France" that will take France's second-largest religion out of the "cellars and garages" and demonstrate that most Muslims are mainstream, law-abiding citizens. In April, he was booed and whistled at when he said at the annual conference of one of France's most important Muslim groups that Muslim women would have to go bareheaded when posing for pictures for their identity cards. His declaration backfired. Soon afterward, the satirical weekly Le Canard enchaîné revealed that the wife of the president, Bernadette Chirac, had lobbied successfully on behalf of Sister Adalberta, a close friend and a Carmelite nun, to wear a veil for her identity-card photo. In the interview, Sarkozy declared: "No one should expect any weakness from me. Mosques where extremist Islam is preached will be closed. Imams who give radical sermons will be expelled. And conference-goers who don't show proof of respect for republican rules will find themselves systematically denied visas to enter France." "There are five million Muslims in France," he said. "Whether that makes people happy or not, it's still a reality."

    French law dictates a strict separation of church and state, and Sarkozy's remarks come amid a fierce debate about whether to pass a law banning head scarves in public schools. Testifying Tuesday before a governmental commission, François Fillon, minister of social affairs, said that France needed a new law to keep displays of religion out of schools. "Personally, I favor a law banning the ostentatious wearing of all religious symbols," Fillon told members of the commission. "We must get rid of this ambiguity, otherwise all the barriers will disappear." Under current law, the wearing of head scarves in schools is permitted as long as it is not "aggressive or proselytizing." But it has been left to individual schools to decide, and while most ban the scarves, more Muslim girls are showing up at school in head coverings. The commission is to make recommendations to the government by the end of the year on how best to preserve secularism in French society. Luc Ferry, minister of education, told the commission that a law banning all religious symbols "would be a very complicated process" that would "make martyrs and promote the establishment of Koranic schools."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    25/9/2003- The simmering row in France over the right of Muslim girls to wear the headscarf in class burst into life again Wednesday when two sisters were banned from a suburban Paris school for refusing to uncover parts of their face. Lila and Alma Levy, 18- and 16-year old daughters of a Jewish man and a Muslim woman, were ordered to stay away from the Henri Wallon lycee in the northern suburb of Aubervilliers pending a decision by the school's disciplinary board expected in 10 days.

    Public nuisance
    According to a note from the education authority, the girls were wearing clothes "of an ostentatious character" that were also unsuitable for sports lessons. And it said the sisters caused a "public nuisance" by taking part in a demonstration in front of the school Tuesday in favour of headscarves. The girls' father Laurent Levy, who is a lawyer, reacted with fury to their exclusion from school and threatened legal action unless they are quickly readmitted. "Three quarters of the children at their school are from immigrant families. Perhaps a half are of Muslim origin. Saying to them that just because they practice the religion of their ancestors they are doing something ugly is a sure-fire way of causing an explosion," Levy told a press conference. "It's like saying to people who so often feel they are excluded from society that they actually are," he said. He said his daughters had been told they could wear headscarves only if they showed the roots of their hair, earlobes and neck - but they regarded this as unacceptable to their faith.

    Entrenches inequality
    The wearing of Islamic headscarves in school is fiercely opposed by upholders of France's secular tradition, who say it entrenches inequality between the sexes and the division of society into religious communities. After similar rows in the past, a compromise was reached under which school heads are given latitude to decide whether a girl's headscarf is sufficiently discreet. But under pressure from left-wing teacher unions, the government announced earlier this year that it is considering a law that would make all signs of religious affiliation illegal in schools, prompting an angry response from many Muslims who say it would be a form of discrimination. One of the country's best known civic rights groups -- the Movement Against Racism (MRAP) -- has taken up the sisters' case, with president Mouloud Aounit accusing the government of trying to use them as an example. Aounit said the local education authority had been prepared to reach a deal under which the girls would have remained at school, but came under pressure from higher up. And he warned of violence if their case is allowed to set a precedent. "This can only encourage extremism, and I fear that some will use the attempt to exclude the girls from school as an argument for causes which we do not support here," he said.
    In Germany, the country's highest court ruled on Wednesday that a regional state was wrong in banning a teacher from wearing a Muslim headscarf in the classroom.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    22/9/2003- France vowed Monday to continue its policy of deporting Romanian Gypsies despite a human rights report criticising the policy as a "total failure" which exposed the returnees to poverty and discrimination. "I totally back the decision of the government to send back to Romania people who are in France without the proper papers," Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters as he turned up for a meeting in Nancy, eastern France. "I'd like someone to tell me why on earth France should keep people without proper papers on its territory?" he said, adding that, as for the conditions of the Gypsies in Romania, "I remind you that I'm not the Romanian interior minister." His comments came the same day as French police stormed a Gypsy camp in a northern Paris suburb, arresting almost all its 200 inhabitants in a crackdown on prostitution that allegedly involved several minors. The scores of officers swooped on the 16 caravans and makeshift houses that made up the camp in Ile-Saint-Denis as part of investigations into pimping, inciting minors to commit crimes, illegal immigrant smuggling and the buying and selling of stolen property.

    Since taking up his job after elections in May last year, Sarkozy has overseen a hardline approach to the issue of illegal immigration in France, closing down a Red Cross-run refugee centre in Sangatte, northern France, and greenlighting the forced repatriation of undocumented immigrants from Africa and Romania. He has sought to soften the policies with promises of financial incentives for illegal immigrants to return home and to speed the handling of genuine asylum applications. In August 2002, he went to Romania to sign an accord under which Paris would help Bucharest clamp down on clandestine emigration to France by providing deported Gypsies who asked with 153 euros (140 dollars), a ticket to their home village and, in some cases, social aid. But the Paris-based groups Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) and the International Federation for Human Rights issued a joint report Monday saying the initiative had proved unsuccessful. The groups estimated that around 1,500 Gypsies had been expelled from land they were squatting in France and that 30 of them had been sent back to Romania. Of that number, fewer than 10 were said to have taken up the offer of financial assistance and many instead had only one idea in their heads: to return to France as soon as possible.

    The report's authors said that, of the four people they spoke to who had accepted the aid package, three of them had their passports confiscated by Romanian authorities and had to use the French cash payment to purchase a ticket to their villages, where no support was offered. Discriminated against in Romania, they were shunned because of a perception that they had been sent back as criminals, the report said. In any case, "it is impossible for the Roms (Romanian Gypsies) sent back from France to find in Romania comparable resources to those they secured from begging or undeclared work" in France, it said. The rights groups called on France to provide temporary visas for the Gypsies, and for Romania to cease its practice of confiscating passports. Romania's Anti-Discrimination Council rejected the findings as "a premature evaluation" and said authorities were working to put into place the educational and social aid provided for in the accord. "It is impossible for it to bear fruit in only a few months," it said in a statement.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    18/9/2003­ The police were fully conscious of the dangers surrounding the use of the "pillow method" which killed asylum seeker Samira Adamu during a forced repatriation in 1998, a Brussels court heard Wednesday. "The cushion should only have been applied for a very short period of time ­ as soon as the person was calmed down, it should have been removed, otherwise it should have been used in waves," a former member of a police squad charged with assessing the risks surrounding the method told the court.

    Videotape footage presented to the court showed that Adamu ceased to struggle and yet a pillow was kept over her face for several minutes ­ not the correct procedure. Adamu suffered a brain-haemorrhage after being suffocated by a pillow during a struggle to resist being strapped into an airplane passenger seat by police. Wednesday's testimony will not help the fate of the five former police officers charged with the death of 20-year-old Adamu. Three of the five policemen on trail are accused involuntary manslaughter, their two colleagues of negligence leading to involuntary manslaughter. The case had led to the resignation of federal Interior Minister Louis Tobback at the time, and sparked-off mass demonstrations against the repatriation of asylum seekers. It was the fifth time police had attempted to repatriate Adamu, whose claim for asylum due to the fact that she was being forced into a marriage with a 65-year-old man in Nigeria, had been rejected.
    ©Expatica News

    18/9/2003- Authorities in Munich have announced stringent security measures for this weekend's grand opening of the city's 170th Oktoberfest amid revelations of neo-Nazi terrorism plots. Hundreds of specially trained police officers will be on hand Saturday when Oktoberfest opens for a run through 5 October. Munich's Oktoberfest was the site of a deadly rightwing terrorist bombing in 1980 which claimed more than a dozen lives. Sniffer dogs will be deployed to search for explosives and surveillance cameras will monitor the fest's beer tents and carnival midway, said Munich police spokesman Wolfgang Wenger. "Security was beefed up after the 11 September attacks," Wenger noted, "and we have further enhanced security this year in response to current developments." His announcement came as Munich police revealed they had arrested six neo-Nazis, among them a teenage girl, and seized high explosives.

    The 1.7 kilograms was one of the largest caches of TNT to be seized from neo-Nazis in Germany since the Second World War, said Munich police, who were urgently checking whether there was a link to a bomb that failed to explode in June in Dresden, eastern Germany. The find recalled a September 1980 bomb attack in which a neo-Nazi killed himself and 12 other people and injured 210 at Munich's Oktoberfest beer festival with a device containing 1.3 kilograms of TNT. The interior minister of Bavaria state, Guenter Beckstein, said the find "demonstrates in a completely new way how dangerous these rightwing extremists are". The explosive could have been turned into a bomb "very quickly". Also rounded up were two guns, several knives, a battle-axe, a large quantity of written material and a metal pipe of 4.8 centimetres' diameter, 21 centimetres in length. "It would have done nicely for a pipe bomb," said detective Richard Voest of the Bavarian state criminal investigation department.
    ©Expatica News

    24/9/2003- The highest court in Germany has ruled that a Muslim teacher has the right to wear a headscarf in class. Thirty-one-year-old Fereshta Ludin, who is originally from Afghanistan, was denied a job in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg in 1998 because she insisted on keeping her head covered in school. The state said her headscarf would contravene Germany's constitutional religious neutrality, an argument which was upheld by a lower federal court last year. Ms Ludin argued that the constitution guaranteed religious freedom. The German Constitutional Court has now ruled by five votes to three that, under current laws, she can wear the scarf - but it says German states should seek to find an acceptable balance in law between religious freedom and neutrality in schools. "The state legislatures are now free to provide the legal basis that has been missing until now," the ruling said. However, the BBC's Tristana Moore says Ms Ludin is not the only Muslim woman to be refused employment at a state school because of her headscarf, so her case will have far-reaching implications.

    'Symbol of exclusion'
    Correspondents say the case involves a clash of two key German legal concepts - religious freedom for all and the right of children to have a religiously-neutral education. Ms Ludin was refused a job in 1998 - despite successfully completing an internship at a high school near Stuttgart. Baden-Wuerttemberg education minister Annette Schaven argued that the headscarf was political and "understood as a symbol of the exclusion of woman from civil and cultural society". Ms Ludin now works at a private Islamic school in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, which has a large ethnic Turkish population. She said the state was equating the headscarf with "things I already distanced myself from during my own school years". The decision follows a similar ruling in August, when the court said a department store in Frankfurt was wrong to sack a Muslim woman who wanted to wear a headscarf to work. The store dismissed her on the grounds that her headscarf would "antagonise rural customers".
    ©BBC News

    26/9/2003- POTSDAM: Robert, a black asylum seeker from Cameroon, is so used to people calling him "Nigger" or making ape sounds at him that he no longer pays attention to it. What still makes him angry, however, is being followed around shops or the local library by staff expecting him to steal something. Or seeing how guests in a cafe remove their coats from the hanger he has just put his jacket on. "It's like hell here. are suspected all the time. They believe black men live through crime," said the 45-year-old auditor who has lived in an asylum-seekers' hostel in Potsdam, southwest of Berlin, for four years. He did not want his full name to be published. Such overt racism is widespread in former Communist eastern Germany where unification brought mass unemployment, and where people lived for decades without meeting foreigners, apart from Soviet soldiers and eastern European tourists.

    In the early 1990s, when many of the thousands of asylum seekers who fled to Germany from war zones in the Balkans and elsewhere were sent to cities in the east, foreigners became scapegoats for post-communist ills and social dislocation. The xenophobia has bred neo-Nazi groups and far right violence, said Judith Porath, director of Opferperspektive, a state-funded agency that helps victims of attacks. "A large part of the population has a racist, xenophobic attitude," she said. Attacks motivated by racism and anti-Jewish sentiment aren't confined to the east but are three times more frequent than in the west measured per capita, according to a 2002 intelligence report. Robert was beaten up by two muggers last year in what he is sure was a racist attack. A friend from Sierra Leone had his arm broken when youths assaulted him by a taxi rank, he said. "None of the drivers got out to help him," said Robert. The attacks, often by young skinheads, are so frequent they rarely make the pages of the national press. But news in mid-September that police in Munich had foiled a bomb attack on the foundation stone laying ceremony of a Jewish community centre has concentrated attention on far right violence in the country that carried out the Holocaust. It has also caused concern that the authorities were so busy hunting Islamic militants after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that they have failed to stop an escalating threat from neo-Nazi groups. "In recent months there has obviously been an escalation. Things have moved to a totally new level," said Bavarian state interior minister Guenther Beckstein. Police seized explosives and pistols and arrested several people in Munich and the east, including a leader of one of Germany's 160 neo-Nazi organisations or "Kameradshaften". Many of the members of such groups belong to gun clubs, police say.

    Hajo Funke, political analyst at Berlin's Free University who specialises in the far right scene, said waning public pressure had helped it become deadlier. "Right-wing terrorism has been in the air," he said. "People in the far right scene had been getting frustrated just putting up placards. They have not been achieving anything politically." No one in Germany expects the far right to pose a serious challenge to the state. Democracy is so well rooted that far right parties get a negligible share in national elections, much less than in France, Austria and the Netherlands. The main danger is to foreigners, and to Germany's reputation after decades spent atoning for the Holocaust. Liberal laws on free speech and assembly - a response to Nazi era abuse - allow right-wing groups to demonstrate. But such groups are forbidden to deny that the Holocaust occurred and to display Nazi symbols such as the swastika. The government is also trying to ban the National Democratic Party (NPD) which it has compared to Hitler's embryonic Nazi party of the 1920s. More than 100 people have been killed in racist violence in Germany since unification in 1990. Most of the attacks are opportunistic – skinheads picking on foreigners in the street. Attacks on property also occur – swastikas daubed on Jewish gravestones, bricks thrown at Turkish kebab shops and firebombs at asylum hostels. Most synagogues have 24-hour police guards.

    In 2002 alone, the Bundesverfassungsschutz domestic intelligence service recorded 772 cases of violent crime "with right-wing political motivation", up from 709 in 2001. Among them were 646 cases of physical assault resulting in injury, and eight attempted murders but no actual murders. The agency estimates Germany had 10,700 far right extremists in 2002 willing to use violence, up 30 percent from 1998. Most of them are right-wing skinheads attracted by Nazi ideology, who listen to music with lyrics such as these from group Tonstoerung (Sound Interruption): "Sharpen your long knifes on the pavements; delve them into Jewish bodies." Some of them belong to neo-Nazi organisations but authorities say there is no central force steering them. Despite the Munich arrests, officials say the right-wing lacks the level of organisation to make it as deadly as the far-left Red Army Faction that terrorised Germany with assassinations, kidnappings and hostage takings in the 1970s. The worst incidents of racist violence, including the 1992 firebombing of an asylum-seekers' hostel in the eastern port of Rostock where onlookers clapped in delight as the inhabitants struggled to flee, or the 1993 arson attack on the home of a Turkish family which killed five in the western town of Solingen, were followed by public outrage. Police clampdowns on far right groups and publicity campaigns promoting tolerance ensued, and the pogrom-style attacks on foreigners have abated since the early 1990s. The everyday violence has never stopped. "This is a battleground," said Robert from Potsdam.

    26/9/2003- A new European survey suggests that every third Norwegian wants to deport immigrants who remain unemployed over a long period of time. At the same time, half of the Norwegians questioned now say they have friends who are immigrants. The seemingly contradictory results surprise Norwegian officials, some of whom worry that immigration still is viewed largely as a labour market issue. The survey results, reported by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Friday, indicate little tolerance for foreigners who have trouble finding stable employment in Norway. As the unemployment rate rises in Norway, immigrants may be increasingly viewed as a competitive threat to ethnic Norwegians seeking work. Immigration, it seems, is more acceptable when demand for workers is high, and foreigners are allowed in to augment the labour force and especially take low-level jobs that locals deem unattractive. Some experts were disappointed, noting that in Sweden, only around 10 percent of those questioned believed that long-term unemployed immigrants should be deported. Researcher Lars Oestby of Norway's Central Bureau of Statistics was among those surprised by the survey results. He chose to concentrate on those who responded that they had immigrants among their circle of friends. "That can indicate that many Norwegians are eager to signal some form of friendliness towards immigrants," Oestby told NRK.

    25/9/2003— Amid doubts about its objectivity, a research institute has claimed in a new report that the integration of immigrants in the Netherlands is on track, despite the jealousy of native Dutch regarding migrant success. The report from the Verwey-Jonker Institute assesses 30 years of Dutch integration efforts and will be published later on Thursday. Intense political and media pressure has forced the earlier-than-scheduled publication of the report. Researchers also blamed dissatisfaction about the Dutch multicultural society on the jealousy that native Dutch feel in regards the success that migrants have achieved in the Netherlands, newspaper De Volkskrant reported. The report is the basis of a parliamentary commission's investigation into Dutch integration policies. The commission started hearing public testimony on Monday. Parliament initially asked the Verwey-Jonker Institute to investigate the "unsatisfactory" progress of integration, but the institute distanced itself from the parliament's stance, saying that there was evidence that the integration of migrants into Dutch society had been relatively successful. While the institute admitted its findings were not clear-cut, it claimed that integration — based on key points — was reasonably operating on track.

    But Socialist Party MP Ali Lazrak has slammed the research, placing doubt last week over the institute's objectivity. He also resigned from the investigating commission. And Liberal VVD MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali backed Lazrak on Wednesday, claiming that the institute should have refused to conduct the research because of concerns about impartiality. She said "the clique of policy researchers" had investigated multiculturalism on request from the government — which based its policies on the findings — but now needed to assess the government itself. Both Hirsli Ali and Lazrak pointed an accusing finger at the former Verwey-Jonker Institute director and current advisor, Jan Duyvendak, who said that integration policy had not failed. Hirsi Ali disputed his claims and said that Duyvendak should have refused to participate in the investigation to prevent his integrity coming into question. VVD parliamentary party leader Jozias van Aartsen said Hirsi Ali had a point when she criticised the integration committee. Van Aartsen also questioned the involvement of the Hilda Verwey-Jonker institute. But integration commission chairman Stef Blok and Parliament chairman Frans Weisglas, both VVD members, accused her of speaking prematurely. "She has ignored the Parliament's rules of play… she is responding to rumours. A well grounded judgment is possible once the investigation is finished," Blok said. But to end discussion in the media, Blok revealed on Monday night in current affairs show Nova that the commission had resolved to lift the publication ban on the institute report earlier than scheduled, an NOS news report said. He also admitted that public belief in the commission's integrity might have been damaged, but hoped that this would be restored throughout the inquiry.
    ©Expatica News

    18/9/2003— A Friesland village has come out in force to support a Nigerian-born mother-of-two who is facing deportation from the Netherlands because she does not have a birth certificate to obtain a residence permit. The 32-year-old asylum seeker Esther Uhunamure lives with Friesian cattle farmer Wytze van der Zwaag, 49, and has a three-year-old daughter Vera and a five-month-old daughter Margriet. Both of her daughters were born in the Netherlands. Uhunamure has lived in the Netherlands for five years, but has had her application for residence rejected. She wants to marry Van der Zwaag and obtain official residence status, but does not have a birth certificate and will soon be deported.

    A protest committee in the village of Kollumerzwaag is fighting to keep Uhunamure in the country and is lobbying Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk in the hope she will grant the Nigerian a Dutch residence permit. A committee spokesman said it is not customary in Nigeria to issue birth certificates. The group held a press conference on Wednesday and has launched a petition campaign to drum up support. The village's churches and a residents group are affiliated with the committee and the Kollumerland municipal authority is also backing the campaign. The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) has said that despite the fact that Uhunamure has been refused residence status, there is an alternative solution. An IND spokesman said Uhunamure can return to and obtain the necessary documents from Nigeria and then submit an application to return to the Netherlands under the family reunification migration scheme. And the Dutch Refugee Council, Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland, has backed the IND's suggestion, despite admitting the process would be "very complicated", Dutch associated press ANP reported. The parliamentary faction of the Christian Democrat CDA party has requested that Liberal VVD Minister Verdonk investigate the matter.
    ©Expatica News

    18/9/2003- Despite pressure from opposition MPs, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk is refusing to widen the scope of the residence permit amnesty for long-term asylum seekers and will instead "use her heart" to seriously and carefully assess any extraordinary or "distressing" cases. The amnesty is designed to provide a five-year residence permit and after that a permanent permit to about 2,200 refugees who have lived in the Netherlands for five years or longer while waiting for a decision on their first request for asylum. Those who have submitted a second or subsequent application after earlier refusals will not gain a residence permit, nor will refugees who have been refused asylum. Opposition parties initially welcomed the amnesty, but also demanded on Wednesday night that the Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 government widen its scope, Dutch associated press ANP reported. Only the small Christian party SGP was more cautious, saying it is in favour of allowing refugees who are awaiting a decision on a second or subsequent asylum request to come into consideration for the amnesty, only if their first application took longer than five years.

    And despite the criticism from Labour PvdA, the Socialist Party SP, GroenLinks and the ChristenUnie, Minister Verdonk refused to budge and said the amnesty regulation would remain in its present form. The coalition government parliamentary majority backed her determined stance. But the VVD minister also said she would "look into her heart to seriously" and carefully assess any distressing cases". Despite this promise, she also spoke against suggestions she should make "liberal use of her heart" because that could unfairly lead "to false hope". She also refused to estimate how many applicants would benefit from her mercy. An NOS news report said that Verdonk also confirmed that asylum seekers who did not come into consideration for the amnesty regulation may not appeal the decision, with the exception of the 7,000 refugeesesho sent a letter to former immigration minister Hilbrand Nawijn. The former populist LPF minister was the first to float the idea of the amnesty.

    The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) prematurely sent rejection letters to hundreds of the 7,000 people who applied — before the qualifying criteria for an amnesty had been determined. The Dutch Refugee Council, VluchtelingenWerk Nederland, has urged asylum seekers to launch legal action protesting their amnesty rejection. Legal experts anticipate a swathe of legal battles against the government's amnesty legislation. The Refugee Council and five other organisations claim the amnesty regulation is too strict and mounted demonstrations on Wednesday which saw several hundred protestors gather at the front of the Parliament in The Hague to protest against the government's moves. Protestors carried hundreds of photos of asylum seekers who will not come into consideration for the amnesty. It is estimated that several thousand people stand to miss out on gaining a residence permit.
    ©Expatica News

    By Jeroen Bosch of Alert!

    17/9/2003- The trial of Joop Glimmerveen, the undisputed "grand old man" of Dutch fascism, began, on 28 August, on charges arising from speeches he made at nazi meetings seven years ago. Glimmerveen, who became head of the Nederlandse Volks Unie (NVU) a few years after it was founded in 1971, is a longtime fascist activist who has stood, always on an openly racist ticket, for election to the Dutch national parliament as well in city council elections in The Hague. As a result, he has gained notoriety in the Netherlands for his high profile association with the NVU, a party whose original aims were to win rehabilitation for Nazi war criminals, spread national socialist ideology and reunite the Netherlands with the neighbouring Belgian region of Flanders. When Glimmerveen took charge in the NVU, however, he reshaped the party's agenda to centre on the more or less new issue of "the problem of the foreigners living in the Netherlands" and, thanks to his efforts, this theme was to become the flagship issue for the whole of the far right. At the end of the 1970s, the Dutch government attempted to to ban the party but failed because it had not properly prepared its case, a flop, which drew widespread international political flak at the time. Glimmerveen, though, subsequently quit as party chairman after the NVU failed to contest every constituency in the May 1981 national election and won only 10,522 votes. By 1983, however, he was back in his post. As befits his long record, Glimmerveen has already notched up a series of convictions for spreading racial hatred. He was fined Euro 450 for distributing pamphlets declaring "The Hague must remain white and safe. Help to free our city from the plague of Surinamese and Antilleans!". He collared 30 days' jail for another, but essentially the same, pamphlet and six weeks for making racist and anti-Semitic remarks in a magazine interview.

    The NVU gained its reputation among fascists by distributing racist leaflets and commemorating Dutch Nazi war criminals as well as Rudolf Hess. Its youth organisation also staged demonstrations, mainly when left-wingers took to the streets to protest against war or nuclear missiles, at the beginning of the 1980s. The NVU's main business, however, remained to try to gain support by provoking violent incidents with foreigners and immigrants. In 1987, Glimmerveen threw in the towel, evidently fed up to the teeth with the NVU's lack of success, money and members and wounded by competition from the fascist CP'86 and the Centrum Democraten. Repeated brushes with the law and anti-fascists also led the NVU to drop its profile. Glimmerveen was thus more or less unheard of until 1996, when Constant Kusters, the party's current boss, and Eite Homan, leader of the Aktiefront Nationale Socialisten (ANS), took him out of mothballs in a bid to breathe new life into the NVU. For Kusters and Homan, the NVU was a vitally needed vehicle for recruitment of the bonehead wing of the soon- to-be-banned CP'86 and veteran Glimmerveen was wheeled out to speak passionately at several meetings with Dutch and German fascists. He was also the key figure in joint activity between the NVU and CP'86. At the end of 1996, however, with the CP'86 rapidly crumpling under the impact of internal rows and the extreme right Centrum Democraten (CD) vanishing to the point of non-existence, the radical nazi wing of CP'86 met in Rotterdam.

    Glimmerveen showed up at the meeting with an NVU delegation in support of British National Party member Stewart Mordaunt and hardcore nazi Martijn Freling, who had launched a takeover bid in CP'86 but who had been kicked out a week before by the party leadership under chairman Wim Beaux, now active in the fascist New National Party. At this impromptu (and unofficial) congress, which was not recognised by CP'86, Mordaunt and Freling, in their turn, removed Beaux and his allies in the CP'86 executive from the party. In the end, it was Mordaunt and Freling who came out of the dispute as winners when the Chamber of Commerce adjudged their congress to have been the legal one. It was against this background that Glimmerveen made the speeches that have landed him in the dock. In particular, he is accused of threatening a Green Left MP, declaring she would be expelled from the Netherlands and that she "should be put in a labour camp to lose some weight". A week later, at a meeting held in a bar in Schiedam to commemorate Hitler's failed 1923 Munich putsch and the 1938 Nazi Kristallnacht pogrom, Glimmerveen threatened the chief editor of a newspaper, who had dared to call for his prosecution, by boasting that he would hang him from the highest tree when the NVU came to power. After both meetings, the nazis present went out and attacked foreigners. Two of the nazi's, who were later convicted, stated that they had been incited by by Glimmerveen's speeches and he was charged.

    In March 1998, Glimmerveen was duly given a four months' sentence having been convicted for inciting racial hatred, insulting and threatening behaviour and inciting violent behaviour. On appeal in May 1999, Glimmerveen's sentence was reduced to three months after he was acquitted of a charge of threatening the newspaper editor but, in May 2001, the Dutch High Court referred the conviction back to the Court of Amsterdam. A key issue in Glimmerveen's latest trial is whether the 1996 meetings were public and whether the press was allowed there. At the 2 November meeting, several reporters from newspaper, radio and television were present but the 9 November meeting was split into two parts: one public ­ which meant that invited press representatives were able to attend ­ and another in which the press had to leave, except for a photographer. Glimmerveen admits that he made the speeches and insists that he would have done so whether the meetings were public or not. However, while he used to be keen on going to prison to become a martyr for the "movement", he is now less enthusiastic about collecting a custodial sentence. Glimmerveen defended himself that with the rise of Pim Fortuyn nobody was convicted for racist remarks anymore and that the anti-racist laws shouldn't be used as a political tool to silence opponents.

    The Dutch attorney general wants a two months' sentence for Glimmerveen, because his speeches were radical, made in public and reported by the press. If so, he may yet be jailed *, having copped a prison sentence and so-called "martyrdom" rather than gaining the leadership of the NVU from Kusters…which now appears to have been the real motive for his re- emergence, seven years ago, from the fascist woodwork.

    * At the 11th of September Glimmerveen was convicted for 4 months jail, of which he has to spent actually two months in prison

    The government agreed late yesterday with the Social Democrats and Danish People's Party to relax the nation's provocative family reunification law

    19/9/2003- Late yesterday, the Liberal-Conservative government struck a deal with the Social Democrats and Danish People's Party to relax Denmark's notoriously strict family reunification paragraph in the Immigration Law, which has up to now required Danish citizens and foreign-born spouses to demonstrate a special "connection" to Denmark that outweighs ties to any other country. But while the Social Democrats hailed Thursday as "a great day for love," their sometime policy partners, the Radical Liberals, were decidedly dissatisfied. Although the amendment will allow more Danes to bring their foreign-born spouses to Denmark, party integration spokeswoman Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen says many young people and immigrants will still have problems surmounting the hurdles of family reunification law. "The Social Democrats have staged a dramatic departure from this idea that society is responsible for helping its weakest citizens. It is extremely sad for most people who have the misfortune of falling in love with a foreigner, and it will continue to be so for people under 28 or those with foreign citizenship," said Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen. The agreement between the four parties would relax family reunification requirements for Danes with at least 28 years of citizenship, or foreigners with 28 years of residency in Denmark. But the new agreement also includes some policy crackdowns. The parties are aiming to prevent young, foreign-born Danes from being forced to marry people from their home countries. According to Social Democrat integration spokeswoman Anne-Marie Meldgaard, the policy is a positive move. "We have insured that the law is aimed at the problem that needs to be solved--namely forced and arranged marriages," said Anne-Marie Meldgaard.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    19/9/2003- An extreme-right group linked to racial violence is coming to Glasgow to recruit members and demonstrate against the city's asylum seekers. The London-based White Nationalist Party (WNP) is considered too right wing even by the British National Party (BNP), which yesterday said its members had been banned from associating with it. Last month, WNP members were blamed for a spate of racially-motivated attacks in Northern Ireland, where a Muslim family were forced to leave their home in Armagh after attacks by baton-wielding thugs. The WNP applied to Glasgow City Council for permission to hold its "Campaign against Asylum Seekers" in George Square next month, claiming 60 members of the party from all over the UK would be joined by Scots "fed up with asylum seekers draining vital medical and social services". The council yesterday denied permission because another event had already booked the square, but the WNP's Scottish representative, who identified himself as "Paul", promised the party would reapply this week. "We believe no-one speaks for the people of Glasgow on this issue. A lot of ordinary people are angry that asylum seekers are taking their services," he said. "White people are under pressure, backs against the wall, but we do not want violence or confrontation. Our demonstration will be peaceful."

    But the news that the WNP was seeking support in the city to "incite" racial tension brought a sharp reaction from representatives of Glasgow's ethnic community. One said: "Glasgow is no place for these people and if they put 60 into George Square you can be assured Glasgow will put 6,000 - of all colours - against them." Another activist claimed that city councillors and the police should deny the WNP a platform for racial intolerance. Aamer Anwar, a human rights lawyer, said: "The city has an official policy that denies any group a platform for fascism and racism. "This is an event aimed at stirring tension and if the city and the police do not resolve it, the community, both black and white, will use all means necessary to deal with it. Glasgow has a strong anti-fascism tradition." Robina Quereshi, of Positive Action on Housing, an organisation which assists asylum seekers to integrate, said: "Glasgow needs emigrants. It is historically a city of migrants and if these people bring 60 people, we will bring 6,000. "We don't want their violent message."

    The WNP has recently forged strong links with Ulster, where, in recent months, the party conducted a recruitment campaign, which was apparently popular among the disaffected loyalist community. They have been at the forefront of a campaign to prevent the building of a mosque in Bleary, near Portadown, Co Armagh. Asian families from Craigavon, Armagh, have been intimidated and an African man, who has lived in the province for 13 years, was recently attacked in the street as he watched a parade. The WNP also distributed thousands of racist leaflets to homes and parked cars. One of their leaflet messages stated: "Ulster is forever British - Hang IRA scum!" The party's symbol is a Celtic-style cross, which draws on the colours of the swastika. A police insider in Northern Ireland said: "They are poisonous and sinister and you do not want them in Scotland." A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: "We refused permission for this demonstration; George Square was already booked."

    It is understood that when the WNP reapplies, its application will be referred to the full council, which has the power to deny them the right to demonstrate. A spokesman for the BNP added: "These people are extremists and our members are prohibited from associating with them. They were not even allowed to register as a political party because of their name. "We do not want links with such groups at a time when we are achieving political credibility with voters and moving away from the erroneous stereotypes."
    ©The Scotsman

    Amelia Hill finds the new power in the BNP and its allies is female - but the new face still masks old hatreds

    21/9/2003- When blonde, blue-eyed Wendy Edwards goes canvassing for the BNP with her husband, Phil, those with doubts about the far Right turn to her for reassurance that what he says can be safely ignored. 'They look past Phil towards me, and say "you don't believe this, do you?"' she laughs, smoothing her business suit and shushing her husband when he tries to interrupt. 'When I tell them that I believe everything he says and more besides, and would even consider standing as a BNP election candidate, they are amazed,' says the 29-year-old secretary. The Edwardses are well-known for their political beliefs in their pretty village near Nottingham and are often phoned late at night by drunken anti-fascists. 'Phil answers the phone during the day but I make sure I answer all calls that come in after a certain time because it floors people to get a polite, determined female voice on the other end of the line,' says Edwards. 'People aren't used to women in the nationalist movement doing more than standing behind their menfolk. They don't realise that it's changed now; that we're fighting side by side with them.' Women have played a supporting role in fascism in the past - Oswald Mosley's wife, Diana, championed Hitler's ideas in the Thirties - but an Observer investigation has discovered that the far Right in Britain is now being transformed by an influx of women keen to fight for a longed-for racist future. 'I headbutt, punch and kick just like a man,' says Jackie Oakley, editor of the White Nationalist Party's Valkyrie magazine and head of its women's division. 'None of your poncey girly scratching for me; I'm up there with the men and so are all the other women in the group.' The male hierarchy of the far Right has traditionally regarded racial order and the gender order as inextricably linked, using crude definitions of biology, tradition and nature in their defence. In the past few years, however, belief in the rigid social hierarchy has been undermined. Promised a more prominent role, women are joining far Right parties in ever-growing numbers, winning support from those willing to believe that having more women equates to having more mainstream politics.

    But it is, anti-fascists and academics believe, a cynical, sinister and successful tactic used by an increasingly sophisticated movement that has no genuine intention of softening its core politics. 'The BNP, for one, has adapted its tactics to appeal to modern-day society and to appear as something quite other than what it really is,' says Steve Silver, editor of anti-fascist newspaper Searchlight . 'It's been very successful. It is now seen as a wholesome, family-loving group that speaks up for the working man and woman, but this couldn't be further from the truth. 'The BNP remains a deeply sinister organisation. We have people inside the party and what goes on behind closed doors is very different to what goes on in public.' Sandra Morris, 56, is Jewish but has been a member of the National Front for 17 years. 'Nationalism has not always embraced powerful women,' she says. 'But the old image of what role women should have in the party isn't practical any more.' Mike Newland - who, along with Sharron Edwards, co-founded the Freedom Party after leaving the BNP in protest at what they believed was a lack of democracy - agrees. 'In the past five years, the right-wing movements have encouraged women to become more active and vociferous,' he says. 'In 1992 we couldn't get women to come forward at all, but now they seem to feel less vulnerable in fighting and putting themselves up in public.'

    Nick Griffin, a National Front figurehead during the Eighties, recently replaced John Tyndall as chairman of the BNP and has already done much to enhance the party's appeal to women. Events such as the annual summertime Red, White and Blue festival have allowed the party to present a family-focused facade, while a blurring of the official line on issues such as abortion has further softened its image. 'Of course we would like to see more white children bred, but I have been a single mother myself and I'm inclined to say women should have the choice of whether to have abortions or not,' says Bev Jones, who as national organiser for the north west is the highest ranking member of the BNP bar Griffin's wife, Jackie. Silver, however, believes the BNP is cynically trying to make itself look more mainstream in the lead-up to the European elections in June 2004. 'They're playing down their racism and trying to make it look as though they are just slightly more radical than the Conservatives,' he says. 'Many people joining now are unaware how extreme the party's beliefs really are.' Martin Durham, author of Women in Fascism and the country's leading expert in gender and the British extreme Right, agrees. 'The most important thing for the far Right is still to ensure that white women have more children,' he says. 'But the movement is quite capable of adapting to the changes in society by promising women a prominent, active role to win over young women and engender more votes.'

    Jackie Griffin wife of Nick, has admitted her debt to feminism and written articles calling for women to play a more active part in the movement. 'I owe my feeling of empowerment and strength to women of my grandmother's generation who were staunch feminists,' she says. Her admission has caused much disgust among the party's old guard, including John Bean, editor of the new BNP party magazine, Identity. Bean, who was an active member of the British Union of Fascists during the Holocaust - which Griffin still denies took place - is fondly remembered by John Tyndall in his memoirs as a guide and mentor. In the most recent edition of the magazine, Bean uses a whole page in a rant against the evils of feminism. According to Silver, proof of the Right's cynicism in posing as a defender of women's rights is to be found in the fact that any discussion of female-orientated issues quickly leads back to race. This was evident at a party meeting last Friday in Preston when Jackie Griffin, mother of four children, smoothly bought a discussion about education round to race. 'The education of our children is something that this party is particularly anxious about,' she said. 'I live in a tiny village in Wales where the local school has 100 students. 'Even in the middle of nowhere, there are three mixed race children in that school,' she added, to gasps of outrage from the assembled gathering. 'It's terrible. Disgusting. Talk about the tide climbing higher and higher; there's nowhere left to escape; we've no choice now but to stand and fight.'
    ©The Observer

    24/9/2003- Immigrants fleeing persecution will have to "sleep on the streets", human rights lawyers said yesterday after the Court of Appeal backed the Home Secretary's policy of refusing support to asylum-seekers who make late applications. Three senior judges overturned a ruling that had given destitute claimants the right to state-funded food and shelter even if they had not applied for asylum as soon as they arrived in the country. Human rights lawyers accused the court of forsaking some of the most vulnerable members of society. Sue Willman of solicitors Pierce Glynn, who represented a Malaysian asylum-seeker, Mr T, in the appeal, said: "Asylum seekers with no regular source of food and no proper shelter contact us each day. Many are extremely vulnerable, like Mr T. How can it be compatible with our Human Rights Act to leave vulnerable asylum-seekers sleeping on the streets of London and other UK cities?"

    The Government welcomed the ruling that all cases must be treated on their merits. The earlier successful legal challenge to the Government's policy infuriated David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, and led to a rewriting of the rules. Beverley Hughes, a Home Office minister: "It is entirely reasonable to expect people fleeing from persecution to claim asylum as soon as reasonably practicable if they want to be supported while that claim is being considered. This judgment reinforces the message that those who do not claim asylum as soon as reasonably practicable cannot be expected to be supported merely because they assert they have no means of supporting themselves." A human rights lawyer involved in the case said: "This is the first time in history that a court has declared that the state has no duty to help a destitute person. We shall be appealing to the House of Lords."

    The judges also said Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights meant asylum-seekers could not be allowed to suffer in a manner that "debased" them or "diminished human dignity". They said there was new evidence to suggest Mr T might be mentally ill and raised the question of whether his case ought to be looked at again. Lord Justice Kennedy, Lord Justice Peter Gibson and Lord Justice Sedley made clear there had to be a severe degree of suffering before there was a breach of a claimant's right under Article 3. They agreed with government lawyers that the courts should not set "too low a threshold" at which the state was under a duty to act under Article 3 because such cases involved public funding and allocation of resources was for the Government. In a joint judgment, they said Mr T, who lived rough at Heathrow airport between 15 March and 24 April, "had shelter, sanitary facilities and some money for food. He was not entirely well physically, but not so unwell as to need immediate treatment. We therefore allow this appeal". The judges contrasted the position of Mr T with the plight of a Somali called S, a late claimant who had also won his High Court challenge earlier this year. They said the Home Secretary had now accepted the High Court's "inexorable conclusion" that refusing support to S, who was suffering significant weight loss and psychological disturbance, "debased him and diminished his human dignity" in breach of Article 3. The judges said the boundary for support lay somewhere between the two cases.
    © Independent Digital

    24/9/2003- The Roma are arguably Europe's most marginalised and persecuted minority - and have been the target of much of the asylum furore. So why is the government deporting them when it says they can freely return to work here in less than a year? Attacked in their homelands and rejected as spongers elsewhere, Europe's Roma are generally accepted to be at the bottom of the pile. Ask Josef Cina from the Czech Republic. A member of the Roma Gypsy minority, he witnessed years of discrimination against his family and friends. When locals in the town of Usti nad Labem built a wall to separate them from a Gypsy area, he campaigned against it - and became a target for a skinhead gang. Like many others, Mr Cina fled for his life. Now settled in Newcastle upon Tyne, he represents more than 150 Roma families, many of whom face possible deportation as failed asylum seekers. "Romani in central Europe are in extremely vulnerable situations," he says. "I can't get over the fact that Europe watches this go on after all that it experienced with the Nazis. I know of families who have been deported from the UK and then faced abuse and persecution on their return to the Czech Republic." The reality of European Roma is far removed from the myth of a carefree travelling people in colourful caravans. For centuries they have been more settled than nomadic - but also entirely ostracised by others, says Professor Thomas Acton of Greenwich University. "Roma people are survivors of genocide," he says. "They've been continually smashed and effectively locked out of societies for 400 years." Attacks continue across central and Eastern Europe. One of the longest running cases at the European Court of Human Rights is that of a Roma village destroyed by a crowd of Hungarians and Romanians in 1993. But coupled to this, says Prof Acton, is the historic stereotype that Gypsies are liars and thieves. "When you turn up in a new country you present yourself in the best possible light. Roma have tried to do that for centuries. "But when immigration officials presume they are lying, perhaps they shouldn't be surprised that people start telling little lies to protect themselves. "The bigger lie is how we have told and ignored the history of these peoples."

    Roma arrivals
    All of this became an issue for the UK when Roma, principally from the Czech Republic, began arriving as asylum seekers in 1997. Such was the backlash at the time, one local newspaper described them as "human sewage". But despite this reception, they still arrive - and in increasing numbers. Of the 1,365 Czech asylum applications in 2002 (the vast majority being Roma), none were granted asylum and 10 were given exceptional leave to remain. Nine out of 10 appeals were rejected and the Home Office has made a public point of deportation of central Europeans from Stansted Airport. On top of this, immigration officers screen out Roma at Prague airport, a policy still facing a legal challenge.

    EU accession
    However, from May next year, four countries with the largest Roma communities - Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia - become EU members. The UK says it will open its labour market to these groups - one of a few member states to do so. Roma experts say this will render asylum rules meaningless as those previously deported will simply come back. Luke Clements, of the Traveller Law Research Unit at Cardiff University, says this humanitarian crisis won't be hidden anymore. "Communities will be able to challenge discrimination at home under the EU's race and equality rules. "They will also be able to exercise the same economic rights to seek work elsewhere on the Continent. "The government has built up xenophobia against Roma and then on the other agreed to accession. The government has done nothing to explain what it is trying to achieve." One politician who has tried to get an answer is the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury. He predicted Roma communities will use EU accession to return to the UK unless conditions improve at home. "Given that the government has only got limited resources, the time and effort of immigration officials would be better spent looking for other illegal immigrants," he says. A spokesman for the Home Office defends current policy on Roma asylum seekers, but says there are no plans to stop processing or deporting failed applicants. "When the Czech Republic becomes a member of the European Union, their citizens will enjoy the same rights as other members of the EU," said the spokesman. "Anyone can withdraw their [asylum] application. If they are still in the UK [in May 2004] they will be able to apply to work under treaty obligations if they are eligible."

    'Failure to protect rights'
    But Grattan Puxon, of the Roma Federation in the UK, says any continued Roma movement will represent a failure to protect rights others take for granted. "The war in Kosovo was all about Europe stopping ethnic cleansing. But what was done about the 120,000 Roma who were forced out after the end of the war?" says Mr Puxon. "The flows of people are ongoing. And that's because there has not been any end to the attacks on Roma people. Perhaps EU accession will help because of the pressure that will be put on the new member states. "But given that they will be able to legally come to the UK to work from next year, it seems to me to be very cruel that they can be deported right now."

    Roma in EU accession nations

  • Poland: 50,000+
  • Czech Republic: 275,000
  • Hungary: 400,000+
  • Slovakia: 480,000+
    Source: All-Party Group on Roma Afairs, 2003
    ©BBC News

    Hate crime veteran Peter Lindsay

    24/9/2003- Peter Lindsay, a Toronto lawyer who has handled prominent hate crime cases, is expected to take over the defence of Ernst Zundel, the Holocaust denier accused of being a threat to Canada's national security. Mr. Zundel's long-time lawyer, Douglas H. Christie, announced at a previous hearing his future participation in the lengthy case was in jeopardy because his wife had been diagnosed with cancer. Yesterday, at Mr. Zundel's security threat detention review, Mr. Christie said he was meeting after court with a lawyer to discuss handing the case over, but did not name the attorney. Mr. Lindsay sat at the back of the hearing yesterday afternoon, his first appearance at the lengthy hearings, and he and a woman met privately with Mr. Zundel. Private citizens are not normally allowed contact with Mr. Zundel. And on Monday, Ingrid Rimland, Mr. Zundel's wife, told supporters in an e-mail that two Toronto attorneys had been added to her husband's legal team.

    Mr. Lindsay would not confirm or deny his involvement, declining to comment on his presence in the courtroom or on his meeting with Mr. Zundel. Mr. Lindsay is known for unusual and often successful legal defences in hate crimes cases. He defended skinheads charged with promoting hate after a 1997 demonstration at a Scarborough motel where Czech Roma refugee claimants were staying. After almost three years, the case was dismissed because the charges referred to "Roma" and not "Gypsy." The Crown failed to prove the terms are one and the same, the judge said. The Crown said the term Roma was used because the term Gypsy -- which was used on signs by protesters -- is considered a pejorative. An appeal by the Crown to the Ontario Court of Appeal was denied this May. In 2000, Mr. Lindsay wrote to a Toronto newspaper complaining about a column on the case. In it, he wrote: "I am greatly offended at being portrayed as anti-Semitic for doing my job, which is to defend people accused of crimes (including alleged skinheads)."
    ©National Post

    24/9/2003- Acting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan today called on central and eastern European leaders to speak out openly against xenophobia and racism. Addressing a group of central and eastern European experts gathered in Prague for an exchange of ideas on how to implement the Programme of Action of the World Conference against Racism, Mr. Ramcharan said the region is at a turning point in its history. "In the turbulent waters of ever increasing xenophobia", he said, "there can be only one choice: to walk the path of tolerance and inter-ethnic understanding anchored in the spirit of human rights". The acting High Commissioner said the democratization process in many countries has opened great perspectives for citizen participation and modernization and has put human rights on the map. As the process unfolded, however, "we must guard against tensions between different national and ethnic groups previously suppressed. We must also guard against extreme nationalism, accompanied by intolerance and hate speech. Ethnic strife has led to bloody conflicts in the Balkans and other places", he continued. Mr. Ramcharan acknowledged that the challenges and economic obstacles some central and eastern European countries are facing may make it difficult to implement a comprehensive human rights agenda overnight. "We are all conscious of this", he said, "but let us not be deterred. Human rights are not only a set of legal standards". Adding that tackling taboos and going against mainstream populist views takes courage, he said one way of advancing the cause of human rights is to speak out openly against xenophobia and racism. The Seminar of Experts for Eastern Europe is being held from 24 to 26 September. It is organized by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and hosted by the Government of the Czech Republic. The results of the seminar will be presen ted in a report to the next session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights next spring.
    ©UN News Centre

    By Abram de Swaan, professor at the University of Amsterdam and chairman of the Amsterdam School for Social Science Research. His most recent book is "Words of the world; the global language system."

    Day of Languages
    25/9/2003- Each year on Sept. 26, by order of the European Union and the Council of Europe, a Day of Languages is observed. This is the sole remnant of the Year of Languages that was proclaimed in 1991 "to celebrate the linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe." What remains is a recurrent festival of pompousness, misunderstanding and misrepresentation. The variety of languages and cultures in Europe surely is a wealth, but it is also a burden. Barriers of language and culture are an almost insurmountable obstacle to the exchange of opinions among Europeans. They impede the emergence of a European public sphere, where political and cultural debate may be carried on beyond borders. The Europeans do not understand each other well enough even to disagree. The EU language propaganda completely ignores this. It presses young Europeans to learn languages, from infancy and for life, as many as possible, as different as possible. The Parliament and Council of the EU decreed in 2000 that language learning "enhances awareness of cultural diversity and helps eradicate xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance." Would it really? Of course not. If people all learn different languages, won't they still be unable to understand one another?

    There is hardly any connection between linguistic diversity and a sense of cultural diversity. Someone who knows Finnish, Swedish and Sama encounters much less cultural variation than someone who in French alone comes across Parisian lawyers, Québécois shopkeepers, Senegalese officials or Caledonian fishermen. Such cultural diversity is much greater still in the English language areas. While European propaganda aims at increasing the variety of languages that citizens learn, it achieves exactly the opposite of its publicly professed objectives. In fact, the policy of the EU institutions strengthens the hegemony of a single language: English. For example, the European Commission is committed to the exchange of students among member states so as to widen their cultural horizons. But in the competition for these students, universities in most countries now offer course programs in English. In effect, the more languages, the more English. Almost 90 percent of students on the European continent learn English as a foreign language. Half that many learn French, a quarter German, and one tenth Spanish. About half of European youngsters consider themselves able to carry on a conversation in English; not even a quarter in French. Ministries, school boards, parents and children have long opted for English as the European lingua franca.

    The Council of Europe and the EU refuse to acknowledge this fact even as it erodes the formal equality of the national languages of all the member states. That explains the promotion of learning many languages, it doesn't matter which. The schoolchildren of Europe disregard this advice and do what seems most sensible to them: they learn English. This best benefits communication in Europe, promotes public debate, guarantees cultural diversity and provides these youngsters with better career opportunities. Is there no alternative? The EU might acknowledge that in practice the languages of the member states are not equal. Some do not stand a chance outside their country's borders, and a few could continue to function as a vehicular language next to English: French in southern Europe, German in northern Central Europe, and, beyond Europe, Spanish in the Americas. If the Union wants to counteract the monopoly of English, it must dare to make a political choice in the language issue. Next to English, it should give priority to two or three other languages as border-transcending vehicular languages. Such realism in any case is to be preferred to the hypocrisy with which the EU and the Council now put young people on the wrong learning track. As long as they lack the political courage, the Union and the Council of Europe would do better to remain silent, in all languages of Europe.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    18/9/2003- The Hungarian government is calling for a provision on protecting minority and ethnic rights to be inserted in the European Constitution, which is due to be finalised by the end of this year. "We want the words 'minority and ethnic rights' to be included in the EU constitution" a spokesman for the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, told AFP. "The entrance of Hungary and our neighbouring countries to the European Union creates a new situation within the EU." The number of Hungarians living in neighbouring countries - Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine - is estimated at 3.5 million people. Budapest hopes France will back its calls. Spokesman Tamas Toth said a letter on the issue had been sent to President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday.

    20/09/2003- The head of the European anti-discrimination watchdog said in an interview published on Saturday that racist violence and anti-semitism are increasing in nearly all the countries of the European Union. Beate Winkler, the director of the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, said the problem of anti-semitism was particularly worrisome in France, where last year "62 percent of violent acts had an anti-semitic context." "Generally, racist violence is increasing in nearly all the countries of the European Union," she said in an interview with the magazine Kurier. She did not give specific figures. These will be included in the centre's annual report in December. Winkler said the number of incidents attributed to the extreme right in Germany was declining, but cases of violence there were on the increase. The problem was aggravated, she said, by some 3 000 extreme-right sites that have proliferated on the internet.
    ©News 24

    24/9/2003- A new set of European Union (EU) rules on family reunification may discriminate against certain categories of refugees and could keep families unnecessarily apart, according to the United Nations refugee agency. The latest directive, adopted two days ago after more than three years of negotiations, sets out conditions under which refugees and migrants in the EU may be reunited with their children and spouses, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). On one level, UNHCR has welcomed the fact that separated refugee families face fewer restrictions than separated migrant families under the directive. Unlike migrants, refugees who request family reunion within three months of being granted refugee status do not have to show that they can provide their own accommodation and health insuran ce or prove they a stable source of income. Refugees are also exempted from the requirement to have lived in a country for two years before their family can join them. However, compared to the European Commission's first draft drawn up in 1999, the basic standards and the degree to which the new directive provides genuine harmonization have been considerably diluted, UNHCR said. "Family reunion can be denied on the grounds of public policy, public security and public health," said the Director of UNHCR's Europe Bureau, Raymond Hall. "The problem is that 'public policy,' in particular, is a very vague term that could be easily used to keep families apart without any real justification." The new directive also contains a narrow definition of the family unit. A refugee may be reunited with his or her spouse and minor children, but not necessarily adult children, elderly parents or other close relatives who may depend entirely on the refugee. Even when reunited, the family members of recognized refugees may be forbidden to work for up to one year for reasons "related to the situation of the labour market." UNHCR has also expressed disappoint ment that the new measures offer no family reunion rights to persons who have been granted "subsidiary forms of protection," which offers a status similar to refugee status but is given to people who do not technically fit the strict requirements under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.
    ©UN News Centre

    By Saskia Sassen
    As Europe's borders become more and more fortified against immigrants, illegal human trafficking becomes ever more common. By criminalizing immigration, Europe does not only ignore a moral problem: It hits hardest on those desperate enough to escape their homecountries and contributes to the enormous profits that smugglers make in the process. Saskia Sassen asks what price Europe is paying for these shortsighted and unsustainable policies.

    17/9/2003- Over the last decade it is estimated that more than 2,500 would-be immigrants died trying to get into Europe. That is many dead, but not many immigrants for a continent of over 350 million people. Whom is it we are determined to keep out to the point that they risk their lives to get in: an equally determined but tiny minority of men, women and children from mostly poor countries who will come no matter what in search of work or refuge. They are not criminals. Yet the result of our determination is that we are feeding a criminal trade. There has been a sharp growth in illegal trafficking of people as receiving countries have clamped down on entries and semi-militarized more and more borders. These developments raise two issues. One concerns the old trade-off between policies that criminalize what may not intrinsically be a criminal act in the name of controlling a somewhat untenable situation; this in turn raises the incentives for genuinely criminal actors to promote the forbidden activity. A familiar instance of this trade-off concerns marihuana control policy. Does the criminalizing of marihuana in the US -and the UK- really work better as a policy to control its use than the controlled legality of marihuana in the Netherlands which leaves very little room for profit making by drugdealers and hence no incentive to expand its use? The second policy issue raised by these developments is that the deaths of these hundreds of people attempting to enter Europe affect us all, not only those directly concerned. The fact that these people lack the proper documents for entry is easily represented in policy and media circles as exempting us from any responsibility as societies for these deaths. The lack of proper documents somehow seems to make these deaths less human and reduce whatever might be our responsibility contributing to these deaths.

    I want to argue that the direction we are taking in our immigration policies towards greater police and military control and growing disregard for international human rights codes as well as our own civil liberties laws is promoting illegal trafficking and weakening our rule of law and thereby our democracies. These policies are adding to an already growing mix of what I would describe as negative incentives, or incentives with negative outcomes for significant sectors of our societies. Illegal trafficking and the deaths of men, women and children who are not criminals, and who die on our "soil" eventually touches the fabric of our societies and distorts or weakens the rule of law. In the long run it will affect us all. Yes, the central victims are the men and women who are trafficked and especially those who die. But we would be foolish to think that we can allow these abuses and deaths to happen in the name of maintaining control, and remain untouched. The growth in illegal trafficking and the sharpening of extreme anti-immigrant politics willing to sacrifice some civil liberties in the name of control are indications of this broader negative effect.

    Interconnected Forms of Violence
    Part of the challenge is to recognize the interconnectedness of forms of violence that we do not always recognize as being connected or for that matter, as being forms of violence. The sharp growth of government debt, poverty, unemployment, closing of traditional economic sectors in the global south, partly due to neoliberal economic globalization has created whole new migrations as well as fed an exploding illegal trade in people. We now have growing evidence that IMF policy has sharpened these conditions even as it has brought great prosperity to about 20 per cent of residents in many countries in the global south(1). Our governments, by supporting IMF policies, are partly contributing to those conditions that are going to stimulate emigration and illegal trafficking in people. Further, as the rich economies become richer partly because of these same IMF policies, they also become more desirable destinations. This in turn creates a source for hard currency for the governments of the sending countries in a context where they face mounting debt and declines in national revenues as neoliberal globalization weakens and often destroys many of the national economic sectors in these countries. Thus these governments are not interested particularly in regulating emigration either. Finally, as these same policies have also raised inequality and unemployment inside the rich economies, the disadvantaged have become radicalized, often taking on extreme right wing politics.

    The tragedy is that those most affected negatively, those to whom violence has been done both in the global south and in the rich economies, the victims of it all, now confront each other as enemies inside our countries. Anti-immigrant sentiment probably runs highest among those who have been hurt from the same policies that have hurt the poor and the middle classes (though not the upper 20 per cent) from where the immigrants and would-be immigrants come. And as the rich countries raise their walls to keep immigrants and refugees out, they feed the illegal trade in people and raise the profits to be made as despair rises in the global south and fear in the global north. This is not sound policy. This is a vicious policy cycle. The same infrastructure, both technical and institutional that has enabled global flows of capital and goods, services and the new transnational managerial and professional class, also enables migrations and illegal trafficking. And they facilitate the flow of remittances back to sending countries, a major incentive for not doing anything on the part of these governments. These various entanglements raise the complexity of the challenge of how to regulate immigration. But these entanglements and this type of complexity are going in the wrong direction. We need to reverse this dynamic. When globalization policies go wrong they really go very wrong for countries in the global south. Thereby these policies sharpen the incentives for both emigration and trafficking for emigrants, traffickers and governments in the global south, given growing government indebtedness and lack of opportunity for workers and would be entrepreneurs in much of the global south. Emigrants enter the macro-level of development strategies for sending countries through their remittances. In many countries these represent a major source of foreign exchange reserves for the government. While the flows of remittances may be minor compared to the massive daily capital flows in various financial markets, they are often very significant for developing or struggling economies.

    In 1998 - the last year for which comprehensive data is available - global remittances sent by immigrants to their home countries reached over US$ 70 billion. To understand the significance of this figure, it should be related to the GDP and foreign currency reserves in the specific countries involved, rather than compared to the global flow of capital. For instance, in the Philippines, a key sender of migrants generally and of women for the entertainment industry in several countries, remittances were the third largest source of foreign exchange over the last several years. In Bangladesh, another country with significant numbers of its workers in the Middle East, Japan, and several European countries, remittances represent about a third of foreign exchange. Exporting workers and remittances are means for governments of coping with unemployment and foreign debt(2). This would also seem to be the case given the growing interdependencies brought on by globalization which also enable illegal trafficking. Cross-border business travel, global tourism, the Internet, and other conditions integral to globalization enable multiple global flows not foreseen by the framers and developers of economic globalization. This creates a difficult trade-off in a context where September 11 has further sharpened the will to control immigration and resident immigrants. Increased illegal trafficking and the reduction in civil liberties will not facilitate the need to learn how to accommodate more immigration to respond to the future demographic turn. Let me focus next with some detail on one specific flow which brings many of these issues together.

    Illegal Trafficking
    Trafficking in workers for both licit and illegal work (e.g. unauthorized sex work) illuminates a number of intersections between the negative conditions in the global south and some of the tensions in the immigration regime(3). Trafficking is a violation of several distinct types of rights: human, civil, political. Trafficking in people appears to be mainly related to the sex market, to labor markets, to illegal migration. Much legislative work has been done to address trafficking: international treaties and charters, UN resolutions, and various bodies and commissions. Trafficking has become sufficiently recognized as an issue that it was also addressed in the G8 meeting in Birmingham in May 1998 (IOM 1998). The heads of the eight major industrialized countries stressed the importance of cooperation against international organized crime and trafficking in persons. The US President issued a set of directives to his administration in order to strengthen and increase efforts against trafficking in women and girls. This in turn generated the legislation initiative by Senator Paul Wellstone; bill S.600 was introduced in the senate in 1999. NGO's are also playing an increasingly important role. For instance, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women has centers and representatives in Australia, Bangladesh, Europe, Latin America, North America, Africa and Asia Pacific. The Women's Rights Advocacy Program has established the Initiative Against Trafficking in Persons to combat the global trade in persons. This type of trafficking shows us one of the meanings of interdependence in the current global system. There are two distinct issues here: one is that globalization has produced new conditions and dynamics, especially the growing demand for these types of workers by the expanding high income professional workforce associated largely, though not exclusively, with globalization(4). The second issue is that globalization has enabled older trafficking networks and practices which used to be national or regional to become global.

    Here I want to focus on some of the data on the trafficking of women, especially for the sex industries and the growing weight of this trafficking as a profit making option for the traffickers, especially it would seem from the global south. This, then adds to the role of emigrants' remittances generally, whether from lawful, unauthorized or trafficked immigrants in the account balance of many of the impoverished governments of sending countries. Profits and revenues are, clearly, a disincentive to attack this trade. Insofar as the countries of the global north are one of the key destinations, they do not escape the consequences of this illegal trade either. Trafficking in migrants is a profitable business. According to a UN report, criminal organizations in the 1990s generated an estimated US$ 3.5 billion per year in profits from trafficking migrants (excluding most of the women trafficked for the sex industry). The entry of organized crime is a recent development in the case of migrant trafficking; in the past it was mostly petty criminals who engaged in this type of trafficking. The Central Intelligence Agency of the US(1999) reports that organized crime groups are creating intercontinental strategic alliances through networks of co-ethnics throughout several countries; this facilitates transport, local contact and distribution, provision of false documents, etc. The Global Survival Network (1997) reported on these practices after a two year investigation using the establishment of a dummy company to enter the illegal trade. Such networks also facilitate the organized circulation of trafficked women among third countries -not only from sending to receiving countries.

    Traffickers may move women from Burma, Laos, Vietnam and China to Thailand, while Thai women may have been moved to Japan and the US. Although there is no exhaustive data, the available information suggests that trafficking in women, including minors, for the sex industry is highly profitable for those running the trade. The United Nations estimates that 4 million women were trafficked in 1998, producing a profit of US$7 billion for criminal groups. These funds include remittances from prostitutes' earnings and payments to organizers and facilitators in these countries. In Japan, where the so-called entertainment industry is legal, profits are about 4.2 trillion yen per year over the last few years; there is growing evidence that illegally trafficked women are a growing share of sex-workers. In Poland, police estimate that for each Polish woman delivered, the trafficker receives about US$700. In Australia, the Federal Police estimate that the cash flow from 200 prostitutes is up to $900,000 a week. Ukrainian and Russian women, in high demand in the sex market, earn the criminal gangs involved about US$500 to US$1000 per woman delivered. These women can be expected to service on average 15 clients a day, and each can be expected to make about $US 215,000 per month for the gang.

    It is estimated that in recent years several million women and girls are trafficked within and out of Asia and the former Soviet Union, two major trafficking areas. Increases in trafficking in both these areas can be linked to women being pushed into poverty or sold to brokers due to the poverty of their households or parents. High unemployment in the former Soviet republics has been one factor promoting growth of criminal gangs as well as growth of trafficking in women. Unemployment rates among women in Armenia, Russia, Bulgaria and Croatia reached 70 per cent and in Ukraine 80 per cent with the implementation of market policies. There is some research indicating that economic need is the bottom line for entry into prostitution(5). Some of the features of immigration policy and enforcement may well contribute to make women who are victims of trafficking even more vulnerable and to give them little recourse to the law. If they are undocumented, which they are likely to be, they will not be treated as victims of abuse but as violators of the law insofar as they have violated entry, residence and work laws. The attempt to address undocumented immigration and trafficking through greater border controls over entry, raises the likelihood that women will use traffickers to cross the border, and some of these may turn out to belong to criminal organizations linked to the sex industry. Further, in many countries prostitution is forbidden for foreign women, which enhances the role of criminal gangs in prostitution. It also diminishes one of the survival options of foreign women who may have limited access to jobs generally. Prostitution is tolerated for foreign women in many countries while regular labor market jobs are less so-this is the case for instance in the Netherlands and in Switzerland. According to IOM data, the number of migrant women prostitutes in many EU countries is far higher than that for nationals: 75 per cent in Germany, 80 per cent in the case of Milan in Italy, etc. While some women know that they are being trafficked for prostitution, for many the conditions of their recruitment and the extent of abuse and bondage only become evident after they arrive in the receiving country. The conditions of confinement are often extreme, akin to slavery, and so are the conditions of abuse, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, and physical punishments. They are severely underpaid, and wages are often withheld. They are prevented from using protection methods against AIDS, and typically have no right to medical treatment. If they seek police help they may be taken into detention because they are in violation of immigration laws; if they have been provided with false documents there are criminal charges(6).

    As tourism has grown sharply over the last decade and become a major development strategy for cities, regions and whole countries, the entertainment sector has seen a parallel growth and recognition as a key development strategy. In many places, the sex trade is part of the entertainment industry and has similarly grown. At some point it becomes clear that the sex trade itself can become a development strategy in areas with high unemployment and poverty and governments desperate for revenue and foreign exchange reserves. When local manufacturing and agriculture can no longer function as sources of employment, of profits and of government revenue, what was once a marginal source of earnings, profits and revenues, now becomes a far more important one. The increased importance of these sectors in development generates growing tie-ins. For instance, when the IMF and the World Bank see tourism as a solution to some of the growth challenges in many poor countries and provide loans for its development or expansion, they may well be contributing to develop a broader institutional setting for the expansion of the entertainment industry and indirectly of the sex trade. This tie-in with development strategies signals that trafficking in women may well see further expansion. It is a worrisome possibility especially in the context of growing numbers of women with few if any employment options. And such growing numbers are to be expected given high unemployment and poverty, the shrinking of a world of work opportunities that were embedded in the more traditional sectors of these economies, and the growing debt burden of governments rendering them incapable of providing social services and support to the poor. Under these conditions, women in the sex industry also can become a source of government revenue. These tie-ins are structural, not a function of conspiracies. Their weight in an economy will be raised by the absence or limitations of other sources for securing a livelihood, profits and revenues for respectively workers, enterprises and governments.

    The Coming Demographic Crisis in the North
    Even as the rich countries try harder and harder to keep would-be immigrants and refugees out, they face a growing demographic deficit and rapidly aging populations. According to a major study (Austrian Institute of Demography 2001), at the end of the current century and under current fertility and immigration patterns, population size in Western Europe will have shrunk by 75 milllion and almost 50 percent of the population will be over 60 years old -a first in its history(7). Europe, perhaps more so than the US given its relatively larger intake of immigrants, faces some difficult decisions. Where will they get the new young workers needed to support the growing elderly population and to do jobs considered unattractive by the native born, particularly in a context of rising educational attainment. The numbers of these jobs are not declining, even if the incidence of some of them is; one sector that is likely to add jobs is home and institutional care for the growing numbers of old people. Export of older people and of economic activities is one option being considered now. But there is a limit to how many old people and low wage jobs an economy can export and a society can tolerate. Immigration is expected to be part of the solution.

    In the US, the evidence suggests a slightly different pattern. By century's end the forecasted fall for the US is 34 million people, though this represents a point in the upward slope which will not be completed until after the end of this century. The evidence is fairly clear that a significant component of population growth in the US over the last two decades as well as labor force growth is accounted for by immigrants, both second generation and foreign born. In both cases, immigrants account for a larger component of growth than their share in respectively the general population and the total labor force. Yet the way the countries in the global north are proceeding is not preparing them to handle this future scenario. They are building walls to keep would-be immigrants out. At a time of growing refugee flows, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees faces an even greater shortage of funds than usual. Given an effective demand for immigrant workers, and indeed families for demographic purposes, both of these policy preferences are likely to have negative repercussions for Europe. They construct the immigrant and the refugee as a negative and undesirable subject, thereby encumbering integration. Further, given firms and households interested in hiring immigrants or determined to do so, for whatever reasons, restrictive policies and racialized representations of the immigrant and the refugee, can be expected to feed the already growing illegal trafficking of people.

    Conclusion: The Need for a More Enlightened Immigration Policy
    The large and looming issue confronting societies under the rule of law is whether policies that brutalize people - no matter what their nationality - and promote criminalized profit-making through the trade in people, are desirable and indeed sustainable if we are to keep up our systems based on the rule of law for which our forebears fought so hard and spilled so much blood. Allowing this sort of brutalization and criminality is a very high price to pay for maintaining border control, and sooner or later it begins to tear at the fabric of the lawful state and of civil society. The risks to our societies and to us - citizens - fully documented, are well illustrated by what is happening today in the US. The events of September 11 and the subsequent restrictions on the civil liberties of particular immigration groups in the US is tearing at, and some would say weakening the rule of law as it affects all US residents. The government in the US is granting itself more and more authority to deal directly, in an extrajudicial way, with matters that used to run through judiciaries or that would not be considered a matter for the government to get involved with. In so doing, the US government is violating basic rights not only of those it has profiled as possibly dangerous but also of its citizens, all citizens, not just those who might be suspect. Are there ways of regulating the flow of people into our societies that could strengthen, rather than weaken, its civic fabric? The repeated incidents of would-be immigrants dying at the hands of illegal traffickers surely do not. They risk producing indifference when it happens over and over again. And they risk promoting acceptance of these deaths among ourselves and our children, all in the name of maintaining control over entry.

    We are not only paying a price for those who die on our soil; we are also paying a price for those who are smuggled into our countries alive. The price we pay for allowing the abuse that is human smuggling is much higher than the "price" we pay for accommodating these people who just want a chance to work-and work they do. Indeed, much research suggests that we actually gain from the presence of these immigrants. For instance, 17 per cent of entrepreneurs in London belong to ethnic communities, a far higher share than their population share. Continuing to use policies that make possible the brutalization of would-be migrants and the profit-making of criminal smugglers is a cancer deep inside our states and societies. It is the price we pay for criminalizing undocumented immigrants and, more generally, for resorting to policing and militarization as the way of regulating immigration. The US illustrates this to some extent. In the name of effective control, the new US 1996 Immigration Act strengthened policing by reducing judiciary review of immigration police actions. A crucial issue here is the object of the expanded policing: It is not known criminals or firms suspected of violating environmental regulations or drug dealers. It is a population sector, not even select individuals, but a fairly broad spectrum of men, women and children. There are consequences to this tension between, on the one hand, the strenghtening of police approaches to immigrant regulation and, on the other, the strengthening of civil and human rights and the civic empowerment associated with a stronger sense of civil society. Sooner or later this policing will get caught in the expanding web of civil and human rights. And these rights will include those of citizens. Policing, when unchecked by civil review, can easily violate such rights and interfere with the functioning of civil society.

    If my son decided to go write the great American novel by spending time with farm workers or in garment sweatshops, and there were an INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) raid he could well be part of the suspects-because I know he would not be carrying his US passport with him. Or worse, if he were among the farmworkers in California running away from the INS police and pushed towards jumping in one of the water levies, as has happened a number of times over the last few years, he might have been one of those who drowned. The most dramatic account of these incidents has it that the turbulent waters seemed less threatening than the INS police with their guns and shouting, and that, indeed, these farmworkers may have been pressured in terror into the waters and drowned. After the new 1996 law, many of these INS actions can escape review and accountability in front of a judge if the persecuted were merely suspected of being undocumented. Sooner or later abusive or excess policing and the weakening of judicial review of such police actions will interfere with the aspiration towards the rule of law that is such a deep part of our inheritance and our lived reality. Sooner or later, this type of police action will touch us, the documented. We need to find another way of regulating entry: now we are strengthening modes of regulation that carry a high cost not only in immigrant deaths but also to the rule of law.


  • 1) For evidence on these sets of issues please refer to the author's The Global City (New updated edition, Princeton University Press 2001). See also her "Governance Hotspots in the Post-September 11 World" in Booth and Dunne World In Collision (Palgrave 2002).
  • 2) There are two ways in which governments have secured benefits through these strategies. One of these is highly formalized and the other is simply a by-product of the migration process itself. Among the strongest examples of a formal labor export program today is the Philippines.
  • 3) Trafficking involves the forced recruitment and/or transportation of people within and across states for work or services through a variety of forms all involving coercion.
  • 4) One process that captures this specific type of interdependence is the global migration of maids, nannies, and nurses.
  • 5) There is also a growing trade in children for the sex industry -this has long been the case in Thailand but now is also present in several other Asian countries, in Eastern Europe, and Latin America.
  • 6) A fact-sheet by the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking reports that one survey of Asian sex workers found that rape often preceded their being sold into prostitution and that about one third had been falsely led to becoming sold into prostitution.
  • 7) As is well known, several large European countries are now below reproduction levels, notably Italy and France.


    19/9/2003- Lawyers are considering the impact that a recent EU ruling legalising gay marriages will have on religions that refuse to recognise such partnerships. The question being asked is what takes precedence, church law or EU legislation? Recent events in Russia have also thrown the spotlight onto same sex marriages. Last week the Russian Orthodox Church, which has thousands of followers in Europe, defrocked one of its priests for carrying out a marriage ceremony between two gays. Denis Gogolev and Mikhail Morozov went through a wedding ceremony conducted by Father Vladimir in the Nizhay Novogorod Diocese. In a statement addressed to its followers worldwide the church authorities said: "This blasphemous act cannot be considered a marriage under any circumstances. The Russian Orthodox Church is against homosexual marriages and, guided by the Holy Scriptures and church traditions, is condemning homosexual relations as a deadly sin".

    Last year a group of Russian deputies in the State Duma (parliament) tried unsuccessfully to overthrow legislation passed in 1993 recognising gay marriages. They called for the reintroduction of prison sentences for gay sex as part of a campaign to restore ‘traditional moral values' in Russia. Opinion in Europe is divided over whether or not the Christian and non Christian religions will be obliged to go along with the new law and recognise same sex marriages. In Holland the situation is very much a fait accompli with gay and lesbian church marriages gaining in popularity all the time. It has even been suggested that the Dutch Catholic Church is turning a blind eye to many of its priests who are officiating at homosexual and lesbian marriage ceremonies. Some sections of British TV are calling for an end to "archaic church marriage laws". Legal experts are arguing that to deny gays the opportunity of marrying in church is a denial of their human rights under EU law.

    An English legal adviser operating in the Algarve, who asked not to be named, told The Portugal News that the defining line between EU and Church law was becoming "blurred". He said that while some religions had already accepted the rights of gays to marry in church, others were exercising more restraint. In his opinion all Christian denominations, including Russian Orthodox and Catholic dioceses based in Europe, will eventually be forced into accepting EU law or face the prospects of challenges in the European Court of Human Rights. Already in America church pastors have been arrested for proclaiming that Christianity is the only true religion - a proclamation deemed by law enforcement agencies to be in breach of the United Nations 1948 declaration on human rights.
    ©The Portugal News

    22/9/2003- Highlights of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly's autumn session (25 September-2 October 2003) include debates on the threat posed to democracy by extremist parties in Europe and racist, xenophobic and intolerant discourse in politics as well as euthanasia, human stem cell research and the abolition of the death penalty in Council of Europe observer states. Other reports due for debate include the honouring of obligations and commitments by Ukraine, the rights of national minorities and a common policy on migration and asylum. Invited guests include Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy. The Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers, Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicolae Dudau, will present the Communication from the Committee of Ministers. In a break with its usual format, the session will begin on Thursday 25 September with a joint meeting between the Assembly and the European Parliament on "Building one Europe", chaired by the two presidents Peter Schieder and Pat Cox. The plenary session will then resume on Monday 29 September, concluding on Thursday 2 October.

    Report on the threat posed to democracy by extremist parties and movements in Europe
    Report on racist, xenophobic and intolerant discourse in politics
    Report on the rights of national minorities
    Report on relations between the Council of Europe and NGOs
    Report on a common policy on migration and asylum
    Report on policies for the integration of immigrants in Council of Europe member states

    ©Council of Europe

    By Sally Lehrman, AlterNet 17/9/2003

    Editors Note: This is the first in a short series of articles by Sally Lehrman, a veteran journalist and Expert Fellow of USC Annenberg's Institute for Justice and Journalism , which are being published by AlterNet in an effort to provide context about issues related to racial and ethnic identity. The Institute for Justice and Journalism was created at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication with Ford Foundation funding to strengthen news coverage and public understanding of justice and civil rights issues.

    African Americans with a college diploma find themselves unemployed almost twice as often as whites with the same education. Hispanics must get by on only about half of the individual income that Asian Americans and whites divvy up among the bills. And when blacks and Latinos are hospitalized with a heart problem, they are less likely than European Americans to receive catheterization, be sent home with beta blockers, or even be advised to take aspirin to protect their health. While many Americans agree that open racial bigotry is generally a thing of the past, stark disparities in daily life persist, as documented by academic researchers, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Institute of Medicine.

    Frustrated with theories plainly unable to explain the problem, sociologists increasingly are relying on a new framework to understand racism and develop solutions. "It's not just Archie Bunker any more," says Troy Duster, a sociology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and New York University who is president-elect of the American Sociological Association. Just in the past six months, at least five books -- including one co-authored by Duster -- have put forward a fresh analysis of racial injustice. They set aside overt prejudice and individual acts of discrimination, which they assert actually may have little impact in today's world. Instead they pull back the covers on social practices and policies sewn into the fabric of work, school and the medical system that favor whites. Even the most well-intentioned white person, they say, benefits from a legacy of accumulated preferential treatment. In part, these scholars hope to inject new ways of thinking into California's debate over the potential value of "color-blind" government policies to create a more equitable society. They aim to create new paradigms for pushing beyond historical discrimination in order to understand the roots of ongoing racial injustice. "Intellectuals lost track of the ability to discuss what racism is after the Civil Rights Act," says Andrew Barlow, referring to the landmark 1964 legislation that prohibited employment discrimination based on race, sex, religion or national origin. Research on inequities continued to focus solely on discriminatory acts by individuals, he explains, adding, "We are really at the beginning of a new era."

    The emerging school of sociologists also is responding to intellectuals such as Stephen and Abigail Thernstrom (America in Black and White: One Nation Indivisible, 1997), and Shelby Steele (A Dream Deferred, 1999), who assert that discrimination is old news. Consisting mostly, but not entirely, of conservatives, this group says the country needs to transcend race by acknowledging the progress made over the past several decades. Race-conscious policies, they argue, only stir up resentment among whites while also promoting a lack of ambition among people of color by holding them to a lower standard. As support for their claims, they point to the genetic evidence provided by the Human Genome Project that race has no biological foundation as a way to categorize people. They also cite a 1998 statement by the American Anthropological Association that explains "race" as a classification system invented in the 18th century to justify status differences between European settlers and conquered and enslaved peoples, then expanded to support efforts such as the Nazi extermination of Jews.

    In August 2002, the American Sociological Association took a stand against such attempts to abolish "race" as untrue and irrelevant. In a statement, the professional society urged social scientists not to ignore race classifications or stop using them as a research tool, even though they may be biological fiction. "Those who favor ignoring race as an explicit administrative matter, in the hope that it will cease to exist as a social concept, ignore the weight of a vast body of sociological research that shows that racial hierarchies are embedded in the routine practices of social groups and institutions," the society wrote. The statement sparked a debate in the society's newsletter, in which California State University-Los Angeles professor Yehudi Webster complained that sociologists -- as well as government officials, educators, and journalists -- who use race classifications promote racial awareness and separatism, which in turn foster exclusion and discrimination. Intermarriage, migration and genetic redistributions make such boundaries meaningless, Webster wrote. While race may not hold up as a biological concept, responded Duster and Barlow, its workings as a social idea cannot be ignored. "Not everything 'real' is genetic, and we use racial categories to interact with each other in ways that have significant consequences," explains Pilar Ossorio, a microbiologist and assistant professor of law and medical ethics at the University of Wisconsin. In its statement, the sociological society urged members to track and study race-based data collected by public agencies in order to understand and respond to the deep inequities caused by racialized social and economic structures.

    An increasing number of sociologists acknowledge that the old ways of understanding racial disparities are no longer very useful. Along with studying individual discrimination, they now are attempting to unravel the ways racial privilege has been structured into the day-to-day workings of institutions from education to public transportation to criminal justice. "White-Washing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society," written by seven scholars including Duster, begins the story in the 1930s with Roosevelt's New Deal, aimed to protect the working class but revised by Congress to safeguard racial segregation as well. The Social Security Act excluded domestic and agricultural workers from old-age pension and unemployment compensation. Three-quarters of the black population, from domestics to self-employed sharecroppers, fell through the net. Similarly, the Wagner Act, which empowered unions, also allowed labor to shut black workers out from closed shops. Loans under the Federal Housing Act differentially provided whites the wherewithal to move into new suburbs, while federal subsidies built public housing to contain black migrants from the South in urban areas. The GI bill, enacted in 1944, radically expanded the already racially biased economic provisions of the time. While millions of returning veterans and war industry workers became eligible for low-interest mortgages and free access to higher education, whites benefited most. Federal lending rules favored segregated suburbs and they had the educational credentials to go to college. These policies formed a foundation that has supported white economic advantage generation-to-generation to this day, the book's authors write.

    The racial hierarchy established over the middle of the 20th century has largely held fast because one generation builds on the accomplishments of the last, Duster explains. Like interest on a bank deposit, children collect economic potential for themselves from the property and social status of their parents. Just as directly, he argues, disadvantages such as barriers to well-paying jobs, segregation in housing and discrimination in lending reverberate from parent to child. "The past becomes relevant to the present as personal wealth and assets are reproduced from generation to generation," agrees Barlow. His new book on globalization makes a similar argument about the historical underpinnings of U.S. racial stratification. Furthermore, privileges in housing, jobs, education and other arenas reinforce and augment one another, he says. And far from lessening over time, Barlow argues that the disparities built into American society are becoming more entrenched. In the 1960s and '70s, business regulation, low-income housing, job training, public health and other social programs successfully began to compensate for long-term economic advantages held by white people. But starting in the 1980s, the growth of the service sector and technology information jobs, the mobility of businesses, and policy changes such as deregulation and the curtailment of taxes reversed the trend. As industry extends its global reach and creates large pools of investment capital in developed countries, whites are clinging tightly to their privileges, he says. "A greater disparity in income and growing inequality makes more and more of the middle class experience a sense of crisis, so they try to buffer themselves," says Barlow, who describes himself as a civil rights activist as well as a sociologist. "We need to think about racism in a new way."

    Scholars now are studying the cause and effect of racial stratification in more detail. New York University doctoral candidate Julie Sze, for example, is identifying the neighborhoods where medical waste incinerators most often are built, then examining both why those sites were chosen and how those decisions may contribute to health disparities such as higher rates of asthma among African Americans. Other research explores economic issues such as the ways housing segregation limits people's job options. Sociologists Lawrence Bobo of Harvard University and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva of Texas A&M are studying hidden racial animosity, while others have investigated differences in the ways the same teachers treat students of different races. Barlow, Duster and colleagues emphasize that whites may have no awareness of their privileged status even as they protect their interests. When parents successfully fight to protect funding for suburban high schools, for example, they enable those facilities to offer advanced placement classes and leadership opportunities that in turn help students win a spot in the best colleges. Urban educators rarely have such advocates, and thus are unable to offer the same level of academic advantages. But both parents and graduates of top-tier schools -- most often white or Asian American -- are likely to consider their achievements solely the result of the young peoples' own hard work. While whites will acknowledge that disparities in education or other realms exist, Barlow says, they are more likely to attribute these to a lack of ambition and effort on the part of minorities than to structural favoritism toward whites built into U.S. institutions for generations. "You don't need to be a racist to promote policies that are race-conscious," says David Wellman, a professor of community studies at UC-Santa Cruz and one of the "White-Washing Race" authors. "Most whites don't see white as a race. Like a fish in water, they don't think about whiteness because it's so beneficial to them."

    As the only racial group that never suffers systemic racism, whites are in denial about its impact
    By Martin Jacques*

    20/9/2003- I always found race difficult to understand. It was never intuitive. And the reason was simple. Like every other white person, I had never experienced it myself: the meaning of colour was something I had to learn. The turning point was falling in love with my wife, an Indian-Malaysian, and her coming to live in England. Then, over time, I came to see my own country in a completely different way, through her eyes, her background. Colour is something white people never have to think about because for them it is never a handicap, never a source of prejudice or discrimination, but rather the opposite, a source of privilege. However liberal and enlightened I tried to be, I still had a white outlook on the world. My wife was the beginning of my education. But it was not until we went to live in Hong Kong that my view of the world, and the place that race occupies within it, was to be utterly transformed. Rather than seeing race through the prism of my own society, I learned to see it globally. When we left these shores, it felt as if we were moving closer to my wife's world: this was east Asia and she was Malaysian. And she, unlike me, had the benefit of speaking Cantonese. So my expectation was that she would feel more comfortable in this environment than I would. I was wrong. As a white, I found myself treated with respect and deference; my wife, notwithstanding her knowledge of the language and her intimacy with Chinese culture, was the object of an in-your-face racism.

    In our 14 months in Hong Kong, I learned some brutal lessons about racism. First, it is not the preserve of whites. Every race displays racial prejudice, is capable of racism, carries assumptions about its own virtue and superiority. Each racism, furthermore, is subtly different, reflecting the specificity of its own culture and history. Second, there is a global racial hierarchy that helps to shape the power and the prejudices of each race. At the top of this hierarchy are whites. The reasons are deep-rooted and profound. White societies have been the global top dogs for half a millennium, ever since Chinese civilisation went into decline. With global hegemony, first with Europe and then the US, whites have long commanded respect, as well as arousing fear and resentment, among other races. Being white confers a privilege, a special kind of deference, throughout the world, be it Kingston, Hong Kong, Delhi, Lagos - or even, despite the way it is portrayed in Britain, Harare. Whites are the only race that never suffers any kind of systemic racism anywhere in the world. And the impact of white racism has been far more profound and baneful than any other: it remains the only racism with global reach. Being top of the pile means that whites are peculiarly and uniquely insensitive to race and racism, and the power relations this involves. We are invariably the beneficiaries, never the victims. Even when well-meaning, we remain strangely ignorant. The clout enjoyed by whites does not reside simply in an abstraction - western societies - but in the skin of each and every one of us. Whether we like it or not, in every corner of the planet we enjoy an extraordinary personal power bestowed by our colour. It is something we are largely oblivious of, and consequently take for granted, irrespective of whether we are liberal or reactionary, backpackers, tourists or expatriate businessmen.

    The existence of a de facto global racial hierarchy helps to shape the nature of racial prejudice exhibited by other races. Whites are universally respected, even when that respect is combined with strong resentment. A race generally defers to those above it in the hierarchy and is contemptuous of those below it. The Chinese - like the Japanese - widely consider themselves to be number two in the pecking order and look down upon all other races as inferior. Their respect for whites is also grudging - many Chinese believe that western hegemony is, in effect, held on no more than prolonged leasehold. Those below the Chinese and the Japanese in the hierarchy are invariably people of colour (both Chinese and Japanese often like to see themselves as white, or nearly white). At the bottom of the pile, virtually everywhere it would seem, are those of African descent, the only exception in certain cases being the indigenous peoples. This highlights the centrality of colour to the global hierarchy. Other factors serve to define and reinforce a race's position in the hierarchy - levels of development, civilisational values, history, religion, physical characteristics and dress - but the most insistent and widespread is colour. The reason is that colour is instantly recognisable, it defines difference at the glance of an eye. It also happens to have another effect. It makes the global hierarchy seem like the natural order of things: you are born with your colour, it is something nobody can do anything about, it is neither cultural nor social but physical in origin. In the era of globalisation, with mass migration and globalised cultural industries, colour has become the universal calling card of difference. In interwar Europe, the dominant forms of racism were anti-semitism and racialised nationalisms, today it is colour: at a football match, it is blacks not Jews that get jeered, even in eastern Europe. Liberals like to think that racism is a product of ignorance, of a lack of contact, and that as human mobility increases, so racism will decline. This might be described as the Benetton view of the world. And it does contain a modicum of truth. Intermixing can foster greater understanding, but not necessarily, as Burnley, Sri Lanka and Israel, in their very different ways, all testify.

    Hong Kong, compared with China, is an open society, and has long been so, yet it has had little or no effect in mollifying Chinese prejudice towards people of darker skin. It is not that racism is immovable and intractable, but that its roots are deep, its prejudices as old as humanity itself. The origins of Chinese racism lie in the Middle Kingdom: the belief that the Chinese are superior to other races - with the exception of whites - is centuries, if not thousands of years, old. The disparaging attitude among American whites towards blacks has its roots in slavery. Wishing it wasn't true, denying it is true, will never change the reality. We can only understand - and tackle racism - if we are honest about it. And when it comes to race - more than any other issue - honesty is in desperately short supply. Race remains the great taboo. Take the case of Hong Kong. A conspiracy of silence surrounded race. As the British departed in 1997, amid much self-congratulation, they breathed not a word about racism. Yet the latter was integral to colonial rule, its leitmotif: colonialism, after all, is institutionalised racism at its crudest and most base. The majority of Chinese, the object of it, meanwhile, harboured an equally racist mentality towards people of darker skin. Masters of their own home, they too are in denial of their own racism. But that, in varying degrees, is true of racism not only in Hong Kong but in every country in the world. You may remember that, after the riots in Burnley in the summer of 2001, Tony Blair declared that they were not a true reflection of the state of race relations in Britain: of course, they were, even if the picture is less discouraging in other aspects.

    Racism everywhere remains largely invisible and hugely under-estimated, the issue that barely speaks its name. How can the Economist produce a 15,000-word survey on migration, as it did last year, and hardly mention the word racism? Why does virtually no one talk about the racism suffered by the Williams sisters on the tennis circuit even though the evidence is legion? Why are the deeply racist western attitudes towards Arabs barely mentioned in the context of the occupation of Iraq, carefully hidden behind talk of religion and civilisational values? The dominant race in a society, whether white or otherwise, rarely admits to its own racism. Denial is near universal. The reasons are manifold. It has a huge vested interest in its own privilege. It will often be oblivious to its own prejudices. It will regard its racist attitudes as nothing more than common sense, having the force and justification of nature. Only when challenged by those on the receiving end is racism outed, and attitudes begin to change. The reason why British society is less nakedly racist than it used to be is that whites have been forced by people of colour to question age-old racist assumptions. Nations are never honest about themselves: they are all in varying degrees of denial.

    This is clearly fundamental to understanding the way in which racism is underplayed as a national and global issue. But there is another reason, which is a specifically white problem. Because whites remain the overwhelmingly dominant global race, perched in splendid isolation on top of the pile even though they only represent 17% of the world's population, they are overwhelmingly responsible for setting the global agenda, for determining what is discussed and what is not. And the fact that whites have no experience of racism, except as perpetrators, means that racism is constantly underplayed by western institutions - by governments, by the media, by corporations. Moreover, because whites have reigned globally supreme for half a millennium, they, more than any other race, have left their mark on the rest of humanity: they have a vested interest in denying the extent and baneful effects of racism.

    It was only two years ago, you may remember, that the first-ever United Nations conference on racism was held - against the fierce resistance of the US (and that in the Clinton era). Nothing more eloquently testifies to the unwillingness of western governments to engage in a global dialogue about the problem of racism. If racism is now more widely recognised than it used to be, the situation is likely to be transformed over the next few decades. As migration increases, as the regime of denial is challenged, as subordinate races find the will and confidence to challenge the dominant race, as understanding of racism develops, as we become more aware of other racisms like that of the Han Chinese, then the global prominence of racism is surely set to increase dramatically.

    It is rare to hear a political leader speaking the discourse of colour. Robert Mugabe is one, but he is tainted and discredited. The Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir Mohamed, is articulate on the subject of white privilege and the global hierarchy. The most striking example by a huge margin, though, is Nelson Mandela. When it comes to colour, his sacrifice is beyond compare and his authority unimpeachable. And his message is always universal - not confined to the interests of one race. It is he who has suggested that western support for Israel has something to do with race. It is he who has hinted that it is no accident that the authority of the UN is under threat at a time when its secretary general is black. And yet his voice is almost alone in a world where race oozes from every pore of humanity. In a world where racism is becoming increasingly important, we will need more such leaders. And invariably they will be people of colour: on this subject whites lack moral authority. I could only understand the racism suffered by my wife through her words and experience. I never felt it myself. The difference is utterly fundamental.

    · Martin Jacques is a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics. The death of his wife, Harinder Veriah, in 2000 in a Hong Kong hospital triggered an outcry which culminated in this summer's announcement by the Hong Kong government that it would introduce anti-racist legislation for the first time
    ©The Guardian

    19/9/2003- The group of eminent persons charged with working with the High Commissioner for Human Rights to follow up on the action plan of the 2001 World Conference against Racism has underlined in Geneva the importance in the struggle against discrimination of awareness-raising and access to education, access to justice, in particular for those who have historically suffered from racial discrimination, and the need for national plans of action against bias, encouraging States to complete such plans"with meaningful participation from national human rights institutions and civil society". In a statement issued at the end of a three-day meeting, the group said it was convinced its work "should follow a humanitarian vision based on an 'ethic of human solidarity'" and stressed the centrality of human dignity, respect for diversity and the importance of effective measures of protection for civilians. The high-level experts - Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, Edna Maria Santos Roland of Brazil, Salim Ahmed Salim of Tanzania, Hanna Suchocka of Poland and Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari of Finland - were appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to assist the High Commissioner for Human Rights in following the implementation of the provisions of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference and in assessing and evaluating existing legal instruments to combat racial discrimination. Mr. Ahtisaari was unable to attend this first meeting.

    In their statement, the experts said they had paid special attention to the need to safeguard against racial discrimination and xenophobia in the struggle against terrorism. They urged strict adherence to the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in carrying out counterterrorism measures. Following their deliberations from 16 to 18 September, during which they held discussions with acting High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan and others, the experts also recommended that the international community find ways of measuring existing racial inequalities. "A possible way to achieve this", they said, "could be through the development of a 'Racial Equality Index', similar to the 'Human Development Index' developed and used by the United Nations Development Programme". The group is an advisory body to the High Commissioner. Mr. Ramcharan said the Office of the High Commissioner appreciated their advice and insights and looked forward to their support in the future.
    © Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

    30/8/2003- The Chinese Welfare Association today welcomed funding for a scheme to help tackle racism in Northern Ireland and obtain new staff. The body, which represents Northern Ireland's largest ethnic group, has been given £183,000 from the Community Relations Council (CRC) to employ two new staff to work in Belfast and Londonderry as part of the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation (Peace II). It is the first ever awarded to an ethnic minority in Northern Ireland. A resulting new scheme is set to focus on Chinese community relations and improve understanding of different cultures with the hope of leading to a more positive relationship between Chinese and other groups. The project will run for three years during which time a booklet on the Chinese culture will be produced. Chief executive Anna Lo said the group has already been in discussion with local community groups to improve perceptions and reduce the possibilities for misunderstandings that can result in attacks. "We are very excited about this new initiative," she said. "It has been well-evidenced by research in the last few years of the extent of racism in Northern Ireland. "It's well overdue that race relations are promoted. "We are delighted by the financial support from the Peace Programme that will enable our vision of a shared society through improved race relations," she said.
    ©Belfast Telegraph

    30/8/2003- Hate mail sent to a Nigerian woman in Tralee reflects Ireland's rampant racism, a leading civil rights campaigner has claimed. Killarney Green Party candidate Bea O'Neill, one of the country's leading civil rights campaigners, said yesterday: "It is ongoing on a daily basis, and unless the Government and local authorities do something to combat it, things will get much worse." Earlier this week, Tralee food store owner Lara Olukunle received a series of hate letters accusing Africans of trying to take over the town. One of the letters ended with a threat: "One of these days, I will walk through the town with a machine gun and kill every pregnant f**king ni**er I see." Ms Olukunle said she was terrified by the letters. "He said any black pregnant woman he saw on the street he would gun down," she said. "The person who wrote this deadly letter is very scary." Ms O'Neill, who was nominated last week to contest next June's local elections on behalf of the Greens, said she was horrified but not surprised by the letters. "I know that racism is rampant in Kerry and I am fully convinced that it is equally evident throughout the whole of Ireland. This person sounds like a serious nut, but the threat is real and things are going to escalate if we do not put a stop to it. Tralee gardaí said yesterday they had no definitive leads on the author of the letters
    © Irish Examiner

    30/8/2003- Ongoing computer trouble at the main Oslo immigration office has forced hundreds of frustrated foreigners to wait for hours if not days for processing. The delays have led to at least one fistfight. Foreigners moving to Norway have to renew their residence and working permission every year for the first three years they're in the country. New immigrants arriving in Norway under family reunification programs also have to report to the immigration office within a week of arrival in the country. That forces hundreds of people to line up every day, to process their papers and secure the necessary new stamps in their passports. Technical problems have slowed down an already understaffed situation, reported newspaper Aftenposten Aften on Thursday. Only seven or eight workers are on duty at a time to process the hundreds of people who show up. At lunch time, only two or three workers are on duty.

    The waiting time has grown so long that tempers run short. Last week two people who'd been standing in line for hours started quarrelling and things got violent. Since then, uniformed police have been patrolling the line, even though the immigration office itself is located in the downtown police station. In some cases, people have endured three days in line and still fail to get through to a case worker. Dozens have turned up to pull a number long before the office opens in the morning. Case workers have felt threatened by frustrated clients and don't see much relief in sight. "I can understand that people are frustrated, but there's not much we can do as long as we don't have the resources," said Anne Dahl, head of the immigration section at the police station. She said she's asked for increased staffing, from both the police and justice departments, but claimed no one is willing to hire more workers.

    4/9/2003- Center Party leader Aaslaug Haga has written an open letter to Progress Party (Fr.P) head Carl I. Hagen demanding an apology for what she views as insulting behavior from a Fr.P representative at a school debate, Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reports. The populist Progress Party dominated headlines recently when ex-rally cross driver Martin Schanche hit a political opponent at a school debate. Now a new uproar is underway as Fr.P youth politician Erlend Wiborg left an immigrant girl in tears and mocked a blind politician during debates at Greaaker High School in Sarpsborg and in Moss earlier this week. At Greaaker High Wiborg held up a poster with a picture of a jackass while Center Party politician Per Inge Bjerknes was speaking. Haga has demanded that the incident have repercussions for Wiborg, and pointed out that politicians should try to behave in an exemplary way for students during a school debate, rather than sinking to record lows.

    Wiborg admitted to newspaper VG that he had brought a poster of a jackass to the debate, but claimed he did not hold it up while Bjerknes was speaking. A politician for Labor youth, Trine Hoeistad, disagreed. "I saw him hold up the poster, including during the Center Party representatives speech. I thought it was particularly bad since he is blind," Hoeistad said. Bjerknes said that he heard people laughing but didn't understand why. He told VG that he did not take the gesture personally, but felt it was a poor signal to send students. "On general grounds I can say that each debater has different methods of debate. I myself use many methods, but I don't want to say anything about the methods I use," Wiborg said. Hoeistad was also shocked by Wiborg telling a group of girls with immigrant backgrounds that he felt most immigrants were criminals in one way or another, a comment that left one of the girls in tears. "The kids were angry and people were extremely upset. It was clear that they were fed up with how some parties treat people with an immigrant background," Hoeistad told NRK. A series of surveys released Thursday indicate that the Progress Party is making strong advances in mock elections held in the nation's schools. Nationwide local elections will take place on September 15.

    Copenhagen police respond to racism charges from ethnic minorities

    28/8/2003- Copenhagen police chiefs launched an internal investigation into accusations of racism within the force, in response to a growing number of complaints from immigrant citizens who claimed to be victims of 'racial profiling,' after being subjected to stop and search tactics by over zealous police officers. Chief of Police Hanne Bech Hansen was forced to counter charges of racism from Turks, Pakistanis, Africans, or anyone with an 'ethnic hue,' who claimed that they were randomly pulled over whilst driving or stopped on the streets for no other reason than their non-Danish appearance. One young West Indian, who felt so violated by a recent encounter that he appealed to national daily Jyllands-Posten for help, described how he was subjected to a totally unprovoked and undignified search in broad daylight on Pile Allé by aggressive police officers. The man said he was forcibly wrestled to the ground, placed in handcuffs and subsequently arrested because he had 'over-reacted' to accusations that he was in possession of drugs - which he wasn't. In addition, the police have received hundreds of racism complaints from 'ethnic minority' drivers harassed by traffic cops who order them to pull over on suspicion of traffic violations. But when unable to find any evidence of wrongdoing, these officers often make derogatory, racist comments before provocatively throwing the individual's driving licence and papers back through the window. According to Hansen, the police are making a conscious effort to counter charges of racism by developing a liaison strategy with ethnic minorities that includes community meetings with local immigrant leaders and investigations into every single accusation of racism by police officers. 'We can do much better,' said Hansen. 'We will not accept certain rogue police officers acting in a racist manner. We intend to do everything within our capabilities to stop it.' Copenhagen police has distributed a brochure to all employees entitled, 'Discrimination - not here,' which documents police efforts to combat racism.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    29/8/2003— A group of 2,200 refugees who have been waiting for a definite decision over their asylum request for five years or longer, are expected to come into consideration for a Dutch residence permit under government amnesty plans. The coalition government is poised to agree on the as yet confidential regulation granting a specific group of asylum seekers an amnesty to stay in the Netherlands. Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk submitted her proposal to her Cabinet colleagues on Friday, Dutch associated press ANP reported. Coalition partners the Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD had reportedly come to a behind-the-scenes agreement granting the asylum seekers permanent residency, a Novum news report said. The third member of the government, Democrat D66, is believed to have favoured a more lenient plan, as do opposition parties Labour PvdA, Socialist Party SP and the green-left GroenLinks. And while the SP partly welcomed the cabinet's move, it also said the government was passing over thousands of asylum seekers who could not return to their homeland, but did not come into consideration for the amnesty regulation either. Socialist MP Jan de Wit said the party would continue to plead for this group of so-called "distressing" cases to also come into consideration for an amnesty.

    The plan as its stands means that refugees must fulfil a large number of conditions to come into consideration for a residence permit. The application for asylum must be their first and they must have lived in the Netherlands since the initial lodgement of their asylum application. The amnesty idea originated from former populist LPF Immigration Minister Hilbrand Nawijn, who suggested refugees with distressing stories who have been waiting for asylum for five years or longer should be allowed to stay in the country. Despite losing office after the CDA, VVD and LPF government collapsed in record time last year, Nawijn's plans have gained a foothold in the new CDA, VVD and Democrat D66 coalition cabinet and the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) has been assigned the task to assess amnesty requests. But the matter has not been without controversy, with recent reports indicating that the IND had prematurely starting rejecting amnesty applications despite the fact that the criteria to determine who gained amnesty had not yet been decided upon.

    The Dutch Refugee Council, VluchtelingenWerk Nederland, was enraged by the revelations, saying also in July that about 7,000 amnesty requests had been submitted to the IND, indicating the extensive problems in Dutch immigration policy. Hundreds of asylum seekers have already had their amnesty request rejected, some of whom have lived in the Netherlands longer than five years and have experienced traumatic events, the refugee council said. It urged refugees who have been refused a residence permit to take their cases to court. Minister Verdonk took a second look at the amnesty measure after last month's confusion caused by contradictory court rulings, one of which saw a female asylum seeker successfully appeal against her rejected application for a residence permit.
    ©Expatica News

    5/9/2003— As ethnic divisions continue to spark fevered debate, a Labour PvdA MP has proposed that underprivileged Antillean youths who wish to migrate to the Netherlands should first be confined in boarding schools to prepare them for life in Dutch society. MP Peter van Heemst also said in the radio programme, With an Eye on Tomorrow, that even when the young people have demonstrated they can stand on their own feet, they must still be supervised by a type of "coach" for certain period of time, an NOS report said on Friday. The Netherlands Antilles and Aruba are the two Caribbean island states in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Van Heemst was reacting to a proposal from Rotterdam Council to prevent deprived immigrant youths from settling in city suburbs that considered are considered "problem" areas. The council said if low-educated, poor immigrants or people with criminal backgrounds continued to swamp certain areas of the city, these problem neighbourhoods would never recover.

    The fierce debate in the harbour city over the geographic spread of immigrants was given impetus last month after a report indicated that by 2017, more than 50 percent of Rotterdam's population will be of migrant descent. Some working class suburbs would have an 80 percent migrant majority, the report predicted. And Rotterdam Mayor Ivo Opstelten has since said that the problems in one neighbourhood might be so severe that the council might be forced to take preventative steps in housing allotments, Dutch associated press ANP reported. In turn, the inner council was reacting to a proposal lodged last month by Liveable Rotterdam (LR or Leefbaar Rotterdam), the largest political party in the council proper, calling for a limit on the number of migrants allowed to live in the city. The large numbers of immigrants, LR says, make a disproportionate use of the city's social services. A survey also found that a majority of Rotterdam residents backed the proposal, first raised by LR leader Pim Fortuyn before he was shot and killed in May 2002. The Intomart survey found that 62 percent of Rotterdam residents supported the proposal, while 25 percent were opposed. On the question of whether the city's population should be restricted to a 50-50 mix of immigrants and native Dutch, the survey indicated that 61 percent of Rotterdam residents supported the idea, while 27 percent were opposed. The discussion around Rotterdam's youth is expected to flare again in October when Rotterdam Council discusses its budget. Funding will have to be obtained from the city's coffers before any measures can be taken to alter the ethnic make up of selective districts in Rotterdam.
    ©Expatica News

    9/9/2003— The mayors of six of the largest Dutch cities have called for the right to ban young Antilleans with a criminal record from settling in their cities. The anti-racism organisation LBR has shammed the proposal but the government said on Tuesday that it would consider all options to combat "the problems caused by young Antilleans". The mayors of Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Tilburg, Breda, Den Helder and Dordrecht met in the Hilton Hotel in Rotterdam on Monday to develop a united front on a package of measures to put to the government. Rotterdam Mayor Ivo Opstelten organised the meeting in response to the murder of an 18-year-old man in Tilburg this summer. Four young Antillean men are the main suspects in the case. Tilburg Mayor Johan Stekelenburg announced tough new measures to combat Antillean crime on Monday. The mayors said that young people from the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean have for many years been a major source of criminal activity — ranging from theft, drug dealing and violence — in their cities and that it is the national government's responsibility to tackle the problem. The mayors have proposed that the government set up a database containing the history of Antilleans who have been in trouble with the law. They also want to be notified if an "infamous criminal" leaves the former Dutch colonies to come to live in the Netherlands, so that the "right accommodation" can be arranged. The Netherlands Antilles, Aruba and The Netherlands form the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

    Edmond Messchaert, a spokesman for Opstelten, said the large cities were suffering so much that there had been many calls for criminal Antilleans to be banned from the Netherlands completely. "But the mayors do not agree with that", Messchaert say, adding that the proposed measures were aimed at a "small, hard core" rather than the entire Antillean community. The cities also want the government in The Hague to have talks with the Antillean government about the problem. Minister de Graaf, a former leader of the Democrat D66 party, said all proposals and options would be examined. But Hubert Fermina, a former D66 MP, described the Mayor's proposal as an emergency measure that should only be considered as a last resort. "I see more potential in a assimilation course and a sort of entry test carried out in the Antilles. But I think a city ban goes too far and would be defeated by a good lawyer. For instance when and how to you become "criminal"? If you have carried out two thefts?", asked Fermina. "As an Antillean I have been fighting for 20 years for a good system and all I have heard is this sort of waffle", he added. Meanwhile, the Arab European League (AEL) has described as "racist" a proposal made by councillors in Rotterdam to prevent "underprivileged immigrants" from settling in some districts of the city. The ban would supposedly help combat ghettoisation. The AEL said this was racist because the ban would not cover poor Dutch nationals. "This has nothing to do, as people have claimed, with tackling the poverty of the underprivileged. There is no relation between ethnicity, religion, culture and the problems in poor districts".
    ©Expatica News

    31/8/2003- Dutch gay organisations have published a marriage manual in response to the Vatican's campaign against same-sex unions. The 60-page guide is aimed at gay rights activists around the world and explains how the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise gay marriages. It offers advice to gays abroad campaigning for the right to same-sex marriages. The guide calls on gays to challenge discriminatory laws and fight for equal rights through the courts. "It's a fight for people who want to be really free and to give equal opportunities to everyone," said Dutch Labour Party MP Jose Smits, who together with her lesbian partner has three children. "So, it's not simply a matter of gays who want to have the same right as heterosexuals or a moral question," Ms Smits said. "It's a political battle for equal rights for everyone."

    'Moral duty'
    In July, the Vatican called on Roman Catholics around the world to oppose the legalisation of marriages between same-sex couples. It called it a "moral duty". Non-Catholics have also been urged to join in the campaign. The Catholic Church in the Netherlands refused to comment on the new booklet brought out by gay organisations here, until after the bishops' conference next week. "As bishops they should do what they have to do - we consider it, we are a Christian Democrat party. But it does not mean we take over their point of vision," said Katlien Ferrier, an MP for the senior coalition party, the Christian Democrats. "We have our own responsibility and we are independent representatives of the people of this country in which there is a law which makes it possible for people of the same sex to get married," Ms Ferrier said.

    'Important step'
    The Mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, performed the first same-sex wedding in the country. He said the Netherlands took an important step - making it possible for other countries to consider opening up marriage to gays. He said the new booklet - which is being sent to foreign gay organisations - is also intended to help authorities abroad see how they can change legislation. Latest figures show more than 4,000 Dutch gay couples had chosen to tie the knot in a civil marriage by 2002. The Netherlands legalised same-sex marriages in 2001. Since then, Belgium and two provinces in Canada have allowed gays to legally marry. Other countries - such as France, Germany and Argentina - allow homosexual couples to register their partnerships.
    ©BBC News

    4/9/2003- The Russian Orthodox Church has defrocked a priest for conducting the country's first reported gay wedding. Church authorities in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, east of Moscow, said the ceremony was a blasphemous act and a gimmick to attract public attention to single-sex unions. "The Russian Orthodox Church is against single-sex marriages and condemns homosexual relations as a deadly sin," the diocese press service said in a statement. A spokesman for the diocese described the priest who conducted the service, Father Vladimir, as a "black sheep". Partners Denis Gogolev and Misha Morozov have described the ceremony, which took place on Monday, as the first ever gay church wedding in Russia. "Misha and I want to show that gays can and should live in Russia, and quite openly," Mr Gogolev said.

    They took their vows in a small chapel, exchanging rings, circling the altar and donning crowns as in a traditional Orthodox wedding. Newspaper reports said there was some confusion during the service, with the priest asking who was the husband and who was the wife. Mr Gogolev replied that they did not mind and both wished to be considered "spouses". Homosexual relations between men were considered a crime in Soviet times. They were legalised in 1993 - though a group of members of the Russian parliament last year tried to reverse the move in what they said was a campaign to restore traditional moral values.

    The Russian Orthodox Church also opposes euthanasia, abortion and artificial insemination. A priest who conducts a gay wedding could face excommunication, Father Alexander of the Nizhny Novgorod diocese told the Reuters news agency. Both the men married by Father Vladimir are standing in December's parliamentary elections. They are putting their hopes in the female vote. "Women love and respect us," Denis said. "They even idolise us."
    ©BBC News

    30/8/2003- As part of a Euro-wide operation multinational organisations based in Portugal are planning on asking members of staff if they are homosexual. The purpose of the exercise is to avoid the risk of huge compensation claims brought by gays for discrimination in the workplace. But lawyers have warned that making employees reveal their sexual orientation could breach their right to a private life under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Some companies' human resources departments have hit back by saying that it will help them to review equal opportunities policies to make sure that they prevent gays being discriminated against. They claim that it will also assist in ensuring that the correct training and support levels are in place to help gays meet their job objectives and gain promotion.

    New staff will be asked about their sex lives when they join a company. Existing staff will have the opportunity of informing their employers as and when their records are updated. Most organisations revise employees' questionnaire sheets annually, and in future all answers concerning gay lifestyles will be treated in strict confidence. Some employers' groups have called for clearer guidelines from the EU Commission on what constitutes an infringement of gay rights under the ECHR. Increasing levels of compensation payments to gays claiming to have been discriminated against are causing concern to many employers. They say that it is important to be sensitive about sexual orientation, especially if it is decided to find out what proportion of staff are lesbian or gay. But fears are growing that it is becoming more difficult to deal with an issue that is mainly hidden. This is the principle reason why employers are keen to discover precisely who among their staff are gay in order that they can put in place the necessary measures to prevent possible future compensation claims. Proposals to monitor staff have been criticised by liberty and gay rights groups. They have warned that many people are not willing to "out" themselves at work feeling that it would lead to further discrimination and lack of job opportunities. But under the European Employment Directive covering discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, age and religion, companies are in a ‘no win' situation, unless they are aware of the sex lifestyles of their staff.
    ©The News

    5/9/2003- The Swiss cabinet has come out in support of a draft law permitting forced sterilisation in certain circumstances. But it rejected calls for compensation to be paid to people who, it is now accepted, were wrongly forced to undergo sterilisation. The subject became a political issue in Switzerland at the end of the 1990s. It was triggered by a debate in Sweden, after it emerged that tens of thousands of people had been sterilised between 1935 and 1976. Subsequent research in Switzerland revealed that compulsory sterilisations had been carried out here until the 1980s, and abuses had been perpetrated. How many people were affected in Switzerland is not known, as there is a lack of accurate and complete data. To ensure that abuses do not reoccur, the government has now given its approval to a bill on federal regulations governing sterilisation.

    Mental handicap
    Of particular concern to the cabinet is the issue of sterilisation of mentally handicapped people. Unlike in the past, people with a mental handicap in Switzerland now enjoy many freedoms, including sexual relations. But the government said the challenges of pregnancy and parenthood for someone with a mental disability had to be weighed up against the loss of personal freedom if they were forcibly sterilised. In the case of the mentally handicapped, the cabinet said sterilisation could be carried out if judged to be in their best interests ­ but only as a last resort. If contraception was found to offer sufficient protection, then that should be the preferred means of preventing pregnancy. And it argued that the procedure should not be carried out on people suffering from a curable mental illness. But the government said that surgery should not necessarily be ruled out because the person concerned was opposed to it. They said this would amount to a ban on sterilisation.

    No compensation
    The cabinet rejected a draft law on compensation for people forced to undergo sterilisation in the past. Four years ago the then parliamentarian Margrith von Felten launched an initiative calling for appropriate compensation to be paid to people who were sterilised against their will. Legislation was drawn up by a parliamentary committee and submitted to the government for approval. The cabinet gave several reasons for its decision. It said it would be difficult to introduce this legislation without knowing the situation and needs of the individuals concerned, and the circumstances surrounding the decision to operate. It also mentioned the difficulty of settling on an appropriate level of compensation. It said the proposed ceiling of SFr80,000 was far in excess of the compensation received by children of Gypsies forcibly separated from their parents in the 1920s. The government said that should parliament decide in favour of awarding compensation, it would be primarily the cantons and the communes that were liable.
    ©NZZ Online

    Brigitte Bardot, Still Shooting From the Lip

    6/9/2003- Brigitte Bardot's latest animal rights campaign benefited the stray dogs of Romania. Her latest campaign against humans -- specifically immigrants -- has brought her into court for the fourth time for allegedly inciting racial hatred. Though she hasn't made a film in 30 years and is often described as a recluse, Bardot, now 68, never really exits the spotlight here. Convicted and fined for making anti-Muslim statements in earlier writings, the former sexpot is unrepentant and still finds many fans. Her latest published rant, "A Cry in the Silence," has sold more than 300,000 copies; the book topped the French bestseller lists for eight weeks this summer. In it, she denounces the unemployed, Muslims, homosexuals and her countrymen in general. She describes the French as "a parade of frights, human caricatures, horrors of every size, of every race, of every class." The former actress declares that French schools are "centers of depravity, with drug dealers of all kinds, clans of budding terrorists and mass consumers of condoms." She calls illegal immigrants "beggars who profane our churches to transform them into human pigsties, [defecating] behind the altar and [urinating] on the pillars, spreading their sickening smell under the sacred vaults of the choir." As for modern art? It's excrement, "both literally and figuratively," declares the one-time national treasure known widely here as "B.B." All this leaves her friends from the old film days groping for words. "She is very difficult to defend," says British singer and former cinema partner Jane Birkin, "but I never like to tear her down, even if it would be so easy to do so when she comes up with unfortunate statements like saying that there are too many immigrants in France. She is a glorious actress."

    One of B.B.'s former lovers, television journalist Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, still expresses tenderness and admiration for Bardot the woman. "I am guarded about the rest," he says. "I do not agree with everything she says, but some of it is true. It is the way she turns her phrases that goes against her." Bardot herself is unapologetic. In a brief telephone interview from her house in St-Tropez, she declares, "What is important is for eight weeks it was the first-place hit. . . . It was number one in book sales." "The journalists were mad," she adds. "But that did not stop the sales." Why did she feel the need to write such invective? "I don't know," she says, shifting between French and heavily accented English. "Because I wanted to write it. One day, I thought, we were living in a very special society. . . . I see every day in the newspapers, on the TV, when I go out in some place, I see things that shocked me. "I didn't know I was writing a book. It was like therapy for me. For me, it was important to tell what was inside of me, to see without any indulgence." She finds vindication in letters she has received since "A Cry in the Silence" came out -- 17,000 of them, she says, and all were positive, with encouragements like, "Bravo, Brigitte!"

    Bardot has been a cultural force since 1956, when her husband, Roger Vadim, directed her in "And God Created Woman," which shocked the puritan France of the time. The scene where Bardot dances barefoot on a table remains one of the most memorable moments of French cinema. Although not a major success in France, the film propelled the young actress into the limelight in the United States, where it was a huge box office success. Suddenly B.B.'s photograph seemed to be everywhere, and for 20 years she seemed the very embodiment of sexual freedom. She endured paparazzi chasing her daily and dozens of fans sitting at her door. Her first book, "Initials B.B.," recounted those early years of success. Bardot described a constant depressive state, several secret abortions, an endless list of lovers and the frenzy she caused every time she set foot outside her house. Hence the emotional instability, legendary tantrums and whims, and countless bottles of champagne that carried her through life. Bardot's cinema career was not smooth. Critics disparaged her acting abilities. Her only American film, "Shalako," with Sean Connery, flopped, and she has visited the United States just twice -- and the second time she was relentlessly pursued by photographers in New York and Los Angeles. "I know it badly, the United States," she says on the telephone. "I am not exportable. I am too French."

    When she reached her late thirties, she found acting and the accompanying fame more and more difficult to endure. She still looked stunning, but people continually commented on how she was aging. In 1973, Jane Birkin shot a nude scene with Bardot in the film "Don Juan." "I tried to find faults, but her body was just perfect; her legs, her waist, even her feet were perfect. She was even more beautiful without any makeup on," she recounted in an interview. "But passers-by would look at her and yell how ugly she had become. It is such a delight for people seeing somebody who used to be so dangerously beautiful becoming a little bit more ordinary." Still, B.B.'s decision to give up cinema in 1973 drove many people in France to desperation. At the time, she explained to the press that she was fed up with movies and the demands of celebrity. She found a new focus in life, animals. "It took me years to be taken seriously," she said in the second volume of her memoirs, talking about the creation of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, which pursues the protection of animals. She sold most of her belongings at auction to obtain the 3 million francs required by French law to create her foundation. In 1991 she also donated her famous beachside house in St-Tropez to the foundation but continues to live there. For years, the public viewed her animal rights work as another of her fads. But she stayed with the cause, and the foundation acquired credibility. Now, however, there are worries that Bardot's new book could hurt the efforts of its 54,000 members.

    "I dare hope that people will tell the difference between the book and the foundation," says its spokeswoman, Stephanie Roche. "Brigitte will always be Brigitte. Nobody devoted herself to the animal cause as she did. She completely gave up her amazing career to support animal rights." Bardot said of the foundation members: "Even if they are not okay with all the subjects in my book, they are all with me. They are all my collaborators." Though still hunted daily by dozens of tourists in St-Tropez, trying to get a glimpse from tour boats, B.B. gave up her sexy style long ago. She wears reading glasses and keeps her hair in a loose, grandmotherly bun. These days her notoriety stems mainly from her right-wing views. Bardot has railed for years against Islamic immigration -- France is home to some 5 million Muslims -- and in the late 1990s she was sued and convicted three times for published comments critical of Muslims. She has paid fines to human rights groups as high as 48,000 francs ($6,850). She has been married for 10 years to Bernard d'Ormale, a senior executive in the National Front, the extreme right-wing party that rocked the French political scene last year when its candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen, came in second in the first round of voting in the presidential election. He was roundly defeated by President Jacques Chirac in a runoff.

    Disappointed fans try to explain her book by saying that her National Front acquaintances are manipulating her. In "A Cry in the Silence," Bardot praises Le Pen, saying he has been faithful to his ideas "against all odds." The book was read and reread by a small army of lawyers before publication. Bardot does not mince words in it: "We are reduced to take a politically correct pride in intermingling our genes. . . . It is a great shame." She also bashes women in politics, gays who assert their rights, unemployed people who are "handsomely kept by taxpayers" and schoolteachers going to work "not shaven, with greasy hair, dirty shirts, disgusting jeans and muddy sneakers." Talk like that has turned many against her. In the 1960s, she was selected to be the model for the statue of Marianne, the French republic's official emblem, which stands in every town hall. Today, some mayors admit turning the bust toward the wall, as they no longer want Bardot to symbolize the republic's values. Her support for Le Pen will not get her into legal trouble, but some quotations from her book might. The Movement Against Racism and for the Friendship of Peoples and the League of Human Rights have both sued Bardot, for "incitement to religious and social hatred." French law makes it illegal to publish or to say publicly anything that would drive people to racism. But judges are left with the delicate task of drawing a line between that and an opinion that contributes to democratic debate.

    Mouloud Anouit, the president of the Movement Against Racism, says: "Freedom of speech should not legitimize racism and homophobia. It is justice's role to enforce equal respect for the dignity of individuals." However, French law does not make general homophobic comments illegal. Gay associations cannot join the other groups' suit because the law allows for court action against anti-gay statements only if they are directed against a specific person. "Hopefully, the Bardot affair will convince the government of the necessity to modify the law," says Alain Piriou, spokesman for Inter-LGBT, a group that represents lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transsexuals. Other associations, such as the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, declined to bring legal actions against Bardot. "We refuse to give more importance to her than she really has in society," says Richard Ferero, vice president of the league. "She is a misanthropist who has more compassion for animals than for human beings. We refuse to play a role in her press campaign." Some commentators and journalists have called for a boycott of "A Cry in the Silence," which proceeded to sell hundreds of thousands of copies within a few weeks.

    Most of the book's buyers appear to be fans of Bardot's films and, therefore, over 50. Marie-Therese Varlet, 70, is one. "I loved her when she was younger. She was so beautiful; she used to make me dream. Now that she is aging, I feel we have a lot in common. I am myself very concerned about animals' welfare. And I quite agree with what she says in the book." Other people can't understand what all the fuss is about. Paulette Padilla, 43, thinks Bardot is absolutely uninteresting: "I am certainly not buying this kind of book. This is not literature, this is rubbish." The French have long considered Bardot more partial to animals than human beings, and according to a psychiatrist invited onto a recent three-hour TV program to discuss "the Bardot case," she is easy to explain. "She identifies herself with animals because she has been tracked down by photographers for years," the doctor opined. "She understands them and feels that they are the only ones able to understand her in return. And just like beaten animals, she developed fear and aggression towards humanity."
    ©The Washington Post

    The British government has welcomed new proposals that would require immigrants seeking British citizenship to take language and culture tests. The plan follows two other significant announcements on U.K. asylum and immigration.

    Mark Littlewood is the spokesman for the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL). He tells RFE/RL the proposals seem to be the most acceptable from the British government so far. "We actually give it a cautious welcome. We still have a number of concerns that we'd like addressed, but in principle, I think this could actually be a useful way of integrating people into British society and actually making it easier for them to maximize their life opportunities," Littlewood says. The panel said classes in English and British culture should be offered free-of-charge ahead of the exam. The exam will be available to immigrants with no criminal past who have lived in the U.K. for five years, or three years if married to a Briton. Failing the tests would not change the applicants' residency status, though it would exclude them from applying for British citizenship again until they pass. Littlewood says the NCCL hopes the tests will not be more difficult than necessary. "I think the crucial thing is going to be to ensure that what new citizens -- or applicant citizens -- are put through is not a kind of rigorous test or exam where they have to prove things, but is [instead] a method for them to perhaps improve their English, thereby making them more employable, and to learn a little about actually how the United Kingdom works, which will help them in their day-to-day life and will help them to be fully empowered as citizens in the U.K. So I think it could actually be a useful step forward," he says.

    Some have criticized the proposals, worrying that the measures would introduce a kind of "test of Britishness." Blunkett says only relevant history will be tested, however, adding: "Knowing the six wives of Henry VIII doesn't constitute being a good citizen." Littlewood says the idea of citizenship classes is useful, even for young Britons without foreign roots. "The other thing I'd like to see the government do is to make this rather more universal. About one-in-five people who leave school in Britain can barely read or write, and I think that a good number of the 50 million or so citizens who live in the United Kingdom at the moment don't have a sufficiently strong grasp of citizenship and how our political and democratic processes work," Littlewood says. "So I would say, let's actually throw this open to more individuals to engender a sense of citizenship amongst young people in the classroom. That would be a great step forward."

    The ideas were first announced a year ago as part of a package of planned legislation on immigration and nationality. There are also efforts under way to introduce group citizenship ceremonies, similar to those in the U.S. and other Western nations. Blunkett's office is expected to further review the proposals but will likely accept them. Blunkett's endorsement of the citizenship exam was his third immigration-related announcement in less than a week. A record number of applicants became British citizens last year, rising by 33 percent to more than 120,000. More than three-quarters were from Asia and Africa. This brings the official number of people living in Britain and born outside the country to nearly 5 million, with 3.4 million coming from Asia and Africa and the rest from Europe. Blunkett also announced that the number of people claiming asylum in Britain fell in the second quarter to just over 10,000, including a 70 percent drop in applications from Iraqis. The total is one-third fewer than during the previous quarter and about half of the same period last year. Blunkett said the government's tougher policies on immigration are working. It has until October to meet its pledge of halving the number of asylum claims. The second announcement involved the further toughening of visa procedures for countries with a record of abuse of the U.K.'s immigration laws.

    By Tanveer Ashraf

    10/9/2003- Its official, citizenship classes will begin next year under major proposals unveiled by the government. Anyone seeking a British passport will be required to sit a citizenship exam, which will test his or her ability to fit into "British" society. These classes are the result of plans submitted last year to overhaul the nationality and immigration legislation. The two key requirements of the new scheme are that new citizens should have a "sufficient understanding of English, Welsh or Scots Gaelic" and a "sufficient understanding of UK society and civic structures". It is claimed both elements will improve integration and a sense of belonging, rather than hinder the process of naturalisation.

    On the surface these plans look innocent enough and their justifications seem reasonable, which is why many immigration support groups have welcomed them. Beyond this superficial glance, if one were to examine the reasoning and explanation that accompanies them, one would have to conclude something quite different. It has been claimed that by being able to speak to their neighbours, new citizens could get the welcome that would "see off the racists". Most citizens of foreign origin will tell you that racists don't often care whether you speak good, bad or any English. They are more interested in the colour of your skin and sending you back to where you came from, because they think you are stealing their jobs and living off benefits that they are paying for. If anything, it has to be said that the vitriol and hysteria created by the media surrounding asylum seekers has encouraged racists throughout the country, and has seen them gaining in council elections like no time in the past few decades. It's quite absurd to think that citizenship classes, or learning English, will be a cure for racism! Of greater insight are the words of the chief architect of these new plans. Professor Sir Bernard Crick, who led the design for the citizenship classes, said:
    "We are not trying to define Britishness, we are trying to define what people need to settle in effectively," And he said that the objective of the plans was to achieve "integration in the sense of people feeling secure in their own identities, but also sharing a wider identity." So it's clear that the plans are about identity ­ notably the British identity - and about moulding people into that. And what exactly is the British identity? This becomes clearer when looking at some of the key points given for the citizenship classes.

    In between what was mentioned about being able to speak English, Welsh or Gaelic, and some irrelevant knowledge about how to get services such as electricity, there are some pretty crucial western values and concepts that are being addressed. For example, people will be required to know how democracy and parliament work, and they should have an appreciation of etiquette and sexual equality. Based on this, one can imagine questions requiring answers that are by no means universally acknowledged. For example, a question may ask: "What is the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong?" The answer they would expect is "the law", yet for Muslims living in this country, or abroad, the answer is always "Allah (SWT)". Another question may ask, "Is it acceptable for a men and women to have relations with others of the same gender?" The answer they would expect is "yes", however many people consider such relations to be abhorrent, even amongst those who are already citizens. It would be naïve to think that these tricky questions would prevent people giving the "required" answer, even if they object to it in principle. Rather, it has to be assumed that these are the first steps towards a process of change that will mould people towards British attitudes and values. Such a process of change is aimed at everybody, not only at those foreigners applying for citizenship. It is especially aimed at the Muslim community who tend to have quite different attitudes and values to the host nation, due to their Islamic culture. Further comments made about the citizenship classes allude to this:
    "I believe we need to build in youngsters at an early age a knowledge of their own society, their part in it and their citizenship."
    "This is not a passive citizenship, such as voting occasionally, but an active one, where people make the world around them a better place by what they do and how they do it."

    If citizenship exams were only aimed at foreign nationals applying for citizenship, then why refer to youngsters? Are foreign adults any less of a problem when it comes to identity? It seems that the youngsters that are being referred to are those who have a distinct problem fitting into British society, and this is clearly the Muslim youth. They are the ones who suffer from the greatest identity crisis in Britain. This is because Islam has defined for them not only rituals and worships, but given them a complete set of principles and values that are enshrined in their belief. However, these values and principles conflict with those of the host nation, which leave many youth caught between belief in Islam and the pressures of society to conform. For example Islam forbids alcohol, forbids free mixing with the opposite gender, and obliges prayer upon Muslims. But the Muslim youth are surrounded by peers who have boyfriends and girlfriends, and they live in a society where the only social pastime is clubbing and drinking. In addition, schooling or work-life makes no provisions or facilities for the daily prayers. In contrast the non-Muslim youth pursue a largely secular life tinged by "ethnic or religious flavourings". The flavours would be the clothes they wear, the food they eat, and the venues they attend. Hence samosas, turbans, goatees, Punjabi suits, Bhangra gigs and Mercedes with oversized tyres are the flavourings of a particular youth group. However, in when it comes to concepts and values, the non-Muslim youth are united. From individualism and benefit to sexual freedom and belief in the democratic system, they all share a common identity.

    It is clear there is a great deal of focus today upon the Muslims, and in particular the Muslim youth. This is especially so in light of the "War on Terror", or rather the "War on Islam". Never before has so much attention been paid to the reasons behind Muslim values and practices, such as the wearing of the Khimar and Jilbab, arranged marriages, or even the arrangements for the Halaal slaughter of meat. Since the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, it is Muslims who have had their allegiances questioned time and time again; where do their loyalties lie? Do they consider the British troops as "our boys"? Do they consider themselves "British"? It is the Muslim MPs and peers, which have actively led the call towards the British identity. Who can forget the treacherous actions of Khalid Mahmood, who called Muslims to support British troops in the slaughter of Muslims in Afghanistan? Then there was Lord Nazir, who called for the employment of fulltime Imams for Muslims in the armed forces. He did this in response to Muslims soldiers being disciplined for refusing to fight against their brethren in Muslim countries. Clearly there was a need to have an official Islamic "clergy", who could indoctrinate the Muslim soldiers into pursuing the national interests.

    Most recently Shahid Malik, complained about the effect that the "biraderi" system amongst the Muslim immigrants of the sub-continent, was having on British politics. He complained that his political success was being hampered by people voting on tribal lines. Clearly he wasn't satisfied that some of these Muslims were participating in the political process, rather he wanted them to pursue it according to the values and principles of British society. Hence, it is apparent that there is a concerted campaign to "westernise" the Muslim population in this country. This is because they are the single largest group of people who do not currently share the western core values of freedom, sexual equality, secularism, and a belief in the democratic process. Instead, the Muslims share their identity, vision and values with over a billion Muslims throughout the world. Their principles are based exclusively on the deen of Allah (SWT), and they are unchanging and not for negotiation. At the same time as pressure is being applied on Muslims to capitulate, we find that many have decided to reaffirm their Islamic identity. Rather than sit back and take criticism, Muslims are tackling the discussion of identity head on, and presenting an intellectual challenge to the western thoughts and values. A few weeks ago, around seven thousand Muslims gathered at a conference in Birmingham, which presented a clear case for an Islamic identity. Muslims at the conference challenged the basis of the western values and instead showed it to be corrupt and contemptible. They presented clearly how the Islamic values and thoughts are the model for a secure, stable and prosperous society. Rather than advocate seclusion or integration, Muslims were urged to interact with British society, using their Islamic culture as the basis for discussion and debate. Islam has solutions for all of life's problems, and delegates were urged to study and present an alternative way of life to a British society that is being oppressed by the injustice and decadence of Capitalism and the western values.

    To conclude, Muslims must not allow the discussion about citizenship to challenge their Islamic culture and identity. They possess an Islamic identity, which is enlightened and unique amongst mankind because it is shaped by Islam. Therefore, as strong Islamic personalities, Muslims have much to contribute to the British society in which they live as citizens. Citizenship and Identity are clearly two different issues.

    5/9/2003- Equality groups have urged the public to support their pledge to stamp out racism following a spate of violent attacks that have shocked the Carshalton community. The appeal comes after a series of incidents in the Mill Lane and Papermill Close area, in which families have been besieged by racist mobs who congregate in the neighbourhood, shout abuse and smash-up property. Equality rights campaigners are now urging members of the community to report all incidents and are appealing for anyone who may be shielding the culprits to speak out. Sutton Council, the police, Sutton Racial Equality Council (SREC) and the local housing association are working together to combat the antisocial behaviour, which one family says has been going on for months.

    Denise Foster, who lives in Papermill Close, believes she has been targeted because her partner is Jamaican and her children are of mixed race. She says she has been through hell at the hands of the gangs, who have systematically smashed up their cars and shouted racial insults at her family ­ including her four-year-old daughter. She said: "We feel sick. It's a terrible situation. I don't sleep very well at night at the moment, any little noise and I'm looking out of the window. "I want to stay here but I also want to move, but my husband says if we move then they have won. My main concern is for my kids." Manny Amoah, a father-of-two featured in the Comet last month after his family was targeted, is now looking for new schools for his sons so they don't have to walk past gangs every day. Clare Bathija, project worker at SREC, says there have been a number of racially motivated incidents in the area, including racist jibes directed at ethnic minority staff and visitors to nearby Westcroft Leisure Centre ­ but the situation has worsened in recent weeks. She said: "This borough has been a cross-section of culture for a long time and yet this thing still keeps rearing its ugly head and manifests itself in a number of ways. "We are doing absolutely everything we possibly can. Our clients are determined they have been happy in their homes thus far, but this situation, they feel, is getting out of hand in that area at the moment and they fear for their safety, and that of their children." She added the group could offer support and help to anyone suffering at the hands of the gangs.

    Dennis Bartholomew, equalities officer at Sutton Council, said he was working with various agencies, including the Crown Prosecution Service, to improve the way hate crimes are reported and handled. He encouraged anyone experiencing problems with the racist gangs to come forward. He said: "Appropriate action will be taken against the perpetrators of antisocial behaviour, and in particular racist, homophobic and religious bigotry." Chief Inspector Warren Shadbolt, of Sutton police, added: "The Metropolitan Police has invested greatly in the establishment of community safety units specifically to investigate race and hate crimes. Anyone coming forward can be sure that matters will be investigated thoroughly."
    ©This is Local London

    6/9/2003- Germany has complained to Italy about a winery that labels its bottles with portraits of Adolf Hitler, the Justice Ministry said Friday. Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries recently wrote to her Italian counterpart to say the labels are "contemptible and tasteless" and asked him to see what could be done to stop their production, spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said. The so-called "Fuehrerwein" bottles, part of vintner Alessandro Lunardelli's "historic line," features 14 different labels portraying Hitler with slogans like "Sieg Heil" and other Nazis. The line also includes labels with portraits of other infamous characters of history, such as Italy's former fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. In a 2001 interview, Lunardelli told The Associated Press the labels were "a great marketing success." The wine is available legally in Italy, where it can also be purchased on the Internet, Wirtz said. Its sale is illegal in Germany, where products bearing images or slogans from the Nazi era are outlawed. Bavaria state said it was opening an investigation to see if any of the bottles had crossed the Italian border into southern Germany. Zypries, in her letter to Italian Justice Minister Roberto Castelli, expressed hope that Italy would act as part of common European efforts to fight racism and xenophobia. Castelli said Friday he had been unaware of the wine labels, but there was nothing his office could do and it was up to prosecutors to investigate. "I agree, it seems in bad taste," he told Radio Padania in northern Italy. Past attempts to end production of the wine have failed. Jewish organizations in Italy's northern Alto Adige region sued the vintner, citing an Italian law against publicly glorifying any leaders or principles of fascism. They lost when a judge ruled Lunardelli wasn't "exalting" Mussolini or Hitler by putting their pictures on bottles. Germany's embassy in Rome also has been protesting the bottles since 1997.
    ©The Olympian

    10/9/2003- German police say they have foiled a possible neo-Nazi bomb plot by arresting five people and seizing weapons and explosives in a series of raids. Three suspected far-right militants - including a woman - were arrested at a flat in Munich on Tuesday, according to officials. Police also say they found hand grenades, pistols, and enough TNT to blow up a building, at various locations in the city. Two other men allegedly linked to the Munich suspects were arrested in the eastern states of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The raids were carried out after an investigation triggered by the arrest in July of another suspected far-right militant, who police believe is a member of the same group. They add that the group could be involved in an apparent attempt to bomb Dresden railway station in June, when explosives were found in an abandoned suitcase. At the time police said the device had been planted by either neo-Nazis or Muslim radicals.
    ©BBC News

    29/8/2003- Non-EU nationals resident in Belgium are set to get the right to vote in the country's local elections, bringing them into line with voting rights already accorded to expatriates from EU member countries. The francophone Liberal MR party is pressing for the speedy introduction of local voting rights for non-Belgian residents from outside of the European Union. The proposal will now have a parliamentary majority following the support for the move from the Walloon and Flemish Socialist parties, and the bill should be voted through in September, possibly opening up the way for non-Europeans to vote in the 2006 regional elections. The MR is to propose a bill which would allow non-EU citizens having resided in Belgium for a minimum of five years to vote in Belgian local elections, after making a formal request for such and taking an oath of allegiance to the Belgian constitution
    ©Expatica News

    9/9/2003- A Belgian court on Tuesday sentenced an unrepentant Holocaust denier to a one-year suspended prison term and a 2500 Euro fine for distributing pamphlets belittling the Nazi genocide against the Jews during World War Two. Siegfried Verbeke was also stripped of his civil rights for 10 years, his lawyer, Frank Scheerlinck, told VRT radio. Verbeke, 63, a Belgian of German origin, said he stuck ''one hundred percent'' to his views. ''Three centuries ago people were burned at the stake, so a one year prison sentence is not that bad,'' he told VRT. ''I do not repent...I object to the justice system and especially the Belgian justice system,'' he added. The court said Verbeke showed no respect for the victims of the Nazi German extermination of six million European Jews. A lawyer for Belgium's official anti-racism centre, which launched the rare case several years ago under a law banning Holocaust denial, said tolerance was more important than the right to free speech. ''There is a limit, which I would call tolerance,'' attorney Paul Quirijnen told VRT, adding that ''the historical truth'' could not be denied.

    8/9/2003- Anti-Roma humour remains common within the Slovak media and on the Slovak internet, a fact that reflects the general attitudes of the Slovak population, according to insiders. A brief bit of research conducted by The Slovak Spectator (TSS) over the course of only two days has revealed a number of sources promoting humour directed against the Roma. The website of Orange, one of Slovakia's two mobile telecommunications operators, was among them. One of the 44 categories of jokes in the entertainment section of the company's website was called "Gypsies and Roma". The site enabled visitors to rate jokes and send them via e-mail or SMS. When told about the jokes on September 2, Orange spokesperson Peter Tóth said he knew nothing of them and requested time to investigate. Within minutes, 42 of the 90 Roma jokes were removed. "It is very unfortunate for us, because it is a huge faux pas," said Tóth later. "Our company would in no way dare to publish jokes which would in any way discriminate, ridicule, or offend any part of the public or our clients; therefore, I have contacted my colleagues responsible for the content of the site's humour section and have asked them to adjust the categories," he added.

    Already, by September 3 the "Gypsy and Roma" category, as well as one called "Homosexuals", had been removed from the website. "I think the terms 'Gypsies' and 'Roma' are included in the dictionary of the Slovak language, and it was not our intention to use them with negative connotations. We do, however, realise that these terms can be interpreted in such a manner," Tóth continued. He admitted Orange was responsible for the content of its site. "The website is prepared in-house. A special division of our company is responsible for the design, while the content is prepared by the communication department," said Tóth. However, Tóth also stressed his firm gets the jokes from an external supplier. "We buy from the database in good faith that there are no insulting, damaging, or offensive jokes," said Tóth. He would not specify who the supplier was, claiming contractual obligations prevent him from doing so. "The database of jokes is being used in the information services of other companies as well," he said. When asked whether Orange may reconsider future collaboration with the joke provider, Tóth answered: "Yes".

    Another website found in the course of The Slovak Spectator's inquiry was the "funny" website. It includes a category called "CD-Roma", which as of September 3, contained 183 jokes that people can rate and send by e-mail, SMS, or using voice messaging. The website is intended primarily for young people, according to Štefan Fukas, the entrepreneur operating the site. "The jokes are added by the users themselves," said Fukas. However, Fukas said not all entries make it to the site, and his people are responsible for the content. "Every joke is checked by one of our workers, so not each one is included," he said. He did admit that some of the published material could be seen as unacceptable. "Perhaps those [jokes] that you have selected are too much and should not be there," he said. In his explanation of why the jokes nevertheless were included, Fukas pointed out the fact they are common in the culture and there is a demand for them. "You know how it is - people keep adding them and they are also quite widespread," he said. On those grounds, Fukas is at this time not considering editing the published material. "If there are any complaints or requests, I am open to the idea of the jokes being reviewed. Then we can delete the most offensive ones. However, people don't complain, so I'm not in any way pressed to take them off," he said. Fukas was unable to say how a Roma person might react to the jokes published on the site. "I don't know. I cannot say how he or she would react. I assume the reaction would not be too positive," he said. None of the published jokes had been removed from the "funny" website by the time The Slovak Spectator went to print.

    Representatives of the Roma community say all such "humour" should be rooted out. "It is common to have jokes about various communities that focus on their particular stereotypes; even if they are particularly nasty, people still accept them," said Ivan Hriczko, director of the Roma Press Agency. "However, purely racist jokes that ignite racial hatred or portray violence directed against the Roma community as something 'humorous' have no place in our society," he said. Interestingly, at the time that The Slovak Spectator started looking into the issue, Hriczko received two jokes from the Orange site sent via SMS. This led the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) to send an open letter to Orange Slovakia CEO Pavol Lancaric on September 1, asking for the jokes to be removed. In the letter, provided to TSS by Hriczko, ERRC also asks Orange to issue an apology to the Slovak Roma on its website, reprimand the responsible individuals, and make a "substantial donation to Slovak Romani organisations in an effort to repair the damage that has been done". According to Hriczko, it is the general widespread prejudice against the Roma as an ethnic group that enables Slovak companies to get away with publishing anti-Roma jokes. "One of the causes [for the prejudice] is the fact that those responsible for dealing with the Roma issue have an ineffective media strategy, causing public awareness of the actual status of the Roma community to be very low," he said. "By preferring [to inform people about] social aid programs for the Roma, they create the impression that the entire ethnic group is socially unadaptable and cannot be integrated," he added. "The average reader doesn't have time to look for missing information, and therefore accepts what is being presented as fact," Hriczko said.

    Despite the fact that anti-Roma jokes are common in Slovakia, Hriczko said they do not represent a major issue for most Roma. "The Roma community is so involved with its own problems that it perceives this fact as irrelevant and fails to realise its great significance," he said. It is difficult to say whether publishing jokes about a minority contradicts Slovak law, according to experts. "There is no question that it's not ethical. However, it's hard to draw the dividing line [between what is legal and what is not]," said Ján Hrubala, a lawyer with extensive experience in the field of human rights and the current head of the government's anti-corruption unit. "Racial or national insults and the stirring of racial hatred are criminal offences. It would be necessary to investigate the nature of the internet site. I can imagine that if the jokes exceed a certain degree, the danger they pose to society can be sufficient for them to be seen as criminal offences," Hrubala added. If convicted, perpetrators of such criminal acts could be sentenced to a fine or as much as one year in prison. Hrubala pointed out there is no precedent for the criminal investigation of racist jokes in Slovakia. "Legal practice has not yet had the courage to set clear boundaries for when [jokes are] illegal, in part because no one has yet taken a serious look at it," he said. However, according to Hrubala, racist jokes could be eradicated from public life if society stops tolerating them, there would be no need to take legal action. "[In the West] even if you have people telling racist jokes in pubs, it's not something the media would do. They are ahead in this regard. If this were going on there, I'm sure there would be strong opposition from citizen groups. It's a matter of social attitudes," he said.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    11/9/2003- A court in Riga ruled this week that a campaign advertisement run by the Freedom Party qualified as racial discrimination. The advertisement, which was aired on television during the runup to the October 2003 parliamentary elections, featured two black African musicians who were founding members of the popular reggae band Los Amigos. In the ad one of the two men, Piter Mensah, was seen dressed in military uniform kissing a Latvian woman in front of the Freedom Monument in downtown Riga as a voice over said, "Today, he defends your country. Tomorrow, he could be your son-in-law." Mensah and his fellow band member Chined Christofer Ejugo took the Freedom Party to court and won their case in April of this year. The recent civil case against the Freedom Party was brought by George Steele, a black American who is fluent in Latvian and has lived in the Baltic state for eight years. Just as in the case brought by Mensah and Ejugo, Steele took the Freedom Party to court for violation of his honor and personal dignity. But Steele's case differs in that he was not directly involved in the advertisement ­ thus giving the new legal action broader scope.

    "It is likely the first case in the nation's courts to directly involve the concept of racism by addressing speech which incites racial discrimination and violation of the honor and dignity of a group of persons," said Arturs Kucs, a lawyer at the Latvian Human Rights Institute currently researching national laws concerning hate speech and the protection of dignity and honor. "The contents of the advertisement had negative observations about dark skinned people," the court ruling said. The judgment found that the advertisement incited racial hatred and promoted prejudice in Latvian society by suggesting that having a dark-skinned son-in-law was a big misfortune for the girl's parents. "It openly discriminates light-skinned from dark-skinned people. The plaintiff is a dark-skinned American, who lives in Latvia and has married a light-skinned Latvian; his situation is identical to what the Freedom Party showed as a negative and undesirable future in Latvia," the ruling said. In reaching its decision, the court used the rules set out in a U.N. convention against racial discrimination.

    "This is the best definition of racism available," said Ineta Ziemele, a prominent Latvian lawyer who pleaded Steele's case. She explained that the court turned to international treaties because they provided more guidance on issues of racial discrimination than existing domestic laws. The ruling this week is the first case in Latvia in which the courts have clearly attacked the incitement of racial discrimination, according to Ziemele. As of the morning of Sept. 9, the day the court decision was reached, the controversial advertisement could still be accessed and viewed on the Freedom Party's Web page. However, even prior to the court ruling in his favor, Steele appeared to have growing confidence in the national system of law. "The Latvian courts are finally maturing to the point that they understand their responsibility in trying to end racial discrimination and racist behavior in Latvia," he said in an interview with the Latvian public policy Web site, in July of this year. But Kucs felt that the state could do more. "In my view public institutions are not looking very seriously at these cases," he said, adding that there were drawbacks in the legislation as well that continued to make it difficult to hold accountable those responsible. Ziemele said she felt that the state prosecutor and security police could follow these cases more closely. She added, though, that Latvia was setting a leading precedent by deciding in Steele's favor, since in cases of racial discrimination it is sometimes difficult to prove that someone has been harmed.
    © The Baltic Times

    8/9/2003- With the gap between the yes side and the no side narrowing all the time, it could well be Sweden's large immigrant population that tips the balance in the 14 September referendum. Of the 7 million Swedes eligible to vote, about 330,000 are foreign-born. Just under half of these were born in the EU. The importance of winning over this group is clear as only 300,000 voters currently seperate the two sides and this gap is expected to narrow further before polling day.

    Immigrants are broadly pro-euro
    Opinion polls show that immigrants tend to be broadly in favour of the single currency, mainly because they lack the sentimental attachment to the Krona that many Swedes feel. However, immigrants are also much less likely to turn out on the day. A recent survey for TEMO showed that support for the euro was about 10 percent higher amongst immigrants than amongst native Swedes but that many foreign-born nationals are not even aware they have the right to vote. 30 percent of immigrants polled in a Stockholm suburb - where 75 percent of residents were born outside Sweden - were not even aware of the referendum.

    Key battleground
    With so many potential votes at stake, both campaigns are targeting the immigrant population as a key battleground. The Green Party, which is against the euro, has printed literature in Swedish, English, Arabic, Kurdish, Persian, Serbo-Croat and Turkish. A special group has even been set up to target this important group – "Invandrare mot EMU" or "immigrants against the euro". This group offers information in 12 different languages, including Somalian and Bosnian – but not in English. There is no equivalent group on the pro-side although yes-campaigners recognise the importance of attracting the immigrant vote.

    Price sensitivity
    The chief co-ordinator of "immigrants against EMU", Mehmet Kaplan - a Turkish-born Swede - said that immigrants have come back from visiting relatives in the euro zone and have become more anti-euro because of perceived price-rises after the introduction of the single currency. "Prices have just gone up and up in the euro zone", said Mr Kaplan. "But salaries have stayed the same, making immigrants much worse off than they were before". He added that a relative of his had told him, "if you have the chance, you must stop the euro at the border". Mohammed, a Moroccan-born shop-keeper who runs a souvenir store on the Drottingaten, Stockholm's main shopping street, was typical of those interviewed by the EUobserver. He said, "I really don't care what currency shoppers use, as long as they use it in my shop". He said he had not made up his mind which way to vote on 14 September, admitting, "I don't really know much about the arguments". If the yes-side want to win the battle in six days' time, it is people like Mohammed they will have to reach.

    10/9/2003- More than 20 illegal immigrants thought to be mostly from Pakistan have been found drowned on the Greek border. A search began after the first bodies were discovered on the banks of the river Evros on Tuesday. Up to 26 bodies - including two women - have been found so far, although the authorities are not yet certain if they died as a result of a vessel capsizing. Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants try to enter Greece every year. Correspondents say most fatal accidents involving migrants occur in the Aegean Sea, as migrants try to sail from Turkey to Greece. It is the first time so many have drowned trying to cross the Evros, according to Reuters news agency.

    "We have not found a boat, we have not found anything that could show how these Asians, most (of) whom are from Pakistan tried to cross over and explain how they died," a local police official told the agency. "They either drowned after their boat sank or something else happened on board and these people were thrown into the water," the official said. " Other police said the immigrants were estimated to be aged between 25 and 30 and that documents found on some of the bodies were from Pakistan.
    ©BBC News

    5/9/2003- The European Parliament has condemned the media situation in Italy, where media power is concentrated in the hands of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and has criticised the fact that no rules of conflict of interest have been adopted on this issue. In his controversial and wide ranging report on fundamental rights in the EU (2002), drafted by French Leftist, Fodé Sylla, the Commission is also called upon to draw up a directive guaranteeing that public and private media provide citizens with accurate information.

    Homosexual rights
    The report which was adopted yesterday afternoon (4 September) with 221 votes in favour, 195 against and 23 abstentions, was fiercely opposed by the Christian Democrat group, most notably for the fact that it calls on EU countries to grant homosexual couples the right to marry and adopt children. It also recommends that EU countries recognise non-marital relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual, and to confer the same rights on partners in these relationships as on those who are married.

    Situation in prisons
    Mr Sylla also noted that in the UK, Portugal, Belgium, Italy and France, conditions in prisons have deteriorated, mainly as a result of overcrowding, leading to tension between prisoners and prison wardens and violence amongst prisoners. The report, furthermore, expresses concern at the increase in anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic manifestations of hatred and discrimination following the 11 September 2001 attacks, although it welcomes the awareness-raising campaigns conducted by several governments to forewarn the public against the dangers of stereotyping. "The EU can't denounce what happens outside it without addressing the issues happening within it", French Socialist Adeline Hazan said.

    30/8/2003- Clean, green - and racist? New Zealand's image is taking a beating with new research showing that 70% of its citizens think that Asians face significant discrimination. The research, by the Human Rights Commission, has prompted an advertising campaign to encourage Kiwis to be kinder to immigrants. More than 200,000 Asian migrants have arrived in New Zealand in the past 20 years, and it is officially estimated that Asians will make up 13% of New Zealand's population by 2021. Auckland is New Zealand's largest and most multicultural city. Yet at the top of Queen Street, which runs through Auckland's central business district, a billboard addresses the ever-controversial issue of immigration. "Immigration's up, treaty costs up, crime's up... Had enough?", the billboard reads, directing onlookers to the website of New Zealand First, one of the country's smallest opposition parties. Across town at a migrant centre, groups of students take part in employment training sessions. Overwhelmingly, the faces there are Asian. That might be because most Asian migrants choose to settle in Auckland - the city is home to an estimated two-thirds of all Asians in New Zealand. But it is also harder for Asians to get a job - and not necessarily because they do not have the qualifications.

    Asoka Basnayake, a settlement coordinator for new migrants, says that finding a job is a huge challenge for migrants. "That's mainly because New Zealand employers are looking for New Zealand experience," she said. "Although people's qualifications and experience and skills have been assessed at the time they migrate to New Zealand, when they come here they find their skills, qualifications and experience are not worth anything." Ms Basnayake should know. When she came to New Zealand eight years ago, she applied for 250 jobs without success, despite having extensive work experience in Europe, Asia and Canada. New Zealand's Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres, said that discrimination was definitely a problem. "There has been a disturbing increase in recent times in what I'd call conversational discrimination, and particularly in relation to Asian immigrants," he said.

    Media campaign
    New Zealand's Human Rights Commission is sponsoring an advertising campaign to nip this trend in the bud. The NZ$1.5m (US$870,000 ) series of TV, radio, billboard and newspaper advertisements aims to challenge racial stereotypes - and is being paid for by a group of media and advertising companies led by McCann Ericks. "I'd been living in Asia for just under six years, and whenever people asked me how migrant-friendly New Zealand was as a nation, I said we were very, very migrant friendly," said the company's managing director John Roberts. "When I arrived back last year and started sifting through some independent research groups that we run, some really quite distasteful racist comments were coming up," he said. One of the comments was: "You can guarantee if there's an accident, an Asian will be involved." Another said: "The government should shut the doors. Who wants all these people ruining our good life?" Mr Roberts believes comments like these are a reaction to how New Zealand has changed - and is still changing. "Auckland is a great example," he said. "You walk down Queen Street now and to be honest you could be in Hong Kong or Singapore. The look of the place has changed, and I think that's scared people." Joris de Bres said that the recent rise in the Asian population was a mirror of what happened 30 years ago when large numbers of Pacific Islanders arrived in New Zealand to ease labour shortages. "In the 1970s there was a similar opposition to Pacific migration," he said. "In the first years of the 21st century, that opposition has moved - among a percentage of the population - to Asian migration. And at the same time people are saying they are perfectly happy with the numbers of Pacific Islanders here." But Joris de Bres said he was confident New Zealand would not follow the lead of Australia, where Pauline Hanson's anti-immigration One Nation Party garnered 10% of the popular vote in the mid-1990s. "There was a lot of concern about discrimination against Asian immigrants when we surveyed people last year," he said. "So I think probably New Zealand will come through this."

    Migrants to New Zealand
    8,700 from China
    8,400 from India
    6,600 from the UK
    4,300 from South Africa
    Source: NZ Migration Information (year ending June 2002)
    ©BBC News

    30/8/2003- In Brazil, government inspectors from the Ministry of Labour have freed 849 workers being held in conditions of slavery on a coffee farm near Barreiras in the state of Bahia. So far this year inspectors have freed more than 2,000 workers from forced labour, mostly in the Amazon region. In March, the government announced a plan to eradicate slave labour in Brazil. Government inspectors who had been tipped off by a local politician raided a coffee farm in Bahia. They say it is unprecedented to free so many workers in a single operation. The workers were forced to live in makeshift shelters which provided little protection from the heat and the rain. Over 70 of them were ill. The inspectors ordered the farmer to pay the workers everything he owed them and then arrange transport for them back to their home region. Most slave labourers are used to clear forest on Amazon cattle ranches.

    Government crackdown
    Earlier this year, the government announced a raft of initiatives to stamp out the practice. These included increasing the number of inspectors and measures to ensure that farmers found with slave labour on their properties should not only be forced to pay them compensation but would go to prison. The problem is that many of those who have recruited workers and treated them as forced labour are influential ranchers. Some of them have even been elected to public office. And in the poor regions of north-east Brazil, where most of the workers come from, unemployment and poverty mean that there is always a large army of desperate people easily persuaded to try their luck hundreds of miles away.
    ©BBC News

    New ploy: look-alike passports

    22/8/2003- There was a slight increase in illegal immigration into Finland in the first half of this year. In January - June this year more than 430 people were listed by police as having been illegally brought into Finland. Over the same period in 2002 the number was 250. According to figures released by the National Bureau of Investigation, people from the former Yugoslavia comprised the largest national group - 95 individuals. They were followed by Iraqis, Turks, Bulgarians and Somalis. During the same period just under 800 people were found who were residing in Finland illegally. There were 21 criminal complaints for arranging illegal passage into the country, which was slightly fewer than last year. Some cases involved links with organised crime.

    The number of asylum-seekers declined slightly from about 1,500 in the first half of last year to about 1,400 this year. In August there was a sharp increase in the use of "look-alike" passports. A number of Somalis travelling to Finland or another Nordic Country were turned back in Dubai for using another person's passport in which the picture bears some resemblance to the bearer. The passports were granted to Somalis living in the Nordic Countries, and were being used by other people. "They believe that when there are many travellers, the passport inspector might not notice that the bearer of the passport is not the same as the person in the picture", says Jouko Ikonen of the NBI. Ten such people were stopped en route to Finland in August alone. "First the perpetrators buy or rent passports in Finland and deliver them to Africa", Ikonen says. The passports themselves are genuine Finnish passports issued to naturalised citizens, or Finnish aliens' passports for resident aliens who cannot get official travel documents from their home countries. The documents apparently have a market value of 500 to 2,000 US dollars.
    ©Helsingin Sanomat

    Football players seek political asylum

    25/8/2003- The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has urged Finland to better protect the legal rights of asylum-seekers and to make sure that all procedures concerning the processing of asylum applications are according to Finland's international obligations. The committee made public some of the recommendations it made to Finland on Friday evening, after holding discussions with representatives of the Finnish government and non-governmental organisations in Geneva. Eero J. Aarnio, the head of the Finnish delegation at the meeting, says that an official protocol of the meeting will come out later. Aarnio added that it is apparent that the committee will find that Finland's rapid processing of some asylum requests does not meet the human rights regulations of the Finnish Constitution, or those of the UN.

    Finland passed a law on fast-track processing of asylum applications in 2000 when there was a flood of asylum applications from large groups of Roma or Gypsy arrivals, who were not considered to be in need of asylum. Under the rapid processing procedure, the asylum-seeker first speaks with a police officer, who then forwards the application to the Directorate of Immigration. A decision is made within seven days. Aarnio says that the system in its present form is contained in a proposal for a new aliens' law, which will come before the Finnish Parliament this autumn. The UN committee recommends that Finland should avoid discrimination against the Roma community by all means possible. The committee also urged Finland to seek a solution to the dispute over land rights for the Sámi or Lapp population, and to join the International Labour Organisation agreement on the rights of indigenous peoples. Aarnio pointed out that Finland has ratified all other human rights documents except for this ILO agreement. As for the Sámi people, the committee urged Finland to give more weight to the personal views of individuals concerning their identity. Finland is also encouraged to keep track of all tendencies that encourage racism, and to fight against racist propaganda on the Internet. The committee also praises Finland for its overall implementation of human rights.

    Aarnio points out that under Finnish law a racist motive for a crime can be considered an aggravating circumstance, and membership in an illegal organisation - including a racist organisation - is now seen as a crime. Finland has reported to the UN on the implementation of anti-discrimination laws since the 1970s, when there were just a handful of foreigners living in Finland. Now there are more than 100,000. Meanwhile at least three members of the Sierra Leone team in the FIFA Under 17s World Championships in football currently being held in Finland applied for asylum on Friday. A total of 14 members of the team failed to show up at Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport on Thursday when they were to have left for home. The Directorate of Immigration said that the applications would be processed normally. In the summer of 1998 an Albanian youth football team and its coach applied for asylum after the Helsinki Cup. The team had decided to apply for asylum already before arriving in Finland. The applications were denied, but some of the players were allowed to stay, because they had settled in this country and married during the time that their applications were being processed.
    ©Helsingin Sanomat

    Current entitlements are not widely used in practice

    24/8/2003- Representatives of national minorities living in Slovakia have urged the government to lower the threshold of eligibility for their native-language rights. However, thus far, few ethnic Hungarians have taken advantage of the minority language law that allows for the use of minority languages in the public sphere, and in dealing with the authorities. Media reports have suggested that Deputy Prime Minister Pál Csáky has called for more citizens to be allowed to use their minority languages in dealings with officials. However, he claims that it is the government's entire 14- member Council for National Minorities, which he chairs, that has proposed lowering the requirement for protected minority language use from the current 20 percent to 10 percent of the population. When the issue was discussed in parliament in 1999, Csáky's party, the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) voted against the proposed law, with its requirement that 20-percent of the population must be of the specified minority for the language law to apply. SMK further claimed that ethnic Hungarians would only be able to use Hungarian in contacts with local authorities; in dealings with district or regional officials, on the other hand, they would have to speak Slovak.

    "Despite the objections of SMK deputies and the Council for National Minorities, the law was adopted, though it failed to consider the fundamental aspirations of other national minorities," the ethnic Hungarian party's statement read. Prior to the vote in parliament, the SMK had prepared its own version of the law to confer broader language rights pertaining to education, culture and the media for ethnic Hungarians, Ukrainians, Ruthenians, Germans and Roma. The legislators turned down the bill. "What frightened our coalition partners was that minorities would have gained too many rights," Csáky commented at the time for the New York-published Hungarian Minorities Monitor. Lowering the threshold for minority language use to 10 percent would affect some 130 municipalities in Slovakia. In an interview with The Slovak Spectator, the deputy prime minister stressed: "It is not an SMK proposal. Representatives of smaller national minorities in the council have requested this, because it would also enable them to exercise their language rights." Acting as an advisory body to the government, the Council for National Minorities includes at least one representative from each ethnic group living in the country. The largest minority group, the Hungarians, has three delegates sitting on the 14-member council. Back in 1999, the council demanded a similar amendment to the law; however, the government turned down the proposal.

    Adoption of a law on minority language use, along with the ratification of the European Charter on Regional or Minority Languages, was one of the prime conditions for Slovakia's EU membership. Governmental legal experts have examined to what extent the country's laws correspond with the obligations that the ratification of this European Charter in 2002 has brought for Slovakia. "Nine laws need to be revised to bring [Slovak laws] in line with the Charter. It is not my idea; this results from requirements in the Charter," Csáky told The Slovak Spectator. Other coalition partners do not back the council's proposal. Christian Democrats (KDH) vice-chair Pavol Minárik says that the current legislation is sufficient, and he sees no reason to re-open the debate. KDH spokesperson Laura Dyttertová told The Slovak Spectator: "This is a very sensitive question. The KDH has not yet dealt with it, but we will consider it as soon as a formal initiative appears." At a press conference on August 14, SMK head Béla Bugár disclosed that there was "a silent agreement that Deputy Prime Minister [Pál] Csáky would prepare the proposal [of the amendment to the law] for the government. If coalition partners do not agree with it, that is their responsibility." Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) vice-chair Ivan Šimko and New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) deputy head Lubomír Lintner said they did not know about any such agreement. Lintner does not believe the proposal will get through. In an interview with private TV channel JOJ, non-parliamentary Slovak National Party (SNS) chairman Ján Slota said that if the government passes Csáky's initiative, it would be "treason to the Slovak nation".

    Though the minority language law took effect on September 1, 1999, it does not appear to have been used by its beneficiaries. In the most densely Hungarian-populated district, Dunajská Streda, a committee was set up to monitor problems associated with the implementation of the law. The head of this committee, Gizella Szabómihály, told The Slovak Spectator that there has been widespread indifference among representatives of national minorities toward the provisions of the law. "There is nothing wrong with the 20 percent [threshold]. [The problem] is that instructions for implementing the law are missing," she explained. One of the clauses in the law states that "decisions made by public administration bodies [...] shall be issued, upon request, in both the state and the national minority language. In case of dispute, the state language version of the decision is definitive." According to Szabómihály, the final sentence defeats the objective of the entire paragraph: "Why would anyone request a Hungarian-language decision if it has no legal status?" she asked. According to the ethnic Hungarian linguist, Hungarian legal terminology has not been used in Slovakia for the past 50 years, and ethnic Hungarians have understandable difficulty in wording an official document in their native language. Rather than the written word, oral usage of Hungarian is what continues to thrive in the Hungarian-inhabited regions of the country. The overwhelming majority of ethnic Hungarians live in 432 communities along nearly the entire length of the Hungarian-Slovak border. Compared to a national census from 1991, the number of people who declared themselves Hungarian in 2002 dropped by 47,000, leaving the total number of Hungarians living in Slovakia at 520,528 (9.7 percent of the population).
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    22/8/2003- In another blow to the image of the Netherlands as a bastion of tolerance, the national school inspectorate announced plans on Friday to tackle the growing problem of discrimination against homosexual pupils and teachers in the classroom. The increasing numbers of Muslim pupils, who are reared to believe homosexuality is unacceptable, has caused part of the problem. "The Koran has a clear point of view (in relation to homosexuality) and you notice this in the schools", the inspector general of schools, Kete Kervezee, told newspaper Algemeen Dagblad. "But we are only fooling ourselves if we think that it is only an immigrant issue. "Not all native Dutch people are open-minded and liberal either. Dutch youth can also be very rude and there are plenty of distressing examples of this about." Kervezee said that intolerant behaviour towards gay teachers and pupils was a growing problem in Dutch schools and the solution was to bring the issue out into the open. "We expect schools to make homosexuality an issue that can be discussed, so that gay and lesbian teachers and pupils feel safe," she said. A brochure, drawn up in co-operation with gay rights lobby group COC and educational consultancy APS, will be published in September with advise on how to tackle discrimination, news agency Novum reported. The inspectorate has responsibility for both non-denominational and strict religious schools, which on Christian or Islamic grounds, have strong objections to homosexuality.

    The Algemeen Dagblad said the inspectorate does not plan to question these beliefs as such, but will monitor for discrimination. It does not have powers to punish schools that fail to act against discrimination, but if schools do not co-operate they can be named publicly in the inspectorate's annual report. The inspectorate was spurred into action by a study Potten en Flikkers de klas uit (Dykes and Fags Out of the Class) published by COC, APS and youth gay magazine Expreszo last month. And responding to Friday's newspaper report, COC said "many schools leave homosexual, bisexual and lesbian students and staff to fend for themselves. Bullying, name-calling, discrimination and even physical violence occur regularly in schools". Some 500 pupils and teachers took part in the report and many complained of bullying, nasty jokes and physical and mental abuse due to their sexual orientation. This resulted in a climate in which gay people are afraid to come out of the closet in school, the inspectorate noted. The study even found that homosexuality is a taboo subject in a large number of schools. About 75 percent of the respondents expressed annoyance at the way their school dealt with the subject and 15 percent said they could not be themselves in schools for fear of bullying. Many gay teachers said they keep their sexual orientation a secret to avoid problems. COC issued a statement on Friday saying that Education Minister Maria van der Hoeven, of the Christian Democrat CDA party, expressed disquiet at the unsafe climate for gay students and teachers in Dutch schools.

    "Tolerance is the only thing I find acceptable," she told COC magazine in an interview in June. She said that school authorities should intervene if gay students and teachers are being bullied. The gay lobby group said it was happy that the minister was adhering to her responsibilities and that she would receive a report on the experiences and health of homosexual and bisexual men and women in education on 25 September. To help make homosexuality an acceptable subject in secondary schools, Expreszo plans to start a student competition, PinkQuest, on 5 September.
    ©Expatica News

    27/8/2003— The ethnic division of Amsterdam schools is so advanced that it can no longer be reversed, with both primary and secondary schools increasingly becoming "white" or "black", a new report has claimed. School and government officials expressed concern about the social consequences of ethnic segregation and due to the fact that native Dutch and immigrant children will scarcely come into contact with each other, they fear ethnic relations in multicultural neighbourhoods would worsen, the SCO Kohnstamm Instituut report said. The research indicated that 54 of 201 primary schools across the Dutch capital only have immigrant students and at 127 schools, more than half of their students have a foreign background. The report found that 30 schools are completely "white".

    The SCO Kohnstamm Instituut, a childrearing and education research bureau, said if all students were evenly spread across the capital's 201 primary schools, every one of them would have a percentage of immigrant students. Research indicates that 49 percent of Amsterdam students originate from Turkey, Morocco or Suriname and that their parents are from lower educational backgrounds, newspaper Het Parool reported. The schools with the highest immigrant percentages are located in Bos en Lommer, De Baarsjes, Geuzenveld/Slotermeer, Zeeburg, Westerpark and Osdorp. The schools with the lowest number of immigrant students are located in Centrum, Oud-Zuid and Zuideramstel. The academics — who interviewed 80 people in carrying out the research, including school directors and government policy makers — said the trend toward segregation continued in secondary education. They blamed the segregation on student academic results. Native Dutch students generally attend HAVO and VWO senior secondary schools, which often leads to tertiary education, while immigrant youths mainly attend VMBO pre-vocational secondary schools, an NOS news report said on Tuesday. But Amsterdam Councillor Rob Oudkerk believes that schools should mirror their neighbourhood: "If the school is in a black neighbourhood, there is nothing amiss if the school is also predominantly black," he said. He also said people should not be forced to move or attend another school and that greater investment should be directed at schools with a large number of students with learning difficulties.

    Meanwhile, the researchers also said social choices can stimulate school segregation, with parents especially choosing to send their children to schools where students from the same social environment study. Highly educated native Dutch and immigrant parents enrol their children at the same school and the same applies to lower-educated parents from both sides of the multicultural divide. Several other factors strengthen segregation, such as school costs — in which schools with native Dutch demand several hundred euros in school fees per student every year — and the ambitions of highly-educated, native Dutch parents. Despite the concerns though, there are limited methods for authorities to reverse the segregation trend. One such mechanism would be to stimulate a better spread of the population across the city, but the researchers said this would only meet with success in the long-term. Another counter-effect would be for students to travel by public transport to the school of their choice. But schools are opposed to forcing city residents to spread more evenly across the city and there is no research indicating that immigrant children perform better if they are taught among native Dutch. The researchers also said it is important that immigrant schools attract "very good" teachers and in the face of a continued shortfall in teachers on the labour market, bigger investment in higher wages — either structurally or via bonuses — is vital.
    ©Expatica News

    24/8/2003- A bitter internal power struggle in the British National Party erupted into open warfare last night when it emerged that the recently ousted founder of the organisation was launching legal proceedings against its modernising chairman. Former National Front member John Tyndall, who founded the BNP in 1982, was expelled from the party within the last fortnight as its chairman, Nick Griffin, seeks to portray the organisation as a more mainstream body in a bid to attract new voters. The decision to expel Tyndall - believed to have been taken by three senior BNP members including Griffin - followed his attempt to launch a leadership bid to take control of the BNP last year. In recent weeks BNP insiders suggest he has beenattempting to launch a renewed leadership bid, spurred on by a coterie of supporters. 'I am consulting lawyers with a view to taking legal action over my expulsion against individuals with the BNP,' Tyndall said yesterday. He declined to elaborate on the specific nature of his case saying only: 'I regret that this issue has become public and that certain people have chosen to wash their dirty linen in public.'

    Tyndall's decision to take legal action against Griffin marks a new nadir in the once strong relationship between the two men. It was Tyndall who convinced Griffin to return to extreme right-wing politics when in 1996 he offered Griffin the editorship of Spearhead, the extreme right-wing magazine, and encouraged the Cambridge-educated former boxing blue to become active in the BNP. There is now speculation that Tyndall, 69, who was leader of the BNP for 17 years until 1999, when he was displaced by Griffin, will seek to create a splinter group. But Tyndall played down the suggestion last night. 'That is wild speculation. My loyalty will always be to the BNP,' Tyndall said. BNP modernisers said Tyndall was expelled due to his extreme views. Tyndall is on record as saying 'Mein Kampf is my bible'. In 1986 he was sentenced to a year in prison for conspiracy to incite racial hatred. According to the anti-racist organisation Youth Against Racism, Tyndall has said that his vision for Britain is of a country where 'racial laws will be enacted forbidding marriage between Britons and non-Aryans: medical measures will be taken to prevent procreation on the part of all those who have hereditary defects either racial, mental or physical.' A spokesman for the BNP, Dr Phil Edwards, said: 'His time has passed. He seemed to think the BNP has kept going because of him. He was a very seductive speaker, but he was never elected.' Two of Tyndall's deputies, Richard Edmonds and John Morse, are also thought to be on the verge of being expelled from the BNP. The ousting of Tyndall and his allies shores up Griffin's power base within the party, which now has 16 council seats and claims to be Britain's fastest-growing political organisation.
    ©The Guardian

    25/8/2003- It is, according to the Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, `the most serious symptom of failure within the education system'. Statistics show that African Caribbean pupils - unlike every other ethnic group - decline in performance every year they are in school. Indeed in some areas only 8 per cent of black pupils pass their GCSEs. With this summer's exam results now safely out of the way, this autumn the government launches a number of school based pilot schemes aiming to address chronic underachievement. The black community is divided over the cause - peer pressure or institutional racism?

    Eastside records in east London is attempting to redress what is a complex problem. An education system that is failing black children. Backed by the music industry it is encouraging young people many of whom have dropped out or been kicked out of school, not to give up. This is, though, a very specific solution for a small group of people. It does not address the wider issue. The fact is once the most recent GCSE results are broken down and analysed some time this autumn they are expected to show once again that black children will have fared worse than white and Asian students. On average, 51 per cent of all children pass their GCSEs. But just 40 per cent of black African children pass while it is only 30 per cent of black Carribeans. In some boroughs the statistics for black children drop to eight per cent. Within the black community itself there is disagreement over what the cause of the problem is. Peer pressure making it cool to fail, lack of black teachers, institutional racism or an irrelevant curriculum.

    For the first time the Government is making an attempt to address this. The Department for Education has just finished a consultation - called Aiming High. Pilot schemes involving mentoring and recruitment of black teachers will begin this autumn. In Merton, Fun Time, has been developed by concerned parents. A supplementary school run in the afternoons and Saturday mornings, it aims to fill in where the local comprehensives are failing. It does, however, require commitment from the entire family. Supplementary schools are one of the favoured options at the moment. Yet just next door in Sutton the system appears on paper to be working for black children. Sutton has relatively high GCSE pass marks - 65 per cent for all children. And it is one of the few boroughs where black children appear to do better - 67 per cent for black Carribean and 75 per cent for black African. But there are claims that the statistics are skewed because the grammar schools attract bright black pupils from out of borough.

    This is a Bradford mentoring scheme as well as learning support. The African Caribbean Achievement Project - Acap - set up by parents, churches and the charity Barnardos. From just a handful now nearly 20 schools in the area use Acap's services. The statistics in Bradford are worse than the national average. Only 37 per cent over all and just 27 per cent for black children. But ACAP - for all the enthusiasm of local schools - has only received £5,000 from the education authority this year with no guarantee of anything next year. Some of the ideas for addressing this problem may be innovative but until the reasons behind the underachievement amongst black children are resolved mainstream education is unlikely to be able to effectively deal with the issue.
    ©Channel 4

    25/8/2003- A permanent "racism tsar" is to be appointed to tackle prejudice in and around football grounds in Scotland. The full-time job will involve work with clubs and schools and is being funded by Uefa and the Scottish Football Association (SFA). Communities minister Margaret Curran said the Scottish Executive had pledged £75,000 to the project over three years. The Newcastle-based charity Show Racism the Red Card will be advertising the post within weeks and the successful candidate will have a wider brief to address the problem of sectarianism in the game. Mrs Curran said: "This will provide a tremendous boost for this high-profile campaign and enable it to promote anti-racism work with clubs, players, schools and youth groups across Scotland." An SFA spokesman said: "It is evident that across Scotland racist abuse from individuals needs to be tackled. It is still prevalent at large and small grounds." But the Scottish Conservatives have questioned whether the post will make a difference. A Tory spokesperson said: "Racism and more especially sectarianism is abhorrent in any walk of life. But we would question whether putting public money into this post is really going to change the bigotted attitudes of some fans. It's an area that is more up to the clubs and the SFA to deal with." Last December, First Minister Jack McConnell launched a plan to target sectarianism and called for "Scotland's secret shame" to be addressed in the courts and at football grounds. A cross-party report recommended a law to make religious hatred an aggravated offence. The 12-point plan also called on football clubs to take action against fans for sectarian behaviour, including the possibility of life bans from games. Show Racism the Red Card was founded in 1996 and uses professional footballers as role models to highlight the problem. They include Celtic striker Henrik Larsson and Manchester United stars Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand.
    © Independent Digital

    25/8/2003- Ever heard of British 'banjaras', or gypsies, speaking Sanskrit words and with roots in northern India? You won't be the only one who hasn't. Neither have most people in Britain, where the travelling gypsies came and settled after meandering across continents from the Indus valley in the ninth century. Today there are about 42,000 gypsy children in British schools, and education authorities have now realised that the education system has largely ignored their special needs. Historically the gypsies began their journey from the Indus valley in northern India, travelled through Persia, and reached Hungary and other parts of eastern Europe about 1,000 years ago. They are thought to have arrived on English soil about 400 years ago. Their language, known as Romany, retains many of the original Sanskrit words prevalent during the time of the Indus valley civilization. In official records they are known as Romany gypsies, one of the smallest communities nestling among Britain's ethnic minority population dominated by Asians and Afro-Caribbeans. The exact origins of the community remained a mystery until the 18th century when a Hungarian academic realised that the language spoken by his local gypsies was similar to that spoken in India.

    Members of the community still speak their own version of Romany or Romanes. Mixed in with the Sanskrit words are others derived from Greek, Romanian and Slavic as well as Cant, the language of sturdy beggars of Elizabethan England, and other local words and bits of rhyming slang. Versions of the language are still spoken by different groups across Europe, from the Kalderash of Hungary to the Gitanes and Sinti of France and Mustalainen of Finland. The Romany gypsies have historically moved around Britain, taking up seasonal work such as fruit and flower picking. One of the main reasons for conflict between them and the sedentary community is that British society does not recognise the right to a nomadic way of life. Many non-gypsies know little more about Romany gypsy culture than quaintly painted wagons and women who wear large gold-hooped earrings, although many of them have neither. Britain's vibrant multiculturalism policy has ensured that cultures of ethnic minority groups are well catered for in the education system, particularly those of the Asian communities speaking Punjabi, Urdu and Bengali. However, now education authorities have realized that the policy has largely failed to cater to the cultural needs of Romany gypsy children. They rarely receive specialist support nor is their culture recognized in the curriculum.

    The 2003 figures of the Department for Education and Skills reveal that Romany gypsy children are clubbed with Pakistani and Bangladeshi children as the most disadvantaged section of the school population. An official report said: "Gypsy traveller pupils are the group most at risk in the education system. Although some make a reasonably promising start in primary school, by the time they reach secondary level their generally low attainment is a matter of serious concern." Schools Minister Stephen Twigg released a new guidance document recently to help schools in Britain provide better support to Romany gypsy children. Twigg stated: "Gypsy traveller pupils present many challenges for schools. There are issues of racism, discrimination, stereotyping and a need for better links between parents and teachers. Schools must overcome these challenges and make sure that the pupils get as good an education as everyone else." Dean Vine, 16, a Romany gypsy from Kent who studied in Thamesview secondary school, told BBC Radio Four Friday: "People think gypsies are dirty and smelly, that they beg and they thieve and walk around wearing lots of gold. "When people say things like that, I say to them that they should come round to my house to have a look at it, and then they would see that it is probably cleaner than lots of other people's houses." Don Rossiter, a language support teacher with Kent's ethnic minority advisory service, believes far more needs to be done to incorporate Romany gypsy history and culture into the national curriculum. Although it will take a while before the Sanskrit-speaking Romany gypsy children are accorded the same attention and space as Asians in British schools, a beginning has been made by the new initiative launched by Twigg.

    27/8/2003- Racist abuse is on the increase in Glasgow schools, according to a new report. City education chiefs admit the increase - which coincides with a sharp rise in the number of asylum seeker children - is "worrying". And today they pledged a crackdown. Last year schools recorded a rise of 14% in the number of instances of racial harassment - up 51 to 420. In 1996 there were 243 cases reported. Education director Ronnie O'Connor's report to go before councillors tomorrow says that last year, in 77 cases, asylum seekers were the victims. He added the numbers of asylum seeker pupils had risen sharply, from around 550 pupils in December 2000, to 1200 in December 2001 and 1700 by December 2002. In 87% of cases, white youths are responsible, with Pakistanis making up the largest group of victims, followed by people of African or Caribbean origin. Education convener Steven Purcell said he was not prepared to accept racial harassment in the city's schools. The convener added: "It is entirely unacceptable and flies in the face of the positive experience the vast majority of asylum seekers have when they come to Glasgow because we are a friendly city which has always welcomed immigrants." Mohammid Asif, chairman of the Scottish Afghan Society and spokesman for Glasgow asylum seekers, called for education chiefs to act. And Mohammid Razaq, project manager of the West of Scotland Racial Equality Council, added: "This is a concern to us. I think education is one part of the solution. But it's also about everyone working together to achieve better community relations."
    ©Evening Times

    Immigrant populations in the UK are at higher risk from mental and physical illness, a study commissioned by the Department of Health has suggested. Problems with access to facilities, an inability to speak the language, and racism within the adopted country all contribute to the relatively poor health of minority groups, researchers say. "Out of six ethnic minority groups, there was only one which had a health equivalent to the general population, which was the Irish group," James Nazroo, a reader in sociology at University College London, which was asked to produce the survey. "All of the other groups have worse health." However, the health of immigrant populations varied from group to group, with those from South Asia worst off. Mr Nazroo told BBC World Service's Health Matters programme:"The poorest groups - the Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups - had really very poor health in comparison with everybody else. "The other groups had worse health, but nowhere near as bad."

    Trouble fitting in
    Studies carried out in various countries have long indicated that migrants often have higher rates of mental illness that either the native-born people or the population of their country of origin. One example is schizophrenia. As far back as 1932, Norwegian psychiatrists were studying the rates of schizophrenia amongst Norwegians, Americans, and the US Norwegian immigrant population. They found that the immigrants had much higher rates. The causes were described as being due to "alienation and vulnerability." The Centre for Mental Health Services Development (CMHSD) at King's College, London, has been trying to establish the factors that cause immigrants to feel this way. "People who are classed as refugees and asylum seekers come to Britain - and they may have been victims of torture, they may have been threatened or experienced distress in a number of ways - this is exacerbated when they come to a new country," the CMHSD's Melba Wilson told Health Matters. "They don't speak the language, they don't know how to access services. "They are afraid to approach people in positions of authority because often their status is very precarious. "That all leads to increased isolation and a sense of increased vulnerability." She added that often by the time any symptoms were recognised it was too late. "By the time people are able to access service - for example through their GPs, if they are lucky enough to be able to get one - they are then in a very advanced state of crisis," she said. "Issues that may have been dealt with in very straightforward ways are exacerbated and therefore the stress and distress that people experience is made worse."

    However, Ms Wilson added that she felt there was "a lack of cultural understanding in the mental health system" that could lead to patients being misdiagnosed. "For example schizophrenia is a very common diagnosis for people who are African-Caribbean," she said. "There is a raging debate - and has been for a number of years now - as to whether that is an accurate diagnosis, because a schizophrenia diagnosis is more a kind of catch-all phrase for when professionals are not quite sure." But Robin Murray, professor of psychiatry at the Maudsley hospital in London, denied that the system was to blame. "We would expect the same rates of delusions and hallucinations between Caribbean immigrants and their children as the white population - we actually have six times more," he conceded. But he said it was society that was causing the problems for immigrants that were adversely affecting their health. "Probably five out of the six individuals presenting with these kind of symptoms from the Caribbean community have major factors of social adversity in their lives, which are propelling them to develop psychotic symptoms," he said. He added that surveys had proved doctors were actually more, not less, reluctant to diagnose a patient as schizophrenic if they were black, aware of cultural factors in some ethnic populations. "We can exclude the possibility that this [difference] is due to racial prejudice, or bias or misdiagnosis, on the part of psychiatrists. "What we cannot do is exclude the possibility that this high rate is a consequence of discrimination and prejudice in the general population. "I think that this is quite a probable reason."
    ©BBC News

    26/8/2003­ Johan Leman, Director of the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Against Racism , has resigned in protest at the Minister for the Interior's refusal to allow the centre to intervene in negotiations during the Afghan hunger strike crisis. Minister for the Interior Patrick Dewael accused one of the centre's employees of acting subjectively during a hunger strike by rejected Afghan asylum seekers this summer, subsequently preventing the centre from becoming involved in the affair. Some 300 Afghan asylum seekers are still occupying the Sainte-Croix church in Ixelles, Brussels, in protest at an official decision to expel from Belgium a total of 800 Afghan asylum seekers within three to nine months. Legally, one of the centre's roles is to manage contact with new immigrants, and it believes it should have been called upon to intervene during the hunger strike. "Under these circumstances, I cannot function as Director," Leman said in his letter of resignation. Opposition party Christian Democrats CD&V have accused the coalition government of forcing Leman into resigning by making his work increasingly difficult. Leman is thought to have resented the increased political interference in the operation of the centre as well as changes to the organisation's structure, introduced by the last government. The Centre for Equal Opportunities and against Racism became an extremely important tool for raising racism awareness in Belgium and has put constant pressure on succeeding governments to improve race relations
    ©Expatica News

    27/8/2003– Some 8,000 asylum seekers are to be granted residence in Belgium as compensation for the delays in processing their application, the Ministry for the Interior announced Wednesday. Minister for the Interior Patrick Dewael made the announcement while some300 rejected Afghan refugees continued their hunger strike protest in a Brussels church. Families with children will be able to stay in Belgium if their asylum procedure has not been completed within three years; for singles and childless couples the period will be four years. Asylum seekers who have not received a decision from the authorities within this period of time will have to file an individual application with the immigration authorities. Three hundred Afghans refused food in protest at the rejection of 1,100 requests for political asylum from Afghan refugees this summer. The majority of the rejected asylum seekers had waited two years for the decision after having arrived in the country at the end of 2001 and beginning of 2002 in the weeks following the US intervention in Afghanistan. The measure however only affects asylum seekers who made their application before January 2001, meaning that the repatriation of all 1,100 Afghan refugees from Belgian soil will not be affected.
    ©Expatica News

    Switzerland's involvement in the African slave trade runs deeper than the history books suggest.

    As Unesco marks the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, history professor Hans Fässler told swissinfo it was time Switzerland faced up to its past. Being a landlocked country did not stop Switzerland from playing its part in the transatlantic slave trade triangle, linking West Africa, America and Europe between the 16th and 19th centuries. Swiss banks, for example, owned as much as a third of the Compagnie des Indes, a French company that held a monopoly over the West African slave trade, while trading houses financed and did business with slave traders. Now that slavery has been internationally recognised as a crime against humanity, Fässler says Switzerland should take a fresh look at its past.

    swissinfo: How do you explain the international community's increasing interest in the African slave trade?
    Hans Fässler: These international remembrance days reflect above all the willingness of countries, including Switzerland, to shed light on their past. These days there are many calls for reflection but also for an analysis of the consequences of slavery on today's world. We had to wait for the end of the Cold War before nations were ready to re-examine that chapter of history. Beforehand, the subject was completely taboo and those who brought the subject up were considered enemies of the state. But the repercussions of colonisation and the slave trade are too important to be ignored. So much so that the global conference against racism in Durban in 2001 reopened the debate by recognising the transatlantic slave trade as a crime against humanity.

    swissinfo: What concrete steps has Switzerland taken towards shedding some light on this chapter of its history?
    H.F.: In the political arena, it's an issue that still needs to advance. But in the academic sphere, Switzerland's role is coming under increasing scrutiny. Basel is trying to organise an international conference on the matter, while a book on Switzerland's participation in the slave trade will be published shortly.

    swissinfo: Why is this issue so important in your opinion?
    H.F.: Like all western countries, Switzerland must answer questions over the source of its wealth. Following the legal cases involving victims of the Nazi and Apartheid regimes, Switzerland must now look at this other chapter of its history.

    swissinfo: So, is it a case of waiting for new compensation claims?
    H.F.: Certain groups are looking into it. The main countries involved in the African slave trade are asking that western countries recognise their responsibilities. For my part, I believe that Europe has an obligation to right its wrongs, but how it will do so still has to be decided. It could do so through symbolic acts, such as setting up new channels of cooperation with African countries, or by paying what they're owed through development aid.
    ©NZZ Online

    25/8/2003- With immigration set to be one of the key issues in this year's Swiss elections, a group of Zurich immigrants have launched their own political campaign. Representing second-generation Swiss in particular, the "Second@s Plus" organisation is putting forward a list of parliamentary candidates, entirely composed of immigrants. In order to stand for election to parliament, all 33 people on the Second@s Plus list have to be Swiss nationals. However, none of them were born Swiss. With roots in China, Turkey, Somalia and 17 other countries, the candidates have all come through Switzerland's lengthy naturalisation process and say they now want to represent all foreigners in Switzerland - including those with no Swiss passport and no right to vote. "The Swiss government has already promised to ease naturalisation laws for third-generation immigrants," campaign organiser Roberto Rodriguez points out. "But we think it's too little, too late.

    Automatic naturalisation
    "We want them to grant automatic naturalisation for second generation Swiss as well as lowering the waiting time for other immigrants to five years. In addition, we want the rules on naturalisation procedures to be decided at a national rather than local level." Although partially backed by the Social Democratic Party, one of four parties represented in the Swiss government, Second@s Plus officials say they are running an independent campaign. Indeed they claim that their organisation grew out of frustration with the country's mainstream political parties. "It's important that we get to represent ourselves, rather than have Swiss politicians trying to speak for us," insists Rodriguez. "The 33 candidates on our list haven't had to learn about immigration by reading sociology reports – they've learned from their personal experiences."

    Poster campaign
    The son of a Ugandan father and Ukrainian mother, 32-year-old Andrew Katumba is one of the Second@s Plus candidates. His face is becoming well-known around Zurich, and Switzerland as a whole, following the group's eye-catching first poster campaign. Winking at the camera, the dark-skinned Katumba is shown above a caption that reads, "If more and more Swiss are feeling like negroes, then the Swiss parliament needs to get itself a real one." The caption plays on a planned poster campaign by the St Gallen branch of the rightwing Swiss People's Party, in which the party claimed that the Swiss were "always the negroes". The People's Party denied that the campaign was racist, insisting it merely referred to a popular Swiss saying. But the Second@s wasted little time in forming their own response. "When they came up with the idea for our poster, I did have to sleep on the idea," Katumba admits, "because of the wording and because it's taking on a rival, possibly racist, poster. "But I think it was important to respond directly to the People's Party campaign, and the reaction that we've had from all over Switzerland has been very positive."

    First black in parliament?
    If elected, Katumba could become Switzerland's first black parliamentarian, although he says he'd be happy to share the honour with others. "I'm not the only black standing for election. I know of at least two others who are standing in Neuchâtel and Biel. But Switzerland is a small country and it takes time to fight for ideas – after all, it took until 1971 for all women to get the vote here. "But there does seem to be a movement starting now, and when you have 1.5 million people living in Switzerland without a vote, then it's clearly time for a change." Although small parties traditionally have little chance of winning a seat in the national parliament, the Second@s Plus team believes it can buck the trend with support from young voters and fellow immigrants. "There are no precise numbers as to the number of immigrants living in Zurich with Swiss passports," Rodriguez points out, "because once they get their passports they stop being classified as foreigners. "However, I know that we have up to 18,000 naturalised Italians living in Zurich, and if just half of those come out and vote for us, it would be enough for us to get one or two seats in parliament."

    Rival lists
    The Second@s are not the only group in Zurich concentrating on the issue of immigration. The Alternative List, a more radical leftwing party, has also issued its own list of 33 naturalised Swiss, with roots in 17 different countries. Despite the common approach, Alternative List spokeswoman Manuela Schiller told swissinfo that her party would not be limiting itself purely to questions of naturalisation but tackling all forms of inequality, both for Swiss nationals and foreigners. The Zurich branch of the People's Party has meanwhile come up with its own variation on the immigrant theme, composing a list made up entirely of Swiss citizens based abroad. The party, which has issued a similar list in Basel, is hoping to woo voters from Switzerland's large ex-pat community, which is estimated at around 600,000 people. Although the People's Party are firmly opposed to the Second@s' calls for a softer naturalisation process, the similar tactical approaches taken by both parties in their Zurich campaigns appear to send out a joint message – that immigration will be one of the hottest topics in this year's election.
    ©NZZ Online

    25/8/2003- Germany and Italy agreed to cooperate in interior and immigration policy issues, which include a planned European border police and the deportation of immigrants whose asylum bids are rejected, the German interior ministry said. The agreement was the result of a meeting between German interior minister Otto Schily and his Italian counterpart Giuseppe Pisanu in Sardinia last weekend. Schily and Pisanu discussed ways to coordinate European border controls, a previous object of contention as Italy has so far rejected a joint European border police envisaged by Schily. According to the Italian Corriere della Sera newspaper, the two ministers agreed that Germany should manage the control of borders on land, while Italy should coordinate airport controls and Spain and Greece should supervise policing the Mediterranean. However, the question of finance was amongst the issues still unresolved, the paper said Sunday.

    Schily and Pisanu also agreed that biometric data should be included in visa documents in the near future to help the fight against international terrorism. Both ministers urged to speed up a European-wide system for identifying foreigners via visa. According to the German Spiegel news magazine, foreigners in need of a visa would be asked to provide a fingerprint and a photo before being allowed to enter the Schengen member states. Both would be stored digitally in the passport so that they could be checked against criminal records, the magazine reported. Individual EU member states have cooperated on immigration policy matters in the past, but the idea of a European border police had so far been opposed in the European council of ministers. Italy would rather see EU subsidies to support its national border police whilst Schily had rejected requests for extra EU finances to national police, it was said The EU's interior ministers are due to resume their discussion of the EU interior and immigration policy during their next scheduled meeting in Rome on 12 September.
    ©Expatica News

    29/8/2003- The new Religious Denominations Act, passed last year by the Bulgarian Government, clashes with the country's commitment to respect religious freedom, according to a report by the United States' Helsinki Commission. "Bulgaria's Law on Religions is out of step with the country's human rights agreements to respect religious freedom," reads the report from August 15. It continues to criticise the privileges accorded to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and registrations placed on other denominations by the new legislation. These include a requirement that all other religions must register in court and apply for a licence to practice in Bulgaria. The report highlights sections of the act that need further evaluation and legislative refinement, and suggests ways that Bulgaria, which is a signatory to the Helsinki Accords, can bring its laws into conformity with the country's human rights commitments. "Bulgaria will take over the presidency of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe next year, but at the same time the country does not follow the rules of religious freedom," the chair of the Helsinki Commission, Christopher Smith, was quoted as saying by Deutsche Welle. "I sincerely urge my Bulgarian counterparts to seriously consider the recommendations in this report," he said. The legislation also contradicts the European Convention on Human Rights and some of Bulgaria's commitments under the pre-accession negotiations with the EU, according to the former Council of Europe observer on Bulgaria, David Atkinson. "The criteria of the European Union are such and we must consider them since we are on the way to Europe," Atkinson said.

    The Religious Denominations Act was passed the Bulgarian National Assembly on December 20, 2002. At the time it was reported that certain religious communities were overlooked or were not invited to take part in consultations during the hurried drafting process. The Bulgarian Constitutional Court reviewed the act on July 16, 2003. Six of the court's 12 judges ruled against it and five in favour. Under Bulgarian law, seven judges must rule against a law for it to be overturned. Osman Oktai, MP, said the law discriminates against minority religious denominations in Bulgaria by granting a privileged status to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Despite this, the head of the Muslim faith in Bulgaria, Selim Mehmed, said that he would respect the new law because "all of us are Bulgarian citizens." Domenico Contestabile, an Italian senator and member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) visited Bulgaria in June to assess whether religious freedom and other human rights are being upheld in the country. His visit, the first visit of its kind since 2000 when PACE decided to discontinue religious monitoring of Bulgaria, was in response to the introduction of the act.
    ©Sofia Echo

    Military spooks are hunting white supremacists at the Edmonton Garrison.

    29/8/2003- Members of the highly secretive Canadian Forces National Counter-intelligence Unit have been brought in to investigate claims of a white supremacist presence at the base. "I can't give much in the way of detail at this point but I can say that allegations of this nature are taken very seriously," said Department of National Defence spokesman Capt. Mark Giles. "The vast majority of members of the Canadian Forces and people who work at the Department of National Defence are not racist, but we have to be constantly vigilant for the few bad apples." Giles said the unit is looking at around a half-dozen members of the military across Canada suspected of being involved with white supremacists or in sympathy with them. At least one of the suspects is in Edmonton. Giles said the investigation in Edmonton began about a month ago. "If any Criminal Code offences or offences under the National Defence Act are substantiated, the investigation will be turned over to the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service," he explained.

    The Counter Intelligence Unit's brief is to identify and counter threats to the Canadian Forces from a variety of sources including terrorists, criminal gangs, extremist groups and foreign agents. It's so secret that many members of the military are unaware of it. Calls to the unit's detachment at the Edmonton Garrison are always met with polite but firm refusals to discuss its role or operations. The National Investigation Service is part of the military police. Giles said he could not comment on whether "white pride" Web sites are part of the current investigation. A Web site used to organize a rally outside the Legislature last weekend features messages from two people claiming to be members of the military. One message advises an Alberta woman considering joining the navy not to discuss her racial beliefs with recruiters. "The Web site may contain genuine messages from soldiers. I don't know," said Giles. "But a lot of people make up all kinds of lives and claims for themselves on these chat message boards."

    Allegations of racism played a big part in the decision to disband the Canadian Airborne Regiment in 1995. A videotape of a hazing ritual showed a black soldier with the letters KKK (Ku Klux Klan) painted on his back being doused with white powder and forced to crawl around on all fours with a dog leash on his neck. The soldier told investigators he did not feel he was being racially abused. Another video showed members of the regiment in Somalia talking about "smashing niggers" and "ain't killed enough niggers." In 1997 a member of the Royal Canadian Regiment was kicked out of the military for racism.
    ©Edmonton Sun

    By Gwynne Dyer, London-based independent journalist

    26/8/2003- They sent Australian politician Pauline Hanson to jail for three years last week on charges of electoral fraud. The One Nation Party she founded did not have the 500 members she claimed when she registered it in 1997, but only 500 signatures from an unofficial support group. She also defrauded the state of Queensland of A$500,000 (S$570,000) to fight the 1998 election there. Bad Pauline - but she has changed the country anyway. 'The reason I got into politics was to make a difference,' she said earlier this year, when her challenge to the established Australian parties had already faded. 'When you have the government and the Prime Minister take up your policies, I think you've made a difference.' And that is just what has happened: Mr John Howard, Australia's second longest-serving prime minister, has ensured his longevity by becoming Pauline Hanson in drag.

    Extreme attitudes
    Hanson herself is a familiar phenomenon in democratic politics: A right-wing populist who exploits the issues of race and immigration to create a following. She first ran for Parliament in 1996 as a candidate of Mr Howard's Liberal Party, but was 'deselected' when they realised how extreme she was: Asian immigrants were synonymous with crime and disease, she said, and she wanted to slash government spending on health, education and housing for the desperately poor Aborigines. It turned out that a lot of Australians felt the same way. Hanson won her seat as an independent in 1996, and founded One Nation the following year. In its first national election, in 1998, it won an astonishing 8 per cent of the vote. Politicians of the Hanson ilk are part of the political ecology in every country: They come along every week or so, like cold fronts. So why did she first take Australia by storm, and then find the country's leading mainstream politician stealing her clothes? Because Australia is not the country it thinks it is, or would like to be. It is a much more old-fashioned, conservative place with a few big cities that seem cosmopolitan - but even in Perth or Brisbane you'll often hear casual racist remarks of a sort that died out a generation ago in big cities elsewhere in the English-speaking world. All the major Australian political parties used to cooperate to keep people like Hanson off their candidate lists. But once she demonstrated how big the market for racism was, their common front broke. The first sign of what was to come was Mr Howard's refusal to condemn Hanson's One Nation Party in the 1998 election. Mr Howard is not a racist. He is just a skilled political operator who recognises what works, and is not hampered by a serious case of scruples. His Liberal Party began to steal bits of Hanson's agenda - and then two years ago came the golden opportunity of the Tampa, a Norwegian freighter that rescued 434 Afghans from a sinking ship in the Indian Ocean and headed for Australian territory with them. The Afghans had been heading for Australia anyway, with the intention of claiming asylum. But international law obliged Australia to allow these survivors of shipwreck, huddled together on the decks of a freighter in the tropical sun, to come ashore at the nearest port. Mr Howard, only weeks away from an election and lagging in the polls, refused to let them land. And when the captain of the Tampa ignored Canberra's instructions and kept steaming towards Australian territory, Mr Howard sent the Australian Navy and Special Air Service troops to seize the ship. Most Australians cheered his action, for they had already half-accepted the line peddled by Hanson and echoed by dozens of 'shock-jock' radio call-in hosts that the country was being inundated with illegal immigrants.

    Redneck rhetoric
    In fact, Australia only gets a few thousand 'illegals' a year, far fewer than most other rich countries (and it takes in a smaller share of legal immigrants than most of them, too). However, in matters of this sort, perception is everything - and the perception is that Australia is being overrun by non-whites. The Afghans on the Tampa were dispersed to various Pacific islands without ever touching Australian soil, there to be held in camps while they were sorted through by Australian immigration officers. A few weeks later, Mr Howard won the election, collecting most of the votes that once went to Hanson's party (which had virtually destroyed itself in vicious internal battles in the meantime). And now Hanson has gone to jail, but she has left Australia a changed place. What was once redneck talk shunned by educated people is now part of the national political discourse, and the lurid fears of the racists are seen as reasonable concerns that need to be addressed. The principal beneficiary of this shift is none other than Mr Howard, whose Liberal Party disowned Hanson and her ideas only seven years ago. As one Australian commentator said: 'He is a genius of sorts. 'He looks this country in the face and sees us not as we wish we were, not as one day we might be, but exactly as we are.'
    ©The Straits Times Interactive

    By Elizabeth Martinez

    25/8/2003- Peoples of color are being hurt more than ever today, thanks to the "Permanent War on Terrorism" and the war at home. It, therefore, seems more important than ever to build alliances between our peoples who have similar struggles for liberation from poverty and racism, for peace with justice. This open letter is offered in that spirit.

    The media have been full of it this year, with such headlines as "Hispanics Now Largest Minority," "America's Ethnic Shift," "Latinos pass blacks unless you count black Latinos" and "Hispanics Pass Blacks." We even hear late-night TV host Jay Leno 'joke' to his musician (a Black man) that since Latinos are now the largest minority - not African Americans - he and the musician are minorities together.

    As Latino/a teachers, activists, community people, students, artists and writers, we stand fiercely opposed to anyone making those statistics a reason to forget the unique historical experience of African Americans, the almost unimaginable inhumanity of slavery lasting centuries, the vast distance that remains on their long walk to freedom. We cannot let whatever meager attention has been given to the needs of Black people up to now be diminished by those new statistics.

    In the Latino/a community we will combat the competitiveness that could feed on those headlines and blind some of our people to the truth of this society. We will combat the opportunism that is likely to intensify among Latino politicians and professionals. We celebrate the unique resistance by African Americans over the centuries, which has provided an inspiring example for our communities as shown by the Chicano movement of 1965-75. We affirm the absolute necessity of standing with you against racist oppression, exploitation and repression - the real axis of evil - and of supporting your demand for reparations.

    Latinos/as who may find it hard to see beyond their own poverty, their own struggles against racism - which are indeed real - need to think about one simple truth. Only solidarity and alliances with others will create the strength needed to win justice.

    Those newly announced statistics emphasize difference and pit Brown against Black like athletes racing against each other in the Oppression Olympics. But other numbers show how much we share the same problems of being denied a decent life, education, health care and all human rights. In times of war, look who fights and dies for the United States out of all proportion to our populations: Black and Brown people.

    To put it bluntly: We are both being screwed, so let's get it together!

    History makes the message clear. It is worth recalling a major reason why George Washington - the invader who wasn't our Great White Father any more than yours - became president. He made a name for himself by successfully using the tactic of divide and conquer against different native nations and tribes. Divide and conquer, later divide and control, has sustained White supremacy ever since. It will continue to do so unless we cry out a joint, unmistakable, thunderous NO.

    That will not be easy. Our peoples have different histories and cultures, together with great ignorance about each other. Competition for scarce resources, from jobs to funding for university departments, can be real. Latinos/as do not always see how in a nation so deeply rooted in racism, they may have internalized the value system of White supremacy and White privilege

    As Latinos/as, we are committed to help build alliances against our common enemies. We oppose the divisiveness encouraged by statistics about who is more numerous than who. As activists, we urge our community to support Black struggles and to fight together at every opportunity for our peoples' liberation. As educators, we work to teach about both Black and Brown history, and our past alliances. As men and women, we can never do too much to assert our common humanity across color lines.

    Last, but hardly least, Latinas/os are a very diverse people with many different nationalities and histories. We also have various roots. In particular, we should recall that more Africans were brought to Mexico as slaves than the number of Spaniards who came, as can be seen by the all-African villages in Mexico today. The African in us demands proud recognition.


  • Dr. Rodolfo Acuña, historian and author, California State University at Northridge
  • Juan Carlos Aguilar, program director, Solidago Foundation, Northampton, Mass.
  • Gloria Anzaldúa, writer, scholar and spiritual activist, Santa Cruz, Calif.
  • Ricardo Ariza, director, multicultural affairs, Creighton University, Omaha, Neb.
  • Frank Bonilla, professor, University of California-Riverside and professor emeritus, Hunter College, N.Y.
  • Roberto Calderon, associate professor, history, University of North Texas, Denton
  • Antonia Castañeda, associate professor, history, St. Mary's College, San Antonio, Texas
  • Marta Cruz-Jansen, associate professor, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton.
  • Raoul Contreras, associate professor, Latino Studies, Indiana University-NW, Gary.
  • Kaira Espinosa, student activist, San Francisco State University at San Francisco
  • Estevan Flores, executive director, Latino/a Research & Policy Center, University of Colorado, Denver
  • Bill Gallegos, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Los Angeles
  • César Garza, graduate student, Loyola University, Chicago
  • Yolanda Broyles-Gonzales, professor, Chicano Studies, University of California-Santa Barbara
  • Francisco Herrera, community singer and activist, San Francisco
  • Jacque Larrainzar, musician and civil rights activist, Puerto Rico
  • Aya de León, writer, performer and activist, Berkeley, Calif.
  • Emma Lozana, director, Centro Sin Fronteras, Chicago
  • Jennie Luna, teacher, danzante and activist, New York
  • Roberto Maestas, executive director and co-founder, El Centro de La Raza, Seattle
  • Frank Martín del Campo, president, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, San Francisco
  • Elizabeth "Betita" Martínez, author, activist and teacher, San Francisco
  • Adelita Medina, free-lance journalist, New York
  • Roberto Miranda, editor-in-chief, "Spanish Journal," Milwaukee, Wis.
  • Carlos Montes, board president, Centro Community Service Center, Los Angeles
  • Richard Moore, executive director, Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Cherríe Moraga, author and playwright, San Francisco
  • Aurora Levins Morales, writer, historian, educator and organizer, Berkeley, Calif.
  • Ricardo Levins Morales, artist, educator and organizer, Minneapolis
  • Estela Ortega, director of operations and co-founder, El Centro de la Raza, Seattle
  • Joe Navarro, school teacher, poet and activist, Hollister, Calif.
  • José Palafox, doctoral candidate and filmmaker, U.C.-Berkeley
  • Eric Quezada, housing activist, San Francisco
  • Raúl Quiñones-Rosado and María Reinat-Pumarejo, Institute for Latino Empowerment, Caguas, Puerto Rico
  • Marianna Rivera, Educator, Zapatista Solidarity Coalition, Sacramento
  • Dr. Julia E. Curry Rodriguez, assistant professor, San Jose State University,
  • Victor M. Rodriguez, Crossroads Ministry board member and associate professor, California State University-Long Beach
  • Graciela Sánchez, executive director, Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, San Antonio, Texas
  • John Santos, musician, author, educator and founder of Machete Ensemble, Oakland, Calif.
  • Renée Saucedo, activist-attorney and director Day Labor Program, San Francisco
  • Olga Talamante, executive director, Chicana/Latina Foundation, Pacifica, Calif.
  • Luis "Bato" Talamantez, human rights activist, former political prisoner and poet, San Francisco
  • Piri Thomas, author, poet and activist, Albany, Calif.
  • Dr. Mercedes Lynn Uriarte, professor of journalism, University of Texas, Austin
  • Leonard Valdez, director, Multi-Cultural Center, California State University at Sacramento

    The letter was prepared by Elizabeth Martínez, longtime activist, author and director of the Institute for MultiRacial Justice, in consultation with Phil Hutchings, last chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and co-founder of the Institute and currently an activist in Oakland
    Send comments or suggestions to the Institute in San Francisco
    ©Sacramento Observer

    By Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

    20/8/2003- The bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad on 19 August, which killed at least 23 people, dramatically demonstrated the vulnerability of humanitarian workers to attack and exposed the fragility of efforts to restore democracy and justice in Iraq months after major combat operations ceased. The death toll included 14 UN staff members and the UN's top envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who also served as the UN high commissioner for human rights. The bombers were "enemies of the civilized world," U.S. President George W. Bush declared, as throughout the day horrified UN employees watched television reports first of de Mello trapped in the rubble after the blast, calling on his cellular telephone and receiving water, then dying of his injuries. "Sergio was not only an accomplished diplomat, but a true humanitarian," Kenneth Roth, executive director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement published on the organization's website. "It is tragic he should end up the victim of the kind of war crime he fought so hard to prevent."

    Vieira de Mello, appointed as Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special representative, had temporarily left his post as high commissioner for human rights and assumed a mandate to "assist the Iraqi people and those responsible for the administration of this land to achieve freedom, the possibility of managing their own destiny and determining their own future," "The New York Times" quoted him as saying on 19 August. Nearly a year into his job as high commissioner and only 2 1/2 months in Iraq, at the time of his death Vieira de Mello was working on such issues as the establishment of a justice system to address numerous human rights atrocities. In July, Vieira de Mello had convened a conference of international scholars and Iraqi experts to discuss what kind of justice system should be established to deal with war crimes, and to prosecute deposed President Saddam Hussein, should he be caught. Wary of international courts, U.S. officials have discussed trials in an U.S. military tribunal for Iraqis who commit crimes against Americans. The U.S. appeared to lean toward an Iraqi-led process for war criminals. Concerned about both the limited effect of "victors' justice" and the incapacity of the Iraqi system, the UN advocated a different approach. In a briefing to the Security Council in July, Vieira de Mello said, "I believe there is much merit in considering the establishment of a mixed Iraqi and international panel of experts to consider in detail the options that would best suit Iraq." Vieira de Mello stayed shy of advocating an international tribunal, but held out for the prospect of international participation.

    While serving as the UN's envoy in Iraq responsible for coordinating humanitarian relief and other issues, Vieira de Mello maintained a profile on human rights. "I consider the development of a culture of human rights in Iraq as fundamental to stability and true peace in that country," the UN's news agency IRIN quoted him as saying in June as he headed to Iraq. "Respect for human rights is the only solid foundation for durable peace and for development. I shall place particular importance...on the need to insure women's rights and their full participation in the consultative process -- at least the political one." Sadly, Vieira de Mello's remarks at a press conference before heading out to Iraq were prescient. "Security has not been completely restored and it is impossible to deal with the rest and to build what we want to build -- democratic institutions and a real culture of human rights and political processes...without security," he said.

    A charismatic diplomat in a world where officials often hide from the public, Vieira de Mello was seen as the "go-to guy" for assisting newly-independent states in high-risk neighborhoods through turbulent postwar reconstruction periods. The career of Vieira de Mello, 55, a Brazilian national, illustrates the world's worst hotspots in recent decades. He came to work at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva in 1969. He served in Bangladesh when it won its independence from Pakistan; in Cyprus following the 1974 Turkish invasion; in Cambodia; in Kosova following the NATO bombing to dislodge Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He also headed the UN office in East Timor from 2000-02 to prepare it for independence. UN-watchers surmised that de Mello would eventually become secretary-general.

    Some NGOs were critical of the appointment of de Mello to Iraq because they believed he already had a full plate as high commissioner for human rights, having to cope with challenging issues ranging from the wholesale slaughter of civilians in Liberia and the lack of international response to the ongoing trauma of displacement and killings in Chechnya, where the UN has had to work more quietly. In a public statement issued at the time of his appointment, Amnesty International said the jobs of special envoy and human rights commissioner should not be combined. Bertrand Ramcharan, a seasoned diplomat with 30 years of experience, had already been named acting high commissioner and is currently remaining in the post. Vieira de Mello had intended to return to his original position in Geneva within the next two months, colleagues said, as the mission to Iraq was not intended for the long term.

    Dubbed a "bureaucratic black belt" by those who worked closely with him, Vieira de Mello was known as an insider talented at navigating the troubled currents of UN politics but quietly pushing to get things done. He had been picked for his current position and past jobs for just that quality, and human rights experts believed he was effective particularly in strengthening the UN's field missions and in tackling such issues as the internally displaced in war zones. Some wished for a more high-profile impact. Human Rights Watch's Roth told the "Los Angeles Times" at the time of his appointment in 2002 that Vieira de Mello would have to "prove he could stand up to governments" and "be a clear and resounding voice on behalf of the victims." In the end, as in so many attacks on humanitarian workers around the world, governments and their actions were not immediately at issue, as Vieira de Mello was most likely victimized by non-state actors who had chosen terrorism as their method.

    Some UN observers perceived Vieira de Mello as less outspoken than his predecessor in the human rights job, former Irish President Mary Robinson, who managed to rankle all five permanent members of the Security Council with her candid criticisms of human rights abuses, particularly in conjunction with the war on terrorism following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. While more discreet, Vieira de Mello and his staff continued to make public criticism on human rights issues, including interventions with the Russian government on the question of forced return of displaced persons from Ingushetia to Chechnya, which Vieira de Mello said in a 14 April BBC interview was being done against their will. He also arranged for Ramcharan to visit all the Central Asian nations earlier this year due to mounting concerns about human rights conditions in the region.

    While most of the world's attention for Iraq has focused on the killing of soldiers and journalists, humanitarian workers have also been targeted. Like dozens of other humanitarian workers, both locals and foreigners, around the world, they were unarmed and open to attack, especially as they began to encounter information about massive human rights abuses. Increasingly, as civil wars take their greatest toll on civilians, the humanitarian workers and human rights investigators who come to aid the population themselves fall under attack. Before the Baghdad blast, 18 workers were killed in 2003, in Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The UN is considering a resolution to protect such workers, but NGOs say that unless the U.S. and other countries make a commitment to provide overall military security, such expressions of support will have no teeth. U.S. leaders have been reluctant to extend security forces, not only because they are not equipped for the job of policing but because they themselves can draw fire. The Baghdad blast will undoubtedly call also into question whether human rights investigations and work in reconstructing civil society can reasonably be performed in what essentially remains a combat zone.

    Outright attacks on the UN are not as frequent as those against specific countries such as the United States or Jordan. The latter was a victim of a bomb blast earlier this month at its embassy in Baghdad, where 11 were killed. Experts say those who attacked the UN compound in Baghdad may have associated the UN with the U.S. presence in Iraq, and may also have wanted to specifically target Vieira de Mello. L. Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, said there were indications that the truck bomb crashed deliberately into the compound just beneath de Mello's third-floor office, "The New York Times" reported on 19 August.

    The UN is often disparaged by governments frustrated with the inaction of its bureaucracy. Civilians in areas of armed conflict often complain that the UN is helpless to assist them and is even forced to cooperate with their persecutors to keep a presence on the ground in war zones. It is only at times when humanitarians fall in the line of duty that belated recognition comes for their sacrifices and the small but important victories they are able to achieve under hellish circumstances. Speaking of East Timor, Vieira de Mello once said, "You don't change it into a Garden of Eden in two years" but added, "we have laid solid bases for the country to live in peace."

    8/8/2003— The 300 failed Afghan asylum seekers on hunger strike in a Brussels church have called for talks with Belgian Interior Minister Patrick Dewael, despite the appointment Thursday of Victor Bricout as mediator in the crisis. The refugees said they did not expect anything from Bricout and said they were offended that Dewael has not talked to them personally. Dewael, who has repeatedly said no collective measure would be on offer for the hunger striking refugees and that he would not be intimidated by their actions, appointed the mediator with the aim that Bricout could fully explain the government's view regarding the asylum seekers' imminent repatriation. But the failed asylum seekers have pointed out that international reports say Afghanistan is not a safe country. They say they do not understand why Belgium maintains the country is safe, yet advises Belgians not to travel there. So far, the government has said it is prepared to review the cases of those who applied for asylum before 1 January 2000. An appeal commission is reviewing applications of the others. All the asylum seekers are allowed to stay in Belgium until the summer of next year. By that time, a new assessment will be prepared on the security situation in Afghanistan. The report will be the basis of a final decision of the government in this sensitive issue. Attempts at mediation by both Refugee Commissioner Pascal Smet and a high-ranking UN High Commission for Refugees official have failed since the onset of the strike some 15 days ago. The group has been refusing food in protest at the rejection of 1,100 requests for political asylum from Afghan refugees. The Red Cross has confirmed that several are already in the advanced stages of starvation. The majority of the rejected asylum seekers had waited two years for the decision after having arrived in the country at the end of 2001 and beginning of 2002 in the weeks following the US intervention in Afghanistan.
    ©Expatica News

    11/8/2003— A group of some 300 Afghans and local supporters are continuing their hunger strike in a Brussels church to demand a halt to the planned expulsion from Belgium of 1,100 Afghan asylum seekers. Interior Minister Patrick Dewael has agreed for Belgium's federal ombudsman Pierre-Yves Monette to mediate for an end to the protest, at the Sainte-Croix church in Ixelles, after earlier negotiations failed. Dewael had earlier sent a retired magistrate to negotiate with the Afghans but they rejected his demand that they halt their hunger strike before continuing discussions. So far, the government has said it is prepared to review the cases of those who applied for asylum before 1 January 2000. An appeal commission is reviewing applications of the others. The failed asylum seekers have pointed out that international reports say Afghanistan is not a safe country. They say they do not understand why Belgium maintains the country is safe while also advising Belgians not to travel there. All the asylum seekers are allowed to stay in Belgium until the summer of next year. By that time, a new assessment will be prepared on the security situation in Afghanistan. The report will be the basis of a final decision of the government in this sensitive issue. A Belgian lawyer acting for the protesting Afghans said on Sunday the protesters had made concessions and no longer insisted on a collective solution to the crisis.
    ©Expatica News

    14/8/2003– There was growing concern Thursday for the safety of some 300 Afghan asylum seekers occupying a Brussels church as they began the fourth week of their hunger strike after negotiations with the government broke down overnight. The group, who have taken over the Sainte-Croix church in Ixelles, began their hunger strike 23 days ago in protest at an official decision to expel from Belgium a total of 800 Afghan asylum seekers within three to nine months. They claim their return to Afghanistan would put their lives at risk, despite a Belgian government assessment that the country is now safe. Belgium's official ombudsman, Pierre-Yves Monette, appeared close Wednesday evening to brokering a deal to end the protest, but what he would only describe as "a regretable element" brought an end to the discussions. "We have just lived through a very difficult moment," said Monette early Thursday morning. "We had almost arrived at a solution. At a particular moment a regretable element caused the collapse in the confidence necessary in any process of negotiation."

    The protestors are understood to have been furious at an announcement by Belgian Interior Minister Patrick Dewael, whose handling of the crisis has already come under strong criticism, that the group had agreed to end their hunger strike. Dewael caused outrage among human rights groups when he last week described the protest as "blackmail". Sources close to the negotiations said Monette had agreed with the asylum seekers that they would end the protest in exchange for a pledge from the government that it would review each of the cases of those threatened with expulsion. Representatives of the hunger strikers were waiting for final details from the Interior Ministry when the erroneous communiqué was released, putting an end to the talks, the sources said. When the Afghans began their occupation of the church last month they demanded the Belgian government reversed its decision on all the cases. The Belgian Interior Minister Thursday called on the protestors to heed "an appeal for reason". The condition of the hunger strikers is now causing grave concern, notably that of several pregnant women among the group. Red Cross medics attending the protestors have repeatedly warned of the worsening health of the protestors, some of whom have already been hospitalised. Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has promised all Afghans who applied for asylum before January 2003 could stay in Belgium until July 2004.
    ©Expatica News

    In the mid-1990s the Netherlands was the international example for humane and progressive policies on the treatment of unaccompanied children seeking asylum (AMAs). So why does a recent report by Human Rights Watch suggest new polices violate UN treaties and rob these children of their basic human rights? Mindy Ran investigates.

    13/8/2003- It is a well known — if uncomfortable — fact that children around the world suffer appalling treatment: torture, slavery, forced into child armies, sold into prostitution, imprisoned, starved, assaulted, abused, witness violence against family members, get caught up in wars and sometimes murdered. It is not surprising that each year tens of thousands of these children look to Western Europe as a place of refuge. Children aged from zero to 18 come to the Netherlands from countries such as China, Sierra Leone, Angola, Sudan, Somalia and Rwanda. According to refugee organisations, children travel as stowaways on boats or trains, are brought from war-torn countries by organisations such as the Red Cross, or can be brought in by smugglers or traffickers who are paid by families or communities to bring the children to a place of safety. In the year 2000, 7,000 of these children made their way to the Netherlands. By spring 2003, that number had been halved as a result of new policies brought in by the IND (Immigration and Naturalisation Department) in January and November of 2001, including the development of the now infamous "Campus Project". While Dutch authorities appear to consider this fall in numbers a success, refugee organisations including Human Rights Watch (HRW), VON (Association of Refugee Organisations), VluchtelingenWerk (Dutch Refugee Council), NIDOS (organisation responsible for guardianship) and SAMAH (non-governmental support group) consider the price far too high. In a report sent to the UN Commission on the Rights of the Child, HRW investigations found "children's basic rights are frequently ignored or considered inapplicable during the consideration of their asylum and immigration applications". "It was surprising that the Dutch Government has gone so far out of bounds," says Julie Chadbourne, spokesperson for Human Rights Watch. "To be fair, maybe they didn't realise how far-reaching the consequences would be."

    Children first
    The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified in the Netherlands in 1995 and is the most signed UN treaty, accepted by all UN countries except the US and Somalia. The treaty states that all children regardless of sex, race, nationality or religion are entitled to special care and protection and that the best interests of the child must be the overriding consideration in all actions and decisions concerning them. In other words: they are children first and asylum seekers second. According to the HRW report Fleeting Refuge: the Triumph of Efficiency Over Protection in the Dutch Asylum Policy, not only is the current policy failing to comply with UN treaties by focussing primarily on bringing the numbers of asylum seeking children down, in some cases "IND officials seem to have completely neglected the fact that they are dealing with children". "I had a lawyer on the telephone in tears," says Chadbourne. "The IND interviewed a two-and-a-half year old from Somalia. His mother is dead, his father is terminally ill and because the child won't speak he has now been labelled 'unco-operative'. (Which can be a reason to refuse a permit.) We have all been shocked." Chadbourne points to cases where children as young as four have been interviewed without a lawyer or guardian present. In fact, these children are often not given a lawyer or guardian until after the first interview and information from the first is often used against them in the second. Even in cases where the child is clearly traumatised, the guardian appointed will often only watch the interview through a video from another room. In an interview with HRW, a representative from NIDOS (the organisation responsible for guardianship of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children) stated: "The IND use adult standards. Children of five, six, eight years old who know nothing are interviewed and then IND concludes that they are not credible and therefore cannot benefit from the unaccompanied minors permit". Ironically, IND stipulates that children younger than 12 cannot sign their own asylum applications because they do not know what is in their best interests, but expects them to give correct and full details of travel routes and political implications. In cases of sibling "families", the interviews are compared to test credibility. In the HRW report on one child, "the ten-year-old child could not remember the names of the men in Angola who beat him, made him steal things and take drugs, the seven-year-old said he had lived in the same house his entire life but the eldest brother said the family had been moved to a UNITA camp six years ago, and the drawings the children were asked to make of their house in Angola differed". For these reasons, asylum was denied.

    'Re-victimising children'
    Professor Jaap Doek is a professor of law at the Free University of Amsterdam and the current chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. It is this UN committee that will evaluate the reports by HRW, other refugee organisations and the Dutch government. The policy of the committee allows that when a member's home country is on the agenda, that member is a silent witness to the proceedings. Professor Doek therefore felt able to speak freely. "It's re-victimising children," says Doek. "For quite a number of these children it's adding trauma to trauma. It's a serious matter and I was very surprised to notice that the report of Human Rights Watch was given very little notice in the Dutch parliament. "These children on the run, trying to find refuge in a country like the Netherlands, facing someone unknown in a position of authority, that might be, in itself, a very stressful situation. Children react very differently to adults. The treatment, reported by HRW, suggests that something went wrong when they were trying to reduce the number of children coming to the Netherlands." Certainly the HRW report outlines case after case where unreasonable expectations on the part of the IND have led to refusals of asylum. The system allows little room for appeal. Another problem for refugee organisations is the policy to deal with some children under what is known as the "AC procedure" — an accelerated procedure designed to streamline the process which gives the asylum seeker 48 hours to make their case. Thirty percent of unaccompanied minors' applications are dealt with under this accelerated procedure. Sixty percent of all applications made under this procedure are denied.

    Dangers of the fast-track system
    HRW believes that unaccompanied children seeking asylum should never be put in the AC Procedure, nor should they be interviewed without having been given the time and opportunity to adjust to a new environment. Nathalie Boerenbach is director of SAMAH, an NGO that supports unaccompanied asylum seekers between the ages of 12- 21. "All these children are estranged," she says. "They don't know the climate, the culture, the language or any one in the country. It is the first time they are away from home, the first time they see white people, other religions, other food. That should be the basic from where you start — they are afraid, lonely and traumatised. Boerenbach continues: "At the moment the discussions are all about numbers. They want to cut the numbers and don't see the individual stories anymore. Before they even come to Holland they say in advance that 80–90 percent of asylum seekers have to return to their home countries. For me, that's like a doctor saying he will give 80–90 percent of his patients aspirin". The level of concern is such that the organisations above, and the Dutch Bar Association, have considered making a formal policy against the IND interviewing children under 12. In March of this year, NIDOS (the organisation responsible for guardianship) formally withdrew its co-operation and the IND temporarily suspended interviews for under 12s, but had re-instated them by the end of the month. "It's apparently based on the opinion that these children do not have the same rights as other children in the Netherlands," says Doek. "There is an on-going debate on how much difference you are allowed to make between groups of children". The current policy of the government and the decision of the Ministry of Justice exclude some of these children from the protection of the UN treaty. The decision to apply this protection selectively has so far been upheld in the courts. These legal manoeuvres have angered refugee organisations. "No child will leave their home, their family and their mother for nothing," says Boerenbach. "So, whether they have come through smuggling or war or because their parents were killed and the Red Cross brought them — all the children who end up here are victims." "Why are they are not using the same knowledge and expertise that has already been developed in the Netherlands," asks Doek, "for children who come to the country traumatised with a lot of very, very horrific stories behind them? Why are these children not interviewed in the same careful manner that Dutch children who are victims of abuse are interviewed?" Article 39 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child specifically requires member states to "promote the rehabilitation of children who are victims of any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflicts, and to do so in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child".

    The Campus Project
    The focus and aim of the new policies, and specifically an experiment intended to be developed for use throughout Europe known as the "Campus Projects", appear to many to contravene Article 39 of the UN treaty. "It is a concern of the (UN) Commission," Doek says of the reception many of these children receive into the country, "and applies not only to the Netherlands, that children are being detained. That is not just a place where they can live for a certain period of time, but some of those places are really detention centres". In November 2002, the experimental "Campus Project" was started and, although there has been some discussion in the press as result of violence at the campuses, no serious discussion in the Parliament has taken place. Guus Kramer is a policy maker for COA (Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers), specialising in "return affairs". The COA ensures basics such as housing, maintenance and material resources for asylum seekers. In 2001, the Secretary of State (then a member of the Labour Party PvdA) commissioned COA to develop a new way of receiving unaccompanied minors that matched the demands of a "new return policy", especially for 16 to 17 year olds whose applications for asylum had been denied. This policy states that if you are under 18 and unaccompanied you can remain in the Netherlands only until you are 18, and only because you are a minor. Children who have received asylum status before the age of 14 can apply for permanent residence. Any one older than 15 who has not been granted asylum has to return to their country of origin at 18. COA is in charge of this group and the two Campus Projects. "The Secretary of State defined this form of reception," says Kramer. "It had to be unattractive in order to stop the high influx of AMAs, it had to be solid and safe, contact with the Dutch society had to be avoided because it would not stimulate return, and there had to be a 24-hour programme, 365 days a year. There is also a big investment in education to prepare them for their return." All of the refugee organisations describe the Campus Project as "harsh". Kramer believes there is good reason for the strict regimes. "If you put 60 boys aged 16 or 17 together under these conditions, you can expect management problems," he says. "Therefore, they choose a strict programme, for order; a rookie and senior phase with distinct privileges and some kind of point system for good behaviour. They didn't think of it as a sanction system."

    Yet, the first group of children placed in the Campus Project rioted. Boerenbach was called by one the children to help them. She recalls: "They tried to get to Den Haag (The Hague) to protest at Parliament, but didn't have money for the train. So, the police removed them from the station saying if they could not buy a ticket, they had no right to be there. By then, the police knew some of the children by name because there had been so much trouble". Out of the original group of 44 children, 34 ran away and appealed to SAMAH for help. Boerenbach gave them the money to go to The Hague and protest. She also helped find them shelter in church for five days while she negotiated with the government to return them to normal refugee centres. "Before they ran away," Boerenbach says, "Some children gave interviews to the press. One very intelligent boy from Cameroon said his human rights were not being respected. So they arrested him. The police came, handcuffed him and shoved him to the ground and he was sent to another campus. Then they pointed out five other children and gave them a contract in Dutch, which they could not read, which said that if they protested or spoke to other people outside of the campus, they would also be sent away. The children were very scared because they thought that the other campus must even be worse. "I was told that the children cried at night, had terrible nightmares and no one came to help them. It's unbelievable." Kramer defends the treatment of the children in the campus and points to other factors that had a negative impact on the success of the project. "From my point of view the campus is not damaging to the children and the children were treated well," he says. "I think the people that suffered most are the COA workers. COA allowed a film crew (VPRO/Tegenlicht) to make a documentary. It shows perfectly well the tension between the new return policy and AMAs that don't want to go back." Kramer continues: "Because a large group of youngsters was put together under a strict regime and were confronted with the fact that sooner or later they have to go back while COA had no means to enforce this regime, this particular project was bound to fail".

    Refugee organisations have a very different view of why the project has failed. Boerenbach says the children complained of deprived contact with Dutch society or people, being locked in, being kept constantly busy including nights and weekends, harsh and brutal treatment including force, threats that they would be arrested, being placed under a constant state of surveillance where notes were kept of their behaviour without explanation, and having to fight for food which was old and out of date. "They made all kinds of mistakes," says Boerenbach. "In the first group there were children as young as 14. There were also children who had not had their first hearing yet and were placed there before they saw the IND. There were children there that the guardian told us had been abused and were entitled to status. None of those children should have been on the campus." In March of this year, a new group of children were brought to the campuses and some changes were made: insistence on uniforms was abandoned and the children are allowed out under very specific circumstances. But, by May, 14 of the group were arrested for destroying windows in protest and rioting again. This summer yet another riot has occurred. "The whole experience shows that it is probably not good to keep large groups of youngsters under these conditions," admits Kramer. "I don't know if large-scale reception in general has a damaging effect on the well-being of individuals. I know that the stress of unavoidable return in some cases has." "This is not the way to treat children," says Boerenbach. "It's also not the right way to manage the return of asylum-seeking children. The government thinks this is a success because the numbers of children asking for asylum is going down very quickly. But we are seeing more and more of these children are no longer asking for asylum, but ending up on the street. So now you have traumatised children who think they will end up in a campus, try to make their own way, and some are entitled to asylum. We see an increase in the number of children in the big cities living illegally with no education and without speaking the language." "At the end of the year, I hope they will conclude that it was a failure and go back to treating these children normally," she continues. "But it was a prestige project, so I wonder."

    Words and deeds
    Both the Ministry of Justice and the IND were invited to respond to the allegations in this article, and an email was sent explicitly stating those allegations with the request for response. So far, none has been received. "It's not a surprise," says Doek of the government's reluctance to respond. "They are aware they will meet with us (the UN commission) and have some explanation to do. There are indications that they are starting to look into the legalities, but I hope they will not try to hide behind wordings. It is not enough to say, it's not in the convention, it's how you interpret the approach." "I think this is the result of the rise of the right wing," says Boerenbach, of the lack of response in the Parliament and in the public. "Most people don't care. The politicians have always said that AMAs are just trying to profit from our wealth and have no reason to be here, even before the campus experiments. So the traumas of these children are not being taken seriously. For the first time children have to prove they have political reasons for asylum."
    ©Expatica News

    14/8/2003— Several organisations representing ethnic communities in the Netherlands are taking the Dutch State to court in a bid to reverse recent hefty hikes in the cost of residence permits. The groups claim the increases are aimed at discouraging immigration. The price rises affect about 60,000 people including expats, foreign students, refugees and people who move to the Netherlands under family reunification schemes, an NOS news report said on Thursday. The prices rises did not affect EU citizens. The cost of residence permits were recently raised from EUR 56 to EUR 430, and rather than a free renewal of a residence permit, foreigners now have to pay EUR 285 if they wish to remain in the country. Children's resident permits used to cost EUR 22, but have been increased to EUR 285. A resident permit for an unrestricted time period costs EUR 890 for both adults and children and no distinction is made here between EU and non-EU nationals. Residence permits in neighbouring countries cost between EUR 10 and EUR 70. The high cost of Dutch permits make them unaffordable for many people and the minority groups claim that for have no other option but to enter the Netherlands illegally or return to their country of origin.

    The ethnic minority groups, including the Institute for Multicultural Development, Forum, say that the court must intervene, claiming that the price hikes, introduced on 1 January 2003, were designed to discourage migrants from entering the country. They also claim both the current Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk and her predecessor Hildebrand Nawijn ignored complaints about the increases, Radio Netherlands reported. There has been a strong public and government sentiment against immigration in recent years, leading to tougher legislation making it more difficult to enter the country. New legislation came into force on 1 April 2001 and has, in particular, led to a drastic reduction in the number of refugees entering the country. Family reunification migrants — many of whom come from Turkey or Morocco — also face compulsory integration courses, in which migrants must study the Dutch language and attend cultural assimilation classes. The age limit and wage demands placed on Dutch residents wishing to bring their partner into the country have also been toughened. The increase in the price of residence permit was strongly criticised at the beginning of the year. Opponents claimed it was another move against foreigners entering the country. But the Justice Ministry has defended the price rises, claiming that they were necessary to help cover the administrative costs incurred in assessing and issuing residence permits. The increases do not even completely cover its administration costs, the ministry said. A date for the court case has yet to be set.
    ©Expatica News

    15/8/2003— A demonstration by Moroccans in Amsterdam this weekend in protest at the police shooting and killing of a Moroccan man, who was allegedly wielding a knife, has drawn heavy criticism, but Mayor Job Cohen says he is not worried. "There is a right to demonstrate and freely express an opinion," the Mayor said. But MP Joost Eerdmans, of the populist LPF, said the demonstration at Mercatorplein in West Amsterdam was a specific action against the police. He said there was a strong chance the protest could get out of control. He was also surprised by a demand from the protestors that riot police remain out of sight during Saturday's protest, an NOS news report said on Thursday.

    A police officer shot and killed 33-year-old Driss Arbib on 6 August when he allegedly threatened police with a knife at a Surinamese cafe on the Mercatorplein. The investigation into the incident continues. Several Moroccans have since accused police of discrimination against immigrants. They have also criticised comments by Cohen and the Amsterdam chief-superintendent of police, Jelle Kuiper, that the policeman had simply carried out his job in shooting Arbib. Indignant Moroccans have set up an organisation dubbed Committee Against Senseless Police Violence and Discrimination and have organised the Amsterdam protest. Earlier this week they claimed the shooting was deliberate murder and expressed a lack of faith in the police investigation. But an official of multicultural institute Forum, Sadik Harchaoui, expressed disappointed at the establishment of the committee and claimed that the call to demonstrate was taken too hastily. He said the police investigation should take priority and protests too often led to emotional reactions, newspaper De Volkskrant reported. Harchaoui also claimed the new committee had too quickly condemned the killing as discrimination and urged instead that such complaints should be lodged with the National Bureau Against Race Discrimination.

    Meanwhile, Cohen and Kuiper met with the committee on Thursday and the Amsterdam Mayor said the protest organisers had not mentioned the word discrimination and that they were actively trying to de-escalate the situation. The organisers previously said the protest was not designed to initiate a clash with police and to prevent any problems, a group of 80 Moroccans will be given the task of maintaining order among the demonstrators. About 2,000 people are expected to participate in a moment's silence for the shooting victim and the Dutch branch of the Arab European League (AEL) has also urged its members to join Saturday's demonstration. The AEL said the killing remains a murder until investigations prove otherwise, newspaper Het Parool reported. But the chair of the Moroccan Workers in the Netherlands Committee, Jamal Ouftih, retracted claims of racism and murder, saying he was wrongly quoted. He also demanded that the protest occur without incident. "It must not come at the cost of relations between citizens and the Moroccan community in Amsterdam," he said.
    ©Expatica News

    18/8/2003- To protest against the recent police shooing and killing of a Moroccan man, about 1,000 people participated in a peaceful demonstration "against senseless police violence and discrimination" in West Amsterdam on Saturday. The protest occurred without major incident on the Mercatorplein, where 33-year-old Driss Arbib was shot and killed on 6 August at a Surinamese cafe. It is alleged he threatened police with a knife before being shot and investigations into the incident continue. But despite concerns from populist LPF MP Joost Eerdmans that the march would get out of control, Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen said last week he was not worried by the planned protest. "There is a right to demonstrate and freely express an opinion," he said. A tense atmosphere initially pervaded the protest after a banner advertisement saying "The police were right" was flown behind a plane above the demonstration. But after a representative of the Dutch branch of the Arab European League (AEL), Nabil Marmouch, a native Dutch resident of the area and Arbib's niece took to the podium to deliver their speeches, the atmosphere relaxed. A peaceful march was then held in the West Amsterdam neighbourhood as several protestors carried placards saying, "Stop senseless police violence" and several others carried a Palestinian flag. More speeches occurred when the protestors returned to the Mercatorplein. But isolated trouble occurred after the demonstration officially ended, as a group of about 30 men took to neighbourhood streets, smashing building and car windows. Riot police were called in and six suspects were arrested. Protest organisers had undertaken precautionary measures to ensure the protest did not get out of control and had appointed a large "public order" group to ensure that the march remained peaceful. Police also deployed a self-dubbed "peace detachment" to the demonstration and several shop keepers boarded up or closed security shutters in front of windows to prevent any acts of vandalism. A large number of shops were closed along the route march.

    Several Moroccan organisations set up the protest group, Committee Against Senseless Police Violence and Discrimination, in response to the recent police shooting. The committee said the death of Arbib could not be seen separately from "the daily discrimination and social exclusion of Moroccans and migrants in general". The AEL, which has labelled the killing as murder, has demanded an independent investigation into the incident. It is also demanding that the police officer involved be sufficiently punished for the shooting. Many Moroccan groups have distanced themselves from the comments and did not back the demonstration. Both Mayor Cohen and the Amsterdam chief-superintendent of police, Jelle Kuiper, have said the policeman had simply carried out his job in shooting Arbib, comments which prompted angry responses from the Moroccan community, an NOS news report said. A small-scale riot occurred immediately after Arbib's shooting and a commemoration service for the deceased man last Thursday almost ended in a massive fight. A loud scream also disturbed the minute's silence.
    ©Expatica News

    By Jeroen Bosch

    Nazis are trying to step up their intelligence gathering against their ‘enemies' in the Netherlands. The first signs of this development emerged about 18 months ago with the Internet appearance of a shabby website bearing the title Weerwolf Nederland. The site, publishing data on "the enemies of National Socialism", was an initiative of the notorious Aktiefront Nationale Socialisten (ANS), one of the Netherlands' oldest extremist organizations, proclaimed that its aim "is to inform political soldiers about their enemies" and boasts that "Weerwolf Netherlands is a part of the World Wide Anti-Antifa". For many years, the ANS has been under the under the command of veteran nazi Eite Homan and his disciples see themselves as "revolutionary national socialists" and define their enemies as migrants, Jews, anti-fascists and representatives of the state whom they dub "system slaves". During its short existence, Weerwolf has not really become a serious medium of nazi communication but that does not make its the development any less striking. In the period immediately after its launch, the website was filled with often inaccurate information about police officers and anti-fascists from all over Europe and a long list with Jewish organizations in the Netherlands. Since those early days, however, the site has developed and begun to focus more on the Netherlands, listing the names of political opponents, featuring pages with pictures of alleged enemies and ending with a few pages of political propaganda.

    Almost 90% of Weerwolf's list of political opponents consists – not very cleverly – of a three-years-old register of the addresses and telephone numbers of members of the Dutch Parliament. Another example of the nazis' stupid and paranoia is the section with pictures of alleged opponents – "Leftists and (secret) police services" – are taken at a demonstration of the Nederlandse Volks Unie (NVU) in Rotterdam. Also among the photographs, are those of a Dutch National Broadcasting reporter and the host of a children's TV program on television. Of course, one can hope that representatives of the press – if they are doing their job properly – are indeed enemies of National Socialism and Homan and the ANS are more than capable of drawing that conclusion, but the questions are whether the inclusion of some of those photographed was intentional and whether the innocent are being set up for attack. Since the NVU's demonstration flop in Apeldoorn on 8 March, the Weerwolf site has become even more sinister. On the day, police penned in the NVU's travelling mob of louts at a petrol station for several hours. During this time, a lot of people were walking around the scene and photos of them later appeared on the Weerwolf site under the title "Leftists and undercover agents". Strangely, among the gallery of facial shots was one of an NVU activist who had clearly been pointed out by his idiotic playmates as a "slave of the system". Also there and mistakenly identified, as an employee of the regional secret service in Rotterdam was a cameraman from Dutch TV.

    Some months ago, Weerwolf launched a new project, called "Jews in the Netherlands". On this page, according to Weerwolf, there are numerous photos of well known Dutch, from who they think are Jews. This hate material has aroused a lot of media attention and demands from the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) that Weerwolf's authors should be criminally investigated and prosecuted in the Netherlands as well in the USA where the site is physically located. CIDI, it should be noted, has been targeted by Weerwolf before, complete with calls to eradicate it "to the bone". Weerwolf's aim is to threaten not only its usual opponents but also, bizarrely, potential sympathizers of the NVU and the ANS, a fact shown by the publication of photographs from a demonstration in support of the war against Iraq by the Nieuw Rechts party. Weerwolf declares, "There will be no cooperation with Jews and we can never be in favor of an imperialistic America" and Bas de Man, one of Weerwolf's photographer's comments on the demonstration: "There were a lot of people from the NVU and the NNP there. They have to be hanged from the highest tree, if you ask me." For many traditional right-wing extremists, Weerwolf's public embrace of Islamic movements like Hezbollah and Hamas is very hard to understand, given the general anti-immigrant hatred promoted by the NVU, but the nazis are so enthusiastic to link themselves to these organizations that at the end of last year they praised a Palestinian suicidal bomber as a heroine on the site.

    The key people behind Weerwolf are, besides Homan, the photographer Johan van Enk who has been active, mainly in the now outlawed CP'86, since the early 1990s. Van Enk is present at almost every extreme right-wing demonstration and public activity in the Netherlands as well as having been an attendee at the IJzerbedevaart in Diksmuide and at a Rudolf Hess march in Denmark. Worryingly, he also turned up at a anti-war demonstration in Amsterdam and tried to take pictures of the marchers but was recognized and physically removed from the demonstration. Another Weerwolf photographer is the nazi skinhead Dave Blom who also had a career in CP'86 and was more recently a singer with the hate music bands Landstorm and Brigade M. Blom got his two minutes of fame when he damaged and spray painted a Jewish cemetery in the The Hague at the end of 1999. One of Blom's pals, the above-mentioned de Man, is also a keen Weerwolf photograph. De Man is active in the Dutch skinhead scene and was formerly involved in the nazi Gabber outfit Stormfront Nederland. Finally, yet another of the Nazis' photographers is NVU member Patrick de Bruin who used to active in the NNP. De Bruin was responsible for the photos of opponents at an NVU demonstration in Apeldoorn on 17 May.

    The issue now is: what can be done against Weerwolf?
    At present, two cases have been filed against the website, one concerning Weerwolf's call "to eradicate CIDI" and the other centred on the website's theft of copyright photographs for its "Jews in the Netherlands" pages. This latter move might work. The server Weerwolf is run from a nazi provider in the United States and propaganda on the site cannot be prosecuted, unless it is clear who is responsible for publishing it. The provider also has protection under the American constitution's free speech First Amendment but the provider is, nevertheless, legally responsible for copyright abuses via their server and thus an action over copyright violations might get a more positive result.

    This article was written for Searchlight

    15/8/2003- Germany's constitutional court cleared the way this week for neo-Nazis to parade near the tomb of Rudolf Hess, the onetime deputy to Adolf Hitler, ruling that freedom of assembly prevails over local officials' revulsion at fascism. Hess, who committed suicide at the age of 93 in the Allies' Spandau jail in Berlin, is revered as a martyr by neo-Nazis. Last year, nearly 2,500 showed up in the Bavarian town of Wunsiedel to mark the anniversary of his death on 17 August, 1987. Civic officials in Wunsiedel were upset that the Hess grave in the town had become a place of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis. They banned this year's demonstration, set for Saturday, on the grounds that the parade could turn into a riot. The parade organizers sought an urgent injunction from the federal court in the western city of Karlsruhe. Judges said that local officials could not limit the right of free assembly without grave cause. They said that the risk of unrest could be dealt with by regulating the march and putting extra police on the streets. The court said that police preparations had succeeded in the past in preventing riots. Hess infamously flew on his own initiative from Germany to Britain in 1941 and announcing that he wished to negotiate a separate peace. He was jailed and sentenced in 1946 to life imprisonment for war crimes.
    ©Expatica News

    The sixth German anti-racist border camp which took place in Cologne between 31 July and 10 August 2003 was raided by around 2,500 police officers a day before the official end of the camp. On 9 August, the police encircled the camp, which had seen around 1,000 participants in 10 days of discussions and actions. They said that camp participants would potentially disturb the demonstration held in Cologne the same day by around 50 neo-Nazis. Police spokesmen claimed that around 70% of the camp participants were criminals. Police were initially hindered from entering camp by around 500 camp participants, despite using tear gas and batons. The alleged legal basis for the raid was the police declaration that the camp was a "demonstration", then prohibiting it and arguing that all participants were therefore violating regulations on assembly (Versammlungsrecht). In a siege lasting the whole day, the police cut off the water supply (despite temperatures of up to at 40° C, 100+ F) and telephone lines to the camp. The water was later restored after police were warned that they could be held liable for denial of assistance. Police then gave the camp participants an ultimatum: they could leave on their own accord after each individual's identity was recorded and a photo taken, or they would be forcibly removed and identified. A group of 300 people held on until the evening when, finally, around 250 people were arrested and detained in a nearby prison. The activists have reported heavy-handedness and several injuries; a legal team has been set up to record incidents and objects that 'went missing' during the police raid. Camp press groups have announced that to their knowledge all the detained have now been released.

    In a press release (10 August 2003) Gerda Heck, one of the camp organisers, said:
    "From the beginning, the police operation was excessive. There was constant filming, helicopters were circling in the air. The police systematically looked for any excuse to provoke and escalate the situation. The ultimate purpose for yesterday's attack was the identification and collection of biometric data (Video recordings) of all camp participants. The intention is to control and criminalise the anti-racist movement, they want to push us into the "troublemaker" corner. Yesterday, the anti-racists confronted the police at the entrance to the camp with banners. CS gas and the use of batons by police in battle gear caused numerous injuries.

    Birgit - representative of the campaign "Kein Mensch ist illegal" [No One Is Illegal] " said: "This international meeting is a role model for many border camps all over Europe. The intention is to destroy our growing network. But out political movement cannot be intimidated by police state methods."

    The police action is seen by camp participants and organisers as an attempt to criminalise the anti-racist movement in Germany and discredit the political message that the camp was conveying in the city of Cologne. The Cologne city council uses two boats for asylum processing in Cologne, one for newly arrived asylum seekers and the second as so-called Departure Centre. The latter houses around 200 asylum seekers, 88 of them children and most of them Roma, in inhumane conditions. Illnesses are rampant on the boat, with children being chronically ill and pregnant women suffering from early births and infections.

    Small video clips of talks, demonstration, interviews with refugees and of the raid on the camp can be found here
    Call for the camp (English)

    Background - Border camping 2003
    This year's camps are marked by discussions around issues of migration and work as well as the growing campaign against the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and its role in global migration management. Below is a text from the noborder website, which hosts and links all websites on the different camps taking place in Romania, Italy, Germany and Poland this summer:
    "During the upcoming three months another chain of noborder-camps, conferences and anti-summit mobilisations will take place all over Europe. A wide range of groups, initiatives and individuals involved in the noborder network, will participate in or even initiate these activities.
    The activities around these events will be covered on the noborder website in the upcoming months. We will try to make available news, impressions and resources, links to other sources of information and provide information regarding radio and video streams from these events. On a more concrete level, two groups, the "publix-theater-caravan" (Austria) and the "temporary association everyone is an expert" (Germany), are preparing bus tours that aim to provide a means of direct connection and communication between the various projects.

    The noborder network is committed to manifest itself throughout this chain of events by focusing on three common threads that are to be addressed in all projects:

  • globalisation and modernisation of the border regime (including the campaign against IOM) and a new video film about this transnational agency of 'migration management';
  • the relationship between migration and work;
  • the relationship between freedom of movement and freedom of information."

    21/8/2003- Germany's highest court has ruled that a shop was wrong to sack a Muslim woman who wanted to wear a headscarf at work. The department store in Schluechtern, near Frankfurt, had argued that the headscarf would antagonise "rural conservative customers". But the Federation Constitutional Court ruled that woman's right to religious freedom took precedence - especially since the store had not proven its business would be harmed. The woman, Fadime Coral, who had worked for the shop for 10 years, was sacked the day after she made the request in 1999. Her complaint against the shop, Langer Einkaufsland, was dismissed by two lower courts before it was upheld by the Federal Labour Court in 2000.

    School neutrality
    The family-owned business then appealed against that ruling - but the Constitutional Court refused on Thursday to hear the case. Ms Coral, aged 30, now theoretically has the option of returning to her job, or seeking compensation. The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe is separately examining a similar case brought by an Afghan-born woman, Fereshta Ludin, who has been barred from working in a German state school because she insisted on wearing a headscarf. The government of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg in southern Germany is arguing that "the strict neutrality of public schools in religious issues" would be violated by a teacher wearing a headscarf. A federal court upheld the state's argument last year. The Karlsruhe court is expected to rule on the case in September.
    ©BBC News

    Finance Ministry draft to adversely affect non-profit sector income

    11/8/2003- Legislative changes proposed by the Finance Ministry will take away some of the financial advantages enjoyed by NGOs today. The moves come at a time when the financing of Slovakia's non-profit sector is expected to undergo an overall transformation. Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš announced on July 31 that his ministry will present to the government a draft amendment to the income tax law. Under the new legislation taxpayers will no longer be able to deduct donations to NGOs from their tax base - an amount used as the basis for calculating income tax. Moreover, the income non-profit organisations gain from their commercial activities will be taxed the same as profit-oriented enterprises. "Things which violate the basic idea behind the tax reform are unacceptable for us," said Mikloš, whose reform aims to simplify the tax system. "Firstly, we can't accept that profit-making activities of NGOs be freed from taxation, because that creates unequal conditions on the market. Secondly, we can't accept the possibility of deductible amounts in cases of donations to NGOs, because we want to eradicate this instrument from our tax system," Mikloš added. "We definitely do not want to change the rules so that the position of NGOs gets worse than it is today," said Mikloš.

    However, many NGO representatives feel that is exactly what the proposed measure will do. "The planned changes not only fail to open new possibilities, but eliminate the little that has motivated people and firms to contribute to activities independent from the state," said Šarlota Pufflerová from the NGO Citizen and Democracy at a press conference. Pufflerová is involved in an initiative supported by over 130 NGOs called Citizens to Themselves which opposes the ministry's proposal. Some organisations are seeing their resources run dry, as many large western donors - in the past the main sponsors of non-profit activities in the country - are shifting their focus to less developed countries and withdrawing from central Europe. "These countries are now entering the EU and I will no longer put hundreds of millions dollars into this region," said US billionaire of Hungarian origin George Soros, who founded and finances the Open Society Foundation (OSF), in a recent interview with the daily SME.

    The US Agency for International Development (USAID), an agency that provides economic and development assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the US, is also shutting down its office in Bratislava. The US embassy has cited "Slovakia's quick progress after the 2002 elections" as the main reason for ending financial support. Before the September 2002 parliamentary vote NGOs ran over 80 projects related to the eleltions, for which they received over Sk100 million from foreign foundations, according to media reports. The victory of parties seen as democratic by the West in those elections was crucial for Slovakia's integration into both the EU and NATO. Surveys indicated high attendance would bring better results for these parties and NGOs put much of the money into voter mobilisation campaigns.

    The cuts in funding provided from abroad are now leading NGOs to think hard about what lies ahead. "The non-profit sector today faces the challenge of creating a financially sustainable environment, which will enable it to survive and evolve in the future," said Pufflerová. Activists of the Citizens to Themselves initiative say incentives, such as tax breaks for donors are needed to build that environment. The non-profit sector is not united in its stance towards the proposed reforms. On July 31 Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš met with NGO representatives, who did not voice opposition to the financial measures. However, representatives of Citizens to Themselves initiative were not invited for the talks.

    "Minister [Mikloš] met with the representatives of a significant portion of NGOs. It is really not in our powers to meet with a representative of every organization. I think it's more a question for the NGOs why they don't communicate, why they are unable to build one team," said ministry spokesperson Peter Papánek. The meeting was attended by Katarína Vajdová, director of the Foundation for the Support of Civic Activities (NPOA) and Pavol Demeš, NPOA's chairman of the board. NPOA was created in 1993 and acts as an implementation agency for EU pre-accession aid. Also present was Helena Woleková, director of the SOCIA foundation which supports social services for the needy. Demeš is the chairman of the board of that organisation. He is also head of The German Marshall Fund for Central and Eastern Europe. In the early 1990s Woleková, Demeš, and Mikloš all acted as ministers in the cabinet headed by Ján Carnogurský. Mikloš was then Privatisation Minister, Demeš Minister of International Relations, and Woleková ran the Ministry of Social Affairs. The Democratic Party (DS), for whom Woleková served as an expert on social affairs, appointed her to the position. Mikloš became a DS member in 1993 and in 1994 briefly acted as the party's chairman.

    The finance ministry says even after the reform is passed, NGOs do not need to worry about money. "The ministry has agreed to keep in place the 1 percent assignation, which has been already extended to legal entities, so there is enough room for private financing," said Papánek. Current legislation enables taxpayers to designate an NGO to receive 1 percent of their tax instead of the state. According to statistics released by the Revenues' Office, in the last year Slovak NGOs gained over Sk100 million through this method. Ministry officials have said they will consider increasing the percentage. "In addition the state has this year granted the non-profit sector over Sk1.2 billion," said Papánek.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    18/8/2003- Police are investigating a case in which unknown perpetrators put a list of "enemies of the white race" onto a neo-Nazi website and encouraged skinheads to kill those named. The Interior Ministry said police would not provide any further details; claiming that it would "negatively influence the investigation," said the ministry's spokeswoman Jana Pôbišová. The website, which exists on a Russian server, was still accessible on the Internet when The Slovak Spectator went to print, having moved from its original address twice after the Slovak media reported the case. The webpage, along with the list of nearly 30 people who can be targeted according to the authors, also says: "On these [people on the list] you can practice [techniques of] pursuit, taking pictures, house surveillance, and, of course, attacks, e.g. one on one, two on one, five on one, night or day attacks, in town, on a bus, simply anywhere." The website also says: "All of these addresses and names have been checked. You can therefore be 100 percent sure that if you attack anyone listed here, you will kill a person who really deserves it. "We are national socialists and we have no reason to attack normal white people."

    It is believed that the perpetrators got the personal data of the potential targets from a petition, part of which went missing several months ago. "The probable source of the data is a petition to free Mário Bango, a Roma who allegedly stabbed a skinhead to death in self-defence," said Ladislav Durkovic, head of the People against racism NGO in Bratislava. It was his organisation who first contacted the people on the list and, in their name ,pressed charges against the unknown perpetrators. The Interior Ministry assured that the police, along with Interpol, were working hard to solve the case. It remains unknown, however, whether officers have already identified the individual or possibly group behind the incitement. "I can assure the public that the police are working on this case with maximum effort. But further publicity for this case would endanger the investigation," Pôbišová said on August 11.

    The case has yet again highlighted the problem of neo-Nazi extremism in Slovakia. Similar extremists were paid special attention in 2001 when a special unit for fighting right-wing and left-wing extremists was created within the Slovak police force. That unit, however, was perceived as too small and lacking the necessary capacity and funds to fight the extremists effectively. According to Durkovic, there are about 5,000 neo-Nazi supporters in Slovakia and only a unit composed of ten officers to fight them. That, the activist said, was "terribly little". In the neighbouring Czech Republic, for example, police had a similar unit staffed with 160 specialists. "The ten Slovak officers simply can't work hard enough. There are too few of them and there is a lot of work to do. I am very disappointed that [Interior Minister Vladimír] Palko has not increased the staff in this unit to address neo-Nazism in Slovakia," Durkovic said.

    Ironically, the news of a neo-Nazi target list surfaced at a time when the Interior Ministry said in its plan of domestic security that "extremism does not represent a threat to the [integrity] of the country", the state-run TASR agency reported on August 8. According to Pôbišová, what was meant by domestic security was that "in Slovakia there are no active extremist groups inclined to use terrorist methods" and that "in order to improve the quality of protection of the constitutional establishment" the ministry has pledged to prepare a long term plan on fighting extremism within Slovakia. The most recent case, meanwhile, remains unsolved and activists hope that it will cause the police to take a more active stance towards existing extremist groups in the country although their methods may not be of a terrorist nature. "Neo-Nazi concerts are often held in Slovakia; racist websites are being created here. Race hate is present and it has already caused a lot of pain and suffering to many victims. It's about time this was addressed seriously," Durkovic said.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    14/8/2003- The acting chief of Chechnya's Moscow-backed administration said Thursday that tent camps for Chechen refugees in neighboring Ingushetia will be closed and removed by Oct. 1, the Interfax news agency reported - a decision certain to anger refugees who fear to return to the war-ravaged region. "All refugees will have been moved to Grozny," the capital of Chechnya, Interfax quoted acting Chechen administration chief Anatoly Popov as saying in Moscow. Popov, Chechnya's prime minister, is filling in for administration chief Akhmad Kadyrov while Kadyrov runs for the Chechen presidency in an Oct. 5 election. Popov said that housing will be made available in Grozny for all those who choose to return and that he had secured a promise of help with the housing issue from Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Interfax reported. He also said those who do not want to return to Chechnya will be provided with housing in Ingushetia.

    Since last year, Russian officials have been encouraging refugees in Ingushetia to return to Chechnya as part of broader efforts to show that peace is returning to the region - despite daily fighting, frequent attacks on civilians and persistent complaints of kidnappings and killings by the Russian military. Humanitarian organizations say many refugees don't want to return, fearing for their safety in Chechnya, where the second war in a decade is nearly four years old. Refugees and human rights groups say officials have threatened to close refugee camps and are using intimidation and blackmail to persuade people to return. Popov said that about 9,500 refugees currently live in the camps in Ingushetia, according to Interfax. Russia's government minister for Chechnya, Stanislav Ilyasov, was quoted as saying just three weeks ago that there were 18,000 Chechen refugees in the camps and that they would return at their own will. Officials in Ingushetia and at the office of Russian President Vladimir Putin's chief aide for Chechnya could not immediately be reached for comment. Russian forces withdrew from Chechnya in 1996 after a devastating 20-month war, leaving separatist in charge. They swept in again in September 1999 after Chechnya-based insurgents mounted incursions into neighboring Dagestan and after some 300 people died in apartment explosions that authorities blamed on the rebels.
    ©Russia Journal

    18/8/2003- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has protested against the "unacceptable treatment" of displaced Chechens in Ingushetia, Russian Federation, as authorities there recently forced some refugees to relocate and live in decrepit buildings. UNHCR said 20 to 30 Ingush policemen removed 200 internally displaced people (IDPs) on 10 August from the Askanovskie Garazhi temporary settlement back to Bella camp, where they had been living for three years before being evicted earlier last week. Since their return, they have been prevented from returning to their old accommodations and are currently placed in decrepit buildings. The refugee agency said it, and other international humanitarian organizations, have offered to help authorities develop alternative shelter, but the offer has not yet been accepted. "UNHCR strongly objects to the aggressive and unacceptable manner in which IDPs from the camp were treated," a spokesman for the agency, Kris Janowski, said Friday in Geneva. "The recent evictions challenge the validity of official statements that all IDPs in Ingushetia may stay in Ingushetia until they wish to return in full safety and dignity, and indicates that these statements may be without political commitment." Many of the estimated 80,000 displaced Chechens in Ingushetia – 12,000 of whom live in five tented camps – have expressed fears about returning to Chechnya because of insecurity there.
    ©UN News Centre

    Progress has been made but doubts remain over the future of the republic's two ethnic groups.
    By Ana Petruseva, IWPR project manager in Skopje.

    19/8/2003- Macedonia is still facing numerous challenges to its fragile peace two years after the Ohrid peace agreement brought an end to ethnic conflict. Splinter guerrilla groups, an impoverished economy, weak state institutions, crime, corruption and a wide social gap between ethnic communities are still threatening to destablise the region. In 2001, ethnic Albanian guerrillas launched an insurgency in the name of greater civil rights. The fighting ended with the signing of the western-brokered peace accord, the Ohrid agreement, on August 13, 2001. In the following year's elections, voters ousted the ruling nationalists and brought a new coalition to power, featuring Social Democrats and the Democratic Party of Albanians, formed by many former National Liberation Army fighters. Ex-NLA leader Ali Ahmeti laid down his weapons to become a parliamentary deputy, and his party now has four ministers and a vice-premier in government. Since then, the Ohrid accord, designed to lay a foundation for a unitary, multiethnic state, has been seen as a basis for future stability and its implementation a pre-requisite for integration into the European Union and NATO.

    The deal has been implemented gradually, with most of its elements - apart from decentralisation - being adopted. Decentralisation is the only component of the agreement that has real benefits for Macedonians as well as Albanians, but the process of drawing up new municipal boundaries and the financing of local authorities has not even begun yet due to lack of compromise on both sides, and further talks have been delayed until next month. However, progress has been made in other areas. Albanian deputies can now use their language in parliament. Personal documents are issued in Albanian, and a controversial illegal Albanian university in Tetovo is being legalised and will soon be state-funded. The process of equal representation of Albanians in state institutions is also underway. Two years ago, most ethnic Macedonians viewed the agreement as a defeat, claiming that the majority had been "taken hostage" by the Albanian minority, but today the peace deal is viewed as being necessary, if unloved.

    Marking the second anniversary of the deal, Macedonian president Boris Trajkovski said, "There is no need for any party to view the framework agreement as a defeat. "Time has given proof to our expectations [of] a truly European agreement – one that would end possibilities for territorial solutions to ethnic questions. The agreement guarantees Macedonia's authentic multi-cultural identity and offers no potential for federalisation or division along ethnic lines." However, Macedonian and Albanian opposition parties do not share his view and take every opportunity to undermine the deal, claiming that it has produced no results. Many have even suggested partition of the country into separate ethnic entities. The biggest Macedonian opposition party VMRO-DPMNE and their former coalition partner the Democratic Party of Albanians have heavily criticised the deal, saying it has done nothing to improve security as numerous violent incidents still happen on daily basis. But this view was refuted by Macedonia premier Branko Crvenkovski, who said, "Many criticise it from different positions, but nobody has offered any other serious alternative. As of itself, it does not impose limits, but the opportunities it offers depends upon our abilities to make use of it. "The return to complete peace, security and restoration of multi-ethnic trust is a difficult process with many obstacles and obstructions. But it is worth investing in the fulfilment of the framework agreement's goals.'' But on the ground, both communities are still living in parallel societies, nurturing damaging prejudices, and few attempts to bridge this gap have been successful.

    However, there has been an improvement in the general security situation over the past two years, and the EU military mission, Concordia, is expected to leave the country by the end of the year. Nonetheless, the persistence of ethnic violence shows that Macedonia is not out of the woods yet. A shadowy guerrilla group called the Albanian National Army, ANA – which has taken responsibility for most incidents in Macedonia, southern Serbia and Kosovo - repeatedly threatens to start a war to unite all Albanian territories. Diplomats in Skopje say the group is made up of criminals and does not pose a serious threat to peace, while the same group has been described as "terrorists" in Kosovo. Edward Joseph, a former director of the International Crisis Group in the region, told IWPR that the jury was still out on whether the days of conflict were over, "We don't know whether the calm that we see now in Macedonia is a momentary lull or in fact the first steps of establishing true stability. "There are still too many open questions about the capacity of the state, police, courts, government and political leaders to say for sure that Macedonia is on a road of peace and can never turn to conflict."
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    11/8/2003- New guidelines on dealing with racist police have watered down one of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry's recommendations. Officers found to be racist should usually be sacked, according to the Macpherson inquiry into the black teenager's murder 10 years ago. But the Police Complaints Authority said this was too sweeping and alleged discrimination should be based on a case-by-case basis. A PCA spokesman said: "We don't agree with the blanket approach - it's too 'one size fits all'. "We agree that in very serious cases of deliberate racial abuse the ultimate sanction of sacking someone should be available. "But there are occasions when incidents aren't that clear cut." He went on: "Yes, we are stepping back from the Lawrence report regarding disciplinary action. Dismissal might not always be merited, he said.

    'Unacceptable approach'
    Milena Buyum, of the National Assembly Against Racism, called for an immediate rethink on the guidelines. "Racism should be treated as a very serious breach of conduct and to dilute the Lawrence recommendation in this way is not acceptable," she said. "Obviously every case should be treated on its merits. "But it should be made clear to police officers that they cannot get away with it." The Macpherson Inquiry followed the murder of the the 18-year-old who was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack by a gang of white youths at a bus stop in Eltham, south east London. The PCA guidelines say substantiated complaints of racial discrimination may lead to a tribunal but where the racism was "unwitting" disciplinary action should be geared towards changing attitudes or behaviour. And the penalty should take into account the officer's attitude. "On some occasions, an officer may be found to have behaved inappropriately but the behaviour may have been fully in line with force practice".

    Face-to-face contact
    The guidelines also says more work should be done on giving complainants more say in what happens to the officers concerned. They suggested a complainant have the chance to meet the officer in a conference as this would help change behaviour. The guidelines have been welcomed by the National Black Police Association, the Police Federation and the Association of Chief Police Officers. The PCA is to be replaced with a new organisation in April, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which will have its own investigators to look into officers' alleged failings and misdemeanours. Of 258 allegations of race discrimination reported to the PCA in 2001-2002, 242 were found to be unsubstantiated. Six resulted in misconduct charges, two in an admonishment or written warning and four in advice or guidance to the officer. The remaining four were classed as "others".
    ©BBC News

    14/8/2003- A mental health trust accused of institutional racism following the death of a black patient is being taken to task by a Norwich MP. Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North, is meeting with the head of Norfolk Mental Health Care Trust tomorrow after accusing it of being "blasé" in the way it had responded to criticisms in the David "Rocky" Bennett inquiry. Dr Gibson said he wanted reassurances from chief executive Pat Holman that the Trust was doing everything it could to flush out racism in the system. As reported in the Evening News, an inquiry into the death of 38-year-old Mr Bennett at the Norvic Clinic in Thorpe St Andrew in 1998 said the NHS was "racist to the core" and said outdated techniques led to him dying. The schizophrenic patient died while being held face down by staff after fighting with a fellow patient and hitting a nurse. Dr Gibson said: "It seems to me they have been a bit blasé about the response to the report. "It's like when the Metropolitan Police were accused of institutional racism, they really had to make a big effort about the way they operated and we haven't heard anything about what's being done here. "It may be too soon but we need to know what they are doing about it."

    Father-of-two Mr Bennett, originally from Peterborough, had a history of psychiatric problems and was admitted to the Norvic Clinic in 1995. But the inquiry heard that on October 31 1998 he became violent and started to "rain punches" on nurse Sharon Hadley. He was restrained by five members of staff, but he stopped breathing and could not be resuscitated. Last week inquiry panel member Dr Richard Stone said of the NHS: "We are dealing with an institution which has historically let down black people, which is racist to the core." A spokesman for Norfolk Mental Health Care Trust said an action plan had been drawn-up after Mr Bennett's death, which included improved training in ways of managing and preventing aggression, a programme of cardiopulmonary resuscitation for staff and steps to increase awareness of ethnicity. He added: "It has been a long time since Mr Bennett's death and the changes have already been implemented."
    ©Evening News24

    14/8/2003- Police have warned they will not tolerate racist behaviour after a drunken yob who insulted an Indian waiter was hit with a £150 fine. Warren Beesley, 28, of Chidlow Close, Widnes, was being found guilty of racially aggravated assault and behaving in an anti-social manner at Runcorn Magistrates Court on Friday. The court heard that Beesley had been out celebrating his birthday with friends last November when he became increasingly drunk and began hurling abuse at staff at a restaurant. He also caused further damage to the restaurant when bottles were thrown and smashed across the floor. Police arrived to find Beesley and a friend involved in a heated argument with a waiter. Both were arrested when the officers were subject to a verbal attack. Magistrate Alan Griffiths said Beesley's actions were 'inexcusable'. 'Whether or not this was racially motivated, this sort of behaviour just isn't acceptable, not even on your birthday,' he said. 'I hope that the punishment of a fine will help you become fully aware of the consequences of your actions. Cheshire Constabulary said it is determined to stamp out racism in the community and will continue to arrest and prosecute people who are racist and behave in an anti-social manner. Speaking after Beesley's court appearance Grant Arden, community safety and race relations inspector for Halton, said: 'The positive action taken by Cheshire Police officers in this case is an example of how racial harassment will not be tolerated. 'People who are racist and behave in an anti-social manner can expect to be prosecuted.'
    ©IC Network

    13/8/2003- A man faces being sent to jail if he uses a specific term of racial abuse in public. Michael Guilfoyle, 31, is believed to be the first person in the UK to be banned from using a particular word - "Paki" - under the terms of an anti-social behaviour order. He could also be prosecuted for behaving anti-socially or using insulting or abusive, including homophobic, language. The lifelong order was imposed by magistrates in Manchester after Guilfoyle, of Ardwick, Manchester, made abusive phone calls to council officials about a housing application. In the calls, made in June, Guilfoyle called one officer a "Paki bitch" and another a "homo". Under the terms of the order, Guilfoyle was banned from abusing council housing staff and employees of North British Housing, approaching or communicating with witnesses, threatening violence or attempting criminal damage. If he breaches it, he face up to five years in jail. Basil Curley, a councillor, said: "Let there be no doubt in people's minds: Manchester Housing will take action against tenants, their children and visitors if they use racist language or threatening behaviour." A spokeswoman for Manchester City Council said she did not know of another such case in the UK. A spokesman for Liberty, the human rights group, described the ruling as "bad law" because the order made by the court would "be almost impossible to enforce''. The spokesman added: "Using the word Paki to incite racial violence is clearly an illegal act but chatting among your friends in the pub is a very different matter." The order, imposed last Thursday, came less than a month after a football fan was banned from club grounds for three years after using the word "Paki" in racist chants. Sean Ratcliffe, 21, a Port Vale supporter from Stoke-on-Trent, was also fined £150 and ordered to pay £120 in costs.
    © Independent Digital

    16/8/2003- A BBC reporter has been released on bail after going undercover in a bid to investigate claims of institutional racism in the police force. The journalist had been gathering material for a BBC documentary while working as a probationary constable for Greater Manchester Police. The reporter, who was working in the force's Stockport Division, was arrested on Friday on suspicion of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception. He was released on bail on Saturday afternoon. But the BBC has said any pay he had received had been kept in a separate account and was to be returned to the force at the end of the investigation. The journalist, believed to be in his 20s, had undergone training and had been "operational", working as a probationary constable for about a month.

    'Unethical journalism'
    In doing so, Greater Manchester Police claimed he had broken an oath he had taken on joining the force and may have breached people's human rights. Chief Constable Michael Todd said: "If true, we deplore this tactic, which would appear to be an outrageous waste of public funds used to train, equip and pay this individual. "It has also deprived a genuine recruit of the opportunity to join the service." A spokeswoman added: "Greater Manchester Police is accountable at all times to the public we serve and welcomes legitimate scrutiny. "But this behaviour, if true, is reprehensible and only serves to undermine the work of the police service. "The journalist is also in breach of an oath of attestation that he made in becoming a police constable as he has failed to act with integrity. In condoning this act of unethical journalism, the media organisation may well have breached people's human rights." But the BBC has defended the documentary makers' decision to put an undercover reporter through the police recruitment process. A spokeswoman for the corporation said: "The BBC has spent several months investigating allegations of institutional racism within the Greater Manchester Police. We believe this to be a matter of significant public interest. "We believed the only way to test the allegations was by a BBC journalist going undercover to be a part of the recruitment process, to see what happens when a recruit joins the force, is instructed at the training school, and is then placed on the force. "That is the investigation that was under way. Monies paid by the police to our reporter have always been kept in a separate account and always with the intention of being returned to the Greater Manchester Police."
    ©BBC News

    19/8/2003- An undercover BBC journalist who infiltrated Greater Manchester police to investigate claims of institutional racism had defended his methods. The force accused the BBC of wasting public funds after they unwittingly recruited, trained and employed Mark Daly, 28. They arrested him on Friday on suspicion of fraud and searched his home in south Manchester. He was detained overnight and released on bail on Saturday. He may be charged with criminal damage for altering his uniform to accommodate a pinhole camera. It is understood he has gathered "damning proof" of racism in the force. In an interview with the Scotsman yesterday, Mr Daly said he joined the force eight months ago. For the past month he has been working as a probationary constable in the Stockport division. He used secret recording equipment to tape his colleagues. Mr Daly said in the interview: "Although it was something I had always anticipated, nothing could have prepared me for being arrested at my home. Nobody wants to spend a night in the cells and I am no exception. It was not a pleasant experience and not something I would like to repeat. "In so far as the investigation is concerned, we believe we are on very solid ground. "The subject matter is hugely important and I think the BBC is fully justified in sanctioning such a project. I know I have the full backing of the BBC and that they are going to throw all their weight behind me. "Greater Manchester police have said all along that they are open and accountable. If that is the case, they should welcome this investigation. If they have nothing to hide then they should not be worried about this programme." The force was tipped off that a journalist had infiltrated its ranks two months ago and began a covert inquiry. Michael Todd, the chief constable, accused the BBC of gross misconduct. He is to send a letter of complaint to Greg Dyke, the director general. "If true, we deplore this tactic, which would appear to be an outrageous waste of public funds used to train, equip and pay this individual," he said. "It has also deprived a genuine recruit of the opportunity to join the service." A BBC spokesman said: "The BBC has spent several months investigating allegations of institutional racism within the Greater Manchester police. We believe this matter to be of significant public interest. "The only way to test the allegations was by a BBC journalist going undercover."
    ©The Guardian

    18/8/2003- A planned visit to the Scottish Parliament by a delegation of right-wing politicians from Belgium has triggered an angry response from MSPs. The delegation from the Flemish regional parliament includes members of the Vlaams Blok Party, which has been criticised by anti-racism campaigners. The Scottish National Party and Scottish Socialist Party have tabled motions condemning the planned visit on 11 September. Presiding Officer George Reid approved the four-day visit despite warnings from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) about the party's background. The Vlaams Blok, which wants independence for Flanders, has been accused of singling out immigrants and people of North African origin in its campaign material. An FCO spokesman said it advised parliament not to have anything to do with Vlaams Blok members.

    The Anti-Nazi League (ANL) in Scotland said the visit would give Vlaams Blok the credibility it sought as a mainstream political party. ANL spokesman Peter Cannell said: "This is quite horrifying. This group represents fascism and has links with far right factions behind ultra- racist violence." However, a parliament spokesman defended the decision as democracy in practice. He said: "When members are democratically elected in a free and democratic structure, then we should not interfere in their internal affairs. "Indeed, MSPs would be outraged if another legislature attempted to dictate the composition of Scottish Parliamentary delegations." SNP MSP Shona Robison urged MSPs to follow the lead of the Welsh Assembly, which banned the delegation's proposed visit last week. She said: "The views of these right-wing extremists are abhorrent to the overwhelming majority of Scots. "There is a long and honourable tradition of not giving extremists a platform from which they can spew forth their bile. "The last thing we should do is now set a precedent by allowing them to use the Scottish Parliament as a platform." The Presiding Officer of the Welsh Assembly, Dafydd Elis Thomas, barred Vlaams Blok last week from visiting the seat of devolved government in Cardiff. Dominiek Lootens-Stael, an elected member of the Brussels regional parliament and Flemish parliament, defended Vlaams Block. He said: "We are not far right like some parties in Britain. In comparison, our policies are quite moderate."
    ©BBC News

    20/8/2003- A right-wing Belgian politician will be given the cold shoulder on a visit to the Scottish Parliament. The inclusion of Dominiek Lootens-Stael in a group of Flemish parliamentarians paying a four-day visit to Holyrood sparked anger in Scotland. He is a member of the Vlaams Blok, which has been criticised by anti-racism campaigners. The visit to Edinburgh by a delegation from the Council of the Flemish Community Commission is set to go ahead next month - but it has emerged that no party or MSP will meet Mr Lootens-Stael. However, the move was criticised as a "shameless compromise" by the Scottish Socialist Party.

    Opposite numbers
    The plan emerged after meetings between Presiding Officer George Reid and Holyrood's business managers. A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said: "The Flemish parliamentarians from Christian Democrat, Liberal and Socialist-Green groups will meet their opposite numbers in the Scottish Parliament. "No party or MSP has offered to meet the Vlaams Blok representative. "The visit will focus largely on meetings with parliamentary officials." Mr Reid said he would be meeting the heads of the delegation, two MPs from the Christian Democrat group. "I shall make clear the abhorrence of all members of the Scottish Parliament to any form of racism," he said. "I appreciate the sensitivities surrounding the visit but I have also had to give due regard to the fact that this is a cross-party delegation of MPs."

    Parliamentary groups
    However, the Scottish Socialist Party said the invitation should be withdrawn and promised to "peacefully obstruct" the visit. "The leadership of all other parliamentary groups have said they will not meet Vlaams Blok," said the party. "They are, however, willing for the visit to go ahead. We believe this is a shameless compromise." Earlier this week, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: "Our advice to the Scottish Parliament is not to have any meetings with Vlaams Blok because of its far-right political persuasion."

    Campaign material
    The Vlaams Blok wants independence for Flanders. It has been accused of singling out immigrants and people of North African origin in its campaign material. Mr Lootens-Stael is an elected member of the Brussels regional parliament and Flemish parliament. He said Vlaams Block's policies were "quite moderate" compared to some far-right British parties.
    ©BBC News

    19/8/2003- Africans' efforts to improve their standing in Switzerland have received a boost after high-profile diplomats threw their weight behind a new association. The Swiss African Forum (SAF) aims to defend and promote the interests of Africans living in Switzerland, in part by countering negative stereotyping. The South African and Nigerian ambassadors were among those who attended the SAF's first African Integration Forum in August. Both expressed their willingness to support the organisation, which was founded last May. At that meeting, the forum spelled out its objectives, which is to better defend interests of Switzerland's 35,000-strong African community, and to do more to counter their negative image. "We need to mobilise ourselves so we can become a political force that is listened to and taken seriously," said the meeting's chair, Alois Fonje, of the University of Bern. He said other ethnic groups in Switzerland, such as the Italians and the Spanish, had plenty of political clout because they presented a united front to promote their own interests.

    Political force
    Fonje stressed the need for unity among Africans in Switzerland. He said that if they did not work together, they would never achieve recognition as a political force, and would continue to be seen as "drug dealers", and a drain on the community. The Nigerian ambassador, Aisha M Jimeta, said all Africans in Switzerland were ambassadors of the continent, and had a duty to respect the rules and mores of their host country. She urged Africans to maintain close ties with home and to use their skills gained abroad to help the African "renaissance". "Other nations have learned, bought or stolen ideas from developed countries," said Jimeta. "I'm not suggesting you steal anything, but it is time for Africans to take their knowledge home so it can benefit Africa."

    Jimeta also stressed that Africans in Switzerland were highly regarded back home, and should use their standing to influence positively the attitudes of people in their home countries. Her sentiments were echoed by Aids activist, Romy Mathys – herself HIV positive. She urged Africans in Switzerland to rid themselves of the stigma associated with the disease, and to encourage their families and friends to do the same. She said that of the 25 million estimated Aids sufferers worldwide, 20 million were in sub-Saharan Africa, and that without a change in attitudes, the disease would continue to devastate the continent.
    ©NZZ Online

    20/8/2003- Swiss 20-year-olds believe there is no place like home and are more xenophobic than their parents, according to a new government survey. Nearly half of the young adults polled indicated they were anti-immigration and in favour of keeping Switzerland free from foreign influences. Some 20,000 young people participated in the defence ministry study. Almost half of them (44 per cent) said they would vote for a proposal to restrict the number of foreigners in Switzerland to ten per cent of the population. This compared with 24 per cent of their parents' generation and 27 per cent of their grandparents' generation. Two-thirds expected foreigners to integrate with the local population as quickly as possible. Beat Meiner, secretary-general of the Swiss Refugee Council, told swissinfo that he was shocked by the results of the survey. "Our future citizens are very xenophobic," said Meiner. "I am highly alarmed by this, because it is a great danger for our society."

    No place like home
    Swiss 20-year-olds expressed a special attachment to the area in which they grew up. About 50 per cent saw their hometown – or at least the region in which it was located - as their ideal future place of residence. Just one-fifth wanted to live in a different part of the country. Only a third were prepared to move to a large canton. In this respect, their views had more in common with those of their grandparents than their parents. Therese Walter, one of the report's authors, felt that globalisation might be to blame. "Young people are worrying mostly about the ‘McDonald-isation' of the world, that there are no different cultures any more – the different cultures are evaporating," she said.
    ©NZZ Online

    20/8/2003- Five members of the travelling community are each to get £1,000 ( 1,431) in compensation after being barred from a golf course, it was announced today. Dungannon Golf Club in Co Tyrone, once the home club of Ryder Cup star Darren Clarke, has also agreed to consider all future applications for membership without discrimination on the grounds of race. The out of court settlement was announced today following a decision to refuse the men permission to play the parkland course in June 2000. Equality Commission chief Joan Harbison, who backed the legal action, insisted no sections of the community should have to endure racism. She said: "No one should be excluded from playing sports, shopping or from a social life just because they belong to a particular group or community. "Members of the Irish traveller community are entitled to receive the same treatment as members of the settled community."

    Officials at Dungannon and the Ulster Branch of the Golfing Union of Ireland were unavailable for comment. But the decision is bound to have a major impact at some clubs on both sides of the Irish border which have been forced to introduce security measures to prevent traveller settlements being located on their property. It is understood the men had played the course along with non-travellers. But when they later returned, this time unaccompanied, they were refused permission and asked to leave. Their case was taken to a county court under the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order before the club issued an apology and admitted its guilt. It also accepted that its practices and procedures were unlawful and contrary to the order. Even though the men did not want to be identified, the Equality Commission insisted they were delighted with the outcome. The apology and assurances they will be allowed to play the course in future just like other members of the public had been particularly satisfying for them, the commission added. "We welcomed the opportunity to work with Dungannon Golf Club in reviewing its policies and training its staff," said Ms Harbison. "This case gives notice to everyone providing goods, services and facilities that it is not only wrong, but unlawful, to treat travellers in a discriminatory manner."
    ©Irish Examiner

    7/8/2003- The Trans-European Roma Federation (TERF) present a proposal for a worldwide event on Sunday, 1 August, 2004 to mark the 60th anniversary of the Auschwitz Zigeunerlager, which was liquidated on 2-3 August, 1944. As thousands this week remember the Holocaust, the centuries-old harassment and persecution of the Romany people shows no sign of abating. There is even a perception that since 1990 another unplanned but nevertheless insidiuous genocide or "Second Holocaust" has commenced. Full-blown in Kosovo, where 100,000 Roma have been ethnically-cleansed, this genocide continues in racial attacks and murders across Europe. It is also manifest in every form of discrimination and prejudice which denies a place to live, schooling, welfare and jobs to 10 million Roma across the continent. When with the end of communism in 1989 the lid came off long-suppressed anti-Roma racism,large-scale pogroms began. Many have occurred in Romania, where over 400 homes have been torched. Among survivors, Florina Zoltan, now a refugee in London, has yet to obtain justice through the European Court of Human Rights and effective prosecution of those responsible. Killings and assaults have continued, in Bulgaria and Hungary, often involving the participation of police officers. Organized, neo-fascist groups are targeting Roma in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The crime of sterilization, the round-up of the poor for begging, and forced separation of children from parents, have to varying degrees become part of official policy in Slovakia, the Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Police and paramilitary units are being used to destroy 'illegal' camps and shanty-settlements in Spain, Italy, France, Greece and Macedonia. Security contractors have been employed to bulldoze Roma-owned caravan parks in Britain. Charles Smith, chairman of the Gypsy Council, is currently in Geneva giving evidence on the lack of a positive policy by the British Government in face of racism and anti-Gypsy violence. Last month in England a l4-year-old was murdered in a racially motivated gang attack. Ever more repressive policies of detention and mass-deportation are being employed against thousands of Roma refugees in the UK and western Europe, fleeing human rights abuses in EU accession states. The pretence is maintained that destinations such as Kosovo, Romania and Slovakia are "safe" for the forced returnees. On the Macedonian Greek border at Medzitlija more than 700 Kosovo Roma refugees have been attacked and beaten by Special Forces to prevent them exercising their right to cross the border and seek asylum in an EU country.

    Auschwitz zigeunerlager
    On the night of 2 and 3 August, 1944, some 3000 Roma - all the remaining old men, women and children in the notorious Zigeunerlager at Auschwitz - were driven from their barracks and forced into lorries destined for the gas-chambers. Accounts note how they fought to the last, even with their bare hands, against the SS guards. This was part of Hitler's final solution which cost the lives of upwards of 500,000 Roma. Today, there may be no single, co-ordinated plan of extermination led by such a man as Hitler. But a monster is still at large called racism, an active anti-Gypsy virus which motivates many to act with intolerance, others to drive out their Roma neighbours, burn and kill.

    Roma Holocaust museum
    On 3 August, the Roma Holocaust Museum was opened in Moscow, backed by the Sakharov International Human Rights Centre. Its opening has been hailed by the Romani newspaper DEFACTO as a major step-forward in the recognition of the Roma genocide perpetuated by the Nazis - for which no block reparations have ever been paid. Toma Nikolaev, editor of DEFACTO, would like to see next year a worldwide event to mark the 60th anniversary of the "liquidation" of the Auschitz Zigeunerlager - both to mourn all Roma Holocaust victims and to recognize the bravery of those who fought back in the camps or joined partizans in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and in France, Italy, and elsewhere. Their fight has been documented in the journal ROMA by Valdemar Kalinin. Publications and Roma radio brodcasts in Serbia have told part of these heroes' story. But their struggle has never been the focus of a global event.

    Call for worldwide event
    The Trans-European Roma Federation will meet in London on 16 September with the following proposals on its agenda:

  • Roma Nation Day "8 April" 2004 to include demonstrations aimed to STOP THE SECOND GENOCIDE.
  • Worldwide events on Sunday, 1 August, 2004 to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Zigeunerlager massacre(02.08.l944) and the Roma Holocaust.

    Meanwhile,TERF calls for a venue to be decided upon as soon as possible for the assembling of VI WORLD ROMANI CONGRESS scheduled to take place next year. This Congress, we believe, should include a commemoration of the Holocaust together with a powerful demonstration against all the manifestations of the threatened "second genocide" - whether by destruction of homes, deportation or denial of our collective national rights. In preparation for this, TERF has started to document all the Roma victims of racial murder since 1989. This list already contains over hundred names.
    ©Dzeno Association

    21/8/2003- Wales striker Nathan Blake wants UEFA to "put up or shut up" in a bid to end racism in football. The Wolves marksman was one of four black Welshmen to experience racist abuse at the hands of supporters in Serbia and Montenegro. Blake, Danny Gabbidon, Robert Earnshaw and Under-21 goalkeeper Jason Brown all suffered abuse from fans in their respective European Championship qualifying matches. Wales chief David Collins contacted UEFA to register his country's anger at the treatment the players encountered, while team boss Mark Hughes was also disgusted by the abuse. A formal complaint will follow. Blake revealed he expected a hard time in Belgrade - but has challenged European football's governing body to back up their anti-racism campaigns with punishments for guilty countries. He said: "I expected it to be honest. I'd heard a lot about the racism of their fans.

    "I felt sorry for Jason Brown because he has never experienced anything like that before. But it's down to UEFA do something about it - nothing's done when there's a prime example of racism. "It's no good coming out with these campaigns - they're just a farce in my opinion. I say put up or shut up. Stop talking about the campaigns and do something about it. "Fining countries is obviously having no impact - UEFA should say 'if you do it you don't take part in the competition'." The Wolves marksman does not believe sending black players on anti-racism projects to Serbia and Montenegro would make any difference - and admitted he would be reluctant to go there on such an exercise. He added: "I wouldn't be prepared to do it - it wouldn't stop years of people being racist. "I don't think it would make a blind bit of difference - people know what's right and what's wrong."
    ©Sky Sports

    11/8/2003- Addressing the World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, on 2 September 2001, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Walter Schwimmer, pointed out that the Council had been "established in the wake of the second world war. The fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance is therefore one of the primary raisons d'être of our Organisation." The establishment of the Council of Europe in 1949 was indeed an attempt to address the needs of a public that had been devastated by two wars in less than 40 years and the horrors of the Holocaust in which people were exterminated in their millions because of their religion or ethnic origin. In the face of enormous public pressure to ensure that such crimes could never be repeated, governments responded by setting up the Council of Europe and adopting, in 1950, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

    The Convention owes its effectiveness not only to the scope of the rights and freedoms enshrined therein, but also to the protection machinery that goes with it, the European Court of Human Rights. The cornerstone of the system of protecting freedoms in Europe, the Court is available to nearly 800 million persons living in Europe and its judgments are binding on all the States Parties to the convention. The Convention deals with the issue of racism in Article 14 which states that "The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status." The scope of this article was reinforced through Protocol No. 12 which broadly prohibits any form of discrimination. The fact is that the Convention's provisions relating to protection against discrimination (Article 14) are of limited scope because they prohibit discrimination only where it applies to one of the rights set forth in the Convention; the new protocol, opened to signature in Rome on 4 November 2000, does away with this restriction and states that no one shall be discriminated against by any public authority on any ground. Racial discrimination is therefore a violation of human rights. The implementation of these provisions shall be supervised by the European Court of Human Rights and, in most State Parties, the protocol shall be directly applicable by the domestic courts. Besides, the first Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe, meeting in Vienna, Austria, on 8 and 9 October 1993, was to mark a turning point in the Council's approach to the fight against racism and discrimination.

    In the final declaration of the Summit, the member countries said that they were "alarmed by the present resurgence of racism, xenophobia and antisemitism, the development of a climate of intolerance, the increase in acts of violence, notably against migrants and people of immigrant origin, and the degrading treatment and discriminatory practices accompanying them."
    They set the Council of Europe a major, new task:

  • to reform the way the European Court of Human Rights operated in order to ensure its effectiveness
  • to draft a framework convention for the protection of national minorities
  • and, more broadly, to implement a policy to prevent racism, antisemitism, xenophobia and intolerance, thus signalling a new chapter in the Organisation's activities.

    The Vienna Summit accordingly decided to quickly launch a European youth campaign against racism, which later became famous for its slogan "All different, all equal." The Heads of State and Government also decided to set up a committee of experts to review each country's legislation and policies, to boost the fight against racism at local, national and European level, and to make any useful recommendations in this area. The result was the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, ECRI, a body composed of independent members designated by their governments on the basis of their knowledge in the field of combating intolerance, their high moral authority and recognised expertise in dealing with racism and intolerance.

    Special File Council of Europe

    ©Council of Europe

    16/8/2003- Still bearing the brunt of the September 11 attacks, many Muslims in Europe found it necessary to seek more active political and social integration in their societies. "With invoking more awareness of our own rights and deep understanding of social circumstances around, we can get what we want," said Othman Moqbal, a British Muslim. Although Britain is not such a full multicultural and multiracial society, Moqbal is proud that Muslims are making greater strides into "social and political involvement" in the kingdom. He noted, in this respect, that Britain's National Students Union (NSU) has 50 "conspicuously influential" Muslim members for this year against two or three ones in earlier years. In Britain, Muslim students organize an Islam Awareness Week every year, where Britons are invited to know more about a religion many still see through eyes of suspicion and enmity.

    Muslims in the West still believe the challenge has to do with "double-fold awareness" as put in the words of Khallad, a German engineering student. "Along with getting closer to each other for a homogenous relations in society, Muslims also should elucidate what Islam is and what Muslims are," he said with a clear enthusiastic tone. The Head of the European Muslim Youth and Student Organization (FEMYSO), Khallad contended that the still tarnished and stereotyped image of Muslims could be cleared by individual and organizational efforts. In Germany, he said, the national unity anniversary celebration on October 3 is used by the three-million Muslims as an "open day where mosques are open to non-Muslims and lectures and discussions are organized in cooperation with the country's churches". For the other fold, Khallad stressed, Muslims should walk down the moderate line and seek cooperation with society instead of "inculpating it for moral bankruptcy and social exclusion". Austrian Abdullah said that though his country is the best place for Muslims to live, things have seen a bite of a change ever since the 9-11 attacks. "After the attacks, I had worn a beard, to show people that not all beard-wearing persons are terrorists," persistent Abdullah said.

    Simply as it is, others see the problem could be emanating from "within" Muslims themselves. "The sense of victimhood could be harbored by us, and might be borne out of feeling discriminated against all the times," said 20-year-old Fazeela Zaib, from Sweden. Wearing Hijab, she admitted that "integration into European society and its political cores needs a challenge," ­ the last was a watchword for many speaking to IOL. "We have to prove to society that dressing in accordance with our own religion, we can be doctors, engineers and assume the highest posts," she said, admitting that getting a job is not the easiest thing for hijab-wearing women in the West. American female police officer was reprimanded and sent home without pay until she removed Hijab while on duty. Recent studies concerning European Muslims indicated that due to social tensions based on religious discrimination, "young Muslims suffer from high unemployment and social marginalization, factors that could lead to delinquency". Londoner Iftikhar Ahmad put it as blunt that children from Muslim minority in the UK are exposed to the pressure of what he called racism, multiculturalism and bullying. "They suffer academically, culturally and linguistically, and a high proportion of children of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin are leaving British schools with no grades and no qualifications" he recently wrote in the Guardian.

    'More Challenging'
    Although the September 11 attacks helped step up a barrage of criticisms against Muslims in Europe and the U.S., some argued that the event, however gruesome, held some positive elements for them. "After the attacks, a growing number of Islamic political organizations came to existence to deal with the media and secure more political rights at this critical juncture," said Alaa Bayoumi, of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). He said there is a need to educate Muslims "about social and political activistism and expound the essence of the religion to non-Muslims". Bayoumi lamented that not so a small number of westerns draw their knowledge of Islam through "biased media outlets and active politicians with negative agenda towards Muslims" ­ main factors for turning people on Muslim minorities. But many observers keep upbeat about recent moves taken to increase Muslims' involvement. The European Union ­ with 20 million Muslims making up about six percent of its overall population - was quick to take the initiative. It launched the program of the European Muslim Youth for Enrichment of Society, by virtue which "Muslims could table their demands, visions and ways of understanding society along with vowing their commitments," said Khallad of the FEMYSO.
    ©Islam Online

    14/8/2003- The night Sakia Gunn was killed, she and her friends had been hanging out in New York City's Greenwich Village, where the young, black lesbians knew they could find acceptance in the popular haven for gays. Their train ride home to Newark that night was all of 30 minutes, but residents in their working-class neighborhoods say in some ways, the two places are worlds away. While waiting for their bus connection in Newark, the teenagers were approached by a man who tried to pick up some of the girls when Sakia, 15, and the others told him they were lesbians. Witnesses said the man grabbed Sakia, and when she broke loose, he lunged and stabbed her in the chest. ``I'm holding her, and her head is in my hand, and I'm saying you gotta breathe, you gotta breathe,'' said friend Valencia Bailey. ``And she takes a breath, and then she looks at me, and turns her head. And then her eyes roll back, and her head goes heavy in my hand, and her body just goes limp.'' Richard McCullough, 29, has pleaded innocent to murder and weapons offenses with an added bias element that would increase his sentence if convicted. Bailey, 16, and Sakia termed themselves ``AG,'' or aggressive lesbians, marked by basketball jerseys and other boyish attire. Bailey said they were such close friends that the called each other cousins. ``You killed my cousin because she was a lesbian?'' Bailey said of her feelings since that night in May. ``It hurts, because this is who I am and you can't accept me.'' Sakia was always candid about her sexuality and realized it at an early age, said her mother, LaTona Gunn, in a recent interview. ``She was 11,'' LaTona Gunn said. ``She said, 'Mommy, I don't know if anything's wrong with me, but I don't like boys. I like girls.'''

    Since the killing, outraged lesbians and gays have held rallies in Newark, New York, Boston and Washington. About 2,500 people attended Sakia's funeral, an event that gay rights advocates said revealed the numbers and commitment of the city's young gay and lesbian community. But those working for gay rights in Newark say it is especially difficult because of an anti-gay bias within the predominantly black community. ``Because of the church,'' said Laquetta Nelson, a co-founder of the Newark Pride Alliance, formed after Sakia's death. ``Preaching hatred from the pulpit has contributed to the homophobia toward the gay and lesbian community, so they have a responsibility for Sakia's murder.'' Religious groups, including the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey and the Archdiocese of Newark, either did not return calls or declined to comment. The case has drawn comparisons to the widely publicized killings of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming in 2000, and of Teena Brandon, the subject of the film ``Boys Don't Cry,'' in Nebraska in 1993. But some critics say it didn't generate the same kind of media coverage or outrage among mainstream gay rights groups as other anti-gay killings because Sakia was a black woman from a working-class neighborhood. ``I was shocked at the lack of response, the lack of support,'' said Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now on WBAI Pacifica Radio out of New York. Calls to groups including the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the New Jersey Lesbian & Gay Coalition were not returned. The Gay City News, a New York City-based weekly newspaper focusing on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered - or LGBT - community, ran an editorial about the killing headlined, ``Where is the Outrage?'' ``I think there's racism in the LGBT community, and no doubt there's classism,'' said Mick Meenan, the paper's assistant editor, in an interview. ``Whatever attitudes that occur within the community at large occur within the LGBT community.''

    In the wake of Sakia's death, her mother has become something of a spokeswoman for the difficulties faced by young, black lesbians. One goal of the Newark Pride Alliance has been trying to win support from the city and school district for a community center to provide counseling and other services to gay and lesbian youth. After criticism that he was slow to react to the slaying, Newark Mayor Sharpe James attended Sakia's funeral. LaTona Gunn said the mayor approached her there to pledge his support for a community center. But, she said, after three months they have yet to schedule a meeting. City officials declined to be interviewed. Sakia's death pushed her friends into action. ``I took it real, real hard,'' said Jamon Marsh, 19, Sakia's girlfriend. The couple met at West Side High School. ``That next day I was in the hospital myself - I had a panic attack, I was dehydrated.'' Marsh and Bailey founded the Sakia Gunn Aggressive and Fem Organization as a support group for young lesbians. They say there is no school-sponsored group, despite a large gay and lesbian population. Several West Side students asked the principal, Fernand Williams, for a moment of silence. The students say Williams refused. Michelle Baldwin, a spokeswoman for the school district, said she referred a request for interviews to Williams and other school officials, who did not respond.
    ©The Guardian

    18/8/2003- The province's first-ever office of African Nova Scotian Affairs will be led by a white man. Rookie cabinet minister Barry Barnet was sworn in Monday as the minister of the newly created office, in addition to being named minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. "As with anything there is a level of apprehension that you are going to do a good job and I hope I will," says Barnet. "I am going to see what I can do." The new office was created to give African-Nova Scotians a voice in provincial politics. Yvonne Atwell, a former NDP MLA who became the first black woman elected to the legislature, says it's time issues affecting the black community became a priority for the provincial government. "There's been many years and years of constant dialogue from the black community with government," she says. From education to jobs, "there are many issues and they have not all been addressed in the past." Barnet says he's ready for the challenge. As the new MLA for Hammonds Plains-Upper Sackville, he represents citizens in two of the province's largest black communities: Lucasville and Upper Hammonds Plains. "I have a car," says Barnet, who plans to drive to other communities to hear residents' concerns. Henry Bishop, with the Black Cultural Centre, expects people will be skeptical. "I think that's natural, however let's give peace a chance. Let's find a way to do things for the betterment of all," he says. Premier John Hamm admits there will be some on-the-job training for the new minister. "There will be extensive consultation with the appropriate communites. There will be a reallocation of resources," says Hamm.

    21/8/2003- Pauline Hanson, the flame-haired founder of the far-right One Nation Party whose racism and xenophobia rocked Australian politics, was jailed for three years after being found guilty yesterday of electoral fraud. Her co-founder and former party director, David Ettridge, was also found guilty of fraud and jailed for three years. The pair created a political machine that harnessed the nation's dark side, drawing to it struggling farmers, rural poor, gun activists, racists and others fearing a collapse of Australian wealth and values. Hanson, 49, said from the dock that the jury's verdict was "rubbish ... a joke". "I'm still very innocent of the charges and I believe the prosecution has not proven the case against me or David Ettridge." Hanson had maintained in the run-up to the trial that the charges were a conspiracy by the political establishment to silence her and crush One Nation, at one stage even preparing a video-taped message to be played in case of her assassination. Ettridge, 58, who, with now bitter enemy David Oldfield, was Hanson's most influential and intimate adviser and who represented himself at the trial, said after the verdict: "I still maintain my innocence."

    The charges of electoral fraud date back to the party's glory days, when it was rolling through regional Australia and threatening to break heavily across Queensland and federal politics. The pair registered One Nation in Queensland using more than 500 names drawn from a list of Hanson supporters to qualify as a political party under the state's electoral law. But they fraudulently declared the supporters as party members. Hanson was further found guilty of dishonestly obtaining almost A$500,000 ($567,000) in electoral reimbursements after the 1998 state elections and sentenced to a concurrent term of three years. Hanson tearfully embraced her two sons and Ettridge as they were led away. Chief Justice Patsy Wolfe made no recommendation for parole, and said the pair had undermined public confidence in the political process. Yesterday's decision ends a career that flared dramatically - if briefly - after the Liberals dropped her as their candidate for the Queensland seat of Oxley in 1996. Hanson won the seat as an independent, rocking the country with her maiden speech by declaring Australia was in danger of being swamped by Asians and dividing the nation between those who passionately supported her and the majority who, equally passionately, opposed her.
    ©NZ Herald

    21/8/2003- So, the self-proclaimed mother of the nation is in jail, and the man who took her policies and finessed her beliefs is Prime Minister of Australia. The rights and wrongs of Pauline Hanson's conviction and sentence aside, her imprisonment is a graphic symbolic representation of the state of Australia and its politics. Australia's political, police and legal establishment has put Pauline Hanson - fish and chip shop heroine to the poor, the ignorant and the disenfranchised, the woman who created a party out of nothing in an instant and mobilised Australians never before involved in politics - behind bars. Big money, big brains, big spin machine politics triumphs - replete with its big corporate donations, branch stacking, crony capitalism, deceit and betrayals of the poor and the powerless. Politicians with brains, money and privilege walk free after defrauding the taxpayer, ministers and the Prime Minister survive with a smile after lying to the public- even about the reason for war - and profit from politics with sinecure taxpayer funded jobs or jobs with big corporations exploiting their political contacts. The big brand names of politics and the big media - with all their considerable assets - worked tirelessly to silence the scream of the Hanson's disenfranchised. I wrote in my book about her 1998 election campaign, Off the Rails: The Pauline Hanson trip, that Australia had been lucky that our brand of far-right nationalist politics had been amateur, unresourced, and too-quickly put together by carpetbaggers like David Oldfield and David Ettridge. What if a professional had captured the masses' imagination - where would Australia be now?

    Now we know. A professional has stepped in. His name is John Howard. She wanted refugee boat people given five year temporary visas instead of permanent residence. Philip Ruddock deplored her inhumanity, then, once Hanson was out of action, gave refugees three year visas instead. She demanded that the boats be turned around at sea. In August 2001, our SAS boarded the Tampa and our defence force did just that. The professional John Howard merely engineered the fears and angers of the insecure and economically suffering to his base political advantage. Softly softly suggestions only, then he sat back and watched the flames engulf each utterance, most recently with capital punishment after he gave the States the all clear to reintroduce it. The professional, John Howard, faced a fragmentation of the conservative vote with Pauline Hanson. Her One Nation Party helped elect Queensland and Western Australian Governments in early 2001. She pledged to put all sitting members last at the 2001 federal election, almost guaranteeing a Labor victory. But then came Tampa. The One Nation voted collapsed and its voters ran to Howard. So did Labor, in mortal fear. The professional, John Howard, was triumphant, and Labor unelectable. Australia's march to fascism began (see Howard's roads to absolute power).

    And now? The disenfranchised Hansonites are in the middle ground on social policy, Howard brilliantly manipulating their ignorance to exploit their downward envy as he screws them economically and demands they find the money to pay for their own basic health and the education of their children. The disenfranchised have empowered a resurgent Greens Party. Those who once saw themselves as mainstream Australians in an Australia committed to the universality of human rights are now grassroots activists, visiting refugees, researching their treatment in detention camps, writing books, lobbying politicians. And the rest of the old old middle ground? Former Kim Beazley chief of staff Syd Hickman put it this way this week, at the launch of a new group dedicated to reviving Liberalism:
    Understandably it is taking liberal Australians a fair while to appreciate the alarming reality that faces us. After all, liberalism for a long time represented the political middle ground. For much of the past thirty years small l liberals have had the luxury of being the swinging voters who decided who would win federal elections. What we thought about key issues used to matter. Quite frankly, in political terms, now it doesn't. And that's why core liberal issues like the future of the ABC, the secular education system and universal health care get such meagre attention.

    People who hold liberal values must demand their own place in the political spectrum. To get it they are going to have to work outside the old frameworks. They should stop telling themselves that it's good enough to be the wets or progressives in political parties which are now openly dedicated to illiberal ends. This is not virtue, its self delusion. Hanson was the most hated woman in Australia when she shocked the powerful and the comfortable with the truth - that our construct of a tolerant, progressive, open Australia was a myth. Now, Australians overwhelmingly feel sympathy for her as she languishes in jail. It's easy to explain, really, with the benefit of time. Underneath the racism and the ignorance, Hanson triggered a people's movement. It was crushed with all means at the powerful's disposal. And we all know it. One final word. John Ralston Saul made the point in his book, The Unconscious Civilisation, that outbreaks like Hansonism are not the fault of supporters, but of the elites:
    "There is no reason to believe that large parts of any population wish to reject learning or those who are learned.People want the best for society and themselves. The extent to which a populace falls back on superstition or violence can be traced to the ignorance in which their elites have managed to keep them, the ill-treatment they have suffered and the despair into which a combination of ignorance and suffering have driven them."
    So blame the Labor elite of 1983-1996 for the rise of Hansonism. And blame John Howard's elite for exploiting it now. And please, let Pauline Hanson walk free. She's more innocent than our major parties by miles.
    ©The Sydney Morning Herald

    By Max Du Preez

    Have you heard about the Afrikaner loan shark? He lends out all his money, then skips town. How do you hide money from a Boer? You hide it under a bar of soap. What is the definition of Mass Confusion? Father's Day on the Cape Flats. What is the difference between an Indian and a canoe? A canoe tips. What is a Jew's biggest dilemma? Free pork. Why do black people hate aspirin? Because it's white and it works. There you have it, the truth according to racist jokes. Afrikaners are crude, stupid, dirty racists. Coloureds are promiscuous drunks. Indians and Jews are tightfisted crooks. Blacks are dumb and lazy. I'm sure most of you agree that these jokes are in bad taste and shouldn't be printed in a newspaper. But how many of you are going to use one or more of these jokes (or funnier ones) in private conversations?

    I don't believe there exists or could ever exist a society where humour based on racial, ethnic or gender caricatures was actually just innocent fun. Racism and sexism are among the basest of human attitudes. Racist and sexist humour is always about stereotypes and prejudice. But even if a society pure enough to handle this kind of humour without damage to anyone exists, we know for sure it isn't our society. Perhaps more so than any other country on earth, racial divisions and prejudices have been the source of great suffering and dehumanisation in our country for almost four centuries. Yet racist jokes, name-calling and comments laced with prejudice are still prevalent in our society.

    It is ironic that such primitive behaviour as racist jokes should thrive so much on the most modern of vehicles of communication, the internet. I have just reported someone I don't know from a bar of soap to the Human Rights Commission because he keeps on sending me (and probably thousands of other South Africans) racist jokes via e-mail. I hope they can do something about it. Hate speech is ruled illegal in our constitution. I get one of these kind of e-mail messages at least once a week, and sometimes via sms on my cellphone. It is deeply offensive. What is even more offensive is that the racists who love these jokes would think nothing of telling it to someone like me, because he is presuming as a fellow white I would also be a racist.

    There are whole websites devoted to racist jokes. Just before writing this I typed in "racist jokes" in a search engine and came upon, where you can choose if you want jokes about "niggers, kooks, spics, Indians, Arabs, Polacks, Jews or women". And the website has an invitation: "Tell a friend about and spread the hate." They've got that right. It's the one thing all racist, ethnic or sexist jokes have in common: it is based on hatred. And that kind of hatred clearly has its roots in the person's own self-loathing. The weird thing is that racist humour and name-calling are more prevalent in South Africa today than in the days of apartheid. Somehow it is believed that it is not so offensive now to make jokes about black people because they are in power. It is the same old theory that is behind the belief that derogatory references to Afrikaners are fine because they were the nasty buggers ruling the country then. People without power, so the theory goes, cannot be racist. It was nonsense then and it is nonsense now. Does that mean a poor, unemployed and uneducated white man has licence to refer to the govern-ment as a bunch of "kaffirs"? He has no power, will never have power again and he is referring to people who do have power: financial and political power. No, his racism is as offensive as when a black yuppie with a good education and a fancy job refers to Afrikaners as "Boers" or other derogatory names for whites.

    Last week a radio jock, clearly desperate to shock, said on air that the problem with the Bok team was that there were "too many dumb Dutchmen" in it. If he had said there could be a problem with our national rugby squad because the old Afrikaner kragdadige culture still seems to dominate, I would probably have agreed with him. But he was completely out of order to use the derogatory word "Dutchmen" on air. If he had used any of the derogatory words used for some of our other population groups on air, he would not have survived the day. (Daniel Vickerman, an English-speaking South African now playing rugby for Australia, called the Afrikaners in the Springbok team "Japies" two weeks ago. I hope the Springboks remember it for the first loose scrum during the coming World Cup.)Racist humour should be treated by all of us as unacceptable behaviour reflective of a defective personality.
    ©Cape Argus

    A new report has concluded that immigrant youth turn to crime for the same reasons as native Norwegian youth, newspaper Dagsavisen reports. The comprehensive study is based on interviews with 12,000 students.

    1/8/2003- "Cultural or ethnic conditions do not create gang crime. Problems linked to this stage of life are at the root of this kind of criminal behavior," said youth researcher Tormod Oeia at NOVA (Norwegian Social Research). His doctoral thesis is the result of reports from over 12,000 Oslo youths. Oeia found that more immigrant youth became involved in criminal or anti-social behavior, but his explanation conflicts with many social anthropologists. Oeia believes that the Norwegian gangs of the 50s and 60s must be examined to understand the conditions that turn a few immigrant youths bad. "Norway had gangs, like the Frogner gang or the Blackie gang, long before non-Western immigration to Norway. Immigrant youth today are where Norwegian youth were over 30 years ago, and have taken up the social niche Norwegian youth had then," Oeia told Dagsavisen. Inferior economic conditions, greater unemployment rates, lack of space and larger families force these kids out onto the streets, where there are no organized activities on offer for them. Immigrant parents are at sea when trying to help their children cope with a new education and employment system, creating greater challenges within the family, Oeia argues.

    Oeia pointed out that Norway was concerned with gang violence long before non-Western immigration and the result was a concerted preventative effort, with the creation of community youth clubs just one of the measures. In the meantime, Norwegian society has changed, with more time devoted to families and a widespread rise in education and income. Oeia noted that criminality was most often explained as a reaction to racism, a line of reasoning he felt should be approached with caution. "I don't want to explain away racism, but there is a clear parallel between immigrant gangs and Norwegian right-wing extremism in Norway. Both groups push honor, racism or clichés about ethnic pride to justify criminal acts," Oeia said. His recipe is to emulate what worked for Norwegians. "Immigrant parents have it harder than Norwegian parents in the 50s. It is time to back youth and help them through school. We must increase preventative measures," Oeia said.

    2/8/2003- Immigrants from the 10 EU accession countries will now be given priority when applications for work permits are being considered, Tánaiste Mary Harney announced yesterday. Roughly 40,000 work permits have been issued annually in recent years. However, with increasing job losses looming the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment earlier this year restricted the categories of professionals allowed to apply for permits. Yesterday's announcement is required as part of the EU Accession Treaty, which was signed on April 16, 2003. The treaty obliges member states to give preference to applications from citizens of the 10 states due to officially join the EU in May next year. Under the Employment Permits Act which came into force in April all nationals from countries joining the EU will have freedom of movement for work purposes after accession next year.

    The Tánaiste yesterday welcomed the prospect of a new significant source of labour to become available to Irish employers, saying the new changes should assist businesses who have not been able to find staff in Ireland or the EU. The Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment also announced yesterday that it had decided to reduce the list of professionals not permitted to apply for an Irish work permit following a review of the operation of the restrictions introduced earlier in the year. From now until December international HGV and articulated drivers, aircraft mechanics/engineers, fish processors and plasterers will be allowed to apply to work in Ireland. The changes mean an employer can apply for a work permit to employ a non-EU individual in the above categories as long as no suitably qualified Irish person is available. Categories still off bounds to non-EU workers include the hotel sector, clerical and administrative workers, general labourers and operator and production staff.
    ©Irish Examiner

    3/8/2003- Teachers are being issued with guidelines on how to tackle anti-semitism in schools. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has published the advice in a bid to help stem the growing number of attacks on Jewish people, schools, synagogues, community centres and the desecration of Jewish graves with swastikas. The move by the NUT has been welcomed by Leyton and Wanstead MP Harry Cohen. He said: "I warmly welcome this excellent advice to teachers issued by the NUT on dealing with the issues of racism and anti-semitism in schools. "Teachers must act positively not to let hatred fester or be allowed any credence whatsoever and to counter all prejudice with the truth."

    This advice leaflet is the third in a series from the NUT dealing with issues arising from the ongoing instability in the Middle East, Iraq, the continuing effects of September 11, the election of BNP councillors and increasing levels of racism directed against Muslims, asylum-seeking refugees and Jewish communities. NUT general secretary Doug McAvoy said the guidance emphasises the importance that schools integrate action against anti-semitism with action against other forms of racism and discrimination. He added that the document states all forms of racism are unacceptable and an attack on one minority group is an attack on all. The leaflet advises how teachers should tackle teaching controversial issues, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It states no attempt should be made to take a politically partisan approach or one which belittles a particular set of opinions. Teachers should also take a whole-school approach to dealing with anti-semitism and racism in general. The leaflet also suggests staff may want to involve the wider community including parents, religious and community groups to give an outside perspective to pupils on the impact of racist abuse and vandalism. There are contact details provided for agencies who give assistance to schools in teaching about the Holocaust, its implications for the Jewish community and its impact today. The advice leaflet also lists a number of books for further reading which give more insight into anti-semitism.
    ©Redbridge Guardian

    These children lived here for years. Now they're being frogmarched out of Britain

    Despite a huge campaign for them to stay in Britain, Yurdugal Ay and her four children will be thrown out on Tuesday

    3/8/2003- Time has run out for the Ay family. On Tuesday the four young children and their mother, who have spent the last 13 months locked up in an asylum detention centre, will be placed on board a specially chartered 142-seat jet with no other passengers and deported to Germany. From there they are likely to be sent back to Turkey, which their mother fled 15 years ago claiming persecution. The children, aged between seven and 14, have never set foot in Turkey. Their father, who was deported by British authorities a year ago, has not been heard of since. Campaigners, including a Catholic bishop, human rights lawyers, the children's schoolteachers and senior politicians, say the family should not be deported. Their plight has been reported in The Independent on Sunday, which campaigned against their detention. The family is being deported after the House of Lords last week backed a previous legal decision that the mother, Yurdugal Ay, "had no legal right to remain in the UK". She came to Britain with her husband after living in Germany and, under the Dublin Convention, her asylum application should be heard by the German authorities. They fled to this country four years ago after the Germans had decided to deport them.

    The Home Office welcomed the Lord's decision. In a statement a spokesman said: "We are pleased that the decision has brought this protracted litigation to an end. The family should be returned to Germany for consideration of their asylum claim." The family has already made multiple applications for refugee status in Germany, all of which have been turned down. But campaigners argue they have been picked on as a soft target because children in schools are easy to track down in the system, as opposed to young men who go missing. The family's lawyer, Aamer Anwar, says the Government has refused to consider an asylum application by the children, which is a breach of international law. He has been sent a letter by government lawyers warning him not to try to stop Tuesday's deportation. Mr Anwar says the family - mother Yurdugal, 34, and her children, daughters Beriwan, 14, Newroz, 12, and Medya, seven, and son Dilowan, 11 - were woken at 5am on Friday by 10 security guards and, without warning, taken on a 10-hour journey to a detention centre near Gatwick airport. Their removal from their tiny room was filmed by security guards. "They have been treated worse than alleged terrorists have been treated," he said. "The children are totally traumatised by what's gone on." He added that earlier in the day he had been denied access to them. He was not told they were about to be moved, and when he found out he was not told where they had been taken to.

    Yurdugal and her husband Salih, who are Kurds, left Turkey 15 years ago claiming persecution by the military police. They spent 11 years in Germany, where their children were born, but came to Britain four years ago when the German authorities threatened to deport them. Campaigners argue the Germans do not accept that Kurds are persecuted in Turkey, which is why they were due to be deported. "They do not accept there is a problem with the Kurds in Turkey," Scottish Nationalist MSP Linda Fabiani said, "even though Turkey cannot get into the European Union because of human rights abuses. I do not know the intricacies of the German asylum system, but if it is anything like ours it could take a long time for applications to be processed." The children settled well into school in Gravesend in Kent where they originally lived. They quickly learned English, and the elder two were tipped for university places. "We thought Britain was a fair and democratic country," said Beriwan. Her tearful sister Newroz said they were shocked and upset at the Lords' decision. "We can't believe this is happening. We have been here for a year and we thought there was a chance but it has just disappeared."

    Their friends in Gravesend also expressed dismay yesterday at their deportation. Julie Coleman, the family's next door neighbour, said: "They were brilliant neighbours, a wonderful family. They looked out for me all the time. I couldn't say a bad word about them. The mother didn't speak much English but she'd try to talk to people; she used to try to interact. She'd sometimes come round with food parcels - stuff that she'd cooked from her own country. "It's really sad that they got ripped out. Everything was fine, then the next minute the dad got taken away. Since they've gone we've had no contact with them. I would have got a petition together if I'd realised what had happened. I felt safe when they were here. They'd look out for us. "My daughter Lydia played all the time with their youngest, Medya. They were really good friends - she felt such a loss when they moved." Another neighbour, Karen Ball, said: "It's terrible. What's going to happen to them if they get sent back? You hear all kinds of things." "They were good kids who wanted to learn," said the chair of governors at Dover Road school, Andy Crawford. "They've been dismissed by the system. It's a shame they were dealt with in that way."

    But when Salih was deported to Germany in March last year, Yurdugal, fearful to go with him, absconded. As a result she was taken to Dungavel Detention Centre in Strathaven, Lanarkshire, and her children were taken out of school to go with her. Dungavel has been condemned by MPs for its prison-like conditions. Mr Anwar believes they were moved at short notice to take them out of Scottish jurisdiction to prevent any appeal against their deportation. He has also been warned against any further attempts to prolong the family's stay in this country by the Treasury Solicitor. No asylum application has yet been heard on behalf of the children. But Mr Anwar has lodged one - the first to be made in this country on behalf of a child - after being contacted by Beriwan. But the letter from the Treasury Solicitor makes it clear this will not be heard. "In the Secretary of State's view your threat of yet further judicial proceedings is frankly an abuse of process designed solely to disrupt the lawful removal of the Ay family to Germany," it says. "For the avoidance of doubt I confirm that even if proceedings are issued, removal will not be deferred. The Ay family has now, in any event, been removed out of Scottish jurisdiction. The Secretary of State takes the gravest view of any further attempts to prolong the Ay family's stay in this country by unfounded allegations."

    "On Thursday the children officially became asylum-seekers," Mr Anwar said, "so the British government now has an official policy of jailing child asylum-seekers. In the past they said the children were only in detention so they could be near their mother. "The manner in which they treated the children is barbaric. I've never had to speak to children who are in prison and petrified and do not know what is going to happen to them. "To remove them from the country before their application for asylum could even be processed is completely underhand. I really do think they have taken a special interest in these children because their treatment has completely exposed the barbarism of the British government in terms of jailing children behind barbed wire." Bishop John Mone of Paisley, who made a personal appeal to the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, on behalf of the family, condemned the actions of the Government. He said there was a "groundswell of support" in Scotland for the Ay family. "When I visited them they seemed so depressed," he said. "They have lost their childhood and need their childhood restored. This shouldn't happen to any children. They had no hope. They have moved them to get them away as quickly as possible so they can't make any fresh appeals. But if the law allows them to apply for a fresh hearing they should be allowed to have one. David Blunkett, when I spoke to him, blamed the family for keeping the children here for making numerous appeals. "I'm saddened and disappointed that Blunkett didn't listen to my personal appeal when I met him. The groundswell in Scotland is very much against what is going on. The whole asylum system needs looking at." Linda Fabiani added: "I am really concerned that they have been removed from Dungavel while an application has been lodged on behalf of the children. It strikes me as an awful thing. I'm worried they've moved them from Dungavel to get them out of Scotland as that's where the campaign is focused. They want to take the heat off so they can quietly deport them on Tuesday. To take the children out of the education system they were happily in to put them in a detention centre is appalling. In Scotland there's a skills shortage. To me, the likes of the Ay family are people we should be looking at as future citizens of the country. I don't get how they totally discount the contribution they can make."


    Linda Fabiani, Scottish Nationalist Party MSP
    "To take the children out of the education system they were happily in to put them in a detention centre is appalling. In Scotland there's a skills shortage, and to me, the likes of the Ay family are people we should be looking at as future citizens of the country. I don't get how they totally discount the contribution they can make. I'm worried they've moved them from Dungavel to get them out of Scotland, as that's where the campaign is focused, by church groups and asylum groups, to take the heat off so they can quietly deport them on Tuesday."

    Sarah Parker, from the Ay family campaign
    "People are very upset. We feel it is a great pity that the Home Office has ignored what's been said, that it would not be safe for them to go back to Turkey. But the Home Office has sheltered behind the fact that Germany is a safe country. The Government wants to see Turkey as an ally but it is baffling that the Government ignores the reality of what's going on in Turkey. They are doing what they are doing because they are desperate. They are not doing it for fun."

    John Mone, Bishop of Paisley
    "They have lost their childhood and need their childhood restored. This shouldn't happen to any children. There's a lot of people who can contribute, especially in Scotland where the falling birth rate is a real worry. David Blunkett, when I spoke to him, blamed the family for keeping the children here for making numerous appeals. I'm saddened and disappointed that David Blunkett didn't listen to my personal appeal. The groundswell in Scotland is very much against what is going on. The whole asylum system needs looking at."

    Andy Crawford, chair of governors at Dover Road school
    "They were good kids who wanted to learn. They've been dismissed by the system. It's a shame they were dealt with in that way."

    Aamer Anwar, solicitor
    "The manner in which they treated the children is barbaric. I've never had to speak to children who are in prison and petrified and do not know what is going to happen to them."

    Julie Coleman, the family's next-door neighbour in Gravesend
    "They were brilliant neighbours, a wonderful family. They looked out for me all the time. I couldn't say a bad word about them. The mother didn't speak much English but she'd try to talk to people. She'd sometimes come round with food parcels - stuff that she'd cooked from her own country. It's really sad that they got ripped out."
    © Independent Digital

    4/8/2003- All immigrants entering the UK should be screened for infectious diseases, the Tories have said. Shadow health secretary Liam Fox said that the adoption of compulsory screening for immigrants and asylum seekers was essential to prevent such diseases being brought into the country. But the plan, outlined in a Conservative Party consultation paper, has been condemned as "extremist" by its opponents. Dr Fox acknowledged that the plans were likely to face opposition, but said that the public health issues at stake were too important to be ignored. "Dealing with these issues is bound to be controversial. But politics should be about shaping an agenda rather than simply following one," he said. "If issues, such as the testing of those coming from overseas, are not addressed by the political mainstream in a responsible and rational way, then we risk them being hijacked by political extremists with an entirely different and undesirable agenda." The plans are set out in a Tory consultation paper called "Before It's Too Late: A New Agenda for Public Health", which suggests that immigrants could be screened for Aids and tuberculosis. In his introduction to the document, Dr Fox accused the government of having "stood silently by on the politically correct sidelines" while Britain had experienced a second Aids wave "largely imported from Africa". The document goes on to state that more than 50% of tuberculosis in the UK now occurs in people born abroad, the majority of whom arrived in Britain within the last 10 years. "This is clearly an avoidable scandal which political cowardice and charges of racism has turned into a major health problem. We should simply not be importing active TB infection into the UK," it said. The Tories said that their proposals for screening applicants are based on the Australian system. Applicants would be assessed to ensure that they did not pose a risk of transmitting an infectious disease; they would not create undue demand on health resources; and would not create a "long term drain" on the NHS. People entering the UK through the immigration system would have to pay for the screening which would be administered at the point of application.

    'Health tourists'
    Asylum seekers would be detained until it was clear the tests had been met. But the proposal was strongly condemned by the Liberal Democrat health spokesman Evan Harris, who warned that the government may now feel compelled to follow suit. "This is an unnecessary, extremist, unethical and unworkable policy which will do little to improve public health and much to damage our economy and the fabric of our society," he said. "It would discriminate against the disabled, split up families and would provide only a false sense of security on matters of public health." The Tory proposals follow the government's announcement that it intends to clamp down on so-called "health tourists" who come to Britain to receive free NHS hospital treatment. The Conservatives are also calling for the creation of a public health commissioner to put public health issues high up the political agenda. The remit would be to identify failures in public health policy across government, with the commissioner reporting direct to Parliament rather than to ministers.
    ©BBC News

    4/8/2003- Feltham Young Offenders' Institute, recently criticised by the Commission for Racial Equality over the death of an inmate in March 2000 at the hands of his racist cellmate, was given a clean bill of health by the Prison Service recently. The Service's Performance Rating System, which, under new guidelines was published on Thursday, July 24, rated Feltham a level 3 institution. According to its findings, it was ‘meeting the majority of targets, experiencing no significant problems in doing so, and delivering a reasonable and decent regime'.

    Prisons across the country were rated on a one to four performance scale, judged on measures like cost performance, reaching key targets, compliance with Prison Service Standards, and the findings from external inspections by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and Independent Monitoring Boards. The ratings will be reviewed quarterly. Zahid Mubarek, 19, a first-time offender at Feltham, was murdered in his cell three years ago by skinhead, Robert Stewart. Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, commented following the commission's report on the case in July: ‘‘Zahid Mubarek died because of a combination of Robert Stewart's racism and failures by the prison service to provide him with appropriate protection.''
    ©Staines Guardian

    5/8/2003- Police say a vandal attack on a Jewish cemetery in Greater Manchester was motivated by racism. Twenty headstones were pushed over and smashed at the Hebrew Burial Ground in Butterstile Lane, Prestwich. It is believed the destruction took place between 1900 BST on Monday and 0730 BST on Tuesday. The damage is expected to cost about £40,000 to repair. Sergeant Ian Campbell, of Greater Manchester Police, said the attack was being treated as racially motivated. He added: "This is a particularly mean spirited and callous attack on the last resting place of some Jewish dead in Prestwich. "It would appear that overnight approximately 20 headstones were pushed over and smashed. "These were particularly heavy being made of marble and granite and we think that the damage will run into tens of thousands of pounds." He added: "Unfortunately the cemetery is used as a meeting place by children and as a cut through to nearby woods. "Officers regularly patrol the area and a number of initiatives have been introduced nearby to keep the local children occupied and away from the actual cemetery.

    'No respect'
    "I would ask local resident to be extra vigilant to any activity in the area and report anything suspicious they see to the police." Sonny Fromson, chairman of the Rainsow Joint Burial Board, said: "It is a case of pure and mindless vandalism. "Whoever is responsible for this, whether they are boys or men, must be sick in their minds. "They have obviously got no respect whatsoever for the dead and unfortunately it causes a lot of heartbreak to the families concerned." The vandalism is the second attack on the cemetery in less than two years. Three youths were convicted of damaging headstones in January 2002.
    ©BBC News

    6/8/2003- A probe into the death of a schizophrenic man at a mental health clinic near Norwich has slammed the NHS as "racist to the core". Racism and outdated techniques have been blamed for the death of David 'Rocky' Bennett. Mr Bennett, 38, died while being held face-down in the Norvic Clinic, in Thorpe St Andrew, in October 1998, after fighting with a fellow patient and hitting a nurse. On the final day of an independent inquiry sanctioned by the Government, the National Health Service was accused of institutional racism. Dr Richard Stone, a panel member, who was an adviser in the inquiry into the death of London teenager Stephen Lawrence, said: "Things are not getting better, they are getting worse. Black people are 40 per cent more likely to be turned away when they ask the NHS for help. "We are dealing with an institution which has historically let down black people, which is racist to the core."

    Panel chairman, Sir John Blofeld, said: "Our research (through the inquiry) has shown black mental health patients are over-medicated and spend too much time in secure wards." Sadiq Khan, the lawyer of Dr Joanna Bennett, Mr Bennett's sister, who lectures on the care of psychiatric patients, said: "We believe there is a hierarchy among NHS patients, with young black men at the bottom. "There is a stark difference in the treatment of a young black man and a middle-aged white man, with the same symptoms or condition. "The way black people are treated is staggering — we are in no doubt there is institutional racism in the National Health Service." In his closing speech to the inquiry's panel of mental health experts, he said Mr Bennett's family hoped the inquiry would have as much impact as the report into the police's handling of the murder of London teenager Stephen Lawrence. The Department of Health's most senior mental health official, Professor Anthony Sheehan, was at the inquiry's final hearing. Professor Sheehan, head of the Government's mental health department, promised the panel's findings would be made public. He said: "There's tremendous interest in the outcome of this inquiry — not a meeting goes by when someone doesn't mention it." The result of the inquiry will be read out in the House of Commons in late autumn by Mental Health Minister Rosie Winterton, and could be used to form new mental health legislation.

    Father-of-two Mr Bennett grew up in Peterborough, and had a history of psychiatric problems. He was admitted to the Norvic Clinic, in Thorpe St Andrew, in 1995. But in the early hours of October 31 five years ago, he became violent and started to "rain punches" on nurse Sharon Hadley. He was restrained by five members of staff. But he stopped breathing and, despite the best efforts of nurses, could not be resuscitated. Home Office forensic pathologist Dr David Harrison told the hearing at King's Lynn County Court that the mechanics of Mr Bennett's death were consistent with someone being restrained in the prone position for about 20 minutes. A jury at his inquest returned a verdict of accidental death, aggravated by neglect. A year after Mr Bennett's death Norwich North MP Ian Gibson raised concerns over "institutionalised racism" in the NHS, but Norfolk Mental Health Care Trust chiefs denied the allegation. New guidelines on restraining violent patients were issued after Mr Bennett's inquest after coroner William Armstrong called for changes.

    A spokesman for Norfolk Mental Healthcare Trust said: "The trust carried out its own internal review into all aspects of the care and treatment of David Bennett. "The review examined nursing and medical records, studied documents relating to standards of care and good practice and included interviews with staff."
    He said an action plan drawn up made a number of changes to the way the trust works including:

  • Improvement to the training in prevention and management of Aggression and the appointment of a co-ordinator for that training.
  • A programme of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation training for all staff.
  • The purchase of automatic defibrillators and training of staff to operate them. t Steps to increase awareness, through education and training, of ethnicity and diversity issues.

    He added: "The death of David Bennett has had a shattering impact on the trust, and this has been felt most acutely by the people who knew and worked with David. "Everyday, staff working in the Norvic Clinic and in other secure units across the country carry out tremendously demanding jobs. "We will welcome any guidance - national or local - that will strengthen and improve the standards of care and safety for our patients and staff. It is extremely important that we take this opportunity to learn from this tragic case."
    ©Evening News

    Asylum broadcast provokes watchdog's ire

    6/8/2003- A leading radio "shock jock" has been criticised by the broadcasting standards commission for encouraging racism against asylum seekers. A complaint against Nick Ferrari, the star phone-in presenter on London's LBC 97.3, has been upheld after a listener complained that he encouraged listeners who made racist comments. The finding is especially embarrassing in multiracial London because Ferrari is editor-designate of Richard Desmond's proposed new evening newspaper for the capital. Among those calling for the station to make an example of Ferrari is the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who has written to his bosses demanding to know what action they will take. He says such broadcasts risk damaging race relations in London.

    In its ruling the BSC said callers to the mid-morning programme on March 10 were asked to compare the treatment of asylum seekers with that of UK citizens. It concluded: "Notwithstanding the legitimate nature of the subject of the discussion and the presenter's well-known approach and style, the programme's active reinforcement of prejudiced views about asylum seekers exceeded acceptable boundaries for transmission." LBC told the BSC its programme was designed to be provocative and said the subject of asylum seekers was a legitimate subject for discussion. It said that in its view Ferrari did not overstep the mark, but he had been reminded of the sensitivities of the issue "and the need to respect alternative opinions". In a letter to the station Mr Livingstone demands assurances that there will not be a recurrence. "As mayor I must have regard to equality of opportunity for all those who live and work in London. More generally, I regard it as my absolute duty to maintain good community relations in our city and to oppose every effort to create divisions." He adds: "Nick Ferrari has built a reputation on controversy and argument, but LBC must also have regard for the interests of our city and the rights of the people who live here. Mr Ferrari specialises in the US-style 'shock-jock' format and it seems on this occasion that he strayed beyond the boundary of acceptability. It is not acceptable to me as mayor, and I suspect most Londoners, to have a London radio station 'actively reinforcing prejudice'."

    Mark Flanagan, the managing director of Chrysalis, which owns LBC, said the company had already dealt with the issue in a proportionate way. The presenter had been offered a new two-year contract. "Nick Ferrari has got a rumbustious, opinionated style which everyone knows about and it is well appreciated by those who tune in every day," said Mr Flanagan. LBC would not be dictated to by the mayor. "I take on board Ken's remarks but he is not responsible for who we put on our radio station." The mayor and Ferrari have clashed before. Last year Mr Livingstone accused the presenter of provoking listeners to jam the city hall switchboard because the mayor refused to support a parade welcoming troops back from Iraq. The mayor accused Ferrari of displaying an "irresponsible attitude".
    ©The Guardian

    8/8/2003- Plaid Cymru presidency hopeful Dafydd Iwan has landed himself at the centre of a controversial debate about racism. Delivering a speech at the National Eisteddfod in mid Wales, vice-president Mr Iwan claimed people were leaving England for Wales to escape Indian and Pakistani immigrants who had settled there. The Labour Party has called for him to "do the honourable thing" and step down from his party's leadership race, but Plaid's chairman has defended his comments. In his speech - which was given in Welsh at the annual cultural festival in Meifod - Mr Iwan highlighted the plight of a shortage of affordable housing for local people in rural Wales. His comments - which he later said had been quoted out of context - come just weeks before Plaid Cymru members decide whether they will choose him as their new president. He said the number of English people wishing to move to attractive areas in Wales had increased. Then he added: "And of course, there are some people who have taken it further so they can avoid all the Pakistanis and all these Indians who have moved to English towns. "That is the truth of it - ask them. They are coming to Wales to avoid immigration. The situation has got worse."

    However, speaking to BBC Wales after the speech, Mr Iwan said his comments had been taken out of context. "I was referring to the number of people who come to Wales for various reasons - and that this number is going to increase," he explained. "We can't blame people for wanting to live in such a beautiful area as rural Wales, but they must realise that we have a different culture and a different language in many areas. "Recently I've heard of people who have said that they can't live any more with people from Indian and Pakistani backgrounds in English cities, so they come to Wales to escape from them. "We don't want people with these racist attitudes in Wales." Mr Iwan denied any suggestion that his own comments had been racist. "I'm saying that there are examples of people with obvious racist attitudes," he said. "What we have to understand is that this world is made up of different cultures and different languages and ways of life, but we are seeing the Welsh way of life and the Welsh language being undermined by people who do not appreciate other cultures. "And when they say that they are coming to Wales to escape from cultures which they don't approve of, that's an example of racism.

    "It is not racist to perceive the existence of different languages and different ways of life and different traditions. What is important is that we learn to co-exist, but also that we have the right to protect what is ours. "The difficulty in rural Wales today is that local people cannot afford to buy homes and to get jobs in many of our localities. But when we get people with racist attitudes and colonialist attitudes moving to Wales, then that makes the situation even worse." A spokesman for the Labour Party called on Mr Iwan to resign from the Plaid leadership race, and urged the party to condemn the speech. "This is a pretty crass attempt to brand English people moving into rural Wales as racists, hiding behind the fig-leaf that this is what people say," the spokesman said. "The only honourable course of action would be for him to withdraw from the race for the presidency." But Plaid Cymru chair John Dixon defended Mr Iwan. "It is completely absurd and outrageous to compare these comments with the repugnant agenda of the BNP and fascists," Mr Dixon said. "In making such foolish and groundless attacks, the Labour Party is simply giving a platform to racists and their views. Plaid Cymru rejects racism absolutely."
    ©BBC News

    5/8/2003- Medical aid organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has asked that Belgium accord asylum seekers with special residential status ­ a category that would include 300 Afghan refugees on hunger strike in a Brussels church. The organisation made the request Tuesday, adding that the situation in Afghanistan remained very insecure. Its sentiments were echoed by the Afghan ambassador to Belgium who agreed forced repatriation was out of the question. "There is no actual generalised threat in Afghanistan," Refugee Commission Pascal Smet said at the beginning of the Afghan hunger strike. "The European Union has estimated that it is time for repatriation operations to be set into motion." Similarly, Interior Minister Patrick Dewael pointed out in an address to the Chamber of Home Affairs select committee last week that both France and the UK had already expelled Afghans due to the improved situation in Afghanistan, and that he would not be blackmailed by the asylum seekers' actions.

    Three hundred Afghans have been on hunger strike for 13 days in protest at the rejection of 1,100 requests for political asylum from Afghan refugees. The Red Cross has confirmed that several are already in the advanced stages of starvation. The majority of the rejected asylum seekers had waited two years for the decision after having arrived in the country at the end of 2001 and beginning of 2002 in the weeks following the US intervention in Afghanistan. OCIV - an organisation defending refugees and asylum seekers' rights, has called for an independent mediator to solve the crisis, as well as an in depth evaluation of the current security situation in Afghanistan.Three hundred Afghans have been on hunger strike for 13 days in protest at the rejection of 1,100 requests for political asylum from Afghan refugees. The Red Cross has confirmed that several are already in the advanced stages of starvation. The majority of the rejected asylum seekers had waited two years for the decision after having arrived in the country at the end of 2001 and beginning of 2002 in the weeks following the US intervention in Afghanistan. OCIV - an organisation defending refugees and asylum seekers' rights, has called for an independent mediator to solve the crisis, as well as an in depth evaluation of the current security situation in Afghanistan.
    ©Expatica News

    5/8/2003- Amid growing controversy over the government's pardon for long-term asylum seekers, the Justice Ministry will appeal against a court ruling preventing the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) deporting a Somalian woman. The Maastricht Court has ruled that the woman cannot be deported because uncertainty still exists around the pardon regulation allowing asylum seekers who are in "distressing" or to whom exceptional circumstances apply to permanently remain in the Netherlands. About 7,000 such asylum seekers have since applied to remain in the country, but it was revealed last month that the IND had prematurely started deportations despite the fact the criteria for the programme have not yet been finalised.

    Just two weeks after the Somalian woman submitted her pardon application, the IND informed her that she had to leave the country. The woman — a single mother with two children — requested asylum three years ago, but was refused, an NOS news report said. She resolved to fight the IND's pardon refusal and won her legal battle in the Maastricht Court. Despite the fact an appeal against the court's ruling is not possible, the Justice Ministry said, however, it would initiate an appeal to gain a precedence ruling. The ministry said only those people who have been waiting more than five years for a definite decision over their asylum request will come into consideration for a pardon. But refugee organisation VluchtelingenWerk Nederland said the Maastricht ruling had implications for the other asylum seekers who have submitted applications for a pardon, many of whom have been rejected without sufficient motivation from the IND.

    Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk — who entered the government as part of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's second Cabinet in May 2003 — had agreed with MPs that the applications would not be processed until she had time to finalise the assessment criteria for the pardon. But the IND — which comes under the authority of Minister Verdonk — immediately set about refusing applications for clemency and ordering people to get out of asylum centres and leave the country. The revelations have sparked outrage across the Netherlands. And despite the fact it is not yet known how many asylum seekers have been refused a pardon, refugee organisation VluchtelingenWerk Nederland said the Maastricht ruling had implications for all of them and has advised the refugees to take their cases to court.
    ©Expatica News

    Gene Glover, an African American from New York, came to Berlin after living in Paris. He found friendship, curiosity and "intolerance like an ogre".

    8/8/2003- Driving onto the Stadtring I had that feeling of hopefullness reserved exculsively for the moments when we embark upon a great project. I had been to Germany before, but this time I had the majority of what I own, three years worth of my girlfriend's possessions, and my German girlfriend all packed into a borrowed Sprinter. This was no visit, I was here to stay. My girlfriend was asleep in the passenger seat, so I was solo-piloting our entry into our new home. At the last Autohof, we had decided to follow the Ring around the eastern side of Berlin and enter Prenzlauer Berg from the north. I vaguely remember seeing a sign for Lichtenberg moments before they passed us. It was just one of those billions of sensory recordings that fly through your mind in an instant, but occasionally find significance when subsequent events provide relevance and context. The first thing I noticed was that the little Volkswagen Golf seemed to have been spray-painted black and had tyres too small for the load it was being forced to bear. As they pulled in front, my headlights illuminated four stubbly heads and the jet-black, jagged hairstyling of a lone girl. As I accelerated to keep pace, I noticed that one man in the backseat had the SS lighting bolt motif shaved into his head. Matching bumper stickers adorning the back of the car brought home the reality that 15 minutes into my life in Germany I was having my first neo-Nazi encounter.

    For the record, I am African American and I live in Berlin. So in several senses, I suppose that qualifies me to write about minorities in Germany. Intially no one, myself included, really thought too seriously about my plans to move to Berlin. I had been living in Paris for over a year and any mention of the move usually invoked several jokes about white socks with sandals from my French friends or a fresh round of betting as to how long it would be before I was back. But in the months leading up to the move, various friends, colleagues and strangers both voiciferously and subtly attempted to dissuade me from moving to Germany. The majority produced uncredited statistics about the prevalence of extreme right violence. Others, in tones usually used in church or after World Cup defeats, grimly recounted to me horror stories of personal encounters with Germans. One elderly regular at the bar where I worked stated in all sincerity that "it" was not finished between them and us (Germany and France). Me being an honorary Frenchman in his estimation. While these words of counsel were well-meant, I didn't need any help feeling nervous. In making the decision to relocate to Berlin I was already confronting my own stereotypes and fears about Germany. At the same time, I was making a conscious attempt to vaccinate myself against the influence of my own prejudice.

    In my time here, I've come to understand that Berlin is far different from Paris for an African American. From Jospehine Baker to Richard Wright to Miles Davis, the French (particularly Parisians) have been quicker to embrace African American artists and intellectuals than any other Europeans, and in many cases Americans. However, beyond any cultural legacy, the level of diversity in Paris becomes apparent before you even leave the airport. In no other European city, with the exception of London, have I noticed such large percentages of people of colour employed as police officers, firefighters and civil servants. While this may initially seem to be a trivial observation, I think that it speaks volumes about the level of tolerance in a society. When minorities begin to occupy positions of power traditionally reserved for the majority culture it is impossible to deny a shift in people's perceptions. I will never forget being stopped cold at German customs after having watched my planeful of white Americans breeze through while flashing their passports. The next ten minutes were spent responding to insensitive questions about my nationality - if I wasn't really Jamaican and whether or not I liked Bob Marley - and watching them pass my passport back and forth making jokes about my dreadlocks. I thought to myself, if this is how the representatives of the government treat foreigners, how much hope can I have for the average citizen.

    To clarify, intolerance was absolutely a presence during my time in France, but it felt like a shadow. Something you know is always there, but only intermittenly enters your line of sight. In Germany, the presence feels more like an ogre. Impossible to ignore and constantly roaring for attention. Coming from New York and having grown up in a relatively integrated environment, one learns early how to play the game of racial hopscotch peculiar to America. Mysteriously absent birthday party invitations, racial slurs by misguided children and overzealous cops were my introduction to the differences between the races. Over the years, more subtle events demonstrated to me the intricacy of the rules Americans abide by in order to maintain (most of the time) our delicate balance of multiculturalism. Through education, I became aware of the historical roots of our fears, prejudices and stereotypes. Through experience, I formulated my own evaluation of how far we have, or haven't come as a nation and as a people. In almost every obvious way, progress against racism in America is evident. In many more intimate ways, I can only see how much further we have to go. I eventually left America, and stepping out of my homeland was a lot like unloading my heaviest baggage. Like any expat, wanderlust, circumstance and curiosity all conspired to get me on a plane to Europe. As a minority, I was pleased to realise how much of what I'd learned and been taught was irrelevant in my adopted home. There were new languages, cultural norms and laws to be accepted or challenged. In America, these regulations were so internalised that they became paralysing, but in Europe I found myself facing these challenges with renewed energy. There exist stereotypes about African Americans and people of color that cross borders as easily as diplomats, but the majority of what I have experienced has been largely superficial, often stemming more from ignorance than malice.

    My first visit to Germany was in the summer of 1997. A friend and I were making a driving tour of Europe which ended up including time in Germany. We made our way from the Dutch border south through the western states, before heading east through southern Germany to the Czech Republic. Before this trip, I embarrasingly admit that despite being college-educated and reasonably intelligent, my single most defining image of Germans was as the villains in the Indiana Jones trilogy. Ten fun-filled, history-absorbing (Heidelberg), natural springs-bathing (Wiesbaden), hitchiking (Regensburg), beer-drinking (everywhere) days in Germany did wonders to explode my stereotypes. Looking back, the camraderie, openness and general good times I experienced that summer during my first encounter with German culture are what made it possible for me to move to Berlin eight months ago. So now, Ich bin ein Berliner. Which brings me back to the Stadtring and the carfull of skinheads with their skinhead chick. Still in shock, and wanting a witness to my nightmare, I shook my girlfriend awake and with what can only be described as childishness, pointed and said, "Look, skinheads". "Slow down", was her level-headed response. In an effort to dispel my scepticism and confirm my suspicions, I had been unwittingly tailing them for the last half kilometer. I eased my foot off the accelerator and they gradually pulled away before exiting the ring at the next Ausfahrt. Up until now, that night on the Stadtring has been my only brush with the extreme right and with any luck that's as close as I'll ever get.

    Life in Germany is full of challenges, but nothing other expats haven't faced and little that has had specifically to do with being a minority. As a city, Berlin is exceeding its reputation for culture and tolerance. We have a gay interim mayor, the Karneval der Kulturen rocked and I feel like a poltician when shopkeepers on my block wave at me from inside their stores. On the other hand, people stare at me on the Strassenbahn and make comments under their breath, I won't go to Lichtenberg or Marzan even in broad daylight, and in January a German was attacked in Mitte reportedly because he had a "gay-looking jacket". On the other hand, elderly women have approached me at the Schwimmhalle, taken my hair in their hands and smiled at me like children. On the other hand....but you get my point. What is clear is that the Nazi era has placed a stigma on this nation that now, more than 50 years later, seems indelible. Nevertheless, the evidence of change is all around us. Everyone will have valid reasons for feeling the way they do about Germany, irregardless of the artificial distinctions we construct to divide us. The ideas collected in this article are drawn from my unique experience. I could not, nor would I choose to, speak for any race, religion or nationality as a whole. The reality is that each of us who endeavors to be an individual exists as a minority of one and as one minority in Germany, I look ahead with hope and confidence.
    ©Expatica News

    6/8/2003- UEFA has expressed a wish for each of its member nations to take an active stand in the fight against racism. The Football Association of Finland (SPL-FBF) and the country's Veikkausliiga responded to the European body's call by launching a joint campaign – 'Red Card for Racism' – for the 2003 domestic season.

    Tampere day
    This campaign culminated recently at the Tammela stadium in the city of Tampere. The Veikkausliiga game between Tampere United and FC Jokerit was the highlight of the day, but various activities took place before and after the match. Some 1,500 immigrants were invited to the event. Before the match, a game was played between an immigrant team and a Finnish pop stars XI. Different kinds of cultures were also presented during the day at Tammela, and after the event, many Finnish citizens agreed that they had come another step closer to understanding and accepting people from other countries and cultures. The overall campaign proved to be a huge success. In every Veikkausliiga stadium, the anti-racist theme was presented in an effective manner, and the fight to eliminate racism was given widespread media coverage.

    Haara's experience
    Finland is fortunate in that racism in football has never been a real problem, although occasional incidents have happened. The campaign was aimed at transmitting the message that even one incident is one too many. Jokerit captain Heikki Haara has experience of the phenomenon from England, having played for Wimbledon FC, and considered the campaign to be very important. "I saw many kinds of things in England, although I think the situation is much better there now. Fighting against racism is a worthwhile activity in football, as the game is played in every part of the world," said Haara. "Even in Finland, we have foreign players and spectators who have the right to play and enjoy the game just like any other player or spectator. I haven't noticed any racism on the pitch this season and I'm really glad of that," he added.

    Message of tolerance
    The SPL-FBF and Veikkausliiga wanted to send out a message of tolerance. Football is a game for everyone, irrespective of age, religion or colour. The success of the campaign has given the Finnish football authorities every reason to believe that racism can be kept away from Finland's football grounds.

    Tension is growing again amongst displaced Chechens in Ingushetia.
    By Malika Suleimanova, journalist working for the Caucasus Times newspaper in Ingushetia.

    31/7/2003- In the latest threat to thousands of displaced Chechens living in the North Caucasian republic of Ingushetia, officials have warned that refugee camps there will be closed within the next two months. Akhmed Zaurbekov, an official with Chechnya's refugee committee, said this week that the camps - which are still home to more than 13,000 displaced persons - will be closed by the beginning of October. He blamed the poor condition of the camps and the risk of disease there. "The tents are unfit for inhabitation, especially in Bella camp," said Zaurbekov. Zaurbekov said that the internally displaced persons would be re-housed in "compact accommodation points" in Ingushetia and also in "temporary settlement points" in Chechnya. But critics of the plans and refugees themselves see a political background to the decision. Presidential elections are due in Chechnya in October and there are suspicions that the authorities are making a renewed attempt to get rid of the public embarrassment of refugees living in tents on Russian soil almost four years after the beginning of the last Chechen conflict.

    The acting leader of Chechnya, former mufti Akhmad Kadyrov, is the clear favourite to win those elections, which have been organised by Moscow. On July 4, at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Kadyrov promised that there "won't be a single tent" on the territory of Ingushetia by September. According to Russia's federal migration service, Ingushetia is home to 62,700 internally displaced persons from Chechnya. Thirteen and a half thousand of them live in camps while 22,700 reside in special housing called "compact accommodation points", with 25,700 in private homes. Many refugees now say that they are being pressured to return. Asiyat Madagova has lived in a camp in Ingushetia for more than three years. Nine people live in a canvas army tent, which has room for just nine beds and a small kitchen table. In summer the heat here is unbearable, and yet she still prefers to stay there rather than risk the uncertainty of going back to Chechnya. However, now she may have no choice. "I was away in Chechnya getting benefits for my children when they did the last checks in the camp," Asiyat said. "As a result I got struck off the lists for receiving humanitarian aid and my children and I have lost our last source of support in Ingushetia." "Of course it's been hard living in a tent with the children, but here at least I was sure that their lives were not threatened," she said. "But the situation in Ingushetia today is beginning to be similar to the one in Chechnya."

    Human rights activists noted an increased campaign of pressure and intimidation against the refugees. In the Sputnik camp, different official organisations have counted refugees four times in the past four weeks. And in the past two months, the activists say that more than 2,000 people have been struck off official aid lists. "The policies of the Russian authorities towards the Chechen refugees have one single goal - to return them to Chechnya by any means possible," said Ruslan Badalov, head of human rights non-governmental organisation the Chechen Committee for National Salvation. "When people are deprived of work and given one humanitarian ration - and then lose that as well as a result of endless checks and registrations - they simply have no other choice [but to leave]." Refugees in the Sputnik camp say they have been threatened by officials that they may share the fate of the inhabitants of the Iman camp, 1,500 of whom were sent home to Chechnya last December. That process was halted after the protests of local and international organisations.

    Recently, refugees living in so-called compact accommodation points say they have suffered raids in which armed masked men detained many people - an imitation of the "clean-up" operations that have plagued Chechnya over the last three years. "Over the last two months so-called 'clean ups' have taken place in all compact accommodation points for refugees," said Akhmed Barakhoyev of the human rights organisation Memorial in Ingushetia. "If we just take one month then we had four clean-ups in four camps. And we still know nothing about many people who have been abducted." Memorial says 20 internally displaced persons were snatched in June and July and most of them are still missing. The authorities have declined to comment on these events. Ingush president Murat Zyazikov said it was "in the competence of the appropriate agencies", while Ingushetia's first deputy interior minister Rashid Nurgaliev announced that "15 terrorists" suspected of involvement in recent suicide bombings in Chechnya had been arrested.

    Observers are sceptical about this. "Every time some significant changes occur in the life of the country, the leadership of Chechnya makes desperate attempts to take down the tent camps in Ingushetia," said political analyst Murad Nashkhoyev. "This is the latest attempt to solve a complicated problem with a simple decision, a kind of Potemkin village." In the meantime, a slow trickle of refugees has been going home. According to Chechnya's refugees committee, more than 10,000 applications to return to the republic have been received. But there are concerns that war-torn Chechnya cannot support these would-be returnees, and for many, the fear of the ongoing violence at home is still very intense. "They can take the most extreme measures, up to and including violence, and they have the experience to do that," said Vakha Magomadov, who lives in the Alina camp. "But I'm still afraid of my home."
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    3/8/2003- A gay pride rally in the Swedish city of Stockholm was marred by violence after a group of around 30 far-right protesters attacked marchers with stones and bottles, police have said. Several thousand people were attending the annual march promoting gay, lesbian and transsexual rights, when witnesses said a group of skinheads began hurling stones and bottles at marchers. A group of around 200 anti-gay demonstrators had been holding a protest, organised by the youth organisation of the country's far-right National Democrats party. Marc Abramsson, the organisation's leader, told Reuters news agency that the group had been protesting peacefully and that it had been marchers who attacked them. "We wanted to demonstrate against gay adoptions and against linking sexuality to children," he was quoted by the agency as saying. But a police spokesman said that the anti-gay activists had started the brawl. Police arrested several people following the incident, Swedish television reported, and one man was treated for minor injuries. The parade continued peacefully following the incident, police said.
    ©BBC News

    The Anglican Church in America has voted to confirm the appointment of an openly gay bishop. The Episcopal Church's House of Deputies - composed of clergy and lay people - decided by a substantial majority that the Reverend Canon Gene Robinson of New Hampshire can serve as a bishop. There will be one final vote in the House of Bishops on Monday, but BBC correspondent Jane Little says it is likely this vote will also be in favour of Mr Robinson. The selection has brought heavy fire from conservatives at home and religious leaders in the developing world, including parts of Asia and Africa, where Anglicans tend to be more traditionalist. Mr Robinson said he was calm but joyous after Sunday's vote, adding that he hoped the decision would lead to growth rather than a split in the church. A committee at the Church's general convention in Minneapolis - the Committee for the Consecration of Bishops of the American Anglican Church - had already backed the bishop on Friday.

    Walk-out threatened
    "I think I can do more for gay and lesbian folk in the Church by being a good bishop than by being the gay bishop," Mr Robinson said. "The people of New Hampshire just want me to be their bishop and I can't wait to exercise that ministry." Mr Robinson - a divorced father of two - has been in a committed male relationship for 14 years. Advocates for gay rights say the Church will thrive as it grows more accepting of homosexuals. But some of the more conservative elements within the church have threatened to walk out should the final vote be in Mr Robinson's favour. "We're not going to accept this," Bishop Edward Salmon of South Carolina told Reuters news agency. "We will not accept a change in doctrine. If you're asking whether we're soft on this point, the answer is no."

    Gay marriage
    There is a movement in the Church pushing for the creation of a formal right to bless same-sex unions, something that already happens in many American diocese. The debate over gay unions is a contentious one in American society at large. Recent advances in the courts for gay rights and a move to legalise gay marriage in the state of Massachusetts has prompted the intervention of the president. US President George W Bush has said that marriage should be between a man and woman and the administration is considering a proposal to amend the constitution to preclude gay marriage.
    ©BBC News

    Anglican Church leaders in the United States have opened an inquiry into allegations against a priest poised to become the communion's first openly gay bishop. The vote to confirm Canon Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire was delayed two hours before it was to take place on Monday, when allegations against him were made public. He has been accused of touching another man inappropriately, and of being associated with a group whose website is alleged to link to pornographic sites. He has not commented on either allegation, but his supporters say the timing is suspicious. Church leaders now face the possibility of having to postpone the vote on Mr Robinson until after their national convention ends on Friday. The new appointment has been threatening to split Anglicans in America and abroad. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold said in a statement that "a thorough investigation" would be undertaken before bishops were asked to vote on the appointment. A church spokesman, James Solheim, said lawyers were investigating whether bishops could vote by post or if a special convention would have to be called if a vote could not be held by the end of the week. The current Bishop of New Hampshire, Douglas Theuner, said the diocese had continued confidence in Gene Robinson and full confidence in the investigation. Allegations from a man who claimed he had been touched "inappropriately" by Mr Robinson had been e-mailed to bishops, Mr Solheim said. Bishop Theuner also said in a statement that the inquiry would look at "concerns" involving Mr Robinson's "relationship to a website of", a secular outreach program for gay and bisexual youth.

    Mr Robinson - a divorced father of two - has been in a committed homosexual relationship for 14 years. A supporter of the bishop-elect, Robyn Cotton of Concord, New Hampshire, called the allegations "preposterous". "This is horrible. It's character assassination," he told Associated Press. Mr Robinson himself said earlier that his confirmation was "not a done deal" but he was expecting the vote to go well. The bishop-elect was elected over three other candidates by Episcopalians - as US Anglicans are known - in the state of New Hampshire in June. On Sunday he received the backing of the Church's rank and file - the House of Representatives - by a 2-1 majority. He wanted, he said, to be a "good", rather than a "gay", bishop. "The people of New Hampshire just want me to be their bishop and I can't wait to exercise that ministry," he said. He also had words for UK Anglicans after a gay, but celibate, candidate for bishop there resigned amid objections to his appointment. "In my opinion it will be only a few years before the Church of England is very ashamed about what happened to Canon Jeffrey John," Mr Robinson told the BBC. Responding to his critics, Canon Robinson said he hoped that Anglicans around the world would "be able to pull together" as a communion.

    'Shattered family'
    However, one Anglican theologian, the Reverend Kendall Harmon of the Diocese of South Carolina, described the appointment as an "utterly unacceptable departure from doctrine". The American Anglican Council, a splinter group of Episcopal conservatives, said Canon Robinson's appointment had brought the Episcopal Church "to the brink of shattering the Anglican family". It had urged the House of Bishops to "uphold the historic Christian faith" and vote no on Monday.
    ©BBC News

    6/8/2003- The spiritual leader of the world's Anglican Christians has warned of "difficult days" ahead following the controversial appointment of the first openly gay bishop in the United States. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who is considered a liberal, said the election of Reverend Gene Robinson as the next Bishop of New Hampshire would have a significant impact on the Church worldwide. Reverend Robinson was elected by 62 votes to 45 by bishops of the Episcopal Church - the US branch of the 80-million strong global Anglican Communion. Traditionalist Anglicans have condemned Reverend Robinson's appointment, which threatens to cause a split in Church ranks. Senior clerics abroad have expressed great distress and there are plans for emergency meetings to discuss what action to take.

    Split threat
    In a statement in London, Archbishop Williams acknowledged Reverend Robinson's appointment would have a "significant impact" on the Church worldwide but said it was "too early to say" what the outcome would be. "We need as a Church to be very careful about making decisions for our own part of the world which constrain the Church elsewhere," he said. The BBC's Jane Little in Minneapolis, where the vote took place, says Archbishop Williams is now in a very difficult position as he tries to prevent a schism. Conservatives say Reverend Robinson's election has already shattered the Church, and they are planning a meeting of like-minded Anglicans, including archbishops from the developing world, to plot a possible future outside the American Church, our correspondent reports.

    Appointment denounced
    Reverend Robinson was confirmed in his new post hours after he was cleared of sexual misconduct allegations. Episcopal Church spokesman Daniel England called the vote "an important step", but Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, who had campaigned against Mr Robinson, said he and other bishops were "filled with sorrow". He said the Episcopal Church had "divided itself from millions of Anglicans throughout the world". Fiercest criticism came from the American Anglican Council, a two million-strong Episcopal splinter group, which said the Episcopal Church had "departed from the historical Christian faith. We reject these actions of our Church". The vote was also deplored among sections of the Anglican community worldwide, with Church leaders in Asia denouncing the appointment of a homosexual bishop as contrary to the teachings of the Bible. Earlier this year, bishops in Africa, Asia and Latin America - representing a third of Anglicans worldwide - severed ties with a Canadian diocese which authorised same-sex blessings.
    ©BBC News

    5/8/2003- No one likes to be told what to do. No one likes to be told who to hire. Yet most television executives would agree that the latest survey about the dwindling number of minorities in the broadcast media is disquieting and disappointing. The Radio-Television News Directors Assn./Ball State University Annual Survey of TV and radio newsrooms released last week was alarming, not just on a knee-jerk level of reaction over questions of racism, but because the roots of solving the problem are so sociologically complex and elusive. The annual study shows that the percentage of minorities in TV news dropped to 18.1% in the recent study -- conducted in fourth-quarter of 2002 -- compared with 20.6% the previous year. In management, minority representation fell by 39% at non-Hispanic stations. Blacks make up just 0.9% of news directors, a 55% decline from the 2002 study.

    "I don't think it's an issue of people refusing to hire people of color because they are people of color," said Willie Chriesman, a former broadcast news executive and reporter who has his own ways of addressing the problem. In March, his Birmingham, Ala.-based Chriesman & Associates consulting firm launched a program aimed at helping station groups find minorities for news management jobs by providing them with a database of qualified applicants. Chriesman has lured just a single client: Hearst-Argyle. Why not more? Supply and demand. Stations have always had far more applicants than jobs so "a lot of TV companies are not used to paying for help to hire people," he says. Other factors that have stifled minority hiring: Hard times have squeezed recruitment budgets; consolidation and the recession have pared news staffs, with last-hired minorities taking the brunt of the layoffs; and a lack of internal development and training programs has left mid-level news managers without the skills to move up.

    Then there's the "old boy network." "People go with what they know, who they feel comfortable with," Chriesman says. "I don't think people of color feel they are being cultivated to those environments. They do not think they are being given access to the opportunities." He mentions a deeper problem: convincing enough young people to pursue modest-paying, off-camera broadcasting careers to keep the pipeline full of talented minority candidates. "The reality is they can probably make a better living doing something else," Chriesman says. The television media -- which is used to having scores of resumes for every job -- has never felt the need to, in Chriesman's words, "plant the seeds of opportunity about the tremendous rewards that come from careers in journalism." In other words, the industry's "commitment" to seeking a diverse workplace is largely lip service with an easy out: "We'd hire qualified minorities, but we can't find them." And what makes a person qualified? Is it the preppy Harvard grad, or someone with strong people skills with experience working in communities? Why do SAT scores always triumph over life skills and street smarts? RTNDA chairman Bob Salsburg concedes there's little it can do but jawbone companies to recruit more minorities. But, ironically, media execs are tougher to crack than those in other industries.

    "Journalists are particularly rebellious that way," Chriesman notes. "We tend to take great umbrage at being told what to do."

    6/8/2003- A top-ranked Nova Scotia boxer says he hopes his latest fight -- now before the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission -- will strike a knockout blow against police racial profiling. Kirk Johnson filed a racial discrimination complaint against Halifax regional police after his car was pulled over on the street in April, 1998. Johnson, 31, says he was singled out by Halifax police because of the colour of his skin, and the fact he was driving a "black person's car" -- a 1993 black Mustang with low profile tires, chrome rims, and a Texas licence plate. Johnson, who trains in Arlington, Texas, was a passenger in the car. His cousin was behind the wheel, driving without a licence in the car. At the time, police seized Johnson's vehicle because of alleged deficiencies in his registration and insurance, even though the boxer insists his papers were in order. Police detained Johnson and his car for two and a half hours without ever pressing charges. The next day, his car was returned. The police even issued a $69 cheque to cover Johnson's towing charges.

    Johnson told Canada AM Wednesday that he hopes to open the eyes of the public to the systemic problem of racism within the police in Halifax. "I just hope that police will realize that they just can't kick people around just because of their own attitude or their own type of hatred. If you're going to uphold the law you can't stand behind the law and use it to his own advantage." At the hearing, Johnson testified he was pulled over 28 other times by Halifax police and the RCMP over a two to three-month period. The boxer claims he was the victim of a form of racial profiling commonly referred to as "driving while black." "If he [the officer] had a problem that night because he had some type of hatred for me, that's his business," Johnson told CTV. "But if you're going to uphold the law, make sure you're within the law, and he was not within the law."

    The allegation against Const. Michael Sanford hasn't been proven. Johnson says, regardless, the incident has damaged his own career. So, after five years of legal sparring the fight has reached the final round in the human rights complaint process. Johnson, who has only lost one fight in his pro-boxing career -- a disqualification last year -- says he has one outcome in mind for this battle. "I want justice to be served," Johnson said outside the inquiry Tuesday. Halifax police say they can't comment because the matter is still before the tribunal.

    8/8/2003- Failed asylum seekers will be deported by bus, train, and ummarked police cars, until they are "finally removed" from the EU under a plan drawn up by European officials. They would be "escorted" out of the EU in an attempt to "terminate the illegal residence of third country nationals", according to the hitherto secret proposal. Any "legitimate measure" would be used to prevent them escaping. The plan, proposed by the EU's Italian presidency and leaked to the Guardian, reflects an increasing determination among EU governments to step up the pace of deportations. Last month the Italian presidency came up with a radical proposal for the EU to set an annual quota for the number of asylum seekers accepted in European countries. Its new plan is designed partly to overcome the reluctance of one EU state to accept deportees from another for fear they will simply stay in that second EU country or claim asylum there. Failed asylum seekers in this way can be passed from one member country to another, EU governments argue. Lack of any agreement on this between member states means that all deportations have to take place by air or sea.

    Under the proposed EU directive, "third country nationals who are the subject of removal orders" would be escorted by guards throughout their journey across member states. They would be deposited when they reached their country of origin or the last "safe" non-EU country they had passed through. "Use may be made of public carriers such as scheduled buses, trains, or unmarked police cars," it says. As a general rule, it says, a "transit operation shall take place within 36 hours". The EU state requesting deportation would pay its partners for their help. Escorts would be allowed to "take reasonable and proportionate action to deal with a serious and immediate risk so as to prevent the third country national from escaping or from causing injury to himself or to others or damage to property". Escorts would not carry weapons and they would wear civilian clothes. The plan, part of what the proposed directive describes as the EU's programme to combat illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings, and manage the external borders, was obtained by Statewatch, an independent European human rights watchdog.

    The proposed EU directive, its authors say, would not impinge on the sovereignty of member states. Illegal immigrants should not be deported to countries where they face the threat of the death penalty, torture, or "inhumane treatment". Tony Bunyan, editor of Statewatch, said yesterday he was not convinced by the assurances. "How safe are migrants being transported in unmarked police cars or vans?", he said. "Will we ever know what happened to them if they do not arrive at their destination?" In a related proposal, the Italian presidency also wants to establish regular joint EU flights for what it calls "rational repatriation operations". They would carry illegal immigrants to their country of origin or the last "safe" country they passed through. The planned directive deporting illegal immigrants by land is not automatically binding on Britain or Ireland because they have an opt-out. However, Britain has voluntarily adopted a number of EU measures in these areas. The Home Office said last night the proposal, to be tabled next month, would require detailed consideration. Britain was "actively participating" in talks, a spokeswoman said, "to create dignified sustainable returns" of failed asylum seekers. Original Statewatch article
    ©The Guardian

    5/8/2003- The EU's eastern enlargement is likely to prompt renewed large-scale migration from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), with up to three million people moving to western Europe by 2015, a new study by Deutsche Bank Research predicts. "The first round of enlargement (in May 2004) will cause the first wave, and the next round (expected in 2007) is likely to cause further migration swells," said Tobias Just, a Deutsche Bank economist and a co-author of the study. He sees as many as 200,000 people a year leaving the CEE countries to look for better jobs and education in western Europe for the next 10-12 years. Afterwards, the net outflow should taper off to about 100,000 a year, he says. Altogether, the CEE region will be losing on average 75,500 people a year until 2050.

    The Deutsche Bank economists are basing their predictions on current UN estimates of global migration flows and on persisting major gaps in living conditions between countries in the east and west of Europe. "From a pure economic point of view, a wage gap of more than 30 percent between the country of origin and the target country already creates a strong stimulus to migrate," Just says. Adjusted for purchasing power parity, wages for low and high skill labour in most CEE countries are between 70 percent lower (Lithuania) and 15 percent lower (Slovenia) than comparable wages in western Europe. Gross monthly wages in the three major CEE countries - Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic - while rising fast, still remain at around 50 percent of the EU level. In Poland, a very high unemployment rate of around 20 percent provides an additional incentive to look for more stable labour market, says the economist.

    While EU regulations will allow only a phased-in labour migration from the East, no such rules will block young people looking for better education and financing. This will mean a sharp hike in competition for EU educational assistance, once the first wave of CEE countries joins the EU, the economist warns. He sees it in a positive light, however. Current EU members, whose populations are aging and shrinking, will have to compete anyway for human resources in the near future. "A long-term, fierce 'beauty contest' for highly qualified staff is ahead," he warns. At the same time, Just points out that labour migrants tend to go back once economic and social situation in countries of their origin shows marked improvement. "Spain has gone through this and now Turkey is undergoing the same process," he says. "As Eastern European countries catch up, they would become again more attractive for the labour migrants to return."
    ©Expatica News

    1/8/2003- The United Nations panel monitoring progress on worldwide efforts to prevent racism and racial discrimination is set to open its second substantive session of 2003 this week in Geneva, announced a press release issued by the United Nations Information Center here on Sunday. The 18-member Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) -- the first body created by the UN to review actions by States to fulfill obligations under a specific human rights agreement -- will meet from August 4 to 22 to review national anti-discrimination efforts and discuss ways to prevent racial discrimination.

    The governments of Albania, Bolivia, Cape Verde, the Czech Republic, Finland, Iran, Latvia, Norway, Republic of Korea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the United Kingdom, are expected to send representatives to present reports on national efforts to give effect to their treaty obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. These countries are among the 169 states parties to the Convention, which took effect in 1969. At this sixty-third session of the Committee, its members will also look into the state of affairs in the Bahamas, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Laos, Malawi, Suriname, Tajikistan and Zambia under its review procedure. All of these States parties are at least five years late for the submission of their initial or periodic reports to the Committee.

    On August 19, the Committee will hold its first-ever meeting with States parties to the Convention. Also this session, the experts will continue consideration of the prevention of racial discrimination, including through early warning measures and urgent action procedures. They may decide to take steps to prevent existing problems from escalating into conflicts or may decide to initiate urgent action aimed at responding to problems requiring immediate attention to prevent or limit the scale or number of serious violations of the Convention. The Committee may schedule a review of the situation in some countries at short notice. In addition, the Committee will study, in closed session, communications from individuals claiming to be victims of racial discrimination. Only complaints against the 41 States parties that have recognized the competence of the Committee under article 14 of the Convention are admissible.

    Other agenda items relate to a general debate on subjects of interest to the Committee, including on issues concerning the Committee's methods of work; discussion of the effective implementation of international instruments on human rights; review of the progress of the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination; and follow-up to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance.
    ©Europa World

    6/8/2003— A movement for gay rights, not a subject publicly discussed much around the United Nations, is steadily taking shape within the organization at the same time the issue has gripped the Anglican church worldwide and sparked exchanges at the highest political levels in Washington. Monday evening, in its largest public event so far, a 7-year-old group that calls itself UNGLOBE—for U.N. Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Employees—sponsored a panel of high-profile speakers on the rights of employees in same-sex relationships. The discussion was perhaps an unusual event for U.N. headquarters, but its goal is hardly revolutionary in today's world. UNGLOBE merely wants to bring the United Nations in line with other large international organizations, both private and intergovernmental. What has frustrated the movement's founders, they say, is not that the United Nations has turned its back on them. UNGLOBE was granted official recognition in 1996 by the Office of Human Resources Management as an employee advocacy group. As such, it talks regularly with officials. It has a Web site: No effort has been made to ban its meetings or to prevent it from staging an event like this week's panel discussion. Speaking at the program were Barney Frank, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts; Svend Robinson, a member of the Canadian Parliament who led campaigns for gay rights in that country; Anthony Appiah, the Ghanaian-born Princeton philosopher and writer; Paula Ettelbrick of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and James B. Stewart, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author on economic and media subjects.

    The U.N. group wants more than just the basic right to exist and be heard, however. It wants the United Nations to recognize same-sex couples and treat such partnerships as equal to traditional marriages. "The problem is that almost all top U.N. officials, those who are responsible for action, have for years ignored the issues, both discrimination and domestic partner benefits," said Siddharth Dube, a well-known writer on development from India who is the group's vice president. "I think they have wished that these demands—which are nothing more than demands for equal treatment of all U.N. staff—would just fade away or that someone else would take responsibility," he said. "There have always been a few staunchly fair-minded exceptions and we sense that because of their efforts the inertia may indeed be ending," he added. He and other leaders of the group point to expressions of general support from very high-ranking people, including Secretary General Kofi Annan, who, in a speech to the World Conference against Racism in 2001 in Durban, South Africa, included sexual orientation among other categories where, he said, discrimination in the workplace "is all too common."

    Annan, who attended Monday's event, told those at the panel, "We should be much more tolerant and compassionate. And I think what is important is that we should stress those positive aspects in our society, the things that bring us together, and move away from discrimination and persecution." Regarding the employees' appeal regarding their rights, Annan said, "we have rules here that we are looking at that affect some of these things." At a news conference last week, when Annan was asked to comment on the debate over what constitutes a family, he said, "I believe that individuals should be allowed to make their own choices and that we should be careful not to draw conclusions or adopt prejudicial attitudes towards people for their choices and preferences. That's not something I think this organization should get involved in." Mark Malloch Brown, administrator of the U.N. Development Program, who was out of New York on the day of the panel, first sent a supportive statement to the organizers last week. Then, within days, he replaced it with a revised, truncated and toned-down version, a sign of how tricky the issue has become at the United Nations. But Malloch Brown did retain the essence of his core message: "Discrimination based on sexual orientation not only violates basic human rights but also hinders development by immobilizing human capital, stifling expression and limiting freedom of choice," he said. Messages of support have been coming in over recent days from Carol Bellamy, the executive director of UNICEF, Stephen Lewis, the secretary general's special representative on HIV/AIDS in Africa and Peter Piot, the head of the Joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS in Geneva. At the International Labor Organization, Juan Somavia, the director general, who is a Chilean human rights lawyer, has put the issue on the table for international discussion. But there has been resistance among U.N. member nations, and the divide is widening.

    The issue is becoming more urgent, the U.N. group says, as more governments and hundreds of international corporations recognize gay partnerships. Canada most recently approved gay marriages, as the Netherlands and Belgium have done, and there are numerous other governments offering varying degrees of acceptance, creating a gap between the rights that diplomats at U.N. missions enjoy and the limitations faced in New York by international civil servants from the same countries. A Dutch diplomat could, for example, take a partner to many places with all the benefits of a traditional spouse. But if he or she left the Dutch foreign service and joined the United Nations, life could be much more difficult. Gay U.N. employees say that the organization not only will not recognize long-term relationships in providing benefits but also does not help a gay partner get a visa to accompany an employee to a new posting. At the United Nations, demands for what some nations describe as "Western"-inspired rights are often blocked by member nations with conservative leaders or cultures. North Africans have been very actively opposed to gay rights, advocates say. But they are not alone. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, echoed by President Sam Nujoma of Namibia, called homosexuality a disease that originated in "so-called developed countries." In the U.S. Congress, there are those who would outlaw gay marriage.

    Women have faced similar hurdles at U.N. conferences when their campaigns for broader reproductive and legal rights or even a hearing on certain discriminatory practices are written off as the excesses of Western feminism. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund—both part of the U.N. family—have not flinched at recognizing gay rights and are, in fact, leaders among international organizations in banning discrimination and providing benefits. Gay rights advocates say that both are more liberal in extending recognition than the European Union and miles ahead of the U.N. Secretariat, which is more susceptible to political pressures. The World Bank in particular has what the leaders of UNGLOBE call a "full panoply" of rights for same-sex, unmarried heterosexual or other nontraditional partnerships. Regulations at the bank state clearly that when registered by affidavit proving that certain criteria (such as the length and stability of the relationship) have been met, domestic partners of its gay staff members will get medical coverage. Moreover, a "registered domestic partner" of a bank employee also gets an ID card, travel and relocation allowances, accident insurance, education payments for children, health club membership, immunizations and a host of other benefits. What makes the difference? At Human Rights Watch, Widney Brown, deputy director of programs and one of the authors of the recent report, More Than a Name: State-Sponsored Homophobia and its Consequences in Southern Africa, says that good management and a sense of professionalism help keep gay rights from being politicized to the detriment of employees. Brown, the moderator of this week's UNGLOBE panel, said that the expert staffs of U.N. agencies and programs outside the Secretariat, the General Assembly and bodies controlled directly by governments are doing much better at keeping up with changing attitudes toward gay rights, even though there are no systemwide guidelines.

    "I would argue that most of the programs like UNICEF, UNIFEM, WHO or UNHCR are all way ahead because they are mainly professionals who are committed to whatever area they are working in," she said in an interview. "They bring to it a much less politicized approach to all these issues. But when you go to the Commission on Human Rights or the General Assembly, it's intensely politicized." In other words, governments get involved in blockading the expansion of universal definitions of rights. The opposition can become extremely intense, even hysterical. Brown recalls that in 1998 at the Rome treaty conference creating the International Criminal Court, a group of Middle Eastern nations and the Vatican (which inveighed last week against gay marriage) fought the inclusion among war crimes of the sexual abuse of women, described in the text as a crime of "gender." "The reason that battle happened," Brown said, "was that the Vatican was going around saying 'gender' means homosexuality." Say that again?
    ©The Atlantic

    28/7/2003- Twelve Russian skinheads have gone on trial in the southern city of Rostov accused of beating three people to death in unprovoked racist attacks. The victims, from the Central Asian republics of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, were attacked with metal bars. Five of the suspects are juveniles. Prosecutors say the attacks, which took place in the city of Volgograd last October, had no motive. The three men died without regaining consciousness. The trial is being held behind closed doors. Russia has up to 15,000 skinheads, says the Interior Ministry, up to 5,000 of them in Moscow. Neo-Nazi groups in Russia have frequently targeted people from Central Asia and the Caucasus, as well as immigrants from Africa and East Asia. Moscow markets, where many traders are non-Russians, have been the target of previous attacks. In 2001, three people died and others were injured as skinheads rampaged through the markets. Five people were later convicted of carrying out the racist attack. There has been an increase in racist attacks since Russian troops went back into the Caucasus republic of Chechnya in 1999, highlighting the danger posed by extremists and neo-Nazi groups, correspondents say. People of Caucasian origin often claim they are not protected by the authorities. It is common to see darker-skinned people being stopped by the police in Moscow and having their documents checked, correspondents say.
    ©BBC News

    28/7/2003- The fight against racism in Huddersfield and Dewsbury has been given a £300,000 boost. Kirklees Racial Equality Council (Krec) will receive the money over the next three years. It is part of grants totalling over £3m awarded to voluntary and community groups throughout Yorkshire and Humberside from the Community Fund Group. Krec provides activities for young people, including outings, sports and befriending schemes. Its chief executive, Khalid Hussain, said the group was delighted its bid for cash had been successful. He added: "The money will be used to set up a new project called Ark, which stands for Anti-Racism Kirklees. "The main aim behind the project, which will be based in North Kirklees, will be to work with young people who show a tendency to racial harassment and anti-racial behaviour." Mr Hussain said: "We are recruiting a youth work co-ordinator and several youth workers to work predominantly, but not exclusively, with white youths who exhibit racially aggressive tendencies. "In addition to the grant from the Community Fund Group, we have managed to secure a further £80,000 to support Ark. "We hope the project will help us to develop even better links with our partner agencies, including the police, Huddersfield University and Kirklees Council," said Mr Hussain. Age Concern Calderdale is also in line to receive a three-year grant of £213,763. This will pay for staff and running costs for their Halifax town centre ``one-stop shop", which gives advice on benefits and services for older people.
    ©The Huddersfield Daily Examiner

    29/7/2003- Failure to tackle asylum could leave Labour paying a heavy political price at the next general election, former transport secretary Stephen Byers is to warn. He will stress that it is not "racist" to seek to address the "legitimate concerns" that people have about the problem. Mr Byers will argue that immigration and asylum is "one of the most important issues facing our country". His speech to the Social Market Foundation think-tank in London on Wednesday comes as the deadline for Tony Blair's target of cutting asylum applications to half their 92,000 high by September approaches. Mr Byers, an ally of Mr Blair, will heap praise on the efforts by Home Secretary David Blunkett to reach that target. The home secretary has been criticised for building new detention centres and for cutting benefits to those who claim asylum late. But Mr Byers will say: "The actions taken by David Blunkett - often under criticism from both the left and the right - provide us with the space to discuss asylum and immigration without feeling that we are doing so in the face of a storm. "There is no doubt in my mind that immigration and asylum is one of the most important issues facing our country. "Yet over the years, the political centre-left has steered clear of the debate, leaving the ground to be occupied by the right. "The reluctance to enter the debate is understandable. The issues are delicate and difficult. "They go to the heart of national identity and that of culture and heritage. Just raising questions can leave a person open to accusations of racism. "But I have concluded that it is not racist to address the legitimate concerns that people have - on the contrary - it would be irresponsible not to do so."

    Mr Byers claims Labour supporters made up many of those most frightened by immigration. "They are concerned that their schools and health services are under increased pressure; they feel their national identity is under threat and that they are having to pay for people who are simply exploiting the system." But Mr Byers stressed: "We mustn't fall into the trap of saying that these are worries which have been created by the right and if ignored will go away. "That was the mistake made by a number of political parties on the left elsewhere in Europe who went on to pay a heavy political price at the ballot box. "This does not mean giving in to right-wing populism, but addressing the concerns that people have. "It will entail tackling and exposing the myths and untruths about asylum and immigration, whilst at the same time, ensuring we have a system in place which is fair and efficient. "There will be some who would rather avoid this issue. Within the Labour Party it would be the soft and easy option to say this is not a priority and that by raising it, we are playing into the hands of the racists and the right wing," says Mr Byers. "But we cannot pretend to people that there isn't an issue, when for many there clearly is. "To deny the concerns of people would give the appearance of being out of touch - or even worse, simply not caring."

    Jo Moore
    Mr Byers will say that to show Labour is aware of the worries that people have, it needs to say openly what it wants from immigration policy and then construct a programme and set of procedures that will deliver those objectives. Mr Byers stepped down from his post as transport secretary in May, 2002, following months of pressure, initially for standing by spin doctor Jo Moore who sent an email describing 11 September 2001 as a good day "to bury" bad news. Mr Byers also faced criticism from the City over his decision to force Railtrack into administration.
    ©BBC News

    30/7/2003- For the first time the complex and sometimes harrowing history of immigration to the UK is being told, through rarely seen photographs, official documents, maps and personal papers. And it's all online. It's strange to think that a photograph that captures so much suffering can be a rare historical treasure. This picture was taken by a Royal Navy officer and early photography enthusiast in 1869, shortly after his patrol ship had intercepted a slave vessel bound from west Africa to the Americas. Three decades after Britain itself abolished slavery, it captures the full horrors of what happened to those taken from Africa to man the plantations of the Americas. We don't know what happened to the people photographed, and this picture is one of a few known to exist anywhere in the world. But its hitherto hidden existence deep in the National Archives makes it a symbol for the UK's piecemeal documenting of its own history of immigration and minority communities. Now that history is neither hidden nor purely in the minds of specialist academics. Thanks to £2m of National Lottery funding, it is very much in the hands of the general public. Four years ago, the National Archives and a number of smaller organisations decided to meet an explosion in demand from minority communities wanting to research their own families and histories in the UK. The Moving Here website launched this week is the product.

    For main ethnic groups
    The site is no simple history portal. Moving Here is an online tapestry of modern Britain which draws together the resources of 30 national and local institutions. It includes 150,000 images and digitised documents charting the stories of Britain's four main immigrant communities: the Irish, central European Jews, south Asian immigrants and those from the Caribbean. The collection would take an ordinary member of the public months or years to collate if it were not in one single online archive. Moving Here started by thinking about what people wanted to research, says Sara Wajid of the National Archives. Instead of writing about events such as the 1948 arrival of the Empire Windrush - the cruise ship that brought West Indians to Britain in 1948 - it put all the names of the passengers online. "This kind of research tool makes a real difference to ordinary people looking into the history of their communities," says Ms Wajid. "You longer have to turn up at the National Archives at Kew Gardens not knowing what documents you are looking for."

    War-time admissions
    In the case of the slave records, Moving Here's team has identified some 1,600 ledgers recording the names of thousands of individuals. Only a fraction of these are online but they hope these alone will prompt further research into the what they have discovered. Other sources more relevant to other communities include records of Irish migrant workers, India Office papers and admittance papers for Jews who fled the Nazis. It is in the latter category that a visitor to the website will find the papers of Anna Freud, daughter of the great Sigmund and founder of child psychoanalysis who got out of Austria before it was too late. But Moving Here's collections also include thousands of local records, such as local community papers and photographs extending right up to the present day. Sarah Jillings of London's Jewish Museum says Moving Here transforms how specialist museums present their collections. One of the Jewish Museum's most treasured sources is Percy Levy's Book of Life. Mr Levy (1892 - 1964) collated albums of his family's experiences - everything from wedding invitations through to a piece of barbed wire from the Western Front where he served in World War I. His legacy is an incredible record of Jewish life in 20th Century Britain - yet without Moving Here and the internet only one page of it could be seen at a time.

    "Digitising archives in this way really opens up research and history," says Sarah Jillings. "Social history collections like this demonstrate shared experiences between different immigrant communities which may not realise that they have so much in common." In many respects, the site represents a radical concept as it makes historians of anyone who is interested. It not only places materials in the hands of the public, it encourages them to add their own stories. This "cultural capital", as Sara Wajid describes it, can change the way people perceive their own history. The most famous project of this type is the online record of New York's Ellis Island which lists the millions of immigrants to America between 1892 and 1954. "This is not exactly the equivalent because our records and history are different," says Ms Wajid. "But we believe that Moving Here's presentation of immigration and family history could take off in a similar way." In the absence of a national museum of immigration, this may prove to be the next best thing.
    ©BBC News

    Showground in deepest Lincolnshire hosts summer camp for ethnic minority city dwellers who want to assert pride in being British

    31/7/2003- For more than 100 years, farmers have travelled to the showground outside Lincoln to sample country crafts and enter their prize cows in the annual Lincolnshire Show. But from today, some rather different visitors will be arriving at the showground. Many will be dressed in full hijab and will rise to a call for prayer hailed through loudspeakers. In the largest gathering of its type, more than 3,000 Muslims will converge on the 200-acre site to make their presence felt in the countryside and to demonstrate their Britishness. The three-day summer camp has taken three years to organise and will be the biggest display of British Muslim confidence since it was damaged by hostility from non-Muslims after the 11 September attacks. Certainly, Lincolnshire will have seen nothing like it and the visitors will throw into stark relief the absence of British Muslims from rural areas. The county has a population of 645,000 but the council estimates that only a handful of them are Muslims. Lincoln town centre has one halal food shop and a small meeting place for worshippers to congregate for prayers. Lincolnshire's largest ethnic minority community, of 2,000 Portuguese, is based in Boston, in the south of the county.

    Rural Britain is largely white. Few Muslims have moved from established communities in big cities to towns and villages. Those who do often find that they are treated as curiosities and, in some cases, subjected to racism. Berwick-upon-Tweed and Alnwick in Northumbria, Selby in North Yorkshire, North Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly were all found to have virtually no residents from ethnic minorities - fewer than 0.05 per cent of the population - by the 2001 Census. The Islamic Society of Britain (ISB), which is organising the event, said it chose Lincolnshire so that the country's 1.6 million Muslims could make their presence felt in the countryside. Similar camps have been held in deepest Worcestershire in the past to familiarise Muslims with the rural landscape. Dilwar Hussain, an executive member of the ISB, said the high concentration of Muslims in urban areas had caused many to perceive rural areas as white-only dominions. "We are trying to say that we are proud to be British as well as being Muslims. A summer camp in the country is a very British idea and we want to be part of this heritage. It is important for our youngsters to see the countryside and for us to tell them we are not just part of the urban landscape. It will be the first time that some have come to the country and camped out," he said.

    The camp will have 24-hour security and a council meeting was arranged to discuss the nature of the mass gathering, in the light of the troubled international climate and the potential for racism. Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, to which the ISB is affiliated, said the aim of the camp was to reassert the position of Muslims in mainstream society. "Islam is the second largest faith in Britain and the gathering is all about saying to Muslims that the world is not against them," Mr Bunglawala said. While the urban acceptance of diversity has given the illusion of universal tolerance in Britain, ethnic minority communities continue to suffer from isolation and bigotry in smaller villages. In a poll commissioned by the ISB in November last year, 68 per cent of people said that their main source of information about Muslims was from the media rather than from direct contact with communities.

    Cases of rural racism, such as the incident this month in which a mixed-race Muslim family in Craigavon, Co Armagh, was attacked by a gang of men with baseball bats and iron bars, point to the failings of a mono-cultural countryside. Jamil Sherif, a web analyst and member of the Muslim Council of Britain, said ethnic minority communities in towns and villages experienced more attacks after 11 September, such as the desecration of a mosque in Exeter, which was strewn with pigs' heads and offensive graffiti. Some rural organisations have voiced concern about the distant relationship between people from ethnic minorities and the countryside. Fauzia Ahmad, a sociologist at Bristol University specialising in Muslim affairs, said research had shown community hostility to the building of mosques and temples in some towns and villages. "The white, middle classes do not always like the idea of a whole lot of Asians coming in their cars and taking over their green areas," she said.

    But in other cases, rural communities had been more accepting of Muslim families because they had not felt the same level of "swamping by large numbers" experienced in the big cities. Ms Ahmad said that a considerable number of Asians who came to work in the cotton factories in British urban centres in the 1950s and 1960s had farming backgrounds and expertise, but that they found themselves living in an industrialised landscape. "Many who came from here had farming within their family but were allocated work in the cotton mills of Leeds, Manchester and Blackburn," she said. "Perhaps one day we will see a few Asian farmers in our countryside."

    CASE STUDY - Ruqaya Izzidien, 16, from Llanybydder, near Lampeter
    'We don't get the kind of trouble that cities get'

    Ruqaya Izzidien, 16, a British-born Iraqi Muslim who grew up in the market town of Llanybydder, near Lampeter, Wales, is starkly aware of being part of the area's tiny ethnic minority. "Everyone always asks me if I am the sister of this other girl who wears a headscarf at the school. She looks nothing like me, she is not even the same colour and is from Bangladesh," Ruqaya said. But while the lack of a Muslim community leaves her feeling isolated at times, she said there were advantages to being the only Muslim in the village, such as the absence of racial confrontation. "People are curious and ask us questions. They used to stare at first but they don't anymore. Some people, like my teachers, even seem to give me an easier time because they don't want to be accused of being racist. I live in a beautiful place where there is a lot of wide open space and I am not sure I would like to live in a cramped house without a garden in London, even if there are more Muslims there."

    Aisha Hani was raised as a Muslim by Mauritian parents in a village outside Canterbury. Ms Hani, 23, moved to London at 18 and stopped wearing a headscarf except when she was with her family. "I was constantly aware that I was different," she said of her time at a private Catholic school in Kent. "My friends were all white and not Muslim, and whenever there was a big event, I didn't take part because of my religion. I couldn't help feeling isolated," she said. Iqbal Ahmed, 29, moved to Williton, Somerset, from Birmingham in 1999. The restaurateur said: "There were one or two racist incidents a few years ago but I called the police and they never happened again. "I am accepted by the village and I love the lifestyle here. It is peaceful and we don't get the kind of trouble that cities get." He married recently, though, andis apprehensive at his Bangladeshi wife's reaction to the all-white community.
    © Independent Digital

    25/7/2003- There is growing concern in the Netherlands over a select group of non-western immigrants and crime. And with good reason. The latest incident saw an 18-year-old Tilburg resident, Bart Raaimakers, robbed of his bicycle and mobile phone on Friday 18 July. He was stabbed — allegedly by two Antillean men, a Surinamese and a west African — when he refused to hand over his cash. He died of his injuries and the funeral was held on Wednesday. The four suspects have been apprehended and are in police custody. Tilburg is enraged by the murder and police, the City Council and welfare workers are initiating a get-tough campaign against a core of alleged Antillean criminal youths.

    "There is a group of hard criminals that is disrupting the society. We are going to make it clear to them that we don't tolerate their behaviour," Mayor Johan Stekelenburg said. Stekelenburg said authorities would keep a close watch on criminal Antilleans and that the law should not be slavishly followed, claiming that Antilleans use the most dangerous weapons to commit crimes and act without scruple. He said authorities should not hesitate to act in the same manner. And laying the restricting nature of political correctness aside, the time has come to hit back against crime committed by a small group of non-western immigrants. This group is holding society at ransom — a society which has its hands tied and is unable to fully crackdown because of the inevitable racism or discrimination allegations.

    But it is not discrimination to point out the truth. Consider the statistics:

  • In Tilburg, the Antillean population numbers 2 percent of the city's residents, but police claim that Antillean youths often commit crimes and use a relative large amount of violence. In 2002, 10 percent of arrested violent crime suspects were Antillean.
  • Periodical magazine Elsevier wrote in a January 2002 article that in 2001 there were 108 Dutch victims of murder or manslaughter, compared with 102 non-western immigrants and 16 western immigrants, while 27 cases were unknown. It also said that 71 native Dutch committed murder or manslaughter, compared with 111 non-western immigrants and nine western immigrants. It said about 60 percent of murders and crimes of manslaughter involved immigrants in 2001.
  • This was also echoed in Groningen where the number of murders or crimes of manslaughter among asylum seekers in 1998 was 36 times relatively higher than that of the native population. Illegal immigrants were placed second, followed by Antilleans (20 times), nationals of the former Yugoslavia (16), Surinamese (13), Africans (12), Turkish (10) and Moroccans (10). This study was based on police figures and was not considered academic research.
  • According to police in Rotterdam, Antilleans and Moroccans form the majority of suspects arrested on allegations they have committed street robberies.
  • Consider also that drug smugglers passing through Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam are mostly on flights from the Dutch Antilles and Aruba. The government is in the midst of a crackdown against the cocaine trade and has established several emergency jails to accommodate the increased number of arrests.

    The crime wave must be fought and if a small group is committing a relatively large portion of the crime — and admittedly the violent crimes that spark intense media interest — then it is time to reverse the trend. Society is only as strong as its weakest link. But society must not forget the socio-economic realities, which — it can be argued — propels this group of poorer, non-western youths to engage in theft, drug dealing and violent crime. Non-western families in the Netherlands are three times more likely than Dutch nationals to be faced with a low income and a relatively large amount of non-western households receive social security benefits. Almost 25 percent of non-western Dutch residents aged 15 to 64 were on social security by the end of 2000, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) said in its 2002 Immigrants in the Netherlands report. Furthermore, the Justice Ministry said in March 2003 that the unemployment rate among non-western immigrants was about 10 percent in 2002, compared with about 3 percent among native Dutch.

    Poverty can be seen as a motivating factor for crime and ethnic crimes often gain the spotlight, with the Dutch media not shy in naming a suspect or a culprit's ethnic background. In other western nations, such as Britain and Australia, that tendency is more reserved. Furthermore, ethnic minorities do not feel the mainstream media represents them in a balanced way, as shown by a recent survey among Turkish, Moroccan, Surinamese and Antillean/Aruban media users, which appeared in a report by the European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations published in February 2002. Interviewees perceived Dutch reporting as one-sided and negative and found that positive news stories were neglected. The report also found that on Dutch television programmes, ethnic minorities were generally not interviewed about the problems they face in their own lives; instead, they were asked about their knowledge of Dutch, their (alleged or perceived) criminal backgrounds and so forth. To sum up, native Dutch citizens are generally portrayed as victims, whereas ethnic minority members are seen as problems. This was evidenced in comments made in August 2002 by Jaap Blokker, co-owner of the Blokker Holding group, who claimed immigrants were responsible for the large number of armed robberies in the Netherlands. There are chronic problems facing the Dutch ethnic minority. This cannot and is not denied. But society is also allowing these problems, a collective sense of guilt and political correctness to overrule society's urge for public safety.

    In regards new ethnic groups, a Justice Ministry report in May 2003 identified the following risks of juveniles turning to crime: such as unemployment and low income, the lack of a supportive social network and problems in the education system. Secondly, specific risk factors such as the manner of fleeing their home countries, certain aspects of the reception policy for asylum seekers and sometimes cultural differences were also identified. But the report also said that in view of the large number of risk factors which youths from new ethnic groups — meaning those outside of the four main ethnic groups in the Netherlands, namely the Antilleans, Surinamese, Moroccans and Turkish — are faced with, their overrepresentation in the crime figures is not surprising. That same report also said new ethnic minorities face a vast array of dangerous situations and circumstances requiring preventative measures from governments and social organisations. But the outgoing Rotterdam police chief, Jan Wiarda, recently went too far as to call for a justice system which sentenced immigrant Dutch more harshly than native Dutch. He said other cultures demanded a harder approach and the principle of equality before the law was discriminating. He was loudly and justifiably castigated for his outrageous proposal because it is precisely that principle which keeps discrimination out of society's hard won non-discriminatory, innocent-until-proven-guilty and trial-before-your-peers court of law.

    But it is not wrong to single out a crime wave being committed by an identifiable group of immigrants and take the appropriate action. It is the same principle that the Dutch are using to crackdown against crime problems such as repeat offenders or drug smuggling. It does not matter if the crime is defined by ethnic identity. Social inequality needs urgent attention and the root causes of violence and crime must be removed, but this should not come at the cost of society's obligation to fight crime and punish those responsible.
    ©Expatica News

    28/7/2003- Migrant children continue their studies after obtaining a secondary school diploma more often than Dutch native students, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) said on Monday. Migrants with a VWO diploma (pre-university education) chose more often to study at university and after completing a VMBO education (pre-vocational or ordinary secondary education), they more often enter into secondary professional education. The research indicated non-western immigrant youths made up 13.1 percent of the 159,000 children who sat end exams for the 2001-02 school year, Dutch associated press ANP reported on Monday. About 75 percent of the immigrant youths sat for VBO or MAVO exam, while the percentage for native Dutch was 59 percent. The success rate of migrant children was in all education systems lower, but recent years have indicated an increase in immigrant pass rates.
    ©Expatica News

    28/7/2003- The number of Afghan refugees on hunger strike in the Ixelles Sainte Croix church rose to 300 this weekend, and five have been transferred to a nearby hospital. The group has been fasting since last Wednesday in reaction to the Refugee Commission's decision to repatriate over a thousand Afghan asylum seekers over the next nine months. "I would prefer to die of hunger than be forced to go back there," 12-year-old Farid told Le Soir. Some 120 children have also made the central Brussels church their home in recent days, although only adults are carrying out the hunger strike. The Red Cross is keeping vigil at the Catholic church as well as a support team from Doctors Without Borders. Over 20 people needed medical assistance Saturday, with ten transferred to hospital before returning to the church. Five remain in medical care.

    Refugees have had an open petition book running on the front stairs of the church, managing to collect some 200 signatures from local residents. Police have been despatched to aid circulation in the immediate area as ambulances are parked ominously with open doors at the entrance of the church, blocking a through road. Last week, Minister for the Interior Patrick Dewael announced that 1,100 Afghan asylum seekers would have to be repatriated to their country of origin within three to nine months, depending on their circumstances. The majority of the rejected asylum seekers have been waiting two years for the decision after having arrived in the country at the end of 2001 and beginning of 2002 in the weeks following the US intervention in Afghanistan. "There is no actual generalised threat in Afghanistan," said the Refugee Commission's commissioner general for refugees Pascal Desmet. "The European Union has estimated that it is time for repatriation operations to be set into motion," he added. Although Dewael has not announced any plans to give in to the protesters demands to be able to stay in Belgium, Desmet has spoken to a delegation of refugees, explaining that they could still take their cases to a higher court.
    ©Expatica News

    Foreigner integration has been a hot-button issue as German politicians battle over the country's first immigration law. At a school in Cologne, the next generation has got it down pat.

    29/7/2003- As politicians grapple with the question of how many foreigners is too many, the next generation of Germans is busily smoothing the road to integration at a high school in Cologne. Take Murat, for example. He was born in Germany, but his family originally came from Turkey -- making him officially "foreign." Still, he and his friends say they prefer to look beyond nationality on a day-to-day basis. "I think that my German friends have learned something from me and my culture," Murat tells Deutsche Welle. "Just being at our house is a little different – the food for example. My mother cooks Turkish food, and my friends come to our house, from all different countries. Our house is totally multi-culti. My mother explains a little bit about the food, and I explain a little. And then, of course, they think it tastes good." Murat attends the Hansa-Gymnasium in Cologne, a German high school that tackles issues like immigration and intercultural education at their roots. Hansa is special in that it is a UNESCO project school, dedicated to teaching ideals of intercultural communication, environmentalism and human rights. Along with simply having a larger-than-usual number of foreign students – teenagers from 28 countries study there – the school supports a development project in Nepal and establishes relationships with visiting artists from different countries. The school provides a living laboratory for the study of immigration in a society where 12 percent of schoolchildren fall under the category of "foreign," meaning they don't hold German passports. Compared to the cultural uniformity of a generation or two ago, this means that German schools, neighborhoods, and hangouts are ethnically and culturally varied. Yet while integration of foreigners has long been the subject of debate in Germany, less has been said about how the outlook of young Germans has been affected by their contacts with counterparts from Turkey, Eastern Europe or Africa.

    Getting religion
    Matthias, 18 and also Hansa student, has friends from Poland, Hungary, Africa, and Turkey. He says that through having Turkish friends, he got to know Islamic culture better. "The important thing, I think for me, is to recognize that your own religion is not the 'non plus ultra' and that other people can be very happy with other religions," Matthias says. "I believe it is very important. And I believe that you can only understand that in reality when you get to know other people." For Geraldine, contact with foreigners has made her appreciate her own country all the more. It is exactly in matters of national pride that Germans can learn the most from non-Germans, she says. "What I find amazing with foreigners is that they have a whole different relationship to their country," Geraldine says. "Foreign students don't understand at all that it can be embarrassing or looked down upon to say that you are proud of Germany. They are more relaxed about their country, and are prouder and more patriotic." She adds: "I think we could stand to be a little more glad to live in Germany. I mean, just be happy to live here. To have a good school system, and lead a good life."

    Integration, not assimilation
    Yet there are those who say the entire question of how Germans are affected by "foreigners" is moot. Dagmar Siegmann, a teacher of German and social science at Hansa, says that what many Germans refer to as "multi-culti" is actually something young people take for granted nowadays. Especially in the current generation of students, she says, the differences in values between Germans and foreigners have mostly been erased. "Foreigners get integrated in Germany, in social structures that are there, and not the other way around," Siegmann says. Ironically, she says, Germany is just waking up to the idea that learning about other religions, family structures, or ways of interacting could be a positive development. But due to assimilation, "these structures are no longer found in their original form" in Germany. "Except for maybe that (Turkish kids) have dark hair, it is impossible at this point to recognize who is foreign or not. They speak fluent German, they dress like Germans, they are no different from anyone else," Siegmann adds. Fifteen-year-old Julia, also a Hansa student, backs this up saying: "In our school , we don't think much about whether someone is foreign or not. It's just really normal." And despite having had eye-opening experiences about Islam, even Matthias wonders whether the question of "foreign" influence is a valid one. "The question is really not so much whether this or that foreign student has had an influence," said the 18-year-old. "The question is really whether at some point people are just friends or not-friends. I think the 'foreign' category is dead."
    ©Deutsche Welle

    30/7/2003- Switzerland has for the first time published a list of countries from which it will no longer accept asylum requests. The Federal Refugee Office on Wednesday said asylum applications from 40 "safe" nations - where human rights are deemed to be respected - would automatically be rejected. The list, which will be applied from Swiss National Day on August 1, comes three months ahead of the general elections, with asylum laws and the treatment of refugees among the most sensitive issues on the political agenda. The Federal Refugee Office said the list was aimed at speeding up the time taken to process asylum requests. "A decision on whether to accept an application will now be possible within a couple of days," spokesman Dominique Boillat told swissinfo. "The Refugee Office will be looking to answer two questions," he continued. "Whether asylum should be granted, and if repatriation is possible."

    "Safe" states
    Eleven per cent of the 26,125 asylum requests recorded last year were made by people coming from "safe" countries. Balkan states like Bosnia and Macedonia are on the list, as well as the ten mostly Eastern European countries which will join the European Union in 2004. Correspondents say the inclusion of EU member states on the list will help Swiss authorities prevent an influx of groups like the Roma, who illegally entered Switzerland from France during the second half of 2002 before being sent back to Romania. The African nations of Senegal, Ghana and Gambia are also listed, along with Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland, Lithuania, Mongolia, India, Albania, Bulgaria and Romania.

    Human rights
    Boillat explained that respect for human rights and international conventions were the two criteria that determined a "safe" country. Even if an asylum request is turned down, he said, this did not spell immediate repatriation. "Applicants can stay here in certain instances for example if they are threatened by the mafia, if their home state cannot protect them, or if a woman has been the victim of rape," he said. But even in those cases, the stay in Switzerland would only be temporary and applicants would not be recognised as refugees, he said.
    ©NZZ Online

    30/7/2003- The battle for votes among the country's four main political parties is hotting up ahead of October's general election. A planned poster campaign by the rightwing People's Party depicting the Swiss as "negroes" has sparked controversy amid accusations of racism. The poster, which was drafted by the party's St Gallen branch, criticises the government's asylum policy. Bearing the slogan, "We Swiss are always the Negroes", the poster shows a man with a ring through his nose wearing a traditional Alpine hat. Accusing the government of going soft on asylum, crime and naturalisation, the party's message is: "We've had enough". However, Aliki Panayides, deputy secretary-general of the Swiss People's Party, has denied that the campaign is racist.

    Feeling cheated
    She told swissinfo that it referred to the fact that many Swiss were being forced to dig deeper into their pockets for less return. "I hope that people will understand the message that the Swiss are working and paying more for all those who do not work and just come here to take advantage of our system," she said. "I'm surprised people are talking about black and white," she added. "That's not the point of the message. It's a traditional Swiss saying that actually means ‘We are being ripped off'." However, political adviser Iwan Rickenbacher has warned that the People's Party could get into trouble over the campaign. "The slogan is on the verge of being racist. The Swiss People's Party could face lawsuits for violating Swiss anti-racism law," said Rickenbacher in a television interview.

    Opinion poll
    Earlier this month an opinion poll showed that with 26 per cent of the vote the People's Party was currently the most popular political party in Switzerland. But Paolo Dardanelli, a lecturer in Swiss politics at Britain's Kent University, thinks the party's latest campaign could actually damage its popularity. "If the campaign is launched, I am sure that some of the party's supporters will be put off," he said. "However, I don't think it will see the light of day considering the controversy it has already sparked," he said. Public spending, asylum, health, the economy and the pension reform are the political issues causing most concern to the Swiss electorate.

    Billboard campaign
    Other parties are also using the summer season to try to score political points at the expense of their rivals. On Monday the Social Democratic Party launched a billboard campaign featuring Switzerland's three founding fathers, each wearing a t-shirt showing the flags of the European Union, the United Nations and Switzerland. Carrying the message, "Our patriotism is unlimited", the latest poster is less aggressive than an earlier campaign accusing the economics minister, Joseph Deiss, of not doing enough for the unemployed and demanding his resignation. But the Christian Democrats were pulling no punches last week when they criticised the transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger, for failing to run his department properly. The party cited a damning report which revealed that Swiss air safety standards had slipped in recent years. The report was commissioned in the wake of last year's mid-air crash over Überlingen in southern Germany, which claimed the lives of 71 people, including 52 schoolchildren.

    Political skirmishing
    Some analysts are playing down this latest bout of political skirmishing, arguing that serious electioneering is unlikely to start until after the end of the summer holiday. "It seems to be the summer of poster campaigns. However, it could also be a sign that we are lacking more important political issues," said Rickenbacher. This is a view echoed by Sibylle Hardmeier, a professor of politics at Zurich University. "It's still early in the election campaign and it's holiday season," she told swissinfo. "Posters are often used to get campaigning off the ground but I'm sure the real issues will be discussed later."
    ©NZZ Online

    28/7/2003- With the temperature of the Earth higher, according to one Italian climatologist, than at any time in the last half a million years, the wine-growers of Italy are expecting an exceptional harvest this year. Experts believe this could be a year for Bonarda, Pinot Nero, Pinot Grigio and Spumanti, to trounce even the famous vintage of 1986. But there is one thing bothering the vintners, and that is who is going to bring the harvest home. As well as seasonal workers from Albania, the viticulturalists of northern Italy traditionally rely on students. But this year the harvest is expected to begin nearly a month early, close to the start of the traditional exodus of Italians to the beach in early August. "Our only hope is foreigners," says Giovanni Desigis, president of the Agricultural Union of Pavia Province in the heartland of the xenophobic, anti-immigrant Northern League.

    Along the hills of Otrepo Pavese in Pavia province, they expect to start picking the grapes in the second week of August. "My family has run this company for the past 150 years," said Giuseppina Doria, aged 48, in her home among the vines, "and there has never been a season like this. The grapes are so far advanced that we will have to begin harvesting from the middle of next week, always supposing that we don't get hail." Violent hailstorms this time last year wiped out 30 per cent of the grapes in the region. So this year the farmers are studying the sky anxiously lest the forecast of a break in the hot, dry weather for Wednesday should bring another disaster. Even without hailstones, the crop this year in zones which lack artificial irrigation, such as Oltrepo, is bound to be small; but what they do harvest, given a bit of luck over the next week, promises to be splendid. Elsewhere, on the slopes of Valtellina and high above Lake Garda, where artificial irrigation is the norm, the harvest promises to be superb in quantity as well as quality, with the hot sun of recent weeks ensuring a higher degree of alcohol than last year, when July and August saw heavy rain.

    But throughout the north, growers are scouring the horizon anxiously for immigrant labour. Rural depopulation has left farmers more and more dependent on outsiders, includingillegal immigrants from north Africa, for help during the harvest. But immigration is a growing political issue. New legislation which makes life harder for illegal immigrants is beginning to bite. The Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is under pressure from his coalition partner Umberto Bossi, leader of the strongly anti-immigrant Northern League, further to tighten arrangements. Tunisia, where many of the migrant workers come from, has also cracked down. Italian coastal patrols have been told to turn back boatloads of immigrants if their vessels are capable of making the return journey and Mr Bossi has even urged the navy to open fire on ships transporting illegal migrants . Now his constituents are pleading for their help.
    © Independent Digital

    29/7/2003- The small Greek town of Peania nestles in the hills north of the capital, Athens, close to the new international airport. It is an unremarkable place, and an air of boredom hangs over the central square. But not for much longer. If the Greek Government has its way, the town will become the focus for tens of thousands of Muslims living in the capital with the construction of the first proper mosque in the Athens area for almost 200 years. The Foreign Ministry is pushing hard for a large mosque and Islamic cultural centre to be built before the Olympics get under way in just over a year's time. More than 30,000 square metres of land have been set aside for the buildings which will be paid for by Saudi Arabia at a cost estimated at millions of dollars. The Greek Government is acting partly out of shame, particularly with the approach of the Olympic games which are already putting the country under the international spotlight. "Athens is the only capital in the European Union without a mosque," Foreign Minister George Papandreou admitted in a recent statement.

    Makeshift mosques
    It is an extraordinary fact that not a single mosque has operated officially in the capital or its immediate surroundings since Greece gained its independence from the Muslim Ottoman empire in the early 19th Century. The growing number of Muslim immigrants in Athens from Albania, South Asia, Africa and the Middle-East pray at so-called "underground" mosques which are not properly licensed. Dozens of these makeshift mosques have been set up in the capital in apartments, shops and garages. "It's a very bad situation, they are violating our human rights," says Mohammed Ashad, a Pakistani immigrant who has lived in Greece for six years. "We must have a right to practise our religion and it must be in a proper mosque." Mohammed was speaking after completing his prayers at an underground mosque in the city centre. It is in a dingy, run-down apartment block with a staircase which stinks of urine. The room which masquerades as a library, is too small for the busiest prayer-time of the week on Fridays when people spill out into the hall and down the stairs. "It's very strange because Greece is inside the European Union and will be in the centre of Europe with the inclusion of 10 more countries," says Mohammed, "and yet there's no official mosque."

    Plan rejected
    Ambassadors representing Arab countries have been trying to persuade the Greek Government to build a proper mosque for almost 30 years. They are now certain they have succeeded. "All the preparations are complete, " says Abdullah Abdullah, the Palestinian representative in Athens. "The Greek Government gave its approval, the Arab side is ready for the construction and the Greek church has given its blessing." But back in the town of Peania where the mosque is to be built there is fury amongst the local population. The town council has rejected the plan and mayor Paraskevas Papakostopoulos has appealed to the courts to block the building of the mosque, arguing it is illegal to use the land for construction. "Almost 100% of the population here is opposed to the mosque," he says. "We were never asked if we wanted it and this region is not suitable."

    Historic fear
    The mayor is particularly concerned that the mosque will be seen by visitors as they land at Athens airport. "This is a problem for us as the first impression visitors will have will be something not representative of Greek culture. They will feel they have arrived in a Muslim country." Officially the Greek Orthodox Church, which dominates the country's religious life, has said it does not oppose the new mosque. But amongst the clergy in Peania there is a very different view. "I cannot conceive of this mosque being built here," says parish priest Father Antonios Milakis. "At the Islamic centre they will train and ordain Muslims and they will try to convert people of other faiths." It seems this fear of Islam is rooted in history. "Greece and the Greeks link Islam or Muslims with the Turkish occupation of the country [which lasted] for centuries and this resentment is still there," says Abdullah Abdullah. But ironically even the Muslims themselves are opposed to the mosque being built in Peania. The town is 20 kilometres from the centre of Athens and most say they will not be able to go there for their daily prayers as it is simply too far away.
    ©BBC News

    29/7/2003- About 40 kilometers from Vilnius, the winding road leading northeast from the capital emerges from a stately pine forest to encounter a severe concrete wall topped with barbed wire. On the other side stands the Foreigners Registration Center, a stark contrast to the serene surrounds of Pabrade and the best evidence of how a country has left behind an era of isolation and is evolving into a place that people from less developed nations actually want to come to.

    Since it was opened in 1997, the facility, which is administered by the State Border Guard Service, has housed almost 4,000 individuals from over 40 countries, who were all detained pending review of asylum applications or awaiting clarification of their legal status in Lithuania. "By law we have only 15 days to prepare a case for a foreigner once he is brought here. The work load is very high," said Jonas Platukis, assistant director of the center. Since the beginning of the year, Pabrade, which has a capacity for up to 500, has accommodated an average of 100 foreigners at any one time. By contrast, the population at the Latvian facility in Olaine hovers around 25, and Estonian officials rarely see more than 10 guests in their center at Illuka. What's more, the Pabrade facility has a good reputation among expectant mothers. "In the wintertime we get many women who are only a few days before their due date who cross the border because they know we will treat them here," said the director of the clinic, who asked not to be named.

    Illegal immigrants and asylum seekers brought to the center live for an average of six months in dormitory-style housing, are given three meals a day in the cafeteria and are entitled to professional health care in the on-site clinic at no cost. In addition, all are allowed to leave the facility during certain hours of the day to venture into town. Whereas the State Border Guard Service spends an average of 1,100 litas (318 euros) per foreigner monthly, not all guests at the facility have been satisfied with their situation. In mid-July, for instance, a group of Indian and Pakistani citizens refused to eat the cafeteria food for a week in protest. "We didn't eat because we want to stay in Lithuania," said Haszar, who is originally from Pakistan and who is being housed in the illegal immigrants section of the center. "The conditions are generally okay, but we want them to listen to us," he said. The protestors have since returned to eating in the canteen. "Today we're serving beef stroganoff. Most of them not only like it, they like it so much they ask for seconds," said the cafeteria chef, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. While many residents of the facility, some of whom endure up to 18 month stays in Pabrade, often complain of boredom and emotional fatigue caused by long delays in the disclosure of their legal status, officials at the center were largely unsympathetic to their claims. "We once had a maintenance worker here who earned 450 litas a month and traveled on bicycle four kilometers each way daily to get here," said Platukis. "One time a foreigner was complaining about living here when the worker said to him, ‘You get fed every day and never have to work. I'd be happy to change places with you.' "

    As much as misunderstandings occur in the current immigration system, officials are preparing for an expected explosion in illegal arrivals in Lithuania. "I think people understand that membership in the EU doesn't just mean all positive things. Along with the exciting things will come some difficulties," said Dainius Paukste, assistant director of the Immigration Department. "Our officials have been getting prepared for several years, and our laws are 95 percent integrated into EU law. Of course, Lithuanian society is a different thing, but I think they understand the challenges as well as the benefits of the EU," said Paukste. Of particular concern to immigration officials is Lithuania's geographical location – directly in the middle of a main route for smugglers helping Central and East Asian residents to get to Western European countries. "We're a transit point here. Lithuania was not the goal for most of them. Their final destination was Germany, France, or Great Britain," said Platukis. Baldev, originally from the state of Punjab in India, arrived at Pabrade two months ago after having traveled via Yemen and Russia and was arrested near the Polish border on his way to Germany. "I don't know what is Lithuania, who is Lithuania. I don't know anything about it," he said.

    Experts agree that the scheduled inclusion of EU invitees into the Schengen zone of free travel in 2007 will most likely increase the appeal of Lithuania as a stop on the way westward for illegal immigrants. "We are tightening the border in preparation for the Schengen zone, as our borders with Russia and Belarus will become a long EU external border," said Paukste. Yet any immigration, whether legal or illegal, will most likely require an alteration in the social fabric of a country whose residents are not accustomed even to seeing physical features different from theirs. "We must take care of them, but when you see them living better than your own countrymen, it grates your conscience," said Platukis.
    ©The Baltic Times

    1/8/2003- Yesterday's proposal by the Danish People's Party to ban ethnic headwear in Danish classrooms has drawn criticism from government quarters. The Danish People's Party will likely have to scrap its proposed law banning headscarves and other "culturally specific headwear" in the nation's classrooms. Liberal Party justice spokesperson Birthe Rønn Hornbech says the Government will never support the proposal. "This is a downright no, as far as we're concerned. It is completely at odds with the Danish tradition of freedom. We will not interfere in religious dress. The Danish People's Party is veering quite close to totalitarianism with this proposal," Birthe Rønn Hornbech told Ritzau. On Thursday, the right-wing Danish People's Party called for a ban on turbans, headscarves, yarmulkes and other religious headgear in public school classrooms.

    Speaking with daily newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad, Danish People's Party education spokeswoman Louise Frevert said she was uncertain if Jewish headwear would also be included in the proposed ban. Frevert has since informed Ritzau news bureau that an ongoing summer group meeting in Sønderborg produced a decision from the party to render the ban on all headwear. "We don't think that religious dress in public schools has been debated enough. In Denmark, it is impolite to wear a hat indoors, and yet we accept schoolchildren with turbans, fezzes and headscarves. Some social groups use dress to signal their religious affiliation, which is damaging to integration," Frevert told daily newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad on Thursday. Frevert noted that France and Turkey had already adopted similar bans. In 2000, Copenhagen flagship department store Magasin was found guilty by the Eastern Circuit High Court of indirect discrimination, after the retail giant rejected an immigrant girl for a trainee position because she wore a headscarf.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    The Vatican has launched a global campaign against gay marriage in an attempt to reverse the spread of legislation in Europe and the Americas that permits it. In a strongly-worded 12-page document signed by the Pope's chief theological adviser, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Church brands homosexual unions as immoral, unnatural and harmful. The Vatican's stance has been greeted with dismay by opponents who say it runs against human rights conventions and is out of touch with the modern world. It comes a day after US President George Bush - a Methodist Christian - spoke out against the idea of same-sex marriages as church leaders met in Minneapolis to debate the appointment of a gay bishop. "There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family," the Vatican document says. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law." A small number of countries have legally recognised same-sex unions, including the Netherlands, Belgium and two provinces in Canada. Other countries, such as France, Germany and Argentina, allow homosexual couples to register their partnerships with the local civil authorities and to obtain some of the social benefits available to heterosexual couples. Even Catholic Croatia has recently passed a law giving homosexual couples the same legal standing as unmarried heterosexual couples.

    Hitting back
    BBC Rome correspondent David Willey says the Pope is worried that other European Union countries, including Italy, will follow suit and legalise gay marriages. However supporters of gay rights were quick to respond. Near the Vatican's St Peter's Square, a small group of demonstrators from Italy's Radical Party held up banners reading "No Vatican, No Taleban". Another critic, Italian parliamentarian and gay rights activist Franco Grillini, said the document was part of a "homophobic crusade" by the Vatican. Other opposition came from Germany's Green Party - a junior partner in the government of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Senior Green official Volker Beck on Thursday condemned "a sad document of closed-mind fanaticism".

    'Sanctity of marriage'
    The issue of same-sex marriages is particularly charged in the United States, where some lawmakers in the House of Representatives have proposed a constitutional ban on gay marriages to counter state laws granting legal recognition to gay unions. On Wednesday President Bush said: "I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we ought to codify that one way or the other." His remarks were seen as offering a sop to conservatives who were angered earlier this month after he distanced himself from the House proposal for a constitutional ban on gay marriage. The Vatican document, entitled Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, sets out a battle plan for politicians opposed to legislation permitting gay marriage and adoption by gay people. Catholic politicians have a "moral duty" to publicly oppose such legislation and to vote against it in parliament, it says. "To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral." Non-Catholics are also urged to join the campaign to "defend the common good of society". Our correspondent says the new Vatican document, published by the Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, repeats arguments already given by the Catholic Church against same-sex unions. It was published on the same day that the Israeli city of Tel Aviv granted same-sex couples the same discounts as married couples in what gay activists hailed as a step towards full integration in the Jewish state. Gay residents of Tel Aviv who declare their union in a statement will be authorised to receive discounts for city services and sites such as sports centres and museums.
    ©BBC News

    28/7/2003- The European Commission is well aware that if the EU is to fulfil it ambition of becoming the world's most competitive knowledge based economy, funding levels for research and development must be increased, and more qualified scientists must be produced to exploit the extra levels of investment. Policy frameworks aimed at raising citizens' awareness of science, such as the Commission's 80 million euro science and society priority, will play an important part in promoting research as a career. Initiatives havevelso been launched to promote research careers for women in an effort to reduce the gender inequality that exists in science, and to widen the pool of research talent in Europe. However, few, if any, initiatives have thus far targeted the fastest growing section of European society: ethnic minorities. Recent census data from the UK suggests that ethnic minority groups will account for more than half of the predicted 20 per cent increase in the country's working age population by 2009. The trend is the result of a rapidly ageing white population and an increasing birth rate within young and established ethnic minority communities. This pattern will also be mirrored in other EU Member States.

    This is why the Commission has chosen to fund the ETHNIC project, the first EU initiative aimed at raising awareness of science and technology among ethnic minority groups. Dr Elizabeth Rasekoala is from the African-Caribbean network for science and technology, ETHNIC's UK partner, and explained the importance of the project to CORDIS News. 'The major obstacle to ethnic minority participation in science and technology is the existence of stereotypes that reinforce the idea that if you're not white, male and middle class, you can't be a scientist,' she said. Dr Rasekoala explained that such stereotypes are found particularly within schools and in the media. 'Children then internalise these stereotypes and lose the belief that they can become researchers or engineers.' One way to break down such stereotypes is to identify successful scientists from ethnic minority backgrounds who can act as role models for children and young adults, and this approach is a key part of the ETHNIC project. Dr Rasekoala and her partners in Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia will arrange special events at schools in targeted locations in order to give young people from ethnic minorities access to such role models.

    The project will also work with the youngsters' teachers and parents to highlight the existence of these negative stereotypes and will enlist their help in challenging them. Furthermore, Dr Rasekoala hopes that, indirectly at least, the project's very existence will put the issue of ethnic minority participation in science firmly onto the political agenda. When asked how she and her colleagues hoped to assess the success of ETHNIC, Dr Rasekoala explained that they would be using 'before and after' questionnaires to examine how the attitudes of youngsters, parents and teachers towards science have changed. She was keen to stress, however, that despite the project's huge significance 'it really is only the tip of the iceberg'. The real challenge, according to Dr Rasekoala, is in ensuring that the involvement of ethnic minorities in science becomes an integral part of the wider science and society debate, in the same way that gender issues have. 'This issue must be developed into a key policy framework at national and EU level if Europe is at all serious about establishing and maintaining a global leadership in science and technology. The resources are there, it is the willingness to recognise the scale of the problem and devise imaginative solutions that are lacking.'
    For further information, please consult this web site
    ©CORDIS News

    27/7/2003- As eight central European countries strive to get their houses in order before joining the EU next year, they find themselves having to meet higher standards on minorities than the current members of the bloc and falling short. The wars and border changes of the last century created a Russian minority in the Baltic states and dispersed Germans throughout Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. It left Hungarians scattered across the country's neighbouring states while millions of Roma, or gypsies, live in marginalised communities throughout central Europe and the Balkans and suffer discrimination. In Latvia and Estonia, two Baltic states that declared independence from the Soviet union in 1991, Russians complain that it is too hard to acquire citizenship and that Russian is disappearing as a language of instruction. Though naturalisation laws have been softened, Estonia still has some 170,000 stateless people who will not become EU citizens when the country joins the union in May 2004, and Latvia's stateless make up 22 percent of its population of 2.4 million.

    The fall of the Iron Curtain meant that minorities who were oppressed by communist regimes were suddenly recognised by the region's new democratic governments. But in many central European countries official estimates of their numbers are believed to be way too low as their members remain reluctant to declare their origins. The 2002 Polish census showed that there were only 170,000 Germans, 48,700 Belarussians and 31,000 Ukrainians in the country, while minority leaders say it is home to 600,000 Germans, 400,000 Belarussians and as many Ukranians. "There were a lot of irregularities and misinformation during the census count," Henryk Kroll, a member of the Polish parliament and the country's German minority, told AFP. "The legacy of the past mean that a lot of people are still too scared to reveal their nationality if it is anything other than Polish."

    Gyspsies throughout the region have been loathe to identify themselves as such in census counts. As a result official figures claim that there are only 90,000 Roma in Slovakia while the truth is believed to be somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000, or about 10 percent of the population. Surviving in slums without electricity or running water and seemingly incapable of uniting themselves politically, the gypsies live on the sidelines of society and bring little pressure to bear on governments. "The less a politician bothers with the gypsies, the more popular he is bound to be," a European diplomat in Bratislava lamented. In Slovakia and elsewhere, it has been pressure from the European Union and the European Commission that prompted the governments to launch education programmes for the Roma.

    The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia are on course to join the EU in May 2004. Brussels' demands have ironically showed up the failure of some countries in western Europe to set the same policies on minorities they demand of the candidate states. France does not recognise the existence of ethnic minorities on its soil, nor does Greece recognise its Macedonian minority, says Alain Chablais, a member of the European Council's directorate for human rights. "For 10 years, candidate countries have had to live up to pretty high standards -- the so-called Copenhagen criteria -- but the same rules don't appply for countries which are already in the European Union," Walter Kemp, advisor to the High Commissioner for minorities of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Rolf Ekeus, told AFP. Another high-ranking OSCE official added: "The time has come for western Europe to tackle the problem of integrating its 'new minorities' like the Turks in Germany and the Molluquois in the Netherlands." "We should ask what experience we have from central and eastern Europe that can apply to these countries." But Chablais was less optimistic about the future, saying: "The risk is that once the EU lets up the pressure, the problem of minorities will be again be ignored."
    ©The Budapest Sun

    By Namitch neetompaog.

    28/07/2003- Indian slaves were the forerunners to domestic servants such as maids, caretakers and even in labor as involuntary servitude to the people who owned small businesses...

    At City Hall in New Haven, Connecticut there is a monument to the leader of the black slave revolt. Descendants of black slaves are also now demanding repatriation and have sued a number of big corporations centered in New York as a result. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (once known as Shamaxon, maweomi of the Lenape nation) a 12-foot bronze statue is being installed as a memorial to victims of the Irish famine in 1840. This statue shows people dying of starvation - and fleeing the country. Both monuments are a milestone for their respective ethnic groups and I say, "Bravo, it's about time." Yet, I also cannot help being angry because of my Quinnipiac heritage. I see no statue to honor the hundreds of Quinnipiac warriors who gave their lives or suffered crippling wounds in a dozen battles and wars. I see no statue depicting the elders, women and children who were forced to walk the infamous Trail of Heartaches, a journey that took almost 250 years and seven relocations and scattered my people across the nation. I see no memorial to the thousands of Algonquian slaves of every locality along Long Island Sound who were lured to offshore ships or taken captive in the wars. I think it's about time we come to terms with this terrible era of history in the Dawnland where racism and ethnic cleansing is still not properly acknowledged against the Quinnipiac and our Lenni Lenape allies.

    Many of our ancestors were enslaved prisoners of war - a war of religious conversion and ethnic cleansing. Even the ancestors who had found ways to hide in plain sight and as other slaves pretending to be docile - they literally became slaves in their own homes. Charles Hervey Townshend's booklet about the Quinnipiac Reservation with many of the transactions relating to small purchases of our reservation lands and how it was lost in the frenzy of Puritan-oriented land grabs is a prime example. The excerpts and characterizations portray the extent to which these extremes continued. Nevertheless, before I begin, in all fairness and accuracy, we must not forget that even up into the 20th century, as late as the 1940s Native American religion and language was outlawed by the United States government, and in Connecticut not a single tribe in this state was acknowledged until the mid-20th century. So, let's take a good look at some examples of how prevalent this racism was in days gone by. On page 50 of Townshend's booklet he quotes from one of the assemblies involving Indian disputes. "Be it enacted by the Governor, Council of Representatives in General Court Assembled and by the authority of same...each town wherein there are Indians living or residing shall take care and they are hereby directed to endeavor to assemble and convene such Indians annually and acquaint them with the Laws of the Government made for punishing such immoralities as they may be guilty of..."

    Morality in those early times was anything from dressing and looking different to the ultimate crime of practicing a religion other than strict Puritanism. Again, we must pause and realize that the Indians were not the only people persecuted and punished by the Puritans, but since they were the most readily available targets they bore the brunt of such persecution. The society known as "Friends" or Quakers suffered too but not nearly as much or as often as the Indians. Here is an example of morality made law in Puritan form: "Every Indian convicted of drunkenness in this Colony shall forfeit and pay the sum of Five Shillings, or else be openly whipped on the naked body, not exceeding ten stripes for one offense." Since the Quinnipiac and other Connecticut tribal groups saw very few shillings, public floggings became a great form of entertainment disguised as righteous indignation. Then there was the Sabbath. "...if any Indian or Indians shall labor or play on the Sabbath or Lord's Day within the limits of any town in this Colony and be therefore duly convicted, every Indian shell forfeit the sum of three shillings of else (be) set in the the discression of the authorities."

    Today, the world abhors the very thought of ethnic cleansing, and students of American history balk at the concept of assimilation where it involves religious and racial dominance, but it was in practice long before the United States was formed. A passage from page 51 of Townshend's booklet maintains, "whereas many Indians...put out their children to the English to be brought up by them and many times the persons having such children neglect to teach them and instruct them in the principles of the Christian faith...That every person in this Colony...shall hereafter take any Indian children of this or any neighboring governments into the care of their families, are hereby ordered to...instruct catechising them together with our proper method." Many historians fail to understand that quite a large number of Indians were transformed into the mainstream as Puritans but my research indicates that they were still treated as chattel and indentured servants rather than kin. Then, on page 52 of Townshend's booklet, we find quoted a blatant form of racism..."if any...Indians, or Mulatto offenders in the nature to defame, slander, are to be whipt and sold to defray charges and expenses." So Indian slaves and black slaves were subject to the same treatment. This passage indicates subjectively that if you spoke out or sassed the Puritans about their ways then one's fate was the Stocks, public lashings and even sold into slavery to defray the costs of punishment in the public forums.

    Yes, this is all true folks...right here in good ol' Connecticut...Indian slaves were the forerunners to domestic servants such as maids, caretakers and even in labor as involuntary servitude to the people who owned small businesses like joiners and carpenters and coopers, and smiths. At the annual 2000 ACQTC festival at Bay View Park there was an exhibition of colonial blacksmithing. Any person of Algonquian descent who was captured or recovered from wounds during the wars was enslaved. Most were sent to the British West Indies for slave labor necessary in the operation of their sugar plantations. Even after the wars were over, as recorded by Jack Weatherford in "Native Roots"... "In New England, where agriculture played a less important role in the economy...the settlers used Indians in manual trades. Eighteenth-Century newspapers in New England carried advertisements announcing the availability for hire or sale of Indian...craftsmen..." Indian women were also sought after as "Indian women sold or reared in slavery learned domestic tasks that usually kept them working in a single household for years." As I said, they were slaves in their own homes. Such advertisements appeared in the Boston News Letter and the American Weekly Mercury. There was only one exemption for Indian slaves...a law that required slaveholders to turn over their Indian slaves when combat was inevitable. Indian warriors turned soldiers were nothing more than cannon-fodder to the Puritans but for our Algonquian ancestors it was a noble way out of a bad situation.
    ©Branford Review

    Public School to Open in Fall in NYC

    28/7/2003— A small alternative public school program has been expanded into a full-fledged school for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students. The Harvey Milk High School, an expansion of a 1984 city program consisting of two small classrooms for gay students, will enroll about 100 students and will open in the fall. "I think everybody feels that it's a good idea because some of the kids who are gays and lesbians have been constantly harassed and beaten in other schools," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a briefing today. "It lets them get an education without having to worry. It solves a discipline problem. And from a pedagogical point of view, this administration — and previous administrations — have thought it was a good idea and we'll continue with that." The school, at 2 Astor Place in the East Village, is undergoing a $3.2 million renovation approved by the old Board of Education last year. The Hetrick-Martin Institute, a gay-rights youth advocacy group that has managed and financed the program since its inception, has hired William Salzman as principal of the new school. Salzman is a former Wall Street executive who most recently served as assistant principal of guidance and business at Brooklyn's Automotive High School. Salzman told the New York Post in today's editions that the school will be academically challenging and will follow Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's mandatory English and math programs. It also will specialize in computer technology, arts and culinary arts.

    Program Draws Some Criticism
    State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long criticized the creation of the school. "Is there a different way to teach homosexuals? Is there gay math? This is wrong," Long told the Post. "There's no reason these children should be treated separately." On its Web site, the Hetrick-Martin Institute describes the Harvey Milk School as "the nation's first accredited public high school designed to meet the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth (LGBTQ)." It says the school "offers LGBTQ youth an opportunity to obtain a secondary education in a safe and supportive environment. … We believe that success requires the ability to respect and value the diverse human community." The school is named after San Francisco's first openly gay city supervisor, Harvey Milk, who was assassinated in 1978 along with Mayor George Moscone.
    ©Associated Press

    1/8/2003- Media firm Reuters and two related companies in the United States have been hit by complaints alleging a culture of racial discrimination and abuse. One former and two current black employees of computer network provider Radianz, a joint venture between Reuters and data firm Equant, filed cases at the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and with a New York court. According to the complaints, one employee was paid less than white colleagues, the second was fired unfairly, and the third was routinely called "nigger" at work and sent abusive e-mails. The three firms, which are all named in the complaint, have denied wrongdoing and insisted that they condemned workplace racism. Pointing out that Radianz was a separate legal entity from Reuters and Equant, Radianz contended that "the attempt by these individuals' lawyers to interject Reuters and Equant into this matter is inappropriate and appears to be a bald attempt to draw attention to this matter by naming more well-known and larger entities."

    'Substantial damages'
    According to US practice, the EEOC must first investigate the case before it can proceed to court. Johnnie Cochran, one of the lawyers representing the three employees, said he hoped to build the case into a class-action lawsuit, asking for "substantial damages". He has already produced as evidence a number of offensive e-mails, which he said were sent to the plaintiffs. In one, the employee's face was superimposed on a caricature that depicted him with a noose around his neck, an over-sized penis, and a beer bottle in his hand. Companies have previously been penalised for the offensive content of e-mails, even if those messages were sent without the knowledge of management. But Reuters said that the case against it should be dismissed on the grounds that Radianz is legally separate. Radianz, meanwhile, said it was satisfied that it had done nothing wrong, and implied that the complainants were pursuing the case maliciously.
    ©BBC News

    28/7/2003- Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel told a federal court Monday that he has never advised anyone to use violence despite his reputation as a white supremacist. Zundel was in court to determine if he should be released from custody pending a review of the security certificate that could send him back to Germany to face charges. In an effort to prove he is not a security threat to Canada, Zundel testified that throughout the 1980s he flew between Canada and Germany several times to face charges of denying the Holocaust, and when convicted, paid a fine of 10,600 marks, or roughly $7,100 Cdn. Despite admitting to knowing a number of Holocaust deniers and white supremacists, some of whom had violent pasts, Zundel said he never influenced them or encouraged them to use violence. Among the group was Tom Metzger, a white supremacist leader in the United States found liable for inciting skinheads to fatally beat a teenager. "In my knowledge I have never promoted violence," Zundel said.

    Justice Pierre Blais later interrupted proceedings when it was learned that Zundel did not have access to alternative medication he was taking for a chest tumour prior to his arrest in February. "This is a health question that has to be dealt with," Blais said. Zundel, who says he does not take chemical drugs, was taking herbal medicine as part of ongoing cancer therapy, though it is yet to be determined whether the tumour is cancerous. Zundel has previously had cancer. Zundel's lawyer, Doug Christie, argued that his client is an unlikely security threat because he has been the subject of violent threats himself. Christie referred to an incident in May 1995, when Zundel received a pipe bomb in the mail only a week to 10 days after his house had been burned down. Zundel, 64, has been in running legal skirmishes for at least a decade because of his published writings and Web site glorifying Nazism, denying the Holocaust and alleging a global conspiracy. The solicitor general and the Immigration Department have responded by slapping Zundel with a certificate declaring him a national security threat. Once Zundel's detention review is complete, a Federal Court judge must decide whether the security certificate, much of it based on secret evidence from the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, is reasonable. Once that's done, the certificate becomes an immediate removal order. But with Zundel's constitutional challenge before the courts, Christie said he intends to ask the judge for a stay of proceedings on the certificate until after the challenge is heard.

    Zundel was jailed in February when he was deported to Canada from the United States, where he had moved in May 2000, for overstaying a visitor's visa. He has been in custody since. He immediately applied for refugee status in Canada, claiming he would be persecuted if deported to Germany. Zundel faces up to five years in a German prison on charges of suspicion of incitement of hatred. At a court appearance in May, Zundel told court he believes he owes Hitler his life because his parents were too poor to raise a family until Hitler came to power and brought Germany "peace, honour and a place in the sun." But he denied his international reputation as a white supremacist and advocate of violence. The German national remains in solitary confinement at Toronto's Metro West Detention Centre. Zundel was to undergo cross-examination Tuesday.
    ©The Canadian Press

    Doesn't believe wife runs hate Web site

    30/7/2003- The Federal Court of Canada judge weighing the government's declaration that Ernst Zundel is a threat to national security said yesterday he could not always believe the Holocaust denier's sworn statements. "I don't really believe what you say," Justice Pierre Blais said during Mr. Zundel's testimony from the witness box at his detention review hearing. "I'm not talking about everything, I'm talking about the last part of it," he said, referring to Mr. Zundel's statements on who has control over the contents of the Zundelsite, a controversial Web site documenting Mr. Zundel's beliefs and legal struggles. Donald MacIntosh, the lead federal lawyer handling the government's case, was questioning Mr. Zundel on material on the site that was found to be virulently anti-Semitic by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Mr. Zundel insisted his wife, Ingrid Rimland, who lives in the United States, runs the site and she alone has the authority and password to change its contents; he rarely even views the site because he is computer illiterate, he said. "We are talking about a human relationship with a very forceful lady," Mr. Zundel said.

    Mr. MacIntosh, however, said it was difficult to understand how Mr. Zundel, who earlier told court he was an egotist, would allow a site to be run in his name without having input. "Given that you claim to be a gift to this world and have a tremendous ego, you would be consulted on a regular basis as to the materials that appear on the Zundelsite," Mr. MacIntosh said to Mr. Zundel. "I'm not a shrink. You tell me," Mr. Zundel replied, adding that he is growing weary of being blamed for the site's content. "Eventually, I might have to start running my own, that I have control of," he said. The frank statements of Judge Blais, who has heard days of testimony in the long case as well as received secret evidence from the government under the unusual rules regarding national security certificate cases, surprised the court. "This is my duty pursuant to this review, to make findings from the evidence presented," Judge Blais said. "I have said for the record, I don't believe everything I've heard from the witness regarding this. On this particular point, I don't believe the witness," he said. The government says Mr. Zundel is a figurehead or patriarch for the violent white supremacist movement. Mr. Zundel has denied being a racist, saying he was merely "race-conscious." He also said he preached non-violence as a means to political change. Mr. Zundel was declared a security threat and ordered deported after he claimed refugee status in February when he was deported to Canada from the United States for overstaying his visitor's visa. He had lived in Canada for decades before moving to the U.S. in 2001, but did not gain citizenship here. The Canadian government plans to deport Mr. Zundel to his native Germany where he faces a charge of inciting hatred.
    ©The Canadian Press

    30/7/2003- A forum against racism was launched in Pretoria to encourage debate on the topic and develop a national action plan against it. Justice Minister Penuell Maduna told those attending the ceremony that even though the crudity of apartheid was gone, its consequences were still stalking the country. These included mass poverty, from which many South Africans had yet to be rid, he said. "Because these things were done by human beings, they can also be undone by human beings." Even those who did not actively participate or support apartheid now had a duty to undo its effects, Maduna said. The creation of the forum was a first step in that direction. It would enable South Africans to work in an organised fashion to extricate themselves form the "quagmire" of the past. "This is part of a process to ensure that one day when our people talk about racism, it will be only in the context of our unhappy history."

    SA Human Rights Commission chairman Jody Kollapen told the gathering racism continued to raise its ugly head in today's South Africa. He cited the Pop Idols television talent search, saying the public consistently voted for whites, even though there were others more talented. "Is this how South Africans identify with one another?" he asked. Most worrying, was that this trend was prevalent among young South Africans. Kollapen said the racism debate has died to a large extent, as it was no longer fashionable to talk about the topic. "How can you forget the past when it continues to live in the present? Why should we have to justify talking about issues of racism?" The launch of the forum was significant as it was an indication that a problem existed, and of a will to tackle it head-on, he said. Maduna later told reporters that work on developing an anti-racism plan would start as soon as possible. He explained that the forum would focus on consolidating all efforts already underway to eradicate racism and its effects - rather than starting an entirely new process. The forum comprises representatives of government, the human rights commission, business, labour, and civil society organisations.
    ©Business Day

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