18/7/2003- Audio equipment store Hi-Fi Klubben has sparked controversy by announcing that they will be banning anyone they deem to be a Gypsy. The shop claims that a gang of Gypsies is responsible for the organized theft of NOK 200,000 worth of equipment from their stores, but admit that implementing a ban will involve difficulties. Hi-Fi Klubben marketing head Harald Hovland believes the same group has methodically robbed their stores, and that there is no other way to stop the thefts. "A gang of Gypsies come into the store. From the surveillance cameras I counted eight persons that all had definite tasks. Several occupy the sales staff while others carry good out of the shop. One person monitored the location," Hovland said. "The thieves appear to be a family of parents and children. They drive a Swedish registered car and speak Swedish," Hovland said.

The company is now weighing the option of banning Gypsies from their stores, an option Hovland calls "frustrating", and admits it won't be easy defining who should be banned. "We have to base our decision on a personal feeling of people with dishonest intentions, physical traits, such as dark skin or other typical Gypsy characteristics, and their coming in groups. Then we must likely say no," Hovland said. Hovland said that if police don't catch criminals then the shops themselves must protect their wares, a stance that has the support of merchants but not the police. "I reckon that there will be reactions but hope that this won't be interpreted as racism. This is a reality and I want others to understand the consequences of us doing nothing," Hovland said, and said that insurance did not cover shoplifted goods. Hovland offered to discuss the problem both with police and immigrant organizations.
The Red Electoral Alliance Party (RV) planned a protest demonstration at an Oslo Hi-Fi Klubben outlet on Friday.

25/7/2003- Immigrants now make up a potentially important voter bloc in Norway. With local elections looming in September, politicians are campaigning for what may be swing votes. State statistics indicate there now are around 136,000 immigrants in Norway who hail from areas other than Europe and North America. Of these, more than 92,000 have become Norwegian citizens and can vote in local and national elections. The remainder can vote in local elections if they've been granted permanent residence status after three years in the country. Most live in Oslo or Norway's other cities, and thus can swing local elections. Their numbers are up 40 percent from the last round of local elections four years ago, and Norway's political parties are vying for their support.

"In Oslo alone, every eighth voter has an immigrant background," Tor Bjoerklund of the University of Oslo told newspaper Aftenposten. He noted that if margins are small, the immigrant vote can weight heavily on an election's outcome. The Conservatives (Hoeyre) have established their own contact groups for voters from Pakistan, Somalia, Turkey and Vietnam. The Labour Party has officials going door-to-door in immigrant neighborhoods, discussing issues and soliciting voter support. Many just want to increase voter participation. Only 39 percent of immigrants with voting rights actually cast ballots in the 1999 election. There also are thousands of additional immigrants in Norway from Europe and North America who are eligible to vote. There was no indication of organized efforts by politicians to reach them.

18/7/2003- Thousands of non-nationals claiming the right to be here on the basis of having an Irish-born child are to be expelled under a new Government policy. The move follows a Supreme Court ruling last January that parents of these children do not have an automatic right to residency. This effectively means the children of the parents, despite having Irish citizenship, will also have to leave the country with their parents, unless they are abandoned here. The new policy affects 11,000 applications for residency, but the total number of people involved is greater, as some applications involve two parents and siblings. The policy, announced yesterday by Justice Minister Michael McDowell, is expected work on a ‘last in, first out' basis. The longer parents are here the better chance they have of being allowed to stay. A Department of Justice spokesman said they would be writing to all the applicants, warning them they face deportation, but allowing them to make a submission on why they should be allowed to stay. "The Supreme Court set out the criteria on how to decide they should be allowed to stay. Each case has to be dealt with individually on its own merits, based on length of time here and how long they were here before they had a child and other considerations," he said. He said there were resource implications in carrying out this process. Letters are due to start going out in the next few weeks.

The Irish Refugee Council said the move would create a climate of fear for families awaiting decisions on their applications and called on the Department to give "meaningful reassurance" that it did not automatically mean deportation. "It's going to take a very long time to get through the applications. We can reasonably assume they will start with the most recent and weakest cases so what people will hear about in the next few months are the refusals," said chief executive, Peter O'Mahony. Some 10,300 applications were made between September 2001 and the Supreme Court decision. A further 700 were made between then and February 19 2003, when the Government refused to accept any more. Those 700 will be dealt with first and very few are expected to be allowed to remain. The 10,000 or so people granted leave to remain here on the basis of an Irish-born child since 1999 and before September 2001 will not be affected by the new policy
©Irish Examiner

20/7/2003- A Leading Pakistani entrepreneur has called for more integration among racial groups to disperse tensions across Stoke-on-Trent. Mo Chaudry, who has gone from being a non-English speaking immigrant to a multi-millionaire, said education was a crucial step to breaking down barriers which he said was behind increasing disaffection among young Asian men. He was backed by business leaders who have stepped up efforts to promote companies and enterprises set up by Asians in North Staffordshire. Mr Chaudry, who has pumped £1 million into aqua park Waterworld since he bought it three years ago, said: "Asians are probably the most prejudiced people in the world, because they frown upon the mixing of different races, there are restrictions on who they can marry, but at the same they are very principled. Their word is a bond and they have close communities. "I have the best of both worlds because I have taken the best elements of both cultures and adopted them as my own. My word is my bond, but at the same time I have an English wife and have three children. "In that sense, I'm a mould-breaker and I'm happy."

Mr Chaudry, who lives in Butterton, Newcastle, believes that most people are not racist but they are prejudiced as a result of ignorance. He said: "I don't think most people are racist. I think that it's like when you're angry, sometimes you say things in the heat of the moment that you would not normally say. The problem these days is that we're seeing race as an excuse for failure, particularly in deprived communities where there are already tensions. "We're all prejudiced, and some people don't like people because they are fat, or small and also often because they don't know them. "It doesn't matter whether you're white, black or Asian, because everyone has prejudices, although I think many young Asians s e very aggressive and think that the whole world is against them. "We as community leaders need to create an environment in which children can thrive and prosper and that is through education. If we can breed tolerance and a positive inclination to mix then this would eradicate tensions." His comments come after the launch of a pro-commerce group to serve ethnic minorities in North Staffordshire. The steering group led by entrepreneur Rauf Mirza has been established to seek funding for a Minority Business Association (MBA). This will provide advice and training to help more businesses flourish.

Government figures suggest ethnic minority businesses were among the most entrepreneurial in British society. These minorities accounted for only five per cent of the population but nine per cent of business start-ups, and they were responsible for setting up more than 250,000 businesses overall, contributing £13 billion a year to the economy. However, research published by Ceri Peach, of the University of Oxford, shows south Asians tend to cluster together over time, while black Caribbeans disperse into their host community. The research found that Bangladeshis and Pakistanis also suffer some of Britain's worst poverty and unemployment, and do among the worst in school - although Indian pupils, by contrast, are among the best performers.

Mr Mirza agreed that most people were not outwardly racist, and felt most tensions had been whipped up as a result of ignorance, media coverage and right-wing groups such as the BNP. He said: "I agree that there are a lot of disaffected young Asians. They see the manifestation of perceived and actual racism in their own lives and in the lives of their communities. "Even if they work hard they can often find their aspirations can be blunted by what is going on. Race almost seems to be a ball and chain around the leg just as they want to be able to start running in their career." He has set up the Sahara project to provide mentoring for young people to maintain their aspirations and break down the barriers o ©The Sentinel

22/7/2003- Nurses from overseas who come to work in British hospitals and care homes face racism, exploitation and isolation, a report claims. Many are also charged large and often illegal fees by recruiters who brought them to the UK, leaving them feeling "manipulated and cheated", says the Royal College of Nursing. Its report - We Need Respect, Experiences of internationally recruited nurses in the UK - found that many of those questioned describe their employment, both in the NHS and the private sector, as "slavery". Among the problems highlighted in the report is the poor accommodation given to the internationally recruited nurses and a lack of personal support, reinforcing "feelings of isolation and homesickness". The nurses reported experiences of discrimination, sometimes as "crude racism" but also in the way they felt excluded by their British colleagues. They were also singled out for special negative attention if they made any mistakes, they said. The level of support given by the NHS is generally approved by those questioned, but experiences in the private sector were strongly criticised.

The nurses, though fully qualified in their own countries with an average of 14 years' experience, were made to undergo an adaptation programme to work in the UK, believing that it would lead to them gaining registration as a nurse. But many who paid thousands of pounds to recruiters to secure adaptation often ended up as low-paid carers in independent care homes, denied the opportunity to complete their adaptation and take up nursing posts. And those working as care assistants in independent homes felt isolated, often reporting bullying from other workers and a feeling of being "policed". While those working in the NHS felt frustrated that they were not allowed to use the nursing skills which they practised in their home countries. A lot of them said they felt British nurses had poorer working conditions and longer hours compared to the other places where they had worked. Some 67 nurses from 18 countries in Africa, South Asia, Europe and elsewhere were questioned for the report by the European Institute of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Surrey.
©IC Network

School inspectors are today at the centre of an extraordinary row after being accused of making racist remarks at a London primary school. An official investigation has been launched following the incident at Woodberry Down Primary School in Hackney. Governors complained after one inspector, commenting on a pupil who had been excluded, allegedly said: "Let me guess, this is a boy... African... they always are." Inspectors employed by Ofsted contractor Bench Marque Ltd, based in Somerset also allegedly said that they "only had white faces" where they lived and found it hard to distinguish between black boys and girls. One inspector is alleged to have said: "Have you noticed the white children trying to walk like the black children?" while another asked: "Is there a Turkish enclave in the school?" The inspection concluded that the school had "serious weaknesses" - only one step away from damned as "failing" - despite exam results that are well above the local average and improving.

Today teachers' leaders said the alleged comments, and the inspectors' conclusion, cast fresh doubt on the credibility of the private companies employed by Ofsted to make judgments about thousands of schools. A spokesman for the Hackney branch of the National Union of Teachers, Mark Lushington, said: "If a doctor had committed a professional outrage of equivalent seriousness, they would be struck off." Doug McAvoy, the union's general secretary, said: "If these comments were made by Ofsted inspectors, they are totally unacceptable. Ofsted inspectors go to schools to make judgments on the quality of the education being provided. They have no business making disparaging comments about pupils from whatever background." Ofsted refused to comment while the matter was under investigation. But school governors have also complained to the Commission for Racial Equality, which has promised to investigate. In its complaint, the governors cite other alleged gaffes which they say cast doubt on inspectors' conclusions. One allegedly admitted inconsistencies among his colleagues' judgments on the school.

Another thought nothing of telling the head, Greg Wallace, that every inner-city school he had inspected had been "failed". Woodberry Down Primary School is the result of an amalgamation two years ago between infant and junior schools, both of which had serious problems, sources at the new school freely admit. But in the past two years the school, under a new head, has made enormous strides despite enormous disadvantages. More than half of the pupils come from families poor enough to qualify for free school meals and more than six out of 10 do not speak English as a first language. They come from 20 different ethnic backgrounds. The inspectors' alleged comments are said to have left teachers "severely shocked". Governors' chairman Peter Passam said today: "We have made an official complaint and we cannot say anything until that procedure has been completed." Bench Marque refused to make an official comment.
©This is London

26/7/2003- What a dash Sir Andrew Green is cutting. Handsome, patrician, intelligent, well-groomed in that impeccable, unmistakably English style, he has discovered the limelight late in life. Sir Andrew, 62, has been doing quite a lot of television this week, taking part in a Sky News special on immigration on Tuesday, and then popping up again the next evening, on the BBC's themed evening of programmes exploring asylum issues. The man is extremely watchable, and entirely in command of his media performances. Claiming no political ambitions - for which Iain Duncan Smith can only be thankful - Sir Andrew is embracing the public platform as a concerned retired citizen. His concern is immigration and his retirement has been spent in setting up a pressure group, Migration Watch UK, that eponymously aims to watch UK immigration.

Keenly aware that he has placed himself at the centre of a highly emotive and combustible set of issues, Sir Andrew is never anything less than calm, shrewd and careful. When a television interviewer uses words such as "swamped" or "flooded" to describe the level of Britain's immigrant population, Sir Andrew looks vexed. He will calmly explain that floods and swamps are not useful places for the debate to wade into. It's not that Britain is flooded or swamped with immigrants, it's just that there are rather too many of them coming our way for us to be able to offer them the kind of hospitality we would like to, and still have resources left over for ourselves. When asked if he feels concern that the sort of policies he is pushing for might leave Britain turning persecuted refugees away, he appears saddened. Sir Andrew is entirely in favour of Britain offering a safe haven to genuine asylum seekers. It's the economic migrants, the healthcare migrants, the bogus asylum seekers and the illegals he is concerned about, because crowded Britain is being crippled by the cost of such freeloaders. It is, he feels, important to make the distinction.

When asked if he is concerned that such views may be interpreted as racist, Sir Andrew looks pained. He feels it is wrong that sensible people, concerned only with the logistics of how a small scrap of land - the south-east of England - can possibly be expected to accommodate the number of people who wish to come and live there, are being silenced by this politically correct label. When asked if he worries that such claims might send the voters rushing headlong into the arms of the British National Party, he is disdainful. He will calmly explain that his group exists to ensure that such a racist rabble should never claim the moral high ground in the debate. Considering that Sir Andrew claims to be giving voice to opinions that have been ruthlessly repressed for decades, many of his tropes are oddly familiar. What is less familiar though, is the polished and articulate delivery, the effortless confidence and authority with which these tired arguments are presented as new, forthright, bold and radical.

Further, for little Englanders, Sir Andrew is a living embodiment of all they fear they could lose. Paradoxically though, the very fact of his existence, should instead be proof that quintessentially English culture is very much alive. For Sir Andrew is so very English that his life reads like a novelistic cliché of the most admirably British sort. Born of an RAF Group Captain, he studied Arabic at Magdalene College, Cambridge, before taking up a short service commission with the Royal Green Jackets. From there, he entered the diplomatic service, serving in Lebanon, Aden, Abu Dhabi, Paris and Washington. He rose eventually to become ambassador to Syria from 1991-1994, Middle East director from 1994 to 1996, and ambassador to Saudi Arabia from then until his retirement in 2000. In Who's Who, his recreations are listed as "tennis, sailing, bridge and desert travel". It's all terribly TE Law some ways, his deeply conservative views about immigration seem out of kilter with his world view. His own explanation dates back to his time as Middle East director. He was asked in 1996 by the then Prime Minister, John Major, to work on moving some Islamic extremists out of Britain, particularly the dissident Saudi physicist Mohammed al-Massari, who was operating a campaign against the Saudi regime. "I was under-secretary for the Middle East at the time, and I was trying to remove Islamic extremists like Massari from Britain," Sir Andrew told The Independent. "But, because of our asylum laws, I found I was unable to do so, despite having the support of the Prime Minister. This man Massari was seriously damaging British relations with Saudi Arabia, but my own staff could do nothing and my people in Riyadh were expressing concern about the weakness of our controls."

Actually, things aren't as simple as they appear. There was no good reason why the Foreign Office should have had the power to kick this man out of Britain simply because he was an irritant to a regime whose human rights record was well worth campaigning against. Further, Britain's own reasons for wanting to please the Saudi's weren't so very pure either. The British government's failure to deport Mr al-Massari was thought to be a threat to a Vickers contract to supply tanks to Saudi Arabia. The waters were further muddied by the fact that Sir Andrew had been a non-executive director of Vickers, a position he says was unpaid and part of a scheme to give senior civil servants business experience. Undeterred by such legitimate concerns, Sir Andrew decided to continue looking into asylum. "When I retired, I started to look into it closely and I was, as we say in diplomatic parlance, surprised and concerned by what I found. I found immigration out of control, but I also saw there was not a healthy debate about the issue, that the information was not getting out to people. It is important in a democracy that people are shown the full facts, and I think from the response we have had to our findings that they were not getting them."

This information consists mainly of worst-case scenario estimates, compiled under the direction of Dr David Coleman, professor in demography at Oxford University. Sir Andrew made contact with Dr Coleman after reading some of his anti-immigration letters in The Times. Since they set up Migration Watch UK at the end of 2001, the men have been busily churning out headline-grabbing reports, claiming immigrants with Aids will cost the NHS £1bn and that immigration between now and 2025 will top 4.5 million - and so on. But the great trouble with this constant flood of highly contentious figures, is that it does not do what Sir Andrew says he wants to do - promote debate. Instead, Migration Watch UK, despite its lofty claims, is working to further polarise it. While the Government's economic record, in the face of world-wide recession, attests that the recent record-breakingly high influx of foreign labour is doing an enormous amount to maintain a dynamic economy, Sir Andrew is against David Blunkett's and Gordon Brown's pet project of increasing the availability of work permits. These two, of course, want only to admit genuine asylum seekers and to debar illegal immigrants, just as Sir Andrew does. Yet Sir Andrew argues that Britain should not be issuing work permits to foreigners while it still has long-term unemployed. When it is pointed out to him that many of these people won't work because they don't want to do low-paid, low-status jobs, he contends that if no one else was available, pay would have to be raised and the jobs would be taken. His logic is that the fewer the people, the bigger a slice of pie they get.

The truth is that a smaller number of people end up making smaller pies. With an ageing population, which would decline without immigration, Britain's pie, under Sir Andrew's recipe, would become small and mean indeed. And anyway, it is skilled workers who are getting work permits in Britain, a fact Sir Andr Churchill; 2 children (one boy, one girl).
-Education Haileybury and ISC; MA at Magdalene College Cambridge; served in Royal Green Jackets 1962-65.
-Diplomatic career Joined HM Diplomatic Service, 1965; Assistant Political Agent, Abu Dhabi, 1970-71; First Secretary, FCO, 1972-74; Private Secretary to Minister of State, FCO, 1975, and to Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, 1976; First Secretary, UK Delegation to OECD, Paris, 1977-79; First Secretary, FCO, 1980-81; Counsellor, Washington, 1982-85; Counsellor, Head of Chancery and Consul General, Riyadh, 1985-88; Counsellor, FCO, 1988-90; Ambassador to Syria, 1991-94; Assistant Under-Secretary of State (Middle East), FCO, 1994-96; Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 1996-2000.
-Other Interests Chairman of Medical Aid for Palestinians; Member of Advisory Board of the Sudan Peace Building Programme; Board member of Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

  • He says "We have no political axes to grind. We simply believe that the public are entitled to know the facts, presented in a comprehensible form."
  • They say "It [Migration Watch UK] is a partisan pressure group, whose influence far exceeds its authority. Its sole objective is to fuel ill-informed public debate on migration by polarising the issue." - Leigh Daynes, of Refugee Action
  • "The BNP welcomes the creation of such an academic body [Migration Watch] which is long overdue. Such a study has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with common sense." - BNP website
    © Independent Digital

    27/7/2003- Campaign groups are calling on the Government to set up women-only hostels for female asylum-seekers following the alleged rape of a young mother at a centre for refugees. The victim of the alleged attack told The Independent on Sunday how she was sexually assaulted at Eurotower, a crumbling tower block and former backpackers' hostel in Stockwell, south London, now part-run by the Refugee Council with Home Office funding. The case highlights the plight of vulnerable women seeking asylum in Britain, many of whom have already been victims of rape and sexual abuse in their home countries. Support groups such as Women Against Rape report an increase in calls from refugee women claiming they have been assaulted or sexually harassed by men in state accommodation.

    Women Against Rape is calling for the Government to set up women-only hostels to protect the security of female asylum-seekers. "The conditions for women are inhumane and unacceptable," said Cristel Amiss, a spokeswoman for the charity. "Many have already suffered sexual attacks and rape only to arrive in this country and find themselves living in squalid conditions without adequate security." "Clarice" - not her real name - told The Independent on Sunday how a man raped her in her own room at a hostel providing emergency accommodation. "I came here thinking I'd be safe, but some people in Britain treat their dogs better than their women," said the former nursery teacher from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. "The way I've been treated here is worse than what I've left behind. As an asylum-seeker, they think you are a second-class citizen." The Refugee Council placed her in Eurotower in January after a friend she was living with returned to Africa. The alleged rape took place on 20 May. Clarice was taken to hospital and interviewed by the police who gave her a rape alarm. However, she says they told her they did not believe her claims. Single women are segregated from male residents on separate floors at Eurotower but security is limited at best.

    "We are very distressed that any of our clients feel frightened or upset in the accommodation we have placed them in, and take allegations of harassment or other critical incidents very seriously indeed," said Margaret Lally, acting chief executive of the Refugee Council. She said the council had revised procedures so that women do not feel frightened. The Metropolitan police said its officers had made every effort to investigate Clarice's claim and even leafleted tenants in Eurotower but were hampered by lack of evidence. They said Clarice refused to provide a statement, though she says she was too traumatised at the time.

    The Home Office said it recognised women asylum-seekers were a vulnerable group. "We are aware of the problems at Eurotower but emergency accommodation will be replaced with accommodation centres. We have tightened up the claims procedures for asylum-seekers because of widespread abuse of the system."
    © Independent Digital

    20/7/2003- Swiss youths seem to be increasingly turning to violence to express their political views. Experts say the trend is linked to growing frustration among youngsters who feel excluded from mainstream politics and society. This year has seen a series of pitched street battles between left- and right-wing extremists, as well as violent demonstrations targeted at the G-8 summit on Lake Geneva in June; and February's World Economic Forum (WEF) summit in Davos. Many Swiss, accustomed to consensual-style politics and peaceful protests, have been horrified at the apparent readiness of young people to turn to violence to express their dissatisfaction with the establishment. The year started with images of "anti-globalisation activists" rampaging through Bern after the WEF summit. Similar scenes were splashed across television screens in June as members of the "Black Block" set fire to and destroyed a number of businesses in Geneva and Lausanne. Towns across much of the country have also seen street battles between rival gangs ­ in French-speaking Yverdon last month, a far-right extremist was murdered during a street fight. And several towns in German-speaking Switzerland have been shaken by pitched battles between extreme-right skinheads and anti-fascist militants.

    "The extremists on both sides are frustrated by a society which constantly invokes the values of youth, but which, in practice, is finding it increasingly difficult to integrate young people professionally and socially," says Dominique Gros, a sociologist at the Geneva educational research department. Experts say youngsters who exper society and its institutional framework. They differ, though, in the way they choose to vent their frustration. Sociologists say that skinheads and extreme-right political organisations tend to attack individuals or groups of individuals. The nationalists of the "Avant-Garde" movement, for instance, rail against "stateless" capitalism and pillory Jewish businessmen, the "red and anti-racist puppets", and immigrants from overseas.

    Symbols under attack
    On the extreme left, the main targets are institutions or symbols of the system. These include the small businesses sacked by the members of Black Block. "In the 1960s, the Situationists were already claiming that the tearaway smashing of a shop window was the nec plus ultra' [embodiment] of protest", recalls Dominique Gros. He says many extreme-left organisations obviously look back to their Marxist, Leninist or Guevarist roots. "But that is an idealised or romantic point of view." A long-time adherent of the anarchist cause, Aristides Pedrazza, believes that: "Most of these neo-Leninist movements reject the military and totalitarian character of historical communism." This view is confirmed by 28-year-old Laurent Tettamenti, founder of "Les communistes", a movement which is beginning to gain ground in French-speaking Switzerland. "We cannot identify with the existing extreme-left organisations. The way they work internally leads to sectarianism and the same people always control everything."

    Rural and urban
    Clashes between left- and right-wing extremists tend to be more about controlling territory. Hans Stutz, a specialist on the extreme right in Switzerland, says the main point of clashes in urban centres like Bern, Winterthur or Frauenfeld "is to achieve control of the streets". Such violence is less of a problem in Zurich and Basel, he adds, because there "the struggle has [already] been won by the extreme left". Like mainstream political organisations, the extremists ience this sense of exclusion ­ whether on the extreme left or right - typically react by rejecting have their powerbases in certain areas. "The skinheads recruit mainly in country areas and rural settlements. The extreme left, on the other hand, enlists its followers mainly in the big towns," note ©NZZ Online

    23/7/2003- The Geneva authorities are battling to hold on to a United Nations agency representing indigenous peoples, which has been based in the city for 20 years. The agency looks set to be merged with another UN body in New York as part of internal cost-cutting measures. The Geneva-based UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations is meeting this week to discuss globalisation issues – and its future. Manuel Tornare, a member of the city council, is convinced that Geneva would offer the best home for a forum for indigenous peoples. "Geneva is neither an imperial superpower, nor does it have the crimes of a colonial history hanging around its neck," he said. The Working Group has been promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples since 1982. It is open to all representatives of indigenous peoples and their communities and organisations, and is one of the largest UN forums in the field of human rights.

    Geneva centre
    Earlier this year almost 1,000 delegates travelled to the Swiss city from around the world to draw attention to their plight. They included minorities like those from the Amazonian rainforest who are unable to cope with ever-encroaching "civilisation", according to Roberto Stavenhagen, a UN special rapporteur on the human rights and freedoms of indigenous peoples. The Working Group champions ethnic populations under threat from governments and international consortiums seeking to exploit mineral resources. For that reason its work is not always appreciated by all members of the UN. The United States is said to favour the 16-strong Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues in New York, which was established in 2002. It is made up of eight government representatives and eight delegates for indigenous peoples.

    Centre for indigenous people
    Last December the city council welcomed a suggestion by the Working Group to set up a permanent forum in Geneva for indigenous peoples, with full diplomatic status and its own embassy. The authorities declared they were willing to offer the UN a building for the token price of SFr1 ($0.74). "A permanent delegation of indigenous peoples at the UN is inevitable," commented Tornare. The Swiss foreign ministry has so far refused to be drawn on the merits of Geneva over New York. Spokesman Gérald Pachoud said it still had to be established whether both UN bodies were complementary.
    ©NZZ Online

    26/7/2003- Switzerland's highest court says the country's system of direct democracy must stay within the limits of the law. The Federal Court's comments came in a written explanation of a ruling made on July 9, banning secret ballots on applications for Swiss citizenship. The judges said that Swiss voters, while traditionally having the last word on all political decisions, were still obliged to respect federal legislation. Several Swiss communities, most notably Emmen in canton Lucerne, hold secret ballots to decide on citizenship. Critics of the procedure say it leads to racial discrimination. The federal judges upheld this view in their written ruling, saying that unfair ballot decisions cannot be justified by claims that direct democracy overrules everything else. Voters in Emmen have been deciding on citizenship by secret ballot for three years. In that time 97 people, most of them from the former Yugoslavia, have had their applications rejected, despite fulfilling all the legal requirements for Swiss nationality. On Wednesday the local authority in Emmen said it was imposing a moratorium on naturalisations while it considered the Federal Court's ruling. The Swiss Federal Commission on Racism, which has been concerned about arbitrary citizenship decisions for some time, welcomed the Federal Court's decision.

    Discrimination issue
    The Commission said the ruling would serve to uphold the basic human rights contained in the Swiss constitution, in particular the right to protection from discrimination. But the decision from the Federal Court has divided legal opinion in Switzerland. Uli Windisch, professor of sociology at the University of Geneva, believes the ruling displays a lack of trust in Swiss voters and their decision-making ability. Rainer Schweizer, law professor at the University of St Gallen, says the federal judges have undermined Switzerland's system of direct democracy. He maintains that secret ballots are under no legal obligation to be fair. But Professor Clive Church, an expert in Swiss politics from the University of Kent in England, says the court made the right decision. "It seems to me that a vote on something as sensitive as naturalisation does lend itself to arbitrariness," he told swissinfo. "By voting on naturalisation you are using direct democracy in a situation which is specifically directed against individuals, which does seem to be fairly [doubtful] in terms of the European Convention on Human Rights."

    Public votes criticised
    However, the federal judges did not give a written ruling on the practice of deciding applications for Swiss citizenship at open community meetings. Traditionally voters in Swiss towns and villages can decide on policy, including naturalisations, by a show of hands. This procedure has also been criticised by leftwing and anti-racism groups, who point to a notorious case in canton Schwyz in which two sisters, both born in Switzerland but of Yugoslav nationality, have had their applications for Swiss citizenship turned down three times at community meetings. But the judges said a ruling on this kind of voting was not appropriate, since the case before the Federal Court had originally cited only secret ballots as a problem. Applying for Swiss citizenship is a long and complicated process. People not married to Swiss nationals have to live in Switzerland for 12 years before applying, and must pay high fees for their applications to be considered. Being born in Switzerland does not give people an automatic right to Swiss citizenship, and as a result Switzerland has one of the lowest naturalisation rates in Europe. Parliament is currently considering ways to simplify the naturalisation process, in particular for second- or third-generation foreigners.
    ©NZZ Online

    25/7/2003- Jaap Blokker, co-owner of the Blokker chain of shops, has linked the "rising number of illegal immigrants" with the growing number of robberies at the group's stores. He made the controversial comments in the introduction to the company's annual report on Friday. This is the second time the director of the household goods giant has attracted the media spotlight by publicly venting his views about illegal immigrants. The Blokker Holding company operates the Blokker stores as well as Intertoys, Bart Smit, Leen Bakker, Marskramer and Xenos. He drew fire from rights groups last year for making similar remarks when introducing the company's annual report. The national bureau against racial discrimination (LBR) said at the time that Blokker had gone too far. After a discussion with him, the LBR said it was satisfied by his explanation.

    On Friday, Blokker re-entered the controversy saying when he drew a link between "the growing number of robberies at his shops and the rising number of illegal immigrants trying to stay in the country without an income or benefit payments", newspaper De Telegraaf reported. Because the police had other priorities, Blokker said, he was worried that the rising number of robberies would not be checked. "The movement of the EU's borders far to the East will only acerbate the trend", he added. Blokker also singled out drug abusers as major sources of problems and he referred to the number of addicts who confront his shop staff with aggressive behaviour. Repeating what he said last year, Blokker talked about what he described as the denigration of city suburbs, which made life for his staff more difficult. He also hit out at the drugs culture in the Netherlands and said ecstasy was the Netherlands biggest export. The business community did not escape either, as Blokker criticised the "exorbitant salaries and bonuses" being paid to some company bosses. The financial year 2002-03 was good for Blokker Holdings. The group had a turnover nationally of almost EUR 1.5 billion and posted a net profit of EUR 85.1 million. The company employs 22,670 staff, many of whom come from newcomer communities.
    ©Expatica News

    18/7/2003- — Conservative French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on Friday became the first French leader to meet gay rights campaigners, and promised to introduce a law punishing discrimination against homosexuals. Raffarin said he would submit to parliament in 2004 a law that would create sanctions against homophobic remarks along the lines of existing legislation on racism, his office reported. ''The prime minister made a sincere commitment on this subject,'' Alain Piriou, spokesman for the Joint Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transexuals, told reporters after the meeting. Raffarin separately saw members of Gay Lib, a group of liberal homosexuals affiliated to the centre-right UMP party of President Jacques Chirac. The consultations were seen as a revolution for the conservatives, who virulently opposed a statute introduced by the previous Socialist-led government allowing so-called ''gay marriages.'' However, the government refused to budge on issues ranging from gay adoption rights to civil rights for homosexual couples.

    Piriou said Raffarin was not prepared to grant residence and pension privileges enjoyed by married couples to those united by the ''civil solidarity pact'' legislation, known as PACS. The French leader was also reported to have expressed moral qualms about allowing gay couples to adopt, although Piriou welcomed the fact that the government had finally broached taboo subjects like adoption and the rights of transsexuals. ''Society is evolving in such a way that we now have to be taken into account and top political leaders are forced to talk to us, which was not the case before,'' the campaigner said. ''It might seem paradoxical that the right should take the first step in this direction, and we acknowledge that step, but in the end it is part of a historical move in favour of greater recognition by the authorities of gay rights groups,'' he added. During the 2002 presidential elections, Chirac and Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin both gave their first interviews to a leading gay magazine in a bid to woo homosexual voters.

    Statistics show barely more than five percent of the French population openly describe themselves as homosexual, while ''gay lib'' movements and gay communities are nowhere near as prevalent as those in countries such as the United States. France's most prominent gay politician, Socialist Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, has not made an issue of his sexuality and it rarely merits a mention in France. Delanoe -- who has taken part in the annual Gay Pride march since before his election as mayor in 2001 -- was joined for the first time this year by an official representative of the conservatives, the UMP's gay national secretary Jean-Luc Romero.

    20/7/2003- For Moroccan-born Khadija Marfouk, wearing the hajib over her face has become more perilous since Sept. 11, 2001. Walking on the street or working out at her health club, Marfouk, a data-systems manager for a Catholic aid agency, has felt increased hostility from non-Muslim passers-by. "They look at me like I'm Mrs. bin Laden," Marfouk said last month as she sipped a cup of espresso at an outdoor café in Paris. "When I work out at the gym, it's as if they think I'm training for the jihad." Across town, in a Paris suburb where tens of thousands of French Jews were deported to Nazi death camps in World War II, Sammy Ghozlan fields phone calls from Jews who say they are afraid to leave their homes while wearing a yarmulke on their head.

    Ghozlan, an Algerian-born Jew and retired Paris district police commissioner, almost single-handedly has forced French authorities to confront an alarming rise in anti-Semitic incidents. Speeding to bar mitzvah and wedding gigs for the orchestra he leads, Ghozlan uses his cell phone to get the latest reports on a hotline he set up to track assaults on individuals, synagogues, schools and homes. "Every day there's an attack against Jews -- in Paris, in Marseilles, in Lyon, in Bordeaux, in Strasbourg, all over France," Ghozlan said. As the European Union moves toward a fledgling confederation modeled partly after the United States, Europeans are striving to adapt to another reality of the American experience -- multiculturalism, along with all its attendant promise and problems. Muslims have a new name for their predicament; they call it "Islamophobia." Jews say they are victims of the ancient scourge of anti-Semitism, spread by radical Arab Muslims with French acquiescence. "The anti-Semitic incidents in Europe are ominous," Beate Winkler, director of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia in Vienna, said at a recent conference on anti-Semitism. "Old images reappear. The anti-Islamic sentiment after September 11th is ominous, too. In both cases, it is the symbols of other religions -- synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, mosques and headscarves -- that become the cause of violence."

    'Afraid of religion'
    Long wary of religious and ethnic expression in public life, French, Germans and other denizens of "old Europe" are grappling with new notions of citizenship that enfranchise immigrants, welcome minorities and embrace deviations from Gaullic or Teutonic pure-blood fantasies. The struggle to accept cultural pluralism has been exacerbated by two cataclysmic disturbances from beyond Europe -- the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States and the continuing Israeli-Palestinian violence. Nowhere is the impact of those outside events felt more keenly than in France, with its strict separation of church and state, broad mistrust of overt religious observance and historical rejection of multiculturalism. Rooted in a history of religious repression in England, Americans passed laws separating church and state to prevent the government from squashing the private expression of faith. The French, by contrast, zealously observe the same separation to prevent religion from influencing public life. "The French people are afraid of religion," said Alain Gresh, who has written extensively on French ethnic groups as editor of Le Monde Diplomatique in Paris. "They think that if you go regularly to church, you are a fanatic. We have never accepted the concept of separate communities. We reject cultural pluralism. But now the founding ideal of the French Republic -- as one nation that enables each citizen to develop fully -- is in crisis." The crisis is evident in the current strained relations between the country's Muslims and Jews, and in the two groups' competing claims on the government to address their needs and grievances. Half of the 15 million Muslims in Europe live in France, while 600,000 Jews reside here. Those f legislators, Muslims cite the absence of even a single Muslim in the French National Assembly. Muslims say the hostility they face is worse for being less overt. A large number feel humiliated and outcast from mainstream society. "Many of our young people grow up in difficult neighborhoods in the suburbs of Paris and other cities," said Messoud Boumaza, an Algerian who came to France in 1989 and now runs a Muslim community center in Strasbourg. "They have problems in their living quarters, and they don't go to the best schools," Boumaza said. "They experience racism at work. "So, they have the conviction that they don't have the same chances of success as the French. Personally, I don't agree with this despair and lack of hope, but I understand it because there are reasons behind it." Some Muslims acknowledge that Jews have been attacked. They concede that Muslims have carried out some of the assaults. But as opposed to what they minimize as isolated physical attacks suffered by a relatively small number of Jews, they say Muslims can't get jobs.

    Jews feel Mideast fallout
    Shimon Samuels, a British-born Jew and Europe director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Paris, said he feels sympathy for many Muslims in France and agrees that they are often victims of discrimination. "They have a valid grievance, which is their rejection by French society," Samuels said. "But their grievance is being vented on our backs." Jews say that Arab Muslims, fueled by broad anti-Israeli prejudice in France, are blaming them -- and assaulting them -- for the Israeli government's policies toward the Palestinians. "Every time there is trouble in Israel, there is trouble here in France," said Joel Sellem, a General Electric service manager who lives in the Paris suburb of Villepinte. "If Israel attacks Palestinians, it somehow becomes legitimate for Arabs here to attack Jews." The synagogue in Villepinte has been firebombed twice. Its members tell of being surrounded outside its doors by Arab young men who taunt them and yell, "Dirty Jews!" "There are so many Muslims here, we don't feel comfortable," said Sellem's wife Brigette, a nurse. Like the Sellems, other French Jews feel outnumbered and under threat. Police and private security guards protect synagogues and Jewish schools, some of which are set off by barricades and bulletproof glass. Jews accuse President Jacques Chirac of pandering to Arabs by adopting an anti-Israel stance, setting up a national Muslim council and appointing the country's first two Arab ministers. Ghozlan, the retired Jewish police commissioner, said that while right-wing extremists were responsible for previous outbreaks of anti-Semitism in France, left-wing politicians are now fanning the flames. He and other Jewish leaders accuse communist and socialist mayors and town council members -- based in what they called "the Red belt" of suburbs around Paris -- of adopting the Palestinian cause to appease their Arab constituents. "I've had lunch with these communists," Ghozlan said. "I say to them, 'You are not anti-Semitic, but the movement you are supporting results in anti-Semitic attacks.' They do not believe that what they are doing and what they are saying leads to anti-Semitism."

    Fresh path pledged
    France's top cop, Interior Minister Nikolai Sarkozy, has vowed to chart a new course with both Jews and Muslims in France. A Chirac disciple who is widely believed to harbor presidential ambitions, Sarkozy has directed French police to stop the longstanding practice of dismissing anti-Semitic attacks as simple criminal acts of vandalism or assault. When he met with Muslim leaders, Sarkozy told them to stop using the Middle East conflict as an excuse for anti-Semitism.
    ©The Sacramento Bee

    OPENING THE ARCHIVES(Poland/Ukraine)
    24/7/2003- Polish and Ukrainian archivists will work jointly to document World War II's tragic events in Eastern Galicia and Volhynia, where, as part of ethnic cleansing by Ukrainians, 60,000-80,000 Poles were murdered. Polish reprisals claimed 8,000-10,000 Ukrainian lives. At the initiative of archive services in Poland and Ukraine, the publication Volhynia-Eastern Galicia 1943-1944. Polish and Ukrainian Archival Sources Guidebook has been prepared, including a list of documents from 50 Polish and eight Ukrainian archives. "This publication is expected to restore the memory of the tragic events and victims of the Polish/Ukrainian conflict in Volhynia and Galicia, concealed by the authorities of the Polish People's Republic and Soviet Ukraine," said Prof. Daria Nalecz, the State Archives director. "The first volume, prepared over a short time, testifies to the benefits of cooperation, and it comes as a result of Polish and Ukrainian archivists having realized their role in recreating the historical truth. With this work, we repay our moral debt to the thousands of innocent victims of the bloody massacre of the Polish population and of Polish reprisals against Ukrainians," said Prof. Hennadiy Boriak, chairman of the Ukraine Archives State Committee.

    The guidebook constitutes a prelude to further cooperation. A committee has been established, composed of historians and archivists from both countries, which will collect and publish source materials concerning Polish/Ukrainian relations during the war. Materials of the central authorities will be collected: documents of the Polish government-in-exile and its home representation, of the general headquarters of the Home Army (AK) and the Polish Red Cross, and on the Ukrainian side-of the commanders of the Ukrainian Nationalist Organization and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. This will be followed by reports from witnesses to the events; documents of both civilian and military German and Soviet occupation authorities will also be published.
    ©The Warsaw Voice

    17/7/2003- Recent reports in the Russian and Tajik media about the deaths of Tajik migrant laborers have highlighted the difficult work conditions and prejudice they face in Russia. The bodies of 211 Tajik migrant laborers were returned to Tajikistan in the first six months of 2003 by rail and air, the Tajik news agency Asia-Plus reported, citing Tajik transport prosecutor Kurbonali Muhabbatov. The prosecutor said the rate of the number of caskets returned appeared to be greater than last year, when he said 328 bodies were sent home, including 78 killed from assaults, 118 who died from disease, and 125 for whom the cause of death was not determined. The numbers have not been independently investigated and confirmed, but the Tajik diaspora and Russian human rights activists have been greatly concerned about frequent reports of mistreatment of Tajik migrants and attacks on them motivated by ethnic hatred. On 12 July, the Moscow Society of Tajiks held a conference on Tajik migrants in Russia, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported on 13 July. Karomatullo Sharifov, leader of the Tajik diaspora in Moscow, said that since 1992, as many as 38,000-40,000 Tajik citizens have passed through Russia's jails, many to remain for prolonged periods and some dying in detention. He estimated that currently in Moscow alone, 920 Tajiks had been held for more than six months, often without access to medical care. Some who paid bribes of $200 were released, he said.

    While the total number of Tajik prisoners has not been confirmed by Russian Justice Ministry officials, some experts have found them credible, citing, for example, just one police sweep in Moscow last November where 740 Tajiks were detained. Conference participants cited the case of Khudoyor Doniyorov, charged with drug trafficking, who has been awaiting trial for 4 1/2 years. Doniyorov's lawyer, Aleksandr Akimov, said at the meeting that he believed prosecutors had not gathered sufficient evidence against his client, but were refusing to release him, apparently in a cover-up to avoid charges of unlawful detention themselves, as "someone must be responsible for these years in prison," he said.

    Attacks against Tajiks have not been systematically monitored, but both human rights groups and the media have covered them from time to time, and the Russian NGO delegation to the UN's world conference against racism in 2001 included a Tajik woman active in defense of minority rights in the Moscow community. Two skinheads attacked several Tajiks in Rostov, the Union of Councils of Jews from the former Soviet Union (UCSJ) reported, citing an 8 July report in "Vechernii Rostov." A witness told the newspaper that the attackers had shouted "Glory to Russia!" and "Go home" as they beat the Tajiks.

    While UCSJ described the report of this attack as sketchy and buried in the back pages of the newspaper, the Dushanbe press gives them more detailed coverage. A construction worker who went to Moscow to earn money for his daughter's wedding was killed while making a trip to a store alone, "Charkh-i Gardun" reported on 27 June. The Tajik paper describes how in a small town in Moscow Oblast, "local skinheads...stepped up their activities against foreigners...[and] there was no proper protection established by the local law enforcement agencies." The man's brothers were forced to pay approximately $1,500 to return his body home for burial, and were unable to recover their relative's wages in Moscow. They told reporters they had learned of two more Tajik bodies being returned when they placed the coffin on a Moscow-Dushanbe airplane, and four more bodies came from Novosibirsk the same day, "Charkh-i Gardun" reported.

    Other press reports indicate a trend of large groups of Tajik migrants going to Russia and facing neglect there. More than 300 Tajik workers were returned by authorities from Omsk to Dushanbe, Asia-Plus reported on 16 July. Tajik Minister of countries, and one of the 20 poorest countries of the world, according to the UN. Recently, Tajikistan signed a food-aid agreement with the UN World Food Program to obtain food, seeds, and help in improving irrigation, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 15 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 16 July 2003). The program will emphasize micro-projects to help individual farmers, a move officials hope will reduce the flow of migrants.

    Meanwhile, the pull of greater fortunes draws people out of Tajikistan. Russian businesses are eager for cheap labor, but do not always provide humane conditions, and are unable or unwilling to fight bureaucratic obstacles that arise from Russian officials increasingly responding to public opinion against foreign laborers, and new restrictive legislation controlling the influx of foreigners. A group of some 50 Tajik women were found in a knitwear factor in Saratov Oblast working without wages, "Tribuna" reported on 2 July, quoting the Saratov Oblast ombudsman (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2003). The factory's owners had taken away the women's passports and were housing them in what the ombudsman described as "horrible, inhumane conditions." The Tajiks had been promised wages of 12,000 rubles ($387) a month, but had not been paid for six months. Police fined both the factor owners and the workers, according to "Tribuna." It is not clear why the ombudsman became involved in the case or was unable to prevent punishment of the Tajik workers.

    In an interview with the UN's Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) published at on 16 July, Deputy Prime Minister responsible for humanitarian and development affairs Zokir Vazirov said Tajikistan's problems are rooted in its history as the "poorest of the Soviet republics" and five years of civil war from 1992-97. In May, international donors attending a conference promised $900 million in aid, grants ,and credit over a period of three years, mainly prompted by concern about the spillover effect of the war in Afghanistan and the drug trade. The World Bank has approved $20 million for improving education, $7 million in the form of a grant, and $13 million as a loan, according to Vazirov.

    Such help, while welcome, can hardly be expected to accommodate Tajikistan's growing demands for skills and jobs. In a separate interview with IRIN published on 9 July, the head of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said nearly 70 percent of Tajikistan's population of 6.2 million are under 30 years of age. Fifteen percent to 20 percent of children do not complete compulsory state education. The rate of chronic malnutrition, meaning stunting, is nearly 30 percent to 35 percent, with a seasonal difference, and acute malnutrition, meaning wasting, is 8 percent to 10 percent especially after the summer season. Children have been sent into the streets by their parents to beg or do odd jobs, and are caught up in seasonal cotton picking as well, the UNICEF official said, cautioning that children's participation in seasonal harvest of the cotton crop was a long-standing tradition, and had to be researched to determine if it was exploitative or abusive, and taking children away from school for too long periods. Families also face disruption by the absence of male breadwinners for the long periods of their migrant work abroad.

    Poor housing and unsanitary conditions leave refugees vulnerable to disease and natural disasters.
    By Leila Amirova, independent journalist in Baku.

    Torrential rains, poisonous reptiles and malaria  it sounds like a list of Biblical plagues. In fact, it's just the summer season for tens of thousands of refugees living in a camp in Azerbaijan for the last nine years. The camp at Barda is situated in the very centre of the country, and officially houses 55,000 Azerbaijanis displaced by the 1991-94 war over Nagorny Karabakh, which the Armenians won. The real number is much smaller, as many people leave as soon as they can fix up better accommodation in Baku and other towns. Azerbaijan has some 750,000 refugees and displaced people left over from the conflict with the Armenians. Barda is one of five bigger camps among the many that are dotted across the country. Here, they live in mud huts, which isn't so bad considering that elsewhere people have to make do with tents, dugouts or disused railway carriages. But the huts were too flimsy for the rains which hit Barda in June. At its peak, the flood water reached 30 centimetres in many of the huts. One collapsed, killing a 68-year-old woman and her granddaughter who were buried under the debris. "We have become refugees once again," said Mahir Guliev, the head of one of at least 50 families left homeless by the flooding. "We didn't manage to salvage any belongings when the house fell down. Thank God we managed to save ourselves," he said. His family has been lodging with neighbours since the accident two weeks ago. Guliev is building a new home for his family nearby, a mud hut exactly like their old one. No one here can afford a brick home. The flooding was followed by an outbreak of malaria, as mosquitoes multiplied in pools of standing water. Residents said at least 40 people have come down with the disease.

    Although malaria is a major problem across Azerbaijan, it takes hold with a vengeance in refugee camps where conditions are unsanitary and healthcare provision substandard. People at the Barda camp do not take basic precautions such as fitting mosquito nets. And as if all that wasn't enough, Barda has been overrun by venomous snakes this year. The camp is teeming with them. "The kids are scared," said one mother, Elnura Mamedova. "The slightest rustling sound wakes them up. "My daughter was bitten by a snake earlier this month. She had to be rushed to the hospital in town. "I'm more cautious now. I enter the house first, look around, and then let my daughters in."

    All this is only part of a wider picture of squalid housing, unemployment and lack of education and health services. When IWPR toured the sprawling camp at Barda, the lasting impression was of desolation. There are about 2,000 huts nestling close to each other, each surrounded by small, fenced-off plots of land - although the land here is too barren for anything to grow. In winter, the earthen walls of the typical hut provide little insulation from the cold, while in summer, they make the one or two rooms inside baking hot. There are few beds, and adults usually sleep on mattresses on the floor. Locals were reluctant to talk. They watched from behind their fences, but no one showed any desire to meet the journalists. The first person IWPR met on an otherwise deserted street was an old man herding some sheep. "Why are you here?" he asked. "You can't help us," and refused to say any more. The United Nations Development Programme estimates that only six out of 10 refugee children here go to school. The local clinic is only equipped to provide first aid, and has neither professional medics nor drugs. Few refugees can afford to seek medical attention further afield.

    "My ten-year-old daughter has a gynaecological problem, but I cannot afford to take her to the doctor," said Elnura Mamedova. Divorced nine yea support to their families by working in the building trade or as shepherds. Even when non-government organisations ran nursing and sewing classes a couple of years ago, there were no jobs where these new skills could be applied.

    With no end to their misery in sight, many refugees at Barda decide to take their lives. The number of suicides is on the rise, and more men than women are taking this way out.
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    Double standards in the sentences meted out by international judges fuels ethnic tensions.
    By Adriatik Kelmendi in Pristina, Managing Editor of the daily Koha Ditore

    18/7/2003- The draconian sentences handed down to four former ethnic Albanian rebels will do nothing to promote reconciliation between Kosovo's communities. And with most Kosovo Albanians considering the Llap/Lap Group trial, held under the aegis of the United Nations mission in Kosovo, as politically motivated it is also unlikely to bring the local population any closer to the international community. Former Kosovo Liberation Army commander Rrustem Mustafa, or Remi, received a 17-year jail sentence for ordering the murder of five Kosovo Albanians he believed had collaborated with the Serbs and "failing to prevent illegal detention" in the Llap/Lap region of northern Kosovo during the 1998-99 conflict. Nazif Mehmeti was sentenced to 13 years, Latif Gashi to 10 and Naim Kadriu to five. Unsurprisingly, local Albanians and Serbs have reacted very differently to the July 17 sentencing by an international panel of judges. While Serbs have hailed the prosecution of former rebels as a step forward, Albanians consider the war crime trials in region as selective justice, punishing only members of their community.

    Just weeks before the sentencing of the former KLA members, international judges in the city of Peja/Pec sentenced a Kosovo Serb, Veselin Besovic, to seven years in prison for participating in the killing of 41 Albanian civilians during the 1999 conflict. The lightness of the sentence sparked anger among witnesses and the families of the Albanian victims. Moreover, the Besovic case is only one amongst a myriad of cases in which Kosovo Serbs accused of war crimes have gotten off lightly. Indeed, the harshest sentence so far handed down to a Serb in Kosovo in relation to war crimes was 15 years for policeman Zoran Stojanovic who in 2001 went on trial in connection to the Recek/Racak massacre in which 45 Albanians were killed.

    The overturning of a number of decisions by local panels in which Serbs were found guilty of war crimes in Kosovo has only complicated matters further. One of at least three such cases in eastern Kosovo between 2000-2003 involves Momcilo Trajkovic, the head of the police station in the town of Kamenica, who was recently released following the quashing of a 20-year sentence imposed by local judges. In the town of Vitina, Milos Jokic, jailed for 20 years, and Dragan Nikolic, for 12, have also been released by the international court panels. The OSCE report on war crimes trials in Kosovo last year criticised the earlier local proceedings saying that the prosecutors had not had a firm grasp of the charges and had failed to provide appropriate evidence. In all three of these cases, however, the witnesses insist they identified the men in court as being involved in killing and expelling Albanian civilians, as well as burning down their houses. Most Albanians now suspect that behind the retrials there is a possible secret agreement between Belgrade and UNMIK related to the release of Albanian prisoners from Serbian jails in 2001. Whatever the truth of this, in comparing the trials of Serbs and Albanians for war crimes in Kosovo it is clear that the international judges are imposing double standards.

    In doing so, the war crimes trials, far from contributing to peace between the communities, have only turned Albanians further against Serbs and the international community. This can be seen most graphically in protests that commenced after the sentencing of the Dukagjini Group a year ago and now in Podujevo as a reaction to the Llap/Lap Group trial. From a Serb point of view, the sentencing of the former KLA rebels signals the increasingly normalising of the situation in Kosovo. In their eyes, the harsh sentences may be perceived as justice bei ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    26/7/2003- The Czech Republic is to embark on a project to attract highly-skilled foreigners into its workforce and to hold onto those already working there. Initially the scheme will offer a fast track to permanent residency for about 300 specialist workers from Croatia, Bulgaria and Kazakhstan. Unemployment in the Czech Republic stands at 10%, but the labour ministry says the project will target gaps that the Czechs themselves are unable to fill. This is a region which has traditionally exported its own people. Now the Czech Republic is trying to attract immigrants - or at least a carefully selected few. It is also launching a pilot project to help skilled foreigners stay in the country. Most people will probably be working in medicine or information technology, but the government is deliberately not imposing any restrictions. That is for the market to decide, it says. The project will not help any workers attain employment, but once they have found a job they will be fast-tracked for permanent residency over two-and-a-half-years instead of 10, the Czech Government says. However, the scheme will not apply to those who would make most use of it - the thousands of migrants from Slovakia and Ukraine who come here each year. Like most countries in Europe, the Czech Republic is facing a demographic squeeze. Its population is ageing and the birth rate is falling.

    Brain drain
    The International Organisation for Migration discounts fears of a "brain drain" once the Czechs join the European Union next year. But there is likely to be an initial surge of emigration, probably by exactly those kind of professionals the Czech government is now hoping to attract from elsewhere. The Czechs are still getting used to being a country of net immigration. In a recent opinion poll, three quarters of Czechs said the presence of foreigners was a problem and 17% said foreigners should not stay in the country long-term. More than half of respondents said immigrants should assimilate completely. while only 6% said foreigners should be allowed to live according to their own customs.
    ©BBC News

    17/7/2003- Roma media programs in Hungary, Romania and Slovakia have won a European award and a 25,000 award. The money is due to be handed over at a ceremony in October. The Roma Mainstream Media Internship Programs of the Centers for Independent Journalism in Budapest, Bratislava, and Bucharest won the top honor, the Laureate, for the Evens Prize for Intercultural Education 2003 from the Evens Foundation of Antwerp, Belgium. Janis Overlock, the director of the Roma projects for the three countries and who is largely based in Budapest, said each of the three programs was tailored to the needs of its specific country. "The [cash] award itself will absolutely help, but so will the international recognition. "As far as we know this is the first time any organization from Central and Eastern Europe has won, and the first time for an organization dealing with Roma." The media internship program prepares talented young Roma for careers in mainstream media through an intensive 10-month period that includes both classroom and on-the-job training.

    Hungarian graduates are working at RTL Klub, tv2, Hungarian Television, Metro, Klub Radio, Radio C and the Roma Press Center as well as in countryside media. In most cases, they are the first Roma to be working in mainstream newsrooms. In Hungary the program has been supported by the embassies of the United States, Switzerland, Canada, Great Britain, and the Netherlands as well as the European Union, the Open Society Institute and the Hungarian Soros Foundation, among others. The program started in Budapest in cooperation with the Roma Press Center in 1998, since when 49 interns have graduated. There are 31 graduates from the Bratislava program, organized by the Center for Independent Journalism there since 1998. In Romania, there have been 19 graduates to date since its inception in 2000. The Evens Foundation supports people and groups that contribute to a deeper respect for cultural and social diversity in Europe by offering sustainable contribution to European integration and construction.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    18/7/2003- The campaign to rid football of the evil of racism has taken another crucial step forward with the issuing of the UEFA Guide to Good Practice, aimed at helping the football community tackle this disturbing phenomenon.

    Concerted drive
    The comprehensive and informative guide has been put together by European football's governing body and the pan-European Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network, who have been working together in a concerted drive to get rid of the racists in arguably the world's most popular sport.

    Widespread distribution
    UEFA's good practice guide is being circulated to all of Europe's national associations, leagues and clubs, as well as to UEFA's list of referees, match delegates and venue directors. It is one of the practical results that emerged from the Unite Against Racism conference staged by UEFA, FARE and the English Football Association at Stamford Bridge, London in March.

    UEFA fund
    In addition, UEFA has sent an accompanying circular letter to the European football family, explaining the 1,7m fund that UEFA has created to support national campaigns against racism organised via UEFA's member associations.

    Significant record
    "It stands as a significant record of the achievements of many in campaigning to tackle racism," UEFA and FARE state of the guide. "Our ultimate hope is that by sharing examples of 'good practice', such practice will spread and that new approaches and initiatives will be generated, adding to the growing momentum of the campaign against racism."

    Work and initiatives
    A key aim of the guide is to gather examples of the anti-racism work and initiatives being carried out within and outside of football - by fans, clubs, players, migrant and ethic minority organisations - not only as a reaction against racist incidents, but also to educate people and build respect.

    Varied and interesting
    The guide is varied and interesting in content. The term 'racism' is defined in detail, and examples of racist behaviour in football are highlighted. Coverage is devoted to action plans and charters produced and published throughout Europe, including the ten-point action plan issued by UEFA and FARE last autumn as a forerunner to the guide.

    Good practice principles
    In a set of principles of good practice included in the guide, UEFA and FARE recommend the adoption of national action plans, with regular monitoring of results, as well as the use of appropriate public-friendly branding names for national campaigns, and the setting-up of partnerships between fans, players, police, stewards and NGOs.

    Fan culture
    The anti-racism message should also be instilled through fan culture, with the accent on showing respect for the cultures and traditions of fans everywhere. High-profile players should be used to help underline anti-racist messages, and ethnic minorities and migrants should be encouraged to participate in football at all levels without fear of discrimination or abuse.

    Reaching the young
    Anti-racist messages, UEFA and FARE insist, must reach young people through schools, youth clubs and children's publications, and football's campaign should be joined to wider campaigns against racism and xenophobia, both in other sports and in society in general. Active campaigning in the media should be reinforced. The principles conclude with a general call for action to be taken against perpetrators of racist acts at every level of the game - "so that those involved know it will not be tolerated". "Racism is an evil. I can find no other way to describe it," wrote UEFA Chief Executive Gerhard Aigner in the guide. "It is a problem stimulated outside of football, but one which is too often given expression and public focus through our game. It must be eradicated."
    " ©UEFA

    United network documents nearly 4,000 deaths in 10 years

    23/7/2003- While heads of government at the European Union (EU) summit in Thessaloniki, Greece, last month resolved on further measures to restrict refugees, more than 250 were estimated to have drowned in the Mediterranean in two shipping incidents. According to a study undertaken by United, an anti-racism network, documented deaths directly attributable to the border security measures and the consolidation of Fortress Europe rose to a total of more than 4,000 in the last 10 years. On June 16, a refugee boat carrying more than 60 people capsized 50 miles south of the Italian Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. Only three refugees who set out in a small lifeboat were rescued. The second catastrophe took place four days later, on June 20, as a hopelessly overloaded boat set out from Libya towards Italy despite bad weather. The boat sank only 60 miles from the African coast. A fishing boat's crew sighted the sinking ship, sounded the alarm and began to organise a rescue operation, in which a number of boats from nearby oil-rig platforms took part. However, only 41 refugees were saved; 50 bodies were later recovered from the Mediterranean Sea. More than 160 people were still missing as the Tunisian rescue ship abandoned the search on Sunday due to bad weather. It was the worst shipping tragedy in the Mediterranean for years. It was only a matter of luck that the week did not claim more victims. On June 17, in the Gibraltar Straits, the Spanish coast guard captured a distressed refugee boat carrying 160 people. In the same week, the Italian coast guard escorted a small 12-metre boat transporting 107 refugees into Lampedusa Harbour after an eight-day journey beginning in Turkey.

    The mortality rate for refugees in the overloaded and decrepit boats continues to rise. People smugglers, demanding up to 2,000 euros for the passage to Europe in unseaworthy boats, get their best returns by catering to the needs of desperate people. However, the growing mortality rates on European borders are not simply the result of people smuggling but due to the ever-harsher measures of the EU against refugees and asylum-seekers. With no hope of gaining a visa and thereby no possibility of crossing borders legally, refugees are left to the services of smugglers. Ultimately, it is the increasingly restrictive immigration policies of all European countries that are responsible for the two latest shipping disasters. Both tragedies, which were widely reported in the media, are nevertheless only the tip of the iceberg. On an almost daily basis, refugees die unnoticed on the outer borders of Europe or in the detention centres of the European Union. United, a network against racism that supports refugees and migrants, and comprises more than 550 European organisations, has put together a document that lists almost 3,800 officially recorded victims of Europe's refugee policy from January 1993 to March 2003 []. In fact, this figure is likely to be far higher under conditions where the fate of many refugeeswho pay with their lives during their flight or who perish from exhaustion in the barren tracts of an east European wintergo unrecorded.

    The Mediterranean: a graveyard for refugees
    The majority of the deaths documented by United consist of refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean. Most are anonymous victims, who remain unidentified and whose identities are of little concern to the authorities. For example, on November 30 of last year, 100 refugees of mostly unknown origin lost their lives in two sea-damaged vessels off the Libyan coast near the Canary Islands. On October 8, 2002, 16 Africans died in the Straits of Gibraltar as their boat sought to avoid the ultramodern Spanish surveillanc bordering Poland and Germany, unnoticed by the border patrols and ignored by German authorities. Many continue to suffocate, crowded in air-tight containers like the 58 Chinese who were found in Dover, England, on June 19, 2000.

    Role of border police and government authorities
    In addition, United lists many instances in which refugees were either shot by Turkish, Spanish or German border guards, or were so badly beaten they died of their injuries. On November 2, 2002, a 23-year-old Albanian illegally crossing a border was mortally wounded by Greek border police. Idris Demir, a Kurd fleeing an imminent deportation after his asylum application was rejected, was shot near Jönköping in February 2001 by Swedish police. On May 2, 2000, in Austria, police beat a Nigerian to death in a refugee centre near Vienna. Two days later, a 40-year-old Slovakian died in Vienna under interrogation for illegal residency. Immigration officials also bear responsibility for the deadly toll of refugees. On February 12 of this year, in the Swiss town of Thurhof, Nigerian Osuigwe C. Kenechukwu died after being refused medical assistance in a refugee transit centre. Similar cases that the authorities prefer to keep hidden have been documented in nearly every EU country. The consequences that follow the denial of asylum-seeker status are similarly disastrous. Suicide occurs frequently in deportation centres and the homes of those seeking asylum. Mikhail Bognarchuk, a 42-year-old Ukrainian, hanged himself in the deportation centre in British Haslar on January 31, 2003. Shortly before, David Mamedov, 45, a Georgian who had resided in Germany for some years, hanged himself at his home in Schloss-Holte in eastern Westphalia after receiving his deportation papers. Two instances occurring on March 22, 2001, and April 23, 2000, respectively, illustrate in an especially stark manner the despair to which refugees are driven. In Spain two years ago, a Moroccan refugee threatened with deportation murdered a 40-year-old asylum-seeker from Guinea, preferring a sentence in a Spanish jail to deportation to Morocco. A year later in Holland, a Chinese asylum-seeker, fearing deportation for himself and his girlfriend whose application for asylum had already been rejected, stabbed her and then killed himself.

    Border security beyond the EU perimeter
    Many refugees fail to reach Europe's borders. For example, many fatalities due to the actions of border guards are documented in Turkey. The shelling of a refugee boat near Cyprus in May 2002 by the Turkish coast guard caused widespread outrage. Hidar Akay from Turkey was killed in a hail of bullets. Nine refugees were shot and another five wounded as a group of 139 people from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan crossed the border between Turkey and Iran at the beginning of May 2000. This incident rated only a brief mention in the press. Turkey, which has been warned that it would fail to gain membership to the EU due to its record on human rights, was in reality only following EU practice in regard to refugees. With the Amsterdam agreement and the decisions adopted at the EU summit in 1999 in Tampere, Finland, the enacting of ruthless border security measures against refugees became a requirement for EU membership. The harsh measures carried out by the Turkish border guards are also a result of the pressure the EU exerts on neighbouring counties and candidates for EU membership. Libya is the last potential entryway to Europe due to the trade embargo decreed against the Qadaffi government, which consequently does not collaborate with the EU over the issue of refugees. Many refugees become victims of the murderous desert conditions. According to an article in the German tageszeitung, the Ghanaian embassy reported in recent weeks that more than 200 Ghanaians died of thirst in the desert. In May 2001, tourists made a gruesome discovery when they came across a van from Niger in the Libyan desert that had been lost three months earlier. The van contained 40 corpses.

    The collaboration within the EU on border security in refusal of entry permits, deportations and the development of a common policy on asylum and immigration issues at the lowest level continues to take ever more drastic forms. At the EU summit in Thessaloniki, 140 million euros were expressly allocated to intensify cooperation on policing the EU's external borders; 250 million euros were allocated for deportations and the development of cooperation with third countries for the return of refugees. This was in order to further streamline the mass deportation of refugees out of the EU. Already, 350,000 people annually are expelled and approximately 150,000 forced to return to their countries "voluntarily." The summit also established a common visa system allowing complete surveillance by recording biometric information, recorded on the passport of the bearer. In centralised records, the Visa Information System (VIS) would then assemble data that would be made available to all border and police authorities. There are also plans to link the VIS to the Schengen Information System (SIS). The latter was strengthened after an agreement was reached in Thessaloniki to broaden and accelerate the data system. Together with the ongoing militarisation of the EU's external borders, the VIS draws the EU electronic curtain ever tighter, with ever more deadly consequences, as the United report notes. The only ones to profit would be the people smugglers, whom the EU is ostensibly aiming to combat. A market would be established by the EU's xenophobic policy against the asylum-seekers. People smugglers can already demand exorbitant fees for the Mediterranean crossing or for a lorry transport across the eastern borders of the EU. Prices range from the "all-inclusive" (i.e., guaranteed transport from the origin of the journey to a destination point with forged papers) for around 10,000 euros, to a guided escort across the border on foot for a few hundred euros. Prices will increase as border-crossings become riskier and the illegal paths longer due to ever-tightening EU borders. Refugees, who borrow heavily in order to take the road to Europe, will become victims not only of higher financial debt. In the ruthless trade of people smuggling they will increasingly pay with their lives. The narrowing of freedom of movement and travel as well as the death of refugees on the inner German borders (the so-called "wall deaths"), deplored by Western countries during the period of the "iron curtain," are increasingly becoming a feature of EU politics.
    ©World Socialist Web Site

    24/7/2003- In its latest review of the successes and losses of far-Right and anti-immigrant electoral parties in Europe, the Institute of Race Relations notes that extreme-Right immigration and law and order policies are being incorporated into the agenda of mainstream centre-Right parties; extreme-Right electoral parties are appealing increasingly to rural constituencies; and new political parties are emerging, whose policies are shaped almost entirely by an anti-immigration agenda. In the last six months, an extreme-Right political party has, once again, become part of the coalition government of Austria. After months of wrangling, the Freedom Party (FPÖ) was invited to become a junior partner in the centre-Right coalition government, despite the fact that it was the FPÖ which sparked last summer's governmental crisis and forced new elections. In Italy, the anti-immigrant Northern League (a junior partner in the coalition government led by Silvio Berlusconi) is threatening to bring down the government if its virulent anti-immigration agenda is not strictly adhered to. But local elections in May 2003, covering 25 per cent of the Italian electorate, saw losses for the League, as well as for the post-fascist National Front (AN), led by Gianfranco Fini.

    Electoral gains
    Following the May 2003 Belgian general election, the Vlaams Blok (VB) is now the fifth largest party in Belgium with 11.6 per cent of the national vote (17.9 per cent of the vote in Flanders) and 18 seats (up 3) in the Federal Chamber of Representatives. This is the most significant gain for the European far-Right since Jean-Marie Le Pen captured 18 per cent of the vote in the 2002 French presidential elections. The VB made significant gains in rural areas, where there are few immigrants and low crime rates. Although the VB lost some support in Antwerp, it is now the main party with 7 seats out of a total of 24. The Francophone National Front (FN) also gained in the elections. It achieved 1.98 per cent of the national vote (5.6 per cent of the vote in Wallonia), which translates into one seat in the Federal Chamber and one in the senate. In the UK, the extreme-Right British National Party had its biggest breakthrough in the May local elections, and now holds sixteen council seats. It is now the joint second largest party on Burnley Council in the north-west of England.

    Incorporating extreme-Right views
    Even in countries where pollsters predict that the extreme-Right political parties' share of the vote is on the wane, the extreme-Right's anti-immigration and law and order programmes are being incorporated into centre-Right policies. Thus, in the Netherlands, where the Pim Fortuyn List is probably a spent force after corruption scandals and internal bickering, the Fortuyn agenda lives on in government, particularly integration, immigration and crime policies. In France, where Chirac, in 2002, resoundingly saw off the challenge posed by Le Pen in the second round of the presidential elections, extremism has not been defeated. On the contrary, the interior ministry has launched a drive to win back FN voters to the mainstream Right, by promoting hardline policing and expelling undocumented workers. In this climate, newspapers are drawing attention to the continuing appeal of Le Pen, and the popularisation of his ideas about immigration and law and order in provincial France, as well as in its industrial wastelands.

    New anti-immigration parties formed
    In Spain, where the anti-immigration Platform for Catalonia made unexpected gains in May's nation-wide regional and municipal elections, the Francoist-leaning Frente Español says that it will, in future, contest elections. And in Ireland, the anti-abortion campaigner, Justin Barrett, has vowed to establish a 'new oppositional movement against immigration'. ©Institute of Race Relations

    25/7/2003- An EU funded report, reviewing 17 research projects, has concluded that there is no evidence of immigration leading to an increase in crime and unemployment. The studies analysed the situation in both new immigration countries and those with a longer tradition of immigration, such as France, Germany and the UK. The conclusions suggest that immigrants are not the cause of an underground economy, but that if such an economy already exists, it encourages migration. Evidence for this is available in Germany, where the government clamped down on illegal entry, but did not succeed in curbing the informal economy. 'Ignorance is the basis of racism,' said EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin, welcoming the report. 'This report will help to ensure that any future policies dealing with immigration issues take into account some of the latest information available about the problems that migrants encounter in Europe today.'

    The report suggests that a black economy may act as a magnet for poorer immigrants, and encourages them to stay in Europe once they are caught up in that environment. This then often leads to the stereotyping of immigrants as a criminal class. When immigrants are involved in crime, the report claims that this is often brought about by discrimination experienced during the early stages of settlement, which has been seen to foster social inequality and fragmentation, often encouraging crime. Perhaps unsurprising is the finding that immigrants generally experience poorer living conditions that EU citizens living in the same areas, particularly when it comes to employment and housing. Immigrant children tend to perform relatively poorly in school, and are more likely to drop out of education. In Germany, whereas only 38 per cent of unemployed Germans had no vocational qualifications in 1997, the corresponding figure for immigrants was 78 per cent. However, the studies also conclude that unemployment is not directly related to the rate of immigration. On the contrary, immigrants often take on marginal jobs which are deemed unattractive by most locals. A sharp decline in immigration, therefore, could lead to a workforce shortage. Some of the studies covered by the report also addressed the role of government and the media in influencing public opinion on immigration. 'Public opinion appears in many cases to drive official policies. Attitudes have often hindered policies designed to achieve greater equality, or to break down barriers to integration. The media and political leaders play a big part in this, claims a Commission statement.

    Finally, the report emphasised the importance of comparative research and international exchange of experience, and suggests that similar transnational collaboration could serve as a blueprint for EU-wide action to address the problems faced by today's migrants. The 17 research projects were conducted under the targeted socio-economic research programme of the Commission's Fourth Framework Programme.
    ©CORDIS News

    Other rights are put above free speech

    18/7/2003- South Africa's Human Rights Commission ruled Thursday that a violent slogan chanted at the funeral of an anti-apartheid leader last year, "Kill the Boer, kill the farmer," is hate speech that is not protected under the country's constitution. The ruling was a surprising reversal of an earlier finding that the slogan, while reprehensible, was protected speech under the country's post-apartheid constitution, which includes the right to free speech but does not grant that right status above other rights, like the right to human dignity. In announcing the decision, Commissioner Karthy Govender said the commission had concluded that "the calling for the killing of a group of people is an advocacy of hatred, which must amount to harm."

    The Freedom Front, an Afrikaner separatist group, brought the complaint to the Human Rights Commission last year after marchers chanted the slogan at a meeting of the ruling African National Congress Youth League and at the funeral of Peter Mokaba, a legendary and militant ANC member of Parliament. Television footage of the funeral that showed marchers shouting, "Kill the Boer, kill the farmer," caused an uproar last June. ANC officials at the event quickly put a stop to the chanting, party leaders have disavowed the slogan, and President Thabo Mbeki later condemned its use in a speech. The ruling does not make uttering the words illegal, but it allows legal claims to be made against those who say them, and the decision Thursday opened the way for the Freedom Front to sue the ANC because it organized the events at which the slogan was used.

    Pete Uys of the Freedom Front said the slogan has no place in a democratic society. "The thing was unacceptable," Uys said by telephone, referring to the slogan. "We regard it as encouragement to commit murder. Add to that, we have terrible crime against white farmers. It seems like every third day there is an attack on some farm in South Africa. One could argue that people are actually doing what the slogan says." He added that the ruling builds confidence among minorities that government institutions will protect them. "This proves that the institutions in the country are neutral and if your case is right they will support you," Uys said. But Justine White, an expert in communications law at the University of the Witswatersrand here, said the ruling would have a chilling effect on free speech. "Given our history, I think we need more speech, not less, even if it is of this kind," White said. "This ruling seems to say that we must not exacerbate racial tensions. But our democracy isn't robust enough to withstand driving them underground. These sentiments need to be out in the open. I really worry about when we are all very polite to each other while all those old fears and misconceptions fester." The slogan, along with the chant "One settler, one bullet," has long been used by anti-apartheid groups, though neither was ever an official slogan of the ANC.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    26/7/2003- A national forum to curtail racism is to be launched in Pretoria next week, the justice department said on Friday. It said the initiative resulted from the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in 2001, where it was resolved that United Nations member states should develop action plans.

    The WCAR programme of action required governments to devise such plans in consultation with human rights institutions and non-governmental organisations. The department said Cabinet had accordingly approved the establishment of the National Forum Against Racism. It also decided the SA Human Rights Commission should oversee the development of an anti-racism programme to be put into action by the forum. The launch of this body on Wednesday would be preceded by a meeting of experts from organisations involved. "At this meeting a government plan of action is to be tabled with a request that NGOs, business and other stakeholders provide input with a view to developing a consolidated national action plan to be lodged with the UN in due course," the department said. The launch at the Presidential Guest House is to be addressed by UN special rapporteur on racism Dodudodu Diene and South African Justice Minister Penuell Maduna.
    ©Mail & Guardian

    17/7/2003- Two lobby groups pressing for the return of resources looted from Africa by former colonial masters have intensified compensation claims from the United States and Britain ahead of President George Bush's visit to the continent, starting July 8. The Pan African Reparations Movement and the Global African Congress are demanding $776 trillion from the two powers for using Africans as their cheap source of labor to build underground railways and industries. The two lobby groups called for compensation from rich Western conglomerates, Barclays Bank, the Unilever, an agricultural, food and beauty products company, and the Catholic Church, saying they were responsible for the grabbing of land and raw materials from Africa. Lobby group chair Dennis Akumu, a renowned African trade unionist, said the group was preparing to go to court to have the British Royal family's role in slavery probed and an international development fund set up to reverse the poverty trend caused by colonialism. "Slavery, colonialism and genocide are responsible for the lack of development in Africa," Mr. Akumu charged. "This is part of a struggle to restore the dignity of our people after the inhuman treatment they received from the colonialists. "European countries must set up a development fund to compensate Africans who suffered due to slavery and racial violence meted against them during the colonial era," he added. The compensation calls come at a time when the African Union (AU) is in Maputo, Mozambique, to discuss development. It also comes ahead of George Bush's expected visit to the former slave-trade Island of Goree, Senegal.

    Local newspaper reports indicated here recently that the U.S. president will arrive in Goree Island to talk about slavery, but according to his national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Bush is unlikely to apologize for the ills of slavery. Mr. Bush was quoted as saying the Goree retreat was "to show that we deeply care about the plight of the African citizens." However, Mr. Akumu, who is the former secretary general of the African Confederation of Trade Unions, said Mr. Bush's trip was a sign that the United States was ready for dialogue with Africa towards hammering out reparations agreements with victims of the "White terror." The group is demanding an estimated $1 trillion in compensation from the British government on behalf of Kenyan communities, including the Kikuyu, Turkana, Kisii, Mijikenda, Nandi and the Turkana for the stealing of their land. The Pan African Reparations Movement formed in 2000 following the adoption of the Abuja Declaration of 1993, which gave the green light for Africa to pursue compensation at the Pan African Movement, is demanding apologies from the former colonialists. The lobby groups drew their strength from the International Committee Against Racism, which formed during the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, where they formed the International Committee on Racism. Mr. Akumu said at a press conference that although compensation would not replace human lives lost during slavery, it would help the continent to develop economically.

    Publishes a report on the commission's accelerating decline, entitled Wheeling and dealing, incompetence and "non-action," in which it recommends a radical overhaul

    24/07/2003- Reporters Without Borders's consultative status with the United Nations commission on human rights has been suspended for one year on Cuba's initiative. The organisation condemns this "dictatorial decision" and proposes a radical overhaul of the commission in a report entitled Wheeling and dealing, incompetence and "non-action." Reporters Without Borders's consultative status with the United Nations commission on human rights was suspended on July 24 for one year at the request of Libya and Cuba because activists with the organisation staged a protest during the inauguration of the commission's last session in March against the decision to let Libya chair the commission. Reporters Without Borders insists that granting the chair to Col. Gaddafi's regime has been a disgrace to the commission. The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the body that took this decision, never invited Reporters Without Borders to explain its action. The failure to respect sanction procedures has been criticised by the French government, which lodged a request for a postponement of any decision to suspend the organisation. This suspension of one of the few press freedom organisations to have consultative status with ECOSOC is farce of the kind that increasingly characterizes the commission on human rights. Reporters Without Borders today publishes a report which details the excesses, shortcomings and accelerating decline of this commission, which dictatorships such as Cuba and China have taken over in order to strip it of all substance. The reports proposes a series of reforms that are essential if the commission is to be rescued : limiting the right to vote to those states that have ratified the main international human rights covenants, naming an independent human rights expert to chair the commission, and abolishing the so-called "non-action" motions that have repeatedly been used to block debates.

    Wheeling and dealing, incompetence and "non-action"
    Reporters Without Borders calls for drastic overhaul of how the commission work

    Investigation and report by Jean-Claude Buhrer - July 2003

    Commission on Human Rights goes from bad to worse
    With Libya as its chairperson and coinciding with the war in Iraq, expectations were low for the 59th annual session of the United Nations commission on human rights of 17 March - 27 April in Geneva (Switzerland). But it exceeded the worst fears, to judge from the way it functioned and the resolutions that were adopted. Even the most hardened observers have not yet recovered. It was a baptism by fire for the UN high commissioner for human rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil, who voiced disappointment and incomprehension at the impossibility of overcoming the divisions within the commission and the readiness of members to block resolutions rather than compromise. In his closing statement, the high commissioner echoed the widespread malaise : "There really is nothing more serious than the protection of human rights. Yet at times I have felt that, in the course of competitive debate, delegates were losing sight of the noble goal of protecting human rights, in the very body whose duty it is to promote them." UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was even more explicit when he openly chided the commission in a speech the day before : "Divisions and disputes in recent months have made your voice not stronger, but weaker ; your voice in the great debates about human rights more muffled, not clearer. This must change, if you are to play the role intended for this commission, and totalitarian regimes have pulled off dazzling feats of sleight of hand. Draft resolutions calling Russia to order because of Chechnya or Zimbabwe and Sudan because of abuses against their own populations were dropped thanks to fleeting alliances. Iran also managed to slip through the net after the European Union decided not to propose a resolution on the grounds that a dialogue was now under way with Tehran. A few days after going so far as to sentence 79 dissidents to heavy prison sentences and execute three ferry hijackers while the commission was in mid-session, Cuba got off with a painless resolution that simply asked it to receive a UN envoy. Cuba's crackdown elicited frowns and the high commissioner's condemnation, but President Castro's friends were never seriously discomfited. Returning favours, Algeria, China, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, Vietnam, Zimbabwe and Sudan rushed to regime's rescue. On the other hand, a few countries without support in the commission such as Burma and Burundi received condemnations that were clearly deserved while the commission found easier targets by singling out Belarus, North Korea and Turkmenistan for the first time. One cannot of course forget Israel, which is invariably condemned and enjoys the dubious privilege of being the subject of a half-dozen resolutions each year for it alone.

    The United States was back after a year of penitence, distinguishing itself by its cynicism and hypocrisy. Clearly treating its "adversarial partners" with care, the United States chose not to sponsor any resolution on China or Russia. China got away without any reproach at all, while Russia was pleased that the commission took note of "improvements" in Chechnya. There was an impasse on capital punishment. Amnesty International reported 1,526 executions and 3,248 death sentences in 67 countries in 2002. China, the undisputed champion, led the way with at least 1,060 victims, followed by Iran (113), the United States (71) and Saudi Arabia (48). The divided commission was unable to agree on the "immediate and worldwide" moratorium that supporters of abolition have been demanding for a long time. The atmosphere was oppressive, there was active complicity from the commission's Libyan chairperson, and the verbal excesses and dramatic hand-waving of Algerian ambassador Mohamed Dembri were worthy of caricature. Trapped by their own fears and a failure to stick to their principles, the democracies for their part offered the sad spectacle of impotence and a lack of political will. And human rights in all of this ? The "collateral damage" column includes Kurds, Tibetans, Uighurs, Moluccan Christians, Pakistani Ahmadis, Pygmies, Buddhist Chakmas in Bangladesh, the Papuans of Irian Jaya and indigenous everywhere. Look, they are nowhere to be seen. The UN commission that is supposed to defend and protect fundamental freedoms is sinking in a maelstrom of culpable insignificance where George Orwell's newspeak reigns supreme. It remains to be seen whether there is any will to extricate the commission from this dead end, in a UN in crisis, and whether it will still be possible to rise to the challenge of the future of human dignity.

    The high commissioner and the concerned but powerless NGOs
    The diagnosis is as grave as the crisis. In March 2001, the then high commissioner Mary Robinson sounded the alarm by drawing attention to the system's "constraints and shortcomings." Before handing over the following year, she reiterated her concern in a final speech to the commission. "Human rights are in danger," she said, referring to the measures taken in the fight against terrorism. "The buildings that were destroyed on 11 September can be replaced, but if the pillars of the international system are damaged or destroyed, it won't be easy to restore them." Her successor Sergio Vieira de Mello also noted that things are not well with commission. "What has happened with its role of protecting and promoting human right ?" he asked, going on to acknowledge that its "use for political ends" was giving rise determined the behaviour and voting of the member states." Amnesty International accused the commission of failing yet again in its duty to protect victims and said it had seriously undermined its credibility as a defender of human rights. The International Commission of Jurists deplored the year-by-year downward slide.

    1. Libya as chair - an affront to human rights
    The unacceptable was reached on 20 January with the election of Libya - one of the least commendable of countries as regards human rights - as the commission's chairperson for 2003. The news would have hilarious if the subject were not so serious. After the downward drift of recent years, it was a major additional blow to the credibility of a body that proclaims itself to be "the conscience of the international community." Often accused of flagrantly violating basic freedoms, Col. Muammar Gaddafi's Libya clearly did not deserve this honour. Libya is also a terrorist state and subject to UN sanctions - albeit suspended in 1999 - for its involvement in blowing up two civilian planes in the air, a Pan Am flight with 280 persons aboard over Lockerbie, Scotland on 21 December 1988 and a UTA DC-10 with 170 victims the following year. A special court in Paris convicted six Libyan citizens in the second of these two attacks, including the head of the intelligence services and Col. Gaddafi's brother-in-law. The "guide of the revolution" is on the Reporters Without Borders worldwide list of predators of press freedom, while Amnesty International reports that freedom of expression is severely curtailed in Libya by laws banning political parties and any criticism of the regime. Amnesty International also points to the several hundred political prisoners who are held without being charged or tried, the mistreatment and torture of detainees, disappearances and "racist violence." In September 2000, 130 immigrants from black Africa were killed by Libyans in the latest of a series of recurring massacres. Since then, hundreds of thousands of black Africans who were part of an easily exploited labour force have been rounded up and expelled or have fled the country. This grim picture did not prevent Col. Gaddafi's regime from becoming a commission member in 2001.

    Once in the commission, Libya spared no effort to obtain its highest post. After preparing the ground by investing 4 billion dollars in Africa, the government assumed the cost of organising and transporting delegations from all over the continent to the foreign ministers' meeting in Durban in July 2002. It was there that the African Union was born, replacing the Organisation of African Unity, and that Libya, rather than Algeria, was chosen as the continent's sole candidate to chair the commission in 2003, when it was Africa's turn to hold the post. At the same moment, the Libyan press itself reported that four convicted thieves underwent amputation of the right hand and left leg on 3 July 2002 after the supreme court approved this punishment. Amnesty International also reported that in 2002, as in previous years, death sentences were passed in Libya under legislation providing for capital punishment for activities that amount to no more than the exercise of the right of freedom of expression and association. An exchange of favours ? Vice's homage to virtue ? Either way, nothing ever emerged to thwart Col. Gaddafi's machinations despite all the concerns expressed at the time by human rights organisations. Well aware of what was happening, one Africa diplomat commented, deadpan : "What do expect, the Arabs used to sell us during the era of the slave trade, now they buy us."

    Libya forced to submit to a secret ballot
    For the first time in the commission's history, a secret ballot was nonetheless demanded for the confirmation of Libya's appointment. Previously, the choice of chairperson was always approved by acclamation. With the active support of the dictatorships represented on the commission, the African group's choice was ratified by 33 votes to 3 (United States, Canad conference to back his bid to lead the African football confederation.

    A controversial chair
    With Najat Al-Hajjaji, the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya's ambassador to the United Nations, as its chairperson, the 59th annual session of the UN commission on human rights could hardly have had a more inauspicious beginning. Contrary to custom, Col. Gaddafi's protégée had refrained several times from holding a press conference since her appointment two months earlier. She finally met with journalists on the day of the session's inauguration, on 17 March, but it was primarily to announce that she had proposed to the UN secretariat that Reporters Without Borders should be immediately suspended as a consultative member. This was because, during her opening address, Reporters Without Borders representatives had scattered leaflets in the Palais des Nations assembly hall denouncing Libya's assumption of the chair. "The UN has finally appointed someone who knows what she is talking about !" the leaflets said, "What credibility will remain for a body headed by the representative of a country that abuses human rights every day. By putting Libya at the helm, the commission shows that it is ready to cover up the brutalities of some of its members through dirty deals." Hajjaji was not amused. Without ever receiving a Reporters Without Borders representative, the committee responsible for NGOs subsequently announced its support for a one-year suspension. The decision must be ratified by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

    A past master of political cant, Hajjaji thought she would be able to silence all the criticism by punishing a NGO that defends freedom of expression. She had already, in her opening speech, faithfully repeated Tripoli's current line on the Middle East and Iraq, taking care not to allude to the misdeeds of Saddam Hussein's regime any more than those of similar dictatorships. The previous year, Libya had joined Cuba in rushing to Saddam's help when a resolution was being adopted on Iraq. Hajjaji's performance at the press conference offered a clear demonstration - if any were needed - that a regime such as Col. Gaddafi's is an imposter as chair of the commission. She expressed thanks for the questions but each time she said she was unable to reply or was not familiar with the relevant conventions, and passed the buck to the high commissioner. Asked if it would not be appropriate to require a minimum of respect for human rights from commission members, she argued that this would exclude many countries, including her own. This "would not be democratic," she added, keeping a straight face. And what about the example set by Libya as regards ratification ? The chairperson had to be reminded that her government had still not signed the second optional protocol aimed at abolishing the death penalty, or the one about eliminating discrimination against women, or the document on the involvement of children in armed conflicts, or either the protocol or convention on the status of refugees, or the Rome statute creating the International Criminal Court. She nonetheless expressed the hope that her country would one day ratify all of these basic principles.

    2. "Wheeling and dealing"
    Opening on the eve of the war in Iraq, the session felt its effects. As has been the case for several years with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the commission became the hostage of both sides in the war without having the least influence over the course of events. There was verbal denunciation of the US intervention, but the Iraqi crisis just accentuated the divisions and reduced the commission to near-paralysis.

    In an open display of its differences, the commission on 27 March rejected a request for a special debate on the human rights and humanitarian situation in Iraq as a result of the war by 25 votes against, 18 for and 7 abstentions. Fearing the debate would turn into a free-for-all, Japan, Australia, Canada, Europe and several Latin American countries joined the U human rights situation in Iraq," a vague wording which would have allowed the rapporteur to also look at the behaviour of the Anglo-American coalition forces now controlling the country. But that was out of the question, as far as the United States was concerned. After much pressure from Washington, the commission finally decided to limit the rapporteur's mandate to crimes committed in Saddam's time.

    The United States was also firmly opposed to the deployment of human rights observers, which some NGOs demanded. After bitter and laborious discussions, the Iraq resolution was adopted by 31 votes to 3 (Cuba, Malaysia and Zimbabwe) and 12 abstentions (including Russia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Vietnam, India and Pakistan). Seven countries including Algeria, China, Libya, Sudan and South Africa did not participate in the vote in a show of disapproval. The focus on Iraq was at the expense of the many human violations that were ignored. In his address to the commission, UN secretary-general Kofi Annan had nonetheless warned against letting Iraq deflect attention from events elsewhere : "There are many places where violence, chaos, oppression and the violation of human rights have intensified in the last few weeks and months," Annan said, mentioning the Ituri region in the Democratic Republic of Congo, "where hundreds of people have been butchered in cold blood within the last few weeks." In some of these places, "the perpetrators may have hoped that their crimes would escape international notice, at a time when all eyes were focused on Iraq," Annan added.

    The alliance of dictators against democracies
    Annan could also have mentioned the executions and heavy sentences passed on dissidents in Cuba in mid-session, or the commission's silence on violations in China and Tibet, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Algeria and many other countries. He did point out that "the human rights crisis in Iraq did not begin with this war." In this he was essentially agreeing the comment of the high commissioner, Sergio Vieira de Mello who had criticised the commission for having been unable to debate "a scandalous situation" for 25 years. These observations by the UN's highest officials highlight in their own way the slippery slope the commission is heading down. The commission has become a forum in which governments defend their record rather than examine them. After rejecting the system for a long time, repressive regimes have understood that the best way to protect themselves against any examination is to take part in it. So they participate more and more actively in the commission's work and combine efforts to better undermine it from the inside. Rwanda's Hutu regime, for example, was preparing the Tutsi genocide in 1994 at the same time as it got itself elected to the commission and to the UN security council. When the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe was riding roughshod over the most fundamental rights in 2002, it not only managed to avoid a vote on a resolution about this, but it also succeeded in getting elected to the commission for 2003 thanks to the connivance of other dictatorial countries. And in the wake of chairing the commission in 2003, Col. Gaddafi's Libya now expects to join the security council.

    While the European Union adopts an increasingly cautious stance and the United States has had other concerns since its removal from the commission in 2002 for a year, the commission has been overrun by a group of countries with little concern for human rights. They include long established predators such as China and Russia, supported by such violators as Algeria, Cuba, Pakistan, Libya, Sudan, Syria and even Zimbabwe. The Muslim countries, many African countries and Vietnam orbit around this hard core. By means of systematic obstruction, procedural ploys and tireless wheeling and dealing, this informal group of "like-minded" imposes decisions that often have nothing to do with human rights. So the commission continues its inexorable downward path with results that are more disappointing each year. Once a resolution on Chechnya. The European Union for its part refrained from targeting Iran on the grounds of the "dialogue" under way with Tehran. The desire for consensus had the effect of weakening the voice of the European democracies, including those of eastern Europe which had been much more active until recently.

    Exploiting North-South splits and the ties forged in the fight against terrorism, Russia succeeded for the second year running in avoiding a resolution denouncing the atrocities of its troops in Chechnya. Two other resolutions from the European Union, one on Sudan and one on Zimbabwe, both backed by the United States, did not prosper. African and Islamic solidarity decided the outcome of these battles. Despite damning reports from humanitarian organisations of continuing slavery and the continuing use of cruel punishments such as whipping and amputation, the Sudanese government slipped through the net for the first time, thereby resulting in the end of the mandate of the special rapporteur for Sudan. In an even more effective display of mutual solidarity, the African countries ensured that a European resolution denouncing continuing human rights violations in Zimbabwe was consigned to oblivion. Russia, China and Cuba rushed to the aid of Sudan and Zimbabwe to pay back favours received. Even more deplorable was the action of democratic countries that went so far as to ally themselves with the dictatorships. South Africa, Senegal and India made common cause with them on the Zimbabwe issue or by opposing the Sudan resolution. Forgetting the principles it claims to defend, Brazil voted against a European resolution on Chechnya. Human Rights Watch accused the commission of exonerating some of the worst human rights violators, who were protecting each other, it said. By getting off scot-free, governments that violate the conventions they have ratified are encouraged to violate them even more in the future. Following a now well-established tradition, the agenda was once again largely given over to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Five resolutions were presented denouncing the human rights situation in Israel and the occupied territories. The agenda's eighth item was solely about this subject while the following item was supposed to cover the rest of the world. The ten or so countries named in the ninth agenda item included Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and, for the first time, Belarus, North Korea and Turkmenistan.

    Cuba - staunch defender of the dictatorships
    In order to pay back favours, Cuba went further and further in its support of the worst dictatorships. In the vote on a resolution condemning "serious, systematic and extensive human rights violations" in North Korea, Cuba was among the 10 diehards that unfailingly back Pyongyang, along with Algeria, China, Russia, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. As regards Turkmenistan, the Cuban representative said he shared the indulgent view of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference on the situation there. On Belarus, he said "the information transmitted by the Cuban embassy in Minsk in no way corresponded to the allegations in the resolution." Joining China, Malaysia and Sudan in breaking the consensus on Burma, the Cuban delegate said that "the situation has greatly improved in Myanmar" and that the resolution constituted "interference in this country's internal affairs, and a failure to respect its sovereignty." Cuba also felt the need to distance itself from the resolution on human rights in Democratic Republic of Congo although it was passed with Kinshasa's consent. It condemned the massacres in Ituri province and the continuing fighting, but the Cuban delegate said he would vote against it in the event of a ballot. Under the heading of technical cooperation in the field of human rights, the commission adopted a series of somewhat timid resolutions on Somalia, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Chad, Liberia and Haiti. For form's sake, the Libyan chairperson also had a resolution of Afghanistan endorsed, as well as insipid s second-class citizens, trample on the rights of minorities or maintain corporal punishments under the sharia without any sign of concern from the commission. Despite damning reports, Saudi Arabia remains untouchable, as does Algeria, where more than 200,000 persons died in an internal conflict over the past decade. Nonetheless, according to a report on the Arab world published in Cairo in July 2002 by the United Nations Development Programme, the countries of this region have the lowest level of freedom in the world and the situation of women is especially problematic. A resolution on "combating defamation of religions" proved even more revealing. Presented by Pakistan on behalf of the member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), it was adopted by 32 to 14 with 7 abstentions. It mentions only Islam, and the special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism is asked to investigate only "the situation of the Muslim and Arab populations in various regions of the world," although he was already asked to produce a report on this very topic for the commission's 59th session. It is as if only Muslims are the victims of religious intolerance, and not Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, animists, other kinds of religious believers or atheists.

    Special rapporteurs criticised
    The rapporteurs are no longer safe from condemnation by commission members. The current special rapporteur on racism, Doudou Diène of Senegal, took over in 2002 from Maurice Glélé-Ahanhanzo, a member of Benin's supreme court, who was summarily dismissed for referring in a report to a document which the OIC regards as a "blasphemy against the Koran." Among other attacks on special rapporteurs, Algerian ambassador Mohamed Dembri distinguished himself in 2003 by questioning the independence and impartiality of the special rapporteur on torture, Théo van Boven, because of claims that he was hired by an NGO. Dembri also accused him of taking unverified allegations as proven, and demanded his resignation. It should be pointed out that Algeria has never agreed to receive visits from the special representative about torture, executions or involuntary disappearances. In his report, Van Boven had mentioned the amputation of limbs carried in some countries and cases of women being stoned to death for alleged adultery, especially in Sudan. Now that the mandate for Sudan has been terminated because the relevant resolution was rejected, only 10 of the UN's 193 member states are under investigation for human rights violations (Afghanistan, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Israel Liberia and Somalia).

    A large number of the many resolutions adopted did not contain any significant undertaking and were unlikely to have any consequences. This is the case with the resolution on the "right to freedom of opinion and expression," adopted without a vote, in which the commission "voices its continuing concern at the extensive occurrence of detention, extrajudicial killing, torture, intimidation, persecution and harassment, abuse of legal provisions on defamation and criminal libel as well as on surveillance, search and seizure, and censorship, threats and acts of violence and of discrimination, often undertaken with impunity, against persons, including professionals in the field of information, who exercise the right to freedom of opinion and expression..." As if it was sometimes worth saying what goes without saying. The resolution went on to urge all states "to respect freedom of expression in the media and broadcasting, and in particular, to respect the editorial independence of the media, and to encourage a diversity of ownership of media and of sources of information..." This was a fine lesson in hypocrisy as it did not require states to implement this catalogue of good intentions. The same unanimity was obviously not reached on the death penalty, which is paradoxically a controversial issue in this body supposedly given over to ensuring respect for the basic right to life. A resolution presented by the European Union called for a moratorium in the implementation of the death penalty and invited all countries that had not yet done so to sign the second optional protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at abolishing the death penalty. Most of the 28 countries backing the resolution came from Europe and Latin America. The United States voted against the proposal along with 17 other members of the commission including Islamic countries, China, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. Although it had just carried out three executions, Cuba preferred to abstain and did not participate in the vote.

    17 members refuse to link human rights to democracy
    Seventeen of the commission's 53 members showed their true colours by abstaining in the vote on a resolution about "the interdependence between democracy and human rights," one that should have gone without saying. Just reaffirming the principles of the Universal Declaration and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the resolution declared that : "the essential elements of democracy include respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, inter alia freedom of association, freedom of expression and opinion, and also include access to power and its exercise in accordance with the rule of law, the holding term that sums up the system's inability to achieve its goal of promoting and protecting human rights, it is "non-action." As its name suggests, a "non-action" motion is a procedural device designed to avoid a vote on a resolution and to cut short any debate on an embarrassing issue. The commission on human rights is one of the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and at first sight, the few words that constitute article 2 of rule 65 of their rules of procedure seem harmless and insignificant. Rule 65 is about the order of voting on proposals, and its second article says : "A motion requiring that no decision be taken on a proposal shall have priority over that proposal." In other words, any delegation wanting to prevent discussion on a particular matter just has to present a procedural "non-action" motion which must be put to an immediate vote and, if approved, blocks any other proposal. This device has been used systematically by China since the Tienanmen square massacre in 1989 to put a stop to any criticism of its practices. Since then, others have made excessive use of this loophole.

    China never condemned thanks to "non-action" procedure
    The "non-action" motion is the grain of sand that causes the system to seize up and illustrates its malfunctioning and paralysis. In 2002, this device again allowed China to get out of trouble by 23 votes to 17 with 12 abstentions. Those voting with China included Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Qatar, Syria, Cuba, Russia, Indonesia, Pakistan and several African countries. On behalf of the European Union, Belgium tried in vain to argue that no country should be exempt from investigation by the commission. Canada for its part warned that a "non-action" motion would be tantamount to repudiating the commission's mandate and its right to express a view on the human rights situation in any country. A wasted effort. China did not have to defend itself in 2003 as the United States abandoned any idea of supporting such a resolution because of its desire to get into China's good books on account the Iraq crisis. For a long time, China was the only country to keep using the procedural ploy of the "non-action" motion, but the example finally caught on. This was the case in 2002 before the vote on resolutions on Zimbabwe and the proposed optional protocol to the convention on torture. Despite the worsening human rights situation, Zimbabwe extricated itself again in 2003 thanks to a "non-action" motion presented by South Africa, which also used this device to block a US amendment to the resolution on racism aimed at reintroducing a paragraph from the original version voicing concern about the rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in various regions of the world. The European Union, which was responsible for the original paragraph, deplored its elimination as it would have reinforced the resolution's scope. Passed by 26 votes to 24 with 2 abstentions, this "non-action" motion highlighted the after effects of the Durban conference on racism. Canada's representative pointed out that the resolution made no sense without the paragraph denouncing antisemitism. But the Arab and Islamic countries had already obtained condemnation of Islamophobia in the resolution combating defamation of religions and they were not interested in seeing it reaffirmed in this resolution, especially in association with antisemitism.

    South Africa accused the Europeans of "politicising" the commission. This pushed several countries into seizing the chance to reiterate their opposition to the "non-action" motion. As Ireland said on behalf of the European Union, the use of this device has resulted in the commission failing in its duty and undermines the transparency of its work. A way of fudging issues or burying one's head in the sand, the device is part of deliberate strategy by members of the commission to increasingly obstruct its work and strip it of all substance. Human rights organisations have complained about a resolution adopted at the initiative of Pakistan and Sa violations of human rights all over the world against persons on grounds of their sexual orientation" and called on "all states to promote and protect the human rights of all people, irrespective of their sexual inclination." In an effort to cause no offence, it eschewed such terms as "homosexual" or "lesbian" and did not criticise any government. Despite these precautions, it set off an unprecedented storm. The resolution's opponents immediately embarked on an all-out procedural guerrilla war. The Pakistani ambassador was one of the most determined. On behalf of the IOC, he described the resolution as "politically incorrect" and as a "direct insult to the 1.2 billion Muslims throughout the world." Using points of order and amendments and enjoying the Libyan chairperson's active complicity, the critics had the resolution postponed to the end of the session. On the eve of the last day, the Pakistani ambassador pulled a "non-action" motion out of his sleeve. Describing the resolution's content as "unseemly" and "in open conflict with Islam and its laws," he said its adoption would have the effect of forcing many countries to violate human rights. The "non-action" motion was rejected by 24 votes to 22 (the Islamic countries and most of the African countries, as well as China and India). But far from giving up, the opponents resorted to other ploys to delay a debate. Announcing that he would never let the commission "impose values we don't share," the Pakistani ambassador threatened to propose a hundred supplementary amendments, if necessary. When the resolution finally came up on the last working day, the Islamic countries first obtained a recess on the pretext of going to pray and then drew the commission into a pointless discussion, until the Libyan chairwoman finally proposed postponing consideration of the resolution until the commission's 60th session in 2004. This was accepted by 24 votes to 17. The 10 abstentions included the United States, Russia, Ireland and four Latin American countries, apparently influenced by the Vatican's calls for them to block the resolution. In Washington, the US State Department had let it be known that the United States would not support the resolution if it came to a vote because it did not consider the commission to be an appropriate forum. Brazil's ambassador promised to try again next year. "This commission cannot have taboos, it is a place where sexual preference and human rights must be debated," he said.

    The UN commission tasked with defending human rights, which are threatened throughout the world, has gone astray. The commission's 59th session offered ample proof of this. More than ever, its 53 members indulged in their sterile games far from the realities they were supposed to be investigating. The United Nations commission on human rights is now just a caricature of itself, eaten away by systematic obstruction from the totalitarian and authoritarian countries that have overrun it. As a result, the UN human rights system, with its norms and control mechanisms that were carefully devised in the course of half a century, is in the process of turning into an empty shell. Backed by the group of "like-minded," China has been campaigning since the start of the new millennium for the annual session to be reduced from six to four weeks. Some are even calling for sessions every two years. China and its sidekicks, with their equally restrictive view of human rights, also have their sights set on the human rights NGOs, whose outspokenness gives offence. Their first attempt at a solution has been to impose sham organisations, dubbed GONGOs (government-organised non-governmental organisations), alongside the real NGOs. Pushing to weaken the commission even more, Algeria and others have called for the complete elimination of country-based human rights investigations and firmly oppose resolutions naming countries under point 9 of the agenda.

    While the democracies stand back and do nothing, putting human rights second to their immediate political int two international covenants on political, civil, social, economic and cultural rights.

  • As one cannot be both judge and defendant, Reporters Without Borders recommends that, at the opening of every session, the office of the high commissioner should remind the commission of the status of ratifications and delays in the submission of the reports required from all countries that have ratified the covenants.

  • As special reports and, in particular, fact-finding missions are essential in combating impunity, Reporters Without Borders proposes that any country refusing a special rapporteur access to its territory should be barred from voting at the commission.

  • Since the "non-action" motion is contrary to the commission's principles, Reporters Without Borders recommends that provision for this procedure should be eliminated from the rules governing the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

  • To put an end to the use of double standards and to promote the universality and indivisibility of human rights, Reporters Without Borders supports UN secretary-general Kofi Annan's call for the commission to tackle all sensitive issues frankly and give all countries equal treatment. Reporters Without Borders therefore proposes that the serious human rights violations committed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be treated in the same manner as those in other countries.

  • Finally, Reporters Without Borders recommends that the practical functions of the office of the high commissioner for human rights should be extended. In particular, it should be tasked with publishing, prior to each session of the commission, a report on the human rights situation worldwide, country by country, on the lines of the report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

    To restore the commission's credibility, Reporters Without Borders proposes that its chairperson should be an independent human rights expert chosen by the high commissioner in agreement with the United Nations secretary-general.

    Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world, as well as the right to inform the public and to be informed, in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Reporters Without borders has nine national sections (in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom), representatives in Abidjan, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Montreal, Moscow, New York, Tokyo and Washington and more than a hundred correspondents worldwide.
    © Reporters Without Borders

    10/7/2003- Foreigners moving to Norway from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) may soon have to prove proficiency in the Norwegian language if they want to gain citizenship or permanent residence. There's broad political support for cabinet minister Erna Solberg's proposal. Residents of the EEA already can freely move to Norway, but everyone else has to go through a three-year process of satisfying immigration requirements before they're granted permanent resident status. Up to now, it's been enough to seek asylum, be married to a Norwegian or be sponsored by an employer, among other things. Now immigrants may need to prove they can read, write, speak and comprehend Norwegian. Cabinet minister Erna Solberg is proposing that immigrants must be able to document that they've complete at least 300 hours of Norwegian classes before they'll be granted permanent residence (bosettingstillatelse) or citizenship (statsborgerskap). Solberg, from the Conservative Party, says language proficiency is the key to integration in Norwegian society and the best way to overcome cultural barriers, get foreign women out of the house and into society, and fight crime. Most political parties support the proposal, as do many immigrant groups. Funding will remain a problem, however. Solberg needs an estimated NOK 1.1 billion to finance language programs for those who can't afford private instruction, and there already is a severe shortage of space at both public and private language programs.

    Bill would make language and integration courses mandatory

    11/7/2003- A bill being presented on Friday by Lower Saxony's state government to the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament where the states are represented, would require new immigrants and foreigners receiving welfare and unemployment benefits to attain a certain level of language proficiency or face penalties. The "integration" law would require immigrants and foreigners already living in Germany who speak "unsatisfactory" German to enroll in language courses. Those refusing to take the language courses would not only face reduced welfare and unemployment benefits but would have a harder time attaining status as permanent residents. "The language requirements are intended to help immigrants and foreigners integrate into the social and working world," said Michael Lemell, an official in the Lower Saxony Interior Ministry. "And the sanctions can be used to pressure them into taking the course, and therefore help the integration process."

    The new integration bill, based on similar laws in the Netherlands, would place the required proficiency at the designated "B1 level," in addition to requiring immigrants to take courses on the basics of the German legal system, culture and history. "Level B1 is really high, and I am sure that many Germans could not even pass the test," Omid Nouripour, a member of the Green party's national executive, said. "And we also have problems with the sanction methods, since they target immigrant rights." Uwe Schünemann, the Lower Saxony interior minister, said he expected backing from other states which, like Lower Saxony, are governed by the Christian Democratic Union. Support should also be forthcoming from Bavaria, which is run by the CDU's sister party, the Christian Social Union.

    "The government wants to put its entire immigration package through rather than this separate integration law," said a spokesperson for the Bundesrat, Sandra Michel, referring to the Social Democratic Party-Green coalition government's second attempt at passing the same immigration bill. The original passed the Bundesrat last year, but it was later annulled by the constitutional court on procedural grounds. "Up until now there have not been any real course requirements," said Michel. Lower Saxony's new proposal would also shift the costs of language courses to new immigrants, excluding refugees and certain asylum seekers. Schünemann claimed that by passing the costs onto the immigrants, the government would save more than EUR30 million ($34 million), to bring expenditures for language courses down to EUR153 million. But Nouripour said that "for people with small or no incomes, it seems unfair to make them pay for the courses themselves. And Lower Saxony has not specified how the entire costs, including for foreigners, would be covered." The CDU, which came to power in Lower Saxony in February, said that classes would total 900 hours, 300 more than the amount the SPD-Green coalition suggested in their immigration law proposals.

    Some 78,000 new immigrants and 50,000 foreigners already living in Germany would be required to visit the courses each year, according to the opposition. There are currently an estimated 7.3 million foreigners, about 9 percent of the total population, living in Germany. Since 1990 alone, 2.3 million ethnic Germans have moved to Germany from the former Soviet Union. Many of them would be required to take the language courses under the proposed bill. Jochen Welt, the government official responsible for these immigrants, called this "ridiculous and hypocritical." Frankfurt and Stuttgart, the cities with the highest proportion of citizens holding foreign passports, have decided to offer integration and language courses for immigrants since the government's immigration law, which would have set similar requirements, was put on ice.
    ©Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

    National 10-year-study looks at anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia

    13/7/2003- In a country where the constitution is a paean to political correctness but where prejudice remains evident, Axel Honneth packed his pipe with plum-scented tobacco and ventured into the tricky realm of Germany's struggle with racial tolerance. "Germans have a certain joy about cultural plurality, but then there's this other intriguing thing," said Honneth, a philosophy professor at Goethe University in Frankfurt. "A colleague of mine lives in a village. He feels irritated by the Turks in the neighborhood. He doesn't like the way Turkish men treat their women, or how loud their children are. He's a leftist, but he's highly irritated. To learn tolerance is difficult." The debate over tolerance is a constant hum in a nation where police guard synagogues from neo-Nazis and a Muslim teacher is fighting in the courts for the right to wear a head scarf in school. The struggle for nondiscrimination is the plot of one of Germany's most famous plays, Nathan the Wise, written in 1779 by Gotthold Lessing and nearly always in production somewhere in the country because its Jewish protagonist symbolizes racial and religious harmony.

    Many nations are burdened with racism and religious bigotry. But the imprint of the Holocaust makes the debate on such issues unique here. To the dismay of younger Germans, seeking distance from a past that they believe their nation has atoned for, the goal of a tolerant society seems unfairly intertwined with the crimes of the Nazi era. This has made Germany a land of legislated morality and endless introspection as it balances nationalistic pride with wider cultural acceptance. "Germans are better at tolerance today because of the democratic process," said Wolf Dieter Otto, a German literature teacher at Bayreuth University. "But it's a never-ending process. We must work on pluralism and integration. Many Germans still believe in a cultural sense that Germany is a country only for Germans."

    A 10-year national study is under way on racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia by the Interdisciplinary Institute of Conflict and Violence Research at Bielefeld University. Preliminary results suggest a "syndrome of hostile mentalities" in this country. The study found that 55 percent believe that too many foreigners live in Germany, 52 percent believe that Jews use the Holocaust "for their own advantage," and 46 percent don't approve of women wearing head scarves for religious reasons. The study is focusing on how job insecurity, political powerlessness and other factors contribute to prejudice and anger toward minorities and women. "We are faced more urgently than ever with the unsolved cardinal issue of a new culture of recognition for all who live in this society," the survey states. This year, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government signed a treaty with the German Jewish Council, which represents the nation's 100,000 Jews. The document states that Germany will preserve Jewish culture and make annual contributions of 3 million euros to the Jewish community. The agreement came months after government concern over a rise in anti-Semitism, prompting Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer to proclaim that this "cannot be permitted to happen. Not in Germany."

    The public has shown that past bigotry has no resonance today as Germany assumes increased global stature. What many political commentators viewed as a veiled campaign of anti-Semitism resulted in a sweeping defeat of the Free Democrats in the last federal elections. And leftist anarchists opposed to right-wing extremism routinely storm neo-Nazi rallies and scuffle with skinheads. "Sadly enough, though, German Jews are still viewed as Israelis," said Sacha Stawski, a founder of Honestly Concerned, an organization that tracks anti-Semitism. "Many Germans when they talk to Jews say, 'Oh, have you been home lately?' The Hitler's manipulation of a rising nationalism resulted in the Holocaust. "Germans will never escape the crisis of identity found in the Holocaust," said Gary Smith, executive director of the American Academy in Berlin. "Germany is a country in perpetual search of its identity."

    The German Constitution ratified in 1949 is a poetic treatise on tolerance and equality. "Human dignity," it states, "shall be inviolable." Last month, a court upheld those values when it ruled that Uwe Bergmann was allowed to fly a rainbow flag - a symbol of homosexuality - from his balcony despite orders from his landlord to take it down. With a history of xenophobia and anti-Semitism, however, Germany constantly struggles with those ideals. An undercurrent of animosity has intensified in a troubled economy with a 10.8 percent unemployment rate and a fear among many Germans that their generous welfare state is shrinking. More than 66 percent of the population "rate the economic situation in Germany as bad," according to the Bielefeld study. "And almost 30 percent say the same about their own financial situation. Nearly 74 percent think that social relations are becoming increasingly frail."
    ©The Baltimore Sun

    MORE EQUAL RIGHTS?(Germany/eu)
    EU anti-discrimination plans rouse tempers

    11/7/2003- Rarely has an unofficial draft for an EU law caused so much stir and media attention as the reports on the proposed anti-discrimination law in late June. Although the actual draft will not be introduced to the EU Commission until the fall of this year, media reports on the content of the "internal consultation paper" drawn up by Anna Diamantopoulou, the EU commissioner for employment and social affairs, have prompted hefty reactions. The greatest media ruckus was caused by a supposed proposal in the paper to outlaw stereotypical presentations of men and women in the media as well as "any projection of unacceptable images of men and women affecting human dignity and decency in advertisements."

    Germany's mass-circulated newspaper Bild, which regularly sports a bare-bosomed model on its front page, took up the supposed threat immediately, reacting with a "censored" black strip over its front page model's bosom. A group of scantily dressed women was also sent parading through Berlin in protest against a supposed ban of the "page one girl." The supposed threat to exposed breast on German newspapers was also taken up by German politicians of various parties, who reacted with lack of understanding for the proposed law. Elmar Brock of the Christian Democratic Union and member of the EU parliament told Bild that the prohibiting the depiction of scantily dressed women "interferes with editorial freedom." Heide Rühle, a member of the Greens party and of the EU parliament took her argument against censorship even further: "As a Green, I am all for quotas: There should be a naked man next to every naked woman!"

    But behind all the brouhaha about naked women lies a further complex of issues addressed by the proposed anti-discrimination law, namely the different tariffs insurers charge men and women, and, particularly in Germany, gender-specific taxation. "I know the media likes to portray us feminists as iconoclasts. But the issues at stake here are far more important than bare breasts on the cover of Bild," Ulrike Helwerth of the German women's lobby Deutscher Frauenrat, an umbrella organization that represents 57 women's associations with a total of 11 million members in Germany, told F.A.Z. Weekly.

    What Helwerth and other representatives of women's rights lobbies are more keen on seeing implemented are the plans to outlaw gender as a factor in risk calculation in the insurance industry. If the law is passed, pension and private health insurance companies would not be allowed to use gender as a basis for calculating insurance premiums or pension annuity rates. Women currently pay higher rates for pension insurance than men because they live longer. And because their longevity, women receive between 9 percent and 12 percent less a month when the insurance policy is paid out.

    According to insurance industry association GDV, the difference in insurance rates has nothing to do with discrimination, but is based on statistics. Men pay more for term life insurance as well as car and accident insurance because they cause more accidents than women - an advantage for women that would have to be abolished if the law is passed. Private health insurance companies also charge more for women than men. Statistics show that women's medical bills are around 40 percent higher than men's, mainly because women go to the doctor's more often than men. Only 10 percent of these higher costs have to do with pregnancy and giving birth. In the end, insurers say, both sexes are treated equally, since the pay-out value for women and men is the same. Insurance companies argue that a unisex premium would ultimately mean that men subsidize women's pension, which would again breach against anti-discrimination rulings. Also, men would resort to what is called "adverse selection," and turn to those insurance companies insuring a high percentage of men and ©Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

    11/7/2003- The French education authorities have granted permission for a Muslim school to open in the northern French city of Lille when the new academic year starts in September, French media reports say. The Lycee Averroes is the first private Muslim lycee on the French mainland. It is named after an Andalusian-Arab philosopher of the 12th Century who preached religious tolerance, and will initially welcome some 30 students. The lycee is the brainchild of Amar Lasfar, head of the Lille mosque, who has been pushing for such a school for eight years. After securing the necessary funding - 150,000 euros in donations - he had the premises converted for use by students. However, the authorities turned down the first three applications to open the secondary school, twice on safety grounds, before finally giving the go-ahead. "The Lycee Averroes is open to everyone," Deputy head Makhlouf Mameche told French TV. "All pupils of different faiths are welcome here - Muslims, Jews, Catholics. It is open to all. Girls with headscarves, girls without headscarves. All are welcome."

    Tolerance and respect
    The head teacher, Sylvie Taleb, has 17 years' teaching experience in Catholic schools and will be taking up her post in September. Potential pupils did not have to be able to speak Arabic to attend the school since lessons would be in French, Mr Mameche said. "We have made Arabic and Muslim culture optional subjects, so that non-Muslim pupils feel more welcome." Mr Lasfar welcomed what he called "this brave decision" by the education authorities. He said there was no essential difference between his school and any other private establishment, but acknowledged what he called "doubts" about the new school. "Our actions will succeed in allaying any qualms," he said. "It is through our results that we will answer those who have their doubts about this new institution, which they charge with exclusively favouring a specific minority. The aim of the school is enshrined in a logo on the school brochure: "To educate young people in a climate of tolerance and respect."
    ©BBC News

    12/7/2003- A Muslim civil servant suspended from her job because she refused to remove her headscarf on Saturday condemned the decision, saying she would continue to wear the religious garment on her return to work. Nadjet Ben Abdallah, 33, who works as a civil servant in the Lyon region in east France, told journalists that her appeal against an initial penalty in 2002 had been dismissed by the Lyon administrative tribunal. Instead, the tribunal handed down a one-year suspension without pay to the Frenchwoman of Algerian origin, describing her action as "particularly serious given her position". The debate over whether Muslim women have the right to wear headscarfs at school, at work or even on identity photos, regularly causes a furor in France, which is fiercely proud of the State's secular nature. French Muslims themselves are divided over how to deal with the issue. Wearing a headscarf is down to an individual's interpretation of Islam, while the debate itself is seen by many as showing Islam in a negative light. While France is overwhelmingly Catholic, some five million of its 58 million inhabitants are Muslim. A manager in the region's transport department, Ben Abdellah was deeemed to have "generated disturbances among colleagues and (transport) users ... by her attitude". Ben Abdellah said she will continue to wear the headscarf when she returns to work, but in the meantime is launching an appeal against the verdict. While Ben Abdellah started her job in 1999, she only began wearing a headscarf in late 2001, for reasons of "individual conscience and certainly not religious proselytism", she told AFP Saturday. She said she was shocked by the tribunal's decision, which she described as an injustice. "It is not the employee with a good record who has gone before the tribunal, but Islam," she said. "They're turning Islam into a religion incompatible with the Republic, while tolerating people wearing other religions' symbols." Her lawyer, Gilles Devers, said he would bring the case before the region's Muslim Council.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    "He asserted that his movement, which opposed anti-foreigners racism as well as anti-Semitism, can not sand hand-folded vis-à-vis anti-Arabs and Muslims racist rhetoric .."

    17/7/2003-In its 94-page report the French Movement Against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples condemned a vicious campaign spearheaded by the extremist right against Arabs and Muslims in France on the Internet. Citing racist sentences as "A good Arab is a dead Arab," the report, which was received Wednesday, July 16, and obtained by, unveiled an alliance between the extremist right and hardline Jewish organizations to tarnish Arabs and Muslims on the web. In an interview with IOL, the movement secretary general Mulout Aunet said the report denounces the web-based defamatory campaign against Arabs and Muslims. He asserted that his movement, which opposed anti-foreigners racism as well as anti-Semitism, can not sand hand-folded vis-à-vis anti-Arabs and Muslims racist rhetoric. Aunet underlined that the report, which took two years to finalize, focuses on websites that orchestrate the campaign against Arabs and Muslims. The report traced down 26 websites in France run by rightists, neo-Nazis as well as extremist Jewish and Christian groups.

    Racist Sites
    The 94-page report outlined different kinds of anti-Arab and Muslim websites, including ones that criticize sites that defend Arabs and foreigners in France such as the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples. Others target websites set up by French Arabs and Muslims to carry their news and issues of interest, it added. The report spotlighted several websites with extremist Jewish tendencies devoted to smear Arabs and Muslims. It also cited right-leaning sites that heap praise on westerns and French and ignores the accomplishments of any Arabs or Muslims. The report affirms that most of these websites belong to the extremist Christian trend. It asserted that such racist sites do not only target Arabs, Muslims and foreigners in France but also politicians and prominent figures who sponsor close relationship with Muslims, such as French President Jack Chirac. Several media figures have been exposed to diatribes for adopting moderate stances on issues of interest to Arabs and Muslims. In one such incident, Xavier Ternisien, a Le Monde journalist, has been accused of being a homosexual after writing a series of articles condemning the far right.

    The report concluded that the anti-Arabs and Muslims racist campaign showed a common objectives agreed upon by both French rightists and extremist Jewish organizations. It regretted that legal actions against such racist campaigns remain difficult because its masterminds always use false names. On July 11, a Paris court jailed and fined six young people for using Internet to incite hatred against Arabs and Muslims.
    ©Palestine Chronicle

    12/7/2003- Law enforcement authorities from both the PSP and GNR were this week accused of breaking the law in their haste to arrest illegal immigrants. According to reports, the PSP and GNR were not only acting outside their jurisdiction in carrying out these arrests, but were also guilty of arresting foreign residents, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Accusations by the Immigration Office (SEF) were directed at Portugal's two police branches for having made several arrests of immigrants at night spots throughout the country on the sole basis that they were not carrying their identity documents on them. While no complaints have been lodged by "the dozens of foreigners" illegally detained, SEF sources contacted by the daily Público claim that arresting officers could be guilty of performing the crime of kidnapping. In addition, SEF sources argue that the PSP and GNR acted unilaterally, not informing them of pending operations to crackdown on illegal immigrants. Police were also accused of incompetence and ignorance in making some of the arrests. In many cases, immigrants who did not enter Portugal directly from a non-member state, via another Schengen state, were detained due to the absence of a Portuguese visa in their respective passports.

    A SEF source explained to Público that "these people (wrongfully arrested) were held in custody for several hours, losing days at work and money. However, none of those detained has shown any intention of suing the state for the illegitimate actions perpetrated by its police forces." In one particular case, the GNR has been accused of ruining "months of investigations" by launching a surprise operation on a Lisbon nightclub. According to SEF, people linked to this particular club were suspected of being part of a women trafficking network, but the GNR raid resulted in the operation being seriously hampered. The sources contacted by the newspaper further explained that the police action probably sprung from a need to present numbers to the Ministry (of Internal Affairs), in an attempt to exhibit the level of police efficiency in detaining illegals."
    ©The News

    11/7/2003- Most asylum seekers on Ameland have been moved back to the mainland, having earlier won a reprieve allowing their children to finish the school year on the North Sea Island. Several families left on Thursday and another family was due to leave the island on Friday, but two asylum seeker families intend to stay. They expect to receive in several days a definite refusal in response to their request to remain on Ameland. A total of 17 asylum seekers left the island on Tuesday, but the chair of the refugee support committee, Jan Fokkema, said the two remaining families preferred to stay on the island rather than be moved to a strange environment, Dutch associated press ANP reported. Fokkema said the support committee was trying to give them accommodation, but it was proving difficult because everything has been rented out to tourists. Ameland is highly popular in the summer months with Dutch and foreign holiday-makers.

    The departure of the asylum seekers brings to an end a long-running feud between refugees and the Dutch asylum seeker organisation, COA. The COA had resolved to close the refugee shelter on Ameland due to a large fall in the number of asylum seekers entering the Netherlands and said it would move them to mainland centres. But the asylum seekers and the Ameland local community fought a highly public battle to allow their children finish the school year on Ameland. The COA eventually relented and gave them permission to stay until the summer vacation. The asylum seekers are being moved to refugee shelters in Zweeloo, Musselkanaal, Lemmer, Drachten, Harlingen and Sint Annaparochie, all of which are in the north of the country.
    ©Expatica News

    17/7/2003- The Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) has already dismissed hundreds of residency applications made under the recently announced pardon for long-term asylum seekers, despite the fact the criteria for the programme have not yet been finalised. The Justice Department declined to reveal to newspaper De Volkskrant how many of the 7,000 applicants to date have been turned down and told to leave the country immediately. But the newspaper reported on Thursday that all 250-clemency applications submitted by just one firm of lawyers, Hamerslag and Van Haren, had been rejected out-of-hand.

    Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk entered the government as part of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's second cabinet on 27 May 2003. Her department governs the IND. She agreed with MPs that the applications would not be processed until she had time to finalise the assessment criteria for the pardon. But De Volkskrant reported, the IND immediately set about refusing applications for clemency and ordering people to get out of asylum centres and leave the country. The pardon is the legacy of her predecessor Hilbrand Nawijn, who announced earlier this year that a pardon would be granted in pressing circumstances to asylum seekers who had been waiting for five years or more to have their cases dealt with. He envisaged that a pardon would only be granted to applicants who could speak Dutch and had integrated into Dutch society.

    Nawijn, a member of the LPF party of murdered populist Pim Fortuyn, had worked in the IND for years and was seen as the perfect "hard man" to run the new immigration department the LPF pushed for when it entered Balkenende's first cabinet after the general election in May 2002. In a bid to shake off gibes that the LPF was "anti-immigration", Nawijn called for a pardon under which he would personally ensure people in "distressing" cases would be granted a residence permit. Verdonk told Parliament in mid-June that she would come up with "crystal clear" criteria for the pardon programme after the summer. In the meantime, her civil servants have been busy replying to pardon applications, some letters literally telling asylum seekers, based in the Netherlands for five years or more, that they have to leave the country immediately. Other official letters have informed applicants that they have to make an appointment in order for the IND to review their status. The IND responses do not explain the basis of the decision to turn down an application and one official in the IND office in Den Bosch wrote to an asylum seeker: "I am not going to change my decision". The Justice Department, which incorporates Verdonk's office, confirms that refusal letters have been issued. "This involves people who evidently could not be described as a distressing case", a spokesman told De Volkskrant.

    Asylum seekers organisation VluchtelingenWerk Nederland said, in response, that it is aware of "more than a hundred" such letters, and that it has tried to detect a coherent pattern. "But there isn't one. It is totally unclear why one family is refused and another is not. Standard letters are being sent out (by the IND), even in "distressing situations. Can you object to the decision? Nobody knows," director Eduard Nazarski said.
    ©Expatica News


    Right-wing party severs ties to leading trade union
    9/7/2003- Tit for tat: The right-wing Danish People's Party has cut ties with the nation's leading trade union, after union leader Hans Jensen snubbed a luncheon date with Pia Kjærsgaard The chairman of the Confederation of Danish Labour Unions (LO), Hans Jensen, has declined an invitation to lunch with Danish People's Party leader Pia Kjærsgaard. The party, meanwhile, has responded by severing all ties to LO. "If LO's leader won't even meet with ours, then there's nothing more to say," said Danish People's Party press chief Søren Espersen. The latest tit-for-tat follows a period of gradual warming between the leading trade union and the Danish People's Party. Kjærsgaard's invitation to lunch was actually intended as a meeting of reconciliation, after Hans Jensen stated publicly in an interview that LO's cooperation with the right-wing party was borne more of need than want. Jensen later dismissed Kjærsgaard's luncheon invitation as a media stunt.

    The new phenomenon: young male immigrant phobia
    10/7/2003- The high preponderance of crime amongst immigrant youths has created a new phenomenon amongst the population - ethnic male phobia - as residents of heavily multi-racially populated towns and suburbs live in fear of young immigrant gangs, who roam the streets mugging, robbing, and assaulting innocent bystanders or creating mayhem as they clash with rival gangs. Despite official assurances that crime committed by young immigrants is on the wane, the onset of long summer evenings has produced a wave of media reports of young immigrant gangs, armed with knives, baseball bats, and even swords, running wild in country-wide disturbances from Esbjerg to Copenhagen. Even in the up-market neighbourhood of Charlottenlund, north of Copenhagen, a recent night of violence developed into a life or death battle, where one victim of immigrant gang violence expressed fears that he thought he was going to be executed after being savagely beaten and then virtually scalped by his frenzied attackers. Although police statistics concerning specific crimes committed by immigrants are withheld for fear that they could be misused, Berlingske Søndag this week published juvenile crime figures for the Greater Copenhagen area for 2002, which provide rather sombre reading.

    42% of 1,440 youths convicted of serious crime in the capital last year were 'of foreign extraction.' Of the 258 youths who had committed robberies, 181, or 70%, came from an ethnic background, and 50% of all violent crime was perpetrated by members of ethnic groups - this despite the fact that on a national level, youths from an immigrant background account for just 10% of the total youth population. Although statistics indicate that criminality amongst immigrant youths nationwide is 'only' twice that of Danish youths, Minister of Justice Lene Espersen was forced to admit this week that all attempts to halt the spiral of violence amongst the ethnic community have failed, and the country is going to have to accept that it is facing a potentially explosive situation. In an effort to make parents more responsible for their offsprings' behaviour, the government has now introduced new guidelines that require the police to personally visit the home of a youth the very first time he is involved in any form of crime. If this fails, local authorities have been granted far-reaching powers to forcibly remove the young offender from the home and place him (or her) in a secure juvenile institution. 'Hopefully this will have an effect, but it's impossible to say when we can expect to see results,' said Minister of Justice Espersen to Berlingske Søndag.

    PET to investigate immigrants
    10/7/2003- A clause in the nation's terror law will authorize the Police Intelligence Service to investigate all individuals applying for Danish citizenship In the future, Denmark's Police Intelligence Service (PET) wil Integration Minister, Bertel Haarder, currently under heavy fire from within his own coalition ranks, has announced that he will now consider relaxing the stringent legislation concerning family reunification. Haarder was instrumental in implementing the family reunification clause of the immigration law, which has met with protests in many cases where Danes have been refused the right to live in Denmark with their foreign-born spouses. The controversial strategy has been condemned by all parties except the right-wing Danish People's Party. ‘We cannot abide any law that discriminates,' Haarder said yesterday. ‘We need to uphold conventions. That has been our aim from the start. Any relaxing of rules will concern certain individuals with strong and well-documented links to Denmark. That should solve the problem,' he claimed.

    Crime ratings demand
    13/7/2003- The Danish People's Party has suggested that the country be split up into so-called 'security' or 'safety' zones, which are graded from one to five, so potential buyers or renters can pinpoint the safest areas to reside. The party's deputy leader, Peter Skaarup, said: 'The public should have access to information about the crime rate in certain districts so they can take the necessary precautions - or simply find a safer place to live.' A spokesman for the Social Democrats dismissed the idea, claiming that this was yet another example of DF's immigrant paranoia.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    7/7/2003- Slovak and Hungarian bilateral relations may be at stake in a continuing dispute over Hungary's law supporting ethnic Hungarians living outside the country. One and half years after the first version of the Hungarian status law was passed, and evoked the disfavour of neighbouring countries on which the law was going to have an impact, Hungarian parliament revised the bill on June 23. Hungarian officials said they had eliminated all the clauses of the law that had been protested by its neighbours, but Slovaks continue to reject the Hungarian legislation in its very essence, dubbing it discriminatory and having extraterritorial effects. The law grants special work, health, and travel benefits to ethnic Hungarians living outside Hungary and stipulates the country's determination to support them culturally and financially. The law pertains to all the Hungary's neighbour states except for Austria.

    On June 26, the Slovak cabinet, with the exception of members of the ruling Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), rejected the law. The SMK representing Slovakia's estimated 500,000 strong Hungarian minority, challenged the cabinet's statement saying it included incorrect allegations. SMK chairman Béla Bugár said: "The statement claims that the law has an element of extraterritoriality and that it causes discrimination on an ethnic basis. We absolutely cannot agree with this." In a resolution adopted on June 25, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly encouraged Hungary to amend its legislation "on the basis of a bilateral, not unilateral, approach." The European parliamentarians said Hungary should have based the 2001 law on bilateral agreements with its neighbours respecting territorial sovereignty, human rights principles and good neighbourly relations. "Kin-states must be careful that the form and substance of the assistance given is also accepted by the states of which the members of the kin-minorities are citizens," the parliamentarians warned.

    Bilateral negotiations were expected in the coming weeks between Slovak and Hungarian foreign affairs officials to discuss the problematic parts of the law. But Prime Minister Mikuláa Dzurinda said he was disappointed that SMK officials had sided with the officials of a different state over this matter. "I am sorry that the SMK has taken such attitude. I think it is a duty of all, but particularly constitutional officials to protect the autonomy and the constitutional sovereignty of our state." The Slovak cabinet even threatened countermeasures if Hungary does not back down from what it said was the law's "unacceptable effects on the Slovak territory". Meanwhile opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) party leader Vladimír Meciar said on June 28 that he had already prepared a complaint to the Slovak Constitutional Court against the Hungarian law. He said, however, that he was not going to submit it immediately. "First we'll wait and see how the cabinet acts in defending the interests of our country," Meciar said. Hungarian officials insisted that all the problematic areas were eliminated in the latest version and that the country brought the new law in line with all international laws and EU norms.

    However, in its statement the Slovak cabinet reiterated that the "Hungarian status law is unusual because it has an impact on Slovak citizens living on Slovak territory". The ministers made it clear that Slovakia would, under no circumstances, agree with Hungary implementing this law, and is "prepared, if needed, to react to one-sided steps with countermeasures". But Slovak officials said that Slovakia appreciated Hungary's interest in helping ethnic Hungarians by supporting their language and cultural identity, and that the country's diplomats were "prepared to negotiate over the support of the Hungarian minority [in Slovakia] based on bilateral treaties". Some local analysts also noted, however, that while Hungary had made a mist ©The Slovak Spectator

    11/7/2003- The Netherlands last week sent 122 Bulgarian illegal immigrants back to Bulgaria on a flight chartered by the Netherlands justice ministry. The deportees were arrested in a police hunt for illegal immigrants last Tuesday night in The Hague and Amsterdam, Bulgarian media reported. This deportation is part of a series of arrests of alleged illegal Bulgarian immigrants to Holland. The previous similar charter flight landed in Bulgaria in February this year. Then the Dutch authorities deported 62 Bulgarians from The Hague, Rotterdam and Eindhoven. In February, Bulgaria's Foreign Ministry insisted that the arrests were frivolous and the deportations often wrongful. In November 2002, Amsterdam expelled 150 illegal Bulgarian immigrants. They were sent back to Bulgaria because of expired visas, working illegally, or prostitution. The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany have complained most in the last year about illegal immigration from Bulgaria.

    This week, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passi announced that Bulgaria would offer The Netherlands an agreement for seasonal jobs, which would legalise hiring Bulgarian workers in The Netherlands. Bulgarian Foreign Ministry representatives said the illegal immigration problem existed because of the high demand for workers in The Netherlands. Passi said Bulgarians needed jobs and the Bulgarian Government had to arrange things so that both the Dutch authorities are not troubled and the Bulgarian workers feel safe in The Netherlands. Bulgaria has worker exchange contracts with Germany, Switzerland, Greece, and Luxemburg. Last week, Passi met his Dutch counterpart, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, and discussed the illegal immigration problem with him. The ministers agreed that there should be adequate measures for improving the cooperation between Bulgaria and The Netherlands in fight against illegal immigration. The officials also discussed the intensification of bilateral relations between Bulgaria and The Netherlands. Schefer confirmed his country's high evaluation of Bulgaria's development on the way to NATO. By the end of 2003 The Netherlands would ratify the NATO protocols, he said.
    ©Sofia Echo

    14/7/2003- Crimes motivated by racism or religious hatred will be prosecuted "fairly, firmly and robustly", the Government's senior law officer has pledged. Launching a new policy statement for the Crown Prosecution Service, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith QC said offenders will not be able to escape hate crime charges by admitting a lesser offence. When there is evidence of a racist or religious motive, or hostility, CPS lawyers will press for a conviction, he said. Lord Goldsmith said: "A racially or religiously motivated attack is an attack on the whole community. "This policy sends a clear message to perpetrators that they will not get away with threatening, violent or abusive behaviour. "Ten years after the murder of Stephen Lawrence, it demonstrates how the criminal justice system is continuing to move forward to gain the confidence of black and minority ethnic communities."

    The statement sets out the way the CPS deals with such cases, explains the offences and how the law works, how decisions about prosecutions are made and how they are monitored by the CPS. It also explains policy on communication with victims and witnesses during a case. Details are also provided of the special measures which can be taken at court to support vulnerable victims and witnesses. The document was published after the CPS consulted 120 groups and individuals who represent black and minority ethnic communities, faith communities and criminal justice organisations.
    ©ic Network

    15/7/2003- The BBC's attempts to attract more viewers and listeners from ethnic minorities have been "disappointing" with audiences actually falling, the corporation's governors admitted today. Despite the launch of two new national digital radio stations aimed at ethnic minorities and increased representation on mainstream TV and radio, there was "little evidence" the drive has worked at all, the governors concluded in the BBC annual report for 2002-2003.

    "It is disappointing that, despite these efforts, there is little evidence so far that the BBC is attracting more people from ethnic minorities to its output," they said in their review of the year. "Awareness of both BBC mainstream and targeted programming amongst ethnic minorities remains low... We recognise that it will take time to turn around perceptions of the BBC and its output amongst ethnic minorities." "Marketing campaigns this year have demonstrated that awareness can be improved with clearer signposting to programming of potential interest." In fact, the BBC's reach among ethnic minorities for its TV services fell slightly year on year, from 78.6% to 78.3%; while in radio it fell from 46.9% to 45.2%. The governors also criticised the BBC for failing to come up with compelling formats for Saturday night entertainment.

    "Saturday night entertainment is still one of the most challenging areas for BBC1. No single compelling format has broken through in the year although The National Lottery Jet Set, The Weakest Link Celebrity Special, Comic Relief Does Fame Academy and one-off specials such as Elton John at the Albert Hall have been more successful," the review said. But criticisms of the corporation were few and far between in a governors' review castigated by the Labour MP Chris Bryant as "complacent in the extreme". Unlike in previous years, they made no major criticisms of the main BBC TV and radio stations channels or of its drama or comedy output. Instead, they praised the successful launch of new digital services BBC3, BBC4 and CBBC - but recognised all three channels needed to increase their audiences over the next year. There was also generous praise for BBC1, BBC2, Radio 2, Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live.
    ©The Guardian

    16/7/2003- A new charter to get rid of racial abuse in sport is working well, say its Kirklees organisers. Individuals, clubs and organisations who do not follow the charter can be reported and issued with a "yellow card" warning if they are found to be in breach. Further offences could result in a "red card", with the use of facilities being withdrawn and a report sent to the governing body of the sport. The Score charter has proved its worth in the year since it started, say organisers. Richard Brooker, head of Kirklees Council's leisure services, said: "The Score initiative has worked successfully this year to help build confidence in the system. "Any group or individual, league or club who use council- owned facilities for sport or recreation has agreed to the principles of Score by signing up to the charter as part of the booking arrangement. "While there has only been a single reported incident, we feel the system has worked well and should allow any future incidents to be dealt with effectively, should the need arise."

    Score - standing for the Sports Charter for Racial Equality - has been developed by the council, Kirklees Racial Equality Council and Kirklees Sports Council. The single reported incident did not result in any of the disciplinary measures being taken. Mr Brooker said: "The Score scheme builds on other ideas, such as the West Yorkshire FA and the Kick it Out campaign, which address issues around racial abuse."
    ©ic Network

    "She knew how I felt, you know, what prejudice is like…how much it pains. It was the first time I felt somebody was listening…" Victim of racist harassment.

    16/7/2003- Support projects for people who have experienced racist attacks and harassment are playing a valuable role in helping victims and their families to rebuild their confidence. But research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation warns that they are unevenly spread across the country and subject to regular funding crises. The study calls on government to recognise the importance of these services by agreeing a long-term funding strategy and introducing national guidelines so caseworkers can receive accredited training. It also urges projects to take a lead in building local coalitions of support for victims of racist harassment and community-led partnerships to challenge racist behaviour. The report, by Kusminder Chahal, follows a study four years ago that revealed how victims of racist attacks and harassment often felt isolated and received little practical or psychological support from statutory or voluntary agencies. The new study looked at the work of local support projects across England and Wales, including eight that were used as case studies. It found that:

  • Racist harassment support projects had either emerged as a political response to attacks, including murder, in places where minority ethnic communities lived, or been established to better co-ordinate the work of local agencies.
  • All the projects studied were providing direct support to individual victims of racist harassment through caseworkers. This included emotional support and assistance with formal complaints. Some projects also made specialist security equipment available to families and local businesses.
  • Interviews with victims showed that the support from caseworkers was appreciated because it validated their experience and because it had helped them, their families and the local community to rebuild their confidence.
  • Caseworkers were overloaded and often managing more than 80 cases at a time. Many felt they needed more training and support in a job that, by its nature, was emotionally challenging. Insecure and limited funding meant they received little or no help with personal and professional development.
  • Projects were also involved in activities that included work with schools to raise awareness of racism and monitoring the extent of racist harassment in their area. A number had produced training materials and other resources to challenge racist harassment and some had co-ordinated political campaigns arising from specific attacks.

    Kusminder Chahal said: "Project caseworkers are valued by the victims of racist harassment for providing an understanding, non-judgemental service that helps to validate their experiences. Projects do not claim they can end the harassment that individuals and families experience, but they are able to offer assistance, knowledge, guidance, reassurance and representation that is very welcome. " He added: "Despite the evidence that caseworkers are hard-pressed and that projects are much-needed, they tend to exist on a shoestring, with short-term funding and regular financial crises. There is no government funding strategy in place that recognises the relevance and importance of their work ­ a gap in policy that deserves to be remedied as a matter of urgency."
    Joseph Rowntree Foundation

    17/7/2003- Schoolchildren graduated with honours from a pioneering anti-racism scheme. Pupils from across the city spent six weeks on a range of race-awareness activities. More than 150 people attended the graduation ceremony at Sandfield House Education Centre yesterday. Fifty schools took part this year in the scheme - the only one of its kind. More than 4,000 youngsters have benefited from the project since it was introduced in 1996 by Sabbir Hossain of the Equality Regeneration Partnership at Nottingham City Council. Mr Hossain, a racial and cultural awareness tutor, said: "Through classroom and workshop sessions the course aims to give the children the tools to challenge racism without violence and to have a positive impact on their behaviour and attitude." The presentation was carried out by Ian Curryer, head of the Service Equalities Regeneration Partnerships. Pupils sang songs and read poems they had written about racism. Jasmine Rolfe, ten, from St Mary's Primary, scooped first prize and the opportunity for her artwork to feature in a forthcoming Nottinghamshire Police race relations campaign. Whitegate School, Clifton, won a prize of £100 for being the school with the most outstanding commitment to the programme. Barbara Whiley, a learning mentor, accepted the award on behalf of the school. She said: "It's been a nice day for the pupils. "The school got involved with the programme last year after a racist attack on the playing field. "It was then that we realised that our pupils needed educating about racism. It has been very successful and we shall be taking part next year."

    Latest figures show why Notts Police are keen to promote the course. Between January 1 and July 14 this year, 593 racially aggravated incidents were reported across the county - a 17 rise on last year's figure of 508 incidents during the same period. The force put the increase down to more victims being willing to report incidents. Richard Williams, Secretary of Notts Black Police Association, said: "We are starting in the right place, after all children are our future and giving them the right start is a brilliant initiative."

    One of the poems:


    Racism takes form in many ways, - like calling names is not a good game.
    Like hurting and teasing - is not very pleasing.
    It doesn't matter what you are,
    if you're from near or far
    we're all the same - it's one for all
    So please, please don't name call.

    By Jazmin Hill, ten, Whitegate School

    ©This is Nottingham

    17/7/2003- An appeal hearing at the House of Lords began this week on behalf of Zahid Mubarek's family, who are fighting for the right to have a fully independent, public investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death. In March 2000, 19-year-old Zahid was murdered by a known racist who had been put in the same cell as him at Feltham Young Offenders Institute. The family have already won a High Court battle for the right to a public inquiry. But the Home Secretary successfully appealed this verdict at the Court of Appeal. Imtiaz Amin, Zahid's uncle, told IRR News: 'It is now two and a half years since my nephew Zahid Mubarek was murdered. Since then, my family has had to endure much heartache and trauma - something I would not wish on any family. We will continue to press for an independent public inquiry into Zahid's death. And, I would once again like to ask the Home Secretary to re-evaluate his position.'

    There have already been two published reports into the case, each one the outcome of private inquiries. The first, the Butt report, was the result of an internal Prison Service investigation. The second, published just days before the family went to the House of Lords, was conducted by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE). The CRE's 'formal investigation' into the murder at Feltham found a 'shocking catalogue of failure' and lists twenty blunders that, if avoided, could have prevented Zahid's death. But the CRE investigation did not directly question the staff on duty the night Zahid died. Under the Race Relations Act, the CRE has the legal power to serve a 'non-discrimination notice' on the Prison Service and, in fact, found sufficient evidence of unlawful indirect racial discrimination at Feltham. But the CRE has decided to enter into a dialogue with the prison to develop an agreed action plan, rather than issue a 'non-discrimination notice' at present.

    Family participation missing
    Neither of the two reports published so far have allowed the family, through their lawyers, to question the prison officers involved in the case - which is why the Mubarek family believe that many questions remain unanswered. Dan Rubenstein, the family's solicitor, said the report left him 'none the wiser as to how a racist psychopath could share a cell with a man due to be released the next day'. For example, it is still not clear whether Zahid was left in the same cell as his murderer through incompetence or as part of a deliberate 'wind-up'. It is for this reason that the family are continuing to press for a public inquiry, of the kind held into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Imtiaz Amin believes that the reports published to date are of 'questionable validity, as they do not include the main ingredients of the Macpherson Report - the public element allowing open, constructive criticism and family participation'. The legal basis for the House of Lords hearing is that Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to life) entitles the family to a public hearing in which they will be able to question prison officers through their lawyers.
    The result of the House of Lords hearing is expected next month.
    ©Institute of Race Relations

    16/7/2003- Ireland's 350,000 disabled people will be entitled, under new laws, t o take legal action where services are not being provided by the State, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern promised yesterday. The move marks a significant U-turn by the Government on the policy it proposed in the controversial Disability Bill last year. That bill was scrapped weeks before the general election because campaigners were outraged that it prohibited disabled people from pursuing their needs for essential services in the courts.

    After a long consultation process involving all organisations for disabled people, Mr Ahern told disability support groups yesterday he is committed to rights-based legislation. When it is enacted, the law will have an impact on access to all kinds of public services, including transport, environment, social welfare, health and education. It will provide for independent assessment of needs, a right of appeal against decisions, with an officer to enforce appeals through the courts if necessary, and ultimate access to legal remedies where other enforcement mechanisms have not worked. Mr Ahern said the redrafted Disability Bill will be published in November by Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform Willie O'Dea. Both men spent an hour outlining the proposals to the Disability Legislation Consultation Group (DLCG), set up last year to put forward the views of those affected by the long-awaited laws. A spokesperson for Mr Ahern said he favoured the greater access to courts to enforce rights upheld by the bill's appeals mechanism. "While he is committed to a workable means of redress under the bill, the Taoiseach had concerns that the rights-based approach could not always deliver in the simplistic way sometimes supposed to be its main advantage," the spokesperson said.

    DLCG chairperson Angela Kerins said it was an historic day to hear a Government make such commitments for the first time. "We won't be popping the champagne corks just yet, but if the bill delivers everything that was promised today, we will be very pleased indeed," she said. "There are over 350,000 people with disabilities in Ireland, and if you take each of their families, then well over a million people will have an interest in this legislation." The group, which met the Taoiseach, was impressed by his in-depth knowledge of the issues and felt he had been researching the matters of co ncern to them. Fergus Finlay, disability campaigner and Labour Party chef de cabinet, welcomed the commitment to rights-based legislation. "We'll wait and see what's in the bill, but if the Government does finally deliver, people with disabilities will acknowledge that genuine progress has been made," he said.

    Meanwhile, Education Minister Noel Dempsey will publish the Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill this afternoon. It sets out to guarantee the education of children and people with disabilities as a right enforceable in law. The legislation failed to be passed in the final hours of the last Government before the May 2002 election. It will be watched by campaigners as a strong guide to the approach likely to be taken in the Disability Bill
    ©Irish Examiner

    In an historic ruling, the Swiss Federal Court has decided not to allow foreigners' applications for citizenship to be decided by a popular vote as this contravenes the constitution. On Wednesday the Lausanne-based court also upheld an appeal by five Yugoslav nationals against the decision by the people of Emmen, in canton Lucerne, to reject their citizenship applications in 2000. This ruling forces the local authority in Emmen to abandon its method of determining citizenship through the ballot box. In making these decisions on the naturalisation procedure the Federal Court has not just made friends. By granting equal rights to foreigners in this instance, it has also taken a step forward which touches on the "sacred" rights of Swiss nationals.

    Law over politics
    It goes without saying that decisions of state which affect the individual as much as citizenship must be made with due consideration of the law and not with full political freedom. As yet, the highest court has not ruled on naturalisation decisions made by local authority hearings. For the Swiss People's Party ­ which tried and failed to introduce an Emmen-style citizenship vote in Zurich - this issue is not about upholding traditions in a clearly defined space, such as a local community. Instead, the party is interested in creating new battlegrounds for its foreigners' policy in the anonymity of the city. This would mean taking democracy to extremes - especially in a city like Zurich where there would be hundreds of ballots a year ­ and thereby damaging the concept. In the longer term, it would not only be communes that use the popular vote to decide citizenship requests that would be forced to review their procedures. In other places too it would make sense to pass the decision-making power to an elected authority. But complaints would have to mount up for this to happen and the attitude of voters might harden, if they are faced again with foreign applicants who have challenged their prior rejection.

    Conferring citizenship
    The current reforms to citizenship laws could actually mean, in extreme cases, that the court itself would be able to grant citizenship to an individual, and not merely rule that the case be reheard. More work has to be done to ensure the fair treatment of those who want to be integrated in Switzerland, not just economically and socially, but also politically. In parliamentary debate on the citizenship laws, the Senate rejected the applicantÂ's right to appeal. The Lausanne rulings could now present an opportunity for the House of Representatives to give way in this controversy and accept the various proposals on the table. There are pragmatic reasons for doing so. But the politicians have to recognise that they now have to take second place to the courts of justice.
    ©NZZ Online

    18/7/2003- Switzerland has started negotiations with the European Union in Brussels on extending its accord on the free movement of people to include the ten new member countries. But the talks are being clouded by the threat of a referendum in Switzerland on the changes ­ which may stop the process altogether. The free movement accord, which relaxes restrictions governing the employment of EU citizens in Switzerland, is one of seven bilateral agreements between Bern and Brussels. The other six will be extended automatically to the new members when they join on May 1, 2004, but the labour accord needs to be negotiated with each new member state. Unlike other countries, in Switzerland the results of the negotiations could be subject to a nationwide referendum. Trade unions have already warned they would force a nationwide vote if the government fails to prevent wage dumping and a deterioration in work conditions after the agreement. And if the people reject the accord, all of the seven bilateral agreements will be revoked, due to a special "guillotine clause" which links them together.

    It was for this reason that Dieter Grossen, head of the Swiss delegation to Brussels, told the European Commission that an agreement wouldn't enter into force before 2005. "One has to be patient," said the assistant director of the Federal Office of Immigration. For its part, the commission wants to extend the agreement to the ten new member countries, mostly from eastern Europe, as soon as possible before they join on May 1, 2004 ­ a suggestion which the Swiss have dismissed as "unrealistic". And the commission wants Switzerland to make no distinction between the existing 15 EU members and the ten new countries. Switzerland says it is in favour of opening up its labour market to the ten new members. The Swiss justice minister, Ruth Metzler, has said it would be a good opportunity for the country and its economy. The agreement would open up a potential market of almost 450 million Europeans and lead to a potential economic growth of up to 0.5 per cent or SFr1-2 billion a year.

    But Switzerland says it wants to open up its labour market in stages, using quotas and transition periods. It wants to base the new agreement on the existing one, in which the market is opened up progressively until 2014. The country points out that the new members are in a different position to the original 15 EU members at the time of negotiating the first bilateral agreements. Work permits were already issued more freely to workers from the EU at that time, whereas the ten new countries were lumped with the rest of the world in terms of permit quotas. Work permits are still issued sparingly. The delegations will meet again on September 10 and both sides hope to have concluded the accord by the end of the year.
    ©NZZ Online

    5/7/2003- A groundbreaking Swiss diplomatic initiative is hoping to result in international guidelines to regulate immigration, emigration and transit migration. "The Bern Initiative", which is the brainchild of the Swiss Federal Refugee Office, aims to bring together the governments of developing and industrialised nations. This was partly achieved at a conference held in Bern attended by representatives of major international organisations, such as the International Migration Organisation (IMO), the International Labour organization (ILO) and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Although the UNHCR has had a convention on the rights of refugees since 1951, there are very few international regulations covering people who leave their country because of economic or other reasons. There are estimated to be around 175 million of these "foreigners", and international bodies are concerned about a lack of cooperation, respect for human rights and consideration of all aspects of migration. The cornerstone of the Bern Initiative is the "International Agenda for Migration Management", which is meant to draw up "effective practices". The initiative points out that migration can have both positive and negative effects for the countries gaining and losing citizens.

    New employees
    Generally speaking, industrialised countries stand to benefit from an influx of new workers needed to cover gaps in the market. But on the other side of the coin, these "economic" migrants usually send home a large part of their income. Family members who remain in poorer countries receive more money this way than from humanitarian aid agencies. In fact, the money sent back by economic migrants is estimated to be double the amount which developing countries receive in financial aid. Another complex feature of global migration revolves around the advantages and disadvantages of the "brain drain" phenomenon. One aspect that is often not considered is the fact that skilled or well-qualified migrants who arrive in developed countries, often return to their homeland after gaining more education and qualifications in the host nation.

    Brain drain
    Some nations deliberately take advantage of this gain and loss aspect of the so-called "brain drain". The Philippines, for example, has a government programme which assists and supervises its citizens in getting work overseas. Another international meeting has been planned for 2004 as a result of this week's international consultations in Bern. The UN has suggested setting up a "global commission" to address the problem of migration which would coordinate all levels of inter-governmental regulations and agreements. The conference was a first step in this direction and enabled NGOs and ministers from around Europe to consult freely about how to determine the future of global migration. Notably, no representatives from the United States came to Bern.
    ©NZZ Online

    15/7/2003- A German politician whose clash with the Italian prime minister set off a diplomatic row has labelled the Italian Government "racist". Martin Schulz was compared earlier this month by Silvio Berlusconi to a Nazi concentration camp guard - sparking a major exchange of insults between politicians and media in both countries. Now, in an interview with Germany's XXP television, Mr Schulz has reignited the row as it showed signs of dying down. He condemned reported proposals by an Italian minister that coastguards should fire on boats bringing illegal immigrants to the country. "This is the second point that we have to watch - that, quite simply, a racist government is in office in Italy," Mr Schulz said.

    Mr Schulz originally angered Mr Berlusconi by heckling him in the European Parliament him about legislation that provided him with immunity from prosecution, and led to the suspension of a bribery trial. His tactics prompted Mr Berlusconi's "Nazi" jibe. In the row which followed, Italian tourism minister Stefano Stefani described German tourists as "hyper-nationalistic blondes", prompting Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to cancel a holiday in Italy. Mr Stefani resigned at the end of last week after fears that thousands of German tourists might join the chancellor's boycott. He said he had not been referring to all Germans - only those "like Mr Schulz". The comment that coastguards should fire on immigrant boats was allegedly made by Mr Berlusconi's coalition partner, Umberto Bossi, head of the far-right Northern League, although he later said he had been misquoted. Mr Stefani is also a member of the Northern League.
    ©BBC News

    17/7/2003- A German member of the European Parliament has apologised for calling Italy's government racist. Martin Schulz told the Bild newspaper he was sorry that a sweeping statement he had made on Tuesday had offended the entire Italian Government. He said he had only been referring to the leader of the Northern League party, Umberto Bossi, because of a comment he allegedly made about firing on illegal immigrants. Relations between Germany and Italy became strained earlier this month when the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, likened Mr Schulz to a guard at a Nazi concentration camp. This sparked a major exchange of insults between politicians and media in both countries. Relations deteriorated further when an Italian minister made comments deemed to be offensive about German tourists.

    In an interview with Germany's XXP television on Tuesday, Mr Schulz reignited the row as it showed signs of dying down. He condemned reported proposals by an Italian minister that coastguards should fire on boats bringing illegal immigrants to the country. "This is the second point that we have to watch - that, quite simply, a racist government is in office in Italy," Mr Schulz said. Mr Schulz originally angered Mr Berlusconi by heckling him in the European Parliament him about legislation that provided him with immunity from prosecution, and led to the suspension of a bribery trial. His tactics prompted Mr Berlusconi's "Nazi" jibe. In the row which followed, Italian tourism minister Stefano Stefani described German tourists as "hyper-nationalistic blondes", prompting Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to cancel a holiday in Italy. Mr Stefani resigned at the end of last week after fears that thousands of German tourists might join the chancellor's boycott. He said he had not been referring to all Germans - only those "like Mr Schulz". The comment that coastguards should fire on immigrant boats was allegedly made by Mr Berlusconi's coalition partner, Umberto Bossi, head of the far-right Northern League, although he later said he had been misquoted. Mr Stefani is also a member of the Northern League.
    ©BBC News

    14/7/2003- Plans for Europe-wide quotas for admission of immigrants are being pushed by Italy, which holds the EU presidency, in a drive to control the flow. Rome has put the fight against illegal migration near the top of its agenda and says agreeing entry quotas with developing countries can help to secure their co-operation in fighting human trafficking. The Italian government is also backing a European Commission proposal to co-ordinate policing of sea frontiers, which it hopes will pave the way for a common border police. Giuseppe Pisanu, the Interior Minister, said a bilateral deal between Rome and Sri Lanka, allowing in a limited number, had stopped the flow of illegal Sri Lankan migrants. Italian officials plan to press ahead although, in negotiations over the EU's new draft constitution, Germany has insisted it must keep the national veto on immigration issues. One option is that a group of nations could push ahead with a scheme if there is opposition from some of the 15 EU nations. The presidency is likely to win the support of the European Commission, which has long argued the EU faces a looming labour shortage because of its ageing population. Mr Pisanu said the "question of quotas is a national issue, but this should not prejudice the possibility of having a European system of quotas. I know this is a far-reaching objective but this should not stop us from studying it. We could start with a smaller group of countries."

    Italy estimates 500,000 illegal immigrants arrive in Europe each year and Mr Pisanu said managing this flow through quotas would be to the advantage of European economies. "If we don't have an input of immigrants in the next few years we will have a decrease of the workforce." The Italian presidency has already thrown its weight behind plans for Greece, Italy and Spain to co-ordinate policing of the Mediterranean sea frontier, which will be fleshed out this week. Mr Pisanu said the EU "should immediately pave the way to a common European [border] police in the future", and highlighted the difficulties that those countries joining the EU in future would encounter. "If you look at a country like Bulgaria, we cannot believe they are capable of dealing with their border in the same way as Germany, so we should not leave them alone to tackle their borders." Rome is also stepping up contacts and striking agreements with Libya in the hope of persuading Tripoli to act against illegal trafficking. A deal that would have allowed Italian soldiers on Libyan soil came apart last month. But Italian officials made clear they were not backing Tony Blair's ideas for zones of protection for asylum-seekers to be set up in Africa, judging them too politically controversial.

    Mr Pisanu said there was a need to increase anti-terrorism measures, and cited the two would-be suicide-bombers in Israel who held British passports. This had "shown European society can produce extremists and terrorists who can operate even outside European territory", Mr Pisanu said. He added: "Of every 100 Muslim immigrants only 5 per cent go to the mosque, the remaining 95 per cent are looking for bread and work. We need to make sure the 95 per cent are not in the hands of extremists."
    © Independent Digital

    1 July to 31 December 2003

    Security of citizens: immigration, borders and asylum
    With the innovations brought in under the Amsterdam Treaty and the policy programme drawn up by the European Council in Tampere, creation of a single area of freedom, security and justice has been put at the heart of the EU agenda. This is an area which has direct impact on Europeans' daily lives, and so it is in this area more than any other that public opinion will judge the effectiveness of EU action. The Italian Presidency therefore proposes to push for progress in all areas related to the creation of an area of freedom, security and justice, putting into force the measures decided by the European Council, with the aim of bringing the institutions ever closer to European citizens. The Italian Presidency will seek to promote a form of joint management of the migration flows which will allow a fair balance between the policy of integrating foreigners legally residing in the European Union, including support for dialogue in social, cultural and religious matters, and resolute action to combat illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings.

    In this context, continued implementation will be ensured of the measures decided by the European Council in Seville on combating illegal immigration, joint management of external borders, relations with third countries of origin and transit of migratory flows , completing the legislative framework on immigration and asylum, in the light of the stock-taking exercise carried out by the European Council in Thessaloniki and all the resulting adjustments. This action will take place in the context of creating an effective common European asylum and immigration system in which the burden will be shared out fairly among members. To this end, the Italian Presidency intends:

  • (a) to aim at efficient mechanisms for joint management of external borders, especially maritime borders, pursuant to the principle of burden-sharing and with a view to the entry of the new Member States;
  • (b) to implement a European policy on repatriations;
  • (c) to step up contacts with third countries of origin and transit by means of a "cross-pillar" approach which will put immigration matters at the heart of EU relations with such countries and their development;
  • (d) to achieve closer cooperation on visas, with the aim, amongst other things, of improving standards of security and ensuring that the common rules are implemented in as uniform a fashion as possible;
  • (e) to develop a European asylum system by means which will include further harmonisation of national laws;
  • (f) to work to release the appropriate resources, including financial resources, to ensure that the measures which have been agreed or are in the process of being approved can actually be implemented.

    Another Italian Presidency priority will be a renewed firm commitment to the fight against terrorism, with increased cooperation both between Member States and internationally to implement the many initiatives put in hand following the events of 11 September 2001. The Italian Presidency will also carry forward work to enhance Europol's role, examining all the initiatives best suited to guaranteeing its greater operational effectiveness, in close cooperation with the Police Chiefs Task Force.


    Building an area of freedom, security and justice
    The Italian Presidency intends to make every effort towards building an area of freedom, security and justice, following the political guidelines laid down in Tampere. In that regard, the Presidency will continue implementing the measures decided by the Seville European Council and on the basis of the indications from the Thessaloniki Summit, in the conviction that these areas represent a key field of action the credibility of any policy to fight illegal immigration. Suitable measures will therefore be promoted, which will have to be supported at Community level, including financially.

    External borders
    The subject of burden-sharing in the management of external borders will be at the centre of the Italian Presidency's agenda, with the aim of promoting effective initiatives based on the relevant Commission proposals. The Italian Presidency will also continue to follow up the plan for the management of the external borders of the Member States of the European Union, and in particular projects to control land, air and sea borders. On the basis of the feasibility study presented in Rome in May 2002, the long-term objective of creating a European border police is of crucial importance. The Italian Presidency will make efforts, pending the possible creation of a new operational structure, to promote the activity of the joint body of experts on external borders in order to step up preventive action in the fight against illegal immigration and improve coordination and cooperation in current projects.

    The conclusions of the Tampere European Council envisage two phases in setting up a Common European Asylum System. With a view to completing the first phase, the Italian Presidency intends, as a primary objective, to reach political agreement on the proposal for a directive governing the procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status. For the second phase, particular attention will be paid to discussions at expert level on the issue of examining the asylum applications in the applicant's area of origin.

    In order to gradually improve consular cooperation, particular emphasis will be put on the Visa Information System (VIS), the implementation of which constitutes one of the Union's primary objectives. The Italian Presidency will draw the Council's attention to the appropriateness of identifying further instruments, easier to implement, in order to guarantee higher security standards for the entry of third-country nationals into the Schengen area.

    Relations with third countries
    The Italian Presidency intends to further develop the constructive and effective relationships already established with the southern Mediterranean countries. Particular attention will also be paid to the countries of the eastern Mediterranean and of sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia, which are major areas of transit and origin for migration flows, as may also be seen from the list of priority third countries drawn up by the Council. In that regard, it will also be appropriate to speed up the conclusion of Community readmission agreements which are already being negotiated and to examine the suitability of starting new negotiations with other countries. The Presidency will also continue working towards the effective allocation of the resources available for cooperation with third countries in the field of migration, and towards checking the degree of cooperation of those countries in the management of migration flows, drawing appropriate conclusions as regards closer relations with the Union.

    fighting organised crime
    The Italian Presidency, taking into consideration the wider context of cooperation following the accession of the new Member States, will cooperation following the accession of the new Member States, will concentrate its efforts on fighting international criminal organisations, Euro counterfeiting, and trafficking in stolen cars. Common operational models for carrying out investigations will also be identified in order to make the fight against illegal immigration and trafficking of human beings more effective. Particular attention will be paid to the rapid implementation of the project to set up a body of European Liaison Officers, who will play a crucial role in all crime- fighting activities. Priority will be given to regional actions, and in that context the area of the Balkans is of special interest. In th beings and drugs.

    Regarding activities aimed at establishing trust between Member States – an essential requirement for the mutual recognition of judgements – it will be of crucial importance to emphasise the role of the Commission's Green Paper on procedural safeguards for suspects and defendants, to provide for minimum standards of protection for persons suspected or accused, paying particular attention to the methods of investigation and to their validity and effectiveness. Another major issue will be the gradual harmonisation of the various systems for the enforcement of sentences, which is essential for any subsequent progress towards an effective harmonisation of sentences. In that context, the Italian Presidency will propose an initiative for monitoring prison conditions throughout the Union, with a view to drawing up new forms of social defence and prevention.
    Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union

    10.07.2003: The Committee of Ministers has today adopted, in the presence of Mr Vladimir Zorin, Minister of the Russian Federation in charge of Nationality issues, conclusions and recommendations on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in the Russian Federation. These are based on a more detailed Opinion of the Advisory Committee on National Minorities, also made public today, highlighting certain positive steps but also a number of issues on which the Russian Federation is expected to take further measures to support national minorities.

    The monitoring bodies welcomed the fact that the Russian Federation has in a number of fields introduced legislation that generally reflects the principles of the Framework Convention. At the same time, they called on the authorities to increase their attention to the promotion of inter-ethnic dialogue and to attitudes towards persons belonging to minorities originating in Caucasus. They also noted that human rights problems in Chechnya have hampered efforts to implement the Framework Convention. The monitoring bodies found that the implementation of the new laws to protect numerically small indigenous peoples of the north has been inadequate, and they concluded that certain regional and local norms, in particular on residency registration, have created undue obstacles for some persons belonging to minorities in specific regions, including for a number of Meskhetian Turks/Meskhetians in the Krasnodar region. Furthermore, the monitoring bodies identified shortcomings in the volume and scope of minority language teaching, and they stressed that legislation to protect the State language must be implemented with due regard to minority languages. They welcomed the on-going measures to improve consultations between the authorities and organisations of national minorities but called for additional efforts to promote political means to protect the interests of national minorities.

    The implementation of the Framework Convention is monitored by the Committee of Ministers and the Advisory Committee on National Minorities. The Committee of Ministers adopts conclusions and recommendations on the way in which a States Party complies with the various obligations enshrined in this treaty. In doing so, the Committee of Ministers can rely on the assessment made by the Advisory Committee on National Minorities on the basis of periodical State reports and information from other sources. Follow-up activities are carried out by the Advisory Committee on National Minorities between periodical reporting cycles. Further information on the work of these bodies may be found on the following web-site:
    ©Council of Europe

    developing anti-discrimination tools in a new EUropean context" - Luxembourg June 25-29, 2003

    80 delegates representing 76 organisations from all over Europe participated in the conference: from Belarus (Anti-Fascist Youth Center) to France (Fédération des Associations de Solidarité avec les Travailleurs Immigrés), from Spain (Movimiento contra la Intolerancia) to Romania (ROMANITIN - Roma Youth and Students' Association). A total of 36 countries were represented.

    Discussions that took place during the conference were mainly focused on the 'new Europe' and the situation of minorities, migrants and refugees who, after EU's 'expansion', will come across even worse inequality and discrimination in the new social, political and legal realities. With some minor exceptions, anti-discrimination legislation cannot be found yet in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The national parliaments are in no hurry to enact similar legislation, in spite of the fact that the candidate countries are obliged to adopt anti-discrimination laws according to the EU "Race Equality Directive".

    The participants also discussed difficulties that candidate countries may face, such as growth of nationalism and xenophobia. One specific issue that worried them all was how not to lose their identity and cultural specifics and at the same time to prevent the spread of nationalism because CEE today is a good soil for the growth of right extremism and manipulations with consciousness (especially that of the youth).

    Another topic discussed was the situation in the so-called 'third countries' (Moldova, Ukraine, etc.) that will face (or are already facing) a rigid visa policy imposed on them for entering the CEE countries ready to access the European Union. New divides appear in the Eastern part of Europe, and relations between neighbouring countries change. The EU actual intention of changing regulations when dealing with asylum seekers and refugees was also brought into discussion and commented upon. Pro Asyl's Marei Pelzer commented on the Blair initiative to keep asylum seekers outside "Fortress Europe". The need for a common strategy of NGOs and their united action with the aim of combating a discriminatory EU policy vis-à-vis migrants and refugees was stated.

    In this context, during the info-market an Austrian art project called "One Safe Way into Europe" was shown. It features illegal border-crossings at the Austrian-Czech-Border

    During the conference, five major (thematic) working groups were held:
    1. Europe - new borders, new identities;
    2- Situation of migrants and refugees in expanding Europe;
    3. Minorities in Europe;
    4 Intercultural education;
    5. Far-right: tendencies in Europe.
    This working structure offered a perfect platform for exchanging of good practices and designing common strategies. New partners were found and ideas of successful projects were taken up by the participants. The new video of Show Racism the Red Card on "Football against Racism" was shown at the info-market as an example of such successful projects.

    During the action planning working groups, European co-operation was again reinforced by planning European-wide campaigns and finding ideas for common tools to be used during these campaigns (slogans, images, etc). The participants spoke about organisation of such campaign activities not only on the level of activists but also on the level of authorities, mass media and broad public. New projects were planned and motivation and energy for 'getting to action' was generated. Such common project is the newsletter "Minorities in Europe", which will be written by minorities, for minorities, at European level.

    For the following campaign (around 9 November - International Day against Fascism and Antisem racist materials should be made more accessible for the population and translated into the local languages whenever possible (for example, UNITED posters for the antiracist campaign in March).

    On the whole, the conference showed that for the organisations struggling against racism the time has come not only to react, but also to contribute to the creation of positive changes in our common European home.

    The detailed report from the conference can be found in the near future on the site:
    Look at photo's of the conference

    The next UNITED conference, called "NEVER AGAIN! European conference against racism and fascism" will take place in Poland, 19-23 November 2003.
    Information and registration form are available on:

    UNITED for Intercultural Action

    The Atlantic slave trade initiated globalisation and its legacy lives, writes Madge Dresser, lecturer at the University of the West of England. Her recent publications include Slavery Obscured: the Social History of the Slave Trade in an English Provincial Port and Squares of Distinction, Webs of Interest.

    17/7/2003- President George Bush's speech in Senegal about the evils of slavery last week has, as one critic quipped, made Africa and its history "sexy". About time, too, as Aids, drought, genocide and poverty threaten not only the continent but the stability of the world. But how much of the blame for Africa's present plight can be laid at the door of slavery? After all, hasn't slavery in the Americas been illegal since the 1880s and haven't Africans themselves had slaves since time immemorial? It's true that African slavery predates the Atlantic slave trade. However, traditional systems of domestic slavery - brutal as they could be - were transformed and intensified on an unprecedented scale as the internal slave trade also generated an export trade, first across the Sahara and then across the Atlantic. As the Portuguese caravel replaced the Arab caravan, the slave trade was continuously rationalised for profit and thus made more ruthlessly efficient than ever. The history of the Atlantic slave trade could be characterised as the first bloody essay into globalisation. For it didn't just involve Africa, but the Americas, Europe and Asia as well.

    Goree, where Bush delivered his speech, was among the first African slave ports to be drawn into the Atlantic economy and exemplifies the inherently international nature of the trade. Variously claimed by the Portuguese, French, Dutch and British, Goree was supplied by African warlords with slaves from an increasingly wide range of peoples from the African interior. These captives began to forge a more generic "African" identity as they plotted uprisings against their new commercial masters. The slave merchants resident in Goree included both the sons of the business elite of Bordeaux and the legendary "signoras" of African-Portuguese descent. They in turn traded slaves and provisions for East Indian cloth, Swedish iron ore, English guns and French brandy with the European and American ships that plied the west African coast. By the late 18th century, Goree island had lent its name to the main quay in Liverpool's new harbour and to a parish of Bristol, Rhode Island, then an important North American slaving port.

    Enslaved Africans not employed to cultivate crops or service the slave caravans coming from the east into Goree were fated to be exported across the Atlantic as plantation labour. It was this hunger for labour which fed the demand for slavery in the Americas. If Goree itself saw perhaps only some 330,000 people cross the "gate of no return" throughout the 18th century, the most recent estimates put the total number of enslaved Africans forced onto the New World between the 1440s and the 1860s at no less than 12 million. This excludes the untold millions who died en route to the west African coast nor those who died on the so-called "middle passage" to America and the Caribbean. Malcolm X conjured up the dramatic image of a trail of blood across the Atlantic as slave ships threw the rebellious and ill to the sharks. This may not have been literally the case but it contains a metaphorical truth. For though white crews also suffered from the harsh discipline and high mortality rates of "the Africa run", Africans also had to endure the often-unmentioned horrors of being chained in holds awash with dysentery, and of being subject to the casual reign of sexual terrorism endemic on board slave ships. Ferociously brutal reprisals were inflicted on any perceived act of insubordination, including not eating or dancing at the captain's command. Nor should the psychological impact suffered by those separated from their families to were needed to grow crops to feed those slaves awaiting export. Mafia-style regimes made strong through the arms trade and greedy by the prospect of easy money flourished at the expense of the peaceful peasant and communally-run village.

    So though transatlantic slavery is at the root of modern racism, it transcends race. It epitomises a most exploitative form of globalisation, which has since resurfaced in new forms. Will the Bush regime help redress its legacy through fair trade practices and constructive engagement? Or will Adam Smith's "invisible hand" still hold the whip?
    ©The Guardian

    16/7/2003- Pauline Hanson, the former leader of Australia's far-right One Nation party, appeared in court yesterday charged with fraud in connection with her all but defunct party. She pleaded not guilty to charges of defrauding Queensland's electoral commission when One Nation was registered. Ms Hanson, whose tirades against immigrants and Aborigines made her an unmistakable figure in Australian politics in the late 1990s, has been embroiled in legal problems since she lost her parliamentary seat in 1998. Her party has since been involved in a bitter split, and along with her co-accused, One Nation director David Ettridge, her only support yesterday came from 20 protesters outside the court.

    Within months of her election to the Canberra parliament in 1996 Ms Hanson was seen as a rising force. Interest peaked when One Nation polled 8% of the national vote in elections in 1998, in the same poll in which Ms Hanson lost her seat. Despite the interest, the party soon imploded in in-fighting. In April, Ms Hanson's political hopes were dashed when she was denied a place in the New South Wales upper house. The state's proportional representation system should have made a seat for her a certainty, but she was beaten by a gun ownership lobby, the Shooters party.
    ©The Guardian

    9/7/2003- Recent clashes between asylum seekers, residents and police on the Caia Park estate in Wrexham, North Wales are the outcome of the Blair government's victimisation of asylum seekers. Events began with an unprovoked attack on Hoshank Baker Kader, 32, a Kurdish refugee who fled Iraq 10 months ago. Kader was left fighting for his life in intensive care after being attacked by 15 men with iron bars and knives. Fights occurred between a group of around 20 Iraqi Kurds and locals drinking in the Red Dragon pub on the same night. The pub was smashed up and ransacked with its landlord fleeing, having taken tenancy only weeks earlier. Nine people were arrested. The next night around 200 youths, some who were members of Wrexham Front Line, a hooligan gang that follows the town's football team, gathered outside the pub on the estate. Clashes with police took place as petrol bombs were thrown and cars set alight. A huge police presence the following night, with over 100 officers drafted in from Merseyside, prevented a third night of violence. Whilst admitting that the first night of violence was racially motivated, the police denied this during the second night of troubles and instead blamed it on "criminality". A BBC reporter who grew up in Wrexham refuted this stating, "During the last three days on the estate I certainly witnessed racist behaviour for the first time." She heard people on the estate demanding police "get the Iraqis out" and that, "Saddam Hussein's gone now, they should go back to Iraq." Political responsibility for this outburst of racial hatred in Caia Park lies with the witchhunt by the government, Conservative opposition and the media, who all seek to scapegoat asylumseekers for society's social problems.

    The government's policy of "dispersal" whereby asylum seekers are usually located in socially-deprived areas across the UK has led to the ghettoisation of an immigrant population often without jobs and language skills and isolated from the wider community into which they have been thrust. The tabloid press has done all it can to portray asylum-seekers as receiving preferential treatment in housing and benefits, in order to encourage hostility amongst local residents who are often socially deprived. Caia Park houses more than 14,000 and is one of the largest and most troubled estates in Wales with high levels of unemployment and acute deprivation. Recently it has been subject to a "fresh start" policy with the estate's name changed from Queens Park to Caia Park and millions of pounds of investment into various schemes on the estate. Prior to the disturbances Caia Park housed around 30 Kurdish refugees in boarded up, hard to let tenement blocks. They have now fled the estate and asked for new accommodation. The Crown Prosecution Service said in court that there had been "clear racial overtones" and 19 people including a 13 year old boy have been charged with violent disorder. A total of 47 arrests were made and 30 charged.

    The Labour Lord Ousely, who produced a report on the 2001 race riots in Bradford, told the BBC Radio Four's Today programme that racism was an ongoing problem across the whole north Wales region. "It would be wrong for people to be in denial to suggest that race isn't a factor, that there isn't prejudice, that there weren't hostilities or indeed hatred. While it always takes a small incident it then brings to the surface the prejudices that exist, particularly as we have seen the way asylum seekers and refugees have been demonised." Prime Minister Tony Blair sought to shift blame from government culpability in parliament with a bit of cheap moralising. "Those who advocate extremism or want to turn their anger on people who are immigrants into this country do absolutely nothing for community relations... and peddle what is a disastrous misconception and misrepresentation," he said. But the last six years of the Blair gov Council revealed that of those asylum seekers with whom organisations have contact, 85 percent experience hunger, 95 percent cannot afford to buy clothes or shoes and 80 percent are not able to maintain good health. Many do not receive the basic support they may be entitled to because the system is badly designed, extremely bureaucratic and poorly run. Trevor Philips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), directly blamed the government's dispersal policy for what took place in Wrexham. Speaking at a conference on design and housing he described government policy as "disastrous": "The dispersal policy has turned out to be the principle factor in destroying community cohesion in towns and cities. We need to get accommodation to asylum seekers quickly, but we cannot put people in places that are already miserable, anxious and angry." As in Bradford and Oldham, which saw clashes two years ago, the far right British National Party is seeking to make capital out of this tragedy. BNP members are canvassing for support in Wrexham and plan to put up candidates. Lead article in Wrexham's local Evening Leader gave prominence to the BNP's claim that "We have a public and moral duty as a political party, and asylum is our main policy."

    8/7/2003- Tens of thousands of Londoners are expected to flock to the respect festival at the Millennium Dome later this month, for the biggest anti-racism gathering in Europe. The free event, now in its third year, is growing in popularity, with crowds of 60,000 in 2001 and 75,000 last year. This year's headline acts include Public Enemy, the iconic US rap group, Panjabi MC, JJC and the 419 Squad, and reggae superstar Gregory Isaacs. The July 19 event is dedicated to the memory of Stephen Lawrence, the South London teenager murdered ten years ago by a racist gang at an Eltham bus stop. No one has been convicted for his murder, and the killing prompted a massive campaign against allegations of racism in the British justice system. Launching respect this morning with Mayor Ken Livingstone, Stephen's mother Dr Doreen Lawrence said it was honour to have the festival dedicated in her son's name. "It's been a difficult ten years, but I think we have broken the back of racism," said Dr Lawrence, who was awarded an OBE last month, for her efforts in campaigning against racism. The respect festival, from 12 noon on July 19 at the Greenwich Dome, is a free event, with a range of music, performance and children's activities, as well as food and drink stalls and information about trade unions, voluntary groups, charities and community organisations.
    For more information visit

    ©This is Local London

    He cites global uproar among Anglicans for his decision

    8/7/2003- A clergyman whose selection as the Church of England's first openly gay bishop stirred a deeply divisive reaction among Anglicans worldwide has announced that he is withdrawing his name for the post. Jeffrey John, 50, was appointed as bishop of Reading in the Oxford Diocese last month, but he said Sunday that he was disqualifying himself "in view of the damage my consecration might cause to the unity of the church." The Right Reverend Richard Harries, the bishop of Oxford, who selected John, said he recognized the "immense pressures" the appointee had been under, and he accepted the decision "with great sadness."

    The selection had caused turmoil in sectors of the church in Africa and Asia, where more conservative norms prevail, and at home among the increasing number of evangelical Anglicans, who believe that the Bible is clear in its disapproval of homosexual activity. The Most Reverend Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury in only his first year in office, found himself with a crisis threatening a split in the 79 million member Anglican Communion, the global association of churches that trace their heritage to the Church of England. When he said last month that he had no objection to the appointment of John, Williams was accused of turning his back on Anglican churches in the developing world who have voiced particularly strong opinions against the ordination of gay priests. The head of the 17.5 million member Nigerian church, the world's largest Anglican congregation, had threatened to sever ties with any part of the church that chose a gay bishop. "The estrangement of churches in developing countries from their cherished ties with Britain is in no one's interest," Williams said Sunday. Reading a statement on the lawn of Lambeth Palace, his official residence in London, Williams paid tribute to John's "dignity and forbearance," noting that he had been subjected to "the most intrusive and distasteful personal scrutiny." He said that much of the correspondence coming to him had been "very unsavory indeed." "A number of the letters I read displayed a shocking level of ignorance and hatred towards homosexual people," he said. "Christians who collude with this are simply not living out their calling."

    The uproar in the Oxford Diocese followed similar outcries over the election last month of a gay Episcopal priest as the bishop of New Hampshire in the United States and a decision in May by the western Canadian Diocese of New Westminster to sanction the blessing of gay relationships. John, now canon theologian at Southwark Cathedral in London, had acknowledged being in a relationship for 27 years, but he avowed that he and his partner, also a cleric, had ceased having sex after church doctrine explicitly forbade it. His reference was to a 1991 policy paper, "Issues in Human Sexuality," that permitted members of the congregation to pursue faithful same-sex relationships but demanded celibacy from gay priests. Philip Giddings, the lay preacher at Greyfriars Church in Reading who had emerged as a leader of the opposition to John's appointment, said Sunday night that John's decision was "courageous" and said it had come "in answer to many people's prayers." He also said that though he had been called a "bigot, chief gay basher and homophobic," the overwhelming number of messages had been ones of support and understanding. "The Bible teaches that the only acceptable place for sexual intercourse is heterosexual marriage," he said. "There is no problem about a bishop being a sinner; we are all sinners. The issue is he didn't see it as a sin and therefore he couldn't repent." Because John's name had been forwarded to the crown for approval, the actual formal action now required is for Queen Elizabeth II to withdraw her assent. John had been scheduled to be consecrated as bishop of Reading in West ©International Herald Tribune

    12/7/2003- A protest by gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has prompted the Church of England General Synod to adjourn. Mr Tatchell, accompanied by several others, was given a slow hand-clap on Saturday and told to go away from the York gathering as he accused the Archbishop of Canterbury of betraying his own principles. The protest came as the Church of England's governing body has tried to defuse the row over the appointment of a gay bishop by postponing a Synod debate on the issue. Canon Jeffrey John decided not to take up the position because of intense pressure from traditionalists within the church. Mr Tatchell walked on stage with six young supporters at Saturday's synod and said: "You can see the voice of bigotry and unreason here today.

    'Wrong time for debate'
    Richard Thomas, director of communications for the Oxford Diocese, told Tatchell: "I can tell you know that he (Jeffrey John) would not approve of what you are doing and he would want you to withdraw." Dr John is not at the synod. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, told members of the General Synod in York at an emergency discussion on Friday night that it was the wrong time to discuss the dispute, especially without Dr John's presence. "It is better to have a debate which is informed than a debate which is uninformed," said Dr Williams. "Better to have a debate which is general rather than personal in its focus." The chairman of the synod's business committee, the Very Reverend Michael Perham, the Dean of Derby, told the meeting the "time critical element" had disappeared after Dr John's withdrawal and the issue would be better debated next February. Rev Perham said the intervening time would give the church "the chance to reflect, to take counsel with our friends, perhaps to engage outside this chamber with those with whom we disagree". Dr Williams agreed and added: "I do not actually believe a plea for a time for reflection is a soft option, unless you believe reflection is a soft option."

    Debate postponed
    The archbishop was warmly applauded for the decision but BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said it is clear the problems the church faces over the issue of gay clergy are not going to go away. The Rev Rod Thomas, of evangelical campaigning group, Reform, said while he supported a postponement of the debate, it had to happen sometime. "Reflection is difficult and we need to do that as a church. "The church has stared huge division in the face. It's been to the edge of the abyss and looked over and as a result, it's taken the decision that it doesn't want to go there. "It now needs to give itself time to draw breath and think." The synod is now expected to turn its attention to the issues of racism in the church and the Anglican-Methodist covenant, an agreement for the two churches to work together.
    ©BBC News

    10/7/2003- A two-year commission for racial equality investigation into the death of a young Asian inmate who was battered to death by his racist cellmate yesterday accused the prison service of a "shocking catalogue of failure" which justified a formal finding of unlawful discrimination. The first part of the CRE's formal investigation into racism in the prison service published yesterday identified 20 areas of failure in the management systems at Feltham young offenders institute, west London, where Zahid Mubarek was murdered in March 2000. But the investigation - the third official inquiry into the murder - did not uncover significant new evidence or establish evidence of direct racism in Mubarek's death. The sleeping 19-year-old was bludgeoned to death with a table leg by his psychopathic skinhead cellmate, Robert Stewart, who had RIP tattooed on his forehead.

    Trevor Phillips, chairman of the CRE, said: "This report is a shocking catalogue of failure. Zahid Mubarek died because of a combination of Robert Stewart's racism and failures by the prison service to provide him with appropriate protection. I am convinced that had Zahid been white, he would not have died." It is believed a dispute between the prison service and the CRE over whether there was direct evidence of racism involved in the murder delayed publication. It is understood that a similar dispute is delaying publication of the second part of the CRE inquiry, into allegations of racism at Brixton prison, south London, and Parc prison, south Wales. It is now unlikely to be published until the autumn. An internal prison service report concluded 18 months ago that Feltham was guilty of institutional racism.

    Mubarek's family yesterday said the CRE report left them none the wiser as to how a racist psychopath was allowed to share a cell with, and then murder, a young man due to be released the next day. The family's appeal for an independent judicial public inquiry is to be heard by the House of Lords next week. But Mr Phillips defended the CRE's investigation, saying it had led to discussions with the prison service to agree an action plan to accelerate the existing anti-racist work within the service. In the circumstances, an official notice of unlawful discrimination would not be immediately issued. The prison service's director general, Phil Wheatley, said he recognised Mubarek's death was the result of the service's not protecting him. "With such a high proportion of the prison population from a black and ethnic minority background, I share the desire to build on what we have already achieved since the tragic events of March 2000 to ensure such an incident is never repeated."

    The list of 20 system failures identified by the CRE report confirms that Stewart's security file, detailing his violent history, was not read; he was not seen by a doctor or psychiatrist; and letters detailing his racist thoughts and murderous intentions were never read by prison staff. The report also provides evidence that Feltham prison managers were not tackling racist attitudes among white prisoners.

    Behind bars

  • More than 17,000 of the 73,000 prisoners in England and Wales (22%) are from an ethnic minority background
  • The imprisonment rate for black people is 934 per 100,000 population, more than eight times higher than for white people (114 per 100,000). If white people were jailed at the same rate, almost 500,000 people in England and Wales would be in prison
  • In 1999-2002 the total jail population grew by 12%, but the number of black inmates increased by 51%
    ©The Guardian

    10/7/2003- A teenage footballer has been convicted of taunting his black opponent by making monkey chants and telling him to "have a banana". The Celtic Boys' Club player subjected opponent Kieran Bhegani, 16, to a torrent of abuse during a league game. But there was fury today after he escaped with just 150 hours community service. David Johnston, 17, was sent off four times in the one match for targeting the opposing player with racist jibes, a court heard. He was sentenced to 150 hours community service at Glasgow Sheriff Court yesterday after admitting the offences. But anti-racism campaigners have slammed the sentence, claiming it was too lenient. Today they called on courts to hand out tougher sentences to racist players. A spokesman for Kick It Out, which works at all levels of the game to eradicate racist abuse, said: "We hope Celtic Boys' Club will take this matter extremely seriously. "We are disappointed by the sentence because we always urge courts to crackdown hard on racists within the sport. "There are massive racism problems in the professional game and it's depressing that such a young player would act in this way. "Young players are the future of the sport and courts have to take the hardest action possible to make a bold statement."

    The court heard the incident took place during a match between Celtic Boys' Club and Goldenhills Boys' Club in Drumchapel last September. Johnston targeted Kieran, 16, for abuse from an early stage in the match and continued relentlessly. At one stage he was heard shouting "I'll mark the monkey". Later on, when the ball went out for a corner, he yelled at Kieran: "I'll throw a banana and you can go and get it". The court was told he made a stream of racial remarks before the referee stepped in and sent him off. He was so incensed by the decision the referee had to brandish the red card a further three times before he left the pitch. Johnston, of Southdeen Avenue, Drumchapel, Glasgow, admitted "acting like a monkey and causing distress through racial remarks". Liam Ewing, defending, said: "This was a serious offence, which you do not particularly think will happen among people so young. "But, the accused has apologised for his conduct and expressed genuine regret." The lawyer added that Johnston's family had been "deeply embarrassed" by it all. Johnston was suspended for two years after being carpeted by league chiefs. He had worked as an apprentice glazier in Chester, but returned after feeling homesick. Celtic Football Club today stressed that the SPL side had no links with the Celtic Boys' Club. A Celtic spokesman said: "This boys' club has no connection with Celtic FC whatsoever. "Some youth teams use our name for historic reasons, but they are not affiliated to us. "This case is very distressing and alarming because of the age of the boy involved."
    ©Evening Times

    11/7/2003- Racist vandals have targeted the family of a German church minister by scratching swastikas on to the bonnet of their car. The Nazi symbols were scrawled onto the paintwork of the family's Skoda Fabia as it sat outside their Marchmont home this week. Judith Crawford, whose father Walther Binndemann is a church minister at the German-speaking Congregation Church in Chalmers Crescent, said she was shocked and disgusted after discovering the sinister vandalism, which police are investigating. Mrs Crawford, 25, who was born in Berlin, lives in the church manse with her German family, her husband Alan, 34, and their five-month-old daughter Freya. She said: "We were pretty shocked when we saw what happened. It'll cost £200 to repair but that doesn't really matter. It's the ignorance and irony of it that is most appalling. "There are lots of people who come to this church who actually fled from Nazi Germany. This sort of thing can be very upsetting for people."

    Mr Crawford, a journalist, said the church had been at the centre of minor incidents of verbal abuse over the past few weeks, but that the problem had suddenly escalated with the latest racist attack. He said his family now felt they were being targeted simply because of their German connections. Mr Crawford added he was concerned that elderly members of the church's German congregation, many of whom escaped persecution in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 40s, would be deeply offended by the swastikas. He added: "I woke up on Monday morning to discover two swastikas scratched on the bonnet of my car. "Things like this can happen and my initial reaction was that it was going to cost me money to repair it, but I quickly realised the significance was that I was married to a German. "It is utterly disgusting and sickening that someone could do this. We have had minor incidents in the past where young neds have come on to the church's property to play football and when told to get off have called my wife's father a Nazi bastard. "We feel threatened and it is a concern, especially having a five-month-old baby who is technically German too, but I think it's important that people stand up against racism. "Ignorance and immaturity are no excuse for this kind of behaviour as far as I'm concerned."

    The German Church has been in Chalmers Crescent since 1954, and is the successor to an older congregation established in 1862 which had its own church building on the north side of Edinburgh but was disbanded at the outbreak of the First World War. A police spokeswoman said the attack had been reported and that an investigation had been launched. She said: "We have had a report about this incident which has left the family involved quite upset. "While we treat all vandalism very seriously, this was a particularly distasteful crime, and one which not only causes offence to the victims but also to the wider German community who attend this church. We would appeal for anyone who may have any information which would help us identify the culprits to come forward." Gerhard Braun, vice consul at the German Consulate in Eglinton Crescent, Edinburgh, said incidents of this nature sadly happened in most countries. "This is something that should not happen at all, and as the consulate in Edinburgh we are especially concerned if it involves Germans. "We cannot get directly involved in a case like this, but we know that if it is being investigated by the British police it is in safe hands." Last year, owners of BMW and Mercedes cars in Stockbridge claimed they were the victims of a sinister campaign by a vandal with a grudge against Germany. One victim, asset management adviser Tom King, even carried out his own investigation and set up CCTV cameras in a bid to catch the culprit after his £30,000 BMW 530 was damaged for the eighth time. He claimed more than 20 German cars parked in Clarendon Crescent had their tyres slashed or wing ©The Scotsman

    Four pupils at the Bishop of Llandaff Church in Wales High School, Cardiff, will be suspended after a German supply teacher was the victim of racist gestures and comments in the classroom. The pupils will be excluded on Tuesday for one day only. The school says behaviour of this kind is "out of character". A school spokesman said: "The incident involved a teacher of German extraction who was faced by children making inappropriate gestures and comments, which could be construed to be racist." It is alleged they gave her a 'Hitler salute' in the classroom last Friday. Head teacher Reverend Chris Hollowood said: "We deeply regret this incident and any offence which has been caused to the teacher concerned. "It is the case that she wanted no further action taken against the pupils, but the senior staff of the school consider this incident to be of sufficient seriousness to merit the exclusion of the pupils for one day."
    ©BBC News

    9/7/2003- A Midland school is at the centre of a racism investigation after a teacher allegedly described a group of mixed-race youngsters as a "monkey show". The incident is said to have occurred at Coleshill Primary School a Church of England school in rural Warwickshire as the teacher sent the three boys out of class for misbehaving. A race equality officer from Warwickshire County Council visited the school yesterday and one distraught parent has written to Birmingham's first black bishop pleading for him to intervene. A spokesman for Warwickshire Council said: "We can confirm an allegation has been made. The teacher has denied this allegation. "We take this extremely seriously and the school has asked for further information to enable it to look into this matter further."

    Amanda Robinson, whose 11 year old son Tyler is one of the children involved, said she was appalled when she learned about the alleged remark made about two months ago. "He was reprimanded along with two other mixed-race boys and put into a separate area," she said. "In front of the whole class the teacher said 'we don't want to sit here and watch this monkey show'. "When I visited the school and asked her what she meant saying that to a black child she told me to go and see the headmistress." Ms Robinson claimed the school has failed to address repeated complaints about "diabolical" racism she maintains her son has suffered from pupils at the predominantly white school over the last two years. And she believes teachers have viewed Tyler, who was excluded for two days last month after a fight, as a "problem child" instead of a victim of race bullies, which contributed to his misbehaving. "I have had to listen to him crying at night and not wanting to go to school," said Ms Robinson. "They see Tyler as a problem child. But I say if he is not being listened to he won't have faith in the teachers. "If he is not respected and demoralised and humiliated you are going to have problems. "It seems as if he has been victimised because he has a strong voice. I am trying to fight for every black child who has a voice not to be seen as trouble makers."

    The school's headteacher Joyce Wardle wrote to Ms Robinson on June 26 highlighting "aggressive" behaviour that led to Tyler's exclusion and suggested a meeting to resolve the "monkey show" allegation. But Ms Robinson has also written to Bishop for Birmingham Dr John Sentamu pleading for him to look into the matter. The school's head of governors David Anderson has since handed in his resignation. Warwickshire Council's race equality support worker Mpazi Siame confirmed the school has agreed to investigate the incident. A spokesman for the Diocese of Birmingham said: "The teacher who is alleged to have made the remark has been interviewed as part of an initial investigation and has strenuously denied making the alleged comment."
    ©IC Network

    By Jeroen Bosch

    July 2003- In recent months, tension between ethnic groups in schools all over the Netherlands has grown so much, that the new Christian Democrat minister of Education, Maria van der Hoeven, has introduced guidelines for schools to help them regulate the clothes worn by pupils. Discussion about the wearing of the Nikaab, a traditional conservative female Muslim garment that covers the entire body except for the eyes, by girls an Amsterdam school, spread to other schools even though the Nikaab or other traditional Muslim clothes were nowhere to be seen in them. In the end, the Dutch Commission for Equality decided to recommend that the Nikaab should not be worn in school on the grounds that this form of dress frustrates teacher-pupil communication. Although the Commission's guidelines are not formal rules most of its advice is followed. The wearing of the traditional Muslim headscarf had already been the subject of fierce discussion in Dutch society, not least after the late right-wing populist, Pim Fortuyn, declared what he called a "cold war" on Islam. Some schools in the country, especially those with a strong Christian identity do not allow female Muslim pupils to wear headscarves, completely ignoring the fact that many Muslim girls wear the scarf as a signal of identity rather than as an expression of fundamentalism. The discussion over whether the prohibition of wearing a headscarf is against freedom of religion or within the principle of schools not making exceptions for particular religions is still going.

    Discussion of these issues in itself is not unhealthy, but recent months have shown something else: the growth of clashes between white pupils sporting the full skinhead outfit and Moroccan youngsters at some schools in the smaller towns. On the one hand, it is a new phenomenon that "foreigners" _ third generation Turks or Moroccans, mainly _ are no longer only found in the bigger cities, but also in smaller towns an villages, thanks to integration or upward economic mobility. On the other hand, Dutch society has grown "harsher" and criticisms of the multicultural society by politicians are now being picked up by white youth who feel themselves threatened. In this way, youngsters start to assume extremist positions and dressing up as street gang members, skinheads or punks. In addition, rows and clashes break out, not only between white youth and "foreign" youth but have also _ for example, at a school in Limburg, in the south of the Netherlands _ between white youngsters who have ranged themselves into rival groups of "skinheads" and "alternative youth".

    Both the schools and the Dutch public have been plunged into shock by the knowledge that "skinhead" dressed youngsters display about Hitler's date of birth and their hatred of Jews. This knowledge has been largely gleaned from Internet and has nothing to do with them being directly involved in racist or fascist groups. More worrying is that these efforts to "organize" themselves erupt into violence against mosques or refugees. Especially popular among the white youth who allow themselves to be swept up by this development is the selfmade elaboration of the name "Lonsdale", a brand much favoured by nazi skins. "Let us Dutch together slowly execute the foreigners," it reads in Dutch. Also notable is the clever way these kids deal with the (until now purely incidental) prohibition of parts of their outfits. They know all about the Fred Perry shirts, the "code" number 88, the white shoelaces etc. and are aware that their opponents also know the coded meaning of this gear.

    The identification with these styles has serious consequences. In a small town near Eindhoven, a gang of racist youth armed with baseball bats and helmets terrorised a Somalian family for weeks before the police intervened and arrested six of them. In other villages group foreigners and the multicultural society". According to police investigations, the 5 are not involved in any rightwing or fascist groups. It was, of course, only a matter of time before Nationalist Youth Brabant (NJB), a section of the nazi National Movement (NB) which is occupying a huge former military complex nearby as base for its activities, would try to mobilise this hate. The NJB distributed a leaflet in the small town of Eersel, demanding that; "Dutch people should be the boss again in their own country" and calling for "struggle against the people in power, not against the Somalian refugees". "Those in power won't sleep a minute less," said the text, "if they learn of an attack on a refugee. They will only use it to take measures against those who really oppose them". A day later, though, anti-Islam posters were slapped up all over Eindhoven.

    MPs from the social democratic PvdA have raised questions in parliament about ethnic tensions in schools and the education minister has confirmed the fact that _ for the moment, at least _ a lot of so called "white power youth" have no real ambition to become members of racist or fascist organizations, but just hate the multicultural society and download extreme ideas and codes from the internet. The same minister then drew up the above mentioned guidelines about headscarves. Clothes, which are associated with racism and the extreme right, however, are generally permitted on the grounds of the freedom of speech although they can now be banned when it is necessary to prevent disorder at school. With its guidelines, the Dutch government is hoping to combat the polarization of school students but what will it do about the extreme right-wing youngsters when they are not at school and when they organize themselves into violent gangs outside the school environment. This is a problem for the whole of Dutch society and it is probably only a matter of time before there is a fatality resulting from the mounting racial tension and hatred. Thus, it is also the responsibility of the whole of society, not least politicians and those who help shape public opinion, to desist from stirring up the kind of racial tension that can be seen almost every week in the media. In the meantime, racist and fascist parties and organisations are being given a free platform to try to latch onto an unprecedented number of youngsters who are showing themselves capable of carrying hate crimes without belonging to the extreme right.

    9/7/2003- An emancipation institute has lodged legal proceedings in a bid to force the Dutch government to take action against the female discriminatory policies of the small Christian party SGP. The Clara Wichmann Instituut has demanded that the SGP, which believes that women should not have any voting rights and may not be members of a municipal council or the national Parliament in The Hague, be forced to change. The institute - which works to further women's rights and their legal position in society - tried in vain in the spring of 2002 to convince female SGP members to launch a test legal case against the party. Attempts to persuade the Cabinet to take action against the SGP, which states on its website that a man is the boss of a woman, have not yielded anything either.

    It is hoped that the legal proceedings will force the Dutch state to implement measures against the SGP, such as excluding it from taking part in the next election, due in 2007. The legal case is being partly based on the United Nations Women's Treaty. The Cabinet will respond to the legal proceedings after the summer recess and the SGP reacted laconically to the latest attempt to change its policies. Party leader Bas van der Vlies said the issue was an internal party matter, newspaper De Volkskrant reported. The SGP has two seats in the Lower House of Parliament, Dutch associated press ANP reported, but figured prominently in the coalition discussions after the January 2003 election. The Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD needed a third coalition party to give them a coalition majority in the 150-seat parliament, and the small Christian parties, ChristenUnie and SGP, were considered a viable option. But the CDA and VVD ultimately chose to enter into government with the Democrat D66, which had previously served two terms in government with the Labour PvdA and VVD coalition from 1994-2002.

    10/7/2003- It is more than 500 years since the Spanish reconquered the Iberian peninsula, killing or expelling every confessed Muslim who could be found and conclusively ending 800 years of Islamic rule. But on Thursday, a muezzin is calling Spanish Muslims to prayer at the first mosque to be opened in Granada since the reconquista, the culmination of a 22-year-old project that has been plagued by controversy. For those who built the Great Mosque of Granada, which looks out onto the once highly symbolic Alhambra Palace, its inauguration - attended by a string of Muslim and non-Muslim dignitaries - heralds a new dawn for the faith in Europe. "The mosque is a symbol of a return to Islam among the Spanish people and among indigenous Europeans that will break with the malicious concept of Islam as a foreign and immigrant religion in Europe," says Abdel Haqq Salaberria, a spokesman for the mosque and convert to Islam. "It will act as a focal point for the Islamic revival in Europe." It is precisely this which has caused some discomfort among the local population, but it appears that the mosque's insistence on harmonious co-existence has gone some way towards calming fears.

    Cultural contribution
    At a time when the Islamic faith is viewed with some suspicion within Europe, Spanish Muslims are hoping to remind the continent of the vast cultural and intellectual contribution made by the Moors, to art and architecture, astronomy, music, medicine, science, and learning. Their rule is also seen by some historians as an example of religious tolerance in medieval Europe. The Moorish period in southern Spain saw Muslims and Jews living side-by-side. The city of Cordoba became a cultural centre for both faiths, while universities sprang up in cities across Andalucia. Trade and industry also flourished. The new mosque intends to offer a series of courses on subjects such as education, law and medicine, as well as Arabic language classes, and is planning on issuing its own degree in science to European Muslims. The mosque and its extensive gardens will also be open to the public. It will serve as a spiritual home to 500 Spanish Muslims, the majority of whom have converted to the faith in the course of the last 30 years.

    It has taken a long time to get this far. The land on which the mosque has been built was bought 22 years ago, but city authorities continually objected to the planning proposals. When it was finally accepted that the land could be used for religious purposes, objections were raised to the layout of the building. Planners had to rethink the height and design of the building's minaret. But opposition to the scheme, which received financial backing from Libya, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, gradually subsided. The mayor, a member of Spain's ruling right-wing party, will attend Thursday's inauguration. The king of Spain was also offered an invitation. But "prior engagements" meant he was unable to accept.
    ©BBC News

    9/7/2003- A controversial decision by the people of Emmen, in canton Lucerne, to deny Swiss citizenship to applicants of Yugoslav extraction is coming under court scrutiny. On Wednesday, the Federal Court is due to rule on an appeal from applicants who were turned down in a popular vote in March 2002. Peter Schnellmann, the mayor of Emmen - an industrial suburb of Lucerne - hopes the appeal will be rejected, but admits that the system is unworkable. The Federal Court is considering an appeal brought by five individuals and families who were deemed unsuitable to become citizens by the commune. In 1999, voters in the commune won the right to decide which foreign applicants are awarded citizenship and which are turned down. Normally naturalisation requests are decided by communal assemblies or committees. Since then 97 people - 85 of them from former Yugoslavia - have seen their applications rejected. Just one in five applications for citizenship from Yugoslav nationals succeeds in Emmen, against a success rate of four out of five for all other nationalities.

    Media interest
    Huge media attention was focused on Emmen after voters turned down 39 out of 57 naturalisation requests in 2000. All the unsuccessful candidates were from former Yugoslavia. The controversy sparked by the vote led Emmen to suspend its practice of popular votes on citizenship issues for more than a year. Schnellmann, who is in Lausanne to hear Switzerland's highest court pronounce on the appeal, says media attention has subsequently diminished. But he told swissinfo that regardless of the Federal Court ruling, Emmen would need to rethink its strategy. "It is not tenable to have a certain category of people always refused citizenship. The parties are agreed that the law has to be changed."
    ©NZZ Online

    12/7/2003- Lampedusa, Italy The central harbor of this tiny, sun-kissed island presents a mostly familiar Mediterranean scene, worthy of all the postcards for sale nearby. Clumsy trawlers flank nimble sailing boats, and placards invite scuba divers to take the plunge. But off to one side floats something less picturesque: a nautical graveyard, jammed with the half-submerged remains of more than a dozen badly rotted boats that should have been put to rest many years ago. They were, instead, used by the latest wave of illegal immigrants to aim for Lampedusa's shore. So many boats arrived during June that officials could not haul them away fast enough, and the graveyard grew, an eyesore on the horizon and a symbol of a problem that Western Europe is struggling to control. "This thing is bigger than us," said Lampedusa's mayor, Bruno Siragusa.

    It happens every summer. The Mediterranean becomes calmer, the dreamers become bolder, and the migration begins again. Countries like Greece, Spain and Italy feel the immediate brunt of it, because they are accessible portals to the rest of Europe. Lampedusa is one of the most accessible portals of all. Italy's southernmost territory, it lies 113 kilometers (70 miles) from the nearest point in Africa, which has eclipsed the Balkans as a source of, and gateway for, Europe's newest arrivals. For that reason, Lampedusa, just 31 square kilometers (12 square miles) of jagged stone and arid soil, offers a sharp snapshot of the tide and the times. It has turned into the Mediterranean's version of the stretch of sea between Cuba and Florida: a short, beautiful, perilous corridor for wanderers willing to risk everything. Many die along the way, but still they come, defying the efforts of Italy and other European countries to keep them away. Their determination underscores the shortcomings of any crackdown on illegal immigration, and it is evident in their eyes. "There's a sort of desperation in them," said Luigi Tenaglia, a medical worker in Lampedusa who has tended to many immigrants. "If you haven't seen it, you can't understand."

    The current year is shaping up to be a record one here. Local officials say that in June, more than 2,000 illegal immigrants from across Africa arrived in boats that had left Tunisia or Libya, bringing the total number of illegal immigrants since the beginning of January to more than 4,200. In all of 2002, about 6,350 illegal immigrants came. That number exceeded the resident population of Lampedusa, which is about 6,000. Officials in Lampedusa say they cannot keep count of the voyagers who die when their flimsy boats sink. They say that probably happened to hundreds in June alone. But while rescue workers look for the bodies, they usually retrieve only the ones on the surface. "The majority sink," said Captain Michele Niosi, the commander of the Italian Coast Guard unit in Lampedusa, adding that sometimes, "fishermen find them when they drag the sea floor with their nets." That sort of ghoulish story used to get told about the southeastern Italian region of Apulia, to which refugees from the Balkans fled. But Italian leaders coaxed governments in that region to stop migrants before they left. As a result, Italian officials say, illegal immigration to Italy has fallen in the last few years, to about 23,700 immigrants in 2002 from about 38,200 in 1998.

    But Italy and other European nations have had limited success in getting African governments to halt boats and crack down on smugglers, who charge voyagers up to E614 ($700) for the trip. It can take just hours in good weather, much longer in bad. Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants continue to pour into the European Union every year. Figuring out how to deal with that consistently tops the Union's agenda, provoking tensions among the 15 member nations, which seldom agree on how open or closed their doors should be. The people of Lampedu save them and bring them into town, he said. They know, too, that they will not stay in Lampedusa long, but be flown to other parts of Italy, where immigration officials will interview them and where they can press claims for asylum or try to sneak away before being sent back home.

    They nonetheless leave a mark on Lampedusa. Its residents have gaped at 12-meter (40-foot) boats into which 80 immigrants - somehow, some way - manage to cram. They have watched pregnant women, just a few weeks from giving birth, stagger dazed and dehydrated onto land. They have noticed undernourished children of 2 or 3 years in their mothers' arms. "I've seen people half dead from the voyage," said Salvatore Lo Verde, the owner of a scuba diving business. The jobs of Lampedusa firefighters and police officers have expanded to include the roundup of bodies, living and dead, from the sea. The local coast guard fleet is bigger than before, with two special rescue vessels. In the town cemetery, beside the opulent crypts that many southern Italians favor, is a weed-strewn plot of dirt for the bodies of immigrants, buried under wooden crosses with numbers, not names. It has room for fewer than 20 and filled up about three years ago. The "collection center" in which survivors are held, for a few hours or days, is also too small. Two hundred people often occupy a space meant for half that number. So a new center, intended for 400 people, is being built, with funds from the Italian government. Some local residents complain that the money should go elsewhere. A few have been known to shout at the immigrants as they come ashore. Others have offered the immigrants food and water, their sympathy trumping any anger over the way the boat people have defined the island and even, according to a few merchants, hurt tourism. "We have to offer a welcome that doesn't do us harm, but that also doesn't do them harm," said Siragusa, talking about a kind of elusive balance that all of Europe is trying to strike. "There's a principle of humanity in this."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Officials in Turkmenistan have assured a delegation from Moscow that the rights of Russian citizens living locally will be respected despite their loss of dual citizenship. Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed with his counterpart, Saparmurat Niyazov, to abolish the two countries' post-Soviet citizenship treaty at talks in April. However, the Turkmen leader caused panic among ethnic Russians citizens by making the decision retroactive and giving them two months to choose. Diplomats from the two states rounded off two days of talks on the issue in Ashgabat on Wednesday with an announcement by the Russian side that it had received assurances over the welfare of its citizens living locally. The Turkmens had "officially stated that the rights and interests of Russian citizens living on the territory of Turkmenistan will not be infringed", said the leader of the Russian delegation, Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov. He added that ties between Russia and the energy-rich Central Asian state could not be "allowed to suffer". The two states signed a 25-year energy deal granting Russia the right to buy cheap Turkmen natural gas when their leaders met in April. Turkmenistan is also concerned about the effect on its economy of a mass migration by skilled ethnic Russian workers. The Russian Embassy in Ashgabat estimates that about 100,000 residents of Turkmenistan - a nation of some 4.7 million - have Russian citizenship out of a total ethnic Russian population of about 314,000.

    'No evictions'
    Following President Niyazov's shock announcement of a two-month deadline ending on 22 June, ethnic Russians began arriving in Moscow on a wave of panic. Non-citizens feared they would lose their right to travel out of Turkmenistan for good - particularly given plans to reintroduce Soviet-era exit visas. One member of the Russian delegation at the Ashgabat talks said he had seen nothing to suggest that Russian citizens were being driven out of their homes, as reported recently in the Russian media. But MP Sergei Anatenko did express concern about media curbs. Turkmens largely rely on Russian-language satellite TV to obtain outside information about their own country and the world. The authorities have already cut off deliveries of Russian-language newspapers to the country. Most ethnic Russians in Central Asia settled or were born in the region in Soviet times when skilled professionals such as engineers, doctors or pilots were drafted in by Moscow as part of a modernisation drive. Since the collapse of the USSR and amid the ensuing religious and ethnic tensions, many of them have moved back to Russian territory where they often find themselves resented by local people tending to see them as overqualified outsiders.

    Turkmenistan's Russians

  • Some 314,000 ethnic Russians make up about 6.7% of population
  • About 100,000 currently have Russian citizenship
  • Vast majority settled under the USSR when there was a single, Soviet citizenship
    Sources: CIA factbook figures for July 2002, Russian Embassy in Turkmenistan
    ©BBC News

    10/7/2003- Budapest's mayor, Gábor Demszky, described the capital city as a beacon of "tolerance and fraternity", for all people of all persuasions and cultures, as Gay Pride returned to Hungary. The event, more properly called the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual and Transgender (GLBTT) Cultural and Film Festival, was being staged in Budapest for the eighth time. It was launched from the Mûvész Cinema complex on Friday. Events like these, much more so than the Mardi Gras type parades in Sydney and London, demonstrate the fundamental grass roots issues facing GLBTT minorities in the community. Whilst in Sydney it may be a case of "what do I wear?" in Budapest the question is more likely to be "Will I get beaten up of fired if I am recognized?" The most public demonstration of these issues, those of equal rights and freedom of expression, came from the Pride March through the streets of the city on Saturday afternoon, starting at Hôsök tere and ending across the Erzsébet híd (bridge) at Tabán.

    Police estimate between 3,500 - 4,000 marchers swarmed in amongst the four floats down the main streets. Police were also on hand in full protection and riot gear in places to protect party goers from right wing-extremists who formed a marauding throng at the base of Erzsébet híd. This crowd, known colloquially as Neo-Nazis, had threatened violence at the event, perhaps the reason that, despite a predicted turnout of more than 8,000 people, only half that number demonstrated. "I cannot remove my mask, as if I am recognized by my boss, I know I will be fired from my job. It happened last year to colleagues of mine," said one marcher who spoke only on the basis of confidentiality. "I will always march, but I am scared at the same time. I know that by marching, people will see that I exist, that I cannot be ignored, that I pay my taxes and therefore must be given the same rights as everyone else in this country," claimed another.

    Currently in Hungary there are no specific legislation to protect homosexuals from sexual discrimination - if someone is fired for being gay, there is no opportunity for recourse. Likewise gay couples have few rights compared to heterosexual couples. That despite the fact that choosing and practicing a GLBTT lifestyle is legal in Hungary. Saturday evening brought life to the Városliget (City Park) with the Rainbow II party at Millennium Szalon. Over 1000 guests partied until the early hours of the morning and packed-out Club Bohemian Alibi, the city's leading GLBTT dance establishment, which offered a donation to support the festival this year. Sunday saw the final day of the festival become more of a film space, with international movies on acceptance and celebration playing to rapturous applause. A series of talks were also given by a number of local and visiting guests, discussing issues relevant to a modern society as it strives towards facing the human rights issues of EU ascension and beyond. The festival, part of the Szivárvány Misszió Alapítvány (Rainbow Mission Foundation) is a not for profit organization and survives through sponsorship and operational grants.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    By Chris Baron

    10/7/2003- Within the multi-cultural societies of the European Union, the respective governments have initiated legislation and passed directives in order to help ethnic minorities adapt to new surroundings and a new way of life. However, this pales into insignificance when those minorities concerned refuse to help themselves to some degree. Even when taken under the wing of the European Union next year, the fundamental way some Roma wish to live their lives will not change. The root causes of resentment and racial discrimination will not vanish once Hungary becomes a fully-fledged member of the EU. The issue of the Roma has been going on for centuries, and it would be naive to suggest that come May 2004, all the prejudice against the Roma will disappear. The problems will remain, EU or no EU. That is not to say help shouldn't be given, it should. Everyone deserves the right to be treated with respect, and as equals in society. In the UK, for example, the integration of ethnic minorities has been going on, more or less successfully, since the '50s. However, they way some minorities wish to co-exist within their adoptive societies can lead to resentment and social upheaval.

    I deplore discrimination of any kind and it will be interesting to see if the Roma will - along with measures planned by the EU - push it that one step further and help themselves to help future generations of Roma across Europe. You cannot change peoples' prejudices overnight. Resentment of the Roma, especially in Hungary, will continue for decades, if not centuries. That resentment is ingrained, and unless some quite drastic measures are taken, nothing will really change. Those in government who discriminate against the Roma are those who will, in effect, pass on the directives issued by the European Union. Why not help them now, why not help them before, why wait until next year?
    In that lies the answer. A worrying analysis.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    Education ministry reviews how schools present gender roles

    10/7/2003- The teachers at the Vodickova 22 school have seen major changes in their profession over the past 13 years. Since the fall of communism, their secondary-school colleagues have had to approach politics, history, geography and government classes in entirely new ways. But in the country's basic schools, the materials used in class do not seem to have changed with the times. In standard readers for the first grade, the domestic life shown in the textbook illustrations and grammar examples looks strangely old-fashioned, some teachers said. "It's ridiculous," said "Dana," who spoke on condition that her real name not be printed because she said her opinions would be unpopular with parents. "It's typically Czech. Mother is working in the kitchen and father is watching television." The Education Ministry has taken note of the disparity between gender roles depicted in many school textbooks and the social changes that have helped make those roles less rigid. The ministry is carrying out a broad review of the way textbooks present gender roles and the potentially sexist attitudes that may be presented to students. "The texbooks are educational tools and this aspect [gender roles] should be considered," said the ministry's Karel Tomek. "It is part of the democratic process in society." In addition, one publisher has produced a reader for first-graders that it said is the first educational publication to show women as equal to men in work and other activities.

    Didaktis, a textbook publisher based in Brno, says its first-year reader is unique in presenting realistic, modern images of life to students who are just learning to read. The book, known simply as a slabikar, or reader, was first published in April 2002 but was little-used in the school year following its release. It is now receiving wider attention in combination with the Education Ministry review. "We decided to publish this book because we had the feeling that the books available on the market do not reflect the reality of today's society," said Pavol Tarabek, director of Didaktis. There are 11 other first-grade readers available in the Czech Republic. In most of them, Tarabek said, "Mothers are presented only as housewives who cook and take care of the family, while fathers are viewed as the breadwinners." Although the Didaktis reader contains many of those traditional images, it also offers reading practice with such sentences as "Mother is taking photographs" and "Mother is Rollerblading." In addition, some of the pictures that accompany the text show girls in nontraditional roles, such as boxer.

    The change is badly needed, some teachers said. "The mother never does anything else besides housework," "Dana" said. From an early age, kids are introduced to a situation in which the mother takes care of the family but not herself, she said. "They are pushed into a certain role. They cannot imagine anything else," she added. She said that the Didaktis reader was a good idea. "Kids need to know that even mothers can do these things." But other teachers said they were not convinced that textbooks showing traditional roles need to be replaced. "We're not used to this issue. It has been raised only recently," said Irena Kratka, a fifth-grade teacher at Vodickova 22. "I haven't noticed any problems," she said. "It's more about the individual attitude of the teacher [and] how to present the material." If books get too creative in the activities they describe, students may not be able to relate to the text, undermining the main point of learning to read, she said. Tarabek said that the book's innovations are not limited to gender roles but also reflect social changes by "presenting people with all their differences," rather than a homogenous society. The illustrations include children with glasses, overweight children and people from different ethnic b ©The Prague Post

    8/7/2003- Last minute changes to the draft EU constitution have seen Germany get its wish for immigration policy to remain in the hands of the member states. The Convention's steering committee bowed to pressure from Berlin where the Social Democrat coalition government is fighting with the opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) over the issue. The CDU, which holds a majority in the Bundesrat or upper house, had heavily criticised the previous draft, which it considered as giving too much power to the EU on immigration. Now the revised text says that the article on immigration policy shall not affect the rights of each member state to set the number of immigrants coming from third countries. This is a substantial win for the centre right opposition. When asked whether the changes made had anything to do with German domestic politics, the convention spokesman replied: "Ask the question to Mr Stoiber". Edmund Stoiber is leader of the CDU's sister party in Bavaria.

    Germany's turn around on the issue came very late in the day. At the beginning of June Joschka Fischer, foreign minister and government representative in the Convention, first concretely aired the reversal on immigration policy. On Friday (4 July) at the last plenary session, he reiterated the call. A general shift to qualified majority voting in the area "would be unfeasible", he said. The steering committee did not make any changes to the areas of fiscal policy and common foreign and security policy here, as before, the power remains in the hands of the member states. The Convention plenary as a whole will meet on Wednesday (9 July) at 3pm to discuss the latest changes to the text. Thursday will be left for signatures of the final document and a final 'family photo' of the 105 member convention who have been working on the text for the last 16 months. Convention president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing will then hand over the final draft treaty to the Italian presidency on 18 July in Rome.

    8/7/2003- The Council of Europe's expert body on combating racism, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), today released five new reports examining racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance in Armenia, Iceland, Luxemburg, Slovenia and Spain. ECRI recognises that, in all five Council of Europe member countries, positive developments have occurred. At the same time, the reports detail continuing grounds for concern for the Commission:

    In Armenia, ECRI notes a lack of sufficient attention and resources devoted to the promotion of the linguistic and cultural heritage of minority groups. There seems to be a sense among certain minority groups that their situation has worsened compared to the majority population and they report instances of discrimination. The large group of ethnic Armenian refugees living in the country also face problems of integration and are particularly vulnerable to social and economic disadvantage and marginalisation. Moreover, a number of problems persist relating to the practice of certain minority religions within the country.

    In Iceland, there still remain gaps in the legislative protection against racism and discrimination. Although little research data exist, there are indications that the situation of non-citizens and persons of immigrant origin may not be wholly satisfactory in various fields of life, including employment and education. Manifestations of hostility and discrimination in daily life towards persons who are different from the majority are reported, and there seems to be a lack of an overarching policy vision and strategies to deal with any problems which exist.

    In Luxembourg , difficulties remain as regards the implementation of legislation designed to combat racism and discrimination. The way in which some officials deal with immigrants and asylum seekers is not always satisfactory. There remain too many prejudices and xenophobic stereotypes among the general public and these can lead to discrimination in the employment and housing sectors.

    In Slovenia, ECRI underlines that improvements in the situation of the ex-Yugoslav minority groups, many members of whom are still non-citizens, will depend on the speed and efficiency of implementing the new legislation. Furthermore, there still exists a certain level of prejudice and intolerance among the Slovenian population towards those who are different from the majority. In certain areas, the Roma population is faced with economic and social difficulties, which make its members vulnerable to discrimination.

    In Spain, problems of racism and xenophobia persist and concern particularly Roma/Gypsies and non-EU citizens. This situation appears to be partly linked to an inadequate implementation of the existing legislation to fight against these phenomena but also to the widespread use in public debate of arguments and imagery that create a negative climate around immigration and immigrants. The implementation of certain aspects of Spain's immigration policy and other relevant legislation in some parts of its territory, notably the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla, is a cause for concern.

    These five new reports form part of a second cycle of mo ©Council of Europe

    9/7/2003- MTV Networks Europe is currently airing a documentary dealing with the issue of racism in football, which will be transmitted to more than 110 million homes in Europe.

    Half hour programme
    Free Your Mind: Kick Out Racism is a half hour programme featuring footballers across Europe who have been subjected to racist abuse, or who have witnessed racial discrimination on and off the pitch. The English version is presented by West Ham United FC and England goalkeeper David James, and the German version is presented by FC Bayern München and England midfield player Owen Hargreaves.

    Racism experiences
    Many of Europe's top footballers, including Ashley Cole (England), Marcel Desailly (France), Robert Pires (France), Gianfranco Zola (Italy), Damiano Tommasi (Italy), Cafu (Brazil), Matteo Ferrari (Italy), Ümit Davala (Turkey), Luis Figo (Portugal) and Emmanuel Olisadebe (Poland) discuss their experiences of racism, and the impact that it has on their lives.

    Intensive campaign
    UEFA, leading players and the pan-European Football Against Racism in Europe(FARE) network have been waging an intensive and widespread campaign against racism in football, and MTV calls its documentary "a testimony to FARE's work".

    Disturbing displays
    "The hard-hitting documentary lifts the lid on different variations of racist discrimination in football," said FARE, "whether experienced in the stadium, on the pitch, in the changing room, by the fans, players, referees, managers/coaches and even at home , all areas are accounted for by footballers and highlighted further by footage depicting disturbing displays of racism and violence at football stadiums throughout Europe."

    WHY THE ROMA MATTER IN EUROPEOp-ed by James Wolfensohn and George Soros

    The following opinion piece was co-signed by World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn and Open Society Institute Chairman George Soros on the occasion of a conference, Roma in an Expanding Europe: Challenges for the Future, which took place in Budapest, June 30 July Co-sponsored by the World Bank, the Open Society Institute and the European Commission, the conference was hosted by the Government of Hungary. It resulted in the endorsement of a new approach for tackling Roma issues, including a Decade of Roma Inclusion and a Roma Education Fund. Follow-up work on the approach will be led by Hungary's Prime Minister, Peter Medgyessy, with involvement from several governments, donors and Roma organizations.

    8/7/2003- Too often in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Roma teens and children spend their days at the garbage dump. Unable to afford school, they are scavengeing for paper and other scraps for recycling, earning just enough to eat. Too often Roma families live in tiny cramped wood or tin shacks with no power or running water and dim prospects for the future. A similar picture, though on a smaller scale, exists in many EU member countries that are home to Roma minorities.

    A wide socioeconomic disparity exists between Europe's majority population and Roma, or "Gypsies", many of whom live in extreme poverty. Europe's development will be held back unless this gap is closed. Left unchanged, this persistent poverty amongst the Roma populations threatens to become a permanent drag on European prosperity, which would be a tragedy for Roma and non-Roma alike. The situation of the 7 to 9 million Roma living on the continent deserves the urgent attention of government leaders as they shape the policies of an enlarged European Union. Roma are the continent's fastest growing and most vulnerable minority. Boosting their prospects will be crucial to sustained prosperity on the continent. Key to this will be inclusive policies to ensure that Roma enjoy the benefits of the post-transition, open and free market economies. Roma have been among the biggest losers in the transition from communism since 1989. They were often the first to lose their jobs in the early 1990s, and have been persistently blocked from reentering the labor force due to their often inadequate skills and pervasive discrimination. While accession countries such as Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have made impressive progress in economic and political transformation during the 1990s, since the collapse of communism in 1989, dealing with the plight of the Roma remains one of the most critical issues on their path to EU membership next year and over the next decade.

    Even in the more prosperous countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Roma poverty is strikingly high-sometimes more than ten times that of non-Roma. In 2000 nearly 80 percent of Roma in Bulgaria and Romania were living on less than $4.30 per day, in comparison with 37 percent of the total population of Bulgaria and 30 percent in Romania. In better-off Hungary, 40 percent of Roma were living below this line, compared with 7 percent among the non-Roma population. Poverty, combined with higher birth rates, means that the magnitude of Roma hardship will grow in coming years. Between 25 and 30 percent of Roma are under 15 years of age in contrast with 10 percent of the majority population. High unemployment, in particular among young people, locks Roma in a vicious cycle of impoverishment and exclusion, further driving down living standards and leaving many in marginalized settlements without access to electricity, clean water, or other basic utilities. Lack of education keeps Roma out of work and limits their future opportunities. An estimated 600,000 Roma children of primary school age living in the EU accession countries are not attending schools at all. Of those that go, most do not compl Ministers and other senior officials from Central and Eastern European countries and EU member states. For the first time, government and Roma leaders will tackle the Roma issue as a core social and economic concern. Such an integrated policy approach is needed to ensure that the basic rights of Roma are truly realized in an expanded Europe. We cannot afford to leave the Roma behind.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    8/7/2003- Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed five individuals June 16 to work along with the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights on the implementation of the "Declaration and Program of Action" of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), which was held in Durban, South Africa. Referring to the appointees as "eminent experts," Mr. Annan said they "have a wealth of experience and a commitment to anti-discrimination and equality issues, as well as an international profile that will contribute to the implementation of the Program of Action." The appointees are Dr. Edna Santos Roland, a psychologist and president of the board of directors of the Fala Preta Organization of Black Women of Brazil, who also served as the rapporteur-general at the WCAR; Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, founding member of an inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue group based in Geneva, Switzerland; Marti Attisaari, the former president of Finland and chairman of the International crisis Group; Hana Suchocka, a former prime minister of Poland; and Salim Ahmed Salim of Tanzania, the former head of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). "We never tell how such choices are made," a spokesperson for Mr. Annan said, responding to a Final Call question regarding why no one from America's African Diaspora was chosen to serve on the experts committee. "But you can see that the five do represent the five regional groupings of the United Nations," the spokesperson said. "And Ms. Roland, being a Brazilian Black, surely represents the issue of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and, of course, Mr. Salim represents the concerns of the African continent." "This does not stop our forward motion," commented Dr. Conrad Worrill, chairman of the National United Black Front, during a telephone interview with The Final Call from his Chicago office. "When Mr. Kofi Annan does something like this, it merely means that there are greater challenges for the grassroots to organize around the issue of reparations."

    Mr. Annan's spokesperson referred all questions concerning the experts' agenda to the High Commissioner's headquarters in Geneva. The Geneva office had not returned calls at Final Call press time. "Obviously, Kofi Annan does not have the Durban Declaration on his radar screen, because if he did, he would not have made these appointments," Dr. Worrill observed. Paragraphs 165 and 166 of the Plan of Action talk about the right to seek from "competent national tribunals and other national institutions adequate reparation" and urges states to adopt necessary measures, as "provided by national law, to ensure the right of victims to seek just and adequate reparations and satisfaction to redress acts of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance." Dr. Worrill said the secretary-general would have an opportunity to see that there has been significant mobilization around the issue of reparations on September 13, 2003, when activists stage their Pan African Day demonstration in front of the UN. "We are going to the UN to lobby the heads of state that will be appearing at the General Assembly," he added.

    Noting the forward motion of the reparations movement, Salih Booker, executive director of the Washington based Africa Action, points to the U.S. legal cases that have been filed against corporations that have benefited from the American institution of slavery. "Lawsuits will soon target the culpability of the government of the U.S. for sanctioning this crime against humanity," Mr. Booker said. He added that South Africans were pursuing similar legal action in U.S. courts against corporations that provided economic support to the apartheid regime in South Africa. On June 16, a story appeared in the Toronto Star concerning the $21.7 billion Haitian officials say is owed by France for reparations. A foreign media lease him out to the nearest plantation owner," Mr. Walters said.
    ©FCN Publishing

    Speech at source of African trade gives no apology

    9/7/2003- Standing on ground where ''liberty and life were stolen and sold,'' President Bush yesterday started his five-day tour of Africa by calling slavery ''one of the greatest crimes of history.'' The forceful speech, delivered on an island where hundreds of thousands of Africans in chains began a torturous and often deadly voyage across the Atlantic, stopped short of an apology that some civil rights leaders have demanded. Instead, Bush, in somber prose, detailed the centuries-long travesty by citing spare facts and then interpreting it through a religious lens. ''At this place . . . human beings were delivered, and sorted, and weighed, and branded with the marks of commercial enterprises, and loaded as cargo on a voyage without return,'' Bush said in a nearly 15-minute speech on the island's edge as waves crashed against rocks below. ''One of the largest migrations of history was also one of the greatest crimes of history.'' Bush also gave his strongest signal yet that the United States was prepared to send peacekeeping troops to nearby Liberia, a country founded in 1822 by freed American slaves.

    Following a meeting with the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States, he said the United States would participate with the group in overseeing a stable transition once Liberian President Charles Taylor leaves the country to end a bloody civil conflict. On Goree Island, Bush stepped onto a nearly empty beach, with all shop windows shuttered and residents moved farther inland because of security concerns. The scene contrasted with President Bill Clinton's visit in 1998, when throngs of villagers greeted him with cheers, and where a bigger crowd turned out to hear him speak of slavery's grim mark on history.

    Bush, shedding his coat and tie under a warm sun, immediately turned on to a narrow path toward the nearby Slave House, a peach-colored structure built by the Dutch in 1776. Inside, he and his wife, Laura, walked toward a tunnel-like stone hallway that opened to the sea. ''That's the point of no return,'' Bush said as they moved toward the infamous ''Door of No Return,'' through which multitudes of African slaves passed to board ships. During a tour of the house, Bush said nothing, only nodding throughout. A half-hour later, he spoke about the legacy of what began here. ''For 250 years, the captives endured an assault on their culture and their dignity,'' he said. ''The spirit of Africans in America did not break. Yet the spirit of their captors was corrupted. . . . . Christian men and women became blind to the clearest commands of their faith and added hypocrisy to injustice. A republic founded on equality for all became a prison for millions.'' Bush said the prevailing views of the time were no excuse for what happened. ''In every time, there were men and women who clearly saw this sin and called it by name,'' he said. He said many American leaders, as well as the descendants of slaves, helped change the course of the nation. ''By a plan known only to Providence, the stolen sons and daughters of Africa helped to awaken the conscience of America,'' he said. ''The very people traded into slavery helped to set America free.'' The struggle for justice continues in the United States, he said, just as it continues today in Africa. ''Africans have overcome the arrogance of colonial powers, overturned the cruelties of apartheid, and made it clear that dictatorship is not the future of any nation on this continent,'' he said. Many African ''heroes of liberation'' have used political and economic freedom to ''lift whole nations and put forth bold plans for Africa's development,'' he said.

    One of those visionary leaders cited by Bush was his host, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, which won its independence from France in 1960 and has a strong democra done by the American government. In a way, the economic conditions here are still affected by slavery. African leaders must also take their share of the blame, but the legacy of slavery is still with us.''
    ©Boston Globe

    The Danish government has been criticised for discriminating against Danish citizens in an attempt to stop immigration through arranged marriages. A new law means that Danish citizens will, in some cases be prevented from bringing a spouse of another nationality to live in the country, while other EU citizens will not be affected. Hundreds of Danish citizens have been informed that they will not be allowed to live in Denmark with their spouses because they are another nationality, according to Politiken. Other experts have remarked that this new legislation is inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights. Furthermore the law has been criticised by some as discriminatory because it applies only to Danish citizens with a spouse of foreign origin, whereas EU citizens and their spouses - of any nationality - have the right to settle in Denmark. Integration minister Bertel Haarder maintains that the rules demand that the couple have more ties to Denmark than just the country of the Danish spouse in order to prevent arranged marriages, and he points out that no case has as yet been brought against Denmark, writes Politiken. The newspaper comments that this may be due to the fact that the law is so new.

    Arranged marriages prevent integration
    By Bruce Bawer, author of "Stealing Jesus," a book about Christian fundamentalism.

    27/06/2003- Western Europe is increasingly a house divided against itself. While non-Muslim Europeans live in democracies, most Muslims in the same countries inhabit theocratic enclaves where they are expected to tread a narrow path or suffer the consequences. Muslim women have it worst. Not only are they subject to the often tyrannical authority of husbands, fathers and community leaders, if they seek to escape that authority, they cannot necessarily expect support from the police and other government agencies, which often feel that "intruding" in such matters would show disrespect for immigrant culture. Many European officials have long assumed that such problems would be gradually resolved through intermarriage, integration and the consequent fading away of Muslim ghettos. But intermarriage and integration are not happening as expected - and the consequences of this failure are grievous. Such is the conclusion drawn by "Feminin Integrering" (Female Integration), a new book from the Oslo-based organization Human Rights Service that is based on a recent report to the Norwegian Parliament. The book's focus is on Norway, but there is no reason to believe that the situation elsewhere in Europe is appreciably different. (Full disclosure: I have done research and translations for HRS.)

    The book presents the results of a study of immigrant-group marriage patterns in Norway that is probably the most comprehensive statistical analysis of its kind in Europe. The study shows that members of most of Norway's non-Western immigrant groups are, in overwhelming numbers, not just marrying within their own ethnic groups but are marrying spouses - often their own cousins - from their countries of origin. These marriages - invariably arranged, and often forced - have two chief motivations. One is to provide the foreign spouse with Norwegian residency rights under the "family reunification" provision of immigration law. The other is to resist integration by injecting into the European branch of the family a fresh dose of "traditional values" - among them a hostility to pluralism, tolerance, democracy and sexual equality. As "Feminin Integrering" shows, the systematic abuse of "family reunification" has dramatically transformed the way in which spouses are chosen within the Muslim community. This has not only made real integration all but impossible; it has also resulted in a pattern of exploitation of young women that Hege Storhaug, author of the book, describes as "the greatest political disgrace in contemporary Norwegian history."

    While Norwegian Muslims of both sexes are forced into marriages, the situation is particularly brutal on girls. As female Muslims they are already powerless. Add to this the fact that they are usually married off extremely young, and that their imported husbands tend to be untouched by any notion of sexual equality, and one can begin to grasp the predicament of these young women, whom Storhaug calls "living visas in a new form of human commerce." They have grown up in Norway and had a taste of freedom, but they are forced into marriages with men who take for granted a wife's total subservience. Human Rights Service figures for henteekteskap, or "fetching marriages" - in which one spouse is "fetched" from the other's ancestral country - are staggering. From 1996 to 2001, 82 percent of the men marrying the Norwegian granddaughters of Moroccan immigrants were themselves Moroccans; another 14 percent were of Moroccan origin. For Norwegian granddaughters of Pakistani immigrants, the corresponding rates were 76 percent and 22 percent. In that five-year period, only three granddaughters of Moroccan immigrants married ethnic Norwegians; only one granddaughter of a Pakistani immigrant did so.Among immigrant groups f reunification through marriage be permitted unless the wife has been granted this right. Norway is the first nation in Europe to introduce such a law. These proposals will not solve everything, but they're a start - and the Norwegian government's apparent openness to them is encouraging. Some officials still fret about "interfering" in family matters. Yet leaders seem to be recognizing that the alternative to "interference" is a Norway with two systems of governance: democracy for Westerners and an oppressive, misogynist autocracy for Muslims. A country - and a continent - that accepts such a state of affairs is headed for disaster. Norway's neighbors should take note.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    30/6/2003- The police last year chartered seven planes to fly illegal immigrants back to their country of origin, assistant commissioner Andrew Seychell said. Four of the flights went to Eritrea, while the others went to Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria. A total of 1,686 illegal immigrants arrived in Malta last year, of which just over 500 are still here. Mr Seychell said so far this year there had been no cases of clandestine migrants landing in Malta. It appeared they had changed their bearings and were generally heading towards Lampedusa, instead of Pozzallo, which was their destination each time they ended up in Malta, he said. Mr Seychell said illegal migrants had not planned to come to Malta but ended up here either by mistake or because their boats developed faults or were damaged. Recently a fisherman reported to the police that he had encountered a boat carrying illegal immigrants outside Maltese territorial waters. As the boat appeared to be having problems, the fisherman told them he would be calling Maltese patrol boats to assist them but the immigrants started shouting "Leave us alone. We don't want to go to Malta".

    Mr Seychell said dealing with illegal immigrants was very taxing on police resources and very costly. "Instead of manning police stations, policemen are assigned duties to escort or be on guard in places where the immigrants are kept. On average, eight immigrants a day ask to be taken to hospitals and clinics, and they have to be escorted," he said. But one of the biggest difficulties the police face is establishing the real identities of the illegal immigrants. Most arrive in Malta without valid travel documents or identity cards. Some keep changing their names and places of origin, making it difficult for the police to repatriate them. "Repatriating them is a big expense. There are no direct flights to many countries from where the immigrants come and a policeman or soldier is sent with each immigrant for security reasons," he said. The fare for a passage to countries such as Eritrea and Ghana is Lm600-Lm700. Repatriation is often made more difficult because some airlines do not accept travellers with the kind of travel document issued to illegal immigrants. As most of them have no passport, a travel document valid for a single journey to their country of origin is issued. But because of the issue of connecting flights, some airlines refuse to carry such passengers as they would not want to assume responsibility in case someone fails to make the connection.

    Last October, the London-based Eritreans for Human and Democratic Rights criticised the government for sending back to their homeland some 223 Eritreans. About 170 of them had not applied for refugee status. The group had claimed that the deported Eritreans were detained and tortured in prison upon arrival. Amnesty International had said the Eritreans "were said to have been immediately arrested on arrival in Asmara and taken to a military camp, where they were detained incommunicado". But a Home Affairs spokesman had insisted that the claims were being spewed out by a London-based movement whose main interest was to create unrest in Eritrea. Some Eritreans in Malta who are resisting deportation have instituted a constitutional court case over the issue.

    Several Air Malta pilots and police officers who testified last week said they saw no police or military presence when the immigrants left the aircraft which repatriated them. Some of the pilots, who went to the terminal building to settle the aircraft landing charges, even saw relatives greeting the arriving migrants. Captain Joseph Sciberras, who piloted two of the flights to Asmara in Eritrea, said he had seen relatives hugging the migrants on arrival. Capt. Sciberras, like other captains and police officers, described the terminal building as being "like the old one that used to exi ©Times of Malta

    24/6/2003- The Swedish government and the Sami Parliament in Sweden are together trying to change the attitudes of Swedes towards the Sami in the northern part of Sweden with a project worth millions of kroner(SEK). The executive director of the Sami Parliament, Mr Lars Nila Lasko, tells Eurolang that a racism and discrimination problem has been known about for years, but that little is being done. ‘In 1998 the Swedish Discrimination Ombudsman did a study that showed that 75 % of Sami people feel that the majority are more or less hostile to the Sami and almost 50 % felt that the hostility was growing. The most worrying fact is that racial tolerance is diminishing amongst youngsters' says Mr Lasko. Racism and discrimination against the Sami has been difficult to prove since the study also shows that the Sami do not trust the local authorities. It means that only a tiny proportion of the racial incidents and crimes are reported and documented. Politicians also received short shrift in the study with 80 % of Sami representatives saying that they trust most politicians either ‘a little' or ‘not at all'. Since 1998 the situation has not improved. According to Mr Lasko: ‘The attacks against the Sami who wear the national dress still happen although the study has been made public. The authorities and the politicians have ignored it until now.'

    The Swedish government has decided to invest three million SEK (about 320 000 euro) over the next three years to set up a Sami Information Centre that educates and informs the majority population about Sami culture and history. The Information Centre will target the inner parts of Norrland especially as conflict over land and hunting issues between the Sami and the Swedish population are concentrated there. ‘The racism, as we call it, has historical reasons based on land issues, water rights and other economic issues, and therefore it is important to understand the history' explains Mr. Lasko. He added that the Sami Information Centre must start from scratch because up until now state policy had failed to teach about Sami issues. It means that the Swedish majority know very little about the Sami.

    Speaking about other initiatives on Sami issues, Agricultural Ministry department chief, Mr Göran Therborn, told Eurolang: ‘The reindeer management committee's suggestion for a new law will be presented after the vacation. A hunting committee is studying the hunting rules right now, and there is a border committee looking into the hunting and fishing rights from the perspective of the UN ILO 169 convention about the land rights of indigenous people.' There is a new interest in Sami issues in Sweden. Recently the Agricultural Ministry ran a course for 20 politicians from the Swedish Parliament. Mrs. Cecilia Wikström MP from the Swedish Liberal Party Folkpartiet is one of the Swedish politicians who are participating in the Sami course in the Agricultural Ministry. She said that: ‘I just attended the course on Sami issues and it was really interesting. Now I am preparing a visit to the Sami Parliament as soon as possible, since we really have to get a better understanding of these minority issues'.

    1/7/2003- A former police officer has been condemned to eight months in prison for racist conduct towards a man of Tunisian origin in his custody almost ten years ago. Policeman Jacques B was found guilty of racist humiliation and physical violence against Rachid N during an identity check in 1993. Jacques B had originally been acquitted before the case was reopened. Rachid N was allegedly asked by the policeman to undress completely while at a police station, which he refused to do, leading to racist insults and a physical assault. "The man's injuries were without doubt consequent to the police station attack," said a medical statement presented during the hearing. The sum of EUR 5,000 will be paid in damages to the victim. Human rights organisations such as the Mrax (movement against racism) however have said that for every similar case which ends in a guilty verdict, ten do not.
    ©Expatica News

    2/7/2003- Today marks 75 years since British women over the age of 21 were finally granted the right to vote. The anniversary will be widely celebrated in political and feminist circles. But do women voters still value the democratic right that Emmeline Pankhurst and her supporters fought so hard to win? Or have the endemic apathy and cynicism of modern politics made a mockery of the suffragettes' courage and sacrifices? Marie Woolf asks six women of different generations and viewpoints to describe what their vote means to them

    Shirley Williams
    The Rt Hon Baroness Williams of Crosby is a former Labour Education Secretary and is leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords. Her grandmother, Edith Catlin, was an early suffragette and her mother, Vera Brittan, the writer and journalist, a vocal supporter of votes for women
    People think that suffrage was about just the vote but it was about far more: it completely altered the attitude to women in society. When you think that at the beginning of the last century we were put in the same class as little children, it will tell you all you need to know. Everywhere you looked, from property law to divorce law, women were treated as dependants of men. I have always believed that the impact of the vote was much more on the agenda of politics than the emergence of individual women as leaders. The revolutionary change was that male MPs had to regard female constituents in everything they said and did. That's when men got interested in health and pensions and care of the elderly. They had to take seriously issues such as maternity services that before the franchise were regarded as a joke. We dignified women by giving them the vote. But it took about 20 years after the vote to shift the style of politics. The Second World War, during which women played an important role in defending the country, was important to that. But there is still a long way to go. The style of politics - in England at least - remains schoolboyish. Either that or it resembles a football match, in which confrontation is all. People leap up and punch the air when they score a point against the other side. It's very adolescent.When young women say they can't be bothered to vote it is tragic and it shows how little they know of history. It also shows they don't have a clue about what they could lose. But it's understandable - tragic, but understandabab. People are losing touch with politicians and don't identify with them any more. They regard politicians, if not as thugs, then as a bunch of semi-crooks.

    My mother didn't need to imbue in me the importance of the vote; I joined the Labour Party on the day of my 16th birthday. The first vote I cast was in 1955, although I had been a candidate, agent and speaker by that time. My father's mother, Edith Catlin, was an early suffragette. My father's father was a vicar and she so scandalised people with her support for women's suffrage that he couldn't get a living from the local squirearchy. She finally separated from him because she felt she was so blighting his career.

    Lady Diana Dollery
    Chairwoman of the Friends of the Women's Library
    My grandmother - Myra Sadd - was a suffragette and was sent to prison for throwing a brick through a window of the War Office during a demonstration. She was sentenced to two months hard labour in prison, during which she sewed uniforms and mailbags. Holloway prison was more or less full of suffragettes at that time, including Emmeline Pankhurst and the composer Dame Ethel Smyth. The prison was in absolute uproar after that demonstration and some of the inmates didn't get to their cells until the following morning. My grandmother was a mature woman of about 40 at the time and she had four children. I know she was force-fed in prison and she suffered a broken nose as well. My grandfather was extremely supportive: he wrote to the Home Secretary to complain. My grandmother c goes after the women's vote quite aggressively. When Labour lost the 1992 election, it was the gender gap in voting that lost it. Then there was a swing to Labour in women's votes in 1997, but it looks as if those voters are now beginning to drift back to the Conservatives. A lot of people would be very surprised that it is only 75 years since women got the vote because it now appears to be such a fundamental human right. It is easy to forget how long and hard it was fought for and how recently it was won. In the early days of the women's suffrage movement people questioned why women would need to vote when they had a male partner. One of the patronising arguments was that women needed to be protected from the harsh realities of political life. But today we are still in a much longer-term process of women taking up positions of power. Women still account for just 18 per cent of MPs. It's worrying when people do not vote. But you need to look at the reasons for that.

    A lot of people don't think it will make much difference who they vote for; they are just responding to the political climate. Anecdotally, we know that women voters are very put off by the aggression and the "yah-boo" element of adversarial politics. There are a lot of big issues where it is very obvious that one needs consensus, such as proper pensions.

    Mojgan Naderi
    Teacher who came to Britain from Iran in 1978
    When I became a British citizen six years ago and got the right to vote, it made me feel more a part of this society. If I lost the right to vote I would be furious. I vote on local issues such as health, but the question of integrity is also important to me. I can't stand the Conservatives, but it seems now that Labour is going the same way as them. It may be that I think like that because as a Middle-Eastern person I am quite cynical about what people do with their power. In Iran, women can vote; they have not lost that at least. But here you can question the Government without feeling threatened and fearing for your life and that of your family. The person who questions the Government is not sent to prison. You have to be very brave in Iran to be able to do that.

    Under the Shah, women were given rights. The dress code for women was changed and my mother was among the first generation of women to qualify as a nurse. But women in Iran have lost so many rights since. We have lost the right to even smile openly in public without having a remark made about it.

    Joan Bakewell
    Writer and broadcaster
    It's extraordinary how short a time it is since women got the vote. The question is: what have we done with it? I see voting as my civic duty but many people are very casual about these things. When people look at the House of Commons they see men in suits, and don't feel that it represents them. They listen to the debates and don't think it's how important subjects should be tackled. When Tony Blair reshuffled the Cabinet, and abolished the Lord Chancellorship, his speech was that of a student at the Oxford Union. It was childish, petty and completely inappropriate. We wanted an explanation for his decisions, not a talk about women's tights. That was offensive. It raises the question: if this is our top debating chamber - men behaving like fools - why bother? It was good that a swathe of women came into parliament in 1997, and that they are now there in government, just as they are in the boardrooms. Women raise different issues and debate them in a way which is different from men. That approach is slowly seeping into public life.

    It is important that we don't segregate women. They have earnt their place in the electorate. It's not a man's world in which women have influence - it's a people's world. That's a major difference. People are just as effective as they want to be, male or female.

    Nikita Kanabar
    18, politics student who has decided not to vote
    With political issues, it's still usually men who decide. In my house, when it comes to voting, my mum tal © Independent Digital

    30/6/2003- The official inquiry into racism in Britain's prisons, which has taken more than 2 years and is expected to damn the service, is to publish the first of its findings next week. The initial report is expected to deal with issues surrounding the murder of Zahid Mubarek by a racist skinhead in Feltham youth jail, west London three years ago. But the second, more substantial, part of the inquiry report, studying allegations that racism is rife in some parts of the prison service and in particular at three named prisons: Brixton, Feltham and Parc, in south Wales, has been delayed again until at least September. The commission for racial equality launched the investigation in November 2000, partly at the request of the then director-general of the prison service, Martin Narey, following concern at the Mubarek murder and the treatment of Claude Johnson, a black prison officer at Brixton prison. At the time, the then chairman of the CRE, Gurbux Singh, said: "It is unacceptable to allow racist bullying, harassment, violence and murder to continue unchecked in our prisons." The investigation was portrayed as "no holds barred" and likely to be as influential in the prison service as the Stephen Lawrence inquiry has proved for the police. But a year ago Mr Narey attacked the CRE's handling of the inquiry, saying it had taken far too long. He claimed it had not been about a search for truth but about pinning the prison service to the wall on issues of racism. Parliamentary written answers this year put the cost of the investigation at more than £630,000, including fees to hire the leading barrister, Sir Anthony Scrivener QC, to conduct a public hearing. The draft report was passed to the prison service last December when parliament was told it would be published "in the new year". Chris Myant, the CRE's head of external affairs, and author of the report, defended the delays: "It has been going on for a long time but this is big and complex issue."
    ©The Guardian

    30/6/2003- Newspaper owners responsible for publishing racist or xenophobic articles in Britain are to be protected from being sent for trials abroad under government plans to soften the impact of the new Extradition Bill. Ministers will introduce amendments today to tough European-wide laws that allow courts to extradite EU citizens accused of committing one of 32 generic criminal offences. Concerns raised by the media that they could fall foul of the new law when it comes into force in January have prompted the Government to act to remove the threat of prosecution. The Bill makes "xenophobia and racism" one of 32 crimes for which a British citizen can be sent for trial in another EU country - such as Germany or Austria, where it is illegal - although there is no such standalone offence in this country. But because British newspapers are sold abroad and their articles are published on the internet, editors and their proprietors could face prosecution for racist offences committed in this country.
    © Independent Digital

    Scrapping the mandatory retirement age and preventing job adverts which exclude older workers are just two of the proposals put forward by the Government to outlaw age discrimination.

    3/7/2003- Aimed at stamping out practices described by Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt as the "last bastion of lawful unfair discrimination in the workplace", the new proposals unveiled yesterday have received a mixed reception. "We must challenge the ageist assumption that younger employees make the best workers. It is a sad fact that thousands of people in their 40s and 50s who have been made redundant never work again," said Ms Hewitt. Ranked alongside sexism and racism, ageism has been blamed for losing the economy as much as £16bn a year on wasted skills and experience from older staff members. If the changes are implemented employers will no longer be able to advertise for "young, energetic workers," overlook older members of staff for training courses and millions of people will be allowed to work until they are 70.

    Pensioners' representatives greeted the consultation document as long overdue. Jack Thaine, chairman of the Eastern Region Pensioners' Association, said: "People are living that much longer, in fact more people are reaching 100 today than even a few years ago. "The Government has the support of the pensioners in aiming to cut the adverts which use ageism so nobody over 35 can apply." Sam Mercer, director of the Employers' Forum on Age (EFA), said: "This announcement signals the end of employment practice as we know it. The law will soon rank ageism alongside other forms of discrimination in employment, such as sexism or racism, and will present an immense challenge to the way we think about age in the UK." But workers' representatives said they were worried people might be forced to work until they are 70. Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, said the Government should be encouraging people to retire earlier. "We are all for an end to age discrimination, but we don't want to see people forced to work until they are 70."

    Examples of workplace age discrimination have included:

  • Telling all employees that they are too old to go on training programmes because they do not learn as well as young people and from now on people in the 20s and 30s will be prioritised for training;
  • Setting mandatory retirement age at 60, because they want to attract new blood into the organisation and keep the profile of their workers young;
  • Stating they want to recruit a "mature and reliable candidate" and that they will only accept applications from people over 30 years of age;
  • A bar or fashion store advertising for young and energetic sales people. They want to recruit someone who fits in with the age and profile of their customers and believe that young people are more likely to buy their goods if served by someone of a similar age.

    Angi Doy, executive director of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: "Businesses have to be imaginative and most of those we speak to say the number one priority is having a skilled and experienced workforce. Having an arbitrary date where you do not employ people anymore is just crazy – it does not make good business sense." Several companies already have flexible arrangements in place which allow people to work beyond the current age of retirement and welcome people perhaps seeking a second career in later life. B&Q in Boundary Road, Norwich, employs 250 staff and 50 of them are aged over 50. Sainsbury's in Brazen Gate has 330 staff with several over retirement age, including one man who is 73 and a woman who is 75. Consultation on Age Matters will run until October 20 and if successful the plans will be implemented in the workplace in October 2006.

    30/6/2003- The issue of racism in Northern Ireland, and particularly in south Belfast, has again been thrust into the limelight with a pipe-bomb attack on a house in the Donegall Avenue area. Police are currently investigating if the attack was racially motivated, but many community figures have already hit out at the attackers. South Belfast Sinn Fein councillor and former Lord Mayor Alex Maskey said: "Those who carried out this pipe-bomb attack were intent on causing serious harm or possibly worse. Such attacks are completely reprehensible and have no place in our society."

    This latest incident follows a string of recent attacks on ethnic minorities across south Belfast, which include a Chinese family subjected to a "prolonged and vicious" ordeal during a robbery at their family home in Finaghy earlier in June. Two masked men entered the house through the window of a bedroom, where a bedridden elderly woman slept. They searched rooms and demanded money before being disturbed by the arrival, a short time later, of a female member of the family and her three young children. The younger woman was physically assaulted before being put in the bedroom with the elderly woman and her children. A knife was held to her throat during the ordeal. Highlighting that south Belfast has a greater number of such attacks than anywhere else in Northern Ireland, Cllr. Maskey named the area "the racist capital of the north." SDLP representative for the area Alasdair McDonnel also condemned the latest incident and appealed for "those with some influence within loyalism" to ensure that the attacks would stop. In addition to assaults, pipe-bombs and robberies, ethnic minorities have also received leaflets from fascist groups through their doors, implying a disturbing level of coordination.
    ©Northern Ireland on the Internet

    30/6/2003- Vandals painted 37 swastikas in Nitra's football stadium after a charity football match promoting anti-racist sentiments had been held on the pitch by a local foundation. Nitra's Na Sihoti stadium was virtually covered with the swastikas and several racist slogans on June 22, according to the Slovak daily SME. The biggest swastika - four metres long - was painted in the middle of the pitch. One was found on a refreshment stand and several more covered the back of the stands. Nitra mayor Ferdinand Vítek said that his town rushed to clean the inscriptions, while police tried to track down the perpetrators, who will be prosecuted for promoting fascism if found. "It is sad that such a thing has happened here, but we are not indifferent to it," Vítek said.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    1/7/2003- The Russian national team were the winners of inaugural Rostelekom Cup last night, beating the Premier-Liga All-Stars in a match played under the banner Unite Against Racism.

    Anti-racism message
    Moscow's Lokomotiv stadium was the venue for the match, which Russia won 5-2. The result was secondary, however, on a night where an anti-racism video featuring Thierry Henry, Lilian Thuram and Zé Roberto was broadcast on the stadium screen.

    'Need to fight'
    The All-Star XI represented the 208 foreign players based in the Premier-Liga. FC Rostov's South African defender, Matthew Booth, said: "Racism problem exists in my native South Africa, in England and in many other countries. It needs to be fought against."

    Goalkeepers busy
    Russia's busiest players were the goalkeepers, Sergei Ovchinnikov and Veniamin Mandrykin, but their strikers were also in form at the other end. Dmitri Bulykin scored twice, and Roman Pavlyuchenko and Alexander Kerzhakov added a goal each before Booth's own goal made it 5-0. Georgian international Alexander Rekhviashvili and Lithuania striker Robertas Poškus pulled two goals back for the All-Stars.

    Thanking the players
    FC Krylya Sovetov Samara's Alexander Tarkhanov, one of two coaches in charge of the All-Star side along with Viktor Prokopenko from FC Dinamo Moskva, said: "Such games are always fun to watch, even though most players were still tired from league games at the weekend. We thanked all players who sacrificed their time and energy to participate in this game and promote this anti-racist message."

    'Friendly spirit'
    Russia coach Valeri Gazzaev said: "It was a great opportunity to play a friendly game. The game was played in a friendly spirit and this is how it is supposed to be. I think the quality of football was high, and the fans were happy to see such an event happen in Russia."

    1/7/2003- Zurich's homosexual community celebrated a landmark victory on Tuesday as the city registered its first gay couple. Ernst Ostertag and Robert Rapp, both 73 years old, exchanged rings under a new law that grants same-sex couples official recognition. Five other couples were also registered on Tuesday and 15 others are due to follow in the coming days. Gay rights supporters are now campaigning for similar recognition at a national level. "It's very symbolic that Zurich has enacted this law, allowing the first gay registrations in the German-speaking part of Switzerland," said François Baur, president of Swiss gay rights organisation Pink Cross. "Similar proposals are already at the committee stage in the national parliament and we expect to see a nationwide referendum on the issue by 2005."

    Popular backing
    Zurich is actually the second Swiss city to recognise gay and lesbian partnerships, with Geneva having led the way in 2001. However the Zurich registrations go somewhat further than those in Geneva. As well as receiving civic recognition, Zurich's gay couples will be granted similar tax allowances to heterosexual pairs and will also be allowed full visitation rights if one partner is hospitalised. Perhaps even more significantly, the Zurich registrations are the first in the world to be backed by a popular referendum. Almost two-thirds of voters in the canton gave their backing to the proposals in September.

    Arriving in a horse-drawn carriage at Zurich's city hall on Tuesday morning, Ostertag and Rapp were the first gay couple to be recognised by the city. Together for the past 47 years, the pair seemed delighted not only with the occasion, but also with their role as pioneers. "It's really a coronation of everything that the whole community has done in the past 50 years," Ostertag told swissinfo shortly after exchanging rings with his partner. "We have become symbols of the fight for homosexual equality in Switzerland and today marks a major victory in that fight."

    Police repressions
    Ostertag also pointed out that this wasn't the first time he had been registered by the Zurich authorities although the previous occasion had been under very different circumstances. "During the police repressions of the 1960s, I was also on a list of homosexual men. The police raided my flat once at 4.30am, took me down to the station and even took my fingerprints. It was inhuman, a dreadful experience. "Now here we are using the word ‘registration' again, but in a completely different context. So now we can leave all those past memories behind and just forget about it."

    Unsurprisingly, after almost half a century together, Ostertag and Rapp don't expect Tuesday's ceremony to have a radical effect on their relationship. Nor are they planning a honeymoon, having already enjoyed one in Greece back in 1957. But there may now be at least one small change in the way the two men introduce each other to the outside world. "We haven't quite decided how we'll refer to each other now," beamed Ostertag. "Most people know us by now of course, but, yes, in certain cases I'll probably be saying ‘this is my husband, Robbi'."
    ©NZZ Online

    2/7/2003 Racist attitudes are increasingly prevalent in Italy, where more than one-third of teenagers may harbor racist views toward Jews, Muslims and immigrants. So says a new poll sponsored by the umbrella organization of Italian Jewry under the auspices of Italy's president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. "What we are seeing are new forms of creeping racism that do not present themselves as such," said Enzo Campelli, a sociologist at Rome's Sapienza University, who conducted the survey on behalf of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities. "We are also seeing that some forms of racism have become socially accepted. "Things that would have caused a scandal 20 years ago no longer do so. We are getting used to them, the barriers that existed before are down," he said. "A certain form of racism is becoming part of the daily language of a large part of society." This means that racism and anti-Semitism may be less virulent, but in fact are more widespread in society, Campelli said. "If we look at it as a triangle," he said, "the peak of the triangle is lower but the base of it is much broader." Campelli spoke at a public presentation of the survey at Rome's City Hall days before Italy was to take over the rotating presidency of the European Union on July 1. The results also will be presented formally to the Italian Senate. "We must carry out a rapid examination of our conscience," said Amos Luzzatto, president of the union. "What impact will these attitudes have on Italy as a part of Europe?"

    The poll, believed to be the most rigorous and detailed survey of its type in Italy, was carried out last year among more than 2,000 young Italians between the ages of 14 and 18 in 110 locations across the country. "We wanted this survey at a time that politically is not all that positive for Jews, for Muslims and for other minorities," Luzzatto said. "The media daily emphasize the Middle East conflict and threats of terrorism from immigrant radical Muslim imams in Italy. There is a growing emotional climate that is not favorable to minorities." Nearly 8 percent of respondents could be classified as harboring a "very high" level of racism, nearly 11 percent had a "high" level and nearly 21 percent had a "medium high" level, according to the poll. More than 9 percent showed a "very low" level of racism, 15.5 percent showed a "low" level and nearly 18 percent a "medium low" level. The highest levels of racism were seen among teenagers who lived in northern Italy, who were deeply religious or who were politically right wing. Northern Italy is the base of operations of the anti-immigrant Northern League Party, which forms part of the ruling center-right coalition. The issue of how to deal with the thousands of illegal immigrants from Eastern Europe and the developing world who enter Italy each year has been a heated topic in recent years. Many respondents held negative views of immigrants in general. These included nearly 48 percent who said immigrants make cities less safe. Nearly 51 percent said they foster prostitution, and more than 46 percent said immigrants eventually might outnumber native Italians. "This is an example of what can be called the invasion' or siege syndrome' form of racism," Campelli said.

    Negative views of Muslims were even more widespread: Nearly two-thirds of respondents agreed that even if they had lived in Italy for many years, Muslims "are loyal only to the Islamic world." More than two-thirds of respondents felt that for Muslims, "women don't count for anything." More than 56 percent believed Muslims "have cruel and barbarous laws,"and more than 52 percent felt Muslims in general support global terrorism. Anti-Semitic stereotypes also were prevalent: Nearly 35 percent of respondents agreed that "the financial power in the world is mostly in the hands of Jews." More than 17 percent believed that reports of the present also on the left and in the center," Campelli said.
    ©JTA News

    28/6/2003- France and Italy hold similar views on the thorny issue of illegal immigration to the European Union, the countries' interior ministers said Saturday after holding talks on the Italian island of Sardinia. "The similarity of views is perfect," France's Nicolas Sarkozy told a joint press conference after the talks. "A total convergence," said Giuseppe Pisanu of Italy, which takes over the rotating EU presidency on July 1. "We have asked the Italian presidency to make it an accepted principle that a person who does not have his passport stamped on entering Schengen territory is considered an illegal," Sarkozy said. Pisanu said that Italy agreed, and said the Italian EU presidency would push for biometric measures like fingerprinting to be a requirement for non-Schengen nationals applying for visas.

    The 1990 Schengen accord establishes free movement between 13 EU countries -- all EU members except Britain and Ireland, which have opted out -- plus non-EU members Norway and Iceland. Before the talks, a source close to the French minister said France wanted Italy to put pressure on the European Commission to "work on ways of controlling the entry and period of stay of foreigners on Schengen territory." Pisanu said that Italy, a major destination country for illegal immigrants, and Libya, one of the main countries of departure for the clandestines, would next week sign a cooperation agreement on the fight against illegal immigration. "This collaboration between police of the two countries will be carried out with the utmost respect being paid to Libya's sovereignty," Pisanu said. The Italian minister also said the accord would not breach the UN sanctions that were slapped on the north African country after the 1992 bombing of the PamAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland.

    Libya's role in the illegal immigrant trade was highlighted last week, after an overloaded boat carrying would-be illegal immigrants sank after it left Libya on its way to Italy, killing more than 200 people. On Friday, Libya categorically refused to accept Italian police on its shores as part of the effort to fight illegal immigration. At an EU summit in Greece last week EU leaders agreed to boost cooperation to crack down on illegal immigration, making it easier to send refugees home. The EU countries are hit to different extents by incoming refugees. UN figures last week showed that in 2002 only 245 refugees applied for asylum in Portugal. That compared to more than 110,000 in Britain, the most popular destination in the European Union, and more than 71,000 in Germany in second place. Italy is especially sensitive to illegal migration as boatloads of immigrants arrive almost daily along its southern shores from north Africa. Sarkozy and Pisanu also discussed anti-terrorism measures and were "in agreement to work with EU partner countries in establishing a large security zone in the western Mediterranean," Sarkozy said. Such a zone could include France, Italy and Spain in the north and Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia in the south. The countries would have "the tightest possible cooperation on intelligence and the shortening of the transfer of information."
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    1/7/2003- As Italy takes over the EU presidency, the country's politicians would like to see headlines dominated by plans for the European economy or the new EU constitution. But Italian newspapers are talking instead of an invasion of immigrants washing up both dead and alive on Italy's shores. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's maverick coalition partner, Umberto Bossi of the Northern League, has threatened to bring the government down if it doesn't take action.

    Italian officials insist immigration numbers are lower this year, but a record number of people have made the journey from North Africa to Europe's most southerly point - the tiny island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily. It is an island of cocktails and sunloungers - a playground for white middle class italians who bask like lizards until the sun goes down. But on the other side of the harbour, past the elegant yachts and speedboats, you see what is left of Italy's unwanted tourist trade. A graveyard of rusty splintered boats sinks slowly into the crystal clear waters. The odd shoe or blanket floats to the surface. "Over 3,000 immigrants have come here so far this year and more than 200 have drowned at sea," says Lampedusa's mayor, Bruno Siragusa, a member of Mr Berlusconi's Forza Italia party. But he is angry that the press talks of an invasion of immigrants. "Our beaches are full, our hotels are full," he says. "Our fishing nets are full... but not of drowned immigrants like the papers say."

    Poor treatment
    The tourists splashing in the clear blue waters seem entirely oblivious. When immigrants arrive on the island, the authorities make sure they are quickly swept into a detention centre near the airport. It is a yellow warehouse surrounded by barbed wire and built to house 120 people although I am told often there can be as many as 300. I was not allowed in, but I did manage to speak to Francesca (not her real name). She is a nurse at the centre, and she worries about the way people are treated. "I feel very uncomfortable that I am not allowed to speak to these people," she tells me. "There should be an Arabic translator but he doesn't help them... he helps the police to find the illegals. "The authorities want to send as many people back home as possible and they don't help them make asylum applications even if they have suffered torture and persecution."

    Show of force
    Italy's facilities for welcoming and processing immigrants are in a desperate state. There is no real asylum law which means many people end up disappearing into other EU countries to avoid being repatriated or sent to prison. But tackling these problems is not what Mr Berlusconi means when he puts immigration on the top of his EU agenda. He needs a visible show of force against illegal immigrations to please the voters back home and the Northern League. The coastal patrols between Lampedusa and the coast of North Africa now look more like a full-scale military deployment. Last week the government gave them the power to turn immigrants back if their boats are seaworthy. A coastguard from the Italian Navy, Enzo de Sangro, says this is impossible. "They arrive in a terrible state after a five, six or seven-day journey, in dangerous boats and the people are in critical health... many women are pregnant."

    Libya blamed
    The Italian Government blames Libya for the recent influx of immigrants. Mayor Bruno Siragusa agrees: "Gaddafi has deliberately opened his borders with African neighbours so that immigrants from other African countries where we do have some control, are rushing instead to Libya to travel to us." Italy wants to use its EU presidency to try to lift sanctions on Libya. It wants Europe to share the burden and help provide Colonel Gaddafi with non-military surveillance equipment. But some Europeans think the rest of Europe should not agree to share this burden unless italy reforms its asylum proc ©BBC News

    2/7/2003- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi sparked fury in the European Parliament on Wednesday when he appeared to compare a German lawmaker with a Nazi concentration camp commander. The incident caused uproar in the house and completely overshadowed Berlusconi's presentation of Italy's priorities for its six-month presidency of the European Union, which began on Tuesday. Berlusconi lost his cool in response to criticism of an alleged conflict of interest between his political office and his extensive Italian media interests by German Socialist MEP Martin Schulz. "Mr. Schulz, I know there is in Italy a man producing a film on the Nazi concentration camps. I would like to suggest you for the role of leader. You'd be perfect," Berlusconi exclaimed to jeers in the chamber. He refused to withdraw the remark when given the opportunity by European Parliament President Pat Cox, who expressed regret at the offence caused to Schulz and said he believed it would be appropriate "to correct the record in this regard." Berlusconi later insisted he had made ironic joke in reaction to what he said were harsh accusations against himself and his country.

    EU lawmakers were stunned by the vehemence of Berlusconi's response to a debate in which numerous left-wing and Green members of parliament raised concerns about Berlusconi's suitability to head the 15-nation bloc. The Italian leader, who had been on trial for allegedly bribing judges over a 1980s business deal, has just rushed a law through parliament granting himself and other top state officials immunity from prosecution while in office. In response to Berlusconi's attack, Schulz said: "Mr Berlusconi...if I understood him correctly...invited me to appear as the commandant of a concentration camp. "My respect for the victims of fascism will not permit me to deal with that kind of claim. But it is very hard for me accept that a politician should be exercising the role of president of the European Council if he comes out with this kind of statement when he encounters the slightest contradiction," he added. Schulz received a sustained ovation from left-wing members of the house while conservatives sat in glum silence.

    As Berlusconi began to address the legislature in the French city of Strasbourg, Green members of the Parliament protested against his taking over the EU presidency, raising banners and jeering. About 15 ecologist lawmakers held up placards in Italian declaring "La legge e uguale per tutti" (The law is equal for all) and "No godfathers."

    2/7/2003- Germany has made a strong call on the Convention, currently drawing up an EU constitution, to maintain the veto in immigration policy. Foreign minister Joschka Fischer (Green) has joined forces with his German collegeaues in the Convention Edwin Teufel (CDU) and Jürgen Meyer (SPD) in making a strong appeal to keep this policy in the hands of member states. A letter to Convention President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, obtained by Tagesspiegel, says "the issues concerning immigration policy belong to the most sensitive areas of internal policy. A transition to qualified majority voting in this area is for Germany unacceptable at the moment". This is likely to set the cat among the pigeons as it is Germany's most overt call yet to put a limit to the Union getting competence in this area.

    A new position?
    At the beginning of June, Mr Fischer, tabled an amendment asking for unanimity in immigration policy - which was followed up by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder at the Thessaloniki Summit (20-21 June). Mr Fischer has since softened his position somewhat suggesting that a majority vote can be used if common rules and guidelines are previously established with consent of all member states. The German position, which was not so overt during the Convention's year-long debate on the issue, has been influenced by internal politics. German diplomats, after critical coverage in the German press, insist that this "is not a new position". They are also keen to stress that this is the "only proposal" where a "somewhat conservative line has been taken".

    Internal politics
    Interior minister Otto Schily is trying to pass a controversial immigration law in Germany -which the CDU opposition (which holds a majority in the Bundesrat or upper house) considers to be too soft. Mr Schily is hoping to reach a deal with the CDU in autumn to get the legislation through. Giving such strong competences to the EU in this area is something that the conservative opposition is not keen on - which could scupper the deal.

    What is "purely technical"?
    However, the Convention draft given the nod by all member states at the Thessaloniki Summit, foresees an EU common immigration policy. Moreover, leaders mandated the Convention, which will meet to debate last policy issues on Friday, to only make "purely technical" adjustments to the draft. Exactly what purely technical adjustments are is proving difficult to define as Mr Fischer is not the only one calling for substantial changes. MEPs in the Convention met in Strasbourg yesterday and also made calls for more major changes - including dropping the veto on foreign policy. Convention spokesperson Nikolaus Meyer Landrut admits "we don't exactly know what is technical or not … everyone recognises that the amendments we are debating are fairly limited in scope".

    The World Bank has put its prestige behind organizing the highest-level conference since the fall of Soviet communism to address the problems of Roma. A central event of the conference, which takes place in Budapest today and tomorrow, is to discuss a comprehensive new study of problems oppressing an estimated 9 million people in Europe. RFE/RL talks to the report's chief author and previews its findings.

    30/6/2003- Dena Ringold, who may know more about the subject than anyone else in Europe, says the time has come to move forward from simply testing ways to help Roma rise from poverty. Ringold is a World Bank economist and the lead author of "Roma In An Expanding Europe," a sophisticated assessment of the plight of Central and Eastern European Roma. She told RFE/RL that now is the time to shift the emphasis from pilot projects to full-blown national initiatives. "I think there is an opportunity for a turning point which I have termed as moving from projects -- which I think the '90s have been about small-scale pilot [projects] to address specific local issues -- and now the time is right to scale up to national policies," Ringold said. Ringold's findings and analysis are scheduled to be the centerpiece of a two-day conference that her employer, the World Bank, is sponsoring today and tomorrow in Budapest. Other sponsors are the European Commission and the Open Society Institute. Prime ministers or other representatives from seven Central and Eastern European countries -- Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and the Slovak Republic -- are due to attend.

    The problems they will be addressing are deep and persistent. Europe's Roma have been locked in poverty and oppressed by violence and discrimination throughout history. After World War II, most socialist nations of Eastern and Central Europe sought to forcibly assimilate them into the general populace, suppressing their language, customs, and identity. In many ways, things have only gotten worse since 1989, the beginning of these countries' transitions from socialist planning to market economies. Claude Kahn works for the European Roma Rights Center, which monitors the human rights situation of Roma and provides legal defense in cases of human rights abuses. "I think, in many ways, some of these problems have been made significantly more complicated by the transition that many Central and Eastern European countries are going through at the moment, related to post-communism and also due to the significant economic hardships," Kahn said. "Many of the issues we see are Europe-wide, [so] I think the search for reasons often proves elusive and a more interesting and fruitful avenue of discussion has to do with measures for ensuring equal treatment and for improving the human rights situation of Roma."

    In the words of the World Bank report: "While Roma have historically been among the poorest people in Europe, the extent of the collapse of their living conditions in the former socialist countries is unprecedented." In the year 2000, 80 percent of Roma in Bulgaria and about 70 percent of Roma in Romania were subsisting with a purchasing-power equivalent to about $4.30 a day. In other countries, they fared only somewhat better. Ringold of the World Bank says, however, that prospects are not all gloomy, especially in countries about to join the European Union. "Well, I think that there is a window of opportunity, particularly for the countries that are on the brink of accession to the European Union. The EU accession process has focused attention on the Roma issue and nearly all countries in Central and Eastern Europe have adopted national strategies for addressing Roma issues," Ringold said. The EU has incorporated concern for the plight of Roma into the accession process. In 1993 at a conference in Copenhagen, the EU adopted attention Assimilation, at its extreme, can mean what the socialist governments of Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria did in their attempts to erase ethnic distinctions -- forcibly breaking up Romany communities, outlawing their language and traditional dress, even forbidding them to marry other Roma. The report calls instead for policies of integration and minority rights. These would include drawing Roma into the broader community through incentives rather than force, promoting tolerance toward language and cultural distinctions, protecting children from unwarranted assignments to substandard "special schools," and providing underprivileged children with early childhood education programs, meals, clothing, and school supplies.

    Kahn of the European Roma Rights Center said: "The issues facing Roma in Central and Eastern European societies are strongly related to racial discrimination against Roma. Roma suffer discrimination in access to education, health care, housing, social services, employment. There are also disturbing issues of violence by state actors, as well as by vigilantes, and, in general, there is an issue of anti-Romany racism to be addressed throughout Europe." In the report and in talking to RFE/RL, Ringold makes the point that drawing Roma into the national economies and societies is not desirable only for the Roma. A great bloc of people trapped in poverty is burdensome for individual countries, as well as for the impoverished people themselves. She said she thinks this is "an opportunity for countries to consider what they can do proactively, in terms of their economic and social policies that can improve living conditions and the situation of Roma, but that also affect their entire society and facilitate social inclusion and other objectives." World Bank President James D. Wolfenson said of the Budapest conference that it may mark a turning point for Europe's Roma. He said that what he called "the complex cycle of Roma poverty" has become one of the most critical remaining issues on the EU accession agenda.
    The report can be accessed on line It contains individual chapters on Roma in Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, and Spain.

    30/6/2003- Speaking in Budapest on 30 June, at the Conference on 'Roma in an Expanding Europe', the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe welcomed recent initiatives concerning Roma, and more especially the launch by Finnish President, Tarja Halonen, of a European Forum for Roma and Travellers. Referring to the increasing number of cases before the European Court of Human Rights, she emphasised that these populations' social and human rights were in danger.

    Speech by Ms Maud De Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe Conference "Roma in an Expanding Europe" - (Budapest, 30 June-1 July 2003)

    Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Not a single day goes past without headlines concerning dramatic situations faced by Roma, Gypsies and Travellers in Europe. "Female teenage Roma forced into sex slavery in Bulgaria", warned Sweden's Ambassador on the Bulgarian News Network only few days ago. Not a single day goes by without the Council of Europe receiving alarming reports on:

  • Forced return of Roma asylum seekers with no guarantee for decent living conditions;
  • Allegations of Roma women's forced sterilisation;
  • Segregation of Roma children enrolled in schools for disabled ;
  • Restrictions on Travellers' free movement and encampment ;
  • Prevention of Roma migrants from crossing borders and confiscation of their personal documents ;
  • Ghettoisation of Roma families, brutalised by skinhead attacks. And the list could go on.

    As a pan-European human rights organisation engaged in combating all forms of discrimination, the Council of Europe addresses these multiple issues on the basis of the principle of equal access of all European citizens - and particularly vulnerable groups - to basic human and social rights, and enjoyment of these rights. As the first organisation to carry out normative work in the field of minorities, the Council of Europe continues to actively promote the development of national comprehensive strategies for Roma, Gypsies or Travellers. Today's Conference is timely as a number of important initiatives regarding Roma issues are on the European agenda: the OSCE Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti, the Finnish initiative to set-up a European Roma Forum, the recent creation of a European Roma Information Office (ERIO), and the second Joint European Commission/Council of Europe/OSCE-ODIHR Stability Pact Project on Roma in South East Europe. This Conference by its timing and high level of participation seems to be the peak of a series of major events taking place this year in the field of Roma. It follows the Granada Conference on Policies towards Roma (19-20 May) financed and co-organised by the Council of Europe, as well as the European Colloquy on Roma Access to the Labour Market organised two weeks ago by the Greek EU Presidency. It also precedes two events to be held in Strasbourg in mid-September: the International Conference on Roma Women and Access to Health Care and a Seminar on Cultural Identities of Roma, Gypsies, Travellers and other related groups. This indeed proves that these communities have become a frequent object of discussion at European level between governments and/or international institutions. The next challenge is to ensure that they are becoming also the subject (i.e. actor) of these discussions.

    There is indeed a mounting discontent amongst Roma over decisions being taken by non-Roma on their behalf. All our joint efforts risk being counter-productive if they are not undertaken jointly with those directly concerned. Let me clarify what I mean by that. Full and effective participation does not just mean a place for consultation (through inter-governmental commissions, consultative bodies, Roma advisers, etc.). Participation requires an active involvement, implies negoti religious, linguistic differences at the European level.

    We are keenly interested to learn in the course of the coming days more about the regional structure referred to as the European Roma Decade Coalition - as presented in the concept note on the Decade of Roma Inclusion -and its modus operandi to make sure it converges . with the European Roma Forum. Possibilities to promote the Roma Inclusion Decade in the work of a European Roma Forum should be carefully considered in due time, with a view to encouraging Central and Eastern European countries to pursue their already considerable efforts to comply with the criteria for accession fixed in Copenhagen. If we succeed to do so, this Forum could also serve as a watchdog to prevent stagnation or , as in many recent instances, the deterioration of the situation of Roma, Gypsies and Travellers both in Central-Eastern Europe and Western Europe, which is not only related to bad economic conditions. Basic human and social rights of these populations are in danger as shown by the increase of cases related to Roma or Travellers before the European Court of Human Rights. The jurisdiction of the ECHR is however based on the principle of subsidiarity: domestic solutions should prevail. It is for this reason that the Council of Europe works at four main levels:
  • Standard-setting with the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the revised European Social Charter.
  • Policy development with the recommendations concerning the effective improvement of their living conditions adopted by the Group of Specialists on Roma, Gypsies and Travellers or by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance ;
  • Monitoring through the work of independent committees of the aforementioned legal instruments and through contact and/or monitoring visits organised by ECRI, the Commissioner for Human Rights and from now on the Group of Specialists on Roma/Gypsies and Travellers (MG-S-ROM)
  • Project development thanks to the role of the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB), which extends long term loans and guarantees to member states and local authorities for the financing of social projects, a number of them focusing on Roma projects, as Mr Ners, Vice-Governor of the CEB, will probably mention in his presentation.
    With this in mind, what can the Council of Europe concretely contribute to the "Roma Inclusion Decade"? Let me share with you a few examples.

    As concerns standard-setting
    I would like to recall the Revised European Social Charter and the mechanism of collective complaints which should definitely be used by Roma NGOs and human rights defenders (a collective complaint submitted by the European Roma Rights Centre based in Budapest against Greece on Roma housing has just been declared admissible). The Council of Europe is organising, together with the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), trainings for young lawyers, including Roma, about the European Convention of Human Rights and the revised European Social Charter, and will continue to do so. In that respect, the use of the European Youth Centre based in Budapest, which already hosts seminars for minority/Roma young leaders, could be reinforced in the future. In the same way we are keen to continue the 3-month internship programme for young Roma launched a year ago, and are grateful for the cooperation with the Open Society Institute (OSI) Soros Foundation, which has made this possible.

    As concerns policy development and monitoring:
    I would like to draw your attention to the long experience of the Council of Europe and the current work of the Directorate General of Social Cohesion concerning:
    -The elaboration through the Group of Specialists on Roma/Gypsies and Travellers (MG-S-ROM) of a set of specific recommendations towards Roma. This work needs now to be completed with the adoption of new recommendations on the improvement of housing conditions of Roma/Gypsy com investments are currently being financed in Central Europe by the CEB for the construction of schools for the Roma.

    I hope that the World Bank's efforts will strengthen and complement our efforts which date back to 1983 in the field of teacher training and school attendance programmes for Roma/Gypsies children and is now receiving a strong impulse through our three-year project (2002-2005) in the education field.

    As far as co-operation between international organisations is concerned, and on a more procedural note, I would hope that we can strengthen and upgrade the Informal Contact Group of International Organisations on Roma and Sinti issues, which meets every six-month under the chairmanship of the state having the presidency of the European Union;

    I would also propose that we set up a crisis management structure within this Contact Group which could allow the international community to respond quickly and in a concerted manner to crisis situations, such as the one regarding Roma Kosovar refugees at the border between "The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and Greece.

    Roma is not only a "European", but a national and local issue. Therefore, it is not for international organisations to take the place of governments and local authorities in member states . But it is the role of international organisations to coordinate and cooperate in order to provide a common and most synergic approach to improve the situation of Roma throughout Europe. The Council of Europe will assure the wide range of responsibilities it has assumed at all levels: international, national and local. We count on the same commitment from all actors concerned: international organisations, governments, local authorities and Roma leaders. It is only through this collaborative and participatory approach that we can make progress towards the goal of living all together within cohesive, sustainable societies, respectful of our identities, traditions and cultures.

    I thank you for your attention.
    ©Council of Europe

    1/7/2003- The European Union pledged continued support Monday for the integration of Gypsies into society's mainstream, but said traditions that contravened human rights could not be tolerated. The comments - applying to Gypsy communities in countries slated to join the Union - came at a conference sponsored by the World Bank on the status and problems of the minority in EU candidate nations. While promising continued financial support for Gypsy integration, Anna Diamantopoulou, the EU commissioner for employment and social affairs, warned Gypsies that traditions that breach human rights would not be tolerated in the European Union. "When fundamental human rights and certain traditions collide, it is the traditions that must change," Diamantopoulou said. In some Gypsy communities, traditions such as the buying and selling of young brides and keeping children out of school are still common.

    The aim of the conference, called "Roma in an Expanding Europe," is to find new ways of cooperation between civil organizations, governments and Gypsy communities. Roma is another name by which Gypsies are called. President James Wolfensohn of the World Bank told delegates that his organization supported efforts to overcome the discrimination that Gypsies have faced for hundreds of years. The Hungarian government's commissioner for Gypsy issues, Laszlo Teleki, said that solving the poor living conditions facing the estimated 7 million to 9 million Gypsies living across Europe should be one of the highest priorities for the EU after enlargement. "To be a Roma in Europe today is to face discrimination, ill health, unemployment and a range of other social problems," Teleki said. The EU is expected to accept Hungary and nine other mostly East European countries next May and could include Romania and Bulgaria - both with large Gypsy communities - by 2007.

    The tensions between Gypsy tradition and modernity were visible in Voluntari, Romania, as the 15-year-old bride at a Gypsy wedding mourned shattered dreams of studying medicine. Narcisa Tranca was in junior high school with an A average in her town outside Bucharest. She begged her parents to let her continue her education. Her father, Marcel Tranca, said that had he not agreed to the marriage, the alternative would have been worse: Narcisa's abduction by potential suitors who would not wait for negotiation. Now the best she can hope for is that her parents will manage to persuade her husband to live in the Bucharest area so she can go back to school. Though she could have completed eighth grade before her wedding, Narcisa left school several weeks early. Hours before the start of the wedding feast, her classmates - non-Gypsies - came to her house to bid tearful good-byes. "It would have been useless to continue," she said. "As of tomorrow, I'll just be stooped over a pot or a broom all day anyway."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    2/7/2003- Canadian healthcare professionals need to be better trained to handle the stress, depression and even trauma experienced by immigrant and refugee women in an increasingly diverse Canadian society, says a Nigerian-born Canadian sociologist in a new report. "Basically, what we are saying is that the health sector needs to be culturally sensitive, needs to be patient, literally give time to multicultural women, talking about their diseases and symptoms," said Francisca Isi Omorodion, the co-author of the study, 'Women and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Moving Research to Policy', and president of the Immigrant, Refugee and Visible Minority Women of Saskatchewan.

    Funded by the Canadian government-supported Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence, the research comprised detailed interviews with 36 people, including immigrant, refugee and women of colour, local health officials and health care professionals. All participated in focus groups in four major cities in the western Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Canadian doctors should be spending more time talking with their patients, particularly immigrant and refugee women who may have experienced war and torture in their country of birth, Omorodion said in an interview. She points to the current billing practice in Canada where doctors' payments are based on the number of patients seen under a national publicly run and financed health care system. "Doctors are not paid by the [amount of] time they spend with you, but how many patients they see," said Omorodion. "A doctor doesn't want to spend two hours with a woman who is struggling with her English."

    Omorodion focused specifically on the anecdotal experiences of newcomer women in the largely rural prairie province of Saskatchewan, which in recent years has started to receive immigrants and refugees -- who normally would settle in the large urban multicultural centres of Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver upon arriving in Canada. However, that is starting to change, says the Regina, Saskatchewan-based sociologist, as more newcomers are directed away by federal and provincial authorities towards other less diverse areas like Saskatchewan where the population is aging and shrinking. (Europeans of British, French and east European stock primarily settled the Canadian prairies). Saskatchewan health professionals are sensitive to the mental health issues encountered by a significant indigenous or aboriginal population, which is growing quickly and will eventually reach majority status if current demographic trends continue, says Omorodion. But she also urges Saskatchewan's health professions to start paying attention to the personal hardships faced by immigrants and refugees now appearing in their midst. "I have no qualms about (serving the needs of indigenous people). But they need to make their services more multicultural," said Omorodion. While all immigrants and refugees regardless of gender face considerable adjustment in a new country that includes barriers of racism in jobs and housing, language differences, alien social and religious values and a reluctance by employers to recognise foreign professional credentials, women still encounter unique problems, according to the Saskatchewan study.

    Men are the ones who usually make the decision to migrate to Canada and the women and children are obliged to follow, says Omorodion. "You (as a woman) don't have a choice and so you are not prepared." Furthermore, women are more likely to take any job to support their family, even if they are overqualified, than the men, who are likelier to be choosey, the sociologist reports. When the man cannot earn a large enough income he might take out his personal frustration on his spouse and children, resulting sometimes in battering and domestic abuse, she says. While Omorodion's study concentrated on Saskatchewan, her analysis fits what other prof ailments. "We must focus on the whole person." At the same time, Allibhai adds, immigrants are less likely to commit suicide in their new country than members of the Canadian-born population.

    "I agree with the person who gives (the Canadian mental health system) a three out of 10," said Debbie Douglas, the executive director for the Toronto-based Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. Immigrants and refugees are more likely to find social and community supports in the large multicultural centres like Toronto and Montreal where the chances of finding people similar to themselves in terms of culture, religion and language are greater than elsewhere in Canada, Douglas explains. But at the same what is available for newcomer women in a city like Toronto is still largely piecemeal, continues Douglas. "That is part of the frustration. There needs to be far better co-ordination of services, particularly mental health services. Some of the symptoms that people are presenting may be happening because of social issues and not because of medical issues. It is about medicalising people's experiences (by Canadian health care professionals)," Douglas adds.
    ©IPS-Inter Press Service

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