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NEWS - Archive for June and July 2004

June and July 2004 Headlines

Headlines 31 July, 2004

20/7/2004- Two weeks after the CPS announced that it would not prosecute a Sussex bonfire society for burning a caravan bearing effigies of a Gypsy family and the number plate 'P1KEY', activists have decided to form their own Gypsy Bonfire Society to inform people about anti-Gypsy racism. Twelve members of the Firle Bonfire Society were arrested last October, but the CPS decided that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution for incitement to racial hatred. Many in Britain's 300,000-strong Gypsy community believe that the decision will send the message that racism against Gypsies is acceptable. Barrie Taylor, chairman of the National Romani Gypsy and Traveller Alliance (NRGTA), said: 'The burning of Gypsy effigies is just one step removed from burning us for real and there's a real danger that, by not prosecuting, people could be encouraged to put their fantasy into practice.' The NRGTA has now established its own Gypsy Bonfire Society to actively participate in this year's Sussex bonfire season. The Society hopes to attend every major bonfire celebration in the region and use the events to inform the public about why last year's effigy-burning at Firle was so offensive. It will also hold a major celebration of its own, at an as yet unspecificed location. The NRGTA is calling on supporters and other anti-racist organisations to come forward to assist in reversing the undercurrent of racism at Sussex's bonfire celebrations. The bonfire tradition has an obvious association with hostility to Catholics, due to its historical origins. But the NRGTA says that if blatant anti-Gypsy sentiment can become acceptable, then other groups of perceived outsiders could easily be targeted. 'We won't be aiming to spoil the party', said Basil Burton of the NRGTA. 'The supporters of bonfire claim that it is not a racist movement and that it does not stoke up religious hatred against Catholics or racial hatred against Gypsies. This year, as we attempt to visibly join them in celebrations, we will be attempting to test that.' The Firle Bonfire Society has denied that there was any racial intent behind its actions at last year's celebrations.
©Institute of Race Relations

21/7/2004- Five men were arrested yesterday following an undercover documentary showing members of the British National Party apparently confessing to racist activities. The men were arrested during a series of raids by West Yorkshire Police who had been studying the BBC documentary, The Secret Agent, since it was broadcast last Thursday. A police statement said that those initially detained were a 23-year-old man, arrested in connection with racially aggravated public order offences; a 35-year-old man, who has been arrested in connection with conspiracy to commit damage; and a 51-year-old man, who has been arrested in connection with racially aggravated harassment. Another man, aged 40, was arrested later in connection with conspiracy to commit criminal damage, and a fifth man, aged 45, was arrested in connection with possession of a firearm. All the men come from the Bradford and Keighley areas. Last night, they were all released on bail pending further inquiries by West Yorkshire Police. The documentary showed the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, condemning Islam as a "vicious, wicked faith" and claiming he would face seven years in prison if he made the comments in public. During the filming, which took place in the run-up to last month's local and European elections in West Yorkshire, a number of BNP members were shown confessing to various racist activities and views, some of them violent. Following the film's broadcast, two of the men shown on film were ejected from the party. The film also led to Barclays Bank cancelling accounts that the BNP held with it. A spokesman for the BNP, which claimed that the programme was the work of "paid agents provocateurs" who had eavesdropped on private conversations, confirmed that all those arrested were members or former members of the party.He added: "The programme has given us a terrific boost. We've had thousands of calls from people and we've had loads of new members as a result."
© Independent Digital

The BNP is now riding a broader wave of respectable Islamophobia
By Jeremy Seabrook

23/7/2004- When a BBC reporter infiltrated the British National party by posing as a football hooligan, he caught on camera several activists admitting to violent assaults on Asians and repeatedly putting excrement through the letterbox of an Asian family's home. Six of the people he secretly filmed were arrested this week. This appears to confirm the effectiveness of this hard-hitting demolition of a party desperately seeking respectability. But however clear its exposure of repelling beliefs and values, the documentary did not seek to address the reasons why 800,000 or so people voted for the BNP in the European elections. What has made so many people ready to support the myth-makers of Britishness under threat? Part of the answer is obvious. Many of those unable to escape poor white communities have seen their status decline from working class to underclass in one generation. The devastation of the industrial base was scarcely less traumatic than its imposition upon a wasting peasantry 200 years ago; and those left behind are indeed victims of global forces over which they have no control. The hatred of the stranger appears to give substance to the existence of these forces: xenophobia readily sees enemies in fellow-victims. And far from having been crushed by the BBC programme, the BNP was permitted to achieve that rarest of political breakthroughs: it was able to express what many other people are thinking. The Islamophobia embraced by the BNP as a surrogate for its formally disavowed racism is by no means confined to the wasted landscapes of former working-class communities. It is deeply rooted and widespread, as was revealed by the success of Ukip (just listen to Robert Kilroy-Silk assert that "Muslims everywhere behave with equal savagery").

Indeed, Islamophobia is the only form of prejudice to which the middle class can readily admit: a religion which is perceived as advocating repression of women and hatred of gays renders acceptable forms of prejudice that would be unthinkable if directed against any other social group. Officially, all right-thinking people have forsworn racism, now believed to fester principally among the no-hopers on rough estates. But Islamophobia is the half-open door through which it makes its triumphal re-entry into respectable society. In recent articles in the Sunday Telegraph, Will Cummins has urged the Conservative party to espouse a more aggressive stand against Islam. "Do the Tories not sense the enormous popular groundswell against Islam? Charges of 'racism' would inevitably be made, but they would never stick. It is the black heart of Islam, not the black face, to which millions object." Perhaps this accounts for the extraordinarily easy time Newsnight's Gavin Esler gave Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, after the documentary was screened. Esler appeared stupefied by Griffin. He failed to challenge him when he stated that one of the "angry young men" in the documentary had been "ethnically cleansed by elements of the young Muslim community". Nor did he contest the demented assertion that Islam spread through "the rape of non-Muslim women". He let pass, too, remarks on "the progressive Islamification of the west. The total destruction of our civilisation within the next few decades" - a conspiracy theory that is emerging out of the shadows of the far right into an increasingly turbid mainstream: only this week the Spectator's cover story was headlined The Muslims are Coming.

David Blunkett's desire to protect people from the incitement of hatred on the basis of religious belief is a recognition that Islamophobia has become a refuge for racists. As Griffin was quick to point out, even secular liberals increasingly define "Britishness" in opposition to "medieval" Islamic values. They feel comfortable condemning Muslims because Isla trash after all.
©The Guardian

24/7/2004- It was a curious way to bury allegations of racism, but then there is much about Princess Michael of Kent that is curious. Ignoring the first rule for dealing with any gaffe - stop digging - she has revealed she once pretended to be "half-caste" and has declared her love for "adorable" Africans. Dubbed Princess Pushy thanks to a reputation for demanding behaviour and an unduly privileged lifestyle, she got into difficulty two months ago when she allegedly told a group of African American diners in New York to "go back to the colonies". She said there had been a misunderstanding. In a bizarre interview to be broadcast on ITV1 on Sunday, she has enlarged on the injustice of the accusations. No one could consider her racist, she said, were they to know of her past. "I even pretended years ago to be an African, a half-caste African, but because of my light eyes I did not get away with it, but I dyed my hair black," Princess Michael said. Then she digs some more: "I travelled on African buses. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted experiences from Cape Town to right up in northern Mozambique. I had this adventure with these absolutely adorable, special people and to call me racist: it's a knife through the heart because I really love these people."

Whether the sentiment is reciprocated is unclear. But she said the British press had never accepted her because she is foreign. "I have different ways of saying things and doing things," she says in the interview for My Favourite Hymns. She was born Marie-Christine von Reibnitz, daughter of an Austrian father with connections to the Nazi party. In the interview she tries to explain the restaurant row as the result of a misheard comment, saying she had asked to move to somewhere quieter and was told the only table was "in Siberia". She continued: "'Siberia?' I said 'At this point I would be ready to go back to the colonies'. I was unaware, and I probably should have been aware, that 'colonies' is a pejorative term in America." Nicole Young, one of the diners who complained about the alleged comments, said: "We definitely didn't misunderstand ... A restaurant full of people heard what she said, so it's almost like a joke the way she tries to explain it." She told GMTV: "It's interesting that she referred to how she wished she was half-caste." Princess Michael's spokesman declined to comment yesterday. The Commission for Racial Equality said it did not consider half-caste an "acceptable" word for a person whose parents are of different races.
©The Guardian

30/7/2004- A black woman has won a race discrimination case against the Home Office after it failed to probe her claims that she was bullied while working in one of its offices, it emerged today. Devaline McKenzie, who worked in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, said the harassment got so bad at the office in Croydon, south London, that she requested a transfer. But the Home Office failed to deal with the mother-of-one's complaints of harassment, or to investigate an incident of bullying, and refused to consider her request for a transfer from the office at the centre of the allegations. The London South Employment Tribunal ruled unanimously that this amounted to racial discrimination by the Home Office. Compensation will be decided at a hearing on August 2.

Ms McKenzie, 38, from West Norwood, south-west London, who began working for the Home Office in 1991 but left this April due to the stress of the case, said she hoped lessons would be learned. She said: "I was extremely shocked by the attitude being taken at such a high level of management. I had raised issues which had affected my ability to work at Croydon and were affecting my psychological health. "Despite this, the Home Office was unwilling to investigate the matter properly, and instead I was being referred back to my local office. "I have found my experiences over the last two years traumatic. However, I feel vindicated by the tribunal's decision and hope that the same mistakes are not made again." The alleged campaign of bullying was said to have started after Ms McKenzie was transferred to the IND's Ministerial Cases Unit on October 10, 2001. She claimed a female colleague publicly belittled her, continually made changes to her work and bullied her on a regular basis. It culminated, Ms McKenzie said, in an "outburst of insults" hurled at her by the colleague when she was asked to draft a response to a parliamentary question on May 15, 2002, which left her feeling "humiliated and victimised". Managers tried to persuade Ms McKenzie against pursuing her complaints, she claimed, and in subsequent weeks she felt people were ignoring her, whispering behind her back and laughing at her. She later requested the transfer as she felt there was management reluctance preventing her from resolving the situation and that the bullying would continue – but to no avail.

Ms McKenzie's solicitor, Shah Qureshi, said her case highlighted institutional racism within the IND. He said: "There seemed to be collusion at local level to prevent Devaline from pursuing her grievances despite the serious nature of the allegations. "There was a closed shop which led to institutional racism within the IND at Croydon, yet senior management failed to address this for over two years. "The tribunal was scathing in its judgement. It found that local management repeatedly leaned on Devaline. The alleged perpetrator was not disciplined and was allowed to evade informal resolution. "Yet no account was taken of the trauma Devaline has suffered. Instead of treating her as the victim she was viewed as trying to take advantage of the situation. This was unacceptable."
©The Scotsman

31/7/2004- Ethnic minorities living and working in south Belfast have been warned by police to be on their guard against racist attacks. The PSNI issued the alert while pledging to deploy more officers to counter race-hate crimes. A police spokesperson said it was in "everyone's interests that people remain alert to the dangers of a possible attack". The spokesperson added: "Police will be deploying additional patrols in the area and maximising a range of resources to ensure public safety. "But one of the most effective ways of preventing damage or injury is for everyone - from whatever community - to keep an eye out for their neighbours. "There is no need for people to panic or be alarmed but vigilance over the coming days may reduce the level of risk to individuals and property." Meanwhile, Davy Carlin of the Anti-Racism Network (ARN) addressed the launch of the Greater Village Regeneration Trust's community festival in south Belfast yesterday. Speaking after recent attacks targeting a Bangladeshi family and three Nigerians in the area, Mr Carlin said: "The ARN has had phonecalls of support and solidarity following recent racist attacks in this area and this festival will give people the opportunity to take a stance against racism." Other speakers at yesterday's event included Assembly member Michael McGimpsey.
© Independent Digital

22/7/2004- The Italian authorities have expelled almost all of the African migrants who arrived last week on a ship run by the German campaign group, Cap Anamur. Protests on board a plane taking 27 migrants to Ghana delayed the flight for two hours on the runway of a Rome airport on Thursday morning. Four of the asylum-seekers were taken off the plane after "causing a disturbance", an official said. The Italian interior minister says none of the group were genuine refugees. Giuseppe Pisanu said that of the original 37, who claimed to be from Sudan's troubled Darfur region, five were Nigeria and the rest from Ghana. Five Nigerians have already been flown to Lagos. MPs and campaigners also tried to occupy the check-in area at Rome's Fiumicino airport. The four who were taken off the plane are being investigated by the police, an interior ministry official told AFP news agency. The BBC's David Willey in Rome says that Italy is taking a tough line on illegal arrivals, tightening up a new, stricter immigration law which came into force two years ago. Some parts of this law relating to expulsions have been declared invalid by Italy's constitutional court, so the government has moved to plug various loopholes while still providing refuge to people genuinely seeking political asylum for legitimate reasons, our correspondent says.

On Wednesday, Mr Pisanu warned parliament that up to two million Africans and Asians were waiting in Libya for an illegal sea passage to Europe. There are several hundred criminal groups waiting to transport them across the Mediterranean, he said. The minister painted an alarming picture of the huge number of potential illegal immigrants. The people smugglers were waiting to take them to Italy, at a cost of $1,500-$2,000 a head, he said. Italy, with its long coastline, is Europe's weakest frontier segment, the minister admitted. He said the estimated profits earned by people smugglers this year run into billions of dollars. The minister was reporting to parliament on the group of Ghanaians and Nigerians who landed in Sicily and sought political asylum earlier this month by claiming falsely that they were Sudanese refugees from Darfur escaping the humanitarian disaster there. Not one of the so-called refugees came from Darfur, the minister told parliament.
©BBC News

24/7/2004- The European Court of Human Rights set Italy a deadline of yesterday afternoon to explain why it had summarily deported practically all the African would-be immigrants rescued from the Mediterranean last month by the German ship, Cap Anamur. Thirty-seven people were plucked from their sinking rubber dinghy off the coast of Italy by the battered German freighter, whose owner and crew have specialised in rescuing "sea beggars" since the crisis of the Vietnamese boat people in the 1970s. They claim to have saved the lives of more than 10,000 people. But the Cap Anamur provoked the fury of the Italian government when her captain demanded to be allowed to put the Africans ashore in Sicily. A stalemate continued for more than two weeks, with the German-owned freighter anchored off Port Empedocle in southern Sicily. Finally, Italy relented when the captain reported his passengers were threatening to throw themselves overboard. The Africans were disembarked and processed; and the owner, captain and first mate of Cap Anamur put in prison, accused of promoting illegal immigration. The three were released last Friday. Despite opposition protests of inhumanity, there has been no let-up in the government's tough stance. The original claim that many of the Africans came from the disaster zone of Darfur in the Sudan was rubbish, said the Home Minister Giuseppe Pisanu. "They are illegal immigrants without any right of humanitarian assistance," he told Parliament on Wednesday. All but one of the Africans were sent packing on a flight to Accra, Ghana, on the same day. Italy has in the past taken in hundreds of migrants rescued close to Italian shores by coastguards every year. But the number has dropped steeply in the past year, partly as a result of joint UK-Italy anti-immigrant patrols in the Mediterranean. It also reflects the Italian govern-ment's consensus on the need for tough action against illegal immigration. It is an especially popular theme for the "post-fascist" National Alliance and the separatist Northern League. Last week the two parties saw crucial parts of tough anti-immigrant legislation they had put through parliament rejected by Italy's constitutional court. But concerns among opposition politicians and human rights group about the peremptory rejection of the latest would-be migrants have reached Strasbourg. "Illegal immigrants have the right to humanitarian protection," said a source.
© Independent Digital

25/7/2004- After the interior minister proposed the creation of EU asylum centers in North Africa, opposition leader Angela Merkel endorsed the plan as "legitimate." Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer was far less supportive. As illegal immigration hits the news over the events surrounding the odyssey of the German relief ship Cap Anamur and the plight of dozens of Africans plucked from the Mediterranean, German politicians have begun taking sides on a British plan to build EU asylum centers in North Africa. Interior Minister Otto Schily supports the proposal, which London had put forth in previous EU meetings as a solution for dealing with the growing number of illegal immigrants who leave North Africa on rickety boats bound for European shores. The idea is to stop the would-be refugees before they leave home and to involve the countries of departure in the process of countering illegal immigration. "I believe that North African countries also have to be interested in preventing things from continuing as they are," Schily said in a meeting of EU interior and justice ministers last week. Coalition partners, however, are opposed to the plan. The Greens said the establishment of an asylum center outside the union would violate Europe's humanitarian principles and send the message that the "boat is full."

Green criticism
Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (Greens) was unusually frank in his criticism of Shily's proposal. "I disagree with it completely," he said in an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF. The plan hasn't been thought out in terms of the humanitarian aspects, he stressed. It's much more important "to first get involved in the situation in Africa and give the people there a perspective," he added. Angelika Beer, Greens co-chairwoman, spoke out against the plain in a similarly critical manner last week. "People in need will have to be able to reach Europe in the future as well," she said and proposed instead that EU refugee funds be increased to help fight the problem at its roots.

Conservative fence-sitting
The conservative opposition hasn't quite made up its mind on the issue. While Angela Merkel, head of the Christian Democrats Union (CDU), endorsed the creation of asylum centers in North Africa as "a legitimate consideration," and Bavarian Interior Minister Gunther Beckstein of the Christian Social Union (CSU) called it a "sensible idea," Wolfang Bosbach, a legal expert for CDU, said the proposal was too vague. Bosbach said Schily needed to provide more details on the EU's role in running the centers especially considering the fact that Brussels has not yet agreed on a European-wide asylum policy.
©Deutsche Welle

29/7/2004- In a landmark decision, Germany's high court Thursday defended the constitutionally guaranteed right of freedom of expression for neo-Nazis. The Federal Constitutional Court rejected a state court ruling that banned a rally by rightwing extremists protesting against construction of a Jewish synagogue. The lower court had upheld a ban issued by municipal authorities in the city of Bochum who said the rally violated federal laws against public utterance or display of Nazi ideology. The high court, in reversing that lower court ruling, conceded that the opinions expressed by the rightwing radical group, the National Party of Germany (NPD), were clearly offensive and objectionable to many people. However, the justices said the sensibilities of the majority opinion were outweighed in this case by the constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression. In handing down their decision, the Karlsruhe justices wrote, "The basic guarantees of freedom of expression apply as well to minorities. These guarantees cannot be suspended simply because the ideas expressed by a minority contradict those held by the majority." Meanwhile a prominent Jewish leader in Germany warned Wednesday against the rise of possible "right-wing terrorist networks" in the country. The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Paul Spiegel, said he has discerned a new threat to Jews in Germany in recent months. A foiled right-wing bombing of a Jewish synagogue in Munich last year "unfortunately proved everyone right who has long been predicting the rise of right-wing terrorist networks", he said in a speech at Dusseldorf University. He said Jews in Germany increasingly depend on information from police and undercover agents for their safety. Many anti-Semitic attacks are attributable to Islamic radicals, he added. "Tensions in the Middle East unfortunately will contribute to the threat of attacks on Jewish targets in Germany for the foreseeable future," Spiegel said. "In this regard, we are wholly dependent on the conscientiousness of law-enforcement authorities."
©Expatica News

30/7/2004- German Jewish leader Paul Spiegel said Friday he was astonished at a German high court decision the previous day that a neo-Nazi anti-synagogue rally was allowed under constitutional freedom of expression. Jews in Germany also supported freedom of opinion and assembly, said Spiegel, who is president of the national council of Jews. "However, it is astonishing that the Federal Constitutional Court repeatedly lays down its very generous interpretation of these basic rights in cases involving extreme right-wing demonstrations," he said. The court had paid too little attention to the fact that National Party of Germany (NPD) demonstrations "have the sole purpose of provoking and isolating the Jewish populace", he said in Dusseldorf. In the landmark decision, the federal judges in Karlsruhe Thursday rejected a state court ruling that banned a rally by the extremists against construction of a Jewish synagogue. The initial ban had been pronounced by municipal authorities in the city of Bochum who said the rally violated federal laws against public utterance or display of Nazi ideology. The high court, in reversing the lower court, conceded that the opinions expressed by the rightwing radical group were clearly offensive and objectionable to many people. However, the justices said the sensibilities of the majority opinion were outweighed in this case by the constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression. In handing down their decision, the Karlsruhe justices wrote, "The basic guarantees of freedom of expression apply as well to minorities. These guarantees cannot be suspended simply because the ideas expressed by a minority contradict those held by the majority."
©Expatica News

24/7/2004- Gay rights could become a top political issue in Germany after Guido Westerwelle, leader of the Free Democrats, acknowledged his homosexuality for the first time and urged greater equality for same sex couples. Earlier this week the leader of the neo-liberal Free Democrats Party came out in the open on his homosexuality in a highly publicized media campaign that pushed the subject of gay rights to the front of major newspapers. Speaking out on the issue for the first time on Saturday, Guido Westerwelle told the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel that the country needed to do more to promote equality for gay couples. Germany needs to be more tolerant on homosexuality, the opposition politician said. "I support more understanding on the issue," he told the magazine in its upcoming edition. Westerwelle said gay couples should have the right to adopt any child and not, as in a law proposed by the government, only the legal child of one partner. They should also be entitled to the same tax breaks as married couples, he said.

More equal rights
Germany has allowed same-sex partnerships with some legal rights since 2001 but they do not go as far as marriage. Draft legislation presented by the coalition government of Social Democrats and Greens will extend gay partners' rights, but Westerwelle dismissed the proposals as half measures. "At the moment same-sex partnerships have a lot of duties, for example the requirement to assist a partner financially in terms of social welfare. At the same time, the deserved rights are being denied. That cannot be fair," he argued. Westerwelle also urged equal application of tax law to include the same benefits enjoyed by married couples. In this area, the government has only gone half way, he said.

Clash of cultures
In the interview Westerwelle sought to play down the political consequences of coming out, a move Der Spiegel said could lead to a "clash of cultures" with the more traditional thinking of someone like Edmund Stoiber, head of the Christian Social Union. The magazine noted that some members in the CSU viewed homosexuality as perverse and cited Stoiber once saying Germany could talk about devil worship if it put gay partnerships on a par with marriage. The FDP leader said he had already made it clear to leaders in the opposition and likely coalition partners on the national level that Germany needed to make more progress in gay rights and not reverse earlier legislation. "The FDP will never back any political attempt to return society to the 1950s. On the contrary, we want to achieve more progress," he said.
©Deutsche Welle

27/7/2004- France's first gay marriage, which was conducted last month by a local mayor, has been annulled by a court. The tribunal in Bordeaux declared the marriage of Stephane Chapin and Bertrand Charpentier "null and void". The mayor, Noel Mamere of the Green Party, was suspended for a month after defying government warnings that he would be breaking the law when he wed the two men in the town of Begles. Justice Minister Dominique Perben had already declared the wedding invalid. The prosecutor in the case said that the marriage was not in compliance with French law. The couple's lawyers argued that no article in the French civil code forbade the marriage of two persons of the same sex and no text defined marriage as "the union of a man and a woman". Shopkeeper Bertrand Charpentier, 31, and nurse Stephane Chapin, 33, have said through their lawyers that they would appeal against this ruling, AFP news agency reports. "We will fight all the way as we announced almost two months ago," Mr Charpentier. Mr Chapin said: "We were expecting it. In any case, we are still married, we will see later [what happens]." Mr Mamere, who presided over the wedding in Begles on 5 June, also vowed before the ruling to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. The union generated intense controversy in France A civil contract called the Pacs already gives some rights to cohabiting couples, regardless of their sex, but not the full rights of marriage, notably over taxes, inheritance and adoption.
©BBC News

22/7/2004- Two thirds of Spaniards agree with the introduction of gay marriage, according to a poll published Thursday. The poll showed that 66.2 percent supported gay marriage, which is expected to become legal by early next year after a bill brought in by the new Socialist administration. Almost a half of those questioned, or 48.2 percent, said they also agreed with gay people adopting children. However, 44.6 percent of those polled said they were against gay adoptions. The poll was published by the Central Sociological Institute (CIS). It found that 74.5 percent said they believed the well-being of the child was more important than the sexual orientation of the parents. At least 47.6 said they were "very much" in agreement or "in agreement" with the proposal that gay couples could be good parents. But 75 percent said they disagreed with the idea that gay copules could be better parents. Nearly half of those questioned, or 42.9 percent, said they believed Spaniards were "tolerant enough" of homosexuality. But 40.9 percent said they thought Spaniards were "not very tolerant" of the same issue. At the same, 79 percent of those questioned said they thought homosexuality was as respectable as heterosexuality. On other subjects, the poll found 40.6 percent thought Spaniards were tolerant of the issue of abortion. The majority thought they were "tolerant enough" of people of different religions and ideology.
©Expatica News

24/7/2004- The police used tear gas and rubber bullets to help quell rioting in Struga, a lakeside town in southwestern Macedonia early Friday morning in the first major outbreak of civil unrest since the end of an interethnic conflict in the country three years ago. According to government officials, at least 17 people were injured in the clashes, as ethnic Macedonians, protesting plans to give the country's Albanian minority greater rights and powers, ran through the town. Mobs attacked Albanian-owned shops and property and government cars and vehicles belonging to a European Union police monitoring mission. The violence comes a week after the Macedonian Parliament passed laws re-drawing the boundaries of the local authorities as well as giving greater powers to local councils. The changes are linked to a peace plan devised by local leaders and the international community at the end of a seven-month-long conflict in 2001 between ethnic Albanian rebels and government security forces. Albanians make up almost 25 per cent of Macedonia's population of two million, but in the north and west and in towns like Struga they have a majority. The new laws give them local control over issues such as education, health and economic development.

The violence on Friday appeared to have been sparked by the visit to Struga on Thursday night of Macedonia's defense minister, Vlado Buckovski, and Nikola Kurciev, leader of the Social Democrats, the main party in the government. The two men were trapped inside the party's local headquarters, surrounded by a crowd throwing Molotov cocktails, according the state-owned Macedonian Information Agency. The police used tear gas to get them out, the agency reported. While the slow-going peace process has at times been threatened by both ethnic Albanian gunmen and renegade security forces, this is the first time civilian protests have turned violent. Mainstream public opinion in the country's two main ethnic groups has supported the process, but more recently Macedonian newspapers have been highly critical of the government's decision to change municipal boundaries. Critics say it has effectively given an advantage to local authorities along ethnic lines. The government is a coalition administration of Social Democrats and former members of the ethnic Albanian guerrilla group behind the 2001 conflict. "It was not in the Ohrid peace agreement," said Saso Ordanovski, the editor in chief of the weekly magazine Forum. He was referring to the peace agreement that ended the fighting, and laid the foundations for ethnic and political reforms. "It is damaging the agreement," he said. "Macedonians are increasingly afraid that Albanians are exercising their territorial interests."

More demonstrations are expected in the capital, Skopje, on Monday. Mladic commanded Bosnian Serb forces in the 1992-95 war that killed more than 200,000 people, A statement said that Rajko Banduka had been arrested on suspicion of "activities contrary to the Dayton agreement," the accord that ended the war, and ordered all parties to ensure that those who committed atrocities were brought to justice. The NATO-led Stabilization Force has stepped up efforts this year to capture Mladic and another former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, both of whom are indicted for genocide by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Banduka was detained in the northeastern town of Bijeljina and he was taken to a secure detention facility for investigation.
©International Herald Tribune

29/7/2004- In a move that caused outrage among opposition political parties and human rights watchdogs, Bulgarian police seized about 250 churches that were in the possession of the Alternative Synod, arresting priests and others who protested. The Alternative Synod is a group of church leaders and priests who oppose Patriarch Maxim being the head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. They say his appointment, 33 years ago, was done with the collusion of the communist regime of the time. The Alternative Synod broke away in 1992, and has been in possession of a number of churches, but the controversial Law on Religious Denominations approved last year gave special recognition to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and gave it sole property rights, including over property rented by businesses. Unofficial estimates are that the impact of the law was to give the church property worth a billion leva. On the night of July 20, acting on the orders of the Prosecutor-General, police seized the churches, sealing the doors. The operation was carried in several places, including Sofia, Plovdiv, Blagoevgrad, and Chepelare. According to Bulgarian National Radio, a senior Alternative Synod priest, Father Kamen Barakov, and one of his assistants were arrested for failing to heed police orders not to attempt to enter Sofia's Saint Paraskeva church. Media reports said that there had been other arrests, but this was denied by an Interior Ministry spokesperson. A large group of priests gathered outside the police office where the two were being held for questioning, and sang hymns in protest. An Alternative Synod spokesperson said further protests should be expected. A spokesperson for the prosecutor's office said the action had been taken to enforce the property rights of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, a human rights watchdog, described the police operation as a massive violation of human rights, and said it would be highlighted in its annual report on Bulgaria. Bulgaria's Rule of Law Institute, which campaigns for religious freedom, said it had informed all Western diplomats about the seizures and arrests, and had sent a message to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Former president Petar Stoyanov said that what he described as the "brutal steps" against the dissenters would deepen tensions among Christians in Bulgaria. Former prime minister Philip Dimitrov, who went to the scene of one of the church seizures, said he believed that the young police officers ordered to carry out the operation were "deeply troubled" by what they had been told to do. The action would damage Bulgaria's image abroad, said Dimitrov, who is also a former Bulgarian ambassador to the United States and the author of several works on Christianity. The centre-right opposition Union of Democratic Forces said that the "brutal actions" of law enforcement agencies were no way to solve disputes in the spiritual community. Places of worship were not places for violence, the party said. According to news agency, a Supreme Administrative Court judge, Alexander Elenkov, said that the Prosecutor-General's office had made a wrong move in ordering the operation, at a time when Bulgaria had just had a warning about the inadequacy of its judicial reform and possible prejudice to the justice and home affairs chapter of European Union accession negotiations. He described the action taken by the Prosecutor-General's office and police as "the socialist way of dealing with problems".
©Sofia Echo

27/7/2004- Nato forces and United Nations police in Kosovo were responsible for a "catastrophic" failure to protect minority communities during the upsurge of violence earlier this year, a report claimed yesterday. Human Rights Watch said there was a "near complete collapse" of security, allowing gangs of Albanians to drive Serbs, Roma and Ashkali (Albanian-speaking Roma) from their homes in the Yugoslav province. The report, based on interviews with officials and victims, describes how, time after time, heavily armed soldiers of the Nato-led K-For stayed in their barracks as Serb homes were burnt and looted. Relief, when it did arrive, was often too little, too late, leading to a new status quo in which displaced communities found it impossible to return home. In the village of Svinjare, a mob of armed Albanians marched past the main French K-For base before burning all of the 137 Serbian homes. The Nato troops stayed in their barracks watching buildings just a few hundred metres from their base go up in flames. In nearby Vucitrn, French K-For soldiers failed to intervene while Albanian gangs set fire to 69 Ashkali homes, just 10 minutes' drive from the military base. At Prizren, in the south-east, German K-For troops failed to protect the Serb population and the historic Orthodox churches and monasteries despite repeated and frantic calls for assistance from German UN police in the town. The entire village of Belo Polje was burnt to the ground by the mob. This time it was Italian K-For troops who locked the gates of an adjacent base. Even in the capital, Pristina, Serbian civilians had to barricade themselves into the upper floor of an apartment block, while Albanian gunmen shot out the windows from the streets and looted the flats below. It took K-For and the UN police more than six hours to come to their aid. On 17 March, the report said, 33 separate riots broke out over a period of 48 hours involving more than 50,000 Albanians. Nineteen people were killed, 4,100 people were displaced from their homes, and at least 550 homes and 27 Orthodox churches were destroyed. Among the catalysts for the violence were reports that a group of Serbs with dogs had driven three Albanian boys to their deaths in a river; the blocking of the main road from Pristina to Skopje by Serbs after the shooting of a Serb teenager; and a march by veterans of the disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army protesting at the arrest of former KLA leaders on war crimes charges. Human Rights Watch concluded: "This was the biggest test for Nato and the United Nations in Kosovo since 1999, when minorities were forced from their homes as the international community looked on. "They failed the test. In too many cases, Nato peacekeepers locked the gates to their bases and watched as Serb homes burnt."
© Independent Digital

28/7/2004- The eviction of at least 60 orphans in Moldova's breakaway Trans-Dniester region has been condemned by Europe's security watchdog as "unacceptable". Militias in the Russian-speaking region left the children homeless by closing their Moldovan boarding school. The region requires all such schools to register as private institutions with instructions in foreign languages. But the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe demanded the immediate reopening of the school. "Leaving children out in the street is totally unacceptable," William Hill head of the OSCE mission to Moldova, said in a statement. And he told a news conference in Moldova's capital, Chisinau: "This crisis over schools is not needed. Such steps can destabilise the situation. The situation everywhere is very tense and rather explosive." The orphans and children from poor families - some as young as seven-year-old - were evicted from the boarding school in Tighina, east of Chisinau, late on Monday. Some of the older students broke through militia lines on Tuesday and barricaded themselves in the school. The Moldovan language is virtually identical to Romanian; this was a second Moldovan-language school to be shut in Trans-Dniester in July. Moldova was part of Romania until it was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. It became independent after the USSR collapsed in 1991. The mostly Russian-speaking Trans-Dniester enclave broke away from Moldova, which has a Romanian-speaking majority, in 1990. The region is not internationally recognised. An uneasy truce has been holding since the two fought a short war in 1992.
©BBC News

27/7/2004- The Swiss authorities fear sporting events are becoming a recruiting ground for rightwing extremists. They warn that contact between football hooligans and far-right groups has coincided with an upsurge in violence at stadiums. "There has been an rise in the number of violent incidents in Swiss football and ice-hockey stadiums. More and more, rightwing extremist attitudes are spreading among hooligans," said the Federal Police Office in a report on internal security. "Rightwing groups are trying to use the tendency for violence at certain sports events for their own ends." Spokeswoman Danièle Bersier confirmed that there had been an increase in attacks by rightwing skinheads and hooligans on supporters and security forces. The number of hooligans in Switzerland is estimated at between 200 and 300, according to Zurich City police. Police say they have seen a slight increase in numbers, but admit that it is impossible to say how many hooligans belong to an extreme rightwing organisation. Experts point out that there are clear differences between violent sports fans and rightwing extremists. Hooligans are widely considered to be racist but non-political, while so-called skinheads are seen as acting for political motives. Christoph Vögeli of Zurich City police said there were also hooligans, notably in Zurich, who explicitly distanced themselves from rightwing extremism.

Rightwing extremists
Over the past few months police have documented a handful of incidents at Swiss sports stadiums involving a rightwing element. In February police arrested six alleged rightwing militants after an ice-hockey match between two teams from Bern and Fribourg. Hooligans in Lugano are also known to be members of rightwing organisations. In another incident around 20 young people shouted Nazi slogans during an ice-hockey match in Zurich. They were arrested and later released with a caution. More than ten years ago self-styled neo-Nazi supporters regularly attended matches of Geneva's leading football club, Servette. The group has apparently dissolved. The recruiting phenomenon is well known in Britain. A neo-Nazi group, Combat 18, has used football matches to spread its political beliefs and draft new members.

Euro 2008
Observers are concerned that extremists might cause trouble at the 2008 European football championships, jointly organised by Switzerland and neighbouring Austria. Police say existing legislation against hooliganism is not sufficient to tackle the problem, but moves are underway to tighten the law. A new law, currently being drafted, foresees travel bans for violent sports fans as well as preventive detention for known hooligans. Guido Balmer, spokesman for the Federal Police Office, said detention would only be used as a last resort. Officials have also called for closer international police cooperation ahead of Euro 2008. The cabinet is due to appoint a special working group for the tournament, made up of representatives of the federal, cantonal and local authorities.
©NZZ Online

28/7/2004- The United Nations refugee agency has told Switzerland that it is "seriously concerned" about plans to tighten the country's asylum policy. It follows similar criticism last week from numerous aid organisations and churches. The Geneva-based UNHCR said some of the measures submitted by the Federal Refugee Office ran contrary to the "spirit and letter" of the 1951 Refugee Convention. "The proposals appear to be made at a time when the number of asylum seekers has dropped substantially across almost all of Europe, including Switzerland," said the agency in a statement. "There appears to be no need for governments to focus so single-mindedly on restrictive revisions of their asylum laws". According to the Federal Refugee Office, there were 62,505 asylum seekers in Switzerland at the end of June - the lowest level since 1990. The UNHCR's message comes after the House of Representatives voted in favour of stricter immigration and asylum procedures. The controversial package of measures, which still has to be debated in the Senate, aims to curb illegal immigration, crack down on abuse in the labour market but also promote integration. Responding to the UNHCR's concerns, a spokesman for the Federal Refugee Office said that comments had been invited on the proposals from local and regional authorities as well as international bodies as part of an informal consultation process.

Hard line
Justice minister Christoph Blocher, a member of the rightwing Swiss People's Party which takes a hard line on asylum, is planning to table further amendments before the draft legislation goes to the chamber representing the cantons. He wants even tougher penalties for illegal immigrants and foreigners who commit crime. The UN agency said on Tuesday that Swiss efforts to achieve an efficient asylum system should not come at the cost of fairness. The agency is particularly concerned about a proposal to process only those asylum seekers who submit valid travel or identity documents within 48 hours. "Many refugees are not able to obtain national passports or identity papers before fleeing their homeland," said the UNHCR. "In some countries people may never even have been issued such documents, or they may have been confiscated or destroyed." "In other cases, the documents of genuine refugees entering Europe are either stolen or destroyed by smuggling networks into whose clutches they have fallen." The refugee agency said its comments were intended to contribute positively to the process of drawing up new legislation which served the interests of Switzerland while at the same time protecting the rights of refugees.

Changes to Switzerland's immigration and asylum laws, which are aimed at revising legislation dating back to 1931, have caused controversy on both the Left and Right of the political spectrum. The Swiss People's Party has argued that it is too lax, while some members of the centre-left Social Democrats maintain it is too harsh. Some communes, aid organisations and churches are also opposed to a tightening of the current law, criticising not only the contents but also the procedure. They have argued that the short informal consultation period is unacceptable. At the end of last month, the Swiss authorities called for tougher measures to combat illegal immigration after a government report warned that illegal immigrants were increasingly involved in crime and the black economy. Figures showed that foreigners were accused of more than half the registered crimes in Switzerland last year – the highest level in the past ten years. According to the report, criminal gangs based abroad are said to play a key role, particularly regarding the drugs trade, theft and violent crime.
©NZZ Online

Trial by fire: The Integration Ministry is facing a test of the nation's notoriously strict immigration law in the Eastern Circuit High Court

22/7/2004- The Integration Ministry has been named in a suit filed in the Eastern Circuit High Court, claiming that the nation's family reunification statutes are in violation of the European Human Rights Convention. Daily newspaper Politiken reported on Sunday that the suit is likely to be closely followed by government and opposition parties alike.News of the suit comes just after a report by Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles concluded that Denmark's rules governing family reunification are in breach of the convention. ‘It can only be a good thing for the courts to control how the laws are being enforced. It will help to clear the air of the some of the accusations being made,' Integration Minister Bertel Haarder told the newspaper. The plaintiff in the case is 26-year-old Vietnamese citizen Tien Dang, who was rejected in a bid to bring his wife to Denmark, despite the fact that he holds permanent residency in this country, speaks fluent Danish, has his own home and has been steadily employed for the past four years. Tien Dang has two children with his Vietnamese wife, one of whom already has Danish residency, while the other is expected to obtain it very soon. Both of Tien Dang's parents and his two brothers reside in Denmark, as well. Tien Dang's attorney, Anders Christian Jensen, has argued that Danish authorities are preventing the family from having a life together, in contravention of the European Human Rights Convention, which guarantees all individuals the right to a family life.
©The Copenhagen Post

Outlaw of conscience: 25-year-old Joes Mikkel Christensen helps hide asylum seekers to prevent authorities from deporting them

27/7/2004- Joes Mikkel Christensen freely admits that he's a lawbreaker, but says he doesn't feel like a criminal. The 25-year-old man was at the center of a media circus over the weekend, after Christensen told Ritzau news bureau that his group, the Underground Refugees' Committee, which numbers some 150 doctors, psychologists, lawyers, midwives and other professionals, helped more than 300 asylum seekers to hide from authorities between the years 1998 and 2001. Christensen's own involvement with the group began three years ago, after a volunteer stint with the Danish Red Cross gave him the opportunity to witness how Danish authorities treated an unwed Palestinian mother and her three children. The woman was sick with cancer. "I attended meetings at the Danish Immigration Service and the National Refugee Council and had the chance to see how things were done. The family was rejected. I never imagined that it could happen like that. Luckily, the family went underground before receiving residency on humanitarian grounds, but they should have been granted asylum in the first place. I was so stupid and naïve to think it was an oversight. But I found out eventually that this was just business as usual," Joes Mikkel Christensen told Ritzau news bureau. When an Albanian couple was later rejected on similar grounds, Christensen decided to take matters into his own hands. "I freely chose to help them hide. You can write that down," said Christensen.

Jyllands-Posten: Do you see yourself as a vigilante against the entire Danish immigration apparatus, which had ostensible weighed all relevant circumstances in the both the Palestinian and Albanian refugee cases.
Christensen: "Absolutely. But I'm not the only one doing this, quite a few people feel that what (Integration Minister) Bertel Haarder is doing is irresponsible. The interpretation of the definition of 'refugee' in the immigration law and refugee convention is too strict. The authorities themselves are guilty of breaking the law."

JP: Do you feel that individuals are, by extension, justified in breaking the law.
Ch: "No, but we're preventing people from being deported, killed, subjected to torture or imprisoned. The question is how far you can allow authorities to go in violating people's rights before taking action. It's a choice that people have to make. Naturally, we don't want a lawless society where people do whatever they want. But these are strong conscientious grounds. They've started forcibly interning people at the Sandholm (Refugee) Camp. It's reminiscent of what was done to the Jews during World War II."
Christensen said he was aware of the gravity of comparing Danish immigration law to Nazi Germany, but defended the comparison. "I'm shocked by what I'm seeing. I see refugees becoming increasingly psychologically disturbed. The Albanian family I helped hide was given residency on humanitarian ground in February of this year, after being in Denmark for four years. They were granted it because the husband had become severely mentally ill in Denmark from the treatment he endured."

JP asked Joes Mikkel Christensen if he felt any moral scruples about breaking the law by helping refugees to elude authorities in Denmark.
Ch: "Yes, tremendously. I was raised to be very law-abiding. I would much rather follow the rules to the letter, and I never had any intention of doing anything like this before I saw for myself what was going on. I don't want to incite people to break the law, but I think the (immigration) system is coming perilously close to killing people. There's one young man that I've been in contact with for four years now. He recently made his second suicide attempt. All he wants is to die. He came here as a minor and has no family left in his home country. He's afraid of being killed if he goes back. I'm all he has."
©The Copenhagen Post

30/7/2004- Complaints of systematic harassment by the Police Immigration Unit (PU) in Oslo have convinced the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seeker (NOAS) to ask law-enforcement authorities to step in. Police stand accused of stripping applicants naked and mistreating immigrants trying to register. NOAS told newspaper VG that they became convinced of the gravity of the situation after sporadic complaints grew to a steady stream of similar tales. Now the organization has sent the PU a letter with a copy to police commissioner Knut Holen. NOAS said the incidents had occurred in connection with the registration of asylum seekers at the immigration unit in Oslo and the organization saw no reason to doubt the stories. "This is so serious that we have asked police management to intervene. Clear breaches of the law have occurred," said NOAS secretary general Morten Tjessem. "From the information we have these complaints are credible. In several cases they have been subjected to extremely serious and illegal treatment. Even if some of the asylum seekers turn out to be exaggerating it is clear that police have behaved shamefully," Tjessem said. "I choose to believe that individuals are behind these excesses, not the police in general. But I am surprised that the administration has not reacted independently. It indicates a lack of quality control routines," Tjessem said. The PU would not comment on the charges but information chief Roar Hanssen said that they have invited NOAS to a meeting in early August to discuss the situation.

Sample complaints

  • November 2003: A police inspector tore the veil from a pregnant woman from Libya. Police took an ID-photo that shows her crying. Her Norwegian husband was a witness.
  • December 2003: A Syrian man was called a liar every time he tried to speak.
  • December 2003: A Palestinian man was forced to strip naked while a female officer was present.
  • January 2004: Two Russian minors were forced to wait for 12 hours without food or drink. In the middle of the night they were subjected to a hard interview while a policewoman called them liars.
  • February 2004: An Iranian man was informed that all Iranians would be rejected.
  • March 2004: An Afghan family was given nothing to eat in the course of an entire day, interviewed when exhausted.
  • July 2004: A family from Yemen was told they were unwanted in Norway.
    There have also been several complaints filed about police interpreters.

    29/7/2004- Two Somali asylum seekers deported from the Netherlands and Denmark were murdered in the eastern African nation soon after their return to their home country, Amnesty International said Wednesday. One of them was among the 26,000 asylum seekers that the Dutch government intends to deport in the coming period. He was not among the 2,300 long-term asylum seekers issued with a residence permit under an amnesty earlier this year. Amnesty International observer Martin Hill said Mohamed Yahya — who was a member of a persecuted ethnic minority in Somalia — was deported from Denmark in May and murdered several days later. It had previously been reported that he had been deported from the Netherlands. Another rejected Somali asylum seeker, Abdinassir Abdulatif, was kidnapped and shot in the street in the capital Mogadishu on 10 June, nine months after he was deported from the Netherlands. Mogadishu is in the south of Somalia and the Dutch government only considers northern Somalia to be safe. Abdulatif became stranded in the capital and never made it north. Both men were allegedly killed by street robbers, who reportedly saw them as easy targets because they came from a foreign country and there would be no reprisals from ethnic clan members. Amnesty said the murder of Abdulatif highlights the shortcomings of Dutch asylum policy, claiming that the background of the Somali man was not sufficiently examined during the process of expulsion, Radio Netherlands reported. Hill said the Dutch government should not deport vulnerable ethnic minorities that are discriminated against and persecuted in Somalia, Dutch public news service NOS reported. But a spokesman from the Dutch Justice Ministry said there could be no relationship established between the man's death and the Dutch deportation policy. The Netherlands decided at the start of June to temporarily suspend deportations of a specific group of rejected Somali asylum seekers. The decision applies to Somali asylum seekers who must return to the north of the nation and are members of an ethnic minority who do not have family or community links. The temporary stay of deportations will apply for a maximum of 12 months. The government's decision was prompted by a ruling in the Council of State, which advises the government on its legislation. The council ruling was prompted after three asylum seekers lodged legal objections against their looming deportation on concerns over the security situation in Somalia.
    ©Expatica News

    30/7/2004- Responding to ongoing concerns, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk has confirmed she will provide temporary accommodation to rejected asylum seekers who cannot be immediately ejected from the Netherlands. A Justice Ministry spokesman said the minister will inform MPs by letter on Friday about her decision, Dutch news agency ANP reported. The announcement comes after the Groningen Queen's Commissioner, Hans Alders, urged municipal councils in the northern province on Thursday to refuse co-operating with throwing asylum seekers out on the street simply because they cannot be provided with temporary shelter. Alders said evicting asylum seekers from refugee shelters is not desirable at present because there is insufficient capacity in deportation detention centres. Just one such centre has been established, at Ter Appel in Groningen. The Eindhoven and Hilversum councils have previously voted against the establishment of deportation centres within their municipal borders. The Dutch government said earlier this year it will deport 26,000 rejected asylum seekers who failed to win a residence permit in an amnesty offered to about 2,300 others. The amnesty was designed to clear a backlog of cases with the much-criticised immigration service IND. But the plan has met with stiff opposition. The four largest Dutch cities previously raised concerns with Minister Verdonk about the plan, warning that they did not want homeless asylum seekers roaming city streets. Despite this, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht city councils recently promised the minister that they would help in the search for more deportation detention centre locations. Alders said that in the absence of more detention centres, Groningen municipalities do not have to co-operate with evicting rejected asylum seekers from refugee shelters. This is also due to the fact that mayors are not informed if the asylum seekers are co-operating with their deportation. He refused to rule out the possibility that Groningen councils will come into conflict with the Justice Ministry. The IND and the central refugee shelter association COA — which carry out Verdonk's policies — can continually order evictions from refugee shelters. The problem affects asylum seekers who arrived in the Netherlands after 1 April 2001, when new, more stringent immigration laws came into effect to restrict the flow of new arrivals. These asylum seekers do not come into consideration for a new regulation, but they also fall outside the regulation that applies to asylum seekers who arrived when the old immigration legislation was still in place. But if the evictions lead to public order problems, Alders said the municipalities do not need to co-operate with the operation.
    ©Expatica News

    31/7/2004- The Vatican has published a document designed to address "distortions" generated by radical feminism. The document, approved by the Pope, says feminism has "inspired ideologies" that view men and women as enemies, and question family and marriage. But the Pope has also called for more respect for working women, and taken a first step towards breaking the male hold on the Vatican bureaucracy. Feminists have condemned the document as a step backwards.

    Cultural relativism
    The new document is a letter to Roman Catholic bishops entitled On the collaboration of men and women in the Church and the World. It was signed by German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - seen by some as a possible future Pope - and approved by John Paul II. The BBC's David Willey in Rome says the document is an attempt by the Vatican to define the place of women in the Church and in the modern world. It reaffirms the Church's opposition to gay marriage and trends in gender studies that obscure the difference between the sexes. The letter says there is now a tendency to see women as opposed to men, and sex relegated to no more than a physical difference. It says feminism's view of equality has inspired ideologies which "call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and to make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent".

    'Status quo'
    Women should not be stigmatised if they do not have a job, the document says. But it adds that those who choose to work outside the home should not be forced to "choose between relinquishing family life or enduring continual stress". The Vatican document supports a greater role for women in the governance of the Church - but without giving an inch on a relaxation of the ban on women priests. As a token of this, an Italian nun has just been given a job for the first time at a senior level inside the Vatican's own foreign ministry. Our correspondent says that like most Vatican documents, this letter is open to varying interpretations - although its basic theme uncompromisingly states what the Church views as basic differences between men and women. Angela Phillips, a lecturer at London's Goldsmiths College says the condemnation of feminism "seems to be a worrying step back to a religious fundamentalism." "Social changes are uncomfortable for people who are part of structures of a previous society, and so they try to maintain the status quo that women have fought against," she says. Erin Pizzey, founder of the international women's refuge movement, told BBC News Online: "I don't think the Catholic Church - whose own priests and bishops cannot marry - is in a position to make such statements. "It is one of the most emotionally illiterate organisations I know, and they need to put their own house in order first."
    ©BBC News

    By Ravinder Johal

    27/7/2004- After being commissioned by the CRTC in 2001, the Task Force for Cultural Diversity on Television found that "there is a persistence of stereotyping and excessive negative or inaccurate portrayals of minorities" in Canadian programming. I can already hear the grumbling about "special interests" and "political correctness" with respect to these findings: "Those people" have Black Entertainment Television, they have their Saturday and Sunday morning ethnic programs, so why the big fuss? What else do they want? Discussing stereotypes that exist in the media with colleagues a couple of years ago, one teacher asked, "When was the last time you saw a black male die of natural causes on TV or in the movies?" I have posed this question in my classroom many times. Again and again, students of all backgrounds are baffled. In our conversations, it is clear that the predominant media images of young black males are ones that reflect being continually shot at and suffering violent deaths, whether in hip-hop videos, TV dramas, movies, or news reports. As I flip through TV channels, I rarely see representations of South Asians that challenge the predominant images of communities that are extremely diverse. As comedian/actor Jazz Mann mentioned in a recent talk to local high school students, aspiring young South Asian actors can look to convenience store clerk Apu from The Simpsons and Seinfeld's restaurant owner Babu as their North American role models. Some may point out that OMNI TV has diverse ethnic programming on weekend mornings, and that there are an increasing number of South Asian news reporters. But on the whole, there appears little mainstream representation of most visible minority groups on television. As the study indicates, when representation does occur, it is usually negative, reinforcing misperceptions.

    Stereotypes form one side of the triangle that makes up racism. Prejudice and discrimination are the other two sides. Prejudice involves prejudging people, and is usually based on stereotypical images. The resulting discrimination is an act of carrying out unfair treatment of a person, or a group of people, based on prejudice. For instance, based on representations in the media, you may believe all young South Asians over the age of 24 will be facing an upcoming arranged marriage forced upon them by overly strict parents. Consequently, you may judge them as young adults without a substantive voice, or assume that they always defer to their elders. Hip-hop culture and, in particular, the urban fashion it represents, has been stigmatized, used to buttress systemic discrimination against minority and underprivileged youth. Today, it is prevalent for some people, who may also be in positions of power and authority, to prejudge groups of young black males wearing doo-rags or bandanas and big coats with baggy pants as gang members. Racial profiling has its roots in stereotyping, where we judge individuals and groups of people on appearance, as opposed to forming as opinion by observing their behaviour. For this reason alone, media have a responsibility to promote alternative perspectives and representations of minority groups. When people do not interact with different racial or cultural groups or lack knowledge of the diversity that exists among ethnic communities, they often base their judgments on stereotypes. Some form an opinion from limited personal experiences or perhaps base them on representations in the media. To treat people according to such superficial interpretations may result in minorities feeling inferior, neglected, and marginalized. It also perpetuates systemic racism.

    As the Star's ombud Don Sellar asked recently: Why the need to include race in descriptions of wanted criminals? If anything, these types of labels are extremely dangerous and probably do much more harm than good. How many of you feel m ©The Toronto Star

    Wanted in '69 police shooting U.S. expected to seek extradition

    30/7/2004- A former Black Panther arrested in Toronto in the shooting of a Chicago police officer 35 years ago is to appear in court today in the first step toward possible extradition to the United States. Joseph Coleman Pannell, 55, who used the alias Douglas Freeman and worked for 13 years at the Toronto Reference Library  until he was caught by members of the immigration task force Tuesday evening  was formally rearrested yesterday under the Canada-U.S. Extradition Treaty. He is at the Toronto West Detention Centre, where he had been held under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Yesterday afternoon, RCMP officers working with Canadian justice officials, acting at the request of the U.S. justice department, appeared before a Superior Court judge and obtained a warrant to make a "provisional arrest" under the extradition treaty. Then two RCMP officers went to the Etobicoke jail and met Pannell at 2:20 p.m. to tell him he is now being held under extradition law. "He absolutely said nothing," said RCMP Corporal Tony Gollub, leader of the task force team that first arrested him. "He made no reference to anything other than the fact that he understood." The United States now has 60 days to provide Canada with a formal request for extradition and supporting documents, a justice department official said. Today, Pannell is scheduled to have a "provisional arrest hearing" before an Ontario Superior Court judge, where a date will be set for his bail hearing. Pannell lived in Canada for more than 30 years without any official immigration status. He even got an Ontario driver's licence, likely because no identification was required, Gollub said. When he first crossed the border north in 1972, after skipping bail twice in the U.S., he was wanted for the attempted murder and aggravated battery of Terrence Knox in 1969. Knox, the Chicago patrolman Pannell allegedly shot, suffered a severed main artery and severe nerve damage. Now a 56-year-old retired police inspector, Knox has never fully regained the use of the arm injured in the shooting.

    In Canada, Pannell lived in Montreal for several years before moving to Toronto. He was arrested on a minor customs charge in 1983 for which he was fingerprinted but never sent to jail. Pannell started working 13 years ago at the Toronto Reference Library on Yonge St., and he eventually married a co-worker. His Mississauga home appeared deserted last night. Residents in the area described Pannell and his family as quiet, and said yesterday they had kept to themselves since moving in about two months ago. "He's been a perfect neighbour. A standup guy," said 22-year-old Ricardo Gimenez, whose mother lives across the street from Pannell's house. "I see him jogging, tending his garden. He's committed to his kids." But on Tuesday he was arrested after he finished his shift and got into his car, which the task force was watching. The Chicago Police Department's fugitive apprehension and cold case units had been working on Pannell's case for years when they learned last November he had Canadian contacts. They had the FBI pass a set of fingerprints to the immigration task force. The task force found a match through the 1983 prints and quickly linked him to Toronto and his car. The Chicago Tribune reports today that Pannell has a stepdaughter and son who still live in Chicago. Pannell's mother is in Washington, D.C. Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, executive director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, said Canadian justice department lawyers must make certain that there is "a prima facie case" before sending Pannell back to the United States for trial. "Canada has been hoodwinked before," Carter said. "There has to be hard evidence that he is the person who committed the crime." Carter, who was wrongfully convicted of murdering three people in a New Jersey bar ©The Toronto Star

    The on-again, off-again relations between the majority and the Roma in one Polish town mirror the situation across Central Europe
    By Wojciech Kosc

    23/7/2004- "Just have a look at how we live," says Antoni Szczerba, showing his flat. There is no running water, just one collective tap outside. In the wintertime, Szczerba's family keeps warm with a decrepit coal stove--if there is coal to feed it, a rare occasion, he says. Mildew flecks the walls of both rooms. The air is damp. Szczerba's dwelling is not much different from those of his neighbors in the Romani settlement on Zawiszy street in the southern Polish town of Nowy Sacz. About 100 people live in two rows of brick barracklike houses long past their prime. In between is a trash-littered dirt square where children play. The families here are big: six, seven, even 10 people. Poland's Romani minority is one of the smallest in Central Europe, estimated to number 20,000, but it, too, endures widespread discrimination and neglect. The Roma of Nowy Sacz, and generally in the southern Polish region of Malopolska, belong to the so-called Carpathian Roma who abandoned the nomadic lifestyle centuries ago. They are Poland's poorest ethnic minority. Three other Roma groups are scattered elsewhere in the country, their nomadism becoming gradually a memory from the past. Communist authorities tried to end the traditional Romani way of life after World War II by forcing Roma to work, for example, on flagship socialist projects like the Nowa Huta steel-making district near Krakow. Nomadism was banned in 1964, though with buses, cars, and railways, the ban could not have been immediately successful. Even under the Communists, Poland's Roma were a nation apart. The post-1989 impact of market forces opened a rift between haves and have-nots, with many Roma falling into the second category. The Carpathian Roma felt the changes with particular force, as they had always been the poorest of Polish Roma.

    News from the street
    Zawiszy street hosts one of two main concentrations of Nowy Sacz's Roma, along with the equally run-down Gwardyjska street. Several other Roma families are scattered throughout the town. The Zawiszy settlement used to lie outside the city line. It's now surrounded by newly built houses of the expanding town, yet non-Roma visitors are rare here. Not unreasonably, the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) called the settlement a ghetto in its 2002 report, "Limits of Solidarity: The Roma in Poland After 1989." For the people of Zawiszy street, poverty goes hand in hand with social exclusion. "I asked at the parish whether our kids were going to have First Communion, and the priest told me no," recalls Helena Mirga, 38. Her words spur others to burst out in a litany of grievances. "We're only surviving on welfare, but it's only 120 to 150 zloty [$30 to $40] every two months," says Helena's husband and the settlement's informal leader, Antoni Mirga. "My son is 14 and he still can't write or read," says 30-year-old Ewelina Szczerba, Antoni Szczerba's wife. Roman Burkat knows something about Romani kids' problems in school. He's one of few non-Roma who willingly frequent the settlement and is welcomed there as an acquaintance. As he approaches the brick barracks, two men recognize him. "There he goes, our teacher!" one says, shaking Burkat's hand. "I used to teach nearly all of them," says Burkat, who has taught Romani children for 13 years now. "Yeah, this is what you taught us," another man laughs, holding up a bottle--"to drink beer!" Burkat shakes his head and sighs.

    A fixed match?
    Drinking beer is definitely not in the curriculum for Roma in Poland. That there is a specially designed curriculum for this minority at all, though, is itself a contentious matter. The schooling of Romani children has been a delicate issue, and an early-1990s attempt to help them catch up to their Polish peers has proved a failure. The original idea was to have all-Romani classes in order for the Roma kids to learn better Polish so that they could progress to regular classes later on. Stanislaw Opocki, the Catholic priest who initiated the program, described the all-Romani classes as a means to help dropouts or kids who had problems at school because of their family situation or poor grades. The program has since decayed into a system that fosters further segregation and confirms the Romani self-image as an underprivileged minority, say many Romani activists. In practice, the all-Romani classes became segregated classes to which Roma kids were transferred regardless of whether they had problems at school. The aftermath of this version of "separate but equal" schooling continues to unfold today. Two such classes are held at Nowy Sacz's School No. 9, which Zawiszy street's children attend. The classrooms are in the school's basement. "A very bad location," says Alicja Derkowska, founder and director of the Malopolska Education Society (MTO), a local civic group that used to work with the town's Roma. "The headmistress doesn't understand that Romani kids shouldn't be in the basement. It just seems improper," she says. Derkowska recalls a school football match that shook her: "There were two teams: Poles and Roma. How could that happen? Is this a way to integration?" The headmistress, Zofia Basiaga, defends the existence of the controversial classes. "How could [Romani pupils] go to a regular class if they don't speak Polish? They live in isolation. That settlement should be dispersed so that kids would learn to speak Polish," she says. Romani-language classes introduce pupils to Polish culture and prepare them for regular classes, she says. "Roma do not integrate with Poles, unlike other minorities that absorb the dominant culture."

    Integration through separation
    Where does integration end and assimilation begin? In a society that's 98 percent Polish, minorities struggle to hold on to their identity. According to the ERRC's Eva Sobotka, who conducted research in Nowy Sacz for the "Limits of Solidarity" report, "no ethnic group should undergo assimilation efforts." For the Roma, however, the choice may turn out to be assimilation or continuing social exclusion and poverty. The paradox, at least at School No. 9, is that attempts to integrate Romani children tend to deepen their isolation from Poles. Roma themselves often do not make it much easier for the school authorities. "We had a girl in the first grade once. After a year, she disappeared from school until she was 17. Now she's back here and we're obliged to provide her with an education. What grade should she go to now?" the headmistress asks. A glance at one of the school's Romani class registers reveals poor attendance and grades. Near the end of the school year just ended, Ewelina, 16, had not attended a single lesson since it began last September. "She lives with a man in Katowice," Burkat explains. "Roma go to bigger cities where they stand a better chance of finding a job. There's less discrimination there," he says. "And let me be frank: here [in Nowy Sacz], Roma are being discriminated against." According to the Malopolska Education Society's Derkowska, though, the very existence of all-Romani classes is discriminatory, because the work load and the level of difficulty are nowhere near those of regular classes. Burkat explains that Romani youngsters, like other Polish children, undergo intellectual testing after two years of preschool. "Those intellectually capable attend regular classes after that. Others are transferred to all-Romani classes with limited curricula." He admits the tests are likely to yield unreliable results since they're conducted in Polish. "That's unfair, but it's the Ministry of Education that should sort this problem out," he says. Intellectually impaired children are born regardless of ethnicity, though, so why not have a common class for them? "That's impossible," Burkat says. "No Polish parents would have their kids in a class with Roma."

    Government: We have a plan
    To combat discrimination, the Polish government launched a two-year pilot Romani education program in Malopolska in 2001. The program is being expanded nationwide and is set to run until 2013. Acknowledging the shortcomings of the all-Romani classes, the Education Ministry now calls for a new approach that would gradually eliminate them. The program's mission is to look into the conditions in which Roma live, allocate money to purchase school books, and finance basic health services for the Roma, who are largely uninsured. It will also support hiring Romani assistants who will help Romani kids with their homework and make sure they attend lessons. At first, the ministry pledged to spend $2.7 million annually on the program until 2013. The financial reality is less optimistic, though. On 14 July a ministry spokesman said the spending request for 2004 had been cut to $1.66 million. Alicja Derkowska's husband, Gabriel, as well as MTO, were involved to a small extent in the pilot stage of the program. Through MTO, they also received grants to do independent work with the local Roma. It wasn't easy, they say now. Cooperation proved thorny as years of isolation, lack of education, and mutual mistrust between Roma and Poles got in the way. With a trace of bitterness, Gabriel Derkowski recalls the fate of the now-disbanded Roma-Polish Integration Association, which used to help the town's Romani children and dispense legal advice. "It was devised very nicely," he says. "Roma had the majority on the board, so they could see it was their association, not something imposed by Poles." But the organization's reputation took a major blow when its head was rumored to have embezzled grant money from the American Embassy, Derkowski says.

    Women lead the way
    Alicja Derkowska mentions several attempts to involve local Roma in health drives or social activities that fell flat for lack of interest or internal opposition. "When I organized a sewing workshop for women, which was only a pretext to discuss things like home economics or hygiene, one of the men stood up and said their women were not going anywhere," she says. At the Zawiszy settlement, the view is different. "There's so much fuss about us now, journalists and officials come and go; it's only us who are stuck here," Helena Mirga says. "Derkowska's filling her pockets with money but we don't see a penny of it!" Derkowska says many Roma don't understand how nonprofits and charitable organizations work. "Their attitude is that if they know there's money for Roma, it should go directly to them, in cash. I know of a Romani leader who wanted to help children get school books. Once he realized the help wouldn't be cash, but actual books, he withdrew." Now, Derkowska says, she wants to work only with those Roma who are aware of their people's needs. "I'm not going to beg them to cooperate. It has to come from within, they need to overcome their problems themselves," she says. Nowy Sacz's Romani women can perhaps take a lesson from their colleagues in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, and Moldova, who are beginning to organize themselves. A center for Romani women opened its doors in Timisoara, Romania, not long ago, and in Slovakia the Center for Romani Women recently received official status. This summer the Slovak women have been invited to visit MTO's offices in Nowy Sacz for workshops on social leadership skills.

    Tradition vs. Human Rights
    With Poland's entry to the European Union in May, underprivileged communities have become the target of the Union's anti-discrimination policy, and talking about the Roma has become an even more touchy political issue. Krzysztof Popiela, the city of Nowy Sacz's official for Romani issues, says, "Without education no one will ever employ a Roma. In terms of schooling, even the generation of 18-year-olds is lost here." Depending on your point of view, this remark could be interpreted as creating an atmosphere in which Roma are doomed to failure from the start or as an accurate diagnosis of the local situation. Similarly ambiguous is Derkowska's reference to personal hygiene. Does it stem from the widespread belief that "Gypsies" are dirty, a view the ERRC's report attributes to those who would teach Romani children about hygiene? In Nowy Sacz, as in many other towns and cities across the region, public authorities and Romani citizens are engaged in a long-running debate over where to place the fine line between integrating Roma into society and assimilating them. In Poland, the pendulum may be swinging toward assimilation, warns the ERRC's Sobotka. "Poor quality schooling and total absence of affirmation of Romani culture, history, and tradition in the Polish school system [can only] result in assimilation." Derkowska counters that it might be worth sacrificing a part of one's own culture in order to live better. "When tradition and human rights collide, tradition must give in," she says. Language like this is likely to be heard at high levels in the coming years, at least judging from last summer's statement by then-EU Health and Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou, who, on the occasion of Budapest's major international donor conference on Romani integration, said that when such practices among the Roma as child marriage and children being forced to leave school for work collide with fundamental human rights, "then it is the traditions that must adapt, and the human rights principles that must prevail." Not long ago in Nowy Sacz, the authorities took steps to see that the residents of Zawiszy street were provided with at least one basic right. One day excavators and workers showed up to begin digging trenches for water pipes. "It's the first time anything's being done here for 40 years," Helena Mirga says. "Still, we're grateful for it."
    ©Transitions Online

    The Roma face more discrimination than any other ethnic group in Europe. Now Romany women are uniting to confront the sexism within their own community as well as the bigotry from without.
    By Tania Branigan

    22/7/2004- Tatiana Badzo stands in the doorway of her crumbling home in Krasne, Slovakia, an infant propped on one hip. She is 30 but has the hopeful smile of a young girl - no mean achievement for a woman in a troubled Roma ghetto - as she talks about how she imagines her perfect life. "I would like a house for my children, to live like other families," she says. "I would like to have work. I don't want anything fancy - just two rooms, perhaps. And it would be nice to have a bathroom and kitchen. We all sleep in one room at the moment." By all, she means herself, her husband Ladislav and their six children. "We learned from our mothers that it was in our culture to have so many children. Women just don't think about it," she explains, with some regret in her voice. "I don't have education because my mother didn't encourage me, but I want my children to learn to read and write, so they can have a better life. It's hard for women everywhere, but especially here." Tatiana embodies the triple discrimination that women in her community face - "as Roma, as women and as persons belonging to a socially disadvantaged group," in the words of a Council of Europe 2002 report. But her regrets about her limited education, and her acknowledgement of the pressure to have such a large family, hint at an increasing willingness among Roma women to challenge traditional expectations and external prejudice. The seven to nine million Roma living across Europe, including the Gypsies and travellers in the UK, form its most scattered ethnic group. Now women, who can feel powerless within their own communities as well as outside them, are organising across the continent, demanding respect from Roma men and from mainstream feminist movements. The International Roma Women's Network, launched in February last year, is the broadest of its kind, with representatives from 28 countries, including Sweden, Bulgaria and Macedonia. At the Roma Women's Forum, which met in Budapest last summer, more than 100 delegates debated ways of improving healthcare, access to education and employment opportunities. These endeavours are the culmination of scores of grassroots initiatives. "We've realised that we don't want men to talk for us. We want to talk for ourselves," says Janie Cordona, secretary of the UK's National Travellers Action Group, who is thrilled at the increasing confidence she sees. "Men shout the loudest, but it's often women who have the most to say."

    Roma have been abused, harassed and even murdered across Europe over the eight centuries since they migrated from northern India. They are discriminated against not simply because they are isolated within larger communities: they face perhaps the worst prejudice in Slovakia, where Roma form around 10% of the population. While conditions vary, they experience poor-quality health, education and housing in many countries. They are more likely to be unemployed and less likely to enjoy political representation. In central and eastern Europe, poverty rates for Romany women are up to 10 times the average; their life expectancy is 10 to 17 years below the average across the continent. Bigotry and economic hardship have mushroomed in eastern Europe since the collapse of the Soviet bloc. There are regions where Romany unemployment runs at nearly 100%. And much of the prejudice appears to be state-sanctioned: last year, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights found that Romany women were being sterilised without informed consent, and said that anxiety about their high birth rates might have encouraged the practice. But one result of these hardships has been an upsurge in activism, much of it driven by women. "Roma women have been instrumental from t same time they fear that criticising such mores could fuel anti-Roma bigotry. "We should be able to tell the truth not only about what people do to us, but about what we do to ourselves," says Sylvia Dunn, president of the National Association of Gypsy Women in the UK, who has been fighting for Romany rights for more than half a century. "But if we do, everyone will say, 'Oh, all Gypsies are like that.' " Such taboo issues include domestic violence, drug abuse and - in eastern Europe - underage marriages. There was outcry in Romania last year when the 12-year-old daughter of a Roma leader, King Cioaba, was married to a 15-year-old boy despite being so reluctant that her bridesmaids chanted, "Out with Birita [the groom]!" Yet far from welcoming the presence of outsiders, Ana Maria Cioaba screamed at reporters to leave her alone and went ahead with the wedding a few minutes after storming out. She did not want to get married, but it seems she preferred seeing it through to the alternative of abandoning her family and culture.

    A more widespread, if less dramatic, problem is that of educational access. Not only do Roma across Europe often suffer from poor educational provision, but girls may be prevented from going to school because their parents feel that it is unnecessary or even undesirable. "Even now, in the UK, some parents send their children to school until they are 11, and after that want girls to stay at home, cook, clean and learn to be a wife and mother," says Janie Cordona. "The boys will go on, but they think the girls only need so much." The response of Romany men to the women's movement has been mixed. While some applaud it, others resent such outspokenness and fear that airing difficult issues will divide the community. "Human rights violations against the Roma are so high and so harsh that gender equality and women's rights are considered to be a frivolous issue for middle-class Romany women without any other problems," admits Nicoleta Bitu, an activist from Romania. "We are sometimes perceived as being traitors, only out to separate men and women when we need unity. But the same thing happened when I spoke to mainstream women's rights meetings: they didn't want to talk about Romany women." Lucy Russell, currently researching the needs of young traveller women in the UK for the YWCA England and Wales, concurs. "Whenever they do go [outside their culture] to get support or education the first thing they face is judgment and racism: women are turned away from doctors and girls are bullied at school," she points out. Few activists want to abandon their traditional way of life entirely, and many point to the power of women within the family. Carol Silverman, an anthropologist who has studied the Roma in the Balkans, argues that while women may defer to men in public, they often capitalise on domestic strengths, such as controlling household spending or helping to choose their sons' wives.

    Campaigners believe it is possible to gain greater freedom for women without destroying their community. In the words of Sabina Zhemajli, a young activist from Germany, "I am absolutely in favour of the idea that we should preserve our language and culture and pass it on to our children. [But] I refuse to accept traditions that imprison people and do not allow them their freedom." While Roma women in the UK enjoy greater autonomy than those in the largely sedentary and more segregated communities elsewhere in Europe, many of them share that spirit. "Coming from a travelling family, the man is always considered the head of the family and you look to them for permission to do a lot of things," says Cordona. "I was brought up like that, but I thought: this can't be right - to have to ask permission to do the things men take for granted." Despite that, she believes she has plenty of reasons to be proud of her community. "We have less divorce and far fewer teenage pregnancies. Children are put first, and we're brought up to value the family," she says. "These are strengths, and I think others can learn from them. In all societies, not just Roma, men come first. It's time for women as a whole to say that we want our share."
    ©The Guardian

    29/7/2004- The first ever Roma Member of the European Parliament has urged the European Commission to start a concerted effort to improve living conditions for her people. In an interview with the EUobserver, the 29-year old Hungarian MEP from Roma origin, Livia Jaroka, said that Brussels has been "very good at pressuring the new EU member states" to address the Roma issue, but that it had "failed to take concrete action itself." Ms Jaroka was elected last June as the first and only MEP of Roma origin for the centre-right Hungarian party Fidesz. She considers herself as a "real representative" of the estimated nine million European Roma, the majority of which live in the central and eastern European countries that joined the EU last 1 May. Roma, or gypsies, often face poverty, discrimination, unemployment, bad housing and poor access to health care. EU membership has only very partly resolved these problems, Ms Jaroka said speaking on the phone from Hungary. "The new EU countries have been very good at satisfying the wishes of Brussels, adopting formal anti-discrimination legislation, but Roma people do not actually feel the effect of it." She added: "Today I woke up and saw on the television that a Roma man had been beaten up by police and that he had died of the consequences." Ms Jaroka urges the EU to be more involved with the actual daily fate of the Roma people. "It is crucial that the EU creates a body which monitors and investigates the actual situation where Roma live in. It should be a sort of "Roma head office", well-based at the highest EU level: within the Commission." "Together with Roma NGO's and citizens' rights groups I have proposed this idea to Commission people, and they have been open to it. There is a high chance that we will get this done", said Ms Jaroka.

    Special funding for Roma regions
    The MEP also pleaded for a concerted EU effort to improve the social-economic conditions of the Roma, which the United Nations described last year as closer to those in sub-Saharan Africa than to Europe. "The EU should take a leading role in developing some regions where the picture is particularly bad, such as the border region between Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and the Ukraine." Ms Jaroka again put her hopes on the Commission, stating:
    "The EU is the only institution which can provide for the big programmes and budgets which are needed. National authorities have had their chance, but they have failed. A kind of crisis management team within the Commission is needed." She said that this crisis funding for Roma-populated regions should be provided apart from the existing EU regional policy programmes. Experiences from fellow Roma in Spain and Greece - countries which have massively profited from EU funds - had shown that the Roma minority had hardly benefited from general EU regional aid programmes.

    More than a nice Gypsy face
    But Ms Jaroka was keen to stress that she would focus her energy not only on eastern Europe. "Brussels has had the tendency to see the Roma issue primarily as a new member states' problem.", she said. The MEP announced that she would on Friday fly to Greece in order to investigate allegations that Roma people were evicted from their homes because of the upcoming Olympics. "I will be more than a just nice gypsy face in parliament", the MEP summarized her ambitions. Apart from her work as an MEP, Ms Jaroka is finalising her PhD thesis on Roma identity in Hungary at University College London.

    By José Casanova

    29/7/2004- The rapid and drastic process of secularization in Western Europe over the last decades has not diminished the continuing unease with which Europe considers the Islamic religion and European Muslims in its midst in particular. José Casanova argues that he unease between secular European elites and its religious Muslim citizens represents not only a struggle of assimilating and incorporating different cultural backgrounds. It also constitutes a struggle between secularism that is considered as "normal", "progressive" and "enlightened" and the religious which is seen as "backward" and "reactionary".

    Since the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957 that established the EEC and initiated the ongoing process of European integration, Western European societies have undergone a rapid, drastic and seemingly irreversible process of secularization. In this respect, one can talk of the emergence of a post-Christian Europe. At the same time, the process of European integration, the eastward expansion of the European Union and the drafting of a European constitution have triggered fundamental questions concerning European identity and the role of Christianity in that identity. What constitutes "Europe"? How and where should one draw the external territorial and the internal cultural boundaries of Europe? The most controversial and anxiety producing issues, which are rarely confronted openly, are the potential integration of Turkey and the potential integration of non-European immigrants, who in most European countries happen to be overwhelmingly Muslim. It is the interrelation between these phenomena that I would like to explore in this paper.

    The progressive, though highly uneven, secularization of Europe is an undeniable social fact.(1) An increasing majority of the European population has ceased participating in traditional religious practices, at least on a regular basis, while still maintaining relatively high levels of private individual religious beliefs. In this respect, one should perhaps talk of the unchurching of the European population and of religious individualization, rather than of secularization. Grace Davie has characterized this general European situation as 'believing without belonging'.(2) At the same time, however, large numbers of Europeans even in the most secular countries still identify themselves as "Christian," pointing to an implicit, diffused and submerged Christian cultural identity. In this sense, Danièle Hervieu-Léger is also correct when she offers the reverse characterization of the European situation as "belonging without believing."(3) "Secular" and "Christian" cultural identities are intertwined in complex and rarely verbalized modes among most Europeans.

    The most interesting issue sociologically is not the fact of progressive religious decline among the European population, but the fact that this decline is interpreted through the lenses of the secularization paradigm and is therefore accompanied by a "secularist" self-understanding that interprets the decline as "normal" and "progressive", that is, as a quasi-normative consequence of being a "modern" and "enlightened" European. It is this "secular" identity shared by European elites and ordinary people alike that paradoxically turns "religion" and the barely submerged Christian European identity into a thorny and perplexing issue when it comes to delimiting the external geographic boundaries and to defining the internal cultural identity of a European Union in the process of being constituted.

    I would like to explore some of the ways in which religion has become a perplexing issue in the constitution of "Europe" through a review of four ongoing controversial debates: the role of Catholic Poland, the incorporation of Turkey, the integration of non-European immigrants and the place of God or of the Christian heritage in the text of the new European constitution.

    1- Catholic Poland in post-Christian Europe: secular normalization or great apostolic assignment?
    The fact that Catholic Poland is "re-joining Europe" at a time when Western Europe is forsaking its Christian civilizational identity has produced a perplexing situation for Catholic Poles and secular Europeans alike. In a previous issue of Transit I examined the convoluted long historical patterns of convergence and divergence in Polish and Western European religious developments.(4) It suffices to state here that throughout the Communist era Polish Catholicism went through an extraordinary revival at the very same time when Western European societies were undergoing a drastic process of secularization. The reintegration of Catholic Poland i enthusiastically the papal apostolic assignment and has repeatedly stressed that one of its goals once Poland rejoins Europe is "to restore Europe for Christianity." While it may sound preposterous to Western European ears, such a message has found resonance in the tradition of Polish messianism. Barring a radical change in the European secular zeitgeist, however, such an evangelistic effort has little chance of success. Given the loss of demand for religion in Western Europe, the supply of surplus Polish pastoral resources for a European-wide evangelizing effort is unlikely to prove effective. The at best lukewarm, if not outright hostile European response to John Paul II's renewed calls for a European Christian revival points to the difficulty of the assignment. I've suggested that a less ambitious, though no less arduous, apostolic assignment could perhaps have equally remarkable effects. Let Poland prove the secularization thesis wrong. Let Polonia simper fidelis keep faith with its Catholic identity and tradition while succeeding in its integration into Europe, thus becoming a "normal" European country. Such an outcome, if feasible, could suggest that the decline of religion in Europe might be not a teleological process necessarily linked with modernization but a historical choice that Europeans have made. A modern religious Poland could perhaps force secular Europeans to rethink their secularist assumptions and realize that it is not so much Poland which is out of sync with modern trends, but rather secular Europe which is out of sync with the rest of the world. Granted, such a provocative scenario is only meant to break the spell which secularism holds over the European mind and over the social sciences.

    2- Could a democratic Muslim Turkey ever join the European Christian club or which is the torn country?
    While the threat of a Polish Christian crusade awakens little fear among secular Europeans confident of their ability to assimilate Catholic Poland on their own terms, the prospect of Turkey joining the European Union generates much greater anxieties among Europeans, Christian and post-Christian alike, but of the kind which cannot be easily verbalized, at least not publicly. Turkey has been patiently knocking on the door of the European club since 1959, only to be told politely to keep waiting, while watching latecomer after latecomer being invited first in successive waves of accession.

    The formation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951 by the six founding members (Benelux, France, Italy and West Germany) and its expansion into the European Economic Community (EEC) or "common market" in 1957 was predicated upon two historic reconciliations: the reconciliation between France and Germany, two countries which had been at war or preparing for war from 1870 to 1945 and the reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics within Christian Democracy. Indeed ruling or prominent Christian Democrats in all six countries played the leading role in the initial process of European integration. The Cold War, the Marshall Plan, NATO, and the newly established Washington-Rome Axis formed the geopolitical context for both reconciliations. Greece in June 1959 and Turkey in July 1959, hostile enemies yet members of NATO, were the first two countries to apply for association to the EEC. That same July, the other Western European countries formed EFTA as an alternative economic association. Only Franco's Spain was left out of all initial Western European associations and alliances.

    Granted, that the EEC always made clear that candidates for admission would have to meet stringent economic and political conditions. Ireland, The United Kingdom and Denmark formally applied for admission in 1961 but only joined in 1973. Spain and Portugal were unambiguously rebuffed as long as they had authoritarian regimes, but were given clear conditions and definite timetables once their democracies seemed on the road to consolidation. Both joined in 1986. Greece, meanwhile, had already gained The first open, if not yet formal, discussions of Turkey's candidacy during the 2002 Copenhagen summit touched a raw nerve among all kinds of European "publics." The widespread debate revealed how much "Islam" with all its distorted representations as "the other" of Western civilization was the real issue rather than the extent to which Turkey was ready to meet the same stringent economic and political conditions as all other new members. About Turkey's eagerness to join and willingness to meet the conditions, there could be no doubt now that the new, officially no longer "Islamic" government had reiterated unambiguously the position of all the previous Turkish "secularist" administrations. Turkey's "publics", secularist and Muslim alike, had spoken in unison. The new government was certainly the most representative democratic government of all of Turkey's modern history. A wide consensus had seemingly been reached among the Turkish population, showing that Turkey, on the issue of joining Europe and thus "the West" was no longer a "torn country." Two of the three requirements stated by Samuel Huntington for a torn country to redefine successfully its civilizational identity had clearly been met: "First, the political and economic elite of the country has to be generally supportive of and enthusiastic about this move. Second, the public has to be at least willing to acquiesce in the redefinition of identity."(5) It was the third requirement that apparently was missing: "the dominant elements in the host civilization, in most cases the West, have to be willing to embrace the convert."

    The dream of Kemal "Father of the Turks" of begetting a modern Western secular republican Turkish nation-state modeled after French republican laïcité has proven not easily attainable, at least not on Kemalist secularist terms. But the possibility of a Turkish democratic state, truly representative of its ordinary Muslim population, joining the European Union, is today for the first time real. The "six arrows" of Kemalism (republicanism, nationalism, secularism, statism, populism, and reformism) could not lead towards a workable representative democracy. Ultimately, the project of constructing such a nation-state from above was bound to fail because it was too secular for the Islamists, too Sunni for the Alevis, and too Turkish for the Kurds. A Turkish state in which the collective identities and interests of those groups that constitute the overwhelming majority of the population cannot find public representation cannot possibly be a truly representative democracy, even if it is founded on modern secular republican principles. But Muslim Democracy is as possible and viable today in Turkey as Christian Democracy was half a century ago in Western Europe. The still Muslim, but officially no longer Islamist party in power has been repeatedly accused of being "fundamentalist" and of undermining the sacred secularist principles of the Kemalist constitution which bans "religious" as well as "ethnic" parties, religion and ethnicity being forms of identity which are not allowed public representation in secular Turkey.

    One wonders whether democracy does not become an impossible "game" when potential majorities are not allowed to win elections, and when secular civilian politicians ask the military to come to the rescue of democracy by banning these potential majorities, which threaten their secular identity and their power. Practically every continental European country has had religious parties at one time or another. Many of them, particularly the Catholic ones, had dubious democratic credentials until the negative learning experience of Fascism turned them into Christian Democratic parties. Unless people are allowed to play the game fairly, it may be difficult for them to appreciate the rules and to acquire a democratic habitus. One wonders, who are the real "fundamentalists" here? "Muslims" who want to gain public recognition of their identity and demand the right to mobilize in order to advance their ideal and material interests, boundaries, should be defined by the common heritage of Christianity and Western civilization or by its modern secular values of liberalism, universal human rights, political democracy and tolerant and inclusive multiculturalism. Publicly, of course, European liberal secular elites could not share the Pope's definition of European civilization as essentially Christian. But they also could not verbalize the unspoken "cultural" requirements that make the integration of Turkey into Europe such a difficult issue. The spectre of millions of Turkish citizens already in Europe but not of Europe, many of them second generation immigrants, caught between an old country they have left behind and their European host societies unable or unwilling to fully assimilate them, only makes the problem the more visible. "Guest workers" can be successfully incorporated economically. They may even gain voting rights, at least on the local level, and prove to be model or at least ordinary citizens. But can they pass the unwritten rules of cultural European membership or are they to remain "strangers"? Can the European Union open new conditions for the kind of multiculturalism that its constituent national societies find so difficult to accept?

    3- Can the European Union welcome and integrate the immigrant "other"? Comparative perspectives from the American experience of immigration
    Throughout the modern era Western European societies have been immigrant sending countries, indeed the primary immigrant sending region in the world. During the colonial phase, European colonists and colonizers, missionaries, entrepreneurs and colonial administrators settled all the corners of the globe. During the age of industrialization, from the 1800s to the 1920s, it is estimated that ca. 85 million Europeans emigrated to the Americas, to Southern Africa, to Australia and Oceania, 60 per cent of them to the United States alone. In the last decades, however, the migration flows have reversed and many Western European societies have become instead centres of global immigration. A comparison with the United States, the paradigmatic immigrant society (despite the fact that from the late 1920s to the late 1960s it also became a society relatively closed to immigration), reveals some characteristic differences in the contemporary Western European experience of immigration. Although the proportion of foreign immigrants in many European countries (United Kingdom, France, Holland, West Germany before reunification), at approximately 10 percent is similar to the proportion of foreign born in the United States, most of these countries still have difficulty viewing themselves as permanent immigrant societies or viewing the native second generation as nationals, irrespective of their legal status. But it is in the different ways in which they try to accommodate and regulate immigrant religions, particularly Islam, that European societies distinguish themselves not only from the United States but also from one another. European societies have markedly different institutional and legal structures regarding religious associations, very diverse policies of state recognition, of state regulation and of state aid to religious groups, as well as diverse norms concerning when and where one may publicly express religious beliefs and practices.

    In their dealing with immigrant religions European countries, like the United States, tend to replicate their particular model of separation of church and state and the patterns of regulation of their own religious minorities. France's etatist secularist model and the political culture of laïcité require the strict privatization of religion, eliminating religion from any public forum, while at the same time pressuring religious groups to organize themselves into a single centralized church-like institutional structure that can be regulated by and serve as interlocutor to the state, following the traditional model of the concordat with the Catholic Church. Great Britain, by contrast, while maintaining the established Church of England allows greater freedom of religious associations which deal directly with local authorities and school boards to press for changes in religious education, diet, etc., with little direct appeal to the central government. Germany, following the multi-establishment model, has tried to organize a quasi-official Islamic institution, at times in conjunction with parallel strivings on the part of the Turkish state to regulate its diaspora. But the internal divisions among immigrants from Turkey and the public expression and mobilization of competing identities (secular and Muslim, Alevi and Kurd) in the German democratic context have undermined any project of institutionalization from above. Holland, following its traditional pattern of pillarization seemed, until very recently at least, bent on establishing a state-regulated but self-organized separate Muslim pillar. Lately, however, even liberal tolerant Holland is expressing second thoughts and seems ready to pass more restrictive legislation setting clear limits to the kinds of un-European, un-modern norms and habits it is ready to tolerate.

    If one looks at the European Union as a whole, however, there are two fundamental differences with the situation in the United States. In the first place, in Europe immigration and Islam are almost synonymous. The overwhelming majority of immigrants in most European countries, the UK being the main exception, are Muslims and the overwhelming majority of Western European Muslims are immigrants. This identification appears even more pronounced in those cases when the majority of Muslim immigrants tend to come predominantly from a single region of origin, e.g., Turkey in the case of Germany, the Ma'ghreb in the case of France. This entails a superimposition of different dimensions of 'otherness' that exacerbates issues of boundaries, accommodation and incorporation. The immigrant, the religious, the racial, and the socio-economic disprivileged 'other' all tend to coincide.

    In the United States, by contrast, Muslims constitute at most 10 percent of all new immigrants, a figure that is actually likely to decrease given the strict restrictions to Arab and Muslim immigration imposed after September 11 by the increasingly repressive American security state. Since the US Census Bureau, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and other government agencies are not allowed to gather information on religion, there are no reliable estimates on the number of Muslims in the United States.(6) Available estimates range widely between 2,8 million and 8 million. Moreover, it is estimated that from 30 to 42 percent of all Muslims in the United States are African-American converts to Islam, making more difficult the characterization of Islam as a foreign, un-American religion. Furthermore, the Muslim immigrant communities in the United Sates are extremely diverse in terms of geographic region of origin from all over the Muslim world, in terms of discursive Islamic traditions, and in terms of socio-economic characteristics. As a result, the dynamics of interaction with other Muslim immigrants, with African-American Muslims, with non-Muslim immigrants from the same regions of origin, and with their immediate American hosts, depending upon socio-economic characteristics and residential patterns, are much more complex and diverse than anything one finds in Europe.

    The second main difference has to do with the role of religion and religious group identities in public life and in the organization of civil society. Internal differences notwithstanding, Western European societies are deeply secular societies, shaped by the hegemonic knowledge regime of secularism. As liberal democratic societies they tolerate and respect individual religious freedom. But due to the pressure towards the privatization of religion, which among European societies has become a taken for granted characteristic of the self-definition of a modern secular society, those societies have a much greater difficulty in recognizing some legitimate role for religion in public life and in the organization and mobilization of collective group identities. Muslim organized collective identities and their public representations become a source of anxiety not only because of their religious otherness as a non-Christian and non-European religion, but more importantly because of their religiousness itself as the other of European secularity. In this context, the temptation to identify Islam and fundamentalism becomes the more pronounced. Islam, by definition, becomes the other of Western secular modernity. Therefore, the problems posed by the incorporation of Muslim immigrants become consciously or unconsciously associated with seemingly related and vexatious issues concerning the role of religion in the public sphere, which European societies assumed they had already solved according to the liberal secular norm of privatization of religion.

    By contrast, Americans are demonstrably more religious than the Europeans and therefore there is a certain pressure for immigrants to conform to American religious norms.(7) It is generally the case that immigrants in America tend to be more religious than they were in their home countries. But even more significantly, today as in the past religion and public religious denominational identities play an important role in the process of incorporation of the new immigrants. The thesis of Will Herberg concerning the old European immigrant, that "not only was he expected to retain his old religion, as he was not expected to retain his old language or nationality, but such was the shape of America that it was largely in and through religion that he, or rather his children and grandchildren, found an identifiable place in American life," is still operative with the new immigrants.(8) The thesis implies that collective religious identities have been one of the primary ways of structuring internal societal pluralism in American history.

    One should add as a corrective to the thesis, that not religion alone, as Herberg's study would seem to imply, and not race alone, as contemporary immigration studies tend to imply, but religion and race and their complex entanglements have served to structure the American experience of immigrant incorporation, indeed are the keys to 'American exceptionalism'. Today, once again, we are witnessing various types of collision and collusion between religious identity formation and racial identity formation, processes that are likely to have significant repercussions for the present and future organization of American multiculturalism. Religion and race are becoming, once again, the two critical markers identifying the new immigrants either as assimilable or as suspiciously 'alien'. Due to the corrosive logic of racialization, so pervasive in American society, the dynamics of religious identity formation assume a double positive form in the process of immigrant incorporation. Given the institutionalized acceptance of religious pluralism, the affirmation of religious identities is enhanced among the new immigrants. This positive affirmation is reinforced moreover by what appears to be a common defensive reaction by most immigrant groups against ascribed racialization, particularly against the stigma of racial darkness. In this respect, religious and racial self-identifications and ascriptions represent alternative ways of organizing American multicultural American society is entering a new phase. The traditional model of assimilation, turning European nationals into American "ethnics", can no longer serve as a model of assimilation now that immigration is literally world-wide. America is bound to become 'the first new global society' made up of all world religions and civilizations, at a time when religious civilizational identities are regaining prominence at the global stage. At the very same moment that political scientists like Samuel Huntington are announcing the impending clash of civilizations in global politics, a new experiment in intercivilizational encounters and accommodation between all the world religions is taking place at home.(9) American religious pluralism is expanding and incorporating all the world religions in the same way as it previously incorporated the religions of the old immigrants. A complex process of mutual accommodation is taking place. Like Catholicism and Judaism before, other world religions, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism are being 'Americanized' and in the process they are transforming American religion, while the religious diasporas in America are simultaneously serving as catalysts for the transformation of the old religions in their civilizational homes, in the same way as American Catholicism had an impact upon the transformation of world Catholicism and American Judaism has transformed world Judaism.

    This process of institutionalization of expanding religious pluralism is facilitated by the dual clause of the First Amendment which guarantees the 'no establishment' of religion at the state level, and therefore the strict separation of church and state and the genuine neutrality of the secular state, as well as the 'free exercise' of religion in civil society, that includes strict restrictions to state intervention and to the administrative regulation of the religious field. It is this combination of a rigidly secular state and the constitutionally protected free exercise of religion in society that distinguishes the American institutional context from the European one. In Europe one finds on the one extreme the case of France, where a secularist state not only restricts and regulates the exercise of religion in society but actually imposes upon society its republican ideology of laïcité, and on the other the case of England, where an established state church is compatible with a wide toleration of religious minorities and a relatively unregulated free exercise of religion in society.

    As liberal democratic systems, all European societies respect the private exercise of religion, including Islam, as an individual human right. It is the public and collective free exercise of Islam as an immigrant religion that most European societies find difficult to tolerate precisely on the grounds that Islam is perceived as an 'un-European' religion. The stated rationales for considering Islam 'un-European' vary significantly across Europe and among social and political groups. For the anti-immigrant, xenophobic, nationalist Right, represented by Le Pen's discourse in France and by Jörg Haider in Austria, the message is straightforward. Islam is unwelcome and un-assimilable simply because it is a 'foreign' immigrant religion. Such a nativist and usually racist attitude can be differentiated clearly from the conservative 'Catholic' position, paradigmatically expressed by the Cardinal of Bologna when he declared that Italy should welcome immigrants of all races and regions of the world, but should particularly select Catholic immigrants in order to preserve the Catholic identity of the country.

    Liberal secular Europeans tend to look askance at such blatant expressions of racist bigotry and religious intolerance. But when it comes to Islam, secular Europeans tend to reveal the limits and prejudices of modern secularist toleration. One is not likely to hear among liberal politicians and secular intellectuals explicitly xenophobic or anti-religious statements. The politically correct formulation tends to run along such lines as "we w principle of secularism as all other religions of France have done before. "For the most recently arrived, I'm speaking here of Islam, secularism is a chance, the chance to be a religion of France."(10) The Islamic veil and other religious signs are justifiably banned from public schools, he added, because "they are taking on a political meaning," while according to the secularist principle of privatization of religion, "religion cannot be a political project." Time will tell whether the restrictive legislation will have the intended effect of stopping the spread of 'radical Islam' or whether it is likely to bring forth the opposite result of radicalizing further an already alienated and maladjusted immigrant community.

    The positive rationale one hears among liberals in support of such illiberal restriction of the free exercise of religion is usually put in terms of the desirable enforced emancipation of young girls, if necessary against their expressed will, from gender discrimination and from patriarchal control. This was the discourse on which the assassinated liberal politician Pim Fortuyn built his electorally successful anti-immigrant platform in liberal Holland, a campaign which is now bearing fruit in new restrictive legislation. While conservative religious people are expected to tolerate behaviour they may consider morally abhorrent such as homosexuality, liberal secular Europeans are openly stating that European societies ought not to tolerate religious behaviour or cultural customs that are morally abhorrent in so far as they are contrary to modern liberal secular European norms. What makes the intolerant tyranny of the secular liberal majority justifiable in principle is not just the democratic principle of majority rule, but rather the secularist teleological assumption built into theories of modernization that one set of norms is reactionary, fundamentalist and anti-modern, while the other set is progressive, liberal and modern.

    4- Does one need references to God or to its Christian heritage in the new European constitution or does Europe need a new secular 'civil religion' based on Enlightenment principles?
    Strictly speaking, modern constitutions do not need transcendent references nor is there much empirical evidence for the functionalist argument that the normative integration of modern differentiated societies requires some kind of 'civil religion.' In principle there are three possible ways of addressing the quarrels provoked by the wording of the Preamble to the new European Constitution. The first option would be to avoid any controversy by relinquishing altogether the very project of drafting a self-defining preamble explaining to the world the political rationale and identity of the European Union. But such an option would be self-defeating in so far as the main rationale and purpose of drafting a new European constitution appears to be an extra-legal one, namely to contribute to European social integration, to enhance a common European identity, and to remedy the deficit in democratic legitimacy.(11)

    A second alternative would be the mere enumeration of the basic common values that constitute the European 'overlapping consensus', either as self-evident truths or as a social fact, without entering into the more controversial attempt to establish the normative foundation or to trace the genealogy of those European values. This was the option chosen by the signatories of the Declaration of American Independence when they proclaimed 'We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident'. But the strong rhetorical effect of this memorable phrase was predicated on the taken for granted belief in a Creator God who had endowed humans with inalienable rights, a belief shared by republican deists, Establishmentarian Protestants and radical-pietist sectarians alike. In our post-Christian and post-modern context it is not that simple to conjure such self-evident 'truths' that require no discursive grounding. The 2000 Solemn Proclamation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union attempts to produce a similar effect with its opening paragraph: "Conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage, the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality, and solidarity." But the proclamation of those values as a basic social fact, as the common normative framework shared by most Europeans, could hardly have the desired effect of grounding a common European political identity. It simply reiterates the already existing declarations of most national European constitutions, of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights, and most importantly of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. Without addressing explicitly the thorny question of Europe's 'spiritual and moral heritage' and its disputed role in the genesis of those supposedly 'universal values', it is unlikely that such a proclamation can have the desired effect of inscribing those values as uniquely, particularly or simply poignantly 'European'.

    The final and more responsible option would be to face the difficult and polemical task of defining through open and public debate the political identity of the new European Union: Who are we? Where do we come from? What constitutes our spiritual and moral heritage and the boundaries of our collective identities? How flexible internally and how open externally should those boundaries be? This would be under any circumstance an enormously complex task that would entail addressing and coming to terms with the many problematic and contradictory aspects of the European heritage in its intra-national, inter-European and global-colonial dimensions. But such a complex task is made the more difficult by secularist prejudices that preclude not only a critical yet honest and reflexive assessment of the Judeo-Christian heritage, but even any public official reference to such a heritage, on the grounds that any reference to religion could be divisive and counterproductive, or simply violates secular postulates. The purpose of my argument is not to imply that the new European constitution ought to make some reference to either some transcendent reality or to the Christian heritage, but simply to point out that the quarrels provoked by the possible incorporation of some religious referent in the constitutional text would seem to indicate that secularist assumptions turn religion into a problem, and thus preclude the possibility of dealing with religious issues in a pragmatic sensible manner. Firstly, I fully agree with Bronislaw Geremek that any geneological reconstruction of the idea or social imaginary of Europe that makes reference to Greco-Roman antiquity and the Enlightenment while erasing any memory of the role of Medieval Christendom in the very constitution of Europe as a civilization evinces either historical ignorance or repressive amnesia.(12)

    Secondly, the inability to openly recognize Christianity as one of the constitutive components of European cultural and political identity means that a great historical opportunity may be missed to add yet a third important historical reconciliation to the already achieved reconciliation between Protestant and Catholics and between warring European nation-states, by putting an end to the old battles over Enlightenment, religion and secularism. The perceived threat to secular identities and the biased overreaction to exclude any public reference to Christianity belies the self-serving secularist claims that only secular neutrality can guarantee individual freedoms and cultural pluralism. What the imposed silence signifies is not only the attempt to erase Christianity or any other religion from the public collective memory, but also the exclusion from the public sphere of a central component of the personal identity of many Europeans. To guarantee equal access to the European public sphere and undistorted communication, the European Union would need to become not only post-Christian but also post-secular.(13) Finally, the privileging of European secular identities and secularist self-understandings in the genealogical affirmation of the common European values of human dignity, equality, freedom, and solidarity may not only impede the possibility of gaining a full understanding of the genesis of those values and their complex process of societal institutionalization and individual internalization, but also preclude a critical and reflexive self-understanding of those secular identities. David Martin and Danièle Hervieu-Léger have poignantly shown that the religious and the secular are inextricably linked throughout modern European history, that the different versions of the European Enlightenment are inextricably linked with different versions of Christianity, and that cultural matrixes rooted in particular religious traditions and related institutional arrangements still serve to shape and encode, mostly unconsciously, diverse European secular practices.(14) The conscious and reflexive recognition of such a Christian encoding does not mean that one needs to accept the claims of perplexing and seemingly intractable 'religious' problems.

    This text emerged from an independent working group named by European Commission President Romano Prodi and chaired by the Rector of Vienna's Institute for Human Sciences, Krzysztof Michalski. The group is charged with identifying the long-term spiritual and cultural perspectives of the enlarged Europe. For more information under

  • 1) Cf. David Martin, A General Theory of Secularization London 1978; and Andrew Greeley, Religion in Modern Europe at the End of the Second Millennium, London 2003.
  • 2) Grace Davie, Religion in Britain Since 1945: Believing without Belonging, Oxford 1994, and Religion in Modern Europe: A Memory Mutates, Oxford 2000.
  • 3) Danièle Hervieu-Léger, "Religion und sozialer Zusammenhalt;" Transit 26 (2003/2004).
  • 4) José Casanova, "Das katholische Polen in säkularisierten Europa," Transit 25 (2003).
  • 5) Samuel N. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Ramaking of World Order New York 1996, p.139.
  • 6) Karen Isaksen Leonard, Muslims in the United States. The State of Research, New York 2003
  • 7) José Casanova, "Beyond European and American Exceptionalisms: towards a Global Perspective," in G.Davie, P. Heelas and L. Woodhead, eds., Predicting Religion Aldershot 2003.
  • 8) Will Herberg, Protestant-Catholic-Jew Chicago 1983, pp.27-8.
  • 9) Indeed, one of the most questionable aspects of Huntington's thesis is his nativist anti-immigrant and anti-multi-culturalist posture in order to protect the supposedly Western civilizational purity of the United States from hybridization.
  • 10) Elaine Sciolino, "Debate Begins in France on Religion in the Schools," The New York Times, February 4, 2004
  • 11) This point was forcefully made by Dieter Grimm at his keynote address, "Integration by Constitution - Juridical and Symbolic Perspectives of the European Constitution," at the Conference "Toward the Union of Europe - Cultural and Legal Ramifications", at New School University, New York, March 5, 2004
  • 12) Bronislaw Geremek, "Welche Werte für das neue Europa? Transit 26 (2003/2004).
  • 13) Even in his new post-secular openness to the religious "other" and in his call for the secular side to remain "sensitive to the force of articulation inherent in religious languages," JürgenHabermas still implies that religious believers must naturally continue to suffer disabilities in the secular public sphere. "To date, only citizens committed to religious beliefs are required to split up their identities, as it were, into their public and private elements. They are the ones who have to translate their religious beliefs into a secular language before their arguments have any chance of gaining majority support." Jürgen Habermas, "Faith and Knowlwdge, " in The Future of Human Nature, Cambridge 2003, p. 109. Only by holding to a teleological philosophy of history can Habermas insist that "postsecular society continues the work, for religion itself, that religion did for myth" and that this work of "translation," or rational linguistification of the sacred, is the equivalent of "non-destructive secularization" and enlightenment.
  • 14) Transit 26 (2003/2004)

    27/7/2004- The newly enlarged European Union has a rich linguistic variety extending far beyond its official working languages. But new efforts are being made to strenghten the bloc's cultural diversity. When Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero took office earlier this year, he decided to take a new linguistic approach than his predecessor. Within just a matter of weeks he had called on his counterparts in the European Union to grant Spain's regional languages official recognition in the future European constitution. If the EU agrees to Madrid's request, Catalan, Basque and Galician will be awarded 'treaty status'. "It would allow people to communicate in their language, or to obtain documents in that language," James Fife of Eurolang, the newsagency attached to the European Buro for Lesser Used Languages, told DW-WORLD. And given that there are more speakers of Catalan than of either Slovenian or Maltese -- which has not yet become an EU working language -- it doesn't seem an altogether unfair request. However, Spain's conservative opposition slammed Zapatero's demand for recognition, saying it was nothing more than a stunt aimed at sweetening his nationalist coalition partners. But whatever the motives, Fife welcomes Spain's nurturing approach, and would like to see other European states take their cue from Madrid's lead. "Even if Spain were successful in achieving treaty status, it is hard to see how there would be a snowball effect. Not all states are minority language-friendly," Fife said. For many regional languages, simply gaining recognition on home ground is a steep enough mountain to climb. "It's often all that national minorities can do to maintain themselves, in many cases they are losing their fight to stay alive," he concluded.

    Eastern Europe provides new impetus
    Interestingly enough, the new EU member states have dusted off the issue of minority European languages, and put it squarely back on the table. While western European governments have traditionally tended to close their ears to regional tongues, the approach in the East is quite different. Many of the ten new countries were forced into a life of Russian, and are only too glad to have the chance to promote their own linguistic heritages. Although the EU is home to more than 40 minority languages -- with tens of million speakers -- the only one on the whole continent actually entitled to the status of official working language, is Gaelic, and that is only the case because Gaelic is an official language of the Republic of Ireland. But would other countries want the same treatment for their pockets of linguistic diversity? According to Fife, it varies from place to place. He cites Hungary as great believer in the promotion of its 15 sub-languages, and France as country which is doggedly determined not to acknowledge it linguistic treasure chest. Fife said Germany, with its Slavic Sorbian minority, is somewhere in the middle. "Germany doesn't have quite the same negative attitude to minority languages. It provides some support and recognition, more than the French," he said.

    Keeping Sorbian alive
    But the official association of Sorbs feels that Germany's Federal government could do more to integrate Sorbian into the regional and national consciousness. Although the government currently stumps up an annual budget for the promotion of Sorbian culture, it has already threatened to cut its contributions. With a total of 60,000 speakers of Upper Sorbian and Lower Sorbian in the states of Saxony and Brandenburg, local residents can theoretically go from one day to the next without speaking any German. Theoretical, however, is the operative word. "Many people can't speak Sorbian, but those who work for the local authorities, and the police etc, should be bi-lingual. If Sorbs saw that they could use their language freely, they would do so," Bernhard Zies, Managing Director of the Association for Lausitzer Sorbs told DW-WORLD. It's an ideal which remains far from reality. Even measures to revitalize the language, such as the introduction of bi-lingual kindergartens and schooling, are unlikely to make it as important to Germany as Catalan appears to be to Spain. "We will never reach the stage where people who live in Sorbian areas have to be able to speak both languages, because we do not have territorial autonomy," Zies added. That is a view shared by James Fife, who believes devolution from central powers is a pre-requisite to the successful preservation of minority languages.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    Journalists from the Roma Press Center visited two schools to see how children fared in classes for mentally disabled students.
    by Bela Berkes, journalist with the Roma Press Center in Budapest, translated by Nicole Pallai.

    9/7/2004- "I'm thinking of a number. Now I add five, and it becomes nine. What number is it?" In the village of Bag in Pest County, pupils in a second-grade special-education class struggle with this formidable equation. Just writing the number 9 is an insuperable task for one little boy in the class. In the special-ed second grade, numbers are taught up to 20; in the regular class, the students get as far as 100. Only Romani children sit in this classroom. Overall, 53 pupils study in the school's remedial programs, all of them Roma.

    Settlement blues
    More than 11,000 students attend the 380 primary schools in Hungary that operate special-education programs alongside regular ones, according to a new report by the National Educational Integration Network of the Education Ministry. Current law allows for the combination of up to three grades into one class and prescribes the employment of a special-needs teacher in each such program. Nevertheless, the report states, not even a third of special-ed teachers possess the necessary certificate, and in 17 schools grades 1 through 8 are combined, in 67 schools the lower four grades are combined, and in 74 schools, all upper grades (5 through 8) are crowded into one class. A total of 300 students attend the Bag school, and only one-fifth of the students in the regular classes are Roma. According to school principal Mihaly Fodor, there are one or two non-Roma mentally handicapped students in Bag as well, but their parents take them to schools in other communities, "anywhere else, as long as they're not among Roma." The children in the remedial classes have a reputation: "Wherever they go, no stone remains in place, and it's best if the old ladies take cover, because they'll stomp all over them," the principal says. Fodor cites undernourishment as a contributor to mental and physical disadvantages as he explains why only Roma are assigned to the remedial program. "Take a look at the settlement, and you'll understand why these children are the way they are. Not a single one ends up in the special-ed program without a decision from the Expert Committee," he says. The Romani settlement on the outskirts of the village truly is a sorry sight: an unpaved road, two common wells for 400 people, no gas, not to speak of sewers.

    A snack for the underfed
    The separation that the youth of the slum experience in housing persists in the school: the regular building has space for only one of the four remedial classes, so the other classes are taught in separate buildings 40 meters away. In one classroom children munch on bread spread with liver paste. As we later found out, this amounts to lunch for children for whom undernourishment is allegedly a cause of mental retardation. The "regular" kids eat in the cafeteria. Only one brown-skinned girl sips her soup among them, at a separate table, with her back turned to the others. "We haven't solved the problem of their lunch; perhaps we'll manage by the autumn," the principal says, adding, "They won't eat this kind of lunch, but if you ask me why, I can't give you an explanation." The decoration of the classrooms seems designed to instill a sense of identity in the Romani children, but instead tends to equate mental disability with their ethnic origin: a Romani flag, newspaper articles on Roma, and pictures of Romani basket weavers adorn the walls. The slogan "Study and Work Can Help Gypsies Too!" catches our eye. "Do you think there is anything wrong with having a Gypsy picture in the classroom? Because if you think there is, we'll take it down tomorrow. And then someone else will ask why it isn't there," says the principal, preschool and predominantly understands the Gypsy language, the pupil should continue her studies in an elementary school that offers education for the mildly mentally handicapped"--this is all that the recommendation of the county committee responsible for examining learning capacities reveals of a girl who otherwise "possesses appropriate socialization."

    Half a percent
    In Isaszeg, the number of mentally handicapped children more than doubled, on paper, over 10 years. The 74 mentally handicapped children among the 428 pupils at Imre Madach School study in separate buildings 200 meters from the other students, one of which is a renovated dental office. Unlike the "regular" students, these children don't have access to computers, although the principal admits, "It's possible that there's a need for it." Within the special-ed program, the first and second grades are solo, while the third-graders share a class with the seventh, the fifth with the sixth, and the eighth-graders share a class with the fourth-graders--"because they serve as good mentors." The mentally handicapped fourth-graders struggling with language problems attend three Hungarian classes a week, in contrast to the eight classes a week provided their regular counterparts (one fourth-grade boy is still struggling with writing the letter j), and they have to change into gym clothes only once a week, while the students across the way exercise three times a week. The "slow" kids don't receive written homework assignments, because, says one special-ed teacher, "The outcome is always that they get it dirty, lose it, rip it into pieces, or use it to light up the stove." During the past five years, students managed to move from special to regular programs at a fourth of the schools examined in the Education Ministry's report. In most schools, though, this amounted to just a single student. Such was the case in Bag. One-half of 1 percent of the children who attend special-education classes go on to study at high schools; the vast majority continue their studies at vocational schools, special trade schools, or nowhere at all. "From there," states Gabor Havas, the director of the research, "it's a straight path to unemployment."
    ©Transitions Online

    12/7/2004- Belgium's far right Vlaams Blok party scored a massive election victory in the regional election which took place in Flanders in mid-June and in the European elections which took place on the same day. The much reviled party garnered almost a quarter of votes in each election - scoring 23% in the European elections and 24% in the Flemish poll. This should not come as a surprise as they have been steadily gaining ground over the last few years on a platform of anti-immigration and Flemish independence policies. Party chairman Frank Vanhecke is not surprised either: "We have been the voice of the large majority of Flemish voters," he told BBC News Online. "Our success is due to our programme and the bad government we have had for the past years." He believes they are getting more and more mainstream. While their success may have been originally based on their anti-immigration and law and order policies, it is now also based on the business community being interested in redressing the balance of economic power in Belgium to their advantage. The Vlaams Blok argues that the Flemish, richer half of Belgium are financially bolstering their French-speaking cousins. "Our big wins have not just come from people confronted by immigration and crime problems; we have kept all those voters and we have added Socialist voters, ex-voters from the liberal party and business people," Mr Vanhecke says. He believes achieving power is only a matter of time given their recent, encouraging results. If they do, Belgium might become a very different place.

    Flemish future
    Mr Vanhecke says they would hold a vote in the Flemish Parliament on Flemish independence and have it confirmed by a public referendum. But this might be some way off as by his own account, only about 30%-40% of the population in Flanders currently supports Flemish independence. The next stage in the Vlaams Blok plan is for immigrants who display "criminal behaviour" and those who are in the country illegally to be sent back to their country of origin; to make it harder for immigrants to obtain Belgian nationality; and for those in Belgium "to adapt and respect our laws". This would mean ditching Belgium's current policy of multiculturalism where different nationalities can live together in the same state. "We think people should learn the language and should be prepared to take an oath for their children to become Flemish or European people, to become Flemish people among Flemish people," Mr Vanhecke says. They single out Arabs or Muslims ("they are the same on the ground") "as the problem. There are no problems with Jews or Chinese people."

    Court case
    In the meantime, they have more pressing concerns. A Belgian court in April convicted three party associations of breaching anti-racist legislation. If the ruling is confirmed in November by Belgium's highest court, the Vlaams Blok could lose crucial state funding and could be banned from public media. In this case, the party would have to make some changes, such as its name and its statute to pave the way for sharing power in local governments, but these would be merely cosmetic, its party chairman says. "We will keep the programme of the party as it is, but would change the name and alter other 'minor points' (e.g. how the party president is elected)," he says. When asked his view on whether his party is racist, Mr Vanhecke says: "It is unjust, we do not have any kind of politics on a racial basis, our propositions generally speaking are already policy in European countries (e.g. UK, Sweden, Netherlands)."

    Media dilemma
    Belgian politicians, human rights organisations and media do not see it that way. Belgian politicians in Antwerp are refusing to share power with Mr Vanhecke's group even though it now represents the second political force in Flanders and got a third of the vote in the recent election in Antwerp. Human rights groups have in the past accused the Blok of singling out immigrants and people of North African origin in its campaign material. As for Belgian media, there is a now real dilemma over how to handle the Blok. Belgian journalists had until recently observed an unofficial blackout, but with the recent success of the party, are finding it harder to ignore this major political force in Belgian politics. The editor of the Flemish centre-right Standaard newspaper, Peter Vandermeersch, sent an open letter to his colleagues after the elections on how to best deal with the Blok. In it, he comments on the sociological profile of newsrooms; most journalists are university-educated, tend to be left-wing and usually live in problem-free areas, and are out of touch with difficult areas, he says. "I am not pleading for a quota of degree-free journalists to be set up, but we should at least try so that, professionally, one does not lose contact with the poor or difficult areas," he told the French-language Libre Belgique newspaper. Mr Vanhecke says his party has already noticed the changes and that in the recent elections they received more coverage with interviews with leaders of the party in all the main Flemish newspapers for the first time.
    ©BBC News

    14/7/2004- The Belgian cabinet on Wednesday approved a new federal action plan designed to tackle the rising problem of racist and anti-Semitic violence. The plan was drawn up by three government heavyweights, Interior Minister Patrick Dewael, Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinkx and Marie Arena, who is in charge of equal opportunities issues. The three said they wanted to develop concrete initiatives to tackle racist ideologies as well as cracking down on people making xenophobic speeches or producing offensive publications. Belgium has seen a rise in racist incidents in recent months. Several attacks on members of Antwerp's Jewish community have highlighted the problem of anti-Semitism in the country. Meanwhile the continuing popularity of the far right Vlaams Blok in Flanders has show that there is significant support in many parts of the country for openly racist ideas. Earlier this year a Gent court ruled that the Vlaams Blok regularly breaks Belgium's anti-racism laws by using racist propaganda.
    ©Expatica News

    12/7/2004- After years of bitter wrangling between the Social Democrat coalition government and the Christian Democrat opposition, a new immigration law was passed in Germany last week. The law, due to come into effect in 2005, was definitively adopted by the upper house of the German parliament (Bundesrat) on Friday. It allows for the recruitment of highly skilled workers such as scientists, engineers and IT specialists. The highly-skilled bar was put it in by the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU). In addition, entrepreneurs who invest at least a million euros and offer jobs to locals will also be allowed to work in Germany. "The new law gives us the opportunity to take part in the race for the world's best brains", said German interior minister Otto Schily. The law also requires that immigrants integrate more into German society. Immigrants coming to Germany for the long term must follow a course of 300 hours on language and civil and societal issues. Foreigners already settled in Germany must also take part in integration courses.

    Balancing act
    The law is a reflection of an uneasy balance between making Germany more competitive - its unemployment figures are near ten percent and it has an aging population - and taking into account security fears. Fighting between the government and opposition parties was most acute on security issues - particularly in light of the Madrid terrorist attacks earlier this year. In May, talks on the draft law almost collapsed when the Greens - also in government - threatened to abandon negotiations accusing the conservative of making too many demands about national security. In the end, a compromise formula was agreed making it easier for immigration officials to deport people who preach hate - a formulation aimed at Islamic extremists in Germany. It will also be easier to remove terror suspects from the country without trial. According to Deutsche Welle, the CDU's chief negotiator Peter Müller said, "the law is a dramatic improvement". "It creates more security and provides better opportunities for the integration of foreigners. We are now able to better channel and engineer immigration. In addition German fulfils its obligations regarding humanitarian and asylum issues", he added.

    For years, the Third Reich was a subject shrouded by taboos and guilty introspection. But two new films show that Germans are at last learning to confront Hitler's legacy
    By Steve Crawshaw

    13/7/2004- For 60 years, Germany has been feeling worried. Worried by its own criminal history, worried by the judgement of others - and worried that the lure of Adolf Hitler is not yet dead. Few Germans would seriously argue that modern German democracy is endangered. None the less, the just-in-case taboos remain in place, above all when it comes to the dictator himself. Elsewhere in Europe, it is easy to find copies of Mein Kampf on the shelves. In the words of the English-language edition, "It remains necessary reading for those who care to safeguard democracy." In Germany, where it was once compulsory reading, it is considered too sensitive to put on sale. Even the dictator's image is subject to powerful taboos. English-language books on the Third Reich often have photographs of the Führer on the cover. When those same books are translated into German, the pictures of Hitler and the swastikas vanish, to be replaced with something more anodyne. Several decades after the war, a German commentator explained why he believed the ban on Mein Kampf to be essential: "The bacillus is too lively, the danger of infection too acute." Even in the 21st century, that fearful logic - though rarely made so explicit - remains in place. Now, however, remarkable change is on the way. Two new German films both put the Führer unashamedly centre screen. Heinrich Breloer has filmed a huge documentary drama focusing on the role of Albert Speer, Hitler's star architect. Speer and He will be screened on German television in the spring, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Hitler's death. As Der Spiegel points out, Breloer's three-part, 12m (£8.5m) documentary series breaks with a long German tradition: "If the dictator appeared at all, then only for a few seconds and usually without words." Demystification is the key. In preparation for the role, Tobias Moretti, who plays Hitler, listened for hours to a unique tape recording, secretly recorded by a Finnish radio technician in 1942: Hitler not as the demagogic orator, but speaking in the voice of an ordinary human being. A second film, Bernd Eichinger's The Downfall, focuses on the last days in the bunker. Bruno Ganz, star of Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire, takes the role of Hitler. As Frank Schirrmacher, the publisher of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, has noted, the release of the films will mark an important turning point. "A type of pictorial fear was at work here; a dread of turning the man who has dominated German imagination to the present day into a product of artistic imagination. This is over now." Schirrmacher suggests that these are "the most important historical projects in many years". These changes do not take place in isolation. Germany's new relaxation is everywhere - in film, literature, and politics. The old taboos are crumbling month by month, day by day. Confrontation with the past, and confrontation with German worries about the past, are inextricably intertwined.

    The story of Germany since 1945 has, in many ways, been a story of changing taboos with regard to Hitler and his legacy. Initially, those taboos sought to avoid acknowledging the depth of the crimes that so many Germans had, by their action or inaction, allowed to take place. Reading the West German school- books of the 1950s and 1960s is to expose oneself to a tissue of half-truths, at best. Hitler himself is portrayed in an almost rosy light - the peacemaker, whose efforts were thwarted by a war-hungry Churchill, to whom Hitler "offered peace in vain". (Churchill "knew that England had time, and that the United States would help".) Where Hitler's crimes are alluded to in passing, the reader is constantly assured that Germans knew little or nothing of wha Europe or the United States - began to chip away at the lies. The 1968 effect was by no means immediate. (The Baader-Meinhof terrorism of the 1970s, which theoretically demanded more openness about the past, perhaps slowed down the process of change.) When Basil Fawlty goosestepped his way past the German guests in the Fawlty Towers dining room, muttering (not quite sotto voce) "Don't mention the war", he was partly right, despite his buffoonishness, to believe that the Germans were still in denial at that time, in 1975. Only at the end of the Seventies did the greater openness began to be real. In 1977 came the publication of What I Have Heard about Adolf Hitler, a 350-page book consisting of quotations from a series of school essays on the above theme. The answer to the question was: not much. Hitler was Swiss, Dutch, or Italian; he lived in the 17th century, the 19th century, the 1950s; he was a First World War general, the founder of the East German Communist Party, a leader of German democracy. The ignorance was easily explained. The subtitle of the book, which had a dramatic impact when it was published, was simple: "Consequences of a Taboo." Two years later, the screening of Holocaust - a US television mini-series derided elsewhere as "genocide shrunken to the level of Bonanza with music appropriate to Love Story" - brought the human impact of Hitler's crimes into German homes for the first time. In the words of one of several German books devoted to the extraordinary Holocaust effect: "A whole nation began - as a result of a television film - suddenly to discuss openly the darkest chapter of its history."

    The underlying reason for this new openness, which grew through the 1980s, was the change of generations. The children of those who had committed crimes, or who had stood by while crimes were committed, were eager to confront the past in a way that their parents were so reluctant to do. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 caused rejoicing across Germany and even, briefly, throughout Europe. But the prospect of German unity the following year quickly soured the mood for many who had privately grown to like the existence of the Iron Curtain. President François Mitterrand believed that a united Germany "would mean certain war in the 21st century"; Margaret Thatcher was equally determined to "check the German juggernaut". The wave of neo-Nazi violence in the chaotic and embittered years after unification confirmed the worst fears of those who believed that Germans, in the vivid formulation of Martha Gellhorn, have "a gene loose". Meanwhile, however, confrontation with the past was by now everywhere. That may have been one reason why far-right parties have failed to gain a single seat in Germany's national parliament in recent years - in sharp contrast to many of Germany's European neighbours, Hitler's native Austria included. (As the East German singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann noted, historical honesty has not always been Austria's strong point: "Austria and East Germany were linked by a common piece of hypocrisy: both pretended to have been forcibly occupied by Hitler's Germany in the Second World War.")

    Through the 1990s, Germany continued to feel worried about itself and about how others might perceive it. There was resentment or weariness at the persistence of the Basil Fawlty stereotypes, above all in the UK. But there were self-imposed taboos, too. Thus, less than a decade ago, the opposition Social Democrats roundly condemned the conservative chancellor Helmut Kohl for daring to think of letting German planes be used in policing a no-fly zone in Bosnia, "because of the German past". In the past few years, such taboos have been forgotten. The Social Democrats, now the government party, argued for stronger military action than Kohl and his allies would ever have dared to contemplate, in the Balkans and then Afghanistan. Joschka Fischer, foreign minister and a leading member of the almost-pacifist Greens, explained why he was in favour of sending German ground troops to Kosovo, with reference to th "unencumberedness", "relaxedness", and "unbotheredness". In past years, German liberals used Unbefangenheit almost as a term of abuse; Germans were not supposed to be relaxed. Now, that has changed. Hitler is seen as part of German history, but not its sole defining trait. Günter Grass, the grand old man of the liberal left, writes an authorial apology in his novella Crabwalk, for being so obsessed with Hitler's crimes that other topics were excluded - including the expulsion in 1945 of 15 million German civilians from their homes; two million died by shooting, starvation or freezing to death. "Never," Grass tells his narrator, "should his generation have kept silent about such misery, merely because its own sense of guilt was so overwhelming... with the result that they abandoned the topic to the right wing." This failure, he says, was staggering.

    For some commentators, this readiness to broaden the German discourse is itself worrying. A bestselling book published in 2002, The Blaze, describes the Allied firebombing of German cities - a campaign in which more than half a million died - in painstaking detail. British columnists reacted indignantly, asking: "With four million unemployed in Germany, is this the fertile ground in which a new National Socialism might take root?" To which the simple answer is: unlikely. The author, Jörg Friedrich, a liberal historian who has written extensively about the Holocaust, and wrote The Cold Amnesty, a powerful account of the extent to which the post-war West German establishment was still poisoned by the Nazi era, had merely reached the same conclusion as Grass: that the self-evident and well documented German crimes are not a reason why the subject of the suffering of German civilians must remain off limits for all time, or the exclusive preserve of the nationalist right. The new self-confidence with regard to Hitlerian history is everywhere. The Social Democrat Chancellor Gerhard Schröder declared, on being invited to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the D-Day landings: "The Second World War is finally over." Der Spiegel noted that there was little concern about Schröder's presence in most of Europe; only Britain reacted differently. (This is part of a familiar pattern. When Der Spiegel's London correspondent, Matthias Matussek, published a report earlier this year that dared to suggest all is not well in Blair's Britain, he was the target of UK red-top fury, including from papers that have themselves published lacerating stories on the same subject. Britons may criticise; Germans may not.) One of the most successful films in Germany in the past year has been Sönke Wortmann's Miracle of Berne, an optimistic film about Germany's arrival in footballing heaven - victory in the World Cup of 1954. Until a few years ago, Hitler's long shadow meant that a feelgood film about Germany would still have seemed unthinkable; a clear sign of occupying the far-right "brown corner", as it is described. "Ten years ago, I wouldn't have made the film," Wortmann told me. "Things are changing in a positive way. Germans are not so verkrampft, so uptight." German television felt emboldened to imitate the BBC's Great Britons series with its own, called Unsere Besten (Our Best). (The top 10, chosen by millions, included the two giants of postwar democracy, the conservative Konrad Adenauer and the socialist Willy Brandt; the executed heroes of the anti-Nazi resistance, Hans and Sophie Scholl; Albert Einstein, driven into emigration; and - especially popular in east Germany - Karl Marx.)

    Perhaps most startling of all, if one is looking for signs of the extraordinary new Unbefangenheit, is the creation of a new, ever-so-ironic lifestyle magazine, a kind of wallpaper* for Germany. The magazine's once unthinkable, provocative title: Deutsch. Sixty years after Hitler, the word is being reclaimed from the far right, as if it were just another label, like the self-confident français or italiano. It is in this climate of Unbefangenheit that the new wave of Hitler films can be seen. For a new gene enough, and that it is time to stop talking about the Holocaust. Such attempts to close the discussion down still take place. They usually backfire, however, by reigniting the old debates. The new Hitler films form part of the new Germany that confronts the past while no longer feeling so stressed about the confrontation. Those who deliberately try to leave the past behind often succeed in achieving the opposite. Conversely, those who are determined to examine all aspects of Hitler's legacy help Germany to be more at ease with itself at last. John Stuart Mill wrote: "Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness... Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way." The same might be said of the German search for normality. Aiming at something else, Germany may find normality by the way. Films such as The Downfall and Speer and He, by engaging with Hitler not just as myth but as a mortal human being, may help Germany escape being in thrall to the dictator's crimes for all time. Even now, the words "normal" and "Germany" do not sit easily together in the same sentence. In the years to come, however, that could yet change.

    Steve Crawshaw, London director of Human Rights Watch, is the author of Easier Fatherland: Germany and the Twenty-First Century' (Continuum)
    © Independent Digital

    16/7/2004- A normally tranquil west German village has been traumatised by a notorious neo-Nazi lawyer's plans to turn its 19th-century manor house and adjoining estate into an Aryan-style baby farm designed to further the Nordic race. The dubious project has been launched by Jürgen Rieger, a wealthy 57-year-old Hamburg lawyer and specialist in defending members of the German far right. He has convictions for incitement to racial hatred. The former member of the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party has appeared at far-right rallies in Britain and praised the British fascist Oswald Mosley. He is also a fervent advocate of "racial purity". In a book on the subject, he wrote of the "disastrous effects of bastardising races" and promised, "the white giants are coming". This year, Mr Rieger paid 225,000 (£150,000) for the graceful Heisenhof, a turn-of-the century manor house and its estate, in the idyllic commuter village of Doerverden near Bremen, in Lower Saxony. This week, Doerverden's inhabitants have been shocked to learn what Mr Rieger is planning. "We are seriously worried about public order," Rainer Herbst, the village mayor, said. "The image of Doerverden is likely to suffer. At first, we thought he was merely planning to develop agricultural fertilisers and manure. We didn't realise human fertilisation is intended." The villagers' suspicions were aroused after German media reports revealed that the official purchaser of the Heisenhof was the Wilhelm Tietjen Foundation for Fertilisation Ltd, a London-based fertility research organisation of which Mr Rieger is director.

    The foundation is funded by the copious financial assets of the late Wilhelm Tietjen, a diehard Nazi loyalist and stock-market speculator who set up his fertility research organisation to further the Nordic races before his death in 2002. Mr Teitjen was infertile. The concept was developed during the Third Reich when the Nazi party set up its notorious Lebensborn organisation, encouraging German mothers to produce offspring by having sex with hand-picked SS men. Mr Rieger, a senior member of a group called "Germanic faith community for life creation", says the foundation "aims to help childless couples produce children". He claims the foundation is based in London for legal reasons. "The use of surrogate mothers is banned in Germany but not in England," he said. Mr Rieger declined to comment on the "Nordic" aspect of his proposed fertility clinic and has not revealed whether British surrogate mothers might be involved. Previous attempts by Mr Rieger to set up Nordic race farms were disastrous. In 1995, he invested 1.1m in a similar manor house and estate in western Sweden which was intended to house a "Germanic land collective for members of the Nordic-blond race". The project failed because not enough Aryan participants could be found. The collective's attempts at farm fertilisation was chaotic. A breed of carefully nurtured Nordic pigs escaped the estate and devastated private gardens. Alarm bells are now ringing in the government of Lower Saxony. Uwe Schuenemann, the interior minister, said: "We shall be keeping a close watch on Doerverden."
    © Independent Digital

    20/7/2004- Days after a German aid ship brought African refugees to Italy, German Interior Minister Otto Schily has said he supports a British idea to establish EU asylum processing centers in North Africa. Schily had originally rejected the idea, but said that the most recent incident had caused him to change his mind. "Let's try this here," he told his EU colleagues at a regular meeting in Brussels on Monday. Last week, German and Italian officials were struggling to do damage control after the head of a German aid organization and the capitain of the group's ship, Cap Anamur, had been arrested on charges of illegally bringing Africans to Italy. The Cap Anamur crew had picked up the 37 refugees at sea after their dinghy had collapsed. They waited three weeks until Italy gave them the permission to enter a port in Sicily. The German aid workers have since been released from jail but most of the Africans face swift extradition to their home countries. In order to prevent similar situations in the future, Schily now supports building centers in North Africa that can handle such cases before people embark on the dangerous trip to Europe. "I believe that North African countries also have to be interested in preventing things from continuing as they are," Schily said, adding that Malta was planning to hold talks with Libya about the refugee problem in the Mediterranean. Similar talks could take place between Spain and Morocco, he suggested. According to Schily, the new centers could hold people until a decision about their asylum request has been made. Schily also said that saving people from drowning at sea was "naturally a duty," but he added that refugees could not be brought to European ports automatically afterwards.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    13/7/2004- The fate of 37 African immigrants now on land in Italy after spending weeks on a German relief ship remains uncertain as Rome and Berlin argue over which country should take them in. The front page headline of a Vatican newspaper on Tuesday read, "Finally, humanity wins." But the story isn't quite over yet. Although the group of African refugees plucked out of the Mediterranean by the German relief ship Cap Anamur were finally allowed to disembark and get medical attention, their fate is still up in the air as Germany and Italy now bicker over EU asylum laws. Complicating the situation, Italian police have arrested the ship's captain, Stefan Schmidt, and the head of the Cap Anamur, Elias Bierdel, for aiding and abetting illegal immigration. Italian interior ministry officials blasted what they called the "pack of lies" told by the German humanitarian organization, which they claim forced Rome to cave in under pressure from the international media and the Vatican. "The Cap Anamur took the illegal immigrants on board with the precise aim of bringing them to Italy by telling a pack of lies," Italian officials said. They said the government only allowed the boat to dock in Porto Empedocle in southern Sicily after Schmidt warned of unrest and suffering among the refugees, some of whom had reportedly threatened to throw themselves overboard.

    Odyssey of inhumanity
    German officials meanwhile have called for the release of Schmidt and Bierdel and voiced pride that a German had worked to end the "odyssey of inhumanity" that has pushed the refugee issue back into European headlines. German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul hailed Bierdel's "courage and desire to help others." She insisted "humanitarian actions must not be criminalized." Berlin's representative for human rights, Claudia Roth, said she "felt a sort of pride that it was a German ship, that it was this organization that saved human lives." She condemned the three-week stand-off that occurred while Italy, Malta, Germany and the aid organization argued over who was responsible for the 37 Africans. "We must promise to take a fair look into their right to asylum," Roth said in a German radio interview.

    Question of asylum status
    But Germany and Italy have both said the refugees are ineligible for refugee status in their country. On Monday a spokesman for the interior ministry in Berlin said the Africans could not come to Germany since EU laws stipulated that asylum is to be granted in the first country of port. Before docking in Sicily, it was reported that the refugees, who were believed to come from the war-torn Darfur region in Sudan, had achieved German asylum. This is not the case, the German ministry said. Moreover, it appears the Africans are not actually from Sudan, but rather from Ghana and Nigeria. Italy has rejected granting asylum because it claims the ship passed through Maltese waters before setting sail to Sicily. Malta for its part says no one told them the 37 Africans were on board or asked for assistance.

    A European-wide problem
    Italy, which often serves as the gateway to Europe for African refugees, is particularly sensitive about the issue of asylum. On Monday, the president of the Italian refugee council, Dr. Christop Hein, said the situation illustrated the need for the creation of a centralized EU asylum policy. "For five years we have been talking about a European Union wide asylum policy. What has happened here is quite disturbing. Nobody wants to take the responsibility and everybody is passing the buck in this case. From Germany to Italy to Malta, nobody wants to get their fingers burnt. Nobody wants to set a precedent. That's why we need a centralized European asylum policy."
    ©Deutsche Welle

    18/7/2004- Thirty-seven Africans who were taken to Sicily by a German charity earlier this week have been denied asylum in Italy. The Italian authorities said requests were rejected as the asylum-seekers did not come from Sudan as they claimed, but from Nigeria, Chad and Niger. They said 14 would be deported shortly, while some of the others could stay temporarily on humanitarian grounds. Meanwhile, members of German charity, Cap Anamur, who picked up the migrants at sea, were released from custody. The charity's Elias Bierdel, the ship's captain Stefan Schmidt and a crew member had been arrested, when the ship docked last Monday, on suspicion of aiding and abetting illegal immigration. The German aid group claimed the Africans were rescued from a leaking dinghy in the Mediterranean Sea late last month. The charity's ship - also called Cap Anamur - was stranded at sea for three weeks before Italy allowed it to dock in Sicily where it was immediately seized by the authorities. During the standoff, it was understood the immigrants were fleeing the conflict in Sudan.

    Diplomatic spat
    "The 37 requests have been rejected because the asylum-seekers do not come from Sudan as they claimed," an interior ministry spokesman was quoted by AFP news agency as saying. He said 30 were found to be from Nigeria, six from Ghana and one from Niger. Meanwhile, the three members of Cap Anamur flew out of the country on Saturday after their release from a Sicilian prison. In what threatened to turn into a diplomatic incident with Germany, the Italian authorities held them on suspicion of aiding and abetting illegal immigration. Reuters news agency reported that they still faced trial, and the ship remained impounded. Italy's long and porous coastline mean it is often a target for immigrants seeking an entry-point into Europe. The Cap Anamur organisation says it is dedicated to helping refugees in distress at sea. The group has rescued tens of thousands of refugees at sea since it began helping Vietnam's boat people two decades ago.
    ©BBC News

    15/7/2004- A court in Rome has declared that parts of Italy's two-year-old immigration law violate fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution. The law was designed by the Berlusconi government to stem the flow of illegal migrants landing on Italy's coastline. The constitutional court highlighted rules regarding the arrest and expulsion of illegal immigrants. It said they went against parts of the constitution which guarantee equality and the right to personal liberty. The ruling comes at a particularly delicate moment for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who is fighting to keep his four party coalition from breaking up because of disagreements over a wide variety of issues including immigration.

    Shipwreck victims
    Officials are finding it hard to decide what to do with a group of 37 African shipwreck victims rescued at sea by a German refugee aid ship who were allowed to land in Sicily after the ship's captain radioed for help. The Africans have requested political asylum in Italy, but they lied about their nationality. At first they claimed to be Sudanese from the turbulent Darfur region in order to attract sympathy for their plight, but it turns out that they are from West Africa. They are at present being held in a processing centre in Sicily where they face probable expulsion under the contested immigration law. Meanwhile, Germany has sent a diplomatic protest to Italy over the arrest of the ship's captain and first officer and a German aid official who face possible charges of aiding and abetting illegal immigration. They are due to appear before a magistrate in Sicily on Friday.
    ©BBC News

    Across Europe, cultural identity clashes with integration efforts

    15/7/2004- The Italian Education Ministry has abandoned a plan to create Muslim-only classes in the Milan public schools, calling the idea unconstitutional. The classes had been proposed as a local experiment for the integration of some students who until then had studied in a private Islamic school and whose families wished them to preserve a separate cultural identity while pursuing the national curriculum. The project was widely criticized as reinforcing a separatist mentality among Italy's growing Islamic population and working against cultural integration, an issue now being faced across Europe, as in the debates over whether Islamic head scarves should be allowed in classrooms in secular France or whether religious instruction should be imparted separately to Muslim schoolchildren in Berlin. Giacomo Dutto, regional head of the Education Ministry, rejected the project on Tuesday, saying that it contrasted with "constitutional values and principles that aim to overcome any form of discrimination and increase moments of integration and dialogue between cultures." The decision came after a week of polemics, demonstrations, front-page commentaries by thinkers like Umberto Eco and national soul-searching on the future of the Italian identity. "Italy is still struggling to deal with immigration from a cultural point of view, and so we find ourselves unprepared when situations like this arise," said Renzo Guolo, a sociologist at the Universities of Trieste and Padua who specializes in multiethnic issues. He explained that Italy had yet to adopt a model of integration, be it the French model of assimilation or the British model of cultural pluralism, to name two, and as a result it would continue to see "the proliferation of these individual cases" in the future. The problem was bound to grow, Guolo said, because predictions show that in 15 years Italy's Muslim population will top one million residents, and 200,000 of them will be in school. "So you see that it's not a local problem," he said.

    According to the most recent statistics available from the Roman Catholic charity Caritas, Italy has about 2.5 million immigrants, or 4 percent of the population. Immigration experts like Marco Lombardi, a sociology professor at Catholic University in Milan, say Italy must look at the bigger picture. "There's no certified model for integration, and there's no agreement that one works better than the other," Lombardi said. "But it's time that we begin to reflect on this." The education minister, Letizia Moratti, has often repeated that integration is "one of the fundamental issues of the educational process," a spokesman said Wednesday without giving concrete examples of how that integration should take place. The Milan experiment would have addressed students who now study at an Islamic school run by Egyptians. About 400 students take courses there, in Arabic, following the curriculum of the Egyptian Education Ministry. But classes go through middle school only, forcing students who want to continue to return to their country of origin, find a tutor or abandon school. Girls, particularly, have chosen to abandon their education. For two years, local education officials worked with parents and representatives of the Islamic school to come up with an alternative. The special classes, which would have followed the Italian curriculum except for greater emphasis on language skills, were a first proposal. Giovanni Gaglio, principal of Gaetana Agnesi High School, which was to have held a class for 20 Muslim students, including 17 girls, said he hoped some parents would send their children anyway. He called it a first step in gradual integration. "I'm disappointed for the students because they have the right to study," he said. "We'll study other forms to see if we can help." Lidia Acerboni, a local education official wh ©International Herald Tribune

    14/7/2004- Populist Norwegian politician Carl I Hagen has a long track record of provocation in Norway. His latest frontal attack on Muslims at a Christian gathering this week may set a new record for the degree of reaction he's getting. Rival politicians are blasting remarks made by Progress Party boss Hagen that compared Muslims to Hitler, poked fun at Mohammed and raised fears that Muslims are trying to take over the world. Local theologists say they're shocked, a university professor claimed Hagen went way too far this time, and at least one anti-discrimination organization is threatening to sue him. Hagen's outbursts came during a speech he made at a Christian festival in Bergen on Tuesday. "The Islamic fundamentalists, along the same lines as Hitler, made it clear a long time ago that their long-term plan is to 'Islamify' the world," Hagen claimed. "They're well underway, they've come far in Africa and are on their way into Europe, and then we have to fight it." Hagen also talked about children being used as suicide bombers. "We Christians are very concerned about children, 'Let the children come to me,' said Jesus," Hagen declared. "I can't see Mohammed saying the same." That remark spurred laughter and applause from his Christian audience, perhaps encouring Hagen to add: "If he (Mohammed) did say such a thing, it must have been: 'Let the small children come to me, so that I can exploit them in my effort to make the world Islamic."

    Angry response
    While Hagen found himself preaching to the choir at the Christian festival of the organization Levende Ord, (Living Word), other politicians were furious. Afshan Rafiq, a member of Parliament from the Conservatives, blasted Hagen for "stygmatizing an entire religion." He was backed by Erna Solberg, head of the Conservatives, who said Hagen's remarks further distance the two parties from each other even though they're both on the right of Norway's political spectrum. Solberg said there now was even less probablity that her party and Hagen's could cooperate to form a non-socialist government in Norway. An official from the Christian Democrats also said Hagen "crossed the line when he didn't only attack fundamentalists, but also the prophet Mohammed." Solberg's reaction likely comes as a relief to Jens Vidar Bjørkedal, Norway's only Muslim sheriff. He told newspaper VG he was shaken by Hagen's remarks. "I hope he never gets into the government," Bjørkedal told VG. "I'm shocked that a leading politician can say such things." Some commentators said it likely will be up to Progress Party deputy Siv Jensen "to clean up" after Hagen's latest provocation. Hagen, they say, enjoys stirring up trouble, only to let party colleagues smooth ruffled feathers afterwards.

    16/7/2004- The number of people seeking asylum in Norway has been cut in half during the first six months of this year. Officials point to tougher rules and expedited procedures in handling groundless applications. Around 3,900 people have sought asylum in Norway since January 1. That's down 45 percent from the first six months of 2003. "The most important reason for the downturn is the stricter rules imposed by the government," Frode Mortensen of state immigration agency UDI told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Friday. Immigration officials, backed by new government directives, have been cracking down on asylum seekers since it emerged that many applications didn't warrant the granting of refugee status. The state has since cut financial support to asylum seekers and imposed a so-called "48-hour rule" in accepting or rejecting initial asylum applications. Norwegian officials also are cooperating more closely with their counterparts in other European countries, in trying to cut off the flow of asylum seekers before they leave home. The state also has launched advertising campaigns in countries from which many asylum seekers originated, including Bulgaria, discouraging them from trying to gain refugee status in Norway. UDI claims the tougher rules have not diminished the right to seek asylum. "We don't see a downturn in the number of people who genuinely need protection," Mortensen said. "We conduct a thorough evaluation in each individual case, and those who need protection, get it." Others disagree, with the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers(NOAS) complaining that Norway's rules are now too strict and violate United Nations' recommendations.

    15/7/2004- A new report from the Council of Europe on human rights in Denmark has criticised the nation's immigration policy as a barrier to integration. Denmark is no longer a nation at the forefront of human rights legislation: so concluded Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles in the first-ever report on human rights in this country. In April, Alvaro Gil-Robles spent four days here in order to compile information for the report. His tour also included stops in Luxembourg and Sweden. The council's report criticised this government's immigration police, which Alvaro Gil-Robles called 'counterproductive.' He noted that Danish laws had undergone a marked shift in recent years toward greater restriction, and said that this move brought with it a risk of Denmark not complying fully with its human rights obligations. The commissioner recommended that the Government reconsider its strict rules for family reunification, grant additional resources to the National Council for Ethnic Minorities, adopt a more open policy toward residence permits for foreign-born women victimised by domestic violence, and that it increases the number of residence permits granted to victims of human smuggling.
    Council of Europe report on human rights in Denmark
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    15/7/2004- Senior figures within the British National party, including the chairman Nick Griffin, could face prosecution after an investigation revealed what lawyers have described as criminal levels of racism, violence and anti-semitism. The extreme rightwing organisation polled more than 800,000 votes in the European elections in May after portraying itself as a non-racist, democratic political party. But a BBC documentary to be screened tonight, in which an undercover reporter, Jason Gwynne, infiltrates the party in Bradford, reveals a group racked by violence and racism. During the programme, The Secret Agent, one prospective council candidate repeatedly says he wants to kill "Pakis"; another admits he has spent three weeks pushing dog excrement through the letterbox of an Asian business; and a third is filmed plotting to torch a van the party believes is storing anti-BNP leaflets produced by the TUC.

    Nick Lowles, from the anti-fascist organisation Searchlight, which helped set up the undercover operation, said: "The BNP's constant lament ... has been that it wanted to be treated just like any other democratic party. But if this level of violence and racism was found among Labour or Tory members there would be a huge outcry. It underlines again the racist, extremist nature of the organisation." During the programme Mr Griffin, who has been convicted of incitement to racial hatred, tells cheering supporters that Islam is a "wicked, vicious faith" and that the Qur'an tells Muslims it is acceptable to rape white women and children. "You have got to stand up and do something for the British National party because otherwise they [Muslims] will do for someone in your family, that is the truth," Mr Griffin said, adding: "I will get seven years if I said that outside ..." John Tyndall, the BNP's founder and former leader, is seen giving a speech in which he calls Michael Howard Michael Hecht - a reference to the Tory leader's Jewish background - after Mr Howard described the BNP as "thugs in suits". Mr Tyndall said: "This interloper, this immigrant or son of immigrants, who has no roots at all in Britain, has the effrontery to talk to us about what is alien. It is not the BNP that is alien." He goes on to claim that Africans and Asians have only produced "black magic, witchcraft, voodoo, cannibalism and Aids".

    A senior BBC barrister has told programme-makers that the comments made by both Mr Griffin and Mr Tyndall are threatening and abusive, and designed to stir up racial hatred - a crime under the Public Order Act. Later the film shows a prospective BNP candidate in Bradford, Stewart Williams, repeatedly saying he wants to kill Asians and Muslims. "Shoot Pakis. That is all I want to do is shoot Pakis," he says. Another BNP activist, Steve Barkham, admits knocking an Asian man unconscious in an incident blamed for sparking riots in Bradford four years ago. "I've hit him [the Asian man] again and he's gone down, he's out" says Mr Barkham. "I'm kicking him, kicking away ... His arms are all fucking floppy, his head is down, blood coming out of his head. I looked down at my shoes and I were just covered in blood." Last night Mr Griffin said the party would investigate the allegations, adding that it had already moved to expel two of those involved. But he described the documentary a "BBC scam", and challenged authorities to prosecute him. "If [David] Blunkett wants to put me on a show trial about whether we're entitled to warn about the dangers of Islam, I will be absolutely delighted," he said. Last night a spokeswoman for West Yorkshire police said the force had not yet seen the film, but was taking the allegations very seriously. "We will always prosecute where we find evidence of anyone being involved in racially motivated crime," she said.

  • Calderdale council in West Yorkshire, which controversially appointed a BNP councillor, Adrian Marsden, to a race equa ©The Guardian

    15/7/2004- Going undercover is not a task undertaken lightly, especially if your true identity is going to be revealed very publicly on television. Jason Gwynne, whose documentary about the BNP has resulted in shocking footage, describes the ordeal. For Jason Gwynne, finding the right tone was everything. As an infiltrator in the British National Party, he had to convince the party's leaders and activists that he was "one of them", and yet as a journalist he had to ask the kinds of questions which would give him the answers he needed to film. Play too naïve and his cover could have been blown. Don't be naïve enough and risk the success of the entire project. "The BNP members already understand the grey areas, but I needed to keep asking," he says. His project began in December 2003 when the BBC was put in touch with a BNP leader, Andy Sykes, who had joined the party after being concerned about asylum seekers but who had quickly become disillusioned with its actions and ideals. Mr Sykes had been acting as a mole within the BNP since the time of the Bradford riots in 2001, passing on information about its activities to the Trades Union Congress. He agreed to introduce Jason, 33, to other BNP members as an activist and help him to make film evidence of racism within the party.

    Undercover operation
    The evidence he collected includes one BNP member, Steve Barkham, confessing to a violent assault on an Asian man, and a prospective election candidate admitting to a campaign of pushing dog excrement through the front door of an Asian takeaway. Another man is seen saying that he wants to kill Asians and attack mosques. Activists are filmed plotting to fire bomb a van being used by to distribute anti-BNP literature. It was not the first undercover operation Jason had worked on - past projects had included documentaries about football hooligans, fugitives and hells angels. But it was the first he had undertaken knowing his cover would be blown at the end of it when the documentary was broadcast. He spent most of his six months' undercover working in Bradford, where he was based in a house near to Andy Sykes'. He says: "I was apprehensive about going undercover and it was difficult because I was away from my friends and family. But they knew I was working in difficult circumstances - only my immediate family and my girlfriend knew exactly what I was doing. "There is also that fear of exposure when you're living undercover - you fear that your cover could be blown at any point and that months of research would go down the drain and the story lost."

    Jason came close to exposure several times during the operation and relied on Mr Sykes to help him remain undiscovered. "But if any suspicions were raised they went through Andy, as a senior figure, and he would tell them he was keeping an eye on me and he would tip us off so we knew to be more careful about the kind of questions I was asking." One further risk that Jason had to avoid was that there should be no chance of him instigating any actions by BNP members, or joining in with any compromising activities, while all the time being seen and heard to agree with the sentiments expressed by other activists - something which left him feeling "very uncomfortable". He says: "I heard the BNP leader Nick Griffin give a speech inciting racial hatred and the founder, John Tyndall, inciting racial hatred and I heard some awful anti-Semitic remarks." There was a back-up team of producers "lurking around in vans" nearby whenever he was filming under cover. "The team were very close," he says. "If there were any problems I would telephone or text and I kept on my toes so I could run out of the door if there was any hint I had been exposed. "But it was hard to manage with the hidden cameras. I would have to go to the toilet to try to do things with them and that became very problematic. There would be people ©BBC News

    16/7/2004- British National Party leader Nick Griffin was unrepentant after being filmed by the BBC attacking Islam as a "vicious wicked faith". In an interview, he refused to say sorry and said the "Islamification" of the West had partly happened by rape. But he did apologise for comments made by other BNP activists shown on BBC documentary The Secret Agent, broadcast on Thursday, confessing to race crimes. Three of them have been expelled from the party, Mr Griffin said. Reporter Jason Gwynne spent six months infiltrating the BNP's West Yorkshire branch with the help of a former local organiser. In the documentary, footage recorded at a meeting in Keighley shows Mr Griffin warning the audience to "stand up" to Muslims. He said Islam "has expanded through a handful of cranky lunatics" and "is now sweeping country after country". Speaking to BBC's Newsnight, he refused to apologise for his comments and continued to attack Islam. Asked whether he thought Islam had expanded due to rape, a theory he had previously stated, he said: "It's one of the ways in which it's expanded, it's also expanded as the Koran tells its followers to do so - it's expanded at the point of the sword." He added: "You give me 20 minutes or an hour - a special programme to dissect the Koran and I will show you that we have a monster in our midst."

    Faeces attack
    Mr Griffin accused the BBC of selective editing in the documentary and said his full speech had discouraged attacks on communities. West Yorkshire Police said a number of issues raised in the programme would be investigated and they would review tapes on Friday. "Working with our colleagues in the Crown Prosecution Service, we will be reviewing the material to identify what, if any, information of evidential value it contains and decide on the appropriate action," police said. In the film, one BNP member told Mr Gwynne how he kicked and punched a man during the 2001 Bradford riots. Another member said he wanted to "blow up" Bradford's mosques with a rocket launcher. And BNP council candidate Dave Midgley is shown saying he squirted dog faeces through the letterbox of an Asian takeaway. Mr Griffin told Newsnight he was appalled by the comments and said: "There's no defence at all for what those people said." Three party members have been expelled and a fourth is facing an internal disciplinary tribunal, he said. But he accused Mr Gwynne of provoking the men into saying these things - a claim denied by the programme makers. Muslim groups said they were shocked but not surprised by the BNP's comments. Earlier this month, Home Secretary David Blunkett unveiled plans to make inciting religious hatred a criminal offence. In parliament the BNP was dubbed a party of "vile Nazis and thugs" by Commons Leader Peter Hain, amid condemnation from all parties.
    ©BBC News

    16/7/2004- Churches' Commission for Racial Justice (CCRJ) welcomes the exposure of the true face of the British National Party's politics of bigotry and hate in the screening of the BBC's secretly-shot documentary, The Secret Agent, featuring undercover reporter Jason Gwynne, screened 16 July. CCRJ sees this film as a courageous endeavour to maintain democracy and the struggle to build, support and promote harmonious multi-ethnic relationships in an inter-cultural Britain. The Revd Arlington Trotman, Secretary of CCRJ, said: 'We have always believed that racist hate as a political stance, must find no accommodation in modern society. The BBC's film, The Secret Agent, has done much to alert the three quarters of one million people who voted in the recent Local and European elections for the BNP's vile and pernicious racism. This must be a shock for everyone who was not already aware of this racism. Surely law-abiding and decent Britons cannot support those whose object is to 'shoot' people, 'blow up' their places of worship, and who persistently use language that incites racist hatred and violence against Asian or Black, Muslim or Jewish people, while purporting to serve as representatives on local or national councils. Leader of the BNP Nick Griffin is heard in the film to say: "If we get a riot out of it, we'll walk the election".' Mr Trotman continued: 'We urge the Government to protect Muslim communities from religious discrimination such as the BBC film reveals; to actively address the economic and social needs of the poor, including poor white communities across Britain, particularly in Yorkshire and the Humber, and to refrain from placing people seeking asylum in areas of the country least educationally, economically and socially prepared to received them. This breeds hate and provides oxygen for the far right.'
    Churches Together in Britain and Ireland

    17/7/2004- Barclays Bank moved to close accounts held by the British National party last night after its members were secretly filmed delivering racist tirades and admitting violence against Muslims. About five accounts linked to the BNP, not all of which are registered in the party's name, will be closed, a source at Barclays familiar with the matter said. The country's third biggest bank was already reviewing its position on the BNP before the BBC's film, The Secret Agent, was watched by over 4 million viewers on Thursday night. "The bank had been looking at the situation for some time but the BBC documentary on Thursday provided evidence enabling the bank to act," the source said. A Barclays spokeswoman declined to comment about individual customers, but said: "As a general rule, Barclays will provide a banking service to legally constituted political or campaigning organisations in regions where there is democratic government and an effective legal and regulatory service." But action would be taken where the "implications for our business of having such an account - such as consequent loss of other business - are considered to provide sufficient reason to decline to open an account or close an existing one". The BNP chairman, Nick Griffin, called the move "absolutely scandalous" and said it was an attempt to "ban it by the back door". He said the party's money had, in effect, been "stolen. The next move will be to look at the legal position", he said.

    Earlier West Yorkshire police and the Crown Prosecution Service had issued a joint statement on the film, which said officers were collecting tapes from the programme makers. It said: "The BBC programme [Secret Agent] broadcast raises a number of issues which warrant further investigation. West Yorkshire police have been liaising with the programme makers. Working with the Crown Prosecution Service we will be reviewing the material to identify what, if any, information of evidential value it contains and decide on the appropriate action." The documentary showed Mr Griffin condemning Islam as a "vicious, wicked faith", and claiming he would face seven years in prison if he made the comments in public. Robin Allen QC, who advises the Commission for Racial Equality on its interventions in incitement to racial hatred cases, said: "On the basis of what was shown on television on Thursday, there seems to be strong evidence for a prosecution for incitement to racial ha tred against several members of the British National party." The BBC reporter who spent six months undercover with the BNP recorded another of the group's members, Steve Barkham, confessing to taking part in a racially motivated attack on an Asian man during the 2001 Bradford riots. Both Mr Barkham and Dave Midgley, a BNP candidate for council elections, have now been expelled by the party. Yesterday, there were calls for the home secretary, David Blunkett, to act against the BNP. Bary Malik, a magistrate and president of Bradford's Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, said he was "shocked, but not surprised" by the content of the programme. In parliament the BNP was dubbed a party of "vile Nazis and thugs" by the Commons leader, Peter Hain, as all sides of the house condemned the far right group.
    ©The Guardian

    What to think of a war on extremism when a killing is called an act of "hooliganism"?
    by Nickolai Butkevich, research and advocacy director at UCSJ.

    16/7/2004- On 19 June, the well-known anthropologist Nikolai Girenko was murdered when he went to answer the doorbell in his St. Petersburg apartment. The still-unidentified killer fired a World War II-vintage rifle at him through the closed door. Deputy St. Petersburg Prosecutor Andrei Zhukov told the press that Girenko may have been killed because of his work as an expert witness in a number of trials involving extremist nationalists, though he didn't rule out that the murder may have instead been an act of 'hooliganism.' This absurd assertion of 'hooliganism' as a possible motive by one of the city's top police officials shows how frivolously many Russian officials view the problems of racist violence and hate groups. For the vast majority of Russian human rights activists and mainstream media publications, there is little doubt that Girenko was targeted because of his anti-fascist activity. Over the past two years, Girenko authored several expert studies on skinhead groups in Moscow and St. Petersburg. His work helped put neo-Nazi thugs behind bars, and Girenko was scheduled to testify in an upcoming trial of members of the extremist Russian National Unity (RNU) movement in Novgorod, making him an obvious target. While the local authorities have vowed to close the case, Zhukov's willingness to publicly suggest that the murder may have been simple 'hooliganism' is part of a disturbing, long-standing pattern of denial on the part of Russian law enforcement officials that racist and anti-Semitic violence presents a serious threat to public safety.

    Hate crimes
    Part of the reason why Girenko's work was so important is that Russian legislation is woefully inadequate in combating hate crimes, a term that doesn't even exist in Russian law. The usual Russian law enforcement practice is to classify such crimes as ordinary 'hooliganism' or murders. In the rare incidents in which ethnic or religious hatred is officially admitted as a motive, Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code is usually tacked onto a hooliganism or murder charge. Article 282 prohibits "actions directed toward the instigation of nationalist, racial, or religious animosity; humiliation of national pride; or, similarly, propaganda of exclusiveness, superiority, or inferiority of citizens on the principle of their affiliation to religion, nationality, or race." Clearly, Article 282 was primarily designed to combat hate speech, but it is being used by prosecutors as the equivalent of a hate-crimes statute. This legal inconsistency, combined in some cases with clear anti-Semitic or racist bias on the part of prosecutors or judges, leads to many Article 282 cases falling apart, during either the investigation or trial. There is the additional problem that many prosecutors and lawyers feel that intent has to be proven in order to convict under Article 282; however, the word 'intent' does not appear in the statute, as it did in an earlier version of the law before the mid-1990s reforms of the Criminal Code. If a 282 case gets to the trial stage, other problems often arise.

    For example, Girenko recently testified in a widely publicized trial of skinheads in St. Petersburg that ended in a farcically mild verdict. In March 2004, the city court of St. Petersburg sentenced three skinheads for their role in the September 2002 murder of a 53-year-old Azeri watermelon vendor named Mamed Mamedov, a father of eight children. According to Russian media reports, between 20 to 40 skinheads beat and stabbed Mamedov to death, all the while videotaping the killing. Although the tape was later used in evidence against the skinheads, only three were ultimately put on trial. One of the suspectsAleksei L skinheads of an Armenian youth in 2002); another case (the murder of an African student in Voronezh) is pending.

    A response to murder: Indifference
    Demonstrating the indifference with which some officials view the problem of extremist violence, in the wake of Girenko's well-publicized murder, law enforcement officials in Orel have refused to provide security for another prominent expert on neo-Nazis testifying in a trial there of members of the RNU. According to a 22 June report by the Regnum news agency, the Zavodsky District Court in Orel denied the witness's request, and the prosecutor's office threatened to strike him from the list of witnesses if he persisted in complaining about telephoned threats placed to his home number by RNU thugs. Dmitry Krayukhin, the head of a local nongovernmental organization, earned the ire of the RNU when his group--United Europe--complained to the prosecutor's office, resulting in charges of inciting ethnic hatred being filed against the RNU. In a clear attempt to retaliate against Krayukhin, RNU members all over the country started distributing leaflets with his home telephone number and address; the telephoned threats began shortly thereafter. The latest threat came in the mail and was sent from somewhere in Orel. Inside the envelope was a photocopy of an Izvestiya article on Girenko's murder. A highlighted section of the article dealt with Girenko's work against the RNU.

    The regional authorities have been particularly hostile toward United Europe, at one point even annulling its registration on a technicality. Indeed, United Europe charges that the RNU got Krayukhin's telephone number from the prosecutor's office, an act of irresponsibility bordering on the criminal. A 13 July press release from United Europe revealed that local prosecutors have refused to bring charges against RNU members for distributing Krayukhin's contact information, arguing that the leaflets have not been distributed widely enough to constitute a real threat against him. Finally, in a move that sharply contradicts the spirit of President Vladimir Putin's public condemnations of racism and anti-Semitism, the Russian government has eliminated its program aimed at promoting ethnic and religious tolerance. The program, called "Forming Tolerant Consciousness and Preventing Extremism in Russian Society (2001-2005)," was apparently cut a year earlier than its intended ending, at a time when government revenue has been sharply boosted by record oil prices. One of the president's first acts in office was to initiate the tolerance program; its elimination at a time when the problem of xenophobia in Russia is worse than ever is inexplicable. It has been obvious for years that a major law enforcement campaign to crack down on hate groups, combined with efforts to promote tolerance through government and private programs, are crucial for Russia's future as a stable, prosperous, multiethnic, and religiously diverse country. The fact that in the wake of Girenko's murder the Russian government is essentially offering neither is profoundly disturbing.
    ©Transitions Online

    12/7/2004- Thomas, a Liberian-born engineer, was fearful and did not want to give his last name. He came to Russia to study in the early 1990s. He had planned to return home upon graduation, but was stranded here when civil wars destroyed those dreams and much of his homeland. But for Thomas, Moscow has turned out to be no better than his war-torn, lawless capital, Monrovia, as skinheads here make life unbearable. He is searching again for a new home in a new country  this time, most probably in Canada, the Netherlands or the United States. "The only criterion," he said, "is that such countries should have a diverse racial and ethnic mix  where people like me do not stand out conspicuously, at least not on the same scale as in Russia and, therefore, become very vulnerable to all forms of discrimination." Thomas' fate epitomizes that of most non-Slavic migrants from other war-torn or politically and economically unstable parts of the world, as well as most other non-white foreigners living in Russia.

    A worrying trend
    A surge in racially motivated attacks, celebrations of Adolf Hitler's birthday across Russian cities, desecrations of Jewish and other non-Slavic cemeteries and signs of cultural heritages have seen a marked rise in Russia over the past decade. Xenophobic ramblings by some politicians only underline the rising tide of social intolerance in the country. A survey by the Kontent think-tank in February showed that 40 percent of Russians see themselves as supportive of nationalists or as staunch Nazis (see experts' corner for results of a similar survey at MGIMO). For a country that suffered the most at the hands of Nazis, it is a shocking figure, indeed. The increasingly desperate plight of Asian and African residents in Moscow has led the diplomatic community to petition the Russian Foreign Ministry to take action. Some of the most odious crimes in the first five months of 2004 included the broad-daylight bludgeoning death of Amaro Antonio Limo, 24, a Guinea-Bissau student in Voronezh, in February and the pushing of an Arab student into the path of a metro train in St. Petersburg in March. The murder of Afghan refugee Abdul Wase Abdul Karim in Moscow by skinheads on April 1 drew the U.N.'s attention, prompting its High Commissioner for Refugees Office in Russia to issue a tersely worded statement condemning racist and other xenophobic manifestations in the country. The murder of a 9-year-old Tajik girl, Khursheda Sultanova, who died from 11 knife wounds in St. Petersburg when a group of skinheads attacked her family in February 9, threw the city into shock. Gov. Valentina Matviyenko ordered the city police "to catch the villains."

    What went wrong?
    Russian xenophobes also target natives of the Caucasus, whose dark complexion sets them aside from Slavs. These attacks are taking place in a country that once took pride in its international policy of communist comradeship across racial and nationalistic boundaries. Asian and African residents fondly recall the time, only about a decade ago, when Moscow and Russian cities were perhaps the safest places for them to live and study. "These were kids in the formative years when the Soviet system imploded," said Sharon Tennison, founder of the Center for Citizen Initiatives. "Their parents' jobs disappeared, their families fell apart and the educational system deteriorated. This generation has become deeply troublesome . . . with most of the kids lacking the tools to compete in the world." Other experts say racism has always existed in Russia, despite its heterogeneous ethnic composition. But, in the Soviet era, it was directed mainly against the West and Jews, seen then as the common enemy, according to Vladimir Novitski, president and attorney at the Moscow office of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), and Alexander Brod, director of Moscow Human Rights Bureau  tw city, as in "Moscow for Muscovites" in the capital — as the long-awaited panacea to their problems. Meanwhile, ultra-nationalistic politicians see the attacks as retribution against foreigners in Russia for humiliation suffered by ethnic Russians in former Soviet republics.

    Dmitry Rogozin, State Duma's Rodina bloc co-chairman, countered liberal politicians' branding him and Rodina as a neo-Fascist, by saying, "We are just a party that wants Russians to be respected in their own country." Alexei Mitrofanov of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) was more cynical in his explanation of the surge in social intolerance in the country. "If a Russian kills a Russian, and this happens several times everyday across the country, it is just a crime, but if a Russian kills a foreigner, it becomes racism. This is not racism, but just a way of life in Russia."

    LDPR chairman Vladimir Zhirinovsky — a fiery anti-Semite who refuses to stands up in State Duma to observe the annual moment of silence dedicated to Holocaust victims — blames all Russian evils on Jews and dark-skinned people from former Soviet republics. "A group of Jews has taken over a country with an over 145 million mostly ethnic Russian population," he once said, adding, "Jews ought to be segregated in a reservation, while other non-Slavic citizens deported to their historic lands, so as to create a new Russia that is for only Russians."

    Alexander Tkachyov, governor of the Krasnodar Krai, said recently that it is not difficult to identify non-ethnic Russians in the country. "One simply needs to look at the surnames' endings. Those ending in yan' and -dze' belong to immigrants," he said, indirectly referring to citizens from Armenia and Georgia. Millions of the people with such names and varied ethnicities and religions have been living in Russia as bonafide Russian citizens for hundreds of years.

    Meanwhile, a two-year monitoring of nationwide publications, conducted under the auspices of the Russian Union of Journalists, has blamed the local press for ethnic and racial stereotyping. Suliyeta Kusova-Chukho  president of the Association on Ethnic Problems, which conducted the study  noted that several media outlets promote racism and xenophobia with openly ultra-nationalistic rhetoric. "These publications contain provocative language and misleading information, which describe Caucasus natives as aggressive people." Novitski said, adding that the constant mentioning of these nationalities, especially in connection with crimes, has helped to form a strongly negative opinion that these nationalities are socially criminogenic' in behavior, though ethnic Russians commit more crimes than all minorities combined in the country." Politically incorrect expressions that would create uproar in the West are freely used in today's culture, even on national TV and official circles, political speeches, literature and other events. Early this year, in the first trial of a racially motivated crime, a jury in a Moscow acquitted two of five youths accused of staging a pogrom against non-Russian vendors at the Yasenevo market to mark Hitler's birthday, and also asked the presiding judge to show leniency toward 200 other participants in the rampage. A popular TV show on the TNT network named "12 Niggers" has raised little, if any, objections.

    Xenophobia expected to harm Russia
    Adolf Shaevich, chief rabbi of the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities and Organizations in Russia, told Ekho Moskvy radio station in March that xenophobia has become a huge threat and totally unacceptable in a multinational state such as Russia. "It is a complete disgrace for Russia, where people freely move about with swastikas and publish fascist literature while the authorities remain totally indifferent  and, at times, even encourage it," he added "I would like to see the president viciously condemning this concrete evil, and not as vaguely as it is being done at the moment, but on a tougher note, because the president's voice on issues posing a serious public concern should be unequivocally strict and clear," he said. Experts agree that the image Russia will be seriously damaged if government does not take a firm stand against racism. "Here, the issue of personal safety and security for invested capital and other potential risks likely to be faced by potential investors who differ in complexion and other ways from the majority of local residents comes to the forefront," said Novitsky. Not only has Russian officialdom done nothing to control the rage against non-Slavs, official policies seem to support some of the sentiments. Price lists for "visa invitations" which are issued by companies accredited with Ministry of Internal Affairs carry separate columns for people from "difficult countries." These are mainly African and South Asian nations. Indian, African and Middle Eastern business travelers to Russia are frequently taken aside at immigration lines and held for longer periods without explanations. A dozen business executives, each with nearly a decade of business experience in Russia, have told The Russia Journal(TRJ) that each entry and exit from Russia is a "humiliating process." Police frequently stop people of color on the streets to check their documents. An Indian executive married to a Russian student told TRJ that he gets stopped by police twice a day on average. Almost all African and Asia students interviewed by TRJ complained of police har xenophobia and other ethnically fueled hatred in the country — finally recognized the existence of the problem. Observers attributed the move to the fact that a non-ethnic Russian heading the ministry for the first time. The record of the MVD and especially the Moscow police in dealing with racial crimes remains dismal. Even after two fatal, ethnically-incited pogroms against ''non-Russian vendors'' on Moscow markets in 2000 and 2001, Moscow Police Chief Vladimir Pronin refused to see the crimes as racially incited, calling them instead "an action of ordinary football hooligans." In a departure from this myopic approach at a meeting of the MVD and Federal Security Service (FSB) dedicated to issues of Youth Extremism in March Internal Affairs Minister Rashid Nurgaliev ordered law-enforcement agencies to "neutralize" heads of extremist and fascist organizations in the country. "Today, Russia is not just being threatened by an isolated simple form of juvenile delinquency, but its extremely radical manifestations," he added. "Therefore, these evils call for adequate reactions from all law-enforcement agencies and a broad-based support because no anti-extremist measures — just like anti-terrorist measures — can be excessive in the current situation." Calling the declared war against extremist manifestations one of MVD and FSB's top-priority assignments, Nurgaliev noted that measures directed against the evil will not only lead to destroying extremist organizations, but also directed at eradicating factors that create a fertile ground for sending Russian youth to criminal environments. Nurgaliev's war might eventually have some affect on the streets. But Russia continues to suffer from a vacuum of social leadership that can rally the society against xenophobia. And for many, each of day inaction is a day too late.
    ©Russia Journal

    12/7/2004- Prof. Ivan Tyulin is the first vice rector of the prestigious Moscow State University of International Relations, or MGIMO in charge of international affairs. Prof. Tyulin recently talked to TRJ about xenophobia and other cases of social intolerance in Russia.

    The Russia Journal: How would you describe the phenomenon of xenophobia – skinhead movements, anti-Semitism and other forms of social intolerance – in Russia today?
    Ivan Tyulin: Xenophobia, as a socio-political phenomenon in Russia, has become so widespread that it now constitutes a serious danger to more than 100 nationalities and ethnic groups in the society. This danger is not only expressed in the growth of extremist groups such as skinheads and anti-Semites that fuel national feuds, hatred and social intolerance, but also in the social, political and spiritual atmosphere that condones cults of violence. The situation is further worsened by a huge decline in the entire system of moral values, where open calls for national feuds, hatred and intolerance have become something of a national past-time for some people. As a result of the ongoing promotion of hatred and national-extremism ideology, skinheads and other groups openly express these sentiments – often with impunity. At times, these are done under false patriotic slogans and masks of protecting Russian interests, using the very same arguments, symbols and terminology used by the Nazis.

    TRJ: Where are the roots of nationalism and intolerance in Russia? How far back can you trace it?
    IT: Nationalism has always existed in Russia – in tsarist Russia, during the Soviet era and today. The current growth and spread of xenophobia, which often manifests itself in the form of "nationalism," or "chauvinism," cannot simply be attributed to ultra-nationalistic politicians and ideologists. Neither can it be explained only by the drastic fall and worsening living conditions and the disoriented state of today's society – because a multinational state cannot breed such levels of social intolerance, national feuds and enmity on its own. However, the current ugly situation is a combination of all the above factors that, in one way or the other, have acted to fuel the growth of xenophobia. And the nature of their influence depends on the complexity of problems being faced by the nation, while further growth and diversification of this ideology and politics will depend on the character and nature of external factors.

    TRJ: How do you see the use of derogative terms, including in official circles, to describe non-Slavic people, such as "litso Kavkazkoe Nationalnesty, or face of Caucuses nationality for Caucasus citizens, Negr and Chorni for "Negro" or black and Zhid for Jews in Russia?
    IT: Stereotypes such as Zhid, faces of Caucasian nationality, blacks and other similar expressions did not just appear today. Indeed, words of similar connotations existed in ‘much stronger' contexts even at the beginning of the 20th century, when, for instance, Zhid was used in connections with Jewish persecutions and pogroms, "Chyornomazy," [the Russian slang for "swarthy"] and its various synonyms were used to characterize Caucasus residents, while anecdotes about the Chukchi and Armenian Radio were narrated with friendly intentions. But today, these words and anecdotes are now used to express enmity and hatred, pogrom ideology and vandalistic acts against cemeteries, historical and cultural monuments belonging to ethnic minorities in Russia. Also, these words have become everyday lexicon among leaders of ultra- and nationalistic parties and movements, parliament members and even among top-level government functionaries. Sociological studies have shown that anti-Semitism and minorities referred to by these derogatory words are the ones more commonly targeted by so-called Russian "patriots."

    TRJ: How widespread are racially and/or ethnically motivated crimes in Russia?
    IT: It is almost impossible to give exact statistical data on nationally and ethnically motivated crimes, as such motives are difficult to prove in courts. For instance, the first court conviction in an ethnicity-related hate case in modern Russian history occurred only last November, when four skinheads were found guilty of murdering a Russian citizen of Armenian origin in line with Article 105 of the local Criminal Code that deals with attacks motivated by social intolerance. Usually, the court simply writes off such cases as acts of hooliganism despite the fact that that there are often expressions of hatred along ethnic lines in such attacks. Despite the official policy of downplaying the ethnic factor in these conflicts, the official statistics are still very high, especially in such regions as the Stavropol Krai – one of the most complex of Russian regions in terms of interethnic relations – where a large numbers of migrants has aroused bitter clashes with huge casualties among Armenians, Cossacks, Chechens, Slavs and Greeks.

    TRJ: Do you notice a direct impact of current situation in day-to-day life on foreign students, especially those coming from African, Asian and Latin American countries to study at the MGIMO?
    IT: The general politico-ideological and moral atmosphere in the country has also rubbed off on MGIMO students' psychology, conscience and feelings as xenophobia, enmity feelings and other manifestations of social intolerance make their ways into the student environment. This is illustrated by a study conducted by the MGIMO's Sociology Department in 2002, which surveyed 306 students where only 21 percent of the respondents say they are tolerant to people of other ethnic groups. More than half – 54 percent – concede that they express intolerance and resentment against people who do not look like them. Also, only 33 percent say they are ready to marry people from other ethnic groups, against 40 percent preferring only their own nationality. About 20 percent say the choice depends on concrete nationality. Other findings indicated that about 45 percent were against having Gypsies as neighbors and 31 percent were against Chechens, while 14 percent were against Jews. Lastly, 69 percent say they will support any measures to restrict the freedoms and rights of Caucasus and Central Asia residents in Moscow. However, I must note that a detailed analysis of the responses has shown that manifestations of social intolerance in MGIMO are lower among students in higher courses compared to fresh and sophomore students. Additional studies conducted last December also showed that changes in students' attitude to certain nationalities are positive, which generally increases the level of tolerance among students.

    TRJ: Are the Russian authorities taking adequate measures to combat racism and violence against ethnic minorities?
    IT: It would be an exaggeration to say that official measures are adequate, and the acute nature of these problems today is a sign of the inadequacy of the measures. Interethnic violence, whose roots go far deep into the past, is very serious in Russia, and thus, complicates the search for a lasting solution to the problem. Of course, the government has taken some measures at legislative and other levels, but on the whole, such measures have not been energetic – and, consequently, are mostly ineffective. These problems have a complex nature, and therefore, require a complex solution. The solution calls for a clearly drafted strategy and political will from the government as well as firm resolve and consistency in realization of all programs aimed at curtailing this ugly phenomenon. If such strategy is adopted, and I am confident that this will surely happen in the not-too-distant future, then problems of ethnically motivated crimes in Russia will, at least, be on the same level as in other European countries.

    TRJ: Does this situation harm the Russian economy by, for instance, impeding the inflow of foreign investments into the country?
    IT: Naturally, social tolerance and personal security are among vital guarantees usually sought by foreign investors looking to invest in a country, because xenophobia significantly increases risk levels for capital. Here, the government's attitude to xenophobic manifestations in society deserves serious attention, because it is mainly the government's relation and actions in battling such social evils that will, in the long run, create favorable, or non-favorable, conditions for foreign investments in the country. This is very important because the government's inertness on issues of xenophobia and other ethnically motivated crimes could also be interpreted, in a worst-case scenario, as an official policy of condoning xenophobia at the state level. In any case, such inertness considerably increases the risk of foreign investments, constitute serious barriers for non-participation of foreigners in a particular economy and/or accelerates capital flight from such a country.

    Facts and figures on social intolerance in Russia

  • Officially, there are 50,000 skinheads in Russia, though unofficial data given by human rights are several times higher.
  • Moscow and St. Petersburg have the highest number of xenophobes, including skinheads, each with between 5,000-10,000
  • Of this, only about 10,000 are being monitored by police.
  • Over 3,000 people fall victim to social-intolerance crimes in Moscow alone every year.
  • On the whole, about 20-30 people are killed annually in racially or ethnically motivated crimes in Russia.
  • Law enforcement authorities in Moscow treat violence against minorities as ordinary hooliganism, rather than charging perpetrators with a hate crime in line with Article 282 of the Criminal Code — inciting racial hatred — which carries a graver penalty.
  • Some groups [of non-ethnic Russians] are targeted disproportionately by police for checks of their identification documents — often leading to arbitrary detention or maltreatment. Asylum-seekers and refugees suffer the additional difficulties as their documents are usually not recognized by the police. Also police do not always register these crimes.
  • In some regions whole communities are denied a range of economic, civil and political rights, including their right to citizenship, according to Amnesty International's report compiled from its Justice for Everybody in the Russian Federation in 2003 .
  • In March 2002, Krasnodar Krai Governor Alexander Tkachev authorized police and paramilitary groups of Cossacks to conduct Operation Foreigner in Krasnodar Krai. The action calls for fines, deportation of illegal migrants and the creation of deportation centers near Krasnodar's borders.
  • Prior to and during Hitler's birthday, several foreign embassies in Moscow usually receive written and other forms threats from neo-Nazi and/or other extremist organizations in Russia. Consequently, most foreign embassies have detailed written instructions on public notice boards or send them to their nationals on how to behave themselves, where to go and where to avoid in Moscow during this period and other popular Russian festivals.

    Attacks against non-ethnic Russians are usually perpetrated by groups, and not individuals. According to a report released by the Union of Councils for Jews in the former Soviet Union in October 2002:
  • only 4 percent of attacks were committed by individuals acting alone.
  • 37 percent were committed by groups of 2-5 persons.
  • 34 persons involved groups of 6-15 persons.
  • 25 percent involved groups of more than 15 perpetrators.
  • The perpetrators are usually sober — only 13 percent of victims thought that perpetrators were under influence.
  • 66 percent of victims said perpetrators often use weapons during attacks, often knives, chains, bats or broken bottles.
  • Most of perpetrators are adults — no victims said the perpetrators were under 14.
  • 46 percent said perpetrators are aged 14-18.
  • 54 percent said perpetrators are over 18.

    Prognosis: Ethnically motivated crimes expected to grow by 30 percent per year. The number of skinheads and other racial extremists expected grow to 80,000-100,000 within the next 2 years, if no official strict measures are taken.
    ©Russia Journal

    13/7/2004- Police officers raided the Moscow headquarters of a rights group set up to aid victims of police abuse in what the group members said Tuesday was retaliation for their activity. Officers from the metro police unit on fighting economic crimes conducted a search last Wednesday in the office of Moyo Pravo, or My Right, said Mikhail Anshakov, the group's chairman. Without producing a search warrant or providing any explanation, policemen inspected Moyo Pravo's office and confiscated documents, computer hard drives and its cash register, he said. Officials from the metro police declined to comment Tuesday, referring all questions to Nikolai Martin, head of the metro police's department on fighting economic crimes, who was unavailable for comment. Anshakov said police told him their visit was not a search but merely an inspection, which does not require a warrant. Anshakov argued, however, that an inspection does not entail confiscating property such as computers. "They must have gotten an order from above and they knew they would be covered up," he said. "That is why they didn't even bother to observe any rules or laws." Anshakov said the group has since been able to get most of its belongings back, but he fears the police might have used the computer drives to obtain information, including details about the victims the organization is assisting. Moyo Pravo was set up in April, following the assault of a university student who crusaded against lawlessness and brutality of policemen patrolling the metro. Most recently, a police sergeant was charged in the fatal beating of a man in the Nakhimovsky Prospekt station in June. Anshakov said the raid was conducted ahead of the group's planned picket of the Interior Ministry aimed at raising public awareness of metro police abuses. The event was planned for Tuesday, but city authorities have not given it the required authorization. When Anshakov was summoned to the police unit following the search, he said he was warned that police could suspend Moyo Pravo's activity.
    ©The Moscow Times

    Beneath a thin facade of slogans about democracy, the extreme right-wing in Moldova harbours a dangerous agenda.
    By Rafal Pankowski for Nigdy Wiecej and Antifa-Net in Poland.

    July 2004- On the surface, Moldovan politics seems rather simple: the Western-oriented Christian Democrats (good guys) versus the old-style authoritarian Communist Party (bad guys) and the international media, in its rare reports on this post-Soviet republic squeezed between Ukraine and Romania, often resorts to this easy explanation. The reality is more complex and on closer inspection the supposed champions of democracy and human rights turn out to be direct descendants of a fascist regime responsible for the extermination of 300,000 Jews and Roma on the territory of Bessarabia (as it was then known) during the Second World War. The Christian Democratic People's Party (PPCD), led with an iron hand, by the charismatic Iurie Rosca, holds 9% of the parliamentary seats. By organising frequent street marches and other spectacular actions, it poses as the main opposition to the ruling Communists, who won an absolute majority of parliamentary seats in the 2001 election).

    The PPCD is ideologically a long way from mainstream European Christian Democrasy. It is in fact the label of a political movement that emerged in the early 1990s under the name Front Popolar which can be translated as "Popular" or "National" Front. This movement started as a result of political liberalisation during the heyday of Gorbachev's perestroika, quickly turned into a fully-fledged radical nationalist organisation that eagerly used violence against political opponents and ethnic minorities. One of the main goals of the frontisti is Moldova's unification with neighbouring Romania. The Moldovan language is almost the same as Romanian and a large part of Moldovan territory was part of Romania between the wars. About a third of Moldovan society, however, is comprides of non-Moldovan speakers (Ukrainians, Russians, Gagauzians ­ Orthodox Christians with Turkish roots, Bulgarians, Poles, Jews, Roma, Armenians and numerous other nationalities) who dread being forced to live under Romanian administration. The memory of Moldova's occupation by Romanian fascists from 1941 to 1944 is very vivid. Marshal Ion Antonescu's Bucharest regime was Hitler's enthusiastic ally in the war against the Soviet Union as well as in the implementation of his Final Solution extermination of Jews and Roma. The Nazi propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels stated in his diary that not even the Nazis could rival Antonescu's murderous antisemitic zeal: "When it comes to the issue of Jews, it is to say that a man like Antonescu acts much more radically than we do," he wrote. Frontist leaders and press have repeatedly praised the Antonescu regime. At the peak of frontist influence on state educational policy, in the mid-1990s, Moldovan universities and schools were ordered to teach Romanian history on the basis of a textbook published by Petre Panaitescu in 1942. Historical revisionism, directed towards Antonescu's rehabilitation, is fashionable in frontist circles.

    Antisemitism and Antonescu
    The regime's antisemitism is seen as justified because, in the words of Professor Anatol Petrencu, "many Romanian citizens of Jewish origin were involved in realisation of alien, Bolshevist interests" and "it made the Romanian authorities and Romanian public opinion take measures." Writing about Romanian universities in the late 1930s, Petrencu emphasises that "the number of Jewish students was [proportionately] much bigger than that of Romanian students" which led to "a certain dissatisfaction among the youth that later united in Legion movement". The Legion movement was the terrorist fascist organisation known as the Legion of St Michael or the Iron Guard, led by the fanatical instigator of pogroms Corneliu Codreanu, an icon for some of today's European fascists. Dealing with the war and the participation of Jews in the Communist movement, Petrencu asserts that "there were reasons for the management of Antosecu's army to have a negative attitude towards the Jews of Bessarabia." This "negative attitude" was nothing less than the ruthless extermination of the Jewish population at the hands of Romanian fascists, starting immediately after the Nazis launched Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. The title page of Petrencu's revisionist book (Bessarabia in World War II 1940-1944) published in 1997, carries a stamp of the State University of Moldova to indicate the work was discussed and approved by its Department of History. The fact this book and some other historical revisionist publications were sponsored by the Moldovan branch of the Soros foundation raised a few eyebrows. Today Petrencu is chairman of the Moldovan Association of Historians. The leading frontist newspaper Tara ("Fatherland") promotes the idea of naming one of the central streets in the capital city Chisinau (Kishinev) after Antonescu and building a monument to him. Pavel Moraru, writing in Tara in 1999, praises Antonescu's "courage" and "responsible policies". He claims "the Antonescu regime was a modern dictatorship, tolerant towards democracy (the exchange of opinions with democratic opposition, the fight against political crime, the introduction of universal autonomy, the organisation of plebiscites)." No wonder such statements send shock waves among Moldova's ethnic minorities who suffered daily intimidation from armed squads of uniformed frontist "volunteers" in the 1990s.

    Ethnic tensions and controversies over a new law on the state language resulted in a civil war in the eastern region of Trasnistria in 1992 with armed units of frontisti taking an active part in the fighting which cost about 1,000 lives. Today Transnistria remains a de facto breakaway republic with a strong Russian army presence that has enforced a truce for the past decade and gives Russia a pretext to maintain a strategic military foothold in the region. But the region is also a magnet for Russian extremists. The array of Russian fascists, extreme nationalists and "national Bolsheviks" who have visited Transnistria in support of the self-proclaimed statelet is impressive: from Vladimir Zhirinovsky, through Victor Anpilov to Eduard Limonov. The authoritarian and corruption-ridden regime of Transnistria is based on a bizarre ideology consisting of a mixture of conservative Soviet nostalgia and Russian ethnocentrism. It seems to provide a fertile ground for homegrown chauvinists as well. Rampant racism among supporters of the local FC Sheriff, who routinely display the fascist White Power symbol, the "Celtic cross", is one example (FC Sheriff currently has two Nigerian players in the team). In March 2004, seventy graves in the local Jewish cemetery and a monument to victims of Stalinist repression in Tiraspol were covered with swastikas and slogans like "Skins 88" ("88" meaning "Heil Hitler" in nazi code). Ironically, the museum in the nearby town of Bendery exhibits memorabilia connected with Paul Robeson, the great black American anti-fascist who visited the region soon after the Second World War. On the opposite bank of the Dniester veterans of the Transnistrian civil war are among core militant supporters of the PPCD today and the frontisti have been waging renewed propaganda campaigns calling for an armed solution to the conflict. "There must be a new war", said one young nationalist with whom Searchlight's correspondent travelled on a bus through the countryside. "There is no other way. All those who are not true Romanians must leave. Every country must belong to one nation just like they do it in the Netherlands now". He was probably referring to anti-immigrant policies resulting from Pim Fortuyn's political legacy.

    Nationalism and intolerance
    The international community, in particular the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, is trying to achieve a peaceful reunification of Moldova and Transnistria. A return to hostilities would undoubtedly result in another bloodbath. "Our society has traditionally been multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and rather tolerant, but the 1990s were a period of increased tension," remembers Ilya Trombitsky, one of the founders of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly who has made his mark as an MP and one of the most outspoken defenders of minority rights. Extreme nationalist thugs have seriously beaten Trombitsky and several of his colleagues on more than one occasion. Chisinau, it should be remembered, has a special symbolic place in the history of European antisemitism. A pogrom took place here in 1903. "Undoubtedly antisemitism among the frontisti is even stronger than their anti-Russian feelings," says P.M. Shornikov, a distinguished Holocaust historian and a leader of the Socialist Party. He tells the story of a horrific night in 1992 when several dozens of the Fronts' political opponents, , at least a third of them Jews, were physically assaulted. The PPCD is also prone to other forms of intolerance. Soon after 11 September 2001, it sought to exploit the international climate of Islamophobia and its MPs flooded the parliamentary floor with inquiries about the alleged presence of "terrorists" among students of Arab origin in the International University of Moldova. The PPCD also resorts to extreme homophobia. The PPCD's deputy leader, Vlad Cubreacov, declared in an interview with one of the main Moldovan newspapers Jurnal National: "To be a homosexual doesn't only mean you are no longer a mother or father, it means you are no longer a human being. Homos party." Despite this, the PPCD has maintained its Christian Democratic label and links with Christian Democratic parties abroad.

    Cultural homogenisation and the enforced Romanisation of the state are the proclaimed aim of the frontisti. The notorious document titled "Ten Commandments of the Bessarabian Romanian" epitomises this tendency. It was published by Tara on 4 February 1992 before the paper became the official organ of the PPCD. It is unsigned but is regarded as a statement of Tara's editorial policy. It states "Greater Romania ­ it is the condition for your future existence. That is why you must love her as much as yourself". It makes recommendations on family life among other things: "Don't rush to link your fate with a person of a different ethnicity. Mixing is good for animals, but not for humans." Hatred of ethnically mixed marriages, which are very common in Moldova, is a steady undercurrent in frontist propaganda. In April 2004, a leading nationalist intellectual, Nicolai Dabija, published a widely debated article in his journal Literatura si Arta (Literature and Art) in which he states that the children of mixed couples "are in the best case mediocre individuals, and, as a rule, they are disabled, criminals, and losers" with a natural tendency towards "psychiatric disorders, crime and prostitution." Dabija went on to attack several respected public figures accusing them of ethnically impure family backgrounds. Dabija's newspaper is the official publication of the Moldovan Writers' Union which is dominated by supporters of the frontist ideology in literary circles. Dabija is politically linked to Serafim Urechean, the long-time anti-communist mayor of Chisinau who some observers forecast could become president of Moldova if the right-wing manages to mobilise enough support for next year's election. Yet another nationalist newspaper Flux has won notoriety for publishing its "Tests of patriotism" urging its readers to act in a xenophobic manner in several daily life situations. Some time ago, Flux published an article titled "I'm Sick and Tired of Russians" in which the author wrote: "I don't know what else we can do&we have nowhere to live as they live in our houses. We have nowhere to work as they are employed in many of our workplaces. I don't know where to hide from their shamelessness&I know that there is no sense in hiding, but, oh God, they always interfere and get on my nerves&I don't want them!"

    Law and budget
    On October 26, 1994, the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova accepted the Law on the Press. Article 4 prohibits the publication "of materials challenging and defiling the state and the people, containing appeal to aggressive war, national, racial or religious disagreement, instigation to discrimination, territorial separatism, public violence, and also other manifestations of encroachment on the constitutional regime." Although the legal framework of the republic allows for penalties for inciting ethnic discord, nobody has ever been convicted for this crime,the chairman of the parliamentary committee on human rights, Mikhail Sidorov, told Searchlight. Tara and Literatura si Arta have been financed for years by the state budget of neighbouring Romania. For example, in 2000 Literatura si Arta received 0.75 billion lei [£ 13,000] while another hate rag Glasul Natiunii ("Voice of the Nation") received the same amount. By 2004, the subvention for Literatura si Arta has risen to 1.5 billion lei [£ 26,000] while Glasul Natiunii received 1.2 billion lei [£ 21,000] Searchlight has copies of Romanian state documents that prove this. The funding is provided despite the fact that few political forces in today's Romania, with the possible exception of the extreme right-wing Romania Mare (Greater Romania) party, can realistically bielieve in annexation of a neighbouring state. One suspects that many ordinary Romanians would prefer spending those vast sums on improving social conditions in their still very poor country, instead of filling the poc the party has not been lost on more informed international observers. According to a regional news service, Transitions On-Line, in her two years in Chisinau, the former US ambassador to Moldova, Pamela Hyde Smith, never invited the leaders of the PPCD to the embassy. Characteristically, she met with them elsewhere, in February 2003, but only at the request of a visiting White House official. In September 2003, the US State Department organised a conference in Washington DC for the incoming US ambassador, Heather Hodges. There an American government official openly called the PPCD chairman Rosca an "awful human being." Other officials repeated the assertion that the PPCD are "extremists." The US embassy in Chisinau told an inquiring US government official that the PPCD "is associated with specific acts of violence." While the PPCD has slightly toned down its xenophobic propaganda, there are fears that a new nationalist group further to the right may now emerge. "Rosca is not a real patriot. He is a puppet of the KGB," asserted the young nationalist on the bus, adding "There is time now for the real patriots to take action." Ilya Trombitsky estimates at about 500 the number of young radicals who are ready to be active in an organisation with a more hardline nationalist programme. A new wave of violent confrontation could follow.

    Plenipotentiary for the Roma Community Klára Orgovánová says that anti-discrimination laws must be put into action to bring change

    19/7/2004- There has been some progress in the public perception of the Roma over the past 10 or 12 years. Issues that were once cloaked with silence are now being openly discussed as people are realising that there exist some urgent problems that concern all citizens just as much as they concern the Roma, said cabinet plenipotentiary for the Roma community, Klára Orgovánová, in an interview with The Slovak Spectator.

    The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Have you noticed any positive effect of the anti-discrimination legislation in the Roma community? How can the law improve the situation of the Roma?
    Klára Orgovánová (KO): At this point I have no information on positive effects of the application of the law. Despite numerous objections posed during the adoption of the law, I am certain that it is important that a single anti-discrimination legislation exists. First of all, it can help by penalising some of the common stereotypes to which society often failed to react or tended to overlook. The effectiveness of the law will be reflected in whether or not those who are affected by it use it. I think that once it is explained to people how this law can help them to improve the quality of their lives and to defend their rights, that then even the Roma will be able to use the law to reduce the discrimination they face in the labour market. It will hopefully result in the erasure of those stereotypes that we do not really feel like talking about, and towards which the Western world has been so sensitive.

    TSS: A new draft Penal Code now under its second reading in parliament no longer contains the article on the "defamation of nation, race, and belief".
    KO: I am not a lawyer and I only know that which appears in the media. I do not know to what measure the article has been used so far. I think that in the process of educating the nation and building a civil society it is important that such a law exists and that it gives direction. We have not reached the point where we no longer need these laws because we are still conscious of it.

    TSS: In May you pointed out some cases of Roma children whom directors of some elementary schools refuse to admit for, what you have called "not entirely objective reasons". Do you think that the discrimination of Roma children at schools is a widespread phenomenon?
    KO: Yes, there are such cases. We have recently been dealing with one case from the Prešov region. We have filed a complaint. Sometimes, the directors say that the schools are already full or that the children have not passed the psychological tests. Of course they do not say that it is because they do not want to have a high concentration of Roma children there. The Roma community is often not aware of these discriminatory practices and in many localities they take it as something natural, especially in Eastern Slovakia. They rarely protest such proceedings, or only do so when NGO people involved in work with the Roma community tell them that it should not happen. A campaign that would define forms of discrimination for the Roma and also the majority would be helpful. We are planning a campaign on the discrimination against the Roma in the workforce. We want to widely involve the media in the process.

    TSS: How effective has the government been in its policies to integrate the Roma communities?
    KO: The last version of the cabinet's strategy to integrate the Roma community, which was passed in 2003, is built on the philosophy of temporary balancing strategies. They define the steps that certain departments should take to balance the situation of different groups within the Roma community. These balancing strategies would help the Roma to climb to a level where they have equal opportunity. However, even though the document has been passed, the Labour Ministry has, in fact, been rejecting the principle of temporary balancing measures, claiming that it [the ministry] bases its operation on the civil principle and does not differentiate between needy people based on their ethnicity. The ministry does not see a reason to do things specifically for the Roma even though the situation concerns 80 percent of the Roma. The civil principle is fine, but then nobody should say that the Roma are abusing the social system or that they do not want to work. The Health Ministry also said that it does not see any need for starting any special programmes for improving the health condition of the Roma. However, I think that recent events such as the outbreak of epidemics has shown that there is, in fact, such a need.

    TSS: There is a wide consensus that it is important to create jobs for the Roma. Is there any progress in this area?
    KO: After the reform of the social system when the social benefits were severely cut, a very serious situation emerged [massive shop lootings in eastern Slovakia], which demonstrated that the people were not prepared for such reform. I do not think that measures taken after the crisis have considerably improved the situation. As far as the creation of stable jobs is concerned, I do not think we have made any considerable progress. What is important is that the regional labour offices have staff who are able to work with a specific group of people, those who have been long unemployed, and it is difficult to place them back in the workforce. If we fail to give jobs to these people, they will continue being dependent on social aid. I am not sure whether the Labour Ministry is taking this into consideration when planning its new labour offices.

    TSS: Another priority is to improve the housing conditions of the Roma by substituting their cottages with a more human form of housing, but this, however, appears to be a long and financially demanding process.
    KO: We have proposed the allocation of Sk200 million ( 5 million) from the state budget for these housing projects that would flow from the budget of the Ministry of Construction and Regional Development. However, the budget has not been adopted yet. It is not much, but it is at least something.TSS: You also proposed an increase in the number of fieldworkers to cover additional problematic Roma localities. Do we have enough trained professionals to perform these tasks?
    KO: The social fieldwork was included in the cabinet's programme and we have coordinated the operation of 20 fieldworkers in different localities. We put some pressure on the Labour Ministry to increase the number of fieldworkers and the ministry did take the initiative to involve more people. This year the number should climb to between 70 and 80. We would like to have 400 fieldworkers out there among the Roma. However, I am concerned that the Labour Ministry will, in their effort to push for the civil principle, disagree with the current definition of fieldwork in the Roma settlements and want to use these people for other marginalised groups, such as drug addicts for example. If out of the 400 fieldworkers, let's say 250 are oriented to work with drug addicts, then the situation would be very difficult. If these people are not specially trained or are in the form of administrative support, then we will just miss the target.

    TSS: It has often been stressed that the majority population should first change its perception of the Roma. What are the chances for overcoming the barriers and prejudices separating the majority of society from the Roma?
    KO: If I look at the past 10 - 12 years, I think a lot has been done regarding the issue of the perception of the Roma. Even issues that had never been discussed before are out there now and people talk about them. On one hand, people have realised that there is an urgent problem and the government has also started dealing with the situation. However, we have to admit that much of this has been accomplished only due to pressure from international institutions and because Slovakia has had to climb to a certain standard. The EU even warned us during the pre-entry process that declarations are one thing and the practical implementation is another, and that Slovakia had a problem with the latter, which is often linked to financial limitations. There has been considerable progress in public opinion on regional level thanks to the operation of NGOs and various foundations. There are numerous projects of different nature sthat do not often capture the media's attention. Certainly, we could have done more in communicating with the media, as have Hungary and the Czech republic, for example. I personally am trying to communicate with the media more intensively.

    TSS: In the past, the Roma political parties were mostly characterised by arguments over positions rather than a real representation of the interest of the Roma. What do you think is preventing the rise of a real political force that represents the Roma community?
    KO: Unfortunately, this is the situation. Compared to other countries, like Hungary and the Czech Republic, the situation is much worse. One of the reasons is that the same people who emerged in 1989-90 are still there. They have been trying to survive with their old ways and do not want to see that it is not enough to simply hold meetings, summon a congress, create programmes or organise press conferences. They fail to see that they have to build membership from the bottom and that it is hard work, not only declarations. The Roma parties have mostly functioned by reacting to statements of others and protesting them, but rarely by making a contribution in a general debate or taking a stand over important political issues. They themselves have pushed their parties into outsider positions. They have also closed doors for the next generation, which would be fully qualified and trained to function in politics. Instead they have mostly starte
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    By John Vinocur

    13/7/2004- Tomorrow is Bastille Day, and if France still represents some kind of universal message, it is having a miserable time matching the dim wattage of its current beacon with that of its luminescent past. If this were a country with a more circumscribed self-description of its own worth to humanity, a cheery Denmark, or an exuberant but problematic Brazil, nothing horribly cosmic might be made of France's current corrosive reality of anti-Arab racism, hundreds of no-go communities penetrated by Islamic fundamentalism, or anti-Semitism that has gotten out of hand. But France defines itself, with historical legitimacy going back to July 14, 1789, as a vector of values for everyone, a universal proposition of intelligence and reason, offering assimilation for seekers of citizenship or psychic belonging for admirers of its good sense. Skipping over the pretense of grandeur, a serious argument could be made that alongside America's more pragmatic projection as the world's indispensable power, France kept in the game through the postwar years as a worthy adjunct, committed to freedom, human rights and fairness in its own brilliantly self-interested way. These days, both the Republic's notion of itself as an inspirational force and example, and the affection of some of its friends - "To live like God in France," goes a German phrase describing a universal ambition for the good life - are hard put by events.

    Last week, a sociologist, Pierre-André Taguieff, director of research at the state-sponsored National Center for Scientific Research, talking in an interview for a series of articles in Le Figaro called "What it is to be French today," described racism here as so lethal now that the French live in a fractured republic that no longer merits the label "one and indivisible." After all, the day before, the government's internal intelligence service, les Renseignements Généraux, furnished the corroborative details, reporting that 300 "troubled neighborhoods" nationwide, grouping about 1.8 million residents, had become communities "in retreat." Decoded, this meant that a substantial part of the country's Arab population of five to seven million live in areas submerged in separatist-like situations involving what the Renseignements Généraux indicated were Islamic fundamentalist preachers, contempt for France and the West, anti-Semitism, and violence. Le Monde described the Renseignements Généraux's analysts as deeply pessimistic about circumstances they called "difficult to halt." Acknowledging the substantial failure of a system of assimilation which stops with brotherhood and equality in word only, this went to the heart of the notion of a universal French beacon. In terms of reality, verbal theory had never coincided with equal opportunity for France's Arabs or what the French-Arab community considers it merits in terms of respect from the state or the French themselves. It is this jagged gap in France's relationship with Arab immigrants at home, paradoxically exacerbated by a continuous French message of pro-Arab sentiment to the Middle East, that appears to be a central element in deflecting the French-Arab community's anger toward French Jews.

    Beyond attacks by Arab youths on Jews - or, most recently, a non-Jewish woman and her baby, whom they thought to be Jewish, on a train - and what Taguieff says is a demonization of Israel in France, the sociologist indentifies the presence of a new "judeophobia" here. While Taguieff says this is not the policy of the state, he believes it has entered the tissue of national life with the French "majority looking on as indifferent or complaisant spectators." Running after events, but getting consciously ahead of the self-celebratory aspects of Bastille Day, Jacques Chirac, certainly no racist or anti-Semite, for the second time in a year pledged last week to put a stop t between pretension and reality affects its current politics internationally.

    If France weren't wedded to a desire for global resonance, its seriously challenged handhold on a share of leadership in Europe and its attempts to mark international affairs with its own stamp could be scribbled off in its private accounts as a bad run in day-trading on the global geopolitical bourse. But because they treat leadership in Europe as a national birthright, France's politicians have now moved into the embarrassing position of not knowing whether they want to stage a referendum on the European Union's new constitution, or, ultimately, be for or against it - although the treaty is substantially the oeuvre of a Frenchman, former President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. The unspoken reason is that the constitution holds out no palpable, specific advantages for France. As a result, its political caste, across factions left and right, has atomized into groups weighing out potential gain by the gram of support or opposition on a scale of domestic political positioning. This has zero to do with Europe's interests or the greatness of the French example. The situation came as a piece with Chirac's behavior two weeks earlier at a NATO summit in Istanbul as the Alliance offered up minimalist support for a mission to train the armed forces of the new Iraqi regime. A participant recounted later that after France raised no objections in a closed doors session with the entire membership, Chirac proceeded to trash the plan in front of the press. It was a glaring moment of French unilateralism, with Le Monde, in a departure from its usual portrayal of French wisdom, describing Chirac as "isolated" and "in the role of eternal complainer and killjoy." As the flags and the brass bands come down the Champs-Elysées on Wednesday, it would not be reasonable to expect a national expression of newfound humility to be included in the president's traditional television interview. All the same, taken together on Bastille Day, French life and politics in 2004 suggest a universal proposition that for the moment is one of considerable modesty.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    16/7/2004- It was with an immense sigh of relief that France learned this week that the story of Marie-Leonie was untrue. Marie-Leonie (her family name has not been released) was the 23-year-old mother whose tale of an anti-Semitic attack on Paris' RER suburban railway system sent the nation into a paroxysm of guilt and fear. According to her account to police at the weekend, she was set upon by a gang of six young men of Arab and African origin who took her for a Jew because she was travelling to the rich 16th arrondissement of the capital. After ripping her clothes and cutting off a length of hair, they reportedly scratched her face with knives and drew swastikas on her body. They also overturned the pram with her 13- month old baby inside, and then robbed her.

    France nervy
    And all this while a carriage-full of fellow passengers looked on aghast - but failed to lift a finger to help her. It is a measure of the country's febrile state of nerves when it comes to questions of anti-Semitism, Arab integration and suburban yobbery that Marie-Leonie's tale was so readily believed. Within hours of the story becoming public on Saturday, President Jacques Chirac had himself issued a statement from the Elysee palace putting on record his "horror" at what had happened and calling for the perpetrators to be punished "with all due severity". Political and community leaders of every stripe followed suit, and there were even demonstrations held in Marie-Leonie's support. But had they waited a short while before rushing to judgment, they would have learned that Marie-Leonie has a history of psychological disorders. On five separate occasions she has claimed to be the victim of a robbery or attack, without ever providing police with evidence. Her boyfriend, who had doubts about her story from the start, described her as a "mythomaniac." "She has always had a tendency to make up stories," her mother said. And when police visited her flat near Charles de Gaulle airport, and discovered the knife and marker-pen used in the alleged attack, Marie-Leonie herself cracked and confessed she had made it all up. She now faces charges of "reporting an imaginary crime", which carries a possible six-month prison term.

    'Relief and disgust'
    Understandably, Muslim community leaders are furious at the haste with which the press, public and politicians pinned the blame on what are euphemistically called here "banlieusards" or "jeunes de quartiers" - i.e. Arab and African youth from the high-rise suburbs. "We cannot go on living in this climate. The Muslim community cannot keep on being the butt of every accusation, dragged through the mud at the pettiest incident," said Kamel Kabtane, head of the Muslim Council in the Rhone-Alpes region. According to Saadia Sahali, who heads a youth integration project in the Paris suburb of Sartrouville, the reaction of young Arabs to news that Marie-Leonie's story was a lie has been a mixture of relief and disgust. "Disgust because once again they are the chosen scapegoat," she said. That there is indeed a rise in anti-Jewish feeling and behaviour among young French Muslims is not seriously contested - even by their staunchest defenders. Palestine is their reference, says Sahali, and "they make short-cuts: first it is [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon, then the settlers, then the Jews of France." Nor is it a matter of debate that a disproportionate amount of crime in France is committed by young men of North African origin. There are no official figures on this - racial breakdowns are banned - but it is an open secret. But the story of Marie-Leonie - and the ease with which it was taken to be true - shows how quickly it is possible to slip into lazy habits of mind. That the story could have been true is no defence. France leapt too readily to an assumption that speaks volumes about its yawning racial divide.
    ©BBC News

    16/7/2004- The French authorities could soon be able to expel foreigners for inciting discrimination against women. The upper house of parliament has approved legislation that would allow a clamp down on people encouraging hatred or violence against women. The law came after the authorities suffered a setback in their efforts to deport radical Algerian Islamic cleric Abdelkader Bouziane. Mr Bouziane was accused of publicly justifying wife-beating in an article. Under the new legislation foreigners can be expelled for "inciting discrimination, hatred or violence against a specific person or group of persons". The 52-year-old Algerian preacher returned to France last month, after a court ruled that his deportation had been illegal. He preaches at a mosque in a suburb of Lyon. The cleric was deported to Algeria on 21 April for saying that the Koran authorised the stoning and beating of adulterous women. The remarks caused an outcry in France, with many Muslim leaders condemning them as un-Islamic. But two tribunals have ruled the deportation illegal and said Mr Bouziane should be allowed to return to France. French President Jacques Chirac had said that if the law needed to be changed to prevent a repetition of the Bouziane saga, then modifications would be made. The legislation was approved by the lower house last month.
    ©BBC News

    15/7/2004- When Doreen Denise Guy started as a Toronto police constable in 1987, her colleagues wouldn't work with her. On some days three or four different officers would refuse the assignment. They made racist jokes in her presence, talked about "niggers," and clashed with her over the importance of sticking together as police. She stood up to them, and she says it cost her. Ms. Guy, 45, who went to night school throughout her career and earned two university degrees, retired in February without ever receiving a promotion. At her retirement party, she launched a withering attack on racism in the force. She questioned why black officers in Toronto remained so quiescent, when their counterparts in the United States were forcing equity upon their employers through the court system. Police spokesman Mark Pugash said yesterday he was aware of Ms. Guy's retirement speech, but said she didn't lodge a formal complaint with police, nor did she mention her concern in her exit interview. He said police training has moved on in leaps and bounds. Since 1991, all officers and civilian employees of the force must undergo three days of diversity training.

    Ms. Guy started her police career in the records office in 1982, but became a uniformed officer five years later. She described her rookie year as horrible. Officers whispered about how standards had been lowered to hire blacks and women. As she tried to learn a new and difficult job, she had no one to turn to. Then, she said, she went toe to toe with a veteran cop who was making offensive remarks about blacks. "My problems started because I chose to speak out on the issue of racism," she said. After that, rumours about her began to circulate. Officers questioned her reliability. She refused to sign a police association petition demanding a city councillor be removed from office. She also voiced opposition to the association's endorsement of political candidates. Colleagues gave her the silent treatment. One officer refused to let her get out of the car when they responded to calls. Over those first six months in uniform, Ms. Guy said, she became a "nervous wreck" and a shadow of her former self. She was repeatedly passed over for promotion, but believed she was more competent than those who were chosen. She had good evaluations, was never in trouble, and was committed to lifelong learning. "You start to narrow it down," she said. "You're not an idiot. Someone doesn't have to call you a name to your face." Six years ago, she gave up on promotion and started planning her retirement. She hopes to have a second career teaching policing techniques in the Caribbean.

    Doreen Guy's retirement speech on February 20, 2004 (pdf)
    ©Globe and Mail

    12/7/2004- Muslim activists from across Europe have met in London to defend the right of women to cover their heads. Delegates from 14 countries have launched a campaign that will include lobbying the European Parliament. The issue of wearing the hijab - as the traditional headscarf is called by Muslims - has sparked controversy across the continent. Hijab bans have been imposed in France and Germany, and other countries are considering similar moves. Conference organisers told the BBC that the headscarf was not a symbol of subjugation for Muslim women, but an expression of freedom and self-respect. Addressing the conference, Islamic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi urged the French government to reverse a ban on hijabs in state schools saying it evoked "a ghetto mentality". Similar messages of protest were made against bans in several German states and in Belgium. Anti-discrimination laws in Britain ensure the right of Muslim students to wear the headscarf. But the BBC's Arian Koci says the issue continues to be controversial even in the UK, and ultimately the issue is about the integration of Muslims into Western societies.
    ©BBC News

    16/7/2004- The European Union should take steps to facilitate the admission of non-Europeans "who could play an important part in the further development of the Union's 'knowledge-based economy', the Dutch presidency will propose to Justice and Home Affairs ministers on Monday. The suggestion forms part of a paper drawn up by the Dutch presidency to serve as a basis for discussions at a meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on Monday. The main item on the agenda is the multi-annual programme to succeed the EU's five-year justice and home affairs programme agreed in Tampere, Finland in October 1999. The presidency paper suggests that the EU should draw up common rules for the admission of "third-country nationals" while respecting the right of member states to determine the actual numbers of people they want to allow in. This would mean the Council would be making it a point to explore options for legal migration of skilled workers to the European Union. But this would take place in the context of discussions on stricter control of illegal immigration into the Union through measures such as preventive checks in closer partnership with third countries, stricter monitoring of illegal employment within the Union, and practical co-operation on the return and readmission of illegal residents. The ministers will also be asked to discuss the development of a common European asylum policy and greater co-ordination on integration, something that the Dutch presidency is suggesting should become an essential component of a comprehensive EU policy on migration. Asked if the discussion would also take into consideration the notion of immigration as a burden to be shared by all members states, Dutch presidency sources said, "burden sharing is not an easy subject but you cannot avoid it".

    19/7/2004- The European Commission has announced legal steps against six member states which have failed to adopt two key EU anti-discrimination laws - Germany being the worst offender. The EU executive today (19 July) announced it will take Austria, Germany, Finland, Greece, Belgium and Luxembourg to the European Court of Justice for not fully implementing the EU racial equality directive and the so-called "employment framework directive" which deals with discrimination at work. Both EU directives were adopted by member states at record-speed in 2000, in a political climate characterised by the will of EU countries to respond to the entry into the Austrian government of the far-right Freedom Party. According to a Commission spokeswoman, the backlog in implementation in some member states means that "people in these countries still miss the protection by European law, for example if they are treated unfavorably because of their race". National anti-discrimination legislation offers no alternative to these EU citizens, said the spokeswoman. "The countries lagging behind in transposition of EU law are exactly those where national legislation is insufficient."

    Germany: worst offender
    Germany was singled out by the EU executive as the worst offender against EU discrimination law, as it had not even proposed draft legislation to transpose the EU directives to its parliament. The German government has blamed difficulties between different ministries and "Bundesländer" (regional governments) for the delay - an excuse which is "not acceptable" to the EU executive, said the spokeswoman. "It makes you wonder whether the Germans are really committed to anti-discrimination legislation", said Anne-Sophie Parent, the Director of "AGE", the European Older People's Platform which fights against age discrimination. Luxembourg and Greece - the second worst offenders - have proposed legislation to their parliaments, but the legislation has not yet entered into force. Belgium, Austria and Finland still need all their regions to adopt the EU laws.

    Difficult to implement
    EU anti-discrimination laws have proven to be particularly tricky to implement as they involve far-reaching legal reforms for member states, such as changing the so-called "burden of proof" in legal conflicts. Under the EU directives, in cases of legal conflict of alleged discrimination, the obligation to provide proof lies with the accused - for example an employer accused of racism by an employee. Several member states had to change their law in this respect. Another specific problem for EU countries is posed by implementing rules against age discrimination - part of the employment framework directive - which involves fields from pensions to insurance. Various member states, such as the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands, have received additional periods for up to three years to pass the age discrimination legislation.

    2/7/2004- Norway's populist Progress Party wants to ban the use of the Muslim hijab at colleges and universities. The Norwegian Student Union (NSU) immediately called the proposal a "witch hunt." The NSU reacted swiftly and negatively Friday to the proposal from Progress Party politician Per Sandberg. "This resembles more of a witch hunt than a serious proposal from a politician," said NSU leader Jørn Henriksen. "Educational institutions should be based on democratic freedoms, where people can wear what they like." Sandberg's proposal to ban head scarves and Muslim dress wasn't being taken very seriously Friday. Some experts noted it would be illegal in Norway to ban the hijab without also banning all other forms of religious expression such as the cross or turbans. The Progress Party earlier proposed a ban on religious adornments at elementary and junior high schools. Now Sandberg, who serves as spokesman for the party's immigration policies, wants a ban at all educational institutions in Norway. Henriksen scoffed at the idea, saying it would create more fear of foreigners and intolerance instead of tackling such issues.

    2/7/2004- Two more Jewish men have been attacked in the Belgian city of Antwerp, it has been confirmed. The men were attacked in seperate incidents on Thursday evening, police have confirmed. The first attack occurred at around 8 pm when police in the Brialmontlei district found a young Jewish man bleeding in the street. The victim was taken to the Sint-Vincentius hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries. His attacker, who is still on the run, was described as a man of Eastern European origin and the circumstances of the incident are unknown. The second assault took place as a Jewish man, aged around forty, cycled in the streets of Berchem. A group of around fifteen individuals began to attack the man with stones and bottles but failed to injure him. No witnesses were at the scene and the perpetrators have not yet been caught. Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel condemned the assaults and called for more initiatives to promote cooperation between immigrant and Jewish communities. "This latest act of cowardly violence in Antwerp, where the sole motivation was that the victim was Jewish, is both despicable and unacceptable," he said. The violence follows a 1000-strong demonstration on Monday when the city's Jewish community took to the streets to demand zero tolerance of anti-Semitism in Belgium.

    The protest was prompted by the near-fatal stabbing of a young Jewish boy by a gang of Muslim youths last week. The latest attacks bring the number of violent acts in the last week against the Jewish community in Antwerp and the surrounding region to six. Belgium's Interior Minister pledged on Tuesday to introduce new measures to crack down on racism and anti-Semitism. After a meeting with representatives of Belgium's Jewish community, Patrick Dewael promised to step up police controls in Antwerp in a bid to stem the upsurge in violence. Last week in Antwerp's Wilrijk suburb, a gang of ten to 15 North African youths armed with knives and other blunt instruments chased four Jewish boys. Three escaped but the fourth was trapped by the gang and stabbed in the back. A spokesman for the Jewish community said the young victim had been lucky to escape with his life. Another incident occurred on Sunday evening when three more Jewish boys were threatened by a gang of youths in a car as they left the hospital where the stabbing victim was recovering.
    ©Expatica News

    8/7/2004- President Jacques Chirac appealed to the French people on Thursday to do more to fight racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and homophobia which he said were threatening national unity. In a speech in this southern village which protected Jews in World War Two, Chirac told public officials to lead the fight against "the darkest side of human nature" and urged ordinary people to teach their children the dangers of fanaticism. Anti-Semitic attacks in particular have risen in recent months and Chirac's comments highlighted his concern that widening divisions in French society are damaging France's image. They could also dent his own record as head of state. "Discrimination, anti-Semitism, racism -- all kinds of racism are spreading insidiously," Chirac told a crowd gathered under rain-soaked plane trees. "All these acts reflect the darkest side of human nature. They are unworthy of France. I will do everything to stop them. In the face of the risk of everyday indifference and passivity, I appeal solemnly for vigilance from each French woman and man." Chirac appealed to government officials, local and regional leaders, teachers, police and judges to set an example. He urged state prosecutors to appeal against any sentences they consider too lenient for racist, homophobic or xenophobic crimes. Standing in front of the French and European Union flags, Chirac said France could be a more tolerant and united country, where people showed more respect for each other's differences.

    Rise in antisemitic attacks
    Chirac's speech was one of his longest in recent months on internal political matters. He regards guaranteeing national unity as his responsibility as head of state, and doing so could be especially important if he decides to seek a third term in an election due in 2007. He delivered the speech in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon because it is a symbol of tolerance after villagers saved thousands of Jews fleeing the Nazis or their French collaborators during World War Two. Some residents hid Jews in their homes for years. The village lies in a mountainous region about 90 km (55 miles) southwest of Lyon. In recent weeks, neo-Nazis have spray-painted swastikas and hate slogans on Jewish, Muslim and Christian cemeteries in the eastern region of Alsace. The Interior Ministry registered 67 attacks on Jews or their property and 160 threats against Jews in the first quarter of this year compared with 42 attacks and 191 threats in the last three months of 2003. Many of France's five million Muslims are also unhappy, following a ban on headscarves in state schools that comes into force in September.

    8/7/2004- French Education Minister Francois Fillon vowed Thursday that a new law banning Islamic headscarves in state schools would be rigorously applied when students return to classrooms in September after summer vacations. "Know that the republic will be steadfast, that it will show an utmost firmness" regarding the law, he told France Inter radio. Passed in March amid much controversy and some overseas criticism, the legislation prohibits any ostentatious religious insignia, including Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses, in state schools and universities. "I will be watching over this personally. There will be no exceptions," Fillon said. One Muslim group, the Union of Islamic Organisation in France, has set out to challenge the law by sending letters to Muslims urging girls to "go to the (education) establishments in whatever they choose to wear". The French government introduced the law to stop what it saw as an increasingly radical stance by some students to assert their religious identity in schools in violation of a principle that such institutions should be strictly secular. Its position against those claiming the move infringed on freedom of religion was bolstered by a June 29 European Court of Human Rights ruling involving the case of a Muslim woman who was stopped from going to Istanbul University in Turkey because she refused to take off her Islamic headscarf. The verdict, "based on two principles - secularism and equality", set a high legal precedent for France and other European countries struggling with the issue.
    ©Expatica News

    6/7/2004- Many French city suburbs are becoming ethnic ghettoes, a report has warned. The study by the French domestic intelligence services found many areas were populated by poor, young French of north African immigrant backgrounds. The report, leaked to Le Monde newspaper, found at least half of the 630 suburbs it looked at had already become separate ethnic communities. The report warned the ghettoes, cut off from mainstream French society, could encourage radical Islam to take root. The intelligence service report deals with an extremely sensitive issue for France: just how bad the sense of alienation has become in the suburbs, among the French-born children of north African immigrant background. The report - given to the interior minister, Dominique de Villepin - concludes that the situation is actually worse than previously thought. Of the suburbs studied, the report says at least half could already be called ghettoes, whose inhabitants felt rejected by, and were in turn rejecting, mainstream French society. The areas studied were chosen because they already had problems with unemployment, crime and violence, had a high proportion of immigrant families - some still practising polygamy - plus a growing number of Islamic prayer rooms as well as frequent anti-Western and anti-Semitic graffiti. The intelligence services noted that many families of immigrant origin were rejecting French values and even the French language, following instead more traditional ways of life associated with their ethnic origin - including an increasing religious radicalisation among young Muslims, and a backlash against young Muslim women who wore Western clothing. Better-off families, mainly those of white European origin, were leaving such suburbs, creating an even greater sense of isolation.

    Divide widens
    The report's conclusions will worry the government, although they are not entirely unexpected. For decades, France had hoped that its immigrants and their children would simply integrate into secular French society. Instead, it seems, the opposite has been happening, with the divide becoming ever greater. France's new law, banning the Islamic headscarf from state schools, had already provoked a national debate on integration. In an attempt to solve the problems of France's city suburbs, the government has proposed a five-year plan to improve social cohesion - although, as the newspaper Le Monde concludes, it will be a race against time.
    ©BBC News

    3/7/2004- Several thousand people took to the streets of London on Saturday for the annual Gay Pride parade and festival. The parade was followed by a rally in Trafalgar Square and a music festival in Finsbury Park in north London. Earlier, floats, bands and dancers took part in the march through Westminster, past the Houses of Parliament and along Victoria Embankment. This year the event was recognised as a parade rather than a demonstration for the first time. The march, which began in Hyde Park, was dedicated to murdered Jamaican gay rights campaigner Brian Williamson. Mr Williamson, who was the founder of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All sexuals and Gays (J-Flag), was found dead from multiple stab wounds at his home in Kingston, Jamaica, last month. The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who attended the festival, said: "I am proud that London continues to lead the way in moving towards lesbian and gay equality, but as the murder of Brian Williamson shows, homophobia continues to have tragic consequences all over the world."

    Biggest gay festival
    Those attending the parade included actor Ian McKellen and the UK's most senior openly gay police officer, Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick. A contingent from the Metropolitan Police's own gay and lesbian association also joined in. Det Con Carl Wonfor, from Scotland Yard, said: "Some of our police officers will be marching in uniform in the parade. That is a very important symbol for us to show that police don't only police the lesbian, gay and bisexual community in London, but that they are part of it as well." Speakers at the rally included Lord Waheed Alli, the first openly gay peer, Peter Tatchell, Gay and Human Rights Campaigner, co-founder of OutRage!, and Ken Livingstone. The music festival - Big Gay Out - is expected to include 45 artists who are scheduled to perform at the official Pride Party, along with more than 50 DJs. The Sugababes, Jamelia and Peter Andre are among the performers. Highlights include an outdoor dance stage cabaret tent, and a beach bar. The Gay Pride festival is thought to be Europe's biggest gay festival.
    ©BBC News

    The force's attitude towards homosexuality may have changed, but did past prejudice compromise investigations?

    5/7/2004- When more than 100 uniformed gay officers took to the streets of London in the annual Gay Pride march, they were doing more than celebrating their sexuality. They were signalling the huge steps said to have been made in recent years by the Metropolitan Police in its attitude towards homosexuals and homophobic crime. Now, in a move designed to signify its new approach, the Metropolitan Police has established an inquiry to examine whether past prejudice among officers influenced its investigation of anti-gay murders. By studying the murders of six gay people dating back to 1990, the inquiry is intended to establish whether those investigations were compromised by prejudice and what lessons can be learnt for future murder hunts involving gay, bisexual and transsexual victims. It also aims to boost confidence among gays employed by the police. The inquiry has been established because concerns remain that many gay people believe the police are still prejudiced against them, although it is widely accepted that the force has made progress in its handling of the issues. Indeed, the presence of police officers - led by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick, the force's most prominent gay officer - as participants in Saturday's march would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Leaders of the gay community have praised the force for its changed attitudes. A team of homicide detectives, analysts and representatives of the gay community will study the six murder inquiries, dating back to 1990: three before the Macpherson report into the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence, and three which took place afterwards. Sir William Macpherson of Cluny's report, published in February 1999, made a series of recommendations aimed at improving the way the police investigate racist and other types of hate crime. The Met wants to make sure it has learnt the lessons from the debacle surrounding that murder.

    One of the cases being examined is the unsolved murder of the actor Michael Boothe in west London in 1990, which brought to a head resentment over the treatment of anti-gay violence. Mr Boothe was beaten to death by a gang close to a public lavatory where police had arrested large numbers of gay men for soliciting. Another case being reviewed is that of Colin Ireland, the serial killer who was jailed for life in 1993 for murdering five gay men he met at pubs in London. After Ireland's conviction, some gay activists claimed that the fifth murder could have been averted if police had realised and made public earlier the links between the first four. The investigation did, however, mark a new degree of co-operation between police and the gay community. Police were forced to seek the assistance of Galop, the group that monitors police and gays in London. Gay officers were also drafted in to the investigation as advisers. Bob Hodgson, co-chairman of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) advisory group to the Met, said: "There was a feeling in the past among some members of the LGBT community that the police viewed a homophobic murder as "another one less on the street" and that the investigation would not be applied with the same rigour as a Jill Dando type of murder. "That is not the reality now, although there remains suspicion among some members of the gay community. I believe that the police are no longer bothered who the victim is. It is just treated as a murder." One of the turning points, he said, was the case of Jaap Bornkamp, who was knifed in a homophobic attack in south-east London in June 2000. The police took the unusual step of displaying 20ft by 10ft images of CCTV footage taken near the murder scene, in an effort to identify the killers. Despite the murder being unsolved, the police's efforts to catch the culprit impressed many within th Ireland, 43, was given five life sentences in 1993 for the murder of five gay men he picked up at London pubs. He targeted men involved in sado-masochism and killed them in their homes. Ireland, from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, said he wanted to be recognised as a serial killer.

  • Michael Boothe
    The actor was beaten to death by up to six men at midnight in April 1990, close to a public lavatory near Elthorne Park, west London, used by gay men for sex. Mr Boothe died from massive internal bleeding. He was stamped on with such violence that a foot was almost severed. The case remains unsolved.
  • Gemma Browne
    In 1997, 23-year-old Gemma Browne, a transsexual prostitute, was found dead of stab wounds at her flat near BBC Broadcasting House in central London. The murder of Ms Browne, formerly James Darwin Browne, has not been solved.
  • Jaap Bornkamp
    The 52-year-old gay Dutch florist was knifed in a homophobic attack in south-east London, as he walked in New Cross Road with a friend, minutes after leaving a club in Deptford in June 2000. Police say there was no apparent confrontation or argument and the attack was purely homophobic and unprovoked.
  • Geoffrey Windsor
    Died from head injuries in a south London park in June 2002, a murder police say was homophobically motivated. Mr Windsor, 57, had been beaten and robbed in Beaulieu Heights park, a popular place for gay men.
  • David Ridhalgh
    The former Merchant Navy seaman was battered to death in an east London churchyard in a suspected homophobic attack. Fergus Noel Tracey, 19, confessed. The victim, an alcoholic but not known as a gay, often joined drinkers in the churchyard after dark.
    © Independent Digital

    Chilling message of Scots neo-Nazis
    By Allan Caldwell

    5/7/2004- Hardline BNP members are preparing for racial violence in Scotland, the Record can reveal. A leading member bragged the party in Scotland were a 'revolution ready to happen'. And he welcomed the prospect of bloodshed on the streets. The views of Scottish vice-chairman Scott McLean disclosed to an undercover Record reporter fly in the face of BNP propaganda that the party have rid themselves of extremist thugs. They claim to be standing on policies and campaigns free of racism. But a special investigation by the Daily Record reveals a different story. I infiltrated the party's only organised branch in Scotland and, for more than two months, mixed with activists who hold extreme views and are prepared to put them into practice. I was recruited by McLean,who stood as a candidate for the recent Euro elections. He summoned me to a secret meeting with his lieutenant, Walter 'Hammy' Hamilton, a former carpet layer who now boasts of being a rich property developer.

    At the meeting to vet me as a new member McLean boasted: 'We are more than a party we are a revolution ready to happen.' He said violent action against Asians in English cities would soon spread to Scotland adding: 'Hopefully that will be the case. We'll be ready.' McLean handed me a BNP Euro campaign leaflet printed and published by the party's branch in Glasgow which focused on asylum issues stating: 'Scotland has had enough.' Warning that more immigrants are on the way as England 'is full up', they say 'Scotland can't take any more'. The party were forced to drop references to the death of Glasgow teenager Kriss Donald from their first TV political broadcast for the Euro elections. But McLean and his small band of hardliners plan to stir up racial tensions by distributing leaflets in Glasgow's Sighthill area home to many asylum seekers. They also plan to spread their twisted message through the predominately Asian community in Pollokshields, where Kriss Donald was attacked. McLean said: 'These Asians with attitude, and just about every other immigrant, have more rights than wedo. 'We blame the state and we want our rights and our country back. They're literally getting away with murder. Things are going to change. If we have to meet them head-on, we will.' McLean and his sidekick claimed Kriss's death led to more than 80 new members signing up. Hamilton said: 'Our membership is up 70 per cent in the past year and growing. We are meeting more new people in pubs and homes throughout the country. 'They want to join us to secure our race and build a future for white children.' McLean added: 'We are the minority and we have to fight back. But we can't with violence now, we can't beat them that way. They are too well organised and there are too many of them. We have to use underhand methods and upfront politics just now to tackle them. They are known as 'Asians with attitude' and it's getting violent down south. 'It will happen here soon. Hopefully that will be the case.We'll be ready. 'We watch for those we think are dodging tax or VAT and report them. The same goes for any other crime we can pin on them.

    'Even paedophiles have more rights than BNP members. Like Asians and other ethnic groups they are allowed meetings in council halls.We're not allowed to book rooms. 'Blacks, gays and lesbians can get a meeting room once a month. 'That's 12 meetings a year. Try asking for 12 whites-only lunch meetings.' McLean, 33, is a former Glasgow City Council joiner who quit under pressure after his views were revealed. He told me his hatred of Asians came when he was beaten up by a group of them at school. He became involved in gang fights between whites and Asians while attending Bellahouston Academy and joined the BNP aged 18. He has mixed with BNP extremists and others throughout Europe, including members of the notorious Combat 18 Nazi gang. Hamilton claims to be a former member of the Parachute Regiment and a teacher of Thai kick-boxing. The 5ft 5ins Glaswegian drives a top-ofthe-range, 7-series, silver BMW which is less than a year old and cost £55,000. Hamilton also claims to mix in football circles and know several SPL club bosses. He mentioned people at Partick Thistle and Livingston. No one we spoke to at the clubs recalled him. He does, however, have connections with Glasgow gangster Frankie 'Donuts' Donaldson. Hamilton organises the members, arranging for activists to meet early on some Saturday mornings for the door-to door distribution of BNP leaflets. He seldom gives more than 36 hours notice for the hardcore group to assemble.

    I met up with 12 of them outside a pub in Paisley Road West in the south side of Glasgow on one Saturday morning at 8am for a leaflet drop nearby. The odd assortment came from various parts of the city and one had travelled by bus from East Kilbride. We were all known only by our first names. One of the pack, a jumpy character who admitted to having spent time in jail and giving up drink because it made him violent, lived in Sighthill. Another new start argument with me I'll give the mone.' The debriefing venue was a MacDonald's in Tradeston where Hamilton and McLean treated the activists to burgers and milkshakes while they discussed their extreme and racist views. Hamilton reminded some that another leaflet drop would happen soon in Sighthill, but added that they would target 'whites only'. He also revealed that the BNP would target Pollokshields to 'get our message across'. McLean caused uproar shortly after the Kriss Donald death by inviting party chairman Nick Griffin to Glasgow with a view to visiting Pollokshields. The meeting took place in secret outwith the community. Hamilton admitted it would be illegal to leaflet the area, saying that one BNP member was jailed for three months for trying but he added: 'We will do it.'

    Mohammed Naveen Asif, spokesman for asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow, condemned the BNP's actions. He said: 'Their only aim is to provoke hatred among communities and instigate violence against asylum seekers and refugees.' Strathclyde Police are aware of the potential for violence. One officer said: 'We will act if we believe there is a threat of anyone inciting racial hatred or causing public disorder.' l Strathclyde Police are probing claims BNP Euro election leaflets delivered by the Royal Mail are racist. They have had a number of complaints that the literature is insulting and abusive'. A police spokesman said: 'We are currently awaiting instruction from the fiscal regarding allegations relating to these leaflets.' The BNP denied that the leaflets broke the law. Scottish spokesman Kenny Smith said: 'The party have had all leaflets checked by a legal team. We do not believe they're racist or inflammatory.'
    ©The Daily Record

    7/7/2004- Inciting religious hatred is to be made a criminal offence under plans unveiled by Home Secretary David Blunkett. The government failed to get laws introducing the offence passed by Parliament in the wake of the US terror attacks in 2001. In a speech in London, Mr Blunkett revived the proposals. He said he was returning to the plans as there was a need to stop people being abused or targeted just because they held a particular religious faith.

    Islamophobia fear
    "Extending anti-discrimination law is only worthwhile if we actually change the processes on the ground," he said in a keynote speech to left-leaning think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research. Earlier he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the legislation would not curb people's right to express their view of other people's religions. "The issue is not whether you have an argument or discussion or whether you are criticising someone's religion. It's whether you incite hatred on the basis of it," he said. There is already an offence of inciting racial hatred but this does not offer protection if someone is being targeted because of their religion. The government is worried in particular about discrimination against Muslims. The home secretary believes the law change would help tackle religious extremists who preach against other religions. It is not yet clear exactly when the plans will go before Parliament. It is thought likely the plans will be part of other legislation rather than forming a Bill on their own. Tackling extremism, political and religious, was the central theme of Mr Blunkett's speech. He is also expected to praise the enormous contribution made by Britain's ethnic minority communities. He is keen to stress that the government does not want to create a single common culture but instead values Britain's diversity.

    Battle predicted
    But Labour peer Lord Desai believes there is no need for the proposed measures. He told Today: "We will get into a real muddle if we take religion as a ground for prosecution, rather than ethnic stereotyping. "When people insult Muslims they are not attacking the religion, they are attacking Muslims as a racial group. The protection required is already covered in law." Lord Desai suggested Mr Blunkett would have a "very tough time" getting the proposed measures through the House of Lords. Current race hate laws protect religious groups if they can also be identified as a distinct ethnic minority community - such as Jews or Sikhs. The anti-terror laws introduced in late 2001 after the World Trade Center attacks do include laws which mean courts can take religion, like race, as an aggravating factor when dealing with crimes of violence or intimidation. But in a last-minute compromise to ensure the main bulk of his anti-terror plans were passed by the House of Lords, Mr Blunkett dropped the proposed incitement to religious hatred offence.

    Life of Brian
    Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats said at the time they would have backed fresh moves to introduce the law away from the pressures of emergency legislation. Comedians such as Rowan Atkinson raised fears the law change could have outlawed jokes about religion. The Blackadder star suggested Monty Python's Life of Brian would not have been made if the law had been in force. At the time, Mr Blunkett said much of the criticism of the plans had been "nonsense", adding that jokes would not fall foul of the proposed measures. Last month, the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia think tank warned that persistent and untackled Islamophobia in the UK could lead to "time-bombs" of backlash and bitterness.
    ©BBC News

    There used to be 15 proposed sites for asylum centres around the UK. Now there's just one, a fact which has left people living near the site wondering "why us?" You can't miss the proposed site of the Bicester asylum seeker accommodation centre - hundreds of yards of fence cordon off "Site A" of the enormous Ministry of Defence holdings south of Oxfordshire village. Through the gate, the security guard says he can't "divulge" whether or not you have the right place, and then warns against taking pictures. But pig farmer Michael Gurr knows it's there. He can see it from his fields. He's even put up a big sign just in case there is anyone in the area who's been asleep for the past two years. And like the thousands who do know about it and have signed petitions, he fears the worst. "People are worrying about crime - there's nothing for these people to do. We can see trouble coming." says Mr Gurr.

    Big trouble in little villages
    For two years, the accommodation centre plan has been trouble for the Home Office. Trials of large-scale asylum centres are a key plank of asylum policy. They aim to relieve local services by housing asylum seekers in self-contained communities while applications are considered. In Bicester's case that means facilities for 750 people. But since the centres were unveiled, ministers have faced a pincer movement of local communities raising objections and expert refugee bodies raising yet more. Last year ministers dropped proposals for Lee on Solent after mass street protests in the south coast town. This Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott announced the other remaining alternative, RAF Newton in Nottinghamshire, was also a dead duck. So where there were some 15 sites on the original list, today, it appears, there is just Bicester left. But that is of little comfort to residents of Ambrosden, Piddington, Arncott and Blackthorn, the villages surrounding the site. Some claim it was selected because it's a safe Tory constituency in the middle of nowhere. Officials say it's because it is an ideal piece of redundant government land. "I don't understand how people can be expected to integrate if they are only here for a few months at a time," says Mr Gurr. "We don't know where they are coming from, what their backgrounds are."

    Field headquarters
    Last year, the local council, which supported residents, won a planning inquiry on the centre, but Mr Prescott overruled its recommendations and gave the go ahead. This week, the residents have been back in court in a last ditch attempt to stop the centre. If Mr Gurr's property is the frontline, the Arncott village shop is the field headquarters for Bicester Action Group. Shopkeeper Kathy Merriman used to display a picture of a rural area divided by razor wire. "We would get hundreds of signatures a day," she says. "I think people feared their homes turning into something like Sangatte. "No one has an argument with genuine asylum seekers. But what they fear is, quite literally, train loads of young men." But why do they fear these men? Is this just dressed-up racism? This concern was echoed in a major study of local reaction to asylum by King's College London. It found a lack of information on the centre and asylum seekers in Bicester exacerbated misunderstandings and fuelled suspicions. And, as many villagers agreed, it's in that vacuum that tensions grow. Almost all the villagers spoken to raised fears of crime or vagrancy. A few linked asylum seekers to terrorism. "Bloodbath, that's what will happen," says one irate local father. "I have a cricket bat. I will use it to protect my teenage daughter - I will protect her and go to prison for it if I have to."

    Government in the spotlight
    Bicester Refugee Support has worked to shift the focus from suspicions on to the government's motives. The campaigners present themselves as the "positive" voice and believe they have eased anxieties, with far-right political activity declining. "This centre is clearly wrong. But at the initial stages the needs of the asylum seekers were not being advocated at all," says Colin Thompson of the organisation. "The Home Office has to bear a lot of the responsibility for the unpleasantness which has occurred here. "There are a lot of unknowns over this project. And fear of what's going to happen, without knowing what is going to happen, is quite a negative thing." Back in Arncott, Dionne Arrowsmith of the Bicester Action Group says a racist element has been dealt with. "This is about the infrastructure being imposed against the will of both residents and the asylum seekers themselves," she says. "What's now become more important is that two years down the road people are very frustrated at what was supposedly a democratic process." This anger towards government is coupled with anxieties about local services. So where residents see a proposed minibus for asylum seekers, they see no public service for them on weekends. Where centre residents will have a dedicated health facility, Bicester people say they are waiting for a community hospital. For its part, the Home Office says the centre is designed to take pressure away from standard public services. While the former minister Beverley Hughes has visited Bicester twice, officials concede greater communication has been limited by legal battles. Crucially, it stresses that the Bicester trial is not the end of the story; other centres are expected to go up elsewhere in the future - but their size and shape depends on asylum numbers and the success or failure of Bicester itself. "We recognise that there is some local opposition and that there is a need to improve communication with the local community," said a spokesman. On his farm, Michael Gurr remains unimpressed. "It feels to us like the Home Office decided all along that they were going to have this centre, public inquiry or not," he says. "I live right next door to this place but had no information from them prior to what came out in the press. I haven't had a minister coming to talk to me. "They have only managed to create racial hatred and tension by how they have gone about this."
    ©BBC News

    EVERY MOMENT FOR ME IS FEAR(uk, comment)
    As an asylum seeker, I discovered what racism really means when I was 'dispersed' to Middlesbrough
    By Kamwaura Nygothi

    8/7/2004- I am an asylum seeker and I am black. I believe that in Middlesbrough, where the Home Office has placed me, I am not safe. I was a successful businesswoman in Kenya and I would love to work and contribute taxes to British society rather than get benefits - but I am not allowed to. On buses people refuse to sit next to me and shout out "monkey" and "asylum seeker". In the street a big, strong man struck me on my back with his fists and said: "You are illegal, you should go back to your country." Boys spit at me and throw stones when I walk down the street. If I go to a public toilet, whoever is behind me in the queue won't use it after me. One friend had fireworks thrown through her letter box. Several mothers I know left their babies in the creche at a local family centre for a couple of hours. They returned to find their babies sitting in dirty nappies. They felt this was because the staff didn't want to touch their babies. Middlesbrough reminds me of South Africa during apartheid.

    I fled Kenya after a period in detention where I was raped and burned with acid and cigarettes because I belonged to a group which opposed the government. I was released on bail and was convinced that it was only a matter of time before I was jailed and tortured again. My survival instinct took over and I left everything - my family, my business, which was worth a lot of money, and my community - to escape to a place where I thought I'd be safe. I came to England for one reason only, because I'd heard it was a country that respects human rights. In London, where I was initially placed, I felt safe for the first time in years. There is a large Kenyan community there: it's an environment where people from many different backgrounds mostly live peacefully together and where there are support services for traumatised asylum seekers, including the only services in the country for female asylum seekers who have been raped. But my experience in the north-east has made me realise that London is another country. I was shocked when the immigration authorities told me I was being "dispersed" to Middlesbrough and that if I didn't go my support would be cut off. I knew of asylum seekers who refused to leave London. They ended up sleeping on the streets and going hungry.

    I had no idea what it would be like in the north-east but I felt I had no choice but to go. We were transported at night by coach and placed in our new accommodation with a small amount of cash. I was given a flat on a council estate where I am the only black person. By the time I had experienced a few days in Middlesbrough, any hope I had was in shreds. The council's asylum unit handed us a welcome pack when we arrived. They should have called it "Welcome to Racism". It warned us about the possibility of racist attacks on asylum seekers and told us who to complain to if we experienced anything from verbal abuse to physical violence. "While members of the team are happy to listen to your concerns, they can't deal with non-emergencies," concludes the warning. I never experienced this level of discrimination in London. Racism is not a concept I was familiar with in Kenya and only now that I have been moved to Middlesbrough do I properly understand what the word means. The fact that an explicit warning is given to us suggests to me that the government knows exactly what they are sending us to. They have a duty of care to asylum seekers, but deliberately placing us in this environment seems to me to be wilful neglect of that duty.

    There have been cases of asylum seekers being murdered in this part of the country and in Scotland. Every moment for me is fear. I have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of what happened to me in Kenya and am experiencin ©The Guardian

    7/7/2004- Twelve members of a bonfire society accused of inciting racial hatred will not be prosecuted, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has said. They were arrested last October in Firle, East Sussex, after burning a caravan bearing effigies of a gypsy family and the number plate "P1 KEY". Describing it as a "complex and challenging" case, the CPS said there was insufficient evidence to go ahead. The society denies claims there was any racist intent behind its actions. Reviewing lawyer Patrick Stevens said that for anyone to be prosecuted, it could only be on the basis of their own words or acts. He said the general picture which emerged from the evidence was of a "fairly disorganised group of individuals playing different parts in the event". Speaking for Friends, Families and Travellers, Emma Nuttal said she was "extremely disappointed" with the decision. "They were a bonfire committee and I would have thought there would have been some level of planning and cooperation", she said. Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald QC said he understood " the disquiet and repugnance of those who were offended". "But in order to prosecute there must be sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and if the evidence is not there, no matter how disturbing the allegations may be, the case cannot go ahead," he said. The Commission for Racial Equality was among those who called for those involved in the effigy burning to be "punished". Firle Bonfire Society has issued a statement saying it was "delighted" with the decision and that it would continue to be involved in bonfire celebrations.
    ©BBC News

    By Arun Kundnani

    8/7/2004- Earlier this year, the Daily Express dedicated numerous front pages to the threat of '1.6 million Gypsies' who were 'ready to flood in' to Britain on 1 May, when the European Union was expanded. Today, an article on page eight of the paper admits that only 10,000 have come. It was billed as the 'Great Invasion' of 2004. Maps of Europe were printed depicting invading armies of 'Gypsies' from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. The newspaper estimated that the total number of Roma living in these four countries was 1.6 million. So it put that figure on its front page with the warning '1.6 million Gypsies ready to flood in'. An editorial comment added that they were 'heading to Britain to leech on us'. Yet the hordes never arrived. On the day in question, journalists were despatched to Victoria Coach Station and Dover docks to report on the first battalions of this eastern invasion. But the flood turned out to be no more than a trickle. It soon became clear that the majority of people registering as migrants from the eight new EU member states in eastern Europe had already been in the UK prior to 1 May and the EU expansion itself was having a negligible impact on rates of migration. The main effect of EU expansion was to offer regularisation to unauthorised workers already here.

    This was confirmed by new figures published yesterday. These revealed that in the first two months of an expanded EU, no more than 10,000 people migrated to the UK from the new EU member states in eastern Europe. A further 14,000 people who were already in the UK registered for legal working. Today, an article on page eight of the Daily Express tried to cover up the fact that the 'Great Invasion' had not materialised, by focusing on the 14,000 people who were previously working illegally. But James Slack, the Express's Home Affairs Correspondent, is forced to admit in the same article that there have only been '10,000 migrants from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia'. The article goes on to state that these figures put 'Britain on course to receive 60,000 economic immigrants per year', a tiny amount compared to the 1.6 million predicted by the paper in January. And, since the rate of migration has already started to fall, the actual number over the year is likely to be even smaller. Unfortunately, the recent hostility directed at Europe's Roma communities cannot now be undone and Express readers will be left with an enduring image of 'Gypsy' scroungers as poised to flood Britain from the East.
    ©Institute of Race Relations

    7/7/2004- Today, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women ("CEDAW"), the review body responsible for the monitoring of states' compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, reviews Spain's compliance with the Convention. The review provides the opportunity to highlight in particular discrimination and other human rights violations against Romani women in Spain. An ERRC submission presented to the Committee in advance of today's review indicates that Romani women in Spain have been subjected to intersectional discrimination on the basis of gender and ethnicity. Romani women in Spain face denial of fundamental human rights in a number of areas as a result of the compounding effects of racial and gender discrimination.

    The report submitted by the ERRC highlights a number of concerns relating to the situation of Romani women in Spain, including the following:
    * Romani women face discrimination in the criminal justice system. One consequence is a very disproportionate overrepresentation of Romani women in Spanish prisons;
    * Policies to combat domestic violence and other gender violence have not yet had significant impact among Spanish Romani communities; when Romani women are subjected to domestic violence, they are often reluctant to use mainstream mechanisms for combating gender violence due in part to lack of support for such actions, as well as a range of other reasons not yet addressed by adequate policy measures;
    * Romani women are not adequately represented in Spanish public life;
    * Romani children are subjected to discrimination in the Spanish educational system. Racial segregation of Romani children in schools has been reported and incidents of vehement opposition to the admission of Romani children in schools by non-Romani parents have been reported in Spain. A disproportionate number of Romani girls drop out of school after elementary school;
    * Roma in Spain tend to be employed in the informal economy as street-vendors, garbage collectors, domestic workers and similar. Research suggests that Romani women tend to suffer higher rates of unemployment than Romani men. Romani women also tend to be concentrated in lower paid jobs than men. Significantly, research also shows a great deal of prejudice on the part of employers and co-workers towards employing Romani women, so much so that some of them claim to be non-Roma from Latin American countries. Spain's Report to the CEDAW and other government documents focus on training for women, ignoring the role of discrimination in employment;
    * Romani women tend to face more health problems than women belonging to the general population, and women's life expectancy is lower in Romani communities than in society as a whole. Moreover, Romani child mortality rates are reportedly higher among girls than among boys. Romani women have been treated with hostility by medical professionals, and they have been racially segregated in some health care facilities;
    * Traditional Romani marriages are not recognised in Spain, with implications for the ability of individuals to benefit from certain social services on an equal footing with non-Roma;
    * Spanish governmental policies on Roma downplay gender concerns. Similarly, the governmental plan on gender equality does not emphasise any concerns specific to Romani women;
    * The Spanish anti-discrimination body, as a subsidiary body to a government Ministry, appears to fall short of international standards in terms of its independence.

    In its submission to CEDAW, the ERRC recommends a number of measures to the Government of Spain, including the following:

  • Require that gender concerns are mainstreamed and greater participation of Romani men and women is ensured in the design, implementation and monitoring of projects under the Spanish government's Roma Development Plan.
  • Undertake urgent measures to remedy the under-representation of Romani women in public institutions.
  • Address on a priority basis the disproportionately high rates of school abandonment among Romani girls.
  • Provide comprehensive measures to ensure that all Romani children in Spain enjoy full and unimpeded access to mainstream education.
  • Develop and implement effective programmes aimed specifically at improving the access of Romani women and girls to healthcare.
  • With a view to ensuring that Romani women and girls do not suffer discriminatory treatment in accessing healthcare, provide information to medical personnel on minorities in Spain, particularly as regards the Romani minority, and training on the legal obligation not to discriminate.
  • At the highest levels, speak out against the problem of anti-Romani sentiment, which particularly affects the capacity of Romani women to fully enjoy all their rights. Address the problem of widespread racism, and gender stereotyping by developing resource materials and conducting comprehensive training for national and local administration, educational institutions, law-enforcement authorities, the judiciary, health-care providers, media, and other key institutions.
    ©European Roma Rights Center

    The barriers may be less overt than in some countries but this desperately poor community still faces enormous discrimination.
    By Milos Steric, journalist on the Belgrade daily Blic, in Belgrade

    8/7/2004- Nebojsa Radosavljevic fears he will have to spend another winter as a tenant in Belgrade with his five-member family, waiting to see if the courts bring charges against the people who stopped him from buying land in the Belgrade suburb of Sremcica just because he is a Roma. Last September, Radosavljevic paid a deposit for the plot where he wanted to build a family home and offices for his company, manufacturing spices. As a Roma who has always lived in Belgrade, he says he has grown accustomed to "silent discrimination" - but he never suspected what was about to happen to him when it came to buying land. When some women in the neighbourhood discovered Radosavljevic's intentions, they protested against the plot "being sold to the Gypsies", he says. "It might be bought by Turks or anyone else, but not Gypsies," one of them said to him. The woman contacted Mladen Sakic, one of the persons named in the charges, who threatened Radosavljevic openly. "We won't let you buy the plot, and if you buy it, your house will be blown up," Sakic told him. When Radosavljevic asked if he was a racist, he says Sakic admitted he was. Radosavljevic gave up trying to purchase the plot and lost the money he paid as a deposit. "I didn't want the trouble. I have three children. I gave up the idea of buying that plot so I wouldn't have to think about all the bad things that might happen to us," he told IWPR.

    But with the help of several human rights groups including the Humanitarian Law Fund, the Centre for Minority Rights and the European Centre for the Rights of the Roma, Radosavljevic went ahead with bringing criminal charges against his potential neighbours. He accused them of inciting ethnic, racial and religious hatred, threatening his personal safety, and violating his freedom of movement. The criminal charges filed in the Belgrade District Prosecutor's Office were dismissed in relation to inciting ethnic, racial and religious hatred on the grounds that with no witnesses to the row between the plaintiff and the defendants, there could be no act of incitement. The case has been transferred to the Second Municipal Prosecutor's Office, which is expected to bring charges for the remaining criminal acts listed in the original charges. Radosavljevic's story is far from unusual and sheds light on a little reported aspect of Serbia's relations with its ethnic minorities, namely the growing intolerance towards Roma.

    While hostility between Serbs and Croats, Albanians and Bosnian Muslims is well known and documented, films, newspapers and other media tended to foster an impression that the Roma are less at odds with Serbs than the others. The exact number of Roma in Serbia is unknown, as the majority have no registered place of residence. In the 2002 census, 109,000 persons declared themselves as Roma. In reality, the figure is bound to be higher. Dejan Markovic, representative of Serbia for the Roma National Congress, the international Roma organisation, says 600,000 to 800,000 Roma inhabit the territory of Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo. Professor Bozidar Jaksic, sociologist at the Belgrade Institute for Social Sciences, gives a lower figure. "There are about 350,000 to 400,000 Roma in Serbia," this acknowledged expert on the issue maintains. About 150,000 Roma lived in Kosovo before the 1999 conflict but only 20,000 to 25,000 remain. Large numbers also left Serbia over the past decade for western and central Europe, the United States and Australia. Whatever the exact figure, it is indisputable is that the remaining Roma population in Serbia exists at the bottom of the social hierarchy, struggling by and large to survive. Most live in quarters known as "mahala" on the outskirts of Serbian cities and towns. In Belgrade alone there are over 110 such settlements. There, they often live in decrepit tenements made of cardboard and wooden planks, with no regular address, no electricity, running water or sewerage. As a rule, Roma can get only the poorest regular jobs in public utilities and garbage dumps. Most supplement their wages by collecting cardboard and empty bottles. The dire economic situation in Serbia has aggravated their position. Many beg in the streets to survive and cannot look after their children. The numbers of Roma children who end up living on the streets is rising. The discrimination they are exposed to prevents them from breaking out of a vicious circle of poverty and illiteracy. Up to 80 per cent of Roma children complete only elementary education. Only about 10 per cent complete secondary school. "Many Roma children of pre-school age speak only the Roma language, which is why it is difficult for them to pass school admission tests," said Dejan Markovic. "Educationalists and psychologists often consider them mentally retarded and send them to schools for children with disabilities. Almost 80 per cent of the pupils in such schools are Roma." Radosavljevic agrees. He only finished elementary school. "Partly this was because I hung out with bad company, but discrimination contributed," he says. "I was all-Yugoslavia maths champion but in my school I was given only B grades in maths. My parents were mostly concerned about survival and didn't even know I took part in maths competitions." Radosavljevic was introduced early to the stereotype that "Roma" in many people's minds equals "thief". "When someone stole money from a girl in my class, the first thing our teacher did was to strip-search me," he recalled. "I've got to provide as good education as possible for my children, because this is the only way to ensure they have a decent life."

    Roma were not granted the status of a national minority until 2002, when the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, FRY, adopted a law on the protection of national minorities. When the Yugoslavia federation was transformed into the Serbia-Montenegro state union, no institution corresponding to the old Federal Constitutional Court was established to implement such laws. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was signed as far back as 1965 but Yugoslavia acknowledged the authority of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination only in July 2001. Prior to submitting a complaint to the committee, all available legal remedies in the country have to be exhausted. But now that the Federal Constitutional Court no longer exists, the legal situation is confusing. Serbia-Montenegro's ministry for human rights and mino Roma settled in the Balkans in the 12th and 13th centuries, though some theories hold that they arrived earlier. They were nomads, only settling areas gradually. They held down various occupations, working in the Ottoman Empire as blacksmiths and trumpeters in the army. They were also skilful traders in horses. Professor Jaksic admits discrimination against Roma exists in Serbian society, but argues that systematic discrimination is less harsh here than in some neighbouring states. "Roma in Serbia don't have separate seats in airplanes, as they do in the Czech Republic," he said. Discrimination runs in tandem with a certain degree of artistic exploitation. Because the Roma lifestyle is perceived as romantic and exotic and because they are reluctant to abide by rules imposed by the authorities, they are a frequent subject of films, such as those made by Emir Kusturica. In spite of their colourful cinematic portrayal, the Roma have never won acceptance from the majority population. In one recent survey conducted at Serbian universities, most students spoke with sympathy about Roma but 90 per cent said they would not marry one. Markovic believes the Serbian Roma must organise themselves institutionally to improve their position. "The Roma must draft a joint strategy for solving their problems," he said. So far, most Roma have voted for mainstream political parties, which were not interested in their specific problems. The new electoral law prescribes obligatory representation of minorities in parliament, so this may change. The law on local self-government has also been amended to ensure better representation of national minorities in local councils in ethnically-mixed areas. But according to Professor Jaksic, encouraging Roma to form ethnically-based parties may bring its own problems. "I fear the option on the table here - for Roma to organise themselves politically along ethnic lines - would only result in the creation of a Roma elite," Jaksic said. "And this would be counterproductive in the long run for the Roma people." In his view, the Roma have suffered more than most in the recent Balkan wars. They had no influence on the course or outcome of these conflicts, yet were always victims. Roma were horribly abused by both Serbs and Albanians, Jaksic added.

    Meanwhile, the Radosavljevic family, in their rented flat, await the outcome of the court decision about their lost plot. In the meantime, they have received a letter sent to their oldest son, Zoran, ordering him to report for military service. "Money is not that important to us. We want those people to be punished for what they've done so that it will never happen again," Zoran's mother, Julijana Radosavljevic says. "I wrote to Rasim Ljajic, Serbia-Montenegro's minister for human and national minority rights," she adds. "I asked how the state could ask me to send my son to the army, when I cannot even buy this piece of land?"
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    5/7/2004- The Dutch immigration service IND has again been embroiled in controversy following the news that hundreds of asylum seekers, foreign students and expat workers face great difficulties because their residence permits are being sent out too late or not at all. Due to the fact that the foreigners cannot identify themselves without a residence permit ID card, they cannot be employed, take on training placements or apply for housing, newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Monday. Furthermore, they cannot claim benefits or child allowance and lacking the necessary legal documents, they run the risk of being declared an illegal immigrant. Various Dutch municipalities have been inundated in recent weeks by complaints. In Amsterdam and Rotterdam, residence permits are being sent to foreigners about three to fives months too late. And in Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam, about 150 applications for a residence permit extension have gone missing. The immigrants affected have thus incurred serious financial problems as a result. The help desk of the Dutch Refugee Council (Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland) is also receiving many calls for assistance, with most callers complaining that they cannot receive benefits because they do not have a residence permit ID card. The callers have paid hundreds of euros to obtain such a card. One Croatian family in Arnhem, for example, has paid EUR 1,290 for a residence permit ID card that they never received. The card was valid from 2001 and will expire on 15 August 2004. The family of three has also paid EUR 855 for an extension of the permit and is not compensated for the costs.

    Municipal councils claim they cannot do anything to rectify the problem and have placed the blame solely with the IND. The immigration service - which took over visa responsibilities from the foreign police last year - is delivering the ID cards too late or not at all. An IND spokesman said the problems were caused by the introduction of a new computer system, but the use of more staff has already cleared some of the backlog. The IND has also sent a letter to affected immigrants that they can use as legitimate identification. The IND and foreign police have frequently been the subject of criticism due to lengthy delays. The government thus transferred the remaining visa tasks from the foreign police to the IND in a bid to streamline the system and is working on methods to improve the flow of skilled expatriates into the Netherlands. But the end of the road recently came for 26,000 long-term asylum seekers who were told earlier this year that they would not be granted a residence permit under a government amnesty. Little more than 2,000 asylum seekers were told they could stay in the country. Despite initial refusals from several other councils, the Dutch government has since reached a deal with municipal authorities in the northern town of Ter Appel for the creation of a special expulsion detention centre. But amid public dissatisfaction with the looming deportations, 800 people protested on Sunday afternoon in the town against the establishment of the expulsion centre. Organisers had hoped for 1,500 participants. The protest ended without incident.
    ©Expatica News

    8/7/2004- The much-maligned Dutch immigration service (IND) is hitting back at its severest critics who have suggested it can lead to a slow and painful death and compared its officials to prison guards. Immigration lawyer Pieter Bogaers fell foul of the immigration authorities after he printed cigarette packet style-health warnings attacking the IND. He distributed the stickers at a meeting of immigration lawyers in Utrecht in May, newspaper De Volkskrant reported Thursday. One of the stickers features the warning: "(The) IND can lead to a slow and painful death". Another other claims: "(The) IND can cause you and others serious damage". The IND has lodged a complaint with the solicitor's organisation Orde van Advocaten and asked Bogaers be disciplined. Bogaers, De Volkskrant said, has defended his stickers, calling them his "shortest legal pleadings ever". He said he started using them out of "pure despair". He has sent off a reply to the IND's call for disciplinary action against him. "It is my duty as a citizen to show what the IND is causing … I believe there has to be a parliamentary inquiry into the IND," he said. The IND has also lodged a complaint against rap musicians who have likened immigration officials to prison guards and serial killers. Many immigrant groups, expats and lawyers dealing with visa issues have become totally exasperated with the IND, accusing it of inefficiency, delays and maddening bureaucracy. The government's decision to severely restrict immigration and expel 26,000 unsuccessful asylum seekers and to massively increase the price of residence permits has further damaged the IND's reputation. "Genuine criticism comes under the freedom of expression," IND director Peter Veld told De Volkskrant. "But this sort of terminology goes too far." A criminal complaint was lodged against Rap group NNTTO (Noord Nederlands Taaltechnisch Offensief) after the band performed at a demonstration against the building of a deportees' holding centre in Ter Apel at the weekend. The rappers performed a song about "the prison guards of the IND, compassionless souls, no clue about rights". Immigration officials were also compared with serial killers. Group member Jorn Idzerda is from Sierra Leone and faces deportation from the Netherlands. He said he was shocked to hear about the IND complaint. He said the song had been adapted following the news that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is taking legal action against another rap group, which allegedly threatened the MP with death and used racist and sexist language to describe her. Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia and has been a consistent critic of the Islamic treatment of women.
    ©Expatica News

    7/7/2004- The EU newcomer Estonia was accused of amorality and gross historical insensitivity yesterday after it allowed veterans of the Nazi Waffen-SS to parade through its capital Tallinn. The event saw veterans of the 20th Estonian SS division attend a church service, lay flowers at a war memorial and attend a celebratory concert. The planned unveiling of a memorial to Estonian SS troops was cancelled at the last minute, however, and is not now expected to take place until the autumn. Jewish groups pointed out that Estonian volunteers in the SS were responsible for the almost complete annihilation of the country's Jewish population during the Second World War. Tallinn City Council gave yesterday's event its blessing. It said that it was a "political matter" but, despite promises to the contrary, failed to provide an explanation of why it had agreed to the commemoration. When asked to comment, Estonia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the matter was not within its competence, while a government spokesman who apparently specialises in the subject did not respond to inquiries. Officials said that anything concerning Estonia's SS fighters was "highly sensitive". Estonian SS units were formed in 1942 on the personal orders of Adolf Hitler, whose troops then occupied the tiny country. Their fighting prowess was said to have impressed the German Wehrmacht. Organisers said the celebration was held to mark the 60th anniversary of battles fought by the Estonian SS against the Soviet army and to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country. Many Estonians regard the SS veterans as freedom fighters who fought alongside the Germans to stave off Soviet occupation - the country was occupied by the Soviets before and after the war - and argue that they are military men rather than fascists. They see nothing shameful or controversial in such events and view external criticism as an attempt to blacken Estonia's name. Government sources say that Estonia is a free country that respects freedom of assembly and that the country's history is not as black and white as it is often made out to be.

    Jewish groups strongly disagree. Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the Russian Jewish Congress, said: "The problem is that the SS is the same institution which had death squads. This meeting is absolutely amoral. They were members of a structure which was a structure of blood and death. Let their children look at their faces and see that there were rivers of [Jewish] blood in Estonia because of them." Mr Satanovsky suggested that the country's apparently benign attitude towards SS veterans reflected ordinary Estonians' general indifference to the plight of the country's Jews. "Much of the population was absolutely neutral. They were not interested in the rivers of blood, in the extermination of their neighbours who they had lived with peacefully for hundreds of years or in the assassination of women and children. "Very few of them hid Jewish children. [But] they were interested in getting new property." Yesterday's event, organised by a group called the Union of Freedom Fighters which claims 3,000 members, is not unprecedented; similar events have been held 11 times since the country won its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Earlier this year Jewish groups were similarly outraged when a statue to a colonel in the SS alleged to have the blood of thousands of Jews and Russians on his hands was erected in the north of the country. The unveiling of the statue - to Colonel Alfons Rebane - was attended by a member of the Estonian parliament and the government itself refused to condemn it, let alone insist on its destruction. The way in which the Estonian SS veterans are treated by the authorities generates particular anger in the country's former imperial master Russia, which regards the elderly fighters as beyond the pale. "Today Estonian fascists represent themselves as 'the noble fighters for the freedom of Estonia'. But the words 'the struggle for freedom' cannot stand near the swastika and the two horrible letters SS," said the Interfax news agency, which is closely connected to the Russian government
    © Independent Digital

    Muslim congregation say they will continue resisting police attempts to evict them from the mosque they have made their own.
    By Shahin Rzayev, IWPR's coordinator in Azerbaijan. Rufat Abbasov, correspondent for the newspaper Olaylar.

    7/7/2004- The authorities in Azerbaijan have sent in police repeatedly in the last week to clear worshippers out of a mosque in the picturesque centre of Baku, but each time the congregation just comes back. The official justifications for the use of force range from claiming that the mosque is a heritage site to the most plausible theory - the authorities' conviction that the prayer leader or imam, Ilgar Ibrahimoglu, is a political troublemaker. Ibrahimoglu and his followers are refusing to budge, and say they will appeal an eviction order at Europe's highest human rights court. In repeated raids between June 30 and July 5 - each time coinciding with prayers - police arrested 15 people attending the Juma or Friday mosque, including 10 women. Ibrahimoglu's deputy Adil Huseinov was detained on July 4 while he was leading evening prayers. Police also confiscated computers, literature and cash from the mosque's offices. Najaf Allahverdiev was worshipping at the mosque when police raided it on the evening of July 4. "Several dozen uniformed police burst into the mosque and demanded that the Muslims praying there leave the building immediately. They were led by the city's deputy police chief, Yashar Aliev. When we tried to protest, the police used force." Imam Ibrahimoglu was outraged. "It's a violation of all laws and human rights conventions," he told IWPR. "We were not even allowed to finish our prayers, but were forcibly ejected from the House of the Lord. We'd received no prior warning of the [police] action."

    The police raids were the latest move in a long-running confrontation between the mosque leaders and congregation on the one hand, and Azerbaijan's political leaders and the officially-sponsored religious council. The authorities have been trying to drive the mosque leaders and congregation - who like most Azerbaijani Muslims are Shia - out of the building following an eviction order served in March. The eviction order has attracted attention from human rights groups and foreign embassies because of suspicions that the authorities' hostility towards Ibrahimoglu and his colleagues stem from their opposition sympathies rather than any dispute over religion or property rights. The United States - generally supportive of Azerbaijan's leadership - has voiced concern at the way Ibrahimoglu and his mosque are being treated. After the police raids, US ambassador Reno Harnish visited the scene with Norwegian envoy Steinar Gil. Christopher Smith, chairman of the Helsinki Commission, an arm of Congress, issued a strongly worded statement after a police raid conducted on July 2, saying, "The government's forcible eviction of this peaceful Islamic community is an outrage.... Government violence against religious communities hearkens back to the darker, Soviet days of Azerbaijan's history." The 15 people detained were released shortly afterwards, but the atmosphere at the mosque remained tense. Many in the congregation are concerned at the way the authorities are behaving. "We [Azerbaijan] have been shamed before the whole world," complained Kamil Huseinov, who comes every Friday. "In a country where more than 90 per cent of the people are Muslims, the government wants to close a mosque." Officially, the eviction order relates to a ruling that the 14th century Juma mosque is located within the Old Town, a designated national heritage site, and belongs to the state. In Soviet times it was, like many religious buildings, converted for secular use, in this case housing a museum of carpets.

    After Azerbaijan became independent, a group of devout Muslims successfully lobbied for the mosque to be returned to its proper use, and reacted by waiting outside until he had finished, and then followed their own imam Ilhamoglu in prayer. Interviewed by IWPR, Mamedov justified his appointment to another imam's congregation, saying, "It's all the same to me what games are played around this issue. I know just one thing - that our sheikh [Pashazade] has appointed me as akhund [theologian] here and in accordance with his orders I will be akhund of this mosque." The sense that this was about politics rather than property was strengthened when Rafik Aliev, head of the government committee responsible for religious matters, said that Ibrahimoglu's secular activities were a problem. "Recently he has been acting more as a human rights defender and politician than a cleric. You can't be a cleric and a politician at the same time," Aliev told the Turan news agency. The imam says his civil rights engagement is quite separate from his preaching, "I am coordinator of the Centre for the Defence of Freedom of Conscience and Confession and secretary general of the Azerbaijani branch of the International Religious Liberties Association. But I do my human rights work in my office rather than in the mosque." He denies any political links, saying, "There have been attempts to draw me into politics, but my position is that if I want to be involved in politics, I won't make a secret of it."

    Asked why a congregation should run into such trouble with the authorities, Ibrahimoglu said it might be that the Spiritial Directorate was unhappy that his mosque - unlike others - did not charge people a fee for conducting marriage rites and other Islamic ceremonies. Ibrahimogly noted also that the Juma mosque has been attracting a lot of new people, many of them young and educated. He said that on a recent Friday - the main day of prayer for Muslims - the Spiritual Directorate's main mosque, Teze Pir, had a congregation of 60 while the Juma gathered several times that number. And while most of the people attending the official mosque looked over 40, those at his mosque were in the 20 to 40 age bracket. "That naturally causes jealousy among some of the old-fashioned religious bureaucrats", he concluded. Ibrahimoglu's next step is to take his appeal against the court ruling to the European Court of Human Rights. Eldar Zeynalov, who heads Azerbaijan's Human Rights Centre, takes the view that he has a good chance of winning the case. Meanwhile, the imam is left to reflect on the authorities' antipathy towards him. In a recent interview with the Zerkalo newspaper he recalled about his arrest last October. "For the first month they accused me of being an al-Qaeda supporter. By the third month they were saying I was 'the West's man'. In the fourth month they came up with the idea of calling me a Protestant. "They only thing they failed to do is describe me as a Cuban revolutionary, or an alien from outer space."
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    8/7/2004- A top German court on Thursday upheld the right of the armed forces to expel soldiers who are officials in the extreme rightist NPD party. The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig said the Bundeswehr had this right, if it deemed that military discipline might be seriously endangered by the presence of such a soldier. The court was ruling on an appeal by a man who was a local party functionary of the National Party of Germany (NPD) in the southern state of Bavaria and who in 1998 was dismissed after five months of military duty. His rank was that of a private. The Leipzig federal court upheld a lower court ruling in Augsburg which had noted that in 1998 the NPD had opened itself up to violence-prone, neo-Nazi elements. In that earlier ruling, the court said the man's own testimony pointed to the party's "subliminal readiness for a violent and possibly armed revolution". Given this testimony, the Leipzig court said that the dismissed soldier was not ready to recognise and help preserve Germany's democratic order as called for in the constitution. In testimony to the court, the dismissed soldier's military superiors said that the man had caused no problems and had dutifully carried out all his tasks. But he only divulged his activities for the NPD when he was legally instructed to disclose such connections.
    ©Expatica News

    28/6/2004- Doctors' leaders acknowledged yesterday that a white male establishment in the NHS is blocking the careers of talented medical staff from minority ethnic communities. The British Medical Association said there is also widespread discrimination against women doctors and those who are gay or disabled. At the start of its annual conference in Llandudno, the BMA published research showing problems of racism, sexism and homophobia persist despite repeated promises of reform. It called for a policy of zero tolerance of all forms of prejudice in the health service. The BMA found at the top of the profession that 78% of consultants were white, but a majority of senior doctors without consultant status were black or Asian. Doctors who qualified outside Europe filled nearly two-thirds of the associated specialist and staff grade jobs in hospitals, where they were often sidelined with few opportunities for education or career advancement. Many said they were not given enough information about the extra language qualifications they would need to practise in the UK, while others complained about the high cost of exams and registration. The association has been accused by some of its minority ethnic members of itself harbouring racist attitudes. It lost a discrimination case in March and was ordered to pay the Manchester urologist Rajendra Chaudhary £1m for refusing to represent him in a case against the NHS. James Johnson, the BMA chairman, said it was appealing against the decision and would fight other allegations in cases before employment tribunals. "We would absolutely deny we are a racist organisation, but that doesn't mean we can't improve our procedures and policies," he said. Mr Johnson was asked if the BMA would expel a member who perpetrated the sort of racism that was condemned in the report. "We would be very unhappy indeed," he said, but he did not commit the association to using its powers of expulsion. The health secretary, John Reid, said: "There is no place for racism or discrimination in the NHS ... In February, my chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp issued a 10-point plan on race equality to all NHS leaders, to make sure that this is top of the agenda for every NHS organisation."
    ©The Guardian

    24/6/2004- Up to 80% of violent racist incidents are not being reported to Scotland's biggest police force because of a lack of confidence in the police, according to a new report. The independent study by Glasgow University has criticised the way Strathclyde police handle such incidents. The first of its kind in Britain, it also found the various ethnic groups questioned felt racist incidents had increased: two-thirds said they were experiencing more racism than in the past and that there were serious deficiencies in the force's system of recording incidents. Many were dissatisfied with officers and described them as dismissive and unfriendly. Some said they were discouraged from reporting because of language and accent barriers. Nicola Sturgeon, SNP justice spokeswoman, said: "If people who are victims of racist crime don't have confidence in the system they are being failed. Strathclyde police have to look long and hard at their procedures and make sure that they improve them."

    Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, said the findings seemed in line with statistics they gathered from dealing with 700 families last year. "People will not complain because they think the police won't do anything about it. For every racist incident that gets reported, 10 don't." However, Hanzala Malik, chairman of the West of Scotland Racial Equality Council, said he was "flabbergasted" by the findings. "I have difficulty in believing these figures. We see racist incidents day in day out. We see more and more people going to the police. The reluctance to report race issues is no longer there." The Glasgow councillor added: "There is a confidence in Strathclyde police who have done a fantastic PR job and regularly engage with the community." The report came as ministers announced a review into how police handle complaints against their officers.

    The study was commissioned by Strathclyde Police in 2002 and included an analysis of all recorded incidents, in-depth interviews with 175 people, a street survey of 157 people in Glasgow, and numerous focus groups with police and the public. It says: "The typical response was that between 50% and 80% of incidents went unreported to the police . . . It appears that only a tiny fraction of experiences experienced as racism ever come to the notice of the police and that the prevalence of such experiences is extremely high." Officers said that in some cases they felt insufficiently supported to deal with racist incidents and many expressed resentment at the workload imposed by strict policies brought in after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. The report did, however, praise the efforts made by the force, in particular their pro-active work with asylum seekers. It will be presented by the chief constable to the joint police board today. It makes 18 recommendations, including a radical re-focus on training officers to interact with the public, the creation of a separate multilingual phone system, and leaflets in a range of languages. The report said "a lack of trust or confidence in the police was said to be a major deterrent to reporting among all communities, particularly in deprived areas." It added that to increase public confidence it was "felt that there should be an independent investigation of claims of police racism".

    People from ethnic minority backgrounds also asked for a more visible police presence, more foot patrols, more ethnic officers, and faster response times. Strathclyde police said that the research was specifically designed to identify barriers to reporting racist incidents within the area and to highlight areas for improvement. Willie Rae, the chief constable, said: "In some areas of the report the perception of participants makes for difficult reading. However, it was never our intention to commission this report to endorse the things we do well. "That said, it is heartening to record that the report highlights a number of areas of excellent practice and recommends that the force should publicise these widely. "In particular, our innovative work with asylum seeker communities has clearly been well received in that community and more widely. We will do all we can to ensure that its findings are incorporated quickly into the services we provide."
    ©The Herald

    New team to be set up to combat discrimination as figures suggest police action is discriminatory

    2/7/2004- Figures showing that the police are still disproportionately targetting the black and Asian communities will today prompt the Home Office to set up a new stop and search action team to combat discrimination. The figures, to be published today, were described by the Home Office minister Lady Scotland as "frustrating". "We intend to aggressively address this, but I want to know more about why there is that level of disproportionality," she said. The action team, advised by a community panel, will be expected to produce a plan for change within six months to be sent to every police force in the country, setting out procedures on how to deploy stop and search, including what might constitute reasonable grounds for suspicion. "The police on the ground need to know that 'If I do this and this in the way I communicate, stop and search, then I will know I am acting appropriately, and get a better result'," Lady Scotland said yesterday. The figures, which include a big increase in Asians being stopped, are likely to confirm the suspicion among Britain's Muslim community, revealed in a recent Guardian poll, that they are being victimised by the police in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attack. Lady Scotland said she believed that ethnic minorities -often the principal victims of crime - did give their assent for stop and search so long as it was properly explained by the police, as had occurred in the fight against gun crime in Operation Trident. But she said the low number of arrests following stop and search had to be attributed in part to inadequate police intelligence. Today's figures will for the first time break down the ethnic backgrounds of those being stopped under the Terrorism Act 2000.

    A government source said the figures were similar to those from a recent Metropolitan police authority study which showed that, nationally, black people were up to eight times more likely to be stopped than whites, and Asians five times. In London, where a quarter of such searches take place, the "disproportionality" was getting worse, not better: the rate rose 30% for black people, 41% for Asians and 8% for whites be tween 2000-01 and 2001-02. She defended the use of the Terrorism Act's stop and search powers, saying that "one of our aims is to make the terrorist nervous". But Lady Scotland's decision to set up the new action team to combat the problem comes after both the Macpherson and Scarman inquiries, as well as repeated promises by the Home Office to root out racism and prejudice in the police. The home secretary, David Blunkett, has already ordered that police must record every incident in which they stop a member of the public to meet the recommendations of the Macpherson report into the killing of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence. A nationwide scheme is due to come into force in April next year. Lady Scotland said she would not leap to the conclusion that the figures reflected ingrained racism in the police force, pointing out that some believe the greater "availability" of Asians and blacks on the streets led to more stops. She said: "The lack of progress was frustrating since we have done so much to change procedures." She pointed to the fact that 20% of police applicants are now being screened out on the grounds that they have inappropriate views on race. "The racial composition of the police force is changing," she said. "We have have got to create an environment in which our entire community believe that joining the police is something they can do." She promised "to bust a gut" to improve the ethnic minority community's perception of the criminal justice system. She said it understood the need to take tough action against terrorism, pointing out that blacks and Asians were also the chief victims of crime.
    ©The Guardian

    A scheme to send black pupils to the Caribbean has been popular, but can it really raise standards?

    1/7/2004- An innovative but controversial project to raise the achievement of black pupils is dividing the experts. Teachers and black children in Birmingham, Britain's second biggest city, are being sent on exchange trips to Jamaica to see how their West Indian peers achieve greater academic success with fewer resources. Two teachers and four pupils from Heartlands High School visited Titchfield High School in Port Antonio, Jamaica, in 2002, a year in which only 25 per cent of Birmingham's black boys gained five A to C passes in their GCSE exams. The scheme puts children in touch with other cultures from whom they can learn, according to Tony Howell, Birmingham's director of education. And it ensures the schools understand the children's heritage. But the critics claim that it ignores the main problem, which they define as low teacher expectations or racism in schools. Howell, however, would like to see these schemes running on a regular basis. "It's one of those events that can be a real turning point for young people," he says. "We want them to feel more positive about their own culture - if they feel better about themselves, they perform better. Unhappy children don't learn." More trips are planned, but no dates are set yet. Brian Wardle, adviser to Birmingham's education support service, who oversaw the scheme, says it is about engaging black teenagers in learning. "It was eye-opening for them," he says. "In Jamaica, resources are poor - the children have to buy their own books - but the pupil behaviour is exemplary. It's about learning from them."

    Engaging black youngsters in learning can be difficult in an inner-city school, one of the 50 most deprived in the country. The importance of keeping black teens in education was very much in the minds of those who planned the project after the gang-related Aston shootings of two black girls at a 2001 New Year's Eve party. The mother of one of the girls worked at Heartlands. "We want to attract young people into positive lifestyles," explains Howell. "By building self-esteem, we educate young people about making wise choices, not moving into drug and gang cultures." Heartlands's former headmaster, John McMullan, noticed the effects immediately on his return. "When I came back, I was very aware that kids of Jamaican background were pleased I could talk about Jamaica and felt much better about themselves. It gave me more street cred. And the kids had a new attitude. They had been infected by the Jamaican students." Dinah Betteridge, now 16, noticed that the Jamaican schools were full of shabby furniture. "It made me think about the privileges we have and take for granted," she says. "I know now I have to get my head down and not let people distract me, so I'm trying to work harder and use the facilities I have. People used to distract me. I know that instead of arguing with them, which was taking up my time, I have to blank them and get on with what I'm doing." Levice Ward, now 15, says he has worked harder since the trip. "I've got loads that other people haven't got and it's easier for me to get somewhere in life. My teachers tell me that if I don't go to university they're going to be disappointed in me." Birmingham is now planning visits to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to encourage underachieving pupils from these communities (although Indian pupils tend to achieve better results than white pupils). By the end of the calendar year, there should be a permanent centre within a Jamaican teacher training institute for Birmingham's teachers to study Jamaican culture.

    The project has been overseen by Javed Khan, former director of lifelong learning in Birmingham, who believes that it was necessary to instruct both the children and teachers in the students' grandparents' culture. He has since moved to Harrow and is setting up a similar scheme in that authority, which will send its first group to Gujerat or Bangalore in India in October. "The concept is to help raise the self-esteem of ethnic minority children and recognise the role of culture in improving achievement," he says. "We ask children to leave their home culture at the school gate, but when children can't relate their home life to their school life, that creates conflict." The other issue is how to change teachers' attitudes. "You can send them on training days. But we've done the saris and samosas thing and it hasn't done a fat lot of good," says Khan. "The curriculum is still very white Eurocentric. Sending teachers to immerse themselves 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the culture is actually far more cost-effective." The critics argue, however, that Birmingham is spending a lot of money (£10,000 for the 2002 trip) and missing the point. While Professor David Gillborn at London's Institute of Education believes that this kind of programme can have positive effects, it doesn't address the main problem in Birmingham, which is low expectations on the part of teachers rather than bad behaviour by students or low expectations on the part of students or their parents. "It falls into the trap of imagining the reason black kids fail is something to do with black kids," he says. But some critics say that it is something to do with black children, and anyone who denies this is falling into the political correctness trap. Dr Tony Sewell, an educationalist and director of the Learning Trust, which runs Hackney's education department, says that part of the problem is the attitude of the children themselves. "It's the old story of British/American black culture celebrating sport, music, and, yes, violence," he says. "There is a stereotype within the black community of what masculine black men are like, and it's not a great scholar. So white teachers are often afraid of black children, and this leads to a lack of discipline." Asif Afridi, of the Birmingham Race Action Partnership, is another person who thinks that the exchange scheme is not addressing the right issue. He believes that efforts should be concentrated on institutional racism in schools which is preventing black children from achieving. "Teachers and the LEA need to understand that they are working in a system that discriminates against pupils from certain groups," he says. Dr Sewell disagrees. It's no good accusing teachers of racism, he says. That's a waste of time. "We need to support them in reducing their own anxiety and be clear about discipline. We need to set clear boundaries where students feel safe, not be full of liberal 'oh, we'll just come and sit next to you and talk to you now and rationalise your bad behaviour.'"

    A more radical solution still is put forward by Lee Jasper, race equality adviser to the Mayor of London, who thinks the answer lies in the racial profile of the teachers themselves. Black children need black teachers who understand the cultural needs of black children. That raises attainment, he says. "I don't believe these exchange schemes will be useful. It would be better to bring Jamaican teachers here." For Professor Gillborn, the issue is less clear-cut. Black students do well when they are taught by teachers who have high expectations of them, he says. And that does not mean the teachers have to be black. In the past, Jasper has called for all-black schools. He is not alone. Dr Sewell, however, argues that classrooms full of black pupils would be positively detrimental. "In fact, the black boys who do the best are the ones with non-black friends," he says. "The ones who do badly are in the 'mono' group." For Professor Gillborn, the most important measure is targeting more resources on schools with high black pupil numbers. But Trevor Phillips, chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, says that it's not simply a question of money. "We could offer more support to schools with large numbers of African and Afro-Caribbean pupils," he says. "But why should we discriminate against Indian pupils who may be just as economically disadvantaged, but somehow have overcome that disadvantage, or white boys, increasingly among the lowest achievers and often among the poorest?" Many black parents are opting out of the British school system altogether and sending their children to school in the Caribbean. They find that while they may be failing in British schools, they are doing fine in West Indian ones. It is these Caribbean schools that Birmingham hopes will come to the rescue of its black pupils. The big question is whether it will really persuade them to do their homework and turn up on time.

    The hard statistics
    Black children start school with levels of achievement as high as their white counterparts, but by the age of 16 they are doing significantly worse.
    At GCSE, 51 per cent of white students gain five A to C grades - a touch higher than the national average. This compares with 33 per cent of black Caribbean children; 41 per cent of black Africans; 65 per cent of Indians; 42 per cent of Pakistanis; 46 per cent of Bangladeshis and 75 per cent of Chinese children. Black children are also three or four times as likely to be excluded from school as their white counterparts.
    © Independent Digital

    28/6/2004- Race equality leaders have demanded an explanation from Welsh Labour over a campaign leaflet they branded "shocking". The leaflet, distributed in the Llanedeyrn and Pentwyn wards in the run-up to the local elections this month, urges people not to vote for the Liberal Democrats because of the party's support for a permanent traveller site in Cardiff. The Commission for Racial Equality in Wales has written to Welsh Labour following a complaint from Plaid Cymru MP Simon Thomas about the leaflet and the party has launched its own internal investigation to determine who is responsible. Mr Thomas, MP for Ceredigion, said the pamphlet, distributed in Cardiff, was "disgraceful and racist" and has called for a public apology by Welsh Labour for offending Gypsy families. He said, "This pamphlet breaks every code, and in particular, the code drawn up by the Commission for Racial Equality in Wales, a code which the Labour Party in Wales signed up to. "This is the worst form of election campaigning possible, and the Labour party in Wales should apologise for the offence this pamphlet will have caused to members of the Romany community in Wales." The CRE Wales said it had written to Welsh Labour to confirm the leaflet had been printed by its members before deciding on a course of action. A spokeswoman said, "It is pretty shocking, so shocking in fact we cannot quite believe it is a Labour leaflet. "We have written to them asking them what they intend to do about it but we cannot say anymore at this stage."

    The leaflet concentrates on proposals by the Liberal Democrats to establish permanent sites for travellers within the city. It shows photos of areas which could be used and asks voters, "Can you afford to take a chance with our area?" In the bottom right hand corner the pamphlet states it has been printed by the Cardiff Labour Group. Mr Thomas was so horrified by the leaflet he used Business Questions in the Commons last week to call for an "urgent debate on discrimination and prejudice faced by the Gypsy, Romany and travelling community in Wales" and "the use of that discrimination by political parties to whip up feelings against that community". The Welsh Secretary and Commons Leader Peter Hain said he would not defend the leaflet but stopped short of an apology over the issue. Instead he went on the attack, suggesting the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru in Cardiff were also guilty of negative campaign tactics. Mr Thomas has also referred his complaint to the Electoral Commission, which is reviewing a campaign where all mainstream candidates committed themselves to an anti-racist pledge. A spokeswoman for the Welsh Labour Party confirmed an internal investigation had been launched into the leaflet but could not go into details at this early stage. In a brief statement, the Wales Labour Party said it "condemns racism in all its forms". It added, "We understand this matter has been referred to the CRE and we will be keen to assist them in any way we can, and discuss their findings with them."
    ©IC Network

    28/6/2004- Representatives of Roma organisations in Slovakia filed a complaint against parliamentary deputy Jozef Banáš in response to his statements during a NATO Parliamentary Assembly lunch in Bratislava three weeks ago. At the function, he jokingly suggested solving the shortage of NATO troops in Afghanistan by deploying divisions of Slovak Roma."Deputy Banáš is accused of committing the crime of the defamation of a nation and a race," Ladislav Fizík, chairman of the non-governmental organisation Roma Parliament told the news wire SITA.Banáš is the head of the Slovak delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.Banáš insists he was just joking and that he merely wanted to move a lengthy debate about the Slovak Roma onto the subject of Afghanistan, which was the main topic to be discussed, as indicated by Assembly President Douglas Bereuter.He proposed that, in order to solve both problems at once, "we could send about 10 Roma divisions to Afghanistan." No one protested his joke, Banáš pointed out, however he apologised to those who might interpret the statement as an insult to the Roma.It is embarrassing for Banáš to defame the Slovak Roma in front of Slovak senior state officials and in front of Bereuter, who is a US congressman, Fizík said.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    28/6/2004- A leading Traveller representative group today called for a new State agency to deal with accommodation issues for the Travelling community. Speaking at a press conference in Dublin this morning, Ronnie Fay of Pavee Point Travellers' Centre said that a lack of proper accommodation for Travellers was at the root of social problems surrounding Traveller encampments. She said Traveller organisations were seeking the establishment of an independent agency to take over accommodation duties from the local authorities. "It is clear that local authorities are either unwilling or unable to make provision and the Government needs to take it out of their hands," Ms Fay said.
    ©Irish Examiner

    There are no official figures on the number of non-national children in Mayo schools, be they children of foreign migrants lawfully living and working in this country or the children of asylum-seekers seeking legal status in this country. Elisha Commins goes behind the headlines.

    30/6/2004- The increase in the number of non-national children in Irish schools has been a very positive development and has enriched schools in County Mayo, according to Sean Rowley, former President of the Irish National Teachers Organisation. "All children, not just children from ethnic minority groups, will benefit from an intercultural education and be better prepared for the multicultural environment in which they live," he told the Mayo News this week. He added that the transition for the non-national pupils themselves may not be an easy one as the young boys and girls may suffer from culture shock, in addition to having endured traumatic events in their home countries before arriving here. With the roll-back of citizenship rights following the recent constitutional referendum and the debate over racial tolerance in this country still simmering, what is it like to be a non-national child in this country today? In Mayo in recent years there has been a marked increase in the number of different nationalities in schools around the county. However, there are no official figures on the number of non-national children in Mayo schools, be they children of foreign migrants lawfully living and working in this country or the children of asylum-seekers seeking legal status in this country. Not alone is there an information deficit in relation to the numbers, but the Department of Education also has no data on the country of origin or residency status of the county's international pupils. However, the biggest issue for those in the frontline of our education system -teachers- is the lack of resources allocated by the Department for helping non-national students, who can face a number of difficulties settling into an Irish school.

    The biggest hurdle to be overcome is the language barrier, and this is where the resources that are available are largely targeted. For every 14 non-national pupils in a school, a temporary teacher is allocated and pupils are given extra language hours during school-time. However, Ballina's Sean Rowley explains that adapting to a new language isn't the only problem that foreign children face coming into an Irish school. Culture shock can be a difficulty and teachers have to bear in mind that some of their non-national pupils may have come from traumatic backgrounds in war-torn countries or where there has been political unrest. If their parents are within the asylum process, this context of uncertainty may have a further negative impact. According to the INTO, these difficulties may manifest themselves as excessive timidity, inability to concentrate or anti-social behaviour. While there is no general training given to teachers on dealing with the particular issues facing non-national students, the INTO have published a set of guidelines on inter-culturalism in schools which has been sent to every school in the country. Issues such as dealing with racist incidents in schools, enrolment policies, inclusive strategies for non-national parents and bi-lingual learning are all addressed. Racism is something teachers are very aware of, according to the INTO, and schools have an important role to play in forming positive attitudes in children to people from different cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds or skin colour.

    An example of a school in the county where multiculturalism has been thoroughly embraced is Scoil Iosa in Ballyhaunis. Principal, Jim Lundon, spoke to The Mayo News recently. He explained that with the large number of foreign workers in the Ballyhaunis area for years, the phenomenon of the multi-national classroom was nothing new in Scoil Iosa, where they have been welcoming foreign children to the school since 1974. In fact, Scoil Iosa, which has been featured on two television documentaries, has over 16 different nationalities in their school from countries as diverse at Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Nigeria, the Congo, Cameroon, Pakistan and Syria, to name but a few. The children integrate very well, even acquiring Mayo accents, Jim Lundon says, and are very motivated to learn. While the school are unfazed by the novelty of having international pupils at this stage, it is little things, like sending home notices in Urdu (the language of Pakistan) which have become the norm in the school which welcomes non-national families into the community. "But more teachers and more resources such as multi-cultural books are what's really needed," according to Mr. Lundon. In recognition of the diversity in Irish schools today, the National Council for Curriculum Assessment intends drawing up guidelines on multicultural education, which may address the lack of multi-cultural text books for schools. As one of County Mayo's beacons of multicultural education, Scoil Iosa is an example of how the education system can work well to stamp out the undercurrent of racism which is creeping into Irish society. According to Mr. Lundon, "racism doesn't become an issue when children of different nationalities have grown up together and played together. If only adults were half as tolerant."
    ©The Mayo News

    28/6/2004- Up to a thousand people demanding zero tolerance of anti-Semitism in Belgium gathered in Antwerp on Monday to protest about last week's stabbing of a young Jewish boy by a gang of Muslim youths in the city. Members of Belgium's Jewish community want the government to do more to deal with what they see as a rising tide of anti-Semitic attacks by a minority of Muslims living in the country. "We want the authorities to adopt a zero tolerance policy," a spokesman for the Jewish Community of Antwerp, who asked not to be named, told Expatica. "We should not bring the war between Israel and the Palestinians here to Belgium. If they want to fight, they should go over there," he added. According to the spokesman at least 1000 people turned up to Monday's demonstration, which was held in front of Antwerp's Portuguese synagogue. Police put the number of protestors at between 800 and 900. The young boy at the centre of the furore was stabbed shortly after he and three friends left a Jewish school in the Antwerp suburb of Wilrijk on Thursday night. The four boys were chased by a gang of 10 to 15 North African youths armed with knives and other blunt instruments. Three escaped but the fourth was trapped by the gang and stabbed in the back. He was taken to hospital in a critical condition but is now out of danger. According to the Jewish community spokesman, the boy, who has not been named, is lucky to be alive. "They were clearly trying to kill him. His lung was damaged by the knife. We are lucky today's demonstration was not a funeral," he said. The Antwerp protest followed a similar show of anger in Brussels on Sunday, which was attended by some of Belgium's leading politicians. Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinkx told demonstrators on Sunday that the government would do everything it could to catch the youths responsible for the Antwerp stabbing. Jewish community leaders recognised on Monday that the Muslim community as a whole in Belgium was not anti-Semitic. "The Muslim community is not attacking the Jewish community. Relations between us are actually very good. But it is a minority of young Muslims who are attacking Jews," the spokesman for the Jewish Community of Antwerp told Expatica.
    ©Expatica News

    28/6/2004- The success of the extreme-right Vlaams Blok party in recent regional elections has some Flemish company bosses worried about the party's effect on the business climate, La Libre Belgique reported on Monday. Although many of the heads of Flemish businesses contacted by the newspaper refused to talk, those who did expressed concern at the chilling effect the party is expected to have on business in northern Belgium. "The Vlaams Blok advocates a climate of economic protectionism," said Peter Vandenborne, a spokesman for Voka, a federation that brings together the VEV Flemish employers' association and chambers of commerce in northern Belgium. Vandenborne said he hopes that the Vlaams Blok's extreme-right, anti-foreigner image will not discourage foreign investors from doing business Flanders. He added that although the Vlaams Blok is the region's second most powerful party, the majority of Flemish people do not back its policies. Not all executives were worried about the success of the Vlaams Blok however. Luc Betrand, head of Antwerp-based holding company Ackermans & van Haaren, insisted that Flanders has not turned extremist. He said he sees the results of the recent elections merely as a protest vote and that people only voted for the parties that were not in power.
    ©Expatica News

    30/6/2004- You could call it exhibit A. It's a drawing in a text used to teach Islam to Muslim students at German elementary schools, and it shows a family at a table - a father, two children, and a mother - with plates of food in front of everybody, except the mother, who wears a head scarf. "The mother is shown like a servant," said Marion Berning, principal of the Rixdorfer Grundschule, a large elementary school in Neukölln, a largely immigrant neighborhood of Berlin. "This is a big problem for the girls." Berning has become something of a figure in Berlin lately for the complaints she has been raising about the way a German Muslim group, the Islamic Federation, has been teaching about Islam in the local public schools. Her complaints, moreover, are echoed by some people in the Berlin educational establishment, who believe that, under the cover of giving court-mandated religious instruction to Muslim children, a sort of fundamentalist or, at least, separatist philosophy is being imparted to children inside the very schools that should be teaching equality. Representatives of the Islamic Federation, which is believed to have about 30,000 members in Germany, vehemently deny this accusation, saying that the difficulty they confront in trying to carry out a program already being used by other religious groups is a bias against Islam, not an accurate description of what is taught. "Whatever we do, the way the schools look at this, we're going to disagree," Burhan Kesici, a leader of the Islamic Federation, and the figure in charge of the Islamic education program, said in an interview.

    Kesici, a German-born, German-educated political scientists whose parents came to Germany as "guest workers" several decades ago, recounted a long list of incidents showing what he regards as this bias. In one case, he recalled, a school principal actually washed his hands after shaking hands with Kesici. In many ways the argument about religious instruction seems to bring together several currents in Germany today, not least the uncertainty palpable in a country fully realizing for the first time that the Muslim community that exists here is both large and permanent. There are 2,300 mosques across this country. In the school where Berning is principal, 74 percent of the children are foreign born or have parents who were, and the vast majority of them are Turkish Muslims. Berlin, which is both Germany's capital city and a state within the Federal Republic, has a special situation in this regard. Unlike in other German states, where classes in religion are part of the regular school curriculum, in Berlin, parents decide whether they want their children to have religious instruction, and outside groups, in the past almost entirely Protestant or Roman Catholic, have the right to teach their religions in the public schools. For many years, the Berlin government tried to prevent the Islamic Federation, which it plainly did not and does not like, out of its schools. But the federation went to court, and then went back to court again, and, after 20 years of trying, it finally won a ruling identifying it as a religious community with the right to do the same thing that the other religions were doing. It now holds classes in 28 schools in Berlin, and plans to expand to 15 more schools next year.

    So what's the difference between the Muslims and the other religious groups, whose presence causes no alarm? Berning and those who share her view point out several things, most important perhaps that the Islamic Federation does not allow outsiders like Berning to attend their classes, so the impression is given that something secret is taking place in them. But beyond the specific worries is the more general feeling that the Islamic Federation's version of Islam is a very conservative one, possibly fundamentalist, and therefore at odds with German values. "I do not believe that they are teaching their pupils to make bombs," Klaus Böger, the senior education official in the Berlin City government, said of the federation, "but I think they are rejecting our society and are teaching an intolerant form of Islam." Berning says that some Muslim girls, under the influence of their outsider Muslim teachers, have stopped taking gym and swimming classes, and a few of them have started wearing head scarves. The broader notion that worries her, as she summarized this, is that "there are two kinds of people" - Muslims and non-Muslims - with the implicit suggestion that Muslims are better. Kesici's rejoinder is that very few girls have stopped gym classes or wear head scarves in school and that there's no evidence that more of them do these things in schools where his group teaches than in schools where they don't. His teachers, he said, do not talk about head scarves or swimming lessons, he said, since parents are going to decide those issues themselves.

    As for the two kinds of people, the idea taught, he said is that "in Islam, we have obligations to our Muslim brothers and sisters, but we should not forget that we are all human beings and we are all created by God and we have to find a way that we can all live peacefully." But just last week, the credibility of explanations like Kesici's was shaken when an advisory board in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia announced the conclusions of a study of textbooks used in a private Islamic school in Bonn. According to German television, which reported on the board's conclusions, Muslim children are taught that "the Muslim people's existence has been threatened by Jews and Christians since the crusades, and it is the first duty of every Muslim to prepare to fight against these enemies." A Turkish-born member of the local state assembly, Ozcan Mutlu, said of the Islamic Federation, explaining why he opposes the group's presence in the schools, "It is a political organization. It represents political Islam." He added, "I feel they do a good job in many ways, like teaching Muslim women to read and setting up programs to help children with their homework. But they also say, 'We don't belong to this society. We are different.'"
    ©International Herald Tribune

    By Nico Fickinger

    25/6/2004- The negotiators from the governing coalition and opposition finally reached their immigration compromise last week, sending a feeling of relief sweeping through Germany's political and business communities. But their relief has less to do with the specific details of the compromise than with the conclusion of the months-long tussle among the negotiators. But, there is really no objective reason for this feeling of relief. Members of the Union opposition parties, particularly the Christian Social Union based in Bavaria, still do not want to acknowledge that Germany is a land of immigration. The compromise reflects the fears of social-affairs politicians in the Union that an extremely large or even unchecked flow of immigrants would flood the German labor market and overwhelm the country's social-service systems. Such a static view of the labor market is totally off base. People who express it fail to recognize that the arrival of highly qualified foreign workers can give new life to the German economy and fuel growth. And they also refuse to mention the real reasons for the miserable state of the country's job market: the government's unbending labor laws, generous social transfers, and the crushing taxes and fees imposed on citizens. Some branches of the economy are totally reliant on immigrants because Germans are unwilling to work under the conditions that the jobs require. They pick strawberries, harvest asparagus, drive taxis, clean offices and wait tables. Things would not look too good for highly qualified people wanting to work in Germany either. The president of the Kiel Institute for World Economics, for instance, would have been out of a job if Germany was only open to Germans. The same possibility would have applied for a dean at the Humboldt University in Berlin. As a result, the key question is not how the flow of immigrants can be dammed, but how can Germany beat other countries in the competition to attract qualified specialists and prevent them from being lured to other countries with better conditions.

    But will the new immigration law really enable Germany to successfully compete for these top minds as German Interior Minister Otto Schily says? A modern and attractive immigration law looks different from this one. Instead of a bureaucratic selection process, the available immigration slots could be auctioned off. In this way, it would not be government officials but the competition among companies that would govern the flow of immigrations. This model presumes, of course, that companies have a concrete need for these workers. Instead of using competition or at least a more objective selection process, immigration will be managed by the methods of a centrally planned economy. The bureaucrats in the government's labor agency will have to decide who may work in Germany and who may not. The network created by the government is tightly sewn together. The law will allow only those self-employed people under 45 who invest at least EUR1 million and create 10 jobs, as well as scientists and specialists who earn at least EUR84,000 ($102,000) a year to receive long-term residency. How many will that be? And even if they meet these requirements, they cannot be sure that they will receive permission to set up a business in the country. The issue is governed by a regulation that says such foreigners can receive the permit, but they may not. The rules governing so-called needed workers who will receive a limited residency permit to respond to shortages also raise many questions. What sort of training can be considered to be qualified? And where does a regional need actually end? Can a job that is available in the central state of Hesse be filled by a foreigner even though unemployed people qualified for the position are available in the eastern neighbor of Thuringia? The political parties' new compromise on immigration be ©Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

    1/7/2004- Germany's lower house of parliament has approved a new immigration bill aimed at bringing in skilled workers while protecting the country from terrorism. This will be Germany's first immigration law, previous immigrants having largely come as guest workers. The bill was approved by an overwhelming majority of Bundestag MPs, with the German Interior Minister Otto Schily hailing it as a "victory for Germany". Its approval effectively puts an end to four years of bitter struggle, in which the conservative opposition fought the original government proposals in both the parliament and the courts. The bill simplifies the rules for skilled foreign workers wishing to immigrate, while also making it easier for the authorities to deport people who are suspected of supporting political violence. The issue of terrorism came to dominate the debate over the bill, particularly after the Madrid bombings in March. There are already more than seven million foreign nationals living in Germany, but most of them came as guest workers - not immigrants. If, as widely expected, the bill passes through the upper house of parliament next week, it will be Germany's first law providing for regulated and planned immigration, something supporters say is crucial as the country battles with an ageing population and a skills shortage.
    ©BBC News

    1/7/2004- Three years after it moved to bring gay relationships into line with married couples, Germany's centre-left coalition government has stepped up efforts to improve homosexual rights. This week Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrat-led Government unveiled legislation that would permit a homosexual to co-adopt the child of a gay partner. The legislation, which faces an uphill battle for enactment in the conservative-controlled upper house of parliament, stops short of allowing gay couples to adopt children. Instead, it would permit a parent who already has a child to offer that child for "co-adoption" by his or her gay partner. The gay partnership would have to be registered with local authorities under terms of a 2001 law granting homosexual couples limited legal rights. The new legislation would give gay parents equal rights and responsibilities in raising children, said Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries. "But it must be stressed that this is not a blank cheque for gays to adopt children," said Greens MP Volker Beck, who co-sponsored the bill. "It does however permit children who are the offspring of one partner to be co-adopted by the other gay partner in the relationship. The best interests of the child are always the priority." Conservatives vowed to prevent the legislation from becoming law. "This is an assault on family values and Christian traditions," said Christian Social Union (CSU) head Edmund Stoiber.
    ©Expatica News

    "I can take the dog back to the US, but not my partner," grimaces Jason, a young American who has stopped by the meet and greet for the launch of Love Exiles - a new foundation set up in the Netherlands to push for immigration rights for same sex couples. Mindy Ran reports.

    25/6/2004- It's a sunny Sunday and about 30 people have gathered to talk and exchange experiences all around one topic; immigration rights of same-sex couples. There are very few countries where the rights of a same-sex partner are recognised. In the rest of the world "committed partners are for all intents and purposes legal strangers," according to Love Exiles. In a world where homosexuality is still illegal in many countries, this is unfortunately not a surprise. The Love Exiles Foundation was set up by Martha McDevitt-Pugh to address the discrimination faced by same-sex couples and their families, especially in the area of immigration. "I started Love Exiles when I was doing a course on self-expression and leadership," explains McDevitt-Pugh. "We looked at our lives; what worked and what didn't. I suddenly saw that the fact that I couldn't choose to live in my own country didn't work for me. I was angry about having to choose between my job/home/family/friends and being with my partner. I felt rejected by my own country. I saw that if I didn't do something about it my future was to become a resigned and bitter person." Love Exiles offers a community form of support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender bi-national couples who have had to chose, or are considering, exile in order to live together as a couple. The foundation also helps to educate the public by bringing the issues facing these couples and their families into the media as often as possible as well as run a comprehensive website with tables of the legal situation for many of the EU countries and links to help organisations.

    Some sobering statistics: In the Netherlands, same-sex couples can marry, in nine other EU countries some steps are being taken to open up civil marriage or registered partnership, 16 countries allow their own citizens to sponsor their same-sex partner or spouse as legal immigrants, in 176 countries same-sex couples have no rights to live legally with their partners. And to complicate things further, even in the US where some states have chosen to allow same-sex marriages, the laws governing immigration are federal  so no luck there either. Even within the relatively advanced EU, there are five different forms of legal marriage or partnerships; each with differing levels of rights, making the whole process for bi-national same-sex couples a minefield. Take Jane and Diana, a long-standing US/UK couple who wanted to live together in the UK. In the UK you have to be able to show you have lived together for two years to be considered a registered partner and for immigration purposes. The US was not an option, so where do you go? "We had to move to Argentina for two years so we could go to the UK," Jane says, laughing. "Being gay taught us Spanish, it could have been Greenland, but they wanted women for different reasons." The ironic, humorous twist to most of the tales belies some serious heartache and anger.

    "I met Lin 22 years ago in Amsterdam," says founder McDevitt-Pugh. "We were friends for 16 years before we fell in love in 1998. I gave up my job as a senior manager at a software company in Silicon Valley, California, to move to the Netherlands in 2000. I have a big family, my 75-year-old mother, a sister, two brothers, and lots of nieces and nephew in California. I miss them terribly. It rips me up inside not to be able to be with my mom when she goes to the doctor, to drop in for a cup of tea, to hear about her aches and pains and hold her hand." Another member of the Love Exiles Foundation has a similar story; Kirsten Anderson fell in love with her wife Jacqueline during the Gay Games in Exiles is for all bi-national couples and operates in Germany, the Netherlands, UK and Canada. The politics have not escaped McDevitt-Pugh; "It's scandalous that the US doesn't recognise our families and forces us take our talent and education out of the country. The brain drain of same-sex bi-national couples from the US to Canada right now is huge. People from many countries: Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, as well as the USA, UK, Spain, Switzerland, and Italy, contact us because they lack the right to live with their partner and children in their own country." Jacqueline and Kirsten did marry, as did McDevitt-Pugh with her wife, Lin. Yet all is not happily-ever-after even in this relative haven where an estimated 1,000 love exiles had immigrated over the past 25 years. "Just travel in Europe for a vacation, and you'll find that your registered partnership, samenlevingscontract, or marriage is not recognised," points out McDevitt-Pugh. "You buy a vacation home in France and you can't inherit as a spouse, you have to pay taxes if your partner dies. "Will an Italian hospital recognise you as next of kin and allow you to make crucial life-saving medical decisions for your partner? There is no recognition of same-sex relationships in Italy. You can't take your non-EU partner with you to Austria, or your Dutch partner to Mexico, if your company transfers you there. A patchwork of protections is in place, different in each country, and it's a pretty thin blanket in most places." For more information on the legal situation, contact Love Exiles Foundation
    ©Expatica News

    29/6/2004- A woman from Chechnya, an invalid, sat by a mound of dirty possessions, her three grandchildren wandering in the dust nearby. Their refugee camp was emptying, but they were too poor to buy a ride on the trucks hurriedly heading out of here. "I have been packed and waiting for three days," said the woman, Manzha Yansuyeva, 78. "I am hoping someone will pity us and help us move." After raids by Islamic guerrillas on the night of June 21 in the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia, Chechen refugees are in motion once more, saying they are being blamed for the guerrillas' success and must leave or face retaliation in the night. They are deeply afraid. The guerrillas overran police stations and checkpoints in Ingushetia early last week, and, dressed in police uniforms themselves, systematically executed law enforcement and military personnel who tried to come to their besieged friends' aid. Nearly 100 people died before the guerrillas withdrew. In the days since, Russian and Ingush police, wearing ski masks and carrying assault rifles, have accused Chechen refugees of assisting and sheltering the guerrillas. They have been rounding up Chechen men for questioning and, the refugees say, for beatings. In several camps housing refugees who fled the wars over the past decade between Chechen separatists and the Russian government, utilities have been cut off. Thousands of Chechens, heeding what they regard as an implicit message, are fleeing Ingushetia for Grozny, Chechnya's capital. To stay, they say, is to risk their lives. "We haven't slept for days already," said Yakhita Dzhabrailova, 57.

    Grozny is hardly inviting. Having suffered two wars in a decade, the city is in ruins, occupied by the Russian Army and controlled by grim-faced armed men whose affiliation - be it army, police, local militia or tribe - is rarely clear. Armored vehicles roam what passes for roads. Fighting continues in the mountains to its south. Ambushes, bombs and freshly planted mines are encountered sporadically almost everywhere else. More frightening is that civilians frequently disappear, seized in what human rights organizations and local residents describe as a mix of kidnappings for ransoms and violence against residents accused of supporting, even knowing, the guerrillas. It is a measure of the fear in Ingushetia that refugees are deciding that Grozny is a safer bet. Estimates of the number of Chechen refugees who remain in Ingushetia, a Muslim republic adjacent to Chechnya, range from 40,000 to 80,000. Dark irony lies in the departures. A cornerstone of President Vladimir Putin's effort to convince the world that Chechnya has been stabilizing has rested on Chechen refugees. The Kremlin had hoped that coaxing them home would demonstrate security and hope. But tens of thousands of refugees had not complied with Moscow's wish, preferring a suspended state of poverty and grief in Ingushetia to lingering horrors in Chechnya. It took the outbreak of violence - an expansion of terror, not a reduction - to put them to motion. Even then the refugees required prodding.

    At the Altiyevo dairy farm, a former Soviet collective where refugees built housing in cow stables, dozens of refugees said the authorities had moved in on Wednesday. First, the refugees said, they gathered young men and took 36 away. Then the police threatened the women, telling the refugees they were complicit in the attack. The next day, a Russian helicopter hovered over a nearby field, and the police searched the area, announcing they had found abandoned weapons and uniforms in the grass. This time, five or six elderly Chechens were beaten, and two were taken to a room, refugees said. "They put pistols to their heads and made them sign blank pieces of paper," said Zukhra Khopizova, 25, who stood in a crowd of distraught women. The refugees said they feared the blank papers would be seen again, with confessions written in by an unknown hand. At the Logovaz camp, the authorities also showed up in masks Wednesday and forced the Chechen men to line up with shirts off, to see if any showed marks from firing a rifle in battle. The next day, two teenagers were snatched by masked men at a bus stop in front of the camp, the refugees said. A spokeswoman for the Ingushetia internal affairs ministry confirmed that the police were active in the camps and had taken suspects for questioning, but she said the refugees were still welcome. "It was what we call a pinpoint operation," she said. "You cannot call it a mass roundup. Our attitude toward the refugees has not changed." She said three Chechens had admitted to having participated in the attacks. The rebels, many of them ethnic Ingushs allied to separatist Chechens, killed almost 100 people and seized much of Ingushetia for several hours last Tuesday in their most audacious and successful raid for years. "Magomed Yevloyev was eliminated in a special operation in Ingushetia this morning by our forces. He was on his own," Ilya Shabalkin, spokesman for the Russian military command in the North Caucasus, said by telephone from Chechnya.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    30/6/2004- The Swiss authorities have called for tougher measures to combat illegal immigration. A government report warns that illegal immigrants are increasingly involved in crime and the black economy. The report, carried out jointly by four federal offices at the request of Justice Minister Christoph Blocher, says that up to 300,000 foreigners are residing illegally in Switzerland, with around 90,000 holding down jobs. "The findings are no great surprise, but we now see the problems: for instance, crime among foreigners and illegal immigration from asylum seekers," said Eduard Gnesa, head of the Federal Office for Immigration, Integration and Emigration. "We want the foreigners who come here to stick to our rules and not become criminals," he added. Statistics show that in 2003 foreigners were accused of more than half the registered crimes in Switzerland – the highest level in the past ten years. According to the 92-page report, criminal gangs based abroad are said to play a key role, especially when it comes to the drugs trade, theft and violent crime. They are attracted to Switzerland by its high standard of living, low level of integration, short prison terms and comfortable detention conditions if convicted.

    Black economy
    The report also highlighted the effect of illegal immigrants on the job market, where they are paid below-minimum wages and miss out on social welfare benefits. The cantons, which are responsible for policing the labour market, have complained that there is a lack of cooperation from the home countries of illegal workers, hindering any forced repatriations. But Jean-Michel Dolivo, a member of the "sans-papiers" collective, an organisation that supports illegal residents and workers, says the debate surrounding illegal work practices is hypocritical. "So long as the economy needs cheap and flexible labour, it is ridiculous to try and fight illegal work," he told swissinfo.

    Asylum seekers
    Approximately 20,000 asylum seekers are also believed to cross the border illegally each year, says the report. The authorities are concerned that up to 80 per cent of them throw away their identity papers, making it virtually impossible for them to be repatriated. With around four out of five asylum requests turned down, the authorities believe most potential refugees are not fleeing their homeland because of persecution. "What needs to be done are more controls at the borders but also inside the country," Gnesa told swissinfo. "Cantons should also step up their measures, but we should also make sure that asylum seekers who cooperate with the authorities get better status; those who don't toe the line should get harsher punishment." But Gnesa stressed that genuine asylum seekers would always find refuge in Switzerland.

    The report outlines a series of measures designed to stem the influx of illegal immigrants. While some involve little change, such as tighter border checks, other recommendations include the introduction of biometric databases for asylum seekers, new hard-to-counterfeit papers for foreigners, and tougher checks for passengers on flights bound for Switzerland. The authorities are also considering special detention procedures for asylum seekers who refuse to leave Switzerland. And the justice ministry is still examining whether to send foreign criminals home to serve their sentences. "Switzerland does not want criminals coming from abroad, and people who take advantage of our system," said Gnesa.

    The report has come in for criticism from refugee support groups. "This project only proposes repression as a solution and does nothing to encourage legal migration or to improve integration of foreigners," said Jürg Schertenleib of the Swiss Refugee Council. But Schertenleib says the report's conclusions have the fingerprints of the Swiss justice and police minister – who is a member of the rightwing Swiss People's Party – all over it. "It's obvious he focused on one issue alone: illegal immigration," he told swissinfo. "There was never going to be any discussion about wider migration issues." The report comes as parliament is discussing new asylum and foreigners' laws, as well as legislation on illegal work practices. Planned changes would make it more difficult for some foreigners to come to Switzerland.
    ©NZZ Online

    26/6/2004- Noel Mamere, a politician who incurred the government's wrath by using his powers as mayor to marry two men, marched as a hero alongside up to 700,000 others in a gay pride parade in Paris Saturday bound to fuel one of hottest political subjects in France. Mamere, a star of the gay marriage lobby, was suspended from his mayoral functions for one month - the maximum possible under the law - after he joined Stephane Chapin and Bertrand Charpentier in wedlock June 5 at his town hall in Begles, southwest France. Mamere, a former television journalist turned politician for the environmentalist Greens party, was unrepentant. He told an enthusiastic rainbow-draped crowd he was "ready for more provocations". "I'm very proud of having started a debate in society, and of having had the courage to risk sanctions being taken against me," he said. Also marching in the banner-flying parade to the Bastille square for a concert of house and techno music was the socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, a supporter of legal change to allow gay marriages and one of the highest-profile openly homosexual politicians. With him were two former socialist government ministers, Jack Lang and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the latter a presidential hopeful, and several other well-known politicians, but no one prominent from the government. About 80 organisations and many thousands - 500,000 by police count, 700,000 according to organizers - took part in the march to demand recognition of gay marriages and tougher government action against homophobic violence, following an attack last January against a 35-year-old man who was critically injured with third-degree burns.

    Many of the people in the parade were dressed as brides and grooms ready to walk down the aisle. "We want to get married in Paris at the town hall, just like a normal couple - just ordinary," said Jacques Tautout, dressed in a bridal gown, who was accompanied by Herve Girard in a tail suit. "We demand the right to be ordinary." Gays and lesbians in France can obtain many of the advantages available to couples by joining in legally sanctioned civil unions called PACS, but the gay lobby has argued the move stops short of full equality and discriminates against same-sex couples. "We demand the same rights for homos as for heteros," proclaimed banners carried by many of the marchers. "Our theme is,'enough hypocrisy, equality now'," said Alain Piriou, spokesman for a collective of associations representing gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transvestites. Among the numerous drag queens dancing to deafening techno rhythms, was a transvestite who identified himself as Theo. Wearing fishnet tights, a leather mini-skirt and 50-centimeter (20-inch heels), he said he was hoping one day to become Marianne, the mythical representation of France that appears on postage stamps and statues in every town hall. Past Mariannes have included actresses Brigitte Bardot and model Laetitia Casta. "And now, why not a transvestite?" Theo asked.
    ©Expatica News

    27/6/2004- Racist slogans have been sprayed on the wall of a mosque near Paris, officials said on Sunday, in the latest of a string of recent acts targeting France's Muslim minority. The mosque in Nanterre, a suburb west of Paris, was sprayed with three giant inscriptions overnight Saturday, telling Muslims to "go home" and extolling the policies of Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the xenophobic far-right National Front party. Two other mosques and almost 100 Muslim graves in two cemeteries have been defaced with swastikas and Neo-Nazi slogans this month, while gunshots were fired at one of the mosques, in northern France. French Economy Minister Nicolas Sarkozy had visited the Nanterre mosque on Friday to reassert the ties between the France state and Islam, and local Muslim community leaders said the act appeared to be a response to his visit. Speaking on Sunday in a synagogue in the southwest Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux, Sarkozy again condemned the recent wave of anti-Semitic and racist attacks that has hit France. "There is nothing more like an anti-Semitic act than a racist and xenophobic act. Both are unacceptable. We have to face up to the problem and tackle it," Sarkozy said.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    30/6/2004- Banning Muslim head scarves in state schools does not violate the freedom of religion and is a valid way to counter Islamic fundamentalism, the European Court of Human Rights said Tuesday. The court unanimously rejected appeals by a Turkish student barred from attending the Istanbul University medical school in 1998 because her headscarf violated the official dress code. The court decision, which takes precedence over national court rulings, could help the French government face court cases it expects to be filed in September against a headscarf ban it plans to impose in state schools. The Union of French Islamic Organizations denounced the ruling as political and said Muslims would consider it a form of persecution. In its ruling, the court said: "Measures taken in universities to prevent certain fundamentalist religious movements from pressuring students who do not practice the religion in question or those belonging to another religion can be justified." Bans issued in the name of the separation of church and state could therefore be considered "necessary in a democratic society," said the court, which is part of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, whose 45 members include Turkey. The ruling was a victory for Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim society that has imposed a rigidly secular system since the 1920s and faces growing scrutiny about Islam as it moves toward the membership it seeks in the European Union. The governing Justice and Development Party, which has Islamist roots, has considered trying to end the ban but backed off after opposition from the strongly secular military. The ruling also lends support to the French government's argument that its head scarf ban counters possible pressure on unveiled Muslim schoolgirls to join a religious revival evident among some of France's five million Muslims, the largest Islamic minority in Europe. Lhaj Thami Breze, president of the Union of French Islamic Organizations, said, "The courts are starting to follow the politicians." Breze argues that freedom of religion allows Muslim schoolgirls to wear scarves. The decision could affect cases in Germany, where Muslim teachers are appealing against laws barring them from covering their heads.
    Press release issued by the Registrar
    ©International Herald Tribune

    27/6/2004- The recent beheadings of two Americans in the Middle East have added fuel to the angry backlash against Arab-Americans and Muslims that began after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The murders of Paul Johnson and Nicholas Berg triggered hate mail, verbal attacks and anti-Muslim signs. Muslims received death threats and their mosques were vandalized. "Since 9/11, every time there is an incident overseas attributed to Muslims or Arabs, we go on orange alert ourselves," said immigration lawyer Sohail Mohammed. "There are individuals here who are off the wall, who think that every woman who wears a hijab or every man named Mohammed is out to blow things up." Al-Qaida-linked militants in Saudi Arabia decapitated Johnson, an American engineer, after warning that they would kill him if the Saudi government did not release jailed comrades. Berg, a businessman, met a similar fate last month in Iraq. Following Johnson's death, anti-Islam signs surfaced around the rural New Jersey neighborhood where he once lived. One read "Stamp Out Islam" next to a drawing of a boot over a crescent and star. Another, hung on a mailbox next door to Johnson's sister's home, was more detailed. "Last night I wasn't a racist, but today I feel racism towards Islamic beliefs," it read. "Last night Islamics had a chance to speak up for Paul Johnson, but today it's too late. Islamics better wake up and start thinking about tomorrow." The New Jersey attorney general sent bias crimes investigators to the area, along with stepped-up state police patrols. The signs are gone now, replaced with hand-lettered placards on utility poles that say "Our prayers are with the Johnson family." But more anti-Muslim graffiti appeared Thursday on a Muslim man's home in Egg Harbor Township. "It's really our fear coming true," said Faiza Ali of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "It indicates a hatred that could turn into something violent."

    Relatives of Johnson, in a statement made through a church pastor after a memorial service Saturday, said that they hope his legacy is one of peace in the land he grew to love during more than a decade abroad. "When history is written on the war on terrorism, let Paul's death be the catalyst that led to thousands more Westerners working in harmony with people in the Middle East to ensure fear and barbaric acts against free peoples come to an end," the Rev. Kyle Huber of Greentree Church said. The day after Johnson's death, a coalition of Muslim groups held a rally to condemn the killing in Paterson, the heart of New Jersey's Arab-American community. A few days later, vandals tossed empty liquor and beer bottles at a mosque in Union City as congregants inside mourned a teenager who died in a car crash. "If they are throwing empty bottles today, they could be throwing rocks, or worse, shooting at us tomorrow," said Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's New Jersey chapter. Two mosques in Florida were vandalized in the days after Johnson's killing. In the Tampa suburb of Lutz, someone broke into the Islamic Community Center and scrawled "Kill All Muslims" on the mosque's interior walls, then smashed windows. In Charlotte Harbor, someone vandalized a mosque's sign and left threatening phone messages. In the St. Louis suburb of Ballwin, Missouri, vandals painted a swastika and the word "Die" on the wall of the Dar-Ul-Islam mosque. In Texas, dead fish were dumped near the entrance sign to a mosque under construction in a suburb of Houston. And in the Chicago suburb of Orland Park, residents urged officials this past week to reject a mosque's building application. A Baptist pastor told a public hearing he feared it would attract Islamic extremists and violence. The center was approved over boos and catcalls from the audience. "I believe the time is coming when Muslims will not be safe inside the U.S. bo ©Associated Press

    Sex, race and the Jefferson feud. An inside look
    By Anita Hamilton

    27/6/2004- Late one afternoon in May, a large group of people wearing name tags gathered under the shade of a giant tulip poplar tree on the south terrace of Monticello. As the last of the day's tourists were taken by shuttle bus down the winding, single-lane road leading away from the hilltop home, this lingering band nibbled on cheese cubes and sipped red wine as they admired the building's imposing white columns and soaring rotunda. These lingerers were more than tourists, more than guests. They were Jefferson's family. Many breathed a sigh of relief that the 90°F midday heat was giving way to such a perfect spring evening. The good weather wasn't the only thing putting them at ease. This was the first time in six years that the Monticello Association, which comprises some 700 descendants of Jefferson, had held its annual reunion without a horde of reporters and photographers in attendance—or the extended family members who had triggered the controversy. The once obscure association, which administers the graveyard at Monticello, got caught in a media storm in 1998, after a DNA study confirmed to the satisfaction of many that a male member of Jefferson's family had fathered at least one child with a mulatto slave named Sally Hemings (she gave birth to at least six, and possibly seven, children in all). If that Jefferson was the third President, as many historians believe, it means at least some of Sally Hemings' descendants were Thomas Jefferson's too. After a very public invitation on The Oprah Winfrey Show in November 1998 by an association member, dozens of Hemings began attending the group's annual reunion, albeit as guests, not members. Getting invited, as it turned out, wasn't the same as being welcome. While a handful of association members supported the Hemings' inclusion, most did not. In 2002, the group voted 74 to 6 to deny them full membership. The already strained relations turned decidedly frigid last year when the association restricted the number of Hemings allowed to attend its reunion and attempted to bar them from setting foot inside the graveyard at Monticello. Paulie Abeles, the wife of the association's president at the time, even admitted to having secretly infiltrated an online discussion group that the Hemings had been using, in order to spy on their messages. "It was just an ugly, ugly situation," says Lucian Truscott IV, the Jefferson descendant and association member who originally invited the Hemings.

    So, what began as an extended-family reunion has disintegrated into a bitter family feud between Jefferson's white family and his black one. For the first time since the DNA results came out, not a single Hemings attended the association's annual reunion this past May. "Nobody wants to be where they aren't wanted. The environment felt stuffy and very formal," says Shannon Lanier, a Hemings who works as a TV production assistant in New York City and co-authored a book about the family called Jefferson's Children: The Story of One American Family. Instead, last year the Hemings began holding their own reunions at Monticello, complete with a sunrise graveyard service at the recently discovered slave burial site on the estate. It would be easy to chalk up the entire family squabble to racism. After all, a primary reason the Hemings liaison was widely doubted before the DNA results were published was that testimony from former black slaves was dismissed by white historians as unreliable gossip. Blacks were not the only ones who supported the story, however. Numerous white journalists in Jefferson's time reported the story and believed it to be true. Jefferson's fellow Founding Father John Adams, who had seen Hemings' beauty firsthand (she was known as "Dashing Sally"), also seemed to believe that Jefferson had had an affair with her and called it a "natural and almost unavoidable consequence of that foul contagion in the human character—Negro slavery." But even today, several Jefferson descendants interviewed by Time said they could not believe that he would become sexually involved with a slave, even one as young and beautiful as Hemings. "Jefferson could date any eligible woman in the world," says John Works, a white descendant. "Why would he have an affair with a 15-year-old slave?" While the standoff underscores America's continuing struggle to come to terms with the legacy of slavery, the controversy is as nuanced as the many shades of "black" that the present-day Hemings family embodies. In the end, the divisive reunions of the association actually helped create new family bonds among the very people it excluded—and motivated a few Jeffersons to cross the racial divide and embrace their once distant cousins.

    Joining the club
    According to the constitution of the monticello association, founded in 1913, one of its missions is "to protect and perpetuate the reputation and fame of Thomas Jefferson." Patrilineal pride runs high. Matthew Mackay-Smith, 71, a retired horse doctor from White Post, Va., who attended this year's reunion wearing a bright red tie imprinted with Jefferson's signature, declares, "I've never shied away from acknowledging and treasuring my connection to the great man." Nat Abeles, a former president of the group, says he proposed to his wife Paulie at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington. The association's primary task is to maintain the graveyard at Monticello. Located just down the hill from the mansion, the half-acre plot is enclosed by an ornate wrought-iron fence and dominated by a granite obelisk that marks the Founding Father's grave. A key benefit of membership is the chance to be buried within a stone's throw. Much of the battle between the Hemings and the Jeffersons has centered on that privilege. Several members of the association have become empathetic with the other side of the family. John Works' brother David Works is one of those converts. An eighth-generation descendant of Jefferson, he says of the connection, "I bragged about it as a kid." When the Hemings first showed up at an association meeting, in 1999, "I was really turned off by the press and what I perceived to be the Hemings' really pushy approach. We just gave them ugly looks and were generally surly and mean," says the computer-systems administrator from Denver. "Because of the nastiness of the fight, I never got back to the facts of the argument." Then two Christmases ago, he decided to sit down and research the facts by reading the DNA study by Dr. Eugene Foster in the scientific journal Nature as well as a report issued in 2000 by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which runs the Monticello estate. Works' conclusion: "When you put it all together, the simplest and most likely answer was that Thomas Jefferson fathered Hemings' children." Since then, Works has forged numerous friendships with the Hemings, communicating with them through an e-mail group that about 50 Hemings and 10 sympathetic Jeffersons use to broadcast everything from baby announcements to their views on George W. Bush. As someone who has observed the family dynamics of both clans, Works remarks, "On the Hemings side, everything is always friendly. It's a lot more fun on this side of the fence." But it's a difficult fence to cross. In fact, David Works' brother John, an investment banker in Denver, has been the most vocal opponent of the Hemings' quest to be acknowledged by the association. "They thought they could bulldoze their way into the family," says John Works, who admits that the disagreement with his brother over the Hemings has fractured an already strained relationship. Responding to charges that the association is excluding the Hemings for racial reasons, he says, "Absolutely not. Ninety-three percent of the family can't be racist," he says, referring to the portion who voted to exclude the Hemings. "It's impossible."

    An academic point?
    To explore the matter more deeply, John Works helped form a separate organization called the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, which commissioned a study by 13 university scholars to assess the likelihood that Thomas Jefferson fathered Hemings' children. In 2001 the group concluded, by a vote of 12 to 1, that his parentage was unlikely. One author of the study, Professor Lance Banning of the University of Kentucky, says, "The case for his paternity is not without its chinks and limitations." Chief among Banning's doubts is the fact that the DNA test was not a true paternity test, which would have required exhuming Jefferson's remains as well as those of Hemings' children to get DNA samples. The test that was done proves only that a Jefferson male, not necessarily Thomas, was the father, and there were other adult males in Jefferson's family who lived nearby. What's more, there are several documented denials of the relationship, by Jefferson's former overseer at Monticello and Jefferson's daughter, granddaughter and grandson. Jefferson himself never acknowledged the sexual relationship. Annette Gordon-Reed, a law professor at New York Law School, is one of many scholars who have concluded that there is enormous support for the case that Jefferson and Hemings were intimately involved. Her 1997 book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, provides a critical analysis of the historical evidence supporting the liaison (see box). In reviewing Jefferson biographies that dismissed the relationship, Gordon-Reed says, "I realized that a lot of what they said was based on prejudice, and they were not taking the words of black people seriously." One example is the skepticism with which historians assessed an interview with Madison Hemings, one of Sally's children, which was published in an Ohio newspaper in 1873. In the interview, Madison states that his mother was Jefferson's "concubine" and that Jefferson was the father of all her children. "We were the only children of his by a slave woman," he said. It was not until the DNA study was released in Nature in 1998 that the tide began to turn among historians. Although the article was misleadingly titled—the headline read "JEFFERSON FATHERED SLAVE'S LAST CHILD," when in fact the study concluded solely that a Jefferson male had fathered that child—it provided the missing link that many historians needed. And there was other evidence: records indicate that Jefferson was at Monticello at the time of the conception of all of Hemings' children; Israel Jefferson, another slave at Monticello, corroborated Madison Hemings' story that he was the son of Jefferson and Hemings; and John Hartwell Cocke, one of the founders of the University of Virginia, wrote in his diary in 1853 and 1859 that Jefferson had a slave mistress. "I feel a bit stupid that I felt otherwise," says Philip Morgan, a professor of early American history at Johns Hopkins University, who once doubted the relationship. "I should have picked up on it sooner."

    A family reunited
    Shannon Lanier, who is black, had a very personal reason to accept the story all along. His mother had told him as a child that he was related to the third President. Descended from Hemings' son Madison, Lanier recalls standing up in his first-grade class in Atlanta and announcing his presidential heritage: "I said, 'Thomas Jefferson was my great-great-great- great-great-great-grandfather.' The teacher told me to sit down and stop telling lies." Despite the chilly reception at the Monticello Association reunions, one person Lanier met there has turned out to be not just a relative but also a good friend. Julia Westerinen, 69, looks white, but she is descended from Sally Hemings' youngest son, Eston. Growing up in Madison, Wis., in the 1930s and '40s, Westerinen was not allowed to play with black children. "My parents told me to stick to my own kind," she says. Even as an adult, she realized that her friendships with blacks had been superficial. "I thought we were friends, but I never had them over to my house, and they never had me to theirs," she says. She never knew of her ancestor Eston. That is because Eston was light-skinned enough to pass for white. In order to hide his connection with his darker-skinned Hemings relatives, he changed his name to E.H. Jefferson and cut ties with his black family. Westerinen finally discovered her connection in 1974, after Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History, a biography by Fawn Brodie, uncovered the details of the Hemings family. When Westerinen met her black cousins at the Hemings reunion in 1999 she was finally able to embrace her biracial heritage. "My life has changed a lot," says Westerinen, an artist, who lives with her husband, son, daughter-in-law and 11-year-old granddaughter in a gray-shingled house with white trim in Staten Island, N.Y. She organized the first Hemings reunion, in July 2003, and has joined up with Shay Banks-Young, who is black and descended from Madison Hemings, to give talks about race relations. "I have a new mission in life, which is to expose the fact that there is still a lot of work to be done. We want to heal the racial scars of this nation." As for the association members who still won't acknowledge the Hemings' heritage, she says, "If they want to hold on to their prejudices, then let them. We're moving on."
    ©Time Magazine

    1/7/2004- Strolling on a summer evening in a North African resort town, the vacationing Senegalese businessman could have forgotten he was anything but a Muslim among Muslims, an African among Africans. But a shouted insult from an Arab policeman set the black man straight: ``Son of a slave.'' Along ancient Saharan trade routes, 1,300 years of shared history that have mingled the faiths, cultures and skin tones of Arabs and Africans has left another, more vicious legacy: Arab-African slavery that has endured as long as the two peoples have been together, leaving black Africans fighting perceptions of themselves as lesser beings, and of Arabs as the civilizing, conquering force. Today, the old roles are playing out at their most extreme in Sudan's Darfur region, with murderous results: Arab horseman clutching AK-47s raze non-Arab African villages and drive off and kill the villagers, in what rights groups call an ethnic cleansing campaign backed by Sudan's Arab-led government. To Pape Thierno Ndiaye, the Senegalese businessman who spent the mid-1990s in Arab-dominated North Africa, the message was simply that he was a lesser being than Arabs, and unwelcome among them. ``It was like that all the time,'' Ndiaye, now back home in Senegal, says of his time on the Arab-dominated northern edge of the Sahara, and of the policeman's insult in the Morocco beach town of Agadir. ``It was insults all the time - all of a sudden, the problem of color had become an ordeal,'' Ndiaye said.

    In Sudan, experts say similar racism is the spark setting fire to Darfur. Up to 80,000 black Africa villagers are believed to have died, many slain by Arab Janjaweed nomads competing with them for a fertile zone shrinking under desertification, and by a minority Arab government accustomed to keeping power by killing opponents. With more than a million displaced, U.S. officials project a third of a million of Darfur's non-Arab Africans will die by the end of the year. ``You, the black women, we will exterminate you,'' Amnesty International quoted one 20-year-old black African woman as telling them, speaking of the Janjaweed who abducted the women of her village in September 2003 and raped them for days. With power and land at issue, Sudan's central government ``is stoking racial and ethnic animus more than it ever has been in Darfur history,'' said Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College in Massachusetts, and one of the leading academic experts on Sudan. ``It's the animating feature of the war ... on African tribal groups,'' Reeves said. In southern Sudan, the common word for non-Arab Africans today among the Arab elite remains ``abid,'' or slave. The general word for non-Arab Africans in Darfur, in western Sudan, is ``zurga.'' The word ``means closer to 'nigger' than 'colored,''' Reeves said. It's important to note that only in Sudan are the African-Arab differences spilling out in blood. Across the Sahara and its edges, the Sahel, most of the coexistence is peaceful, linked by shared cultures and by Islam. Arabs and most Western academics agree that the Arab form of African slavery, existing since at least the 6th century Arab conquest, generally has been less brutal and more open to advancement by slaves than the Western version. African slaves in Arab households largely have labored as servants in households rather than farmhands on plantations, making for easier lives and less submerging of identity. They often ate and slept side by side with their masters, sometimes married into their families - and occasionally even came to rule a Muslim kingdom. But slavery ended in the West more than a century ago. It persists in the Arab world, in the West African nation of Mauritania and in Sudan, human rights groups and Western governments say. Arab-African differences have boiled up in blood in recent years in places other than Sudan.

    In the 1990s, Mauritania's current leader oversaw a bloody purge of black Africans from the Arab-dominated nation's military. In Mauritania today, some Arab officials routinely refer to even educated black African professionals as ``slave people.'' Sudan long has been one of the anchors of the Arab-African slave trade. Its appetite for slaves remains such that rebels in neighboring Uganda, a group calling itself the Lord's Resistance Army is alleged to trade African children to the Sudanese for an automatic weapon each. Ironically, in Darfur and elsewhere, intermarriage between Arab and non-Arab Africans over the centuries has become so common that physical differences have ebbed or disappeared. The skin of the Arab Janjaweed militiamen is as dark as the African villagers they hunt down. ``They would say these are not real Muslims - these are pretend Muslims,'' said Richard Cornwall, at the South Africa-based Institute for Strategic Studies. ``Many generations of intermarriage have ensured there's not really a physiological difference,'' Reeves said. Often, however, the Janjaweed ``clings to the notion of Arab racial identity. It's racism where there is no racial difference.''
    ©The Guardian

    HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY!(European Union)
    29/6/2004- The 5-year EU campaign "For Diversity. Against Discrimination." is celebrating its 1st anniversary! Exactly one year ago, on 16 June 2003, the information campaign to combat discrimination in the European Union was launched, 12 months later, a total of 575 government and non-government organisations from 25 different countries have joined together in a common cause: to fight discrimination and to promote the positive benefits of diversity in an enlarged, more diverse European Union. From the outset, key people and organisations in the fight against discrimination, including government authorities, social partners, groups representing gays and lesbians, ethnic minorities, elderly people, and people with disabilities, were closely involved in developing the campaign's strategy. In so-called 'national working groups', they developed strategies, identified target groups, worked out time schedules and organised actions to promote the campaign. Thanks to the active support of our national partners, we can look back on an eventful and exciting first campaign year. As well as offering practical advice on how organisations and individuals may avoid and combat discrimination, the campaign also participated in a wide range of events to raise awareness about discrimination issues amongst the general public. The "Run for Diversity" initiative has proven a great success with more than 1.500 marathon runners devoting their run to the motto "For Diversity. Against Discrimination." By wearing our bright yellow running shirts, the runners made a statement for diversity at city marathons across the European Union from Paris to Prague to Stockholm. The campaign has also launched one of the first EU-wide Journalist Awards in all 25 EU Member States to award online and print journalists who contribute with their work to a better public understanding of the benefits of diversity and the fight against discrimination in employment. The deadline for entries is 5 October 2004. The second half of 2004 will be equally busy. In September and October, our eye-catching yellow and blue stop-discrimination information truck will travel to 10 EU countries, bringing the campaign to a broad public in both rural and urban areas. The truck will provide a platform for panel discussions, information seminars and for music and other events on the topic of fighting discrimination and promoting tolerance. Also in the autumn of 2004, 200 anti-discrimination experts from all 25 EU Member States will meet in the Latvian capital of Riga, at the Europe Together "For Diversity. Against Discrimination." Conference to discuss how best to raise awareness on anti-discrimination issues.
    For Diversity Against Discrimination

    1/7/2004- Canadian judge Louise Arbour on Thursday took up her new post as the world body's top human rights official. Ms. Arbour, 57, stepped down as a Supreme Court justice in Canada to become the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She succeeds Brazilian Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was one of 22 people killed in the bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad last August. She arrived in Geneva Thursday morning but is not expected to speak to reporters until Friday, said a spokesman at the UN human rights office in the Swiss city. Ms. Arbour's nomination by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan won approval from the UN General Assembly in February. Ms. Arbour gained international prominence as the chief prosecutor of the UN war crimes tribunals trying the alleged main perpetrators of the 1994 Rwanda genocide and the massive human rights crimes in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. During her three years as prosecutor from October 1996 until September 1999, she issued indictments for crimes against humanity against former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic — who is currently on trial — and other leading Serb and Yugoslav officials.

    The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is charged with "acting as a moral authority and voice for victims" around the world. Answering directly to Mr. Annan, the official is responsible for drawing attention to abuses, and ensuring that human rights receive a high profile within the United Nations and among governments. The forthright positions of a previous high commissioner, former Irish president Mary Robinson, angered some governments. Before leaving office in September 2002, Ms. Robinson accused the United States, Russia, China and other governments of hiding behind the war on terrorism in riding roughshod over civil liberties and troublesome opponents. Vieira de Mello, a respected United Nations insider with a reputation for diplomacy, took over from Ms. Robinson. He had only been in office for a few months when he took a temporary assignment as the top UN envoy to Iraq after the U.S.-led ouster of Saddam Hussein. He had been due to return to Geneva a few weeks after the deadly bombing of the UN headquarters. Ms. Arbour was born in Montreal, received her law degree from the University of Montreal, and taught at York University's law school from 1974 to 1987. She published extensively in English and French on criminal procedure, human rights and civil rights, and served as vice-president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. In 1987, she was appointed a judge of the Ontario Supreme Court and three years later was named to the Court of Appeal for Ontario, a post she held until Mr. Annan selected her to be chief prosecutor of the war crimes tribunals.
    ©Globe and Mail

    15/6/2004- The BNP has failed to make a major electoral breakthrough, partly because the anti-immigrant vote was split with UKIP and partly because of a strong, united anti-BNP campaign. It was, according to British National Party (BNP) propaganda, supposed to be the election that would see the BNP gain its first member of the European parliament, its first London Assembly representative and its first city council. Instead, the party has only managed a small increase in its tally of local councillors, from 17 to 21.

    Europe: the UKIP factor
    Across Britain, 808,200 people voted for the BNP in the elections to the European parliament, amounting to 4.9% of the vote. Its best results were in the West Midlands and Yorkshire / Humberside where it managed 7.5% and 8.0% respectively. But overall, the expected breakthrough was offset by a surge in support for the UK Independence Party (UKIP). UKIP had made opposition to immigration a key issue of its campaign. And its most famous candidate, Robert Kilroy-Silk, is well-known for his outspoken views on asylum seekers and Arabs. For some potential BNP voters, UKIP is likely to have been a more respectable way of expressing opposition to immigration. Kilroy-Silk was elected to represent East Midlands in the European parliament. He joins eleven other UKIP candidates who succeeded in becoming MEPs. Were it not for UKIP sharing anti-immigrant votes with the BNP, it is probable that BNP leader Nick Griffin would have been elected as an MEP in the North-West and Nick Cass elected as a BNP representative for Yorkshire and Humberside. In both of these areas, the BNP would have gained an MEP if a quarter of UKIP's votes had gone to the BNP.

    The votes polled for the BNP in each region for the Euro elections were:
    Yorkshire and Humber: 126,538 (8.0%)
    West Midlands: 107,794 (7.5%)
    East Midlands: 91,860 (6.5%)
    North-West: 134,958 (6.4%)
    North-East: 50,249 (6.4%)
    Eastern: 65,557 (4.3%)
    London: 76,152 (4.0%)
    South-West: 43,653 (3.0%)
    Wales: 27,135 (3.0%)
    South-East: 64,877 (2.9%)
    Scotland: 19,427 (1.7%)

    Council elections: no leap forward
    In the local elections, the BNP lost councillors in Blackburn, Thurrock, Dudley and Sandwell. It retained its existing number of councillors in Broxbourne, Burnley, Kirklees, Calderdale and Stoke-on-Trent. Only in Bradford and Epping Forest did the BNP break new ground, gaining its first seats on these councils. In Burnley, where the BNP had hoped to gain control of the council, the party took just one seat, from Labour, while also losing a seat to a revived local Tory party. The BNP was left with a total of six seats on Burnley council, as before. Vigorous campaigning against the BNP in its key target areas of Oldham, Burnley and Sunderland thwarted potential gains there. In many towns, such as Oldham, the entire council was up for re-election. But Oldham has yet to elect a BNP councillor. It was only in Epping and Bradford, till now not thought of as BNP territory, that the party picked up gains. In Epping, the BNP pledged to 'evict Gypsies immediately' and local Gypsies, some of whom have lived on their own land at Paynes Lane, Lower Nazeing, for fourteen years, may now face eviction.

    The BNP's councillors, following last week's elections, are:

  • Bradford: Angela Clarke (Keighley West), Christopher Kirby (Worth Valley), James Lewthwaite (Wyke) and Arthur Redfearn (Wibsey)
  • Broxbourne: Ramon Johns (Rosedale)
  • Burnley: Barry Birks (Whittlefield with Ightenhill), Carol Hughes (Gannow), Len Starr (Hapton with Park), Patricia Thompson (Briercliffe), Brian Turner (Cliviger with Worsthorne) and Sharon Wilkinson (Hapton with Park).
  • Calderdale: Adrian Marsden (Town), Richard Mulhall (Illingworth and Mixenden) and Geoffrey Wallace (Illingworth and Mixenden)
  • Epping Forest: Terence Farr (Loughton Alderton), Patricia Richardson (Loughton Fairmead) and Tom Richardson (Loughton Broadway)
  • Kirklees: David Exley (Heckmondwike)
  • Sandwell: James Lloyd (Princes End)
  • Stoke-on-Trent: Steve Batkin (Longton North) and Mark Leat (Longton North)

    London: no seats
    The BNP failed to gain any seats in the Greater London Assembly, despite the proportional system of voting. It polled only 90,365 votes (4.7%) in the Assembly vote and the BNP's mayoral candidate, Julian Leppert, received just 58,405 first preference votes (3%). In both London elections, the BNP came sixth place.
    ©Institute of Race Relations

    16/6/2004- On May 28, 24-year-old Azrar Ayub, a patient at the secure Edenfield Unit at Prestwich hospital near Manchester was found dead after being sedated and restrained by staff at the hospital. According to news reports, Azrar, a diagnosed schizophrenic, had been detained at the unit since June 2000. On the day of his death, Azrar was restrained by hospital staff who allege that he had became violent. He was sedated before being isolated in a room. Newspaper reports state that staff going to check on him found him collapsed and he could not be revived. Azrar's brother, Sarfraz, went to visit his brother at the unit on the night of his death but was refused entry because Azrar was said to be 'ill'. He received a phone call four hours later, at midnight, to tell him that his brother had been pronounced dead at 10pm. Sarfraz told a local newspaper, 'Why wasn't I allowed to see him? He was still alive when I was at the hospital and they wouldn't let me see him... I was shocked when I saw his body... he was really badly bruised. Something has gone wrong somewhere and we can't bring him back... We just want some answers... we want an inquiry. I do not think anyone is taking it seriously, no one is telling us anything.' The police are investigating Azrar's death and have confirmed that they have interviewed sixteen nurses and have yet to interview another four members of staff. Once their investigation is completed it will be passed to the coroner, the Health and Safety Executive and the Crown Prosecution Service. An official post mortem has already been carried out and Azrar's family have employed a specialist in restraint-related injuries to carry out another one. Bolton, Salford and Trafford Mental Health NHS Trust citing 'patient confidentiality' told IRR news it was assisting the police and unable to make any further comment save that it offered the family 'sincere condolences'. One of the aspects of the case which will attract attention is the way in which Azrar was restrained and for how long. The death comes only three months after the Independent Inquiry into the death of David Bennett was published, recommending that 'under no circumstances should any patient be restrained in a prone position for a longer period than three minutes.' Azrar Ayub was detained under the Mental Health Act in 2000 after being convicted of rape.
    ©Institute of Race Relations

    16/6/2004- The Metropolitan police mishandled an attempt to investigate and prosecute one of its most senior black officers on dishonesty charges "from start to finish", an independent investigation ruled today. The independent police complaints commission (IPCC), which is responsible for the handling of complaints against the police, said the Met 's investigation into Superintendent Ali Dizaei - which lasted four years and cost £7m - was "seriously flawed". After being the target of one of the largest ever investigations by the Met of one of its officers, Supt Dizaei was acquitted of two relatively minor charges of dishonesty at the Old Bailey in 2003. Today's IPCC report comes after it had been asked by the Met to review a decision made in March this year by its precursor, the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), to push ahead with disciplinary proceedings against Supt Dizaei after he was cleared in court. The PCA had ruled that he should face nine alleged breaches of the police code of conduct. But today a three-strong panel concluded that "the IPCC believes it would be unfair and disproportionate at this late stage to continue with the disciplinary action.

    "On balance, the IPCC panel is clear that it would not be in the public interest to uphold the PCA direction." The panel ruled that the charges against Supt Dizaei were "capable of proof", but that the chances of him repeating his conduct were low. A statement from the Met said: "The Metropolitan police service welcomes today's decision by the IPCC not to force the MPS to proceed with a disciplinary hearing in respect of Superintendent Ali Dizaei. "The MPS requested the IPCC review the original decision of the PCA to direct proceedings against Supt Dizaei. We are grateful for the result of that review and hope that this marks the beginning of the end of this matter." In its criticisms of the Met's investigation into Supt Dizaei, codenamed Operation Helios, the IPCC said that officers made errors of judgment. It also criticised the Met for cutting across the correct disciplinary procedures, and for making a private and confidential agreement with Supt Dizaei in October - after he was cleared at the Old Bailey - that he would not face disciplinary proceedings. The IPCC said the Met then delayed the full disclosure of this to the PCA. The report also said the Met confused the vital public interest in promoting "an effective diversity recruitment plan" for the force with its "public duty to uphold the police discipline system" by assessing misconduct proceedings against Supt Dizaei on their merits. The statement by the Met said the force noted the IPCC's "criticism of the decision to arrange a settlement". "We reject the criticism that putting criminal matters before those of misconduct amounted to a lack of strategic direction. This is a misunderstanding of the law as it stands. We are currently prevented from dealing with matters of misconduct until all criminal matters are concluded. We are pressing for this legal position to be changed," the Met's statement said.

    Earlier this year, the Guardian reported that it had learned the details of the nine disciplinary charges he was to face. Four related to use of complimentary tickets to an Islamic new year celebration and to an Iranian music concert and four others related to a false report lodged about damage caused to his car. A jury has already cleared him of any criminal offence over this. The final charge said he failed to investigate an allegation made to him over dinner by a man who claimed he was subjected to homophobic hate mail. If the hearing had gone ahead he had said he would deny the charges. The Guardian has also reported that the Met had planned to offer no evidence if the hearing had taken place. The Met was accused of racism after criminal proceedings were dropped. At one stage the National Black Police Association called for black recruits to boycott the Met in support of Mr Dizaei. After he was cleared at the Old Bailey, Supt Dizaei dropped a threat to take the Met to an employment tribunal for race discrimination. He received an £80,000 settlement. He was suspended in 2001 after baseless allegations from the Met that he had endangered national security, abused drugs, and used prostitutes. He returned to work last October after being suspended from his job for more than two years. Since returning to the force, Iranian-born Supt Dizaei has been selected for a promotion course for potential chief constables, but the IPCC said he should not be considered for promotion for 12 months. In its statement the Met said it was also fully engaged with the Morris Inquiry, commissioned earlier this year by the Metropolitan Police Authority to review how the Met handles professional standards and employment issues. "We have been entirely open with the inquiry and are hopeful that its findings and recommendations will pave the way to overcoming some of the difficulties faced in this complex case in future situations involving both criminal and misconduct matters" the Met's statement said.
    Read the IPCC report in full (pdf)
    ©The Guardian

    18/6/2004- A senior barrister who was suspended amid accusations that she made insensitive comments about the 11 September attacks on America is to receive damages after an employment tribunal found she was the victim of racial discrimination. The hearing in Leeds found that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) failed to make the most basic inquiries into allegations against Halima Aziz, 45, before suspending her. Such inquiries would have revealed immediately that the allegations were malicious and false, the tribunal found. The CPS took at face value officials' complaints at Bradford magistrates' court that she had started a courtroom riot between white and Asian youths on the afternoon of 11 September 2001 by describing the terrorist attacks as "all the fault of the Jews". Ms Aziz has denied this but admitted she might have said Arabs' dislike for America stemmed from its support of Israel. In a memo, one of her managers justified the suspension by saying that the alleged comments "need to be seen in the wider context of recent riots in Bradford ... where there are known pre-existing tensions between ethnic groups". He also indicated that a failure to act left the CPS open to the kind of "massive" media outcry which followed a government department e-mail which suggested that 11 September was a good day to bury news. But the tribunal found that the chief Crown prosecutor, Neil Franklin, and the CPS's middle management had all assumed that the complaint had substance simply because Ms Aziz was of Pakistani extraction. Ms Aziz's solicitors said that "was not an assumption they would have reached in that way if the applicant was a white male". The CPS, an organisation deemed institutionally racist in a report by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) in 2001, launched its own investigation into the suspension which, in April 2002, found no evidence that Ms Aziz had made a discriminatory remark or caused a disturbance. It lifted her suspension - but Ms Aziz has been suffering from stress and has been on sick leave. Ms Aziz said: "I was a very trusting, sociable, talkative person and did my best to cheer people up and work towards a happy working environment but after this investigation I did not feel like the same person." The CPS said yesterday that it was disappointed by the tribunal's finding and was considering whether to appeal. A spokeswoman said: "The judgment is based on events which go back to 2001. Since then we've made enormous progress on equality issues. We now have a race equality scheme in place and we work in partnership with the CRE. " Maria Bamieh, of the Society of Black Lawyers, who assisted Ms Aziz, asked if CPS management should be disciplined. "The public need confidence that racism has been eradicated in the CPS," she said. A hearing will take place in four to six weeks, when the level of damages will be decided, but it is unlikely Ms Aziz will return to work for the CPS.
    © Independent Digital

    Police look to Europe in battle against cultural taboos

    23/6/2004- Police in London receive two calls a week from women and girls reporting so-called honour crimes, such as being forced into marriage or being threatened with murder by their families. Commander Andy Baker, head of Scotland Yard's homicide squad who set up a unit to investigate honour-related killings and violence last year, said many more incidents went unreported due to fear and cultural taboos. He organised yesterday's conference in The Hague to share best practice with police and other experts from across Europe. Women in some ethnic minority groups are murdered by relatives or hired assassins because they are judged to have shamed their families by perceived immoral behaviour such as refusing a forced marriage, being suspected of an affair or wanting to study and pursue a career. Heshu Yones, 16, a Kurdish Muslim from west London, was stabbed to death by her father Abdalla two years ago because she was dating a Christian boy. Yones was jailed for life. There have been more than 12 such murders in the UK in the past year but Cmdr Baker said other women were "missing" after being taken abroad by relatives or suffered suspicious injuries claimed to have been caused by road accidents or chip pan fires. In other cases girls are forced into marriage and used as slaves by their husbands' families in the UK or abroad. Cmdr Baker said Asian women were four times more likely to commit suicide than white women because they could see no way out, but honour killings affected many races and religions. While killings were more often carried out by men, women were sometimes involved. In some cases mothers and grandmothers handed a daughter over to her murderers.

    Cmdr Baker told the Guardian: "Those who come to police are, without question, the tip of the iceberg. This is a worldwide problem with thousands of victims. We are just starting to get to grips with it in the UK." Comparable in some ways to how they treated domestic violence, he said police realised early intervention could save lives. "There are cultural sensitivities when dealing with these crimes, but murder is murder. Police must not hold back for fear of being accused of racism," he said. He said defendants sometimes pleaded provocation or diminished responsibility to get reduced sentences. The Law Commission was examining the issue. "Many of these crimes are extremely brutal and well-planned," he said. "They can be difficult to investigate because of the collusion of whole families... They can use the language barrier and other jurisdictions are sometimes involved." As well as girls being taken to countries such as India and Pakistan bounty hunters from other European countries carried out murders, making pan-European cooperation vital. Laura Richards, a behavioural psychologist with the Met, heads a unit advising police on honour crimes. Her team tells officers to listen to suspected victims, not to inform their families and not to try to mediate. Police were also checking on parents booking one-way tickets to take teenage girls abroad and teachers were being advised to be alert to parents removing girls from school before exams. Ms Richards told of a young shop assistant whom police had to whisk out of the shop's back door to avoid relatives waiting to take her aboard to be married. "We are giving officers the tools to save lives," she said. Her team is trying to identify all honour killings in the UK between 1993 and 2003. They are analysing 117 cases and of 13 completed to date, four were judged to be honour-related, six suspected, while three were not. Yesterday's conference heard about a secret refuge in Berlin for Turkish girls, an idea Cmdr Baker said the UK should consider, and also how Swedish police used DNA advances to investigate old cases.
    ©The Guardian

    20/6/2004- Dublin City Council has shut down a bulletin board on its website because of racist comments posted there in advance of the citizenship referendum. Garda officers are investigating the individuals behind the xenophobic messages posted on the board. A council spokesman said there were several comments on the chat room, set up as a public forum for the use of community and non-governmental organisations. He said that the inquiry focused on an individual who had sent numerous emails filled with anti-immigrant remarks. 'There were some comments posted onto the board which I would not care to repeat. The bulletin board has been closed for a week while the gardai investigate.' It is understood that the individual behind the racist comments posted more than 90 messages onto the board before last Thursday's vote in the referendum. There were several other racist messages sent to the chat room from other individuals. If tracked down, the person responsible for the remarks could face prosecution under the Irish Republic's 1983 Incitement to Hatred Act. However, the act only covers printed material.
    ©The Observer

    24/6/2004- The number of complaints of gender and race discrimination lodged with the Equality Tribunal have increased, a report is expected to show today. The overall amount of individual allegations reported last year are expected to have dropped. The complaints put to the tribunal under the ground of membership of a Traveller community should show a sharp decline. The annual report of the Equality Tribunal, which mediates over claims of alleged discrimination under the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000, is due out later today. Justice Minister Michael McDowell is expected to launch the report, which should announce a strong increase in the number of cases decided, or agreed through mediation, by the tribunal during 2003. Cases taken against licensed premises are expected to have declined steadily throughout the year. Legislative changes mean that since September of last year complaints of discrimination by licensed premises went before the District Courts. The number of complaints from the Travelling community under the Equal Status Act is expected to have fallen, though in many instances it was one of the factors in the increasing numbers of cases taken on multiple grounds. The 2003 annual report is also expected to show the number of people using mediation to resolve disputes grew dramatically.
    ©Irish Examiner

    17/6/2004- Germany's government and opposition have hammered out a difficult compromise the country's long-awaited immigration law aimed at admitting foreign workers and protecting asylum seekers. The deal summed up nearly four years of inter-party wrangling over how to regulate immigration, promote the integration of newcomers into German society and replace a patchwork of rules with a modern law meant to signal openness and tolerance. But on Thursday, the Social Democrats (SDP) and their Green Party coalition partners managed to forge an agreement with the conservative opposition Christian Democrats. German Interior Minister Otto Schily said the new law would help jumpstart the economy. "The new law gives us the opportunity to take part in the race for the world's best brains," he said. "Self-employed foreigners now have the chance to settle here and foreign students can stay on after their studies. I'm sure the new law will make a substantial contribution to Germany's economy."

    New workers allowed
    If passed, the law will allow the first major immigration of foreign workers into Germany since the country closed its doors to Turkish "guest workers" in the 1970s. The agreement is set against a background of growing worries over the demographic implications of Germany's low birth rate and aging population, tempered by fears about a possible influx of radical Islamic militants. Despite high unemployment figures near 10 percent, German business has long been demanding looser regulations that would allow more skilled workers to enter the country, arguing Germany needs them to stay competitive.

    Deporting 'hate preachers'
    However, the number of legal immigrants will remain limited. The CSU managed to keep its goal of limiting recruitment only in the case of highly qualified foreigners, such as engineers, computer specialists and scientists. In addition, self-employed people who offer jobs to locals will also be allowed to immigrate. Another key aspect of the deal is a rule that makes it easier for immigration officials to deport "hate preachers" -- wording aimed at Islamic extremists operating in Germany -- and to kick out terror suspects without trial. The bill reflects pressure from the CDU for tighter security measures, prompted by the March 11 bombings in Spain that killed nearly 200 people. The alleged mastermind behind the attacks had previously spent time in Germany. Only in May, the talks about the draft law were threatening to collapse when the Greens threatened to abandon negotiations accusing the conservatives of making unreasonable demands about national security. The sticking point was a CDU proposal aimed at provisionally detaining foreign extremists that cannot be deported because they would face the death penalty in their home country. Although this has now been scrapped in the text, the CDU's chief negotiator, Peter Müller, says the new law bears a strong conservative mark. "The law is a dramatic improvement," he said. "It creates more security and provides better opportunities for the integration of foreigners. We are now able to better channel and engineer immigration. In addition German fulfills its obligations regarding humanitarian and asylum issues." The ultimate breakthrough came after Schily agreed to spend up to 100 million for integration courses for new migrants and the considerable number of foreigners already living here. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Schily stressed that the Greens -- who had long objected to the proposals on civil rights grounds -- would also agree to the final result. The Christian Social Union, the CDU's Bavarian sister party, which was most vocal in its opposition to the original bill, is also expected to accept the compromise accord. Both sides said they were convinced the law would pass through the parliament's mediation committee by the June 30 deadline, and would be approved ©Deutsche Welle

    22/6/2004- German Interior Minister Otto Schily is drafting legislation to outlaw neo-Nazi demonstrations, a move welcomed by opposition conservatives but criticised by civil liberties advocates. A spokeswoman for the minister said Tuesday the reduction of the rightists' constitutional freedom of assembly was designed to protect the general public and had been suggested by most of the 16 state interior ministers. Analysts said Berlin was especially worried that neo-Nazis would picket the Holocaust Memorial to be opened next May in the heart of Berlin. Germany was deeply embarrassed when neo-Nazis held a procession in 2000 through the Brandenburg Gate in the capital. On Tuesday, the online edition of Der Spiegel quoted the draft as banning assemblies that "glorify Naziism or totalitarianism, terrorist organisations and domestic or foreign crime in such a way as to endanger the public peace" The bill would also allow bans on rallies "in places that specifically commemorate the victims of organized inhumanity" and that "approve, deny or trivialize this inhumane treatment". Holocaust deniers resent the concentration-camp memorials dotted all over Germany and have defaced the prison buildings and the cemeteries as well as demonstrating outside. The states are also fed up with the huge cost of deploying thousands of riot police to prevent brawls every time that a tiny neo-Nazi group announces a demonstration and militant leftists picket it, according to analysts. A spokesman for the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), which rules the southern state of Bavaria, welcomed the Schily moved, which he said met a long-standing CSU demand and remained in harmony with constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of assembly. But Volker Beck, the Greens parliamentary whip, said: "You can't tailor rights to demonstrate according to whether you like their demonstrators' ideas or not."
    ©Expatica News

    17/6/2004- An appellate court in Moscow on Wednesday upheld a ban on the city's Jehovah's Witnesses in a ruling that the group's leaders said reflected mounting pressure on some religious faiths in Russia. The decision culminated six years of legal proceedings that began when prosecutors sought to shut down the group's activities on the ground that they threatened Russian society. Under Russia's complex laws governing minority religious groups, the Jehovah's Witnesses are registered on the national level and in nearly 400 other cities in Russia, though not in Moscow itself. The ban upheld on Wednesday affects only the group's activities in Moscow, but its leaders expressed fear that the ruling could presage similar efforts in other cities, where adherents have faced bureaucratic obstacles and other forms of harassment. "Once you get a decision like this, it's open season," John Burns, the group's Canadian lawyer, said after the ruling. How exactly the ban will be enforced is not clear, though the prosecutor in the case, Tatyana Kondryatyeva, told the court's three judges that the group's Moscow chapter would be prohibited from renting buildings for religious services and from distributing religious literature. She said such distributions would violate the rights of Russian citizens. After a four-hour hearing in which the two sides presented their arguments, the judges returned with a ruling after only five minutes, upholding a decision made in March by a lower court.

    Several twists had dragged the case out for years. In 2001, a court ruled in favor of the Jehovah's Witnesses, but the prosecutors reinstated the case after an appeal that the group's lawyers said had been supported by leaders of the dominant Russian Orthodox Church. The second trial lasted nearly three years and included, among other evidence, a lengthy physiological and linguistic study that the Jehovah's Witnesses said had been designed to question the group's beliefs, not its activities. The group can appeal the decision in Russia, but Burns said it now would turn to the European Court of Human Rights, where the Jehovah's Witnesses have already filed a legal challenge to the city's ban. The case has drawn widespread condemnation from human rights organizations and from officials and lawmakers in the United States. The U.S. State Department's report on religious freedom, released last December, cited numerous cases of official or unofficial harassment of the Jehovah's Witnesses and other faiths that do not have the status of official religions in Russia, as do Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism. In Washington last month, Steven Pifer, deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs, cited the case against the group's Moscow chapter as an example of the Russian authorities' "seeking greater control in the area of religious affairs." He also said that "the Federal Security Service, working with local law enforcement officials, had targeted minority faiths as 'foreign' security threats." Vasily Kolin, whose family was exiled from Ukraine to Siberia in 1951 because of their faith, said he feared the group's 11,000 believers in Moscow, and perhaps all 133,000 across the country, could again be forced to practice their faith underground. He expressed dismay that Russia had rehabilitated victims of Soviet religious repression, including Jehovah's Witnesses, in 1992, only to seek new restrictions on some believers now. "Nothing has changed since the fall of the Soviet Union," he said.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Chairman of minority rights committee shot on his doorstep

    22/6/2004- A human rights scholar who devoted himself to eliminating racism has been shot dead in St Petersburg, it is thought by neo-Nazis. Nikolai Girenko, 64, a specialist in enthnology and conflict, was shot at point-blank range when his granddaughter called him to speak to a stranger at the door. Lev Borkin, co-founder with Dr Girenko of the St Petersburg Association of Scientists and Scholars, said: "This is not a regular citizen. Dr Girenko was a very well-known scholar. It's not a criminal case, it's political." Russia has experienced a series of violent attacks on members of ethnic minorities, including the gang beating of market traders, the murder of a nine-year-old Tajik girl in St Petersburg in February, and the beating of diplomats from Africa and the Middle East. Though no suspects have been identified, Dr Girenko's colleagues believe his murder was committed in revenge for his work in identifying neo-Nazi groups. A St Petersburg assistant public prosecutor, Alexander Zhukov, said Dr Girenko's work as an expert on ethnic issues in criminal cases - he was an adviser to the public prosecutor - was being considered as a motive, according to Regnum news agency. Dr Borkin said: "Dr Girenko was a very modest man. He was not involved in any business activities." His colleague's office as chairman of the association's minority rights committee was vandalised in the autumn and a note saying "you scientists should be killed" was left behind, he added.

    Dr Girenko worked with international groups and had travelled as far as South Africa to speak on human rights and fascist movements. He had made recommendations to parliament on legislation on anti-semitic activity. Though no official statistics exist, the Bureau of Human Rights in Moscow estimates that there are about 50,000 skinheads in Russia - about 1,500 each in Moscow and St Petersburg - that 20-30 people die each year in race-related attacks, and that race-related crime is growing by 30% a year. Alexei Kozlov, head of the Fund for Ecological and Social Rights, who was beaten by skinheads a month ago in Voronezh, his home city, said: "These people are ready to act. For them there is no fear, no pain. It's just, we will beat them to death." The police and the judicial system were reluctant to address race-related violence, he said. "The militia [police force] doesn't want to make court cases against skinheads, they say, 'Oh, it's just hooligans.'" Dr Girenko was attacked on Saturday morning, two days before Russia's annual Day of Remembrance and Sorrow, the anniversary of the Nazi invasion in 1941. Russia is deeply proud of the way its cities held out against Nazi Germany during the "great patriotic war" in which an estimated 27 million Soviet soldiers and citizens died in battle and from disease and hunger. This makes the neo-Nazi movement all the more difficult for the older generation to understand.
    ©The Guardian

    23/6/2004- On Monday, Russians observed the anniversary of Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, a date still engraved on the national consciousness 63 years later. The attack was unprecedented not only in its scale but for the racist ideology behind it. It is thus a particularly bitter irony, considering the sacrifice of millions of Soviet citizens in the hard-won victory over Hitler's forces, that Russia's new neo-Nazi threat is homegrown, and growing. Last weekend, perhaps the leading authority on Russian neo-Nazis, Nikolai Girenko, whose participation in trials involving extremism had helped lead to several convictions, was gunned down in his St. Petersburg apartment. His colleagues and human rights activists have no doubt he was killed by nationalist extremists. Investigators acknowledge this is likely, though they also shamelessly suggest that the murder could have been "hooliganism."

    Similarly, the stabbing death of a 9-year-old Tajik girl in St. Petersburg in February by a gang of teenagers was written off as hooliganism, as were numerous other killings of dark-skinned foreigners that appeared to have clear racial overtones. Twenty to 30 people have died annually in extremist attacks in Russia in recent years, and the numbers are going up 30 percent a year, according to a study by human rights groups. The same study estimates the number of skinheads in Russia at 50,000 and rising. By dismissing racially motivated attacks as hooliganism, the police are burying their heads in the sand. Reluctant even to acknowledge the dangers of the growing neo-Nazism, they can do little to combat it. As evidence of how little importance is attached to the problem, the Prosecutor General's Office -- usually so quick to take over the investigation of a high-profile crime -- has so far ignored an appeal from human rights activists to lead the search for Girenko's killers. President Vladimir Putin occasionally has paid lip service to condemning the evils of racial hatred, but it has remained just that. At Putin's urging, a law on extremism was passed two years ago, but human rights groups say it has proved toothless. And while decrying extremism, Putin has overseen a rise in the nationalism that it feeds it. Politicians supported by his administration, most notably the leaders of Rodina, openly played the nationalist card in December's elections, tapping into a deep vein of ethnic resentment to bolster the Kremlin's victory.

    Racism is not peculiar to Russia. But Russia, more than most, should recognize the evil of those who see Hitler as their hero -- and arrest their advance.
    ©The Moscow Times

    21/6/2004- Croatian football fans and their flags and banners will be under scrutiny when the team plays England on Monday night. European football authorities are studying claims that some Croatian fans flew white supremacist flags and made racist chants during their match against France last Thursday. The claims come in a report from an organisation called Football Against Racism in Europe. Statements from match officials are also being studied by the authorities. If the disciplinary committee considers the report well-founded, the Croatian Football Association could be punished. The report states that at least two banners carrying extreme right-wing insignia were on display at the France-Croatia match. There were no swastikas, but Celtic crosses have been associated with right-wing groups in Croatia. The report says there was also racist chanting at black French players.

    Extra spotters looking out for examples of racism will be deployed at today's match against England, which is already regarded by the authorities as a high-tension game. Thousands of English fans are gathering in Lisbon. Many have travelled from the southern resorts in the Algarve. Croatia must win to secure a place in the quarter-finals, while England need only a draw. In the day's other final group game, France meets Switzerland, with the France the defending champions, also needing a draw to qualify.
    ©BBC News

    22/6/2004- Representatives of Roma organisations in Slovakia filed a complaint against parliamentary deputy Jozef Banáš in relation to his statements during a NATO Parliamentary Assembly lunch in Bratislava three weeks ago, at which he jokingly suggested solving the shortage of NATO troops in Afghanistan by deploying divisions of Slovak Roma. "Deputy Banáš is suspected of committing the crime of the defamation of a nation and a race," Ladislav Fizík, chairman of the non-governmental organisation Roma Parliament told the news wire SITA. Banáš is the head of the Slovak delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Banáš insists he was just joking and that he merely wanted to move a lengthy debate about the Slovak Roma over to Afghanistan, the main topic indicated by Assembly President Douglas Bereuter. He proposed that, in order to solve both problems at once, "we could send about 10 Roma divisions to Afghanistan." No one protested his joke, Banáš pointed out, however he apologised to those who might interpret the statement as an insult to the Roma. It is embarrassing for Banáš to defame the Slovak Roma in front of Slovak senior state officials and in front Bereuter, who is a US congressman, Fizík said.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    23/6/2004- IBM must face a lawsuit by Gypsy campaigners who say the computer giant's expertise helped the Nazis commit mass murder more efficiently, a Swiss court has ruled. The US-based company's possible complicity in the Holocaust "cannot be ruled out", the Geneva appeals court said yesterday, rejecting a decision last year by a lower tribunal that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. The Gypsies filed the lawsuit in Geneva because IBM had its European headquarters in the city during the war. They claim the office in neutral Switzerland was the company's hub for trade with the Nazis. "IBM's complicity through material or intellectual assistance to the criminal acts of the Nazis during the Second World War via its Geneva office cannot be ruled out,"the appeals court said. It cited "a significant body of evidence indicating that the Geneva office could have been aware that it was assisting these acts". No immediate reaction to the ruling was available from IBM's Geneva lawyers, who had referred requests for comment to the company's headquarters in Armonk, New York. Company officials did not return calls. The company has said its German subsidiary, Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen GmbH, known as Dehomag, was taken over by the Nazis before the war, and it had no control over operations there or how the Nazis used IBM machines. The Gypsies' lawyer, Henri-Philippe Sambuc, said the company's Geneva office continued to co-ordinate Europe-wide trade with the Nazis, acting on clear instructions from world headquarters in New York. The Gypsies are suing IBM for "moral reparation" and $20,000 (£11,000) each in damages for four Gypsies from Germany and France and a Polish-born Swedish Gypsy. All five were orphaned in the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of up to 1,500,000 Gypsies. An American author, Edwin Black, claimed in a book in 2001 that IBM punchcard machines enabled the Nazis to make their killing operations more efficient. Black said they codified information about people sent to concentration camps, with the code D4 marking a prisoner for death. IBM has consistently denied that it was in any way responsible for the way its machines were used.
    © Independent Digital

    17/6/2004- One of the leading parties making up the newly-elected Flanders coalition list on Friday ruled out agreement to any deals with the far right Vlaams Blok party to govern the region. The Vlaams Blok emerged as the party with the second most popular electoral list in Sunday's poll. "We totally exclude the possibility of an alliance with the Blok," Jan Renders, who heads the ACW party, part of last Sunday's winning CD-V/N-VA list in regional elections in Flanders, told Flemish economic daily De Tijd. "Our deep philosophy is totally at odds with this [Vlaams Block] party." the left wing party leader said. Renders warned that the CD-V would disintegrate if it breached the agreement between mainstream political parties not to do deals with the Blok. His comments published Friday coincided with talks held the same day between Vaams Blok leaders and Yves Leterme, who headed the the CD-V/N-VA list and is charged with forming the next government in Flanders. Despite the popularity of the Blok's anti-immigrant ultra nationalist rhetoric among Flemish voters, Leterme has said he will not form a government with the far right group. He said his talks with the Blok on Friday, along with meetings with other political parties, were to seek "clarification" on certain elements of its programme. Leterne's move came in for criticism by media commentators who saw it as a weakening, even if not a breach, of the so-called ‘Cordon Sanitaire'. The agreement between Belgian political parties, launched in 1989, to isolate the Blok- including the refusal of any pact with the far right party – is aimed at encouraging voters to see a vote for the Blok as wasted for a say in government. But Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, a Flemish Liberal, has also adopted a nuanced attitude towards the Blok, telling Flemish newspapers Het Volk and Het Nieuwsblad,this weekthat he believed it was time to begin a frank dialogue with the far right party. Verhofstadt claimed it would quickly show the weaknesses in the Blok's "simplistic" politics. Analysts have said the Blok is in fact the single most popular political party in Flanders because the CD-V\N-VA list was a coalition ticket comprised of two different parties.
    ©Expatica News

    22/6/2004- Belgium's Flemish public broadcaster the VRT on Tuesday reacted angrily to suggestions that it helped the far-right Vlaams Blok make major gains in Belgium's 13 June regional elections. In a three-page editorial published in several Belgian newspapers, 29 journalists from the public sector broadcaster brushed aside criticisms that VRT had presented the far right Blok like a normal political party by inviting its members to join in many of its political broadcasts. "The Blok has advanced not because of but despite the media. No one knows how to deal with the Blok … but a defensive approach or an exclusion of the Blok is no longer the question of the day," the journalists insisted. A number of newspaper editors and academics suggested VRT should have refused to welcome Blok politicians into its studios. Two Belgian he sociologists, Bea Cantillon and Koen Raes, cited in La Libre Belgique newspaper criticised "Doe de stemtest," one of VRT's light hearted weekend programmes for not taking politics seriously enough during the election campaign and making the Blok seem like just another party. Rik Van Cauwelaert, the editor of the news magazine "Knack", went even further. "The way the VRT informed people about the Blok was a scandal," he said bluntly. La Libre Belgique suggested that there might have been political pressure on VRT to take the line it did on the Blok. The newspaper pointed out on Tuesday that the public service network's governing council already had two Blok members sitting on its politically appointed governing council before the 13 June poll and that after the Blok's electoral success that number is set to rise to three. Earlier this year a Gent court ruled that the extreme right party regularly breaks Belgium's anti racism laws and if the verdict is upheld, the Blok stands to lose millions of euros in state funding every year.
    ©Expatica News

    23/6/2004- A report by the Belgian police's own internal investigation service has revealed shocking levels of racism, intimidating behaviour and abuse of power among the country's law enforcement officers, it was reported on Wednesday. According to La Derniere Heure newspaper, Belgium's 'police for the police', the so-called Comite P, found that complaints against police officers rose by 25 percent between 2002 and 2003. The increase is the highest ever registered since the Comite P was set up ten years ago, the newspaper added. In 2003, Comite dealt with 1,786 complaints against police officers compared with 1,428 in 2002. In 1999 the internal investigation service dealt with just 485 complaints. In other words in four years complaints against the police have risen by over 70 percent, La Derniere Heure said. Worryingly, argued the newspaper, the largest number of complaints against police from ordinary citizens came from people living in areas with large immigrant populations including central Brussels, the Brussels commune of Schaerbeek and Antwerp. In 2003 the Comite P investigated 37 cases of threatening behaviour by police officers, six cases of racism and xenophobia and 19 of defamation. The Comite also investigated 538 cases of alleged police violence and 132 cases of arbitrary arrest and detention. The 2003 report even found that the number of thefts committed by police officers, while very small, is rising.
    ©Expatica News

    24/6/2004- The French cabinet yesterday gave its backing to a bill authorising penalties of up to a year in jail for anyone found guilty of making an anti-gay or sexist remark. "This law puts the fight against homophobia and sexism on the same footing, legally speaking, as the fight against racism and anti-semitism," said the justice minister, Dominique Perben. "It demonstrates a real willingness to defend those who, because of their choice of life or their personal preferences, risk being singled out, attacked and otherwise shaken in their integrity." The bill will allow French courts to hand down a fine of 45,000 (£30,000) and up to 12 months in prison for "defamation or incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence on the grounds of a person's sex or sexual orientation". Proffering an anti-gay insult in public - including any remark "of a more general nature tending to denigrate homosexuals as a whole" - could fetch a fine of 22,500 and six months' jail. The seven-article bill, due to go before parliament next month, is a response to an increase in verbal and physical attacks recorded against homosexuals in France last year. The number of violent acts against gays more than doubled to 86 in 2003, compared with 41 in 2002. The bill was also inspired by a longstanding wish of French gay and feminist groups to see sexist and homophobic insults classed as slander.

    One particularly horrifying incident prompted Mr Perben to suggest the bill should be known as the "Nouchet law" after Sebastian Nouchet, a young gay man who spent 15 days in a coma with third-degree burns after being doused with petrol and burned at his home in Noeud-les-Mines, near Calais, last January. The attack followed months of vicious harassment by a group of adolescents. Jacques Chirac said yesterday that he wanted the bill to "stop such exceptionally serious acts in their tracks". The president added: "What is at risk here is essential, namely equality, respect and the protection to which every citizen of the republic is entitled." While broadly welcoming the government's move, several gay and feminist associations said the bill did not go far enough. Newspaper and magazine publishers and the journalists' group Reporters sans Frontières warned that it was likely to provoke an avalanche of lawsuits and could in some cases infringe free speech laws. Other opponents have said the bill is merely a sop offered to the gay community by the centre-right government in compensation for its determined - and very public - opposition to gay marriages. A Green MP and mayor of the southwestern town of Bégles, Noel Mamére, was this week stripped of his local mandate for a month days after officiating at France's first gay wedding. A Bordeaux court is likely soon to pronounce the union invalid.
    ©The Guardian

    24/6/2004- A Liberal Party ad hoc group on integration policy has issued an internal memo proposing accelerated Danish-language instruction for new refugees. A Liberal Party ad hoc group on integration issues has proposed requiring Danish language instruction from the very first day that new refugees are placed in local councils. In an internal policy memo released on Wednesday, the group noted that in many cases, two to three months pass before language instruction is offered to refugees by council integration authorities. The Liberal Party may even back the introduction of compulsory Danish language instruction before granting family reunification permits to foreigners, if a similar pilot project in the Netherlands proves successful. Integration Minister Bertel Haarder told daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten that Danish politicians were following the Dutch model with interest, but that no final decision had been made on the plan's introduction in Denmark. Haarder confirmed that Danish language instruction for refugees would be accelerated, requiring new arrivals to log at least 37 hours of classroom time per week. "Intensive language instruction needs to start from the very first Monday. We can no longer tolerate lapses of two to three months before refugees begin Danish language classes," said Haarder. The Liberal ad hoc group also proposed the formation of a nationwide corps of 100 "role models" for foreigners, including council-run playrooms where immigrant mothers can learn proper child-rearing techniques from mentors.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    24/6/2004- According to The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), in its third report on human rights in Hungary, the poor conditions in which refugees are accommodated are some of the most serious human rights problems the country faces. The ECRI, established by the Council of Europe in 1993 to monitor changes in the field of human rights in EU member states, claims that a disproportionately large number of foreigners are being detained in Hungary on account of their ethnic origins, and that the state of Hungary's detention centers is less than adequate. Lloyd Dakin, the UNHCR representative in Hungary, told The Budapest Sun, "The ECRI's recently issued report refers to the situation in Hungary in the year 2002. Since then, however, a number of improvements have taken place in the field of asylum in Hungary." Following reports and recommendations issued by the UNHCR and other international organizations, the Government of Hungary has taken steps to improve living conditions in several detention centers, community shelters and open refugee reception centers. "Renovations have been completed in some locations, are ongoing in others, and are yet to be done in some facilities. UNHCR continues to regularly monitor these facilities and follow up the developments." The UNHCR says the ECRI report refers to a previous system of a "four level asylum procedure" which has recently been altered by an amendment to the Asylum Law, and notes with satisfaction that as a result, the refugee status determination procedure has become "shorter and fairer", consisting of only two steps: a first administrative and a second for appeal that is carried out by the Budapest Municipal Court. Dakin adds, "The UNHCR agrees with most of ECRI's comments on the deficiencies of the detention policy applied by the Hungarian authorities. "We have been suggesting that clear guidelines be established defining the basis on which asylum-seekers will be detained, to eliminate any possibility of arbitrary detention of certain individuals. The UNHCR considers the reduction of the period of detention from 18 months to 12 months an improvement, but believes that there is scope for further reduction of the detention period. "We are in favor of ECRI's recommendations in relation to the need of concerted efforts by governmental and non-Governmental institutions aiming at combating xenophobia and intolerance." The UNHCR says it has been advocating the drafting of a long term integration policy for refugees and persons authorized to stay in Hungary, particularly, as recent statistical trends show that an increasing number of recognized refugees wish to opt for integration in Hungary, rather than migrating to other countries in Europe.

    The UNHCR has reviewed its office set-up in Europe and will be rearranging its current structure by establishing a number of regional offices. One of the regional offices is expected to be based in Budapest, and will cover a number of neighboring countries. It is expected that the new regional office will be effective from the beginning of 2005.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    17/6/2004- Fear of radical Islam is pushing governments across Western Europe into ambitious plans to promote loyalty and moderation in their Muslim citizens. But the projects, focused on the training of imams, have already been criticised by many Muslim leaders who fear state intervention in religion will backfire. The proposals spring from evidence that many young European-born Muslims feel alienated from the societies around them. In Britain, a study commissioned by the government shows one in seven of economically active Muslims have no job, compared to only one in 20 of the wider population. The confidential strategy paper, leaked to a national newspaper, recommends measures to "win the hearts and minds" of young Muslims. The government is considering "strengthening the hand" of moderate Muslim leaders, and refusing entry visas to foreign imams who cannot demonstrate a basic knowledge of English or of British society.

    Religious training
    In the long term, the UK Home Office has said it hopes British theological colleges will be able to produce more home-grown British imams. That idea follows similar proposals in France, Spain and the Netherlands. The French government has appointed a commission of Muslim and non-Muslim scholars to find ways of widening the provision of imam training in France. In the Dutch parliament, a backbench motion demanding that all incoming foreign imams undergo religious training in the Netherlands has won the backing of an overwhelming majority of MPs. Currently, most imams working in Western Europe are trained abroad. In France, 90% come from North Africa. Of approximately 2,000 in Britain, a similar proportion are thought to come from abroad, mostly educated in traditional madrassas, or seminaries, in the Indian subcontinent. In the Netherlands, the vast majority are from Turkey and Morocco. It is thought that most imams in Britain cannot speak English, although more than half of Muslims are UK-born. It is a similar position in the Netherlands. "I think it is very important you get a Dutch kind of Islam in the Netherlands," says the sponsor of the imam training motion, MP Mirjam Sterk. "So you have imams who grow up here and know how Dutch society works and do not have to read it from books."

    Guarded response
    In the Netherlands, the idea is an attempt to build on specially-tailored citizenship courses which are now obligatory for foreign imams moving there. In Britain, the first government-funded management training course for imams is due to start shortly. The initiative comes originally from the Muslim community. But the proposals in Britain and the Netherlands for state involvement in religious training have met a more guarded response. "If they train imams they must train other religions too," says Palestinian-born Rotterdam Councillor Mohammed Abu Leil. "This motion will make imams [in the Netherlands] like the imams in our countries. They are only a loudspeaker for the government." Another objection is raised by one of the leaders of the 400,000-strong Dutch Turkish community, Ayhan Tonca. At present, the community is served by special "commuter imams" sent over for four years by the Turkish government. The system prevents many imams from integrating in Dutch society, but it ensures that Dutch Muslims of Turkish origin are taught a moderate Turkish brand of Islam. "They think imams educated here will be liberal," says Tonca. "This is a misunderstanding. There is no guarantee that when you educate imams in Holland they will not be fundamentalists. "I talk to young Muslim people here, and they are radicalising, because of all the negative talk about Islam in the West." In the Netherlands, officials are not always afraid to use the word "control" to describe their policies towards Muslims. In Britain, the approach has tended to be more delicate, and some Muslims welcome the possibility of state funding for some training initiatives. The problem though, all over Europe, will be deciding what is "moderate Islam" and what is not, a tricky question for non-Muslims to be involved in. Tariq Ramadan is a charismatic Swiss Muslim theologian who now has a large following among French-speaking Muslim youth in several countries. He calls on believers to claim their full rights - and take on their full responsibilities - as European citizens. But he insists that Muslims in Europe must have complete independence - financial and intellectual - from governments. "The fear is we go from dependency on the Middle East to dependency on European governments," he says. "And we do not want that. We want independence."
    ©BBC News

    17/6/2004- European neo-Nazis post online pictures of paint-smeared mosques. Web sites of Islamic radicals call for holy war on the West. Aliases like "Jew Killer" pop up on Internet game sites. International experts met Wednesday in Paris to tackle the tricky task of fighting anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic propaganda on the Internet -- seen as a chief factor in a rise in hate crime. Purveyors of hate have found a potent tool in the Internet, spreading fear with such grisly images as the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. The new technology has proven to be a boon for hatreds of old, many experts say. "Our responsibility is to underline that by its own characteristics -- notably, immediacy and anonymity -- the Internet has seduced the networks of intolerance," French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said in opening remarks at the two-day conference. France, which is spearheading the effort, has faced a surge in anti-Semitic violence in the last two years. Some fault the growth of Internet use among hate groups. But differing views about the limits of free speech and the ease of public access to the nebulous, anonymous Web largely stymied officials hoping to find common ground in Wednesday's talks. A sticking point was whether the United States, which has championed nearly unfettered free speech, would line up with European countries that have banned racist or anti-Semitic speech in public. The dilemma is all the more acute because the Internet is global, easy to use and tough to regulate -- as shown by widespread sharing of music online, an illegal practice that has confounded record companies. Terror groups have also used the Internet to plot attacks.

    American approach differs
    There are no easy solutions, delegates said. Many urged more youth education, better cooperation between governments and Internet service providers, or new studies on links between Web racism and hate crimes. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a 55-country body that promotes security and human rights, organized the conference with the backing of the French government. Six countries in the Middle East and North Africa also sent envoys. The meeting is one of three OSCE conferences on anti-Semitism and racism this year. U.S. Assistant Attorney General Dan Bryant acknowledged the American approach differs from that of other countries. "We believe that government efforts to regulate bias-motivated speech on the Internet are fundamentally mistaken," Bryant said. "At the same time, however, the United States has not stood and will not stand idly by, when individuals cross the line from protected speech to criminal conduct." He said the United States believes the best way to reduce hate speech is to confront it, by promoting tolerance, understanding and other ideas that enlighten. Robert Badinter, a former French justice minister, said that of 4,000 "racist sites" counted worldwide in 2002, some 2,500 were based in the United States.

    Growing problem
    There are signs that online hate is getting worse. The French foreign minister cited a recent report in Britain that showed the number of "violent and extremist sites" had ballooned by 300 percent in the last four years in 15 OSCE countries surveyed. France last year banned a Web site responsible for thousands of daily racist messages, one of which claimed responsibility for dousing mosques with paint in the colors of the French flag, the International Network Against Cyber Hate wrote in a report released Wednesday. Christopher Wolf, chairman of the Internet Task Force of the U.S. Anti-Defamation League, pointed out how one student on a blog site at Brandeis University described playing an Internet video game against a rival who had nicknamed himself "Jew Killer." In Egypt, some sites have shown pictures of American soldiers in Iraq to dredge up ©Cable News Network

    18/6/2004- The OSCE conference in Paris on the relationship between racist, xenophobic and antisemitic propaganda on the Internet and hate crimes was a resounding success. The International Network Against Cyber Hate started to lobby the OSCE for a conference on this subject in 2002 and were supported in this by the French OSCE delegation, which Resulted in French Government organizing and hosting the conference on June 16 and 17, 2004 in Paris. INACH-members, candidate members & cooperation partners organized the side-event 'Dealing with Cyber Hate on a Daily Basis' provided experts in every session of the conference and generated a number of recommendations of which most were incorporated in the closing statement of the conference.

    INACH published a special report, especially for the conference:
    'Hate on the Net - Virtual nursery for In Real Life crime'
    Speeches, Interventions & reports by INACH members

    Headway was made in understanding the scope and nature of Cyberhate. The United states and the European countries came closer together on the subject of 'the Atlantic divide', freedom of speech versus hate speech legislation. The INACH network applauds the commitment and leadership the OSCE participating states have shown, dealing with this extremely important and difficult subject during this conference. INACH will continue to strengthen and extend its network of agencies countering hate on the Internet, mainly through direct (legal) action to get hate removed, and through education.

    18/6/2004- Four months before a crucial Commission report on Turkey's chances to enter the EU, enlargement commissioner Günter Verheugen said yesterday (17 June) that the human rights situation in Turkey still leaves a lot to be desired. Speaking before the think-tank "Friends of Europe" in Brussels, Mr Verheugen said that despite progress made, "negative events remain" with respect to Turkey's democracy and human rights record. By mid-October, the Commission will assess in a key report whether Turkey fulfils the EU's democracy and human rights criteria - a formal precondition for Ankara to start accession talks with the EU. But Mr Verheugen signalled that it is still far from clear whether this report will give the actual go-ahead for talks.
    He stated:
    "There continues to be court cases against people expressing non violent opinion. There is evidence that human rights defenders are still subject to harassment and intimidation from the authorities". The Commissioner went on to say that "although the scale of torture has been reduced, there are still reports of cases of ill-treatment including torture, in particular in custody". He added that "the situation of women is still far from satisfactory". "There appears to be little progress towards a systematic solution of the problems faced by non-Muslim communities".

    'Turkey is a candidate country'
    On the other hand, Mr Verheugen also underlined that the status of Turkey as a candidate EU member state is not up for discussion anymore. "Turkey is a candidate country. This was confirmed by the heads of states and Governments in Helsinki in December 1999". "The issue we face is therefore not whether Turkey can be a member of the EU, but whether and when negotiations on the accession of Turkey can begin". Mr Verheugen's comments follow recently expressed statements by politicans, notably in France, Germany and Austria, saying that Turkey should not become a member of the EU at all.

    Is the EU ready for Turkey?
    The enlargement Commissioner's spokesman told the EUobserver that the Commission is also to present a separate study along with its report in October, which will assess the consequences of Turkey's accession for the EU itself. Mr Verheugen referred to this study in his speech while stating: "On its side, the EU will also have to examine whether it is ready for Turkey's accession". He added: "This would fundamentally affect many policy areas and the functioning of the EU institutions". But Mr Verheugen's spokesman declined to say whether the Commission is therefore considering the need for an extra round of institutional reforms - even after the EU Constitution - as some voices in the debate have proposed. After the release of the crucial Commission report in October, EU leaders will decide in December whether or not to start formal accession negotiations with Ankara

    22/6/2004- Secretary General Kofi Annan has declared there is an "alarming resurgence" of anti-Semitism in the world and called on UN bodies to adopt resolutions and investigate the ancient scourge.Annan opened the first-ever UN-organized seminar dedicated to anti-Semitism in response to charges that the world body dwelled on Palestinian rights and deliberately ignored injustices to Israelis and Jews. "It is clear that we are witnessing an alarming resurgence of this phenomenon in new forms and manifestations," Annan said on Monday. "This time the world must not, cannot be silent." After the daylong meeting, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom called Annan to congratulate him on the speech and hoped "this will be a turning point in relations between the UN and Jews," said Israel's deputy ambassador Arye Mekel. Annan said it was hard to believe that 60 years after the Holocaust anti-Semitism was rearing its head. "When we seek justice for the Palestinians -- as we must -- let us firmly disavow anyone who tries to use that cause to incite hatred against Jews, in Israel or elsewhere," Annan told the gathering of about 400 Jewish and other religious leaders. Annan called on the General Assembly to adopt a resolution similar to a pledge by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which said the Middle East conflict could never justify anti-Semitism and attacks on Jews. He also said the UN Commission on Human Rights should examine anti-Semitism with the same diligence it looked into racism against Muslims. "Are not Jews entitled to the same degree of concern and protection?" Annan asked. The Jewish leaders pointed to expressions of extreme anti-Semitism in the Arab world and a flurry of attacks in Europe. Only Germany came in for praise for trying to combat anti-Semitism, despite incidents there too.

    Levels unseen since second world war
    The seminar, at which no government envoys spoke although they were in the audience, mostly stayed clear of current Israeli policies and concentrated on the United Nations and a spike in attacks on Jews. "Anti-Semitic acts around the world are occurring at a rate unseen since the end of the Second World War," said Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress. He said in France the Jewish community reported more than one anti-Semitic incident a day while the Canadian Jewish community had one of the longest sustained periods of anti-Semitic acts in its history." The strongest attack on the United Nations and even Annan himself came from Anne Bayefsky, an adjunct Columbia University professor. She received a standing ovation, although not all speakers agreed with her. "The United Nations has become the leading global purveyor of anti-Semitism, intolerance and inequality against the Jewish people and its state," she said, adding that the world body had become a platform for those who "cast the victims of the Nazis as the Nazi counterparts of the 21st century." It wasn't always that way. The General Assembly voted in November 1947 to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, which led to Israel's creation a year later. But after the 1967 war, which left Israel in control of the Sinai, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Golan Heights, the Jewish state was condemned in a slew of annual resolutions by newly independent developing nations. Keynote speaker, Elie Wiesel, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, said he thought anti-Semitism had perished in the Auschwitz death camp, "but only the Jews perished there." He warned that discrimination against Jews translated into hatred against all minorities and "those who are different."

    22/6/2004- An elderly woman complained that police dragged her from bed, threw her in jail, then forced her to walk home in her nightgown. A 10-year-old girl said officers broke her arm because she "got in the way." Inmates at RCMP holding cells said they could shower only once a week, and became infected with scabies. After hearing these and many other stories, a $2.8-million investigation into Saskatchewan's justice system reported yesterday that anti-native racism exists in the police system and contributes to an environment of mistrust. Among its 122 recommendations were that an agency be established to handle complaints against police and that police stations have aboriginal liaison officers. The investigation was launched in late 2001, amid international furor over so-called "starlight tours." These involved police allegedly abandoning native men on the outskirts of Saskatoon in the deadly cold. The Commission on First Nations and Métis Peoples and Justice Reform talked to aboriginal people over the past two years. As the five commissioners travelled across the province, however, they discovered that the problem of police abuse against natives went far beyond the city limits of Saskatoon.

    "The abuse seems to be widespread," commission chairman Wilton Littlechild said. "When we talked with the police, they said they're frustrated by the number of false allegations. In their view, it's not so common. But hearing all those stories, my personal opinion and belief is that it is widespread." Another commissioner suggested that a national study might find similar complaints in other provinces. "What surprised me is that it happens all over, and probably across the country," said Joe Quewezance, former chief of the Saskatoon Tribal Council. The report suggests that an independent provincial investigation agency be established to handle allegations of police abuse and excessive force. It also recommends using video equipment to monitor officers' actions, and hiring aboriginal liaison workers to staff police stations and detachments. The other recommendations take a broader look at the problems of aboriginals in the justice system. Many focus on ways of keeping aboriginals from breaking the law, and ways of handling native offenders that might circumvent police and courts. "These are themes we wholeheartedly endorse and adopt," Saskatchewan Justice Minister Frank Quennell said. He added that it's too early to say which recommendations will be implemented, however, and his cash-strapped NDP government has only $200,000 in this year's budget for responses to the commission. The province will give a more detailed response in "early 2005," he said.

    Spokesmen for the RCMP and the Saskatoon Police Service said they need time to read the hefty two-volume report before making statements. The province's largest native organization, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, also declined to comment. Mr. Littlechild said the native chiefs had been hoping the report would recommend a separate justice system for status Indian bands. Although he's aware that recommendations from previous reports haven't been implemented, the lawyer and former MP said he hopes his team collected enough evidence to provoke action. A few of the worst stories were presented to the commission in a report from Métis Family and Community Justice Services, Inc. "Many Métis community members raised allegations of police abuse of authority and excessive use of force," the report says, and offered some examples from Northern Saskatchewan. "Police assaulted a 10-year-old girl and broke her arm. The police were attempting to get access to her parents and she 'got in the way.'." The report said a band elder was taken into custody in her nightgown, and later "released and left to find her own way home." The report also said conditions in some northern jail cells are so bad that inmates shower only once a week and some developed scabies. Most of the people put in these cells are native.

    Other stories came from meetings with natives in 19 communities around the province. A speaker in the northerly community of Black Lake described a night in 2000 when her drunken daughter encountered two officers. "She kind of resisted a little bit," the speaker said. "They smashed her right into the frozen ground, head first, smashed her nose." A police investigation gave little comfort. "They did an investigation. You know what they call it? Police technique. Police technique applied to her. If that's police technique, I'm afraid of them." The report concluded that the province's police and aboriginals no longer trust each other. "The commission has concluded that racism in police services does exist and is a major contributor to the environment of mistrust and misunderstanding that exists in Saskatchewan," the report states. Among the recommendations for combatting racism are better screening of police recruits, improved training and more hiring of aboriginal officers. "We want to return justice to the aboriginal community," Mr. Littlechild said at a press conference in Saskatoon. "Future generations cannot afford the social or financial consequences of the status quo."
    The full report
    ©Globe and Mail

    10/6/2004- French actress turned animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot was convicted on Thursday of inciting racial hatred and ordered to pay $6,000 -- the fourth such fine for the former sex symbol since 1997. The Paris court sentenced Bardot, 69, for remarks made in her book "A Scream in the Silence," an outspoken attack on gays, immigrants and the jobless which shocked France last year. In the book, she laments the "Islamisation of France" and the "underground and dangerous infiltration of Islam." "Mme Bardot presents Muslims as barbaric and cruel invaders, responsible for terrorist acts and eager to dominate the French to the extent of wanting to exterminate them," the court said. France's five million-strong Muslim community is the largest in Europe. Bardot, who was not present at the verdict, denied the charges in a tearful court appearance last month, saying her book did not target Islam or people from North Africa. She told the court that France was going through a period of decadence and said she opposed inter-racial marriage. "I was born in 1934, at that time inter-racial marriage wasn't approved of," she said. "There are many new languages in the new Europe. Mediocrity is taking over from beauty and splendor. There are many people who are filthy, badly dressed and badly shaven." In her book, she also attacks homosexuals as "fairground freaks," condemns the presence of women in government and denounces the "scandal of unemployment benefit." Bardot's attacks on Muslims prompted anti-racism groups to launch legal proceedings against the former star, who turned her back on cinema after 46 films to concentrate on animal welfare. The court awarded a symbolic one euro in damages to France's anti-racism movement MRAP and to the League for Human Rights. It also sentenced the head of Bardot's publishing house Le Rocher to a $6,000 fine and ordered both to pay for advertisements in two newspapers announcing their conviction. Bardot, in her 1960s heyday the epitome of French feminine beauty, was already fined $3,250 in January 1998 for inciting racial hatred in comments about civilian massacres in Algeria. Four months earlier, a court fined her for saying France was being overrun by sheep-slaughtering Muslims.

    8/6/2004- Two French men married at the weekend in the country's first gay wedding are facing a state legal bid to bring them to court and annul the marriage. Stephane Chapin and Bertrand Charpentier exchanged vows on Saturday in Begles, a town near Bordeaux. State prosecutor Bertrand de Loze has now formally started proceedings to annul the ceremony. Mayor of Begles Noel Mamere, who carried out the ceremony, is also facing possible suspension and a fine. The men are expected to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights and one of their lawyers said the prospect of a court summons was welcome. "It does not disturb me," said Caroline Mecary. "This hearing will allow us to discuss the issues seriously in front of the judge, away from political speeches." Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on Monday repeated his opposition to the wedding in a television interview. "The state which I represent as prime minister cannot accept that a public sector employee should be able to take decisions against the law..." Mr Raffarin told news channel LCI. "I would be weak if I were not to act against a public sector employee, a registrar, who behaves in an illegal manner." Public opinion on gay weddings is divided. A recent poll by Elle magazine suggested that around two thirds of French people were in favour of same-sex weddings. Civil unions between gay couples are already allowed but do not allow the same tax, inheritance and parenting rights. Mr Raffarin, in his interview, said he would introduce a law soon banning homophobic insults.
    ©BBC News

    10/6/2004- Gay couples say Switzerland's new law recognising same-sex partners as next-of-kin falls short, because it does not allow for marriage or adoption. But with a referendum looming on the new law, they say the fight for more rights will have to wait. Parliament on Thursday cleared the last hurdle for a new law allowing gay couples to register their partnerships. In the case of the death of one partner, the other can inherit shared property without paying a huge tax bill. But the law does not confer rights to marry, adopt children or undergo invitro fertilisation.

    A small religious conservative party has already made it clear that it will challenge the decision. The Federal Democratic Union said parliament should not be supporting alternative lifestyles, adding that it was confident it could collect enough signatures to force a nationwide vote. The gay rights group, Pink Cross, said on Thursday that its priority was to ensure that the new legislation was not overturned. Spokesman Jean-Paul Guisan said any attempts to have adoption and marriage rights included in the law would have killed its progress through parliament. "We needed this to pass in its current form. If we had said ‘it's marriage or nothing', we would have got nothing. We need to proceed carefully, and we are so glad to have this much."

    Inheritance rights
    Guisan said the law solved the most important problems, such as inheritance rights and the rights of a foreign partner. He added that it was a welcome first step towards ending discrimination against gays and lesbians in the areas of health insurance, pensions and taxes. "It also satisfies us on a symbolic level, because the law recognises that same-sex couples exist. That recognises the dignity of all homosexual people, even those who aren't couples," said Guisan. Claude Janiak, a member of parliament for the centre-left Social Democrats, echoed the Pink Cross, saying he was "satisfied" with what had been achieved so far. "It eliminates the most important areas of discrimination. I feel very grateful that it went through parliament relatively fast," he said. "There are still some major questions, like adoption rights."

    Major improvement
    Doris Leuthard, interim president of the Christian Democratic Party, also describes the new legislation as "a major improvement". Leuthard's party has traditionally stood for family values and its power base is in Catholic regions of Switzerland. "Registration gives rights that are comparable to the rights of marriage, even if it is does not allow for marriage like in some European countries," said Leuthard. "Of course, there are many countries which have done nothing about this issue. "I have talked to a number of organisations and many say ‘this is ok for us'. Adoption is more of a concern of lesbians than male same-sex couples. I believe that the law we now have also serves the interests of children." The decision by parliament to give gays and lesbians similar rights to heterosexual couples comes three years after the city of Geneva introduced its own legislation governing same-sex partnerships. Last year Zurich became the second Swiss city to grant official recognition to gay couples.
    ©NZZ Online

    9/6/2004- Norway's soccer federation (NFF) will fine Bergen's top division football club Brann NOK 50,000 (USD 7,480) after several supporters spat on Sogndal's American player Robbie Russell, newspaper Bergens Tidende reports. A special committee will review the ruling on the incident. The NFF said that their board was concerned that the incident be punished hard, and said that "the club has an objective responsibility for the behavior of their supporters". The judgment noted that Brann's actions after the incident constituted mitigating circumstances, when the club quickly and consistently demonstrated that the behavior shown was unacceptable. Brann representatives were disappointed by the NFF's stance. "I think it is strange that clubs can at any time be held responsible for what individuals do. What chances do we have to stop such individual acts," said general manager Bjørn Dahl on the Brann web site. Russell, who also had to endure racist heckling throughout the match, called the ordeal the worst in his career. Brann players apologized directly after the match and the club management used TV footage to seek out the offenders.

    9/6/2004- The government has been accused of failing to provide a state education system that meets Muslim pupils' needs. A group of Muslim academics and education experts says "institutional racism" is stopping more Muslim state schools being set up. Their Muslims on Education report calls for curriculum changes, suggesting there might be an Islamic Studies A-level. Other recommendations include reversing the trend of mixed sex education, and training staff in religious awareness. The report, being published on Wednesday - and billed as the first substantial feedback to ministers by Muslim groups - says many Muslims do not have access to any suitable education.

    It calls for the fast-tracking of more of the 80 or so independent Muslim schools into the state sector. So far only five have qualified for state funding. The authors, who include the Association of Muslim Social Scientists, reject claims that single faith schools have contributed to divisions in society. They say greater privacy should be built into changing facilities and the mother tongues of Muslim pupils should be taught more widely. The report also cites incidents of insensitivity towards Muslim pupils - such as serving pork in school meals - and calls for religious awareness training for staff to avoid them. Labour peer Baroness Uddin told Radio 4's Today programme there needed to be a debate about why Pakistani and Bangladeshi children in state schools were not performing to their maximum. And she called for Muslim schools to be treated like other faith schools. She said: "There should be recognition of these schools which have been working for a long time and should be state funded, just like Jewish and Church of England schools."

    Irish divisions
    Kurshid Ahmed of the Commission for Racial Equality told BBC News state school provision for Muslims could be improved, but warned that separate faith schools prevented integration. A select committee of MPs looking into race riots a few years ago suggested Muslim schools caused social division. Its chairman, Labour MP Andrew Bennett, told Today religious schools in Northern Ireland showed this to be the case. He applauded some parts of the report but added: "More faith schools is the easy cop-out." A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills said: "We are committed to raising the standard of every pupil, regardless of their social or religious background. "Schools and teachers must respect the different faiths and customs of all their pupils. "It is up to individual governing bodies, schools and LEAs to decide if they wish to provide facilities specifically aimed at certain religious beliefs. And we know that many more schools and LEAs are doing just that." A spokesman for the prime minister added: "The government's view is that these issues are dealt with at a local level. Any decisions to create a new faith school are made there. "We are not campaigning for more faith schools, but we support those that are there already."
    ©BBC News

    9/6/2004- Mindless thugs lobbed eggs and a pork chop at the window of a Muslim mother's house in a cruel "race attack". Topaz Xantia claims she has suffered racial torment for the last three years and now wants to move out of her home in Broadfield. Police investigated the latest incident, which took place on Friday, but due to a lack of witnesses are not taking the matter further. Miss Xantia, of Davis Close, is angry because she believes people are targeting her because of her religion. The 37-year-old said: "The eggs - that happens, kids do stupid things, I can understand that. As soon as I saw the pork chop, being a Muslim, it is a clear statement of what they are doing to me. "I definitely want to move now. The whole weekend I have been scared, shaking and having panic attacks." Miss Xantia moved to the UK when she was nine and has never suffered any form of racism before this. She said: "Although I am from East Africa, I count Britain as my home. I have grown up here, I am British." Now she is worried about her own daughter, Areepha, nine, who comes in nearly every evening crying as a result of name calling. Life is also difficult for Miss Xantia as she suffers from Lupus, an incurable immune system illness, causing her to be signed off work. Miss Xantia has now been put on a housing transfer list and is hoping to move. She said: "I shouldn't have to live in fear. But that is how I feel now." Sussex Police spokesman Jim Paton confirmed: "Police attended and talked to the victim about what she alleges may have been carried out."
    ©IC Network

    Compulsory citizenship classes in secondary schools are another example of a big Labour idea that is not working, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya

    10/6/2004- As I write this we are preparing to vote. The mainstream parties are admitting their difficulties in an attempt to soften the impact of the anticipated losses. The political class is steeling itself for what is almost certain to be, dubious postal votes aside, an embarrassingly low turnout. We wait to see if smaller parties will soak up the benefits of widespread disaffection with the political process, or whether mainstream parties can hold on to the fiction that they represent the public. Either way, it is unlikely that these elections will be a glowing example of our inclusive and vibrant democracy. Meanwhile, a recent study into the provision of citizenship education in secondary schools found that "provision is uneven, patchy and evolving". Another big idea that is not working yet.

    Compulsory citizenship education was one of those more admirable Labour projects, announced in November 1997 during those first heady months of government, as an outcome of the white paper Excellence in schools. After we have grown so tired of testing, measuring and league tables, it is worth remembering that there was also another vision for the role of schooling in the almost forgotten first term, education for citizenship and the teaching of democracy. The Crick Report that advised the shape of citizenship education set its sights high, "We aim at no less than a change in the political culture of this country both nationally and locally: for people to think of themselves as active citizens, willing, able and equipped to have an influence in public life and with the critical capacities to weigh evidence before speaking and acting." Pretty big claims - although no more than us ever optimistic educators hope for - if learning things can't change the world, what can? The Labour project, subject of so much derision and ridicule, started out with these big hopes and dreams - not only to make the Labour party electable once more, but also to change how people think and feel so that we all become invested in a shared project of social justice. The Thatcher revolution cut away this ground from the left, appealing to individualism, competition, a celebration of getting ahead by any means necessary. As a result, the whole basis of the post-war consensus, and particularly the suggestion that the welfare state was a desirable compact between us all, came under attack. Social co-operation and public service lost ground to entrepreneurialism and self-sufficiency, and, for a while, it looked like the Labour party had become a relic of another long-lost era.

    In response, the project to rebuild the Labour party also included a wish to remake everyday consciousness, to reach out to hearts and minds but also to recreate a culture of community responsibility and mutuality. Trying to teach citizenship as part of compulsory schooling is part of this project - because if these values can be sewn into everyone's school experience, the centre-left can be sure of owning the terrain of political debate, perhaps forever. All of this is well and good, providing there is some agreement about what constitutes the culture of citizenship. Yet, seven years later, the Home Office has issued a consultation about community cohesion and race equality - and it is really a set of questions about citizenship and what, if anything, binds us together as a society. Although the debate about citizenship education begins as a concern about shared political understanding and culture for everyone, increasingly citizenship has come to be portrayed as a problem issue in relation to minority ethnic communities. The whole concept of the citizen test is a case in point, with migrants who wish to gain British citizenship being asked to demonstrate knowledge that often is not shared by th silence and misunderstanding. But aren't all those schools with their uneven, patchy and evolving provision supposed to be teaching this mysterious thing, citizenship, already? Isn't there something a little odd about admitting, seven years on, to being absolutely clueless about a central thread of your cultural project? And isn't all of this embarrassing bumbling caused by the issue of "race". In 1997, the incoming Labour government was proud of its anti-racist credentials - instituting the Stephen Lawrence inquiry as proof of its commitment in this area. Citizenship education at that point was based on an optimism about re-activating community spirit and getting people to do things, most of all, for themselves. Seven years on, things are more uncertain. Labour has been trying to placate racists, but somehow to keep anti-racism - and in the process, citizenship has come to be seen as a cultural identification with an unspecified Britishness, not a set of activities that anyone can do. No wonder we are uneven and patchy providers of citizenship education - who knows how to teach people to be?

    Binge-drinking and the Royal family aside, no one really knows what Britishness means. Much better to split the whole notion of citizenship away from the confusions of national identity if we are ever going to learn to live together. And maybe if we can get back to thinking of citizenship as a set of things to do, it might get easier to teach.
    ©The Guardian

    Labour's war on refugees was an outstanding success. Unless you're still seeking asylum, that is
    By Nick Cohen in Calais

    13/6/2004- Tour Calais and you soon wonder why the xenophobic right is so restless and successful in Britain. New Labour seems to have delivered what its conservative critics wanted and won the battle against the asylum seekers. Why the anger? Why the passionate belief that 'they' have betrayed 'us' and abandoned control of the borders to Brussels bureaucrats and liberal judges? The evidence from Calais is that border controls have never been stricter except in war. Where two years ago travellers from Paris on the Eurostar would see bands of desperate men at the mouth of the Channel Tunnel waiting to jump the train or march through to Kent like regiments of an invading army, today few get past the barbed-wire fences and security cameras. The magnet which dragged refugees to the coast lost its attraction when the Red Cross camp at Sangatte, a village just outside Calais, was closed 18 months ago. Until then, the cynicism of the slippery French authorities which wanted to push their refugees to Britain was denounced daily in the morning tabloids and on the evening news. Today the perfidy is forgotten as France gives a convincing impression of being as tough as the Home Office. In true modern fashion, Sangatte's civic dignitaries are seeking to rebrand and relaunch their village, as a quiet stop for discerning tourists heading down the coast road to Normandy. The mayor of Calais appears to have gone further and imposed a colour bar. I've never seen another European city as uniformly white, let alone another port. It's as if everyone has been bleached.

    There are still asylum seekers knocking about, but their condition is testimony to the success of the campaign against them. Numbers are everything in the asylum battle, and nothing like the 67,000 who passed through Sangatte between 1999 and 2002 are in northern France. Local charities guess that about 200 refugees are wandering the country roads between Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk, camping in woods and waiting for a gap to appear in the walls of Fortress Europe. They're a different type of asylum seeker from their predecessors. Harder men, with the physical and mental resources to bide their time. The graffiti on a derelict quayside warehouse emphasises their strength - 'Reza, the strapping man' reads one defiant inscription. An Iranian bragged that he would never give up trying to reach Britain. Even when he was old with a cane, he would keep on trying. Such boasts are the stuff of populist nightmares. But the fact on the ground remains that there are only dozens in the Pas de Calais advertising their defiance, where once there were thousands. At the refugee centre at the Church of St Joseph, just off the road that takes the tourists from the ferries to the booze hypermarkets, no one can understand why an English reporter has bothered to pay a visit. Wasn't the real story two years ago? 'Well,' I mumble in terrible French, 'we've had elections in Britain dominated by race and fear of foreigners and I want to find out if there are good reasons behind it.' Racism? Fear? They shrug. Same everywhere.

    Helping refugees is a dangerous business in France. After Sangatte closed, the office of the Calais mayor complained that charities were providing a 'focal point' where people smugglers could meet clients. Their workers duly felt the gendarmes' hands on their collars. Two Calais activists, Jean-Claude Lenoir, a teacher, and Charles Framezelles - who, with that ready Gallic wit, has been nicknamed 'The Moustache' because he has a moustache - have been banned on pain of imprisonment from going near asylum seekers after being found guilty of 'assistance with the entry and the irregular stay' of refugees. It's not that churches and others can't help refugees, but their volunteers have been a little frightened since the convictions. Meanwhile, the asylum seekers themselves need the guile and ruthlessness of a special forces' commando when they move from the town's soup kitchens to the docks. The high-tech weapons of the contemporary state are arrayed against them. The British government paid for infra-red cameras and heartbeat and carbon dioxide detectors to be installed at Calais, Ostend and Zeebrugge. If the heat, pulse or breath of an illicit human being is discovered, the alarms scream for the heavies to come running. If the police's technology fails, P&O's sailors carry hand-held wands which scan the sides of lorries for traces of life inside. And the machines which ferret out the human race from its darkest hiding places do work with exemplary efficiency. Last year the number of people caught by French frontier police trying to smuggle themselves across the Channel doubled, while the number of stowaways caught at Dover halved. A refugee from Palestine or the Sudan can still make it to Britain, but he would need money to buy false papers and identities from the human-trafficking gangs, whose services are neither efficient nor cheap.

    Tony Blair is winning the battle to slash the number of asylum seekers. The cleansing of Calais of unwanted migrants is a testimony to his success. Yet a vocal section of the electorate is as furious about asylum as it is about Europe and nourishes the indestructible conviction that it has been stabbed in the back by the liberal elite. Are the UKIP voters, Tories, Daily Mail readers and bawlers on radio phone-ins self-pitying fools? Are they too lost in their over-fed emotions of grievance and resentment to open their narrow eyes and see what has happened? It's an attractive thesis and one which contains a good deal of truth. But for all its plausibility, the public has been lied to, although not in a manner it wishes to understand. The lie was heard thousands of times in the 1990s when Labour and Conservative politicians and journalists announced 'we have nothing against genuine refugees, it's only economic migrants we're against'. The truth was the precise opposite. The government was and is desperate to keep out genuine refugees and equally desperate to bring in economic migrants. The turning of refugees into the great hate figures of the 1990s was inspired by honest and dishonest motives. The genuine practical difficulty was that about 500,000 people applied for asylum in Britain between 1991 and 2001 - an unprecedented number of single-minded and frantic people who would have strained the bureaucratic resources of any government. The mendacity lay in the response. The government has done its level best to stop all asylum seekers reaching Dover: the genuine along with the bogus; the victims of persecution along with the chancers. Any country from the Zimbabwe to Iraq which produced vast numbers of refugees had visa restrictions imposed on it, but Britain wouldn't give visas to asylum seekers. Beginning with airlines when the Tories were in power, and then moving on to the owners of ships, lorries, coaches and cars under New Labour, anyone found guilty of carrying an asylum seeker to Britain was liable for a hefty fine. The fact that the refugee in the back of the cab was a modern Anne Frank was no defence. If you were carrying a visaless refugee you were guilty. Sangatte became a magnet in part because Eurostar was the last travel company to have carriers' liability imposed on it.

    The pushing of refugees into the arms of criminal gangs continues to this day. Yet another New Labour asylum bill is before Parliament. It proposes to make it a criminal offence for an asylum seeker to arrive in Britain without a genuine passport. Genuine refugees often destroy their passports so that their persecutors can't discover their identities. Or as Tony Blair said when Labour was in opposition: 'The Secretary of State spoke about those who destroy documents. That is not necessarily evidence of fraud. There may be good reason why that happened.' In the late 1990s, Blair, Jack Straw and Geoff Hoon won admiring headlines from the right-wing press for their harsh approach, but in winning the battle they lost the war. For years people have heard of the tough measures against the demonised refugees then look around and see economic migrants everywhere: Poles on building sights, Chinese picking cockles and Filipinos running hospital wards. Left-of-centre governments can't thrive in such a poisonous atmosphere. They should try to change the climate by telling the public the truth that Britain needs hard-working, well-qualified immigrants, and those seeking asylum include men and women with both those qualities. Instead, Labour politicians have chosen to ride the populist tiger and have no way of controlling where that rough beast will take them or us.
    ©The Guardian

    13/6/2004- Britain's race watchdog will warn chief constables they must improve the treatment of black and Asian officers or face unprecedented legal action. A damning report shows that more than half the forces investigated by the Commission for Racial Equality are failing to implement anti-racism policies. The CRE launched its investigation into racism in the police last October after a surge in officers' complaints of racial abuse. It followed the screening of the BBC'sPanorama documentary "The Secret Policeman", which showed recruits making racist remarks about fellow officers. One trainee was shown wearing a Ku Klux Klan-style hood and making insulting remarks about the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence. Tomorrow, Trevor Phillips, chairman of the CRE, will also reveal that forces are failing to implement race equality regulations, with only one out of every 15 having a scheme in place. The report is also expected to show that a special psychometric test brought in to weed out racist officers has in fact been filtering out black and Asian recruits instead. The Black Police Association (BPA), which represents black and Asian officers, said it would welcome the CRE's interim findings. Dr Ali Dizaei, legal adviser to the association, said the BPA had been asking the CRE to use its powers against racist forces for more than two years. "If this is the case, then it confirms what we have thought all along - and we hope that racism is tackled once and for all," he said. "Police forces have made great strides in tackling racism in the community, but this is not reflected in their internal dealings with ethnic officers." A source said the message from the race body was that chief constables had to improve conditions for ethnic officers. "The bottom line is that they [the police] are in breach of the law," said the source. "This is a warning to the police that they have to do something or we will do something about it."
    © Independent Digital

    12/6/2004- The Government says it is necessary, whereas many intellectuals denounce it as illiberal and racist. But the Republic of Ireland is on the brink of a placing a historic restriction on Irish citizenship. Voters in yesterday's European elections in the Republic were also voting on a referendum to the Irish constitution that would remove the traditional entitlement to Irish citizenship of anyone born in the country. Although there were allegations of racism before the vote, opinion polls show that a majority of voters intend to support the move. If the constitutional amendment is passed, citizenship will only be granted to babies with at least one parent who has lived in Ireland for at least three of the past four years. The move is opposed by two of the smaller parties, Labour and Sinn Fein, but the parties in the governing coalition support the move and so does the other large party, Fine Gael. Many voters are confused as to what has motivated the move but a substantial majority appears to have accepted the argument that the present system is open to abuse because Ireland is the only European state with an automatic right to citizenship at birth. There have been reports of heavily pregnant women arriving in the country to have their babies and then departing again within days. But there is heated debate over the scale of such cases. The authorities say the new scheme would put a stop to the practice, portraying it as sensible protection and not a racist policy.

    One critic, Proinsias De Rossa of the Labour Party, declared of the government: "They are promoting intolerance and they are a disgrace. People should vote against this proposal. It is not the kind of Ireland we want." The former US Congressman Bruce Morrison, who has helped thousands of Irish people emigrate to America, argued that immigrants "have prospered in America and enhanced the prosperity and cultural richness of our whole nation". A prominent Presbyterian churchman, the Rev Trevor Morrow, said the measure was outrageous. Reflecting Ireland's development as a multi-cultural society during the past decade, he said his County Kildare congregation had been "enriched by brothers and sisters from every continent of the world". Sunday school, he said, was like "a mini-United Nations". Opposition has also come from writers and artists, some of whom issued a statement saying: "The right to citizenship through birthplace is a beautiful concept. It is expressive of the generous imagination and true spirituality of the Irish people." The Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, said citizenship should be awarded only to those whose parents had a genuine link with the country. He said: "I want everyone to study the proposal and ignore attempts to make the debate more heated and emotional. We have been accused of being racists and of scapegoating women from minority groups. This is nonsense." The government appears to have won the argument. A recent opinion poll showed that 57 per cent of voters were in favour of the move, 22 per cent were against and 21 per cent were undecided. Mr Ahern said that parents were using their Irish-born children to claim a right to live in Ireland or in one of the 24 other European Union countries. A change, he said, was needed to bring Irish laws into line with the rest of Europe. He said that significant numbers were travelling to Ireland while pregnant and claiming asylum and that there were disproportionate numbers of late or unbooked attendances at maternity hospitals for non-EU nationals, a situation which he described as highly dangerous for those involved.
    © Independent Digital

    By Oszkár Egri

    10/6/2004- The President of the Republic's request to the Constitutional Court (CC) has drawn another line between justice and ethics. Instead of announcing the law, the President requested preliminary control from the CC. His request degrades the issue of racism to a question of mere ethics under a legal blanket of political opinion. This is just like the Hungarian folk tale where King Matyás requests a peasant girl to bring him something and at the same time not bring him anything. The witty peasant covers a pigeon with a sieve and on arrival gives the pigeon to the king, but during the process slips off the sieve letting the bird escape. This satisfied the king. This vital ruling regarding the hate speech amendment was caught up on two words: instigate (uszítás) and agitate (izgatás), and treated very superficially by legal vanity. This situation clearly describes the phony behavior and non-transparency of the Hungarian legal system. The recent CC decision ruling that it was unconstitutional that the legislators had swapped the definitions of the words "instigate" with "agitate" demonstrates that the law is wrapped in a ball of cotton to show that it does exist, if only in a pathetic manner.

    Let me explain the debate over "instigation" or "agitation". What if I "agitate" (annoy) my fearsome bloodhound and let it loose on a "whatever will be, will be" basis. The owner's responsibility can still be determined whether or not someone was bitten. In the case of "instigation", if I whisper into my "rascalized" (understand fed with hatred against Jews and Roma) dog's ear and it carries out my command, how can anyone prove something taking place through insinuation, collaboration and provocation is instigation? This is why the "law" is merely an ethics code, because existing legislation is useless, proven by the fact that nobody is using it. Not so in the case when Nazi Germany annexed Denmark, ordering all Jews to wear yellow stars. The next morning the Danish royal family also appeared at the gates wearing yellow stars. The Danish people unanimously instantly adopted the life-saving gesture. In US democracy, freedom is not violated when people purchase and use firearms, but at the same time legislation prohibits and punishes anyone calling out to Afro Americans "nigger". Americans have learned from their history, while Hungarians have not, even with the systematic liquidation of 600,000 of their own Jewish countrymen. I say this because the Hate Speech law merely "slipped" through during parliamentary voting, as some MPs tried to thwart such a very important law. The CC ruled that criminal penalty meets the limit where "stirred emotions threaten the honor and dignity of a group of people and through intimidation restricts them from practicing their rights…" The CC also ruled that the amending of the law would have given way for legal despotism. The shift of the resolution for determining such an offense is ground for legal despotism - based on the above quote.

    The best example was the public racist manifestations following the sale of FTC football club. The chief prosecutor wouldn't permit any investigations, but recently a senior judge dealing with criminal law at the Appeal Court expressed the opinion that the case would have stood firm, had there been any charges made. Nothing is lost yet, I should remind these gentlemen of the between-the-wars Weimar Republic of Germany and what followed. Psychologically, the best probability for unifying a nation is to find it a common enemy. But then you might say that in today's world anyone seeing the Jewish people as the common enemy is simply ridiculous? If the current situation is rosier than I express, then how come only 1,000 people of Hungary's estimated 13,000 Jewish population dared acknowledge their identity in the last census? It is obvious they feel threatened, and intimidated by racist manifestations. Look at our ailing dusty villages and towns today. They were once flourishing settlements, but their prosperous progress came to an end when the dreaded Arrow-Cross and Nazis (after registering their identities) carried away local general dealers, traders, millers, leather and seed merchants; in other words the movers and shakers of society. The CC recently practiced politics instead of carrying out a legal decision based on the timing of the ruling. The fact that this issue, can apparently constitutionally be brought any way, without objective standards, speaks for itself.

    Hungary for many years made judgements upon default while not implementing some of its own laws - banning the spread of racist ideas - as agreed to in international contracts. Is this itself not a violation of the constitution? If the decision had not been political the CC would have expressed precisely to what extent the amendment restricted freedom of expression and opinion, in line with obligations in international agreements. However, the CC declined to do so, arguing that in the framework of a preliminary norm control they are not obliged to, while international laws and regulations give an exact limit restricting freedom of opinion and expression, namely: anything can be thought, written down, printed; however it can not be spread! The limit is therefore obvious and the punishment for anything beyond the limit can not be questioned. The CC went as far as to say punishment may only be imposed, if "danger is direct and apparent". Let us interpret this: Until I, as a Jew, am wearing a yellow star, am stripped of all my assets and relocated to a ghetto, there is "no direct and apparent danger" according to the CC judges, implying I have merely changed address and alternatively decorated my clothing with patchwork. However if I stand in Auschwitz under the shower (at the proposal and will of my "eliminators") and somebody (most probably out of "carelessness" or by "mistake") sends Cyclon-B gas thought the pipes instead of water, only then is the "danger direct and apparent". But I should not hesitate, because in 60 years time you will don a pseudo-saint poker face and can sit in the VIP front row at the opening of a Holocaust Memorial Museum to pay your respects. (This I was compelled to write down in memory of my law-abiding grandparents, who complied with the Hungarian Jewish laws all the way to the gas chamber).

    The CC also did not question the term "race", long since exaggerated since the human "race" is one whole, and anything divided from this represents racist ideology. Is this also not anti-constitutional? Neither did the CC weigh the fact that shore-less democracies lead to anarchy, and indeed without limits there can be no freedom. The CC did not investigate the impact of its decision based on social, economic and historic steps, but instead wished to satisfy presumptive or actual expectations. The decision is problematic in the sense that the goal of the amendment was not to punish committed actions, but to set an example and warrant general prevention, retention measures and positive discipline. For decades after each historical tragedy, society seeks the perpetrators and the causes. Now I can easily register who agreed to this issue - after Auschwitz - that Hungary does not require a legal safeguard, and the issue is merely a question of ethics. The CC has great courage (perhaps blindness) to rule that such an offense - I repeat: after Auschwitz, I repeat: in Hungary - does not qualify as a dangerous act of society and therefore should not be sanctioned. Are we so advanced? I only wished we were! Sticking to the rules of dialectics one may say there is some truth in the ruling of the CC judges. They say that, for the time being, racist ideas will not cease to exist by regulating the criminal code, while adding that perpetrators would use veiled and coded forms of expression. With latent manifestations arising, bad/wrong assumptions could be made causing negative results. Meanwhile, if restricting such behavior is not started, there will be no point wandering in the desert for 40 years as memories and hatred will not cease to exist. Therefore, based on our current information, something must be done before the world develops a more negative picture of Hungary, proven by post-modern history. Hungary has been wandering in the desert for 70 years with many generations passing by, but the hatred - for virtually no reason - continues to live on.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    10/6/2004- Today marks the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the ethnic cleansing of Roma, Ashkaelia, Egyptians and other persons regarded as "Gypsies" from Kosovo. In the wake of the cessation of NATO action against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in June 1999 and the subsequent return of predominantly ethnic Albanians from abroad, ethnic Albanians violently expelled approximately four fifths of Kosovo's pre-1999 Romani population -- estimated to have been around 120,000 -- from their homes. In the course of the ethnic cleansing campaign, ethnic Albanians kidnapped Roma and severely physically abused and in some cases killed Roma; raped Romani women in the presence of family members; and seized, looted or destroyed property en masse. Whole Romani settlements were burned to the ground by ethnic Albanians, in many cases while NATO troops looked on. A number of Romani individuals who disappeared during the summer months of 1999 remain to date missing and are presumed dead. Today, most Kosovo Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians are refugees outside Kosovo, or are displaced within the province. To date, according to international administrators in Kosovo, not one single person has been brought to justice for anti-Gypsy crimes occurring since 1999 as part of the on-going ethnic cleansing campaign. A number of EU governments have disregarded international arrest warrants for persons wanted in connection with crimes of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

    International policy toward Kosovo, endorsed by the UN Security Council specifies that Kosovo must become "a multi-ethnic society where there is democracy, tolerance, freedom of movement and equal access to justice for all people in Kosovo, regardless of their ethnic background." As if to emphasise how far from that target today's Kosovo is, in March of this year, Kosovo's ethnic Albanians redoubled efforts to rid the province of minorities including Roma, Ashkaelia and Egyptians. During the upsurge in violence, nineteen people were killed, around 4,100 people were forced to leave their homes, and for the most part are currently displaced either in Kosovo itself or in neighbouring Serbia and Montenegro. Around 360 of those forced to flee during recent violence were reportedly Romani or from another group regarded as "Gypsies". The latest wave of violence in Kosovo brought international media attention to the province. However, even prior to the recent violence, all was not well in Kosovo. The international administrators of Kosovo had not managed to end once and for all grenade attacks and other extreme forms of assault against minorities and their property. The destruction of building sites targeted for minority returns was frequent enough not to be listed as a major crime for the purposes of tracking racially motivated crime. Racial discrimination was then close to total and is still so today. And, as noted above, the organs of justice in Kosovo have been extremely inefficient with respect to bringing to justice those responsible for wholesale ethnic cleansing. At the same time, in an effort to maintain the fiction that all was well in Kosovo, as well as due to intense pressure for returns exercised by a number of governments of EU Member States, international administrators downplayed persistent indications that ethnic Albanians intend an ethnically pure province. Thus, the events of March 2004 frequently referred to as "renewed violence", are more properly regarded as an intensification of an ethnic cleansing campaign ongoing since June 1999. The ethnic cleansing by ethnic Albanians of Roma, Ashkaelia, Egyptians and others regarded as "Gypsies" from Kosovo is the single biggest catastrophe to befall the Romani community since World War II.

    The ERRC urges that:

  • Without delay, the security situation of Romani and Ashkaeli communities throughout Kosovo be assessed and measures appropr All governments honour the international warrants for the arrest of a number of persons wanted in connection with crimes of ethnic cleansing occurring in Kosovo;
  • Sustained efforts be undertaken by all authorities in Kosovo and involved in the administration of Kosovo to ensure that no discussions of Kosovo's final status are embarked upon until such a time as all stakeholders achieve durable and lasting consensus in practice that Kosovo is a multi-cultural society in which all individuals can freely exercise in practice all of their fundamental human rights;
  • Any forced returns of Kosovo Romani, Ashkaeli or Egyptian individuals to Kosovo are rendered impossible and impermissible until such a time as authorities in Kosovo are able to demonstrate durable and lasting security and freedom from racial discrimination for all in all parts of the province.
  • Any persons factually residing in a host country for a period of five years or longer be provided with real possibilities for integration in the host country if that person so chooses, including by making available the possibility of acquiring the citizenship of the host country.
  • Suitable arrangements be made for the recovery of -- or compensation for -- any and all property destroyed or confiscated by force or coercion, including any property sold under conditions of duress.

    The international community undertook military action in Kosovo and the rest of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to reverse the "humanitarian emergency" facing ethnic Albanians in early 1999. Failure to reverse the humanitarian emergency facing Roma, Ashkaelia, Egyptians, and also Serbs and other minorities would mean that in practice, NATO acted, with UN Security Council endorsement, in effect to assist ethnic cleansing. The preservation of an international human rights order requires that this status quo be swiftly ended. The ethnic cleansing of Roma, Ashkaelia, Egyptians and others regarded as "Gypsies" from Kosovo cannot stand.
    Further information on the situation of Roma, Ashkaelia, Egyptians and other persons regarded as 'Gypsies'
    ©European Roma Rights Center

    Minorities report increasing number of assaults by Serb nationalists.
    By Jan Briza from Novi Sad and Tanja Matic in Belgrade

    10/6/2004- "I am afraid of the hooligans who insult and attack us because we speak Albanian," said Nusret Gashi. "The police defend us but they don't always make it on time." Gashi, 30, his wife and his four children live in constant fear of attacks by Serb extremists in their small house in the Veliki Rit, a suburb of Novi Sad, in Vojvodina. The Gashis are not Albanian but members of the Ashkalija community, themselves refugees from Albanian violence in Kosovo, which they fled after Nato's air war pushed out Serbian forces. Unlike many of his compatriots, forced to live in collective refugee centres and Roma settlements, Gashi got a job and earns a living. But for the Gashis - as for many members of Vojvodina's minority communities - life has become fraught after violent against Serbs in Kosovo in mid-March triggered revenge attacks on non-Serbs in Vojvodina. On the night of March 17/18, when the riots peaked in Kosovo, the Gashi family had to spend the night hiding in a swamp to avoid Serb extremists threatening to burn down their settlement. While Vojvodina's political leaders have condemned the escalation of attacks on ethnic minorities, the failure of police to arrest many perpetrators has fuelled tensions in the province. Slogans reading "death to Hungarians" and "Hungarians go to Hungary" (at more than 300,000 strong, the largest minority in Vojvodina) cover the walls of many Vojvodina towns.

    But the problem is more than one of slogans. In late March, vandals desecrated a Catholic cemetery in Subotica, a town on the border with Hungary where Catholic Hungarians and Croats make up the majority. At much the same time, hooligans pelted a Slovak Protestant church and a Slovak cultural centre in Backa Palanka with stones. In Djurdjevo, the windows of several houses belonging to ethnic Ruthenians were smashed, a cultural centre was damaged and street signs in Ruthenian language were torn down. The Serb authorities mostly turn a blind eye to such violence. After the attack on the Slovak cultural centre and church and the Adventist church in Backa Palanka, the town's prosecutor, Pavle Kolar, insisted the violence had no nationalist dimension to them. Vladimir Jesic, a reporter from Novi Sad Apolo TV, believes this kind of attitude is part of the problem. The authorities insist on treating targeted attacks on minorities in Vojvodina as vandalism, refusing to accept a nationalist or sectarian motive, he says. "The police and the judiciary treat smashing the windows of a church in the same way as smashing a kiosk's windows," Jesic said. Zdravko Marjanovic, of the Society for Tolerance, a civic group based in Backa Palanka, where the Socialist Party of Serbia and the Yugoslav United Left, jointly hold power, says the recent attacks on churches are not isolated cases. "Our mayor recently told an international gathering that the situation in the municipality was excellent," Marjanovic said. "But this was not true. Politicians are trying to present the situation in a way that is far removed from the truth." Andras Agoston, leader of the Democratic Party of Vojvodina Hungarians, says the "tragic events in March in Kosovo" have had their echo in Vojvodina. He said harassment of minorities in Vojvodina had become an everyday affair, though most incidents, such as physical and verbal assault, threatening graffiti and attacks on cemeteries and other monuments, passed unnoticed. Victims failed to report incidents to the police out of fear of reprisals, he said, for the police rarely caught or punished the perpetrators. "On May 22, two Hungarians in Temerin were beaten up but no one from the media even reported it," Agoston added. Agoston ventured that minorities in Serbia were worse off now than at any time since the fall of Serbia's nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic. "Earlier, political representatives were targeted, while now ordinary people experience these problems," Agoston said, accusing the government of "totally sidelining the ethnic minority issue".

    The rise in attacks on the Hungarian minority is provoking concern in Hungary itself, now an EU member state. Hungarian foreign minister Lazslo Kovacs telephoned Serbian prime minister Vojislav Kostunica in early April to call on Belgrade to "take a firm stance with respect to violent incidents against the Hungarian minority in Vojvodina". Vojvodina has always been a multi-ethnic land, with over 20 registered ethnic communities in the 2002 census, making up more than one-third of the population. Previously known for its ethnic harmony, it has been buffeted by the changes following the break-up of Yugoslavia, when the Milosevic regime began to play on Serbian nationalism. A sinister straw in the wind was the ethnic cleansing of the Catholic village of Hrtkovci in 1992, where Serb refugees from the wars in Croatia and Bosnia drove out the mostly Croat residents with the support of the leader of the far-right Serbian Radical Party, SRS, Vojislav Seselj. Many of the villages that the Serb refugees settled in the 1990s have become bastions of the SRS, whose candidate, Tomislav Nikolic, is expected to poll well in Vojvodina during Serbia's June 13 presidential election. Political moderates, such as Nenad Canak and Joszef Kasa, leaders of the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina and the Alliance of Vojvodina's Hungarians, are struggling to check the spread of violence. But if Nikolic wins the presidential race, many expect the position of minorities in Vojvodina - and throughout Serbia - to deteriorate further. Aleksandra Vujic, a sociologist and political analyst from the Novi Sad Human Rights Centre, said violence against minorities in Vojvodina had increased dramatically, owing to a poorly developed civic consciousness. Young people in Serbia, Vujic told IWPR, had a "need for identification". He added, "They identify with the easiest thing, the nation, which in the Balkans relates to a religious background. The easiest thing is to be an Orthodox Serb and to see everything else as a threat." Vujic said police inactivity had worsened the trend, "The police are still confused when it comes to democratic principles and do not cope well with cases of inter-ethnic hatred." Though few believe Vojvodina will again see violence on the scale of the Milosevic era, many members of minority communities wonder if they have a long-term future in Serbia. "If no action is taken, this could become a part of everyday life," said Dinko Gruhonjic, a Croat from Novi Sad. "Members of certain groups, like Croats, will not feel comfortable and will want to move away." A Serb woman from Novi Sad, who asked to remain anonymous, told IWPR she was concerned for the future of her two children, studying at the local university, because of the rise in ultra-nationalist activity. "Indifference towards the rise of nationalism in the Milosevic era took us to war," she said. "This is why the upsurge of nationalism and of the Radicals should alarm us all, particularly those running this country."
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    9/6/2004- Semyon Tokmakov stretches out his hand and points to a thick scar he got from assaulting a black U.S. Marine six years ago. The attack cost him 1 years in jail, but Tokmakov says he has no regrets. ``We are waging a racial holy war,'' said Tokmakov, 28, an informal leader among Moscow's skinheads, whose violence appears to be rising. Over the last several years, Russia has become a strikingly hostile place for all those with African, Asian or so-called Caucasian features - the dark skin and dark hair typical for the peoples of the mountainous Caucasus region. The U.S. Marine was badly beaten in 1998 in a Moscow market, one of several foreigners targeted in recent years. The last few months have seen an especially shocking series of brutal racial attacks, such as the stabbing of a Guinea-Bissau student in the central Russian city of Voronezh, the killing of an Afghan asylum seeker in Moscow, and the slaying of a 9-year-old Tajik girl in St. Petersburg by suspected skinheads. Ethnic minorities in Moscow complain that beatings and insults are almost a daily occurrence. ``Racially motivated crimes are growing in number and brutality by the year,'' Alexander Brod, head of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, told The Associated Press in an interview.

    According to a two-year study conducted by Brod's bureau and a few other groups, there are about 50,000 skinheads in Russia, with the two biggest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, home to about 1,500 each. It said 20-30 people have died in such attacks annually in the past few years, and the number of such crimes is growing by 30 percent per year. ``When you kill cockroaches, you don't feel sorry for them, do you?'' Tokmakov said, when asked whether he felt sorry for the slain Tajik girl. The growing extremist sentiments are rooted in Russia's economic problems, including high unemployment in many regions, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which sent hundreds of thousands of migrants from poorer former Soviet republics to Russia seeking jobs. ``Why have they all come here?'' Tokmakov said. ``They bring nothing but drugs and AIDS. Every day they harass and steal our women.'' Ethnic tensions are also fueled by Russia's nearly decade-long military conflict in the mostly Muslim province of Chechnya. Since shortly before the start of the second war in 1999, Moscow and several southern Russian cities have been shaken by a series of deadly blasts and suicide bombings authorities blame on Chechen rebels, which have further intensified xenophobic sentiments. Political parties and politicians openly played the nationalist card in the December parliamentary vote, calling for the ouster of migrant workers and promoting Russia for Russians. Two such parties enjoyed victory in the election. Tokmakov said he and his associates had been on the ballot of one of these parties, the Homeland bloc, but their names were later crossed out. Party officials have denied that. ``When there are such economic and other hardships, there are usually two ways of dealing with it - the first is that of contemplating, the second is looking for an enemy and blaming him for your problems. Unfortunately Russia has chosen the second path,'' Brod said.

    Rafael Arkelov, a 47-old Armenian singer who has spent all his life living in Moscow and for whom Russian is his first language, has experienced it all. He was in a grocery store buying a chocolate bar and a bottle of champagne to visit his friends for a New Year's celebration when a man asked him for some change. After Arkelov refused to give him money, he saw the man approach two youths with shaved heads whom he identified as skinheads standing nearby and whispered something. Several minutes later, after Arkelov walked out of the store, he was jumped from behind. ``They punched me on my eyes, my face, and all of a sudden I couldn't see anymore. Then I collapsed to the ground and they started beating m ©The Guardian

    12/6/2004- Varieties of the right-wing e-mail included a series of links to Web sites such the extreme right German National Party (NPD), articles from the right-oriented newspaper "Young Freedom," and an assortment of "people's initiatives" which oppose Muslims and the building of mosques in Germany. German-language spam containing right-wing messages and proclaiming disapproval with the presence of Turks and other immigrants in Germany were being received worldwide today. The barrage began on Wednesday and initially inundated e-mail accounts of users in the United States, the Netherlands, Finland and several other countries. MX Logic, a Denver-based anti-spam firm has identified 25 variants of the spam, some of which contain links to nationalist Web sites with names such as "Citizen's Movement" and "Resistance," that urge Germany to rid itself of its Muslim population and to oppose Turkey's attempts to join the European Union, the Washington Post reported. Other varieties of the e-mail included a series of links to Web sites such the extreme right German National Party (NPD), articles from the right-oriented newspaper "Young Freedom," and an assortment of "people's initiatives" which oppose Muslims and the building of mosques in Germany. "It's thrown at everybody, and I guess they hope to find enough Germans in their samples," said Johannes Ullrich, chief technology officer for the SANS Internet Storm Center, which monitors Internet attacks. Ullrich also noted that this particular event was the largest of its kind he ever witnessed. "Spam is cheap but it's not that cheap," he said. "Somebody had to pay something for that."

    New Level of IT Sophistication
    What differentiates this latest bombardment of unwanted e-mail is a new level of technological sophistication the right-wingers seem to have implemented. The senders appear to have made use of "spambot" -- a program used to collect e-mail addresses and conceal the true address of the sender -- thereby making it difficult or impossible to trace the origin of the deviant e-mail. Analysts believe that this group of spammers likely worked with virus programmers to "seize" remote computers and utilize the e-mail addresses housed on them to build large distribution lists. Eighty percent of the right-wing e-mails reportedly originated from a server at the University of Rostock, in northeastern Germany. Others came from large networks owned by Deutsche Telekom (NYSE: DT) and some originated in countries other than Germany. The University has taken the relevant server offline and will work with IT experts to try and track down the source of the security breach. The e-mails contain various return addresses, ranging from the well-known to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany's most highly regarded and respected newspapers.
    ©E-Commerce Times

    8/6/2004– The Council of Europe's expert body on combating racism, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), today released four new reports examining racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance in the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece and Hungary. ECRI recognises that positive developments have occurred in all four of these Council of Europe member countries. At the same time, however, the reports detail continuing grounds for concern for the Commission:

    In the Czech Republic, there have been few noticeable improvements in the situation of Roma, whose marginalisation from mainstream society continues through their "ghettoisation" in substandard housing complexes on the outskirts of cities. Racially motivated violence and ill-treatment of Roma by the police continue to be problems of concern. ECRI also raises a number of issues with regard to asylum seekers and migrants, such as the worrying detention of children.

    In Germany, racist, xenophobic and antisemitic violence continues to be a matter of concern to ECRI, particularly affecting asylum seekers, members of the Jewish communities, Roma and Sinti. Further efforts are needed to ensure that non-citizens and people of immigrant background enjoy genuinely equal opportunities in all fields of public life. Progress is still needed in recognising the positive role of immigration, as partly reflected by the stigmatisation of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees in public debate.

    In Greece, there remain stereotypes, prejudices and incidences of discrimination targeting members of minority groups, particularly the Roma community and minority religious groups, as well as immigrants. The position of the Muslim minority in Western Thrace should improve further. The situation of immigrants is far from being completely regulated, and there is still no comprehensive, targeted integration policy on immigration.

    In Hungary, the progress made in dealing with the problems of racism, intolerance and discrimination remains limited in a number of respects. The Roma minority remains severely disadvantaged in most areas of life, particularly in the fields of health care, housing, employment and education. Some shortcomings in law and practice concerning the rights of refugees and asylum seekers have been identified. Moreover, initiatives taken at national level to combat racism and discrimination do not always successfully filter down to local level.

    These new reports form part of a third monitoring cycle of Council of Europe member states' laws, policies and practices aimed at combating racism. ECRI's country-specific reports are available in English, French and in the national language of the country concerned. They cover all member states on an equal footing, from the perspective of protecting human rights. They examine whether ECRI's main recommendations from previous reports have been followed and, if so, to what degree of success and effectiveness.
    ©Council of Europe

    8/6/2004- Analysing people's notions of identity can be a challenging task at the best of times. For example there is no standard form of national identity, as our particular education and experiences will play a key role in shaping our perceptions. On the face of it, therefore, analysing the way in which citizens in nine different countries relate not only to their own nations, but also to Europe and the EU, would appear a daunting task. But that is precisely what a Commission funded research project has set out to do.

    The EURONAT project - representations of Europe and the nation in current and prospective Member States - began in September 2001, and received nearly one million euro in funding under the 'Improving human research potential and the socio-economic knowledge base' section of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5). The project consortium held a public workshop in Brussels on 7 June to present some of its initial results. The consortium consists of universities from eight countries: Spain, Greece, the UK, Poland, Germany, Hungary and the Czech Republic, under the coordination of the European University Institute in Italy. The partners' task was to analyse representations of Europe and the nation within the media, elites and civil society in nine European countries, including three new Member States, with special attention to the process of EU enlargement. This was carried out through quantitative and qualitative analyses, including questionnaires and in depth interviews in each country. The objectives of the research are to revise and increase knowledge on representations of Europe and the nation; to study the extent to which national loyalty and identification with Europe and the EU are mutually exclusive; and to highlight similarities and differences between the media, the elite and lay people representations of the nation and Europe.

    Dr Atsuko Ichijo from the London School of Economics was concerned with whether or not feelings of national loyalty and European identity are as mutually exclusive as the Daily Mail and the UK Independence Party would sometimes have people believe. 'National and European identities are compatible - this fact was confirmed in our surveys and interviews. Even in the UK, there are people who said they feel European, and interestingly, of those people, 92 per cent said they also feel British. Furthermore, of those in the UK who said they didn't feel European (by far the majority), 50 per cent said that they didn't feel British either,' said Dr Ichijo. Moreover, Dr Ichijo also found that people are able to separate their European, national and even EU identities. For example, many respondents drew a distinction between their representations of Europe, in terms of its cultural and historical past, and of the EU, represented by more modern political figures and institutions. 'Not only does our research show that the incompatibility argument is redundant, it also reveals how separate European, EU and national identities can combine to create a meaningful whole,' she added.

    During the team's work, Professor Nikos Kokosalakis from Panteion University in Athens, Greece, said that three basic categories of citizen had emerged. The most common type he referred to as the 'ethno-centric open' citizen, for whom the nation state comes first, but who can also support European integration without any incompatibility. The two further and much smaller categories consisted of the 'ethno-centric closed' type, who strongly identify with the nation and oppose European integration for fear of losing that national identity, and the 'pluralist cosmopolitan' who identifies first with Europe and then with their own country. 'There are minorities in each country that are negative towards Europe almost to the point of racism,' Professor Kokosalakis told CORDIS News. 'The majority, however, take forward their national identities into their European identities.' When asked to describe the feeling of the 'pluralist cosmopolitan' towards Europe, Professor Kokosalakis reported one respondent as saying 'It is through foreigners that you can best understand yourself', and described many of them as having an 'agony for the future of Europe' which is exposed during times of moral disagreement, such as during the recent war in Iraq. 'Europe is, by common consent, still in the making, so conflict can set it back and that is the source of agony for these enlightened citizens. Even the intense negotiations over the Treaty of Nice, for example, were viewed as natural and positive as they didn't undermine their European dream, whereas moral conflict such as that over Iraq threatens the basis of the European ideal,' explained Professor Kokosalakis.

    In analysing representations of Europe and the EU in the media, the team decided to focus on two major events in the recent history of the EU: the Nice European Council in 2000, where disagreements over the amount of say each Member State would have in an enlarged Union were finally resolved after the longest EU summit in history, and the introduction of the euro. According to Professor Bo Stråth from the European University Institute in Florence: 'These two events demonstrate just how dramatically the mood of the media in Europe can shift.' The introduction of the euro, said Professor Stråth, was described by the media as a symbol of the new unified Europe. 'Euphoria gave way to EUphoria, and the media talked in highly symbolic terms.' However, when leaders at the Nice Summit finally decided to approve the biggest enlargement of the EU in its history, signalling a definite end to the Cold War, the media chose to focus on arguments over voting and other short term political issues. 'Our analysis suggests that the media was reflecting the internal political agenda, but could not identify a deficit in EU identity.' Professor Stråth drew a strong distinction between those papers in Europe that addressed 'intellectual readers' and reported the nuances of the various issues, and the 'boulevard press' which made an appeal to populist politics and sought to reduce complex questions into very simple terms. 'The UK press in particular stands out from the others - there is the sense that the UK is not inside Europe, but it's not outside, it lies somewhere in between,' he said.

    In measuring attitudes towards EU enlargement, the team noted that the less educated and mobile a citizen is, the less likely he or she is to express positive views about the process, regardless of whether they live in the new or old Member States. A sense was also gained from some that, following enlargement, there is now a perception that the EU's borders are more fixed, and that neighbouring countries such as Russia and Turkey should remain 'outsiders'. Among the new Member States, one attitude in particular prevails, and that is that 'integration is a necessity', although this attitude can include both fears (of economic annexation or exploitation) and hopes (of new opportunities and for future generations). In conclusion, Professor Kokosalakis said that: 'Europe is a very ambiguous concept, but this ambiguity is precisely what allows so many people to feel European.' He said that Europe has a shifting image, but that a common idea that many people have is of an evolving Europe. 'This process [of European evolution] appears irreversible to most citizens - they cannot imagine the end of Europe and want to know what will happen and what kind of Europe they are building for their children,' he finished.
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    Most Muslims in Germany pray in mosques that are hidden from view in old factory buildings and basements. The Muslim community would like that to change, but projects to build traditional mosques are often controversial.

    27/5/2004- The Muradiye mosque in the Berlin neighborhood of Neukölln isn't visible from the street. Visitors first need to find an alleyway sandwiched between a Turkish grocery store and a café, then a small sign pointing to the second courtyard in an industrial complex. The mosque itself consists of two floors in a former warehouse. The ground floor is a community center, where mainly older Turkish men come to play billiards, watch sports, or even get a haircut at the tiny barber's shop wedged into one corner. The fourth floor has two carpeted rooms for prayer -- one for women, and one for men. The head of the Muradiye mosque's committee, Erdal Ayvaz, says only few of the Germans living in multi-ethnic Neukölln even know the mosque is there. "Every now and then, someone sees the sign out there, and they come along because they're curious and want to see it," Ayvaz told Deutsche Welle. "They're very respectful, but also fearful, they seem afraid that something could happen to them here, because it's all strange to them. But we welcome anyone who's interested, they can come, talk to us, ask us questions, we'll show them our mosque, it's no problem."

    Lack of acceptance
    The Muradiye mosque is fairly typical of the 70 mosques in Berlin that serve the capital's 200,000-strong Muslim community. With few exceptions, they're hidden from view in converted offices, basements, and garages. For Ayvaz, it's a frustrating reality. But he says most Germans wouldn't accept a more traditional looking mosque in their midst. "We know that we live in a Christian country, and we respect that," Ayvaz said. "But churches also have a certain style, things that identify the buildings as a church. It's the same with mosques. A church should look like a church, and a mosque should look like a mosque. And in Germany, they talk about multi-culturalism, but they don't really accept it. As long as this acceptance is missing, maybe a few traditional mosques will be built, but there'll always be a huge fuss and protest about it." Riem Spielhaus, an expert on Islam at Berlin's Humboldt University, recently took part in a research project that involved visiting all of Berlin's mosques and speaking with their representatives. She says the main concern of most practicing Muslims in Germany is that they have a place to pray, no matter what it looks like. "The first priority is the ability to practice their faith," Spielhaus said. "That the place where they do this is recognizable as such is not essential to them. But, for their identity, for their sense of self-esteem, and for the acceptance of Islam in Germany, I think it's important both for Muslims and for Germans that there are representative mosques here that are recognizable as such, to show that Islam does live here through the Muslims that live here and practice it."

    There is a representative mosque in Berlin, located just a few minutes drive from the Muradiye mosque, in an open area bordering one of Berlin's airports. The Sehitlik mosque is a stunning example of Islamic architecture, complete with marble façade, dome, and twin minarets. No one can claim that it disturbs the cityscape, as it's far enough removed from built-up areas, on land that has been linked to Turkey for 140 years, since the Ottomans were present in Prussia. Yet the mosque caused an outcry when it was built. The dome was four meters (13 feet) higher, and the minarets were 8.5 meters higher than the building plans allowed. There was talk of tearing the mosque down. Instead, the builders have to pay a fine of 80,000 ($97,500) for the infractions. According to Günther Piening, the integration officer of the Berlin senate, such practice their faith more openly in Germany. "Muslims need representatives who are well integrated and speak good German to liaise with German officials," Spielhaus said. "Both Muslims and Germans need to see beyond the stereotypes they have of each other."
    ©Deutsche Welle

    30/5/2004- The long-winded case of Metin Kaplan, the radical Muslim cleric, is threatening the recent German immigration compromise. The conservative opposition has renewed calls that the law include tighter security measures. After the botched attempt to arrest and deport radical Muslim imam Metin Kaplan from Germany, the opposition is raising new questions about the compromise reached with Chancellor Schröder's government over a much-needed immigration law. Edmund Stoiber, Bavarian premier and head of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), who was part of the long-running immigration negotiations, has demanded further refinements to the compromise which is designed to make it easier for qualified foreigners to move to Germany and work here.

    Kaplan case a "big disgrace"
    Referring to German courts' failure to deport Kaplan, who has been found guilty of inciting hate in Germany and wanted in Turkey for high treason, Stoiber told Bild am Sonntag that he would only sign an immigration law "when hate-preachers like Kaplan would in future face shorter trials and when such people can be deported." Stoiber criticized the handling of Kaplan's case by German officials as "one of the biggest disgraces for the security authorities in past years." Following Kaplan's sudden disappearance from Cologne last week that prompted a Europe-wide manhunt and embarrassed German security officials and his subsequent resurfacing, Stoiber has demanded clear laws for round-the-clock surveillance of terror suspects to be included in the immigration law.

    Conservatives for preventive detention
    Even Angela Merkel, head of the opposition conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), is unhappy with the compromise which has watered down several tough security measures that the conservatives wanted included. In light of Kaplan's case, Merkel has renewed calls for preventive detention of up to two years for terror suspects -- a clause which was been left out in the proposed immigration law. "The topic has to be discussed with experts and can't just be swept under the carpet," Merkel said in a newspaper interview over the weekend.

    Government unbending on compromise
    The proposed law however will make it easier for Germany to deport religious extremists and agitators such as Kaplan. In cases where deportation would result in suspects facing torture or the death penalty in their home country, the suspect can remain in Germany under tight restrictions limiting freedom of movement, communication, etc. The lack of the latter has been bedeviling Kaplan's case because there have been fears he could be tortured if he were deported to his native Turkey. Germany's ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Greens has refused to bow in to further security demands by the conservatives and tighten existing measures. "Nothing more will be saddled on to the compromise," Interior Minister Otto Schily warned on Sunday and said the law would now be formulated according to the compromise reached with the opposition.

    Amnesty slams immigration compromise
    The compromise however has been strongly criticized by the German chapter of human rights group Amnesty International (AI). AI refugee expert Wolfgang Grenz told news agency dpa on Saturday that the German immigration debate had been too strongly dominated by security concerns. "That's no big success when one considers that originally a modern immigration law was planned," he said. Even migration researcher Dieter Oberndörfer said the immigration compromise was colored by the daily business of politics. He said he "feared a provincial fear society and a growing narrow-mindedness."
    ©Deutsche Welle

    2/6/2004- Amnesty International has severely criticised the Turkish government and judiciary for their failure to act over violence against women. The human rights group's latest report claims up to a half of all women in Turkey have been victims of violence. Amnesty says changes have been made to the legal system but shocking failures to uphold the law continue. Turkey is waiting for the European Union to decide to set a date for talks about its possible entry into the EU.

    Honour killings
    The BBC's Jonny Dymond, in Istanbul, says the Amnesty report paints an almost unimaginably bleak picture of women's lives in Turkey. Citing study after study it suggests that the level of violence against women here is considerably higher than around the world, he says. It is says at least a third and possibly up to 50% have suffered violence. "Violence against women by family members spans the spectrum from depriving women of economic necessities through verbal and psychological violence, to beatings, sexual violence and killings," the reports says. "Violence against women is widely tolerated and even endorsed by community leaders and at the highest levels of the government and judiciary." Examples include a man strangling his own daughter because she has been raped and a judge reducing a rapist's sentence when he promises to marry his victim. The report is filled with accounts of young women forced into marriage, or everyday violence, of an environment of intimidation and, at its worst, of so-called "honour killings," where family members kill women who have had extra-marital relationships or who have been raped.

    A women's rights activist from Diyarbakir told Amnesty: "Excuses for beating women at home include 'staring out of a window for a long period', 'saying hello to male friends on the street', 'if the telephone rings and there's no one on the other end', and 'spending too long talking to shopkeepers'." The Turkish police are criticised for failing to investigate alleged violence and the courts continue to blame women who have been attacked, raped or killed. Amnesty does not suggest that violence against women is peculiar to Turkey, but it says that a culture of violence can place women in double jeopardy. It says they are both victims and they are denied effective access to justice. Amnesty urged the Turkish government to ensure that shelters were available for victims of domestic violence, and called on prosecutors and police investigators to pursue the culprits of attacks on women.
    ©BBC News

    29/5/2004- Turkey's president vetoed Friday a higher education reform bill whose concessions to religious schools have displeased the powerful military and unsettled financial markets. The reform would have made it easier for students of religious vocational schools to enter universities, but President Ahmet Necdet Sezer sent the bill back to Parliament, saying parts of it violated the Constitution. The ruling Justice and Development Party could get Parliament to return the same bill to Sezer, but analysts said the party was more likely to shelve it or draft a new version to avoid a confrontation with the secular establishment and the military. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters he would review Sezer's decision before deciding on the next move. A senior Justice and Development Party official said the government would decide on Monday. Backed by university rectors and opposition parties, the army has argued that the law would increase the influence of Islam in education. "The president found the law to be partially inappropriate," Sezer's office said in a statement, adding that he had rejected four articles concerning religious schools, or imam-hatip schools. "The law's true aim is to make it easier for imam-hatip graduates to enter higher-education programs outside of their fields, thereby making these schools more attractive to increase the number of students who enroll," the statement said. The veto had been widely expected after Sezer, a staunch secularist, signaled earlier he would block the legislation. If the bill goes back to Sezer, he could appeal to the Constitutional Court, which would have the final say. Parliament passed the bill two weeks ago, triggering a battle between the secular establishment and the Justice and Development Party, which has roots in political Islam. Turkey maintains a strict separation of state and mosque. Generals, self-proclaimed guardians of secularism, pressured the last Islamic-led government to quit in 1997. Political analysts expect the government step back from the dispute and focus on a broader reform process to win a date to start European Union accession talks at a December summit meeting. "The government needs to focus on the EU reform process. It won't want to waste its energy fighting this battle right now," said Atilla Yayla, of the Liberal Thought Association, a think tank.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    28/5/2004- The Spanish government partially suspended Friday the introduction of a controversial law which links education to religious instruction. The Law of Quality Teaching, introduced by the previous conservative government, would make it compulsory for religious teaching in schools. But the Socialist government promised to suspend parts of this law. These relate to religious teaching, the school calendar and final examinations. But education for children aged between 3-6 and foreign languages is not affected. Vice-president María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, the first woman to head the council of ministers meeting – or cabinet - stressed that the law would remain in force. She called on teachers and parents for calm until some agreement is reached on how it could be changed. The law has provoked controversy as traditionalists believe it is essential for religious studies to be taught in schools. But others are opposed to any compulsory religious instruction. De la Vega said suspending parts of the law was fulfilling an electoral promise made by the Socialists. De la Vega also said she wanted to stress that the law itself had not been "suspended and it is still in place and the educators, families and children can be totally reassured".
    ©Expatica News

    28/5/2004- A senior government education adviser was forced to make an embarrassing apology Friday for "unfortunate" comments about immigrants. Carmen González, vice-president of the Education department, told the magazine Teaching that immigrants had "not come to study". She was reported as adding: "Something seems to happen with these gypsies. The child wants to go with his father in the lorry to the market to sell fruit." González then added: "I defend the right to ignorance. If the child does not want to study, he does not want to study." But she said later the comments were "unfortunate" and added: "Sorry to all those who might have felt offended by these comments" She said: "The phrase about ignorance is unfortunate and I withdraw it." But with regard to comments about gypsy children not attending school, she said "absenteeism is a recognised problem among gypsy families which is a cultural thing". "There are boys of 17 or 18 who want to enter the world of work. If I condemn them to be in an educational system, I would condemn them to a personal problems," she added. González refused to resign over the comments, despite demands from some Left-wing politicians and unions. She said sometimes, during long interviews, colloquial language could be taken out of context.
    ©Expatica News

    2/6/2004- UN human rights experts on Wednesday sharply criticised laws in France banning religious symbols in state schools, and told a French minister that the new rules were intolerant towards Muslims. Several members of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which oversees the application of international rules protecting children, took France's Minister for the Family Marie-Josee Roig to task over the laws, which are due to come into force in September. They will effectively stop Muslim girls from wearing even a headscarf and other children from displaying open signs of their religious beliefs. "In what way does a headscarf disturb a classroom?" Dutch UN committee member Jacob Egbert Doek asked Roig, adding that he regretted a lack of tolerance on the part of French authorities. Fellow committee member Rosa Maria Ortiz said the law voted in by the French parliament earlier this year ran counter to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates that states must respect a child's right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Egyptian colleague Mushira Khattab also pointed out that it had raised the "fears of Muslim communities". "What worries me is that this law plays into the hands of extremism and against minorities," she added. The French minister explained that secular traditions in French state schools could not be isolated from values like respect for each other, while the state had a duty to guarantee equality for all pupils. "It's the fruit of a long history and common values that are the foundations of national unity," Roig told the panel of 18 former judges, lawyers and academics. "We want to continue to preserve total neutrality in our schools," she added. France was undergoing a regular examination of its application of the convention, which has been signed by France and 191 other countries. The panel is due to issue its conclusions and recommendations on Friday.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    High Representative imposes deadline to resolve problem of schools divided on ethnic lines.
    By Marija Arnautovic, journalist with TVSA in Sarajevo

    At first sight, lunch hour in the Mushvin Rivzic primary school in Fojnica, central Bosnia, seems no different from similar breaks in schools across the country. But the sight of laughing children playing in the packed schoolyard conceals the fact that this is a school with a difference. Though it houses one set of buildings, there are in fact two schools here under one roof – the other called Ivan Goran Kovacic, with pupils taught in Croatian. Although there are very few differences of language between Croat and Bosnian Muslim children - who can understand each other perfectly - they attend different establishments with their own principals and management. Mushvin Rivzic is just one of dozens of schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where local authority resistance to the proposed unification of the education system has left schools divided. However, this may soon be a thing of the past. Bosnia's High Representative, Lord Paddy Ashdown, has given local authorities a June 5 deadline to unify their divided classrooms, following months of failed negotiations. The 1995 Dayton Agreement, which ended three-and-a-half years of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, left two entities - Republika Srpska, RS, and the Federation - with their own distinct education systems. While the education system in RS is unified, the Federation's is not. Under the Federation's constitution, all 11 cantons have jurisdiction over science and culture, including schools. Bosnia's civil affairs minister Safet Halilovic described this arrangement as "pure nonsense". Apart from the fact that it left the country with 13 education ministries, critics also complain that local authorities run by Croats or Bosniaks use the system to promote their own sectarian history and language curricula. They say Bosnia needs a unified education system if it wants to progress towards joining the European Union.

    Education reforms in the country started late in 2002, when the local authorities presented the Peace Implementation Council in Brussels with a strategy to develop a modern, depoliticised quality education system. In 2003, the civil affairs ministry began to coordinate the state entity and cantonal education ministries, and last July, Bosnia adopted a Framework Law on Primary and Secondary Education, including a Common Core Curriculum. Entity and cantonal ministries were given six months to harmonise their legislation with that of the state. But nine months later, only the Brcko district, the RS, and five Federation cantons - Una-Sana, Tuzla, Zenica-Doboj, Bosnian Podrinje and Sarajevo - have harmonised local laws with the Law on Primary and Secondary Education. According to Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, mission spokeswoman Elmira Bayrasli, there are at least 52 cases of "two schools under one roof" in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Among the cantons refusing to accept the law is Central Bosnia, where Mushvin Rivzic is located. The canton's education minister, Nikola Lovrenovic, of the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, has described the law as unconstitutional. "Cantonal education ministers, the only ones with jurisdiction over the matter, never took part in drafting the legislation, nor were they consulted," he said. However, the Muslim Party of Democratic Action, SDA, which governs the Central Bosnia canton alongside the HDZ, supports the law. Salko Selman, the canton's prime minister and head of the SDA cantonal committee, told IWPR that his party "will not back anything not in line with the proposed Framework Law". This was why the canton assembly had refused to support amendments to the law tabled by Croat representatives, he said.

    The High Representative and the head of the OSCE mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Robert Beecroft, have blamed the ruling parties in the still resisting cantons for undermining efforts to harmonise the school system. In April, Lord Ashdown cut the HDZ party's budget in Bosnia by five per cent as punishement for its role in the education row. But education officials believe that local failures to adopt the law do not mean that no advances whatsoever have occurred. "Great progress was made in educational reform last year by adopting a common core curriculum," argued Zijad Pasic, the Federation education minister. One key reform was the decision to set up joint expert bodies at federal level for the implementation of a nine-year-long school system, he added. The system should be applied in the Federation from the start of the next school year. In the RS, which unanimously adopted the Law on Primary and Secondary Education on April 21, 2004, education ministry spokesperson Duska Golic told IWPR that reform of primary and secondary education is advancing and that the nine-year school system will be soon be applied there as well. In the meantime, though the Framework Law expressly rules it out, the "two schools under one roof" phenomenon continues at Fojnica and elsewhere. Mushvin Rizvic's principal, Mujo Zahirovic, insists his school has no problems sharing space with Ivan Goran Kovacic. "Classes for Ivan Goran Kovacic are held separately and we work according to our own curriculum and programme, and most of the teaching material is shared," said Zahirovic, adding that no sectarian incidents have taken place to date. But minister Safet Halilovic is unconvinced that the system holds any benefits. Having two schools, two principals, two administrations and two management boards is "nothing but a different kind of ethnic segregation," he argued. Halilovic told IWPR that the cantons must break the logjam and implement the state law, in line with the obligations Bosnia undertook after it joined the Council of Europe. "The interests of all people have to be considered when solving the problems," said the OSCE's Bayrasli, adding that the international body had been encouraged by the fact that the Framework Law has been adopted at all. Zijad Pasic told IWPR that the Feder ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    2/6/2004- Nobel Prize-winning writer Günter Grass is among the first 700 signatories to a petition calling for the resignation of Eric Van der Linden, the EU ambassador to Slovakia. A month ago, Van der Linden called for Roma (Gypsy) children to be forcibly separated from their parents during the week and put in boarding schools Speaking on Dutch TV on the very day that Slovakia joined the European Union, 1 May 2004, Van der Linden stated: 'It may sound simplistic but we may have to, I'll say it in quotation marks, force Roma children to stay in a kind of boarding school from Monday morning until Friday afternoon, where they will continuously be subjected to a system of values that is dominant in our society.' Asked by the interviewer whether such a policy would be acceptable to Roma families, the EU Commission's Ambassador to Slovakia added that, in a democracy, Roma children could not be directly compelled to attend boarding schools away from their families but that financial inducements could be offered. The aim he said would be to make the next generation of Roma 'fit better in the dominant society' where 'they will be able to co-operate truly productively to the growth of the economy'. Van der Linden has also made similar comments in a previous interview with the BBC. The European Commission said it regretted the comments made by its representative but the ambassador would face no serious reprimand. The European Roma Information Office (ERIO) has launched a petition calling for Van der Linden to be sacked as Ambassador. ERIO argues that Van der Linden's comments echo an old tradition of 'forced assimilation' through the separation of Roma children from their parents. In Switzerland, child separation was introduced after the First World War and continued up to the 1970s, in an effort to eradicate Romani identity and culture. Angela Kocze, ERIO's executive director, said: 'The solution to improving the school performance of Romani children lies in the abolition of discrimination within the regular school system, not in the pursuit of segregationist policies under the pretext of providing Romani children with better opportunities.' The Roma of Slovakia, estimated to be ten per cent of the population, suffer some of the worst deprivation in the newly expanded European Union. In the so-called 'settlements', where many Roma live, unemployment nears 100 per cent and basic utilities such as water and electricity are lacking. According to official figures, 38 per cent of Roma children attend special remedial schools for the mentally handicapped, placed there on the basis of linguistically and culturally biased IQ tests. In reality, the level of segregation is even higher as many Romani children suffer de facto isolation in separate, sub-standard schools.
    ©Institute of Race Relations

    29/5/2004- Channel Five screened a "largely incomprehensible" European election broadcast by the British National party yesterday after banning an earlier version for breaching race-hate rules. After the channel refused to show the first version, which claimed that Asian men in the north of England were abusing young white girls, the BNP edited out passages with a combination of bleeps and "wind" sound effects. Bemused TV executives, having reviewed the second version, decided they had no option under election rules but to show it. A spokesman said: "The changes were the BNP's interpretation of how to address the tone and content concerns we highlighted when we declined to broadcast the first version. Having viewed the new version, Five has reached the conclusion that, though largely incomprehensible, it does not breach the programme code." Sabby Dhalu, joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism, which organised protests against the broadcast outside the BBC's offices yesterday, criticised all the television stations for showing BNP films. "The fact that the BNP had to tone down its broadcast for Channel Five shows exactly what sort of organisation they really are. They claim they are a legitimate party, but in reality it's an openly fascist and racist organisation. "The broadcasters should not give a platform to an organisation of this nature. We have organised demonstrations outside BBC offices today because people do not pay their TV licences to see fascists whipping up racism."

    Five said the BNP's original film was "likely to stir up racial hatred". Unlike other BNP broadcasts shown by the BBC and ITV, it repeated claims made in an unbroadcast Channel 4 documentary that Asian men in Bradford were grooming white girls as young as 11 for sexual and drug abuse. Channel 4 decided not to show the documentary after West Yorkshire police said it risked inciting disorder. When Five followed suit, the BNP accused it of censorship, saying the party's freedom of speech was being impeded "on the whims of the broadcasting companies". It then submitted the edited version, which was shown at 5.55pm. The BBC showed three different BNP election broadcasts yesterday and on Thursday in Scotland, England and Wales; ITV screened one yesterday. ITV said the version it received from the BNP was "significantly different" from that given to Five. In it, the BNP's leader, Nick Griffin, claimed current immigration and asylum policy was "absolute madness" and Britain was "full up". Exploiting fears of Islamist militants, he said Muslim fundamentalism was incompatible with democracy, women's rights and peace. Channel 4 is not required to show European election broadcasts; the other four terrestrial broadcasters must show films from qualifying parties. They have no editorial control over them, but can decide not to broadcast them if they contravene broadcasting regulations. In the original version made for Five, the BNP claimed that allegations of grooming were growing across towns in the north of England. It featured an actor voicing the words of a mother who claimed that her 13-year-old daughter was one of the victims, being drugged by her Asian boyfriend and gang-raped by his friends.

  • Religious leaders appealed for calm yesterday after the British National party's initials were sprayed on the wall of the Birmingham Central mosque. The mosque's chairman, Mohammed Naseem, said the Muslim community would not "fall into the trap" of reacting angrily to the vandalism. A spokesman for West Midlands police said that officers were treating the vandalism as racially aggravated criminal damage.
    ©The Guardian

    2/6/2004- Persistent and untackled Islamophobia in the UK could lead to 'time-bombs' of backlash and bitterness, according to a major report. Findings by a national commission into Islam in Britain found the aftermath of the 11 September attacks has made life more difficult for Muslims. It criticised public bodies for failing to address institutional Islamophobia. But it said schools and hospitals had become much more sensitive to the religious needs of Muslims. The report is the latest publication from the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, a think tank first set up by anti-racism organization the Runnymede Trust. Its first report in 1997 made 60 recommendations and warned that the government and communities themselves had to do more to improve the situation of Muslims in the UK. It called for changes in the law to better protect Muslim communities and a major effort to bring its people into public life.

    'Recommendations ignored'
    Launching the new report, Dr Richard Stone, chair of the commission and formerly an adviser to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, warned key recommendations had been ignored. "On 15 February 2003 there took place the biggest public demonstration ever in British history [the march against the war in Iraq]," said Dr Stone. "But within weeks, the wonderful solidarity seen on 15 February seemed to be unravelling. "There is now renewed talk of a clash of civilizations and mounting concern that the already fragile foothold gained by Muslim communities in Britain is threatened by ignorance and intolerance." Since the 11 September attacks, communities had experienced greater hostility, including increased attacks against individuals and mosques, the report said. It criticised established anti-racism organisations for failing to do enough to combat anti-Muslim prejudice.

    Rioting predicted
    Credit for any positive changes since 1997 had to go largely to Muslim organisations themselves which had become more organised, the report found. Central government deserved some praise for moves on religious discrimination. But it warned exclusion from public life perpetuated a feeling among some Muslims, particularly the young, that they did not belong in Britain. This resentment and disaffection represented a time-bomb that needed to be dealt with now, it said. Dr Abduljalil Sajid, an imam and adviser to the commission, said he believed many elements of the UK were "institutionally Islamophobic". "Since the 11 September attacks the single most important concern has been police harassment of Muslims," said Dr Sajid. "Even one of the country's Muslim peers, Lord Ahmed, has been stopped twice by police." While there were many examples of authorities properly addressing the needs of Muslim communities, he said, there were more than enough examples where communities believed they were being excluded or ghettoised. This could spark fresh rioting and increase the influence of extremists.

    "These communities need help and want to be proud to be British. But government and public bodies are not backing up words with actions," said Dr Sajid. Dr Richard Stone added: "The only area where there has been major change is within Muslim communities themselves. "Government has not taken on board, in a deep way, the anti-Muslim prejudice in this country." The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which was among those to submit its opinion to the commission, said "very little progress" had been made to tackle Islamophobia since the 1997 report. Secretary-general Iqbal Sacranie cited a 41% increase in "stop and search" operations on Asians revealed by the Metropolitan Police Authority and a "virulently anti-Muslim" televised party political broadcast by the far-right British National Party as examples of the go ©BBC News

    3/6/2004- Christians should not vote for the British National Party (BNP) in the upcoming European and local elections, the Bishop of Manchester has said. The Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch told a meeting in the city that support for "racist or fascist" parties was "incompatible" with Christianity. In a statement, he said Christians should not vote for "those who would deny the... equal rights of others". But the BNP hit back, saying the bishop was being "fascistic" and "divisive". Rt Revd McCulloch said: "Needless to say, we further urge all followers of Christ to use their vote wisely, and not to vote for any political party or candidate promoting division, exclusion and blame, or in any other way seeking to stir up racial and ethnic hatred." He added: "There is one God, one creation, and one human race. "Therefore we cannot support any party promoting division and the scapegoating of others. "We do not presume to advise which party or parties Christians should vote for. "However, we do affirm our conviction that genuine Christian discipleship is incompatible with actual support for racist and fascist parties, such as the BNP or the National Front." The bishop was addressing a meeting of Manchester's faith leaders at his residence in Bury New Road on Thursday. But Dr Phil Edwards, a spokesman for the BNP, hit back, saying: "The Bishop of Manchester has got it wrong. "We are against racism, but race is an important issue. By telling Christians how to vote, isn't that a bit fascistic? They are being divisive. "We have a number of vicars in our party and it was the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey who made a speech on Islam saying it was authoritarian and underachieving."
    ©BBC News

    3/6/2004- Muslims are being urged to use their votes in the local and European elections to stop the threat from the far right, it was reported today. The Muslim Council of Britain has penned an open letter warning of BNP success in the event of a low turnout on June 10, the BBC says. The group claims a party political broadcast by the BNP last week was threatening and anti-Muslim, although the BNP insists it is not a threat to the Muslim community. The council said the BNP would need less than 10% of the vote to win a seat on the Greater London Authority or in the European Parliament - successes which would entitle it to public funding. "The rise of the far-right parties poses a dangerous threat to our communities," the letter says. Denying any BNP threat to British Muslims, BNP press officer Dr Phil Edwards described the council's letter as "a threat to democracy". He told BBC Radio Five Live: "They are threatening the democratic process by trying to influence people to vote against a party which supports the aims and aspirations of the indigenous population of this country." The council hit back at the BNP spokesman's comments today. Spokesman Inayat Bunglawala said: "It is rather strange that the far right are concerned by us urging Muslims to come out and vote. "They seem to think that it is anti-democratic by urging the Muslim community, who are now 1.6 million-strong in the UK, to participate fully in the upcoming local and European elections. We want them to play their full part in our democratic process. "In a low turnout, the results can be skewed in favour of very small parties and we want the result to reflect fairly people's positions." He said the open letter would start arriving today at every mosque and Islamic association in Britain.

    'Critics may help BNP achieve credibility'
    Opponents risk giving the British National Party (BNP) publicity and credibility its electoral weakness does not justify, the Fabian Society warns today. The party is fielding 400 candidates in next week's council and European elections, seeking a foothold in the European Parliament and London Assembly. But a Fabian report says the far right is in retreat across Europe, and the BNP - with just 3,000 members and less than 1 per cent of the vote in the last Euro-elections - poses the weakest electoral threat. It says: "We need to be careful when raising the alarm about the rise of the far right. Those who do often do so for laudable reasons. A 'never again' stance in the face of creeping extremism and racism and a commitment to draw lessons from history contribute to a heightened readiness to mobilise, but we run the risk of doing their publicity work for them. Panic and publicity generate credibility, and talking tough about immigration or, worse still, adopting the far right's vocabulary, will only play into their hands."
    © Independent Digital

    4/6/2004- The Department of Health's email network has been penetrated by a supporter of the BNP to circulate an inflammatory open letter urging NHS staff to vote for the party at next week's elections. In a warning to NHS trusts last night, the service's chief executive, Sir Nigel Crisp, said the perpetrator had set up a forged address to make it look as though the message had been sent internally. He has reported the matter to the Electoral Commission and the information commissioner. The department's internet service provider was trying to trace the sender. Although an identical open letter was displayed on the BNP's website, the party's national spokesman said it did not authorise the email. It was sent on Monday night and purported to come from a sender at NHS Direct. A copy seen by the Guardian names the sender as "Concerned Friend". Senior officials became aware of the email after it was opened by the director of an NHS trust on Tuesday. "Furthermore, the header has been forged and is nothing to do with NHS Direct. The co-operation of all chief executives in minimising the spread of this offensive message would be appreciated by urging staff to neither open nor forward it. "Local communications teams have already begun to alert trusts of its existence and all efforts are being made to track down its source." The email said that the overwhelming demand for healthcare "by asylum seekers and illegal immigrants" had turned the NHS "into what many sarcastically refer to as the WHS - the World Health Service". After criticising the Iraq war and spending on foreign aid, it said the government was trying to recruit nurses and doctors from abroad to relieve skill shortages instead of finding a domestic solution. The email concluded: "The time has come for all committed healthcare professionals within the NHS to send a clear message to the government expressing our objection to years of misrule by both Tory and Labour administrations by voting BNP on 10 June." The BNP placed the same letter on its website, but denied that it had penetrated the NHS system to circulate it. A party spokesman, Phil Edwards, said: "We don't do things like that. We would not hack. It's a criminal offence. People are looking out for the slightest thing to do us down."

  • Two British National party candidates in next week's local elections have been charged with assault, the police said yesterday. Joey Owens, 42, the party's organiser on Merseyside, is accused of attacking a student in Salford. Tony Wentworth, 19, leader of the Young BNP, is charged with common assault after an incident, also in Salford, the day before.
    ©The Guardian

    29/5/2004- Austria's first anti-discrimination bill has sparked criticism from observers and the opposition who acknowledged Friday that it was a milestone for the country but contended it did not go far enough. "This is the beginning of a new era in outlawing discrimination in Austria," said Dieter Schindlauer of the human rights group ZARA. "It is a milestone, but they did the minimum and nothing more." The Law on Equal Treatment, which was passed Wednesday, seeks to ban discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of gender, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, age or religion. It also outlaws any racial discrimination in a country where, until now, victims had recourse only to a few civil law codes. It targets, for example, the common practice of stating in job or housing advertisements that "no foreigners" or "only Austrians" need apply, which will now be punishable with a fine of E360, about $440. Schindlaeur called the penalty "a joke" and, along with opposition parties, complained that the law did not do enough to ease the burden of proof that victims of discrimination face in Austrian courts. The new bill belatedly implements directives from the European Union issued in 2000 on antidiscrimination and antiracism legislation, which were to have been in place by December 2003 and June 2003, respectively.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    KDH plans to bring law to Constitutional Court over positive discrimination clause

    31/5/2004- Discrimination based on sex, race, religion, health, ethnicity, and sexual orientation will be banned in a single law as of July 1. A strong majority of 107 coalition and opposition MPs approved the anti-discrimination law, which was welcomed by representatives of various groups including gays and lesbians, women, and the Roma. Until now, non-discrimination requirements were incorporated into several laws. Human rights activists said such a system was inefficient and called for the legislation to be put the under one umbrella. Marián Vojtek, the head of the homosexual association Ganymedes, welcomed the law, and noted that it was "just the first step on a long path to achieving acceptance of homosexuals as fully valuable parts of society." The law, which was passed on May 20, does not allow homosexuals to adopt children, nor to get married. The law allows positive discrimination for disadvantaged ethnic or national groups, a move particularly welcomed by Slovakia's Roma minority, which is known for its difficult economic and social situation. Unemployment among the Roma is far higher than the national average, and many see their limited access to jobs, schools, and health care as a result of hidden societal racism. The new law also bans inciting xenophobia.

    Klára Orgovánová, the cabinet's plenipotentiary for Roma issues, told the private news agency SITA shortly after the passage of the law that the minority of an estimated 350,000 - 500,000 people could profit from the legislative change. The passage of the law came after years of effort to push through such legislation, often hindered by the opposition of the ruling Christian Democrats (KDH). The party's MPs opposed or refrained from voting on the law on May 20. Shortly after the law was passed, KDH member Justice Minister Daniel Lipaic announced to journalists that he would initiate a motion at the Constitutional Court against the law's positive discrimination clause. He argued that positive discrimination was against the Slovak constitution and that it also "degrades the human dignity and strengthens stereotypes" of certain groups of people. According to Orgovánová, however, the temporary tool of positive discrimination was "inevitable for those who are dealing with the problems of the Roma communities in Slovakia", arguing that a large portion of the Roma do not have opportunities similar to those of other Slovaks. According to Miroslav Cí , an MP for the opposition party Smer, positive discrimination is a natural part of every democracy through which the majority population shows solidarity with its potentially disadvantaged groups. "[After all,] we create special conditions for handicapped people and pensioners," Cí said. "We should think about the scope of positive discrimination rather than about banning it", he added.

    Roma activists agreed that positive discrimination was necessary for them to overcome their current social problems and to be able to gradually catch up with the rest of society. Tibor Loran from the Roma Communities NGO Council said that this was "the first time in Slovakia's history that Roma will be able to live normal and standard lives in this society". The law was originally prepared by the Deputy PM for EU Integration Pál Csáky, who is also responsible for human rights and minorities in Slovakia, although MPs pushed through some changes to his draft. "The new Slovak anti-discrimination law has a real chance of becoming a model piece of legislation in the enlarged 25-member EU," Csáky said. The EU recommends that its members approve anti-discrimination measures, although it leaves it up to the states whether to have the measures incorporated in several laws or have a single law covering the issue. According to the new law, all forms of discrimination are banned and divided into fou ©The Slovak Spectator

    3/6/2004- The Swiss parliament has voted in favour of allowing gay couples to register their partnerships. The Senate followed the House of Representatives in agreeing in principle to grant gays and lesbians similar entitlements to married couples. The proposed new law, which now has to go back to the House of Representatives to iron out minor differences, recognises the right of both partners to be next of kin. In the case of the death of one partner it would also allow the other to inherit shared property without having to pay a huge tax bill. But no automatic rights would be granted to adopt children or have access to fertility treatment and no legal provision is planned which would allow gay couples to adopt a common surname. A small religious conservative party in parliament has already made it clear that it will challenge parliament's decision.

    The gay rights group, Pink Cross, has welcomed the law as an important step towards ending discrimination against gays and lesbians in the areas of health insurance, pensions and taxes. The group called on parliament to wrap up debate on the new legislation before the summer break. Claude Janiak, a member of parliament for the centre-left Social Democrats, welcomed the outcome of the debate. "Parliament has voted for a pragmatic solution which goes beyond that of Germany and other neighbouring countries," Janiak told swissinfo. But he added that Switzerland still lags behind Nordic countries when it comes to gay rights. "It is true that it will have taken longer to find a realistic solution, but the law was accepted by parliament without much opposition." The move by parliament to offer gays and lesbians similar rights to heterosexual couples comes three years after the city of Geneva introduced its own legislation governing same-sex partnerships. Last year Zurich became the second Swiss city to grant official recognition to gay couples.

    Nationwide vote
    The conservative religious party, the Federal Democratic Union, has come out against the new federal law. The party argues that there is no need for new nationwide legislation, because equal rights are already guaranteed under civil law. "We feel compelled to mount a challenge if the law passes its final reading in parliament," Christian Waber of the Federal Democratic Union told swissinfo. The party says parliament's role is to protect the family and it should not be encouraging alternative lifestyles. Waber added that he had received pledges of support from numerous individuals and groups. "I'm confident that we will be able to collect enough signatures for a nationwide vote," Waber said. But Janiak appears unconcerned by the threat of a referendum. "I'm waiting to see whether opponents will be able to challenge the law," he said, "and I'm not worried about a possible nationwide vote."

    Gay marriage
    Gay marriages are legal in the Netherlands and Belgium as well as in some provinces of Canada and the US state of Massachusetts, according to a survey by the Associated Press news agency. Over the past 15 years a number of European countries have introduced similar rights for gay couples. Gay and lesbian couples are granted special legal status under French law, while Germany, Hungary and Croatia all recognise same-sex partnerships. Portugal and several regional authorities in Spain give gay couples the same rights as their non-married heterosexual counterparts. In South America, legislation is in place on a regional level in parts of Brazil and Argentina.
    ©NZZ Online

    By Jeroen Bosch for Alert! and Antifa-Net in Utrecht

    On Saturday, 17 April New Era Productions, a music label, organised a rock music festival with the title Black Metal Blitzkrieg‚ at the Pazzop youth centre in Bladel, a small village near Eindhoven, close to the Belgian border. Two of the six bands – Ad Hominem and Seigneur Voland – on the bill were from the fascist National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM) underworld. The bands, both from France, performed, one of them under a false name, despite strong protests from anti-fascists and local councillors. Worried by a press statement from Anti-Fascist Action (AFA), the first response of the festival organisers was to cancel the two nazi-bands, but later they decided to sneak them in anyway. Chants of "White Power!" from the 50 or so NSBM fans among the 150-strong attendance greeted the appearance of Kaiser Wodhanasz, the lead singer of Ad Hominem, a salute returned by Wodhanasz. The nazi's had obviously prepared for the event, many of them kitted out with Nazi Party badges, SS symbols, swastikas and T- shirts emblazoned with the SS "Death's Head". Behind the stage at the gig was a flag with the so-called Black Sun, the 12-armed swastika symbol, favoured by the SS while two stands touted an assortment of nazi merchandise, including CD's from bands like the German NSBM outfit Absurd. During the concert, a section of the crowd, a mixture of Belgians, Germans and Dutch, was also bawling for "Auschwitz Rules!" a song from Ad Hominem's Planet ZOG – The End album. "ZOG" (Zionist Occupation Government) is a term used by fascist and nazi groups to point at alleged Jewish world domination but the band's German record label evidently thought it wiser to shorten the Auschwitz "song" title to "A. rules". Indeed, Wodhanasz admitted in an interview with a website ‘dedicated to dark arts' that the title was shortened to "avoid problems with ZOG".

    Problems or not, the hosts of the concert were apparently not fazed by the scum under their roof because a member of the youth centre's committee later claimed that the song "had nothing to do with the annihilation of humans, but was about the band itself." The lyrics, however, prove otherwise:

    "The proof of your decay, Auschwitz didn't go away.

    You will know the agony of your carnal hypocrisy

    Burn in the flames of hatred; be forgotten in the sphere of silence.

    Forever now you will be nothing but an empty page of history.

    Auschwitz rules over the Torah,
    Auschwitz rules over the Koran,
    Auschwitz rules over the Bible,
    Auschwitz rules over you bastards.

    In interviews, Ad Hominem have made it crystal how they think: "Ad Hominem supports the values that became visible during the Nazi regime in Germany. Our message is clear and simple: a total genocide to clean the earth. In our eyes this is the only solution." They do not want immigrants and Jews to be integrated in French society, declaring that "They are strangers to us and we don't want them here." "But," bleat these specimens of the Master Race, "we are not the state power, because the state is based on Zionism and that's why we can't change it." The other French band, Seigneur Voland, is more or less the successor of another band called Kristallnacht, a band that was famous among fascists, mainly because of the criminal actions of its members who have notched up convictions for spreading fascist propaganda and desecrating graves. These same people from Kristallnacht feature on an anonymous distributed picture where they are stand at a grave, wearing swastika badges. Laurent Franchet, a guitarist in the band makes no secret to hide his fascist and anti-Semitic ideas. In various interviews with the NSBM-magazines Warfare, Strength Through War and Hordes Du Chaos he vents his hatred of Jews, foreigners, Arabs and communists, praising Hitler's SS boss Heinrich Himmler because he ordered hideous tortures to be used on Jews and communists. Not surprisingly, Franchet also adores the present-day terrorists of Hamas even if, in his eyes, they are "inferior people". Together with its music, Seigneur Voland also distributes a leaflet with the following words: "Total genocide to: the armed ZOG and all authorities that will get this record during searches....the nigger from Nice who bought our stuff (don't listen to us anymore, stupid monkey! Burn the t-shirt with you inside)."

    One of the band's CDs is called Antisemite and its lyrics are about war, hatred and national socialist ideology. On a compilation CD, its sings about "when the swastika stars light up in heaven." It is not a coincidence that New Era Productions featured these two bands. This label, based in Maastricht, is run by Remco Mettrop and Jeroen Valkenburg, both of whom are good friends of Jasper Velzel, drummer with the Dutch fascist band Brigade M and former owner of the convicted fascist record label, Berzerker Records (See Searchlight August 2002). Mettrop was, for a while, a stand-in guitarist for Brigade M and can be seen on the cover of a CD that Brigade M that they made together with the German fascist bands Stromschlag and Schutt & Asche. He also organised a concert in 1998 in Geleen, in the south of the Netherlands, at which the fascist Dutch band Holocaust performed. Both people from New Era Productions also write for New Era Magazine, to which, among others, the Belgian nazi Daniel Doucet is a contributor. Doucet also used to be distributor of the NSBM magazine Einsatzkommando Zine‚ a rag full of vitriolic fascist and anti-Semite propaganda. Despite the fact that all of this information was sent by AFA to both the youth centre and the local press, the bands were still allowed to perform. The people who fixed up this nazi concert still work in the youth centre even though they are responsible for staging one of the most fascist concerts ever at a public venue in the Netherlands, a venue subsidized by the local council. The last words in this matter have not yet been said – anti- fascists will make sure of that.

    Five years ago, huge impetus was given to the fight against discrimination in the European Union when new powers were granted to tackle discrimination on grounds of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, age, disability and sexual orientation. This Green Paper sets out the European Commission's analysis of the progress that has been made so far. It seeks views about how the EU can continue and reinforce its efforts to combat discrimination and to promote equal treatment. In so doing, it responds to calls from the European Parliament and others to organise a public consultation on the future development of policy in this area. This Green Paper takes stock of what the EU has done during the last five years to combat discrimination and to promote equal treatment. It looks at how these initiatives relate to other policy developments at European and international levels. It examines new challenges that have emerged in recent years, including those linked to the enlargement of the EU. It assesses the implications of this changing context for policy development in the field of non-discrimination and equal treatment. Responses to this Green Paper will be collected principally using an on-line questionnaire. The public consultation period begins on 1 June 2004 and ends on 31 August 2004.
    Fill out the Online Questionnaire

    1/6/2004- The European Parliament is under siege from its fiercest opponents. Various far-right parties, nationalists and Eurosceptics, including groups in the new EU states, look like being a significant force in the parliament after the elections from 10-13 June. Far-right parties have been among the most vocal critics of the idea of a European superstate. Their best-known leaders, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen, the boss of the French National Front, and Joerg Haider, the main force behind the Austrian Freedom Party, are raising their anti-immigrant and anti-EU rhetoric again. Mr Le Pen predicts the formation of a "strong nationalistic movement inside the European Parliament". And there is a chance of a revival of a formal "European Right" grouping in the Strasbourg parliament.

    It may also include the Belgian Vlaams Blok, the Slovak Movement for a Democratic Slovakia - the vehicle for populist ex-Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, who talks tough talk against Hungarian and Roma minorities - and the Self-Defence of the Polish Republic, led by the populist firebrand Andrzej Lepper. But these groups, with their often shrill or xenophobic message, are no longer such a threat to Europe's political order as they were. They are prone to in-fighting and would have trouble agreeing a common platform. The National Front in France is divided against itself, after its hot-tempered leader Mr Le Pen promoted his daughter Marine and her young associates to the top of the party list for these elections. National governments across Europe have stolen the far-right's thunder by themselves taking tough steps against illegal immigration. The new wave of anti-EU feeling is represented by parties which reject the "far right" label. They say that they are patriotic groups, struggling to keep their own nation's identity within a European Union of 25 states. They even call themselves the true democrats of Europe, because they say EU power is unaccountable and national parliaments are the only source of political legitimacy. In the last parliament their ideas were broadly represented by two political groupings, made up of 48 members. One of their champions is the Danish Eurosceptic Jens-Peter Bonde, leader of the Europe of Democracies and Diversities group (EDD). He hopes that Eurosceptics will double their number this time.

    Public concerns about the planned EU constitution, and dismay in the new member-states at the unequal terms of their accession, have spawned similar-minded groups in virtually every EU state, except Germany. Their champions include: Vaclav Klaus, the President of the Czech Republic, who mourned his country's accession to the EU as "the end of our national sovereignty". His Civic Democrats are far ahead of other parties in the polls. Maciej Giertych of the strongly Catholic "League of Polish families", which is led by his father Roman. The younger Giertych says his group will do all it can to block the planned EU constitution and to take Poland out of the EU. Together, his party and Mr Lepper's Self-Defence party command over 25% of voter support. Robert Kilroy-Silk, the former British Labour MP and TV celebrity who has joined the UK Independence Party. He accuses European governments of lying about the planned centralisation of power at European level through the planned constitution. Some opinion polls suggest that UKIP could win over 10% of the national vote on their platform of pulling Britain out of the Union.

    Elsewhere, too, champions of national sovereignty are changing Europe's political landscape, through parties such as the anti-EU June Movement in Sweden, born out of the successful "No" campaign in last year's referendum on the euro currency. The main election battleground will be between the centre-right (mostly Christian Democratic) parties of Euro ©BBC News

    3/6/2004- The EU's justice and home affairs commissioner has called for more to be done to find a common policy on immigration across the bloc. Five years after a common European asylum and immigration policy was initiated at a summit in the Finnish city of Tampere, Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino called on his European Union colleagues to work towards a "uniform status" for admitting legal migrants for employment purposes into the union and encourage the immigration of more non-EU nationals. Speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, Vitorino told the gathered officials that the approach of different member states in the area of asylum and immigration had delayed the creation of a cohesive common policy and specifically stressed the need for the EU to regulate laws on legal immigration for economic reasons. "It is necessary to make headway in terms of economic immigration policy and the right of every member state to fix the number of immigrants," Vitorino said. "We need collaboration on a European level and must specifically concentrate on the integration of immigrants." Vitorino added that, since the so-called Tampere program was introduced in 1999, which was intended to form a cooperative base for member states on matters such as asylum, immigration and the fight against terrorism, some progress had been made. The commissioner quoted the implementation of the European arrest warrant as an example of the fruits of Tampere's labor. The commissioner was speaking on the day when the European Commission adopted a communication on the results of the Tampere program. A second program which will set out further plans for "an area of freedom, security and justice" is expected to be in place by the second half of 2004 despite continuing differences between states on the issues involved.

    Conflicting views
    The delay in formulating a common policy stems from conflicting views throughout the bloc. There is particular controversy in Germany where the Social Democrat government and conservative opposition have negotiated their own immigration law. The European Commission would require member states to take on more immigrants than the current German bill allows. Vitorino said the negotiations needed in reaching a unanimous agreement on proposals made the resolving of the issue "complicated" and had led to less ambitious outcomes. "There have been moments of joy, but also of sorrow and intense depression," he admitted.

    Human rights group criticizes EU
    The record of the European Union in the area of immigration over the last five years has drawn criticism from human rights organization Amnesty International. A statement from Amnesty said that "from a human rights perspective, the picture is not positive." "The EU has created an area that has diminished the legitimate rights of refugees, that is less secure than it should be because of the lack of human rights safeguards hampering the fight against crime, and that is free for many, but certainly not for all," the Amnesty assessment read.

    UN body calls for cohesion on refugees
    The United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also called on the EU to regulate a common refugee policy to guarantee that those seeking protection from certain crisis regions would be treated on an equal basis everywhere within the bloc. Jean Mouchet, the UNHCR representative in Brussels, added to the statement by telling reporters that some member states, especially the ten new countries admitted at the start of May, urgently needed help to improve their asylum systems. One particular area in which the European Union was accused of compromising the rights of immigrants was the bloc's security agenda. Amnesty criticized the EU for shifting its focus to combating illegal immigration as part of its anti-terror initiatives at the expense of making policies to facilitate legal immigration.

    The fight against terror goes on, says Vitorino
    Vitorino countered the criticism by pledging that the fight against terrorism would remain among the union's priorities. He added that the EU would also continue to cooperate in future to shore up the bloc's external frontiers in the east to prevent unlawful immigration. But he warned Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Austria, who want to form a pilot group to increase the fight against terrorism and unlawful immigration, not to consider separatist police actions outside the European Union. He added that any initiative to increase security must be done so as part of a common policy and with the full involvement of all EU member states.
    ©Deutsche Welle

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