Headlines June 23 , 2003

21/6/2003- More than 80 percent of Portugal's immigrant community is happy with their lot, with about half earning between 500 and 1,000 euros a month, according to an opinion poll published earlier this week. Portugal's High Commission for Immigration and Ethnic Minorities (HCIEM) commissioned the poll, which shows the majority of immigrants are men between 25 and 34 years of age and come from Africa, Brazil and countries of the former Soviet Union. Eastern European immigrants have the highest qualifications, with 45 percent of those questioned saying they had completed higher-education course. Only 6 percent of Africans and eight percent of Brazilians had college degrees. Forty-eight percent of immigrants earn between 500 and 1,000 euros a month, with a third of the sample of 1,000 people saying they had brought home between euros 350 and euros 500 in the previous month. Portugal's minimum monthly wage is around 370 euros and six percent of immigrants said they earned below 250 euros. Nearly 10 percent had salaries above euros 1,000. Despite relatively low wages, by Portuguese standards, 38 percent of those polled were "very satisfied" with their situation. A further 45 percent were "satisfied" and 15 percent remained "unsatisfied".

Meanwhile, a study published only days before, showed that 75 percent of Portuguese did not want any more immigrants in Portugal, though they felt that those who already based here should be treated equally and fairly. According to the study, also done by the HCIEM, Portuguese felt the same about all immigrants, irrespective of nationality. When asked to select which communities they disliked most, Portuguese failed to identity any specific group, though those of African descent received a negative rating of 74.4 while Brazilians, (the highest rating) obtained a negative rating of 71.3 percent. Researchers further established that the lower the respondent's qualifications, the more he was opposed against the arrival of more immigrants in Portugal. Despite these negative opinions, 97.2 percent said foreigners should be treated the same as them, while 84 percent said the process of obtaining Portuguese nationality should be expedited for those immigrants who have integrated into Portuguese society. Another study on immigration/emigration in the meantime showed that the number of Portuguese leaving the country rose by 32.9 percent in 2002, totaling 27,000. Among the favoured destinations of emigrating Portuguese, came Switzerland (first), followed by France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Canada. These six countries alone house 77.4 percent of all Portuguese emigrants in 2002.
©The Portugal News

24/6/2003- A health watchdog official has resigned because he says nobody would tell him why all 24 members of his organisation were suspended last year. Joseph Healy quit the Southwark Community Health Council (CHC) last week because vital information about why the group was banned from action for six months has been kept secret. He had hoped the Department of Health's London director, John Bacon, would explain to the board why investigations into institutionalised racism took so long to resolve. And he wanted the official to prove why the mass suspension was legal. But Mr Bacon outraged Mr Healy and other members by refusing to discuss details in public. Mr Healy said: "There are many unanswered questions and I feel the CHC has been treated with real contempt. We have seen the report and can tell the public that the inquiry found no evidence of racism, but we have been told if we reveal any details we will face legal action." He said the people of Southwark were left stranded when the CHC was suspended so should be entitled to know why. The CHC helps Southwark residents who have complaints about GPs, clinics and hospitals. It carries out investigations into the quality of NHS services and campaigns on health issues and against NHS facility closures. "The CHC was one of the most active in London but was seriously damaged by this experience and there was no need for the Department of Health to take this route," he added. At the meeting at Maudsley Hospital, Mr Bacon denied the suspension was illegal and said: "I'm satisfied it was a full and fair report and was necessary because the CHC was in danger of falling into disrepute."
©IC Network

24/6/2003- A survey suggests that racism is preventing many medical students from entering the career of their choice. The report from the British Medical Association (BMA) says racism is evident in access to medical training and careers, and is seen as "acceptable" in the NHS. The survey – part of the BMA's study tracking the careers of 500 medical students who qualified in 1995 – found that 62 per cent of doctors from ethnic minority backgrounds believed race was a "significant" factor in their medical training. In addition, 70 per cent thought ethnicity played a "significant role" in early career opportunities, rising to 87 per cent for access to specialties and 86 per cent for career advancement. The BMA conducted a further study of focus groups, involving 33 doctors. The BMA said the results from both the survey and the focus groups proved "uncomfortable reading". One British female of Indian descent said, "The consultant I worked with for, where I was going to work for six months, for four months did not know my first name. "When asked by the theatre sister, who was doing this hysterectomy, he said, ‘The girl will be doing the hysterectomy. I can't remember funny foreign names.'" A white British male said, "It's not what you know it's who you know. Certainly in surgery. I know it helped me get the job that I'm in now, without a shadow of a doubt." Commenting on the study findings, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of science and ethics, said, "Diversity exists in the medical profession, but individuals are not getting equitable opportunities. "Managers can take immediate steps to improve the situation," she said. "Shortlisting and appointment to medical training posts should be anonymised – this was called for around 10 years ago. Also medical schools should introduce modules on cultural diversity in the undergraduate curriculum."
©Health Newswire

25/6/2003- Accusations that racism is rife in the NHS have been met with caution from hospital doctors in Coventry. A new report from the British Medical Association says nine out of 10 doctors from ethnic minorities thought racism played a "significant role" in determining whether they had a successful career. The report also highlighted individual cases of racism which included job applications from overseas doctors being binned and racist comments. Some of those interviewed for the study claimed the NHS was institutionally racist. Dr John Chandy, consultant radiologist at Coventry's Walsgrave Hospitals, said he had been in the NHS for 30 years and never been on the receiving end of racism.

Dr Chandy was medical director for the trust which runs Walsgrave for four years and is now president of doctors' union, the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association. But he said there was no room for complacency. "Like everything else in life there will be individual cases. Experiences are going to vary. "I have heard of cases up and down the country, and it is something which people need to look at and think whether their structures and policies are right. "This is the same as any organisation. I think in most institutions where policies are established it is up to the people in charge to make sure they are followed and monitored." Dr Peter Mulrooney, a consultant anaesthetist at Walsgrave and chairman of the senior staff committee, said he had never had a racial complaint brought to him. "I would struggle to believe there was an organisational structure which was overtly racist. "I suppose you get the same spectrum of characters in medicine as anywhere else in life so if there is racism I'm sure it will come from individuals who have that sort of mind-set anyway. "I would not say we work in a 100 per cent politically correct environment but I would be surprised if that was the case anywhere else." The BMA report is based on a survey of 476 doctors who qualified in 1995. Of these 400 were white and 76 from ethnic minorities - one in three NHS hospital doctors is from an ethnic-minority background.
©IC Network

26/6/2003- The Commission for Racial Equality in Wales is concerned by a new report detailing the gap in achievement between pupils from minority backgrounds and their peers. Dharmendra Kanani, the CRE's director of countries regions and communities, said he was disheartened to hear that almost three quarters of those surveyed had experienced racism. And he also urged schools to provide a safer environment for all pupils. "Many of the ethnic minority pupils in our schools and their families face the combined challenges of racism, social disadvantage, limited proficiency in English and Welsh and lack of familiarity-with the culture of the education system," he said.

The study by the English as an Additional Language Association of Wales has prompted the CRE to call on the Welsh Assembly Government, who sponsored the report, to further explore why groups such as Yemeni and Somali pupils are under-achieving. Indian and Chinese pupils tended to achieve better than the average. Those from African Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds achieved significantly less well than the national average. It hopes this study will pave the way for similar research into health, social services, economic development and other public service sectors in relation to ethnic minorities living in Wales. Mr Kamani said, "Let us be clear, we all have a responsibility to address the issues of racism, under-achievement and indeed rates of exclusion of ethnic minority pupils in Wales. "One very important tool is the amended Race Relations Act. "This requires schools to be pro-active in promoting racial equality in their day-to-day work, particularly in relation to policies impacting on levels of attainment."
©IC Network

27/6/2003- Newton Abbot's Seale-Hayne College has hit back at claims that its student union is a "hotbed of racism". Teignbridge MP Richard Younger-Ross claimed in a House of Commons debate that the comment was made by University of Plymouth vice-chancellor Professor Roland Levinsky during a meeting with him over the future of the campus. Mr Younger-Ross was talking to MPs during an adjournment debate on Wednesday, called to discuss the Government's policy on allowing colleges to close campus. He told how Prof Levinski had claimed a Seale-Hayne student had run as a BNP student in the recent local elections. But the allegations of racism have been strongly denied by key players in the Seale-Hayne debate, including student union president, James Lewis. "It's complete rubbish," said James. "We have a lot of international students here, integrated into our little community, and we have no racism in any shape or form. "Neither have I heard of anyone running for the BNP. We are a small community and it is the sort of thing that would come to light. I cannot imagine that it is true. "However, when I went to the Plymouth campus recently, I saw a number of posters for the BNP and announcing meetings for the Nazi party, stuck on to college notice boards so its seems strange for him to point the finger at us. "The professor's comments are a slur, not just on the student union, but on everyone in the college. "I just can't believe it." There was an angry reaction from the Seale-Hayne Future group - formed to battle the University's decision to close the campus - with chairman, Jim Hoskins, saying that the comments detracted from the debate's important points. "If this was said, it is absolutely appalling," said Mr Hoskins. "It is a totally untrue and irrelevant remark. "If there is any element of truth to it it would only have been as a student prank, I am sure. "This just proves that there is no good reason for closing down Seale-Hayne other to satisfy Professor Levinski's own pipe dream. He has still given no logical reason for the closure and this sort of inflammatory comment does not help. "Seale-Hayne is an excellent college with an excellent staff - what end can be reached by trying to destroy it? "It should not be and will not be allowed to close down." Professor Levinski was not available for comment.

26/6/2003- The Home Office, this week, tried to present its new research on asylum-seeking in Europe as evidence that its policies were working. But what the research actually says is that attempts to deter asylum seekers through hardline measures are unlikely to be effective. Earlier this year, Tony Blair set a target of halving the number of asylum applicants to the UK. He claimed that a series of hardline measures, introduced in the 2002 Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act, would cause such a dramatic fall in applicants, that the figures due to be published in November 2003 would show half the number of claims as in the same quarter in 2002. The measures introduced by the Act included the controversial withdrawal of benefits for so-called 'in-country' applicants (those that do not make a claim for asylum within a few hours of arriving in the country), as well as the introduction of a 'white list' of countries from which asylum claims are presumed to be false and the curtailing of full rights of appeal. All these measures have been justified on the grounds that they will deter those with 'unfounded' claims. This week, the Home Office published research which was specifically commissioned to examine what kinds of effect different European asylum policies have had on the number of claims made. The research looked at the relationship between asylum policy and the numbers of asylum seekers in various European countries from 1990 to 2000. Home Office minister Beverley Hughes hailed the study as showing the effectiveness of tighter border controls, such as visas and carrier sanctions, in reducing asylum claims.

Research distorted
But the researchers themselves have claimed that this is, at best, a partial reading of the research. Dr David Griffiths, one of the report's authors, accused Hughes of attempting to use the research 'to buttress government policies in a way which is illegitimate'. In fact, the study, although worded in the sober language of academia and sharing the government's premise that asylum claims need to be reduced, effectively subverts the working assumptions of current government policy. The main conclusion of the report is that there is, in fact, very little cause and effect between a country's asylum policies and the number of asylum seekers coming to that country. Rather, the major factor determining the number of asylum seekers coming is the political and economic situation in the countries from which they are fleeing. This has a larger influence than any policies in the receiving country aimed at restricting or deterring entry. And the decision of asylum seekers to apply in one country rather than another is influenced by factors which governments have little control over, such as former colonial relationships or other historic ties and the existence of settled communities of co-nationals.

Reactive policy-making
In Britain, the report argues, asylum policy has been introduced reactively in response to short-term increases in numbers. By the time new legislation comes into effect, numbers have already started to decline. The introduction of 'indirect' measures of control, such as reception facilities, detention and the withdrawal of welfare benefits (all elements of recent legislation in the UK), have had no impact on deterring asylum seekers, according to the study. Although, in the short term, the introduction of direct controls on entry, such as visas, has reduced the number of asylum applications received, the impact has only been for a limited time period, after which the numbers have returned to the earlier pattern. The report also argues that many policies, aimed at reducing numbers, have, in fact, been counter-productive. In particular, there is 'strong circumstantial evidence' that attempts to restrict the entry of asylum seekers through stronger border controls have led to a growth i have unpredictable and negative consequences.
©Institute of Race Relations

26/6/2003- Three band members of German skinhead rock band 'Landser,' currently on trial, have been accused of forming a criminal entity intent on inciting racism and anti-Semitism through their lyrics. If found guilty the musicians could face a maximum five-year prison sentence. The prosecution, for its part, said the albums contained 'racist, nationalistic and anti-Semitic tirades of hate." One song of Landser calls for the murder of Michel Friedman, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Landser, which is also an old German word for a foot soldier, is charged with circumventing German law, which prohibits the dissemination of Nazi and racist materials, by secretly making CDs in the United States, Sweden, Britain and Poland. The defendants are leader Michael Regener, bassist Andre Moehricke, and drummer Christian Wenndorff. Landser, founded in 1992, is believed to have cult status among far right groups. The members, reported to hail from Berlin and Brandenburg, have produced songs which attack the presence of foreigners in Germany. The trial is expected to conclude in two months.

22/06/2003- The Football Association is to tell clubs to be more welcoming to homosexual players in an attempt to halt discrimination in Britain's national game. In a campaign to begin in September, the FA will say that anti-homosexual attitudes on the pitch and in the stands must be stamped out to make the sport "inclusive" for gay players. It will also give warning that players, officials and fans who abuse, bully or assault homosexuals could be suspended, fined or even banned from the game. The campaign, similar to previous attempts to eliminate racism, will extend from the grassroots to the Premiership, and has been prompted by concern that football's traditionally macho image has forced players to conceal their sexuality to avoid persecution. Only one professional player, the former Nottingham Forest striker Justin Fashanu, who killed himself in 1998, has openly declared his homosexuality. He was notoriously bullied by the club's manager Brian Clough, who called him "a bloody poof".

Other footballers, including Graeme Le Saux, the Chelsea and England full-back, who was called a "faggot" by Robbie Fowler, a fellow international, have faced taunts about their sexuality from players and fans, despite being heterosexual. Lucy Faulkner, the FA's ethics and sports equity manager, said that, in future, those guilty of such abuse would be disciplined. "What we want to have in football is a situation where anybody should feel comfortable, regardless of their sexual orientation, ethnic background or their sex. "There are a number of things we can do apart from suspending people. We can ban people from football, and there are fines as well. If there's foul and abusive language - and it includes comments alluding to sexual orientation - then any sanction is automatically doubled, and trebled for the next offence. The obvious examples would be name-calling, offensive language, things like calling someone a 'poof'. "What we've set up in addition is how to deal with discriminatory incidents that happen off the field of play. What we are saying to people is that if you have experienced homophobia you need to let us know because we have got systems in place now to investigate those fully and take action."

The FA will set out its strategy in an article to be published in September in reFRESH, a magazine for homosexual men. It will also communicate its message to clubs throughout the country, spelling out to officials and players that discrimination against homosexuals is as unacceptable as racism. Ms Faulkner said that education and "awareness training" would also be provided, although she conceded that progress may be slow. "It's going to take a few years. There are a lot of people who've been around a long time who have views and attitudes that might be inappropriate. We need to spend some time talking to those people to help them change. I believe things have changed hugely, but it's not enough. "We need to remind people that any form of discrimination is unacceptable and that nobody should have a bad time in football, whether they be black, gay, disabled or whatever."

Prejudice in the sport prompted the creation in 1992 of Stonewall FC, a club for homosexual players. It runs four teams, the best of which competes in the premier division of the Middlesex County League, and has won the International Gay and Lesbian FA's world cup for the past three years. Marc Short, 24, a Stonewall midfield player, said the sport's "herd mentality" had created an anti-gay atmosphere within the game that made it difficult for footballers to be open about their sexuality. "I think lots of people, who probably have gay friends, change when they get to a football match and just go with the flow," he said. "If you are a gay player and there's lots of homophobic baying from the crowd, then you are not going to stick up your hand and be open about it. It would be like being thrown to th particularly when certain players have been accused of not being macho enough. "That's when they can be open to abuse from players from the opposition and maybe even the same team, and certainly from the crowd. So it's no use saying this is an easy path to walk down. "There are in-built prejudices which come from a very early age and going back generations. In football, we have set a very good example with anti-racism, but whether we have the same success with homophobia is another matter. It's down to education."
©Daily Telegraph

22/6/2003- Brotherhood and good will go only so far at the Confederations Cup. Soccer's governing body is trying to take a stand against racism at this tournament, which brings together the champions of all continents. FIFA showed videotapes of racial cooperation on the field and asked opponents to shake hands after games. This attempt to foster fair play and racial harmony hahanot been overwhelmingly embraced. "It's going a bit overboard to require it after the game," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. "That's something people in suits think is important." The handshake protocol was followed without protest after the United States lost 1-0 to Brazil on Saturday, preventing the Americans from advancing. "It puts a lot of pressure on the referee," Arena added. "Sometimes it's best that opponents are separated."

France captain Marcel Desailly was not pleased when told of the new etiquette before his team faced New Zealand on Sunday. "I can't be forced to shake the opponents' hand," he said. "I shake the hand of the person nearest me anyway. If I have to shake 23 people's hands we'll never see the end of it." Senes Erzik, chairman of the FIFA Committee for Security and Fair Play, acknowledged that soccer has a long way to go to be free of discrimination. "Our sport is a reflection of society and is not devoid of the phenomena threatening modern society," he said. The two-day initiative got off to a rocky start when Turkey played Cameroon on Saturday in Saint-Denis. Before the game, opposing players linked arms. After Cameroon won, on a disputed late penalty kick, the feel-good atmosphere soured. Clusters of Turkey fans scuffled with security guards and pelted the field with bottles. "They are fanatical fans; Cameroon are fanatical fans, too," Turkey midfielder Yildiray Basturk said. "It's normal for there to be a few problems. But perhaps it would have been better to segregate the fans." There were no problems among the players, who greeted each other after the game.

Cameroon midfielder Geremi, who scored the penalty kick, says he has never been subjected to racist taunts or acts. Other black players, however, are jeered elsewhere by opposing crowds, some even by their own fans. "Racism needs to be banished," he said. "FIFA is doing the right thing." Slovakia had to play a qualifier for the 2004 European Championship before no fans as punishment for the racist behavior by some of its fans. Italian soccer has been trying to combat racism. England turned down its ticket allocation for an upcoming Euro 2004 qualifier in Macedonia in anticipation of possible boorish behavior by its fans. Racism is only one problem. There is nationalistic fervor as well. Whistling by fans during an opponent's anthem has been a presence in soccer for decades. Fans booed the American anthem for the second straight game. Arena said Sunday it was one thing when the whistling occurred during his team's first game when the stadium was filled mostly with Turkish fans. "Yesterday, I thought was clearly disrespectful," he said. Added U.S. forward Landon Donovan: "True colors show."
©Associated Press

21/6/2003- Walking past the Cafe Signes on a leafy avenue on the Left Bank, there is little to suggest it is any different to other cafes in Paris. Until you take a closer look, that is. The customers seem to be gesticulating a little more than usual - even taking into account the expressiveness of Gallic hand gestures. And the waiters and waitresses are gesticulating back. Yet they are not arguing, and in fact, the cafe is really rather quiet compared with the usual noise levels of a busy Paris bistro at lunchtime. Once you sit down, and are handed a menu, all is explained. This is France's first bistro where the deaf and the hearing can interact on an equal basis. Most of the 45 staff are deaf, as are some of the customers, though by no means all.

Alphabet soup
Those who come here unable to read or understand sign language are given a quick tutorial: the menu contains pictures of all the main signs needed to communicate an order. Interlock your fingers in the shape of a steeple, and you will get chips. An upwards circular motion with both hands, to denote fizz, will get you a glass of lemonade. The menu also lists the whole of the French signing alphabet, a one-handed alphabet unlike Britain's two-handed sign alphabet. Anyone still unable to order can always point or write it down, but most customers seem to enjoy the challenge, and the waiting staff are happy to teach anyone who wants to learn. Valerie has worked at the cafe since it opened earlier this month. She is profoundly deaf, but uses a mixture of lip-reading and sign language to take customers' orders. She says she is enjoying the job, and that most people who come do try to express themselves in sign language even if they are not deaf. She shows me how, when the order is ready, the chef simply buzzes a small pager on her belt which alerts her silently - in stark contrast to the usual loud shouts from Paris restaurant kitchens.

An equal footing
Although the cafe is open to everyone, it was set up with government backing and some business sponsorship to train people with hearing impediments for full-time jobs. So far it is going well. The lunchtime I visit, only one table is empty, and so lively are the conversations that it is hard to tell who is deaf and who is not. The "directrice" of the project, Martine Lejeau Perry, says customers with normal hearing quickly learn to sign, either by imitating the drawings on the charts or by making up their own signals. "In France it can be very difficult for those with any disability," she says. "People are not accepted as much, and there is less tolerance. Very often the deaf in France are patronised. The aim here at the Cafe Signes is to put people on an equal footing."

Francine Daude, who helps train staff at the cafe, nods in agreement. She can hear but also speaks fluently in sign language. "I think this place does help create greater understanding," she says. "Most deaf people and hearing people are actually afraid of each other, and suddenly the non-deaf who come here find themselves a little in the same situation as a deaf person. "They have to learn a whole new way to communicate. It's good to have a link between the two, and the link is this cafe - a place where you can drink, eat and have a good time together and begin to discover that the person on the other side is not so different after all." Pascal, one of the customers enjoying lunch at a table outside, says that his sign language is not very good, but it is improving. He likes the cafe and comes here regularly. "It's good because it's a step towards greater integration of those who can hear and those who can't. But the main reason I come here is because it's a good cafe."
©BBC News

25/6/2003- "The Internal Minister's report has swept clean the issue of demagogy and every simplification," was the recognition to Beppe Pisanu that the Social Democratic secretary, Piero Fassino started off with speaking at the debate at Parliament on illegal immigration. "The immigrants weren't here before because there was a certain type of government which seems to have disappeared in the new one. For months this demagogy has poisoned the political debate but the issue exists and will become more and more prevalent". The immigration question is "a a major issue that involves the civilization and the future of our country". And Fassino thinks it can be solved only through two policies. It can be solved with "cannons, closed borders and segregation, but apart from being uncivilised it is also a solution, and I speak especially to the Northern League, although it's not a possibility as no one is up to shooting a cannon at a boatload of refugees".

And so the only other policy that remains is to "hold four fronts together": the more support given to co-operation and with that, the development of poorer countries; a different policy of bilateral agreements with the countries from which the immigrants are coming; integration policies changing the Bossi-Fini law in terms of labour market issues; a law on asylum that must be a 'priority' for the government. Fassino thus asked the government under the Justice Minister, Roberto Castelli who "is blocking the European plan against racism, for "requested action". In recognising the agreement that Fassino showed for Pisanus' thesis, the SD leader said to the Internal Minister: "I am under the impression that to carry out this immigration policy you hope to align yourself more with us than with your government colleagues".

23/6/2003- Integration Minister Bertel Haarder may secure special agreements with several Western countries, to allow Danish citizens to bring their foreign-born sweethearts to Denmark. Politicians and lawyers across the country are stunned by a new initiative from Integration Minister Bertel Haarder, which would grant residence permits to international couples from several Western countries, even if such couples would otherwise be ineligible for Danish residency due to the nation's strict regulations on family reunification. "It seems quite discriminatory, and smacks of preferential treatment. It sounds as though Danish authorities are trying to keep a certain group of people out of the country," said Social Democratic immigration spokeswoman Anne Marie Meldgaard.

Daily newspaper Politiken reported over the weekend that the Integration Ministry is working to secure special agreements with countries including Canada, the US, and Japan, allowing their citizens to obtain special working visas for one year. The visa would make it possible for Danes to bring their foreign-born sweethearts to Denmark, which in turn would give the couples better odds to legally remain in Denmark. After the government tightened its immigration laws in 2002, couples are referred to the country where they have the greatest overall affiliation. Bertel Haarder has refuted the criticism. "In that case, then it's also discriminatory to demand visas from citizens of some countries, and not from others," Haarder told Politiken.
©The Copenhagen Post

24/6/2003- The head of Norway's National Bureau of Crime Investigation (Kripos) is calling for stronger criminal penalties and even new limits on immigration. He claims that's necessary if the country is to gain control over its rising crime rate. It's a bold position in a country known for its liberal politics and relatively lenient treatment of criminals. Arne Huuse of Kripos simply doesn't think these policies are working. "We're always talking about the need to integrate our new countrymen," he told newspaper Dagbladet Tuesday, "but it's a problem when they don't follow the norms and rules in Norway." Much of Norway's violent crime is tied to drunkenness and drug use among ethnic Norwegians as well as immigrants. Hardly a week goes by without reports of drunken brawls, domestic violence or stabbings carried out by assailants under the influence, with some Norwegians almost laughingly attributing it all to their Viking heritage. Many a judge has excused or given light sentences to defendants who were drunk when they committed their offense, and therefore not considered responsible for their actions.

Huuse's comments, however, come in the wake of a string of recent crimes directly linked to Norway's immigrant community. A shooting at Oslo's main airport over the weekend involved two Pakistani gangs that constantly seek revenge against each other, claiming they must restore their "honor." Two Libyan refugees, meanwhile, are charged with the murder of an elderly Salvation Army worker in Haugesund the weekend before. Huuse told Dagbladet that Norway faces "major problems and challenges" in coming to grips with its crime problem "And when you look at the wave of immigration, there's good reason to be worried," he said. "We need a better balance between Norwegians and foreigners." He was careful not to generalize. "Many of our new countrymen do adapt to our norms and rules," he said. "Unfortunately, we've seen too many examples where they don't." Huuse said he was basing his comments on a rising incidence of crime in which immigrants and citizens from immigrant backgrounds are overrepresented. He also said Norway needs tougher laws and criminal penalties, especially in dealing with gangs.

25/6/2003- Both Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik and Justice Minister Odd Einar Doerum warn against branding immigrants and refugees as criminals. This follows a call by the Chief of the National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Crime (OKOKRIM), Arne Huuse, for a reduction of immigration to Norway as a measure against increasing crime. Bondevik admits that he is concerned over the increase in crime. He says he is also worried over the possibility for an increase in racism, following the attempted murder at the Oslo Airport and the murder of an elderly woman in Haugesund, all within a few days and both incidents involving persons with immigration or refugee background. -We must make immigrants better acquainted with Norwegian law, the legal system and language in order that they may become a valuable resource to the Norwegian society rather than a problem, Bondevik says. He says his government will fight crime among immigrants through better education, and by putting more police on the streets.
©The Norway Post

23/6/2003- The report highlighting Slovakia as one of the countries involved in the "modern-day slavery" of trafficking in women for prostitution comes as no surprise in itself, although perhaps it is surprising that Slovakia is named not only as an origin and transit country but also as a destination country. The question is, what is the government willing or able to do about these problems? It is encouraging to see that non-governmental organisations are already offering advice to young women who are at risk of being duped into prostitution abroad through adverts purporting to be for modelling, waitressing, and other jobs. The police must work with these agencies to root out and prosecute those trying to recruit impressionable Slovak women into this trade. The 17 arrests this year (which have so far led to only six convictions) are just the tip of the iceberg, according to experts in the field. However, the current campaign is only aimed at reducing the incidence of Slovakia as an origin country for trafficking. It may be hoped that there will be a natural improvement in the situation next year when Slovaks will be able to legally work in more European countries without having to rely on dubious agencies.

Slovakia's position as a potential transit country will also change next year when it joins the European Union. Instead of being one of the countries on the outside, it will then be on the inside, with a much smaller border (with Ukraine) to protect from illegal entry to the country. This does not mean that trafficking through Slovakia will stop, but rather that traffickers will use different routes. While this will be less of an issue for the country itself, the problem will simply move elsewhere. It is the destination countries that are the real problem, and it is disappointing to see Slovakia among them. The solution lies in prosecuting those forcing these women into prostitution. Governments need to take action to break up the criminal gangs involved and punish them to the full extent of the law. And the victims need to be given adequate protection and returned to their own countries. We should not stop there, though. The "clients" are just as guilty as the criminals who provide these women for their sexual pleasure. Without men willing to pay for the use of these slaves, the trade would not and could not exist. They are accessories to the crime and should be prosecuted as such. When we start seeing "respectable" businessmen arrested for aiding and abetting slavery, we might start to see a reduction in this evil trafficking.
©The Slovak Spectator

24/6/2003- The Hungarian parliament has amended a controversial law which grants work, health and travel benefits to ethnic Hungarians living in neighbouring countries. The Socialist-led government removed several key aspects in the so-called Status Law, including a reference to a "unified Hungarian nation" spanning borders. Romania and Slovakia, both home to large Hungarian minorities, say the law discriminates against other ethnic groups and interferes with their sovereignty as it allows Budapest to give aid to about three million people on the basis of their being ethnic Hungarians. Correspondents say Hungary made the changes to the law in an attempt to make it conform with European Union guidelines, after the law had been criticised by Brussels. Hungary is set to join the EU next year - while several of its neighbours will remain outside.

The amendments to the law were supported by 195 members of parliament, while 173 deputies from opposition parties rejected the changes. "With Hungary close to joining the European Union, we cannot disregard the EU's legal system," Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs said before the vote. Despite the changes, officials in Romania and Slovakia have expressed reservations about the law. "We still have objections," Gheorghi Prisacaru, head of the Foreign Policy Committee in Romania's Senate was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying. "The European Council, which is due to vote on this issue on Wednesday, should have the final say," Mr Prisacaru said. Last week, the Slovakian Prime Minister, Mikulas Dzurinda, said the law was being approved against Slovakia's will and without consultations with Hungary's neighbours. Under the Status Law - introduced in 2001 - ethnic Hungarians living in Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia are entitled to work in Hungary for a limited period, health treatment and educational aid. Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory under the 1920 Trianon Treaty after World War I, and about three million ethnic Hungarians now live outside their historic homeland.

Hungarians abroad
Croatia - 25,000
Romania - 1.7m
Slovakia - 600,000
Slovenia - 10,000
Ukraine - 125,000
Ex-Yugoslavia - 340,000
©BBC News

25/6/2003- Nearly ten years after mob violence left three Romani men dead and the houses of14 Romani families destroyed in Hadareni, Romania, the European Court of Human Rights on June 3 agreed to review the claims of 24 of the victims, finding the complaint raised "serious issues of law and fact under the Convention". The applicants are represented by the European Roma Rights Center, a public interest law organization based in Budapest that monitors the human rights situation of the Roma throughout Europe and provides legal defence in cases of abuse.

Following an altercation in which a non-Romani boy was killed, a mob of non-Romani villagers hunted down the alleged perpetrators and set fire to the house in which they were hiding. Two were brutally murdered when they tried to escape, and the third burned to death in the house. The mob, including members of the local police force, went on to destroy 14 additional houses of Romani families. Ten months later, three individuals were charged with the murders but later released and their arrest warrants cancelled by the General Prosecutor. The complaints against the police were referred to the Military Prosecutor's Office, which issued a decision not to prosecute. That decision was upheld on appeal. Nearly four years later, following international outcry over the incident and the failure of Romanian authorities to bring justice to the victims, the Public Prosecutor in Mures County finally issued an indictment against 11 civilians suspected of committing the crimes, later expanded to include others. In a judgment issued 17 July 1998, the Targu-Mures court began by noting, "Due to their lifestyle and their rejection of the moral values accepted by the rest of the population, the Roma community has marginalised itself, shows aggressive behavior and deliberately denies and violates the legal norms acknowledged by society." Twelve individuals were convicted of destruction of property and disturbance, including the Deputy Mayor of Hadareni, and five of murder. The sentences ranged from one to seven years, later shortened on appeal. The Supreme Court later acquitted two of the defendants and those remaining in custody were pardoned by the Romanian President in June 2000. A civil court rejected all of the claims for non-pecuniary (moral) damages, finding the crimes were not of such a nature as to produce moral damage.

Because the incident occurred prior to Romania's ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights, the applicant's claims under Article 2 (right to life) and Article 3 (freedom from torture or inhuman or degrading treatment) arising from the incident itself were dismissed on 13 March 2001. The claims remaining before the Court, which were declared admissible in the 3 June 2003 decision, include the applicants' claims under Article 3 (freedom from torture or inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 8 (respect for private and family life) arising from the inhuman conditions in which they were forced to live following the destruction of their homes, as well as Article 6 (right to a fair trial) based on the delayed civil proceedings against the civilian defendants and the inability to pursue civil claims against the police because of the refusal by Romanian authorities to prosecute them. In addition, significantly, the Court will consider the applicants' complaint that they were subjected to discrimination by judicial bodies and officials in connection with the above claims because of their Romani ethnicity, including the anti-Romani statements in the Targu-Mures judgment of July 1998. "These families have been living in horrendous and inhuman conditions since 1993," stated Jean Garland, Legal Director of the ERRC. "The European Court's willingness to hear their claims sends an important message that crimes such as those they have suffered cannot remain without due legal remedy. We ar ©European Roma Rights Center

For sub-Saharan immigrants, the Spanish enclave of Ceuta is a gateway of hope for a better life.

26/6/2003- Alain slept on a concrete floor in an abandoned car dealership, its broken windows covered in thick grime. Last winter, he and hundreds of other sub-Saharan Africans lit open fires to cook and keep warm, waiting for their asylum cases to be heard in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on the tip of North Africa. Most immigrants, like Alain, heard of Ceuta years ago, in faraway towns in Nigeria and Cameroon. Like thousands before them, they set off on foot or hitched rides northward, slipping through Algeria and Morocco on their way to the European Union's southernmost outpost. This tiny patch of Europe - cordoned off from Morocco by two towering barbed-wire fences - offers little work or opportunity. But its proximity to impoverished and war-torn nations makes it a staging post for immigrants - most of them economic migrants, even though many apply for political asylum - before they steal across the sea to a better life in Europe. All over Europe, immigrants flood in illegally, in cargo holds, under trucks, and packed into small boats. The EU estimates that 500,000 immigrants entered illegally in 2001, as agriculture, construction, and home-care industries beckoned cheap labor from abroad. Yet their arrival coincides with a swell in anti-immigrant sentiment across a wide political spectrum.

Ceuta - spread over seven square miles - is a microcosm of Europe's migration pressures. From one side of the peninsula to the other, the enclave's challenges are palpable: undocumented immigrants spilling onto streets, residents griping, politicians scrambling for solutions. "Ceuta is a living laboratory of the globalization process," says Jose Maria Campos, a lawyer and long-time civic leader in the community. "Before, the migration flow was exclusively from Morocco. Now immigrants from all over the world pass through.... But we do not have the capacity to assimilate the ever-increasing flow of people." This port town of 70,000 has been a Spanish military base since 1580, and coveted for the hand it gave in controlling both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar. But its neighbors in North Africa view it as occupied territory - an imperial anachronism. Spaniards respond that Ceuta, and the enclave of Melilla, to the east, are inherently Spanish, since both existed before Morocco became a country. As the relationship between Morocco and Spain has deteriorated over the past decade, Morocco has refused to cooperate on many border issues. It has rejected all non-Moroccan immigrants who try to use the country as a stepping stone to Europe. And tensions have increased in Ceuta and Melilla, as sub-Saharan Africans and other migrants have used Morocco to illegally slip into both enclaves, in the hopes of eventually reaching mainland Spain and the rest of Europe.

Alain, who does not want his last name used as he waits for his asylum case to be heard, once worked in a bottle factory in Cameroon. But his family was starving, he says. He left one night on a journey that would take him through Nigeria, Mali, Algeria, and Morocco, doing odd jobs in each place to get to the next. He camped out on the Moroccan side of the border, where mud streets are strewn with litter and homes are missing roofs or doors. Then one rainy evening a year and a half after leaving Cameroon, he made it over the parallel fences that separate Africa from Europe. He shows a scar along his forearm from the barbed wire, as proof of his feat. To the social workers who provide him with food every day, he says he believes God will help and that he will receive papers soon. Over a cup of coffee in private, he talks about Plan B. If his asylum case is rejected, he will appeal - a lengthy process that will allow him to travel to mainland Spain and get "lost" among thousands of other undocumented immigrants. Economic migrants like Alain have little hope of r lights, and 24-hour lookouts. Running the entire five-mile border with Morocco, it costs $18,000 a day to operate. Such efforts have helped stem the flow of migrants. But just as thousands risk their lives in the desert that separates Mexico and the United States each year, Alain and hundreds of other immigrants who have inundated Ceuta in the past six months show that fortified borders are no obstacle for those willing to risk death for hope. Ceuta's delegate to the central government in Madrid, Luis Vicente Moro, rubs his forehead when asked about Ceuta's unwanted immigrants. Little more can be done to keep them out, he says. "Ceuta is a frontier town, and frontiers produce scars," he says.

Every day, 40,000 Moroccans cross legally into Ceuta, to work in the homes of wealthy Spaniards or to sell merchandise on the streets. That number is more than half of the entire population of Ceuta. Amid those thousands who clog the border checkpoint, last year 76,424 migrants - the majority hailing from Morocco - tried to enter illegally and were turned away. Moroccans who succeed in crossing are immediately deported, under a repatriation agreement. More troublesome to Ceuta's leaders are the illegal immigrants who come from countries that have not signed readmission agreements with Spain. Those immigrants, the majority from sub-Saharan Africa, cannot be turned away until their asylum cases are heard. In the meantime, roughly 400 are housed in Ceuta's Temporary Stay Center for Immigrants. CETI director Santiago Perez says those asylum seekers cost the center $6,000 a day.

Resentment on the rise in Europe
Across Europe, leaders are grappling with how to deal with incoming immigrants. In Britain, the number applying for asylum grew to a record 110,00 last year. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Britain accepted the largest number of refugees in 2002 - 19 percent of the world's total. Anti-immigrant sentiment is coming in the wake of increased asylum pleas and a growing number of undocumented immigrants in Europe. In early May, the government office for internal affairs in Britain said that a rise in asylum cases will lead to "social unrest," a statement that echoes others made across the European continent. In Ceuta - where the ebb and flow of immigration tides are tangible on the street, as undocumented immigrants idle the days away on city sidewalks - this tension is more accentuated, says Raul Rodriguez, a Spanish social worker based in Ceuta last year. "It reminds residents that [Ceuta] physically belongs to a different continent," Mr. Rodriguez says. "Historically, Ceuta [residents have] always lived with the fear that they will one day be handed over to Morocco.... So all they want is everyone back to the border." Ceuta, as many residents like to point out, lacks space and job opportunities. Immigrants know this, so most attempt to reach mainland Spain, where there are tomatoes to be picked and resorts to be built. Last year, more than 16,000 migrants were apprehended while trying to reach Spain by sea. The Association of Moroccan Workers in Madrid estimates that 3,000 have died in the past five years, attempting to cross the strait in wooden boats.

But reaching mainland Europe from other points is even more dangerous and expensive, and usually requires the assistance of the international mafia. Getting into Ceuta, by land or sea, is relatively safe - and, most important, free. "The really poor ones continue to come, regardless of technological advances," says Alfonso Cruzado, a police officer and spokesman for the Guardia Civil of Ceuta. "Some try to jump the fence. Others put flippers and scuba suits on and swim in, even though many of them have never swum before." A much smaller number from as far away as Iraq or China have appeared in Ceuta recently, as well. Many of them say they paid the mafia to get to Europe, and were dropped off in Ceuta. Migrants' use of Ceuta as a launching pad irks residents. "I am in favor of immigration," says Mr. Campos, the la asked not to be named. "I was not born racist. This town made me racist." Irking many residents - Spanish and Moroccan alike - some lawyers and academics have suggested that handing Ceuta and Melilla back to Morocco would reduce illegal immigration and improve the rocky relationship between Spain and Morocco. "But if you think about that in global terms," says Elena Arce Jiménez, a lawyer in Córdoba, Spain, who specializes in immigrants' rights, "if you move the [EU] border up to mainland Spain, there would still be a continent dying of hunger. The difference is you wouldn't have people coming in and asking why people are starving in a developed country."
©Christian Science Monitor Service

25/6/2003- Italy wants to derogate from the embargo against Libya in order to provide non-military equipment to the country to help it stop illegal immigrants from reaching Europe. Southern European countries such as Italy and Malta are often hit by waves of illegal immigrants, mostly coming from Tunisia and Libya. In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Monday, Italy's Foreign affairs minister, Franco Frattini said that talks are being held with the US over the plans to ease the Libya embargo, thus enabling Italy to supply it with non-military vehicles and night-vision equipment. But Italy's plan may run counter to the EU embargo against Libya on arms sales and dual use equipment to Libya. It also appears that Germany is reluctant to accept any derogation from the sanctions. The European Commission is planning to go on a technical mission to Libya before the end of the summer, possibly also with the involvement of the EU member states, in order to study the issue of migratory flows, the EUobserver has learnt. A similar mission was held last month. The fight against illegal immigration has led to an internal dispute in Italy just before it takes over the EU rotating presidency on 1 July. Umberto Bossi, populist leader of the Northern League, has recently threatened to withdraw from the coalition unless the government takes a harder stance on immigration. Interior minister Giuseppe Pisanu has also faced calls for resignation. Although the Northern League's departure would not eliminate the centre-right's majority in the lower house of parliament, it could do so in the Senate.

On behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly's Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, the Cypriot MP, Christos Pourgourides, proposes establishing the office of Human Rights Prosecutor to facilitate access to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for victims of violations of fundamental rights in conflict areas.

Question: Christos Pourgourides, you are the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights' rapporteur on the issue of areas where the European Convention on Human Rights cannot be implemented, which the Assembly debated on Monday 23 June. First of all, can you tell us why such a report is needed today? Are we to understand that protection of human rights is deteriorating in Council of Europe member states?

Christos Pourgourides: No not at all. This report is the result of concern among members of the committee about human rights violations in certain parts of Europe, areas of armed conflict where people whose rights are violated experience huge difficulties in defending themselves through the courts, whether national or international. This led us to believe that there might be lawless areas in Europe. In fact, after closely examining the situation, we concluded that no such areas exist, since the European Convention on Human Rights does apply throughout the territory of all member states. However, there are practical difficulties, with which the report is also concerned.

Question: What are those difficulties?

Christos Pourgourides: As we explain in the report, the first problem is that, before being able to access the Court in Strasbourg, applicants must have exhausted all domestic remedies. In some instances complying with this obligation can prove very complicated. An example would be an area occupied by another country, in which case the question arises under which judicial system domestic remedies must be exhausted. However, the practical difficulties which individuals may encounter as a result of either intimidation or mere lack of information are just as significant. In many regions people remain unaware of the existence of the European Court of Human Rights or do not even realise that their rights are being violated. Moreover, since they have no access to legal assistance, they do not know that they can turn to Strasbourg.

Question: In your report you cite Chechnya and Transnistria as examples of regions where the difficulties you mention are encountered. Yet, cases originating from both regions are currently before the Court in Strasbourg.

Christos Pourgourides: The Court is of course dealing with a few cases from Chechnya, but the question is how many other people who encountered the same problems were unable to apply to the Court for the reasons I just explained. What is more, the Court has not yet given any admissibility decisions in the light of the obligation to exhaust domestic remedies.

Question: You propose establishing the office of public prosecutor at the European Court of Human Rights. How would that improve the situation?

Christos Pourgourides: A prosecutor could be empowered to bring proceedings before the Court in Strasbourg on behalf of those who are unable to do so themselves. This would be of considerable help in ensuring that cases which should be dealt with by the Court are actually brought before it. If our proposal is accepted, the prosecutor would be able to approach people encountering difficulties. It would be for the prosecutor to identify problem areas by all possible means - press articles, information circulating within the communities concerned - and propose assistance in accessing the Court to those in need.
©Council of Europe

June 22, 2003- The federal government offered to set jailed Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel free to travel to the country of his choice if he would plead guilty to being a national security threat, says his lawyer. And a senior government source told The Canadian Press the national security certificate could still be dropped altogether if Zundel would return immediately to his native Germany. "We'd gladly buy Zundel a ticket back to Germany tomorrow," said the federal source. But Germany, where Zundel faces up to five years in prison on charges of suspicion of incitement of hatred, is the last place he wants to go. Zundel remains in solitary confinement at Toronto's Metro West Detention Centre awaiting his next Federal Court hearing on July 28 and weighing his options, say confidantes. "As far as accepting deportation to Germany, I don't believe that's on, at least when I visited him a week ago," said Paul Fromm, a free speech advocate and sometime legal adviser. In fact, both federal offers amount to the same thing, Zundel's lawyer Doug Christie said in an interview: "It's the chute that leads to the slaughterhouse." Christie said Donald MacIntosh, the senior immigration lawyer Ottawa assigned to the Zundel case, proposed to set the 64-year-old German national free "only if he pleads guilty to being a security threat." "And if he does that no other country (but Germany) will take him. Checkmate. Germany has the most repressive laws in Europe to enforce the state religion of German guilt for the Holocaust."

Zundel has been in running legal skirmishes for at least a decade because of his published writings and Web site glorifying Nazism, denying the Holocaust and alleging a global Jewish conspiracy. Federal officials are predictably reluctant to be seen negotiating any kind of deal. A spokesman for Immigration Minister Denis Coderre was tight-lipped. "Things are before the courts right now and we have to let due process take it's course," Mark Dunn said. Zundel has been behind bars since February, when he was deported to Canada from the United States for overstaying a visitor's visa. Zundel immediately applied for refugee status in Canada, claiming he'd be persecuted if he was deported to Germany. The Solicitor General and Immigration Department responded by slapping him with a security certificate declaring him a threat to national security. A Federal Court judge is in the process of deciding whether the certificate is reasonable based on secret evidence from the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.

Immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman said he would find it very troubling if Ottawa were to use the security certificate process as leverage in immigration matters. "What they were trying to do by using the security process was to prevent him from having a refugee claim," said Waldman, who was quick to add he holds "no sympathy at all" for Zundel personally. He believes Zundel's refugee claim was frivolous and could have been easily rejected. "It causes me some concern that the government would be issuing the certificate and then negotiating with Mr. Zundel," Waldman added. "If they have the evidence in the certificate, they should proceed with the process." But Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress said getting Zundel permanently out of Canada is what matters. Farber doesn't care where he ends up. "People would always like to see someone like Zundel face justice in Germany," he said. "But I think for most Canadians, their bottom line is we don't want Ernst Zundel in Canada. If there's another country out there willing to take him, they're welcome to him." Zundel, who lived in Canada for 40 years without being granted citizenship, would like to return to the United States, where his American wife lives in Tennessee, says Fromm. But it's not at all clear that Zundel's destination ©The Canadian Press

Officers' union sought $2.7 billion Stories dealt with racial profiling

An Ontario Superior Court judge has dismissed a $2.7 billion class action libel lawsuit brought against the Toronto Star by members of the Toronto Police Association, who claimed a series of stories about racial profiling implied they were all "racists" and "bigots." In throwing out the lawsuit yesterday, Mr. Justice Maurice Cullity said it was "plain and obvious" it had no hope of succeeding at trial. The police association alleged that every officer's reputation was damaged by the Star's Race and Crime Series, but a simple reading of the stories "destroys" the foundation of the lawsuit, the judge said. "The whole thrust of the articles is that the evidence suggests that racial profiling occurs and that steps must be taken to identify the causes and remove them."

In the series, the Star looked at a police database of charges laid between 1996 and 2002 and concluded that, in some cases, blacks are treated more harshly than whites. Blacks charged with simple drug possession were taken into custody twice as often as whites, the series found, while black motorists were ticketed more often than white drivers for violations discovered after they were pulled over. The stories cannot "be reasonably understood" to state or even hint "that every member of the service is a racist or a bigot," Cullity said. Nowhere do the stories imply, for example, that black officers have racist attitudes, and they do not suggest every officer  or anyone in particular  engages in discriminatory conduct. In fact, Star columnist Royson James said in one of the stories it was a "scurrilous slur" to suggest most police officers are consciously racist, the judge noted. Similarly, former Ontario lieutenant-governor Lincoln Alexander was quoted in one of the stories as saying the consensus at a "summit" meeting of politicians and community leaders over the issue of racial profiling was that "the overwhelming majority" of police officers do their jobs ethically and professionally, he said.

The stories included comments by academics, civil libertarians, municipal and provincial politicians, as well as members of the black community and Toronto police service itself, the judge added. Cullity was ruling on a motion brought by the Star to have the lawsuit dismissed for disclosing no reasonable cause of action. Mary Deanne Shears, the Star's managing editor, said the paper is "gratified" by the decision. "Hopefully the community can now focus on the very important issues that were raised in our series," Shears said yesterday. "That was always our intention in publishing these stories, to focus attention on practices and issues that need to be discussed and addressed." Police association lawyer Tim Danson said his clients will be appealing the decision. "We are taking this to the Ontario Court of Appeal," he said. "It was anticipated, really from the beginning, that one way or another, this was the kind of issue that would end up in the Supreme Court of Canada." At a court hearing last week, Star lawyer Alison Woodbury argued that libel lawsuits are restricted to damages arising out of an injury to an individual's personal reputation. The law doesn't recognize that a large group or class of people  in this case, Toronto police officers as a whole  can be defamed, she told the court. If the group is small enough, it might be possible for individual members to argue they've been singled out and their reputations damaged, Woodbury conceded. But that's not possible in the case of a police association boasting at least 7,200 members, she argued. In order to have any chance of winning, the association would have to prove its members were named or identified in some way, Woodbury said.

However, Danson argued that a libel action filed on behalf of a group isn't automatically barred from proceeding through the c discrimination has occurred. "The focus is on the TPS (Toronto Police Service) as an important and powerful institution in our society and no allegations are made against every — or any — particular member." Cullity said it was important to put on the record that the motion wasn't about whether the conclusions in the Star series were true or whether they were, as police alleged, "a sensational and cynical exploitation of junk science." "Nor is it relevant that members of the (police) class may — and I have no reason to doubt that they do — regard the allegations (in the Star series) as offensive and humiliating, and are concerned about the consequences to their relationships and reputation in the community in general and with particular segments of it," he said.

The judge also said he had "no difficulty" accepting that police officers were offended by a cartoon on the Star's editorial page last Oct. 23, showing a fat police officer with a bulbous red nose telling a black youth carrying a copy of the Star, "Well, you're just asking for trouble, aren't you?" The only issue, however, was whether there was any basis for a lawsuit and the courts have consistently held that there can be no claim for libel unless an individual is singled out, Cullity said. In the case of the cartoon, it isn't reasonable to infer the officer depicted in the cartoon represented each and every member of the Toronto police force, he said. "My client feels the public doesn't read it that way," said Danson, who interpreted yesterday's decision as a partial victory. Even though Cullity didn't agree that the Star stories libelled Toronto police officers, he agreed with the association that, in some cases, group libel lawsuits are possible — and the size of the group doesn't necessarily matter, Danson said. "Those were the two big legal hurdles that we had."

In a statement, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression said it "welcomes" Cullity's decision to throw out the lawsuit. "Libel law is a tool for citizens to use when they feel they have been wronged by the media," said Joel Ruimy, the organization's executive director. "It should never be used as a tool to silence or intimidate investigative reporters. "This particular lawsuit was all the more egregious in that it sought damages of $2.7 billion, a foolishly grandiose amount," Ruimy added. "If it had been allowed to proceed on those terms, it would have resulted in libel chill setting in even among the biggest media companies in Canada." The organization is made up of 400 journalists, editors, producers, publishers and citizens working to promote free expression and media freedom in Canada and around the world.
©The Toronto Star

23/6/2003- The US Supreme Court has upheld the right of a university law school to take race into account when deciding whether or not to allocate a student place. The court backed by five votes to four the University of Michigan graduate law school's policy of affirmative action which favours ethnic minority candidates. However, by a majority of six to three, the judges also ruled that the university's policy of awarding applicants from ethnic minorities extra points when deciding undergraduate places was unconstitutional. The BBC's Steve Schifferes says the court's decision has been hailed as an important victory by civil rights groups. The rulings centred on a case brought by three white students whose applications for places at the university - one of them in the graduate law school - were turned down. The students - who were backed by US President George W Bush - said the decisions to reject them amounted to illegal discrimination, and that if they had been members of a minority group they would have been accepted.

'Compelling interest'
In the first case, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor sided with the court's more liberal justices to decide in favour of the graduate law school's version of affirmative action. She said the US constitution "does not prohibit the law school's narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body". In ruling against the university's points system for undergraduates, the judges decided that it was, in effect, a racial quota system under which a certain number of places were set aside by the university for minority candidates, and was therefore unconstitutional. The US Government's chief law officer, Solicitor General Ted Olson, had appeared in court to support the students' case and condemn the Michigan admissions plan as unconstitutional. President Bush has described affirmative action as resembling "quota systems that... exclude people from higher education... are divisive, unfair and impossible to square with the constitution".

Quotas ruled illegal
Support for the university came from several civil liberties organisations and lawyers, including the American Bar Association. The case was the most recent examination of US race relations since the court's decision in the Bakke versus Board of Regents case in 1978. That case was brought by a white student, Allen Bakke, who argued that he had been passed over by the University of California at Davis medical school in favour of minority candidates. In that instance, racial quotas were struck down, but universities were still permitted to consider race as a factor in admissions.
©BBC News

Aboriginal leaders say skinhead attacks on homeless are fuelled by official crackdown on park dwellers

June 21, 2003- Claims of racism are nothing new in Townsville, the hardbitten industrial city in Queensland's humid tropics, which is often described as the capital of Australia's deep north. "This is probably the most racist town in Australia," says Lloyd Wyles, a broadcaster for indigenous radio station 4K1G. Aboriginal and Melanesian people here claim to have been harassed by the police, refused housing and jobs, turned away from pubs and restaurants, and subjected to verbal and physical attacks. The grave of Eddie Mabo, the founder of the Aboriginal land rights movement, was painted with swastikas only a day after a monument to his legacy was erected in the city in 1995. Recently, however, matters have become extreme even by Townsville's standards. Indigenous leaders say there has been a string of beatings and attacks in recent months. They claim that on more than one occasion Aboriginal teenagers were deliberately run over in hit-and-run attacks. Dwayne Watega, 18, was walking to his relatives' house in the Townsville suburb of Heatley a fortnight ago when he was attacked by white youths. "Five pulled up and started punching into me," he says. "When I was on the ground they were kicking me, not saying anything, just kicking away. Then there was a car coming so they all jumped in and took off. I was in hospital for two days. I've got bruised lungs and a split spleen."

According to indigenous community workers, the most serious attacks are not on well-off children like Dwayne but on Aborigines sleeping rough in Townsville's parks - the so-called parkies. At Morey Street Park, east of the city centre, residents say racial attacks occur nightly. "The last one was last night," says Shannice Daphey. "They came past yelling, 'Get up you black stinking cunts,' calling us niggers and coons." Other reported incidents have been more serious. Several people in the park claim to have been beaten by skinhead gangs, and there have been reports of rock-throwing and even petrol bomb attacks. At Happy Valley, an Aboriginal shanty town under the flightpath of Townsville airport, residents last year were attacked by a mob claiming to be Ku Klux Klan members and carrying metal bars, chains and fence posts. Such attacks are rarely reported to police. Claims of police harassment, including looking for "grog", are routine, and few local indigenous people trust the officers or "bully men". Alcohol and substance abuse is certainly a problem, particularly among the parkies. David Smallwood, an Aboriginal leader, says many indigenous people arriving in Townsville end up sleeping rough after being displaced from traditional rural communities. "A lot of people come here from remote communities for medical treatment, people who aren't used to an urban lifestyle. It's a complete culture shock, and sooner or later they end up in the parks as a statistic."

Townsville's council has put the issue of public drunkenness at the heart of a populist law and order campaign. Critics claim it is fuelling race hatred. A council meeting on Tuesday extended a limited ban on public drinking to all parks in the city centre, a move widely felt to be aimed at indigenous people. "For the wider community it's not thought to be a nice tourist attraction to have our people sitting around in parks, but you don't see them making a fuss if there's white people having a bottle of wine with their picnic on a Sunday," said Gracelyn Smallwood, deputy area head of the Aboriginal affairs body Atsic.

Ms Smallwood believes that official attitudes to the parkies, who number little more than 80 people among Townsville's indigenous population of 15,000, are feeding a wider racism in the city. Her view is echoed by Townsville's state MP, Mike Reynolds. "It is almost as if the offensive b much evidence to show that the situation is the other way round." He does not regard Aborigines' intense distrust of police as a problem in the collection of accurate figures about attacks. In any case, the police do not collect statistics on whether or not crimes are racially motivated, and although racial vilification is strictly prohibited under Australian law, no one can remember a case being brought in Townsville.

But the head of the government-funded human rights and equal opportunity commission visited this week to investigate. Royalie Walters, the regional manager of the anti-discrimination commission, says public obsession with parkies seems to have bred impunity among a minority of white youths in town. Unwitting media stereotyping meant people felt justified in yelling racial abuse and even causing constant harassment, she said. But Mr Wyles thinks the town's problems are more deep-rooted. "It goes right back to the constitution. This country was founded with a racist white Australia policy. Indigenous people weren't even citizens until 1967."
©The Guardian

25/6/2003- A law to stop New Zealand's Maori population seeking exclusive ownership of the seabed and coastline has put them on a collision course with the government. The sea is central to Maori tradition, and many Maoris harvest food from the foreshore in their tribal areas. Indigenous leaders said the law would contravene the nation's founding Treaty of Waitangi, which guaranteed Maoris ownership of their lands, forests and fisheries. The dispute follows a court ruling last week that indigenous people can, under the treaty, make exclusive claims to ownership of beaches and seabed. Maoris, who suffer disproportionate rates of poverty and unemployment, are preparing to lodge claims to areas used for commercial operations such as marine farms.

The court decision set alarm bells ringing in the capital, Wellington. Helen Clark, the Prime Minister, said the new legislation would ensure coastal areas were held by the government for all New Zealanders. "What we are faced with is something never before contemplated, which is that exclusive legal title could be given over New Zealand beaches and seabeds," she said. New Zealand's long coastline is one of its main tourist attractions. Moana Jackson, a Maori constitutional lawyer, said the government's "arbitrary plan" to seize ownership would provokeprotests. In 1992, the government granted Maoris ownership of nearly half of the nation's fisheries to settle a claim under the 1840 treaty. Margaret Wilson, the Attorney General, said traditional Maori rights would still exist. Indigenous people could use the areas for activities such as fishing, butwould not be allowed to deny access to others. She said that without the new law, there would be a decade of legal battles.
© Independent Digital

19/03/2003- The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families will enter into force on 1 July 2003, following Guatemala's ratification of the treaty last Friday. The Convention seeks to play a role in preventing and eliminating the exploitation of migrant workers throughout the entire migration process. In particular, it seeks to put an end to the illegal or clandestine recruitment and trafficking of migrant workers and to discourage the employment of migrant workers in an irregular or undocumented situation. It provides a set of binding international standards to address the treatment, welfare and human rights of both documented and undocumented migrants, as well as the obligations and responsibilities on the part of sending and receiving States. More than 150 million migrants, including migrant workers, refugees, asylum seekers, permanent immigrants and others, live and work in a country other than that of their birth or citizenship. They represent 2 percent of the world's population. Persons who qualify as migrant workers under the provisions of the Convention are entitled to enjoy their human rights regardless of their legal status. The Convention reflects an up-to-date understanding of migratory trends as seen from the point of view of both States of origin and host States of migrant workers and their family.

The Convention breaks new ground in defining those rights which apply to certain categories of migrant workers and their families, including: 'frontier workers', who reside in a neighbouring State to which they return daily or at least once a week; seasonal workers; seafarers employed on vessels registered in a State other than their own; workers on offshore installations which are under the jurisdiction of a State other than their own; itinerant workers; migrants employed for a specific project; self-employed workers. The Convention also imposes a series of obligations on States parties in the interest of promoting "sound, equitable, humane and lawful conditions" for the international migration of workers and members of their families. These requirements include the establishment of policies on migration; the exchange of information with other States parties; the provision of information to employers, workers and their organizations on policies, laws and regulations; and assistance to migrant workers and their families. The Convention was adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by the General Assembly in December 1990. To date, it has been ratified or acceded to by the following twenty-one States: Azerbaijan, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Mexico, Morocco, Philippines, Senegal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Uganda and Uruguay.

Implementation of Convention
How States abide by their obligations under the Convention will be monitored by a panel, to be known as the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, consisting of 10 experts serving in their personal capacity. The election of Committee members by the States parties is set to take place before the end of the year. The membership of the Committee will rise from 10 to 14 experts when 41 ratifications have been registered. States parties accept the obligation to report on the steps they have taken to implement the Convention within a year of its entry into force for the State concerned, and thereafter every five years. Under the treaty, a State party may recognize the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of individuals within that State's jurisdiction who claim that their rights under the Convention have been violated. If the Commit ©UNHCHR

Officials dismiss claims of "enclosed prostitution camps" in Lapland as nonsense

13/6/2003- The recently-published third annual report by the United States Department of State into the trafficking of persons and "the modern-day slave trade" places Finland into Tier 2, amongst some less than savoury companions, including Uganda, Russia, and Albania. The report describes Finland as "a destination and transit country for women and girls trafficked by organized crime syndicates into sexual exploitation, including into enclosed prostitution camps in the northern part of the country". The document examines 116 countries that have a significant number of victims and places them into three separate categories or tiers, on the basis of how effectively the authorities have sought to combat trafficking. Full compliance with minimum U.S. demands on the elimination of trafficking entitles a place in Tier 1. "Significant efforts" at compliance means Tier 2, and the lowest of the low are classified in Tier 3. There is a suggestion that sanctions might be employed - in the form of reductions in aid grants - against countries that consistently fail to address the human trafficking problem. Finland is the only EU country to be placed in the second category, although Greece has handled things in even more slovenly fashion and is in Tier 3. The report points out that there are at present no specific legal restraints on trafficking in persons, nor does the Finnish penal code have a reference to the issue of human trafficking. Again, it notes that "high-ranking police officials believe that the absence of anti-trafficking legislation has resulted in insufficient police funding for combating trafficking." The full details of the Finnish section of the report can be found from the link below, but initial reactions from authorities in Helsinki have been less than complimentary.

"It doesn't take a weatherman to see that if Finland is put into the same tier with Russia, something is very wrong", commented Minister of Justice Johannes Koskinen (Social Democrat). Koskinen went on to suggest that the paragraph in the report that claimed there was no law on human trafficking in Finland was a straight error of fact. "If we do not have a law that comes under the same precise name as that in the United States of America, it hardly means we do not recognise the crime in question." Another ministry official observed that the information passed to the Americans had clearly not come from them, and that language problems may well have caused confusion. It will now be up to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to dig out where the information has come from and send the right facts to Washington. "The Western trade in women is directed largely towards Central Europe", points out Major Ilkka Herranen of the Finnish Frontier Guard. The biggest problems at present, for instance, are in the area of the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Herranen does not deny that things can happen in Finland, or that in some cases the authorities do not recognise the victims of trafficking, as the report also claims.

There have been cases of Chinese girls on forged passports being intercepted at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. These girls have barely known where they were heading, but in all probability it was into the meat markets of Italy or Holland. Both these countries were in Tier 1. Herranen observes that in global terms Finland is way off the beaten track and that any trade in humans is minimal. Prostitution is structured differently here: there are perhaps 10,000 women who come here from Russia and Estonia, but they know exactly what it is they are doing. In some cases a woman who has initially come voluntaily is then made to stay by threats or blackmail. "What!? Utter rubbish! We don't have any 'closed prostitution camps'", snorts Detective Chief Inspector Risto Juho, from K ©Helsingin Sanomat

Finland's share of all illegal immigrants to EU remains small

17.6.2003- Last year almost 600 people trying to enter Finland illegally were stopped at Finnish points of entry. Between 15 and 20 people are caught each year for trying to slip across the border at points which are not official crossings. In addition to those trying to walk across the Finnish-Russian border, some have been caught hiding on ships or inside freight containers. Most who try to enter Finland illegally are from the former Soviet Union, the Far East, and Africa. Finland accounts for a very small share of the total number of people trying to enter the European Union illegally. Last year about 72,000 people were stopped at the external borders of the EU. Two thirds of them were caught at sea - mainly the Mediterranean. Many are not caught: according to various estimates about half a million illegal immigrants enter the EU each year. The figures are from the first report of the EU's Risk Analysis Centre (RAC). The report, which was issued on Friday, focuses on the EU's external borders. Officials say that Finland is not a very important target of would-be illegal immigrants. "Finland is mainly a transit country. We do not have the kinds of large concentrations of ethnic groups, which people like these like to seek out", says Lieutenant-General Hannu Ahonen, head of the Finnish Frontier Guard. Ahonen does not believe that Finland's role in illegal immigration would undergo any dramatic changes in the coming years.

The main change might come from the fact that Russia has moved much of its border guard resources away from the Finnish border in recent years. Russia is putting a higher priority on Central Asia, where the goal is to fight illegal immigration and drug smuggling more efficiently than before. Estonia's membership in the EU should not have an immediate impact on the situation, because the country will not join the Schengen treaty until later. The RAC, which was set up at the beginning of April, is aimed at increasing cooperation among the border officials of all EU member states. Finnish border officials do not believe that the final goal would be the establishment of a multinational border guard institution. "The greatest benefit would come from increasing cooperation of the national units", says Lieutenant-General Kimmo Elomaa of the of the Finnish Frontier Guard. The RAC has its offices in Helsinki in connection with the staff headquarters of the Finnish Frontier Guard. In addition to Finland, the RAC has representatives in The Netherlands, Austria, Norway, and Germany.

The purpose of the centre is to supply information to the External Border Practitioners' Common Unit comprising heads of the national border guard associations. The RAC, which was established at the EU summit in Seville last year, issued its first report in Brussels on Friday.
©Helsingin Sanomat

18/6/2003- A revolutionary Bill giving gay and lesbian partners the same legal rights as married couples will be included in the Queen's Speech with the personal agreement of Tony Blair. The Prime Minister's decision will surprise many who believed that the Government's radical moves to create civil partnerships would take years to turn into legislation. Under the Bill, pension and property rights will be conferred on homosexual couples for the first time - provided they agree to sign an official register of partnerships. The changes would transform the lives of gay and lesbian people, allowing them to benefit from a dead spouse's pension, exempt them from inheritance tax on a partner's home and give next of kin rights in hospitals. Some campaigners had worried that the plans were so controversial that they would be delayed until after the next general election but, following its inclusion in the Queen's Speech in November, the new law is expected to be on the statute books by next year at the latest.

According to Downing Street's planning "grid", a consultation paper was due to be published this Friday. But in yet another consequence of the botched reshuffle, it has been delayed until later this summer because its sponsoring minister, Barbara Roche, has been replaced as Equalities minister. The plans, particularly to grant pension rights, were bitterly opposed by some within Whitehall but Mr Blair has agreed that the Government should act swiftly to correct generations of injustice. Following Mrs Roche's insistence, the proposals make the civil partnership as close to a marriage contract as possible, even including provision for a form of divorce through "dissolution" of a partnership. The scheme will not apply to heterosexual cohabitees on the grounds that they have the option of civil or religious marriage denied to homosexuals. Contrary to speculation, there will be no requirement for couples to spend a certain amount of time living together to prove their commitment prior to a partnership. Although ministers are keen to avoid the phrase "gay marriage", the only difference from marriage will be technical provisions for break-ups of partnerships.

Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of Stonewall, the gay rights group, said: "This is desperately overdue because it involves thousands of people and real lives." Equality campaigners have long argued that the lack of legal recognition for same sex relationships results in huge practical problems for thousands of people. Gay people can be denied information about a sick partner in hospital or involvement in their partner's funeral arrangements. Many have been evicted or left seriously out of pocket because they are forced to pay inheritance tax on property owned by their partner. Under the new law, they would be exempt, like married couples. Whitehall officials and equalities campaigners were dismayed by Mrs Roche's dep- arture from Government after she had taken repeated political risks to draft the proposals. The consultation document, which included a foreword by Mrs Roche, had to be pulled back from the printers so Jacqui Smith, her replacement, could put her own imprint on it.

In a separate move, regulations outlawing discrimination against homosexuals in the workplace were approved by the House of Commons last night. The Employment Equality Regulations 2003 had been criticised by a select committee for their "doubtful" legality because they grant an exemption to religious groups to discriminate against homosexual staff. Lord Alli, the Labour peer, said the exemption "felt like a provision drawn up by the Taliban". But Gerry Sutcliffe, the Trade and Industry Minister, told MPs that the legislation was narrowly drawn and he explicitly ruled out its application to teachers in faith schools or cleaners in churches
© Independent Digital

21/6/2003- The Bishop of Oxford last night faced open revolt from a group of angry evangelicals over his appointment of the gay cleric Jeffrey John to the suffragan bishopric of Reading. After a 90-minute meeting with the bishop, the Right Rev Richard Harries, the group said they would be demanding the intervention of Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to get Dr John's appointment rescinded. The archbishop has so far kept his head down as the crisis within his church has spiralled, and his spokesman said although a request for a meeting would be considered, Dr Williams had no power to intervene in an appointment already made by the Queen for the established church. It was said that the archbishop had no immediate plans to comment on the dispute this weekend.

Fewer than a dozen clerics and lay churchgoers attended the meeting but the group were said afterwards to represent 80 of the diocese's 800 clergy and 20 members of the laity. More than 100 diocesan clergy are understood to have supported the appointment of Dr John, 50, currently canon theologian at Southwark Cathedral, who will be the first openly gay bishop in the Church of England. In an emotional statement after the meeting, Dr Philip Giddings, the group's spokesman and a member of the church's executive body, the archbishops' council, claimed the appointment threatened to split the church. Dr Giddings, a lay reader in Reading, said the nomination went against "the plain meaning of scripture", 2,000 years of tradition and "the divinely created order and gift of marriage".

Bishop Harries then emerged to claim his "unswerving support" for the appointment: "I believe sincerely that before long as bishop of Reading Canon John will have won the trust of the people." Dr John put out a three-page statement yesterday, acknowledging his homosexuality but asking for tolerance and understanding and apologising for the tone of an earlier polemic he issued criticising the church's position on same-sex relationships five years ago. He stated: "I will not act as a maverick against the church's teaching and discipline ... I will not use the episcopal role as a platform for publicly promoting my views about homosexual relationships. "I have an overriding regard for the mind of the church in its interpretation of scripture, whatever my personal interpretation. "All of us have everything to gain from overcoming our fears and suspicions, looking past the labels and being willing to learn from each other."

There was no sign of a predicted supportive letter from 15 or more diocesan bishops, though there is widespread anger on the bench about an open letter opposing the appointment of Dr John from a group of nine largely evangelical bishops earlier in the week. Some were particularly annoyed by the tone adopted by the Bishop of Carlisle, Graham Dow, during an interview on BBC's Newsnight, when he said: "Obviously the penis belongs to the vagina, that is something fundamental to the way God has made us." One senior cleric supportive of Dr John said: "Every time Bishop Dow resorts to the gynaecological language he seems to relish so much, we gain another supporter."
©The Guardian

Tyson's boardroom report lacks teeth

20/6/2003- Professor Laura D 'Andrea Tyson's report on how to increase diversity among the non-executive directors (NEDs) in Britain 's boardrooms is deeply disappointing. After five months of toil the dean of the London Business School has come up with a bland 20-page report which immediately prompted one of her task-force team to dismiss it as a wasted opportunity and fire off a disgruntled letter to Patricia Hewitt. The report points out - repeatedly - that diversity is a good thing, bringing fresh perspectives and knowledge which is likely to be beneficial for management, workers, shareholders and customers. Broadening the boardroom gene pool so that it is not just pale, male and middle-aged, the report says, may also help foster renewed confidence in boardroom behaviour. Of course, the report adds, it can also be a bad thing, as diversity can breed mistrust and individuals who differ are likely to be stereotyped. However, this is also known as sexism, racism or ageism, and is actually a reason to press ahead and force change.

Prof Tyson comes up with three recommendations - more rigorous non-executive selection procedures, more training and yet more monitoring, so that companies who fail to make changes can be named and shamed. Wouldn't it have been refreshing to read some brave ideas about breaking down the old boys' network, which means that half of NEDs currently serving are there as a result of friendship and that only 4% have ever had a formal interview. Britain would never adopt the Norwegian approach of setting quotas for females in the boardroom, but is it not worth considering a simple insistence that all prospective NEDs be interviewed formally? Derek Higgs, whose own review prompted the Tyson report, had initially suggested generating a list of 100 names of possible NED candidates from the much-ignored non-commercial world. Prof Tyson declined to do so, because every NED job requires different strengths. Yet headhunters survive by generating non-specific lists of talent in the commercial world which they just might be able to find a home for. Prof Tyson held just four meetings with her task force to come up with her ideas for hauling UK boardrooms into the 21st century.It is a start,but not nearly enough.

Temper, temper
Active Value, the self-styled "activist" investor, threw the financial equivalent of a tantrum yesterday - picking up an apparent blocking stake in Cordiant in an attempt to stop WPP taking over the stricken advertising group. WPP needs 75%of the votes to push through its takeover,which is fashioned as a scheme of arrangement. Active, it would seem, can now frustrate this plan. But since Cordiant is effectively controlled by its bankers, who are owed £250m and who have sanctioned WPP's takeover,any shareholder protest can simply be knocked out by taking the business into administration. Active has made a pig's ear of this particular interventionist investment, as it has with so many investments down the years. It is a wonder that its secretive offshore investors keep putting up more money to be dribbled away in such a fashion. Maybe they should consider more orthodox investments, such as buying shares in companies which do or make things. And if Cordiant is being bought on the cheap, perhaps the first stock they should consider is WPP. With good reason, the Cordiant takeover has raised questions over whether WPP's chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell, is suffering from deal heat. He's reckoned to have overpaid for Tempus two years ago, for example, and the man does seem to have a tendency to spend all his time chasing new acquisitions rather than actually running the businesses he already controls. Nevertheless, Sir Martin was managing to make the Cordiant numbers look really quite attractive yesterday.

Stripping it all down (taking into account the three Cordia cycle. And he is buying a business whose clients want it taken over by another large advertising group, which can provide some much needed stability.
©The Guardian

15/6/2003- London's black, Asian and refugee children are three times more likely to be attacked in the street than white children, according to mayor Ken Livingstone. A report commissioned by the mayor found of those questioned 10% had been physically attacked, 80% had been racially abused or threatened and more than a third had direct experience of crime in the past year. Mr Livingstone believes that the culmination of racism, bullying and violence means ethnic minority children need more support. A report on the problems they face is being discussed at a conference at City Hall on Saturday. Mr Livingstone said: "For many, crime and the fear of crime have an unnecessary impact on their lives."

Youth Council
"They are three times more likely to be victims of street crime than their white counterparts. "But they are also disproportionately represented within the criminal justice system." More than a third of London's children are from ethnic minority or refugee families. The Young People Big Issues report was compiled after interviewing 520 eight to 14-year-olds, including those in care, excluded from school and young offenders. Suggestions to better protect children at risk include more visible policing, witness protection, confidential helplines and a new youth council on crime prevention and safety.
©BBC News

Iraq war protests had made them feel part of mainstream

June 15 2003- United by widespread opposition to the war in Iraq, this country's 1.6 million Muslims had appeared to be finding common cause with other Britons across a sometimes violent cultural divide. "The opposition to the war in Iraq was the first time you saw Muslims really working with other British people, coming together in a joint cause," said Inayat Bangalawala, a spokesman of the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella group representing most of the country's Islamic organizations. "When I saw thousands of people marching, it gave me a very good feeling: Here is the Muslim community using democratic means. OK, we may have not have stopped the war, but at least we were working together." But that unity splintered in May after two British Muslims -- one a native of India, the other British-born -- traveled to Israel to carry out a suicide bombing that left three Israelis dead. The fact that the bombers came from relatively middle-class homes and seemingly had much to look forward to shocked both the general British public and the Muslim community, which is still trying to define its place in this mostly white, mostly Christian country. According to Fuad Nahdi, editor of Q-news, a magazine catering to mainstream Muslims, many of the frustrations that produce radical actions in the Middle East can be found in the United Kingdom, too. "I wrote an article in the Guardian newspaper saying the end of the war in Iraq might usher in a new intifada (uprising) here in Britain. Because there's a lot of racism in Britain, a lot of Islamophobia, a lot of dissatisfaction on the young Muslim street," Nahdi said. "All I got in response was a letter from 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's office, saying that I'm 'alarmist.' " His is far from a lone voice.

The discontent comes partly in response to a rise in physical assaults on Muslims in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. According to the Islamic Human Rights Commission, which monitors racist violence against Muslims here, the last two years have seen a 13-fold increase in incidents. But beyond street racism, a hot legal issue deeply upsets Muslims: the fact that Britain does not outlaw religious discrimination. During a recent parliamentary debate on a bill to make acts of religious hatred illegal, members of the far-right British National Party demonstrated outside Parliament, holding up signs reading, "Islam out of Britain." If the signs had attacked Judaism, Sikhism or Hinduism -- all linked under British law to races -- they could have been classed as racist, and therefore illegal. But the BNP's anti-Islam sign was not proscribed, which incenses the Muslim community. "The way the British government is perceived as dragging its feet over this legal issue, unfortunately, is contributing to the anger of the younger Muslims here," said Zaheer Kazmi of the Al-Khoie Foundation, who is closely involved in interfaith dialogue. "There's a big difference between the older generation who came here from India, Bangladesh or Pakistan for a better life, worked hard and wanted to get by in Britain without too much trouble," Kazmi said. "Now I hear younger Muslims saying that's not enough. They were born here, they feel very comfortable about being British and they want their rights." Muslims remain outsiders in the British political establishment -- there are only seven Muslim lawmakers in the 359-member House of Commons. In the last election, Khalid Mahmood was sent to Parliament to represent the Midlands city of Birmingham. A 43-year-old former engineer, Mahmood joined the Labor Party 21 years ago and has "worked my way up the ranks." Mahmood said that "contrary to what the media says," Muslims are interested not only in foreign policy, but about such domestic issues as education and health. Getting more young Muslims involve were already radicals; and then those who come here, didn't find their place in society and became radicalized," said Alison Pargeter, a research fellow at the International Policy Institute at King's College, London. "A rise in activity among Islamic extremists, although a minority in the community, is almost inevitable in Britain -- unless the underlying grievances of the community are dealt with," Pargeter said. Bangalawala, of the Muslim Council, says the radical elements of the community must be heeded. "We know from the British experience in Northern Ireland that there has to be progress on the political front if you want a reduction in the level of violence," he said. "We are trying to get more Muslims involved in the political decision-making processes in Britain, to make them feel less powerless. Because those feelings of powerlessness lead to extremism."
©San Francisco Chronicle

A unique museum evoking the UK's rich history of immigration is facing a struggle for survival. BBC Arts Correspondent Lawrence Pollard reports from Spitalfields in London's east end.

16/6/2003- Five piles of suitcases in a dusty old synagogue. That is a museum? Well, it depends on what you want from a museum. If you like interesting objects and labels to tell you what you're looking at, then do not go to London's Spitalfields, and the Museum of Immigration. This is one place where you have to do a bit of work, thinking and feeling yourself into the mood of a place. We increasingly like our history "upside down" - sure, we learn about kings and queens at school, but from national trust houses to TV costume drama, there is an increasing emphasis on the 'below stairs'. After all, my and your ancestors were more likely to be in the kitchen than the parlour. So let us talk ancestors. "All of us are immigrants or descended from immigrants. It just depends how far back you look." That is what is written in one of the suitcases opened up by Susie Symes, chair of trustees at the Museum of Immigration.

The building was once a grand merchant's house, built in the 18th century for French Protestant Huguenots. As the area went down in the world, it housed the successive waves of immigrants who flocked to Spitalfields - Irish Catholics, Russian Jews and most recently Bangladeshi Muslims. 19 Princelet street was lived in by Jews who dug up the garden and in 1870 built a synagogue at the back of the house. And that is where Susie Symes has piled up the suitcases. "We want you to think about the stories, all the different stories of all the people who've come through this building, these streets, through London to make the society we live in today," she said. And the piles of suitcases give little clues as to life for the Hugenots, the Irish, the Jews. So I asked Susie what does it mean to the party of Bengali schoolchildren who've just been visiting? "You can see them making connections with the people who've had lives a bit like them, like their parents and grandparents who moved here. They learn to think what it's like to be someone else."

The astonishing synagogue, dusty and worn, and the rickety but beautiful building, is slowly falling down. If Symes and the Trustees could raise the £3m they need to underpin and restore, they could open regularly instead of by appointment, and relying on volunteer enthusiasm. Symes passionately believes politicians should support and fund a "Museum of Conscience" as exists in New York, in Cape Town and elsewhere to document the forgotten lives of immigrants. "We're using stories which should be on our conscience, stories of racism, slavery, maltreatment, which connect with what is happening today. We just want to make you think," she said. To tie in with UK Refugee Week, and to try to raise its profile, 19 Princelet Street is opening to the public rather than by special appointment. It is an enormously evocative space. The house and synagogue, and the museum, with its suitcases, is just trying to make you listen to the walls. Should you visit, pop round the corner to glance at the local mosque. It is housed in a building which has also been a synagogue and a hall for the Campaign to convert the Jews to Christianity, and which was originally built as a church for the Hugenots. Again, it just depends how far back you look.
©BBC News

Refugee groups are maintaining pressure on the UK to completely drop proposals for centres to process asylum applications outside of the European Union ahead of a crucial meeting of European immigration ministers. The Refugee Council warns that proposals made by the government last year to see asylum seeker applications processed outside the EU would create "super-Sangattes". Earlier in the week, the United Nations' refugee agency, the UNHCR, said it hoped its proposals for special centres within the EU would be adopted because they would not act as a magnet to would-be asylum seekers trying to get into the EU. The Home Office has denied any of its proposals to reform the asylum system would lead to a repeat of Sangatte, the now-closed refugee centre in Calais which became a staging post for asylum seekers trying to enter the UK. The Refugee Council's report, entitled Unsafe Havens, attacks Mr Blunkett's proposal to create "zones of protection" in regions near to the countries that produce a high volume of refugees. The council's Margaret Lally said: "The consequence of the implementation of these proposals will be the creation of 'super-Sangattes' - enormous centres which are likely to expand uncontrollably as removals fail to keep up with new arrivals. "As with Sangatte, the camps may well be a target for people smugglers, and thus hinder the government's attempts to crack down on this activity."

Bearing the burden?
Ms Lally also voiced concern that poorer countries would have to bear a greater burden for the refugees. "We are appalled that the UK's proposals are being taken seriously," she said. "They pose a clear threat to the global safety net that ensures every person's right to seek asylum, and send a dangerous signal to the rest of the world about the UK's commitment to its international, European and domestic obligations. "We have a responsibility as one of the wealthier countries of the world to offer protection and sanctuary to those fleeing persecution." Ms Lally said that the way to address the problems with the UK asylum system was to develop more effective decision making. Her comments came after the United Nations High Commission for refugees (UNHCR) also expressed serious concerns about British proposals to process asylum seekers' applications at centres outside the EU.

'No plans'
The Refugee Council's warning came as the government appeared to be pulling back from the proposals, made last year, in favour of a wider agreement with other EU nations. It is unclear whether or not this will lead to transit camps of some form. Immigration Minister Beverley Hughes said: "We have certainly got no current plans at all to process asylum seekers on the borders of the EU as some of the newspapers have been reporting and certainly no prospect of any camps - Sangatte-style or otherwise." On Tuesday the government announced that Brazil, Sri Lanka and South Africa are to be added to the list of countries whose citizens cannot remain in the UK to mount an appeal if their asylum application is rejected. A total of seven new "safe" countries are being added to the Home Office list taking the total to 24 on the government's so-called 'white list'. People from these countries will be fast-tracked through the Oakington reception centre and returned to their country if their claim is certified as "clearly unfounded". They join countries such as Albania, Bulgaria, Jamaica, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro. The Refugee Council also opposes having such a list of so-called safe countries where it is assumed people do not have a right to asylum.
©BBC News

16/6/2003- An 'offshore' holding camp for asylum seekers applying to live in Britain has been built in Croatia, according to reports. It is thought that people arriving in the UK would be sent there while their applications were being processed. The move is part of attempts to reduce the number of immigrants to the UK, according to the Observer newspaper. It says the Home Office will seek EU approval next week for a trial series of processing centres - which could be set up in countries bordering member states.

Army base
It emerged earlier this year that the UK was proposing the offshore centre. British ministers have said there is "significant interest" in the idea among EU countries but have kept quiet on where the centre could be based. Prime Minister Tony Blair is set to discuss the proposal with fellow European leaders at their summit in Greece next week. The Croatian camp is said to be in Trstenik, 30 miles from the capital, Zagreb. According to the Observer, it is a European Commission funded £1m redevelopment of a former army base, which could house 800 people. It says similar camps could be built in countries like Russia, Belarus, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Albania. If these are a success a second wave of camps could follow in countries near areas affected by conflict - like Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa.

'Serious questions'
Concerns about the development of the Croatia camp were raised by Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesman Simon Hughes. He said: "If this camp has been negotiated, developed and made ready with nobody being told, there are serious questions to be asked. "Secrecy or deception at this level is completely unacceptable." Refugee Action spokeswoman Leigh Davies said: "We urgently need every assurance that these centres will be compliant with the European Convention of Human Rights and the 1951 Refugee Convention."
©BBC News

A storm has erupted in Italy after a senior government minister was quoted as saying that boats carrying illegal immigrants should be shot out of the water. Umberto Bossi, head of the far-right Northern League, wanted the action because he was "sick" of illegal immigrants, the Corriere della Sera newspaper quoted him as saying. A statement from his ministry later said his views had been misrepresented. The row comes days after figures showed a large drop in the number of immigrants reaching Italy this year. Mr Bossi is currently engaged in a major political battle within the Italian coalition, and has threatened to pull out of the government unless immigration controls are toughened. Corriere della Sera quoted Mr Bossi as saying that weapons should now be used because there was no other solution.

"After the second or third warning, boom... the cannon roars," the paper quoted him as saying. "Without any beating about the bush. The cannon that blows everyone out of the water. Otherwise this business will never end." The paper says Mr Bossi was then asked whether it would be right to fire on immigrants when most boats carry mainly women and children. "Illegal immigrants must be hounded out, either nicely or nastily. Only those with a job contract can enter the country. The others, out!," he is quoted as saying. "There comes a time when it becomes necessary to resort to the use of force. "The navy and the finance police are going to have to line up in defence of our shores and to use guns. Those are the proper regulations for implementing the law. No escape clauses and no postponement. "Whether (my coalition allies) agree or not, either I hear the cannon roar on Friday or I will say goodbye."

A statement from Mr Bossi's ministry on Monday morning said his views had not been accurately portrayed. "The content of the interview published this morning by Corriere della Sera, headlined 'Cannon-shots to stop illegal immigrants', does by no means reflect my thoughts, nor the meaning of my replies in what has been only a quick exchange of just two remarks," the statement from Mr Bossi said. "In fact, my thoughts on dealing with the major phenomenon of clandestine immigration are identical to those laid down by the Palermo Treaty which our government has not yet signed, as many other countries have done. "The treaty equates the trafficking of clandestine immigrants with the slave trade, faced with which the possible boarding of these boats by the navy is not considered an act of piracy."

Corriere della Sera insisted later it stood by its story. "All the words reproduced in quotation marks were pronounced by the minister," it said in a statement. The interview had been relatively long, and "was not an exchange of jokes but an interview in all due form." Some of Mr Bossi's Italian coalition partners denounced his reported comments. "The idea of welcoming illegal immigrants with cannon-shots is an idea worthy of a caveman," said Marco Follini, leader of the centrist Christian Democratic Union of the Centre (UDC). "Bossi wants to hear the roar of cannon-shots; many other people would prefer Bossi to remain silent." Another centrist leader, Carlo Giovanardi said: "If anybody is seriously thinking about firing on women and children it's clear no dialogue is possible any longer."

Figures released by the Italian Interior Ministry on Saturday showed that in the first six months of 2003, nearly 5,300 illegal immigrants were known to have entered Italy, down from 10,400 in the same period last year. At the same time, new measures were announced to co-ordinate immigration controls, backing up a crackdown agreed in July 2002, which was co-authored by Mr Bossi.

Bossi threat
Last week Mr Bossi said Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had 15 days in which to speed up immigration and devolution reforms, or he would walk out. Mr Bossi brought down the first Berlusconi governm ©BBC News

14/6/2003- The decision by Paris's gay Mayor to lead the city's annual Gay Pride parade later this month has provoked a political row - the first involving Bertrand Delanoe's sexuality since he was elected two years ago. Françoise de Panafieu, the right-wing Mayor of one of the city's 20 districts, or arrondissements, has accused the Socialist Mayor of using his office to "seek converts" to homosexuality. "When you are an elected official, you have certain responsibilities, and it is not really appropriate for the Mayor of Paris to lead the Gay Pride parade," Mme de Panafieu, Mayor and deputy for the 17th arrondissement, said. She went on to accuse M. Delanoe - the only openly gay politician to hold prominent office in France - of showing an "impetuous zeal" to support the gay movement. Mme de Panafieu said she had no problem with the fact that M. Delanoe was gay, but she "drew the line" at "prosélytisme" - trying to gather converts.

Her remarks drew a barrage of protest from the Town Hall and from M. Delanoe's political allies. The Mayor's spokesman, Laurent Fary, accused Mme de Panafieu, 54, of "raising arguments from ancient times". And Alain Riou, president of the Greens on the Paris council, accused her of "homophobia". He said it was entirely appropriate for the Mayor of Paris to be seen to support one of the city's prominent cultural events, such as the Gay Pride parade, which takes place on 28 June. M. Delanoe, 53, also went to the French Open tennis championships at the Stade Roland Garros and to football matches at the Parc des Princes, M. Riou said. No one accused him of "prosélystisme" on those occasions. M. Delanoe's sexuality has not been a political issue until now, although a failed assassination attempt last year appears partly to have been motivated by homophobia. Right-of-centre politicians in France are notoriously homophobic, although most try to disguise the fact in public. Mme de Panafieu, who belongs to President Jacques Chirac's centre-right party, the UMP, caused consternation last year when she suggested that authorised brothels, banned in 1946, should be reopened to clear prostitutes from the streets.
© Independent Digital

16/6/2003- As Switzerland marks National Refugee Day, the reality and hardship faced by asylum seekers is being hammered home to Swiss students. Workshops where pupils "experience" war, oppression and exile are being conducted in classrooms in the German-speaking part of the country. "It doesn't help anyone, neither the Swiss nor the refugees, to neglect one section of society," said Kais Fguiri of the Federal Foreigners Commission told swissinfo Teachers launched the programme following last year's nationwide vote on Switzerland's asylum policy. The initiative by the right-wing People's Party called for a tightening of asylum procedure and was only narrowly defeated. This week the party announced plans to ballot the country once again over the issue.

Deep scars
November's vote left deep scars in German-speaking Switzerland, where many cantons - including cosmopolitan Zurich - supported the initiative. During the political debate genuine asylum seekers found themselves portrayed as criminals. Teachers realised that their students, knowing little about the lives of refugees, were accepting this point of view. The Swiss Refugee Council (SRC) is now going into schools to try to reverse the trend. "Since the narrow defeat of the People's Party's initiative, demand from schools has rocketed," said Jean-Daniel Fivaz of the SRC.

Role play
During special workshops, students get to take on the role of an asylum seeker to help them understand what refugees go through when they come to Switzerland. "The participants have to realise that a refugee hasn't just left their country," said Fivaz. "They have to join a new culture, leave their old lifestyles behind." Since the beginning of the year, 40 such sessions have been run in German-speaking cantons. "People have realised it's time to speak up," Fivaz told swissinfo. Adults are also taking part, including trainee police officers, students from technical universities and managers from Switzerland's civil protection agencies. So far, around 30,000 people across the country have attended the special workshops. "It's essential for these people to understand the multicultural environment in which they are supposed to work," said Jean-Daniel Müller, one of the SRC's programme directors.

Hard facts
While the role-playing game attempts to give participants an idea of the emotions felt by an asylum seeker, the second part of the workshop is all about hard facts. They learn about Switzerland's admission policies, in particular how difficult it is to become a recognised refugee. They also find out that Switzerland has granted refugee status to just 26,000 people and that between two and ten per cent of all asylum requests are accepted each year. Asylum seekers receive just SFr15 per day for food and clothing - far less than a Swiss receiving social security. Participants in the workshops are also reminded that asylum seekers cannot work for their first three months in Switzerland and can then only take a job that nobody else wants.
©NZZ Online

18/6/2003- Parliament has approved a government proposal to grant automatic citizenship to third-generation immigrants if certain conditions are fulfilled. The Senate vote comes amid moves to improve integration of foreigners and ease restrictions on naturalisation for immigrants. Around 440,000 foreigners living in Switzerland are second or third-generation immigrants. They constitute six per cent of the population and a quarter of all registered foreigners. But despite often being born in Switzerland, raised there and having little or few ties to their parents' country of origin, they are still not Swiss enough for some Swiss.

No incentive
And Switzerland's tortuous naturalisation procedure doesn't necessarily encourage them to take up citizenship. It takes up to 12 years residence before a foreigner can apply, large sums of money can be involved, and making a request does not guarantee a Swiss passport. This difficult process means that Switzerland has one of the lowest levels of naturalisation in Europe. The government wants to improve the integration of the foreign community, and granting automatic citizenship to third-generation immigrants is one way of reaching that goal. Roland Scherer of the Federal Immigration, Integration and Emigration Office says that parents will get the final word on their children becoming Swiss. "A third-generation child should get Swiss citizenship at birth, but the parents can veto that administrative decision during one year," he told swissinfo. If this were to happen, the child could always request Swiss nationality at the age of 18. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have agreed on the conditions for granting automatic citizenship. The child will have to have been born in Switzerland, and one of the parents will have to have attended a Swiss school for five years, as well as held a valid resident's permit for at least five years. Up to 10,000 children could get Swiss citizenship each year this way. The rightwing People's Party maintains that government proposal to grant automatic citizenship is the wrong approach to improved integration. "You shouldn't start by being Swiss and then trying to learn what it is to be a Swiss person," said Aliki Panyides, the party's vice secretary general.

Referendum issue
The proposed changes in the citizenship law imply modifying the Constitution, and therefore a compulsory nationwide vote on the issue. The only time the Swiss voted on the easing of its citizenship law for young immigrants, in 1994, it was rejected. But a survey published on Tuesday suggested three out of four Swiss would favour moves to make it easier for immigrants to acquire citizenship. Also on Tuesday, the Senate gave its approval to easing citizenship rules for young second-generation immigrants. Those between the ages of 18 and 24 will be able to ask for a simplified procedure if they have spent at least five years in a Swiss school and lived in their community at least two. However, the senators refused to introduce a right of appeal against negative citizenship decisions despite government pressure. Justice minister Ruth Metzler said that Switzerland is the only country in Europe without an appeals' procedure for naturalisation decisions. The issue came to a head when popular votes in some municipalities led to some citizenship requests being turned down, in particular those from immigrants from the Balkans.
©NZZ Online

The House of Representatives has voted to deny access to company archives for researchers probing SwitzerlandÂ's ties with apartheid-era South Africa. The move comes just two months after the government limited access to federal archives on bilateral ties with the white regime in Pretoria between 1948 and 1994. The House rejected a proposal by a Green Party parliamentarian, demanding access for researchers to both public and private documents. "Hardly a month goes by without learning new things about the links between Switzerland and the apartheid regime," said Pia Hollenstein. "Outside pressure forces us to be transparent."

Restricted access
However, opponents said they were satisfied with the current restrictions. "This initiative wants to changes the rules of the game while it is underway," said Jean-Paul Glasson of the Radical Party. "We should let current studies run their course and avoid a continual repetition of historical investigation." Alexander Baumann of the rightwing Swiss People's Party said the South African president, Thabo Mbeki, was also against raking up the past. "Mbeki stated publicly that he wanted to concentrate on today's issues and not let discussions in other countries upset the process of reconciliation in South Africa," he said.

Since the end of apartheid, questions have repeatedly been asked about the relationship between the former South African regime and Switzerland. In April, the government blocked access to federal documents concerning apartheid-era South Africa which named Swiss businesses. It said the decision was taken to protect Swiss companies facing class-action suits in the United States. Nine Swiss companies ­ including the banks UBS and Credit Suisse, as well as Novartis and Nestlé ­ are among a group of international firms targeted by class-action lawsuits filed by victims of the former South African regime. They are accused of propping up apartheid and discriminating against black employees. Two US lawyers, Michael Hausfeld and Ed Fagan, filed the suits against 20 banks and multinationals last November. They are seeking damages on behalf of thousands of victims of apartheid, claiming that the firms bear direct responsibility for some of the personal injury suffered. However, the South African government does not support the lawsuits and Mbeki has stated publicly that legal action is not the right way forward.

Academic ties
The federal archives were opened in May 2000 as part of a national research programme into relations between Switzerland and South Africa during the apartheid era. The three-year programme has made relatively little headway because of Swiss companiesÂ' reluctance to open their archives to scrutiny. The investigation, organised by the Swiss National Science Foundation, is scheduled to finish this year and a full report is expected in 2004.
©NZZ Online

17 June 2003- The far-right National Front Party (FN) has appointed known Nazi sympathiser Michel Delacroix as its co-opted Senator. And the Senate will be powerless to refuse a seat to a man branded an "enemy to democracy". Delacroix, a lawyer defending FN President Daniel Feret on charges of racism, was condemned to one year in prison in 1994 for ownership of unlicensed weapons. Delacroix's home had been raided at the time, revealing an arsenal of weapons as well as documents proving his extremist tendencies and nazi sympathies. Branding Delacroix an "enemy to democracy", the Walloon Christian Democrat Party (CDH) called upon all other political parties to reject the FN's submission when the matter is voted upon Thursday.

The Walloon Liberal party (MR) admitted that the selection of Delacroix was as a result of mathematical calculations of votes following the 18 May elections. Rejecting Delacroix therefore would be an illegal act ­ one which the Liberal, Socialist and Green parties have refused to bend to. "We will fight right wing extremists ­ but not through illegality," the Socialist party announced Monday. Belgium saw a tremendous rise in support for far right wing groups on both sides of the linguistic divide during the general elections. The National Front (FN) in Wallonia and Vlaams Blok in Flanders increased their scores to record proportions, with the Vlaams Blok becoming the number one party in the Flemish city of Antwerp.
©Expatica News

19/6/2003- Michael Delacroix, the known Nazi sympathiser appointed by the Walloon far-right National Front Party as its co-opted Senator, said he would resign his position during senatorial inaugurations Thursday. Delacroix, a lawyer defending FN President Daniel Feret on charges of racism and former lawyer to Jean-Marie Le Pen, will be giving up his seat in parliament to launch an unspecified "project".

Branded as an "enemy to democracy," the Walloon Christian Democrat Party (CDH) had called upon all other political parties to reject the FN's submission. The Walloon Liberal party (MR) admitted however that the selection of Delacroix was as a result of mathematical calculations of votes following the 18 May elections. Rejecting Delacroix therefore would be an illegal act ­ one which the Liberal, Socialist and Green parties refused to bend to. "We will fight right wing extremists ­ but not through illegality," the Socialist party announced Monday. It now seems however that Delacroix will not be taking up the position of his own prerogative. Delacroix was condemned to one year in prison in 1994 for ownership of unlicensed weapons ­ his home had been raided at the time, revealing an arsenal of weapons as well as documents proving his extremist tendencies and nazi sympathies including a dedicated signed photograph of Leon Degrelle.

Belgium saw a tremendous rise in support for far right wing groups on both sides of the linguistic divide during the general elections. The National Front (FN) in Wallonia and Vlaams Blok in Flanders increased their scores to record proportions, with the Vlaams Blok becoming the number one party in the Flemish city of Antwerp with 30 percent of the vote.
©Expatica News

Israel has protested to Romania over a statement made by the authorities in Bucharest suggesting no Holocaust had taken place in Romania during the World War II. Romania's ambassador to Israel was summoned to the Israeli foreign ministry on Tuesday to explain the comments, made on Saturday. The Romanian Government issued a statement saying it encouraged "investigation into the phenomenon of the Holocaust in Europe, including allowing access to documents found in Romanian archives". But it went on to insist that inside Romania - which was allied with Nazi Germany - "there was no Holocaust between 1940 and 1945". Correspondents say the controversial remarks by the Romanian Government, which has had good relations with the Jewish community, have come as a surprise. Romanian Culture Minister Razvan Theodorescu later clarified the remarks. He said the Romanian regime during the World War II had taken part in the Holocaust in territories it had occupied in Trans-Dniestr, but that no camps as such had been set up on Romanian soil. He admitted that racial discrimination was made state policy, and pogroms had taken place.

Israel said it "considers with seriousness" the Romanian declaration, which it said ran "counter to historical truth". "The Romanian Government should find the means to correct this unfortunate declaration so as to put bilateral relations back on the right track," the Israeli foreign ministry said. According to the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, the then dictator of Romania, Marshal Ion Antonescu, was directly responsible for sending 250,000 Jews to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps. The group says Antonescu was also responsible for inciting a massacre of between 3,000 and 10,000 Jews in the north-eastern town of Iasi in June 1941. Antonescu was arrested in August 1944 by then King Michael. He was tried and executed in 1946.
©BBC News

19/6/2003- A 23-year-old Sri Lankan woman set herself on fire in Oslo in desperation over the treatment her husband received at the hands of Norwegian immigration authorities. She is hospitalized in critical condition. At 3:30 am on Thursday the woman's 30-year-old husband called for an ambulance from their Stovner apartment. His wife had suffered severe injuries, made worse by the melting of her nylon clothing. "She set herself on fire in despair since her husband will not be allowed to live with her in Norway," said Ellen Svae of the Oslo police.

The woman's husband suffered burns on his hands and arms after trying to save his wife when she was enveloped in flames. He was also in Ullevaal Hospital receiving treatment. Upon his release he was arrested by police for being in the country illegally. Police said that the man would remain in custody until he had been questioned about the fire and until his wife was capable of giving her own version. According to Aftenposten's evening edition's sources, the couple met some time ago, when the man was in the country illegally, but the woman had residency permission. The couple was told they would have to travel to Sri Lanka to marry in order to qualify for legal permission to live in Norway. When the woman became pregnant the man applied for residency on the grounds of uniting the family but was rejected because he had stayed in Norway illegally. After the investigation of the fire is complete the man will be sent out of the country unless he is charged with a crime.

But government insists new citizenship law doing a good job in encouraging integration

20/6/2003- Interior Minister Otto Schily has lauded the country's reformed citizenship law as a continuing success, although his ministry's latest figures reveal a further drop in the number of "foreigners" being approved as naturalized Germans. Government statistics released last Friday showed that Germany naturalized 154,547 new citizens in 2002, down from 178,098 the year before and a record 186,688 in 2000, when the new law, passed amid great controversy in 1999, came into force. The government said the three-year average for naturalizations was still up 56 percent from the 1997-99 period. "This continuing high number of naturalizations shows that there exists a high willingness to integrate," Schily said. The legislation gave children born to non-Germans living legally in Germany, who previously had difficulty obtaining a German passport, the right to become citizens when reaching adulthood if they renounce the citizenship conferred on them through their parents' nationality.

Immigrants, too, can claim citizenship after eight years of residence, instead of 15, provoving they can pass a German language test and prove a basic understanding of the country's constitution and democratic system. What the Social Democratic Party-Green government calls its "modern citizenship law" puts more emphasis on residence than the old one, in which the "right of blood" was paramount. Under the old law, some 2.5 million "German-Russians," the descendants of Germans who emigrated to Russia in the 18th century, came to Germany and had a right to citizenship following the breakup of the Soviet Union, while millions of non-ethnic German residents, including well over 1 million "Turks" who were born here, were largely discouraged from seeking citizenship.

Critics say, however, that Germany's limited toleration for dual citizenship remains a major deterrent to becoming a German citizen, because it forces most would-be applicants into a difficult decision on whether they are prepared to cut all legal ties to their homeland and give up, in many cases, their automatic right to return there as residents. An Interior Ministry spokeswoman, Ingrid Stumm, told F.A.Z. Weekly that about 41 percent of newly naturalized German citizens were allowed to keep their original citizenship last year after qualifying under certain "exceptions." Those include advanced age, recognition as a political refugee, excessive fees and bureaucratic hurdles for renouncing citizenship in the home country, or laws there barring non-citizens from inheriting property.

For citizens of the major English-speaking countries who would like to become citizens here, the news is not good: Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders must "without exception" renounce their citizenship before being certified as Germans, Stumm said. For natives of Britain the situation is more complicated by that country's membership of the European Union, Stumm said, but they too must generally give up their British passports if they want a German one.
©Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

16/6/2003- This weekend, at a meeting attended by numerous international representatives, the Greek ambassador handed asylum applications to 700 Kosovo Roma from Medzhitlija. Beqir Krasniqi from Lipljan, one of the refugee leaders, says that the ambassador Ikonomu openly told him that none of the European Union countries would want to accept them, and neither would Greece. June 18 marks the completion of a whole month since the Kosovo Roma came from Skopje to Medzhitlija to seek asylum in Western Europe. The situation spells humanitarian and environmental disaster. The UNHCR spokesperson, Goran Momirovski, confirmed yesterday that the High Commissariat for Refugees sticks to its stance, urging accommodation of these Roma in Katlanovo and 150 private apartments.
©Reality Macedonia

21/6/2003- Tunisian rescue teams have resumed their search for about 200 illegal immigrants who are feared dead after their boat capsized off the country's coast on its way to Italy. The Tunisian coast guard has already rescued 41 people and recovered 20 bodies, but rough seas have hampered the rescue operation. Survivors said the boat had been carrying about 250 people, believed to be from sub-Saharan Africa and northern Africa. It is at least the second boat to go down in the area this week. As many as 70 were drowned when their boat sank off the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa on Monday. Italian newspapers have described the stretch of water between Africa and Sicily as a huge underwater graveyard.

Libya 'hub'
The cause of Friday's sinking is not known. It may have been because the boat was overcrowded or in poor condition, or because of the bad weather - or a combination of all three. A fishing boat raised the alarm at dawn on Friday when its crew saw the sinking ship. The Tunisian national guard and navy responded, as did four civilian ships nearby and a pair of boats from offshore oil rigs in the area. Officials have not said where the boat came from but survivors say they boarded in Libya, which is becoming a favourite spot of the ruthless immigrant-smuggling gangs, says the BBC's Frances Kennedy in Rome. Italy this week accused Libya of being a base for boats trying to bring illegal immigrants across the Mediterranean. Italy's long coastline makes it a popular landfall for people seeking to enter Europe illegally, with almost 3,000 believed to have landed in the country this month alone. In the past week more than 1,000 migrants have arrived on Lampedusa, which is closer to Africa than to the Italian mainland. Our correspondent says the reception centre there is full to bursting and residents are protesting as they fear that the immigrants will scare off tourists.

Government crisis
The second sea tragedy comes as Italy adopts new, tougher measures to turn back boat loads of immigrants. The surge in the number of boats, often barely seaworthy and dangerously overloaded, has prompted a crisis within the Italian Government coalition, our correspondent says. The Northern League is insisting on a tougher line, but suggestions that force be used to turn back the boats of immigrant smugglers have been dismissed outright by other ruling parties, our correspondent adds.
©BBC News

Thessaloniki, or Salonika as it is known to those with longer memories, is a city of refugees. When the partners of Europe's leaders go on their customary walkabout today, their feet will fall on the gravestones of an almost forgotten Jewish community.

20/6/2003- While EU summiteers debate the latest proposals to seal the walls of Fortress Europe, they do so in a town filled with the ghosts of former waves of migration and the consequences of intolerance. The story of what is now Greece's second city reads like a lengthy and bloodstained reminder of the impermanence of power and the shifting nature of borders and nation states. Salonika's first asylum-seekers were the Ashkenazy Jews who arrived from Hungary in 1378. They were joined by Sephardic Jews driven from Spain and Portugal at the end of the 15th century. Their arrival at this port on shores of the Thermaic Gulf, deep inside the Ottoman Empire, transformed it into the greatest and safest Jewish city in Europe. These immigrants came to enrich and dominate the commercial life of a multicultural city that provided livelihoods to large communities of Turks, Greeks and Slavs. But once the city fell under German occupation in 1941, 500 years of history were destroyed in three months. Of a Jewish community that numbered more than 50,000, 48,974 were packed on to freight trains bound for Auschwitz. Almost no one returned.

The massive Jewish graveyard that once flanked the seafront's central landmark, the White Tower, was obliterated by the Nazis within weeks of their arrival. An eyewitness described how "a vast necropolis, scattered with fragments of stone and rubbish, resembled a city that had been bombed, or destroyed by a volcanic eruption." Families looking for long-dead relatives must now do so under the sprawling premises of the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair complex. Today, it provides temporary shelter to anti-globalisation protesters angry at what they decry as the exclusionist policies of Europe's richer nations. Meanwhile, the ancient tombstones that were used to pave the streets lie largely forgotten underfoot. Fewer than one thousand Jews live in modern Thessaloniki, a city of a million inhabitants, almost all of whom are Greek Orthodox Christians.
© Independent Digital

20/6/2003- Tony Blair lost his battle to win EU funding and political support for pilot schemes to set up refugee "protection zones", but pledged to pursue the plans with like-minded nations. At the start of a summit in Greece last night, Germany and Sweden blocked moves to give the initiative EU status, forcing Britain to seek an ad hoc group of allies with whom to pursue the project. Mr Blair wants to set up a pilot scheme by the end of this year, which would establish "zones of protection" to harbour refugees near their own country. The first trial was expected to be in the Horn of Africa. In the face of outrage from human rights groups, and fierce opposition from Germany and Sweden, Britain has backed away from an earlier proposal to set up "transit camps" to process asylum-seekers before they entered Europe. But last night Germany, whose constitution lays down the right to seek asylum as a core value, made clear that it still had difficulties with the modified British ideas. Sweden, which has a long tradition of protecting human rights, had legal objections.

Under a compromise deal, all mention of the pilot projects was removed from the summit conclusion, although a reference to the "protection capacity of regions of origins" remained. Downing Street's spokesman said: "Individual countries will go ahead with pilot projects with the European Commission and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Commission will report back next year. The important point is that work will continue." The UK is hoping that a "coalition" of supportive countries, such as the Netherlands, Denmark and possibly Austria will help the scheme to win backing. Although Mr Blair's spokesman said that he believed "there is a possibility that we will get EU funding", that prospect remains doubtful.

Goran Persson, Sweden's Prime Minister, said he did not think the British plan would gain any significant support. Earlier, German government officials expressed "severe doubts" about the plan. One EU diplomat said: "It is hard to see how this could be agreed as an EU plan." Another added that he "would be very reluctant to see a pilot project financed by the Community". The proposed centres would be operated by the EU and the UNHCR. The Government has argued that, by allowing protection for people in areas where a humanitarian crisis is threatened, they would be able to return to their homes more easily. Failing that, asylum claims could be processed on the spot. That would prevent huge build-ups of would-be migrants within the EU.

EU leaders in the resort of Porto Carras also discussed plans to improve information sharing on visa applicants, greater co-operation among border guards and a refugee returns policy. Britain's original plans for transit camps based in the Balkans or Ukraine, were strongly favoured by David Blunkett, the Home Secretary. But they ran into strong opposition from Germany and Sweden, and refugee groups, because of the suggestion that asylum-seekers arriving in Britain could be deported to the camps. Other nations also argued that they might become magnets for would-be refugees. Mr Blair's official spokesman said yesterday: "We are at the discussion stage, rather than the decision stage. "But the idea is certainly worth looking at and discussing. Asylum is a global problem and it is appropriate to have long-term global solutions." A British government source admitted: "This is on the back burner for the time being. Other countries are nervous about anything that smacks of a camp. The word has unfortunate echoes in Germany. But we need to think outside the box on asylum because it is such a big issue."
© Independent Digital

by Emmanuella Tsapouli, Greek independent journalist and public affairs consultant, working in Brussels

20/6/2003- The Greek Presidency has opened its closing act, the Thessaloniki Summit with discussions on Immigration and Asylum issues. This demonstrates a certain degree of political will in the European Union to deal with these highly sensitive and political matters, albeit with an emphasis on managing illegal immigration and external borders. The European Union is walking a thin line between succeeding in incorporating legal immigration into its overall approach and moving towards the creation of a Fortress Europe based on one-sided repressive immigration and asylum policies.

An underclass of illegal immigrants
The need to increase cooperation on asylum issues and fighting illegal immigration stems from the problems arising in a number of member states. In Southern European countries like Italy and Greece the last decade has seen a large influx of illegal immigrants and refugees especially from sea borders. The ones who make it alive join an 'underclass' of illegal immigrants susceptible to the dangers and exploitations that occur in systems that do not provide adequately for accommodating them into their societies and labour markets. The result is strengthening phenomena of 'hot houses' of organised crime leading to a decrease in the security of the countries, violation of human rights of these people, and societies poisoned by racism and xenophobia. In other European countries like Britain and Denmark, post September 11, governments toughened their policies against illegal immigration and asylum. While in France and Austria illegal immigrants were further alienated from societies by being demonised by extreme-right parties for electoral purposes.

Developments on a European Union level
These worrying examples also affect EU policy making. Developments such as the recent UK proposal for creation of detention centres for asylum seekers outside the EU and the inability of the EU to provide for a definition of a refugee and a safeguard of their human rights in line with the Geneva Convention of 1951, have been criticised by human rights organisations like Amnesty International and demonstrate the danger of Europe going down a narrow, one-sided-path. In the last months however, thanks to the efforts of the Greek Presidency and the European Commission, aspects of legal immigration and integration policies have started to be incorporated on a European level. In the area of legal immigration agreement was reached on two important Directives, one on family reunification and the other on the rights of long-term residents. Although the level of these agreements was somewhat compromised they constitute important first steps in defining and enhancing the rights of legal immigrants. The European Commission recently made a most valuable contribution in drawing up plans for successful integration policies, a subject also discussed at Chalkidiki. Additionally, the decision-making process in matters of Justice and Home Affairs is expected to become more effective, credible and accountable due the European Convention's intention to decrease intergovernmental control by removing national vetoes on immigration and asylum and reinforcing the Community method.

Future European Union action
The Summit will agree to boost cooperation on managing external borders, increasing short-term funds, continue re-admission policies through cooperation with third countries and work on a new asylum system. All these constitute important parts of an effective immigration and asylum policy. However, efforts need to continue the initial progress made on the side of legal immigration and asylum, starting from agreement on a refugee definition that will allow the emergence of a more open Europe. Legal immigration legislation needs to be str ©EUobserver

June 18, 2003- European leaders, fearful of far-right and anti-immigration parties, are set to launch a further crackdown on illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers. Analysts and diplomats say the move, to be implemented at a summit in Greece this week, is aimed at giving voters the impression that European Union governments are in control of asylum and immigration at a time when the number of asylum-seekers is falling in most member states due to punishing controls. The most radical British proposals for interning refugees in centres outside the EU - compared by some media and diplomats to concentration camps - were dropped this week after fierce opposition from states seeking to safeguard civil rights. But EU leaders are set to endorse spending more of the EU's money to strengthen border controls, boost its visa system with increased personal data, and pay countries to take back citizens caught living illegally in Europe. They will also debate a British proposal for "protection zones" for refugees in conflict regions, intended to curb the number of asylum-seekers and illegal migrants and stem people-smuggling. "A lot of the governments across the EU, both centre-right and centre-left, feel they have to move rightwards to keep control of the debate. "If they don't, they lose ownership of the issue and open up a space for the far-right," said Adam Townsend of the London-based Centre for European Reform think-tank.

The 15-nation EU agreed in 1999 to forge a common asylum and immigration policy aimed at ensuring refugees found a safe haven in Europe. But far-right electoral gains in many EU states shifted the policy focus towards more restrictions and fewer rights for asylum-seekers. European leaders adopted a first package to stem illegal migration at a summit in Seville, Spain, last year. Asylum is most contentious in rich northern EU states, where welfare systems are under pressure because of unemployment and ageing populations, and taxpayers are increasingly reluctant to pay for refugees. Southern member states are most concerned about how to cover the costs of fighting illegal immigration on their vulnerable sea borders, and of carrying the burden for the rest of the EU. The debate in the EU has alarmed international rights groups, who worry that the emphasis of governments on restricting refugees criminalises asylum-seekers and fuels xenophobia and racism. "Governments are prepared to go to any length to push refugees out. It feeds the circle of xenophobia and it is very short-sighted political thinking and self-interest," said Dick Oosting, head of Amnesty International's EU office. The EU hosts about 5% of the world's refugees. About 18-million non-EU citizens live inside the bloc, which has a population of 375-million.
©The Star

By Mary Robinson, former UN Commissioner on Human Rights, directs the Ethical Global Initiative.

A troubling resurgence
June 19, 2003- Later this week representatives of 55 governments will gather in Vienna for an unprecedented conference on anti-Semitism in Europe. The Vienna meeting, convened by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, is a recognition of the gravity of this problem, and implicitly, of the reluctance of some European leaders to address it. Last month in Berlin a man wearing a pendant with the Star of David was attacked on a bus by a group of teenagers who spat on him, kicked him in the face and shouted anti-Semitic insults. A day earlier in Vienna a rabbi was physically assaulted by two young people as he was walking home from prayer. In Minsk, Belarus, vandals desecrated a memorial at Yama, which marks the site where 100,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II, spraying Nazi slogans, swastikas and threats. And in London, vandals desecrated 386 Jewish graves at the Plashnet Cemetery in East Ham. Each of these attacks and desecrations of Jewish sites took place in the last month. None have received much public attention. But they are illustrative of a growing pattern of anti-Semitic attacks that has escalated dramatically since 2001. In a report published last year the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights found "an alarming rise in anti-Semitic attacks in Europe."

The committee noted that with the exception of Jewish organizations and some human rights and anti-racism groups, "the world community - governments, intergovernmental organizations and nongovernment organizations alike - has not responded adequately to this growing problem. Anti-Semitism is racism. Anti-Semitic acts need to be confronted more forcefully and treated as serious violations of international human rights." In France, anti-Semitism has been particularly acute. Home to 650,000 Jews, France has the largest Jewish population in Western Europe. Scores of French synagogues and Jewish day schools have been firebombed or desecrated. In April 2002 alone, French Jewish leaders reported 119 anti-Semitic acts and 448 anti-Semitic threats. In the first three months of 2003, one group that monitors these attacks verified 290 reports of anti-Semitic incidents in Paris alone. To their credit, some French officials have begun to take steps to combat these racist acts. The French education minister, Luc Ferry, announced a new program this year aimed at monitoring and responding to anti-Semitic attacks and threats in the schools. Otto Schily, the German interior minister, has also issued the kind of clear public statement that is needed everywhere. After an assault on an American Jewish student in Berlin in March, Schily reiterated his government's commitment to waging an aggressive campaign to combat these hate crimes.

The gathering this week in Vienna will offer a unique opportunity for representatives of each of the 55 governments present to issue similar public statements, condemning anti-Semitism and labeling it for what it is, a form of racism and xenophobia. Acts of anti-Semitic violence need to be investigated and prosecuted for what they are - criminal acts. A first step in strengthening law enforcement in this area is to improve official reporting of these crimes. Many European governments have been slow or reluctant to establish clear criteria for registering and reporting crimes motivated by racial animus. They should do so now and make public their norms and procedures for registering and acting upon racially motivated crimes. They should also make public the reports of racially motivated crimes, through regular and accessible reports which disaggregate different targets of these crimes. Europe has a long and tragic history of anti-Semitism, not least the horrors of the Holocaust. Many postwar European leaders demonstrated a commitment to combating this evil. But now, as we confront a resurgence of anti-Semitism, it is critical that European leaders - government officials, representatives of respected nongovernment organizations and other opinion leaders - do everything in their power to combat these racist acts.
©International Herald Tribune

19 June 2003- At its first conference devoted specially to the issue of anti-Semitism, the Head of the OSCE Task Force of the current Netherlands Chairmanship, Daan Everts, declared that the OSCE would assist in promoting a change of mind that will help to stamp out antisemitism, as well as other forms of racism and xenophobia. "The fact that such a meeting is necessary", he said, "is in itself deplorable, but we would be remiss not to recognize that this need still exists & It is shocking to have to acknowledge that anti-Semitism has shamelessly recurred after the Holocaust and may even be on the rise, as witnessed by recent instances". These might range from anti-Semitic slogans uttered on the football field, the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and memorials or attacks on synagogues, all the way to the latest cross-border - and therefore very disconcerting - manifestation of anti-Semitism, hate mail on the Internet. "All this", said Ambassador Everts, "is occurring in the year 2003 in various parts of the OSCE area. It would be a grave mistake to ignore or belittle this in the hope that it will prove ephemeral. We have seen what that  ultimately  might lead to."

This conference stems from a decision taken by the OSCE Foreign Ministers' annual meeting in December last year, and will be followed by a separately designated conference on discrimination, racism and xenophobia in September. Other speakers at the opening session included Solomon Passy, Foreign Minister of Bulgaria (which will hold the OSCE Chairmanship in 2004), and the former Polish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski. In his keynote speech, Foreign Minister Passy held up the example of Bulgaria as the only European country during World War II that saved its Jewish population while keeping them in their own native land. "We understand that 'zero tolerance' to any form of intolerance, including anti-Semitism, is a key part of our role in international relations and of our share in the integration processes." He added that it was through international institutions such as the OSCE, that the "strong common will of Mankind (worked) to bring an end, once and for all, to the tragic and painful legacy of the Second World War and of the Cold War. "This common commitment is the basis of integration in the Euro-Atlantic area and its only possible future. Anti-Semitism is not a part of this future. That is why this conference is so important and I believe will have a strong follow up."

The final keynote speaker, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, pointed out that the ability to change continuously was the reason why anti-Semitism reappears every epoch in a new form. "As the political writer Paul Lendvai said, the current version is 'anti-Semitism without Jews', a form of anti-Semitism that prefers veiled attacks to direct persecution. Thus anti-Semitism is sometimes masked as 'anti-Zionism', enabling base instincts to be manipulated and resentments to be revived." "From burning books to burning humans, there is only a small step", said Bartoszewski. "This is why 'no tolerance for intolerance' should hold the first place among the methods to fight against anti-Semitism". Quoting the first non-communist prime minister of independent Poland, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Mr. Bartoszewski stressed that while the open, active form of anti-Semitism had largely disappeared from the foreground, there was still the anti-Semitism "that was fighting under cover". "A strong engagement of the political elite but also of intellectuals and, not least, the media is needed", he added. "On the other hand, all forms of active rejection of anti-Semitism, or intolerance in general, need to be furthered & Finally, educational strategies must be devised to remove the basis of antisemitism."

After the opening ©OSCE

13/6/2003- Two developments this week have put Canada's hate propaganda laws back in the news. Unfortunately, there's little discussion about the usefulness of such laws. On Wednesday, the RCMP charged David Ahenakew, former chairman of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and former chief of the Assembly of First Nations, with wilfully promoting hatred against the Jewish people. The charges arise from a taped interview Mr. Ahenakew gave last December, after delivering a profanity-laced speech at a conference. In the interview, Mr. Ahenakew referred to Jews as a disease and said Hitler was trying to clean up the world: "That's why he fried six million of those guys, you know. Jews would have owned the Goddamned world." After a lengthy investigation, the RCMP laid charges under a Criminal Code provision that outlaws intentionally promoting hatred against an identifiable group through public statements. If convicted, Mr. Ahenakew faces a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.

The charges come just as Burnaby-Douglas MP Svend Robinson is pushing forward with his private member's bill that would amend the Criminal Code's definition of "identifiable group" to include gays and lesbians. Despite the recent prominence of hate propaganda provisions of the code, the law is infrequently invoked. Successful prosecutions are even less frequent. Under the law, a conviction must be based on words that go well beyond criticism and dislike, and into the realm of intent to promote hatred. Only about a dozen people have been charged under the law, and even fewer convicted. That alone raises concerns about the law's usefulness. Though many Jewish groups have praised the laying of charges, it could backfire. For example, Mr. Ahenakew could easily be found not guilty, given the notorious difficulty of proving intent. If that happens, the acquittal could well detract from the disgracefulness of his scurrilous statements, and even give them some credence in the eyes of anyone who's inclined to believe such poppycock. Aside from the danger of an acquittal, hate propaganda laws do little to change people's opinions. Rather, they drive those opinions underground. When hateful ideas are allowed to fester unchecked, they often grow stronger. When they're held up to the light of day, their ugliness is there for all to see.

That's precisely what happened in Canada following Mr. Ahenakew's rancorous ravings. Canadians from across the country united in a condemnation of his views and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations removed Mr. Ahenakew from all boards, commissions and institutions within the organization. Mr. Ahenakew also delivered a tearful apology, blaming his outburst on unidentified health problems. Mr. Ahenakew has lost his platform and compromised his integrity. He has faced, and continues to face, ostracism from his own community and from Canadians at large. That's a far stronger and more appropriate penalty than six months in jail or a $2,000 fine. What has been neither strong nor appropriate, however, is the action -- or rather the inaction -- of the advisory council of the Order of Canada. Since Mr. Ahenakew is a member of the order, many people have called on the council to rescind the honour. At first, the council said it was waiting until the investigation by the Saskatchewan RCMP was completed. Now the council says it will wait until the criminal trial is resolved.

That's simply not good enough. The council has its own rules concerning revocation of the order. It need not wait until a criminal court pronounces on the matter, particularly because the court has far different standards of proof and rules of evidence. The fact that Mr. Ahenakew said the words is not in dispute -- they're on tape -- and the council will be inexcusably lax if it does not revoke Mr. Ahenakew's honour now. If the council gets its act to ©Vancouver Sun

Michèle Asselin is known for her ability to reconcile people with different points of view

June 15 2003- As a student intern, Michèle Asselin helped a group of disadvantaged women stage a play about their lives - a performance that touched on the daily struggle behind the women's tears and laughter. "It became a passion right away," Asselin, 45, said of the theatre project that provoked a lifelong commitment to feminism. "I met extraordinary women - heroines." Co-ordinator of the Regroupement des centres des femmes du Québec since 1988, Asselin will be taking over the province's largest women's organization by the end of this month. Asselin is replacing Vivian Barbot, outgoing president of the Quebec Federation of Women, which encompasses 156 member associations and nearly 800 individual memberships. "They fought daily to make a better life for their families even though they were often living in precarious conditions," Asselin said of the women at the centre who inspired her. Those women included her grandmother Alice, who gave birth to 18 children. And these same values, which she also wants to pass along to her 9-year-old son, Laurent, are among the pillars of the women's federation. Years of lobbying for dwindling resources and finances as head of the umbrella group of women's centres has prepared her for the challenges ahead, Asselin said. These include getting Premier Jean Charest to appoint a minister responsible for the status of women. The federation is also a staunch defender of $5-a-day day care. "We want to send a clear message on acquired rights," Asselin said. "We won't be accepting any pulling back." Asselin is also calling for the enactment of Bill 112, Quebec's Law to Combat Poverty and Exclusion. The bill's goal is to reduce the number of Quebecers living in poverty by 50 per cent over 10 years. "We must have concrete means to fight poverty. And we know the majority (of the poor) are women," she said.

Federation projects include pressing for proportional representation in Quebec's electoral system. The arrival of a new president coincides with a move within the organization to define its goals. The federation will spend the summer and early fall analyzing data collected across Quebec on a range of topics, from the impact of globalization to the effect of health-care cuts on women. The report is expected to be ready for a convention in November. But the federation will always continue defending the rights of women in the face of all discrimination, including racism, sexism, poverty and homophobia, Asselin said. "The federation always was and always will be for all women," Asselin said, commenting on a recent newspaper story that suggested former president Vivian Barbot was ousted by the "lesbian wing" of the federation. Sexual orientation had nothing to do with the election, she said. "Our federation has worked (toward eliminating) discrimination against lesbians, and will continue to do so, as it does against all forms of discrimination," she said. "It's a federation for all kinds of women." Françoise David, a former president of the federation, said she has "never met anyone who didn't like Michèle Asselin, even those who didn't agree with her." Among Asselin's greatest qualities, David added, is her ability to get people with diverging points of views to work together. Asselin has been a member of the federation's board of directors for two years. She has travelled to women's forums in Beijing and India and has taken part in World Marches of Women.
©Montreal Gazette

In Toronto jail: Not 'a prisoner of conscience,' says human rights body

17/6/2003- Under pressure from supporters of Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel to denounce his imprisonment, Amnesty International has instead issued a policy statement declaring it has no concerns over his incarceration. "Amnesty International does not consider Ernst Zundel to be a prisoner of conscience and is not calling for his release," says a statement issued by the London-based International Secretariat of Amnesty International. "Amnesty International has reminded the Canadian government that numerous allegations of possible commission of hate crimes have been made against Ernst Zundel, largely stemming from his position with respect to the Holocaust. "Those allegations must be investigated, leading to charges if borne out by the evidence," says the statement. The policy was drafted last week in response to a growing number of queries about the case.

Mr. Zundel's supporters have been lobbying Amnesty International -- the world's foremost human rights organization -- to join the campaign against his detention by the Canadian government. Mr. Zundel is in jail in Toronto pending a Federal Court review of the government's declaration that he is a threat to national security, an order requiring removal to his native Germany where he faces charges of inciting hatred. "Amnesty International does not adopt persons who are imprisoned for 'hate speech' as prisoners of conscience," Amnesty International's statement says. Mr. Zundel's supporters lashed out at the organization over its decision. "Amnesty International is not an honest organization -- it is a Marxist front, in many people's eyes," said Ingrid Rimland, Mr. Zundel's wife, in an interview with the National Post conducted through e-mail. "[Amnesty International] did what politically correct courts do -- they took 'judicial notice' that the Holocaust was essentially what Hollywood told the world it was." Ms. Rimland accused the organization of having a double standard, one that champions the cause of Nelson Mandela, the former president of South African who was imprisoned under the Apartheid regime, but turns its back on Mr. Zundel. In an e-mail to Mr. Zundel's supporters, she said of Amnesty International: "The minions pimping for the Canadian Holocaust Lobby are beginning to paint themselves nicely into a corner. They are a non-profit organization, flying under false flags -- and ever more Zundel watchers world-wide are speculating that they are a Fifth Column Zionist front."

Alex Neve, Secretary-General of the Canadian branch of Amnesty International, said his group has no hidden agenda or ulterior motives. "Amnesty International stands for one thing and one thing only and that is the protection of human rights," Mr. Neve said. "When it comes to freedom of expression, there are some legitimate limits and inciting people to hatred is one such limit," he said. Amnesty International's policy on the case reiterated, however, its concerns over the security certificate process under which Mr. Zundel was detained. The government's declaration ended his claim for refugee status after he was deported here from the United States. Although not a Canadian citizen, Mr. Zundel lived for decades in Canada. "We think refugee systems should be open," Mr. Neve said. "The minute we allow politicians to have any kind of role in deciding who gets access to the refugee systems and who does not, we just know from around the world that is bad news for genuine refugees," he said. The government said in court that Mr. Zundel is the figurehead or patriarch of the white supremacist ideology and that violence is a tool the movement uses. Mr. Zundel, testifying earlier on his own behalf, denied allegations that he is involved in violence or advocates violence. The judicial review of the security certificate agains © National Post

June 19, 2003- An Ottawa lawyer who became the target of a hate crime after he led the charge to shut down an anti-Semitic Web site was awarded $30,000 by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal last month, the Citizen has learned. Richard Warman, an Ottawa lawyer, tried to have Patriots on Guard website removed from the Internet because he believed the anti-Semitic content was "over the line." He send a note to the Internet service provider that hosted the site and in April 2001 it was pulled. Yet, weeks later, the site resurfaced and Mr. Warman became the target of the Web site, which was controlled by Fred Kyburz of Alberta. Mr. Warman filed complaints against Mr. Kyburz with the Canadian Human Rights Commission alleging hateful content on the site and personal attacks against him. Last month, the tribunal ruled on the case. "In the tribunal's view, there can be no doubt that the messages contained on the Patriots on Guard Web site are likely to expose Jews generally to hatred and contempt," the 29-page report from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal stated.

In March 2001, Mr. Warman, who has been campaigning against hate on the Internet, became aware of the site and notified the Internet service provider. The site was shut down for several days in April. But a few weeks later it was back up on a different provider. Responding to the initiative taken by Mr. Warman, Mr. Kyburz shifted his focus. "You are an anti-Semite since your ilk have the blood of thousands of Jews on your hands as well as the blood of millions of white people. You are an anti-Semite, anti-white and anti-right ... I have warned you idiots of my intent to expose your communistic Zionist agenda," Mr. Kyburz e mailed to Mr. Warman. The missive was highlighted in the tribunal's report. In its ruling the tribunal stated: "There can be no doubt that Mr. Kyburz both retaliated and threatened to retaliate against Mr. Warman for having filed his Section 13 human rights complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. "Of even greater concern are the threats to Mr. Warman's life," the report stated. Mr. Warman was awarded $15,000 as a special compensation because Mr. Kyburz's actions were both "willful and repeated." He was also awarded $15,000 for pain and suffering.

Mr. Kyburz must pay an additional $7,500 to the federal government. While Mr. Warman hasn't received the settlement, he said the money would be put back into his work, because it is "tainted money and it belongs back in the community." Mr. Warman said he learned a lot from the experience. "It certainly gives you a window to people who have been targeted," Mr. Warman said. "By receiving death threats, trying to get me fired, accusing me of criminal activity I see how it can wear down a soul." University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, said he couldn't recall of hearing of a Canadian group that has been targeted after challenging a site that promoted hatred. But, he said it has happened in Europe. He said Canada has been aggressive in challenging hate sites. Mr. Warman said it took almost two years for the decision to come down because the tribunal was waiting for the decision on Ernst Zundel. In January 2002, the Canadian Human Rights Commission tribunal forced Mr. Zundel, a Holocaust denier, to shut down the site, saying it vilified Jewish people as "liars, cheats, criminals and thugs." There were additions made to the Canadian Human Rights Act when Bill C-36 was passed in Dec. 2001, which made the prohibition against spreading repeated hate messages by telephonic communications to include all telecommunications technologies.

Mr. Warman said the amending of Bill C-36: "Spells out that the Canadian Human Rights Commission includes the Internet. "This is something that should have been done a long time ago," he added. In the tribunal's ruling they said a letter with a copy of the ruling will be se ©The Ottawa Citizen

16/6/2003- Macy's, the world's largest store, is facing a $500m (£300m) lawsuit over claims that it operates a policy of "racial profiling" which targets black, Hispanic and Asian shoppers as suspected shoplifters. The huge class action is being led by African-American Sharon Simmons-Thomas, who was handcuffed to a bench in a windowless cell in the Manhattan department store, despite having receipts for her purchases. An action filed in the Manhattan federal court claims that, while around 80% of customers who shop at the store are white, 92% of the 1,600 people held on suspicion of stealing last year were non-white. Most of those detained were never prosecuted. Lawyers also accuse Macy's of extending the practice to its branches across the US in a coordinated policy of encouraging security guards and store detectives to home in on non-white shoppers. The class action seeks damages for anyone coming forward with a claim of being wrongly targeted by Macy's as a shoplifter on the basis of race.

Douglas Wigdor, of New York law firm Thompson, Wigdor and Gilly, which filed the suit, said the practice of racial profiling went on in many shops but was "rampant" at Macy's, whose parent company, Federated Department Stores, owns another famous city store, Bloomingdale's. Mr Wigdor said that the case was not about supporting shoplifting and that real thieves should be arrested. "This has to do with stereotypes and unfairness, whether people are doing it intentionally or in the back of their minds they believe that people of colour are out there shoplifting much more than whites," he said. He predicted thousands would come forward and that the $500m damages figure was a minimum estimate. Federated has called the charges "baseless, reckless and false". Ms Simmons-Thomas, a legal secretary, was a regular customer at the flagship Macy's store. But as she was leaving the shop last December after buying kitchenware, she was stopped by two plain-clothes store detectives who allegedly ignored her attempts to show them receipts and marched her across the store "like a common criminal". In a detention cell within the store she was photographed, subjected to a pat-down search and handcuffed, while staff allegedly tried to persuade her to sign a confession. Ms Simmons-Thomas, 40, said: "I was trying to plead with them but I was yelled at. The whole experience was frightening, humiliating and degrading." She said the staff made comments about the fact that she lived in the Bronx and seemed surprised that she worked at a prestigious Manhattan law firm. The lawsuit claims they ignored her protests that she was due to pick up her nine-year-old daughter and held her for more than an hour before banning her from Macy's for seven years and turfing her back on to the street, where she broke down crying.

The action seeks to show that similar actions are commonplace at Macy's branches. "I think this happens a lot, in many stores, and it is time for a change - African-American and other non-white people should not have to go to the store and be profiled. We have the right to shop like anyone else," she said. The lawsuit alleges that Macy's supervisors and staff use codes such as "number two male" to alert each other by radio to black shoppers. In a statement, Federated Department Stores said: "Federated do not stop shoplifters because of their race - we stop them because we think they are stealing. To suggest that alleged isolated incidents, which are contrary to Federated's express policies against discrimination, is a national pattern and practice is totally baseless."
©The Guardian

16 June ­ United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today appointed five independent eminent experts to follow up, together with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the implementation of the plan of action adopted at the 2001 World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa. The five include former Finnish President Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari, currently Co-Chairman of the East West Institute and Chairman of the International Crisis Group, and former Jordanian Crown Prince Hassan bin Talal, founding member and Vice-Chairman of the Foundation for Inter-religious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue in Geneva. The others are: Edna Maria Santos Roland, President of the Board of Directors of the Fala Preta Organization of Black Women in Brazil, who served as Rapporteur-General of the World Conference; Salim Ahmed Salim of Tanzania, former President of the UN General Assembly and the Organization of African Unity; and former Polish Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka.

The experts have a wealth of experience and a commitment to anti-discrimination and equality issues, as well as an international profile that will contribute to the implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action. Paragraph 191(b) of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action calls for the appointment of the experts. When they meet for the first time later this year in Geneva, the group will discuss with the High Commissioner for Human Rights how best to carry out their mandate. The five are scheduled to meet for up to a week each year.
©UN News Centre

June 6 2003- People of South Asian origin are underrepresented in clinical trials, according to findings published Friday by UK researchers. This practice may represent a form of institutional racism, one of its authors said. Mahvash Hussain-Gambles and colleagues from the University of Leeds Center for Research in Primary Care studied the ethnicity of participants in six large-scale clinical trials conducted by the Northern and Yorkshire Clinical Trials and Research Unit. They found that South Asian participants -- those of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin -- made up between zero and 1.7 percent of trial participants. Yet, 3.4 percent of the population of Great Britain as a whole, and 3.8 percent of that of Yorkshire, are of South Asian origin, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics.

This inequality of access has ethical and scientific implications, said Hussain-Gambles in an interview. "South Asian people have higher than average national morbidity rates for asthma, heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, and there is also a huge literature on variation in ethnic minority group responses to drugs, such as hypertensives and anaesthetics," she added. "During the course of my studies, I have heard disturbing comments from researchers on ethnic minority groups. Some genuinely believed that South Asian women were unable to make decisions, and others said that if people didn't speak English they would not approach them to take part in a trial," said Hussain-Gambles. Exclusion of ethnic minorities from clinical trials undermines the government's aim to provide culturally appropriate and acceptable care for different groups and individuals, she added.

An amendment to the Race Relations Act 1976 states that public bodies are responsible for tackling institutional racism. "The fact that South Asian people are excluded from clinical trials may have legal implications for the NHS," Hussain-Gambles said. "As there is no scientific basis for exclusion, the practice represents a form of institutional racism in which ethnic minority populations are denied the same opportunities as the general population," she added. Investigator bias, inappropriate strategies for recruitment, and the availability of translators and other cost issues may all be responsible for exclusion of this group, according to the report in this week's British Medical Journal. Stereotypes and cultural myths should be broken down, and health care professionals should be made more aware of the problem and be provided with culturally sensitive training, Hussain-Gambles said. The report also points out that the U.S. National Institutes of Health (news - web sites) requires that all minority groups be represented in its trials. Although guidelines to improve the quality of undertaking and reporting clinical trails have been developed, there is evidence that they are still not being described adequately in publications.

According to Hussain-Gambles, few peer-reviewed papers cite clearly stipulated exclusion criteria, or, particularly in the UK, the study populations' ethnic background. This lack of information makes it difficult to ascribe the relative proportion of ethnic minority groups involved in clinical trails. "Unfortunately UK researchers appear not to be aware of this information, and there are no equivalent guidelines in the UK," said Hussain-Gambles.

June 9, 2003- Delegates at the GMB's annual conference have voted for a change in the general union's rules to expel members who participate in racist activities or encourage racist organisations. The motion targets any member "who gives encouragement to, or participates in, the activities of any organisation, faction or grouping whose policies or aims have expressed or implied promotion of racial supremacy or racial hatred at their core". A number of unions are expected to pass antiracist motions during this year's conference season, but a recent case involving Aslef, the train drivers' union, suggested that members could not be expelled simply for being racist. The Communication Workers' Union passed a motion this month that calls for a change in the law allowing unions to "exclude or expel members of racist or fascist parties from membership of trade unions".
©The Financial Times

The GMB union has changed its rulebook to make it easier to expel racists, but as ASLEF knows to its detriment, the law can stand in the way of trying to do the right thing.

June 10 2003- As the GMB union today announced that it is to change its rulebook in order to expel members who participate in racist activities, other union bodies have been urging a note of caution in light of recent legal cases. As part of its ongoing fight against racism the GMB union has changed its rulebook to target any member ‘who gives encouragement to, or participates in, the activities of …racial supremacy or racial hatred,' a move that could backfire it was claimed today. The expulsion of an ASLEF member who was also an active member of the British National Party (BNP) led to the union losing a first round battle of a ‘test case' against train driver Jay Lee. If not overturned at appeal Lee will get £5,700 in compensation.

Members of the BNP are actively encouraged to join unions for the express purpose of getting thrown out and fighting for compensation. ASLEF are actively campaigning for the Employment Relations Act review to repeal the 11-year-old law that doesn't allow unions to exclude people belonging to parties either on the left or right. ASLEF told HR Gateway today that it fully encouraged what the GMB was doing but urged it to be careful: ‘The BNP sends people to unions to cause disruption and so the GMB should be careful in how it approaches the problem,' it said.

To support the changes to its rulebook, the GMB are also creating a new role of race officer in each branch in order to encourage the diversification and representation of each branch. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) joined its voice to those urging caution today:
‘We support any move against racism but we would encourage the GMB to be careful in light of recent legal cases such as that of ASLEF, the TUC told HR Gateway today.
However, Kevin Curran, GMB general secretary said today that racism and racist activities had no place in the union. The union fights institutional racism and so it would be ‘hypocritical' if it did not do the same with its own house, he said:
‘Racism is a cancer in our communities. We want to make it very clear that it has no place in the GMB. Our actions today will ensure that we remain an organisation that campaigns against racism and racist activities and upholds our objective of equality for all at work and at home,' he said.
©HR Gateway

13 June 2003- A Judge blasted an Asian university graduate for his racism towards a Chinese student after a drunken night out. Ravinderpal Gill randomly picked his victim in Wollaton at 9pm last September. He damaged the man's car, swore at him, slapped and punched him in the head. Gill told him to go back to his own country and pursued him, armed with two flick knives. The victim, who was studying for A-levels at the People's College, Nottingham, said he was in fear of his life. At Nottingham Crown Court, Judge Alison Hampton jailed Gill for nine months. She told Gill, who has a degree from Sheffield Hallam University in urban land economics: "Racial prejudice is an offensive running sore in any civilised society." She said the fact Gill came from an ethnic background himself made his behaviour even more offensive. Gill, 27, of Maidstone Drive, Wollaton, pleaded guilty to racially-aggravated common assault and affray. He had a previous conviction for assault on his girlfriend's former partner. Defending, Anna Soubry said he was disgusted at himself.
©Northcliffe Electronic Publishing Ltd

09/06/03- The exploitation of immigrant workers is being facilitated by government policy, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland. There has been an alarming 140% increase in pleas for assistance in the past three months. Since its official launch last March, ICI has helped 655 immigrants with a wide range of problems compared with the same period last year when it received 274 calls. "The type and number of problems we are dealing with confirms our view that urgent government action is needed in the areas of work permits, long-term residency permits and the respect and protection of the family life of immigrant workers," said Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, ICI director. In the past three months she has witnessed a rapid and worrying increase in work-associated problems within the immigrant community.

‘Leave to Remain' is the major worry of most immigrants accounting for 26% of total queries, a rise of 144% in the period. "The category ‘Leave to Remain' is huge and comprises persons whose work permit is not renewed because they have lost their job or been made redundant. "Even though these people may have been working here for four or five years, they are then in a very precarious position as they have to wait for another employer to obtain a work permit for them," said Sister Kennedy. She has demanded that the Government immediately introduce long-term residence permits:
"Ireland is now one of the few EU countries which has not yet introduced a long-term residence permit for individuals who have been legally resident in the State for less than five years: in Ireland it is ten years. This would give individuals certainty about their duration of stay and allow them to arrange their affairs accordingly and it is an effective draw-card in attracting skilled labour to the country." Issues of family reunification accounted for 21% of cases, an increase of 127%, with the third most frequent problem being that of work permits at 13%, up by 94%. ICI says government must move to respect and protect the family life of migrant workers. "The Irish government must allow family members of migrant workers to accompany, join and stay with them in Ireland for the duration of the worker's permission to remain and work here," said Sister Kennedy.
©Irish Examiner

29 May 2003- A spokesman for 700 Roma refugees stranded on the Macedonian border says they are prepared to die where they are - if refused the right to cross into Greece. Doctors are already warning that, without proper shelter, food, water and medical care, deaths could occur at any time among the refugees which include 270 children, newly born babies and ten pregnant women. For almost two weeks the Kosovo Roma refugees have been huddling together on a bare plateau, without tents, blankets or fuel. Nights are cold in the mountains, while days have alternated been hot sun and heavy rain. 'We're within a few steps of the frontier,' Romnews correspondent Martin Demirovski reports. 'But if we try to move forward we're beaten back by the soldiers.'

According to Médecins du Monde-Greece, which visited the makeshift camp last week, many people are suffering from bronchitis, respiratory diseases, diarrhoea and other serious infections. Under the appalling conditions, much of the sickness is now life-threatening, particularly for infants. Many elderly are exhausted and finding it hard to cope with the lack of elementary hygiene facilities. Some bread has been distributed by the UNHCR - the very agency which closed their camp in Skopje on 31 March.

The Macedonian Helsinki Committee has urged Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski to waive a visa agreement and give priority to the right of the refugees to leave the country. However, despite appeals by many Roma and other NGOs, the border remains closed to them. 'Our case before the Court of Human Rights must succeed,' commented Roma National Congress (RNC) chairman Rudko Kawczynski. 'But must children die before Mr Crvenkovski puts human rights ahead of his border politics?' Asmet Elezovski, an RNC activist, who went to Medjitelija with the refugees and was among those injured, says there is an urgent need to increase pressure on both the Macedonian government and the EU.
© Institute of Race Relations

10/6/2003- Along the banks of a mountain stream, village children gather firewood to be used for roasting yet another meal of potatoes. "That's all there is to eat these days, potatoes and more potatoes," says 10-year-old Stas. "That's why all our moms and dads left."

This western edge of Ukraine is one of the most impoverished places on the European continent. Here, the Carpathians form both a natural barrier between the former USSR and Europe - and an economic dividing line between desperation and hope. Most of the adults in these mountain villages have made the crossing in order to work illegally in Central and Western Europe. But the price is high: a generation of children left behind with grandparents, and a region increasingly drained of its working population. The trends are part of a larger shift seen in this former Soviet republic. Ukraine is swiftly replacing Southern Europe as the source of cheap labor for the Continent.

While the Ukrainian government registers just 30,000 citizens working legally in foreign countries, analysts estimate that as many as 7 million Ukrainians already work abroad, and that number is growing by about a million each year. These migrants bring about $1 billion back to Ukraine annually, government agencies claim. While the money they earn abroad has become a lifeline in village economies, sociologists warn of a host of negative effects. "I think the risks outweigh the benefits for most families," says Amy Heyden, director of the Trafficking Prevention Program at Winrock International, a nonprofit based in the US. "Ukrainian migrant workers abroad have a 50-50 chance that they will be able to earn enough to send money home. "Meanwhile," she says, "migration is causing a breakdown in the moral fabric of Ukrainian communities. There has been a sharp increase in divorce and abandoned children. It is a painful dilemma. On the one hand, families desperately need the income from working abroad, but it is forcing a great many children to grow up without their parents."

Stas's mom and dad work in greenhouses in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, 100 miles west of Poroshovo. His mother is a university-educated orchestra director and his father a skilled builder. As undocumented migrants, they work 18 hours a day and earn $1.50 per hour. Back home, most of the population in the region lives at or below the UN "absolute poverty" line of $1 a day, and unemployment in many communities is more than 80 percent. "Our young people do not want to leave, but there is no work at all here," says Irina Stigura, Stas's grandmother. "My daughter cries when she comes to visit. She says that in the West she is called a dirty Ukrainian dog. But Ukrainians are hard-working people, and we are one of the most educated nations in the world. We don't deserve this poverty." After paying expenses and bribes to cross borders illegally, Stas's parents are able to send home about $100 a month to support the family.

Stas and the other children interviewed clearly long for their parents. "When my mom comes home to visit she brings me oranges and chocolate, but then she leaves again and I don't see her for another year," Stas says. "I would rather have my parents home and do without the sweets. I miss them a lot, but they have to work far away because our country is broken." Stas is one of the relatively fortunate children of migrants. His parents are able to visit each year, and he lives with two grandparents. In the nearby village of Stavne, teenager Tanya Ilchenko and her little brother, Vasya, lived with their grandmother for five years while their parents worked at various menial jobs in Central Europe. Then last winter, their grandmother died. They have been temporarily taken in by an aunt, but worry because they haven't heard from their parents in several months. "I am very afraid for my mother," Tanya says, wiping tears off her mud roads of the Carpathian Mountains, one sees the occasional bright new facade on a traditional pyramid-roofed cottage - usually a sign of money from abroad. But the new homes are a rare exception. Instead, Mr. Padyak says economic migration has become a vicious cycle in which villages are stripped of their active populations, leaving those behind with even fewer opportunities. "Anyone with any technical skills is long gone," he says. "The Poles are skimming off our doctors, and the Germans want our computer technicians."

In the village of Mokre, like the other mountain villages, most of the working age population is already gone. Natasha Pishkar, mother of a 5-year-old girl, is one of the few women left, and she says that she constantly thinks about emigrating. Last year, she traveled to work pulling onions in the agricultural region in southern Ukraine. For six months' work she received a wagon full of wheat, because the farmers had no money to pay her. "No one here wants to leave [their] homes, but we have no real choice," Pishkar says. "I will find a way to cross the border, and I will do whatever work will pay any money at all. I am not afraid of hard work. I will leave my child with my mother, and I will leave."
©Christian Science Monitor Service

13 June 2003- Russia's national team will play a Russian Premier League foreign all-star side in Moscow on 30 June, in a special match highlighting the pan-European campaign to eliminate racism from football.

Tkachenko proposal
The idea for the match, which will be held at the Lokomotiv stadium in Moscow, was initially proposed by the chairman of Premier League outfit FC Krylya Sovetov Samara, German Tkachenko, and was then given the blessing of both the Russian Football Union (RFS) and UEFA.

Domestic-based players
The match will be played for the Rostelekom Cup, after the name of the company which sponsors both the RFS and the national team. It is planned that Russia will field only domestic-based players in the match. The coach of the all-star side has yet to be named, but the team's players were elected by a nationwide vote. FC Dinamo Moskva and Armenia goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky will play behind a defence comprising FC Rostov's South African player Matthew Booth, his compatriot Jacob Lekcetho from FC Lokomotiv Moskva, and Dinamo defender Pascal Mendy, who is from Senegal.

Voters decide
Czech Republic star Jirí Jarošik, from PFC CSKA Moskva, will lead a midfield which also boasts Serbia and Montenegro playmaker Ognien Koroman, Spartak's Senegalese schemer Baye Kebe, and Bosnia-Herzegovina's Elver Rahimic. However the final players have yet to be elected. Voters are deciding on the starting lineup, while the coach will add another nine players to the squad.

Great honour
"It is a great honour to play for such a side", said Berezovsky. "I am sure the game will attract a lot of attention. This is the first all-star game in Russian history, and I am happy to be part of it. My wish is that something like this could be organized in Armenia as well." Jarošik added: "The match will hopefully provide attractive football, and the result will be just as important."

Anti-racism drive
The match in Russia is one of the latest events in the football family's anti-racism drive, which is being spearheaded by UEFA and the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network.

12 June 2003- Warsaw University's Institute of Sociology is carrying out a survey on the level of xenophobia in Poland, part of an EU program being conducted across Europe, aimed at rooting out xenophobia. Focus groups are invited to the Institute and, under the supervision of a group leader, are asked questions on how they perceive the level of xenophobia in the country. The program gathers both Poles and foreigners. Last weekend, nine individuals of various nationalities, who are now living in Poland, took part. They included natives of Cameroon, Japan, Libya, Mali, Mongolia, Senegal, and Vietnam. Participants told of their experiences with the government departments that deal with foreigners, and listed the hurdles they had to surpass in order to obtain a job.

The Japanese national said that there is little difference whether one is Polish or not when it comes to running a business in Poland. Another member retorted that this was because the Japanese had good contacts; the Japanese said that this wasn't the case: "No matter how good someone's contacts are, they can't help at the tax office." A Mongolian, who is also in business, said that his Polish friends helped him to set up his business, while the Japanese, and two other participants said they relied on themselves. There was a mixed reaction to question of how foreigners living in Poland perceive the situation of xenophobia.
©The Warsaw Voice

6 June 2003- Switzerland is home to a diverse mix of religious groups thanks to its large community of immigrants, many of who go to great lengths to set up their own places of worship. Immigrants often feel their religion is a strong part of their identity and provides a sense of security in a foreign land. According to the most recent census, there are almost 311,000 Muslims and 132,000 Orthodox Christians, mostly made up Serbs, living in Switzerland. These two groups are followed by over 27,000 Hindus and 21,300 Buddhists. For the Bosnian Muslim community, a mosque in Schlieren, near Zurich, has become a home from home. Set up the eleven years ago, the mosque has a restaurant and recreational spaces used by hundreds of families. Men come to pray at midday and the mosque is often full of children running about. Women work in the restaurant.

Place to relax
The Imam, Sakib Halilovic, who studied Islam at the University of Sarajevo, says the mosque provides a place to relax for the community at large, and women in particular. "We are often accused of oppressing our women," he explains. "But they feel even more oppressed by Swiss people. They can feel against because of their veil, something they like to wear." "It is really hard for a young, well-educated Muslim woman to find work here if she follows the rules of her religion."

Factory worship
Over in Adliswil, also near Zurich, Switzerland's largest Hindu temple is hidden away in a factory. The industrial building is near the Sihl river is used by the Hindu community use for religious ceremonies. In a large room full of colour and statues of deities, religious symbols hang from the walls and the air is heavy with scents. The young Hindu priest, a descendant of the Brahmans, grew up here and speaks the local Swiss-German dialect. He enters the "temple" in the factory wearing a colourful cloth bound around his hips, with a painted torso. The ceremony begins, with people standing or sitting in a space inspired by the mystical, spiritual beliefs of the ancient religion. The majority of the Adliswil Hindu community are Tamil refugees. But over ten per cent have another religion - either Catholic or Protestant - and each well-organised community has its own priest. Just like the Serbian migrants to Switzerland who are equally devout; their congregations regularly meet in "borrowed" local churches.

Teaching Islam
The Islamic-Albanian community in Wil, canton St. Gallen, has set up its place for worship in an industrial area of the town. The Imam is not just there for the Muslim community - he visits Swiss associations and also holds lectures about Islam for the city's police force. The 29-year old Imam, Bekim Alimi, is from Macedonia and came to Switzerland four years ago after studying philosophy and theology at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo. He teaches religion to Muslim students at a local school and consults regularly with research institutes about the challenges of his community work. Significantly, the Imam's regular class on Islam at the school in Wil is still an exception in Switzerland.
©NZZ Online

9/6/03- The children of economic migrants who came to Switzerland in the 1960s are well integrated into society, according to a new study. But many still don't have Swiss nationality, which means no political rights despite being born and brought up in this country. The study, carried out by the Swiss National Science Foundation, looked at almost 400 second-generation Italians and Spaniards ­ aged between 18 and 35 ­ living in the cantons of Basel and Geneva. The aim was to find out what had become of the children of workers who sought a better life in Switzerland. Rosita Fibbi, one of the study's authors, said the results of the report, the first of its kind to be carried out in Switzerland, went against popular perceptions. "Foreigners are supposed to be very different and to keep on being different over generations, and that's not what we are finding," she said.

Manual workers
Second generation Italians and Spaniards - the sons and daughters of mainly manual workers without higher education - were found to have attained a high level of schooling and professional success. Indeed, the study suggests that the second generation was more likely to pursue higher education and was better represented in university and independent professions than their Swiss counterparts. Claudio Micheloni, a member of the Italian-Swiss immigrant community, said it had been hard for second-generation children to make the jump into further education. But he credits the Swiss system for making it possible. "It was an enormous step to get a better education but we were able to do it thanks to the schools and support we have in Switzerland. "Nowadays, the third generation no longer has these kind of problems because their parents have already absorbed the shock of immigration," he told swissinfo.

Family life
Another difference was found in their approach to family life. Second generation children were found to live with their parents for longer and women were more likely to return to work after the birth of their first child than were Swiss women. Fibbi put this down to close family ties and the willingness of immigrant parents to help out financially and with childminding duties. In return, young people often helped their parents' generation with administrative tasks. The study found that although it was easier for the second generation to obtain Swiss nationality than it was for their parents, 57 per cent still retained their foreign passports. Fibbi said one of the main reasons was that being born in Switzerland did not guarantee immediate Swiss citizenship. Although 80 per cent of the second generation were born in the country and 90 per cent have spent their entire life in Switzerland, they have still had to apply to become Swiss.

Fibbi said high achievers were more likely to seek citizenship, and that two out of five he second-generation children did so. "Only the ones that performed the best in school and in professional activities have gone through naturalisation," said Fibbi. "They are living here - most of them were born here and they feel they are entitled to Swiss nationality." The report also found that some of the second generation were reluctant to take Swiss citizenship because of compulsory military service and unwillingness to give up their parents' nationality. Switzerland does not permit Europeans from some countries to be dual nationals. The report comes shortly before parliament is due to resume discussions on granting automatic citizenship rights to the second generation.

By Michele Landsberg

8 June 2003- The Roma, or gypsies, call it "The Devouring." The Jews call it the Shoah. Roma and Jews have this in common: They were the only two peoples singled out by the Nazis for total extermination, based on "race." Jews now have a homeland, however beset it may be. The Roma, however, remain stateless, and Nazi-style hatred and persecution haunts them to this day in Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria. About 8 million live in Eastern Europe in conditions so extreme that the United Nations likens it to "sub-Saharan Africa."

The racism they face, acted out with the boots, truncheons and knives of police and skinheads alike, is terrible. The Center for Reproductive Rights in New York recently documented 110 cases of forced sterilization of Roma women in Slovakia. In several countries, thousands of Roma children are forced into institutions for the retarded, no matter what their true abilities. Beatings, murders, even the building of walled-off ghettoes for the Roma, are routine. The persecution is so widespread and ugly that the European Union has insisted that countries wishing to be admitted to the EU must stop the racism and dramatically improve the Roma people's living conditions, health care and educational opportunities. Should bigoted skinheads feel disgruntled with these curbs on their activities, they might well make a beeline for Canada, where we officially don't give a damn how hatefully they behave toward the Roma.

I write this with some disgust because Ontario's highest court, the Court of Appeal, has just upheld the acquittal of an unsavoury pack of thugs who, in 1997, staged a neo-Nazi demonstration against a group of newly arrived Roma refugees, most women and children from the Czech Republic, who were huddled in the Lido Hotel on Kingston Rd. Outside, the skinheads strutted for several hours with their swastika flags and banners: "Honk if you hate gypsies" and "You're a cancer to Canada." They chanted "Gypsies out" and "White power" and gave the Nazi one-arm salute. These geniuses were duly charged with inciting hatred against an identifiable group, the Roma. The trial, presided over by Mr. Justice Russell Otter, had many elements one could deem farcical  had the undercurrents not been so disturbing.

Judge Otter refused to allow the crown's expert witness, Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), to testify. Judge Otter thought Farber, a seasoned expert and frequent witness in trials of hate crimes against Muslims, gays, Tamils and other minorities, might be biased against the skinheads. This is worse than preposterous. All expert witnesses are clearly "biased" one way or another; it is up to the court to decide how much of their testimony is credible and helpful. There were other ludicrous aspects to the trial. According to courtroom observers, for example, there was a certain amount of jollity in the courtroom about the Nazi salute and the acronym for the CJC. But worst of all was the judge's decision. He acquitted the skinheads on the grounds that there was no evidence that "Roma" and "gypsies" are interchangeable terms.

On these embarrassing grounds (the entire civilized world accepts "Roma" is the proper name for so-called "gypsies"), the neo-Nazi punks jubilantly walked free. The crown rightly appealed the decision to the Ontario Superior Court, where, almost three years later, Mr. Justice Eugene Ewaschuk dismissed the appeal. He did say that the trial judge was wrong to prevent Farber from testifying, but upheld Otter's decision that Roma might mean something other than gypsy. Hatred triumphs on a technicality. The crown took the case to the Ontario Court of Appeal, where three judges  Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor, Mr. Justice James Carthy and Mr. Justice James MacPherson miscarriage of justice. Although lawyers don't like to be quoted by name when criticizing judges, one explained to me that the judges in higher courts are expected to take a sober look at lower court decisions and ask, "What is the just result?" In this case, dismayingly, the judges ruled in favour of a dry, legalistic and nitpicking interpretation of what transpired in Otter's court that day. Their timorous and constricted reading of the law was far removed from the ordinary light of reality in which most of us live.

I feel diminished as a citizen by this failure to repudiate and punish race hatred. One day, I trust, we will look back on this failure of justice (Neo-Nazis 1, Canada 0) and feel mortified by the sheer smallness and meanness of it.
©The Toronto Star

11/6/2003- The highest court in Canada's largest province, Ontario, has ruled that gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry there. The ruling upholds a lower court decision and challenges the Canadian Government to change its laws on same-sex marriage. The appeals court ordered that gay couples seeking a legal union should be issued a marriage licence immediately. The case had been fought by a gay couple, Michael Stark and Michael Leshner, who wasted no time in getting married hours after the ruling. Another couple, Jeff Parker and David Wood, saw the ruling on the internet and immediately went to Toronto City Hall to get their papers ready for an August wedding. The 61-page ruling says the heterosexual definition of marriage violates gay couples' rights under the country's constitutional document, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ontario is the third Canadian province to strike down the federal heterosexual definition of marriage in court decisions.

Public opinion
The Canadian Government had asked for more time to study the issue. Now it may not have any left. All three Liberal party leadership candidates to replace outgoing Prime Minister Jean Chretien said they would not contest the ruling. "One thing is very clear that the government cannot discriminate when it's an issue of rights and that's what the courts are in the process of deciding," said one of the candidates, Paul Martin, who is widely seen as the favourite to become the next prime minister. However some government and opposition members of parliament said they were dismayed by the decision and planned to challenge it at federal level. "I'm very clearly publicly already opposed to redefining marriage. There's no way I could possibly support that in good conscience and will not support that," said Liberal federal MP Pat O'Brien. Polls indicate a slight majority of Canadians favour legalisation of same-sex marriages. Some Anglican churches in Canada have already offered blessings to gay and lesbian couples.
©BBC News

Jun/09/2003- President Vicente Fox signed a law Monday that bans all forms of discrimination, a groundbreaking measure in a nation struggling to overcome racism and other forms of bias. "This signature makes this a historic date for our country," Fox said. "It's historic because it establishes that nobody should be excluded from their social well-being because of their ethnic origin, gender, age or religion." The measure that passed Monday first sought only to ban discrimination in the public sector, but after several months of debate it was vastly expanded and approved by both houses of Congress in April.

Interior Minister Santiago Creel said the measure was as important as Mexican laws that established freedom of religion in 1800 and women's suffrage in 1953. The law does not spell out how violators will be punished. That will likely be decided by a new body promised by Fox, the National Commission for the Prevention of Discrimination. The law cancels out several smaller proposals that would have banned discrimination against women and Indians, or forbade employers from firing elderly employees or women who become pregnant, among other things. Some of those measures languished in the legislature for years and had little chance of coming to a vote.
©Associated Press

6 June 2003- The European Union's interior ministers have agreed to expand the rights enjoyed by immigrants living for more than five years in Europe, but their access to the social system and labor market could still be limited. In its latest effort to speed the integration of foreigners living within the European Union, the EU's 15 interior ministers on Thursday agreed at a meeting in Luxembourg that foreigners who have lived in an EU state for more than five years should have similar rights to EU citizens. The new regulation would also allow them to keep their residency permit and the rights it entails as they moved to other EU countries. Close to 1.5 million people living in Germany would be affected by the changes. But the German government has long harbored significant reservations about the new regulations. Nonetheless, on Thursday German Interior Minister Otto Schily appeared satisfied with the result of negotiations. "That applies in particular to issues of access to social welfare benefits or questions regarding aid for further education. There the possibilities for individual state authority to make decisions will remain," said Schily.

Not fully equal
Under the compromise, foreigners with a residence permit will be able to take advantage of all German educational establishments, but they won't have the right to apply for state grants or loans to pay for their time in school. Access to the labor market was another area of conflict. Germany was steadfastly against automatically allowing non-EU foreigners the right to work, but it was unable to sway the other states. Schily did manage to get agreement to restrict the foreigners rights to work in an EU country other than the one where they had permission. "Now we have a formulation in there that says that where we use national laws to limit access to particular job opportunities to German nationals or EU citizens, we can adapt [the regulation] according to national law," Schily explained. For example, foreigners wouldn't necessarily be allowed to work as civil servants.

Unifying standards
But the ministers failed to agree on basic norms for the status of refugees. The aim was to harmonize the standards so that waves of refugees were not concentrated on individual EU countries that offered better conditions than elsewhere. Interior Minister Schily still had misgivings about the proposed regulations after the round of talks on Thursday. He said he was concerned that the temporary protection afforded to refugees -- during civil wars, for example -- should in no way lead to the right to collect social welfare benefits. "If the social welfare benefits are at a level significantly higher than in France or Greece, the appeal of Germany as a destination will naturally increase. We cannot accept that -- if the ostensible harmonization is more of a deepening of differences," Schily said. Nor were the ministers able to find a consensus on regulations for recognizing refugees. An agreement is not expected for at least six months.
© Deutsche Welle

13/06/2003- The Seventh Conference of European Health Ministers, meeting in Oslo on 12 and 13 June 2003, has called on the Council of Europe to intensify its work on the social, ethical and human rights dimensions of health care and related services. In a declaration adopted at the end of the two-day conference, on the theme of "Health, dignity and human rights", the Ministers requested the Council of Europe to propose measures aimed at reducing inequalities in access to high-quality health care, both within and between countries. The Ministers underlined the social challenges that face health care systems across Europe, in particular due to the ageing population. One of the main challenges will be how to ensure that vulnerable groups such as the elderly and socially marginalised receive the health care they need, without being denied access to advances in health technology.

The Ministers noted the Internet's role in raising awareness of medical issues and health-related information. However, they warned of the dangers of a knowledge gap developing both within and between countries, and urged member states to share information among themselves, and encourage freedom of access to information technology for all their citizens. The Oslo declaration also calls on member states to use the Council of Europe as a forum for exchanging views and adopting common approaches on ethical issues such as the possible misuse of genetic screening by medical insurance companies and employers. It also recommends the wider use of high-quality palliative care for the terminally ill, in order to safeguard their dignity and human rights.

Addressing the conference, Council of Europe Deputy Secretary General Maud de Boer-Buquicchio said "The Council of Europe offers the ideal platform for the creation of a greater Europe of health and social cohesion, capable of meeting the needs of the entire continent". The conference was also addressed by representatives of other organisations working in the health field, including Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director General of the World Health Organisation, Fernand Sauer, Director of Public Health of the European Commission and Professor Orhan Güvenen, Chairman of the Governing Board of the Council of Europe Development Bank.

The full text of the declaration and other information on the Oslo conference
©Council of Europe

8 June 2003- Switzerland is pushing for an international agreement on migration, and is seeking to persuade other countries to sign up. The "Bern Initiative" aims to come up with concrete guidelines for dealing with migration and has the approval of the United Nations. According to the UN, global migration has more than doubled since 1975 - 175 million people now reside in a country other than the one of their birth. Three quarters of these were migrants and one quarter were either refugees or displaced people. Migration has especially affected Switzerland, where foreigners make up almost 20 per cent of the population, and the number of applications for asylum increased by over 26 per cent last year. Last November, Swiss voters narrowly rejected a proposal to tighten the country's asylum laws. The Bern Initiative, which has been developed by the Federal Refugee Office, aims to bring the issue of migration to international attention.

G8 summit
Switzerland would like to see the initiative serve as a basis for an international commission on migration. During talks with justice minister, Ruth Metzler, before the recent G8 summit at the French town of Evian, UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, declared his support for the plan. But Annan doesn't want to launch the project himself. The justice minister also took the opportunity to talk to both Nigerian and Senegalese leaders before the G8 summit and to agree to strengthen the migration dialogue between them. This follows on from Senegal's rejection of an asylum deal with Switzerland in March. Under the terms of that agreement - the first of its kind - Switzerland would have been able to deport West African asylum seekers to holding centres in Senegal while their applications were being processed. The Bern Initiative was born two years ago, after the head of the Federal Refugee Office, Jean-Daniel Gerber, invited experts from several countries to an international meeting on the subject.

Not legally binding
According to Metzler, the guidelines are not supposed to be legally binding, but are intended to help governments implement a comprehensive and cohesive regional and global migration policy. For the Swiss, the initiative represents an attempt to address migration on an international level. At present, the only global treaty dealing with the movement of people is the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. "Migration is becoming more and more of a long-running topic - in the UN and in the European Union," Gerber told swissinfo.

Transit nations
Gerber says that the problem of migration cannot be solved unilaterally but must be tackled with the help of all the countries involved in the process - including the countries of origin and transit nations. "We are arranging a seminar in July for 60 people from governments, NGOs [non-governmental organisations] such as the European Council of Refugees and Exiles, and experts. We have predominantly invited representatives from southern countries," said Gerber. Gerber says that the key aim of the Bern Initiative is to facilitate dialogue and it hopes to present the plan in the form of guidelines or a declaration by next year. "We are currently in talks on a diplomatic level about migration policy with the UN and countries such as Sweden," explained Gerber. But political support for the initiative within the country remains lukewarm.
©NZZ Online

31 May 2003- A Terrified group of professional actors say they were forced to flee two Hanley pubs within an hour after being subjected to racial abuse and threats. City Mayor Mike Wolfe is now demanding an urgent meeting with Stoke-on-Trent's police chief in light of a string of race-related incidents in recent weeks. Three Asian cast members of hit play East is East, running at the New Vic in Newcastle until today, say they were targeted in two separate incidents after going into Hanley for a drink during a rehearsal break. They visited the French Horn, in Fountain Square, but the trio claim they were warned out of the venue, because it is a "BNP pub" and told to leave by drinkers sitting outside - claims denied by the licensee. They then went to the Hogshead in Percy Street, but left within minutes after being threatened by pool cue-wielding thugs.

The reports of the incidents come two days after worshippers found a pig's head and trotters dumped at a Longton mosque, in an incident which police say was an incitement to cause racial hatred. And earlier this month a group of Europeans in Hanley for a continental market returned to France and Holland after being made the target of racial taunts. Sartaj Garewal, who plays Abdul Khan in the play, said he had travelled the world but had never experienced such racial hatred. Mr Garewal, aged 30, of London, said: "It was Easter Sunday and we were going for quiet drink, but all we got was abuse. "We were left very shaken and very shocked at what happened. "We needed to go somewhere to calm down and the only safe place we could think of was an Indian restaurant. "I have been in Stoke-on-Trent for two months and the amount of racial abuse I have received is unbelievable. "Only a few days ago I was walking down the road and a car drove past and someone threw water over me."

Avin Shah, who plays Tariq Khan in the play, said: "I will never return to Stoke-on-Trent because of this. "I know most of the people here are very nice and many have been very shocked at our story, but that is worse. "Nobody knows what is going on in their city." Mr Wolfe says he wants to meet Chief Superintendent John Wood to come up with a plan to crack down on racism in the city. He said: "I am horrified that this tiny, unrepresentative group of yobs have made life unbearable for visitors to our city. "I want a meeting with the commander of police to address this recurring problem and discuss a strategy to combat it."
©The Sentinel

May 31, 2003- The rightwing American political philosopher Roger Kimball warned against the march of a "new, soft totalitarianism" under the guise of political correctness. In a scathing lecture at the Guardian Hay Festival, he railed against the "campaign to legislate virtue" which was spreading like a bacteria on the "rotting flesh of anxious bureaucracies like the European Union, Oxbridge, the BBC and the United Nations". Kimball told the Charles Douglas Home Lecture, set up in memory of a former editor of the Times, that "the lust for equality is the enemy of freedom", the Trojan horse for a "new, soft totalitarianism". He argued: "Benevolence is an instinct that should be subject to the greatest scrutiny. People have become virtue intoxicated, with imposing what they see as good - and the freedom of western society and its very identity is under threat."

Kimball, the bow-tied managing editor of the New Criterion magazine and author of Experiments Against Reality and Tenured Radicals, How Politics are Corrupting our Higher Education, accused "politically correct" thinktanks like the Runymede Trust of trying to destroy the idea of Britain. The trust commissioned a report three years ago which found that the term "British" had racial connotations and was no longer an accurate description of the wider, multicultural society unless it was qualified with appropriate rejoinder of "black British" or "Indian-British" etc. Kimball accused the trust of wanting to rewrite history, revising or jettisoning whatever did not meet the demands of inclusivity. "I don't believe anyone here or in America is living in an oppressed state. This is the freest and the richest society there has ever been." Because of two decades of PC thinking, the chances of getting into a top school in America are now actually significantly lower for a white male.

But his sharpest words were saved for the "ominous activities of the European Union, that bastion of political correctness" which he claimed was a part of a trend for "Olympian world government". Kimball said: "Last year it decided that racism and xenophobia were crimes that could carry a prison sentence of two or more years. Racism they define as harbouring an aversion to people on the basis of 'race, colour, religion, belief, national or ethnic origin'." Totalitarian societies cannot take a joke. "When telling an ethnic joke becomes not just impolite but criminal, that is a problem."
©The Guardian

Supposedly ironic, even kitsch, ads still keep women in their place
By Judith Williamson
This is an edited version of an article to appear in the summer edition of Eye (eyemagazine.com). Judith Williamson is the author of Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising

May 31, 2003- Sexism in advertising. It sounds almost quaint. The very words have a retro ring to them, conjuring up, on the one hand, scenes of be-aproned housewives serving casseroles to hungry husbands, and on the other, posters of leggy models in platform boots and hotpants with - and this is a key image in the scenario - feminists in dungarees slapping "this degrades women" stickers all over them. For sexism isn't just a phenomenon, it's an idea - and once the word stops being used, the idea goes out of fashion. What then becomes passe isn't actually sexism, which is doing just fine, but the concept of sexism, in advertising or anything else. This concept (unlike "racism") has fallen into disuse in recent years, and is now rarely employed in public debate. So our view of the situation it describes becomes locked in the moment when the term flourished: and increasingly our culture presents sexism as a kind of 60s or 70s phenomenon, to be enjoyed as kitsch, rather than as a contemporary problem to be addressed as unjust.

Certainly you would never know from media imagery that women's income lags far behind men's, that domestic violence against women is frighteningly common, and that women still perform the bulk of domestic labour. In today's ad world, women outperform male colleagues in the boardroom and steer Jeeps across rugged landscapes, while husbands with skewed ties struggle over baby formula, and anxious youths worry about spots before dates. What might be termed "social" (as opposed to sexual) ad images - depictions of the workplace and domestic life - have changed beyond all recognition in the past few decades, and airbrushed away the grinding day-to-day sexism women still encounter in reality. To complain about this would be to berate advertising for being itself: it always idealises, but what is telling is the change in the ideal. "Social" advertising has achieved a gender revolution before the fact, creating an implicitly post-feminist world in which women are powerful and men compliant (or, if not, about to get their comeuppance). It is a depiction of gender relations that fuels sexism, while banishing it: the portrayal of contemporary society as female-dominated generates powerful sexist feelings which, however, cannot "innocently" be expressed in this imaginary present. So they become channelled on the one hand into what I call retro-sexist imagery, where sexism operates freely within the frame of a period style; and, on the other, into increasingly fetishistic sexual imagery, which depicts power relations as about S&M sex rather than who washes up or chairs the board.

Retro-sexism as a social and stylistic phenomenon can be seen across all the media, from ads and fashion spreads to CD covers, where overtly sexist scenarios are couched in period setting and clothing, and/or presented with 60s/70s typography and graphics. A perfect example is the Saturday-night TV series Boys and Girls, which has just finished its first run. The show has sexism built into its live audience format, incorporating a weekly "totty competition" which, though applied to both genders, is framed entirely in male terms, with members of the opposite sex voted either a "babe" or a "minger". But this almost brutal sexual scoring is wrapped in a cutely tongue-in-cheek retro package: the title sequence employs perky 60s graphics and the theme song is Andy Williams's 1967 Music to Watch Girls By. These stylistic trappings imply that it's knowingly done, self-aware, even kitsch: as if that somehow changed the crudeness of the actual content. But the grosser the sexism, the more "retro" it now seems - and this process extends beyond media imagery to society at large. Take the rise in acceptability of lap-dancing clubs: the very name "Spearmint the 90s, feminism and sexism were being treated as over, and issues of "sexuality" rather than gender became the focus of cultural debate - with the bizarre result that, as sexual imagery became more explicit, a feminist critique became less fashionable. This was part of a wider process whereby the political counterculture gradually embraced the objects of its critique during the 80s and 90s - a process whose effects remain with us today. And besides locking "sexism" into modes of the past, it has resulted in a climate where, far from seeming exploitative, highly sexualised images now tend to be seen as cutting-edge and radical. Therefore "sexual" (unlike "social") ad imagery has become an arena in which sexism can operate with very little criticism.

This is partly because, increasingly, men are portrayed as sex objects, too. But the notion of gender "equality" within sexual imagery takes no account of gender inequality in the world surrounding it. Numerous men complained to the advertising standards authority about the Lee Jeans ad where a woman rests her stiletto boot on a man's naked buttock, on the grounds that it encouraged violence against them. Deeply unpleasant as this image is, its relation to actual violence may nevertheless be the reverse of that proposed in the complaints. It could be seen as projecting in fantasy form not only some men's wishes and/or fears, but an eroticised justification for their anger. In the world of sexual ads, the dominatrix, the bitch and the whore wield power over men; in the real world, a British woman is physically attacked by a man she knows every six seconds. This suggests that, rather than embodying sexual liberation, today's fetishistic imagery provides a language for expressing both sexism and, perhaps, the pain and rage of a sex war which at heart is about social, not sexual power. These ubiquitous images translate the social as sexual: showing gender power struggles nakedly in every sense. And yet we have deprived ourselves of the language to analyse them as such. Our unwillingness to name sexism in the present has on the one hand encouraged it to develop as a form of nostalgia, and on the other, allowed it to flourish in a sexualised form which we perceive as daringly cutting-edge. Alongside these phenomena we have the interesting fact that mainstream social advertising has concocted an impossibly female-dominated world which makes sexism, both the fact and the concept, appear extinct. The reality of sexism is, however, still with us: it is time to resuscitate the term and renew the critique.
©The Guardian

May 31 2003- One of Britain's leading unions is set to press for a change in the law allowing unions to eject "members of racist or fascist parties". But lawyers say the new European Union discrimination directive, which includes protection for people with a particular belief, could make it even harder to expel members simply for their political allegiance. The recent reawakening of far-right fears in the trade union movement reflects the political renaissance of race-based politics in Britain. Complaints about unions' limited ability to combat racism redoubled after an employment tribunal found this month that Aslef, the train drivers' union, had unlawfully expelled a member for belonging to the British National party. Leaders of the Communication Workers Union are supporting a motion that calls for a change in the law allowing unions to "exclude or expel members of racist or fascist parties from membership of trade unions".

The tribunal said Aslef had breached the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1992, which protects union members from being expelled for their political affiliation. But the CWU motion argues that the International Labour Organisation Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights have "en-shrined the right of freedom of association, which carries within it the right of trade unionists not to associate with those whose views are diametrically opposed to those of trade unions". Aslef said: "We should not be able to expel people on grounds of race, gender or sexual orientation. We would not want to get rid of revolutionary communists or conservatives. But we do want to get rid of fascists." Chris Tame, of the Libertarian Alliance, said unions had the moral right to exclude people since "individuals should have the right to associate or not to associate with anybody". But he said the decision to expel was morally complicated, since the member had joined under certain agreed terms. Paul Quain, of Charles Russell, the law firm, said making racist remarks against someone at work might be sufficient grounds for expulsion on the basis that it brought the union into disrepute, but political belief in itself was not sufficient.
©The Financial Times

May 30 2003- Barely ten yards apart, on either side of the town hall steps, two crowds scream at each other through loud-hailers. The one on the left, mostly dressed in leisurewear and waving flags, represents the British National Party, which secured its greatest-ever success last month here in Burnley, in England's northwest. Tonight, eight BNP councillors will arrive for their first council meeting, and their supporters have come to cheer. The crowd on the right, bearing placards describing the BNP as fascists, will boo. Chris Jackson, the BNP's north-west regional organiser, expects the Anti-Nazi League to try more than that. With chest puffed out - as if straining against an invisible leash - Jackson complains to police officers about one particular member who has strayed beyond the ANL's crowd barriers. Pointing to this woman, muttering urgently into her mobile phone, he says: "It's Julie. She's going to give it the big 'un." What exactly does he mean? "She accosted [BNP councillor] Carol Hughes last year. I've told 'em to watch her."

Two other tribes are present this evening: a loose confederacy of reporters, photographers and camera crews, gripped by the BNP's electoral success, not only in Burnley but also in several other English towns, and police officers, many of them on horseback. And that's pretty well everyone - apart from one elderly man in a pinstriped suit, wandering round lost. This turns out to be a former Labour councillor who lost his seat to the BNP last year. He's come to watch tonight's meeting, but with all this security it's unclear whether he will be allowed in. At 6.45pm, he starts walking up the steps of the town hall - and just as he reaches the top the shouting gets louder than ever. The BNP councillors have arrived. It's one thing to vote for the BNP, as 8,000 people did in Burnley, another to stand for election yourself. To find out why anyone would do that, I've come to spend time with Len Starr, in the week or so after his election. Our first meeting takes place in his lounge, where I watch Starr submit to an interview with the Stoke Sentinel - a paper from another town, like Burnley now blessed with a BNP presence on its council. The Sentinel's young reporter, Iain Burchell, clears his throat, wags his pen and says: "I've got to ask, even though I know you'll say no - but are you a racist?"

Starr, 56, a former sergeant with the British army, drums his fingers gently on the arm of his chair. He wears a short-sleeved shirt with a dark tie, gleaming shoes, a tidy beard and spectacles which - that being the way with spectacles - lend an air of some intelligence. He's been expecting this question. "No, I'm not racist. People in this town are not racist, but they have a problem with race. Money has been going into one area in town, and that is a problem. It would be wrong if that area was all white, or all black, or whatever. Anything to do with race is difficult because of the laws around that. But we try to deal with issues, if we feel people are dealt with differently because of race." Starr lives in Padiham, five miles from Burnley's centre, above the general store run by his wife, Jill. It's the kind of place you'll have seen on TV, in gentle BBC sitcoms of the 1970s, with signs outside promoting ice cream and the local paper, jars of sweets in the window - and few customers from ethnic minorities. "You maybe get the odd Asian passer-by," Jill concedes. "But no one actually living in Padiham. I don't know any Asians... Strange, isn't it?"

Starr says that he left grammar school with just one O-level, to the horror of his parents, and drifted from one clerical job to another. He drank a lot, and by his early 20s he weighed 15 stone; a considerable weight for a man of 5'8". Aged 23, he was hit by a car and - unable to earn a living immediately afterwards - moved back in to live with his parents. "I realised I had to do something," he recalls. So he joined the Royal Electrical and democracy; and is also not very funny.

The fascist tradition, in Britain, is excellent: we don't like it, and don't vote for it. In the late 1930s Oswald Moseley's blackshirts made a bit of noise, and the National Front hit the headlines in the 1970s. But parties of the far-right - unlike their counterparts in continental Europe - have won minimal support from British voters. They're usually too busy fighting among themselves. The BNP was founded in 1982, by John Tyndall, a former leader of the National Front. In September 1999, after 17 years in charge, Tyndall was replaced as British National Party leader by Nick Griffin, a Cambridge University law graduate. Andy Kenyon, a Burnley man who joined the BNP in 1983, reckons that Tyndall had "a bit too much of the National Front in him... The NF, they're just a bit of a rabble." Coming from a man who tells me, apropos of nothing, that the wife of Britain's prime minister has "a funny mouth... wants a fist in it", this would suggest that the NF is an exceedingly violent mob indeed. It has become a commonplace, since Griffin was elected leader, to describe him as the "acceptable" face of the British far right. Comparisons have been made with other personable - or well dressed - leaders of the European far right, such as the Austrian Jorg Haider and the late Dutchman, Pym Fortuyn. But that sits uneasily with the facts. Griffin has promoted race hatred for nearly 30 years, since joining the National Front aged 15. In 1997, he said the BNP should not try to appeal to "middle-class notions of respectability... It is more important to control the streets of a city than its council chambers." In 1998, he received a two-year suspended sentence after conviction for distributing material likely to incite racial violence. In 1999, the year he took over as leader, a former BNP member set out to reduce London's gay, black and Asian communities by blowing up nail bombs in Soho, Brixton and the East End. After this year's elections, Griffin restated the BNP's ultimate aim for an all-white Britain - but told a local newspaper that Asians in Burnley had nothing to fear.

Sitting between hills to the west of the Pennines, Burnley is much like many other former cotton towns in Lancashire. Like Preston, for instance, where my father was born, and his father before him: if things had turned out differently, I could have been a Burnley man myself. The first immigrants, so they say, knew little about the town but came here because they read "Burnley" on looms exported to the country of their birth. Over the years, they were joined by others, mostly from Bangladesh and Pakistan, who naturally moved into the same districts. Today, ethnic minorities account for 7,400 out of Burnley's total population of 89,500 people. Like immigrants everywhere, they took jobs that nobody else wanted, and worked anti-social hours. For reasons of language and religion they mixed mainly with their own. But this alone can't explain why Burnley's immigrants never integrated to the same degree as counterparts in other towns. White and ethnic-minority communities led parallel lives for years, largely untouched by each other - until race riots broke out in 2001, making it clear that this was not a good thing.

Britain's mainstream parties endorse multiculturalism, but in recent years that position has come under fierce pressure: the popular press has become increasingly obsessed with immigrants and asylum seekers - and that's presumably why so many citizens of Burnley - which has no greater proportion of ethnic minority citizens than Britain as a whole - turned away from the political centre. Simon Bennett, the BNP's area spokesman, combs his greased hair forward in a short fringe, like the stereotypical British football hooligan; but his outbursts are disarmingly mild ("crikey!") and in discussion he affects a rhetorical style that could be described as extremely reasonable if that were not a contradiction in terms. One favoured technique is to tell you things that others say about the BNP, plainly more terraces of houses. We stop at the junction of Kirkgate and May Street, beside the high fences of demolition workers. "That's it," he says, pointing to the doomed house where he used to live. "My parents told me to stick my money into a house. I chose Burnley Wood, relatively near the town centre. I paid £8,000 in 1988. But it started to decline in 1991 and I was trapped in negative equity. The council bought it off me in February this year, for £10,000. That sounds great - two grand profit - but it's not, because you're stuck with the house for ten years, and you can't move in with your girlfriend." It is not necessary to support the BNP to agree that what happened to Bennett, and to his neighbours, is sad. But the BNP says these houses did not need to be flattened. "The alternative is to spend money on Burnley Wood, like they did in Daneshouse." Not everybody agrees, of which more later.

As we drive off, Bennett notices smoke rising from his ruined terrace. "I don't believe it! They've set fire to one of the houses." He turns into an alleyway between rows of houses. A group of children, aged between eight and 13, look up, startled. But if they're guilty of arson, they're remarkably cool: they don't run away, nor even bother to watch as Bennett phones the fire brigade and gives his old postcode. (The last two letters, funnily enough, are NF.) Of course, it's impossible to get a sense of the place from one brisk tour by car. Over the next week, I revisit both districts several times on foot. Before I go, I also speak to the council officer in charge of redevelopment. Mike Cook tells me that, for Burnley to attract funding, the council must make a case to central government, or to Brussels. "The allocation is made on need, demonstrable need. Every ward except one, in Burnley, is above the national average for deprivation. Some are in the top ten per cent most deprived wards in the country. But Daneshouse is in the top one per cent. We have tried to get that across. We've pushed magazines through people's doors, and worked with the local paper. But it's not getting through."

At dusk, in Daneshouse - sometimes described as a "no-go zone" for white people - I find brown-skinned boys wearing shalwar kameez playing soccer with white boys in jeans and T-shirts. A restaurant called Taste of Kashmir advertises pizza, burgers, fish and chips, kebabs and southern fried chicken, but no curry; which should conform to the BNP's lofty standards of assimilation. "There are a lot of English people living round here," says Raj Mohammad, standing in a shop with his hands full of vegetables. "And we know each other very well. On my street, I'm the only Asian. I have been here 20 years. When I go away, I leave my house keys with English people." We chat for a while, then Mohammad takes me to his mosque, where worshippers greet the appearance of a stranger - me - with a mixture of puzzlement and scowls. One who smiles is the imam, to whom I am tentatively introduced by my friend from the shop; but I notice that Raj Mohammad looks uncomfortable, perhaps regretting that he has brought me here, and soon slips away with his bags of shopping. While others put on their shoes and leave, one man lingers, eager to speak to a reporter with a notebook. He's in his late 60s, has milky eyes and a knitted hat set at a jaunty angle. Mohammad Golzar has been in Britain for nearly four decades but speaks English with a strong Pakistani accent and has a gulping tic which makes it hard for me to follow what he says with such urgency. What I do learn, after writing down many details about his daughters' impressive educational achievements, is this: "You must live and let live." Also this: "Bloody fighting between white and black... There is no problem except with the BNP."

In Burnley Wood, when I visit it again, the streets are largely empty. In May Street, a demolition man swings his pickaxe at the windows of number 45. I ask how it feels to tear apart somebody's home. I'm expecting something soulful, but he says: "It's alright." After some in their area." This appalls her: "Burnley's indigenous population used to welcome people from Bangladesh and Pakistan." The BNP, it must be said, does not welcome them. "They say there should be bridges between the communities," Starr tells me, "but who builds the bridge? Who pays for it? And who has to walk over it? Muslim women rarely meet white men. They'd be lucky to meet white women. So you end up with young Asian men running around like Jack-the-Lad with white girls, but not the other way round, and that causes problems."

Starr's boss, as it happens, is a woman of Asian origin. (As well as helping in the shop, Starr works for a transport company.) What does she think about him standing for the BNP? "I haven't a clue, because she's on holiday at the moment. She's missed the whole election." Burnley Wood One Stop Shop is an all-purpose community centre with IT facilities, a kitchen, a creche, advice surgeries, health talks and Tai Chi lessons. Four times a year, it hosts ethnic-minority women from Daneshouse for a cross-cultural lunch (they return the favour just as often). This cornerstone of community cohesion - a policy enshrined in official reports into the riots of 2001 - is "unbelievably" popular, according to one woman involved and could recently be glimpsed on the BBC in the trailer for a new programme, Voices, which started this week.

This afternoon, councillor Bailey has set up a model of Burnley Wood at the One Stop Shop, using Lego blocks, to show residents what their district will look like after redevelopment. She wants them to decide for themselves where new facilities should be located. But although she states this clearly, several times, people seem convinced that she's imposing her own solutions. Taking a deep breath, she says: "As a councillor, I need to put your views forward, so please tell me how you want it. This building is definitely coming. If we don't do anything, it will go there." "That's typical of councillors," says one resident. "Always telling us what to do." "It's not me," says Bailey, "it's the government." "Well... whoever." As this suggests, a councillor's job can be thankless. It's also badly paid. In Burnley, councillors get an annual allowance of £1,292 a year. (In nearby Oldham, the figure is £7,720.) As Len Starr puts it himself - with delicious irony - this could negatively affect the calibre of candidates for election.

One afternoon, nearly a week after the election, I'm talking with him in his lounge when Jill appears at the door. She says that there's a man downstairs waiting to speak to Len. So he leaves the room, returning a few minutes later to tell me that the man has brought him his first task as councillor: a query relating to the Passport Office. He looks chuffed. Would he also welcome problems from non-white residents? "There aren't many in this area. But if they voted for me - or even if they didn't - I'd try to help." Over the following week, Starr attends meetings of Padiham council and Hapton parish council, and goes to the formal investiture of Burnley's new mayor. And on the afternoon before the council meeting at town hall, he goes for training at the town hall - on how, among other things, to put forward a motion. "God knows how many hours I've taken on." The BNP councillors also met during the week to appoint Starr as leader, and to decide who should sit on which committee. "There was a form to fill out," Starr says. "A list of the committees, with space for councillors' names alongside, and the party's overall entitlement." (Parties with the most council seats take a proportionate share of the jobs on committees. The BNP has eight, out of 44. Labour has 23.) The BNP is also entitled to nominate committee chairmen. "We have only nominated for vice-chair," says Starr, "not for chair, because (a) we don't think they will give us that, and (b) we don't think we have the experience."

The only committee not put together on this basis is the council's executive. In theory, the BNP is entitled to two seats on the executive: that's wh British. If they're no worse than that, they're bad enough. Spending time with Starr and his colleagues has done nothing to change my mind. But I didn't expect him to take his duties so seriously. I can't help looking forward to his speech at the council.

At 6.45pm, as the BNP cars pull up outside the town hall - a black Cadillac and an Alfa Romeo, neither of them made in England - everything happens at once. Flour bombs fly overhead, as ANL protesters charge downhill from wherever they've been hiding. Police horses skitter on tarmac. And BNP supporters rush towards the action, racing against the police and photographers. To chants of "Scum! Scum! Scum!" from the ANL, Len Starr climbs out of the Cadillac. An egg flies toward him from the crowd behind the barriers and hits him hard on the chest - but doesn't break till it hits the ground. Maureen Stowe, the BNP's oldest councillor, plainly appalled by the vitriol directed towards her, drifts aimlessly into the middle of the road then gradually left, as if by remote control, and up the stairs. The youngest, Luke Smith, his jacket dusted with flour, follows. Swinging a fist towards the jeering ANL supporters, he roars: "Fuck you!" The incident ends as quickly as it started. BNP supporters, pushed back behind the barriers, break into a fierce rendition of "Rule Britannia", while officers march protesters across the street and handcuff them. One, a young woman, has blood running down the side of her face. Inside, Stowe looks shaken. Somebody fetches her a glass of water. Starr finds a police officer, tells him he's appalled by how "inept and pathetic" the policing has been: "Surely to God you've dealt with this kind of thing before." Then everybody proceeds into the chamber and BNP councillors take their seats below the crowded press gallery, as an usher appears at the door and invites everybody to stand for the entrance of Burnley's new mayor.

Much of what happens next, it's fair to say, is of no interest to people outside Burnley. After the furious drama outside, democratic procedures are bound to be anti-climactic. But the mayor's opening remarks, welcoming all members of the council as equals, democratically elected, contrast impressively with the ANL's determination to scare off even those neo-fascists who put themselves up for election. Her voice is monotonous, she uses no loud-hailer or witty slogans, but her civic sentiments are admirable: to bind the BNP into democratic practice, and thus defuse them. Throughout the meeting, Starr sits upright, fingers meshed as he watches speakers from the Labour and Liberal Democrat benches. Every so often, he helps himself to an Extra Strong Mint. When Labour's Stuart Caddy is proposed for re-election as leader of the council, Starr - followed by the other BNP councillors - raises a hand to vote against him. But everyone else votes in favour, and Caddy is duly re-elected. Taking that as his cue, the usher distributes to party leaders a pre-printed list of Caddy's executive committee: at a glance, Starr sees that the BNP has been excluded. And as the mayor gradually works through the various committees, there's little else to encourage him. Each time he rises to nominate BNP councillors for vice-chair, the other parties vote together to frustrate him. After half an hour, less disciplined BNP councillors start to slouch in their seats, but Starr remains upright: the only hint that his mood has altered is that he munches more quickly through his peppery sweets.

Caddy has been fiercely criticised for losing so many seats to the BNP this year - for failing to remedy whatever it was that saw three elected last year. But he feels passionately that Burnley can overcome its troubles, as he makes clear in a speech at the end of the session. It's a big moment, requiring a local councillor to address issues of national - and international - importance. "I want to stop once and for all the myths going around this town," he begins. Then he reiterates what Cook told me before: that redevelopment funds come from central gover ©The Financial Times

2 June 2003- The Rolling Stones have told BBC News Online they may act to remove their support band at a German concert after it emerged some of the band's songs contained racist lyrics. Rock band Boehse Onkelz - which translates as Evil Uncles - have been booked to play with the Stones at their Hanover show on 8 August. On their website Boehse Onkelz admit links with the far right in the early 80s, but say they have since renounced them. They were originally chosen for the gig by a local German promoter - unbeknown to the Stones or their management. A Stones spokesman told BBC News Online the band were now deciding what course of action to take. "We're currently considering our options," he said. He added: "The Rolling Stones themselves didn't know this band had been booked. "It was booked by a local promoter in Germany. They are the fourth largest-selling band in Germany. We've got the Cranberries, The Hives and AC/DC at other shows."

Far right icons in the early 80s, Boehse Onkelz's early songs include Turks Out, which contains the line: "Go back to Ankara... you make me sick." The song is still on one of their early albums, although the band have tried to get it removed. Since 1984 the band have moved into mainstream rock, and have made public statements against Nazism and racism. Bass player Stephan Weidner told Monday's Daily Mirror newspaper the songs were not meant to have been heard outside of punk clubs. "They were a reaction to our everyday life," he said. Weidner also told heavy metal fanzine Metal Hammer last year: "I have done things in the past that could be interpreted as being fascist. There's nothing that can be prettified about this. "But now that I'm 38 years old, do I still have to justify what I did as a 16-year-old." Boehse Onkelz's management was not immediately available for comment.

The Rolling Stones spokesman said they unequivocally condemned racism in any form.
©BBC News

A German rock band booked to support the Rolling Stones on their world tour have denied being racist or having links to the far right. Boehse Onkelz - which translates as Evil Uncles - said they had severed any connections with possible fascist elements almost 20 years ago. The band's bassist, Stephan Weidner, told BBC News Online they had since written anti-fascist songs and arranged concerts against neo-Nazism. The band was responding to UK newspaper reports branding them far right. They were booked by a German promoter to support the Rolling Stones at their show in Hanover on 8 August - unbeknown to the Stones or their management.

The Stones - who condemn racism - are considering dropping them from the concert after their reputation was revealed. Weidner admitted they had written a racist song more than 20 years ago, but said they had long distanced themselves from any right-wing followers. He told BBC News Online: "We never were racists. "We never played for fascist parties and were never members of a fascist or right-wing party." He acknowledged that the band had written a song with racist lyrics - called Turks Out - in 1980 when they were aged about 16. This had been performed live only once in front of an audience of about 25 punk rock fans. "It was never released on vinyl or CD. It was only recorded on a tape that was never meant to have been heard outside the band's inner circle of friends from the punk scene. "It was a reaction to fights with Turkish neighbours. No excuse, but maybe an explanation."

Weidner said during the early 1980s Boehse Onkelz had been darlings of the German skinhead scene, which had started out as an apolitical movement. When the scene became linked with the right, the band disowned it and moved "underground", altering their image by growing their hair and adding tattoos. Weidner said the band's following was now overwhelmingly mainstream hard rock fans. They have hundreds of thousands of followers and are said to be Germany's fourth best-selling rock band.
©BBC News

The Rolling Stones are backing a controversial German rock band booked to support them on their world tour. Boehse Onkelz - which translates as Evil Uncles - admitted they had once recorded a racist song but said they had severed any connections with far right groups almost 20 years ago. The band were booked to support the Rolling Stones in Hanover on 8 August by a German promoter. A British newspaper branded the German rockers as a far right group, leading the Rolling Stones to consider dropping them from the show. But Boehse Onkelz said they had long ago distanced themselves from fascists and had gone on to become anti-Nazi campaigners, writing anti-fascist songs. And Stones lead singer Mick Jagger gave his support to the band, saying: "They seem to have renounced any tenuous links they may have had to any right wing organisations so we take that as proof of their good faith and we will keep them on the show." Boehse Onkelz's bassist Stephan Weidner had acknowledged that the band had written a song called Turks Out in 1980 when they were aged about 16. He said it was never meant to have been heard of outside their circle of friends.
©BBC News

June 2, 2003- A prominent member of Labour's national executive committee said today he was "shocked and dismayed" that the police complaints authority (PCA) refused to discipline officers who beat him with their batons and shields while arresting him. Mr Malik, who is also a former member of the commission for racial equality, required hospital treatment after his arrest during the Burnley riots in June 2001, where he was trying to act as a mediator between police and local Asian youths. He alleges that police officers used unnecessary violence and racist language while arresting him, saying "you lot are scum" while Mr Malik lay on the ground.

The PCA has confirmed that during the disturbances Mr Malik approached the police line with his hands raised and was then assaulted by police. But while the PCA has acknowledged that Mr Malik's motives during the incident were not in question, it has decided not to discipline the police officers involved for either violence or racism. However, one of the officers involved is to be disciplined for not wearing his shoulder numbers during the incident. The PCA stated that "this is seen as a serious issue by both the force and the authority".

Mr Malik said: "I am shocked and dismayed by the lack of rigour and impartiality demonstrated by the PCA. All I asked for was an apology and for the officers responsible to be made accountable for their actions. "Because of the failure of Lancashire police and the PCA, I will now have to resort to civil proceedings." Mr Malik's solicitor, Tony Murphy, said that the response of the PCA called the body's efficacy into question. He said: "If someone in Mr Malik's position is allowed to be treated in such a violent and racist way, what hope is there for other Asian people in Burnley. Unless the PCA agrees to a review, this decision signals its final death knell. It is vital that we expect more from the new Independent Police Complaints Commission."

A spokesman for the PCA denied the charges. He said: "I reject totally the suggestion that our inquiry has not been impartial or fair. "Some of what has been said is frankly irresponsible. This was a thorough, impartial investigation." Earlier this year Mr Malik accepted "substantial" libel damages from a local newspaper over a false allegation that he threw bricks at a policeman during the riots.
©The Guardian

Why do you never see ordinary black people starring in ads? Because so few of them have jobs in ad-land, the agency chief Jonathan Mildenhall tells Alex Benady

2 June 2003- It is not a quiz question. "Apart from Howard, the singing bank manager in the Halifax ads," asks Jonathan Mildenhall, "can you think of any major campaign that has been fronted by a person from an ethnic minority who wasn't already a celebrity?" He does not have an answer, for he does not believe there is one. This is, he says, indicative of how out of touch the advertising industry is. And as the first black executive to reach senior management in a major British advertising agency, Mildenhall, managing director of TBWA, is well placed to know.

"Nearly 10 per cent of the UK population is from an ethnic minority. Middle England thinks nothing of aspiring to be like black athletes, listening to black music, being cared for by black doctors, watching black news readers and eating ethnic food. But the truth is that the advertising and marketing community are far more conservative than the population at large," he says. There is, he says, too much evidence to conclude anything other than that the industry is institutionally racist. Take the use of ethnic minorities in adverts. A recent study of commercials by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) found that just 3.5 per cent of ads contain representations of ethnic minorities. "It's not just the number, it's the nature of the portrayals that is a problem," says Mildenhall.

"Minorities are used in several ways [see box], but they tend to be used mostly to denote ethnicity. They are never the lead character, unless they are famous, and they are never used to represent an ordinary person. Even Howard is only there because he is an employee. I look forward to the day when a character like Dotty [the Prunella Scales character] in the Tesco campaign could be black, not because she is selling yams or lending ethnic credibility, but because she is a person. Who just happens to be black."

Mildenhall was brought up on a council estate in Leeds, the son of a (white) Jewish mother and her second partner, a (black) Nigerian father. As a result, he found himself in the extraordinary position of being the only black boy out of five brothers. Overt discrimination is certainly not commonplace, he says. "I suppose I am lucky to have an English name. Although once or twice people have been clearly surprised to find out that I am black, I've never really experienced what most people would recognise as racism." But it is in the area of employment that the industry really lets itself down. "London is the home of most of the advertising industry. Twenty per cent of the population is of 'ethnic' origin but only 4.5 per cent of people in advertising agencies are from ethnic minorities, and the majority of them are in support disciplines such as IT and accounts departments," says Mildenhall. In some agencies, the lack of black executives is so acute that it is not unknown for them to scurry out and hire one or two black recruits if they win an account with an ethnic target market. In fairness, other media businesses - not least newspapers - are similarly under-representative, and the ad industry is at least aware it has a problem.

"There aren't enough people from ethnic minorities in advertising," agrees Stephen Woodford, president of the IPA. "We need to address this for both moral and pragmatic reasons." To that end, the industry has established an ethnic monitoring programme, of which Mildenhall becomes co-chairman later this year. Woodford says that one way to address the problem is to have more people from ethnic minorities in adverts. "The BBC found that when it showed more black people on air, it attracted more black people to apply for jobs. The same could apply in advertising."

Even in Mildenhall's company, only about 10 of the 200 employees are not white - on a fat Jamaican ladies in its ads to underline its "tropical heritage".

  • 2 When the brand claims a 'world vision'. Benetton is an Italian company that sells jumpers. But it claims that it wants to bring the whole planet together in one big woolly hug. So, it makes a point of using actors from as many ethnic minorities as possible in its ads.
  • 3 When an ethnic group is the target market. Stay-Sof-Fro is a line of hair-straighteners aimed at black people - so that's who it features in its advertisements.
  • 4 To reinforce 'cool' credentials. Many fashion brands such as Levi's routinely use groovy black models in the hope that some of their cool will rub off on the product.
  • 5 When you want to undermine ethnic stereotypes (rare). AA Insurance irked the Asian community last year by portraying a feisty woman hectoring her husband about their policy. The campaign was about getting people to stop thinking along conventional lines.
  • 6 When they are just people (very rare). Last year, the snack brand Supernoodles launched a series of 12ads. One of them just happened to be about a black couple for no particular reason. This is what Mildenhall wants to see more of.
    © Independent Digital

    03 June 2003- Racist crimes reported to a multi-agency partnership have continued to grow over the past 12 months, with asylum seekers most likely to be targeted. Partnership Approach to Racial Incidents in North Staffordshire (Parins) recorded 229 incidents in the year to April. In the previous 12 months there were 218 and 28 the year before. The majority of crimes were harassment, followed by verbal abuse, damage to property and nuisance. According to the statistics, the biggest ethnic groups being targeted are those hailing from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Indian and Iraqi people are next most likely to fall victim. Police say the level of offences committed against asylum seekers is "disproportionate" to the number who are living in the city, compared to the proportion of people from other ethnic backgrounds being targeted. The problem has been highlighted following several recent incidents. At the weekend, a group of Asian actors fled two Hanley pubs after suffering racial abuse and threats by other drinkers. In a separate incident, three city nightspots were secretly filmed turning away a group of smartly dressed asylum seekers while other people were being admitted. Last Thursday, a pig's head and trotters were dumped outside Longton mosque in an effort to stir up racial tension by offending the Moslem community. And the week before, European stallholders behind a continental market in Hanley fled after being made the butt of racial taunts. Racial equality leaders say the problem is down to a minority of people who are spoiling the image of the city. Shahzad Tahir, deputy director of North Staffordshire Racial Equality Council, said: "Although we must keep them in perspective, these incidents show the intolerance and racism that is out there." Parins project manager Clare Moran said the rise in reports is partly due to increased awareness about the project. She said: "People are not prepared to put up with attacks against them because of their ethnicity any more. However, we have got to remember that there have been more asylum seekers coming into the city over the past couple of years and they do tend to get the rough end of the stick." A Staffordshire Police spokesman added: "We are working hard with other agencies to tackle racism in Staffordshire."
    ©The Sentinel

    06 June 2003- Asylum-seekers will face strict limits on the time they can spend with lawyers and restrictions will be imposed on solicitors attending police stations in an effort to reduce the Government's legal aid bill by up to £150m. There will also be an attempt to cut the costs of drawn-out criminal trials, such as fraud prosecutions and complex murder cases. The Government said yesterday that the spiralling cost of legal aid, which could pass £2bn this year, was unsustainable. Under new proposals from the Lord Chancellor's Department, asylum-seekers will be entitled to five hours' legal advice and not be allowed solicitors at their initial interviews with Home Office officials. The department said it had encountered cases of clerks with little or no experience being dispatched to interviews at taxpayers' expense.

    In a separate move, each asylum-seeker would be given a single file number to avoid duplication of costs. The steps are expected to reduce the cost of an average asylum case from about £900 to £700, saving £30m from the annual legal aid bill. The saving could be more if, as the Home Office predicts, the number of refugees drops sharply next year. A department spokesman said there were "major concerns" about 65 London firms concerning the quality of advice they gave on asylum. He said an accreditation scheme for solicitors working in the field would be introduced to put them out of business. The proposals suggested cutting back on the number of visits solicitors make to police stations, suggesting in some cases advice could be given by phone. It cited the example of solicitors called to a police station at a cost of £69.05 to see a drink-drive suspect who was giving blood and urine tests. Under the drive to control the costs of criminal cases, legal aid budgets will be agreed in advance, rather than being allowed to spin out of control. The move could save more than £60m a year.

    Baroness Scotland of Asthal, a minister for legal aid, said the overall bill had risen from £1.53m between 1997 and 1998 to £1.92m last year. She said: "Such increases are not sustainable. We are determined we should get good value for money from these large sums in the interest of our clients, often the most disadvantaged in society, and the taxpayer." Janet Paraskeva, chief executive of the Law Society, voiced concerns about the proposals to limit solicitors' visits to police stations. She said: "If you are arrested ... that makes you very vulnerable and you would want the support and reassurance of a solicitor."
    © Independent Digital

    Court not convinced by bloodshot eyes excuse

    3/6/2003- The Helsinki Court of Appeals has convicted the doorman of a Helsinki restaurant of racial discrimination for refusing admission to three Gambian citizens. The men were taking part in a test arranged by the newspaper Ilta-Sanomat aimed at finding out if restaurants discriminate against foreign-born patrons. When the men tried to enter the restaurant in January 2000 they were refused entry by the doorman, who said that a large party had made a big reservation. Later in a police interview the bouncer had said that the real reason for refusing entry to the men was that one of them had bloodshot eyes. The court did not find this explanation credible. The court found the man guilty of discrimination, saying that he had put the Africans in an unequal position based on nationality or colour of skin. The doorman was given a fine of 240 euros and ordered to pay the plaintiffs' court costs.
    ©Helsingin Sanomat

    June 3 2003- The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is conducting a research on the number of Slovak Romanies living in the Czech Republic in the long term, Roman Kristof from the IOM said. The IOM intergovernmental organisation has processed its monitoring since May and should submit the results to the Czech government in September. So far no one knows the number of Slovak Romanies settling down with their relatives in the Czech Republic. That is why we are processing a study, in cooperation with the People in Need foundation, the Socioklub and the Information Centre for Citizenship, Kristof said at today's meeting of regional Romany coordinators in Olomouc. He added that the IOM had also turned to the self-rule bodies and the regional Romany coordinators and that the IOM was conducting the field research. The aim of the IOM research is to find out the reason why Romanies leave Slovakia, Kristof said.

    Already now we suppose that they have been driven to it [emigration from Slovakia] by the loss of their homes due to usury as well as by the changes in social benefits to Romanies in Slovakia, Kristof explained. Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Jan Jarab reminded that politicians had so far based their arguments only on hypothetic and probably considerably exaggerated numbers. For the time being, it cannot be stated exactly that this year more Romanies have come to the Czech Republic than in 2002, Jarab said. This will be either confirmed or refuted by the processed report only, he added. The number of Slovak Romanies seeking asylum in the Czech Republic has risen this year, Jarab admitted.

    While in 2002, 852 Slovak Romanies applied for Czech asylum, since the beginning of 2003 about 500 applications have been registered already. Asylum seekers do not take social benefits. They have the right to accommodation, catering and a daily pocket money of 12 crowns in the centres, Jarab said adding that the pocket money has, however, not changed within the last thirteen years. According to the IOM estimates, about 6,000 to 7,000 Slovak Romanies are staying with their relatives in the Czech Republic. They are mainly concentrated in the Ostrava region, north Moravia, and in north Bohemia. The Czech government has allocated over one million crowns to the study on the number of Slovak Romanies in the Czech Republic.
    ©Czech Happenings

    30 May 2003- Twenty-nine Roma children aged between seven and 18 are to sue the Ministry of Education and Science, Sofia Municipality and a Sofia school for segregation and discrimination of Roma children in violation of international and Bulgarian law. The Roma children will be represented by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) lawyer Alexander Kashumov, Jean Garland, director of the Legal Department of the ERRC said. The educational results at segregated schools are much lower, the ERRC said. The case will be filed at the Sofia Regional Court and the claim is five leva per child. After attending school for 12 years, some of the Roma children are unable to write a simple sentence in Bulgarian, according to the ERRC.

    On Monday, the National Launch of Avoiding the Depen-dency Trap - a Human Develop-ment Report on the Roma Minority in Central and Eastern Europe was launched. Andrei Ivanov, expert at the UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States in Bratislava and author of the report, together with Antonina Zheliazkova, Director of the International Centre for Minority Studies and Intercultural Relations and Mihail Ivanov, Secretary of the National Council on Ethnic and Demo-graphic Issues will present the report. Docho Mihailov, Team Leader of the National Human Development Report and Ivan Krastev from the Centre for Liberal Strategies have been invited to provide comments and open a discussion on the topical issues the report raises. Dejan Kjuranov will moderate the discussion.

    Avoiding the Dependency Trap is the first cross-border comparative study of the Roma minority across five countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic). This study makes analyses and offers recommendations for solving the Roma issues not only from the perspective of human rights, but also from the broader perspective of individual choice. This new approach to Roma integration is currently being pioneered by UNDP. The human development concept assesses Roma prospects and quality of life not solely on the basis of income levels, but using a wider range of indicators, among them literacy, health and social integration. Special attention is given to measuring and reducing poverty and to adapting and applying the eight Millennium Development Goals the UN has set the Roma communities.

    The UNDP's Regional Report presents the main results and conclusions of a study conducted through personal interviews of 5034 Roma minority respondents across the five countries. The study has a total of eight chapters, each of them dealing with a particular topic: employment and unemployment, incomes, education, health, political representation. The report aims to examine Roma issues in a holistic manner, to propose recommendations on their solution and to initiate a debate on Roma issues and challenges before the Roma people. Integration of the Roma people in Central and Eastern Europe and access to sustainable livelihoods are key political priorities for the countries working towards EU membership, according to the report. Progress as regards minority groups, and the Roma minority in particular, is one of the sets of assessment criteria in the pre-accession process. "In a European Union respectful of differences, the Roma should find their place as equal partners that contribute to Europe's extraordinary mosaic of cultures"," said Kalman Mizsei, Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States of UNDP, who was in charge of monitoring the conduct of this study. The idea of this report emerged at the beginning of 2001. Initially, it was envisaged as a document presenting the situation of Roma in human development terms in five of the countries of the region. Many people were skeptical about the need to produce another report.
    ©Sofia Echo

    2/6/2003- Roma married to non-Roma. How many such mixed couples are there in Slovakia, where prejudice against the Roma minority is a fact of everyday life? Some say they were more common during communism, when racism wasn't so open. But those in mixed relationships say their domestic arrangement is not as unusual as many Slovaks believe.

    According to estimates, there are between 350,000 and 400,000 Roma in Slovakia, many of whom live in undeveloped settlements in the east of Slovakia. Only 87,000, however, registered themselves as Roma in the latest census. With such a discrepancy in numbers, statistics of mixed relationships in Slovakia are impossible to come by. Yet mixed couples exist in Slovakia. While cultural clashes between Roma and ethnic Slovaks are well documented in the country, Roma and non-Roma partnerships thrive on a personal level, often challenging deeply rooted prejudice and stereotypes. The Slovak Spectator spoke to two such couples in the eastern city of Koaice. Their stories reflect the complexity of the current situation of the Roma in Slovakia.

    Terézia, 36, (non-Roma) is married to Rinaldo Bunda, 37, (Roma). Having been together since high school, they have three children and live in a suburb of Koaice. Rinaldo has worked many years as a taxi driver and Terézia is an accountant. They say the biggest obstacle to their marriage was the attitude of their families, particularly the mothers. "My mother simply didn't agree with our relationship," Terézia says. "She comes from a village where people are very prejudiced. I lost contact with her for some time, but when our daughters were born we worked it all out". "She was worried that I would turn into an alcoholic," Rinaldo says bluntly. Negative attitudes were, however, on both sides. Although most of Rinaldo's cousins and several of his brothers have non-Roma wives, his mother was against his choice of partner. Rinaldo explains this attitude by citing the difference in cultures. "Roma marriages don't break up as often as [ethnic] Slovak ones," he says. " For the Roma, when you marry it's for good, and a break up of marriage is a tragedy. This was my mother's main worry. But my mother didn't oppose Terézia as much as her mother opposed me. Now, she wouldn't exchange her for any other woman," he adds.

    Branislav Nagy-Veis, 32 (non-Roma) used to work as an industrial carpenter and met his wife-to-be through work. Matilda, 35, is a seamstress who is Wallachian Roma. They are both Jehova's Witnesses and live in Koaice with their three children. Even though Matilda's father is Hungarian and non-Roma, her family, particularly her mother, was not pleased with the match. "The problems were resolved, but it took a few years," says Matilda. "In the beginning it was hard. But it helped that we had our own flat already, so we were away from our parents and we could live our life the way we wanted," she says. "Matilda belongs to the Olah [Wallachian] Roma group," Branislav explains. "They generally feel superior to 'ordinary' Roma, and have their own custom of more-or-less arranged marriages. My wife made it clear that she didn't want to marry that way. She wanted to decide her own life and choose her partner herself."

    Both couples agree that since Roma culture is patriarchal by tradition and parental approval is still important in marriage, it is usually more difficult for Roma women to make their own decisions than for Roma men. "If a white man comes into a Roma family, the brothers usually rebel a lot," says Rinaldo. "The white man really has to convince them. Otherwise they will do everything to stop the relationship. But for a Roma man, it is less of a problem to have a white wife. That's the difference. These customs are becoming weaker but they are still there." The fact that Branislav and Matilda are Jehova's Witnesses plays a large role in their attitude towards racism. "Look at that Roma. He has a higher standard of living and then, of course, he has a white woman. Now we Roma women are not good enough any more." When the Bunda couple were moving into their block of flats, one neighbour wanted to move out when he heard that a Roma was moving in. In the end, he didn't, and he became good friends with Rinaldo. "When I look back, I never really had any problems with people here. I get on very well with my neighbours, policemen, lawyers. They would never do me any harm," Rinaldo says. Both couples say their children are aware of their Romany ancestry, although neither of them lead their children towards the Roma culture or language particularly. Nevertheless, the children love Romany music. Terézia and Rinaldo's nine-year-old son plays the violin, and his parents hope he will continue in the musical tradition of the Bunda family. Differences in culture and mentality have proved to be mutually enriching for the couples.

    Branislav talks enthusiastically about Roma hospitality. "When I was still single and visited my wife's parents, they didn't just serve coffee. They gave me a full meal. They always make an effort to do something more, to give you everything they have. This is more than we non-Roma are used to." Matilda agrees: "Even though they didn't want him in the family at the time, the hospitality and generosity was still there. Anyone who visits is greeted and taken care of." The couples see a great sense of humour as another Roma virtue. "Sometimes I have more fun with Roma," says Terézia. "They are simply more fun to be with. They can make jokes about everything and laugh about it for hours." Her husband, Rinaldo, agrees: "Yes, I think generally we have more humour, and we know how to entertain better than [ethnic] Slovaks. And we're louder."

    "We whites can have fun too, but maybe there is more satire and more cynicism," Branislav says. "Maybe we don't relax as easily. We're ashamed to sing out loud, for example. We control ourselves too much sometimes," he reflects. "But it's upbringing also," Matilda adds. "For a Roma, it doesn't matter where he sings, whether he's outside or inside. The main thing is that he's in a good mood. A non-Roma allows himself to relax that way maybe only in an organised setting, at parties, and so on." But for most people in Slovak society, the word "Roma" often equals "problem", something Terézia and Rinaldo are keenly aware of. Rinaldo is no stranger to personal discrimination. "In the past I have arrived at a restaurant and the waiter hasn't come over. Then he has asked me to leave, for example at the Slovan Hotel here in Koaice," he says. "Imagine what that feels like. And I think that sometimes I'm better behaved than non-Roma". At the same time, Rinaldo is not afraid to criticise his own, or point out common prejudices Roma have towards gadzovia (non-Roma). "The received wisdom among Roma is often that [ethnic] Slovaks are cold," he says. "They like to think that Roma have bigger hearts than Slovaks, which is not true. I can say this, living with a non-Roma wife. If Slovaks didn't have hearts, the situation of the Roma would be much worse than it is."

    Rinaldo talks about problems like drug-abuse and alcoholism at Vodnárenska ulica, a Roma settlement in Koaice. "It's inexcusable what the Roma do there," he says. "Small children are sniffing glue. Where are their parents? I shouldn't say this because it's negative stuff about the Roma, but I can't say that it's not true, although I'm very sad that it is." "A friend asks me, 'Why can't these people live like you?' What should I tell him? I wonder this too. The eyes see what they see. I have been sad about this so many times. In fact, sometimes I am almost ashamed of the fact that I'm Roma."

    Fighting prejudice has become a constant reality in both couples' lives. Branislav recalls colleagues at work expressing their negative opinions about social benefits for the Roma. "One colleague of mine said, 'I would shoot every one of them'. And they know my wife. 'All of them?' I sai ©The Slovak Spectator

    MPs FUDGE GAY ISSUE(Slovakia)
    2/6/2003- As part of a lengthy battle for the introduction of legislation preventing discrimination against homosexuals and other minority groups, parliament has approved a clause in the amended labour code forbidding employers from enquiring about their employees' sexual orientation. The labour code explicitly forbids discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, and physical ability, but it does not mention sexual orientation. The homosexual community says that the new provision is no guarantee of non-discrimination in the workplace, and insists that it will continue pushing for the passage of a separate non-discrimination law that would expressly ban and punish discrimination against the group.

    In 2000, a directive approved by the EU Council recommended that all EU member states and candidates pass effective anti-discrimination laws securing protection from workplace discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation. European bodies have confirmed that they will continue to encourage Slovakia to approve effective non-discrimination legislation by the time the country joins the union, scheduled for May 2004. Along with other changes to employment regulations, the rewritten labour code, passed on May 21 by the Slovak parliament, introduces a clause that forbids employers to enquire about their employees' sexual orientation. The clause was written into the law as a compromise between political parties, some of which were in favour of a total ban on workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and others, such as the ruling Christian Democrats (KDH), insisting that all workers were sufficiently protected by the existing general non-discrimination clause enshrined in the Slovak constitution.

    Shortly before the voting on the labour code, the KDH proposed the compromise, and party representatives later said that they consider the issue of non-discrimination against the homosexuals "solved and closed" with the passage of amendment. "We think that the compromise is a good one. We believe that no one should be asked about his or her sexual orientation in the workplace, because it is an intimate and personal matter," Mia Lukácová, secretary of the KDH parliamentary caucus, told The Slovak Spectator. "With the passing of this [labour code amendment] we consider the issue of non-discrimination against the homosexuals solved and closed," she said.

    But Slovakia's homosexual community protested that the compromise solved few of the problems gays encounter in the workplace. According to Mariana `ípoaová, spokeswoman for the organisation Inakost (Otherness) that represents Slovak gays and lesbians, banning employers from asking questions about a person's sexual orientation was "in no way enough to prevent discrimination". "The employer can still find reasons to [unjustly] fire a homosexual, and the labour code does not introduce any penalties for such acts," she said. In an October 2002 survey carried out by Inakost on 251 homosexual respondents, 7 percent of them said they suspected they were refused jobs because of their sexual orientation and 6 percent thought they had been fired for that reason. Fearing that if their identity were revealed, they would lose their jobs, as many as 55 percent said they felt they had to keep their sexual orientation secret in their workplace.

    Some MPs and officials with the European Commission's delegation in Bratislava expressed support for the community's position. Former labour minister Olga Keltoaová, now an independent MP, said: "The labour code must expressly forbid [all] discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation." She told the Slovak daily Pravda that the approved provision could be got around, "and it most probably will be got around [by employers]". Meanwhile Onno Simons, counsellor with the EC delegation in Bratislava, said that although the approved change in the labour code could be seen as "p that the approved labour code provision would prevent future discrimination against homosexuals. "This minority is pushing for above-standard rights and no group enjoys such [legal] exemptions as homosexuals wish to have," said Lukacová. "I am left handed but I am not asking to have my computer at work adjusted to suit my requirements," she said. Nevertheless, Šípošová of Inakost said her organisation was prepared to continue to campaign for the separate anti-discrimination law, even though it admits the chances of success are low. "The prospects are not very bright, but we cannot give up the fight. We will try with all our powers to push through the law."
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    Fierce homophobia forces members of Kosovo's gay community to lead double lives.
    By Tanja Matic, IWPR associate in Pristina.

    Veton is at ease amongst the well-groomed, watchful young men who frequent the more flamboyant bars of London's Soho district. The 27-year-old left Kosovo ten years ago. Sitting in a Soho bar on a Sunday afternoon, he says he has no intention of going back to a violent, prejudiced society where he would be regarded as a criminal. However, unlike most Albanians living in London, Veton is not a victim of ethnic conflict. Nor is he part of the minority involved in the vice trade - the Albanian gangs which, London police say, now dominate the capital's underworld. The reason Veton prefers Soho to Kosovo is his sexuality - he is openly gay. "I cannot live there because my lifestyle with my partner would be seen as shocking and abhorrent. No one's harassing us here," said Veton, whose name has been changed at his request. Homosexual relationships, though technically not illegal, have always been a matter of shame and taboo in Kosovo. Gay men who do not want to become the pariahs of this fiercely patriarchial society make sure they keep their relationships secret.

    Gay rights activists say the situation has not improved, despite the post-war influx of western money and values. They receive regular reports of men being beaten up or intimidated on suspicion of being gay, while homophobic views are routinely published in Kosovo's newspapers. But they say the problem has failed to attract the attention of human rights groups in the area because fear of being "outed" stops most gays from reporting hate crime to the authorities. Kosovo ombudsman, Marek Nowitzki, told IWPR he had not been informed of any such attacks during the past two years, but added "there are cases which are not usually reported to the police". "We are dealing with a very traditional society here... there is no tolerance for homosexuals at all," said Nowitzki.

    Kosovo's gays are at a critical point in their struggle for acceptance - encouraged, on the one hand, to be bolder by their exposure to western media and values, while on the other hand, still bound by the expectations of a fiercely conservative society. Experts have tried to explain Kosovo's antipathy towards gays by looking to the Code of Leka Dukagjini, the law that has guided Albanian clans since the 15th century. Although the code makes no direct mention of homosexuals, it heavily emphasises masculine honour. To this day, men who deviate from their customary role as husbands and fathers are accused of bringing shame and stigma upon the entire family, if not the clan. "Men are expected to act as real men - strong and macho," said Martin Berisha, president of Kosovo's first gay and lesbian association, Elysium and Sappho. "That is why the Kosovo Albanian community will not accept someone who does not behave as a man in the way the patriarchial society thinks he should," said Berisha.

    While Kosovo's gays try to keep a low profile, their enemies have become increasingly brazen. The daily newspaper Zeri recently produced an article backed by comments from various academics and religious leaders, putting forward the view that homosexuality was unnatural. Kosovo's top imam, Sabri Bajgora, caused particular offence in gay circles by warning that Islamic law regarded homosexuality "as a disease which needed to be healed and prevented". The article also claimed that the leading human rights group in Kosovo, the Council for the Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms, had no clear stance on the matter. A spokesman for the council, Ibrahim Makolli, confirmed to IWPR that they did not "have any defined attitude" towards the subject. Martin Berisha said the council's neglect was disappointing, adding, "If they, as human rights activists, don't have a clear stance on this issue, then what can we expect from religious extremists o As Kosovo has no hate crimes law that distinguishes between an attack on a homosexual and an ordinary assault, gays are loathe to report homophobic attacks to the police. But whether such legislation were introduced or not, society would immediately seize upon any such complaint as an admission of homosexuality - a disaster for the many gays who lead dangerous double-lives as devoted husbands, fathers and sons. At a private party in Pristina, such men are happy to discuss and discard their disguises. A 25-year-old man from northern Kosovo speaks of how he lies to his parents every time they ask him why he hasn't found himself a girl to marry. His boyfriend, an American, adds that his partner is deeply paranoid of being discovered. A 40-year-old from Presevo in southern Serbia spends every weekend with his lover in Pristina after telling his family he has left town on business. Another young man kisses his lover and says, "Doing this in our office or anywhere outside would be suicide."
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    30 May 2003- A Baerum business executive has demanded NOK 250,000 (USD 37,500) in compensation after buying an apartment that the seller claimed was in an immigrant-free building. The man has filed a complaint, claiming the seller violated his duty of disclosure, and threatened to sue, newspaper Dagbladet reports. The complainant has made his stance clear, and in writing. "For residents this is a clear drawback. This is a very serious violation of the seller's duty of disclosure when selling property, bordering on swindle," the executive wrote. According to Dagbladet, the complainant is a central figure in several major Norwegian firms and has lectured at one of Norway's leading places of education, among other things on the subject of globalization.

    The complaint details that the buyer asked directly if there were immigrants living in the building. In fact the local authority (Baerum) owns transit apartments for immigrants in the complex. The seller claims the question was if there were many immigrants in the area, and the answer was no because two units out of 11 was not considered 'many'. The seller was insured for change of ownership and the insurance company has rejected the complaint on the grounds that the seller cannot be expected to provide information aimed at satisfying a buyer's subjective attitudes. The buyer could have found out the necessary information himself easily enough, by checking the names on postboxes or doorbells, if this was deemed so important, the insurer argued. The board chairman of the building's residents admitted that they have complained to Baerum about the authority's properties, but that this does not reflect their attitude towards immigrants. "As I see it this complaint had nothing to do with the ethnic background of those involved. The issue was the authority's use of these apartments," the chairman said. The business executive and his family have sold the apartment and moved.

    New immigration laws are to Russia's own detriment

    15 May 2003- According to some accounts, there are over 2 million illegal immigrants in Russia. Most hail from satellite republics, but thousands of Europeans and Americans who travel to Russia on study, tourist, spousal or even charity-work visas regularly work without permits. Few ever apply for regular work permits or pay their taxes. That's all about to change. Russia's Far East is being colonized by the Chinese (whether this is a matter of Chinese policy is not known). Millions of people from former Soviet republics, such as Moldova, Ukraine and Tajikistan, also seek to immigrate to Russia, and Moscow is a huge magnet for impoverished workers from Russian regions and surrounding countries. This influx of illegal immigrants and workers also comes at a time of a decrease in the Russian population and a looming demographic crisis. By 2010, Russia will have more pensioners than working-age men and women. Russia is losing around 1 million people each year. Logically, the country should be attracting immigrants to solve this crisis.

    Having recognized the seriousness of the issue, however, the Russian government seems to be doing everything to further complicate the situation. In eastern Siberia, where Moscow's writ hardly counts, people are taking their own initiative to solve the problem. When the leading oil company Yukos conducted a survey in the Far Eastern areas, it found that the demographic crisis was real and that Chinese settlers were providing most of the economic activity. A number of Russian women polled said they preferred Chinese men over the natives. "They work, bring home the money and do not beat women" were the most common causes given for a cross-border search for males. Now, in one sweeping move, the all-male political elite has disrupted nearly all legitimate travel by foreigners to the country for extended stay and work.

    From November 2002, all visa, immigration, residency and work-permit issues are to be dealt with an agency within the Internal Affairs Ministry (the police). Your friendly neighborhood cop, usually busy with stopping cars and issuing fines for traffic violations, is now also the labor and consular officer. Bureaucracies work in strange ways even at the best of times. There is an old joke about some law enforcement officers dealing with alarming rates of train robberies in a region. Statistics showed that almost all robberies occurred in the last carriage and that, when the train slowed at a curve, the robbers would jump off and make a getaway. A meeting of top law-enforcement officers came up with a unique solution to the problem: "We have decided to get rid of the last carriage in the train." So now, in an attempt to get rid of the immigration problem, officials have started cutting off the last carriages of the Russian visa train. As far as anyone knows, not a single work permit has been issued since January 2003. According to Marianna Marchuk, a leading immigration lawyer, the new system is so arbitrary and confusing that "Whereas prior to Nov. 1, 2002, Russian legislation did provide a simplified procedure for obtaining work permits for highly skilled employees, under current laws a construction worker and a rocket scientist fall under exactly the same rules. The formal procedures do not distinguish between unqualified and qualified applicants."

    Russia hardly needs more workers to clear snow from outside the Moscow mayor's office. Even though illegal immigration is a matter of concern, Russia desperately needs qualified managers, engineers, doctors, educators and a whole raft of professionals. Working conditions in Russia have never been attractive enough to get qualified professionals in large numbers even from Third World countries. Rising tides of racism and frequent pogroms against dark-skinned foreigners mean that even the most desperate foreigners wil Indians. In the past, U.S. economic growth was driven by this kind of carefully crafted planned and controlled immigration. Russia would seem to be desperate for such a quality work force and entrepreneurial talent. Instead, the police have taken over an economic issue and they are doing what they do best – putting up barriers. The global labor market and entrepreneurial capital is just as competitive as any other business. The most talented people go where there is an opportunity for growth, a peaceful life and a reasonable chance of building a future of prosperity. Russia is becoming a very isolationist nation, and a continuation of such mindless policies can only work to its own detriment. Provisions in the immigration law allow up to 500,000 – or even 10 times that number – legal workers into the country. It is time to set administrative frameworks in place to work so that those quotas are filled by those who bring the most value to the country. Russia should open itself up to managed migration as matter of priority to face its economic and demographic crises.
    ©Russia Journal

    3 June 2003- A Muslim teacher who was refused a job in a German state school because she wore a headscarf has taken her case to the country's highest court. Fereshta Ludin, 31, a naturalised German of Afghan origin, says she is simply expressing her right to religious freedom. But the Government of Baden-Wuerttemberg in southern Germany, which refused her employment, said the headscarf violates children's right to a religiously neutral education. This is Ms Ludin's last chance of appeal in Germany, and her case will be closely watched as she is not the only Muslim woman to be refused employment in German schools for wearing a headscarf. Ms Ludin was refused a job in 1998 - despite successfully completing an internship at a high school near Stuttgart. The state Education Minister, Annette Schaven, argued that the headscarf was political and "understood as a symbol of the exclusion of woman from civil and cultural society". Ms Ludin - who now works at a private Islamic school in Berlin - said the state was equating the headscarf with "things I already distanced myself from during my own school years". She argued that the constitution guarantees her freedom of religious expression and unlimited access to public jobs.

    But a federal court last year upheld the state's argument that it violated "the strict neutrality of public schools in religious issues". The case involves a clash of two key German legal concepts, religious freedom for all and the right of children to have a religiously neutral education, says the BBC's Ray Furlong. Ms Ludin's supporters point to a federal labour court decision last October ruling that a Turkish woman had been unlawfully sacked by a department store for wearing a headscarf. But her opponents can also point to a precedent, another federal court ruling in 1999 that a school in Bavaria had to remove a crucifix from a classroom wall. The presiding judge at the constitutional court in Karlsruhe said the court would have to decide if the headscarf was just an article of clothing, a religious symbol or a refusal to integrate.
    A decision is expected in July.
    ©BBC News

    Zero immigration to EU countries like the UK is not an option as Europe's working population shrinks, according to a report from Brussels. With the working-age population in Europe widely expected to contract from 2010, immigration will become "increasingly necessary", according to the European Commission (EC). In a new policy paper the EC also says the UK Government - in common with its European counterparts - must do more to help immigrants adjust to life in Britain. Employment and social affairs commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou called for new initiatives to counter discrimination, boost social inclusion and for employment in order to help immigrants integrate.

    Immigration 'inevitable'
    New policies should "take specifically into account the needs of immigrants to be strengthened in these areas with greater participation by immigrants themselves," she said in a paper published on Tuesday. "Zero immigration is not an option. "Increased immigration flows are inevitable as a result of 'push' factors such as political instability in the world or welfare differentials." Properly managed immigration was crucial to ensure the future needs of the European labour market were met, Ms Diamantopoulou argued. "In order to make immigration a success, not least for current EU citizens, Europe must achieve radically better integration of immigrants already based in the EU and prepare now for future immigration." A separate report by the EC backed a British proposal to set up camps outside Europe where asylum seekers could stay in safety while their applications were being processed. The Home Office initiative was described as "very timely" by the commission which added that the plan would need to be resourced properly and needed "political commitment" if it was to succeed.

    'Broad support'
    Home Office minister Beverley Hughes said: "The UK is working with a number of EU partners to develop pilot schemes which we hope to have under way before the end of the year. "As with any pilot these would start on a small scale with limited numbers, with plans to build on them. "We have broad support in Europe for the key principles set out by the UK on better protection for refugees, and more enforceable and effective assessment of some asylum claims for people closer to their regions of origin. "Now we will continue to push forward with the zones pilots." Bold action was needed to tackle illegal immigration and to deal with large numbers of asylum applications. "We want to move towards a system where migrants who come to destination countries do so through legal channels, rather than arriving illegally, often having paid criminal organisations many thousands of dollars," she said. A Home Office spokesman said: "The government is committed to helping refugees become settled and valued members of our society. Immigrants can and do contribute an enormous amount to our society, both culturally and economically."
    ©BBC News

    4/6/2003- Justice and Home Affairs ministers are set to endorse an immigration and asylum package on Thursday (5 June) which includes proposals to set up refugee camps outside EU borders. The proposals are a complex package which refer to issues on asylum policy, the fight against illegal immigration and refugee reception in the EU. Commissioners earlier this week presented three main texts on the issues to be endorsed by Home Affairs ministers, before they are submitted to the heads of state and governments at the Thessaloniki Summit (20-21 June).

    UK forecasts supported
    In its analysis, the Commission agreed with forecasts made by the UK foreseeing, in the words of UK Home Secretary David Blunkett - 'waves' of asylum seekers and accepted the need to further improve EU policy in this area. To this end the EU should set up 'zones' to protect refugees for six months in the case of conflict in their countries of origin and fast deportations of illegal entrants failing to comply with asylum status requests. According to the Commission, the UK proposals were assessed in close co-operation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

    Fighting illegal immigration
    The Commission has proposed the development of a common visa information system. Critics say this will represent an organisational, technological and financial challenge for the European Union and the Member States. In the meantime, the Commission will provide an additional 80 million Euro for the set up of an Integrated Common Visa Information System. The policing of external borders could be an expensive matter and a system has been devised to share the financial burden. The mechanism will mean EU states having external frontiers will not bare the cost exclusively.

    Commission: EU needs immigrants
    At the same time in another policy paper published on 3 June, the Commission sent a more positive signal to the nationals of non-EU countries living in the EU. "Zero immigration is not an option," Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou said in a statement, urging member states to introduce a more welcoming policy towards immigrants. The EU will need labour migration to fill job- and skill-shortages when the EU working age population shrinks after 2010, Mrs Diamantopoulou added. Following pressure from the public, several EU countries have banned free movement of labour from the 10 accession countries in the first years of their membership. However, the Commission says the EU needs these extra working hands. "Unless more effective policies are developed to welcome the migrants the EU needs, the immigrants will not be able to fulfil their potential nor make their full contribution to economic development".
    The proposals will be discussed at a justice and home affairs meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday.

    June 4 2003- Britain is to lead a "coalition of the willing", including Denmark and Holland, to set up pilot schemes for the out-of-Europe processing of asylum claims after the European commission yesterday gave only lukewarm support. Immigration minister Beverley Hughes confirmed yesterday that Britain was working with "a number of EU partners to develop pilot schemes which we hope to have under way by the end of the year". No locations have yet been agreed for the centres, which would process applications from asylum seekers heading for Europe, but the pilot schemes will start on a small scale. The Home Office said last night that it would be able to apply for EU funding for them.

    The idea is that the centres should be located on the main asylum transit routes into Europe from the east in countries such as Albania, Belorussia and Ukraine. People given refugee status would be resettled in Europe on an agreed quota basis. "We have broad support in Europe for the key principles set out by the UK on better protection for refugees, and more enforceable and effective assessment of some asylum claims for people closer to their regions of origin. Now we will continue to push forward with the zones pilots," said Ms Hughes. She said Britain wanted a system where migrants arrived in their destination countries through legitimate channels rather than illegally, often having paid criminal organisations many thousands of dollars. "This is not about discriminating against genuine refugees," she said.

    It is believed that opposition from Germany and Sweden prevented the commission from giving stronger support to the British idea. A communication paper published yesterday by the commission said the British proposal was timely and provided the right analysis of the deficiencies in the international protection regime. "We are at a turning point in the development of the common European asylum system, with its first phase being nearly completed, reaching its critical mass. The time has now come to decide how best to further shape the second phase of this asylum system," says the commission's paper on the future of asylum policy.
    ©The Guardian

    01 June 2003- For as long as she can remember, Damali Ayo has had white strangers come up to her without warning and ask the oddest questions. Questions like: do black people get tanned? And: when you wear black, can anyone see you? And: why are you always talking about racism? Can't you just relax? Now ayo (as she is known, eschewing the initial capital), a performance artist from Portland, Oregon, has come up with the perfect satirical response to this unrelenting bombardment. She has started a website, provocatively called www.rent-a-negro.com, in which she offers herself as a conversation partner to answer all questions about her blackness, and as the ultimate chic accessory to take along to gatherings of would-be trendies who wished they weren't so unrelentingly white.

    "We all go out for ethnic food every once in a while," runs her wonderfully deadpan sales patter. "Why not bring some new flavour to your home or office ... for all your friends and colleagues to enjoy!" The site includes advertising slogans ("She fits right in even as she stands out!") and spoof testimonials from satisfied customers ("My friends still ask, how is that black friend of yours?"). For a price, she offers added extras, like touching her hair - a constant source of fascination, apparently - or "dance lessons for the rhythm-challenged". "Challenging racist family members" costs $500 a time. The rental form asks whether the customer has "used black people before" (the "yes" box is ticked in advance) and, if so, whether the services were paid for (the "I did not pay" box is also checked in advance).

    Depending on your point of view, ayo has either found a hilarious way of unmasking American liberal cant on the ever-explosive subject of race, or she has demeaned herself and all black Americans by offering herself for sale. Either way, she has unquestionably touched a nerve. Newspapers and radio stations want to talk to her. People have written to heap praise and to denounce her. Meanwhile, so many people have applied for her services that her online mailbox, with room for 500 messages, ran out of space a long time ago.

    "I thought the internet was going to explode from all the traffic," ayo said. "I started sending some people messages saying 'You've been denied because of outstanding debts to black people through your life', but that didn't deter them. They kept resubmitting their rental form again and again, thinking they just needed to improve it. They were very persistent." She hasn't decided yet if she really will hire herself out. That was her initial intention as a piece of performance art in itself, but she is worried about safety, especially now she is so well known. "I've had a lot of lynching threats [from black and white people] ... black people saying they hope I'm the first black person lynched by other blacks. What that says to me is, people want to act like racism is a thing of the past, when it's not." Which is, of course, the underlying premise of the whole stunt. For ayo the point is to generate dialogue and make people see the race issue in ways they have never thought of before. And it has been liberating to find a funny way to address a deadly serious issue. "If I didn't have a sense of humour," she says, "I really would be dead."
    ©The Guardian

    May 31 2003- The first experience that Joaquim Benedito Barbosa Gomes had of the judiciary was working as a janitor in the electoral tribunal in Brasília to pay his way through high school. A director of the court, impressed with his singing in English, offered him his first proper job as a typesetter for a local newspaper.

    That launched a career that led Mr Barbosa Gomes into politics, diplomacy and law, and culminated this week in his approval as the first black person on Brazil's Supreme Court. Born the son of a brick-maker, Mr Barbosa Gomes worked nights at the congressional printing press while studying law during the day. He remembers reading the speeches of senators to get abreast of current affairs. With that job "I won the lottery, it was crucial in my formation," he says. His appointment reflects President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's determination to accelerate racial integration in a deeply divided country. He appointed several black people to his government and his Workers' party (PT) presented a comprehensive legislative proposal to Congress that would introduce incentives and quotas in various sectors to promote greater integration. Under the surface of Brazil's apparently harmonious race relations, skin colour remains a barrier to power and wealth for 45 per cent of the population that considers itself dark skinned. Fewer blacks than whites have jobs or an education. Even with the same education, black employees on average earn nearly half as much as whites, according to government figures. "Racial issues were taboo. Brazilian society had a false ideology that this was a racial paradise," Mr Barbosa Gomes says. "There is no racial hatred or segregation, and even a certain harmonious cohabitation, but at the same time there are immense inequalities in terms of wealth and opportunities - that is the big Brazilian paradox."

    Senators have celebrated Mr Barbosa Gomes' appointment as a long overdue act of justice. "This is something we should have done long ago. This is the most important act of the Lula government and will secure its place in history," says Pedro Simon, a senator of the centrist PMDB party. Like many black people in Brazil, Mr Barbosa Gomes experienced racism first hand, and tells how he was mistaken as the car park attendant when dining at upmarket restaurants in Rio de Janeiro. "Such incidents used to make me bitter, but with time I took them more lightly. These things are typical of a country that hasn't yet embraced pluralism."

    Mr Barbosa Gomes is an advocate of affirmative action and believes that one of the Supreme Court's "principal roles is to defend minorities, in the widest sense". And yet he only grudgingly accepts his role as a symbol of new-found racial integration. "It is the price I have to pay but I hope in 10 years [the appointment of black people] to the Supreme Court will be a routine matter." The 49-year-old public prosecutor is moulded as much by Brazil's stark social realities as he is by the libraries and cafes of Paris and Vienna, where he wrote his dissertation, and the law schools of Los Angeles and New York, where he wrote on the role of supreme courts in deciding political issues from abortion to electoral processes. Mr Barbosa Gomes' foreign training in comparative constitutional law - a rarity among Brazil's Supreme Court judges - will be a big asset at a time when the country is discussing key reforms of its state apparatus, legal experts say. "With his background he will breathe fresh air into the court," says Paulo Rogerio Brandão Couto, partner in a local law firm.

    On the controversial government plans to curb the powers of regulatory agencies - such as the telecommunications and power regulators - Mr Barbosa Gomes agrees "Congress needs to establish certain limitations to clearly define the rules of the game, which it hasn't done so far". He advocates ©The Financial Times

    June 01, 2003- Canada's Jews and native people have much in common that should unite them to fight anti-Semitism and racism, the grand chief of Quebec's northern Cree told an anti-Semitism conference on Sunday. ``Part of a shared experience between aboriginal peoples and Jews is a history of oppression, of marginalization, and of struggling to retain our identities as societies within larger, often hostile and hateful societies,'' Grand Chief Ted Moses told the conference, which was organized by the Canadian Jewish Congress.

    Moses spoke on behalf of Matthew Coon Come, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, who had agreed to participate as part of ongoing efforts to mend fences with the Jewish community following comments made by a former native leader in Saskatchewan about the Holocaust and Jews. A family emergency forced Coon Come to cancel. In his well-received speech, Moses said the Jewish experience of oppression also allows the group to appreciate the struggles and challenges faced by First Nations communities, including paternalistic policies of the federal government. Moses also sought financial and political resources to end what he called ``Canada's longest racism.'' Federal Immigration Minister Denis Coderre said he disagreed with some of what Moses had to say about Ottawa's role. ``I don't agree with everything he said, of course, because Canada is a model of democracy.'' Coderre said following the speech. ``Canada is a model of bridges and we're here to build bridges.'' He added that Ottawa included $600 million in the last federal budget for native health care.
    ©National Post

    Police track 100 suspected supremacists

    June 05, 2003- Calgary police are watching the movements of about 100 individuals possibly contributing to the white supremacist message after new criminal intelligence reports warned of the increased spread of hate crimes across Alberta. The National Alliance in Canada (part of the largest and most organized neo-Nazi group in the United States) has conducted at least two massive recruiting campaigns across Alberta in the past year, according to intelligence gathered by the province's Criminal Intelligence Service -- compiled in its April 2003 annual report. Although the last known high-profile recruitment drive by the Calgary group was about five months ago, police aren't fooled by the lull. "Our intelligence is tracking their movements and they are being monitored," said Const. Doug Jones, hate/bias crime co-ordinator for the Calgary Police Service's cultural resources unit. "They draw their information from the Internet, download or order stickers and posters and then plaster Calgary communities with that garbage. They've really become prevalent in the past year."

    According to the group's Web site, the National Alliance in Canada is a "community of men and women dedicated to the protection and advancement of western civilization and of its founding race." In May 2002, the group dispensed literature opposing what it calls Israeli aggression throughout Alberta and Alaska. The leaflets, entitled Let's Stop Being Human Shields For Israel, were distributed in Beaumont, Calgary, Cochrane, Edmonton and St. Albert. According to the group's Web site, the purpose of distributing literature is to "let others know that they are not alone and then to help them straighten out their thoughts." The operations manager for the Criminal Intelligence Service, Gary Buss, declined to elaborate on the specifics of National Alliance recruitment in Alberta, for fear of exposing intelligence sources. "We walk a fine line when we release a report like this," he said Wednesday. "We want to let some information out, but because we rely on our sources, we don't want to burn any bridges. If we do that, we're no longer in business."

    In August 2001, a glut of propaganda from the white supremacist group hit Calgary streets in the form of posters and stickers plastered throughout Glenbrook as part of an apparent recruitment drive. In February of that year, the organization garnered headlines when it set up a "Ralph Klein sucks" Web page urging voters to boycott that spring's provincial election. At about the same time, pamphlets were found at the downtown library inside books, and in copies of the University of Calgary's Gauntlet student newspaper. Additionally, there were poster campaigns in cities and towns such as Red Deer, Brooks, High River and Strathmore. Jones said at times as few as one or two people are responsible for the paper campaigns, which carry messages such as: Preserve the White Race, Endangered Species.

    "We're not sure if those people have moved on or not, but we're not sure why it slowed," he said. Jones said that of roughly 3,000 hate-based Web sites, the National Alliance generates much interest because of its views on an expansive range of issues, including race, religion and sexuality. Ranking behind it are the Toronto-based Heritage Front and the American Aryan Nations, brought to Canada by Caroline resident Terry Long in the late 1980s. "Some groups commonly dislike Jewish people or homosexuals," Jones said. "The National Alliance is wide in its approach to hate and that's why people gravitate to them." He said police receive about 100 to 130 hate crime complaints a year, a mere 10 per cent of the actual number of incidents. The crime is grossly under-reported, he said, for a number of reasons, including fear of reprisal, a mistrust of police and worries of revictimization. The people who belong to these hate groups or Canada. "The government should be spending more time closing the border to drug smugglers and the SARS-infected, and less time abusing their authority by harassing political dissidents," Peters said. He declined to comment on membership numbers or locations.
    ©Calgary Herald

    3 June ­ Faced with the proliferation of non-government organizations (NGOs), the chairman of a panel of prominent figures convened by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today he would seek "some creative mechanisms and instruments" to smooth a consultative relationship between the world body and non-government actors. "You have to face this new situation and to what extent it would be possible from the UN point of view to have new mechanisms to engage more non-government actors in the UN process," former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil told a press briefing on the second of two days of closed meetings at UN Headquarters in New York. This would not necessarily mean direct participation in the decision process, but "in the deliberation process, yes," said Mr. Cardoso, chairman of the Secretary-General's Panel of Eminent Persons on UN Relations with Civil Society.

    He cited the last decade's explosion of civil sociciy organizations as a reason Mr. Annan had decided to examine problems associated with and possible expanded links between the UN and non-State actors, such as NGOs, parliamentarians, foundations, and members of the private sector. In that regard, the panel was researching organizations and possible areas of contact, setting guidelines for discussions, and consulting with all actors to better understand what kinds of links could be established. He said that during the last decade, UN conferences on women, racism and the environment, for example, had encouraged a new type of interaction between the UN and civil society. The new situation now had to be understood and built upon. "In all this there is new questions and to what extent it will be possible to utilize the energy coming from civil society in the process of deliberation," Mr. Cardoso added.

    The panel brings together prominent personalities from Colombia, Hungary, India, Iran, Jordan, Mali, Mozambique, the Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United States.
    ©UN News Centre

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