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NEWS - Archive March and April 2005

Headlines 8 April, 2005

Headlines 4 March, 2005

21/4/2005- Language problems and third-world health problems cause immigrants to call in sick to work more often than Danes. While ethnic Danes spent 7 weeks on average on sick leave last year, immigrants stayed away for 10.3 weeks Immigrants spend more time away from work due to illness than ethnic Danes, labor market policy weekly Agenda reported Thursday. While the average ethnic Dane spent 7 weeks on sick leave last year, immigrants from countries outside the OECD called in sick for 10.3 weeks. All in all, immigrants' sick leaves were almost 50 percent longer than that of the average Dane. Local authorities said language difficulties explained some of the difference. 'Immigrants often have physical structure problems,' said Kirsten Espersen, group leader at the benefit office of Ishøj, one of Copenhagen's most tightly packed immigrant suburbs. 'These diseases typically last longer, because examinations simply take a longer time. Bad language skills can also make immigrants more difficult to treat. It delays the process throughout the case.' Anne Marie Frederiksen at Århus City's labour market department said badly treated childhood diseases and low standard of living before coming to Denmark could contribute to more sick leaves. Additionally, many immigrants were forced to shift between different low-qualification positions. Immigration Minister Rikke Hvilshøj made a note of language barriers. 'Unfortunately, the figures do not surprise me, but they show yet again the need for immigrants to learn Danish,' she said. 'I would like to urge local authorities to pay attention to new regulations allowing immigrants to combine work with Danish studies.'
©The Copenhagen Post

The million and a half foreigners living in Switzerland want to play an active part in the country's future. That is the message they will be conveying at the first national conference of the Forum for the Integration of Migrants in Olten on Saturday.

22/4/2005- "We talk a lot about migrants, but rarely talk to them," says Claudio Micheloni, the forum's secretary-general. "We've had enough of just being objects of conversation. We want to show that we're also capable of expressing ourselves and taking part in discussions." This conference will not be simply an enlarged general assembly for the Forum, which since November 2000 has brought together migrant associations representing roughly 50 nationalities. For the organisers it's an opportunity to make themselves seen, to talk and to show that the foreign population – of whom a quarter were born in Switzerland – are not an appendage or just a labour force, but a real part of Swiss society. "There are a million and a half of us. We're not going anywhere and neither are our children," says Antonio Cunha, the forum's president. "We are a significant part of this society and of its future."

Big names
The Forum sent out more than 1,500 conference invitations and the responses have been encouraging. The foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, will attend. The justice minister, Christoph Blocher, has prior engagements but will be represented by Mario Gattiker, the deputy director of the Federal Migration Office. Other big players from the world of politics have announced their involvement, including Doris Leuthard, president of the Christian Democratic Party, Pierre-Yves Maillard, vice-president of the Social Democratic Party, and Aliki Panayides, deputy secretary-general of the rightwing Swiss People's Party. Not to mention the parliamentarians, top-ranking cantonal officials, representatives from NGOs and the Church, trade union officials and many foreign diplomats.

Charter for integration
At the centre of the plenary talks and discussion groups is the charter of integration. This four-page provisional document is the result of several months' thought and is the synthesis of forum values. "It's not about a litany of demands," explains Cunha. "But rather the basic principles which guide what we do and which we are prepared to discuss: citizenship based on place of birth, the right to vote and eligibility, the treatment of immigrants without identity papers, access to housing, equality in employment or training, social rights..." Regarding religion, the charter advocates a "tolerant secularism", open to intercultural dialogue – both privately and publicly. "As astonishing as that may seem, it was very easy agreeing on that," says Cunha. The charter asserts furthermore "the pre-eminence of a person's rights regarding specific ethnic and religious characteristics". It defends the "total equality" of every individual, regardless of his or her origin.

Swiss compromise
Regarding cultural collaboration, the forum is keen to set an example. So migrants from Italy, Spain or Portugal share their experiences with those nationalities and ethnic groups that haven't been in Switzerland for as long. And in a very Swiss spirit of compromise, these new migrants are over-represented within the forum so that they can explain their particular difficulties, such as racism. Having existed for just over four years, the forum can already take pride in undoubted successes. It is now one of those organisations to have a say whenever a bill is put forward, and for six months it has worked hand in hand with the Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education. For 12 years the conference has made a point of providing every foreign child with schooling, whatever the legal status of their parents – even if they are illegal. Cunha says the forum was naturally saddened by Swiss voters' recent rejection of moves to simplify naturalisation and parliament's tightening of the law on foreigners. "I don't think you can build this country's future while denying reality," says Cunha. "There will be more and more mixing within Europe – and Switzerland can't escape that." Yet the forum's president remains confident. "We're not in any hurry. We're there to take part in this debate which will produce a change in attitudes and combat some people's fears and fantasies."

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said immigrants and Swiss people must build up more mutual trust during Switzerland's first national migrant assembly. Participants added that giving political rights to foreigners would go a long way to fostering integration, which forms part of a charter unveiled during the proceedings in Olten.

23/4/2005- More than 300 people from 52 countries took part in the historic event in the north-eastern town located in canton Solothurn. They listened to the Swiss foreign minister stress that integration meant working side by side to shape the future. "Immigrants must take on responsibility within the state," she said. "We should pull together in the same direction," she added, using a metaphor taken from the game tug-of-war. Calmy-Rey said that migration had brought "incalculable advantages" to the country, adding that a quarter of Switzerland's 1.5 million immigrants were in employment. The foreign minister told the audience that she was sorry that problems with asylum-seekers were given so much exposure. This had the effect of shunting success stories of immigrants integrating themselves in Swiss society out of the limelight, she said. It was a shame that one heard more about the 51,000 asylum-seekers, who barely made up three per cent of the entire immigrant population, she added. While she emphasised that one could not ignore the fears of the population at large, discussions on immigration issues needed to be more objective. The Bern-based Forum for the Integration of Migrants (FIMM) was behind the historic conference, which it used to unveil its integration charter. This calls for ties to be strengthened between migrant communities and the Swiss population in the political, cultural and social arenas. During the assembly, FIMM's president, Antonio Cunha, made an appeal for new nationality rules based on the country of birth, as well mutual recognition and political rights for immigrants. He stressed that being able to vote in local and national elections had an important role to play in promoting integration. "We want to work together to shape the future of Switzerland," Cunha said.

Foreigners in Geneva who have lived in Switzerland for more than eight years are to be allowed to vote in local elections but will not be able to stand for political office.

25/4/2005- Sunday's vote means that Geneva joins the ranks of cantons Neuchâtel, Jura, Fribourg, Vaud and Appenzell Outer Rhodes in granting non-Swiss residents political rights. Voters in canton Geneva were asked to decide on an initiative entitled "I live here, I vote here". It was approved by 52.3 per cent of the electorate. Around 80,000 non-Swiss residents in Geneva are set to benefit from the new rule. However, 52.8 per cent of voters turned down a proposal to allow foreigners living in the canton to stand for political office. Geneva has the highest percentage of foreigners in Switzerland. Non-Swiss residents account for nearly 40 per cent of the canton's population. Overall foreigners make up just over 20 per cent of the Swiss population. Political rights for foreigners vary from canton to canton, with the majority not according any to its non-Swiss inhabitants. Canton Neuchâtel is leagues ahead of the others - foreigners there who have lived in the country for more than five years have enjoyed the right to vote and be elected in local elections since 1849. They were accorded voting rights at the cantonal level in 2000. Two years ago, the 22,000 foreigners living in the canton were permitted to vote in the Senate elections. Since 1980 non-Swiss residents of Jura who have lived in the canton for more than six years have been able to vote and stand for election at local and cantonal level. The first Swiss-German commune to accord the vote in local elections to foreigners was Wald in Appenzell Outer Rhodes, which did so in December 1999. Canton Graubünden has left it up to its communes to decide whether to accord political rights to foreigners.

Jews in Geneva want the police to consider stepping up protection of Jewish buildings and the community after what they say is a rise in anti-Semitic attacks.The most recent incident, which took place last weekend, saw the Grand Synagogue in Geneva defaced with swastikas and neo-Nazi slogans.

23/4/2005- A memorial in front of the synagogue to the millions of Jews who died in the Nazi death camps was spray-painted with the words: "Heil Hitler" and "Gas the Jews". "It's not the first attack and it's certainly not going to be last. But it's a long time since we have seen so many anti-Semitic attacks," said Johanne Gurfinkiel, general secretary of the Geneva-based Intercommunity Centre for Coordination against Anti-Semitism and Defamation. "We are not being paranoid – we are just expressing what is going on out there. Fortunately we have not had anyone hurt or killed." The centre recorded 34 anti-Semitic attacks in western Switzerland last year, ranging from offensive graffiti and attacks on Jewish buildings to verbal assaults and anonymous letters denying the Holocaust. In a report published last month, the organisation called on the authorities to take a firmer line on anti-Semitism, especially in terms of cracking down on extremist websites. Sabine Simkhovitch-Dreyfus, president of the Jewish Community of Geneva, told swissinfo that there had been a clear increase in anti-Semitic incidents over the past five to ten years.

Security issue
Simkhovitch-Dreyfus said Jewish communities were increasingly having to shoulder the burden of protecting buildings and people. In Geneva, as in other cantons, the Jewish community employs armed security guards and has been doing so for several years. "We have a good relationship with the police, but they have staffing problems and this is a problem that most Jewish communities and other institutions that need protection face in Switzerland," said Simkhovitch-Dreyfus. "Resources need to be adapted from time to time to evolving needs, and in the present context a review needs to be carried out. "Our main objective in terms of protection is the population and in particular Jews who attend religious services and other events. This is something we are trying to share with the police." Patrick Puhl, spokesman for canton Geneva police, said patrols in the area around the Grand Synagogue had been increased following the attack. But he added that it was unlikely that more would be done to protect the Jewish community. "We have to police the whole of Geneva and there are other areas of the city that need to be protected," said Puhl. "We cannot take specific measures for some [communities] and not for others. We base all our decisions on the level of danger that exists." "But we are taking this seriously and we will do our best to respond to their needs," he added.

Last weekend's attack on the Grand Synagogue comes a month after the firebombing of a synagogue and a Jewish-owned fabric shop in the city of Lugano in the southern canton of Ticino. Jewish leaders have been less than happy with the response from Ticino prosecutor Rosa Item who dismissed anti-Semitism as a motive, claiming the attacker – a former Lugano bus driver – was mentally unstable. The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities has now written to Item, criticising her for being too quick to rule out anti-Semitism. "We have the impression that the nature of these attacks is somehow downplayed – like the murder of the rabbi in Zurich in 2001 – in that each time it's blamed on someone who is mentally unstable and not anti-Semitic," said Simkhovitch-Dreyfus. "Whatever the mental state of someone, it is too much of a coincidence that a synagogue and the business of an Orthodox Jew were attacked on the same night."

Cantonal police matter
The Federal Police Office underlined that protection of Jewish buildings and the country's Jewish community was a cantonal police matter and that it was up to the relevant authorities to decide if security should be stepped up. Alfred Donath, president of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, told swissinfo that it was too early to say whether the recent attacks on synagogues marked the beginning of a new wave of anti-Semitism in Switzerland. But he echoed Simkhovitch-Dreyfus, saying attacks against Jews and Jewish buildings had increased over the past decade. "There is an increased threat compared with five to ten years ago. There are definitely more incidents but so far we are not on a par with what is happening in France or Belgium," he said. "But there has been an increase – that's clear. What happened in Geneva has never happened before." Johanne Gurfinkiel at the Intercommunity Centre for Coordination against Anti-Semitism and Defamation said it was clear that more efforts were now needed to educate the public and to preach the virtues of tolerance. "I am worried about the number of young people, teenagers, who are expressing extreme rightwing ideologies," he said. "We have had some problems in Geneva where far-right activists have been trying to recruit in schools."

Naturalised second-generation immigrants are high flyers when it comes to education and a career, surpassing their Swiss-born peers, says new research. However, a Swiss passport is not necessarily a solid guarantee to success on the job market or proper integration.

26/4/2005- Two studies by the Federal Statistics Office on children born in Switzerland to immigrants show that the offspring are often better educated and have better jobs than their mothers and fathers. About half a million people belong to this category, a third of whom possess Swiss nationality. The so-called "secondos" were also found to be more driven than their Swiss peers when it came to educating themselves. The study revealed that 27 per cent of naturalised second-generation immigrants went on to higher education compared with just 17 per cent of native-born Swiss. However, there was a yawning gap between secondos with Swiss nationality and those without. Only one in ten in the latter category made it into a university or technical college. The Statistics Office said that a recipe for success included the following ingredients: naturalisation, a good school education and parents with a university qualification or equivalent. Nearly half of naturalised 20-year-olds with immigrant parents falling under this category went on to higher education. For their non-naturalised counterparts, the rate fell to one third. However, the percentage of those born Swiss with similarly educated parents was lower still at 23 per cent. The study concluded that the earlier naturalisation occurred, the better the chances of integration and of having a successful career. Secondos from Spain and Italy were the best integrated in Swiss society, the study discovered. Those of Serbian, Montenegrin, Kosovar, Turkish and Portuguese origin faced a tougher ride. They tended to experience more difficulties assimilating to Swiss culture and worked in low-qualified positions. However, higher unemployment rates for naturalised citizens were proof that a Swiss passport alone could not guarantee integration or professional success.

The number of people living in Switzerland without proper authorisation is significantly lower than previously thought, according to a study. The Bern-based Gfs Institute says that only around 90,000 people do not have a residence permit, half the lowest previous estimates.

26/4/2005- The study - funded by the Federal Migration Office - found that there was no correlation between illegal residency and the number of asylum seekers whose applications had been turned down by the authorities. Researchers said they were able to gain a more accurate picture of the situation by focusing on the labour market. Many illegal residents were found to be living in high-income areas, not only in cities but also in rural areas. In general, these individuals have jobs which demand they put in long hours for poor pay. The majority are aged between 20 and 40 and are single. In urban areas, many women without the required papers work as cleaners in private households, whereas a majority of men have jobs on farms in the countryside. The length of the average stay of such a person in Switzerland varies considerably from a few weeks to many years. The findings are based on six case studies in the following cantons: Zurich, Basel City, Thurgau, Vaud, Geneva and Ticino. The figures were then adjusted to estimate the total for the whole of Switzerland. Experts agreed that the majority of these people were not engaged in criminal activities. They also stated that the number of illegal residents could rise in the next few years.

25/4/2005- A 30-ton truck, forming part of the EU anti-discrimination campaign with the motto "For Diversity against discrimination", was stationed over the weekend at Freedom Square, Valletta to provide information on discrimination, rights and European and national legislation to combat it. The truck began its second tour across Europe on the International Day Against Racism which was held on the 21st March. Based on last year's experience and huge demand from countries, it is expected to visit 23 different cities by the end of July. This tour through Europe informs the general public, in particular employers and employees, about their new rights and obligations under the European ant-discrimination legislation, not just from Brussels but on the spot. The truck tour is accompanied by both pan-European as well as national media and promotion activities. People who feel discriminated against are given the opportunity to visit the information vehicle and to voice their opinions and frustrations on discrimination. Its co-coordinators said members of the public first approached the truck out of curiosity, but then went on to avail themselves of the information on its computers and picked up leaflets before they left. The programme on the various stops includes presentations on discrimination, as well as entertainment by local and foreign talent, and has been planned in close co-ordination with national partners, NGOs, ministries, trade unions and employer associations to emphasise the national character of each venue. Panels representing unions, pensioners, people with disabilities, homosexuals, employees and religion held discussions yesterday, while entertainment included performances by the Eden Foundation's band, wheelchair dancers, singer Miriam Christine, the campaign's ambassador, and a Peruvian band.

The image of immigrants compounding Germany's jobless misery has been proved wrong by a study that says migrants take the plunge into self-employment more frequently than Germans and employ over a million people.

25/4/2005- Standing behind the meat counter of his supermarket, Orhan Alcin looks like someone who has worked to the point of exhaustion. In fact, he has. At the end of a 12-hour working day, serving and billing customers for their purchases of vegetables, meat, fruit and other foodstuff in the store in Berlin's immigrant-dominated Neukölln neighborhood, Alcin is more than ready to go home. The 35-year-old opened the supermarket, sandwiched between a Turkish café, a Lebanese car rental agency and a Greek bakery, two years ago. Like in many immigrant-run businesses, Alcin's is filled with family members. Together with his four older brothers, Alcin runs three supermarkets in Berlin. "We're almost a family enterprise," Alcin says. "We also have employees from outside, but at least one brother in every branch." Nowhere else in Germany is the industrial spirit of the country's immigrants more evident than in southern Berlin. Here businesses owned by migrants from Turkey, Russia, Italy and Arab countries dominate the streetscape. They don't just provide local color and new smells and tastes to the city, but also create much-needed jobs -- a commodity that's increasingly rare in Germany with unemployment hovering around five million.

Migrants still considered social problem
A new study called "The Importance of the Ethnic Economy in Germany," commissioned by the German Economics Ministry, has found that since 1990, the number of immigrants who have been taking the plunge into self-employment has risen by 60 percent. The study, carried out by the Institute for Research on Mid-sized Companies at the University of Mannheim, surveyed 2010 immigrants of predominantly Turkish, Greek and Italian origin. It found that three to four percent of all jobs in the country are created by self-employed people who don't come from Germany. The Alcins alone employ 10 people -- nine Turks and a German. The study also concluded that the number of new companies founded by foreigners was much higher, at 182 per 10,000 working people as opposed to just 122 among Germans. German Deputy Economics Minister Rezzo Schlauch said the stody showed that, contrary to popular belief, the jobs created by foreigners aren't just in ubiquitous döner kebap joints, vegetable and tailoring shops. "The social and economic importance of migrants is unfortunately still underestimated in Germany or not taken notice of at all." "But in fact, self-employed foreigners are increasingly getting a foothold in all areas," Schlauch said. "And that builds a positive counterweight to the cliché in society that migrants are always somehow a social problem." Alcin's supermarket is a case in point when it comes to the diversity of fields in which immigrants seek to make a living. Though Alcin mainly sells goods with Turkish labels on them, most of them don't actually come from Turkey. The traditional Turkish soft cheese, for instance, was produced in Germany by a Spanish company, while most of the fresh vegetables are from an Italian middleman.

Tougher to get loans
At the same time, Schlauch said the study had found that it was more difficult for foreign self-employed workers to get bank loans than for Germans. Alcin knows that all too well. He tried in vain to get three banks to finance his supermarket. "We also hired an accountant who readied all our documents and the banks still said 'no'," Alcin said. "We also had guarantees: for instance property, even personal assets, but the banks still refused." Alcin, like many other immigrants, was thus forced to borrow the start-up capital from family and friends. His example confirms the study's findings that foreign entrepreneurs are apparently more willing to take risks than Germans when it comes to self-employment. But, despite success stories like Alcin's, the picture is not always so rosy for immigrants. According to the study, one-fifth of all self-employed Turks said they wanted to open a shop because they were unemployed. In the past five years, joblessness among foreigners has risen by a fourth and, at 20 percent, is almost twice the German average. Companies started in need often don't survive long. And though immigrants may be turning to self-employment more frequently, they also fail at it much more often than Germans do.
©Deutsche Welle

25/4/2005- Managed migration from new EU member states into the old as well as from outside the EU would lead to greater growth and a stronger economy, experts said at the Brussels Economic Forum on Friday (22 April). But a massive inflow of workers could have a negative impact on the economy if it is not regulated, Columbia University's Jagdish Bhagwati said. The phenomenon of illegal immigrants competing for rights and employment with legal migrants such as asylum seekers could compound the problem further, he added. "An older and declining population will pressure Europe to seek more immigration to supply labour for the economy," Mr Bhagwati said. Gudrun Biffl of the Austrian Institute of Economic Research explained that the EU must coordinate the various immigration policies currently operative in member states in order to deal with this need. She said that countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden already see around 12 per cent of their populations born outside of the EU, in a situation similar to the US. Luxembourg and Switzerland have foreign-born populations of around 20% - in line with Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Immigration of highly skilled labour, mostly university graduates and higher, goes to North America and Australia, while lower skilled workers find their way to the EU, taking up jobs disliked by current citizens, indicated Ms Biffl. The inflow of low-skilled labour has done less to increase European productivity than the migration of more highly skilled employees. The EU could attract more better qualified migrants by investing heavily in research and innovation while social cohesion could be ensured by implementing integration measures for immigrants such as language courses. Both economists stressed the dangers of uncontrolled illegal immigration in Europe, which creates tension among asylum communities as disruptive migrants give a bad name to productive immigrants. Immigration, both legal and illegal, increases the development of poor countries by boosting aid funds sent directly to outlying villages, said Mr Bhagwati, but the lack of attention paid to the "black market" economy encourages illegal immigration. "We risk the de-skilling of workers who are permanently excluded from formal employment", said Ms Biffl.

26/4/2005- The Conservative leader of Cumbria County Council has admitted that adverts the party placed in the News & Star and The Cumberland News last week are misleading and inaccurate. The advertisement was headlined: "Mr Blair's asylum chaos has cost Cumbria £450,000." It goes on to say that Cumbria County Council has spent more than £400,000 supporting the asylum system since 1997, diverting cash from "essential local services". It adds: "It's no wonder a typical band-D council tax bill in Cumbria has gone up £532.50 since 1997." Mr Stoddard made the admission after a black trade union official at the county council claimed the full page advertisement could "incite racial hatred". Mark Clifford, secretary of the council's Unison branch, says they misleadingly blame asylum seekers for increases in council tax. He has written in a personal capacity to Mr Stoddard, asking him to disown the campaign. Mr Stoddard told the News & Star he accepted that the advertisement is misleading but denies it could incite racial hatred. He said: "The Government give us a grant for whatever the figure [for looking after asylum seekers] is. It is not accurate to say that council tax payers foot the bill. "I cannot answer for an advertisement placed by Conservative Central Office." In practice, Cumbria County Council has spent £424,000 helping asylum seekers since 1997. As Mr Stoddard says, all this money was reimbursed by the Government so there has been no effect on council tax or spending on local services. But the county council has also spent £469,000 on a multi-cultural community centre in Barrow, the cost of which is borne by council tax payers. The centre supports all immigrants, not only asylum seekers. Mr Clifford's letter said: "As a black person who has suffered racism, physical and verbal, I am appalled at the Conservative Party advert. "It clearly blames asylum seekers for the increases in council tax and may well incite racial hatred. It is something I associate more with the British National Party."
©News & Star

26/4/2005- Concerns over the use of police stop and search powers have led to calls for young people to be better informed of their rights. Since January this year the police must give a brief report to anyone they stop in the street and should only use their powers fairly and without discrimination. The ruling came into force after it was recommended by the MacPherson report which investigated institutional racism in the Met following the death of Eltham teenager Stephen Lawrence. Police say stops are now based on either intelligence or officers' discretion. But community workers in Lewisham are concerned young people do not understand their rights. Last month the Lewisham Police/Community Consultative Group (LPCCG), which liaises between the police and the community, heard how members of the public were still concerned black youths are being unfairly targeted. One parent told how her son had been stopped 20 times without sufficient reason why. Now the group, which is tasked with monitoring stop and search use in Lewisham, is planning an educational video so young people are fully aware of their rights. It is also considering holding a conference for youngsters on policing issues and stop and search. Lewisham Community Network Equality Officer Tracey Jarrett welcomed the news young people were going to be better informed and more involved. She said: "We need to empower people to take action and ask the right questions. "We have to raise awareness about institutional racism. "And I still believe there is room for improvement." LPCCG chairman David Michael said: "It is all about community empowerment, understanding rights, young people playing their part with the police to look for solutions to prevent any misunderstandings and having a balance where police do not abuse their powers." Dates are yet to be set for the conference and funding is being sought to produce a stop and search video.

23/4/2005- An Oxford-educated lawyer has become the first barrister to be disbarred for racism after he called a senior black solicitor a "nigger" and suggested he returned to Ghana. Joseph Sykes made his comments in a letter to a London solicitor, Philip Glah, who had instructed him in an employment law case. In a disagreement between them over £16,000 Mr Sykes had owed Mr Glah but had refused to pay, Mr Sykes called him a "nigger". In the worst ever case of racial abuse at the Bar, a disciplinary tribunal of the four ancient Inns of Court found Mr Sykes guilty of racism and conduct discreditable to a barrister. The chairman of the tribunal, Judge Crawford Lindsay QC, in a decision published in the Law Society Gazette this week, found Mr Sykes's conduct of the dispute with Mr Glah had showed lack of judgement and was evidence of a "racist manner". The full ruling has been sent to Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, and Ken Macdonald QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions. In response to the ruling, Courtenay Griffiths QC, the chairman of the Bar's public affairs committee and one of Britain's leading black barristers, said: "It is absolutely appalling that in the 21st century anyone could treat a fellow professional in that way." Mr Sykes, who was called to the Bar in 2001, defended himself at the hearing and called three black solicitors to testify he was not a racist. The men, who described themselves as being of African origin, told the tribunal there had never been any "racial tension or problems" between themselves and Mr Sykes or between Mr Sykes and any of their mostly black clients. But in December, Mr Sykes's appeal was dismissed and his sentence upheld. Publishing the sentence, the tribunal said the four charges of professional misconduct would come into force from 16 March this year. Mr Sykes was a member of Gray's Inn and an Oxford MA. Mr Glah is one of two partners at his firm Philip Glah and Co. Mr Glah told The Independent after the judgment was published: "I am happy with the outcome. I tried to resolve the matter with him and his head of chambers but Sykes wasn't interested. All I wanted was a simple apology but he refused. So, reluctantly, I had to take it further."
© Independent Digital

29/4/2005- An Asian family has launched a scathing attack on the Prison Service as the inquiry into the murder of their son by a racist cellmate drew to a close. Officials had shown little more remorse than the psychopath who killed Zahid Mubarek and should be ashamed, the Mubareks' legal team told the chairman of the inquiry, Mr Justice Keith. Mr Mubarek, 19, was battered to death by Robert Stewart on the day he was due to be released from Feltham young offenders' institution in west London after serving a short sentence for theft. Dexter Dias, for the Mubarek family, said: "The Prison Service's moral blameworthiness arises from the fact that Stewart's behaviour had set off alarm bells about his mental disorder and his dangerousness ­ and these warning signs were ignored. Their responsibility flows from the fact that they quite unnecessarily exposed Zahid to these obvious risks. And for that the Prison Service should be ashamed." The four-month inquiry into the death has examined how Mr Mubarek came to be placed in a cell with a man who had a string of convictions, had displayed racist and violent tendencies and been diagnosed as suffering from a psychopathic personality disorder. The inquiry has heard that Feltham had many problems, including institutional racism, at the time. Mr Mubarek's family has sat through evidence from 60 witnesses. But, their barrister said yesterday, they had been greatly distressed by the Prison Service's stance that their son's murder was random and could not have been predicted. Yesterday, the inquiry heard that two weeks before Mr Mubarek was killed, two officers had access to a file warning that Stewart, 19, was a dangerous racist.
© Independent Digital

A new programme for small children aims to wipe out sectarianism, racism and physical prejudice.

26/4/2005- The Media Initiative for Children, launched in Belfast on Tuesday, will be offered to thousands of pre-school children on both sides of the border. Its goal is to tackle deep-rooted prejudice in a way that is "child's play". Colourful puppets, puzzles, song and dance and television will be among the methods used to get the message across. The programme is a joint initiative between The Peace Initiatives Institute (PII) in the United States of America and Nippa, the early years organisation in Northern Ireland. Together, they hope to teach young children the value of respecting and including others who are different from themselves. After a six-week pilot scheme in February 2004, the programme is now being formally launched throughout Northern Ireland. Initially, the MIFC-N.I. programme is being taught in 200 schools, touching more than 1,000 pre-school age children and their teachers, parents and siblings. The multi-year programme will continue to expand throughout Northern Ireland, and PII and Nippa plan to extend the programme to the Republic of Ireland in the near future. Pre-schoolers who have already participated in the training in Northern Ireland said they had learned: "You shouldn't leave anybody else out." "The colour of a person's skin shouldn't stop you from playing with them. "It's what is on the inside that is important. "We have to learn to trust each other." A spokesperson for MIFC said research had shown that young children absorbed the attitudes of adults in their community. As children grow older, attitudes become core values that influence actions throughout life - and perpetuate conflicts. By teaching children a different way of thinking and acting, the goal of Media Initiatives For Children is to reduce violence in conflicted societies over the long term.
©BBC News

26/4/2005- Conservative mayors in several of Spain's provincial capitals have said they will refuse to perform gay marriage ceremonies. Despite a bill legalising such unions, which was passed by Spain's lower house of parliament last week, a number of mayors have refused to carry out these ceremonies when the law comes into force. "Even if the law allows me to marry homosexuals, I will not exercise this authority," said Javier Leon de la Riva, mayor of Valladolid, according to a report by the Spanish daily 'La Razon'. "I do not have a problem with these couples having the same rights as the rest of the citizens. But what does not seem right is that their union should be called a marriage," he added. The newspaper also cited other mayors in such Spanish cities as Leon and Avila as having the same opinion. The law making gay marriages legal still needs the approval of the Senate. If passed by the upper house of parliament, Spain would become only the third European country — after the Netherlands and Belgium — to legalise such unions. The measure triggered strong opposition from leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and several other religions. The proposed law requires judges and civil leaders such as mayors to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. Spanish justice minister Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar said the law allowing gay marriage is a matter of civil rights and obligations, regulated by parliament. Public officials cannot refuse to abide by the law, he said on Punto Radio, adding that it is a matter of conscience. "Nor does it have anything to do with religion or with a sacrament," he said.
©Expatica News

26/4/2005- Police arrested 21 suspects in a crackdown in five cities on the Spanish branch of an international neo-Nazi group called Blood & Honour, the Civil Guard said today. The 21 suspects – ranging in age from 17 to 34 – were arrested on charges of crimes against civil liberties, defending the Holocaust, illegal association, and possessing and trafficking arms, said a statement from the paramilitary police force. The Civil Guard said Blood & Honour had affiliates across Europe and the US. The Spanish group is accused of organising concerts at which they would incite xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism and the use of violence. The concerts, attended by some 300 to 500 followers, were held on the summer and winter solstices, or on dates commemorating the births or deaths of Nazi figures including Adolf Hitler or Rudolf Hess, the Civil Guard said. The gang had been operating since 1999 and maintained contact through fanzines and the internet, it said. Police seized two guns, knives, swords as well as an array of Nazi paraphernalia in raids on the suspects' homes and the group's meeting places in Madrid, Seville, Jaen, Burgos and Zaragoza.
©The Scotsman

25/4/2005- The shooting death of Wolfgang Droege will do little to slow the growth of a new generation of potentially violent white supremacists in Canada, warns a former CSIS mole who helped discredit the neo-Nazi leader. In the age of the Internet, smaller, independent extremist cells can get their ideological inspiration from abroad instead of rallying around a highly visible leader, said Grant Bristow, once an informant with Canada's spy agency. "Some of these more insidious organizations are able to articulate the message without that necessity for either face-to-face contact or that group camaraderie," Mr. Bristow, who remains in hiding, told The Canadian Press in a rare interview. "It makes it very difficult for the intelligence community to do their job." Mr. Droege, the 55-year-old co-founder of the Heritage Front, once Canada's most prominent and active neo-Nazi organization, was found shot in the head and chest in the hall of his apartment building two weeks ago. Police have charged Droege acquaintance Keith DeRoux, 43, with second-degree murder and continue to believe the shooting had nothing to do with the extremist right-wing views that were Mr. Droege's life's work. But his death, coupled with the deportation to Germany last month of Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, has left a void in the leadership of Canada's extreme right. Both men were racist lightning rods, attracting attention, recruits and cash to their cause, and were well known to Canadian authorities, Mr. Bristow said. "Here's the danger: You're going to see another lightning rod [which] may not have to be in Canada," Mr. Bristow said in a telephone interview from an undisclosed location. High-profile leaders, formal organizations and direct contact have become less relevant to militant racists, he said. Instead, more are embracing the idea of "leaderless resistance," which advocates acts of race-based terrorism without the advice or consent of any organized leadership. "You don't have to have meetings to be effective," Mr. Bristow said.

Mr. Bristow has been credited with helping to bring down the Heritage Front by befriending its leader and positioning himself as a trusted deputy and confidant. The revelation that he was a spy effectively destroyed the organization and Mr. Droege's career as a racist "superstar," he said. Critics, however, have said Mr. Bristow's work with the group helped to foster its growth -- a position dismissed by a 1995 review committee, although he was admonished for tactics that "tested the limits" of acceptable and appropriate behaviour. Mr. Bristow now lives quietly under an assumed name somewhere in Western Canada, where he teaches part time, works as a tax accountant and gives lectures to police and security organizations on undercover work. In the absence of strong leadership and groups in Canada, Mr. Bristow said many of the Heritage Front's hard-core Canadian members have turned to more radical, violence-prone American hate groups that advocate for leaderless resistance in hopes of touching off an all-out race war. Andrew Mitrovica, who also interviewed Mr. Bristow for an article published yesterday in the on-line version of Walrus magazine, said the insidious nature of leaderless resistance has already manifested itself in tragic ways in the United States. Examples are Timothy McVeigh, who 10 years ago carried out the deadly bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and Eric Rudolph, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to bombing the Atlanta Olympics, a lesbian nightclub and women's clinics. Mr. Bristow said intelligence services will have to learn to adapt. "[White supremacists] have to have a certain amount of contact with these organizations to become indoctrinated," he said. "The key is going to be in the ability to look at organizations and the dot-com hate mongers on a much wider scale."
©Globe and Mail

Report prepared by the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights

April 2005- Skinheads are participants of the radical nationalist youth movement adhering to the "white power" ideology – the ideology of "white fight" against the "aliens". They consider themselves "soldiers of the Third World War in which the white race shall win or perish. Skinheads are fighting against "occupants" they believe all non-Aryans –Africans, Asians, natives of the Caucasus and the North – to be. Their goal is to drive all non-Russians away from Russia. At that their main rule is "The enemy does not have age, nor gender". That is how they justify their attacks against women and children of "wrong" nationalities. Skinhead's uniform includes heavy boots (Dr. Martens, Grinders or army boots), rolled up khaki pants or jeans, suspenders, black (or sometimes khaki or dark blue) jackets ("bomber", "scooter" or "Bundeswehr") and military caps. On the stripes: the Celtic cross; the Confederate Cross (flag of the southern slave-owning states in the civil war); scull and bones ("Totenkopf") over a heart; inscription "Skinhead" in gothic script on the back; the right white fist with the words "White Power" or letters "WP" over it (contrary to the Trozkists who use the left fist in their symbolic); imperial or state flag over the thunderbolt on the left sleeve; stripe with a shield on the right sleeve; swastika (both 4-ray and 3-ray – symbol of racists of the Southern African Republic); Hitler's portrait; bulldog in a spiked collar; stylized picture of a baseball bat, runic symbols used in Nazi Germany – doubled "zig" (two thunderbolts like SS), "othal" and others; "Oi!" – the greeting of British workers that rendered a name to a style in music; numbers 88 ("Heil Hitler") and 18 ("Adolph Hitler"); 14 words ("We Must Secure The Existence Of Our People And A Future For White Children!").

Practically every more or less significant internet resource of the Russian skinheads contains a library. Literature popular among the skinheads: Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler, Russia Is Awakening by Dmitry Nesterov, 88 Commandments by David Lain and ABC of Slavic Skinheads. Skinhead image also includes Nazi tattoos and Nazi greetings.

The number of skinheads in the Russian Federation comes to 50 000 (to compare: the number of skinheads in the world, excluding Russia, is less than 70 000).

  • The largest skinhead community (10.000  15.000) is registered in St.Petersburg,
  • Kaliningrad (around 1000),
  • Nizhniy Novgorod (up to 600, according to other data up to 2500),
  • Rostov-on-Don (over 1500),
  • over a thousand in Pskov, Kaliningrad, Yekaterinburg and Krasnodar,
  • several hundreds in Voronezh, Samara, Saratov, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Omsk, Tomsk, Vladivostok, Ryazan and Petrozavodsk.

    Today skinhead communities exist in 85 cities of Russia. Mostly they form isolated groups of 3 to 10 members. At that if earlier skinheads group existed only in big cities and in the towns of the Southern part of Russia, where the ethnic tensions are very acute, today this movement is spreading over regional and county centers. However, their actions often do not meet the approval of the local population. According to the survey carried out by the experts of the Chelyabinsk branch of the Economics Institute of the Urals Regional Department of the Russian Academy of Science 60% of the respondents believed it necessary to institute criminal proceedings against skinheads; 15% declared that it was necessary to apply physical punishment to juvenile extremists i.e. to publicly whip them at city squares. On the other hand, one sixth of Chelyabinsk residents believe that it is useless to fight against skinheads. The majority of skinheads are teenagers aged 13-20, a lot of whom simply have nothing else to do. Today the Russian skinheads do not have a central, uniting power. This movement consists of a large number of groups comprising 3 to 10 members.

    Skinheads are the most aggressive group among Russian nationalists. The majority of committed in Russia in 2004 40 murders and hundreds of attacks on ethnic grounds is their doing. At least four murders on ethnic grounds were committed by skinheads in St.Petersburg.
  • The murder of 9-year-old Tajik girl Hursheda Sultanova (February 9, 2004) received the deepest public resonance.
  • Five murders were committed in Moscow and the Moscow Region.
  • The gloomy glory of the "murder capital" could be taken from the capitals by the city of Surgut where, as it turned out, 4 such crimes were committed within less than nine months of 2004.
  • Two murders were committed in Samara; two in Vladivostok.
  • Two persons were killed in organized by skinheads pogroms at the food markets in Volgograd (April 7, 2004) and Novosibirsk (July 15, 2004).
  • On February 23, 2004 student of the Burdenko Medical Academy Amaru Lima was killed in the center of Voronezh.
  • In May 2004 in Nizhniy Novgorod skinheads armed with rods and chains yelling "Kill the blacks!" attacked a 50-year-old migrant from Azerbaijan. Several days later he died in the hospital.
  • On October 14, 2004 two youngsters aged 15-16 being under intoxication stubbed to death a Chinese.

    There were a lot more cases of attacks on "aliens" rather than murders. The following are just several examples.
  • At the end of February skinheads attacked 17-year-old sportswoman from Buryatia Darima Nimayeva who participated in the Archery Cup of Russia held in the city of Orel. She was attacked on her way from the competition to the hotel. The girl suffered injuries and severe psychological shock.
  • On 16 April, 2004 in Vladivostok, about sixty skinheads atrociously beat six Chinese people near a dormitory on the cape of Chumak. It was only owing to the armed guards of the yacht club that the Chinese citizens escaped death. The guards called the police and also managed to detain about ten skinheads.
  • In the night of May 9, 2004 more than 100 skinheads armed with stones, sticks and iron bars looted several stalls near Kolomenskoye subway station. Several passers-by were beaten.
  • In the late evening of September 18, 2004 a group of skinheads yelling "This is for terrorist attacks" attack quite often.
  • In Kursk, over the period February 29 – March 14, 2004 five foreign students from Malaysia, Sri-Lanka and Arab countries were beaten. The local skinheads literarily besieged the dormitories of the foreign students. Not less than four skinhead attacks on dark-skinned students were registered in the first half of March in Kursk.
  • The latest of such attacks was registered on March 27 in Krasnodar. Two foreign students of the Kuban Medical Academy were atrociously beaten at the main entrance to the building of Kuban State University. In addition of attacks on and murders of "the aliens" skinheads also attack the premises of "wrong" (mostly Jewish) organizations.
  • Attacks on a community center in Ulyanovsk and on synagogues in Penza and Kostroma were registered in 2004.

    Unfortunately, the representatives of law enforcement agencies often declare that "there are no skinheads in their areas and all attacks on foreigners and "aliens" are but hooliganism". For instance, though policemen had detained two participants of the attack on the synagogue in Penza in the beginning of November, the representatives of the City Internal Affairs Department declared that "there were no skinheads in the vicinity of the synagogue" trying to reduce the case to common hooliganism. The representatives of the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department insisted on the "domestic crime" version of the murder of migrant from Zakavkazye D.Tarkeladze (December 19, 2004) even after one of the skinhead groups had taken responsibility for this crime.

    We might also mention the surprisingly lenient sentence passed on the defendants charged with participation in pogrom at the Yasnevo market in 2001 when the majority of offenders got away with probations or were acquitted. Participants of the market pogrom in Volgograd in April 2004 were also sentenced to probations. On October 1, 2004 a similar sentence was passed on Krasnodar skinheads found guilty of attacks on African students in March 2004.

    Often policemen simply do not want to be involved in such cases. The incident was registered in Yoshkar-Ola in Jul 2004 when policemen ignored a skinhead attack on two migrants from the Caucasus that happened before their very eyes. Similar indifference was registered when a Jewish woman was beaten by a group of nationalistic youngsters. It is interesting that according to the surveys conducted by the Levada Center, two thirds of the respondents believe that the law enforcement agencies shut their eye on skinhead activities. Only 19% believe that police and prosecutors try fight against it. According to 3% of the respondents, our law enforcement agencies support skinheads and their likes.

    On the other hand, in case of close attention of authorities to a case, representatives of the law enforcement agencies manage to promptly find the guilty. After the murder of H.Sultanova the St.Petersburg Internal Affairs Department examined approximately 5000 persons affiliated with youth gangs, surveyed 97 schools and examined every person registered in the records of the department. Police "suddenly" revealed 30 youth groups, 17 of them of clearly extremist orientation.

    According to certain sources, the Moscow Police Department started to form a special police force to suppress skinhead movement. Head of the Moscow Police V.Pronin who earlier had denied existence of skinheads in Moscow finally had to admit that there were at least 500 skinheads, "nationalists and anti-globalists" sadly stressing that "that is only the youngsters we managed to register in our lists, in reality there are many more".

  • In July 2004 the Moscow City Court sentenced the group of skinheads who had committed a double murder of migrants from the Caucasus in December 2003 to prison terms of 9 to 14 years.
  • In October 2004 three skinheads who had killed a Tajik at a railway station of Yaroslavl direction on November 6, 2002 were sentenced by the Moscow City Court to 8 and 9 years of prison.
  • On March 11, 2004 the verdict was passed on the St.Petersburg skinheads who had killed watermelon vendor from Azerbaijan Mamed Mamedov in August 2002. The only defendant found guilty under the article 282 Mr.Lykin was released directly in the courtroom due to expiration of the period of limitation of this article. Two other offenders were sentenced to 7 and 4 years of prison.
  • In December 2004 the St.Petersburg City Court sentenced seven skinheads found guilty of the murder of 6-year-old Tajik girl Nilufar Sangboyeva (September 21, 2003) to the prison terms of 5 to 10 years.
  • On December 15, 2004 the same court sentenced the murderer of Syrian student Abdul Kadir Badavi to 10 years of prison.
  • On September 30, 2004 the Voronezh City Court passed the verdict on the murderers of Amaru Lima. Three defendants – Ye.Shilov, R.Lednev and V.Kakushin – were sentenced to 17, 10 and 9 years of maximum security prison. According to the court ruling they would pay 150000 rubles in compensation to the family of the victim; Ye.Shilov would pay additional fine in amount of 20000 to the state.
  • 12 members of the organization "Kursk skinheads" were sentenced in Kursk. One of the organizers of attack on an Indian student in Kovrov in the fall of 2003 was found guilty under the article 282, but sentenced to probation since he was a minor.
  • In July 2004 a group of local skinheads that was attacking migrants from Central Asia was sentenced in Surgut. Leader of the group K.Tereshkin was sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment; other members of the group were put on probation.
  • In March 2005 a local skinhead who had been publishing nationalistic materials on the web was found guilty in Kemerovo.

    Cases presently under investigation or transferred to the court:
  • the case against yet another group of Surgut skinheads (that comprises four criminal cases); the H.Sultanova murder case;
  • the case against the St.Petersburg Nazi skinhead group "Schulz 88"; the murder case of Korean Ya.Kan who was killed in a Moscow suburban train at the end of 2003;
  • the case against two groups of Novosibirsk skinheads;
  • the case against Kostroma skinheads who had severely beaten a Vietnamese couple;
  • the case against skinhead from Vladivostok I.Nazarenko who has committed two murders on ethnic grounds in the end of August – beginning of September.
    ©the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights

    21/4/2005 – Russia's deputy interior minister says that the level of organization among the various ultra-nationalist skinhead organizations in his country is now higher than that of his own ministry and that this represents an obvious threat to the the future political stability of the Russian Federation. Sergei Shadrin's comment was cited by Emil Pain, the general director of the Center for Ethnopolitical and Region Research and Russia's leading specialist on national extremism, in the course of an interview he gave to the „Marketing and Consulting" news agency on Tuesday. As he has in the past, Pain was sharply critical of the way in which the Russian government has sought to involve young people in a campaign under the general rubric of „the struggle against fascism" ina dvance of the commemoration in Moscow of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. „If the beginning of this campaign is the creation of the ‚Nashi' [„Ours"] organization and if the ideology of its members is what appears on television screens now," Pain told the news agency, „then this anti-fascism frightens me even more than fascism itself does." „Identifying anyone who thinks differently as an enemy is already an element of totalitarian consciousness," Pain continued. And the „Nashi" organization's efforts to divide people between „ours" and not „ours," to promote unqualified support for the „leader" – and Pain uses the word „vozhd'" in this context -- and backing the use of force as the chief means of political struggle, he said, are all hallmarks of fascism itself.

    According to the Moscow scholar, there are currently about 300 aggressive groupings of skinheads and about 20 unregistered extremist parties of a nationalist type in the cities and regions of the Russian Federation. Their influence on Russian political life now is minimal, but „the potential of the radicals is quite high." There are two reasons for that, he said: On the one hand, ever more Russians back the slogan „Russia for the Russians," thus creating a fertile field for the rise of nationalism. And on the other, Russian national extremists are often found not among the oldest age cohorts of the population who are passing from the scene, but among the young who represent the future. „If in the Baltic countries, it is mainly the elderly who come out to support fascist actions," Pain pointed out, „then in Russia nationalist views are [now] widespread among a remarkable segment of the young." The comments of Shadrin and Pain take on added urgency given release this week of an expanded report by the Moscow Human Rights Bureau about the activities of skinhead groups in the Russian Federation. According to on the same day, the bureau said that there are approximately 50,000 skinheads in the Russian Federation -- compared to a total of 70,000 in all other countries around the world combined. There are skinhead groups in some 85 Russian cities, the Bureau specified, and in the past year alone, they have been responsible for most of the 40 murders and the hundreds of other attacks on individuals and groups in that country that appear to have been carried out as ethnic or religious hate crimes. The Bureau added that „throughout the entire country a number of small, radical nationalist newspapers are readily available. They print anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and xenophobic materials, many of which violate the laws on the struggle with extremism. Nevertheless, the production of such materials continues, and their publishers are seldom punished." If the Russian government is attempting to exploit these feelings as Pain and others suggest (see for example Yuri Vdovin's article, „Russia's Fascist Present," in the Moscow Times on Wednesday of this week who arguees that some in the leadership see fascism as „a diversion"), that must be a matter for concern. But if in fact Russian nationalist skinheads are now better organized than the police as Shadin says, then that is a matter for real fear – in the first instance, for those in the Russian population whom these groups have identified as their enemies, but also for everyone there and elsewhere who hopes that the Russian Federation will make the transition to democracy.
    ©FSU Monitor

    May, 2005 - Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the boss of the misnamed Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) has shown himself up yet again. Protesting in the Russian parliament, the Duma, against what he considered to be rigged election results in against the Nenets Republic – where his party came in last behind Russian Unity, the right-wing Rodina bloc and the Communist Party – and objecting to a report being made by a Rodina MP, he sparked off a brawl. "Our candidates were threatened," screamed Zhirinovsky before setting about his opponent, a move that descended instantly into a full-scale mass punch-up between two dozen rival LDPR and Rodina MPs. This is not the first time there has been such a ruckus involving Zhirinovsky and a Rodina spokesman. The most recent incident occurred during the last parliamentary election campaign and involved Zhirinovsky throwing a jug of water at an opponent during a live TV broadcast. As a punishment, the clownish Zhirinovsky has lost his coveted position as vice-president of the Duma and could yet be banned from addressing the assembly for a month. None of this has prevented the buffoon from telling a press conference, on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the LDPR's foundation, that he is "the most popular person on earth" and that the LDPR is "the most popular party on earth'. Because the Russian government is obsessed by the – very theoretical, it has to be said – possibility of losing power through an "Orange Revolution" as happened in the Ukraine, it is multiplying its initiatives aimed at preventing such an event. Thus, a meeting took has taken between a key Kremlin official and Russian rock stars to enlist their support if a Ukraine-style upsurge materialises! At the same time, a movement that the Kremlin would like to be seen as ‘anti-fascist" has been set up to organise football fans from Russia's biggest clubs into giving active (and violent) support to Russian president Vladimir Putin. Its objective is to undermine any anti-Putin movements that might surface and to fight Edouard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party (NBP). The sudden appearance of this new movement has caused havoc in the NBP's Moscow headquarters. The NBP is now being accused of everything under the sun to such an extent that Pravda on 23 March claimed that the party would be receiving the support of the financial oligarch and sworn enemy of Putin, Boris Beresovsky.
    ©Searchlight magazine

    27/04/2005 - Sergey Mironov, speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, appeared on April 23 on a television show known for spreading antisemitism and racism, according to an April 23, 2005 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. The show "Out Strategy" had already received an official warning for inciting ethnic hatred last year, but that didn't deter its hosts from asking Mr. Mironov if he thinks that there is a "Jewish oligarchic conspiracy" against Russia. Mr. Mironov answered that such a conspiracy doesn't exist, but didn't bother to correct or condemn the interviewer for asking such an obviously antisemitic question. The show also featured an interview with Dmitry Rogozin, head of the extremist nationalist Motherland ("Rodina") faction in the Duma. Mr. Rogozin reportedly responded to a question on whether certain ethnic groups are more prone to crime than others in the following way: "Criminality doesn't have an ethnicity? What a lie! Criminality always has an ethnicity!" He then exempted ethnic Russians from this "truth" by pointing out that they only suffer at the hands of other ethnic groups. The Sova center added that during the show, "Jewish organized criminal groups" were discussed as threats to Russia.
    ©FSU Monitor

    Kremlin backs activists in attempt to harness anger

    27/04/2005 - A youth activist group reportedly founded by the Kremlin is to name and shame "fascists and their sympathisers" in schools and workplaces, raising fears of ideological witch-hunts reminiscent of Russia's turbulent past. Nashi, or "Our Guys", said it would distribute a booklet naming "fascists and their sympathisers" to headteachers and other officials. "We want to show the whole society that fascists are fascists," the Nashi leader, Vasili Yakemenko, said at its recent manifesto launch. Mr Yakemenko said the booklet would name the leader of an obscure ultra-left party, the National Bolsheviks, Eduard Limonov, and "those who are connected with Limonov, who sympathise with fascists, but are not fascists themselves". He declined to say how many people would be named. Analysts have said Kremlin strategists created Nashi in response to the youth anger that has fuelled three regime changes, in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, in 17 months. The group's hardline rhetoric, coming days before Russia celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany, has raised fears that the Kremlin has instead conjured the ghost of "fascism" to harness xenophobia and nationalism in support of President Vladimir Putin. Nashi is the most hardline of many youth groups set up in Russia recently. Ilya Yashin, an activist from the youth opposition group Oborona, said Nashi would be used to apply "direct force against the opposition. The authorities are doing this consciously." He said the group had direct links with the Putin regime and he "could not exclude" the prospect of violent clashes between youth movements if forthcoming elections sparked protests in Moscow similar to those in the former Soviet republic capitals of Bishkek, Kiev and Tbilisi.

    "The aggression from the Kremlin could have very negative effects on society," Mr Yashin said. Two youth groups - Pora ("It's time!") from Ukraine and Kmara ("Enough") from Georgia - have spawned similarly named groups in Russia. Mr Yakemenko said Nashi was non-violent and, echoing an edict of Lenin, planned simply "to study, to study" to prepare a thousand "specialists for the modernisation of the country". Its manifesto claims Washington seeks to dominate Russia, "the historical and geographical centre of the contemporary world". The launch of Nashi's manifesto, which broadly backed Mr Putin, was addressed by Andrei Fursenko, the science and education minister. Sergei Vozhol, 18, from Kursk, said: "We are a new generation, the youth. We do not support Putin as a personality, but the idea of Russia being a great country again." The manifesto, distributed to delegates from all over Russia in a little red book, states: "Today beneath our eyes is forming an unnatural union between liberals and fascists, westernisers and ultra-nationalists, international foundations and in ternational terrorists. They are joined by one thing - their hatred of Putin." It adds: "In the post-Soviet space, in the guise of slogans of democracy and freedom, the west is playing a big geopolitical game, the aim of which is to push Russia from world politics and introduce foreign management to Russia. World development is the competition of peoples - [in this you are] either a leader, the led, or the victim."
    ©The Guardian

    29/4/2005- The St. Petersburg Prosecutor's Office has proclaimed that the infamous March petition demanding a ban on Jewish groups was not anti-Semitic, the Izvestia newspaper reported Friday. No complaints will be filed against the petition's senders. In January 2005 a group of Russian MPs appealed to the state prosecution demanding a ban on all Jewish groups over claims of extremism. In March 500 well-known public figures joined the MPs, and the petition eventually received 5,000 signatures. However, prosecutors decided that the petition contained no essential elements of offence, Izvestia reports. After publishing the petition the Rus Pravoslavnaya (Orthodox Russia) and Za Russkoye Delo (For the Russian Cause) newspapers received a warning from prosecutors for extremism in March. One observer of the case, ethnographer and anthropologist Valentina Uzunova, told Izvestia that she could see ethnic hatred in the two papers' publication. However, she could not give any details, because the case is not closed yet, Izvestia reports. The Prosecutor's Office has punished the newspaper according to the gravity of the offence, Uzunova said. "A warning is serious enough. It does not mean the Prosecutor's Office has neglected the newspaper's actions. However, only the courts can decide if the newspaper should be shut down," Uzunova was quoted as saying.
    ©Moscow News

    "Counterrevolutionaries" blamed for alleged leaflet campaign advocating ethnic discord.
    By Leila Saralaeva, independent journalist in Bishkek and Elena Skochilo, IWPR contributor in Bishkek.

    25/04/2005- Kyrgyzstan's Russian community has been shaken by an apparent whispering campaign aimed at driving Slavic groups from the republic in the wake of the recent revolution. The Russian embassy in Bishkek confirmed that requests for information on how to emigrate to Russia have risen six-fold following the scare, which was apparently sparked by leaflets advocating the use of violence against non-Kyrgyz. But the republic's interim leaders – who swept to power in the so-called "tulip revolution" on March 24 – have dismissed the rumours as the work of "counterrevolutionaries" and called on Kyrgyzstan's people to remain united. Ishengul Boljurova, the first deputy prime minister for social issues, placed the blame on deposed president Askar Akaev's circle. "They cannot accept that they are no longer in power, and are destabilising the situation in any way they can," she said. "One of Akaev's slogans was ‘Kyrgyzstan is our common home', yet now they are attacking this principle." On April 18, the Russian embassy addressed the republic's half-million strong ethnic Russian population with a statement warning that certain elements were trying to "hinder the normalisation of the [post-revolution] situation" by inciting ethnic conflict. Russian ambassador Yevgeny Shamgin said, "We are firmly convinced that the friendly people of Kyrgyzstan will emerge from these temporary difficulties with dignity." Rumours of the existence of leaflets advocating ethnic conflict and the seizure of property belonging to non-Kyrgyz first surfaced on April 12, and were exacerbated by a television report on squatters living in the village of Maevka. The following day, rumours began to spread that the Maevka squatters were threatening their non-Kyrgyz landlords with violence unless they abandoned their properties. The situation was exacerbated by stories that leaflets advocating "taking apartments away from the Russians" had been scattered outside Bishkek estate agencies, the national university, schools and in a number of villages including Maevka, Alamedin-1 and Chonaryk. Bishkek housewife Yulia Kochergina was among those unnerved by these stories. "My husband and I were not intending to leave, but the rumours about the squatters have really scared us," she said. "We haven't seen the leaflets, but when we heard about them my blood pressure went up. My husband says that if anyone tries to get into our house, he will burn it down. He has even brought a petrol canister home." However, not one leaflet has yet been confiscated by the authorities. Bishkek police department chief Omurbek Suvanaliev told IWPR, "These leaflets are like ghosts in an old castle - everyone is scared of them, but no one has seen them."

    In spite of the lack of solid evidence for any threat, ethnic Russians are still on edge. On the morning of April 14, over 400 people had put their names down for a consultation at Bishkek's Russian embassy. In an attempt to defuse the mounting tension, acting Kyrgyz foreign minister Roza Otunbaeva called a meeting with the ambassadors from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus later that day to reassure them that the situation was being dealt with seriously. Belarus ambassador Aleksandr Kozyr said, "It is worrying that such leaflets have appeared, and that they have led to mass queues outside the embassies of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Undoubtedly, such disorder has been provoked by destructive elements." Otunbaeva told IWPR that the counter-revolutionary forces believed to be behind the campaign were simply out for revenge. These forces "have businesses and financial interests here, and they are in all the power structures", she said. She added that the loss of the "Russian-speaking population" – a term which includes Slavic Russians, Ukrainians, Belarussians and other groups - would be a severe blow for Kyrgyzstan, and must be avoided at all costs. "Losing engineers, businessmen and highly-qualified specialists in all areas would have a negative effect on the country's economy," she said.

    At a parliamentary meeting the following day, Kyrgyzstan's acting president Kurmanbek Bakiev called on Russians and other Slavs to ignore the alleged provocations, blaming the rumours on counter-revolutionaries bent on setting sections of the population against one another. "The law-enforcement bodies are investigating these cases, and I would like to stress that anyone who inflames the situation, regardless of their political status or rank, will face criminal and civil-law charges," Bakiev said. Deputy prime minister Daniyar Usenov told IWPR that the government was doing all it could. "A lot of problems have accumulated in this country over the past 14 years [since independence from the Soviet Union]," he said. "I call on our citizens to be calm, and together we will build a new country." Alevtina Pronenko, the acting minister for labour and social welfare, said that the rumours had spread so far that some ethnic Kyrgyz people had arrived at her offices to ask to be given an apartment when the Russians eventually leave. But she stressed, "The situation is not so serious that people need to flee the country en masse. This is a temporary situation, and the most important thing is to endure it." Tatyana Tsvigel, a teacher at Alamedin-1's School ? 1, told IWPR that it was already too late for some Russians. "Fear for the future and for their children will make the Russian-speaking population leave Kyrgyzstan," she said. "We teachers will be forced to wait until June when the holidays begin, but even now two or three children from every class, most of them Russians, are leaving the school – and Kyrgyzstan."
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    26/04/2005- The research was conducted by Tadas Leoncikas, Junior Researcher at the Department of Ethnic Studies of the Institute for Social Research and Expert at the Human Rights Monitoring Institute.

    • Special thanks to Vida Beresneviciute, Zilvinas Miseikis, Svetlana Novopolskaja and Rasa Paliukiene for their assistance in collecting data for this overview.

    In Lithuania the Roma issue has been drawing public attention for a few years. However, until today a number of deep-seated problems have contrasted policy makers' poor understanding of how to solve them.

    As identified in the government-initiated 2000-2004 Roma Integration Programme, the principal problems faced by the Roma still persist in the sectors of labour, housing, education, healthcare and public services. The Roma themselves as well as the experts and officials dealing with Roma problems do realise in one or another way these issues. However, the causes of these problems are not regularly analysed or superficial popular opinions are provided to explain them. Although the 2001 Population Census registered 2,500 Roma in Lithuania, it is believed that the actual number is probably closer to 3,000. Even though they constitute a relatively small group of residents, the government should be capable in terms of both finances and administration to develop policies that would help achieve essential changes in Roma life. Marginalisation in the labour market, educational system and public services sphere makes it difficult for the Roma to overcome this exclusion on their own. About every other (46 percent) Lithuanian Rom is younger than 20 years of age, while this age group constitutes 27 percent nationwide. Therefore, education and employment are crucially important for the development of the Roma community.

    Education continues to pose the most serious problems for the Roma Community. In recent years, the percentage of Roma children enrolled in school increased compared to previous years. However there are very few Roma with a diploma and a high rate of illiteracy prevails. A number of Roma children attend specialised instead of general education schools in provincial areas. Elderly Roma speak Lithuanian much more frequently than the younger generation in comparison to other ethnic minorities whose young people speak Lithuanian better than the older generation. This reflects a "regressive tendency" showing the extending exclusion of the Roma.

    Roma involvement in the labour market is one of the most painful issues since only poor results have been attained in this field. Although the development of a mechanism for Roma integration into the labour market is underway in the framework of a project supported by the EQUAL programme, this project will not replace the necessity to formulate policy on Roma integration in the labour market. The vast majority of Roma either have very few possibilities or none at all to improve their living conditions. The quality of housing in the Kirtimai settlement is especially poor, and the prospects of this compound are unclear. Social housing is not necessarily a suitable alternative as it increases living costs and the Roma question whether they can afford it. The provision of primary health care services, especially in the Kirtimai settlement, is very important for the Roma because of health risk factors, including easily available drugs. Certain gaps were bridged by mobile medical services (visits of medical doctors and nurses to the Kirtimai settlement), which experts rated as effective assistance. However these services are not guaranteed.

    The analysis of collected data contradicts the opinion pointing to Roma self-isolation and reluctance to integrate (it is sometimes claimed that perhaps social exclusion does not exist except for the alienation of the Roma themselves). Even though Roma have not expressed any attitudes of alienation, success stories of effective Roma involvement in various initiatives are practically non-existent. Notwithstanding, it should be noted that gaining Roma trust is not so much the task of the Roma but the challenge to all who are willing to change the current situation. The input of non-governmental organisations in seeking forms of activities for the Roma is also vital. Over the last ten years, a number of cultural and educational projects have been implemented. However, the majority of projects were short-term and had limited impact, failing to achieve systemic changes. On the other hand, this generated a network of experts on issues related to Roma integration. No marked changes have been achieved in developing the Roma capacity to participate in integration efforts. Although around 20 Roma organisations have been founded over the past 15 years, most of them are no longer active. Only four NGOs were able to take advantage of an opportunity to participate in a programme allowing tax payers to donate two percent of their income tax for the non-profit sector.

    At the moment, there is a growing need for both the detailed identification of Roma-specific problems in individual fields and for a critical revision of Roma integration policy. The shortcomings of institutional coordination in the implementation of the 2000-2004 Roma Integration Programme posed the main administrative problems. This resulted in incoherent integration efforts in separate regions, no review of the experiences gained in the programme implementation, an absence of an impact assessment and a failure both to set priorities and to ensure the continuity of programme activities. Programme implementation revealed that the Department of Minorities and Emigration lacked the administrative capacity and political importance to ensure the coordination of Roma integration. Roma integration policy could become more effective if greater attention was paid to it on the governmental level. The current situation calls for the drafting of a national strategy for Roma involvement in both the education system and the labour market, setting priority fields of social assistance, development of community-oriented target projects and support for non-governmental organisations.
    This project is supported by the Royal Netherlands Embassy
    Source: Human Rights Monitoring Institute

    25/04/2005 - A court in Skopje on 22 April acquitted three former senior police officers and a fourth man of charges that they had killed six Pakistanis and one Indian outside Skopje in March 2002, Reuters and Macedonian media reported. The court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove charges that the defendants killed the migrants in a staged shoot-out, so that the Interior Ministry could claim that police killed Al-Qaeda members who were planning to attack western embassies in Skopje. Macedonian press reports suggested that the acquittal was due to poorly prepared charges, inconclusive testimony by prosecution witnesses, and good work by the defense attorneys. UB

    ...WITH POSSIBLE POLITICAL REPERCUSSIONS. Representatives of the conservative opposition parties, which had supported the defendants as "defenders of Macedonia," hailed the 22 April verdict as a victory for an independent judiciary, Macedonian media reported. Prosecutors nonetheless announced that they will challenge the verdict, "Dnevnik" reported. It is not clear whether the verdict will affect the trial against former Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski. In February, Croatian prosecutors charged Boskovski with murder in connection with the killing of the migrants (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 March 2002, 10 and 11 May 2004, and 28 February and 24 March 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 May 2004 and 26 March 2005). Croatia has since handed over Boskovski to the Hague-based international war crimes tribunal after the tribunal indicted him in connection with a police operation in 2001, in which 10 ethnic Albanian civilians were killed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 April 2005). UB

    26/04/2005 - Universitatea Craiova's defender Mariko Daouda from Ivory Coast said he considers to quit the Romanian premier division club after he has been racially abused. 23 year old Daouda told Reuters "I'm disgusted with Romania," after bottom club Craiova drew 1-1 at CFR Cluj. "In Romania you are considered good or bad judging by the colour of your skin but not for what you manage to do on the pitch," Daouda said. "Supporters are insulting me during the games and my wife on the street." Only last week Craiova mayor Antonie Solomon was blaming the black and Roma players of FC Universitatea Craiova's for being responsible for the club's situation. In interview with Realitatae TV he said: "With all those players recruited over the internet and all these crows - which if I put them in the zoo and showed them to kids saying look at the monkeys they wouldn't see any difference." In Romania crows is used as a derogatory term for Roma and black players. As reported, racist incidences have increased in Romanian football over the past months. Steaua Bucharest's stadium speaker was fined for making racist comments during the derby against Rapid Bucharest earlier this month.
    ©Football Against Racism in Europe

    25/4/2005- Romanian journalists from Covasna published a letter of protest disapproving with Janos Demeter, president of the Covasna County Council, who had organized the day before an exclusive press conference for the Hungarian-speaking media. In the protest, representatives of the local Romanian-speaking press, several newspaper reporters, radio anchormen and journalists from the national press agencies objected to "the lack of impartiality" that Demeter displayed. They also stressed that the right to the citizens' information is upheld by the constitution, regardless of their ethnicity. The journalists believed that the press conference topic – the restructuring of the development areas and the delimitation of the "Szeklers' Region"- represented a point of interest for all Romanian citizens. Covasna country, together with Harghita county forms the so-called Szeklers' Region in central Romania where the majority of the population is of Hungarian origin.
    Source: Divers Bulletin

    26/4/2005- The European Union will put protecting human rights at the heart of its fight against terrorism, the EU's top justice official pledged on Tuesday as watchdogs highlighted abuses inside the 25-nation bloc. The United Nations this month created the post of a special investigator to probe whether anti-terrorism measures introduced around the world after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States violate basic human rights. EU Justice, Freedom and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini said he would ensure that future proposals to strengthen security would be weighed against the need to protect fundamental freedoms. "We need to make sure that the right to security and the fight against terrorism ... can be reconciled with full protection of the fundamental rights," Frattini told a European Parliament seminar on protecting human rights in the EU. Human rights watchdog Amnesty International welcomed the pledge but listed what it called civil liberty breaches caused by the introduction of emergency anti-terror laws in several member states. "At the European Union there has been a marked failure to seriously address the human rights impact of its anti-terror measures," Dick Oosting, director of Amnesty's EU office told the seminar. "Emergency legislation in member states has led to incommunicado detention in Spain, and indefinite detention without trial and the use in court of secret intelligence evidence, potentially extracted through torture, in the United Kingdom," he said. Oosting said some EU states had handed over suspects to countries outside the bloc where they could face torture. "Deportation and extradition of people suspected of terrorism show a worrying tendency to reduce safeguards in the interest of swift procedures," he said. Oosting also criticized statements by senior officials such as EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gijs de Vries that young European Muslims could be involved in terrorism, saying they hampered efforts to combat racism. "The trend to equate terrorism with Islam undermines the EU's commitment to fight racism and xenophobia," Oosting said.

    28/4/2005- MEPs have tried to raise awareness about the plight of Europe's 12-15 million Roma with a resolution calling on member states to do more to help this ethnic minority. The resolution notes that Roma in Europe "are suffering racial discrimination and in many cases are subject to severe structural discrimination, poverty and social exclusion". It also highlights the every-day difficulties faced by Roma such as racist attacks, hate speech, unlawful evictions and police harassment.

    Sterilisation of women
    Other practices include the sterilisation of Roma women without their consent and segregated education for Roma children. Hungarian Liberal MEP Viktoria Mohacsi, one of only two Roma deputies in the Brussels assembly, said the adoption of the resolution is a "very important" step. "I am particularly concerned about the fact that Romani children are declared mentally disabled and segregated into separate schools", said Mrs Mohacsi. "In my experience, generally 60% of children who are declared mentally disabled in the European Union happen to be Roma". The non-binding resolution calls on the EU and member states to recognise the Roma as a European minority - currently countries such as Greece, Denmark and Italy do not - and says future member states such as Croatia and Turkey should do so as well. It also says that the atrocities committed against the Roma by the Nazis should be formally recognised and asks for the removal of the pig farm situated at the site of a former concentration camp to be removed. Livia Jaroka, also Roma, and a centre-right MEP from Hungary, said "Roma remain to date the subject of powerful exclusionary forces. "Actions to combat these phenomena are still fledging", said Mrs Jaroka, the initiator of the resolution. Roma are thought to be Europe's largest minority having made their way to this Continent from India around 1,000 years ago.

    However, precise demographic figures are not available "due in large part to the stigma associated with the Romani identity ... and the refusal of many governments to include Roma as a legitimate category for census purposes" says a European Commission report on Roma. Roma also continue to live in abject poverty in several of the new member states including in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. A UN committee ruled recently that policies in Slovakia kept Roma in sub-standard slum-like housing. But "old" member states do not fare much better. The European Roma Rights Centre website notes that there have been a "number of recent violent and abusive actions committed against Roma by public authorities and others in Greece, Italy ... Spain and Sweden".

    22/4/2005- The UN's Human Rights Commission has ended its annual meeting in Geneva facing unprecedented calls for reform. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the body's declining credibility was undermining the UN as a whole. Human rights commissioner Louise Arbour described the commission as selective and unfair, saying it was failing to monitor human rights abuses. Critics say the commission is arbitrary in its assessment of human rights records of individual countries.

    Mr Annan has called for a new structure involving only countries that have a proven record of upholding human rights. "We have reached a point at which the commission's declining credibility has cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole, and where piecemeal reforms will not be enough," Mr Annan told the commission. He is proposing a smaller council whose members already have a proven record of upholding human rights. Small countries with poor human rights records, such as Belarus, Burma, Cuba and North Korea, were criticised by the commission while nations like China, Zimbabwe and Russia were left out. "There is something fundamentally wrong with a system in which the question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world is answered by reference to just four states," said Louise Arbour. On Sudan, the commission passed a resolution condemning human rights abuses in Darfur but failed to censure the Sudanese government, which is a member of the commission. Nations criticised by the commission do not face penalties but most governments are keen to avoid being named and shamed. Critics say the commission cannot function when its 53 member states, among them China, Cuba, Sudan and Zimbabwe, are in charge of judging themselves. Joanna Weschler, of Human Rights Watch said: "This session has been a powerful demonstration of the need to scrap the commission and replace it with something better." Amnesty International's Peter Splinter criticised the commission's "selectivity and double standards". During the six-week session, which ended on Friday, the commission appointed an investigator into counter-terrorism measures and human rights abuses but rejected a proposal to look specifically at Guantanamo Bay. The fate of the commission will be decided when the UN's 191 member states meet at the General Assembly in New York to discuss reform of the organisation.

  • Previous BBC article: 14/3/2005-Human rights body under scrutiny
    ©BBC News

    Switzerland says the United Nations' top human-rights body, which closed its annual meeting on Friday, has restored some of its credibility but still needs reform. Officials warned that progress on Nepal, counter-terrorism and Darfur masked deeper problems within the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) – a view endorsed by Human Rights Watch.

    22/4/2005- "We think it has been a rather good year for the commission, but it is still not enough," said Jean-Daniel Vigny, minister for human rights at the Swiss Mission to the UN in Geneva. "Even if we did do better than two years ago or last year, it's far from being a great success." He told swissinfo that more countries in addition to Belarus, Myanmar, Cuba and North Korea should have been "named and shamed" for human-rights violations. China, Russia and Zimbabwe all escaped censure. The 61st annual session in Geneva was conducted against a backdrop of calls, notably from non-governmental organisations, for reform or even abolition of the commission. Earlier this month UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that he was taking up a Swiss proposal to create a new, permanent human-rights council that would address violations as they arose. He criticised the inability of the commission – which meets only once a year – to prevent human-rights abuses, citing Sudan's Darfur region as a case in point. "I think it is unlikely that the next commission will be identical in format, composition and structure to this one," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour. Vigny said the Swiss were in favour of a standing human-rights council that would meet every two or three months and respond to situations quickly. Switzerland announced on Friday that it is due to host a meeting of 60 nations in Lausanne early next month to discuss the reform plans.

    Reform imminent
    Vigny said the background of imminent reform of the commission had served to focus the minds of delegates. "It made the atmosphere less politicised and less confrontational than last year and more favourable to discussing big issues more objectively," he said. The Swiss were engaged on a number of these "big issues", achieving several notable successes, according to Vigny. Swiss-led negotiations with Nepal led to an agreement that will see UN human-rights observers stationed in the Himalayan kingdom. On Wednesday the UNCHR accepted a Swiss resolution calling on Nepal to restore multi-party democracy and reinstate all civil and political rights, which were suspended after a state of emergency was declared on February 1. Switzerland was also active behind the scenes in pushing for the appointment of special rapporteurs on counter-terrorism and the rights of minorities – two of its focal points during the session. Vigny added that Switzerland had co-sponsored a resolution condemning human-rights abuses in Darfur, as well as one aimed at ensuring the re-establishment of justice in post-conflict countries.

    Active role
    Loubna Freih, Geneva director of Human Rights Watch, said Switzerland could be proud of its role during the session but added that opportunities had still been missed. "There are a very large number of countries that commit human-rights abuses on a daily basis that were not even addressed by the commission, such as China, Iran, Turkmenistan, Zimbabwe, and the situation in Chechnya," she told swissinfo. "The terrible situation in Darfur was treated in a lukewarm manner, which led to a compromise decision. Overall, we feel that it [the commission] showed that it cannot effectively address violations of human rights by countries around the world." Freih agreed that it was time to set up a permanent human-rights body wielding greater authority. "If the international community is serious about human rights, it needs to put in place a better and more effective body with improved membership and not some of the world's violators sitting on it," she said. But Human Rights Watch said it was encouraged by the decision to establish a special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism. Freih said many countries had been quick to introduce counter-terrorism instruments in the wake of September 11 and that there had been very little monitoring by the international community. "We have seen a lot abuses and we think this is the single most important step the commission has taken this year," she said.

    11/4/2005- Whenever Balkan politicians discuss Kosovo's future status they warn of a "domino effect". One area frequently mentioned as vulnerable and a possible flashpoint of new violence is Serbia's Sandzak, an ethnically-mixed Muslim-Slav (Bosniak) majority region sandwiched between Montenegro, Kosovo and Bosnia. Its economy is underdeveloped and far poorer than many other regions in Serbia, partly because it was an Ottoman backwater until 1912, partly due to deliberate neglect by Serbian authorities between the world wars and under Milosevic. Belgrade should act against discrimination and otherwise show both Serbs and Bosniaks it is sensitive to their concerns in order to keep the region peaceful, as it presently is, but Sandzak's problems are mostly the same as those of the rest of Serbia and require national solutions. Under the Milosevic regime, official state terror against the Bosniaks included ethnic cleansing of entire villages, kidnappings, murders, arbitrary arrests, beatings and dismissal from jobs. These actions increased tensions in Sandzak, and the successor Serbian governments have addressed them either half-heartedly or not at all. Given the recent history of Serbian behaviour, many Bosniaks fear for their welfare and existence, and even otherwise minor grievances often take on ethnic overtones. Nevertheless, since Milosevic's ouster some halting and partial steps to integrate the Muslims into the Serbian political mainstream and treat them as equal citizens have been undertaken. Progress is slow -- it may take a generation for the way Serbia views its minorities truly to change -- but it is occurring. While Serbia is learning how to treat its Muslims without discrimination, the Bosniaks must make extra efforts to protect Serb rights in those areas where they form a majority and are acquiring political power.

    The atmosphere in Sandzak is tense but peaceful. There are no indications of armed resistance groups or paramilitary formations among the Bosniaks, nor do there appear to be any fringe political elements capable or desirous of mobilising popular opinion to their cause. There does not appear to be a desire for interethnic conflict among the leading Bosniak political parties. The overwhelming majority of Bosniaks do not seek independence from Serbia, nor do they wish to join Bosnia & Herzegovina. Provided the Serbian government in Belgrade uses wisdom and good judgement in dealing with the region's problems and reins in nationalist forces that could foment trouble, the potential for ethnically-based violence or conflict is relatively small, and there should be no reason for it to increase, even in the event Kosovo becomes independent. Yet, in many ways the current government is deaf to the region's problems and continues to discriminate in both overt and subtle fashion against the majority Bosniak population. A number of forces on both sides still attempt to destabilise Sandzak through their actions. These include extremist elements within the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Wahhabi movement, the police, state security (BIA) and army security, and nationalist forces associated with the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and the Bosniak Party for Democratic Action (SDA). All seem to have a vested interest in keeping ethnic tensions at a high level. The Orthodox Church has launched an aggressive campaign aimed at reasserting Serbian presence in the region. Simultaneously the Bosniaks are asserting their sense of national identity: Islam and linguistic issues play a prominent part in this renaissance. The Bosniak National Council is taking actions which could create ethnic apartheid and alienate Serbs. Also on the Bosniak side, there are some small yet potentially troubling radical Wahhabi elements, and indications that some Bosniaks are beginning to discriminate against the Serb minority. Sandzak suffers from significant economic decline and ongoing loss of population. It also has all the problems endemic to Serbia as a whole: organised crime, corruption, dysfunctional state structures, and official incompetence. Some of these could be resolved if Serbia would act to end discrimination and make its minorities feel that they have a place in the country. Many others will be resolved only when Belgrade decides to take decisive action to reform the judiciary, police and economy on the national level and to decentralise. But Sandzak can and should remain peaceful provided both Serbs and Bosniaks keep a grip on their nationalist elements and make a good faith effort to find common ground.

    Recommendations To the Government of Serbia:
    1. Attack discrimination against Bosniaks on all levels, by amending laws as well as by careful review of employment practices in public institutions and enterprises, and by providing equality of access to government services.
    2. Enforce the rule of law, first and foremost by creating a secure environment in Priboj municipality that will permit refugees to return to their homes, including by bringing to justice individuals guilty of murder, arson and ethnic cleansing during the violence of the 1990s, and by taking appropriate actions against police officers charged with criminal activities, including brutality and murder.
    3. Rein in Serbian nationalist forces that could stir up trouble in the region, whether they are associated with political parties, the Serbian Orthodox Church, or state security services.

    To Sandzak's Bosniak Community:
    4. Reduce tensions in the region by re-examining the insistence on teaching "Bosnian language" in the public school system and otherwise exercising care not to take actions that could make the Serb residents of Sandzak feel they are a threatened minority in their own country.

    To Sandzak's Religious Leaders:
    5. The Islamic Community and the Serbian Orthodox Church should discourage hate speech by clerics and engage in increased dialogue with each other to reduce tensions among their adherents.
    Belgrade/Brussels, 8 April 2005
    ©International Crisis Group

    THE POLITICS OF POISON(uk, comment)
    The overhyped ricin case has played straight into the hands of Howard and his asylum scaremongering
    By Polly Toynbee

    15/4/2005- The most explosive issue in this campaign burst out again yesterday with the collapse of the ricin trial. "Asylum and immigration" are the public words that tell of unspoken passions on race, Britishness, Islam and other things winked and nudged at in "Are you think what we're thinking?" The trial of police murderer and ricin plotter Kamel Bourgass ended in chaos as eight other Algerians were set free with no terrorist conspiracy found. After wild claims of a massive terror plot, finding out that Bourgass was a murderous but inept loner, whose ricin recipes were never tried, embarrassingly echoed the failure to find WMD in Iraq. But the Conservatives were more interested in the asylum implications. With triumphant glee the Mail splashed: "Murdered because we've lost control of our borders". Eight of the nine men were illegal immigrants and Michael Howard was quick in his press conference yesterday to claim that 250,000 people refused asylum have never been deported. The politics of this are poisonous: no government can survive long if voters feel their borders really are "out of control". Any uncertainty over who belongs, who pays taxes and on whom those taxes are spent threatens social democratic ideals. Paying collectively for public services, contributing to universal social security and redistributing from rich to poor depends on general agreement on who belongs within that shared community of interest. The alternative "open-door" model is an American society where the only "liberal" cause George Bush has espoused was letting in large numbers of Hispanics because it keeps wages low and fits a Wild West every-man-for-himself and devil-take-the-hindmost free society of rugged individualism where no one expects anything from a minimal state.

    On the doorsteps, the Conservatives are making headway on immigration. Whatever the polls say - and people lie on this to polite pollsters - Labour campaigners find it everywhere. Howard's posters, speeches and tactics may be despicable but they work, however preposterously impossible his party's policies. Here's a reminder: they will create a new British Border Control Police to keep 24-hour surveillance on 35 ports and airports. (There are 650 ports.) Yet they will halve the immigration service budget. Anyone seeking asylum would be processed in some other country - but no such fantasy island has been found yet. The UNHCR sternly rebuked them a few days ago but the Tories say they will pull out of the Geneva convention anyway. They will fix a quota for refugees; once the quota is full, every asylum seeker is turned away. No Conservative campaign since the war has used asylum and immigration like this. But it works. At one cabinet minister's adoption meeting last weekend, even some Labour party stalwarts stood up to say the Tories had the best policy on asylum. "Keep them out" has always been a good rallying cry. So how should Labour best respond? Howard hoped Labour would denounce him as a racist and make him a martyr of political correctness so he could claim to be the only one "telling the truth", turning asylum into the key battleground. But Labour hasn't fallen into that trap. However, Labour's record has been abysmal in recent years - incompetent in administering the system, and when it flared up, inflaming the alarm. When cool words were needed to calm unreasonable fears, David Blunkett used the petrol of inflammatory language. His gesture policies pushed through more brutal rules and fell foul of human rights laws, just like Howard before him. Labour colluded with anti-asylum sentiment to such a degree that even when they did get control of the system and numbers fell fast, they kept tightening the screw, which implied "swamping" was in progress. They never turned to challenging public fears and misinformation; appeasing the Mail would always be a losing strategy.

    It is unfair to blame an embattled government alone. Where was civil society when decency was under attack? Where are the churches, the legal and medical professions, the charities and anyone else with trusted authority when a loud voice is needed to say the country is not being "swamped"? When political flak is in the air, all these duck under the parapet, too afraid of losing that trust instead of mounting a defence of asylum. However, Labour's manifesto at last strikes a better note. Setting out the economic and humanitarian case, it boasts of the 180,000 migrants who help fill 600,000 job vacancies, contributing 10-15% to economic growth. "Immigration has been good for Britain. We want to keep it that way. We need skilled workers. We can and should honour our obligations to victims of persecution." Calmly, it lays out reassuring facts: asylum applications have dropped by two-thirds since 2002. The backlog of claims, bequeathed by Howard at 50,000, is now 10,000 and new cases are fast-tracked. Airline liaison officers on the Asian subcontinent and in Africa turned back 30,000 last year. The system that lost track of Bourgass is much changed: all asylum seekers are fingerprinted and will soon be electronically tagged. By the end of this year, more failed asylum seekers will be removed than new ones applying. Charles Clarke's less punitive approach is securing agreements with previously recalcitrant countries to take back their failed asylum seekers. But it will take much louder voices to turn back the tide of fear that Howard and his press are stirring. The statistics pale beside huge pictures in yesterday's Star and Mail of migrants queueing for charity food in Calais. They purported to show that, despite the closure of Sangatte, hundreds of "would-be illegal immigrants continue to find ways of crossing the Channel". Does it matter that they gave no evidence of a single recent case succeeding? UK immigration officers in Calais, Dunkirk and B Undeterred, the government is pressing on with making better settlement arrangements for newly accepted refugees. It should ease resentment in some of the poorest communities too often forced to cope alone with new arrivals. But more needs to be done. There is no evidence that treating asylum seekers cruelly stops others coming: numbers went up when cash benefits were replaced with meagre vouchers. Innocent would-be migrants or asylum seekers are not criminals, even if they are refused. Letting them work would stop them starving in limbo while they wait. Many applicants never even get basic legal advice. The unpalatable truth is that desperate people who have walked for months across continents, fleeing wars, will still often be turned away under any system. Even if the rules are fair, keeping people out is a cruel business. Keeping hold of justice and humanity gets harder in the face of this panic-mongering from the right. At least Enoch Powell was ejected from his party, as opposed to leading it.
    ©The Guardian

    19/4/2005- Britain could face a spate of new race riots if immigration gets "out of control" and the public do not have confidence in the "system", Michael Howard suggested last night. In a claim that threatens to raise the temperature in the immigration debate, Mr Howard warned that the country had to "be vigilant if we are to make sure we continue to have good community relations". The Tory leader's remarks came after he was accused by a member of the public of pandering to racism by making immigration a key election issue. A member of the audience on ITV's Ask the Leaders said last night: "You don't realise what it is like for me. You are pandering to xenophobia and hatred in our country." But in an angry exchange Mr Howard accused the man Dean Velani, 18, an Asian member of Labour Students, of trying to "abuse" and "insult" him. "It does not take the debate much further to pin labels on me or abuse or insult me in the way in which you have just done," the Conservative leader replied. "What I say ... is if you disagree then tell us what you would do to deal with the problem." Mr Howard's appearance came amid reports of unhappiness among senior Tories about the way his campaign has focused on asylum and immigration. The Tory leader was challenged over his focus on immigration by the presenter Jonathan Dimbleby. "Are you fearful that if there are more newcomers than is desirable there will be more Burnleys, more Oldhams?" Mr Dimbleby asked. Mr Howard replied: "I think that when people believe that there is no proper system, that immigration is out of control, I think that these anxieties ... make it more difficult to have good community relations." He said the country had to "be vigilant if we are to make sure we continue to have good community relations". He refused to disassociate himself from an election advertisement issued by Bob Spink, a Tory candidate in Castlepoint, which said "What bit of 'send them back' don't you understand Mr Blair?". Mr Howard said it referred to failed asylum seekers living illegally in Britain. The Tory leader also rejected claims that highlighting asylum was making life worse for ethnic minorities living in Britain. Mr Howard was forced to fend off accusations that he was playing on a "primeval" fear about immigration. Roger Chandra, who said he was a disillusioned Conservative voter, said the Tories were deliberately combining the issues of immigration, asylum seekers and terrorism. "You mix those up, you are playing on the fear of people," he said. Mr Howard said: "controlled immigration is the key to ensuring Britain's security, managing public services and guaranteeing good community relations." He was on the defensive over plans to cap the number of people coming to Britain and faced questions over plans to process some asylum seekers offshore.

  • A Liberal Democrat candidate resigned suddenly after it emerged that he had used the website of a radical Muslim group, which has been accused of producing anti-Semitic leaflets, to promote his campaign. Ajmal Masroor, who was a candidate in West Ham, east London, appealed on the website of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee for volunteers to help his campaign.
    © Independent Digital

    17/4/2005- Michael Howard's bid to exploit the murder of a policeman by an illegal immigrant backfired spectacularly yesterday as the police warned that the officer's widow did not want the tragedy turned into a 'political football'. Failed asylum seeker Kamel Bourgass was jailed for 22 years for stabbing to death Detective Constable Stephen Oake during a police raid on a flat in Manchester. The Tories have blamed the government for his death, arguing that if proper immigration controls had been in place Bourgass would have been deported before encountering Oake. But in a setback that reflects growing questions about the success of Howard's highly populist campaign and with opinion polls showing a decline in Tory support, colleagues in the Police Federation hit back this weekend. They warned that the Special Branch officer's widow, Lesley, did not want Oake's memory turned into a political battleground. Sergeant Paul Kelly, chairman of the federation's Greater Manchester branch, which has a close relationship with Oake's family, said: 'I am not jumping on the bandwagon of blaming the government because Bourgass was an overstayer. 'By far the vast majority of people overstaying in this country are just people seeking either economic refuge or [escaping] less nice living places - they're not there to damage society. Bourgass was responsible for Stephen's death, nobody else.' Lesley Oake, a Christian who has said she forgives his killer, was a 'fantastic lady,' he added. 'She doesn't want Stephen's death turned into a political football.' The police intervention marks a crucial turning point, capping a week in which Howard was also forced to admit giving inaccurate figures for cases of the hospital-acquired infection MRSA in election leaflets. Both immigration and the superbug have until now proved popular causes for him, but doubts began to emerge about the strategy yesterday as the former Tory minister Edwina Currie admitted she had felt uneasy about the use of the Bourgass case. An ICM poll in today's Sunday Telegraph, putting Labour 10 points ahead of the Tories, will do little to calm nerves.

    Kelly said the key issue for the policing union arising from Oake's death was not immigration but the law on handcuffing, over which it has long lobbied the Home Office without success. Bourgass was not handcuffed, having appeared docile, but he subsequently grabbed a knife - killing Oake and wounding three officers. The federation wants a change in the law to give officers the automatic right to handcuff anyone they detain until it is determined they are not dangerous. They must now justify the decision to handcuff arrested people. Kelly said fear of being sued deterred many officers. Jan Berry, the federation's national chair, declined to comment on the Tories' handling of the affair but said it 'was unfortunate' that the case had concluded last week, in the middle of the campaign: 'These are very serious matters and not ones which people can make political points about.' Handcuffing had been a key factor in the tragedy, she said. Tony Blair is now planning a major campaign speech on immigration, clarifying what he sees as the values underpinning the system. Yesterday he admitted during a press conference that there were 'real concerns' about immigration but claimed Tory policy did not stack up. Howard was still not identifying the offshore location at which asylum seekers would supposedly be processed, he said: 'Where is this country that's going to process all Britain's asylum seekers and apparently do it without any visible costs?' The issue has been reignited by reports in a Sunday newspaper that the Home Office has secretly calculated there are 500,000 illegal immigrants in Britain. The research was ordered by the Prime Minister more than a year ago, according to a Whitehall memo. Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes accused the Tories of 'pandering to racism' on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions? on Friday night, adding it was 'even more despicable' given Howard's family history as Jewish immigrants. A furious fellow panellist, David Cameron, the Tory frontbencher, accused him of trying to 'drown out free speech'. Yesterday Howard apologised for mistakes in some local leaflets over MRSA, blaming a printing mistake. Voters in Harrogate and Knaresborough in North Yorkshire were told their local hospital had 247 cases in a year - the figure for the entire area's hospitals - when it had actually had six, prompting complaints from the body representing hospital trusts. Howard added that Blair might be angry about the error over MRSA, but said: 'I'm angry about the 5,000 people who die every year from hospital-acquired infections'.
    ©The Observer

    20/4/2005- Can a five-minute online test tell whether you are racist or not? In the US, two million people have taken one and now a UK version is available. Racism is a reality encountered every day in Britain, but how many people actually consider themselves racist? It's difficult to be sure because people's true feelings are inevitably concealed by their politeness. So much so that those who harbour prejudice sometimes cannot admit it even to themselves. But a five-minute online test (link at bottom of page), devised by American academics and newly launched in Britain, promises to strip away the veneer of respectability many people hold on to, and plunder the prejudices we harbour in the unconscious. The result - a truer picture of one's attitudes.

    At least, that's the claim of those who drew up the Implicit Association Test. It works like this:

  • Users match positive and negative words, such as "failure", "glorious", "wonderful" and "nasty" with black faces and white faces.
  • By responding to the prompts as quickly as possible, the test aims to side-step what's known as "cognitive control" - the brief, but significant, time lapse we need to give an "acceptable" answer rather than a truly honest one.
  • Depending on the magnitude of the result, respondents are judged to have either "little or no bias" or a bias rated as "slight", "moderate" or "strong".

    The model can be applied far wider than race, detecting innate preferences for straight people over gay, thin over fat, even Harry Potter over Lord of the Rings. But in the US its application as a test for racism has proved most controversial. Now the academics behind it have tailored a version for the UK, which juxtaposes good and bad words with white British names and Asian British names. The test is being is used to promote the London stage debut of A Patch of Blue, a classic American film of the 1960s about a blind white woman who falls in love with a black man. About 25,000 people in the UK have completed the test, since it launched here six months ago. Like Professor Brian Nosek, many have found it suggests uncomfortable truths about themselves. "I did the race test, and despite my egalitarian views and belief that I treated everybody equally, I had a much harder time putting the black faces with good than putting the white faces with good," says Prof Nosek, of the University of Virginia. "That fact was so stunning that I began to wonder if I was lying to myself, was I lying to others? It was a humbling experience, and motivated me to assess my own attitudes." With fellow psychologists Tony Greenwald from the University of Washington and Mahzarin Banaji at Harvard University, he developed the tests and put them online in 1998. Since then some two million people have taken them. "People have engaged with it, whether they agree with it or not. It's starting conversation about the implications of their beliefs," says Prof Nosek. "We're giving people a sense that there may be a bias and giving them the chance to debate it." "It certainly gave me pause to think about why I have reactions to people, the cause of which was not immediately obvious."

    Warning to participants
    The UK site is one of five international sites, with South Africa, Australia, Canada and India. The Project Implicit website warns participants before they begin that they might not agree with the outcome: "If you are unprepared to encounter interpretations that you might find objectionable, please do not proceed further." Katy - not her real name - who is 23 and lives in London, says it provoked some difficult questions. "I never classified myself as having any racist feelings. I've always though I was liberal and open-minded. But the test told me I had a moderate bias in favour of white Britons," she says. "At first I thought it was wrong, but then I began to think it could be telling me something about myself I don't want to admit to. It's quite depressing." But not everyone is convinced. Some critics argue it has more to do with hand-eye co-ordination and manual dexterity than unearthing deep-seated prejudices. Clinical psychologist Nick Banks says psychometric tests - tests that measure personality - need a validity stamp to show they have been tested. "I don't see it on this test and I suspect they're trialling it on the internet to get the verification."

    Death threats
    He calls the test "crude" for dividing opinions into "good" and "bad". "It's called dichotomous thinking. Most things in life are more complicated. Good tests allow you to grade your response on a scale of one to five or more," says Dr Banks. "It depends what this test is for. If it's there to provoke debate about racism, that's ok. But if it's going to be used in a selection process for a job, then it's too blunt." Others have taken greater offence, says Prof Nosek, with some going so far as to send death threats to him and his colleagues. "But that scepticism is also important. Science needs to be put to the test, and not just by people, but by scientists as well," he says. He said there are about 200 virtual labs around the world who are using similar online tools for studying. "We see this research as becoming part of a general way that psychologists try to find out what is really in people's minds."
    ©BBC News

    20/4/2005- An election meeting in which a Labour veteran was to share a platform with a British National Party candidate descended into farce last night. The meeting in Knowsley Village attracted controversy after it emerged that Labour's George Howarth, who is defending the parliamentary seat of Knowsley North and Sefton East, would be sharing a stage with BNP candidate Michael McDermott. Around 40 demonstrators gathered outside the hall, waving placards with messages such as "No to the BNP: the party of race hate". They were watched over by a small number of police. It was intended there would be speeches from all the prospective candidates at the meeting, followed by a question-and-answer session with voters. In the event, not all the candidates turned up, and the meeting was abandoned after the hall emptied as the BNP candidate stood up to speak. Mr Howarth refused to sit at the same table as Mr McDermott. Instead, he stood a little way away and briefly outlined his policies before he, along with the Socialist Labour Party candidate Steve Whatham, left the building as Mr McDermott was invited to speak. The Liberal Democrat candidate, Flo Clucas - who is also a cabinet member for Liverpool City Council --refused to address the meeting because of the presence of the BNP candidate. She said: "My dad spent two to three years as a prisoner in Poland and there is no way I'm giving credibility or credence to such a party. "I explained to everybody who turned up to the meeting why I wouldn't speak as my conscience just wouldn't let me." The BNP candidate ran a gauntlet of shouting protestors as he entered and left the building. Mr McDermott, who attended the meeting along with a party official, and who left to shouts of "Nazi scum", said: "We are being denied our democratic right to speak."

    There was confusion from the outset as to whether or not the meeting would go ahead. At first, the 20 or so people who attended voted not to allow the BNP candidate to address them as they mistakenly thought the protestors outside the building were his supporters. When they realised the group was in fact demonstrating against his presence, they took another vote to allow him to speak. Merseyside TUC president Alec McFadden, who organised the demonstration outside the hall, said: "The person who comes out of this worse is George Howarth. "The trade union movement still funds the Labour Party in the main and Mr Howarth is sponsored by Amicus, and yet he is prepared to share a platform with the BNP. "This has never been done before and is against both the rules and spirit of the Labour Party. "Trade unionists, and the good local people of Knowsley, have come out as one to prevent a fascist party having a say. We have identified those who will oppose the fascists, and those who will appease them." However, former Home Office minister Mr Howarth - who was also barracked by the protesters - denied he had shared a platform with the BNP. He said: "I took the opportunity to describe the BNP as racist thugs and bullies. "I have spent all my life working against racism, inequality and prejudice. "The residents walked out, and I walked out with them when the chairman asked the BNP to speak. "We have demonstrated that racism can be defeated by democracy. People have voted with their feet, I'm proud that they did so and I was happy to join them. "As for the demonstrators, they have their own agenda and they had very little to do with the people of Knowsley Village." Mr Howarth also denied he had broken any Labour Party rules by taking part in the meeting. The Knowsley Village Community Association, which called last night's meeting, said they were surprised at the amount of protest the meeting had provoked. Secretary Mike Birchall said: "We are an apolitical organisation. The invitation was extended to anyone who was standing in the constituency and we didn't exclude anybody. "I was surprised at the level of demonstration we saw here tonight. "I have received vilification over the past couple of days in the form of intimidating phone calls telling me to cancel the meeting. I wasn't frightened by it, but at the same time it wasn't nice."
    ©IC Network

    14/4/2005- Jobseekers in France start at an advantage if they are white, slim, male, in their 30s and not suffering from any physical disability, a study whose results were broadcast Thursday on French television has found. Six actors were recruited for the experiment conducted by a leading temporary employment agency: a white male of 33, a man with a slight handicap which was not mentioned on his application, a 50-year old male, a West Indian man, an obese male and a North African woman. It involved sending prospective employers an application accompanied by a CV (resume) and a later interview. In all 1,950 CVs plus applications were sent in reply to 325 commercial job offers. More than half (54 percent) of all the positive replies were sent to the young white man (30 percent) and the undeclared handicapped man (24 percent). The West Indian received 21 percent of the positive replies, the obese candidate 10 percent, the woman of North African origin (who was better qualified but came from a poor suburb) nine percent and the man in his 50s six percent. Five of the candidates (but not the obese male) attended a total of 44 interviews, some of which were filmed. The fit young white man was the most successful, with a 92 percent rate of job offers. The woman of North African origin, whose CV had attracted little interest, scored 66 percent as did the West Indian. The handicapped candidate, whose disability only became apparent at the interview, was successful in 46 percent of cases. The 50-year old was offered a job in only 20 percent of cases. "The first lesson of this survey is that it is essential to keep CVs anonymous," Amadieu told AFP.
    ©Expatica News

    15/4/2005- More than 1,000 historians, writers and intellectuals have signed a petition demanding the repeal of a new law requiring school history teachers to stress the "positive aspects" of French colonialism. "In retaining only the positive aspects of colonialism this law imposes an official lie on massacres that at times went as far as genocide on the slave trade, and on the racism that France has inherited," says the petition, which has also been signed by one of France's best-loved humourists, Guy Bedos, and a leading film director, Patrice Chéreau. The law of February 23 2005, as it is known, was intended to recognise the contribution of the "harkis", the 200,000 or so Algerians who fought alongside France's colonial troops in their country's war of independence, from 1954-62, before being abandoned to a dreadful fate when the French withdrew - about 130,000 were executed as traitors. But an unnoticed amendment, apparently tabled by MPs with close ties to France's community of former Algerian settlers, added a new clause to the bill. It reads: "School courses should recognise in particular the positive role of the French presence overseas, notably in north Africa." Opponents are angry in part because, in the words of one eminent historian, Pierre Vidal-Naquet: "It is not up to the state to say how history should be taught." Mr Vidal-Naquet told Liberation: "In Japan, a law defines the contents of history lessons, and textbooks minimise Japan's responsibility in the Sino-Japanese war. If France wants to be like that, it's going the right way about it." Other leading historians said the need for such a law might be understandable in Germany but not in France. "It is imposing an official version of history, in defiance of educational neutrality," said one professor, Gerard Noiriel. "I cannot accept the authorities dictating to teachers the contents of their lessons." But the principal objection to the law is simply that, like most forms of colonialism, the French empire caused great suffering. The anti-racist group MRAP said the law was "an insult to intelligence, a denial of democracy, a rejection of historical reality and a brake on academic freedom". Above all, it showed "contempt for the victims".

    Laws governing how certain periods of history should be taught in French schools have been passed before: a 1990 law outlaws denial of the Holocaust, and a 2001 law dictates that the slave trade be described as a crime against humanity. But those episodes are unambiguous. "The reality of the Holocaust and slave trade is self evident," said Thierry Le Bars, a law professor at Caen University, who has also signed the petition. "It is by no means self evident that France's colonialism was positive. Think of the ignoble legal status of the Muslims in Algeria, of the massacre of up to 5,000 Algerians in Setif in 1945, of all the unfortunates who endured the hell of slavery to assure the prosperity of Caribbean islands." The first of France's two empires began in the early 1600s in what are now Nova Scotia and Quebec. Louisiana had been added by the end of the century, as had Caribbean territories including French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). At the same time France got a foothold in west Africa (Senegal), and in India. Most of that empire was lost by 1815, but a second began in 1830 with the invasion of Algeria. Southern Vietnam and Cambodia followed, then, after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, the rest of French Indochina, Tunisia and Morocco, and almost all of western and central Africa. Mr Noiriel said the law was "all the more dangerous" because of attempts by certain interest groups to "confiscate history for their own ends". He added: "It can only contribute to a feeling of humiliation. It is directly opposed to the policy of integration the government claims to be implementing.
    ©The Guardian

    19/4/2005- A French court has upheld a school's decision to expel three Sikh boys for wearing turbans to school. The tribunal said the boys' continued wearing of an under-turban made them "immediately recognisable as Sikhs". Under a law passed amid protests in March 2004, French students are barred from wearing conspicuous religious symbols at school. The boys' lawyers said they would appeal and if necessary take their case to the European Court of Human Rights. The boys, aged 15 to 18, were expelled from the Louise-Michel school in Bobigny, north-east of Paris, last November.

    No compromise
    The three were separated from the rest of the class at the beginning of the autumn term and taught separately. They appealed against the segregation but in October a French administrative court referred the matter back to the school for further mediation. Shortly afterwards the boys were expelled as they failed to reach a compromise allowing them to wear the Sikh keski, or under-turban. The school's decision was confirmed in December by the education authority in charge. The boys were the first Sikhs to be punished by the new secularity law.

    Controversial One of the boys' lawyers, Felix De Belloy, had argued that as they had no intention of trying to win converts to their faith, the boys posed no threat to the law. The French secularity law, primarily aimed at stemming the growing numbers of Muslim girls wearing headscarves in school, also prohibits the wearing of Christian crucifixes and Jewish skullcaps. The law also outlawed the Sikh turban, although French authorities have admitted they did not consider the Sikh community when the law was being drawn up. Sikh males are required by religion to allow their hair to grow, and most wear a turban - a symbol of Sikh identity, which helps to keep the growth under control. In most French schools Sikhs have reached a compromise that has allowed them to wear the keski, a smaller version of the turban, to control their hair.
    ©BBC News

    Moscow most antisemitic place in Russia
    15/4/2005- The Moscow Human Rights Bureau has released a report on anti-Semitism in Russia in 2004 and the first quarter of 2005. It found that there has been a rise of anti-Semitic activity in Russia. Moscow was described as the most dangerous city for Jews with 27 anti-Semitic attacks in that period. Five similar acts were registered in each of the cities of Volgograd, Voronezh, and Petrozavodsk and in the Kaliningrad region. St. Petersburg and Penza were third on the list with four attacks in each city. The report's authors have included both "heavy" and "light" attacks, the Izvestia newspaper wrote on Friday. The more serious incidents were violent acts and terrorist attacks, the other category included slander, public offences and discrimination. For instance, the report mentioned a grenade explosion on the territory of a synagogue in January 2004 in the North Caucasus city of Derbent, and a bomb explosion in Moscow near the entrance of the Mekor Haim education center in March 2004 that caused no casualties. In March 2004 the president of the World Mountain Jews Congress, Zaur Gilalov, was killed. In Dagestan, two Jews were also killed. In January 2005, two rabbis were beaten up in Moscow. The report also mentions attacks on Jews committed by policemen. In number of anti-Semitic articles in 2005 has already equalled the total number for 2004, the report said. At the end of March 2005, a group of famous Russian cultural figures sent a letter to the Russian Prosecutor General's Office demanding that several Jewish organizations be banned. A similar letter was sent to prosecutors at the end of January. Then, it was also signed by a group of Russian MPs. The authors called the Jewish religion "anti-Christian and inhumane, whose practices extend even to ritual murders". However, the deputies retracted their letter shortly afterwards.

    Police source puts number of skinheads in Kiev at 10,000
    20/4/2005- On March 22, 2005 the Prima-News agency, which focuses on human rights topics in the former Soviet states, reported from Kiev that an Interior Ministry source put the number of skinheads in the Ukrainian capital at around 10,000. According to this police source, Kiev skinheads "attack Jews and foreigners" with a large degree of impunity, since although Kiev police have many of the neo-Nazis' photographs and names on record, few are ever arrested. It is not clear exactly how the number of 10,000 skinheads was arrived at, and it has not been confirmed by other sources. However, recent news reports of a sharp increase in attacks on Jews and other minorities in Kiev and some other cities indicate that the number of skinheads in Ukraine is growing, and that they are becoming more violent. Neo-Nazi leaflets were posted around Kiev and Nikolaev in March 2005 reports the ForUm news agency. The leaflets warn that white people are in danger and recommends several antisemitic and racist web sites. The leaflets in Nikolaev were pasted up the night before a parade to mark the anniversary of the city's liberation from the Nazis, and were in clear sight of many of the war veterans who took part in the parade.

    Antifascist attacked in Voronezh
    20/4/2005- For the second time in a year, anti-fascist activists have been attacked in Voronezh­a hotbed of violent neo-Nazi activity­according to an April 18, 2005 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. On April 16, a group of around 12 youths attacked two members of the Youth Human Rights Movement­Sergey Fedulov and Aleksandr Vyalykh. Mr. Fedulov lost two teeth in the assault, both of the young men suffered numerous cuts and bruises. Last April, Aleksey Kozlov, head of the Youth Human Rights Movement was attacked by skinheads who threw rocks at him, yelling "Run Niggers and Jews!" Mr. Kozlov is a regional monitor for an EC project to monitor xenophobia in Russia (UCSJ, the Moscow Helsinki Group and the Moscow Human Rights Bureau are co-grantees of this project). Three Albanian students at Voronezh's Architecture-Construction University were attacked by skinheads on April 6, according to an April 12, 2005 report posted on NTV's web site. The attack happened in the downtown area. The Albanians were speaking their native language as they walked, which attracted the attention of a group of skinheads. Shouting "Foreigners, go home!" the neo-Nazis beat the Albanians, one so severely that he is still in the hospital in serious condition. Police are investigating the assault as an incident of "hooliganism."

    Skinheads stab Spaniard in Lipetsk
    18/4/2005- Skinheads stabbed a Spanish citizen in Lipetsk recently, according to an April 14, 2005 report in the Yekaterinburg-based newspaper Zhizn'-Yekaterinburg. The article, which contained the disrespectful title "Skinhead Attacked a Macho," reported that a 50 year old Spaniard named Carlos Alberto journeyed to Lipetsk to meet a Russian woman he had corresponded with over the Internet. The couple was walking around the downtown area when they were set upon by a group of skinheads, one of whom stabbed the Spaniard in the neck. Fortunately, his injury was light and his female companion was able to take a picture of the attacker with her cell phone. Police soon afterwards arrested a 17 year old university student in connection with the attack.

    Izhevsk police raid targets Baptists
    18/4/2005- Police in Izhevsk, Russia (Republic of Udmurtiya) raided a Baptist church, making mass arrests and interrogating parishioners about their membership in a "sect," according to an April 15, 2005 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. On the evening of April 14, around 20 police officers, including riot police, burst into the "Matter of Faith" church, smashing the gate and forcing parishioners to put their hands up and line up against the wall. The church was then searched, during which police officers allegedly used offensive language towards the parishioners. The 46 detained Baptists were then taken to the police station, where they were interrogated individually over the course of five hours (four were kept overnight). They were reportedly asked questions about the salary of their pastor and why they didn't go to a "normal church" instead of a "sect." Questions about hidden stashes of drugs and guns allegedly followed. The Baptists were eventually released without charges being filed against them, after fingerprinting and photos. One later got a doctor to attest to injuries he sustained while in police custody. National Baptist leaders have filed a complaint with the prosecutor general's office against "the blatant illegality" of the police action.
    ©FSU Monitor

    20/4/2005- Both government officials and leaders of the Orthodox Church in the Russian city of Voronezh have deployed a new weapon in their campaign to block the rise of Islam -- specially commissioned opinion polls clearly designed to inflame rather than simply measure public opinion. This use of polls is the latest in complicated saga about relations among the government, Muslims, and Orthodox hierarchs in that city. Some time ago, Voronezh Mayor Boris Skrypnnikov met with the Muslim leaders and agreed to the construction of a mosque. Then a few weeks ago, Vyacheslav Agapov, a deputy of the city Duma who is against building a mosque, denounced that decision and provided the press with a copy of the original agreement with the mayor's signature on it. Initially, the mayor acknowledged that he had met with the Muslims. But then the secretary of the Voronezh eparchate of the Russian Orthodox Church said that his organization was opposed to the building of any mosque in Voronezh, and the local media reported that any such mosque would be built with Saudi money and that it would thus spread Wahhabism. After that, the mayor denied that he had ever approved the deal. To measure public attitudes on this question, opponents of the construction of a mosque asked the Voronezh „Qaulitas" Institute of Public Opinion to carry out a specially designed poll.

    That agency asked 1003 adults in Voronezh three questions:

  • First, respondents were asked „how do you feel about reports in the press that a mosque might be built in Voronezh with money from Saudi Arabia?" 54.6 percent said they were against it, 23.7 percent said they were indifferent, and 16.6 percent said they backed the idea.
  • Second, those interviewed were asked, „Do you agree with the view that the construction of a mosque in Voronezh will lead to the activization of extremist tendencies of Islam?" 57.2 percent said yes, while 28.7 percent said no.
  • And third, the pollsters inquired, „how do you feel about the activization of Islam in Voronezh?" 67.3 percent said they were negatively disposed toward that development, 2.6 percent said that they were neutral with regard to it, and 8 percent said they favored the activization of Islam there.

    Not surprisingly, those opposed to the construction of a mosque view these results as confirmation that the residents of Voronezh do not want to see one built. But Muslims clearly view this poll as something else, as an effort to inflame public opinion against them in order to deprive them of their constitutional rights. The agency entitled its report on this poll ‘Sociology in the Service of Islamophobia', and argued that polls of this kind are not so much intended to measure public opinion but rather to „shape it" in ways that the authorities want. And considering the inflammatory way in which the questions were formulated, it is quite clear that this poll will have precisely that effect, not only making it impossible for the growing Muslim community in Voronezh to have their own mosque but also exacerbating relations between Christians and Muslims there and elsewhere as well.

    ©FSU Monitor

    21/4/2005- Europe's top human rights watchdog urged Russia on Wednesday to do more to protect press freedoms, punish soldiers who commit serious crimes in Chechnya, and halt a rise in anti-Semitism and racist attacks. The Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, Alvaro Gil-Robles, has also called on Russia to abolish the death penalty, his annual report on respect for human rights in the Russian Federation to the Committee of Ministers states. He stressed that non-ratification of a 1997 protocol on the abolition of the death penalty within the European Convention on Human Rights is "a serious breach of the undertakings" Russia gave when it joined the Council. The penalty is still stipulated in Russian law, despite a moratorium being introduced in 1996 by former President Boris Yeltsin. Gil-Robles also suggested that the Russian government should devise legislation to deter radical political leaders from venting expressions of xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism. He said there had been a disturbing a rise in Russia of anti-Semitic attacks, homophobia, and discrimination against people from the Caucasus. "Attacks on synagogues, the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and assaults against individuals are examples of the serious criminal acts which are becoming more frequent in numerous regions of the Russian Federation," Reuters quoted the official. In the commissioner's opinion, the terrorist attack on a school in Beslan that led to the deaths of 330 people is "clearly racist in nature". Russian authorities were not responsible for the tragedy, he claims. Only the terrorists and those people who backed should be called to account for such actions. The report also pays particular attention to the administration of justice, police behavior, prison conditions, the respect for human rights within the armed forces, freedom of the press, the rights of national and religious minorities, the enjoyment of social rights, the activity of NGOs and human rights institutions, and the situation of vulnerable groups such as children, women, the elderly and the disabled in the context of the recent social reform. A whole chapter deals with human rights in Chechnya. Gil-Robles said the situation in the republic, where separatist rebels have been fighting Russian troops for six years, had begun to improve over the past year but people continued to disappear there. While criminal groups and Chechen fighters were behind some of the disappearances, Russian forces and the Chechen police also appeared to be implicated, the report said. "Such practices must cease and those responsible, whoever they are, must be arrested and tried," the report said. Russia needs to adopt a law defining regional ombudsmen's powers more clearly and strengthen dialogue and co-operation with civil society to establish a so-called "genuine modern democracy," the commissioner concluded.

    15/4/2005- Mayor Jos Waals has once again used his powers to ban demonstrations in the Dutch town of Venray. Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) planned to hold a rally in Venray on Saturday. AFA, which emerged from the far left in Britain in 1985, has loosely-affiliated branches in several countries. It specialises in confronting people and groups, sometimes violently, that AFA perceives to be racist. Michael Smit, a councillor from Rotterdam, was expelled from the Leefbaar Rotterdam party because of his right-wing views. He was organising a rally for 23 April to protest against a ban Waals imposed on the first demonstration he wanted to hold on Saturday. Waals took the decision to ban the three rallies because he wants to avoid clashes between demonstrators and bystanders, or with the police. The mayor is also afraid property could be damaged during a contentious demonstration. Two weeks ago, 10 native Dutch youths and 70 Turks engaged in a brawl after the windows of a local mosque were damaged. The riot was the latest incident to be blamed on the rise of Lonsdale Youth, young right-wingers who identity with the British brand of clothing Lonsdale. Venray has become a beacon for both the extreme left and radical right, something that Waals is not keen to encourage. Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk, with the media in tow, visited Venray in the aftermath of the violence outside the mosque. She emphasised any difficulties between local Dutch teens and people from immigrant backgrounds should be solved by dialogue.
    ©Expatica News

    17/4/2005- Far-right politician Joerg Haider has launched a new party in Austria after a split in the Freedom Party he once led which threatened the ruling coalition. The new Alliance for Austria's Future elected Mr Haider as its leader in Salzburg, and it looks set to remain in office with the majority conservatives. All Freedom Party cabinet ministers have defected to the new party. The split came after the party, whose extreme views prompted EU sanctions on Austria, lost much of its support. A recent opinion poll gave the Alliance 5% support and just 3% to the rump Freedom Party. Under Mr Haider, the Freedom Party had taken nearly 27% in the 1999 general election. The BBC's Bethany Bell notes that while Mr Haider showed he still has considerable personal appeal with voters when he was re-elected as governor of the southern province of Corinthia last year, surveys nationwide suggest many Austrians mistrust him.

    Election call
    Of the Freedom party's 18 members in parliament, nine have reportedly joined the Alliance while seven remain with the old party and two are undecided. Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, leader of the conservative People's Party, said he had received sufficient guarantees to work with the new Alliance. However, opposition parties are demanding a new election, with the Social Democrats arguing that Austria, which is due to assume leadership of the European Union for six months on 1 January 2006, cannot afford an unstable government. "Imagine what would happen if the government imploded just before or, worse, during Austria's presidency," Social Democrat leader Alfred Gusenbauer said at a party conference in Vienna. Austria is not due to hold its next general election until next year. In a two-hour speech in Salzburg, Mr Haider justified the creation of the new party, saying that "internal criticism" had hindered the success of the Freedom Party, AFP news agency reports. The 564 delegates present also elected Vice-Chancellor Hubert Gorbach to a party leadership post. Mr Haider, who won notoriety for his comments on Austria's Nazi past, is not a member of the coalition government himself.
    ©BBC News

    17/4/2005- On 2 March 2005, Austrian Parliament debated, in plenary, a motion tabled by the Green Party to set a deadline for finally putting their motion of March 2003, to include homosexual victims in the Federal Nazi Victims Compensation Act (Opferfürsorgegesetz - OFG), on the agenda of the Parliament's social affairs committee where the original motion had been parked since 2003. Once again, the conservative/extreme right ÖVP/FPÖ majority defeated the motion. MP Walter Tancsits, speaking in that debate on behalf of the People's Party (ÖVP), defended and justified his party's refusal to amend the OFG. For more than two decades, HOSI Wien has been fighting for the recognition, in the OFG, of the Nazi victims persecuted on the grounds of their homosexuality. Until today, this group is treated as second class victims who can only get some charitable alms from special funds in case they are poor and needy. But only recognition in the OFG would grant them a legal entitlement to compensation.
    More information on the non-recognition of homosexual victims under the OFG

    As a reaction to this vote of 2 March, HOSI Wien, in a media release dated 4 March 2005, criticised the position of the People's Party as "taking ideological views of the Nazis" ("vertritt nationalsozialistisches Gedankengut") in general and Tancsits' statement in particular ("It's a disgrace for the country that even today mental descendants of the brown Nazi myrmidons, such as Tancsits, are sitting in the Parliament."). True, those are quite strong words but - according to the established jurisprudence of both the Supreme Court in Austria and the European Court of Human Rights - they must be considered as legal and "fair comments" in a political debate, especially since the authors of these formulations explain why they have come to these conclusions.
    Read more about the charges - both in English and German.

    It's not only ridiculous but also not at all convincing that Mr Tancsits now pretends to be so deeply hurt and offended by our comments that he feels forced to bring both civil and criminal action against HOSI Wien, its president Christian Högl, and its secretary-general Kurt Krickler. In the civil action he applies for an injunction and the retraction of our statement, including the publication of that retraction; the criminal action is a classical defamation/libel suit. However, HOSI Wien suspects that the real reason behind these legal actions is to intimidate and to financially damage a critical NGO, and more so as HOSI Wien has been a decided opponent and a most vocal critic of the right-wing government in power since 2000.

    Solidarity campaign
    The criminal court procedure will take place in Vienna on Thursday, 28 April 2005, and we cannot exclude a political show trial in the present political climate in Austria, which in the past years has taken a strong turn into a very authoritarian and anti-democratic direction. In view of the established case law it does not really make sense to bring such actions to the courts - unless one is speculating and hoping to find willing executioners in the justice system who would "automatically" decide in favour of a government MP and against critical homosexuals. With all our negative experience with the Austrian justice system in the past, we only have little trust and confidence in it, and so we are quite concerned not to get a fair trial, and therefore, we have asked both foreign embassies here in Vienna, Members of the European Parliament and human rights organisations such as the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and amnesty international, to send observers to the trial on 28 April. If we are sentenced, we are of course determined to appeal the case and, if necessary, take it all the way to Strasbourg.

    There are many ways to support us in our fight against this attack on freedom of expression, but also for the recognition, rehabilitation and compensation of those Nazi victims persecuted on the grounds of their homosexuality.

    HOSI Wien has also launched an initiative ‘SOS Freedom of Expression' to combat these attempts to intimidate and silence critical NGOs or media. You will find more information on a special website section, both in English and in German.

    We thank you very much in advance for any kind of support and solidarity. Don't hesitate to contact us for any further query.
    Homosexuelle Initiative Wien (HOSI)

    The right sharpens its spears as the governing liberal party ups the ante on sexual morality.
    By Judit Szakacs

    20/4/2005- Homosexuality is becoming the cause celebre of the political season in Hungary. Conservatives are stumping for the sanctity of heterosexual marriage while a liberal party has launched a promotional drive involving, among other issues, gay rights. On top of this comes a new anti-discrimination agency and a speech accusing the liberals of cozying up to gays. And now a Hungarian politician, for the first time ever, has publicly come out of the closet. "It's more logical for me to say that I'm homosexual than to wait for others to say it. And this is only right," Klara Ungar told viewers of a television program about discrimination, Strucc (Ostrich). "My life has changed for the better ... And this probably shows." Ungar, one of the founders of originally liberal Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Party, is an experienced politician. She entered parliament in 1990, but following Fidesz's conservative turn quit the party in 1993 and joined the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), representing the party for another parliamentary mandate, until 1998. Although not presently a legislator, she is a member of the governing board of the SZDSZ, which is currently a junior member of the governing coalition. Ungar's March coming-out happened in the midst of a political uproar set off by Christian Democrat leader and Fidesz parliamentarian Zsolt Semjen, who told a Christian Democrat congress, "If you want your teenage son to have his first sexual experience with a bearded older man, you should vote for SZDSZ." Semjen, who is vice-chairman of the parliament's human rights committee, also tied the liberal party to "the death culture of euthanasia and abortion," "extreme sects," and the use of marijuana in schools. According to him, the Free Democrats, currently scoring only about 5 percent support in opinion polls, will turn to gays and drug addicts to "scrape up" the votes needed to stay in parliament after next year's general election. Semjen later insisted he was merely trying to fulfill his "constitutional duty" to protect children. He opposed SZDSZ's policies because the party aims to legalize homosexual marriage, which would in turn enable homosexual couples to adopt children, he said on 13 March.

    Tough talking
    Although his fellow party members remained conspicuously silent, Semjen apparently enjoys the general support of the conservatives. Speaking on a live television morning show, Fidesz leader and former prime minister Viktor Orban said, "those were tough words that Zsolt Semjen said, we could even call them fighting words, but otherwise I find nothing wrong with their content. It is the SZDSZ campaign that is wrong." Repeating Semjen's allegations, he said the liberal party had adopted gay causes "for self-interested political reasons," and in what appeared either an intentional or unintentional slip of the tongue, added, "it is not right for a party to pin homosexuals on the flagpole" (the original Hungarian idiom is "to pin something on the flag," meaning to take up an issue). Conservatives are concerned that the flag of gay rights and other "liberal" causes is flying higher not just because of the SZDSZ, but also an anti-discrimination law. Although the law took effect in January 2004, the authority designed to monitor compliance only began work on 1 February this year. The legislation prohibits discrimination against a wide range of groups by state and public institutions and all employers (but not the police or the courts). The new Equal Treatment Authority says it has received about 100 complaints of alleged discrimination since it opened its doors, but so far only one alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual preference – from a gay couple who say they were treated unfairly in an official procedure. Since the complaint is under investigation, the authority has not released further details. A media campaign is attracting far more attention than the Equal Treatment Authority so far. Two months ago provocative street posters and television spots began appearing: "It's better for Roma children if they are placed in segregated classes." "Light drugs should be legalized." "Capital punishment should be reinstated for the most serious crimes." The posters and ads were the work of the Free Democrats. People who sent their opinions of the statements to a special website received a sampling of other people's opinions as well as the party's own view. As the right-wing daily Magyar Nemzet was eager to point out, seven of the 44 statements touched on rights for sexual minorities, which in the paper's view signaled that the party cared more about gays than about schoolchildren (three statements), women (two), or farmers (none). Judging from the SZDSZ's e-mail response to those who responded, the party supports same-sex marriage, adoption for same-sex couples, and giving same-sex couples access to the same inheritance and credit rules that apply to heterosexual couples. Fidesz blasted the campaign as "outrageous." "Offensive to the church and family-loving people," said the party's Marta Matrai, chairwoman of the parliamentary social and family affairs committee. The SZDSZ wanted to divert attention from serious issues such as unemployment, she said. Miklos Csapody, a deputy for the other conservative opposition party, the Hungarian Democratic Forum, told Magyar Nemzet that the SZDSZ had always been anti-Christian. Furthermore, "as far as the questions relating to sexual orientation are concerned, people are bored by this equal opportunity stuff. … Deviance is not the norm. Homosexuality is not the norm. And even liberal experts concede that children brought up by two men or two women will become deviant." The Socialists, the SZDSZ's senior partner in the government, have rather typically not taken a stand in this squabble.

    Conforming to change
    While some on the right were outraged by the Free Democrats' provocative media campaign, many intellectuals were shocked by Christian Democrat Semjen's "bearded man" speech. More than 250 public figures, including philosophers Agnes Heller and Miklos Tamas Gaspar, psychologist Tamas Vekerdy, philosopher of religion Gyorgy Gabor, theologian Tamas Majsai and historian Csaba Fazekas, demanded Semjen's resignation from his committee post in an open letter. What aroused their ire was not only what they saw as Semjen's homophobia, but also what they took as an anti-Semitic jibe: linking the wearing of beards with homosexuality. Semjen rejected the allegations of anti-Semitism as "ridiculous." Nevertheless, this interpretation was certainly not lost on one public figure with a taste for the outrageous. Minor celebrity Terry Black, best known for dressing in women's clothing, appeared on one of the main television channels' morning shows sporting a yarmulke and demanding Semjen's resignation. What's more, he warned, if Semjen did not quit by 18 March, he would publish a list of gays in parliament – a threat he has failed to follow through on. The current uproar aside, public attitudes toward homosexuality have changed dramatically, political scientist Ferenc Hammer says. Citing the findings of researcher Laszlo Toth, he says that Hungarians are significantly more tolerant than they used to be, but is more inclined to attribute this to changing patterns of conformity than to a true change of heart. "The majority of people have no clue about what homosexuality is, so they don't think anything about it. So they say, let's just follow what others think. During the socialist period and in the years after it was okay to be anti-gay; now it's much less the case," Hammer says. "The SZDSZ is a small, invisible party, stuck between the two big parties [the Socialists and Fidesz]. What they did was to pick up hard-core liberal issues, such as euthanasia and drugs, and using them to positioning themselves. I can't tell whether taking a clear liberal stand on homosexuality is good strategically or not." The changing approach to homosexuality seen in Hungarian law, it could be argued, backs up Hammer's suggestion about conformity. Although homosexuality was decriminalized in 1961, Hungary lagged behind nearly every other European state in equalizing the age of consent for homosexuals and heterosexuals, not doing so until 2002. (In 1998 the European Parliament called on Hungary and six other countries to repeal laws that discriminated against homosexuals, and warned that no country with such discriminative legislation would be accepted into the European Union.) In 1996, following a ruling by the Constitutional Court, the law was changed to recognize homosexual common-law partnerships, but at the same time the court upheld that marriage is valid only between a man and a woman. Although they still cannot marry, people in long-term gay partnerships are now eligible for survivor's pensions and, since this February, for state-subsidized home loans just as heterosexual couples.

    More struggles to come
    It appears that the Christian Democrats and the Free Democrats – and to a certain degree Fidesz and the Socialists – are gearing up for a battle pitting traditional values against personal liberties. The Christian Democrat youth organization is circulating a "family protection charter" demanding a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, while some Free Democrats were quick to reaffirm their stance on sexual rights. "The government is determined to ensure equal rights for homosexuals," said Miklos Hanko-Farago, a Free Democrat and the state secretary of the Justice Ministry, said in February. To secure those rights, the ministry is revising the civil code to allow registered partnerships for same-sex couples. It was not about giving gays special rights but ensuring non-discriminatory treatment is such areas as inheritance, he said. Although the new code, which is still at least two years from completion, apparently falls short of legalizing gay marriage, the party's next manifesto could well include language in favor of same-sex marriages, SZDZS parliamentarian Peter Gusztos told the Budapest Sun. Whether these political skirmishes reflect changing attitudes among voters, and whether one citizen's conformity is another's deviance, are other questions. "In a normal country, it's nobody's business whom you go to bed with," Klara Ungar said by way of explaining her decision to come out. "But in many ways, this is not a normal country yet."

    Note: In January 2004 TOL's Judit Szakacs reported on a theology student who had been expelled from the Hungarian Reformed Church's Karoli Gaspar University as unfit for church service after he told a school counselor of his anguished doubts over his sexuality. The student, Gabor C., took the school to court, although the anti-discrimination law that came into effect that same month might not have protected him in any case, as it exempts religious activities from its purview. Last December an appeals court upheld the school's decision. On 20 January 2005, though, Gabor C., appeared to have won his case when a court ruled that the university had not followed proper procedure when it expelled him. A sexual minority organization called the Hatter Support Society is also suing the university on the grounds that its policies are not just an expression of its religious views but have consequences for a certain group of people, and that as a recipient of state support its policies are not simply internal church affairs. The suit is now before the Supreme Court.
    ©Transitions Online

    By Valeriu Nicolae

    On 13th of April 2005 Steaua Bucharest played against Rapid Bucharest in one of the games with the highest audience in Romania. During the entire game Steaua's supporters proliferated anti-Gypsy chants and abuses against the host team of Rapid Bucharest. Instigation to violence and explicit hate speech against Roma came also from the speaker of the Stadium. One of the most racist Romanian songs called "Gypsyies and UFOs" was broadcasted through the Stadium speakers during the intermission. After the game Gabi Safta the presenter at the home games of Steaua Bucharest verbally abused the coach of Rapid, Razvan Lucescu which he also called a "stinky Gypsy"

    How is that possible?
    Gigi Becali the owner of Steaua Bucuresti declared publicly before the game that he would beat up the ex-owner of Rapid Bucuresti (team largely supported by Roma community in Bucharest) and one of the Romanian ministers nowadays, if he would dare to come to the game. Gigi Becali, one of the richest man in Romania does openly support the extreme right wing organization "Noua Dreapta". The organization has the same doctrine as the "Iron Guard", the extreme Nazi movement in Romania during the Second World War which is responsible for many killings including the pogrom of over 200 Jews during which the victims were put trough the entire cycle of the conveyor belt of the slaughtering house near Bucharest. A five-years old girl corpse was stamped as fit for consumption by the members of the "Iron Guard". On their website the Roma are considered to be "a subhuman group which steal our bread, replace our traditions, mug our brothers and kill our parents" The boss of the Romanian Football League Dumitru Dragomir is member of the Romanian Parliament from the extremist party Romania Mare .The leader of Romania Mare, Corneliu Vadim Tudor said that in the case he will win the election he would "... isolate the Roma criminals in special colonies.." in order to ".. stop the transformation of Romania in a Gypsy camp.. ". Dumitru Dragomir was also under investigation for being the owner of an anti-Semitic publication. Giovani Becali the brother of Gigi Becali is also known for his strong views against Roma . The Romanian chief of the referees Ioan Craciunescu recognized that he "received" a piece of land from Becali in the best area of Bucharest.

  • Anti-Gypsyism in Romania and for that matter all around Europe is the acceptable European racism and accordingly largely ignored.
  • Racist incidents against Roma on the Stadiums are usual and receive no attention as for example in the case of Dinamo Bucuresti supporters who displayed a huge banner of Antonescu during a game viewed by the Romanian Ministry of Interior.

    At the end of the game on 13th of April the Romanian Football Federation's observer Valentin Alexandru said :
    "The game was played in NORMAL conditions" and there is nothing he would need to report.

    Last year the Romanian institution supposed to combat discrimination CNCD spent a whooping 400 Euros to fight the racism in >the Romanian Stadiums. The 50.000 Swiss Francs (around 30.000 Euros) available from FIFA to combat racism on the stadiums weren't needed by the Romanian Federation.

    Last month the Romanian President Traian Basescu hosted and congratulated the owner of Steaua Bucuresti, Mr.Gigi Becali. During the game the gallery was chanting "We have always hated gypsies, we have always urinated on you". Considering the over 500 years of forced slavery of Roma in Romania, the Genocide of Roma during the Second World War, the pogroms of Roma at the beginnings of 1990s and the things above is not just the small group ofsupporters of Steaua Bucaresti who hate and would like to urinate on the "stinky Gypsies" but a good part of the Romanian society.

    And most probably not only the Romanian Football Federation would have "nothing to report".
    European Roma Information Office

    19/4/2005- The National Council for Combating Discrimination (NCCD) – the main partner of the FARE network in Romania – announced today to sanction FC Steaua Bucharest with a fine of 40 Million Lei (1100 ) following the racist abuse at the league match against FC Rapid (0:0). In addition, Steaua stadium speaker who called the Rapid coach Razvan Lucescu a "miserable Gypsy" has been fined 550 (20 Million Lei). During the entire game played on 13 April 2005 in front of 25.000 spectators Steaua supporters proliferated anti-Gypsy chants and abuses against FC Rapid, a club largely supported by the Roma community in Bucharest. Among others Steaua fans chanted "We have always hated gypsies, we have always urinated on you". Instigation to violence and explicit hate speech against Roma came also from the stadium speaker, Gabi Safta. During half-time one of the most racist Romanian songs called "Gypsies and UFO" was transmitted via the PA systems at the Steaua stadium. In a statement NCCD disclosed today: "Through these actions the Roma community rights regarding the personal dignity, non-discrimination and equal treatment have been infringed". The NCCD is also criticzing "the passive behaviour of the F.C. Steaua Bucharest representatives for not stopping these discriminatory behaviours before and during the football match". According to the European Roma Information Office (EIRO) Steaua president Gigi Becali, declared before the game that he would beat up the ex-owner of Rapid who is currently a member of the Romanian government, if he would dare to come to the game. EIRO spokes person Valeriu Nicolae said that Steaua president Becali would lend open support to the extreme right wing organisation "Noua Dreapta". On their website the Roma are considered to be "a subhuman group which steal our bread, replace our traditions, mug our brothers and kill our parents". Valeriu Nicolae believes that "Anti-Gypsyism in Romania and for that matter all around Europe is the acceptable European racism and accordingly largely ignored". "Racist incidents against Roma in stadiums are usual and receive no attention". EIRO reports that after the Steaua- Rapid match observer of the Romanian Football Federation Valentin Alexandru said: "The game was played in normal conditions" and there is nothing he would need to report. Representatives of the the National Council for Combating Discrimination (NCCD) and of the European Roma Information Office attended both the FARE conference in Bratislava.
    ©Football Against Racism in Europe

    20/4/2005- Atletico Madrid have escaped serious punishment for the third successive time after being handed a 600 euro (£400) fine for racist incidents during last Saturday's home game against Espanyol. Bananas were thrown at Espanyol's Cameroon international goalkeeper Carlos Kameni, who also received racist abuse from a small section of the Atletico fans - mainly their ultra group the 'Frente Atletico'. It is the third time Atletico have been punished with a 600 euros fine for racist incidents at their Vicente Calderon stadium in 2005. The first occasion came following the derby with Real Madrid, where Real's Brazilian duo Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo were abused, and there was a similar incident in the match against Sevilla, leading to another 600 euro penalty. The club and local police are currently analysing video recordings of the crowd to try to identify those responsible, who can expect a heavy fine and to have their club membership revoked.
    ©ITV Network

    18/4/2005- A Jury found guilty tree young men accused of killing a beggar aggravated by discrimination. A popular jury in The Supreme Court in Madrid had found unanimously guilty tree young men accused of killed a beggar in august 2002 beating him to dead in Santa Maria de la Cabeza avenue (Madrid). The jury considered the discriminatory aspect of the crime aggravating because the victim was singled out for being a beggar. The jury considered proven that the three accused, were guilty of murder with cruelty, perfidy and discriminatory motivation. The Movement against Intolerance was part as a popular action in the trial and in its statement said that it is a historic verdict because it´s the first time that a hate crime is recognised in the Spain juridical system. However it´s necessary a law against hate crime to combat the better the intolerance and neo-nazi violence.
    The Movement against Intolerance

    20/4/2005- Representatives of Spain's major religious faiths, except Islam, unveiled a joint statement opposing gay marriage. The move came as parliament was about to debate a government proposal to legalize it. The statement, addressed to the Spanish parliament, was signed by the Spanish (Catholic) Episcopal conference, the federation of Jewish communities, the federation of evangelical religious groups and a senior Orthodox Church representative. "Monogamous heterosexual marriage is part of Judeo-Christian tradition and other religious faiths, and in its basic structure was and remains a fundamental institution in the history of societies of our cultural environment," it said. "Any change of the institution of marriage requires deep reflection and a vast dialogue and social consensus," it added. Signatories of the statement demanded that the structure of marriage be left unchanged as parliament prepared to discuss a government bill that would amend 14 articles of the Civil Code relating to marriage, including replacing the terms "man and women" by "partners". The Socialist government voted last November to legalise gay marriages from 2005 and give gay couples the right to adopt children, which would make the historically conservative country one of the most liberal in Europe. The move infuriated the country's powerful Catholic Church, which in December branded homosexual behaviour "intrinsically bad." In a statement, Catholic bishops said that "homosexual tendencies, even if not a sin, must be considered objectively as troubling". In Europe, only Belgium and the Netherlands allow same-sex marriages, though several countries extend officially recognised unions to homosexuals that convey some but not all of the rights of marriage.
    ©Expatica News

    RAXEN Focal Point for ITALY
    By Annamaria Rivera Collaboration: Paola Andrisani

    The present report, like the former Analytical Study on discrimination and racist violence (2000-2002) is based on the theoretical supposition that "races" do not exist but rather human groups which are "racialised", that is, socially considered and treated as "races"1.

    In our opinion, racism is part of a process of social classification so that some groups (migrants, refugees, minority groups) are perceived and labelled as different or radically different from the group which the advocates and/or perpetrators of racism belong to.

    nyone belonging to a minority group and/or at a disadvantage from an economic, legal, social, religious point of view, can be racialised and become a victim of racism, independently of the phenotypical objective differences, and without great cultural differences. This is why, also in this report, we prefer to speak of racist instead of "racial"2 violence and crimes.

    The report is, therefore, based on a well defined theory of racism3, without which, as weshall explain later, it is impossible to clearly distinguish the expressions of discrimination and racist violence and counter them efficiently. This is why we have dedicated a lot of space to the definitions of terms and key concepts (see par. 3). The space reserved to the gap analysis is equally extensive: what makes the Italian context unusual, is the lack of systematic surveys, constant monitoring and consequently, quantitative and qualitative data concerning discrimination, violence and racist crimes. Later, we shall point out that in our opinion, this deficiency is a sign of the underestimation of the phenomenon (also and especially by the government and more generally by the institutions); and this is, in itself, a cultural and political factor to be added to the analysis.

    As far as we know, during the period under examination, no group of data and no report on a national level have been published on the subject of racist violence and crimes except for one research4. To compensate for the lack of reports and reliable quantitative data, we have directly carried out a small investigation, both by interviewing professionals who deal regularly with the defence of the rights of migrants and ethnic minorities and by examining a certain number of daily newspapers. From the latter and the aforementioned research, we have taken a number of cases which we considered a sample and which we have analysed extracting some information on the offenders and the victims of racist violence and to the places in which it usually took place.

    Much space has been reserved to a general view of the extreme right wing organisations and populist xenophobic parties, as we feel that this can throw light on the characteristics of those we have defined as the "political actors of xenophobia and racism".

    We have also dedicated a great deal of space to the analysis of the Italian legislation on racist crimes, to show that it would be sufficient to prosecute effectively and adequately racist type violence.

    Lastly, in the documents enclosed, which form a consistent part of this report, we have included: a description of the number and composition of immigrants and ethnic minorities; a general glimpse of the current legislation and policies on the subject of immigration and integration.

    The conclusions we have reached are the following:

  • The individuals and groups most exposed to racist violence, a category which also includes verbal and symbolic expressions, are: foreign citizens from third countries (migrants and refugees), especially those practising the Muslim religion; Roma and Sinti gypsies; Jews.
  • Among the offenders of racist acts of violence, symbolic/verbal or physical, are included: individuals and groups from different extreme right trends; ordinary citizens or unidentified individuals/groups; militants of the Northern League including members of the government and of local, national, EU institutions; public officials and especially representatives of the different police forces.
  • The racist acts of aggression can be indirectly encouraged by the legislation on immigration and by a social and cultural context which does not facilitate the integration of migrants, refugees and ethnic minorities or guarantee them the enjoyment of fundamental rights.
  • These acts of aggression are directly encouraged by:
    the active xenophobic propaganda carried out firstly by the Northern League and also by political currents of the extreme right wing, propaganda, insufficiently countered and even justified, by members of the central government;
  • the intolerance towards migrants, refugees, gypsies, increased or exploited by some media (television and press), political forces, some members of the institutions. In the Italian context, which continues to be disturbing - if only because the main political actors of xenophobia are members of the central government - one positive element exists consisting of a large variety of subjects (trade unions, anti-racist movements, associations, both lay and religious, for the defence of the rights of foreign citizens and ethnic minorities) who carry out a vital activity of condemnation of and opposition to discrimination and racism. The work of these subjects deserves to be encouraged and sustained as it represents one of the most important and efficient bulwarks against xenophobia and racism.
    The complete report(PDF)

    18/4/2005- On the 16th of March students from Wroclaw Film School shot a new video for one of the most popular Polish rock bands of these days - Big Cyc. The clip illustrates the single "One for all, all for one" coming from their last album "Change your sex with us". The song reflects band's protest against racism and violence growing on football stadiums across Poland. Pictures were shot in and old, abandonded fabric spaces and the only victim of the offensive football fans ( starring Big Cyc members) was a TV, smashed by Skiba into pieces.The video, which can now be seen on Polish TV, is a proof of band's support for "Let's kick the racism out of the stadiums" campaign launched by Never Again Association in 1996. Big Cyc's musicians also form four other bands: Bielizna, Czarno-Czarni, Doktor Granat and Skiba Solo. The first of these, Czarno-Czarni has already shown it's massive support for this very campaign by placing their hit "The last play" on the "Let's kick the racism out of the stadiums" compilation containing several anti-racism songs about football, published by Jimmy Jazz Records from Szczecin. The album,featuring also "Marian the loyal fan" by Big Cyc is still available on Never Again Assoc. website. All the artists mentioned above, except Bielizna which has just resumed their activity, has intensely supported other Never Again Assoc's campaign - "Music against the racism". The chatacteristic logo of the campaign or it's slogan was placed on covers of all of their albums. Big Cyc has in total recorded 14 albums, sold in 2 million copies. In June 2004 a compilation of band's greatest hits, "Big Cyc - Bombowe Hity. The Greatest Hits 1988-2004" was issued by Universal music Poland. It contains (along with the old, well known songs) two fresh tracks : "Zloty warkocz" ("Golden plait") dedicated to MP Renata Beger and "Nienawidze szefa" ("I hate my boss") dedicated to the managment of Biedronka supermarkets chain.
    Band's official website
    Never Again" Association – Stowarzyszenie "NIGDY WIECEJ

    Even though some 7,3 million foreigners currently live in Germany, migrant life still gets a bad rap in the media. Public broadcasters met in Berlin recently to discuss ways of combating the cliches.

    19/4/2005- If German television is anything to go by, Muslim life is still shackled by tradition and overshadowed by crime. Its image took an even steeper downward plunge after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said Fritz Pleitgen, director of German public broadcaster WDR. But migrant life isn't all bad news, he insisted -- and it's high time television delivered the broader picture.

    Melting pot Germany
    "Honor killings and arranged marriages make more of a splash in the media that differentiated depictions of normal life among migrants," Pleitgen said. He'd rather see more coverage of upbeat news about the country's minorities -- like German-Turkish director Fatih Akin winning the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and Asli Bayram (photo) scooping this year's Miss Germany title. After all, contemporary Germany is increasing becoming a proverbial melting pot. Cultural borders have never been more blurred -- one in six marriages is inter-cultural and one in four children born in Germany has at least one non-German parent.

    Remaining objective
    On the other hand, gang violence, honor killings and the sort of Muslim fundamentalism practiced, for example, by the so-called Caliph of Cologne, Metin Kaplan, who is now standing trial in Istanbul after Germany extradited him last year, are also a fact of modern life. But it needs to be stressed that these cases are exceptions, said Marie-Luise Beck, a government expert on migration. At a time when economic problems are creating wide-scale insecurity and resentment, society tends to look for scape-goats, she observed. "It's important to report on what's happening," she said. "The media has a duty to cover an inflammatory speech given by an Imam. But it's equally important to report of the rise of right-wing extremism and show that it doesn't only take the form of jackboots, it can also come packaged in a pin-stripe suit." It's an approach that can easily depoliticize extremism. Beck said that instead of exploring the roots of right-wing fanaticism, the media tends to promote a stereotypical image of shaven-headed Nazis in bomber jackets which fails to convey the full extent of the problem -- and the rise of middle-class reactionaries. Beate Winkler from the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia also had reservations about the way the media portrays right-wing extremism. "Right-wing extremists are turned into victims to such an extent that viewers can identify with them," she said. "At the same time no one really looks at their broader social role."

    "Why can't we take them as they are?"
    So what can be done to encourage more objective reporting? While many feel that Germany's public broadcasters should assume an educational responsibility by depicting positive examples of integration, others caution against taking an over-optimistic approach. "People are always saying television should show more good news," said Ulrich Deppendorf from WDR. "But if we only ever showed positive images, we'd lost some of our credibility." According to media expert Rainer Braun, the problem is that migrants still haven't hit the mainstream. "Why is it so hard to have people from other backgrounds fronting any thing other than specifically multi-cultural shows?" he asked. "Why couldn't they read the prime-time news or host political shows -- why can't we just take them as they are?"
    ©Deutsche Welle

    Illegal migrants: Massive drop in 2005
    18/4/2005- Improved police work and far better cooperation with Ukraine since the change in government in Kiev are behind the large drop in the number of illegal immigrants entering Slovakia so far this year, the SITA news agency reported. Border police chief Michal Borgula and Migration Office head Bernard Priecel declared that the number dropped to one-fifth of 2004's first quarter figure. The first quarter of 2004 saw 3,000 illegal migrants enter the country, while that figure dropped to about 600 in the corresponding period this year. Of 11,500 migrants who applied for asylum in 2004, 350 remain in the asylum process. Since the establishment of the Slovak Republic in 1993, around 650 people have been granted asylum in Slovakia. More than half of these have, however, left for other EU countries.

    Slovakia's Roma decade begins 18/4/2005- Cabinet appointee (plenipotentiary) for Roma affairs, Klára Orgovánová, opened the Decade of Roma Inclusion in Slovakia on April 8, World Roma Day. The Decade of Roma Inclusion is an international project involving former Communist bloc countries. "Efforts to improve the situation for the Roma population in Slovakia gained a formal character once Slovakia joined this project, but the outlines and aims remain the same," said Orgovánová. According to the plenipotentiary, over the last 10 years NGO activities have created a base from which to change the status of the Roma in Slovak society, the SITA news agency reported. So far the most important steps have been acknowledging the Roma community as a national minority, establishing Roma civic associations and setting up a Roma theatre in Košice. Orgovánová also praised the creation of a Roma department at Nitra University and high schools that include classes on Roma history and language. Slovak schools have Roma assistants to help Roma pupils and teachers communicate. There are also social workers based in Roma settlements. Slovakia plans to improve school attendance among Roma children and enhance the status of the Roma on the labour market. In its national action plan for the Decade of Roma Inclusion, Slovakia pledged to support employers who offer jobs to Roma, reduce racial prejudice among civil servants in the social affairs and employment sector, distribute grants to unemployed Roma to help them get work, and build homes for Roma people within and outside Roma settlements. Orgovánová said that the cabinet allocated about Sk600 million ( 15.2 million) for these goals in 2005. Additionally, Slovakia can draw funds to improve Roma living conditions from EU structural funds and apply for subsidies from the Roma Education Fund, the European Social Fund and the PHARE fund. The International Decade of Roma Inclusion is supported by the World Bank, the Open Society Institute, the European Commission and the United Nations Development Programme.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    Sit-com actor says he was beaten up after his car was hit by another driver

    20/4/2005- An actor and chef living in Cyprus for 17 years claims he was racially abused, physically beaten and then locked in a police cell for 15 hours following a car crash in Limassol over the weekend. He has lodged a complaint about the incident with the Ombudswoman. Hounzanme Severin, originally from Benin, is a Cypriot citizen and lives here with his wife and daughter. He reported to the Ombudswoman that he was racially abused by a police officer, then beaten up and locked in jail. He now faces charges of hitting that same officer. As Severin was driving from Limassol to Nicosia last Saturday at around 4am near the Yermasoyia roundabout, a car driving in the wrong lane, crashed head on into him, he said. "The car was in my lane, I had nowhere to go. It hit me straight on, destroying the left side of my car and causing me to swerve on to the pavement," Severin added. According to Severin, he then got out of the car and waited for the police to come. A group of six or seven people gathered at the scene. Despite asking them repeatedly, nobody told Severin who was driving the other car. "I didn't get to see who the driver was. But as I was standing there, a woman came towards me and shouted ‘you f-ing black man, don't speak'. So I responded, ‘who are you to tell me not to speak'," he said. "Then five or six guys standing around started beating me. They put me on the ground, hit my throat, my chest, my groin, knee, everywhere." Severin told the Cyprus Mail that the beating continued for approximately 10 minutes and only stopped when a female bystander pleaded with them to stop.

    "I was still in shock from the accident and I couldn't see who was hitting me. They hurt my mouth, knee, elbow, neck. Then I heard a woman crying nearby, saying ‘leave the mavro (black man) alone'. They stopped hitting me. One guy picked me up, and told me ‘That lady you want to hit is a CID officer'," said Severin. "But I never laid a finger on her. I simply asked her who she was to tell me not to speak. If she really was a police officer, why didn't she present herself to me? Why didn't she come to me and ask if I was OK? Nobody did, they just beat me." Five minutes later, the police arrived. According to Severin, the CID officer was the first to speak with police arriving on the scene. "She spoke to the police and then said ‘bring him in'. So, the policeman turned to me and told me I was under arrest. I asked why and he said because I was fighting. But I wasn't. They beat me up. I asked what would happen to my car, and they said just come with us. Before I knew it, I was being driven to the station." After making his statement, Severin was asked to remove his shoelaces and other items before being locked up. He was finally released at 7pm on Saturday evening after signing a statement that said he had been locked up for hitting a police officer. Severin only found out yesterday from traffic police who was driving the car that smashed into his. It was not the police woman in question. "I told police when they arrived on the scene that I had been beaten up for about 10 minutes. At the station I showed them the injuries on my arms and knees. Now I have to go to court, because I am being charged with hitting her." On Monday morning Severin took the case to the Ombudswoman who is also responsible for investigating cases of discrimination and racism on the island. "They took action immediately and asked the Chief of Police to investigate what happened." Former Attorney-general, Alecos Markides, will be representing Severin as his lawyer. Severin works as a chef for two European ambassadors in Nicosia. He also acts for Sigma television on the show I Takoi. "I have had some trouble before, but this is the first time in 17 years that I have had to deal with such racism in Cyprus," he said. "Now they have found themselves in the fire. They didn't think I could do anything. They thought I would forget about it, but they hit the wrong man."
    ©Cyprus Mail

    A NEW WAVE OF MIGRATION?(Kyrgyzstan)
    Land seizures and nationalist propaganda are unsettling many Russians and other Kyrgyz minorities.
    By Hamid Toursunof, TOL correspondent

    18/4/2005- As Kyrgyzstan's new leaders try to maintain stability ahead of presidential elections, concern is growing over rising numbers of non-Kyrgyz seeking to leave the country. Russia's ambassador in Bishkek, Evgeny Shmagin, said that the number of Russian-speakers who want to leave their birthplace has jumped fivefold since the unrest of late March that led to the ouster of former president Askar Akaev and his regime. Shmagin pinned some of the blame on nationalistic, anti-Russian flyers that have begun appearing on the streets of the capital, Bishkek. "I was surprised today to see flyers directed not only against Russians, but also against ethnic Koreans," Shmagin said after a 14 April meeting of the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian ambassadors with acting Foreign Minister Roza Otunbaeva. "There is concern lately among the Russian-speaking population, especially after the distribution of these provocative leaflets." The leaflets call for a jihad – or holy war – against Russians living in Kyrgyzstan. "Muslim brothers, do not buy apartments and houses from Russians and Koreans because in any case they will give them away," the flyers said, implying that they will soon leave the country in any case. Calling the flyers a provocation, Otunbaeva said migration by Russians and other ethnic groups was on the rise, and linked this to the "desire of some people, by provoking various destructive processes, to sow inter-ethnic discord and to destabilize the situation."

    A home on the Russian steppe?
    On 14 April, Yuri Ermolaev, head of the Russian immigration service in Bishkek, said that representatives of 26 ethnic groups have recently applied to the Russian embassy for permission to emigrate to Russia, including Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, and even Kyrgyz. That claim is supported by anecdotal evidence. "Undoubtedly, the latest events will increase the migration of Russians. All my Russian acquaintances say they are planning to leave the country," said Antonina Zakharova, an ethnic Russian who heads the ethnic relations department in the southern division of the Kyrgyz Academy of Science. "Only those who have old and sick parents and grandparents are staying." "My father will come to Kyrgyzstan from Russia this summer to sell our apartment and take my grandparents to Russia. As for me, I will leave Kyrgyzstan as soon as I finish my studies next year," said Alexey Demin, an information technology student from Osh. When Kyrgyzstan became an independent state as the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, its total population of 5 million included 900,000 ethnic Russians. At least a third have since left Kyrgyzstan. The Russians are concentrated in the north of the country, in Bishkek itself and the surrounding Chui province. In the south, the largest minority are Uzbeks, who, according to the National Statistics Committee, numbered 664,000 in 1999.

    The first wave of Russian emigration followed ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in 1990 in the city of Osh in which several hundred people were killed. Migration picked up again after 1999 and 2000, when armed groups crossed into the southern region of the country bordering Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Few Russians still live in the south. "In 2004, there were only 11,000 Russians in Osh province," Zakharova said. "Every year approximately 500 Russians leave the province, which is a lot given the small presence of Russians here." The other two southern provinces, Batken and Jalal-Abad, are home to an estimated 5,000 and 12,000 Russians respectively. Before the breakdown of the Soviet Union, Russians in Kyrgyzstan dominated many areas of life, from industry to education, science, and medicine. Their shrinking numbers are having an effect on the country's development, some Kyrgyz feel. "If Russians and people of other nationalities leave Kyrgyzstan, our country will never become a civilized state," said Almaz B., a Kyrgyz entrepreneur from Jalal-Abad. Many felt that Akaev's declaration of Russian as the country's official language in 2002 was an attempt to stem the flow of Russians. Akaev explained the decision saying that the Russian language and the Russian media helped Kyrgyzstan stay in touch with the world. This was true during the March events that culminated in Akaev's flight to Moscow, when Russian-language Kyrgyz media provided much of the local coverage of the uprising and subsequent installation of a new leadership. Russian television and radio are far more popular than their Kyrgyz-language competitors, and one of the country's largest universities, Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University, bears the name of the former Russian president Boris Yeltsin. Even as the number of native Russian speakers shrinks, more and more Kyrgyz- and Uzbek-speaking parents are sending their children to Russian-language schools, hoping to improve their economic prospects. Officially, 300,000 Kyrgyz citizens are migrant workers in Russia; the number of unregistered workers, many of them seasonal laborers, is far higher, up to 800,000 by some estimates.

    A home in the Bishkek suburbs
    But it is migration of another kind that is currently proving the biggest headache for the new Kyrgyz government. For years, poor rural Kyrgyz have been migrating to the capital in search of work. Now some have begun squatting on unused land belonging to inhabitants of Bishkek and nearby villages, claiming they need the plots to build houses. According to Tolekan Ismailova, the head of an organization called Citizens Against Corruption, 50,000 people are now illegally occupying land in Bishkek. Parliament discussed the issue throughout the week of 11-15 April, but was unable to reach a consensus on how to deal with the problem. Although the authorities have threatened firm action against the occupations, little has been done so far. However, a government minister, Ishenbai Kadyrbekov, said the state could expropriate vacant lots whose owners have done no building work in the last two years, RFE/RL reported. When Bakiev and a group of parliamentarians visited some of the squatters to try and convince them to give up their illegal occupations, they were told the land seizures amounted to the same thing as the opposition did when it took ousted the Akaev regime. The scenes of mob violence in late March and frustration at the slow response on the part of the new authorities prompted some landowners to begin setting up self-defense groups immediately after the revolution. One such militia leader, a well-known horseman and stuntman, Usen Kudaivergenov, organized foot and mounted patrols to protect private property, and asked landowners and squatters alike to stop the dispute before it grew into armed clashes. He soon became one of the most popular people in Bishkek. However, on 10 April, Kudaivergenov was shot dead in his house; the authorities have made no arrests. Some supporters charge that his murder was politically motivated, and leading presidential candidate Feliks Kulov blamed the killing on "counterrevolutionary forces." Kulov was the only prominent politician at Kudaivergenov's funeral. The land seizures are also exacerbating inter-ethnic tensions, because the areas where land seizures are most common – the suburbs of Bishkek and outlying villages – are home to many Russian-speakers, including Ukrainians, Belarusians, Germans, Koreans, Dunghans, and other ethnic groups. "The land problem is a most painful and difficult problem in a country [like Kyrgyzstan] that has only limited agricultural resources," Zakharova said. "Even if the authorities solve the land seizure issues soon, the migration flow among the Russian-speaking population will increase," she predicted. Local analysts say the issue of land rights could undermine the fragile stability put in place by the new leadership after mass anti-Akaev protests in March. With new presidential elections looming on 10 July, one of the candidates, former parliamentary opposition leader Adakhan Madumarov, has called on all presidential hopefuls to make a gentleman's agreement that the losers will not try to foment demonstrations, roadblocks, or building takeovers – the same methods the opposition used to overthrow Akaev.

    Unwanted members
    The already tense mood in Bishkek was made tenser still on 14 April when the ousted president's daughter unexpectedly returned. Bermet Akaeva was elected to parliament in the contentious recent elections but escaped along with her father and the rest of the family as the uprising spread to the capital. She told journalists that her brother Aidar would soon return to take up his own seat in the assembly. But a crowd soon gathered outside parliament chanting slogans against the Akaevs, and the speaker of parliament, Omurbek Tekebaev, asked Akaeva to leave the building to "avoid further turmoil." She left by a rear entrance and did not appear at the next day's session. Although the parliamentary elections in February and March were widely denounced as an attempt by Akaev to pack the legislature with his supporters, the new leadership eventually decided to respect the results of the elections rather than risk a constitutional standoff between the new and old parliaments.
    ©Transitions Online

    Human dignity must be at the heart of the state's treatment of immigrant workers as the country's population heads towards 4.5 million, it was claimed today.

    20/4/2005- The Conference of Religious in Ireland (CORI) said there would be serious implications for way people lived their lives and spent their money. "Ireland's population passed four million last year for the first time since 1871 and it will reach 4.5m in about six years time. The challenges in that context are massive because we will be becoming a very multicultural society in a very short time frame," said director Fr Sean Healy. CORI is hosting a conference on the subject of human dignity in a globalised world in Dublin today. Fr Healy said the experience of the GAMA construction workers was an example of the need for human dignity. "You have a situation where people don't seem to have been paid anything remotely close to the minimum wage and have been working excessive hours. It would certainly raise questions about whether human dignity was a priority for their employers." The speakers at the conference will include the South African ambassador to Ireland, Melanie Verwoerd, and Sister Bernadette McMahon and Sister Margo Delaney of the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice. Fr Healy, whose organisation has been an outspoken critic of the Government at budget time, said he believed people were becoming more aware of the need for human dignity. "I think people are beginning to recognise that it's very good to be better off but that there are downsides as well. They're experiencing that as well their longer working hours, a longer time to commute to work and less time to spend with their communities and families." He added: "That brings it home to people that they need to keep an eye on securing their own dignity and also the dignity of people around them." Around 100 people from faith groups, community groups and trade unions are expected to attend the conference, which begins at 9am today in the Tara Towers hotel in Booterstown in Dublin.
    ©Irish Examiner

    21/4/2005- Oslo municipal court has ruled that it is cheaper to rape women from countries with a lower standard of living than Norway, and complaints are already raised from Eastern European voices. Aftenposten's evening edition reported Monday that a 36-year-old Moroccan was sentenced to 15 years in custody for raping four women and abusing two others. Four of the victims were from Lithuania, one from Estonia and one from Norway. The Norwegian woman was awarded NOK 330,000 (USD 52.600) in compensation and lost income while the court found that suitable damages for the foreign victims would be between NOK 15,000 and 70,000. The Norwegian woman was attacked and raped as she was entering her home. The foreign victims were prostitutes in Oslo when they were assaulted. "I don't understand why Norwegian laws are not followed, and why the judge thinks it should be cheaper to rape foreigners. Does he think the pain is less for us who are born in another country?" said Selma Dilba, who was head of the Norwegian-Lithuanian friendship society for many years. The Polish consul in Norway, Danuta Szostak, also protested. "If rape victims seek professional help in Norway they must pay the same prices as Norwegians. So I have difficulty seeing why victims of the same crime should not be treated equally," Szostak said. If a prisoner in custody is acquitted in court, Norwegian tribunals do not distinguish between nationals foreigners when awarding compensation, there is a fixed rate per day in custody. In this case the convicted man had disposed of his holdings so the women will get their compensation from the Norwegian state when the case goes through the appeals process in the autumn.

    18/4/2005- Law enforcement experts from seven countries have developed a set of goals and methods for collecting data on hate crimes at a meeting in Warsaw. They were joined by experts from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights ODIHR and the National Public Safety Strategy Group (NPSSG), a strategic training and development consortium. "I warmly welcome this initiative, which I am sure will serve as an important tool for collecting reliable information and statistics on hate crimes," said Ambassador Christian Strohal, Director of the ODIHR. The Office has been mandated by the OSCE's 55 participating States to combat violent manifestations of racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance and is to serve as a collection point for information and statistics collected by OSCE participating States. The experts agreed on elements of data collection related to hate crimes in the OSCE region. The initiative will also serve as a model for OSCE States that seek to expand or enhance their existing capacity for criminal data collection. The ODIHR will work with participating States to secure consistent data collection across the OSCE region, with the aim of effectively and efficiently combating hate crimes. Data on hate crimes can be used to identify where more resources are required, to allocate these resources to the areas of greatest need and to stem emerging problems. This data can also help to support individuals, groups and communities in dealing with hate crimes and their effects. "This co-operation of law enforcement experts is an unprecedented effort to achieve expert-level consultation on the collection of hate crimes data resulting in a data collection template for all OSCE participating States. This is a significant step forward in establishing commonality of data on hate crimes across the OSCE region," said Paul Goldenberg, NPSSG President.

    The State of Women's Rights as International Human Rights Today
    Special for ICARE by Casey Belle

    18/4/2005- The tenth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was commemorated for two weeks last month at the UN in New York during the 49th session of the UN's Commission on the Status of Women.

    Women's rights are not yet fully realized even in the most developed countries of the world. So, while governments have now convened 49 conferences on the status of women at the UN for over half a century, one must ask if these meetings are successful and whether they make a difference. Like much with international affairs, an honest response can only come in terms that are relative to past efforts and future goals in the effort to secure women's rights through the application of international human rights.

    Merely convening the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in and of itself was an important achievement that was burdened by obstacles. The policy that was adopted there continues to provide strategic political leverage in pressuring governments with their own words and benchmarks to meet, as opposed to stand-alone advocacy by non-governmental organizations and individuals.

    Since governments reaffirmed the Beijing documents upon their fifth anniversary in the year 2000, one might have expected that this year's reaffirmation of Beijing and linkage of the Beijing process to the UN Millennium Development Goals would be uncontroversial. Yet it took a full week of negotiations with the United States to adopt the declaration without any proposed amendments. With support from the Vatican, the US wanted the Declaration to state that the Beijing Platform creates no new international human rights, specifically no new right to abortion.

    While this was by no means the only problem encountered this year, it was clearly the most publicized one because it took half of the conference to clear up. The presence of several right wing, anti-choice NGOs from the US and Latin America lent a sense of urgency to the proceedings. Chaos occasionally broke out in the upstairs NGO gallery when participants expressed sounds of condemnation and applause in response to relevant statements being made on the floor below.

    Women's NGOs from the US and worldwide applauded the declaration's final adoption for which they ardently lobbied.
    See and even they can't deny that reiterating the Beijing Platform without actually doing anything to advance it is potentially harmful because it lends the false appearance that governments are doing something when in fact they are not.

    Governments themselves expressed disappointment that the pre-negotiated declaration was not adopted pro forma and therefore important negotiations regarding resolutions to be adopted were delayed. The distraction took its toll when at the end of the session they ran out of time to elect new members to the Commission. It was agreed that rather than end the 49th session they would postpone it and meet again later in the year to take care of more business.

    Unfortunately, operating with what has become the acceptable insult of being sidelined and treated "like a woman" is not a new dynamic for the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Initially founded as a subcommission to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), even gaining full status as an independent commission was a challenge for the CSW. Despite meeting that challenge 59 years ago, the CSW still has no rapporteurs or experts assigned to carry out its mandate whereas 53 special rapporteurs, independent experts, personal representatives, and working group members are assigned to the CHR (of whom only 14 are women).

    The structural inequality for women's issues that is embedded within the CSW and other UN mechanisms is obliquely referenced in the resolution tabled by Bangladesh and the United Kingdom on mainstreaming a gender perspective into national policies and programs. According to the UN's press release, the adopted resolution asks the CSW to reiterate that "gender mainstreaming is a tool for effective policy-making at all levels and not a substitute for targeted, women-specific policies and programs, equality legislation, national machineries for women's advancement and the establishment of gender focal points." It calls on the UN system and relevant organizations to strengthen their efforts and stresses the importance of political will from member states and asks the Secretary-General to report to the CSW 50 on progress in implementing the resolution.

    This year's CSW came at a time when the UN was already under public scrutiny because of a report that the Secretary-General requested UN Ambassador Prince Hussein of Jordan publish on sexual assault by peacekeepers in the Congo and elsewhere.

    However institutional gender imbalance at the UN presents a less sexy and more chronic nut to crack particularly because many governments face similar problems at home. The most mundane face of it can be seen in terms of staffing at the UN itself. According to a report by the Secretary-General's Special Advisor on Gender Issues, women on staff in UN Secretariat professional and higher categories is at 36.4 per cent as of June 2004. As of December 2003, professional and higher-categorized women with appointments for one-year or more stand at 37.4 per cent. When broken down in terms of professional ranking, the percentages more clearly show a pink ceiling. They show that the majority of posts gained for women are at entry levels whereas percentages of women in the highest professional grade and directorships remain in the teens.

    The fact that the gender mainstreaming resolution and the other nine resolutions that were finally adopted at the CSW are still not posted on the UN's website or anywhere else online after the conference's conclusion already a month ago merely belabors the point. Nonetheless, many important advancements were made at this year's CSW that are worth noting. Along with the gender mainstreaming resolution, a resolution on the advisability of appointing a special rapporteur on discrimination against women snuck onto the agenda just in time for the mid-session deadline for tabling resolutions.

    With initial co-sponsorship by Rwanda and the Philippines, this resolution calls to create the CSW's first-ever Special Rapporteur. The Beijing Platform itself is based on the unquestionable principle that women have equal rights as men and that obstacles to overcoming inequality present serious consequences for the well-being of all. This resolution and the appointment of such a rapporteur therefore address a fundamental need.

    The resolution calls on the: "Secretary-General to report to the CSW, at its 50th session, on the implications of the creation of a Special Rapporteur, and to include in his report the views, inter alia, of the Member States and relevant UN bodies including the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights."

    Four other new resolutions were adopted at the CSW: reducing demand for trafficking (sponsored by the US); integrating a gender perspective in post-disaster relief especially in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami (sponsored by the Philippines); indigenous women (introduced by Bolivia); and women's economic advancement (which was initiated by the US, but then the US withdrew its sponsorship).

    Another four resolutions were carried over from previous CSW sessions were:

  • women, the girl-child and HIV/AIDS (sponsored by Mauritius on behalf of the Southern African Development Community);
  • the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (tabled by Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, as well as by Mexico);
  • the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan (tabled by Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77 and China);
  • and the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (sponsored by Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77).
    ©I CARE News

    Much criticised by human rights groups, the practice is said to leave girls vulnerable to infection, hemorrhaging and long-term health and sexual problems.
    By Roonak Faraj and Talar Nadir in Sulaimaniyah

    13/4/2005- Forty years have passed since Sairan Muhammed was circumcised, but she still remembers the event vividly. "I was seven-years-old. My mother took my hand and I didn't know where she was taking me," she said. "We went to a house with a wooden roof. I could hear the shouting and crying even before we got there. I ran away, but my mother chased after me and caught me. In the house, there were six other girls who were being circumcised too." For Sairan, 47, a resident of Sulaimaniyah, the psychological scars left by circumcision refuse to heal. "Even now, I can't get the screaming, the struggling and the fear of that day out of my mind," she said. Circumcision, also called female genital mutilation, is a well-known practice in Somalia, Sudan and Egypt, but is not generally considered to be common in this part of the world. However, according to a 2004 survey of women from the Kurdish-controlled Iraqi areas of Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniyah, a staggering 75 per cent of 40,480 respondents were found to be circumcised. Twelve-year-old Ameena Muhammed, from the town of Kalar, remembers the agony of the procedure. "I was 5-years-old. I was grabbed by two people, and they circumcised me. I didn't go outside for two days, and it hurt when I peed," she said. The Kurdish method of circumcision involves the removal of a girl's external genital organs. The procedure is usually carried out by women who are not trained in surgery. There is no anaesthetic and little attention to hygiene. As a result, there is a high risk of infection and haemorrhaging. Women with disfigured genitals commonly have problems with urination, intercourse and childbirth. In Iraqi Kurdistan, uncircumcised women are often looked down upon. Shamsa Ali, 50, from the Sarshaqam neighborhood of Sulaimaniyah, describes how a deep sense of shame led her and her two sisters to circumcise themselves, "We were in our early teens, and we felt ashamed because we hadn't been circumcised. Our friends told us that if a girl isn't circumcised, the water from her hand is unclean and not fit for drinking and that God is angry with her. So we decided that the three of us should go to Hamdia's, a friend of ours, and circumcise one another."

    Muslim clerics in northern Sulaimaniyah declared a fatwa on the practice in 2000. Muhammed-Amin Abdul-Hakeem Chamchamali, the head of the Kurdistan Religious Scholars Union, said the "common belief that uncircumcised women are dirty or unsuitable for marriage is unfounded" and they "are not guilty of anything in the religious sense". Dr Rezan Ismael, a gynaecologist in the Rania township, an area where many girls are circumcised, believes that female genital mutilation damages women's sexual organs so profoundly that it can lead to sexual dysfunction and marital problems, "The damage done by female circumcision is most apparent after marriage. I think that 70 to 80 per cent of marital problems are sex-related." The damage is compounded because the women conducting the circumcisions are often illiterate and unskilled. One practitioner from the town of Basrma, who preferred not to be named, circumcises girls aged between two and five, performing the operation with a blade and placing the child in a washtub to staunch the bleeding, then applying a mixture of salt and oil to the wound. Fatim Ibrahim says she performs circumcisions because she sees it as a moral duty. "I learned the profession from a woman in our village," she said. "I do it because it is virtuous, and so that God is satisfied with me. So far, I have circumcised over one thousand girls." The damaging practice has been condemned by many international human rights groups. In a report about women in Iraq published in February this year, Amnesty International concluded, "Some aspects of [female circumcision] are analogous to torture in that it is intentional, calculated, and causes severe pain and suffering." Roonak Agha of the Kurdistan Women's Union has launched a campaign to educate mothers against circumcising their daughters, which she says has begun to lower the incidence in some areas. "We held symposiums and seminars, and have made a concerted effort to stop circumcision. We have held talks with religious scholars here so that we can persuade mothers to put an end to this phenomenon." Thanks to projects like these, circumcision is on the wane in the larger cities of Kurdistan. But in smaller towns and villages, the practice is more difficult to eradicate. While some progress is being made in tackling female genital mutilation, many victims of the practice continue to suffer the consequences. Sairan Muhammed said her husband took a second wife because of her sexual frigidity. One consolation for her, she said, is that her four daughters will not have to experience what she went through.

    Roonak Faraj is the editor-in-chief of Rewan newspaper, and conducted the survey referred to in this article.
    Talar Nadir is an IWPR trainee in Sulaimaniyah.

    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    20/4/2005- Iraqi NGOs, representing minority ethnic groups in the country, held a two-day conference in the capital Baghdad this week to ensure that their rights are enshrined in the new constitution being drafted by the transitional government. "Through this conference, we have tried to highlight the fact that Iraqi minorities have the right to be involved in the preparation and writing of the new constitution to ensure our rights are the same as other groups such as the Muslims and Christians," director of the Iraqi Commission for Civil Society Enterprises (CCSE), Basel al-Azawi, told IRIN in Baghdad. The event, organised by the CCSE, came to an end on Tuesday. It resulted in the formation of a committee which will liaise with the new government to ensure that minority rights are genuinely protected under the new constitution. "Promises of participating in the new government were given from the bigger parties like the Shi'ite Iraqi Alliance, but nothing has been done so far and we are afraid that we will lose our rights when they write the constitution," a member of the Mandaean Democracy Congregation (MDC), working to protect the rights of the Mandaean community, Sameea Dawood Salman, told IRIN. Iraq consists of a number of ethnic and religious groups. According to the US State Department, 97 percent of a population of 22 million people are Muslim. Shi'ite Muslims, predominantly Arab, although some come from Turkomen, Kurdish and other ethnic origins, constitute 60 percent of the population. Sunni Muslims make up 37 percent and the remainder are Christians, comprised of Assyrians, Chaldeans, Roman Catholics and Armenians. There are also a small number of Jews, Mandaeans, who follow the teachings of John the Baptist and Yazidis, who follow a mixture of religions. It is these smaller groups, particularly the latter two and the Assyrians, which are voicing their concerns. The Yazidis live near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, with smaller communities in Syria, Turkey, Iran, Georgia and Armenia, and are estimated to number 500,000. The Mandaeans are smaller in number at some 100,000 and live mainly in southern Iraq, according to members of both groups. Under the former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, who ruthlessly promoted his Sunni brethren, a campaign of persecution against religious leaders and followers of the majority Shi'ites was carried out, as well as no acknowledgement of Assyrian, Chaldean and Yazidi groups, according to human rights observers. In addition, the minority groups were not allowed to participate in elections with their own independent parties. Following the fall of Saddam's regime in 2003 and the 30 January election, minority religious groups want to make sure that there will be no more discrimination against them. "The people from minorities who have been neglected after the [30 January] elections are some of the oldest residents in Iraq," Santa Mikhail, a member of the Assyrian Women's Union (AWU), told IRIN. "We want to have a clear vision through the media and through the people who believe in our rights as Iraqi citizens and [we want] civil society foundations that care about minority rights," al-Azawi added. Some 12 local NGOs, and many university professors and researchers participated in the event. "We are part of Iraqi society, we had original roots and civilisations on this land, but we are afraid that the winners in the parliament will forget or ignore us," director of the Iraqi centre for interlocutions and religion NGO, Khezhal al-Khalidy, told IRIN.

    11/4/2005- Why are there so few ethnic minority journalists in newsrooms across Britain? Editors often say they would like to hire more black people but cannot seem to find them. For their part, would-be black journalists say they are just unable to open the doors to a journalistic career. This is just one of the conundrums that a support network of ethnic minority journalists, called Aspire, is trying to solve. It was founded two years ago by Mutale Nkonde, a researcher at the BBC's news and current affairs division, and Corinne Amoo, a researcher with an independent production company, who were inspired by the success of an American organisation, the National Association of Black Journalists. Now Aspire is attracting widespread support by acting as a contact point for some 250 people. Sponsorship from national newspaper groups, including Trinity-Mirror, the Financial Times and the Guardian, has also helped. Both Nkonde and Amoo were disheartened by their early experiences in trying to break into the industry and then came up against specific problems that caused them unease. It was not a case of overt racism but the working out of what they and many of their board members have come to recognise as subtle cultural differences, which seem to hinder their advancement or induce feelings of isolation from white colleagues. Nkonde says: "Our network acts as a way for people with knowledge to advise others, whether they are trying to become journalists or are starting out in the business".
    Aspire can be contacted at
    ©The Guardian

    13/4/2005- After enduring 14 years of attacks at the hands of racists at his shop on a council estate in Lancaster, Mal Hussain has finally sold up and moved out of the area. Mr Hussain and Linda Livingstone bought the Ryelands Mini Market in 1991, and within days they were subjected to racist attacks after a man walked into the shop and demanded: "Get out of your chair, you fucking black monkey, and give me 20 cigarettes." Over the years, Mr Hussain has recorded more than 4,000 separate incidents, including a firebomb and being shot at with live bullets on two occasions. One bonfire night, a petrol-soaked mattress blocked the shop door. His shop was wrapped in razor wire and barricaded with grilles and steel shutters. He announced his intention to quit the Mini Market in August last year, but it has taken this long to reach a settlement. During the 1990s, Craig Wareing, a notorious local racist, was jailed for terrorising Mr Hussain. He was later banned from entering Lancaster for life. Mr Hussain said: "It has been 14 years of hell for both Linda and I. I have always stated that I would not be driven away from my successful business, built through sheer determination and despite all the attempts by racists to undermine it and force us to leave Ryelands. "I feel betrayed and failed by the institutions who are supposed to protect those who suffer in the hands of racists. "I relentlessly campaigned against the attacks I have experienced because racists cannot be allowed to get away with their acts of violence and harassment. "This is a sad day for us, because we feel we have been pushed into a corner and options removed from us." Lee Jasper, secretary of the National Assembly Against Racism, said: "In the last year, Mal has been looking for ways of leaving Ryelands, having come to the end of his tether with the constant nature of harassment he has been experiencing. "However, despite reaching a settlement, Mal has had to sell the Mini Market at a cutdown price. "This case represents one of the most serious and sustained acts of racist violence in recent history." At a court case in March 1996, the defence solicitor for an individual who had been alleged to have been harassing Mr Hussain said: "If one is abused occasionally, one can take offence. "But if one is abused for four to five years, one becomes immune to it. It is like water off a duck's back." The estate agent selling the Mini Market said the shop had weekly takings of between £4,000 and £6,800 with an average 25% mark-up on wholesale. Mr Jasper said the details of the settlement could not be disclosed. Lancaster city council is believed to have made an offer for the shop years ago, but negotiations failed.
    ©The Guardian

    14/4/2005- A former British National Party (BNP) activist has been fined hundreds of pounds by magistrates for the harassment of an anti-racism campaigner from Freezywater. Roger Goff, of Forest Road, was verbally abused by former Cheshunt BNP member John Cope, of Mortimer Gate, as he delivered election leaflets last year for the Broxbourne Against Racism Group, of which he is a co-founder. Cope was also said to have banged his fist on a car and taken photographs of Mr Goff and two of his companions. Mr Goff, who is also the Enfield spokesman for the National Union of Teachers (NUT) was pleased with the outcome. He said: "It is a result. The NUT is also totally opposed to the policies of the BNP. This kind of political intimidation is not on, and that was made loud and clear by the outcome of the court case. Ian Dust, co-ordinator of Broxbourne Against Racism, also spoke out against the right-wing extremist party. He said: "As we are now officially in an election campaign, I would like to quote Michael Howard, leader of the Conservative party, in a speech about the BNP recently this is not a political party, this is a bunch of thugs dressed up as a political party'. "I am confident that local people will reject out of hand both Cope and his political allies in the BNP at the ballot box on May 5." Hertford magistrates dealt Cope a £750 fine and ordered him to pay £104 costs last Monday, after he admitted harassment.
    ©Enfield & Haringey Independent

    14/4/2005- Conservative leader Michael Howard has said Tony Blair's failure over asylum led to ricin plotter Kamel Bourgass being able to commit his crimes. Mr Howard said Bourgass should not have been in the UK and said the case showed "the chaos in our asylum system". Home Secretary Charles Clarke dismissed the claim, but admitted "border issues" needed tackling, and said measures should include the use of ID cards. The Lib Dems warned against casting a slur on all asylum seekers. Bourgass, who had at least four false identities, has been jailed for murdering Detective Constable Stephen Oake and plotting to spread poisons. Another four men accused of playing a part in the poison plot were found not guilty. A further four men had pleaded not guilty, but the prosecution offered no evidence against them, so they were also acquitted.

    'Immigration controls'
    Mr Howard said: "The tragedy of what happened is that Kamel Bourgass, an al-Qaeda operative, should not have been in Britain at all. "He was one of the quarter of a million failed asylum seekers living in Britain. "If Mr Blair had delivered the firm but fair immigration controls promised eight years ago, Bourgass wouldn't have been in Britain. "He wouldn't have been here free to plot a ricin attack." But the Tories say the government has little idea who is entering or leaving the UK, despite the terrorist threat. They want 24-hour security at major ports, a new border police and the detention of asylum seekers who arrive with "suspect documents". The home secretary said asylum seeking should not be confused with terrorism. But he said there was a need to press ahead with measures to improve security and asylum processing. Mr Clarke told BBC News: "We have made major advances. "Asylum applications are reduced by two-thirds since 2002, removals are three-quarters higher than in 1997 but... there are a whole series of further measures we need to take to address it." He said ID cards, stronger borders and the type of anti-terrorism laws passed before the election were all needed. Labour says it would make an Identity Cards Bill, which it dropped shortly before the election, a priority of its first Queen's speech if it wins the election. Challenging the Conservatives to support it, Labour's Alan Milburn said: "There is no scope for playing politics on this."

    'Isolated case'
    Liberal Democrat spokesman Mark Oaten said ID cards would not deter a determined terrorist. Mr Oaten said it would be "totally wrong" to use "one isolated case" to cast a slur on all asylum seekers and immigrants. Bourgass told the Old Bailey he had destroyed his documents before entering the UK and claimed asylum in January 2000 using the name Nadir Habra. The next month he formally applied for asylum but was not interviewed by immigration officials until 15 August 2001. The Immigration and Nationality Directorate refused the asylum claim, sending him a letter in a brown envelope on 22 August 2001. Recipes for poisons and explosives were later discovered stored in the same envelope, along with £4,100 in cash. Bourgass' appeal against the asylum decision was dismissed in October 2001, when he became liable to be arrested and deported. But when arrested for shoplifting in July 2002 he told police his real name - so avoiding detection. In the year Bourgass asylum appeal was dismissed, 70,000 applications were made, of which 40,000 were refused. Only 9,000 people were removed from the country. Gareth Peirce, the solicitor for four men found not guilty in the trial, called on the government to justify some of its claims. "There was never any ricin, there were no poisons made," she said. "One has to consider how was it that all of us in this country were allowed to believe that there was ricin. That there was a substantial plot. That it wasn't an individualist, tiny, failed attempt." Massoud Shadjareh, of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, accused Tony Blair of linking the ricin arrests at the time to international terrorism. "The real issue is that terrorism has nothing to do with any particular group, asylum seekers or anybody. "The question is - are we going to let this politics of fear take over our lives?"
    ©BBC News

    14/4/2005- The report published yesterday by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia is a stark reminder of how backwards much of the continent remains in tackling racism. In Britain, the police have finally begun to keep proper records of racially motivated crimes. Though many incidents slip under the radar, it is now possible to gauge whether racist attacks are going up or down, and which groups are most at risk. But we are a rarity among the 25 nations of the European Union in this respect. Only France and Ireland have comparable systems. Germany records racist crimes only when committed by right-wing extremist groups. Greece, Italy and Portugal have no recording system whatever. And the same is true for the 10 mainly East and Central European nations that joined the EU a year ago. The consequences are serious. Most member states have no idea of the degree to which their ethnic minorities are being targeted, and it would be laughable to argue that racism is not a major problem. There are around 10 million Roma in Europe who have endured savage persecution for generations. There has been a wave of anti-Semitic attacks in France in the past year. The murder of the film-maker Theo Van Gogh provoked a spate of fire-bombings on mosques in the Netherlands. The disgusting racist chanting that sullied the England football friendly against Spain in Madrid last November caused outrage in this country. But in Spain it was nothing out of the ordinary. As the European Monitoring Centre points out, European governments cannot tackle racist violence effectively if they do not know the scale of the problem. The police in EU member countries urgently need to change their crime recording methods. Victims must be encouraged to come forward. This is an area where it makes sense for a standardised approach to be adopted across the EU. The agreement of EU governments to promote judicial co-operation to ensure that perpetrators do not take advantage of different standards in individual member states ought to be implemented. In most countries this will require a revolution in official attitudes towards ethnic minorities. And this will be impossible without the active co-operation of governments. The problem is that there are so now many prominent parties elected on a platform of xenophobia and thinly-veiled racism, from the Danish People's Party to the Northern League in Italy. They would no doubt launch a formidable resistance to these reforms. But that must be faced down.
    This is a battle that the European Union cannot afford to avoid any longer.
    © Independent Digital

    12/4/2005- A French court will rule next week whether to overturn the expulsion of three Sikh teenage boys who refused to remove their turbans despite a law banning religious insignia in state schools. Presiding judge Guy Roth said the administrative court in Melun southeast of Paris would deliver its verdict on April 19. The government commissioner, a legal expert whose recommendations are often followed by the court, asked that the request by the three boys to return to class be denied, as they plan to continue wearing their head coverings. Felix De Belloy, an attorney for the three boys, countered that as they had no intention of trying to win converts to their faith, the boys posed no threat to the law calling for the strict separation between church and state. The so-called "secularity" law, which came into effect at the start of the academic year in September, forbids the wearing of "conspicuous" religious insignia in state schools, like Muslim headscarves and Sikh turbans. Though the law does not single out any specific faith, many in France's five-million-strong Muslim community believe the hijab worn by teenage girls was the main target. The Sikh religion forbids male followers from cutting their hair and obliges them to wear a turban. The three boys expelled all wore keskis, or under-turbans -- a more discreet version of the turban often worn for sleeping. Education authorities initially agreed to allow Sikh boys to wear the thin cloth but later reneged. The teens, aged 15 to 18, were expelled on November 5, a decision confirmed a month later by the education authority responsible for their high school in Bobigny, northeast of Paris. They are currently taking correspondence classes. French officials estimate there are 5,000 to 6,000 Sikhs living in Paris and its suburbs.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    13/4/2005- In recent weeks, many a back alley in Riga's Old Town has been vandalized with hate-filled, racist graffiti. Observers call it a recent phenomenon. That may be true, but the increasingly visible presence of skinheads sauntering around the neighborhood's cobbled streets and the recent attack on a Sikh chef have many wondering if the foul graffiti indicate a growing intolerance in Latvian society. The graffiti – including swastikas and messages like "white power" – essentially espouse the ostracism of non-white persons from Latvia. Far worse, however, is that the hatred has gone beyond words and manifested itself in violent outbursts against dark-skinned foreigners. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the number of attacks has risen in recent months. "If you turn your back, you could be attacked from the rear, and no one will help you," says George Steele, an African American who has lived in Latvia for 10 years. Steele, who is well-known in the local community, was commenting on the recent assault on a Sikh chef, which occured during broad daylight in the Old Town. No one came to the victim's aid, either during the molestation or afterward. Peter, who is also of African origin, says, "I feel uncomfortable walking around here. I know there are these groups out there." He says he has been verbally harassed on numerous occasions. "I have heard many negative things, like ‘Go back to Africa,' or groups of people pointing and laughing," he says. Peter, who did not want to give his surname, says he has little faith that police will do anything. "The police just turn a blind eye to what's happening." Yet, ask a Latvian if racism exists and (if one can avoid the minefield of the state's relations with its Russian minority,) more often than not you will hear denial. While working at the Latvian Centre for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies in 2001, Artis Pabriks, who is now foreign minister, wrote that part of the denial is related to the Soviet period, where racism was never officially accepted. The government insisted that xenophobia was a phenomenon of the decadent West and not of communism, where the doctrine of "friendship of peoples" (druzhba narodov) was preached and used as a propaganda tool. To prove this point, Moscow went out of its way to develop cultural exchanges with African nations. Pabriks cited statistical data from the Baltic Data House that, even in 1998, there was a strong distrust of homosexuals in Latvian society, and that 10 percent of the population would be willing to block black people from entering the country. New data shows that racial intolerance is spiraling upward in a society that has had little history of immigration from Africa or Asia. Ilze Brands Kehris, current director of the human rights center, says that part of the problem is that racism has not been publicly addressed. "There is an illusion that Latvia is a tolerant society," she says, adding that polls "have shown a tendency toward xenophobia."

    There is growing intolerance against Africans, Chinese, Central Asians, and especially Muslims, despite the incredibly small numbers of those groups living in the state, Brands Kehris adds. Across Europe, xenophobia is on the rise. Societies that have been almost entirely mono-ethnic have become exposed to cultural diversity, either through immigration, guest workers or refugees. Even progressive societies like Scandinavia, in many ways considered a vanguard in the protection of minority rights and female advancement, are not immune to the ravages of racism. Considering current demographics, issues of race and culture are only bound to intensify in the future. Parts of Europe will soon experience the acute need for working hands – more taxpayers – and if necessary, they will have to entice foreign workers. Case in point: Latvia, which was this week given the dubious distinction of having the steepest population decline in the European Union. Recent figures from Eurostat, the European statistics office, predict that Latvia's population will decline by nearly 20 percent by 2050, falling as low as 1.8 million. "The debate has not begun about the affects of demographics yet," Nils Muiznieks, former integration minister, says. With such a steep decline, Muiznieks says he has supported convincing people who are here to stay, increasing the birth rate and inviting foreign Latvians. But even these measures could prove insufficient for meeting future labor demands. "We are going to get more diverse," warns Muiznieks, adding that the Ministry for Integration has already adopted a National Program for the Promotion of Tolerance.

    Controversial forums
    Racist attitudes in Latvian society appeared to strengthen at the end of the 1990s. George Steele, for one, has been a leader in confronting the issue in Latvia. Famous for his participation in the Latvian Song Festival, as well as his language skills, he has given interviews in the media discussing the verbal abuse directed at him in the past. In one interview published on the portal, Steele called Latvia one of the most racist countries he has lived in. The charge catalyzed a forum discussion on the issue of intolerance and prejudice. Nearly all non-whites here have reported a disturbing trend of verbal harassment, and sometimes even physical intimidation. A black British DJ was attacked in front of the Freedom Monument several years ago. Assailants reportedly chased him from the Old Town all the way to the monument. He did not report the attack. While the number of reported attacks against people of color are few and far between, this may be due to fact that many victims do not turn to the police for help. Racist advertisements have also appeared, playing to residents' fear of non-white people. In the run-up to the 2003 elections, the Freedom Party ran a political advertisement depicting an African dressed as a Latvian soldier kissing a local girl. The ad was considered so inflammatory that LTV, a television station, refused to broadcast it. The actors successfully sued the party, stating that the ad's intentions were misleading. Steele himself sued the Freedom Party for the racist advertisement – the first of its kind to deal with racial discrimination – and the court ruled in his favor. At the time, Mikhail Mamilov, an adviser to the Freedom Party, continued to play on the fear of a mass movement of people of color to Latvia. "There are 20 million refugees in Africa and Asia on their way to the EU, and Latvia is not an integrated society. We have a lot of internal problems between Russians and Latvians here. We are not ready to take in approximately 100,000 political refugees to our country," Mamilov said. Despite appealing to a fear of foreigners, the Freedom Party failed to win enough votes and disappeared in ignominy.

    Motley and ugly
    It is difficult to determine exactly how many are responsible for the racist messages, and many countries across Europe are grappling with the same issues. However, Latvia and Estonia were also recently placed at the bottom of a Europe-wide survey on racist and intolerant attitudes, according to the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. One of the report's findings said there appeared to be a correlation between a country's high GDP and the more open it was to migrants and minorities. Latvia is currently the poorest EU member state in terms of GDP per capita. To be sure, racist graffiti had been prevalent in other parts of Riga before it made its way into the Old Town, says Kaspars Zalitis, president of the Latvian branch of the European Youth Human Rights Network. Agreeing with the premise that intolerance is on the rise, he says he saw similar things in Riga's Moscow region. "Racism is getting worse, and no one's talking about it," he says. "If it's not right in front of our nose, then we don't see it." Zalitis claims that some of the racist comments on Web sites come from state-ministry employees. Though the scale of this is impossible to confirm, evidence suggests that much of the prejudice-laced commentary on originates in governmental ministries. Zalitis' organization is one of three that directly deal with racism in Latvia. Others include AfroLat, an NGO, and the Latvian Centre for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies. AfroLat held education seminars in the eastern region of Latvia last year. Zalitis says it was the first time that some people had ever seen someone from the African continent. The public's response was very positive, he adds. Still, merely being exposed to other cultures is not the only answer, says Branks Kehris. Therefore, state-sponsored campaigns are one way to increase tolerance. "It's in the state's interest to support this, and they should do everything they can to raise awareness," she adds. But as Steele says, "I feel like I have been left completely undefended not just by Latvian society, but by friends and acquaintances… I want Latvians to know they are not so wonderful, they are not to be trusted by people of color." It is reassuring to see that some of the racist graffiti has been co-opted by more tolerant members of society, who, lacking the spray gun to remove the foul epithets, depict a generic person dropping a swastika into a trashcan.
    ©The Baltic Times

    13/4/2005- During the Soviet period, racism was a logical impossibility. Theoretical Marxism-Leninism preached the doctrine of internationalism, that all peoples essentially shed their national cloak as soon as they don the garb of the proletariat. Workers in a workers' state do not need nationality; they have their economic convictions, which transcend bloodlines and skin color. In practice, of course, the Soviet Union was as prejudiced as most countries. A person's nationality was stamped in his/her internal passport, the tsarist, Stalinist anti-Semitism continued to thrive, and most people had to suffer some degree of Russian chauvinism. Naturally, after the Soviet Union disintegrated, national identity became all-important. For some, it was the stick by which all things were measured. To be sure, experience in West European countries shows that nationalism is here to stay, irrespective of the level of economic development, and that there will always be marginal elements in society who will take out their frustrations on groups that are different. But the same experience also shows that those governments prepared to combat the menace of intolerance and prejudice can bring pressure to bear and stem the tide. If it weren't for efforts by German authorities, no doubt we would be hearing about far more race-based attacks in places such as Dresden and Mannheim. As it is, these attacks, led mainly by individuals under the age of 21, are increasing. The year 2000 was plagued with some of the worst race-based violence Germany has seen since unification. With all the other societal challenges on its plate – dwindling population, corrupt civil service, creeping drug addiction, disgruntled medical staff, catastrophic road culture, disillusioned minorities – the Baltic governments are probably loathe to hear that they need to start addressing intolerance and racism. But historically, the Baltics have been swept along by developments in larger neighboring countries such as Russia and Germany, and as both German leaders (in recent years) and President Vladimir Putin (at Auschwitz) have admitted, hatred and xenophobia are on the rise. The Baltics should beware. As the newest Eurostat information shows (see lead story), they are in the throes of a demographic slide. In the not-too-distant future, there will not be a large enough labor pool for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to function normally. To make up the difference, migrant workers will have to be invited in. The question is, from where? Not matter who it is, the laws of economics dictate that these workers will be brought in on the basis of competitive wages. And sadly, the laws of human behavior show that an unprepared society will single out and target these foreigners as objects of hatred. Only a holistic effort coordinated from above will suffice to combat the evil of racism.
    ©The Baltic Times

    13/4/2005- The Prague 6 district court today acquitted Denis Gerasimov, a member of the Russian neo-Nazi band Kolovrat who was charged with promotion of Nazism and neo-Nazism, for the second time. The same court acquitted Gerasimov last October, but the appeal court returned the case to it for a new trial. The Kolovrat band performed at a skinhead meeting in Chroustovice, east Bohemia, in January 2004. On Gerasimov's departure from the Prague airport, the police found propaganda materials on him which were reportedly related to the neo-Nazi movement. Gerasimov, 28, has dismissed the accusation that he would incline to racism or Nazism. The plaintiff also accused Gerasimov of having performed songs with racially-intolerant texts at a Kolovrat concert in a restaurant in Kutna Hora, central Bohemia, in the summer of 2003. Some of the participants in the concert reportedly repeatedly gave the Nazi salute. The same happened at the Chroustovice concert last year. Kolovrat was founded as the first Russian skinhead band in Moscow in 1994. On its internet site, it admits that right- oriented skinheads and soccer fans rank among its most loyal fans. Gerasimov has written the texts of most of Kolovrat's songs.
    ©Czech Happenings

    13/4/2005- One of the companies owned by property magnate Olav Thon has fired bouncers at the bar and restaurant The Scotsman because they were giving the establishment a foreign look. The security company at the Scotsman in Oslo were informed that they were making the entrance look like an asylum seeker center, NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting) reports. In a sound recording manager Jar Erik Schultz in the Thon company Resthon explains that the security firm is being dismissed because there were too few Norwegians on the door at the Scotsman. "It looks like Ali Baba owns the place and not Olav Thon," Schultz said. The manager continues to say that these viewpoints are not his own but come from higher up. The conversation took place between Schultz and Jalal Yousuf, manager of security company SSG. "I was rather shocked. It is not exactly customary to end an agreement in that way. It was a strange experience," Yousuf told Norwegian news agency NTB. Yousuf said that he had not yet decided whether to file complaint but felt it was most important that the matter get public attention. "I wouldn't be surprised if similar things have happened in other places. Several acquaintances have said to me that this is a familiar situation when they hear about it," Yousuf said. Magne Kristensen, lawyer for the Thon Group, denied that racism was at the root of the dismissal. "There are purely business reasons related to delivery and service that are behind the decision," Kristensen said. Oslo's clubs and night spots are periodically accused of racist admission policies.

    14/4/2005- Oslo's bars, restaurants and clubs want a "white" image and discrimination of employees with a multi-cultural background is a widespread problem. Newspaper Dagsavisen has looked into the incident reported by NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting) on Wednesday, where a security firm was dismissed because the bouncers they provided for bar/restaurant The Scotsman in downtown Oslo 'made the place look like an asylum seeker reception'. Samad Elhami, of Pakistani origin, said he was fired by The Scotsman before on the grounds of his dark looks, but this story is one that is heard at regular intervals about Oslo's nightlife spots, though most often from potential guests who feel they are barred because of their ethnic origin. "Many restaurants and bars think like this but very few cases become known," Elisabeth Haugseth at the Center for Combating Ethnic Discrimination (SMED). Haugseth would not comment on the possibility that property tycoon Olav Thon, owner of the company behind the Scotsman firing, was worse than others. "But we get the impression that this is a systematic mentality when it comes from so high up in the Olav Thon Group," Haugseth told Dagsavisen. Claus Jervell of the Oslo Hotel and Restaurant Employee Union said that complaints of discrimination are common but tend to be very difficult to substantiate, and also stressed that the problem was more widespread than just establishments in the Thon Group. Dagsavisen reported that they had heard much of the tape recording of Jalal Yousuf's SSG security. SSG decided to tape the conversation when the Thon Group refused to supply a written explanation of why they wanted to stop using the company. According to Dagsavisen the tape contains remarks of "a serious racist character". Yousuf called the remarks "pure racism" and said he was getting out of hospitality security since the industry was permeated with racism. SSG has engaged legal counsel and filed charges against the Thon Group on Wednesday. The Thon Group was apologetic, and concern director Dag Tangevald-Jensen said the company took exception to the remarks if they were reported correctly. Tangevald-Jensen said that the remarks were from one of their 4,000 employees, the manager of the Scotsman, and not in line with Thon Group policy. Tangevald-Jensen said the manager had been suspended but no final decision had been made about possible consequences.

    Racial violence on Funen
    14/4/2005- A neo-nazi group is arrested for persecuting a Somali family on the island of Funen. A Somali family in the town of Langeskov on the island of Funen has suffered a long-time persecution. The police has arrested seven local youths and charged them with racial violence and vandalism against the family. The family fled their home after having their windows and mailbox broken, and being repeatedly threatened by bat-wielding youths. Police raided the young men's homes and confiscated bats, illegal knives, gas spray, a stun pistol and an air gun. The bats were decorated with swastikas and racial slogans. Two of the suspects are only 15 years old. An 18-year-old man has been remanded in prison for four weeks on charges of racial discrimination, violence, and owning amphetamine. The other six were released after interrogation. The attacks against the Somali family have caused an outrage in Langeskov, where local organizations have scheduled a march to protest racism in the town.

    Queen says Islam should be challenged
    14/4/2005- In a new biography, Denmark's Queen Margrethe II says Islam should be challenged. Islam poses a challenge both globally and locally, and the challenge should be taken seriously, says Queen Margarethe II in a new, openhearted biography. The book, based on interviews between the queen and the book's author, journalist Annelise Bistrup, is to be released on Saturday, the queen's 65th birthday. 'There is something impressive about people, whose existence is immersed in religion from dawn to dusk, from the cradle to the grave. There are also Christians who live like that,' the Queen said in the book. 'But it is a challenge, which we need to take seriously,' she added. 'We have admittedly ignored it for too long. Because we are tolerant - and a little lazy. I don't find it easy at all. Nor especially pleasant.' Queen Margarethe has studied Islam through her archaeological pursuits, and says she does not feel entirely unprepared to enter the debate. 'As I said, there is something fascinating about people who go to such lengths to surrender themselves to a religion. But there is also something frightening about the all-encompassing side of Islam,' she said. 'The challenge must be met, at the risk of getting some less flattering labels attached,' the Queen said. 'For there are some things we should not meet with tolerance. When we are tolerant, we should be careful to note whether it stems from convenience or conviction.' Queen Margarethe said we might stand at crossroads. 'Unfortunately, crossroads often only reveal themselves after we have crossed them,' she said. 'And one doesn't always turn out to have taken the right road. But we have at least realized that we cannot let ourselves be shooed off by things that frighten us. We cannot compromise our notions of justice and legitimacy.'
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    14/4/2005- The head of the new Federal Migration Office says Switzerland will always be a refuge for persecuted people, despite tighter asylum laws. Eduard Gnesa – who took up his post at the beginning of the year – told swissinfo that for Switzerland the challenge was to integrate its immigrant population better, particularly those from the Balkans. Parliament has been discussing amendments to the immigration and asylum laws which, if approved, would make them among the toughest in Europe. The Senate backed controversial proposals to speed up the asylum procedure and pressure rejected asylum seekers to leave Switzerland. At the same time the Federal Court ruled that the authorities must not cut emergency aid as a means to drive away rejected asylum seekers. The Federal Migration Office was created through the merger of the refugee and immigration authorities.
    swissinfo-interview: Urs Geiser

    swissinfo: Has Switzerland's humanitarian image not been damaged by the Senate decisions?
    Eduard Gnesa: People who are persecuted or come from a conflict zone will always find protection in Switzerland. We have about 24,000 people with regular refugee status in this country and another 24,000 people with temporary refugee status. They can stay until the situation in their home countries improves. The problem we have, which many people - the churches and humanitarian organisations - don't want to recognise, is the approximately 15,000 people who have not been granted asylum and refuse to leave Switzerland. They don't tell us who they are or where they come from, so we can't send them back.

    swissinfo: A year ago the federal authorities drastically cut welfare payments to rejected asylum seekers. How successful has this measure been in persuading them to leave?
    E.G.: Figures for the first nine months show that only 17 per cent of the rejected 3,800 asylum seekers claimed emergency aid after their welfare benefits were cut. Of course, the government and parliament will have to take into account a recent ruling by the Federal Court that rejected asylum seekers remain eligible for emergency aid even if they refuse orders to leave the country.

    swissinfo: Critics have argued that a tightening of the asylum law will cause people to go underground and get caught up in crime. Are these concerns justified?
    E.G.: A survey carried out by the Federal Immigration Office showed no significant increase in the number of criminal asylum seekers. Only about five per cent of the 3,800 rejected applicants committed - mostly petty - crimes. The percentage is lower than among those who are still going through the asylum procedure. As for people going underground, we don't have reliable figures yet. Even before the welfare payment was cut we had an estimated 10,000 people each year who disappeared from our records after their asylum request was rejected. They might have left the country or have stayed as illegal immigrants.

    swissinfo: Asylum applications reached a 17-year low in 2004 in line with a general trend in Europe. Will your office run out of work soon?
    E.G.: Not at all, but more job cuts are inevitable by the end of this year. Our work has been changing in the past few months and we might have to focus more on repatriation efforts or helping the cantonal authorities deal with embassies to provide identity papers. We also have to step up efforts to better integrate recognised refugees into the Swiss labour market. Currently only about 20 per cent of them have jobs.

    swissinfo: Apart from the asylum law, parliament is also amending immigration rules. What are the main decisions?
    E.G.: Parliament has endorsed a system introduced in 2002 which gives preference to European Union citizens and highly skilled workers from other countries. It's a fact that we have had integrations problems with people who are not very well qualified.

    swissinfo: How important is the forthcoming nationwide vote on closer security and asylum cooperation with the EU, the so-called Schengen/Dublin accords?
    E.G.: Police cooperation will facilitate visa regulations and increase security. As for the Dublin accord, it will help to improve the situation in the asylum sector and make it impossible for asylum seekers to apply to more than one of the signatory countries. But it might take some time before the system works. It was introduced just over two years ago and not all the member countries cooperate fully or feed their data into the system as required.

    swissinfo: Is Switzerland struggling to integrate its foreigners as was suggested in a nationwide vote on easing strict citizenship rules?
    E.G.: The result of last September's vote showed that the perception of foreigners in Switzerland was influenced by integration problems and especially cases of abuses of our laws. By that I mean rejected asylum seekers who refuse to leave the country, or criminal foreigners. They only make up a small part of the overall foreign population but it seems to be enough to make the Swiss vote against proposals to ease citizenship rules for young foreigners.

    swissinfo: What needs to be done?
    E.G.: I think we have to make it clear to foreigners that they have to respect our laws. But at the same time our integration efforts have to be more focused, especially on people from Balkan countries - the biggest immigrant community in Switzerland. We are not pointing the finger at them and the majority are very well integrated into the Swiss society. But some just don't respect the rules and refuse to accept an authority.

    13/4/2005- Right-wing politician Michiel Smit has been banned from staging a protest in Venray, the scene of recent clashes between Lonsdale youths and Turkish immigrants. Mayor Jos Waals said Saturday's protest organised by Smit posed a threat to public order. He said vandalism could occur as protestors moved through the city streets. But Smit — who founded the right-wing party NieuwRechts (New Right) after he was expelled from Pim Fortuyn's Leefbaar Rotterdam (LR) — said the last word had not been said. A legal challenge to the ban is being prepared. "We hope that an alternative can be discussed with the city council," he said. Waals banned the demonstration based on an emergency ordinance imposed last week. The by-law was sparked after violence erupted at the start of this month between extreme-right youths and people with Turkish ancestry after windows were smashed at a local mosque. The Dutch youths were wearing Lonsdale clothing, which has come to identify racist Dutch youths. Lonsdale is said to be an unofficial abbreviation for 'Laat ons Nederlanders samen de allochtonen langzaam elimineren' (meaning in English: 'Let us Dutch people gradually eliminate the immigrant together'). The national security service AIVD is now investigating the rise of right-wing Dutch youth and the threat they pose to society. Police chiefs have recently raised alarm about the rapid radicalisation of native youths. Meanwhile, Smit claims the emergency ordinance in Venray is illegal. He asserted that it provides the council the power to ban public gatherings in nightlife venues, but pointed out his protest would be held outside. "If every demonstration would be assessed in this manner, a rally could never be held again in the Netherlands," he said. Smit will continue unabated with planning the demonstration and is expecting 80 people to participate. The objective of the demonstration is to campaign for a ban on offensive symbols, such as the swastika. Smit is also demanding that Mayor Waals resign, claiming that the way he has responded to right-wing youths is incorrect. Smit said Waals will only incite them further, rather than ensure order. But Waals said if Smit proceeds with the protest, police will step in and break the demonstration up. He also said that he had no need to reply to Smit's demand that he resign as city mayor.
    ©Expatica News

    As the Dutch face a Cabinet crisis and debate continues about immigration problems, crime and economic security, we look at where the Netherlands is today. What makes the country tick and where is it heading?

    April 2005- The Netherlands is busy trying to find answers to these very questions. Until recently such a debate would have been unimaginable, but now everything is being questioned. The international media has long portrayed the Netherlands as a curious little country with extraordinarily liberal policies and remarkably little social division. At the same time the Netherlands was admired for its impressive economic performance in the mid 1990s, as well as its pivotal role as a major transport hub for goods entering and leaving the European continent. The success of the consensus-style decision-making in labour relations — known as the Polder Model — was the envy of the world. While other countries stood by and watched — sometimes in awe, more often in unease — the Dutch legislated for drugs, prostitution, gay marriage, abortion and mercy killings. The country also operated a loose immigration policy. Sandwiched between Belgium and its giant neighbour Germany, the Dutch (population 16,258,000 in 2005) seemed to have discovered the perfect combination between the most liberal social policies and a modern, efficient economy. A major element of the Dutch model was relativeren, putting things in perspective, and gedogen, the policy of toleration, which is applied unofficially. This often materialises as: 'If it doesn't hurt me directly or it is not going to go away, I can find ways of tolerating it'.

    As a trading nation, the Dutch expect a return on this investment of goodwill: when they decriminalised soft drugs and treat hard drugs primarily as a medical rather than a criminal matter, they expected a corresponding drop in the problems associated with drugs. Instead, more than 1,000 cannabis coffeeshops and businesses selling drug paraphernalia have sprung up around the country and drug tourism and international trafficking is rampant. The Netherlands is also considered the main ecstasy-producing country in the world. Rules and regulations enacted — often to protect workers and the consumer — have created a bureaucratic maze which often does more to hinder, rather than help the ordinary citizen. Through the 1970s to the 1990s, the Dutch worked hard to cater for what they perceived were the needs of newcomers from the former colonies Suriname and the Dutch Antilles, and then for the Turkish and Moroccan people who moved here. Since the slide of the country's economic fortunes from 2000 onwards, there has been a growing feeling among native Dutch people that immigrants have not been pulling their weight and have failed to integrate as they should. It was this type of dissatisfaction that led to the rise of anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn. The murder of this populist by a native Dutchman on 6 May 2002 triggered a loss of innocence and destroyed the sense of quiet satisfaction of a multi-cultural society at peace. Society suffered another blow with the horrific killing of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in November 2004. The suspected killer this time was a Muslim man, in his mid 20s, who was apparently incensed by Van Gogh's short film 'Submission' that accused the Koran of advocating domestic violence against women. The authorities subsequently arrested a dozen young Muslims who were allegedly part of an active terror cell that was bent on attacking society. As a result, the country is undergoing a deep-seated re-examination; principles and ideas long held to be self-evident have been put under the microscope.

    Politicians and opinion-makers are working at a feverish pace to find answers for issues that are exercising minds in other countries too: immigration, culture clashes, terrorism, public safety and basic values, to name but a few. To date, consensus has taken a back seat to ideas such as a return to older Dutch norms and values; tighter enforcement of rules; tougher punishment for offenders and a limiting (or complete halt) to immigration, coupled with compulsory integration for people who wish to live here permanently. There is no denying that there are serious issues to be addressed and that all rights come with corresponding obligations. But there is a danger that the current debate is being used by some people to scapegoat others, with Muslims cast as the main villains. The media in the Netherlands has, for example, given disproportional coverage to politicians such as Geert Wilders, who has built a reputation on his hostility to Islam. For his troubles, he and Somali-born MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali were forced into hiding for months because of death threats. Interestingly, the widest coverage given to Wilders and his views on Muslims has been in the left-leaning papers 'De Volkskrant' and 'NRC Handelsblad' as they shift their political views to the right. The biggest selling daily 'De Telegraaf' has been more critical of Wilders although the paper is firmly rooted in the conservative camp. The debate in this small Western European country is being followed with interest abroad — partly because outsiders are amazed at radical suggestions being put forward, and partly, perhaps more secretly, to see if a Dutch model will emerge that can be applied successfully elsewhere. The current centre-right coalition, led by Christian Democrat CDA Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, is heavily influenced by Fortuyn's views. Legislation has been enacted to compel would-be immigrants (except those from certain countries) to complete an integration course — involving the Dutch language and culture — in their home countries as a pre-condition to being granted a residence permit. This legislation is considered to be a world first. The Dutch reputation as a 'safe haven' has also been called into question by the decision to deport 26,000 long-term asylum seekers, many of whom have been waiting for five years or more to have their applications finalised. Though this has given rise to some heart-wrenching accounts, it has also become apparent that many of those earmarked for deportation will in fact be allowed to stay. And despite the prevalence of gloom-and-doom merchants on the public stage, crime has dropped in Amsterdam for the fifth year in a row, with shoplifting and burglaries at business premises down 13 percent and 26 percent respectively according to a report by the capital's police chief in January 2005. This mirrors a general trend. Rotterdam has led the way in putting police officers back on the beat in the city centre to help tackle anti-social behaviour and petty crime.

    The Netherlands went from being an economic powerhouse in the 1990s, averaging 4 percent annual growth, to being one of the sick men of Europe in subsequent years. Growth fell to 1.4 percent in 2004. The Dutch economy suffered 0.3 percent negative growth in the last quarter of 2002 and officially entered a recession when Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell a further 0.3 percent in the first three months of 2003. Risking the country's envied consensus in industrial relations, the centre-right coalition, headed by Balkenende, decided to slash government spending in September 2003 by EUR 17 billion by 2007 and persuade the trade unions to accept a pay freeze. Additional cuts followed as budgetary problems worsened. The budget breached the 3 percent maximum of the European Union's Growth and Stability Pact in 2003, before falling to 2.3 percent last year. Union-led protests in the latter part of 2004 — including a demonstration of 200,000 people in Amsterdam — helped blunt some of the most contentious budget cuts. But the main elements of the government's reforms — long-term control of government spending, salaries, pensions and healthcare costs — remain in place. Meanwhile, unemployment has continued to rise significantly. The Netherlands had the fastest growing unemployment rate in the EU, rising by one-third from December 2002 to December 2003. An average of 500,000 people (6.6 percent of the workforce) was jobless in the Netherlands by the first quarter of 2004. The unemployment rate has continued to pick up and it is estimated it will peak in 2005 at 6.75 percent of the workforce before decreasing to 6.25 percent in 2006. It is worth noting that while unemployment has been growing, it was still below the EU average of 8.8 percent in January 2004. The government is hopeful that its tough economising measures are slowly beginning to bear fruit. Macroeconomic think tank CPB has forecast Dutch business will benefit from the upswing of the international cyclical situation in 2006, with domestic expenditure also expected to contribute to economic growth. "For the first time in years, the purchasing power of households is projected to rise, enabling people to spend more. The foreseen increased profitability of companies will contribute to a considerable increase of investments," the CPB forecast said, predicting economic growth of 2.25 percent in 2006.

    International role
    The Netherlands ran the EU presidency effectively in the second part of 2004, the first presidency to follow the big bang expansion of the EU to 25 states. Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot used the opportunity to call for a social charter to boost enthusiasm for the European ideal by making the EU more accountable to its citizens. This is an idea the Dutch government should pursue both in Europe and domestically. A social contract between the public and The Hague could be a significant step in helping to restore some of the consensus that was too quickly jettisoned in recent years. The Netherlands has also worked hard to maintain close links the US. As the contingent of 1,300 Dutch troops ended its peacekeeping mission in Iraq in March 2005, The Hague agreed to provide elite troops for service in Afghanistan and opened discussions with the Pentagon about future military co-operation.

    So what attracts expats to the Netherlands?
    Notwithstanding the cuts in public spending and the fastest-growing unemployment rate in the EU, the Netherlands still has a high standard of living. The UN's Human Development Report 2004 also ranks the Netherlands fifth in the world in terms of health and life expectancy, education and earnings. It is placed second in the EU behind Sweden. Amsterdam is rated 12th in the latest Mercer report on the most liveable cities in the world. The country has a good road network, plus land, sea and air connections with the rest of the globe. Many international businesses are headquartered in the Netherlands, ensuring opportunities for expats. The heated discussions on immigration and national identity can also be seen in a positive light. Not all of the proposed answers will appeal to everyone, but at least the Netherlands is looking for answers — while many other countries sit back and wait.
    ©Expatica News

    14/4/2005- An Islamic school in Amsterdam has moved to exchange expertise, organise sport competitions and hold joint patriotism and integration seminars with two Dutch schools, IslamOnline reports. Al-Soeff primary school's headmaster said parents will be crucial in helping bring students from the different schools and enhancing the integration of young Muslims in Dutch society. "Parents will play a key role in brining students together," said Al-Soeff's principal, Rahmat Abdel Rahman. "It also helps students stick close to their roots and ethnic backgrounds," he continued. His pupils are mostly of Surinamese, Pakistani, Somali and Moroccan descent. The agreement reached for the year 2005-2006 was the result of efforts made by all three schools over the past two years to build confidence among students and help them get closer to one another. Students had visited churches and mosques to give them direct experience of one another's religions, Rahman said. Rashid Jamari, member of the Amsterdam municipal council, lauded the protocol as "a golden opportunity to enhance integration and help students interact well with one another," stressing that it needed to be translated into "concrete steps". Only 3 percent of Muslim children in the Netherlands study in Islamic schools, while half receive their education in government-run schools and the rest are enrolled at Christian-oriented schools, according to Jamari. There are 30,000 Muslim students in the Netherlands, and as social tensions continue to rise over the integration of the country's one-million-strong Muslim community, the issue of religious education is currently polarising the political spectrum. According to a report published on Wednesday by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, only in Ireland did racist incidents increase more sharply than in the Netherlands over the period 2001-2004. Under the Dutch constitution, religious and secular education is subsidised by the government, which has enabled Dutch Muslims to build more than 40 schools over the past two decades. Dutch MPs such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali - the Somali-born feminist author and screenwriter, have been calling for the country's Islamic schools to be banned. Hirsi Ali wrote the screenplay for murdered film-maker Theo Van Gogh's controversial film 'Submission' which severely criticised the treatment of women by Muslim men. After the film was shown on Dutch television last autumn, a Moroccan extremist shot and stabbed Van Gogh to dead in Amsterdam, triggering a wave of anti-Muslim attacks in the Netherlands. Hirsi Ali also received death-threats after the airing of 'Submission', and had to go into hiding. In December, Queen Beatrix dedicated her annual address to the nation on 25 December (Christmas Day) on the importance of tolerance and moderation for the wellbeing of Dutch society.

    14/4/2005- Conservative politicians in Germany are up in arms over the decision made by the ruling SPD-Green government to make lessons in ethics and religion compulsory in Berlin. School lessons with religious content in a country like Germany, in which church and state and are deliberately kept separate has always been a very emotive issue. A new row over the form that lessons with religious content should take has now broken out in Germany, following a decision by Social Democrat leaders in the city state of Berlin to make lessons in ethics and religion compulsory. These lessons would provide a general survey of the world's religions without any special bias towards the Christian faith. Lessons organized by the churches would only be optional and would not free students of the obligation to attend the new ethics classes. The decision by Berlin's SPD leadership has infuriated numerous federal politicians particularly from the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Bavaria's arch-conservative Christian Social Union (CSU). During a special parliamentary session in the federal parliament on Wednesday, the CDU's education spokespeople called Berlin's plan to introduce mandatory ethics lessons an aggressive assault on the Christian faith in German society. The party's Hermann Kues said the new lessons to be introduced in 2006 smacked too much of the anti-religious approach that teachers in former Communist East Germany preferred:

    A question of choice
    "The freedom of religion is one of our highest values," Kues said. "I believe that the new ethics lessons as intended by Berlin are not suitable to give school students a fair choice of whether to become believers or atheists. There are references to God in our Constitution or Basic Law, and we must not let anyone neglect values which in our society are so much based on Christian faith." Needless to say, the Christian churches themselves have joined the critics' chorus. The head of Germany's Protestant church council, Wolfgang Huber (photo), declared that everything had to be done to prevent Berlin from becoming godless. But Wilhelm Schmidt from the Social Democrat faction in the Bundestag accused his political rivals of hypocrisy "No one prevents anyone from taking lessons in the religion of their choice," Schmidt complained. "So why all the fuss now? None of the opponents of the Berlin plan, he argued, ever complained about the fact that only a meager 20 percent of school students have taken part in voluntary lessons in Christianity in the past few decades. "And now all of a sudden you're making such a fuss", he told conservative MPs.

    Brandenburg success a template
    Ethics lessons, which Berlin is poised to make compulsory, were introduced in neighboring Brandenburg as early as 1996. And according to the head of the region's institute for education, Jan Hofmann, the subject has been a success. "There's only a very small group of school students whose parents categorically object to these lessons," he said. "And then there are those who have opted for lessons in religion offered by either the Catholic or Protestant church. These children do not have to attend ethics classes. I think that despite initial criticism our system has worked quite well and might serve as a model for other federal states." It is possible that Berlin may have to soften the compulsory status of its planned general ethics lessons, because Germany's conservative parties are intending to bring the issue before the federal constitutional court in Karlsruhe.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    As the Bundestag discusses introducing compulsory religion and ethics classes, DW-WORLD takes a look at how the topic is dealt with across Europe.

    14/4/2005- "Every type of religion class comes with its own version of history," explained Peter Schreiner, President of the Intereuropean Commission for Church and School (ICCS). "You can make comparisons, but there won't ever be a pan-European approach." For now, he pointed out, each country decides itself how to organize classes, develop the syllabus and select teaching materials, train teachers -- as well as providing options for students unwilling to attend religion classes. The way the topic of religion is treated varies widely across the continent. In southern and eastern Europe, Finland, Italy, Austria and Germany, religion classes are divided according to denomination. In other countries, including Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain, students can opt for non-denominational alternatives, such as ethics, philosophy or values classes.

    Germany and Austria
    Compulsory religion classes across Germany's states is a principle enshrined in the German constitution or 'Grundgesetz', with one small opt-out clause, known as the "Bremer Clause" for certain states with a different legal status. Bremen and Berlin, for example, are not governed by the legal obligation to provide religious education, as legislation already in existence when the 'Grundgesetz' was drawn up in 1949 takes precedence. Instead, these states offer 'Biblical History' and a discipline known as LER - 'Life, Ethics and Religion.' Berlin, moreover, is the only German state where religion classes are the responsibility of the church rather than the state. In Austria, students can't complain of lack of choice, with Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, New Apostolic, Jewish, Islam and Budhist classes available. Religion, whichever it is, is a compulsory subject in schools, while an alternative, non-denominational option has been also been available since 1997.

    Italy and Greece
    Catholic classes, not surprisingly, are a guaranteed fixture of the Italian education system. Available to children from all backgrounds, religion became a voluntary subject in 1984. Other classes are also provided, but need to be paid for privately if sufficient pupils express interest. Alternatively, students can attend 'Civic and Human Rights' classes. Greece takes the opposite approach. Here, Orthodox classes are compulsory, regardless of personal faith.

    Learning about religion
    In northern Europe, England, Wales and Scotland, pupils can take religion -- or a class in which they learn about the world's different religions. "Classes about religion belong to schools' educational duties, rather than religious education per se," observed Friedrich Schweitzer, theology professor at Tübingen University. Local education authorities in England and Wales develop a syllabus together with the Anglican church and representatives from other religious communities, although the emphasis is firmly on Christianity. Even so, since 1994, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Budhists have been encouraged to help contribute to the syllabus.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    Nogger Black ice cream: logo has nothing to do with hip hop culture says maker GB

    13/4/2005- Sweden's biggest ice cream maker, GB Glace, has been accused of racism after launching an advertising campaign for its new ice cream, Nogger Black. The company has been strongly criticised by the Centre Against Racism for associating the ice cream with black youth culture, including using graffiti-style writing in the ad. "We're not critical of the colour of the ice cream or the name 'Black' but the whole concept of the advertisement," said Amina Ek of the Centre Against Racism to Svenska Dagbladet. The ad itself features a heart drawn in white on a black background with the words 'Nogger + liquorice = true' inside. The chairman of the Centre Against Racism, Stig Wallin, told Aftonbladet that he reacted immediately when he first saw the ad on Tuesday afternoon. "I read it as 'Nigger + liquorice = true'," he said. "It's impossible not to see this as an allusion to racism." Amina Ek said that this kind of ad "reinforced the racist structure of society" and that the Centre Against Racism was considering reporting GB to the Discrimination Ombudsman if the company did not withdraw the campaign. But GB, which is owned by Unilever, said it didn't see what all the fuss was about. Petronella Warg, the company's information officer, told The Local that the original Nogger ice cream had been around since 1979 and derived its name from the nougat filling. "That was brown - and nobody complained about that," she said. The new variety includes liquorice and is black, so "Nogger Black" apparently seemed like a natural name. "I think what they say about the ads alluding to black hip hop culture is far-fetched," said Warg. "Drawing a heart in the school playground with two names in, that's my culture." According to Petronella Warg, the company had "a couple of complaints" from consumers when the ice cream was first launched a couple of weeks ago but "it was no big deal". Nevertheless, she added that GB would listen to what the Centre Against Racism had to say. "If anyone is really offended then we will take that into account. Aftonbladet's readers appeared to support GB's view on the matter. Of almost 50,000 people who answered the question "Do you think the ice cream advertisement is racist?" 94% said no.
    ©The Local

    13/4/2005- "This is not just anti-Semitism," said Riccardo Pacifici, the spokesman of the Rome Jewish community, referring to the banners with huge swastikas and the words, "Rome is Fascist" that appeared during clashes with police at Sunday's soccer match here. "This is pure violence and racism by people who probably don't even know any Jews," Pacifici said. Eighty-five policemen were injured, and there were 17 arrests and 259 subpoenas. Lazio received a 25,000 fine and an official warning on Tuesday. Lazio fans identify with the Right and consider the Livorno team leftists. Along with chanting "Jews! Jews!" as an insult against the Livorno players, they also screamed "Fedayin!" – referring to the presumed pro-Palestinian sympathies of the "leftists" from Livorno. Most of the members of this violent fringe are not affluent and are given free tickets by the teams' organizers. They stand and cheer in the northern and southern "curves" of the stadium – one occupied by rightists and the other by leftists. Critics say the police know the identities of all of the extremists, and it would be much easier to prevent their entering the stadiums than to close them, as Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu has warned he would do. "The teams' managers are afraid of losing their clientele of fans," said Pacifici. "But it would be far better and would surely not harm business if these agitators were kept out of the crowd." At last Sunday's soccer match, the Nazi banners were permitted to be shown for more than half an hour. Sports commentators are now demanding that all symbols be banned, but the sale of merchandise – flags, shirts, badges, etc. – with opposing symbols brings in a lot of money. The league said Lazio would have faced harsher penalties if not for the "disassociation shown by other fans" and the "documented initiatives by the team to avoid such conduct." Lazio president Claudio Lotito said after the decisions were handed out that the fans responsible were a minority. "Lazio fans are not represented by what was seen Sunday," Lotito said. "We can't have a policeman for each person." Lotito also said that he agreed efforts should be made to "isolate the fringes of fans" that promote violence and racism.

    Chief Inspector Nicodemo de Franco, of the National Police, complained in an interview, published in La Stampa on Tuesday, that until not long ago policemen were stationed among the fans in the two "curves" and, through friendly relations, managed to keep them under control. "Then it was decided from high up that we were to abandon the curves," he said. The ultras then organized themselves "into a hierarchy with politicized leaders," said de Franco, adding that they were united more by extremist political conditioning than by their love of soccer. "The curves are places where one no longer knows who is in charge. Or rather, one knows too well, and it isn't the state," he said. Laws that make racism and anti-Semitism crimes were enacted in 1994. Paolo Di Canio, a soccer star whose arm seems every so often to swing automatically into a Fascist salute, was fined 10,000 recently for engaging in an "apology for fascism." However, last Sunday he did it again – albeit in a less defined, horizontal motion. But the violence is not monopolized by rightists. It is instigated and carried out by extremists on both sides of the political spectrum. Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni has been criticized for singling out only the Right, when actually the fans of both teams were involved in the violence. After praising Rome's citizens for the outstanding way they kept peace and order during the pilgrimage of two million people during Pope John Paul II's funeral, he was dismayed at Sunday's soccer violence. At the preview of a documentary entitled Where Is Auschwitz by filmmaker Mimmo Calopresti on a visit to Auschwitz by 200 Italian high school students, Veltroni said, "We have to make sure that the boys who unfurled a Nazi symbol at the Olympic Stadium yesterday learn that in the name of that flag, other boys were deported and entire families murdered. The reappearance of this flag 60 years later demonstrates that we must not stop this work on memory." He added that the extremists do not represent Rome, but rather the thousands of students who continue their research on this theme do. Reached by phone in Ukraine, where he is touring Jewish institutions, Leone Paserman, the president of the Rome Jewish community, told The Jerusalem Post that he was very concerned. "It is extremely grave that the president of the Lazio team has not taken a position. In similar situations in the past, such violence was denounced and action taken. Relations by the soccer associations with these groups of ultras should be broken," he said. According to Pacifici, there were Jewish fans in the stands cheering for Lazio. They left the stadium as soon as the violence broke out.
    ©The Jerusalem Post

    13/4/2005- Of the original 15 European Union countries, Italy is one of just three which does not produce data on racism and xenophobia, a newly published report by the Vienna-based European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) said on Wednesday. The report, 'Racist violence in 15 member states', says the 'top of the class' for the completeness of their statistics are Finland, France, Ireland, Great Britain, Denmark and Sweden. Austria and Germany tend to focus on episodes of far-right racism, and other countries give less comprehensive data, while Greece and Portugal are the other two countries apart from Italy who do not compile statistics, the EUMC said. The report highlights the need for improved data collection, especially via unofficial data collection mechanisms, and suggests how this might be achieved to better understand the problem of racism and tackle it effectively. Of the countries for which data is available, the EUMC report showed that over the period 2001-2004, the number of racist incidents increased most sharply in Ireland - by an alarming 88.4 percent - and in Holland (by 3 percent). Racist incidents over the period fell the most in Denmark (by over 55 percent), followed by Germany (by more than 21 percent), Austria (by 17.4 percent), Sweden (down more than 13 percent), and Great Britain (down nearly 7 percent).

    14/4/2005- European governments including Spain were accused of complacency and of failing to confront the scale of racist violence after a report said only a handful of nations collected proper information. The British daily The Independent reported that the document also highlighted a surge of attacks on racial minorities and the impact of global events, with Muslims being targeted after 11 September and more anti-Semitic attacks following crises in the Middle East. The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia said that only six EU countries monitored the scale of violence properly, and demanded a comprehensive system. Spain only released only limited data for 2001 and Greece, Italy and Portugal have "no official criminal justice date on racist crime/violence". Most of the 10 countries that joined the EU last year have little record-keeping and in the EU as a whole, "no two countries have data that is strictly comparable," the report said. Beate Winkler, the centre director, said: "If you are not collecting data, it seems that you do not have a problem. My message to those governments is to give a clear lead, take the problem seriously and face reality". The report identifies the groups most vulnerable to racist violence as illegal immigrants; Jews; Muslims; North Africans; émigrés from the former Yugoslavia; refugees and asylum-seekers and Roma. There was clear evidence "that attacks on Muslim communities increased in the months following 11 September" and some victims were wrongly identified as Muslims. The document adds: "There is also evidence from a number of member states, such as France, Belgium, [the] Netherlands, that attacks on Jewish people and Jewish property have flared up in response to conflicts in the Middle East." According to the research, the main perpetrators tend to be "young males; members of extremist politically motivated organisations and others not affiliated to such groups." In Britain - praised for its record keeping - media and NGO reports "indicate some evidence of increased violence directed at people who are or are presumed to be Muslim".
    ©Expatica News

    13/4/- The under-recording of racist incidents in most European Union member states is hampering efforts to crack down on racist violence, according to a new report from the Union's racism watchdog. The report 'Racist Violence in 15 EU Member States released by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) Wednesday warns that official data collection on racist violence in 15 of the bloc's 'old' member states is "non-existent or ineffectual" and needs further development. The EUMC, a Vienna-based agency of the European Union (EU), says only six member states - Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Britain and Sweden -- keep "a comprehensive system that adequately reveals the extent and nature of racist violence in their society." Three member states - Greece, Italy and Portugal -- have "no publicly available" official criminal justice data on racist crime and violence. The group adds that in most EU countries attacks on ethnic or religious minorities are not specifically recorded as "racially motivated offences." As a result, such attacks are not published through official crime statistics. The EUMC warns that such a lack of data collection could "seriously hamper" efforts to respond to violent racism within the bloc, and insists that effective data collection is paramount to combating racist violence. "The EU needs to know how widespread the problem of racist or xenophobic violence is. Otherwise it cannot effectively protect its cultural, religious and ethnic minorities against the violation of their fundamental rights, including their most basic rights to human dignity, life and integrity of the person," Beate Winkler, director of the EUMC said in a statement Wednesday. "Not to record such incidents means that we underestimate the problem and that its victims remain invisible." The EUMC says such differences make it difficult to enforce a global response to the problem. "As a result, decision-makers will find it difficult to develop adequate policy and practical responses to the problem. We need to know more about the perpetrators of racist crime and adopt effective legislation that will ensure they are punished with proportionate and dissuasive penalties," Winkler added. The group warns that comparing data between countries is also misleading as the effectiveness of official data collection systems - where they exist at all -- differs greatly between EU member states. This depends on the country's legislation, whether criminal justice agencies have been trained to respond to incidents of racist violence, and the existence of and accessibility to data on racist crime. "Such differences lead to a distorted picture when comparing the raw figures of racist incidents between individual member states," the report says. "Countries with the best data collection systems, broad definitions of racist acts and the most systematically applied legislation will have the most complete figures. The number of incidents recorded may ironically reflect the effectiveness of their definition of racist violence and data collection rather than any notion of racism being more of a particular problem for that state." As a result the EUMC says it is difficult to assess whether racist violence is actually increasing or decreasing within the bloc.

    "Given the absence of official data in many member states, the actual extent of racist violence cannot be firmly assessed. Unofficial data collection mechanisms - run by NGOs and academic institutions - generally do not have the resources to provide comprehensive information on racist violence," EUMC spokesman Frederick Banson, told IPS Wednesday. "They can however provide some indication of whether there is a problem with racist crime in a country. In those countries that do not adequately record racist incidents, the EUMC's National Focal Points have indicated to the EUMC that the problem is being underestimated," he added. The EUMC says good data collection is essential for protecting victims of racist violence and punishing the perpetrators of such actions, and is urging those EU member states which do not have effective methods for recording racist violence to develop responses to target the problem. "This could be done by encouraging victims of racist violence to report incidents, developing sensitive, effective and visible policing responses to respond to fear, and using criminal intelligence systems and procedures to build up an effective database about perpetrators," the report says. The group also says the EU should enforce regulations to ensure that racism is recorded properly in its member states. "A framework decision sends an unambiguous signal to the perpetrators that there will be no hiding place within the EU for their activities and to the victims that the EU as a whole is acting to combat this evil," the report says. In November 2001, the European Commission, the EU executive, presented proposals to fight racism and xenophobia more efficiently at the EU level, but discussion on the proposals between member states was suspended until February 2005 when the Luxembourg presidency of the EU decided to reconsider the proposals. The EUMC says the EU and its member states must now work to adopt the proposals during the Luxembourg presidency of the bloc which ends in June. (END/2005)
    'Racist Violence in 15 EU Member States' Report
    ©Inter Press Service

    13/4/2005- Wolfgang Droege, the one-time leader of white supremacist group the Heritage Front, was shot dead Wednesday in a normally quiet residential neighbourhood in the east end of Toronto. Several neighbours said the man killed in the four-storey apartment building was Droege, but police wouldn't immediately confirm the victim's identity. Kimberly Gorman, who was asleep in her home at the time of the shooting, said several officers stood outside the door of Droege's apartment hours after the killing that rattled area residents. "People are pretty upset and pretty shocked," said Gorman, who has lived in the apartment for 34 years. "He was a nice man." The early childhood educator said despite Droege's sordid past, he was always approachable and polite in their casual lobby and hallway encounters. "He would talk about his vacations . . . he went to Europe a lot. He was a very healthy guy, he would talk a lot about his health and vitamins and what he ate," said Gorman, who lived a floor above Droege. "I think he was trying to let the past be his past." Another longtime resident said Droege had lived there for at least 10 years. "I knew him to see him," said Donna Davis. "Definitely, I'm positive that that's the man who is dead." The 55-year-old Droege was said to have associated with recently deported Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel. Droege was born in Germany and moved in the early 1970s to Canada, where he became a citizen. In 1976, he joined the Ku Klux Klan and tried to start a branch of the organization in Toronto. Five years later, he helped organize a failed attempt to invade the tiny Caribbean country of Dominica and overthrow its government. The coup failed, and he was sentenced to three years in prison in the United States. Const. Kristine Bacharach said an arrest was made promptly after the shooting, but that officers had not yet contacted relatives of the victim. "The family members haven't been notified, and he hasn't been positively identified yet," Bacharach said.

    Police rushed to the scene after a receiving a call about gunfire. When officers arrived, they found a man in a second-floor corridor, dead from a gunshot wound. They soon learned that a suspect had barricaded himself in an apartment. "For a brief period of time, we had a situation that was described as either a barricaded suspect or a hostage situation," Supt. Bob Clarke of Toronto police told reporters. "There was no hostage situation - it was a barricaded suspect." Members of the Toronto police emergency task force were called to the scene and spoke with the suspect over the phone before making an arrest. "I understand there is a brother of the suspect who was also called and came to the scene," Clarke said. He added that the brother and the suspect spoke during the incident but could not say whether that played a role in the suspect's arrest. Residents in the immediate area of the shooting were evacuated from their homes, and a nearby school was put in lockdown. Clarke said it was uncertain if the shooter knew the victim. In 1985, Droege was arrested in Alabama and charged with cocaine possession and a weapons offence. He was deported to Canada in April 1989 after serving a prison sentence in the United States for those charges. In October of that year, he set up the now-defunct Heritage Front, a continental network of neo-Nazis. The Canadian Human Rights Commission obtained a court order to shut down the Heritage Front's hotline, which issued hate messages against minorities and homosexuals. The group disobeyed the court order, and Droege and two associates were jailed. The Toronto-based hotline was eventually shut down. Droege had also been convicted of several other crimes, including assault for beating a 22-year-old man with a flashlight in a bloody brawl with anti-racist activists on June 12, 1993 in a Toronto restaurant.

    Acquaintance charged in racist's killing (Update 14/4)
    An acquaintance of notorious white supremacist Wolfgang Droege has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with his shooting, sources told The Canadian Press on Thursday. Two sources identified the accused as Keith Deroux, 44, of Toronto. Mr. Droege was shot dead at his home Wednesday in a killing that one source said likely had no connection to his racist views. Police were wrapping up their investigation of the crime scene and planned to announce that the charge had been laid later Thursday.

    14/4/2005- Members of the UN human rights commission passed Thursday a resolution against neo-Nazism and neo-fascism, moved forward by Russia in association with Belarus and Cuba. This document denouncing all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and ensuing intolerance, was supported by 46 states of the commission's 53 member-countries, with abstention on the part of the USA, Australia, Japan and Canada. The commission's session last year resulted in negative attitude toward this resolution by all countries of the European Union as well as the USA and Japan. "We welcome the fact that the European Union's protracted polemics have ended with the conclusion in favor of support for the project we have submitted," said Russia's ambassador Leonid Skotnikov at the UN department in Geneva. "This resolution indicates that problems facing member-countries, including certain EU states, should be tackled rather than played down," he added. The Russian delegation, according to Sotnikov, was regretful of the USA's having failed to support the resolution with reference to the observance of free expression of one's opinion. The resolution displays deep concern over the glorification of the Nazi movement, including through unveiling monuments and memorials as well as staging mass rallies. Such practices, goes on the resolution, scar the memory of numerous victims of crimes against humanity committed during World War II, especially in the year of the 60th anniversary of V-Day. The resolution also urges the UN member-countries to take more effective measures to combat these phenomena and extremist movements. At the UN human rights commission's Geneva-based 61st session, Russian diplomats called upon Latvia and Estonia to cease the persecution of veteran anti-Nazis and the glorification of Waffen SS league members.
    ©RIA Novosti

    The Serbian Jewish community and mainstream politicians are worried that an outbreak of anti-Semitic graffiti is a sign of growing xenophobia
    By Aleksandar Mitic

    1/4/2005- A recent surge of anti-Semitic hate speech in Serbia has been firmly condemned by the government, the Serbian Orthodox Church and the political elites, but the question remains whether the country's top institutions are doing enough against political extremism. While some analysts blame what they call a "wave of anti-Semitism" on social intolerance, wars, poverty, and other negative consequences of transition, others argue that these acts are deliberately targeting the interests of the government just weeks ahead of an important step towards European integration. In the morning of 22 March, Belgraders woke up to a spate of anti-Semitic graffiti and fliers stuck on the walls on several downtown streets. "Jewish parasites, out of Serbia" and "Say no to Zionism" read the graffiti in front of the entrance to the Jewish cemetery and in front of several non-governmental organizations. Signed by an unknown group, Nacionalni stroj (National File), the fliers also attacked the B92 radio-television station for its "anti-Serbian ways" such as "the spreading of drugs, homosexuality, and other Western diseases," and showed the B92 logo inside a Star of David. Similar anti-Semitic graffiti appeared simultaneously in Negotin, a town in eastern Serbia, according to local organizations.

    Swift condemnation
    The graffiti and fliers were immediately and strongly denounced by the government and most political parties. The Serbian government called them "shameful acts that do not represent the attitude of the huge majority of the citizens of Serbia." The government "considers that the directly anti-Semitic content of messages and threats sent to the small Jewish community in Serbia is intolerable and requires urgent and efficient measures," it said in a statement. "These acts are directly contrary to the government's policy of restoring stability, tolerance, and furthering European integration." Serbian President Boris Tadic also firmly condemned the acts and called for an "urgent inquiry." The Serbian Orthodox Church deplored "vigorously and unconditionally any act that minimizes the Holocaust of the Jews during World War II. These acts particularly hurt and insult now that we are marking the 60th anniversary of the closing of the death camps of Auschwitz and Jasenovac, in which Serbs and Jews perished and died together only for what they were." "These have been the firmest condemnations of anti-Semitic acts in Serbia yet," Aca Singer, the president of the Association of Jewish Communities of Serbia-Montenegro, told TOL. "Everyone from President Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica to all relevant political parties have condemned these acts," said Singer, an 82-year-old survivor of Auschwitz and the oldest president of a national Jewish organization in the world. "In particular, it is very important that the Serbian Orthodox Church has strongly condemned these acts," he said. Aleksandar Vucic, secretary-general of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party, also denounced the graffiti and fliers. Singer says that up until the latest incidents, it was his organization that had had to call on the police to complain. "But this time, Interior Minister Dragan Jocic called personally to promise a rapid investigation, and I have just received a report from the Belgrade police chief saying they have arrested three suspects," Singer said. According to Singer, the three men told police an unknown person paid them 500 dinars (6 euros) to distribute the fliers, but denied any connection to the graffiti. "This must have been organized. But I do not know who did it, I am not blaming anyone." On 30 March the three, all in their late teens to early 20s, were sentenced to 10 days in jail.

    Internet and book hate
    Paradoxically, anti-Semitic hate speech in Serbia has risen since reformists took power in October 2000: dozens of small-circulation books have been published, foreign-based Internet sites have threatened Jewish figures in Serbia, and anti-Semitic graffiti and pamphlets have become common. In the Muslim-populated town of Novi Pazar, supporters of the local football team burned an Israeli flag during a second-division game, eyewitnesses said. Changing perceptions of the concept of freedom of speech may explain some of the spread of hate speech directed against Jews, Singer said, "but I would not exclude that this is also a consequence of the poor economic situation, unemployment, and a lack of prospects for the young." Some see these extremist tendencies not only as a psychological response to communal violence, but also as a reaction to what is perceived as a key role of some prominent American Jews in the breakup of Yugoslavia and the wars that followed, as well as the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia. This attitude has been documented in a study by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights. "In fact, I really do not have an explanation. You cannot answer rationally to irrational things. I often say that you can have anti-Semitism even without Jews," Singer said. "For example, I am almost sure that people in Negotin have never seen a Jew in their life, and yet someone wrote an anti-Semitic remark." Some 3,000 Jews live in Serbia and Montenegro, and only a few of them occupy prominent positions, mainly in culture. It is hard when Serbs call me up just to apologize, saying that Serbs are not anti-Semitic. I know that, I know that Serbs are a tolerant nation, but there have always been anti-Semitic incidents here and there," Singer said, adding that no member of the Jewish community has been physically attacked in Serbia, despite some threats. Some of these threats are coming through the internet. A U.S.-based website recently posted a list of prominent members of the Jewish community in Serbia, together with their home addresses. The addresses have since been removed, but the names remain, with Singer's leading the list. "Unfortunately, the police are powerless in this case as the sites are based in the U.S.," Singer said. However, Singer is critical of the Serbian judiciary, which has not yet ruled on the Association of Jewish Communities' complaint filed several years ago against Ratibor Djurdjevic, the main publisher of anti-Semitic books in Serbia. Djurdjevic, a World War II veteran, emigrated to the United States following the war, then returned to Serbia in 1990. His publishing house, Ihtus, recently published a book called Jewish Ritual Murder. "We are worried about the amount of anti-Semitic publishing. The prosecution must be more active," Singer said. The Association has called on the authorities to change the criminal code to recognize anti-Semitism as a criminal act, as several other European countries have done.

    Damage to the Serbs
    "In the end, these acts do much more damage to Serbs and Serbia than to the Jews, because they are tarnishing the country's image in the world," Singer said. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus takes a similar view. "I agree with Mr. Singer that this is an orchestrated action aimed at destroying the international reputation of our country," Labus told Radio B92. "We have been expecting this kind of action for months. It is no coincidence that it happened at a moment when the country is beginning to rebuild its reputation," Labus said, without speculating on who the perpetrators might have been. Serbia and Montenegro is trying to meet the European Union's late-April deadline to receive a favorable opinion on its efforts to open talks leading to association, and potentially membership, of the Union. Following a series of voluntary surrenders of indictees to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, Belgrade has inched toward better ties with Brussels, and some analysts believe, with Labus, that certain groups – just who remains unclear – would like to block this first step towards the country's closer integration into the European family. Branko Radun of the New Serbian Political Thought think tank described the latest hate speech incidents on the organization's website: "An unknown organization has brought off the biggest anti-Semitic incident in Serbia. By simultaneously attacking B92 and Jews, it could have expected an immediate and maximum counter-reaction by the media, intellectuals, the NGO sector, and the politicians. It is somehow too well-thought-out for a group of 'older teenagers.' In this kind of operation there is a synergy of interests and objectives. The group or organization that planned it has succeeded in its goal: to damage the reputation of Serbia and its government." On 31 March, police caught a 24-year-old man spraying anti-Semitic graffiti at the Jewish cemetery. He will likely be charged with spreading national and religious intolerance.
    ©Transitions Online

    1/4/2005- A school in southern Germany is trying to ban students from wearing neo-Nazi gear even though instituting a formal dress code leads them into a legal grey area. Students sport bomber jackets with a not-so-secret code for "Heil Hitler" stitched on. Or they strut in combat boots with white laces, a symbol for the white race. Or maybe, some go so far as to decorate school walls with Nazi symbols. In one school in the southern German town of Weinstadt in Baden-Württemberg, school officials say that since the beginning of the school year, this phenomenon has become increasingly common. "Every tenth student regularly wears the right-wing extremist symbols," teacher Antje Fröhlich of the Reinhold-Nägele High School told news magazine Der Spiegel. One teacher found a swastica on their classroom walls. But when a 9th grader showed up sporting a jacket with "European Master Race" on it, school staff had been pushed too far: the teacher refused to allow the child into the classroom. Shortly after, the teacher called the student's father. But he refused to accept the situation saying that as long as there is no official rule forbidding such apparel, he would do nothing. Besides, he told the teacher, his son has no interest in politics but just wear such gear because he likes it.

    Learning a new language
    For most adults, this secret language was incomprehensible. It consists of such things as "88," code for "Heil Hitler" (H is the 8th letter of the alphabet) or 18, a symbol for Adolf Hitler or particular brands of clothing that neo-Nazis prefer such as Lonsdale of London. But these days, parents and officials are learning fast. At another school, students, parents and school staff decided by a majority to forbid these symbols. And at Reinhold Nägele High School, staff is pleading with state officials to create a law so they can do the same. But so far, it hasn't been a smooth road. Questions have been arising over freedom of expression. School officials grapple with which gear to specifically forbid: should they ban combat boots completely or only when they are worn with a bomber jacket. Or should the school look at each case individually.

    No ban
    Other jurisdictions in Germany such as Berlin and Lower Saxony have for years forbidden such symbols in schools, affecting about 40,000 students. But the education union, VBE, warns that such actions threaten personal freedoms and are ineffective. "Many teachers aren't familiar with many regulations," spokesman for the union, Michael Gomolzig told the magazine. He recommends educating the children about the radical right in elementary school because "by the time they are sporting bomber jackets and combat boots, it is too late." Officials from Baden-Württemberg have decided against a state-wide ban, saying that it is not a school's place to decide what students can wear. Still, they are allowing schools to forbid specific gear, symbolic of the right-wing extremists because they say this doesn't hurt personal freedoms. Meanwhile, teachers from the school hope for an open discussion between parents, students and staff so that the school , says one teacher, can be salvaged.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    2/4/2005- Angry Germans pelted neo-Nazis with bottles, fruit and eggs on Saturday when some 6,000 people took to the streets of Munich to disrupt a march by about 250 supporters of far-right political groups. Booing demonstrators threw tomatoes, eggs and bananas at the marchers, who were protected by hundreds of police in the Bavarian capital. Police said 53 arrests were made. At a protest rally nearby, city mayor Christian Ude said Munich, Hitler's home in the Nazi party's early days in the 1920s, wanted nothing to do with his present-day followers. Far-right parties made electoral gains in other German states last year and neo-Nazis staged one of their biggest demonstrations in February. Though smaller than such movements in some other European countries, Germany's neo-Nazis are a source of particular concern to their compatriots because of their history. Munich protesters handed out white roses, symbol of local students executed during World War Two for opposing Hitler.

    6/4/2005- Three young women and a schoolboy who joined a neo- Nazi secret cell that may have plotted bomb attacks against Jews were convicted of terrorism by a German court on Tuesday, but walked free with their prison terms suspended. They were supporters of Martin Wiese, a sinister Munich neo-Nazi who is being tried separately along with three of his lieutenants. Based in Munich, the city where Adolf Hitler laid the foundations of his Nazi party and mounted a failed putsch, they used secret codes and names, planning to take over Germany. The trial was the first where neo-Nazis were charged with being a terrorist organisation. The Bavarian superior state court imposed sentences ranging from 16 to 22 months on the group, the youngest an 18-year-old girl. Another girl, 20, and the boy, 19, were still attending high school. A fifth defendant, 38, a contact from Wiese's eastern German hometown, was convicted of illegal possession of explosives and being an accessory to illegal acquisition of a gun. He was given an 18- month suspended term. Presiding Judge Bernd von Heintschel-Heinegg said, "From early 2003 you planned a revolution of blood that was to include murder." Prosecutors said the group aimed to set off a bomb at an empty building site, hours before the foundation stone was laid for a new synagogue in 2003, frightening away German leaders. Neo-Nazi violence to date has rarely proceeded beyond brawling, muggings and arson. Police arrested the group, the Comrades of the South, in 2003 before it could act. Its members have confessed at the two parallel trials that there was talk of attacking the synagogue site, but it is unclear how advanced the plot became. Wiese's trial is still only mid-way through. A girl had seriously contemplated committing a suicide bombing for the cause on Munich's main square while she was 18, the judge said. The court said it suspended the sentences because the four were only barely adults and had dissociated themselves from the neo-Nazis. They face arrest if they meet any neo-Nazis while the suspended sentences run.
    ©Expatica News

    Opposition politicians are exploiting stereotypes of illegal immigrants in an attempt to bring down Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. David Gordon Smith argues that illegal immigrants are not the pariahs they are made out to be, and that Germany needs more immigration, not less.

    8/4/2005- Illegal immigrants. The phrase conjures up images of criminals, prostitutes, undocumented construction workers - the kinds of undesirables German foreign minister Joschka Fischer is alleged to have let into Germany under a relaxed visa regime between 2000 and 2003. Opposition politicians accuse him of failing to respond quickly enough to reports of abuses of the visa scheme. He is accused of abetting the slave trade and of letting hundred of thousands of Ukrainians planning to work illegally to enter the Schengen zone on tourist visas. These allegations are not without substance. Undoubtedly, many of those entering Germany on tourist visas were planning to stay on. Of those, some may have indeed been criminals. There are also reports of serious abuses at the German embassy in Kiev. Embassy officials are alleged to have turned a blind eye to the 'queue mafia' who extorted money from people waiting outside the embassy. Furthermore, Ludger Volmer, the former deputy foreign minister behind the liberalisation of the visa scheme, is accused of receiving illicit payments from the Federal Printing Office, who benefited from the increased numbers of travel documents needed under the scheme. Such corrupt activities, if proved, cannot be condoned. Considering its place in the international order, Germany is far too corrupt. Certain sectors (the construction industry in particular) of the economy are widely perceived to be crooked, and corruption scandals involving politicians are depressingly commonplace. Measures need to be taken to punish those involved in corruption related to the visa scheme, and to make sure such abuses cannot happen again. However it seems doubtful that the opposition parties after Fischer's head are motivated primarily by a desire for cleaner bureaucracy. More likely, they see the affair as an opportunity to exploit popular stereotypes of illegal immigrants to Fischer's disadvantage. The average German is frankly scared of Eastern Europe and its inhabitants. Few Germans have any direct experience of their eastern neighbours. They may be prepared to travel thousands of kilometres to Spain on holiday, but Poland - despite being an EU and Nato member and only an hour from Berlin - is a forbidding and unknown place. As for Ukraine, most Germans couldn't find it on a map. In the popular imagination, the Eastern European is a prostitute, a car thief, a mafioso or an illegal worker undercutting German tradesmen - a stereotype which borders on open racism. Illegal immigrants are, by their nature, very hard to profile. In the absence of hard data, they become a mirror for a society, reflecting its prejudices. The caricaturing of Ukrainian immigrants as prostitutes and villains is a crudely populist move on the part of the opposition parties.

    Some of those entering Germany on tourist visas were no doubt undesirable. All societies have their criminal elements, and Ukraine is no exception. However, in Ukraine as elsewhere, these form a small minority of the population. Most people in any country simply prefer to stay put and those who leave are generally forced to by economic circumstances. The main motivation for those who enter a rich country illegally is to earn money to support themselves and their families. Given the choice, they would prefer to do so legally. The majority want to go home as soon as they can. Immigration generally benefits the host country, even when illegal. It is loath to admit it, but Germany profits from its booming black economy, estimated by economics minister Hans Eichel to comprise up to 18 percent of Germany's GDP. The same Germans who worry about Eastern Europeans stealing their Mercedes are quite happy to pay Polish women cash to clean their villas. Above all, Germany needs immigration to prop up its tottering pension system. Germany's population is ageing and contributions from the working population are no longer enough to cover pension payments. In the absence of the political will to reform the system, the only solution is immigration on a massive scale. People will continue to come and work in Germany legally or illegally, whatever happens. The government should recognise this fact and make immigration on economic grounds easier. Immigrants will gain through better protection and social benefits, while Germany's tax and pension coffers will see increased revenues. Fischer should have paid more attention to the corruption associated with the relaxed visa regime of 2000-2003, and he should be made to answer for his negligence. However, the fact that he allowed thousands of Ukrainians to enter Germany is not necessarily a bad thing. It is time that the average German wakes up to the fact that immigrants, whether legal or illegal, are an asset to a country, not a threat. What Germany needs is more immigration, not less.
    ©Expatica News

    1/4/2005- The Ulster Teachers Union has teamed up with the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities to lead the fight against racism in the North's schools, it was announced today. They have produced a guidance leaflet for the union's 6,500 members which is being launched at the UTU annual conference being held in Newcastle, Co Down over the next two days. Speaking at the launch of the leaflet UTU President Rosemary Barton said the union recognised teachers needed more support from the Department of Education in order to tackle any possible racist behaviour before it could become an issue in schools. Ms Barton said: "For some time the UTU has felt that our members need more guidance and help in making sure that pupils from ethnic backgrounds get the same educational opportunities as everyone else." She said in the past Northern Ireland may have seen issues relating to race as less important that other issues. But she said "There is evidence that this is changing, prompted by a growing number of racially-motivated incidents. For that reason, and also because we are aware of a growing number of pupils from racially diverse backgrounds, we approached the council for ethnic minorities to assist us in the development of guidelines which we are launching at the conference." Ms Barton said the union would be working with the department, the CEM and the Equality Commission in the coming months to ensure that children learn that racism is wrong from an early age and that teachers were well equipped to cope with the growing number of pupils from multi-ethnic backgrounds.

    The UTU had isolated different areas where they felt there was need for urgent action:

  • Racially motivated bullying – the development of guidelines for teachers.
  • Differences in language and culture.
  • Addressing weaknesses in the curriculum.
  • Developing a database on the performance of children from ethnic backgrounds.
  • Considerations around school uniforms.
  • The need for a Racial Liaison Officer for each Education Board.

    Patrick Yu of the CEM said he was delighted a major trade union had offered to put its weight behind the fight for a good education for all children regardless of their background. "The Race Relations Order of 1997 makes it illegal to discriminate directly or indirectly on racial grounds, yet there is no statutory obligation on the Education and Library Boards to provide teachers with the support and training they require to adequately provide children from ethnic backgrounds with the same chances as other children," he said. It was vital teachers were aware of the issues and understood the backgrounds from which their pupils came and recognised and acted against racially motivated bullying, he added. Mr Yu said the CEM looked forward to working with the UTU and the Department of Education to help draft policies and guidelines which would help to "level the playing field for all pupils, regardless of their race, creed or colour".
    ©Irish Examiner

    1/4/2005- Evidence of simmering racism in Britain's schools has emerged from a study of teenagers' attitudes towards Muslims and right wing groups, it was revealed today. Researchers who questioned more than 1,500 non-Muslim adolescents aged 13 to 24 found more than 9% supported the ultra right wing views of the British National Party. Their attitudes towards Muslims had also hardened considerably since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and the invasion of Iraq.

  • Some 23% of boys and 14% of girls said they had developed a "much worse" opinion of Muslims since September 11 2001.
  • The view of Muslims of 18% of boys and 12% of girls had worsened since the invasion of Iraq. Some 12% of boys and 6% of girls said it had become "much worse" since the war.
  • In addition, 23% of boys and 10% of girls said they would object if Muslim girls wore headscarves to school.

    The study, carried out at 15 schools in and around the city of York, also included six Muslim pupils. Of these, 8.4% had heard verbal victimisation of Muslims in school and 2.4% had witnessed physical assaults. The findings were presented today at the British Psychological Society's annual conference at the University of Manchester. Researcher Nathalie Noret, from St John's College in York, said the younger children aged 13 to 15 were the most likely to agree with the views of the BNP. She thought negative depictions of Islam in the media, and the current climate of fear about Muslim terrorism, may be partly to blame for the trend. "I think the association that's been drawn in the media between being a Muslim and being a terrorist must have some impact on attitudes," she said. Islamophobia was a particularly pernicious "two-fold" prejudice against both a type of religion and an ethnic group, said Ms Noret. "The key finding from our study was that we need to improve education and knowledge of different religions," she said. "One thing we did find was a very poor understanding of Islam, little knowledge of it and the Middle East. In future we'd like to analyse our data to see if those who had more knowledge had better opinions of Muslims."
    ©The Guardian

    1/4/2005- Campaigners yesterday called for the introduction of a race minister as they launched a manifesto demanding equality for black and ethnic minority communities. The initiative, organised by Operation Black Vote (OBV), is designed to push race-related issues higher up the agenda in the run-up to the election. The manifesto calls for high-achieving schools, colleges and universities to have legally binding intake quotas for low-income black and ethnic minority children. It urges parties to adopt all-black shortlists in areas with substantial ethnic minority communities and to outlaw the extreme right by banning any parties that contravene race or human rights laws. The coalition - which includes organisations such as the National Black Police Association, the Muslim Association of Britain and the Society of Black Lawyers - hopes voters will use its manifesto and pledge card to press candidates on race issues. It wants a race minister, equivalent to the existing women's minister. Karen Chouhan, of the 1990 Trust, said: "Tackling racism at a cabinet level, along with the other measures, will be a quantum leap forward." Simon Woolley, OBV's director, said: "This election will be won and lost in urban areas. That's where we reside and have political clout. Never before in British politics has the black vote been so strong. Although we are a minority vote, in a tightly run race we hold the balance of power." Mr Woolley said the younger generation was becoming engaged, with stars such as Ms Dynamite and members of So Solid Crew asking how they could help with the process. The coalition has been registering voters around the country and will take its own battlebus on the road. It also plans to hold "question time" sessions. OBV says there are 71 seats where ethnic minority populations exceed the majority at the last election, and so could directly affect the outcome. But electoral participation in many ethnic minority communities has been below the national average. Black and Asian voters have also supported Labour overwhelmingly in the past, although that loyalty has begun to break down. The coalition points out that two-thirds of black people still live in the poorest areas of the country; that infant mortality rates are twice as high; and that black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police. Demands in the manifesto include an apology for slavery and colonialism; concerted action to eliminate racial disparities in health and healthcare; and an end to "draconian" policies on asylum seekers such as forced dispersal and detention. "Black communities don't have the luxury not to vote," said Lee Jasper, the chairman of OBV, and the London mayor Ken Livingstone's adviser on race issues. "With racism and in particular Islamophobia alarmingly on the increase, it is the duty of every black person to tell their political candidates that we demand that they sign up to an agenda for justice. "Failure to do so will be punished at the ballot box."


  • Equality in employment Extending Northern Ireland affirmative action laws to massively reduce black unemployment
  • Equality in schools An end to disproportionate school exclusions; better access to high-achieving schools, colleges and universities, backed by quotas
  • Equality in democracy A race minister in the cabinet, race champions at the heart of government and a royal commission
  • Equality for asylum seekers The right of asylum seekers to work, an end to detention of refugees and an amnesty for asylum seekers whose claims are more than two years old
    ©The Guardian

    1/4/2005- The spiritual leader of the Anglican church, Rowan Wiliams, has warned it was "racist to whip up" anxiety over immigration, as political parties campaigned for elections expected in May. The remarks by the archbishop of Canterbury on BBC television come after the main opposition Conservative Party put up posters around the country declaring: "It`s not racist to impose limits on immigration." Conservative leader Michael Howard has called for parliament to impose an annual limit on the number of people allowed into the country. Asked if controlling immigration was racist, Williams told BBC2`s Newsnight last night: "It`s racist to whip up the kind of anxiety that can be so easily generated on this subject. "That will always present asylum seekers, for example, as a menace, as an uncontrollable menace," Williams said. Fear is a "button that can be pushed", the archbishop warned. "It`s something that`s an easy thing to reach for. There`s bound to be some apprehension if people feel that all the things they care for are under threat and this is a convenient scapegoat very often. "But in fact we have quite a good record of integrating people," Williams said. "We have people with skills coming in. So I think that`s an issue we have to move on from." When asked if his remarks were an attack on the Conservatives, Wiliams, whose church represents 70 million people in Britain and other countries, replied that he thought "it`s a cross-party problem". He also said he believed it was his job to intervene in politics when there were issues of morality. Political parties are competing hard to address public concerns about immigration as the campaign heats up for general elections widely expected on May 5. Howard on Tuesday unveiled a plan for a new border police force, stressing the need to protect Britain`s shores from illegal immigrants and asylum seekers due to the "real terrorist threat" they pose. In February, the Conservative party promised to test immigrants from outside the European Union (EU) for HIV, tuberculosis and other diseases if it wins elections expected in May. The Government dismissed the plan as an attempt to catch up with the government`s own immigration policy, while groups fighting HIV/AIDS condemned it as both ineffective and prejudicial.
    ©Garavi Gujarat Publications

    1/4/2005- A greater Manchester Police civilian worker sent a racist e-mail showing a picture of a South African beauty queen with a monkey's head superimposed upon her body. Now a row has erupted after the man was allowed to keep his job by the force's personnel department. He was given a written warning, while another person was given a written warning for sending out an Irish joke. Several others were given warnings for misusing the computer system. The e-mail was found during a routine trawl of the police computers. Chief Constable Mike Todd and deputy Chief Constable Alan Green were unaware that the disciplinary action was taking place. Senior officers, who are understood to be livid about the e-mail, said they had closed a loophole so that anyone found sending out similar material in the future could be sacked. Deputy Chief Constable Alan Green said: "In our efforts to rid GMP of discriminatory behaviour and to promote our obligations under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, we routinely carry out checks of our IT systems to identify any abuse. We know the vast majority of our police officers and staff maintain the highest professional standards which we demand. "Regrettably, we have uncovered material which is unacceptable within GMP. As a result, several employees have been disciplined and the Chief Constable has prepared a letter addressed to all our staff advising them of future consequences.

    "I am extremely disappointed that dismissal has not been chosen as a sanction on this occasion. Regrettably, the decisions made cannot be reversed but I have sought a full explanation. "There is an expectation that in all future cases, save in extremely extenuating circumstances, any member of GMP will be dismissed where they have been involved in the promotion of sexually explicit, sexist or racist material or display any other form of discriminatory behaviour." Last week a tribunal ruling said the force failed to properly investigate claims of racial discrimination made three years ago by Charles Crichlow, chairman of the Black and Asian Police Association. It said officers in the complaints and discipline department and the diversity training unit - the very unit designed to rid the force of institutional racism - showed a reluctance to "hear" or "see" a complaint of discrimination unless, "forced to do so".Pc Crichlow said of the e-mail storm: "The person responsible should not have been allowed to keep his job. It is not surprising, knowing what I know about these sort of issues within GMP. It is no excuse to hide behind the legal process. The Chief Constable said a year ago that anybody who believed they could express racist views and get away with it in GMP must be "deluded". Those words are like feathers to me now." Race has been a controversial issue for GMP since the broadcast of the Secret Policeman documentary in 2003, which showed trainee and serving officers displaying racist attitudes and language.
    ©Manchester Evening News

    4/4/2005- Police applicants from ethnic minorities should get automatic preference over white candidates with the same qualifications, a senior officer claims. Julie Spence, Cambridgeshire's Deputy Chief Constable, is calling for the law to be changed to legalise "affirmative action" in recruitment to help forces meet Home Office targets for ethnic-minority officers. And she is one of a growing number of chief police officers to voice their concern that many forces are nowhere near meeting the targets for recruiting ethnic-minority officers. The Home Office wants 7.7 per cent of the 150,000 officers in England and Wales to be drawn from ethnic-minority backgrounds, mirroring the working population. The targets were set after the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, killed by five white youths in 1993, described the Metropolitan Police as "institutionally racist". Mrs Spence will argue her point at a conference in Peterborough later this month. The senior officer, who has been in the police for 27 years, said: "It takes two years to get new legislation through, so we have got to do this now if we are going to get the diverse, representative workforce the Government says it wants. If handled sensitively and professionally, it will have a positive effect on policing." In response to Mrs Spence's comments, opponents warned that favouring ethnic-minority candidates could provoke a backlash from white recruits who would resent being turned down for jobs because of their colour and from ethnic-minority recruits who would want to be judged solely on their ability. They also claimed it could potentially lower standards. But Mrs Spence dismissed the suggestions as "myth", adding: "The evidence shows that standards go up when more jobs are opened up to women and ethnic minorities." Affirmative action is currently illegal under racial equality laws.
    ©Cambridge Newspapers

    6/4/2005- The government's anti-terrorist strategy since September 11 2001 has con-tributed to a deterioration of community relations, with a particularly negative impact on Muslims, according to a parliamentary report published today. The Commons home affairs committee said evidence was lacking of a concerted government effort to explain its response to terrorism to local communities and organisations. While the report recognises the significant efforts made by police in overcoming institutionalised racism, it criticises the way that raids are carried out by anti-terror officers "without a proper appreciation" of their impact on local community relations. MPs found a clear perception across a wide section of Muslim opinion that Muslims were being stigmatised by the operation of terrorist laws. The report criticises sectors of the media for sensationalist reporting of some police raids and arrests, which helped to fuel populist fears of the Muslim community. The committee chaired by John Denham, Labour's former Home Office minister, says it is essential that British Muslims are engaged fully in the promised review of new terrorist legislation, which includes control orders.
    ©The Financial Times

    6/4/2005- The leader of the British National party was today charged with four race hate offences, police said. Nick Griffin, 45, was arrested at his home in mid-Wales last December by West Yorkshire police as part of a long-running investigation into the BBC programme Secret Agent. Mr Griffin answered his bail today at Halifax police station and was charged with four offences of using words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up racial hatred. The Secret Agent documentary, screened in July last year, featured undercover filming of BNP activists. Mr Griffin will appear before Leeds magistrates court tomorrow. Earlier today, the BNP founding chairman, John Tyndall, was charged with two offences of using words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up racial hatred. Mr Tyndall, 70, of Brighton, was arrested in December last year following a speech he made in Burnley in March 2004 as part of the same investigation into the BBC documentary. He will also appear before magistrates in Leeds tomorrow. More than 250 BNP supporters from all over the country, draped in Union and St George's flags, gathered outside the police station as Mr Griffin answered his bail this afternoon. The party had organised what it described as "a freedom of speech" rally, to highlight what it claimed was a campaign to stop it speaking about immigration. Mr Griffin arrived at the police station to loud cheers from supporters. The crowd chanted "Freedom, freedom" as he launched an attack on the government and West Yorkshire police. Before he was charged today, Mr Griffin told protesters: "We're not going to protest by rioting. We will leave that to the far left and the Muslims." People of all ages held "Fighting For Democracy" placards and cheered as a bagpiper played. More than a dozen police officers monitored the demonstration. Mark Collett, 24, a BNP activist from Leeds, has also been charged today with eight counts of the same offence and will be appearing at Leeds magistrates court tomorrow with both Mr Griffin and Mr Tyndall. The charges follow a joint investigation by West Yorkshire police and the Crown Prosecution Service casework directorate. Later Mr Griffin emerged from the police station and made the victory sign to the crowd. He told them that he had been charged for telling the truth and would use his trial as a platform for defending the party's belief. He said: "Whether I am found guilty will depend on the jury and whether someone should be jailed for telling the truth." Mr Griffin told reporters that he had "no regrets" and "would continue to tell the truth" even if he had to go to jail. Mr Griffin led a rendition of Jerusalem followed by the Lord's Prayer before leaving in a people carrier.
    ©The Guardian

    8/4/2005- Oxford University was yesterday accused of "institutional racism" after an employment tribunal ruled that a former accountant had been the victim of race discrimination. The court heard that Diamond Versi had been subjected to a "personal vendetta" by the bursar at Keble College, Oxford, who instigating a fraud inquiry against the 57-year-old "on a whim" and treated him in a "high handed" and "antagonistic" way. The tribunal report criticised the way Roger Boden was able to railroad the college's finance committee by "lobbying" fellows in the college's cosy atmosphere "over a glass of wine". "The fraud investigation was an extremely serious matter with no factual background to justify it [and was] merely the whim of the bursar who considered that the claimant, in taking a long-haul overseas holiday and acquiring a BMW, may be guilty of misfeasance," the report stated. It said other senior fellows at the college "acted as a rubber stamp to his proposals", and presided over a grievance procedure that was "a sham". Speaking after the tribunal's ruling, Mr Versi, of Witney, Oxfordshire, said the findings were part of a wider problem at the university. "Personally, I think the whole Oxford scene is institutionally racist. Now there isn't one brown or black bursar, or one brown or black accountant in all 36 colleges," he said. "I cannot imagine that people of colour are not applying for these jobs."

    Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Oxford University denied the charge, saying it recruited the brightest and most able staff irrespective of social, racial or religious background. A spokeswoman for Keble College said it was considering an appeal against the tribunal's findings. "The college has consistently believed that it acted fairly and lawfully in its dealings with Mr Diamond Versi... A thorough internal investigation of his grievance was undertaken, whilst he was still an employee... This found, both in the first instance and on appeal, that Mr Versi's complaints were without foundation or merit." Mr Versi, who is claiming £250,000 compensation, worked for the college from 1989 until he was made redundant last April. The tribunal, in Reading, Berkshire, found Mr Boden and Keble College both racially discriminated against Mr Versi before unfairly dismissing him. It also criticised the college's equal opportunities procedures. "It was clear that whilst the college was able to brandish a bit of paperwork showing it had a policy, in practice very little was done regarding the implementation of equal opportunities. "The importance the college gave to equal opportunities was shown by the fact that the bursar had no training in it and said he relied on pamphlets from law firms." It said the grievance process Mr Versi was subjected to had been tainted by Mr Boden's involvement. "The tribunal takes a most unfavourable view of a prestigious Oxford college, which, through its finance committee and governing body, failed to apply appropriate checks and balances and allowed a situation to prevail where there were no effective or operable policies in relation to equal opportunities at the college."
    ©The Guardian

    8/4/2005- The Yorkshire Post today exposes shocking evidence of the racism and sexism undermining one of the country's biggest ambulance services, including details of an unofficial staff magazine which casually uses terms like "smelly Asian" and "Packi" in its pages. It can also be revealed that a female paramedic has been paid £600,000 damages by West Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service after she agreed to drop a sex discrimination case which could have led to a highly embarrassing employment tribunal. But despite the payout and WYMAS' claims it has made efforts to change its culture, the Yorkshire Post has learnt the male employee alleged to have sexually assaulted the female paramedic during a campaign of harassment was not disciplined – even though the incident has resulted in a criminal injuries award. In addition, WYMAS has sanitised the findings of a confidential internal report into how its handling of the harassment case went badly wrong. A final copy of the report obtained by this newspaper reveals all references to interviews with staff who referred to racism and sexism in the service have been removed, along with several critical paragraphs about the management of the service. The content of the initial version was first revealed in November when the Yorkshire Post won a legal battle to lift the terms of an injunction obtained by WYMAS. Although the concerns about racism were aired in the report there was no specific evidence until now. Copies of an unofficial staff publication, called WYZASS, which is circulated around hundreds of paramedics and ambulance technicians, have been obtained and reveal a casual use of racist language.

    In a section dubbed the "WYZASS Roll of Honour", a category for "The Most Smelly Asian Tech's" (ambulance technicians) is included, along with the "Best Dr Packi Paramedic". There is also a reference to "Abdul Pains" being the most common jobs in Bradford. WYMAS last night refused to comment on any of the details of the damages payment, the lack of disciplinary action against the male employee or the alterations to the internal report, claiming they were all confidential. But the service did issue a statement, which was also issued on behalf of the three main WYMAS unions Unison, GMB and TGWU. It said: "Racist and sexist behaviour will not be tolerated within WYMAS. "We were aware previously of an underground publication produced by an anonymous source. We utterly condemned the content of the publication, as we would any sexist or racist attitudes within the service. Following investigations, however, we believe it has stopped. If the publication has re-appeared we will continue our investigation into its source and make every effort to ensure it is stopped immediately. "We will take appropriate action against any individuals found to be involved. We would stress that the content of this leaflet never was and never will be acceptable to the vast majority of our staff and managers, whose primary focus is on providing the best possible care to our patients." Although WYMAS declined to comment directly on any aspects of the sexual harassment case, it insisted it was taking action to tackle attitudes amongst staff. MPs in the region reacted with shock at the latest revelations and demanded the service took action. Marsha Singh, Labour MP for Bradford West, questioned whether Asian people could have full confidence in the service. Mr Singh, who said he expected WYMAS to hold an inquiry, added: "It goes to show that institutions have got to be ever vigilant against this type of thing, you can't afford to drop your guard. Chris McCafferty, Labour MP for Calder Valley, said: "I was really shocked with what I've seen. You don't expect it in West Yorkshire in 2005. People who work for WYMAS are working in the wider community, and I would hope WYMAS act quickly to make sure these kinds of racist 'jokes' in future will not be tolerated."

    Normanton's Labour MP, Bill O'Brien, said: "This kind of publication should never have been allowed to circulate. The WYMAS board should carry out an in-depth investigation to make sure this is not allowed to continue and those responsible are brought to book." He was also angry that the mishandling of the sexual harassment case had cost the public purse in the region of £1m, when legal and administrative costs were taken into account. "How many ambulances could we run a year for that amount of money? And the person who helped create this mess in the first place has got away scot-free – I don't understand how that can be the case." Ralph Berry, the chairman of WYMAS NHS Trust, declined to comment on all the details of the case, but did say not all of the payment to the paramedic will come from WYMAS funds because the NHS makes provisions nationally to help individual trusts meet the costs of legal settlements.
    The woman cannot be named for legal reasons.
    ©Yorkshire Post

    8/4/2005- UNISON, the public service union, yesterday announced the launch of a new integration scheme to bring refugees into work in public services. The New Workers project is a pilot funded by the Home Office, giving 16 refugees work experience in health and social care and related fields. The first Scottish authorities to commit to the project are Greater Glasgow Health Board and South Lanarkshire Council. Discussions with Glasgow City and Lothian Health Board are continuing. It is also hoped that the project will be rolled out elsewhere in Scotland. Historically, jobs done by migrant workers are low-paid and do not utilise their skills, despite many having good qualifications. Under the initiative, every refugee will have a mentor from the trade union's wide range of lifelong learning advisers, and will be placed with an employer for a 10 to 12-week period. Elaine Rae, who is running the project, said she hoped it would break down some of the barriers that refugees face in finding jobs. "We want participants to finish their placement with improved confidence, new learning and enhanced skills. They can then use these hopefully to move into a job – either with the participating employer or another one," she said. Part of Unison Scotland's Opposing Racism action plan, the scheme will involve partici-pants in the activities of the union and help employers meet their requirements under the Race Relations Act. As well as trying to overcome some of the learning, communications and cultural barriers that refugees face when looking for employment, the union added that it will confront some of the media myths about refugees. Dave Watson, Unison's head of policy and information, said: "This is a practical demonstration of Unison's Opposing Racism action plan. "Unison has been prominent in campaigning against the poison of racism being peddled by far-right political parties. Now we are proud to start a project that brings together refugees and union members in the workplace – a project that will benefit both the participants and the mentors."
    ©The Herald

    1/4/2005- City Prosecutor Sergei Zaitsev on Wednesday announced that the murders of two foreigners last year have been solved, and has stated unequivocally that the motive was racial hatred. He said the suspects in the killing of Khursheda Sultanova, nine, who was stabbed to death on Feb. 9, and those who murdered Vietnamese student Vu An Tuan on Oct. 13 have been charged. Both murders produced reactions of horror, fear and condemnation from city leaders and the public. "Seven of Khursheda's attackers have been charged with hooliganism, and one - with the racially motivated murder of a helpless person," Zaitsev said. "The guy who is charged with the murder was 14 years old when the crime was committed." Fourteen youths face charges over the slaying of Tuan near a student hostel on Vasilyevsky Island. The prosecutor refused to give any names. The investigation revealed that the defendants, who were aged between 14 and 21, had committed other crimes against foreigners and Russian nationals, Zaitsev said. "Five new criminal cases have already been opened," the prosecutor added. Hooliganism is the usual charge against those who attack foreign citizens in St. Petersburg, with law enforcement agencies apparently reluctant to level more serious charges when racist motives are alleged. The city prosecutor's office has been criticized by human rights advocates for ignoring such motives when witnesses report that attackers have chanted phrases such as "Russia for the Russians." Zaitsev acknowledged that the city has problems with extremist groups, but said it should not be exaggerated. "In many cases, crimes against foreigners and citizens of former Soviet states have common, domestic, rather than racial or nationalist motives," the prosecutor said. Governor Valentina Matviyenko made an enthusiastic statement Wednesday, saying that "all ethnically motivated crimes in the city have been solved." "Our city, which is known to the country and to the world for its intelligentsia and tolerance, has several times been shocked by horrible murders on racial grounds," Matviyenko said in her annual televised speech. "We are not going to tolerate the escapades of extremists. [...] I firmly say that we will confront all manifestations of xenophobia, anti-Semitism and discrimination."

    But some experts say it is much too early to trumpet successes. Matviyenko's statement sounds overblown to human rights advocates, who note that the murder of Nikolai Girenko, the country's leading expert on ethnic crimes, who was gunned down on the doorway of his apartment on June 19, 2004, hasn't been solved. Vladimir Lukin, the federal ombudsman for human rights who released his 2004 report on Thursday, expressed concern about growing nationalism and chauvinism in the country. On Wednesday, Zaitsev also announced the start of a new investigation against an extremist group. Eight people have been detained in connection with the activities of Mad Crowd, a group of young nationalists who have been attacking natives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, China and Korea. The group's organizer has gone missing, Zaitsev said. Earlier this week web site reported that 15 Arab students were planning to drop out of their universities in St. Petersburg and leave the city in protest over the regular attacks on them. The publication quoted Gannam Mohamad, head of the Union of Arab students, as saying that "the situation has gotten to the point when the students can only guess whether they will make it to the hostel each night." But on Thursday, Fontanka said Mohamad denied the earlier statement. "There is no mass exodus of Arab students from the city, and there won't be," he was quoted as saying in a letter to Alexander Viktorov, head of the city committee for Science and Higher Education. "The problem is currently in the process of being resolved positively," Mohamad added.
    ©St. Petersburg Times

    3/4/2005- Over 5,000 known public activists and members of the clergy in Russia have sent a petition to the state prosecutor's office in which they demand to outlaw Jewish groups. In the petition, the signatories use quotes from Kitzur Shulhan Aruch, which they argue prove their claim that Judaism is a fanatic and racist religion that hates gentiles. Among those who signed the letter, according to Army Radio, are ex-generals, artists and the former world champion in chess. Israel's Ambassador to Russia, Arkadi Milman, called the new affair severe and said that Israel will contact Russian authorities in an attempt to prosecute those responsible for the petition. The recent anti-Semitic petition comes two months after about 20 members of the lower Russian parliament house, the State Duma, asked Prosecutor- General Vladimir Ustinov to investigate their claims that Jews are fomenting ethnic hatred and provoking anti-Semitism. Arguing that Jews were to blame for anti-Semitism, the authors of the letter demanded that Jewish groups be outlawed, based on legislation against extremism and fomenting ethnic discord. However, in a 306-58 vote that hewed to party lines, the State Duma adopted a declaration saying that the 'clear anti-Semitic intent' of the letter and other appeals for government actions targeting Jews 'prompts indignation and sharp condemnation.' The stunning calls to ban all Jewish groups comes amid concerns of persistent anti-Semitism that continues to plague Russia.

    Jewish leaders have praised President Vladimir Putin's government for encouraging religious tolerance, but rights groups accuse the authorities of failing to adequately prosecute the perpetrators of anti-Semitic and racial violence. Russia's chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, said the lawmakers were either insane or 'quite sane but limitlessly cynical' and were hoping to win support 'by playing the anti-Semitic card.' With Putin planning to join events this week commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops, Russia's Holocaust Foundation head Alla Gerber said it was 'horrible that as we're marking the 60th anniversary of this tragic and great day... we can speak of the danger of fascism in the countries that defeated fascism.' She said that while the Russian state itself is no longer anti-Semitic, there are 'anti-Semitic campaigns that are led by all sorts of organizations.' 'The economic situation is ripe for this, an enemy is needed, and the enemy is well-known, traditional,' Gerber said. Echoing anti-Semitic tracts of the Czarist era, the letter's authors accuse Jews of working against the interests of the countries where they live and of monopolizing power worldwide. They say the United States 'has become an instrument for achieving the global aims of Judaism.' 'It is possible to say that the entire democratic world today is under the monetary and political control of international Judaism, which high-profile bankers are openly proud of,' the letter says. Along with outlawing Jewish organizations, the lawmakers called for the prosecution of 'individuals responsible for providing these groups with state and municipal property, privileges and state financing.'
    ©The Jerusalem Post

    April 2005- After the massive scandal surrounding the delivery of an antisemitic statement – signed by nineteen MPs – to Russia's chief public prosecutor in January [see Searchlight March 2005], Alla Gerber, head of the Holocaust Fund, complained, "Society is sick with xenophobia. Like a cancer it is spreading through the country." She added that surveys have shown that 28% of adult Russians want to "bring back" special settlements for Jews and that 48% are in favour of curbing the rights of national minorities. Alexander Brod, head of the Moscow Human Rights Bureau, also believes that almost two-thirds of the Russian population agrees with the oft-repeated nationalist slogan "Russia is for the Russians and all misfortunes stem from foreigners". In early February, a question-and-answer programme featuring the notorious antisemite Albert Makashov, one of the signatories of the statement was televised. Without any shame, Makashov again confirmed his stupidity and ignorance to the whole country but the results of viewer surveys about the programme were shocking, TV audiences in Moscow and Siberia giving Makashov high ratings. As a result of the Makashov controversy, a mass media discussion erupted about the legality of giving a public platform to people who abuse the privilege to make ultra-nationalist propaganda.

    The democratic journalists and human rights activists who initiated the discussion suggested that the answer might be to censor the ultra-nationalists but, regrettably, did not analyse any concrete cases of antisemitism or examine the practical difficulties of using the law to counter nationalists and antisemites. The TV programme's producer, Vladimir Solovjev, explained that, for him, "it was especially important to show that the level of xenophobia in Russia is dangerously high and almost catastrophic," although he "does not believe that the authorities are nationalistic or antisemitic". Solovjev claimed that, as in the TV programme when viewers supported Yuri Boudanov, an ex-colonel who accused of raping and killing a Chechen girl, the one with Makashov had provided a barometric reading of the climate of xenophobia in Russian society. At the same time as the discussion about the Makashov programme was raging, however, the Social Opinion foundation conducted a more sophisticated survey on "Attitudes to Jews and antisemites in Russia" with 1,500 interviews taking place in a hundred settlements in forty-four regions of Russia and 600 interviews being made in Moscow.

    According to the Social Opinion survey, 67% of respondents had never heard of the antisemitic statement sent to the chief prosecutor in January. Additionally, the Social Opinion sociologists concluded from their research that, in fact, only 13-15% of Russian citizens actually share antisemitic ideas and, among those, only 6-8 % are ready to defend their views with argument. In St.Petersburg, 51% of respondents actually blamed the authors of the January antisemitic statement and most people there are still condemnatory towards those who kill migrants and foreigners from the East. In mid-January, a further survey was made among school leavers in Krasnojarsk in Southern Siberia. The results of this survey indicated that every second youngster identifying himself as Russian had negative attitudes to other nationalities, mainly those from the Caucasus and Middle Asia, but did not have notably antisemitic feelings and were not afraid of gypsies. The results of social research, of course, vary in the different regions of Russia but generally indicate that a "phobia" exists against Jews, Gypsies, Caucasians, Asians from the former Soviet republics as well as towards people from China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Africa. The same research also suggests that there is nothing significantly different from Soviet times. The highest single percentage of xenophobes, interestingly, is to found among the police. The view that there are many criminals among immigrants may be a myth created by the police but schoolchildren, students and even voters for democratic parties now, unfortunately, share it.

    It would be not anything new or original to say that levels of xenophobia rise in periods of economic instability, social inequality or defeats in war. These factors frequently produce a search for scapegoats and some democrats and human right activists in Russia even like – wrongly – to compare the country with "early Nazi Germany". This trend has been accentuated since the horrific Beslan school siege in August last year – in which 330 schoolchildren, teachers and others died at the hands of terrorist gunmen and bombers – leading so-called experts, journalists and human rights activists to make xenophobia their most popular discussion topic. There is no doubt that the increased activity, mounting brutality and the harassment of Muslims by radical Russian nationalists and skinheads were provoked by the hostage siege in but this does not fully explain manifestations of antisemitism and the killing of students from China, Vietnam and other countries. If in Moscow the most typical form of xenophobia is "caucasophobia" or "chechenophobia", there are, nevertheless, in the Chechen Republic, the same "phobias" as in Russia. "Migrants from Asia, gypsies, are filling our republic," wrote one newspaper, Stolitsa plus, in Grozny recently, adding, "They are everywhere – bus stops, markets, at the mosque door. How do these people manage to cross the border? They bring drugs and diseases. Recently, they even began involving homeless kids in their black market". Articles of this kind can now often be read in mainstream – and not just radical nationalist or chauvinist papers – with the mass media methodically painting a picture of migration being the main danger to Russia's security.

    Journalists even compensate for the abysmal lack of official statistics by inventing their own estimates of the number of migrants living in Moscow or speculating about the number of "terrorists" among Chechen diaspora in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Journalists writing about immigration in Russia also consciously – or unconsciously – make wild generalisations about ethnic differentiation in business and trade. Thus, "the food markets in Moscow and the Moscow region are in the hands of the "Azerbaijanis", the "Armenians" run the petrol stations and auto servicing sector, the "Moldavians" build cottages in the Moscow region; the "Georgians" have done well in the restaurant business and the "Vietnamese" sell cheap clothing," Izvestia has reported. The emphasis of articles of this kind connects, in the readers' minds, the image of ethnic immigrants with that of the black market and dodgy business practices and pushes readers to conclude that all immigrants are criminals. In this way, the mass media helps to makethe kitchen and bar room "case" against immigrants and to stoke up the fires of xenophobia. If examples of hate speech were previously relatively rare in the mainstream press papers, since September 2004, articles against ethnic minorities in Russia have become the norm. The leader of the pack in this aspect is Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia's biggest circulation paper.

    At the same time politicians, too, are getting into nationalist rhetoric. For example, the head of Economic Policy Commission, Irina Roukina, has accused immigrants themselves of causing increasing xenophobia in Russia. Similarly, in the Krasnodar region, in the south of Russia, the governor, Alexander Tkachev, proposed the creation of "camps" for migrants and even began to realise his plan, while Sergei Krivnjuk, a member of Jaroslavl City Council, has pronounced himself ready to lead pogroms against gypsies. Real resistance to xenophobia continues to be, almost exclusively, the business of non-governmental organizations. Many human rights activists now believe that much of the xenophobia in Russia is a result of state policy and clearly demonstrates the inability of the authorities to deal with social problems because of their corruption and lack of professionalism. The authorities, for their part, generally deny even the existence of xenophobia in Russia and laughably accuse human rights activists and liberals of destabilising society and working in the service of the West. President Vladimir Putin's answer to the very problems whose existence the authorities deny is to "centralise " power.
    ©Searchlight magazine

    8/4/2005- Russian authorities will soon introduce a centralized register of foreign nationals, the government has announced on its Web site. Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov signed the resolution on Friday, the report said. The planned register is an automated federal information resource, and will be operated by the Federal Migration Service. The register stores data from organizations that monitor foreign nationals at the Russian border and at the place of their temporary or permanent residence. The main reason behind the creation of the register is to strengthen migration control in the country. The resource will be accessible through a central database with special elecronic regulations required for any user. The sources providing the Central Register with information will be responsible for its reliability. Federal migration control organizations and their local branches will monitor the data received and send it on to the Central Register. There are several organizations that with the Federal Migration Service's approval can grant access to the Central Register: the Russian Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Information, the Russian Security Service and the Foreign Ministry. Private individuals and legal entities obtaining information from the Central Register will be responsible according to Russian legislation for its misuse or violations of the system. The Migration Control Service was established in Russia in 1992 to regulate the frantic migration processes that followed the collapse of the USSR when several states and therefore borders were introduced where a single state used to be. The main Service's functions include processing documents allowing or prohibiting foreigners to enter, reside and work in Russia. Another important function is regulating Russian nationals going to work abroad.

    Watchdogs alarmed, but lawmen say statute forbids intervention

    7/4/2005- Watchdogs have fiercely criticized police for not stopping a concert attended by hundreds of neo-Nazis and far-right sympathizers from five countries. By allowing the event to go ahead, the authorities sent skinheads a message that they can stage international meetings in the Czech Republic and go unpunished, says an official with Tolerance Civic Society, an association that monitors right-wing extremism. Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has voiced concerns and called for a report on the March 26 gathering of up to 500 people in Jablonne v Podjestedi, a north Bohemian town near the German border. The event was the largest of its kind in four years and featured bands from the United States, the Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia, according to Tolerance Civic Society. Police said that they would have intervened had there been any public display of support for fascism but that they were powerless to act because the concert was a private event held behind closed doors. Although it is illegal to promote or publicly show sympathy for fascism, enforcing the law is problematic because it can be interpreted in various ways, particularly when it comes to what constitutes a public meeting. Gross announced after the Jablonne concert that he does not want the Czech Republic to host such extremist gatherings. In his previous role as interior minister, Gross said in the wake of a big neo-Nazi concert in 2001 that police should apply a stricter interpretation of laws. That does not appear to have happened. "There should have been measures taken to prevent the [Jablonne] concert from taking place," said Ondrej Cakl of Tolerance. "When U.S. band Final War played, the singer shouted 'Sieg' and in response came a collective 'Heil.'" At this point, if not sooner, the police should have stepped in and ended the event, Cakl said, adding that officers were not within hearing range of the singer. According to Cakl, the concert was organized by Blood and Honor. The Interior Ministry says it monitors this group as an extremist organization that could pose a threat to national security. Klara Kalibova, also of Tolerance, said police could have gone inside the concert venue, a former gym, as it was obvious that criminal activity was taking place. "In Jablonne the police made an error. I see this as a result of a lack of will to act," Kalibova added.

    Colonel Vladimir Hysek, one of around 200 police officers who supervised the concert, said that about half the people attending were from Germany, while others came from Poland and Slovakia. He added that the event was announced as a private birthday party. "If there was any public display of [fascism], we would have intervened. It is a different matter if such things were displayed inside a private meeting. The law does not allow us to intervene in private gatherings." However, said Cakl, when the law refers to "public" events it means any meeting of more than two people. Human Rights Commissioner Svatopluk Karasek said, "It is complicated for the police to decide whether to take any action." He added that officers were likely to face criticism whatever they did. Zdenek Zboril, a political analyst and an expert on extremist movements, said that police should have intervened, "but they don't feel they have the support of judges" in interpreting the law more strictly. Zboril estimates that there are 2,000 to 3,000 neo-Nazis and supporters of the far-right in the Czech Republic. Of those, not more than 300 are active as musicians, organizers of concerts, or as producers and distributors of extremist magazines, while 50 to 80 are the hard core of the extremist movement. "Currently they are not a big threat," Zboril said. However, he continued, "In moments of political, economic and social crisis, these kinds of [attitudes] could be accepted by a greater part of society." Extremist groups are particularly attractive to young people who are "excited by something that's dangerous, prohibited, by something the major part of society sees negatively," Zboril added. According to Interior Ministry statistics, there were 366 extremist crimes reported in 2004, up from 335 in 2003 but down from 473 the year before that. Until 2002, the overall trend was upward. In 1996, 131 extremist crimes were reported. The Interior Ministry defines extremist crimes as those that show elements of intolerance and attack democratic principles.
    ©The Prague Post

    Ninety delegates gathered in the stadium of ASK Inter Bratislava this morning for the 2005 FARE networking conference "Using Football for Intercultural Dialogue and Anti-Discrimination", which is taking place in Bratislava, Slovakia, on April 8 - 9.

    8/4/2005- Delegates heard welcoming speeches by Daniel Milo, director of People Against Racism, Slovakia, Jozef Barmos, general manager ASK Inter Bratislava, Vladimir Waenke, sport manager Slovak Football Association, Pedro Velazquez-Hernandez, European Commission DG Education and Culture/Sport Unit, and Patrick Gasser, UEFA Assistance Programmes. Reflecting FARE´s determination to make the fight against racism in football a truly pan-European struggle, over 50 per cent of conference delegates represent supporters clubs, football clubs, ethnic minority organisations and NGO´s from central and eastern Europe. Through networking and the exchange of experience, delegates are taking the opportunity to learn from each other and share good practice. The European Commission pledged to consult FARE member groups in the development of the new commission sports policy. Mr. Velazquez-Hernandez encouraged all grass roots groups to engage with the Commission through written submissions and attendance at forthcoming conferences on the vital new policy. Mr. Gasser reiterated the importance of grass roots action in underpining the work of governing bodies, such as UEFA and national FAs, in tackling racism. Mr. Waenke underlined the Slovak FA´s determination to fight racism and discrimination in football and to promote integration of ethnic minorities especially the Roma population. At the Conference media briefing, UEFA Director of Communications, William Gaillard said that fighting racism was UEFA´s number one social objective. "Whilst football cannot solve the problem of racism in society, we can use it to reach sections of the population who may otherwise not be reached. This conference is important for raising awareness", he added. The fact that more racist incidents are being reported means that tolerance for racism in football is lower than ever before. Whilst much has already been done, it is still not enough. FAREs role is to hammer home the need for renewed efforts to rid the game of racism for once and for all.

    The conference has been organised by People Against Racism of Slovakia and is being hosted by ASK Inter Bratislava.
    Football Against Racism in Europe

    4/4/2005- Joerg Haider, the controversial former leader of Austria's right-wing Freedom Party, is to split from his old allies and head a new political party. Mr Haider and his sister, party leader Ursula Haubner, have clashed with party activists over a sharp drop in support. Mr Haider's new party, the Alliance for Austria's Future, will aim to re-engage lost voters, he said. Freedom Party ministers in Austria's ruling coalition can join the new party and keep their jobs, Mr Haider said. "We have reached a crossroads," he said. "The choice was to return to the opposition benches or, as we wish to do, continue to carry our responsibility to rule with enough support."

    Extremists excluded
    The Freedom Party polled just 10% of votes cast in a snap election held in Austria last November, almost two-thirds down on its peak of support in 1999. Mr Haider's opposition to a string of government policies and disagreements with Freedom Party figures had dogged the party since the formation of the latest government. He recently hinted that he was considering a return to the party fold, but has instead moved to create a new grouping. The new party will exclude several of the Freedom Party's extremist right-wing members. Instead it will reflect a more moderate tone in line with Mr Haider's current political views. Ms Haubner told a press conference she intended to keep her current role as social affairs minister. Austrian Vice Chancellor Hubert Gorbach, another Freedom Party member, also announced his resignation from the party and intention to remain part of the government. "We are taking the only road that will ensure that this successful government can continue to do its work. "All the members of the government of the FPOe [Freedom Party] support this new way we have chosen," he said.
    ©BBC News

    4/4/2005- The Finnish Frontier Guard has asked the Finnish Parliamentary Ombudsman Riitta-Leena Paunio to investigate the actions of the Finnish frontier guards relating to the refusal of entry to the group of Georgian women who had arrived by bus from Russia in mid-March and were flown back to Georgia last week.Various allegations have been made regarding the refusal of entry itself, as well as of the course of events prior to that. The Finnish Frontier Guard has not been able to give any official answer to the accusations, as they have been mere insinuations. The most recent question is: are Finnish frontier guards racists who regard all East European women as prostitutes? Frontier officials deny all such accusations. Lieutenants Ilkka Tuomikko from Imatra and Vesa Petman from Lappeenranta say that they do not have any prejudices based on people's looks or country of origin. The officials took part in a three-day course on the subject of border control issues at the Frontier and Coast Guard School in Espoo last week. The participants on the course included superior officers of the Finnish Frontier Guard, the Police, and the Customs. Officially, the issue of the deported Georgian women was not discussed on the course. According to the course leader, Captain Pasi Kylmämaa, the case is not ready to be handled on a course yet. However, Kylmämaa is likely to encounter the issue still many times at work, as he teaches future frontier guards the subject of border control policies, including attitude and behaviour training. "In teaching, advantage is taken of earlier mistakes, and students are put to discuss previous complaint and appeal cases", Kylmämaa notes. In the attitude training, also immigrant lecturers, for example representatives of the Finnish Somali Association, are involved. The amount of attitude training will be increased next year, when the frontier guard examination will be reformed. Kylmämaa finds it well-founded, as a good command of laws and statutes is only part of the professional skills. "People are entitled to their own opinions, but when wearing a uniform, a guard represents all Finnish authorities, Finland, and even the EU", says Kylmämaa. "However, even complaints are relevant at this work", adds Ilkka Tuomikko. "The authorities can prove the reliability of their actions best by examining all allegations and admitting all mistakes", Kylmämaa points out.
    ©Helsingin Sanomat

    4/4/2005- Netherlands was considered the greatest example in race relations in the past. But the Van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker, murder changed everything. Now being a Muslim and being a foreigner is very difficult in the country. Muslims in Netherlands have been under racist attacks since the murder of Van Gogh. Latest attack came Sunday and a group of youths smashed windows of a mosque in the southern Netherlands. One person was hurt in the attack, and police arrested one man after the Saturday night disturbance in the city of Venray, police said. Local media reported the fight involved about 60 immigrant Dutch citizens and around 20 native Dutch. The violence in Netherlands has included dozens of attacks on mosques and Islamic schools, including several bombings and cases of arson. No one has been killed in the attacks, but many were injured. Police said more arrests might follow. The Muslim population in the Netherlands is about 1 million and, Turkish and Moroccan Muslims jointly represent two thirds of the total number of Muslims living in the Netherlands. There are about 350,000 Turkish in the Netherlands, followed by 295,000 Moroccans. The Islamic community made up 5.8 percent of the Dutch population on 1 January 2004. many of the immigrants are Dutch citizen and lived here for the decades. The racist groups see the Muslims a potential threat and accuse them for all the failure the country faced. Dr. Davut Sahiner from International Strategic Research Organization (ISRO) says "the only long-lasting solution to racial tension in Western Europe could be a Muslim European state's membership to the EU". "There are many European Muslim states. However none of them is a EU member. Bosnia, Albania, Turkey, Turkish Cyprus and Azerbaijan. The EU confirmed on 17 December Summit that Turkey has fulfilled all the criteria the EU asked. However the anti-Turkish and anti-Muslims group claim there is no place for the Muslims in the EU. The right wing parties in Germany, Austria, France and Netherlands make anything possible to prevent Turkey's membership. Many in these countries curtail their racist and discriminative attitudes by abusing Turkey's EU bid. They cannot defend racism and Nazism, but they attack Turkey. The anti-Turkish policies in these countries feed the racist groups and policies. If Turkey or any other European Muslim country enters the EU, racism would be down" added Dr. Sahiner.
    ©Turkish Weekly

    4/4/2005- Dutch police have abandoned investigations into the November bombing of an Islamic school in Eindhoven, an attack that came just days after the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh. "The investigation team was recently disbanded," a police spokesman was quoted saying by website Inquiries were stopped because of a lack of clues to continue the investigation. Any useful tips given to police will be investigated, but detectives will not actively pursue the case. A bomb exploded at the entrance to the Tariq Ibnoe Ziyad Islamic primary school on 8 November 2004. Large-scale damage was reported, but no one was injured in the blast. The attack took place just days after a suspected Islamic militant murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in broad daylight on an Amsterdam street on 2 November. A series of retaliatory vandalism and arson attacks took place against mosques, schools and churches in the days and weeks afterward as social tension heightened across the Netherlands. Police arrested two Eindhoven suspects — aged 22 and 18 — in connection with the school bombing, but were forced to release them due to a lack of evidence. The spokesman refused to confirm if the two suspects were still under suspicion.
    ©Expatica News

    4/4/2005— Police have sparked alarm about the speed with which youths are becoming radicalised in the Netherlands, with the Utrecht intelligence service RID claiming it potentially poses a threat more dangerous than Islamic terrorism. Police and municipal councils have started investigating 'Lonsdale youths', typified by native Dutch teeangers who wear the Lonsdale clothing brand. These hardcore youths are responsible for more racist incidents, street disturbances and violence than previously estimated, newspaper NRC reported on Saturday. The Leiden University and Anne Frank Foundation recorded 106 violent anti-Muslim incidents in the month after the November 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a suspected Islamic militant. Lonsdale youths were involved in about 25 percent of these cases and new incidents have occurred recently. An Islamic primary school in Uden was set on fire earlier this month, the second arson attack against the school since Van Gogh's death. A 17-year-old boy has been arrested for the attack. Researcher J. van Donselaar is still compiling the nation-wide incidents involving Lonsdale youths from recent months, but asserts that the figures show a multiplication on previous statistics. Donselaar said the number of incidents is worse than initially thought and that the prevalence of such attacks is increasing. There are very few regions in the Netherlands not affected. Police and youth researchers assert that Lonsdale youths are becoming more of a danger given the fact that society is experiencing a generic shift to the right, propelling the youths to action more quickly. A police chief in Venlo claims these youths represent a powder keg. But authorities have also raised concerns about immigrant youths seeking out racist Dutch youths. Violent clashes have been reported in Veenendaal and Geldrop recently.
    ©Expatica News

    5/4/2005- Police and the national security service AIVD are to investigate extreme-right youths who wear Lonsdale clothing as concerns rise over the radicalisation of Dutch youth. The youths — who are distinguished by wearing the clothing brand Lonsdale and are openly opposed to immigrants — are said to be sparking street disturbances and other violent incidents. After police raised the alarm over the speed of radicalisation of young native-Dutch people, Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner announced the Cabinet has ordered an investigation to determine how dangerous these groups are, RTL News reported on Tuesday. The RID, a regional police intelligence unit, recently claimed the radicalisation of a hardcore of Dutch teens potentially poses a threat more dangerous than Islamic terrorism. Lonsdale youths are said to be responsible for more inter-racial incidents, street disturbances and violence than previously estimated. Researchers claim incidents involving Lonsdale youths have multiplied in recent months. In the latest incident, teens dressed in Lonsdale clothing were involved in a massive violent confrontation with Turkish immigrants in Venray on Saturday. It began when windows of a local mosque were smashed. Police have arrested three suspects, a 21-year-old Zwolle man, a 33-year-old Belfeld man and a 16-year-old Tegelen resident. Venray Mayor Jos Waals said on Monday that some of the rioters were from Amsterdam and Westland. Police have not ruled out more arrests. The police were completely surprised by the riots and Venray Council will discuss the incident on Tuesday night. Waals met with police and prosecution officials on Monday and has proposed to the council tough measures to crackdown on racism.

    Interior Minister Johan Remkes has informed Waals that Saturday's riot was not an isolated incident, but was instead a national phenomenon in which right-wing extremists are gaining more influence in the Netherlands. In another incident, police have arrested four youths in connection with an arson attack against an Islamic school in Uden last month. That attack came after the school was burned down in a deliberately lit fire last November. That attack came after a suspected Islamic militant murdered filmmaker Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam on 2 November 2004. Some 106 retaliatory attacks against Islamic targets were reported in the month after the brutal slaying. Secondary school Dockingacollege in Dokkum banned students from wearing Lonsdale clothing last year after the summer vacation. The move came in response to racist actions of a group of youths against an asylum seeker centre in the Friesland city. The youths threw clods of dirt and stones at the refugees and graffiti-ed the area with Nazi swastikas and stars of David. The subsequent ban on wearing Lonsdale clothing has been declared a success, provided that the issue is discussed with students. "There have been no more incidents in the past six months," school director Tjitte Wierdsma said. But Wierdsma also said it is important to discuss the ban, asserting that despite the fact it changes outward behaviour, the thoughts of Lonsdale youths also need to change. He said the school now devotes more time in school lessons to social studies and religion. Teachers also explain why the ban was imposed and lead discussions about the measure. The school said it had not received any negative feedback, asserting that parents are instead pleased with plan. The school said parents claim it helps them raise their children.
    ©Expatica News

    6/4/2005- A young man on leave from a secure psychiatric hospital was involved in a violent brawl outside a mosque in Venray during the weekend, it was reported on Wednesday. Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner was aware of the fact the detainee was involved in the fight, but failed to inform MPs of this when discussing the violence in the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday, RTL television news has reported. Donner did tell MPs that police and the national security service AIVD are investigating the rise of right-wing Dutch youth gangs. Municipal councils are also to crackdown on hardcore groups to prevent an escalation of violence. Alarm has been sparked recently about the rapid radicalisation of native Dutch youths, who often identify themselves by wearing Lonsdale-brand clothing. They have been linked with attacks and harassment of people perceived as immigrants and asylum seekers. But the parties Labour PvdA, Socialist SP, Green-left and Minister Donner's own Christian Democrat CDA are now demanding why he failed to mention that one of the Venray suspects had previously been sentenced to TBS psychiatric detention with compulsory treatment. In his defence, Justice Ministry spokesman Ivo Hommes said the debate was not only focused on the incident in Venray, but about extreme right-wing Dutch youths in general. He said MPs also debated the recent arson attack at an Islamic school in Uden. As the discussion did not solely focus on Venray, Donner did not think it necessary to discuss the criminal past of one of the suspects. PvdA MP Aleid Wolfsen has since said "it can never be the intention that someone with TBS with compulsory treatment can loiter in the company of radical and violent right-wing groups during leave". He also said it was an important fact that should be thoroughly investigated. According to RTL, the youth was convicted for a serious violent crime and is one of the three suspects arrested on Tuesday afternoon in connection with the brawl in the Limburg town of Venray. The youth has not been named by the police. Teens dressed in Lonsdale clothing were involved in a violent confrontation with members of the Turkish community in Venray on Saturday. It began when windows of a local mosque were smashed and one person was injured in the ensuing riot. Venray Council discussed the riot on Tuesday night, deciding that special nightlife events may be banned if they are judged to pose a heightened risk to public order. The decision came after Donner said right-wing violence was no longer incidental, but had become a concerning systematic pattern of behaviour. Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk intends to meet with Venray Mayor Jos Waals, hardcore native Dutch youths and immigrants on 14 April to discuss the situation.

    Meanwhile, the renewed concern over TBS detainees on leave comes after a 13-year-old girl was kidnapped and raped by a psychiatric escapee last May. He was sentenced to 10 years jail and renewed TBS by Zutphen Court on 15 March. In response to the crime, Donner — who survived a no confidence motion in parliament over the matter — imposed restrictions on the probationary release system afforded to inmates of TBS detention centres. But Donner was forced to act again in March when political pressure was applied in response to the murder of a 54-year-old man, allegedly committed by a criminal who had been sentenced 10 days earlier to conditional TBS detention for another offence. Donner subsequently promised that psychiatrically disturbed criminals will no longer remain in the community while awaiting treatment. He also intends to compel all forensic-psychiatric institutes to admit criminals sentenced to TBS psychiatric detention.
    ©Expatica News

    4/4/2005- At least 250 immigrants were continuing a hunger strike in five different locations in Barcelona over the government´s immigration amnesty. At least 50 Indians, Pakistanis and Bengalis were locked in the church of the Santa Maria del Pi in Barcelona. Another 80 illegal immigrants were also locked in the Espai Obert centre in the Poble Sec area of Barcelona. Another group of Bulgarians and Moroccans were locked in a similar social centre in the Sants area. In the parish of Sant Miquel, in Santa Coloma, another 50 immigrants staged a similar demonstration. The protest, which started on Saturday, called for the support of all aspects of Catalan society for those without legal status in Spain. The protestors claim the government´s amnesty on the normal regulations governing applications for legal status to live and work in Spain has not helped them. The amnesty which ends on 7 May, offers the right to work and have residency if immigrants can show they have contracts of at least six months. For domestic and agricultural workers this time period can be as short as three months. It means Spain will grant residence permits to immigrants who can provide proof of their registration with a local council from before 8 August last year, proof they have no criminal record and a work contract of six months. Once they fulfil these conditions and are given approval, immigrants are registered with the social security authorities and start paying contributions to the system. Already 200,000 people have attained legal status.
    ©Expatica News

    5/4/2005- The heavily fortified borderland between Greece and Turkey has claimed two more lives after illegal immigrants strayed into a minefield in the remote region of Evros. The killings in the militarised zone on the frontier of the European Union brought to 72 the death toll in the area since Greece signed the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997. Scores more have been severely mutilated in desperate attempts to find a back door into Europe across the Evros river and through the lethal minefields to the village of Kastanies. Three men triedto cross early yesterday morning, according to the only survivor. They had been charged 800 (£550) each by a Turkish people-smuggling gang and told to walk in a straight line, where a path had been cleared. Shortly afterwards one of the men, from Mauritania, stepped on a mine, killing himself and another man, from Tunisia. An Iraqi, also injured in the explosion, was rescued later by Greek sappers alerted by the sound of the explosion. Athens has been repeatedly accused of dragging its feet on de-mining after taking seven years to ratify the treaty and having made little headway in clearing the explosive legacy on its northern borders. According to an international body, Landmine Monitor, Greece has only two years left to complete its treaty commitment to eradicate the explosives. Local authorities in the north of the country were given a reminder of the threat posed by the fields of explosives after severe flooding this winter dislodged some mines, sending them downstream in the river. The minefields are a lethal leftover from decades of tension between the regional rivals, who are now fellow members of Nato and co-operating on Ankara's attempt to win accession talks with the EU. Since last year the army claims to have fenced off the minefields and posted phosphorescent signs in Greek and English warning of the deadly devices planted there. However, the increasingly desperate attempts by overland migrants to get into the EU has meant that many are still prepared to cross mined terrain. Greece, with its thousands of miles of shore and remote, mountainous land borders, is a major transit point for immigrants. Tens of thousands of people cross illegally every year. It has kept minefields along the Evros river on its frontier with Turkey since the 1970s. Authorities said last year that 24,751 mines remain to be cleared. In addition, Athens admitted that it has a stockpile of 1.5 million more mines, most of which it is committed to destroying. In addition to the Evros river, Greece has unexploded ordnance on up to nine islands in the Aegean and along its northern borders with Macedonia and Bulgaria. Much of it dates back to the civil war, which ended in 1949.
    © Independent Digital

    4/4/2005- Leading French left-wingers on Monday criticised the government of President Jacques Chirac for lowering flags on public buildings in tribute to the late pope, arguing that it was a breach of the country's secular principles. "For Christians to pay homage to the head of their church -- that is part of their private lives. But when the head of state involves the whole of the population, whatever their religion, that is clearly an abuse of power," said Yves Contassot, a Green party member and deputy mayor of Paris. Recalling that Chirac's centre-right government recently passed a law banning religious symbols in schools, Contassot said: "Today we have a government and a head of state who are trying to take political advantage of a private affair. "I find this totally out of place, and when it comes to the flags, possibly illegal," he said. Socialist deputy Jean-Luc Melenchon said: "This kind of thing is insidious. It can have all sorts of knock-on effects. The authorities should display total and unambiguous attention to the secular principle. "Whether you want it or not, lowering the national symbol is a kind of favour done to a religion," he said. Flags were put at half-mast in France for 24 hours following Pope John Paul II's death on Saturday. Officials said it was to honour a respected head of state and an important international figure, not the head of a religion. "This Republican tradition is applied in the case of ruling heads of state with whom France has privileged relations. The same step was taken for preceding popes," a spokesman for Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said. "Thanks to his personality Pope John Paul II affected all men, secular and non-secular, and France owed it to itself to show its grief," said writer Max Gallo, defending the government's decision.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    8/4/2005- A French court has upheld a ban sought by the Catholic Church on a clothing advertisement based on Leonardo da Vinci's painting Christ's Last Supper. The display "insults the religious feeling of Catholics", the Paris appeals court ruled on Friday. The advertisement for designers Marithe et Francois Girbaud shows a female Christ figure surrounded by women, one of them hugging a semi-naked man. The French Catholic Church won an injunction against the poster in March. It has also been banned in the Italian city of Milan. In its ruling, the appeals court said the campaign had been particularly offensive because it was scheduled to run over Lent and Easter. The designers say they did not intend to offend anyone with the poster. The campaign is said to have been inspired by Dan Brown's bestseller The Da Vinci Code which refers to the 15th Century fresco.
    ©BBC News

    6/4/2005- The French government ministers, judges and senior police officers are allowing members of the police force to use excessive and sometimes lethal force against suspects of Arab and African origin without fear of serious repercussions, Amnesty International said today. In its report France: The Search for Justice, through 10 years of documenting and exposing cases, Amnesty International has uncovered evidence of widespread failure of the judicial system to prosecute and punish human rights violations. This includes a "two-speed justice" -- which prosecutes cases brought by police officers far more quickly than those brought by their victims. The cases of Youssef Khaïf (police killing) and Aïssa Ihich (death in custody), for example, both took 10 years to come to court. This pattern of impunity contributes to a lack of public confidence that law enforcement officials operate under the rule of law and are held accountable for their actions. Amnesty International has found that a large number of cases never reach the courtroom. When they do, convictions are rare, and sentences often nominal. "In our view, there is effective impunity for police officers committing human rights violations - we have identified a widespread failure of the judicial system to effectively investigate, prosecute and punish human rights violations in law enforcement affairs," said Nicola Duckworth of Amnesty International. The number of fatal shootings by police officers or gendarmes, in disputed circumstances, has declined in recent years, but complaints of ill-treatment have increased. Complaints about police conduct increased by 18.5 per cent in 2004. In addition, Amnesty International is concerned at the continuing lack of respect for internal guidelines or codes of conduct, as well as for international norms. Among the concerns are the reluctance of public prosecutors to pursue cases against police officers; mistreatment and lack of safeguards in police custody; unnecessarily lengthy delays in judicial proceedings; and the lack of a full definition of forture in the Penal Code.

    The organisation is calling for the French authorities to create an independent mechanism to investigate all allegations of serious human rights violations; bring those responsible to justice after prompt and thorough investigations; ensure that all detainees are granted access to a lawyer from the outset of police custody; and ensure that the victims receive redress. "The prevention of torture and ill-treatment is primarily a matter of political will," said Nicola Duckworth. "There must be full accountability for everyone involved no matter what their rank."
    ©Amnesty International

    8/4/2005- Nazi memorabilia prohibited by law in Belgium is being sold on some Belgian websites, La Libre Belgique reported Friday. The newspaper does not name any specific web addresses, but reports that one Belgian site aimed at collectors recently listed for sale items such as an SS insignia and even guns. A representative of the site named Sebastian Delcampe told the newspaper that because Belgian laws on Nazi collections are very fuzzy, it has enlisted a lawyer to draft a charter. International auction websites such as eBay on the other hand have always when very strict about allowing any questionable items on their websites to avoid trouble with the law. "We have a thousand or so people worldwide responsible for 'cleaning' lists of objects put up for sale," said Tanguy Peers, director of eBay Belgium. "If a questionable object appears, then it's very rapidly removed from sale." But Michel Vergotte, a lawyer with eBay, explained that there is no Belgian law laying down precise rules for such situations. While there are laws against racism (1981) and outlawing denial of the Holocaust (1995) there is still no specific law preventing the sale of Nazi memorabilia. But it seems that even where there is vigilance there are also loopholes. Several years ago, the French website of the online book and DVD retailer, expunged all 'doubtful contents' from its site, including some works signed by revisionist Holocaust scholar Robert Faurisson, but only those in French and not in English. "An oversight?" La Libre Belgique newspaper asked.
    ©Expatica News

    8/4/2005- Sweden, where almost half of all MPs are women, is on the verge of striking a fresh blow for sexual equality as a newly formed feminist alliance is now tipped to unseat the Prime Minister. The Feminist Initiative, launched earlier this week, is already eating into the support of the ruling Social Democrats and their Green and Left Party coalition allies. And, of those backing the group launched to fight for women's rights, more than one in three are men. According to a survey published by the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter, the embryonic feminist grouping has captured 7 per cent of the vote. That would be enough to spell severe trouble for the country's long-standing Social Democratic Prime Minister, Göran Perrson, in next year's elections, and might cost him his job. The poll findings have rattled the coalition and given a spectacular boost to the Feminist Initiative, which has not yet officially become a party or said that it will contest the elections. Its current priority is to tour the country and maximise the considerable publicity surrounding its launch. Officially the grouping has no leader, though its public face is Gudrun Schyman, who already enjoyed a high profile as a former leader of the Left Party. Ms Schyman is one of the country's most effective political operators, but her career has been marked by personal controversy. Not only has she fought a long and public battle against alcohol abuse, but she was also embroiled in a scandal over a tax return before having to resign as leader of the Left Party. So far there is no sign of a detailed policy platform, though the Feminist Initiative says that even egalitarian Sweden still has problems in areas such as equality of pay and violence against women. Launching the party earlier this week, Ms Schyman said: "This is a question of power. We in Sweden live in a society which is built on an idea that men should have the most power and dominate."

    Most of the rest of Europe sees the Swedes as role models in their commitment to sexual equality. Sweden has the highest proportion of female representatives in any European political system: 45.3 per cent of Swedish MEPs are women, compared with 18.1 per cent in the UK. Although the Feminist Initiative is in its infancy, the threat it poses to the ruling coalition is real. The Social Democrats have governed Sweden for six of the past seven decades, and voter fatigue is thought to be one reason for a slide in popularity. Polls were already showing a slide in popularity for Mr Persson's coalition and putting it behind an opposition centre-right alliance of four parties - the so-called "bourgeois bloc". That trend will be accelerated, according to yesterday's poll, which indicated that almost one third of Left Party voters would switch their allegiance to back the Feminist Initiative. In a sign of his alarm, the Prime Minister has suggested that the supporters of the new feminist group could let the centre-right back into power by the back door.
    © Independent Digital

    2/4/2005- Immigrants to Britain may soon have to do more than just fill out forms. They may have to know where Cockneys live, how many British households have pets, and what goes into a traditional Christmas dinner. Such topics could form part of a "Britishness test' the government is proposing as it heads into a general election facing rising voter anxiety over the notion that the country is being swamped by immigrants who are keen to embrace British jobs and British welfare, but not the British way of life. Britain is just one of a host of European countries where politicians are responding to immigration angst. Prime Minister Tony Blair is campaigning on the slogan "Your country's borders protected,' while the opposition wants immigrants tested for HIV. Stricter Dutch laws threaten thousands of asylum- seekers with deportation. France is considering a special immigration police force, and Germany's ruling coalition is facing uproar over allegations of lax visa procedures that opened the door to criminals. Polls suggest the politicians are reflecting the public mood, but European Union countries are in a bind: Most studies say they desperately need immigrants to replenish aging populations and offset low birthrates. That can be a hard sell when unemployment in some countries is above 10 percent and overburdened welfare systems are widely perceived as besieged by deadbeat immigrants. A U.N. study estimates Europe will need 1.6 million migrants a year for the next 45 years to maintain its work force, yet in a poll of 25,000 EU residents last fall, 54 percent disagreed with the statement that Europe needs immigrants.

    The perception that Britain has too many immigrants is false, said Anne Kershen, director of the Centre for the Study of Migration at Queen Mary College, University of London. "If you took all the illegal immigrants out of London, the economy would probably collapse,' she said. Overall, about 8 percent of Western Europe's population is foreign-born. In Germany, the figure is about 9 percent, in Britain around 8 percent but in a British poll conducted in 2000, the average guess was 20 percent. (The U.S. figure is 11.8 percent.) Such perceptions have made immigration a major issue in early campaigning for British elections expected in May, with Blair's Labour Party advocating selecting immigrants with skills and making newcomers learn English and take the "Britishness test' to qualify for permanent residency. The test would be based on "Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship,' a government handbook that tells newcomers, among other things, that Cockneys live in London, just under half of all households keep pets, and Christmas dinner is turkey and pudding. Susie Symes, a trustee of a museum dedicated to London's immigrant history, said the perception of immigrants as a social burden is nothing new. Three hundred years ago, she said, it was French Protestants fleeing persecution, and British lawmakers saying, "We should kick the immigrants out of the country.' "This is a country politically, socially and economically shaped by immigration over 2,000 years,' she said. "But that doesn't form part of our national identity.' Large-scale immigration got under way after World War II, as Turks came to Germany to help rebuild the war-shattered country and thousands from the former European empires came looking for work Africans and West Indians to Britain, Algerians to France, Indonesians to the Netherlands.

    Today, thousands of migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and elsewhere try to enter Europe each year from Africa in overloaded boats across the Strait of Gibraltar to Spain, from Turkey across the Aegean to the Greek islands, in speedboats over the Adriatic from Albania to Italy, in trucks through the Channel Tunnel between France and England. In Britain, as in many other European countries, immigrant workers are relied on to do crucial but often poorly paid jobs that hotels, hospitals, pubs, construction sites and farms rely on. But fear of immigrants has intensified since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the Madrid train bombings of a year ago. Today the "ugly immigrant' in the public imagination is not just the welfare scrounger but the hidden terrorist, which is why Blair's slogan of "Your country's borders protected' cuts two ways. In the Netherlands, where every fifth person is an immigrant or the child of one, a surge of hostile sentiment spiked with the November murder, allegedly by a Muslim radical, of filmmaker Theo van Gogh. France, meanwhile, is among many countries that feel too many immigrants are coming for the good life, not to assimilate into their adopted countries hence its much disputed effort to ban girls from wearing Muslim head scarves to school. Across the continent, extreme nationalist parties like the Flemish Bloc in Belgium and the National Front in France have gained at the polls by exploiting fears of a rising tide of immigrants and refugees. National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen shocked France by finishing second to President Jacques Chirac in the first round of presidential elections in 2002. (He lost resoundingly in the runoff.) Le Pen also has been convicted six times of racism or anti-Semitism most recently in February for a newspaper interview in which he said a growing Muslim population meant that soon "the French will lower their heads and walk the sidewalk with their eyes down.'

    Moderate parties, whether left- or right-leaning, have echoed some of the far right's concerns, arguing that to forestall a really dangerous anti-foreigner surge, tough policies are needed to choke off illegal migration and stop migrants "asylum shopping' for the most generous host country. "We will never maintain the tolerant, diverse nation of which we can be so proud, unless we have the strict controls that keep it so,' Blair says. France's government has proposed creating a special police force to keep out illegal immigrants. A law has taken effect in Germany designed to cherrypick skilled immigrants. Newcomers are obliged to take government-funded German-language and civics courses or risk losing state benefits. Germany's backlash against its previously lenient approach has lately been highlighted by a furor over revelations that immigrants who poured in from the former Soviet Union under a relaxed visa policy turned out to include criminals and women forced into prostitution. The Dutch government has introduced steep visa fees, restrictions on foreign marriages and compulsory integration classes. The government has vowed to deport 26,000 rejected asylum seekers by the summer of 2007. Denmark has also tightened its laws. Shamit Saggar, a political scientist at the University of Sussex who has studied attitudes to immigration across Europe, said the anti-immigrant mood would continue to dominate politics in many European countries. But in Britain, he feels, the picture is more complex. "Immigration has been broadly something that has been welcomed in this country,' Saggar said. "While polls show many people are hostile to future immigration, they are generally positive about past immigration. There's a long tradition of being pragmatic about these things in Britain.'
    ©Associated Press

    4/4/2005– The issue of integration is an overriding priority for the Muslim minorities in Europe which should strike a balance between their identity and the cultures of their new societies, a leading European Muslim activist said. "Muslims in Europe cannot make a difference unless they wholeheartedly integrate into their new societies," Ahmad Al-Rawi, Chairman of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), told Monday, April 4, over the phone from London. "But they have to strike the right balance between their identity and their contributions to their society at all political, economic and cultural levels." He said that the 15 million Muslims in Europe "are part and parcel of their societies," adding that the term "integration" has become the rallying cry for this juncture. Al-Rawi said the issue is high on the agenda of an FIOE delegation attending an EU interfaith committee meeting later in the day. "Brussels will also likely host a seminar on the recognition of Islam in Europe later this month," he added. The prominent Muslim activist said Europe is no longer a "mono-cultural" continent. "Europe, though dominated by Christians and white complexions, has become increasingly multi-ethnic," he noted. "True that there are some countries that want Muslims to melt away into their pots, but there are others which boost positive integration."

    Difficult Job
    The Muslim activist, however, admitted that the integration process is not that easy and needs a great deal of persistence in view of incidents resurfacing every now and then, which tarnish the image of Islam. He said the Netherlands, for instance, was one of the most receptive European countries to Muslims and used to spend millions every year on their organizations. The government used to encourage Muslims to play a key role on the political spectrum, he added, recalling that 50 municipal members were Muslims. "But the killing of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh at the hands of a mad boy has changed every thing and made Muslims there back to square one," Rawi stressed. "No doubt that we all as Muslims feel jealous for our religion and our Prophet (PBUH), but there are legal channels through which we can protest and not by such a barbaric way that did more harm than good to Islam."

    The Muslim activist offered a piece of advice to all Muslim minorities in the West: "Perform your duties before asking for your rights." "Muslims who abide by their religion should, by the same token, abide by the laws of their European countries," he said. "Integrate positively into your society, keep you non-Muslim fellows acquainted with the precious values of your religion, and I guarantee that your society will, sooner or later, warmly welcome you."

    Not A Priority
    On problems facing some Muslims in the Netherlands over refusing to shake hands with women, Rawi said such issues should not be given priority. He said shaking women's hands "is by no means a major sin but rather a minor one and a controversial issue on which scholars are divided." The Muslim activist asserted that refraining from handshaking is interpreted differently in European countries. "Some countries see it as a sign of disrespect for women, and others, like Britain, understand it," he said. Rawi continued: "We should not give heed to such issues and should focus rather on important issues on which we should make no compromise, and this is our approach at international conferences like the Le Bourget conference in France." He recalled that the European Council for Fatwa and Research has issued several statements guiding Muslims on how they can adapt to the values of their Western societies and overcome problems like this. Some Dutch Muslims have found themselves between a rock and a hard place over the issue of handshaking. The Hague Municipality deprived last month a Muslim citizen of government social assistance after he refused to shake hands with a female civil servant. The man tried in vain to justify his position as being purely religious and in no way derogatory. His lawyer defended him as a victim of racism, asserting that such a behavior was not deemed as disapproving before the November killing of Van Gogh. Another Dutch Muslim, F. Aniat, could have faced the same punishment if it hand not been for the staunch defense of his non-Muslim work colleagues, Rotterdam newspaper reported on Friday, April 1. Aniat, who works for the council of social affairs in Rotterdam, was reprimanded by a legal committee for refusing to shake hands with two female members at Rotterdam municipality. In his defense, Aniat said that the council should understand the cultures of Dutch citizens of different backgrounds.
    ©Islam Online

    Editor's Note: Its low birth rate and aging population mean that Europe needs immigrants for its work force. But a new survey reveals widespread intolerance to newcomers -- particularly Muslims -- across much of the continent.

    5/4/2005- When it comes to immigration, Europe is between a rock and a hard place, damned if it welcomes immigrants and damned if it doesn't. With low birth rates and an aging population, Europe has to open its arms to a growing number of immigrants, and many native-born citizens don't like it. "A wave of xenophobia has washed across Europe in the last decade," says Peter O'Brien political science professor at Trinity University. Citing a 2004 poll in which 33 percent of Europeans described themselves as "racist," O'Brien points to the growing influence of right-wing extremists like Jean-Marie Le Pen in France, Joerg Haider in Austria and Umberto Bossi of the Northern League in Italy. "No longer making up a lunatic fringe, the xenophobes now garner a fifth or a fourth of the popular vote. Lithuania elected a Le Pen clone, and a Haider supporter in Austria got 47.6 percent of the vote," adds O'Brien. Immigration is stoking the fires of racism. To fulfill its labor market needs -- and pension and welfare payments -- Europe needs immigrants. It suffers from two adverse population trends. Its population of retirees grows at an annual rate of 0.5 percent. The rate of Europeans from ages 50 to 65 who are still working has dropped below 50 percent, in some countries it has sunk to 40 percent. Its birth rates are dropping too. In 2002 its birth deficit was 2.3 million; its annual birth rate is negative 0.7 percent. Even if current official immigration rates keep steady, Europe's population will fall 10 percent, or a the least by 25 million by 2050. Already, 12 percent of Europe's population are immigrants. Of those, 25 million are Muslim -- some Dutch conservatives believe the real number stands at 32.5 million and could soon reach 40 million. In England, Spain, France and Germany, most immigrants come from Turkey. The Balkans send the most number of Muslims. Many new arrivals also come from China and other Asian countries, and they're often not met with openness by European locals. Germany, Switzerland and Austria have been historically among Europe's less open societies. Their marked prejudice against immigrants, especially from the Mediterranean basin, has been portrayed in famous movies like "Bread and Chocolate," director Franco Brusati's humorous portrayal of Italian illegal migrants who cross the Swiss and German borders in the 1970s looking for odd jobs, and who are often brought back to their country in shackles. A sort of "A Day Without Mexicans." But these hapless European migrants were not treated nearly as harshly as their non-EU counterparts -- Muslims, in general -- are today. Turks currently get the brunt of attack from nationalists, fascists and neo-Nazis in France, Germany and England. Even Italy and Spain, customarily very tolerant, have discovered their xenophobic streaks.

    A first-ever scientific survey of Europeans' attitudes toward immigration was recently completed by the Vienna-based European Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), a EU human rights watchdog. Conducted between 1997 and 2003 and involving 25,000 people living in EU's 25 member states, the study shows a growing resistance among Europeans toward integrating immigrants. Although the majority of EU citizens are happy to live in a multiethnic society, nearly half of the population opposes granting legal immigrants full civil rights. One in five would prefer no immigrants at all. Of Europeans living in the 15 initial EU countries, 60 percent want limits to the rise of multicultural societies. The percentage drops to 42 percent in the 10 new EU states. However, 52 percent of respondents across Europe see "a collective ethnic threat from immigration," believing that immigrants threaten jobs and the country's culture, bring crime and generally make a country a worse place to live. EUMC's study found also that ethnic exclusion was more likely to be supported in Mediterranean countries, in particular Greece, and in East European countries than in Nordic countries. This is likely because Mediterranean nations' indefensible shores and borders make them a frontline for illegal immigration. Illegal immigrants from North Africa, the Middle East and China pass first through Italy, Greece or Spain before making their way to England, France, Germany and other northern European countries where labor markets are more active. Among the new EU members, the Baltic nations were the most intolerant, in particular Latvia and Estonia, while Poland, Bulgaria and Romania were more inclusive. The study also found that xenophobia was directly linked to the GDP of each country -- those with stronger per capita incomes showed a lower level of intolerance. In addition, the survey found that 80 percent of EU's educated urbanites were tolerant toward immigrants. Among people who were illiterate and living in the countryside, however, less than 20 percent were tolerant. "It doesn't necessarily follow that less open attitudes are transferred into discriminatory and racist behavior," commented Beate Winkler, EUMC director. "However, for members of minority communities, both the thoughts and actions of majority populations are important -- particularly in relation to how they impact social inclusion in practical terms, such as equality at the work place or in the education sector."
    ©Pacific News Service

    Case expected to test laws that try to balance free-speech rights against protection of equality and minority rights

    4/4/2005- Was David Ahenakew willfully promoting hate when he told a reporter that Hitler was trying to "clean up the world" when he "fried" six-million Jews? A Saskatoon judge will begin weighing that question today, when the 71-year-old former national native leader is tried on a rare charge related to an anti-Semitic tirade in December of 2003. Legal observers expect the high-profile case involving the Order of Canada recipient to be an important and provocative test of the country's hate-crime laws that have tried to balance free-speech rights against protection of equality and minority rights. Doug Christie, who took on the case last fall and has represented Holocaust-deniers James Keegstra and Ernst Zundel, said during an interview yesterday that Mr. Ahenakew plans to move ahead with a not guilty defence. However, he won't disclose his defence strategy. "I want to see the evidence they [the Crown] provide first," he said, adding that the offence Mr. Ahenakew was charged with is an "instrument of political oppression." Mr. Christie also doesn't know whether the trial could take longer than the five days set aside. "I won't know until the battle starts," he said. The trial will primarily examine remarks Mr. Ahenakew made about Jews to a conference at a hotel in Saskatoon, and then later to Saskatoon StarPhoenix reporter James Parker. Crown prosecutor Brent Klause said his case involves just four or five witnesses, but the key is the testimony of Mr. Parker, who was the only reporter present during Mr. Ahenakew's speech and later sought clarification in a taped interview. "It's almost Hitleresque in the way he speaks," Mr. Klause said, "It's not a complicated case from a factual point of view." He expects to take a day or two to present the Crown's case, but hasn't received a hint of what Mr. Christie plans to argue. Usually defence lawyers phone the Crown daily for updates leading up to a trial, but Mr. Christie hasn't even responded to Mr. Klause's calls. "We've been very amendable to a plea discussion," said Mr. Klause, who added that the Crown isn't interested in jail time. "What we'd really like is an apology," he said. "We want race relations in this province that are friendly, not one where people are talking about Hitler annihilating people." Mr. Christie couldn't be reached for comment. Nor could Mr. Ahenakew.

    After a teary press conference in Saskatoon to apologize for his comments shortly after the incident, Mr. Ahenakew made further inflammatory remarks in the July/August 2003 issue of This Magazine. "When a group of people, a race of people can control the world media, then there's got to be something done about that," Mr. Ahenakew told magazine contributor Alex Roslin, who said he taped the interview and that the comments were spontaneous. Jewish groups and the Crown said the comments refer to Jews in a derogatory manner. "His apology that he did make was not proved very sincere," said Manuel Prutschi, national executive vice-president with the Canadian Jewish Congress. Mr. Prutschi is pleased the Crown is pushing ahead with the case. "The issue is not jailing people. It is establishing that a person has committed a wrong," he said. "There are certain types of expression that are really beyond the pale." Ken Norman, a law professor at the University of Saskatchewan and former head of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, said that even with the taped evidence of the comments, the Crown is going to have to work hard to prove Mr. Ahenakew set out to "willfully incite hatred and violence." Mr. Norman said the Supreme Court of Canada's landmark decision 15 years ago against Mr. Keegstra established "that only the most extreme kinds of incitements to hatred should be the subject of prosecution under Section 319." Mr. Keegstra is a former Alberta high-school teacher who taught his students that Jews were "treacherous," "subversive," "sadistic," and "power-hungry" and out to destroy Christianity. Mr. Norman said that the Crown will have to establish that Mr. Ahenakew intended to "gather support for his views." "This case is going to be an historical moment," he said. "It's important more than once a generation for a country to debate the things that are at stake here -- free speech versus respect for racial and ethnic difference." But regardless of the verdict, the CJC still wants to see one punishment fall on Mr. Ahenakew. "We have been disappointed throughout this period that the Order of Canada was not stripped from him," he said, ". . . In our view, even if it isn't a guilty verdict, it should [be taken from him]." The Advisory Council of the Order of Canada has said further discussion about Mr. Ahenakew's membership will take place when the legal proceedings are completed. Susanne Kaplan, president of Saskatoon's Congregation Agudas Israel, said she was speaking only for herself when she described Mr. Ahenakew's actions as a crime against all Canadians, not just Jews. "What the Crown is doing is sending a clear message that we won't accept anti-racial or anti-religious comments toward any group," she said. Mr. Ahenakew couldn't be reached for comment, but his lawyer called his client is a "brave man" and said he has "suffered a great deal."
    ©Globe and Mail

    Blair views issue as corrosive to police and citizen relations

    8/4/2005- Toronto's new police chief acknowledged yesterday that the problem of racism goes beyond just a few bad apples, and said the force needs to address it systematically from the top down. "The only way to fight the problem of racism in our service is by addressing it as part of the organizational culture. It has to be part of the culture of the Toronto Police Service that people will be treated with respect and that we value diversity. The analogy of a few bad apples quite frankly just doesn't work," chief-designate Bill Blair said in an interview yesterday. "I don't think it explains it and it doesn't enable us to address it organizationally. "If you respect the concerns that people have around issues of racial bias, and we do accept their concerns, then you can't just sort of lay it off on the conduct of a few people. I think we have a responsibility to look at our organizational culture." Chief-designate Blair vowed to take a strong stand against racism and racial discrimination in policing. He said although there are many strong leaders in the police who believe in treating everyone fairly and with respect, the issue of race has had a corrosive effect on the relationship between the citizens of Toronto and their police force. He also said he will encourage frank discussions with leaders of Toronto's diverse communities. Speaking with The Globe and Mail after his first police services board meeting since he was given the chief's job, chief-designate Blair revealed in greater detail how he plans to put his mark on the force. He will officially become chief as soon as he reaches a contract agreement with the board and is sworn in, a process expected to take about 10 days. A graduate of Canada's only MBA-style police executive program, conducted through the University of Toronto, chief-designate Blair talked about finding ways to create greater efficiencies in policing. He indicated his willingness to accept Mayor David Miller's suggestions on reorganizing police shifts to ensure more officers are working at the busiest times, and fewer when things are quiet, and he said he will not ask the board for more money until he has conducted a full review of the organization's practices. He sidestepped the issue of drug testing for officers, which was part of the Ferguson report issued in the wake of the drug squad scandal, saying it was something that had to be considered very carefully. Dave Wilson, head of the Toronto Police Association, said his members are cautiously optimistic about the new chief but are waiting to see where he stands on drug tests before making any judgments.

    Chief-designate Blair also pledged a renewed emphasis on community policing. "I think the city of Toronto and the people in our neighbourhoods want to see more community policing, but I don't think they want to see us doing soft things. I think they want us to be more effective in making their community safe. I think they want us to work with them and show some respect for one another and get them involved." He said that although he wouldn't describe himself as a disciple of Jane Jacobs, he has read all her books and they have influenced the way he thinks about policing. "The Death and Life of Great American Cities made me start to think about neighbourhoods," he said. "It made me think about what made neighbourhoods safe." When he was working in 51 Division, he recalls having persistent problems with the Allen Gardens area, which was a magnet for drugs and other kinds of crime. Property values were in decline, people were moving out of the area and its reputation was terrible. "That was a dangerous place and we were policing the daylights out of it," he said. But then he rethought his strategy. He put uniform officers in the park to reassure the community, he cracked down on drunk and disorderly conduct, and worked to find help for the alcoholics who slept in the park. He worked with the city to trim the hedges and add new lighting, and to organize community events that would draw activity to the area. "More people come, and all of a sudden it's a good place. People feel really comfortable there and the criminals have to go off to some other place, because that's not a good place to do what they're doing."
    ©Globe and Mail

    4/4/2005- Saying racism still exists, civil rights activists marked the Monday anniversary of the murder of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by denouncing a Georgia measure that would require voters to show a picture ID. At a wreath-laying ceremony at King's Atlanta tomb, preachers and members of King's family criticized the voting bill approved last week by Georgia's Republican-led Legislature as an attempt to suppress minority voting. "We live in a state where our vote can be suppressed, oppressed and repressed," said Martin Luther King III, one of King's two sons. The bill, which GOP sponsors say is intended to prevent voter fraud, still must be signed by Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue. King's widow, Coretta Scott King, also blasted the bill _ which eliminates Social Security cards, birth certificates and other documents from the list accepted at the polls. "Despite the gains we've made toward achieving racial equality, racism still exists," she said. Also at the ceremony, preachers led about 200 people gathered in versions of civil rights-era spirituals that inserted Perdue's name and other references to Republicans. King was killed by a sniper's bullet on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn., where he'd traveled to support sanitation workers who'd gone on strike. Fred Curry, who came to the ceremony from Memphis, remembered being in eighth grade and hearing word that King had been shot. "I thought the world was coming to an end," he said. "You could feel the anticipation that things were going to get better. And then he was assassinated, and there were riots and fires and looting. It was chaos."

    After the wreath-laying, about a dozen activists drove 50 miles east to Monroe to call for criminal charges in a decades-old lynching there that remains unsolved. Two black couples were pulled from a car and shot to death near the banks of the Apalachee River in 1946. A federal investigation at the time tallied more than 50 possible suspects, but no one was ever charged. "Racism is still running rampantly through our society," said Charles Steele, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "Just take yourself back 50 years ago, at night on this bridge, to be in the dark here with some angry white folks. We can't let that go unresolved." A reopening of the investigation in 2001 didn't solve the case. Most of the suspects have died, but the recent indictments and unsolved civil rights-era killings in Alabama and Mississippi have prompted a fresh push for new indictments in the Monroe case. "It is unconscionable that no one has been brought to justice for this," said State Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam, D-Riverdale. "Just because the people may be old now doesn't make them any less guilty." A march was led to the site of the lynchings, Moore's Ford bridge, on Saturday to call for fresh indictments.
    ©Associated Press

    8/4/2005- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today elaborated on proposals to reform the human rights machinery of the United Nations in his address to the Commission on Human Rights. Outlining the reforms envisaged for the three main pillars of the Organization's human rights machinery -- the treaty body system, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the intergovernmental machinery -- contained in his report, "In Larger Freedom", the Secretary-General said that the most dramatic of his proposals concerned the replacement of the Commission itself by a smaller Human Rights Council. While the Commission in its current form had notable strengths such as its ability to take action on country situations, to appoint rapporteurs and other experts, and to work closely with civil society groups, its ability to perform its tasks had been overtaken by new needs, and had been undermined by the politicization of its sessions and the selectivity of its work, Mr. Annan said. A Human Rights Council could provide conceptual and architectural clarity, in parallel with the existing councils tasked to deal with security and development. The Council would be a standing body, he explained, able to meet when necessary, rather than for only six weeks per year. It should have an explicitly defined function as a chamber of peer review, and its main task should be to evaluate all States' fulfilment of all their human rights obligations, giving concrete expression to the principle that human rights were universal and indivisible. Moreover, the Council should be equipped to give technical assistance to States, and to provide policy advice to States and United Nations bodies alike. Furthermore, under such a system, every Member State could come up for review on a periodic basis.

    The Secretary-General paid tribute to the late Pope John Paul II, calling him an irreplaceable voice speaking out for peace, for religious freedom, and for mutual respect and understanding between people of different faiths. He also extended his condolences to the people and Government of Monaco over the loss of Prince Rainier. Mr. Annan said the world faced appalling suffering in Darfur, Sudan. Valiant efforts had been made to deliver humanitarian assistance, and the Security Council had agreed to impose sanctions on individuals committing violations of international humanitarian or human rights law, and to ask the International Criminal Court to play its essential role in lifting the veil of impunity and holding those accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity accountable. Moreover, gratitude should be extended to the troops deployed by the African Union, whose presence had helped to protect the population from further crimes. However, in its present form, that force remained insufficient to provide security throughout such a vast territory. Meanwhile, there had been little progress towards a political settlement. Makarim Wibisono, the Chairperson of the Commission, in introducing the Secretary-General, said the Secretary-General's contribution to the cause of human rights had been remarkable, as was recently testified by the issuing of his report on United Nations reform, in which he clearly affirmed the centrality of human rights in the United Nations system and programmes. His guidance on the future of the Commission was of importance and he would be listened to with particular attention.

    21/3/2005- Drunken airborne troops attacked an ethnic Armenian inside a Russian Orthodox Church during their professional holiday last August, according to the Committee for Joint Action to Protect Legal and Human Rights, an Astrakhan-based NGO in a European Commission sponsored project to monitor xenophobia in Russia. (UCSJ, the Moscow Helsinki Group, and UCSJ's Moscow affiliate, the Moscow Bureau on Human Rights, are participant NGOs in this project.) The August attack came to light during an interview the Committee conducted in March 2005 with a local Russian Orthodox Priest named Father Valery. When asked if he had witnessed any racist violence in the city, Father Valery related a story from last August, during the annual celebration of the Airborne Forces' professional holiday. In many Russian cities, this day is often marred by racist violence. Some airborne troops came to church that morning already intoxicated, and when they saw an ethnic Armenian light a candle before an icon, they started yelling threats. Father Valery interceded, reminding them that they were inside a church, but the soldiers attacked the Armenian man anyway. "We called the police, but they came only after 30 minutes, by which time the soldiers had beaten the man half to death. The police interviewed me and left. I didn't follow up to see if they had started an investigation, but that Armenian parishioner never visited our church again," Father Valery said. "Outside the church I encounter such phenomena most often at the market places of our city. Many people don't tolerate the Muslim faith. Fights often take place between young Russian guys and youths of Caucasian nationality. The worst thing is that police don't get involved in these fights, they let them happen." Father Valery revealed in the interview that he has regular contact with several members of the neo-Nazi group Russian National Unity (RNU) and that he tries to persuade them to abandon violence. "Unfortunately, I can't say that I've had any influence on them." RNU members and members of a local group called the Russian Club, which works under the auspices of a security agency, "are practically waging war against people from the Caucasus" in Astrakhan, Father Valery asserted.
    ©UCSJ News

    15/3/2005 – Russian writers are using images and motifs found in Nazi anti-Semitic writings to demonize and dehumanize the Chechens today, according to an American professor who has examined their production. In an article published in the current issue of Moscow's „Novoye literaturnoye obozreniye," Anna Brodsky, who teaches at Washington and Lee University in the United States, argues that anti-Semitic imagery is an important source for Russians who are engaged in anti-Chechen propaganda. According to Brodsky, „the characteristics which the Nazis ascribed to the Jews" are now finding their way into the writings of an increasing number of Russians about the Chechens who are presented as being the incarnation of absolute evil --just as the Nazis treated the Jews more than a half century ago. „Possibly the chief anti-Semitic stereotype used by the authors of such books [about the Chechens] is the myth of the economic domination of an immeasurably rich national minority," she writes. This paranoid vision of the Jews, which was outlined in the notorious forgery, „The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," is now being used to denounce the Chechens. In a 1997 novel, for example, Lev Puchkov wrote that the Chechens are now attacking Russians because before the war they were used to stealing from them as the North Caucasians built up their illegal wealth. And in a 2001 novel, Dmitriy Cherkasov made a similar point, saying that the Chechens have always had economic power over the Russians. Brodsky notes that Russian writers – novelists, memoirists and journalists – do not limit themselves to the application of this anti-Semitic slander from the past to the Chechens of today. They also portray the Chechens as cruel, pitiless, and obsessiviely interested in non-Chechen women, charges that anti-Semites historically have employed as well. Russian writers like Puchkov, Viktor Dotsenko and Andrei Voronin, Brodsky notes, fill their books and articles with stories about the extreme sexuality of the Chechens and their dissolute behaviour not only among themselves but with others – again themes that often animated Nazi anti-Semitic writings as well. And Russian writers also portray the Chechens as traitorous to the core, as people who are superficially hospitable but who inevitably betray anyone who is foolish enough to accept it. Indeed, at least one Russian writer on this theme explicitly calls the Chechens who do so Judases, yet another frequent anti-Semitic theme.

    But perhaps the most disturbing parallel between anti-Semitic writings of the past and anti-Chechen writings of the present is the reappearance of the idea of the „blood libel," the notion that Jews and now Chechens practice ritual murder of outsiders as part of their national traditions. This absurd medieval myth tragically had a more recent manifestation, Brodsky points out. Just before World War I, the Russian government infamously indicted Mendel Beilis on charges of ritual murder. Beilis was acquited, but anti-Semites continue to question his innocence – among them the Russian writer Igor Shafarevich as recently as 2002. Now, at least one Russian writer has suggested that the Chechens are guilty of the same thing. In a pair of novels, „Walking into the Night" and „The Chechen Blues" (both published in 2002), Aleksandr Prokhanov suggested that the Chechens ritually murder captured Russian soldiers who refuse to convert to Islam in order to get their blood. Like other scholars, Brodsky acknowledges that Russian anti-Chechen propaganda has other sources as well – including not unimportantly Stalinist actions like the „dekulakization" of the peasantry and the forced exile of entire peoples including of course the Chechens themselves. In memoirs about the Chechen war, some Russian soldiers, Brodsky points out, talk about „dekulakizing" the rich Chechens, and others who come in contact with the Chechens openly express regret that Stalin did not kill enough of them when he sent them into Central Asian exile at the end of World War II. But as Brodsky makes clear, it is the anti-Semitic sources of the anti-Chechen writings that are the most disturbing for two important reasons. On the one hand, this sourcing calls attention to just how far some Russians and others have already gone to demonize and dehumanize the Chechens, two steps typically taken by those who want to justify the destruction of an entire community or to excuse those who want to take that step. And on the other, this sourcing highlights the ease with which hatred for one group can be displaced onto another and perhaps back again. The imagery that promoted attacks on Jews yesterday is now being used to justify attacks on Chechens. In the future, as Brodsky suggests, it could all too easily be exploited to power attacks on Jews and other groups as well.
    ©UCSJ News

    22/3/2005- Widespread kidnappings of civilians in Chechnya, most of them allegedly by government forces, have reached the level of a crime against humanity, Human Rights Watch said Monday in a report that also condemned the European Union for taking no action on the problem. In France, Chechnya's Moscow-backed president, Alu Alkhanov, acknowledged human rights abuses in Chechnya but said "the situation has been improving" and reports of widespread kidnappings in the breakaway province were exaggerated. He also ruled out negotiations with the separatists on independence, autonomy or even a peaceful solution to the conflict.

    The New York-based Human Rights Watch issued its report as the Council of Europe hosted informal talks on Chechnya's future in Strasbourg, France. The council is Europe's top human rights watchdog. The report said thousands of people have vanished in Chechnya since 1999, the start of the latest conflict between Russian forces and separatists. The report documented several dozen new cases of "disappearances" that it said had occurred mostly within recent months. "Thousands of people have 'disappeared' in Chechnya since 1999, with the full knowledge of the Russian authorities," said Rachel Denber, acting executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia Division. "Witnesses now tell us that the atmosphere of utter arbitrariness and intimidation is 'worse than a war."' Human Rights Watch also condemned the European Union for failing to introduce a resolution on Chechnya this year at the 53-nation U.N Commission on Human Rights, which is now in session in Geneva. In both 2000 and 2001, the U.N. commission passed resolutions calling on the Russian government to stop abuses in Chechnya. "It is astounding that the European Union has decided to take no action on Chechnya at the commission," Denber said. "To look the other way while crimes against humanity are being committed is unconscionable." Human Rights Watch cited an estimate by local human rights groups that 3,000-5,000 people have gone missing since the beginning of the current conflict in 1999, the second in a decade. Russian authorities deny all responsibility for their fate or knowledge of their whereabouts, it said. Human rights defenders have accused Russian security forces and their pro-Moscow Chechen allies of widespread abuses against civilians in Chechnya, including kidnapping, torture and extrajudicial killings.

    Chechen rebels have mounted a growing number of terrorist acts, culminating in September's seizure of 1,000 hostages at a school in southern Russia, which ended in the death of some 330 people -- about half of them children. At the Council of Europe's Strasbourg meeting, Alkhanov said he was aware of human rights abuses and said his administration was working to improve the situation. "We do admit that human rights and legal abuse is still a reality in Chechnya and that the state of affairs in the social and political sphere is not as good as it should be," he said. "At the same time ... the republic's leadership has been working really hard to improve the situation. And the situation has been improving." But he said the kidnapping reports were overblown. "If we say that 213 people have been kidnapped in Chechnya this year, this means that it is really so, and not 400, contrary to what some participants in this (discussion) have been alleging," he said. After the one-day meeting, Alkhanov ruled out negotiations on Chechnya's independence, or even increasing its autonomy within Russia, saying the country's territorial integrity was sacred for him. In the future, he said, "there may be discussions on a peaceful solution to the conflict. There may be discussions on humanitarian aid, but not in a round-table format like today, and not with separatists. We don't consider it necessary." His staunch refusal to include separatists dealt a blow to organizers, who had hoped that Chechen opposition representatives could be included in future meetings.

    European Union External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner defended the decision not to introduce a resolution at the U.N. human rights session in Geneva. "We are seriously concerned about the problem of human rights in Chechnya," Ferrero-Waldner told Interfax in Moscow, where she was attending talks on an EU-Russia cooperation agreement. But she added that the European Union wanted to concentrate on helping to resolve the conflict through economic assistance and planned to send a mission to the impoverished North Caucasus region in April. At the meeting in Strasbourg, Alkhanov ruled out any negotiations with people he called terrorists, a reference to the Chechen rebels. He said his administration would only cooperate with those who recognized the territorial integrity of Russia and gave up demands for Chechen independence. No representatives of the Chechen rebel movement were participating in the Strasbourg talks. Some participants complained that with no Chechen opposition to talk to, the meeting was one-sided. A precondition for joining the Strasbourg event was to recognize Russia's territorial integrity and to agree not to use terrorism to achieve goals, terms that excluded all Chechen hard-liners.

    by Nickolai Butkevich

    25/3/2005- Russia may get bad press for extremism, but it is slowly and genuinely beginning to take action against hate crimes. Russian media reports on the increasing number of hate crimes throughout the country generally aren't kind to the police, prosecutors, and judges charged with combating the societal ills of racism and extremist violence. Much of this criticism is deserved, since law enforcement agencies in most Russian cities have for years ignored the problem of neo-Nazi violence, and there are good reasons to suspect that many of them sympathize with the skinheads' views, if not their methods. What these reports often ignore, however, is that over the past four years, Russian law enforcement agencies have slowly begun to crack down on extremist groups. Unfortunately, the positive nature of this trend (which includes commendable statements by President Vladimir Putin) is weakened by pockets of denial and racism within law enforcement agencies, and the clear fact that this long overdue crackdown, while necessary, does not seem to be working. Instead, it appears that years of official inaction have allowed xenophobia and hate groups to spread to such an extent that they may no longer be controllable.

    Since the late Yeltsin period, the number of reported hate crimes has increased year by year, as have the membership of neo-Nazi skinhead groups, their geographical scope, and the viciousness of their crimes. The U.S .State Department's most recent human rights report puts the number of skinheads in Russia at 50,000; Russian Interior Ministry figures put the number at 15,000-20,000. Given the informal structure and somewhat secretive nature of most Russian neo-Nazi groups, I am rather skeptical of the veracity of these figures. Suffice it to say that it is clear that the skinhead movement has grown at an explosive pace, and that it is no longer just a problem for residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg. I have read reports of skinhead activity taking place in dozens of cities, many far beyond the borders of the ethnic Russian heartland, including in the traditionally more tolerant regions of Siberia and the Far East. Unfortunately, reliable statistics on hate crimes or the number of neo-Nazis in the country are impossible to come by, since many local law enforcement agencies have for years actively tried to cover them up. The usual Russian law enforcement practice has been to classify hate crimes as ordinary "hooliganism," vandalism, or murders. In the relatively rare instances in which ethnic or religious hatred is officially admitted as a motive, Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code is usually tacked onto a hooliganism or murder charge. Article 282 prohibits "actions directed toward the instigation of nationalist, racial, or religious animosity." While Article 282 was primarily designed to combat hate speech, it is often used de facto by prosecutors as the equivalent of a hate crimes statute. This legal inconsistency, combined in some cases with clear anti-Semitic or racist bias on the part of prosecutors, judges, and juries, leads to many Article 282 cases falling apart, either within the investigative stage or during trial.

    Throughout the 1990s, most reported hate crimes resulted in no arrests. Starting in 2001, however, the number of arrests of skinheads started to increase in Moscow, almost all on "hooliganism" or ordinary murder charges. This practice later spread to St. Petersburg and some other cities. Official rhetoric on this issue changed as well, to the point that the Interior Minister last year finally admitted that skinheads exist in Russia and pose a threat to social order. Around the same time, Article 282 prosecutions started to rise, according to a study published last year by my organization's Moscow affiliate--the Moscow Bureau on Human Rights. However, very few of these cases ever made it to a court, and if they did, they almost always resulted in suspended sentences. The one exception to this rule was if the perpetrator was accused of being a Muslim extremist, especially if he was accused of being a member of a Chechen rebel group. While the threat of Islamic radicalism in Russia should not be discounted, this disparity showed the government's dangerously skewed priorities, since ethnic Russian extremists were, in comparison, treated with kid gloves. Increasingly, other even more rarely used sections of the criminal code are starting to be applied to crimes motivated by ethnic or religious hatred. Article 105, which covers murder, contains a section which prohibits murder "motivated by national, racial, or religious hatred or animosity." Article 111, which covers aggravated assault, and Article 112 (simple assault), contain sections with the exact same language. Until 2003, these three provisions were essentially moribund. That year, an Article 105 hate-crimes case in Moscow ended in a guilty verdict for a group of skinheads who murdered an Armenian boy. In 2004, at least four such cases were opened, all but one of which resulted in convictions of skinhead gangs in Voronezh, St. Petersburg, and earlier this month, in Saratov (a skinhead murder case in Vladivostok is still pending).

    The murder of an African student in Voronezh is an interesting case study of how law enforcement agencies are beginning, with some reluctance, to change their approach. At first, even after three skinheads were arrested in connection with the murder, local law enforcement agencies denied that it was a racist crime; they even allegedly spread rumors that the student was killed because he used the services of a prostitute and refused to pay, or that he was involved in drug trafficking and got what was coming to him. Then one of the suspects blew these theories out of the water when he announced to the court that the men murdered the student because, "We were bored and decided to go to Mir Street, where there are many foreign [student] dorms, and kill a black." It later emerged that two of the accused had received suspended sentences the previous year in connection with an assault on a different African student, a clear example of how the laxness of the Russian justice system towards neo-Nazis can sometimes inspire in them a dangerous sense of impunity. To the credit of the local authorities, they eventually decided to bring hate crime charges under Article 105. A conviction was achieved in late 2004, and the student's murderers got long prison terms. These improvements are hopeful signs, but unfortunately, better law enforcement practices have not stemmed the tide of extremist violence. Better economic conditions and more funding by the Russian government and international foundations for tolerance programs are needed to bring these problems back to a manageable level. Programs such as the Swedish embassy's efforts to promote teaching about the Holocaust in Russian schools and the San Francisco-based Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal's "Climate of Trust" program, which twins Russian law enforcement officials with U.S. counterparts with the goal of teaching what hate crimes are and how to properly react to them, need to be better funded and replicated. Complacency and half-measures are not sufficient, given the fragile nature of Russia's multi-ethnic society.

    Nickolai Butkevich is research and advocacy director at UCSJ: Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union. This article is an abbreviated summary of testimony presented to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on 7 February, the full version of which is available on UCSJ's web site:
    ©Transitions Online

    28/3/2005- Assailants attacked Angolan, Bangladeshi and Chinese students in three separate weekend incidents, officials said Monday, the latest in a series of racially motivated assaults that underscore growing violent racism in Russia. The Angolan student was attacked by several people in a subway station Sunday night. The 26-year-old was hospitalized with head injuries and knife wounds, said Desire Deffo, deputy head of the African Union in St. Petersburg. The student was in satisfactory condition Monday. Deffo said the Angolan student reported that the assailants looked like skinheads, and the Interfax news agency reported that at least two people were detained. A fifth-year medical student from Bangladesh was attacked Saturday by a group of people near a subway station in the north of the city. Mozibul Haque, the head of the Bangladeshi community in St. Petersburg, said the student was hospitalized with head wounds. Also Saturday, a group of unknown people beat a Chinese student from the St. Petersburg Music Conservatory on the city's main avenue, Nevsky Prospect. The student was also hospitalized with head wounds, Interfax said. No one answered the phones at the police department Monday. Deffo said racial attacks had become more frequent in St. Petersburg in recent months, leaving foreigners afraid to walk the streets. He blamed inaction by law enforcement agencies. "Many attackers remain without punishment and feel they can keep doing it," he said. Racist attacks on Jews, dark-skinned foreigners and people from Russia's North Caucasus have become increasingly frequent in Russia's big cities, reflecting a rise in xenophobia and racism. Non-government experts estimate about 50,000 skinheads are active in Russia.
    ©Associated Press

    By Galina Stolyarova And Irina Titova

    29/03/2005 - After attacks on African, Chinese and Bangladeshi students in the city over the weekend, the St. Petersburg Agency for Social Information on Monday released research containing alarming figures about ethnic intolerance in the city. Nearly every fourth respondent, or 23.6 percent, said they "strongly dislike" people from the Caucasus. Another 13.2 percent named Azeris as the ethnic group they liked least, while another 10.5 percent admitted to hating Chechens. Only 15.8 percent of people said they didn't feel negative about any nationality. The agency polled 2,400 locals, aged 18 and over in October and November of 2004. The most positive ratings were given to ethnic Slavs, with Russians most favored at 16.7 percent, followed by Ukrainians (13.8 percent), Belorussians (12.4 percent) and Jews (5 percent). Akif Gasymov, executive director of Azerbaijan's national-cultural autonomy in St. Petersburg, said the Chechen conflict, growing numbers of terrorist attacks and frightening TV reports from the Caucasus play key roles in forming vicious stereotypes. "Having routinely seen many chilling reports from the Caucasus about kidnapping, terrorism and drugs, people inevitably develop bad associations," Gasymov said. There are 100,000 Azeri children in St. Petersburg, most of whom have one ethnically Russian parent, he said. "When people get used to seeing us around and learn that we are normal human beings, hatred will go," he said. "And once life gets better, everyone will think we are friends, not enemies." The three foreign students who had non-Slavic appearances were injured in separate attacks in the city over the weekend. Manuel Bernard, 26, an Angolan student of the Agriculture Academy in Pushkin, was attacked by several young people in metro wagon at Nevsky Prospekt metro station on Sunday night. Desire Deffo, deputy head of the African Union in St. Petersburg, said Monday in a telephone interview that Bernard had been hospitalized with head injuries and slash wounds from a knife. He was in a satisfactory condition. A St. Petersburger and a Muscovite were detained in connection with the attack, Interfax reported. Deffo said Bernard had described the attackers as skinheads. Saiful Islam, 26, a fifth-year medical student from Bangladesh, was attacked near Lesnaya metro station on Saturday afternoon. About seven young people attacked him from behind and gave him head injuries that required hospitalization, Mozibul Haque, head of the city's Bangladeshi community, said Monday. Islam said his attackers did not look like skinheads - they were dressed in ordinary clothes and didn't have shaved heads, Haque added.

    Also Saturday, a group of people on Nevsky Prospekt beat up a Chinese student of the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He was hospitalized with head injuries, Interfax reported. Deffo said the city government is taking too little action to deter the attackers from striking again. "Many attackers get away with these attacks without punishment and feel they can keep doing it," Deffo said. Most of the attackers are skinheads, he added. Roman Mogilevsky, head of the Agency For Social Information, said economic instability and low standards of living led to high levels of xenophobia. The agency's survey showed that many citizens have negative views not only of different ethnic groups, but also of countries. The United States led the ratings of the most unpopular country with 17.2 percent. Georgia came second with 13.8 percent, followed by Iraq (11.4 percent), Ukraine (10.2 percent) and North Korea (10.0 percent). Mogilevsky said a lack of interaction with people of different ethnicities led to intolerance. Fifty-five percent of local citizens have never traveled abroad, according to the survey. Seventy-one percent of respondents replied "no" to a question asking if they personally know any foreigners who study, work or do business in the city. Only 14 percent of respondents have foreign colleagues, 9 percent study with people from other countries, and 3 percent do business with them. Mogilevsky said the public is not to blame for the results. "These are the natural consequences of the city not being a cosmopolitan place for many years," he said.
    ©St. Petersburg Times

    30/03/2005- City prosecutor Sergei Zaitsev said the law-enforcement bodies investigating the murder of a Vietnamese student last autumn, attached to the materials five more criminal cases. These are probes into the facts of robberies imputed to members of the group, Zaitsev said, adding that the identity of all the killers of a Vietnamese student has been established. The investigators do not rule out that at least ten more arrests over this case may follow, according to the prosecutor. The gang of teenagers initially planned to attack a trader from Azerbaijan, the investigators said. Vietnamese student Wu An Tuan was killed in Lev Tolstoi Street in central Petersburg overnight to October 14, 2004. A group of teenagers attacked him when he was returning home after a visit to his friend. The student tried to flee, but the attackers, armed with knives, caught him and began to beat. The investigators do not rule out that at least ten more arrests over this case may follow, according to the prosecutor. The gang of teenagers initially planned to attack a trader from Azerbaijan, the investigators said. Vietnamese student Wu An Tuan was killed in Lev Tolstoi Street in central Petersburg overnight to October 14, 2004. A group of teenagers attacked him when he was returning home after a visit to his friend. The student tried to flee, but the attackers, armed with knives, caught him and began to beat. The student, who was repeatedly stabbed, died on the spot.

    21/3/2005- The director has received death threats, religious groups have condemned it and those who have actually seen the film do not want to be identified for fear of attack. All this, and the film itself has not yet even been released to the public. What is certain is that the film - Go West - has sparked a furious debate about one of the great taboos of Bosnian society: homosexuality. In a small upstairs room in Sarajevo's French Cultural Centre, I was given a preview of the new film along with 20 or so friends of the director, Ahmed Imamovic. There was no pre-publicity. Go West breaks new ground in the Bosnian film industry.

    Religious role
    Most Bosnian films during the past few years have centred on the rights and wrongs of the 1992-95 Bosnian war, and the role of the international community in it - like the Oscar-winning No Man's Land. But this new film goes one step further, using the war as a backdrop to address another issue, that of homosexuality. "We like to joke that it's a film about Romeo and Romeo - without the Juliet. But we hope the film will encourage people to be more tolerant," says the film's producer Samir Smajic. "It's a film which shows humanity and has warmth inside." Go West tells the story of a gay male couple - one Muslim, one Serb - and their attempts to get out of Bosnia at the start of the war in 1992. It is not, by western standards, an explicit film. But in a society where religion, whether it be Islam, Serbian Orthodox or Catholicism, plays such a powerful role, the film has run into a storm of criticism. "We had a war here, we had genocide here and now we're making films about homosexuality. That's not a good subject for a film," says 19-year-old Kenan Efendic, who is training at the prestigious Medresa or Islamic school in Sarajevo. Homosexuality is unnatural. And now people watching this film abroad will say 'Ah you see, they're all homosexuals in Bosnia'." The Sarajevo magazine Walter has led the charge against the film, making personal attacks on the director of the film. Its editor, Enver Causevic, says he does not have a problem with homosexuality per se. "But the film mixes up the issues of nationality and homosexuality. And that is wrong," he says. "By addressing the issue of homosexuality in a film about the Bosnian War, it belittles the real issues at stake during the conflict."

    But others are glad that the issue of homosexuality is finally being addressed in Bosnian society. "I am honestly afraid of being physically attacked if people know that I am gay," says, 21-year-old Mirsad, who works in the media industry in Sarajevo. He prefers to use a name other than his own. "I know people who have left Bosnia and gone to western countries because of the attacks they've suffered." Svetlana Djurkovic runs the "Q Association", the first lesbian and gay pressure group in Sarajevo. "Homosexuality is something that has always been hidden in this society. So people don't know how to react when it comes to the surface. They feel threatened. "We're fully behind the film and think the director has a lot of courage to go through with it," she says. Ahmed Imamovic, who won the 2002 European Film Academy award for his short movie Ten Minutes, hopes his new film will get its premier at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Others in Bosnia hope it never sees the light of day.
    ©BBC News

    22-23/3/2005- Wednesday Serbian Deputy Prime Minister, Miroljub Labus, said that the government had expected anti-Semitic actions to surface several months back. Commenting on the anti-Semitic messages and propaganda against Radio Television B92 that appeared on posters and graffiti messages in Belgrade yesterday, Labus said that among the Serbian people, there is no anti-Semitism, but this last action was diligently planned. I maintain that there is no anti-Semitism present in the people, but I do agree with Mr. Aca Singer that this was an orchestrated action, whose goal it was to shake the international reputation of the country and I think that it was internally conceived, but that is an all together different story, and I wish to say now that I fervently condemn these acts. Right when we were beginning to restore the international reputation of our nation, one action was implemented to destroy that reputation. This is an orchestrated action, but it has a different source and goal and should be taken seriously, and we must seriously fight against it.Labus said. Asked by reporters whether he could name who was behind this action, Labus said, I cannot tell you any more, but we have been expecting this action since several months back. Information exists. This happened in a moments when the nation was restoring its reputation in the world and this is something that surely does not represent the opinion of our nation, or the average citizen.Labus said.

    Background: Anti-Semitic and anti-B92 propaganda in Belgrade
    BELGRADE -- Tuesday In downtown Belgrade this morning, posters have appeared calling for a boycott of Radio Television B92 and anti-Semitic graffiti was written in front of the Jewish cemetery and several non-government organization headquarters. The posters show the B92 logo inside the star of David with the message below: Boycott because of anti-Serbian influence, dangerous influence on the Serbian youth, supporting the independence of Kosovo, supporting the spreading of drug use, homosexuality and other Western sicknesses and supporting the multiracial new world order. The message Serbia to Serbsalso appears on the poster, which is signed to the name of the National Formation. Last night, graffiti was drawn outside the buildings which house the Helsinki Human Rights Council in Serbia and the Humanitarian Rights Fund. The Helsinki Council help a petition signing event at Republic Square the night before entitled Stop the Silent Conspiracy,a campaign against rising anti-Semitic sentiments in Serbia, which was organized by eight non-government organizations. In front of the organizations headquarters last night, the message Sonja Biserko Jewish pawn obedient servant of the World Jewish Movementwas written.

    Serbian President Boris Tadic has condemned the propaganda posters and anti-Semitic graffiti and asked for an immediate investigation into who is behind both. This type of labeling and indirect calls for lynching represent a part of our political folklore which is believed to have disappeared from the public arena, Tadic said. Stating that everyone has the right to state an argumentative criticism of all public voices, Tadic said that, however, calls for violence and spreading national intolerance is absolutely unacceptable.The Serbia-Montenegro Ministry of Foreign Affairs demands that the Serbian government urgently finds and punishes the organizers and committers of these acts of vandalism. The G17 Plus Party condemns any form of pressure being put on the media. Free media is a necessary condition for healthy democracy. Serbia is on the road to the European Union and such occurrences cannot be tolerated.the party states. We must show that we are an open European society that is ready to unite with others to make a difference, we cannot allow threats, violence and extremism to dominate our public living. The Serbian Renewal Movement stated that the posters are a part of an anti-Hague lobby that encourage a lack of freedom of the press, anti-Semitism and xenophobia. The Power of Serbia Movement and its leader Bogoljub Karic said that they support a democratic and European Serbia, free, professional and responsible journalism, and condemn all pressure put on the media which endangers its freedom. The Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia demands that the government identifies who is behind this propaganda aimed at B92, which promotes racial, religious and gender discrimination. The IAJS, as an organization, respects differences in convictions and choice, but condemns such labeling and calls for violence, and believes that these posters are a sign of the times that we believed were behind us. Attackers of the media, especially those that became a symbol of free and independent journalism in the past decade, cannot be allow to get by without public condemnation and reactions from the authorities, and a punishment of this type of criminal activity.according to a statement from the association.

    CERD ON SLOVAKIA(press release)
    United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination finds Slovakia in Violation of International Law for Failing to Remedy Racial Exclusion of Roma; ERRC Urges Break with Policies of Extreme Segregation

    22/3/2005- In a decision received 17 March 2005, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination found that Slovakia had violated three provisions in the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) in a housing discrimination case. The ruling clarifies unequivocally that policies aiming to keep Roma in substandard slum settlements or resulting in such severe discrimination violate international law, and tolerance of such acts by public officials cannot stand.

    On 20 March 2002 the councillors of the Dobsina municipality approved a plan to construct low-cost housing for the Romani inhabitants of the town. About 1,800 Roma live in Dobsina, many in appalling conditions without drinking water, raw sewage removal or drainage, and in very poor quality huts. The Dobsina chairman of the Real Slovak National Party, one of several political parties in Slovakia with tacit or explicit anti-Romani platforms, together with four other nationalists, organised a petition aimed at stopping the housing plan as they did not want any more Roma living in Dobsina. They presented this petition to the municipal council, which proceeded to vote to cancel the earlier decision to build social housing and agreed a resolution that included an explicit reference to the racist petition.

    Roma from Dobsina asked the District Prosecutor to investigate the legality of the municipal council's actions. The Prosecutor refused. They applied to the Slovak Constitutional Court, which also refused to consider the merits of their claim. A number of Romani individuals from Dobsina, together with their legal representatives, the European Roma Rights Centre and the Slovak NGO League of Human Rights Advocates, then brought their claim before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

    In its Opinion on the case, the CERD held that "in complex contemporary societies the practical realization of, in particular, many economic, social and cultural rights, including those related to housing, will initially depend on and indeed require a series of administrative and policy-making steps by the State party's competent relevant authorities ... The Committee considers that the council resolutions in question, taking initially an important policy and practical step towards realization of the right to housing followed by its revocation and replacement with a weaker measure, taken together, do indeed amount to the impairment of the recognition or exercise on an equal basis of the human right to housing".

    The Committee found Slovakia in breach of its obligations under international law not to engage in any act of racial discrimination and to ensure that all public authorities act in conformity with this obligation. It also found Slovakia in breach of its obligation to guarantee the right to everyone of equality before the law in the enjoyment of the right to housing. In addition, ".having established the existence of an act of racial discrimination, it must follow that the failure of the [Slovak] courts to provide an effective remedy discloses a consequential violation of the Convention". The CERD held that Slovakia must provide the Roma from Dobsina with an effective remedy, in particular, it must take measures to ensure that the Roma from Dobsina "are placed in the same position that they were in upon adoption of the first resolution by the municipal council [to build low-cost housing]."

    ERRC Acting Executive Director Claude Cahn said, "This decision appropriately and importantly clarifies to the Slovak Government -- as to all governments -- that breaches of international anti-discrimination law in housing policy-making and planning cannot and will not stand. We hope the Slovak government will hear the decision as a wake-up call to finally act to the extent required to end the stone-age conditions in which several tens of thousands of Roma currently live in Slovakia, and once and for all to bring Slovak Roma with equal dignity into the 21st century."
    A comprehensive summary of racial exclusion issues facing Roma in Slovakia
    ©European Roma Rights Center

    Affirmative action clause prompted deputy to challenge law's constitutionality

    28/3/2005- The constitutional Court has postponed its hearing regarding anti-discrimination legislation until May 4. At that time, the nation's high court is expected to deliver a verdict on a case that has divided Slovakia's cabinet members and distressed its politicians. According to Slovakia's antidiscrimination law, effective July 1, 2004, discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion and gender is banned. It also provides a legal platform for temporary positive discrimination, allowing certain measures to serve as a tool to help the most afflicted groups of society get in step with the rest of the population. In Slovakia, the Roma are generally seen as the most disadvantaged. The ethnic group suffers above-average unemployment, worse-than-average health and lower education levels than most Slovaks. The Roma also endure social and economic deprivation. In order to help such groups, the Slovak parliament approved the anti-discrimination law, but Justice Minister Daniel Lipšic, on behalf of the government, submitted a motion with the Constitutional Court objecting that the law was in conflict with the Slovak Constitution. According to the minister, any form of discrimination is bad. "The whole problem with positive discrimination is that to prevent ourselves from discriminating we have to discriminate. This is like an argument out of Catch 22," Lipšic said March 24 in Košice, where the Constitutional Court discussed the anti-discrimination law for the first time since Lipšic lodged the motion.

    According to Lipšic, who is representing the cabinet in the dispute, the fact that the anti-discrimination law enables positive discrimination measures is in conflict with the Slovak Constitution. The government also argues that positive discrimination measures, in fact, support stereotypes by strengthening stereotypical beliefs that some groups are unable to succeed without receiving extra help. Justice Minister Lipšic maintains that all forms of discrimination are bad for society. "All discrimination is bad, whether it's positive or negative," said the minister. The other side of the argument is defended by parliament, which passed the anti-discrimination law on May 20, 2004, with a strong majority of 107 coalition and opposition MPs backing the bill. The MP's from Lipšic's Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), which is a strong opponent of positive discrimination, either refrained from voting or voted against the law at that time. According to Lipšic, the respective paragraph of the law, which enables positive discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity, should be eliminated. Ján Mazák, the top justice with the Constitutional Court, said on March 24 that the parliament still had to send its statements, which would then be studied by the court. After that, it would deliver a verdict, presumably on May 4. Although Lipšic is speaking on behalf of the government in the anti-discrimination issue, not all cabinet members share the argument. Slovakia's Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights Pál Csáky is convinced that the legislation is necessary and hopes that the Constitutional Court will approve of positive discrimination, also known as affirmative action. "I am convinced that the Constitutional Court will deliver a professional and European verdict," Csáky told the SITA news agency on March 23. Slovakia's National Centre for Human Rights (SNSLP) has made use of the new law when acting in several dozens of cases related to discrimination. According to an annual report, which the government discussed on March 16, the cabinet's plenipotentiary for Roma Communities office has registered several cases in which Roma are victims of discrimination in various spheres of life.

    State authorities registered several complaints related to workplace discrimination but the most numerous group involved cases complaining of labour market discrimination, according to the information presented to the government by Csáky. Some cases also involved complaints regarding the discrimination of women, who also often face workplace and labour market discrimination. In 2004, the SNSLP received more than 200 complaints. "Of this number more than 20 citizens complained about the breach of the equal treatment principle according to the new anti-discrimination law," stated the report. According to the SNSLP, the complaints mainly relate to labour relations and discrimination in the social sphere, but also touch on education and the provision of services and goods. Although EU-member states are not obliged to adopt anti-discrimination legislation, the union recommends that they do so, and the same applies to positive discrimination measures. According to the report, the plenipotentiary's office considers the anti-discrimination law to be an "unambiguous benefit" because it enables more direct and simpler proceedings in alleged discrimination cases. Although the cabinet, headed by KDH's Lipšic, may be trying to ban the positive discrimination paragraph in the law, the general public also stands on the side of parliament in supporting the measure. According to a September 2004 survey carried out by Bratislava think tank the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO), as many as 84 percent of people support the law as passed. Only 4 percent think the law is wrong.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    29/3/2005- The police did not intervene against a few hundreds of Neo-Nazis from the Czech Republic and the neighbouring countries who attended a concert staged by the Czech branch of the militant organisation Blood and Honour in Jablonne v Podjestedi last night. About 200 police officers preventively supervised the site, but they "did not intervene against the participants in the private event as they did not meet with any breach of the law," district police spokeswoman Ivana Balakova said. PM nad former interior minister Stanislav Gross (Social Democrats, CSSD) said that he would ask for thorough information about the event. He said that only afterwards he can comment on the security measures the police took in Jablonne. "In any case, I strongly do not wish for the Czech Republic to be a place for such extremists to meet," Gross said.

    Gross, still in his capacity as interior minister, said after a skinhead meeting in Senohraby, central Bohemia, four years ago that he would no longer tolerate displays of racism or Neo- Nazism. The concert's venue, the former building of the Sokol gymnastic club, was overcrowded when the concert began and the cars of the participants, also coming from Germany, Slovakia and Poland, were parking all around. The building was hermetically closed, the windows and doors were blacked out. No unauthorised person had a chance to enter. "The event had been announced as a birthday party in advance," a local police officer said. According to the Tolernace and Civic Society group, the Jablonne concert was the largest event of its kind in the Czech Republic in the past four years. "By their inactivity, the police made it clear that similar events are allowed to take place in our country. I'm afraid, that this approach will enable such concerts to be held...quite publicly," one of the group's members said.

    Five Neo-Nazi groups from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany and the USA are to perform at the concert. They reportedly include the Czech band Conflict 88 and the U.S. band Final War, one of the USA's most significant Neo-Nazi bands. The police have had no reason to intervene against the participants so far. They have been checking the arriving cars. The organising Blood and Honour Division Bohemia is part of the international organisation which was founded in Britain in 1987 and which sticks to the legacy of the Nazi Third Reich.
    ©Czech Happenings

    29/3/2005- Czech prime minister Stanislav Gross on Monday vowed a complete investigation into a weekend gathering of several hundred mostly German neo-Nazis in a Czech town along the border with Germany. Gross said his country must not be allowed to become a collecting point for neo-Nazis, and pledged a thorough investigation of how the event came to be staged just across the border from the German state of Thuringia. Skinheads belonging to an organization called Blood and Honour met in Jablonne v Podjestedi at an event that was registered with authorities as a birthday party to be held on Saturday night. Prague television reported 400 skinheads showed up, and that most of them came from across the border. Blood and Honour has operated as a registered organisation in the Czech Republic since 1996, but was outlawed in Germany in 2000. Czech Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan said he has asked for a complete report from police. A spokesman said there were about 100 police on hand for the gathering, but that no provocation was given for a police raid.
    ©Expatica News

    Police neglect registrering racial and religious violence against ethnic and religious minorities as hate crimes

    24/3/2005- Refugees, immigrants, and Jews experience more racial and religious violence and persecution than police statistics indicate. Despite orders to file a report on the slightest suspicion of racial crime, police neglect registrating racial episodes, national radio news channel DR reported recently. Antisemitic threats, vandalism against refugee homes, and violence against immigrants, should all be registered with the Danish Security Intelligence Service. The service received 52 reports in 2003. But the channel said not every case of hate crime reached the service. Two weeks ago in the Copenhagen suburb of Hellerup, vandals painted a swastika in the ceiling of an elevator in a house where many of the residents are refugees. The incidence was reported to the local police, but was only filed as vandalism, because the police did not consider swastikas painted in a public area as racial or religious crime. ‘We evaluate each incident,' said Police Inspector Freddy Bech Jensen. ‘We don't think that the vandalism was aimed directly against the residents of the house.' The incident was therefore not reported to the Security Intelligence Service. But the State Police demands that ‘every criminal circumstance on possible racial/religious grounds' is reported. Other incidents include a Bosnian man who was stabbed in the western Jutland town of Esbjerg four months ago. When police arrested the attacker, he expressed regrets that his victim had survived the attack. ‘It's a shame, because he's a perker' the attacker said, using the Danish racial slur for darkskinned foreigners. Eight days later, the Documentation and Counselling Centre for Racial Discrimination (DRC), a private organization fighting racism in Denmark, sent a letter to the police in Esbjerg, pointing out that the incident should be reported to the Security Intelligence Service. But nothing happened, until DR began inquiring about the case. The third example involved a Jewish man who was on his way home from work in Copenhagen, when a group of men surrounded his car. ‘I managed just in time to lock the doors on my car,' the man said. He wished to remain anonymous. ‘They stood there shouting ‘Jew, go home to Israel,' banging the car with their fists and trying to get in.' The man has been threatened on various occations since then, had his tyres punctured, and his car bumped. A week after the attack, he reported it to the Copenhagen police, but was rejected at the counter. Eight months later and with help from the local Jewish community, he finally got the police to accept the complaint. The incident, however, was never reported to the Security Intelligence Service. DRC's leader Niels-Erik Hansen said the police should follow instructions and report the incidents. ‘Our society needs to know how widespread these problems are,' he said. ‘Unfortunately, only the tip of the iceberg seems to be reported.' The Security Intelligence Service declined to be interviewed, but said in a written statement that it was uncertain whether its statistics on racial and religious crimes were accurate. ‘The Security Intelligence Service will therefore investigate whether improvements can be made in 2005, so that unreported incidents can be registered,' the service said in its statement.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    24/3/2005- A meeting between the employment minister and political supporters of the government's policy towards foreign workers results in tighter guidelines. Foreigners looking to work in Denmark will have to put in just a little bit more effort to prove to authorities that they are entitled to take work here. An new agreement between Denmark's Employment Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen and the government parties that support the government's policy toward foreign workers will now require that foreign workers in Denmark obtain a special EU declaration as proof that they have the right to work in Denmark. ‘At an EU meeting on Thursday, we will request to be placed on the list of countries that receive a copy of the so-called E 101 declaration. We have previously not been a party to the agreement, but now we'll get a copy, which means that we'll get a list, which will allow us to go in and check if workers are stationed abroad,' said Frederiksen last week. The agreement is meant as an assurance that workers are covered by their home countries health and welfare programs. The meeting also produced a tightening of rules for temporary workers. The new regulation requiring residence and work permits for temporary workers will make it more difficult for foreign workers to work for lower pay and under worse conditions than Danes. In addition to the political parties, officials from the national police, the Immigration Service, and the Attorney General participated in the meeting, which also took up the topic of better training for public officials that deal with the issue of illegal labour.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    24/3/2005- The Jewish Council for Racial Equality, the Churches' Commission for Racial Justice and the Muslim Parliament held an extraordinary meeting today to express their mounting concern about the way in which race and prejudice are being used for political ends in the pre-election period. This is the first time in their history that the three organisations have united to speak publicly on an issue. They call on all faith leaders and their communities to unite in condemning the demonisation of vulnerable groups in our society. Dr Edie Friedman, Director of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, said: "We have all become very alarmed by the xenophobia being whipped up in the pre-election campaign. We don't claim to speak on behalf of our respective communities, but we do feel we represent the humanitarian teachings inherent in each of our traditions." "Using asylum seekers and gypsies as scapegoats to frighten the electorate is simply not acceptable", added Dr. Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, Leader of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain. "We believe that certain fundamental principles are not only non-negotiable, but should also be a source of pride for the United Kingdom. We must all defend the right to asylum and safeguard the Human Rights Act and 1951 Convention on Refugees." Reverend Arlington Trotman, Secretary of the Churches' Commission for Racial Justice concluded: "This pre-election campaign has been unprecedented in its vilification of minorities. We still have to time to turn the debate around. As history has taught us, the failure to speak out when people are being dehumanised has tragic results. It is in all of our interests to reject this negative agenda and reaffirm the positive values we share."
    Churches' Commission for Racial Justice

    Even in blue territory, Tories challenge their 'pale and male' image, while minority MPs call for all-black shortlists

    25/3/2005- With smart boutiques nestling beneath the Queen's residence, Eton across the river and Ascot a mere gallop away, Windsor should epitomise safe Tory territory. And the party is counting on its new candidate to maximise its 9,000-vote majority. "The more people he meets, the better the outcome of the election," said David Hilton, the constituency chairman. "The public has a view that the Conservatives are out of date and out of touch. Adam [Afriyie] is charismatic and warm, works hard and has made a success in business. He was clearly the best candidate. It just so happens that he's coloured," he said. The Tories have yet to prove they understand black and Asian voters, and their lack of candidates from those communities has not helped. The party's long history features just two minority MPs - and one of those left Westminster a century ago. Yet Mr Afriyie and fellow candidates are challenging this "pale and male" image. The party now has more black and ethnic minority candidates - 37 in total - than either of its rivals. "We've done this in 18 months," said Dominic Grieve, the party's spokesman on diversity. "The logjam has broken." While it is still likely that the Tories will have fewer black and Asian MPs than Labour after the election, its decision to select two candidates in safe seats and another in a marginal is "a quantum leap", agreed Simon Woolley, the national coordinator of Operation Black Vote, which promotes ethnic minority political representation. "About three are in winnable seats ... an increase of 300%," he said. Windsor Tories are confident that voters will warm to their young, photogenic replacement for Michael Trend, who is standing down after repaying more than £90,000 in expenses improperly claimed from the Commons.

    Shailesh Vara is set for victory in North West Cambridgeshire, and Sandip Verma hopes to claim Wolverhampton South West (Enoch Powell's old seat, by neat historical coincidence). "The Tory hierarchy is taking the reputation of black and minority ethnic candidates in the party seriously, because to stand a remote chance of making headway in inner cities they need the BME vote," Mr Woolley said. But while there was a "younger, upwardly mobile generation that feels confident enough to at least consider the Conservatives", he said others were deterred by its immigration and asylum policies and chequered record. "The reason they wouldn't vote for the Tories in the past is because they thought they were a bunch of racists," he said. Hardly surprising, perhaps, given Powell's "rivers of blood" speech; the Smethwick byelection slogan, "If you want a nigger for a neighbour vote Liberal or Labour"; and, as late as 1991, the Cheltenham activists who turned on their candidate, John Taylor (now a peer), as "a bloody nigger". Some hear echoes of Cheltenham in the case of Haroon Rashid, reinstated as candidate for Bradford West after being cleared of voting irregularities in party elections. Party officials are still investigating issues - including accusations of racism - in the constituency. But Mr Afriyie, the child of a white British mother and Ghanaian father, said that Tory problems around race were "historic". "If anything, I find the Conservative party less prejudicial to different sorts of people than the rest of society," he said, adding carefully: "I would define that as my generation of the party and attitudes in the last 10 years. And while the 39-year-old IT entrepreneur regards his background as irrelevant to his membership of the Conservative party, Sayeeda Warsi, who is standing in Dewsbury, goes further by arguing that the Tories provide a natural home for British Muslims.

    "My parents' ethics are very much Tory ethics: hard work, being law-abiding, keeping what you earn," the 33-year-old solicitor said. "The commitment to family life; the value of the community; the rights of neighbours - all of those are in line with Islamic beliefs. Look at their support for faith schools and against the BNP. "When my parents first came in the 60s [from Pakistan], my father worked in the mills and they were Labour supporters. There was a natural association with the trade union movement. Then people slowly started to realise that you had to look at the whole party." But previous Tory attempts to court ethnic minority communities have proved largely fruitless, and future success may rest on their support for talented black and Asian candidates. The bonus is that plenty of white voters want a party modern enough to embrace ability wherever it sees it. Watching Ms Warsi meeting and greeting at a recent Tory event, one shadow minister smiled ruefully. "If all our candidates were like Sayeeda, we'd be home and dry," he said.
    ©The Guardian

    ROOT OUT RACISM(uk, leader)
    MPs must not exploit ignorance

    27/3/2005- Racist incidents are on the rise. Asylum seekers are being killed. Asian women and children are being harassed in the street. It must be the fault of the police because, well, it always is, isn't it? They need more diversity training. They have to take the issue more seriously. It's time to weed out the racists from the ranks. This is an easy, even comforting, argument to make and one with a foothold in fact. As we report today, elements of Britain's constabulary still have an enormous task ahead to combat racism in their midst. But simply blaming the police gets us nowhere in dealing with the problem of racism itself. Nobody is born racist. They become that way. Racist crime has causes: social exclusion in white working-class communities, the old running sores of unemployment and lack of opportunity. To acknowledge this is not to condone racism, but it is the first step towards dealing with it. We welcome the initiative by the Commission for Racial Equality to encourage interaction and integration between Britain's myriad communities, announced today by its chairman, Trevor Phillips. But we cannot simply leave the job to the CRE. We need to talk openly about cultural difference, asylum seekers and immigration, if only to counter the large amount of misinformation that circulates. But is an election campaign the time to do this? It is in the nature of the trawl for votes that, out on the stump, complex arguments are reduced to their lowest common denominators. Subtleties wither. Sophistication is expunged. And where race crime is concerned, that is dangerous. Yes, we need to talk, but vote-seeking politicians must consider the impact of their words before opening their mouths. The race crime statistics are already depressing without MPs exploiting ignorance for short-term gains
    ©The Observer

    In 2001, Jay Rayner exposed the scale of racist attacks in Britain. Today, in an alarm call on the eve of a general election, he reveals how violence against asylum seekers and ethnic minorities is more widespread than ever

    27/3/2005- It is a long and desperate list of hate; each victim's name stands as a reminder of the bitter realities of race crime in Britain at the beginning of the 21st century. There's the Bengali chef, Shiblu Rahman, who was knifed to death outside his home in east London in April 2001. There's Tayman Bahami, who died from stab wounds in August 2002 after becoming involved in an argument between white and Iranian gangs in Sunderland. There's Kriss Donald, a 15-year-old Glasgow schoolboy, who was abducted and beaten to death by Daanish Zahid in March 2004; and Iraqi asylum-seeker Kalan Kawa Karim, who was beaten up and left to die in September 2004 after a night out in Swansea doing nothing more controversial than eating pizza. These are just some of the dozen racially motivated killings in Britain over the past four years, which we highlight on these pages today. They are the stories of frightened people who came to Britain looking for safety and found only more fear; of wives now widowed; of kids left without their dads. Each is a tragedy. Each is proof, if proof were needed, that for all the hand-wringing over race crime over the decade since the murder of the black student Stephen Lawrence, and the impact of the McPherson report that followed it six years ago, the dark stain of racism is still apparent in Britain.

    Dreadful as they are, however, the killings do not tell us everything we need to know about racial crime in Britain. That narrative lies elsewhere. In 2001, just before the last general election, The Observer used government statistics to produce a ground-breaking map of race crime. We wanted to look beyond those terrible stories of race killings that make the headlines, to the everyday reality of racist abuse and harassment that doesn't; at the kind of racism that too many people experience on a daily basis. We didn't simply look at where the most racist incidents occurred. We compared those numbers to the size of the ethnic minority population affected by them, to show relatively who was most at risk. What emerged was a clear picture of rural racism, in which areas such as Devon and Cornwall, Northumbria, Cumbria and Durham, with small ethnic minority populations, had some of the biggest problems. Four years on, as we count down to another election - one in which immigration has been put into play by both major parties - the time has come to take stock. We have repeated the exercise, using Home Office data quietly released over the past few weeks. The result? Very little has improved and in places the situation is much worse. The safest areas are still those with the largest ethnic minority populations. Places such as Leicestershire, which may have recorded nearly 1,300 racist incidents in the year 2003-04, but where its mostly Asian minority numbers 120,000. Just over 1 per cent of the population there is likely to have experienced racism.

    It's similar in London, where reported incidents have fallen from 23,246 in 1999-2000 to just over 15,000 last year. As 1.9 million people from ethnic minority backgrounds live in the capital - almost half the entire population for England and Wales - fewer than 1 per cent will have been affected. But the rural hotspots tell a different story. In many of these areas Britain's minorities are now two, three or even four times more likely than they were in 2001 to have experienced overt racism: places such as Northumbria, where one in 20 has been a victim, or Cumbria, which was ranked sixth-worst in 1999 and today has made it to the very bottom of the heap. Other danger areas are Devon and Cornwall, most of Wales, Durham, Cleveland and Norfolk. Racist incidents have risen in total from nearly 48,000 in 1999 to 52,700 last year. Only six police forces out of 43 in England and Wales recorded a fall in hard numbers. Faced with statistics such as these, it is hardly surprising that, as a new survey reported last week, one in five of Britain's ethnic minority citizens have considered leaving the country because of racial intolerance. Of course all statistics should come plastered with health warnings. As the killing of Kriss Donald in Glasgow makes obvious, for example, white people have also been the victims of race crime. Yet there is nothing in the racist incident numbers compiled by the Home Office to indicate what proportion of victims are not from ethnic minorities. The British Crime Survey, which uses a sample of more than 40,000 people, records that fewer than 1 per cent of the white population believe they have been victims of racist crime. By contrast, three or four times that proportion of the black and Asian population say they have suffered at the hands of racists.

    So while political groups on the far right may have found it convenient to claim otherwise, the evidence suggests that ethnic minorities are proportionally by far the main victims of race crime. The other problem with such information is that it only tells you what has been recorded. 'An increase in reported race crime can now actually be seen as a positive,' says Detective Chief Inspector Simon Lutchford of the Metropolitan police race crime task force. 'It can suggest there's more confidence in the police on the part of the victims. On the other hand, a decrease can now be seen as a negative because it might mean people are no longer reporting incidents to us. 'We were questioned by the Metropolitan Police Authority when our numbers started decreasing because they wanted to know if we were still doing our job. In fact, I think we are now getting towards a more realistic assessment of the level of racist incidents in the capital.' Certainly, behind the raw numbers lie other, more complex stories. South Wales is a perfect example. It had terrible problems four years ago when it was ranked worst in the country and, at fifth worst today, isn't doing much better now. But on the ground there has been a sea change in community relations. Back then, South Wales police claimed the high number of racist incidents reported to them was down to 'confidence in the way we are working'. But Jazz Iheanacho of Race Equality First in Cardiff was scathing. 'If there really was that satisfaction with the police, we would not have among our clients so many making racial harassment claims against police officers,' he said at the time. Four years on, the relationship is good. 'There was a breakdown in communication in 2001,' Iheanacho says now. 'We were fed up with being used, but that situation has changed.' Sadly the situation with race crime hasn't. 'Since 9/11 the picture has got worse for certain groups, particularly for Asian women and children. But the police are now engaged with it. They haven't tried to hide from the facts.' It's a similar story in Swansea, where asylum-seeker Kalan Kawa Karim was killed last September. Taha Idris of Swansea's Race Equality Council also says 9/11 caused great problems for the city's Muslim community and that a lot of race crime still goes unreported. But relations with the police are very good. Idris says: 'I have the mobile number for the local area commander; I can call him at any time, and I do.' That area commander, Chief Superintendent Mel Jehu, is equally keen to tell a good news story. 'We have a regular, open and transparent dialogue now and we work very hard on issues.' When Karim was killed, he says, 'I didn't have to go out and find the community leaders. I knew who and where they were.' There were anti-racist marches in the city after Karim's death and though there could have been a rise in racial tension, the situation was carefully managed. In January this year 26-year-old Lee Mordecai admitted the manslaughter of Karim.

    The picture from other parts of the country is less positive. Dorset, for example, is a rural area with a relatively low minority population of just 11,000. Given the indicators The Observer has uncovered and the particular problems of rural areas, you would expect to find evidence of high levels of racial intolerance. According to the Home Office, however, the police recorded just 52 racist incidents across the entire county last year. David Shire, of Dorset's Race Equality Council, says: 'I don't think Dorset people are necessarily less racist than elsewhere. The BNP are very active in Christchurch. The figures are not to be relied upon. Often people don't report what's happened to them because they don't think the agencies will do anything.' The problem is even more pronounced in North Yorkshire, which claims just 22 racist incidents, apparently making it the most tolerant place in the country, a veritable Shangri-La. Or not. It doesn't take me long to find just two people who between them can account for more than that. Naseema Salem, owner of the Star of Bengal Indian restaurant in Burtonstone Lane, York, says she has probably suffered 22 incidents herself. 'We've had windows broken. We've had fireworks put through our letter box. They call us Paki and all those things.' It's youths, mostly, she says, but that doesn't make any difference to the distress it causes. It damages business. It makes life a misery. 'Every time we call the police, but they never come at the right time. Then they say they can't do anything because too many of them are underage. There's always been racism in this part of town.' Ghana-born student Godfred Boahen knows all about racism in York, where he is now studying for an MA. We meet in his native south London and he says he is 'massively more comfortable being back here for Easter. To be honest, I don't think it's possible to live anywhere in Britain other than London without experiencing racism.' He didn't always think like this. 'My stance was always that it's very easy to use racism to cover up for your own weaknesses and lack of motivation.' Then he went to York. 'People would make monkey noises at me in the street. I'd be followed around shops by the staff. It was shocking.' Did he report the incidents to anyone? He shrugs. 'No. Maybe that's part of the problem.'

    Indeed. For years now police forces across the country have been operating third-party reporting schemes so that victims who might feel uncomfortable talking directly to police can do so through other agencies. The Met, for example, has had such crime reporting mechanisms for five years or more. Inspector Charlie Kay, race and diversity development officer for North Yorkshire constabulary, tells me proudly that they, too, have launched a pilot third-party reporting scheme in Scarborough - but only last November. He also says they have one running through the Race Equality Council in York, but the council says it hasn't passed on reports to the police because it thought - wrongly - it couldn't do so unless it could give the name of the victim. In short, North Yorkshire appears to be lagging far behind the rest of the country. This is not down to any lack of motivation on Kay's part. Like all the officers I spoke to, he is clearly engaged with the diversity agenda. When he says 'We are not complacent. We are looking at ways to bring the minority communities to the table', it's obvious that he means it. It's also clear that in North Yorkshire, where minorities are dispersed and isolated, it really is tough to build up partnerships. For all that, the North Yorkshire story suggests that, years after the McPherson report, there are still major problems with Home Office statistics. The number of racist incidents is clearly being understated. Kay himself says the figure for his patch is wrong. He has his own list, which puts the incidents north of 100. The Home Office could not offer any specific explanation for the data in its reports. The problem with information gathering is clearly not restricted to North Yorkshire. It would, for example, have been useful to include a detailed study of the situation in Scotland, but that kind of data is simply not available. Recommendations for the handling of race crime by the Scottish police of the sort delivered to English and Welsh constabularies in the 1999 McPherson report were made only in 2002. The Scottish Executive does publish racist incident statistics - there were 3,801 in 2003-04 - but there is no breakdown of the ethnic minority population by police area. We can say that, with an ethnic minority population of just over 100,000 according to the 2001 census, Scotland as a whole is one of the 10 worst areas in Britain.

    But not even some of the best-performing police forces are immune to criticism. Ben Bowling, professor of criminology and criminal justice at King's College, London, sat on the Metropolitan police independent advisory group on race crime until he resigned in 2001. 'Back then the Met saw the advisory process as something they controlled,' he says. 'They would say we've race-proofed this policy or that policy and we can move on.' Indeed, Bowling says, if it hadn't been for the BBC documentary The Secret Policemen , broadcast in 2003 - which revealed overt racism among recruits to the Greater Manchester force - any changes might have completely stagnated by now. 'I think if it had not been for The Secret Policemen there would have been a feeling of, "well, that's dealt with",' he says. The recently published report by the Commission for Racial Equality on police staffing, and the failure to retain staff from minority ethnic backgrounds, have made it clear that the issues are anything but dealt with. Bowling also raises interesting questions about our whole approach to race crime. As he points out, New Labour has been eager to look at the causes of drug-related crime by offering treatment alongside punishment. 'But with race crime the approach is entirely punitive,' he said. 'They say: we are going to prosecute. I'm not saying that is entirely unjustified, but couldn't we also have a pro-active, upstream response? Nobody has paused to ask where are the racists coming from? Is it pure thuggery? Well no, it's not.' It seems, says Bowling, that politicians shy away from attempts to understand the roots of racism in white, working-class, socially excluded communities, for fear that they will be accused of condoning it. Bowling also argues that the political sloganeering on asylum and immigration being deployed by both parties is encouraging racial hatred. 'There's pretty strong evidence that language used in political rhetoric echoes rapidly down on to the streets and if there is any sophistication in the debate it's lost by the time it gets there.'

    That's undeniable: racism is rarely subtle or sophisticated. One afternoon I sit in on a 'befriending meeting' for victims of race crime, held by the Birmingham Racial Attacks Monitoring Unit, an independent organisation that has been working in the city since the late Eighties. Around the table in the main hall of the Atwood Community Centre, in the run-down Lea Bank district of Birmingham, are a group of people united not by the colour of their skin - some are black, others mixed-race, a few are white - but by the fact that they have been driven to despair by racism. Karen is mixed-race. She recently moved across town with her kids to Quinton. 'Within a few days I had a smashed window. They poured stuff on my car. They tried to stab the tyres.' Has she thought about moving? 'Why should I move? I moved last time because I got racist hassle. I can't keep moving.' Then there's Bridget, a white woman, and her black boyfriend William who has suffered so much abuse from her neighbours that she's now on medication and recently tried to kill herself. 'They call me a nigger-lover,' she says. 'Whose business is it if my boyfriend's black?' From across the table another white woman, Grace, nods furiously. 'They call him monkey man,' she says, indicating her husband Rob, who is mixed race. 'They threatened to blow his head off.' Rob nods. 'They said to us, "We can do without the likes of your colour round here".' There are other stories, too, of discrimination at work and at college, by local councils and by the education authorities. And this is in the West Midlands which, statistically, has one of the best records for racist incidents in Britain. We were meant to be getting to grips with the problem. The McPherson report was viewed as a watershed, an event that drew a line in the sand and said: here, and no further. And it's clear that good things did come from it. The issue of racism was forced on to the political agenda. The institutions of Britain's criminal justice system have made concerted and repeated efforts to reform themselves. But this is, at base, still only a victim-centred approach.

    Yes, it chimes perfectly with the McPherson definition of a racist incident as being one 'which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person'. It is an improvement on what went before. As Bowling says, however, what this does not allow for, what it deliberately sets its face against, is anything that has even the faintest whiff of an offender-based approach. Apparently, if we even attempt to understand why some people may harbour racist opinions, we are excusing them - though no one says this when the street mugger with a crack habit is forced into treatment, or the murderer is put through an anger management course in prison. New Labour talks the talk about the disease of social exclusion and the damage its symptoms do to the rest of us, but becomes very uncomfortable when racist attitudes are thrown into the diagnosis. The end result is what we see here today: a set of desperate statistics. In the past four years convictions for racially aggravated offences have risen by more than 30 per cent. If punishment like this had any deterrent effect, we would have seen a marked fall in racist incidents, but we haven't. The Home Office - and many in the police - would like us to believe that the increases we have highlighted today simply indicate an increase in reporting as a result of a growth in confidence in the criminal justice system. That's not good enough. At best, it means that nothing has changed at all during the life of this parliament. The likelihood is, of course, that the situation has worsened. Clearly we need a new and radical approach, because without one there will simply be more racist offenders and that, in turn, means more victims of racism. And where race crime is concerned, it is the experiences of the victims that matter most of all.

    Victims of racially motivated killings 2001-2004

  • April 2001 Shiblu Rahman
    A Bengali chef, was stabbed to death outside his home in east London. Three white youths were later convicted of the killing.
  • August 2001 Firsat Dag
    A Kurdish asylum seeker, was knifed while walking through Glasgow's Sighthill housing estate.
  • September 2001 Ross Parker
    Aged 17, of Peterborough, was beaten and stabbed while walking home with his girlfriend. Three Asian men were later convicted of his killing.
  • August 2002 Tayman Bahmani
    An Iranian asylum seeker, was killed by a single stab wound to the chest during an argument between white and Iranian gangs in Sunderland.
  • December 2002 Israr Hussain
    An Asian taxi driver and father of six, was stabbed in the neck after an argument with a passenger in Oldham.
  • February 2003 Isa Hasan Ali
    An Afghan asylum seeker, died after being beaten by a gang in a Southampton park.
  • March 2003 Qamir Mirza
    An Asian delivery driver, was stabbed to death by a man at a petrol station in north-west London.
  • June 2003 Johnny Delaney
    Aged 15, a Gypsy, was beaten to death at a playing field in Ellesmere Port.
  • April 2004 Shahid Aziz
    Had his throat slit by his white cell mate, Peter McCann, in Leeds prison.
  • April 2004 Akberali Tayabali Mohameda
    Aged 80, originally from Pakistan, was beaten to death in an underpass in Northolt, west London, while walking home.
  • September 2004 Kalan Kawa Karim
    An Iraqi asylum seeker, was beaten up while walking home after a night out eating pizza in Swansea by Lee Mordecai, who was convicted of his manslaughter.
  • November 2004 Kriss Donald
    A 15-year-old Glasgow schoolboy, was abducted, beaten and stabbed to death by an Asian gang, including Daanish Zahid, in revenge for a white-on-Asian attack the night before.
    ©The Observer

    27/3/2005- Ethnic minorities living in parts of Britain are now four times more likely to have suffered from racism than they were before the last general election, according to one of the most exhaustive studies of race and crime, undertaken by The Observer . Between 2000 and 2004 racist incidents reported to the police in England and Wales - anything from verbal abuse to the most vicious of assaults - rose from 48,000 to 52,700. However, it was the sparsely populated areas, home to the smallest, most isolated minority communities, that witnessed the significant increases. North Wales Constabulary recorded 80 racist incidents in 2000. Last year that jumped to 337, meaning that more than 4 per cent of the region's 6,000 ethnic minorities experienced some form of racial intolerance. The Observer can also reveal that the main party leaders have been warned against inflaming racism dur ing the forthcoming election campaign by Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality. While Phillips has refused to disclose what was said at the meetings, the CRE has become increasingly concerned about the tone of a campaign that has already seen posters on immigration by the Tories at a time when there is evidence of growing racial intolerance in Britain. In Cumbria, now statistically the most racist region in England and Wales, reports of racist incidents more than doubled, and have affected more than 6 per cent of the population. There is a similar picture in West Mercia, Cleveland, Hampshire and Staffordshire, all police areas with relatively small minority populations. Between them, they accounted for just over 1,500 racist incidents in 2000: last year the figure was nearly 3,500. Scotland also saw a significant jump, from 2,242 incidents in 2000 to 3,800 last year, making it one of the 10 most dangerous regions of Britain.

    By contrast, London, home to about 1.9 million of Britain's ethnic minorities, saw a decrease from more than 23,000 incidents in 2000 to just over 15,000 last year. Writing in today's Observer, Phillips said: 'Today, Jews, Muslims and Gypsies tell the CRE that they are under siege in Britain. They have good reason to feel threatened. In the weeks ahead every journalist and politician should read these figures and remember that what you say may not be what is heard. What seems like a perfectly innocuous message to you may not sound that way to a Gypsy or a Jew or a Muslim or a black Briton.' Ben Bowling, professor of criminology and criminal justice at King's College London, agrees. 'There's strong evidence that excluding language used in political rhetoric echoes rapidly down on to the streets,' Bowling says. Since the publication in 1999 of the Macpherson report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which branded the police institutionally racist, major efforts have been made to improve the way incidents are identified and recorded. 'We wish to encourage the reporting of all racist incidents,' a spokesman for the Home Office said. However, there is growing concern that little is being done to address the causes of racism itself. The CRE will be attempting to address this, Phillips has revealed, but only once the election is over. 'The CRE plans to launch a new drive to increase interaction and integration between different communities,' Phillips says. 'People who know each other are less likely to turn disputes into race rows.' The campaign will, he says, use what he describes as 'agents of integration' - women and children - to help foster understanding between different ethnic groups.
    ©The Observer

    Force failed to investigate allegations, says tribunal

    30/3/2005- Greater Manchester police failed to investigate an officer's complaints of race discrimination, an employment tribunal has found. Charles Crichlow, chairman of the force's Black and Asian Police Association, claimed he had been the victim of racial discrimination. But the tribunal rejected the racial element. However, it found that the force had discriminated against Mr Crichlow on seven occasions between December 2000 and June 2001 by not investigating his grievances and allegations of race discrimination properly - or at all. Mr Crichlow's complaints were made several years before the television documentary The Secret Policeman exposed racism among the GMP and prompted reform. He took a series of grievances to his managers, more senior officers and GMP's complaints and discipline department. One grievance related to a "slave sale" poster pinned to the wall of a police station in Salford where he was due to give a talk. After complaining about the poster he was told the owner had taken it down and had been spoken to about it. Yet Mr Crichlow felt that the fact the racially offensive poster had been permitted suggested that such material was normally condoned, and that his complaint was not taken sufficiently seriously. It was not until his grievances were brought to the attention of the then-deputy chief constable that a full investigation was launched. The report found the approach of a number of senior officers created an atmosphere "hostile to alterations to or improvements of GMP practice on racial questions or which might affect racial questions", while the "limited and narrow" attitude shown by PC Crichlow's superiors had an "equally discouraging effect on Asian and white trainers". It concluded that there was "a reluctance to see or hear a complaint of race discrimination unless forced to do so". "I'm pleased that the tribunal has found in my favour," said Mr Crichlow yesterday. "The chief constable ... needs to consider the future of the complaints department. He attempted to claim that he wasn't liable for the actions of his officers, which I think is incredible actually given the history of institutional racism in this particular force. These are issues that I raised consistently even before The Secret Policeman documentary." Deputy Chief Constable Alan Green said: "The findings relate to occurrences four years ago. We now have a race equality scheme and training which emphasise the general and specific duties of our staff under the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000." He added: "It is clear they have found no evidence of discrimination on racial grounds and we are currently seeking legal opinion as to an appropriate way forward." PC Crichlow said: "I'm not hopeful that things are going to change, judging by his response. I am considering whether I have a future in the force ."
    The tribunal will meet in May to consider compensation.
    ©The Guardian

    22/3/2005- A new report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Commission on Monday called on the EU and other member states to ban racist political parties and crack down on neo-Nazism, especially in eastern Germany. In a 17-page report submitted to the 53-member commission currently in session in Geneva this week, Doudou Diene, a special investigator and former Senegalese diplomat, said that UN member states need to "to fight more effectively, and to prosecute, organisations which promote ideas based on the notion of racial superiority or hatred and organisations which commit or incite acts of violence," news agency Reuters reported. "Parties that make no secret of their racist, xenophobic or neo-Nazi leanings should be banned," he said. The report on racism, xenophobia and discrimination placed a special focus on extreme right parties in eastern Germany, saying that it was "particularly worrying" that rightwing extremist parties such as the National Democratic Party (NPD) increased public support in recent state elections through racist slogans. Also highlighting racist violence in Russia and elsewhere, the report called on the 25 "to take account of its ethnic, cultural and religious pluralism." German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, visiting the commission Tuesday did not directly address the issue but said that "human rights violations in particular countries must be called so by name."

    Harry's Nazi gaffe sparks uproar
    The push to highlight racism follows increased attempts by EU member states to push for an EU-wide ban on neo-Nazi symbols after Prince Harry of England caused an uproar when appearing at a costume party in a Nazi uniform. The initiative was squashed by Britain and Italy because of concerns that such a ban would limit the basic right of freedom of expression. But EU ministers did agree last month to reanimate a sleeping debate on regulating racism and xenophobia. In this case, Great Britain and Italy dropped up their blockade-like reaction. Among other things, the agreement would make it punishable by law to deny the Holocaust or other crimes against humanity. Meanwhile, the German upper house of parliament passed legislation last week in another attempt to crack down on far right parties: the initiative seeks to curb neo-Nazi marches amid concerns the extreme-right will target celebrations to mark the end of the war in Europe. The far right, led by the NPD, is planning to march past the new Holocaust memorial in Berlin and to the Brandenburg Gate on May 8, the 60th anniversary of Germany's capitulation. Last month, 4,000 right-wing extremists rallied in Dresden on the 60th anniversary of the Allied bombing that devastated the city.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    When, in 1996, Berlin's senator for education, proposed introducing mandatory ethic classes in the city's high schools, he set a slow ball rolling. Almost a decade later, a final decision is about to be taken.

    25/3/2005- At issue is the system of religious education which has been in place in the German capital since before WWII. It is a complex model allowing school children to choose which religion, if any, they wish to include in their school timetables. While the rule, which is based on a constitutional clause for religious freedom, is only fair, the problem is that given half a chance to cut back on class hours, a large percentage of students fall over themselves to do so. It is precisely that option to forgo religious education altogether which bothers Berlin's education senator, Klaus Böger. His spokeswoman, Rita Hermanns, said the current system is too lax. "High school students have a choice between religious studies or going to the ice cream parlor, and that is unsatisfactory. It's not right that some pupils have contact with ethics and religious history while others don't."

    Ethics and religion combined
    What Social Democratic Senator Böger has long been proposing for high schools, is the introduction of a completely new, compulsory class which would cover religion, philosophy, ethics and life choices. And although initial resistance from both his party colleagues and their coalition partners, the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), has now transformed into support, Böger has another more difficult, problem on his hands. "The senator wants to see the introduction of this new subject but doesn't want to scrap the current opportunities for religious education," said Hermanns. Under Böger's plan, pupils would have to choose between religion class and the new diluted mix of religion, ethics and life choices. What they would no longer be able to do is simply opt out altogether. While Böger's proposals have been warmly welcomed by both the Protestant and Catholic churches, they have met with consternation among his political peers who are in favor of the new subject but say it should be a must for everyone without discussion. They are calling for just one, state-run subject aimed at introducing students to all main religions and philosophies. They say that those kids who wish to continue with religious studies could do so as an added extra.

    Who in their right mind?
    Stefan-Rainer Schultz, a Protestant in Berlin, said the model is flawed from the outset. "What normal 14-year-old is going to volunteer to take on extra classes if they don't actually have to?" And while he doubtless has a point, the PDS dismisses his argument on the basis that the majority of the 150,000 pupils who opt for religious education at school are too young to be affected by any new ruling. "We know that once children reach high school, the number of those who take religion tails off," PDS spokeswoman Kathi Seefeld said. The PDS argues that given Berlin's multiculturalism, it is crucial to offer upcoming generations access to a broad spectrum of knowledge. "We want young people to learn about different cultures and religions and to be in a position to think about their own religion and background," Seefeld said. "One of the problems in Berlin is the lack of mutual respect among teenagers, and this new model could help to alleviate the problem."

    Choice is of the essence
    While nobody disagrees with the importance of granting adolescents the opportunity to broaden their horizons, the Catholic Church is eager to stress the virtue of choice. "Students should be able to choose between ethics and religious studies," said Hans Peter Richter of the archdiocese of Berlin. "We agree it is perfectly acceptable to have a compulsory area of study, but the church should also be left to do its work in peace." The issue of who would teach a mandatory ethics class is another bone of contention in this debate. Currently, religion teachers are not employed by the city's schools, but by the churches, Buddhist organizations or the Islamic Federation. Under the new system, teachers employed by the state of Berlin would cover all aspects of the new curriculum. "We would draw in unemployed teachers from Brandenburg or use those already in Berlin who have some experience in the realm of ethics or religion, and there would, of course, be the opportunity to invite experts into classes to talk about certain areas of religion," Seefeld of the PDS said.

    The need for division
    But it is precisely the idea of lumping everything together which has both the Catholic and Protestant churches up in arms. "It's too much for one teacher to present each religion in equal measure. What we need is divided religious education with the opportunity for different groups to come together regularly for an open dialogue on their religious and cultural differences," Richter argued. Political powers are against that, for a specific reason. Seefeld said there are fears among some politicians that as long as the Islamic Federation is responsible for teaching the Koran in Berlin schools, Islamic fundamentalism could rise. However, the debate can only continue to rage for a few more days, as a ballot at the beginning of April will decide the issue once and for all.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    28/3/2005- Lawyers in Turkey's third city, Izmir, have filed a complaint against the country's most senior military officer. The complaint says comments made by Gen Hilmi Ozkok, after two young Kurdish men tried to burn a Turkish flag, created hatred between citizens. He had described the men, who tried to burn the flag during a Kurdish festival a week ago, as "so-called citizens". The incident provoked a week of demonstrations across Turkey in support of the Turkish flag. The general's irritation at the incident in Mersin, in south-eastern Turkey, was clearly shared by much of the population, in some part whipped up by the nationalistic media and by state organisations, says the BBC's Jonny Dymond in Istanbul. Turkish flags have been fluttering from cars and buses, office blocks and homes in a way that is normally reserved for public holidays. Kurds make up about a fifth of the Turkish population. They have regularly been punished for attempting to assert their separate cultural identity. As part of its legal complaint, the Izmir bar association also lists more than a dozen incidents of nationalist threats and violence. The move is, if not unprecedented, then certainly surprising, our correspondent says. The military is no longer the power it once was, but it is still a respected, and to some degree untouchable institution.
    ©BBC News

    28/3/2005- Although France has banned religious symbols from schools, some of the country's 1,200 veiled Muslim schoolgirls are still searching for a compromise. "French education", declares a trim man behind a big desk, "aims to allow each person, irrespective of their religion or their community, the chance to start on an equal footing and receive the same education." This impassioned defence of French secularism comes from Raymond Scieux, headmaster of Lycee Eugene Delacroix in Drancy, a suburb northeast of Paris. For much of last year, Scieux and other French headmasters, had the unenviable task of guiding staff and students through a new French law banning all conspicuous religious symbols from state schools. The law is widely supported by the French, who regard secularism as a pillar of the Republic. No crucifixes, no skullcaps, no Islamic headscarves. There can now be nothing within the walls of a state school that can immediately identify a religious affiliation.

    From the beginning, the French law was perceived by most of France's five million Muslims to be an ill-concealed attempt to ban veils from the classroom. "There's a lot of tension in the Islamic community which feels targeted," Scieux admits, "but it's actually applicable to all religions". Between May and October of last year, the BBC filmed at Lycee Eugene Delacroix with people from both sides of the debate. Teachers, their headmaster and pupils were caught up in an emotional drama that would ultimately decide whether or not a handful of veiled girls would be expelled for wearing the Islamic headscarf in school.

    Personal choice
    "What does this veil mean to me?" asks Touria, a softly-spoken and serious pupil at Delacroix. "It's part of who I am. It's not just some bit of fabric on my head. It's everything. "Looking back on it, I can't imagine taking it off. What I'm wearing today I consider the minimum." What Touria is wearing is a bandanna, a simple scarf that covers her hair but not her ears or neck. She says she prefers to wear this so she doesn't draw attention to herself or her religion. Touria is one of five veiled girls from Delacroix who are meeting once a week in a friend's flat to discuss their strategy to fight a strict interpretation of the law at their school. Others come to the meetings too, including a handful of anti-law teachers and non-Muslim schoolfriends. Their fear is that the headmaster will decide to ban all headcoverings, so they're looking for a compromise.

    Secular France
    The headmaster, however, is under pressure from the majority of his teachers, who want a total ban on headcoverings. He has decided to hold a public meeting at the school term so all interested parties can air their views. Among the speakers at the public meeting is Eric Finot, a history teacher at Delacroix with strong views on the subject. As he rises to speak, he says he wants to address the veiled girls in particular. "We are only asking you to abide by the principle of secularism," he says. To the anger of the girls, he then adds: "We are thinking of those girls who we could maybe protect a little bit at school... This law is here to protect those girls who are compelled to do things they don't want to do - not to be forced into marriage, not to wear the veil." For the veiled girls, the public meeting confirmed their worst fears. The pro-law lobby was mixing everything Islamic in the same pot: Sharia law, forced marriage, veils. They understood very well the feminist arguments condemning many aspects of their faith, but all of them insisted that they were under no pressure at home to wear the veil. In fact, quite the opposite. Their parents would prefer to them to de-veil than jeopardise their education. Touria adds: "People say that it's the women who wear the veil that are submissive... but I think it is those women who are submissive, because it is want men want, women half naked." As the veiled girls agonised over whether or not they would de-veil, their headmaster became convinced that a compromise was possible. When Lycee Eugene Delacroix opened for the new school year, it was one of the only schools in France to allow girls to wear a discreet bandanna. But for veiled girls like Iptiseim, this was not the outcome she had hoped for. "Now that I'm wearing a bandanna in school," she says, "when I come out I can't wait to put my veil back on. It was always important, but now even more so."
    ©BBC News

    Internet giant wants the court to declare that a French ruling cannot be enforced in the US

    29/3/2005- Yahoo wants the US federal appeals court to declare that a judgment by a French court in 2000 cannot be enforced in the US. The French court ordered Yahoo to make auctions for Nazi memorabilia and other related content on its US website inaccessible to web users in France. Yahoo has said that means removing the content from its US website. Yahoo's French subsidiary,, complies with French law, but Yahoo has not complied on its main website. In the French case, brought by the Union of Jewish Students in France (UEJF) and the League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA), the judge imposed a daily fine of roughly $20,000 at current exchange rates if the company did not comply with the ruling. Following the French ruling in November 2000, Yahoo sued UEJF and LICRA in US District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose to find out if the foreign court's verdict could be enforced in the U.S. "We should be able to learn what our obligations are in terms of this foreign judgment. We have to choose between censoring constitutionally protected speech and letting fines accrue daily," says Mary Wirth, senior international counsel for Yahoo. Yahoo claimed the French judgment violates US protections for freedom of speech and thus can't be enforced in the US, where UEJF and LICRA would have to collect. The district court sided with Yahoo but an appeals court last year ruled the district court acted prematurely because UEJF and LICRA had not sought enforcement of the French judgment. Yahoo subsequently asked the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to again hear the case with 11 judges, which it did last Thursday. The appeals court may take many months to reach a verdict. The last time it reviewed this case, the court took almost two years to reach a verdict.
    ©PC World

    Supporters of the far right have presented the Swiss government with a petition to try to stop the Swiss labour market being opened up to new members of the European Union.

    29/3/2005- Some 80,000 signatures were handed over to the federal authorities in Bern at a ceremony on Tuesday. The Swiss look set to vote on the issue in a referendum on September 25. Voters will be asked to extend an accord on the free movement of people between EU countries and Switzerland to the new member states. The agreement was part of a first set of bilateral accords signed between Brussels and Bern. Since June 2004, this freedom allows people from the 15 "old" members of the EU to work in Switzerland without a permit. According to a spokesman for the far-right Swiss Democrats, Rudolf Keller, it was easy to collect the signatures and 100,000 or more could have been obtained without any problem. Member of parliament Bernhard Hess said that many signatures had been collected from the French- and Italian-speaking areas of Switzerland.

    Good chance?
    Hess believes that the issue stands a good chance of being accepted. "We can win in all parts of the country," he commented. The Swiss Democrats have been campaigning against the extension of the free movement of people, warning of mass immigration and the loss of jobs in Switzerland. The referendum committee also included representatives from the Lega dei Ticinese and the Freedom Party, as well as several members of the right-wing Swiss People's Party. Another committee, from the far left, also supported the referendum. On Thursday, opponents of the Schengen/Dublic accords with the EU on crime and asylum - led by the Swiss People's Party - are due to hand in signatures calling for another referendum. The government has set aside June 5 for a vote on that issue.

    30/3/2005­ Two arson attacks at an Islamic school in recent months have sparked alarm in the Brabant city of Uden, where tougher measures were implemented on Tuesday night to combat problem youth. The crackdown comes after a Molotov cocktail was thrown through the window of the Bedir Islamic primary school on Sunday night and the arrest of a 17-year-old boy on suspicion of arson. It was the second such attack within five months. The school was previously targeted in an arson attack in November soon after the murder of Theo van Gogh by an alleged Islamic militant. In response to the first incident, Uden City Council drew up a plan under which it would hold talks more often with various community groups. But the council decided in an emergency meeting on Tuesday that it will now take tougher measures against problem youth. Previously only prepared to take action to prevent problems, it has now opted for a 'lik-op-stuk-beleid' or tit-for-tat policy. Asserting that enough was enough, the council warned that acts such as graffiti at mosques and arson attacks will not be tolerated. Talks will be intensified with parents, schools, police and youth workers in a bid to gain a better picture of the situation on the ground so that adequate and timely measures can be taken. And Uden Mayor Joke Kersten was scheduled to visit the school on Wednesday together with the local police chief. They were to meet with the school board to discuss worrying community unrest. As parents raise concerns about violence, youth workers have admitted they had expected a repeat attack on the school, news agency ANP reported. The director of cultural centre De Pul, Loek Borrèl, also suggested the culprits could be from the same group of those accused of the November incident. Borrèl and colleagues claim that racism is primarily evident among VMBO vocational secondary school students in Uden, claiming that there are indications of hatred of Muslims among the pupils. This was reinforced on Tuesday when a teen boy rode his bike into a group of students and two teachers at the Bedir school on Tuesday. The boy made racist remarks and one of the teachers has lodged a police report. The Islamic community in Uden has reacted with shock to Sunday's fire, particularly after a deliberately lit fire destroyed the school in November. Six suspects aged 14 to 16 were arrested for the first attack and will appear in court on 17 May. They are currently under house arrest, but are being allowed to attend school. The school relocated to the Aldetienstraat after the November attack. The damage resulting from the latest incident was restricted to just two chairs. The 17-year-old suspect was arrested on Sunday night after boisterous behaviour at the school. He also refused police orders to leave the area. He is now suspected of arson, but police have not ruled out further arrests.
    ©Expatica News

    31/3/2005- The Catalan regional parliament has approved adoption of children by gay couples. This follows similar changes to the law in other parts of Spain, namely in Navarre, the Basque Country and Aragon. Eighteen deputies in the Catalan regional assembly from various parties backed the change to family law, though five abstained and nine were against. The move recognises the right in law for gay couples, as is the case in Holland, Sweden, Iceland and Norway, to recognise their right like heterosexual couples to adopt. Until now it had been vetoed by law and led gay couples to undertake adoptions outside the law or with one partner adopting the child.The Catalan counsellor for justice, Josep Maria Vallés, said the law change would protect the rights of the adopted children in the context of "new families and new ways of living together."The change in law is to affect gay couples who want to adopt children in Catalonia, but with international adoptions couples will have to abide by the laws of the lands concerned.Adoption of foreign children, particularly Chinese and Russian, is a popular move among Spaniards.
    ©Expatica News

    10/3/2005- More than 250 intellectuals have demanded that Christian Democrat leader Zsolt Semjén be removed from his parliamentary duties in an open letter to house leader Katalin Szili. The letter, whose signatories include philosophers, theologians, clerics and historians, accuses Semjén of holding "inhuman social views" which belong on the "rubbish tip of history". According to the letter, Semjén made coded remarks that evoked "some of the darkest episodes of human history" by linking the wearing of beards with homosexuality and by talking with contempt of those "who choose euthanasia or abortion in order to ease the pain of their crisis-struck lives". Semjén's remarks were made more than a week ago to a Christian Democrat People's Party congress. Semjén was last week quoted in online news portal Index as saying that "anybody who wanted their teenaged son's first sexual experience to be with a bearded older man should vote for the Free Democrats. Anyone who wants their child to be influenced by the abortion and euthanasia culture of death should do the same." According to the letter-writers, Semjén "has bought shame on parliament and on the new Hungarian democracy", and should no longer be allowed to serve as vice-chairman of the parliamentary committee on human rights, minorities and religion. The Free Democrats' response to Semjén's outburst has been dismissive. "Who are these bearded older men? Does Zsolt Semjén also feel threatened by Kossuth's, Batthyány's and Eötvös József's beards?" asked the party in a statement on its Website. Fidesz was also responsible for Semjén's comments, the statement continued, since Semjén sat on the party benches in parliament. Last week, Semjén called on Free Democrat leader Gábor Kuncze to resign following his "tasteless" prediction of an election-year "tsunami of promises".
    ©The Budapest Sun

    10/3/2005- A United Nations human rights panel called on France Thursday to stop racist incidents involving French security forces and to do more to fight discrimination against asylum seekers or Roma gypsies. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which oversees international rules against racism, said in a report that it was also concerned by a wider increase in racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic acts. After a regular hearing examining France's application of the anti-racism convention, the panel expressed similar concern about "persistent discriminatory behaviour" by security force personnel or public officials. It recommmended that the French government "should take the necessary preventive measures to halt racist incidents involving members of the security forces" and called for investigations into complaints. The committee said it feared immigrants had limited access to housing, employment and education in France, while foreign women in particular were sometimes victims of "double discrimination". Roma gypsies also suffered from "persistent difficulties" and should be provided with more facilities, it added. Referring to a controversial recent French law on religious symbols in schools, the committee recommended that French authorities should closely monitor its impact to ensure that it did not lead to discrimination. It said the measures should prevent the law "from denying any pupil the right to education and to ensure that everyone can always exercise that right". The law has led to the expulsion from schools of some children who continued to wear outward signs of their religion, notably Muslim girls wearing headscarves.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    11/3/2005- France's future imams will head to the prestigious Sorbonne at the start of the new school year for university courses in French history and civilization, the rector of the Paris mosque said Friday. "They will be enrolled in courses leading to a university diploma issued by the Sorbonne-Paris IV in 'society and civilization of contemporary France'," Dalil Boubakeur told private Europe 1 radio. Boubakeur, who is also president of the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM), described the degree program as "general education for adults wishing to understand France". Le Figaro reported that about 50 Muslim clerics would initially take part. The program is part of an effort by the French government to integrate foreign-born imams into French society in order to encourage the development of a homegrown version of Islam. Those wishing to participate in the Sorbonne program must have passed the French baccalaureat school-leaving examination. It will be complemented by theological studies at a separate institution. Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin announced in February that imams would be offered language training at the start of the next academic year. Around three-quarters of the 1,200 imams practicing in France come from abroad. A third of them do not speak French. France is home to five million Muslims -- about eight percent of the country's total population.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    Moscow police "deport" illegal migrants by taking all their cash and throwing them out of the city.
    By Erbol Jumagulov, IWPR contributor in Moscow.

    11/3/2005- Migrant workers from Central Asia now face a new form of extortion at the hands of Moscow police. In a series of "phony deportations", police have rounded up illegal workers but instead of sending them back to their homelands, they simply dumped them on deserted roads on the outskirts of the Russian capital. Police still strip the illegal migrants of all the cash they have on them, an illegal practice common when real deportations occur, but they save on the cost of sending the detainees back to their home countries. Shavkat Shukrullaev, 33, was among 20 men from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan who were picked up by police on March 7. He has been working on building sites around Moscow for eight years, returning periodically to Uzbekistan with money for his family. Life as a migrant worker has never been easy, but recently it has become intolerable, he told IWPR. "The Moscow law-enforcement agencies know that we all have fake immigration cards, and they exploit that to the hilt," he said. "But in the past, they simply took our money. Now they have started tormenting us." The group was detained at a police station for three days, before a deportation order was issued. "We signed some papers and resigned ourselves to going home," said 27-year-old Bolotbek Dyikanbaev, from Kyrgyzstan. "Then we were put on a bus to go to the airport." However, about 25 kilometres outside Moscow the bus turned into a deserted road off the main highway. The group were ordered off, given their passports back, and the bus and police escort drove off. "We didn't have any cash, because the police had taken it all," said Dyikanbaev. "Fortunately, we were dumped only 15 km from the building site where we worked. So we walked all the way back." For many, this was not the first such experience.

    "This time we were lucky," said Shukrullaev. "The man we work for turned out to be a decent person. We offered our services again and he gave the police some money to leave us alone as long as we're working for him. And he pays us properly, which is rare." IWPR has learned that records at the police station where the group were held state that they were "deported to their place of residence", in other words whichever Central Asian country they come from. "The fact that the documents say they were deported shows that funds were allocated to pay the deportation costs," said Anna Berezina, a lawyer at the human rights organisation Moscow Partnership. "If the guest workers didn't even make it as far as the airport, it's not difficult to guess where that money went." Berezina says there have been numerous similar episodes recently. Migrant workers are vulnerable to such rackets because they often lack the right documents allowing them to live and work in Russia. In theory, they have the right to acquire legal status, but in practice that is difficult. New arrivals must register with the authorities within three days, but migrant labourers cannot do this themselves. They must be registered by their landlords, which in most cases means their bosses since almost all of them live in hostel accommodation provided by their employers. Moreover, when employers do supply their workers with immigration cards, the documents have often been faked. Newspapers are full of adverts for registration documents.

    "Russian businessmen hire guest workers for profit," said Polat Jamalov of the Moscow House of Nationalities, a body set up by the Moscow city government to look after the rights of ethnic minorities. "That is their main interest. They don't want to waste time registering seasonal workers - especially since there are benefits to be gained from their illegal status." Employers are often in league with the police, who are fully aware of which building sites employ unregistered workers, he added. "Everyone knows about the behaviour of the Moscow law-enforcement agencies, but no one can do anything to stop them," said Berezina. "That is the most frightening thing about it. Russia has become a police state and human rights initiatives to help the victims have no effect whatsoever. "Technically, the guest workers are criminals who have broken the immigration rules, so they cannot protect themselves. Illegal registration is worth millions. It's a business, controlled directly by the law-enforcement bodies." An IWPR survey of guest workers found that almost half the Central Asians employed on building sites have already experienced "deportation" to the forests around Moscow. "We now sew money into a concealed pocket so when we end up in the forest we can wave down passing cars and offer the drivers some cash to take us back to our workplace," said Abduvahid Khojiev from Uzbekistan.

    Russian law stipulates that illegal migrants have the right to three warnings, after which the immigration services can begin the deportation process. In practice, the system often provides a license for extortion. "We warn every illegal migrant about deportation, and give him a fine," a senior police lieutenant within the Nagatin police department told IWPR. "Of course, we exploit the fact that migrants are scared of deportation from Russia, as this means a five-year ban on re-entering the country." Central Asian migrants are desperate to stay, since even if they are at the bottom of the employment heap and subject to discrimination in Moscow, the wages they can earn here are still worth the hardship because life is so tough in their countries. "I was detained at the police station three times within ten days, and then told that I would be deported," said Shukrullaev. "For us, the word deportation is synonymous with death, because if we really are deported, then we won't be able to come back. Then we can no longer make a living, because you can't make this kind of money in Uzbekistan." But this time Shukrullaev remained in Russia. Deportation would have stopped him being a continuing source of income.
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    11/3/2005- Segregation in Amsterdam has increased in recent years, as Moroccans, Turkish nationals and Dutch natives increasingly congregate together in city districts, a city council report indicated on Friday. The 2004 Diversity and Integration Monitor found that there are a rising number of areas where 70 to 80 percent of the population is made up of non-western immigrants. The highest percentages are found in Zuidoost, Zeeburg and parts of Nieuw-West. The small concentration of non-western immigrants living in the city centre in 2000 completely disappeared from the canal district in 2003. The centre and inner city districts to the south are especially populated by Dutch natives and western immigrants. The situation in the centre of Amsterdam is thus becoming more and more like the other large cities in the Netherlands, such as Rotterdam, where distinct divisions in suburbs are noticeable. In years past, ethnic segregation in the Dutch capital was better than other large cities. The Amsterdam Council report said the change was due to the failure to integrate immigrants into Dutch society, newspaper De Telegraaf reported on Friday. City areas with large immigrant populations are the most unattractive places in terms of the housing market. Problems such as unemployment, social security dependence and school absentee rates are prevalent and contact with Dutch natives is infrequent. "In education, segregation is more or less complete," the researchers said. The report, compiled by research bureau O+S, said that geographic division of ethnic groups hinders successful integration, news agency Novum reported. Previous research had indicated that contact between ethnic groups stimulates positive reactions to both immigrant and native communities. This in turn can set off a chain reaction which would stimulate friendly relations between ethnic groups. But the Amsterdam executive council — made up of Mayor Job Cohen and aldermen and women — asserts that an ethnic mix in city districts has even been a policy objective. Integration of immigrants has instead been targeted by improving socio-economic circumstances, the council said.
    ©Expatica News

    12/3/2005- Germany's Supreme administrative court has ruled that a neo-Nazi rock group that spread racial hatred was a criminal organization, upholding a first such statement in Germany against a music band. The court also upheld a three and a half year prison sentence against the lead singer of the band, Michael Regener -- argueing his lyrics would incite public hatred against foreigners and minorities in Germany. The move is part of a nationwide crackdown on neo-Nazi groups and organizations -- two of which were also banned this week. The ruling now upheld by Germany's highest administrative court goes back to a case brought against Regener, who was handed a prison sentence for inciting racial hatred and spreading Nazi propaganda. Prosecutions have often been brought against individuals in Germany under laws banning Nazi propaganda and the incitement of public unrest. But this was the first time a collective prosecution of this kind had been brought against a music group. Jürgen Lampe, spokesman for the federal prosecutor, said the band was planning what they called an "Aryan Revolution" and was operating in a highly secretive manner. "The primary goal of this band was to commit crimes," he said. "Its organizational structure bears the hallmarks of organized crime."

    Court: Racism sole purpose of band
    The supreme administrative court said that Landser was founded solely to produce and distribute racist songs and Nazi ideology. Inflammatory lyrics such as "Turks and Commies and all that scum will soon be forever gone" from a song called "The Reich will be back," it said, were clearly meant to incite hatred and violence against foreigners and political opponents. The band didn't make public appearances and for a long time its members had remained unknown. Experts have long been warning that neo-Nazi organizations are spreading their hate messages through music distributed often for free especially among younger Germans at schools. A network of so-called "comradeships" has been established primarily in eastern Germany fostering a cult of violence and hatred.

    Latent feelings
    Frank Jantzen, an expert on the right-wing scene here, said this ideology often blends with latent racism among the population at large. "I fear this structural link between every-day racism and a perpetrator image cherished by rightist youths is the core problem," he said. "No-one has so far been able to sever this link which has fostered an extreme right-wing scene. Young neo-Nazis are enmeshed in a culture of blood and violence that is promoted also through music and eventually seeks a vent. Democratic forces in Germany are simply at a loss to effectively counter an ideology of dumb violence that is infesting more and more young minds." In an effort to stop rightist violence - which has been rising in Eastern Germany again last year - authorities banned two more neo-Nazi groups in the region on Thursday. They were among the most active of the "comradeships" in and around Berlin. In raids on several homes police discovered neo-Nazi pamphlets and T-shirts glorifying former Nazi leaders as heroes and martyrs. Earlier in the week, a group of young neo-Nazis in Brandenburg were classified as terrorists by a court in Potsdam which handed down jail sentences to the members for attacking and burning immigrant-owned shops and fast food outlets.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    12/3/2005- The Queen risks being embroiled in a row over fascism and football when she shakes hands next week with Italy's foreign minister, Gianfranco Fini, leader of the hard right National Alliance. Claims that his party has ditched its fascist heritage were this week undermined when some of his leading followers offered their backing to Paolo Di Canio, the Serie A player fined for giving the straight-arm salute. Two National Alliance MPs proposed a collection to pay the 10,000 (around £7,000) penalty imposed on the Lazio forward by Italian football's disciplinary authority. Among those who endorsed the whipround was Mr Fini's wife, Daniela, who is due to join the Queen at a banquet in Buckingham Palace on Tuesday evening. Ms Fini said the collection for Di Canio would be "an act of solidarity". She complained that leftwing players and supporters had been given less onerous penalties for political gestures and added: "If politics has no place in the stadium, then it should have no place there for anyone." Ms Fini and her husband are coming to London on a state visit with Italy's president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. Mr Fini will be introduced to the Queen at Horse Guards Parade in London on Tuesday morning. Their handshake will be the biggest victory so far in his campaign to win international respectability for himself and his party, which is made up largely of former neo-fascists. The Alliance, the second biggest party in Silvio Berlusconi's rightwing coalition, grew out of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), which was founded after the second world war to perpetuate the ideas of Italy's former dictator, Benito Mussolini, and his black-shirted followers. British officials said yesterday they believed Mr Fini would be the first ex-MSI leader to meet the Queen.

    Di Canio, who played in Britain for Celtic, Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham and Charlton, gave a straight-arm salute to Lazio's notoriously far right supporters after their side's 3-1 victory over arch rivals Roma on January 6. His claims that it was merely a "victory gesture" were swept aside by the Italian football federation's disciplinary commission. It ruled this week that his gesture was "unequivocally interpretable as a 'Roman salute'." The sport's disciplinary watchdog imposed a fine of 10,000 on Lazio as well as demanding the same amount from Di Canio personally. The decision prompted fury among National Alliance leaders. Francesco Storace, one of Mr Fini's leading lieutenants and governor of the Lazio region, which encircles Rome, called it "a true scandal". Romano La Russa, one of the National Alliance MPs who launched the collection, said Di Canio had merely made "a friendly gesture towards fans who were celebrating in the stands". He added: "Instead of tackling serious problems, like clubs going bankrupt, crooked bookkeeping and the use of slush funds, they punish a great player like Di Canio." Another National Alliance MP and former Lazio player, Gigi Martini, said he opposed the collection, but only because "it would mean recognising Di Canio had done something really serious". He called the decision to fine the player "very wrong". There has been periodic speculation that Di Canio himself could go into politics as a National Alliance candidate after he retires. In London, Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said: "Gianfranco Fini has a long history of association with fascist organisations. "We think it is a disgrace that the monarch should shake the hand of someone who previously supported the politics of Mussolini. We would expect higher standards."
    listen to live report of demonstration on March 15
    ©The Guardian

    TOO HIGH A PRICE TO PAY(uk, comment)
    The law against incitement to religious hatred will only strengthen intolerance and choke off women's right to dissent
    By Rahila Gupta

    12/3/2005- It seems strange that the government should claim, at the point of introducing a piece of legislation, that there are unlikely to be many prosecutions under it. To the critics of the impending incitement to religious hatred law this sounds like a non sequitur. If not to prosecute anyone, what is the law meant to be for? If it is meant to extend a hand of friendship to embattled Muslim communities, the government would surely do better to tackle the poverty so many suffer, or the low levels of educational attainment among their children, or to ensure that its anti-terrorism legislation respects the human rights of those people - mostly Muslims - interned under it. If the government expects the law to have a deterrent effect, then we must ask whose voices will be silenced in the process. Not merely those of the artistic community, but also the more vulnerable groups within religious communities, like women, who may find the newly strengthened group rights weaken their own position. Under current race laws, which recognise Sikhs as a racial group, action could not be taken over alleged incitement by members of the same community - barring the possibility of action against the playright, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti. However, there has been much debate about whether internal-dissent cases might fall foul of the new law. Would it have been the law rather than the mob that switched off the lights at Birmingham Rep? Behzti raised issues of corruption and sexual violence at the heart of a religious establishment: a woman is raped in a gurdwara. Which bit gave offence? That it happened in a gurdwara! Not that a woman was raped by a priest. But the play dealt with recognisable realities, and it was the debate of those realities that was stifled. Only last month a Hindu priest was jailed for 12 years for raping a woman at a temple in Croydon. During the 90s, there was the widely reported case of a Sikh woman in Southall, Sunita Vig, who was raped by a Sikh priest. Another Sikh woman, a recent convert to Hinduism, was sexually and physically assaulted by a Hindu priest who left her with a near-fatal gash in her neck. These are the more dramatic cases, but on a daily basis, women find their aspirations quashed by religious leaders. They cannot leave oppressive homes because of the stranglehold of culture, religion and enforced mediation by religious leaders. When Asian women first started exposing the underbelly of our communities, we were told that we were providing ammunition for racists. For us it wasn't a choice. We couldn't hide one evil to fight another. A community that sees itself as under siege battens down the hatches. But when minorities ditch race for religion as a marker of their identity, the pressures on women increase a hundredfold. A "cultural" practice is difficult enough to challenge but one which has been given the dubious honour of being ratified by a holy book, open as that may be to interpretation, is even harder to resist. Our choices are limited by our ascribed roles: as guardians of sexual morality; transmitters of cultural values to the next generation; and vessels bearing the honour of the community.

    Women continue to fight from within their religion for their freedoms, but meanwhile they look outwards to the state for protection - a state which has historically appeased the unelected religious leaders of our community and left the policing of women in their hands. Religious and cultural pressures are an important part of the equation that keeps Asian women at the bottom of the pile. The recent Fawcett report, Powerless, Poor and Passed Over, confirmed the "massive inequalities" in health, education, employment and political representation faced by Asian women. Because the boundary between religious and racial identities has blurred, some argue that free speech with regard to religion has to be restrained out of respect for racial sensitivities. Some sections of the Sikh community have lambasted the supporters of Behzti for revealing colonial attitudes in their defence of free speech. It is true that western liberals use the "lack" of free speech in minority cultures as a weapon against them. It is also true that free thinking, secularism and free speech are associated with western values. However, harping on about the racism of the liberal establishment can become an excuse for inaction in our own communities. This was exactly the kind of polarisation that occurred during the Salman Rushdie debate which led to the formation of Women against Fundamentalism. Then, as now, it was important to challenge the racism of the liberal intelligentsia regarding "backward Muslims". But, as women, we had to adopt a Janus-headed approach: then, as now, we have to fight the authoritar ian strands in our own communities too. The very presence of the "incitement to religious hatred law", no matter how it is worded, will strengthen the voices of religious intolerance and choke off women's right to dissent. This is too high a price to pay to appease an alienated community. Religion may be a central part of your identity and culture, but at the end of the day it is a set of ideas. Any state policy that privileges religion over all other systems of belief must be dismantled.
    ©The Guardian

    17/3/2005- Gypsies from across the UK and Europe were today gearing up for a commemorative service in London which will remember the 500,000 Roma who died at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust. The event, which also aims to highlight the problem of racism towards travellers, will see the country's first traveller parliamentary candidate announce his intention to stand in the next General Election. The "Commemoration of Roma Victims" at St James' Church in Piccadilly will be attended by hundreds of Gypsies and will also feature members of the foreign diplomatic corps and representatives of the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Jewish communities. After the signing of a book of condolence, candles will be lit for those who died both in the Holocaust and as a result of present-day racism. The church ceremony, being held on April 9, will then be followed by a march across central London to demonstrate against threatened evictions of travellers at Dale Farm in Crays Hill, Essex, and Smithy Fen in Cambridgeshire. It will end at Savile Row police station where a host of Gypsy organisations will voice their protest at recent press articles on Government rules for establishing traveller camps. At a public meeting after the rally Richard Sheridan will announce his participation in the General Election as a candidate for Billericay, Essex, where he will be standing against Tory MP John Baron. Mr Sheridan said: "As the first traveller to stand for Parliament I intend to make our voice heard not only at Crays Hill but around the whole country." The travellers at the Dale Farm site are currently facing eviction on May 13 but are hoping their plans to create a new housing association will help prevent the move. The proposed Dale Farm Housing Association, drawing on Housing Corporation and local authority funding, would aim to build several family-sized mobile home parks for people presently occupying unauthorised plots at Crays Hill. "The first step is to obtain status as a registered social landlord," explained Patrick Egan, chair of the Traveller Community Project which is behind the plans for the association. He added: "At the same time, up to l5 fresh planning applications have been prepared for submission to Basildon council ahead of the May deadline. Also in the pipeline are eight human rights cases arising out of evictions by Hertsmere District Council and Chelmsford Borough Council. "It is hoped that these cases will help deter Basildon council from resorting to similar methods." To join the service and march supporters are asked to meet at St James' Church in London at 12pm on April 9.
    Community Newswire

    The Senate has approved measures aimed at tightening the Swiss law on asylum and making the country less attractive to illegal immigrants.
    The new legislation, which has already passed the other parliamentary chamber - the House of Representatives - has been sharply criticised by churches and refugee organisations.

    17/3/2005- On Thursday, the Senate voted by 25 to 11 to extend an existing ban on welfare benefits to all those whose asylum requests have been turned down, including those going through the appeals process. The smaller parliamentary chamber also adopted a proposal that would allow the authorities to deny emergency aid to those who refuse to leave the country and to double the period during which they can be held in detention. At present, failed asylum seekers and those awaiting deportation are eligible for emergency aid.

    Papers required
    The bill now has to return to the House of Representatives where it will be voted on a second time. If it becomes law, asylum requests will no longer be considered if the applicant is not in possession of a passport or identity papers and cannot offer an adequate explanation as to the reason why. But applications will be considered in cases where there are reasonable grounds to believe the would-be asylum seeker faces persecution at home. Justice Minister Christoph Blocher argued that the social assistance provided by Switzerland had proved too great an incentive to rejected asylum seekers to remain in the country. "The aim is to reduce Switzerland's attractiveness to those seeking asylum without due cause," said Blocher. In a heated debate, centre-left parties argued that some of the proposals went against the constitution and would be counterproductive, leading rejected asylum seekers to simply disappear underground. Also on Thursday, the Senate approved the revised law on foreigners, which will make it harder for those with temporary residence permits to bring family members into the country. The law also envisages prison sentences for those who force their children or relatives into arranged marriages.

    17/3/2005- Brussels Employment Minister Benoit Cerexhe has pledged a crackdown on racist recruitment practices. His promise follows a study earlier this month that revealed half of all foreigners looking for work in the Brussels region have experienced some form of discrimination. Turks and Moroccans are most likely to be discriminated against by employers, according to the statistics gathered by the VUB and ULB universities. Cerexhe has presented a six-point action plan to combat the problem. Top of the proposed action is to put enough means at the disposal of the Brussels authorities to regularly study discrimination in the workplace. The minister wants to commission more studies and reports on the problem. The Brussels region will also launch an education campaign for high schools to educate pupils about their right of access to work. Part of the plan will also be to actively promote employment opportunities to the target groups that face the most discrimination. Language courses will be promoted through a voucher system and by making more courses available. Cerexhe launched a business diversity charter on Wednesday where signatories pledge to promote pluralism and diversity in recruitment and through good career management. The minister also hopes to build up a network of employers who are willing to mentor young people to help them develop their career.
    ©Expatica News

    A year on from the Madrid bombings, fears are growing that the ideological struggle to stop the next generation of militants in Europe is being lost, reports the BBC's security correspondent Gordon Corera.

    11/3/2005- At Madrid's vast mosque, Mohammed al-Affifi remembers the chilling impact of the 11 March 2004 bombing on community relations. "The confidence between the Muslim community and the Spanish people is damaged. It's not so easy now for a Muslim person to find a flat. People say how do I know this person isn't a terrorist?" Spain is not the only country where the atmospherics have changed in the years since 11 September 2001 and especially since the attacks on Madrid. A report this week found that discrimination and intolerance against Muslims had increased in the last few years and identified growing distrust and hostility with a concern over polarisation in Europe and the growth of the far-right. In the Netherlands, the impact of the killing of film-maker Theo Van Gogh accelerated growing tensions. "As the fight against terrorism has been stepped up and the perceived threat of religious extremism has become a major focus of public debate, Muslims have increasingly felt that they are stigmatised because of their beliefs," Aaron Rhodes, executive director of the International Helsinki Federation for human rights, said in a statement.

    Beyond Bin Laden
    What worries policymakers is that this dynamic is merely fuelling a problem that could lead to the radicalisation of a new generation. Madrid revealed how the threat from international terrorism had evolved. Those who carried out the attack were not sent out by Osama Bin Laden, but instead came from self-starting, largely autonomous local groups. British ministers recently said that there had been a shift from seeing the danger coming externally from foreign nationals to seeing a growing involvement of UK citizens in terrorism - and across Europe, there is a concern about a threat which is more dispersed, but also perhaps more dangerous. "The Madrid attack moved the goal posts beyond Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda as a structured organisation," says Magnus Ranstorp from the Swedish National Defence College. "We have a hard time keeping up with the terrorist individuals and groups who are radicalising a new generation. "What people are concerned with here in Europe particularly is understanding the recruitment and radicalisation processes, the broader issues of the failure of social integration within many European states (and) preventing the next generation from heading the call that Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda have made." Senior British officials openly say that in many places, the ideological appeal of al-Qaeda remains undiminished. And both the EU as a whole and member states like the UK have conducted their own studies of what leads to the radicalisation of a small number of young Muslims and their recruitment into violent activity.

    The Iraq factor
    Foreign policy is a major driver, acknowledges Gijs De Vries, the EU's counter-terrorist co-ordinator. "There's no question the war in Iraq and lack of process in the Middle East peace process has been exploited by radical propagandists to try and recruit for terrorism. These conflicts therefore are important as tools in efforts to radicalise Muslims." Intelligence officials believe the conflict in Iraq may be temporarily absorbing volunteers and energy from Europe. But there are also concerns that it is playing a major role in radicalisation, with signs of a new generation of young Europeans going to Iraq to fight. French counter-terrorism expert Claude Moniquet says the evidence so far of Europeans fighting in Iraq points to a worrying trend. "We know from the people captured and killed in Fallujah that they were very young - 18, 19 or 20 - which means on 11 September, they were between 14 and 16. "It's a new generation of jihadists which is just coming out. Before Iraq, usually the average age of the jihadists was between 25 and 30. Now it's 20." The numbers are not huge, but one concern is that in previous cases like Afghanistan, Chechnya and Bosnia, the fighters who came back to their home countries became key figures in setting up new militant cells. Gijs de Vries and others believe that a peaceful resolution of international conflicts will be critical to winning the ideological battle. "An Iraq which is at peace, which is stable and which respects its neighbours can be a powerful force for good in that part of the world. That's why the EU is putting a lot of money towards democratic reform. "Peace between Israel and the Palestinians would deal a major blow to radical propagandists for terrorist activities, even if by itself it won't eradicate terrorism."

    'Ideological battle'
    For Mohammed al-Afifi in Madrid, the concern is that the issue of fighting terrorism is being dealt with in a one-sided manner and the ideological battle is being lost, partly because of government policies - whether over Iraq or domestic counter-terrorism. He argues that the current approach is too simplistic and fails to understand that the issues of injustice and discrimination will only make the fight against al-Qaeda's ideology harder. "When we are talking now about how to fight terrorism together, it will not only be by police co-operation and international treaties. "We have to pay attention to what the terrorists say to the people - the injustice - because people can say, 'Why are they treating us this way?'" Across Europe, tensions remains over how different states balance the aggressive short-term pursuit of terrorists with the longer-term strategy of preventing radicalisation and long term recruitment. A year after Madrid, that task looks harder rather than easier.
    ©BBC News

    11/3/2005- Behind bars in two of Britain's most heavily guarded prisons sit 12 men the police say are too dangerous to set free, but whom they cannot charge with any crime for lack of evidence. The prisoners, all North African terror suspects, may well soon earn their freedom, however, since Britain's top court has ruled that their detention is unlawful. As the British government scrambled this week to pass new antiterror legislation that does not breach international human rights codes, in Madrid world leaders, academics, legal experts, and policemen met to discuss ways in which democracies can defend themselves against terrorism, while not compromising their ideals.

    The challenge, said former Romanian Prime Minister Petre Roman, "is Solomonic: Do we fight terrorism or protect liberties?" The answer, suggested many of the participants at the conference called to mark the first anniversary of the Madrid railway bombings, is that only by protecting liberties can terrorism be fought effectively. "Upholding human rights is not merely compatible with a successful counterterrorism strategy. It is an essential element in it," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the meeting Thursday. "Compromising human rights ... facilitates achievement of the terrorist's objective, by ceding to him the moral high ground and provoking tension, hatred, and mistrust of government among precisely those parts of the population where he is more likely to find recruits," he added. Scrupulous respect for the rule of law "wrong-foots the terrorists, forcing them to campaign not against a regime but against democracy itself, which means the rule of the people," agrees Phil Bobbitt, the US law professor who led the conference deliberations on democratic responses to terror. The terrorists can take on democracy, "but I think it's a losing strategy," he says. Surveying improvements in world security since 9/11, Gijs de Vries, the European Union counterterror czar, said he saw bright spots, such as airline security and passport control, but warned that "serious risks" remain that demand closer cooperation between the world's intelligence agencies. "We have to change the mental matrix from where a premium is put on secrecy to one where a premium is put on sharing," he insisted.

    The Madrid conference was due to close Friday with the proclamation of an "agenda" for international action. It was expected to call on security services to treat a terrorist attack in another country as if it were an attack on their own state. That change in mentality is under way, as spy agencies measure "the extremity of the threat," according to Philippe Hayez, deputy director of intelligence at the French intelligence agency, the DGSE, who addressed a conference in Paris this week. He cautioned, though, that "intelligence cooperation is almost an oxymoron. Intelligence by its nature does not lend itself to cooperation." The EU is currently drafting legislation that would require member states' intelligence agencies to work as closely with each other as they do with their own national colleagues. "Though trust cannot be established by decree," acknowledged Joaqim Nunes de Almeida, the European Commission official overseeing the effort, "at least we can overcome the legislative obstacles" to better cooperation. Other juridical difficulties persist, however, including the different legal standards in different European countries. British courts, for example, do not admit evidence gleaned from phone taps, a defense of civil liberties that other European countries find hard to understand. The British government has resisted calls to change that practice. Instead it introduced a bill to Parliament this week that would allow the government to issue "control orders," which would ban terror suspects from using the Internet or telephone, and restrict their movements through electronic tagging or house arrest. There's pressure to act because the current antiterror law expires on Sunday, but the House of Lords has forced Prime Minister Tony Blair to amend the bill by giving judges, not the government, authority to approve control orders. The bitter row in Britain, says Professor Bobbitt, illustrates his point. "Law- based democracy is clumsy, it is slow, and it is awkward," he says. "But you get something reasonable in the end."
    ©Christian Science Monitor

    17/03/2005- National broadcasting regulators from across the EU today agreed to co-ordinate the fight against those who use television to incite hatred. The 25 regulators signed an agreement setting EU-wide standards aimed at keeping those who incite religious and political hatred off the air, EU Media Commissioner Viviane Reding said in Brussels. "The right to freedom of speech and freedom to information ... is a cornerstone of a democratic and pluralist society," Reding said. "We therefore cannot tolerate racist audio-visual content in Europe." Under the agreement, regulators will exchange information on which broadcasters they authorise and which should be blacklisted. EU spokesman Martin Selmayr said the Dutch national broadcast regulator used the talks to announce it was following France's lead in December to ban Al-Manar, the Hezbollah TV station. "The Al-Manar channel was alleged to broadcast content which was considered incitement to hate," Selmayr said. Combating racism and anti-Semitism has become a hot topic reflecting the rise in anti-Jewish attacks and growing anti-immigrant sentiment across Europe. Under current EU broadcast rules from 1989, national regulators are obliged to take action against stations broadcasting programs that use "incitement to hatred on grounds of race, sex, religion or nationality." Selmayr said those rules would be updated later this year to include new media, like Internet-based video programming. He said satellite broadcasts from non-EU countries into the 25-nation bloc would also be scrutinised and could be shut down, because each satellite network needs a national uplink within the union. "The country which provides the uplink to the satellite or frequency is responsible," he said.
    ©Ireland On-Line

    17/3/2005- The Council's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) is holding a high-level meeting in Paris on 21 March - the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination - in order to present a new study on the use of racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic rhetoric in election campaigns and other political circumstances. ECRI will also make a public presentation of its new Declaration on the same issue during the meeting, which will take place in the presence of Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis, ECRI Chair Michael Head and Tana de Zulueta, member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The study, carried out by political scientist Jean-Yves Camus, cites numerous cases in which European or national elections have given rise to the use of racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic rhetoric. According to the report, immigrants and refugees - especially those from Muslim countries - are the primary targets of politicians exploiting feelings of insecurity in an increasingly complex and multicultural world. "Most worryingly, the theory of a so-called clash of civilisations is gaining ground. At the same time, anti-Semitism continues to be encouraged either openly or in a coded manner by certain political leaders and parties." ECRI considers this increasing use of racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic language and ideas in political life - including by mainstream political parties - to be a worrying development which calls for urgent and concerted action. Parliamentarians, representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, and renowned experts in the field from all over Europe will therefore come together on this symbolic day to devise ways in which to respond effectively to the phenomenon and to bring it to the forefront of national and international debate. The event will take place from 2.30pm to 5.30pm on Monday 21 March at the Council of Europe office in Paris (55, avenue Kléber).
    ©Council of Europe

    The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its sixty-sixth session and issued its concluding observations on reports presented by the Lao People's Democratic Republic, France, Luxembourg, Australia, Ireland, Bahrain and Azerbaijan on how those countries implement the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

    On the reports of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, the Committee commended the efforts of the State party to reduce poverty, particularly in rural areas and among ethnic groups. It noted with concern that no clear definition of racial discrimination existed in domestic legislation and that the Convention was not incorporated into domestic legislation. It recommended that the State party describe in its next periodic report the scope of a policy of resettling members of ethic groups from the mountains and highland plateaux to the plains, the ethnic groups concerned, and the impact of these policies on their lifestyles.

    Concerning the reports of France, the Committee took note with satisfaction of the many legislative measures designed to reinforce efforts to combat racial discrimination. It expressed its concern about the de facto inequality affecting immigrants and population groups of immigrant origin vis-à-vis other nationals, in the field of employment and education, despite the State party's substantial efforts in this area. It recommended that the State party take the necessary preventive measures to halt racist incidents involving members of the security forces.

    With regards to the reports of Luxembourg, the Committee noted with satisfaction school curricula promoting interculturalism, the setting up of some classes in the mother tongue of immigrant children and the introduction of intercultural mediators in schools. While noting the State party's efforts to tighten up its laws and strengthen its institutions combating racial discrimination, the Committee said that racist and xenophobic incidents, in particular against Arabs and Muslims, and discriminatory attitudes towards ethnic groups were still encountered in the country. It encouraged the State party to include within training a specific focus on the problems of racism and discrimination.

    On the reports of Australia, the Committee noted with satisfaction that serious acts of racial hatred or incitement to racial hatred were criminal offences in most AustralianStates and Territories. The Committee expressed its concern about the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the main policy-making body in Aboriginal affairs. It recommended that the State party increase its efforts to eliminate prejudice against Arab and Muslim Australians, and to ensure that enforcement of counter-terrorism legislation did not disproportionately impact on specific ethnic groups and people of other national origins.

    With regards to the reports of Ireland, the Committee welcomed the enactment of a comprehensive legislative framework on anti-discrimination and welcomed the decision by the State party to include a question of ethnicity in the next consensus in 2006. It regretted that the State party had not yet incorporated the Convention into domestic legal order, particularly in light of the fact that the State party had incorporated other international instruments into domestic law. It encouraged the State party to review its security procedures and practices at entry points with a view to ensuring that they were carried out in a non-discriminatory manner.

    Concerning the reports of Bahrain, the Committee welcomed the meaningful political, legal and economic reforms on which the State party had embarked. The Committee regretted that there was no national human rights institution in Bahrain and was concerned over the lack of integrationist multi-racial organizations and movements in the State party. It encouraged the State party to maintain a dialogue with all civil society organizations, including those critical of its policies.

    And with regards to the reports of Azerbaijan, the Committee noted with satisfaction the enactment of new legislation containing anti-discrimination provisions. It was concerned that, according to reports, incidents of racial discrimination against Armenians occur and that a majority of the Armenians residing in Azerbaijan prefer to conceal their ethnic identity in order to avoid being discriminated against. Among other things, the Committee recommended that the State party adopt measures to promote intercultural understanding and education between ethnic groups. The Committee also issued decisions on the situations in the Sudan (concerning Darfur), New Zealand and Suriname.

    On the Sudan, the Committee said that taking into consideration its regular practices, as well as its obligation to inform, under its early-warning and urgent-action procedure, of any warning signals that a situation may deteriorate still further, it recommended to the Secretary-General, and through him, the Security Council, the deployment, without further delay, of a sufficiently enlarged African Union force in Darfur with a Security Council mandate to protect the civilian population against war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the risk of genocide.

    Concerning New Zealand, the Committee expressed its appreciation at having had the opportunity to engage in a constructive dialogue with the State party. Bearing in mind the complexity of the issues involved, the New Zealand Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 appeared to the Committee, on balance, to contain discriminatory aspects against the Maori, in particular in its extinguishment of the possibility of establishing Maori customary title over the foreshore and seabed and its failure to provide a guaranteed right of redress, notwithstanding the State party's obligations under articles 5 and 6 of the Convention.

    And with regards to Suriname, which was reviewed under the follow-up procedure, the Committee noted that under the draft Mining Act in the State party, indigenous and tribal peoples would be required to accept mining activities on their lands following agreement on compensation with the concession holders, and that, if agreement could not be reached, the matter would be settled by the executive, and not the judiciary. It recommended that indigenous and tribal peoples should be granted the right of appeal to the courts, or any independent body specially created for that purpose, in order to uphold their traditional rights and their right to be consulted before concessions are granted and to be fairly compensated for any damage. The Committee also adopted a declaration on the prevention of genocide which was prepared by Committee Expert Agha Shahi following a thematic discussion on the subject during the session. Among other things, the declaration expressed the Committee's resolve to strengthen and refine its anti-racial discrimination early warning and urgent action, as well as follow-up procedures in all situations with indications of possible violent conflict and genocide. The Committee agreed to continue its general debate on multiculturalism at its next session to analyse the ways in which it had been addressing this issue when adopting its decisions and recommendations and to improve its work in this regard.

    The Committee's sixty-seventh session will be held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva from 1 to 19 August 2005, when the Experts will review the reports of Nigeria, Barbados, Georgia, Venezuela, Zambia, Turkmenistan, Iceland, Tanzania and Lithuania. Under its review procedures, the Committee will review the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Seychelles, Saint Lucia, Malawi and Mozambique.

    Declaration on Prevention of Genocide
    On the closing day of the session, the Committee adopted a declaration on the prevention of genocide which was prepared by Committee Expert Agha Shahi following a thematic discussion on the subject during the session. The main elements of the declaration are as follows:

    The Committee welcomed the appointment of a Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide with the mandate to sound early warning and make appropriate recommendations for prevention to the Security Council through the Secretary-General to enable the international community to take timely action to prevent genocide from occurring, and declared its determination to provide the Special Adviser with relevant information on laws, policies and practices that may indicate systematic discrimination. Moreover, as suggested by the Special Adviser, the Committee intended to develop a set of indicators related to genocide, including the cultural and historic roots of genocide. The Committee expressed its resolve to strengthen and refine its anti-racial discrimination early warning and urgent action, as well as follow-up procedures in all situations where indications of possible violent conflict and genocide prevail and in such cases it would consider in-country visits to obtain first-hand information. The Committee considered it of vital importance that stronger interaction is established between the United Nations human rights treaty bodies and the Security Council and agreed with the findings of the High-Level Panel in the current Threats, Challenges and Change that developed countries had a particular responsibility to do more to transform their armies into units suitable for deployment to peace operations, among other things.The Committee also considered it imperative to dispel the climate of impunity that was hospitable to war crimes and crimes against humanity by referral of perpetrators of these crimes to the International Criminal Court at an early stage of indications of genocide. It also urged the international community to look at the need for a comprehensive understanding of the dimensions of genocide, including in the context of situations of economic globalization adversely affecting indigenous and disadvantaged communities.

    14 - 21 March 2005: European-wide Action Week Against Racism 'ACT! Against Racism'

    Europe stands up against racism: activities in 40 European countries From 14 to 21 March 2005, various non-governmental-organisations in more than 40 different European countries will raise their common voice against one common European problem: racism. 21 March was declared 'International Day for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination' by the General Assembly of the UN as a reaction to the murder of 70 demonstrators in Sharpeville, South-Africa, in 1960. Still, in 21st century Europe, racism keeps on affecting people's minds, thoughts and deeds. This year NGOs in countries such as Romania, Ukraine, Spain, Poland and Great-Britain concentrate on anti-racist education and big nation-wide campaigns with hundreds of different events are launched in Finland and Germany. I CARE the Internet Centre Anti-Racism Europe is going report live from the European-wide Action Week Against Racism in English, French and Spanish from activities all over Europe.

    Combating racism in Europe 'ACT! Against Racism'
    The international situation has remained tense since 11 September 2001. The war climate strengthened many stereotypes and fueled Islamophobia on a previously unknown scale. Anti-terrorist measures have sometimes been used to scapegoat whole minority communities, including Sikhs, because of their supposedly "alien" culture and appearance. Moreover, the increasingly xenophobic ambience contributed to further restrictions in migration and asylum policies resulting in the fatal realities of "Fortress Europe". At the same time the rise of antisemitism has been felt in numerous countries. Tensions between minority groups have become an additional challenge for anti-racist activities. The lack of trust and solidarity between the majority and the minority can lead to waves of violence, as in the Netherlands in November 2004. The European Union has been enlarged recently. There are new divisions and 'iron curtains' on the borders of the 'new' EU such as inhumane border and visa policiesŠ As the UNITED network has a pan-European approach, we are concerned about new inequalities and new forms of exclusion. The discrimination of minority groups and the rise of the extreme right in Eastern Europe cannot be ignored.

    Together we can ACT against racism and exclusion in Europe.

    Additional Information
    UNITED for Intercultural Action is a network of 560 organisations all over Europe working against racism and fascism. Activities at the local level in the framework of the campaign around 21 March are carried out by organisations from 40 European countries. The campaign is co-ordinated by the UNITED International Secretariat. A full list of activities is accessible. Please contact the UNITED office for further information. We will be happy to supply you with contact information of an organisation near you that is involved in the campaign.
    UNITED for Intercultural Action

    Though very small in number, Serbia's Jewish community is being increasingly targeted by an array of ultra-nationalist groups.
    By Dragana Nikolic-Solomon, IWPR country director for Serbia and Montenegro and Ljubisa Ivanovic, the Belgrade daily Politika

    4/3/2005- The slogans hint at a future settling of accounts. "Juden Raus", "Achtung Juden", "Jews out of Serbia" and "Death to Jews and Gipsies", they proclaim, the words providing a chilling echo of the Holocaust that decimated European Jewry more than half a century ago. But few Jews actually see these slogans in Serbia today. Providing ample proof of the claim that anti-Semitism doesn't need Jews to flourish, the latest wave of anti-Semitism in Serbia has broken over a community that is a shadow of its former self. The community is now down to a tiny 3,000 or so among Serbia's total population of around eight million, and in the 2002 census only about 1,200 people declared themselves Jewish. Most Serbs have never even met a Jew. Even before the Second World War, the community was small, making up 0.45 per cent of the population. After the Holocaust and the migration of most survivors to Israel, the figure has dwindled further to 0.3 per cent. But while few Jews remain, anti-Semitism is flourishing. Many bookstores stock copies of the infamous Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, the early 20th-century book from Russia that fraudulently claimed to reveal a Jewish conspiracy against the world's non-Jewish, and especially Christian, population. More disturbingly, a list of prominent Serbian Jews was recently posted on the website of a neo-Nazi organisation, alongside messages posted by site visitors calling for them to be killed. Although Stormfront is a German group, most Serbian commentators conclude that they could only have obtained this list with the help of Serbian colleagues. The list includes prominent activists and artists, such as the head of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, Sonja Licht, actor Predrag Ejdus, singer Djordje David, marketing expert Srdjan Saper and the head of the Union of Jewish Communities, Aca Singer. A catalogue of anti-Semitic literature in Serbian, which it says "every National Socialist and racially aware nationalist should read" is contained on the site on a page named "Serbian National Socialist Library". Among the recommended texts is an article entitled "Jews – the Enemies of the Balkan Peoples."

    Professor Ratko Bozovic, a sociologist at Belgrade University, told IWPR, "These incidents are not isolated. They are part of a growing phenomenon." Other experts agree that Serbia is becoming a hotbed of extreme racist ideologies - partly a consequence of a decade of warfare under Slobodan Milosevic, when the media painted Croats, Muslims and Albanians as the demonic enemies of innocent Serbs. At the beginning of the wars in Yugoslavia, the regime initially tried to link Serbs and Jews as joint victims of fascism during the Second World War, promoting the activities of front organisations such as the Serbian-Jewish Friendship Society. But when this initiative failed to achieve the desired result internationally, anti-Jewish propaganda began to circulate, including claims that Serbs were falling victim to a Jewish lobby in Washington. This propaganda reached a climax during the 1999 NATO air strikes over Kosovo, when Jews in President Bill Clinton's administration were accused of being behind a master-plan to bomb Serbia. Bozo Prelevic, a Belgrade lawyer, says belief in an anti-Serb conspiracy among the Jews is a legacy of the Milosevic era, when the regime media began to list Jews and Freemasons among all the other schemers plotting Serbia's misfortunes.

    Even after democratic parties took power in October 2000, Serbian society continued to blame others for its problems, Professor Bozovic says - regardless of whether these others are Roma, Jews, Albanians, Americans, the Hague tribunal or rich investors, whom many see as economic colonisers. A casual surf of right-wing web sites in Serbia reveals an abundance of anti-Semitic literature and propaganda. The site of the Serbian Defence League, an organisation which says its mission is to document the Zionist "genocide against the Serbs", features the claim that "research has uncovered that Jews in position of power were conspiring to break up Yugoslavia into states friendly with Israel, because it needed their votes in the UN Security Council". The organisation claims Jews were directly responsible for NATO's bombing of Serbia in the late Nineties. "The Jews introduced resolutions [to the UN] to bomb the Serbs and make them pay for what Israel is doing to Moslems," it says. The Serbian Defence League says Jews have "stolen the Serbian holocaust" because "the biggest genocide in World War II was committed against the Serbs in Nazi Croatia, and not against the Jews in Germany". Aca Singer, veteran leader of the diminished Jewish community in Serbia, says the wave of hostile graffiti, as well as the threatening messages on various websites, are a cause for concern. The community has now filed six criminal-law cases against the perpetrators but there is little hope that anything will be done.

    The websites are located abroad, so neither the police nor the courts can take action and there is no law penalising the propagation of hatred on the internet. Singer says it is significant that anti-Semitic incidents have increased since the fall of the Milosevic regime in October 2000. He believes this may be because the advent of democracy has released feelings about Jews that were previously well concealed. "In the past five years over a hundred anti-Semitic books have been published in Serbia," said Singer. "Some of the latest are ‘The Serbs In The Claws Of The Jew' and ‘Jewish Ritual Murder'. The latter, published by IHTUS Christian Books, says Jews kill Christian children in order to knead bread with their blood." The IHTUS web site features copious amounts of anti-Semitic literature and calumnies. An article entitled "Ritual Murder among Jews" repeats all the old medieval libels against Jews as killers of innocent Christians. "When a ritual murder is carried out for [the Jewish feast of] Purim," it says, "then the victim is usually a grown-up Christian. "This blood is then dried and mixed with baking powder to make triangular cakes…. It is possible to use the dried blood left over from the murder at Purim for the upcoming Passover festival." The IHTUS publishing house is a privately-owned company, whose headquarters are in Zabalj in Vojvodina, the northern province of Serbia.

    Publisher in chief Ratibor Djurdjevic was a member of a right-wing, pre-Second World War organisation named Dimitrije Ljotic. After emigrating to the US, Djurdjevic returned to Serbia in 1990. Djurdjevic expounds his views on the website, claiming his books are important for Serbs and Christians because they disclose information about "the powerful, but unrecognised rulers of the world – Jewish bankers. They are the most important collaborators of Satan in his evil enterprise against Jesus Christ." He adds that these unnamed Jewish bankers have brought much evil to the Serbs, having "started the war against the Serbs; provided assistance to the disintegrating forces in Yugoslavia; set Bosnia on fire; imposed a cruel embargo on Serbia and Montenegro; armed the Croats and Muslims... [and] demonised Serbs all over the world". The Serbs are an obstacle to the forces of Jewish conquest in the Balkans, he argues. Djurdjevic's site promises future publications in a similar vein. IWPR tried to contact Djurdjevic, using the email and telephone number listed on his website, but without success. However, Branislav Jakovljevic, a director of IHTUS, told IWPR that their books did not accuse all Jews of crimes against Christians, merely some. "It is a sin to accuse all Jews," he said. "Amongst them there are ordinary people who haven't sinned against God." The problem begins, he added, with "the European and American media who are run by Jewish bankers and who are responsible for creating a bad image of Serbs".

    Anti-Semitism in Serbia is not limited to discussions on foreign-registered websites and slogans painted anonymously on walls, however. It reaches young people through organisations such as Obraz, which target students and other young people with their hardline nationalist message. Obraz, which means "Honour" is a right-wing movement preaching allegiance to the Serbian Orthodox Church and to Serbdom in general and encouraging passionate hostility to a list of what it calls enemies of the nation and the church. Mladen Obradovic, president of Obraz, told IWPR that Obraz's core values were love of God and good will to people, regardless of where they come from. But their website tells a different story. A mission statement on the site contains a strongly-worded "Proclamation to the Enemies of Obraz", who are defined as "Zionists, converts to Islam, Ustashe [Croat fascists], democrats, false pacifists, perverts, criminals and drug addicts". The above groups "shall be justly punished, because they should not be allowed to ruin the health of Serbian youth", the proclamation adds menacingly. Obradovic was more nuanced in describing Obraz's stance on Jews to IWPR. "Because we are Christians, we cannot and do not want to hide the truth that many Euro-Atlantic powerful people of Jewish origin have revealed themselves as open enemies of the Serbian people," he said. "Differentiating between enemies and friends cannot be called anti-Semitism," he added. According to Obradovic, the only people in danger in Serbia today were the Serbs themselves. How far such views reach down to ordinary people is open to question.

    According to a survey in 2003 by the Belgrade Centre for Studying Alternatives, a think-tank specialising in tracking public opinion, anti-Semitism was more widespread than many once thought. Nine per cent of respondents openly declared themselves as anti-Semites, while another 31 per cent said they were undecided, the survey said. Many people on the street seem confused in their understanding of history and ready to blame Jews for their country's recent setbacks. One taxi driver told IWPR that "Hitler was Jewish and the fact that they [the Nazis] killed millions of their own people is evidence of how bad they are". He said Jews were responsible for the destruction of Yugoslavia because "Tito was Jewish". He added, "The Jews wanted to destroy Yugoslavia for their own economic interests". Another woman interviewed on the street said Jews exaggerated the dangers of anti-Semitism for their own benefit. "Jews use anti-Semitism on purpose to gain privileges for themselves," she said. According to Belgrade University professor of psychology Zarko Trebjesanin, anti-Semitism appeals to the many losers in Serbia's troubled society. "Anti-Semites are people who feel unfulfilled, so they often identify strongly with their own race," he said. "These people suffer from inferiority complexes and seek an identity in the collective, embracing extremist theories in the process." Trebjesanin pointed out that many Serbs had died while trying to save the Jews from the Holocaust, "The Yad Vashem Centre in Jerusalem has cited 113 names from Serbia among the 19,141 righteous", a reference to the people honoured for saving Jews. While the websites continue churning out their poison, most of Serbia's remaining Jews say they feel calm, while calling for the government to react more firmly. Aca Singer says the current legal penalties against the dissemination of hate-filled views are too weak. "The penal code should include a provision on anti-Semitism as a criminal offence," he said. Serbia's poor economic situation is one factor behind the upsurge of anti-Semitism, he added. "Jews have been suspected by many nations throughout history. Particularly so if you take into account the deeply-rooted belief that the Jews control global financial and political developments."
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    7/3/2005- Black boys should be taught separately from their white classmates to improve their performance at school, according to the head of Britain's race relations watchdog. Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said it may be necessary to examine the option of segregation because of the discrepancy between the academic achievements of black and white teenagers. Low levels of self-esteem, an absence of positive role models and a culture where it was "not cool to be clever" were combining to affect the performance of Britain's black pupils, according to Mr Phillips. While he acknowledged some might perceive his conclusions as "unpalatable", he insisted the steps were essential to protect future generations of black youths. Mr Phillips made the comments after returning to his former school, White Hart Lane, in Wood Green, north London, as part of a BBC programme, to gain a deeper understanding of the problem. He called for tougher action against black fathers as part of his plans to reverse the trend of academic under-achieving, questioning whether fathers of black pupils who failed to attend school parents' evenings should be denied access to their sons. "If the only way to break through the wall of attitude that surrounds black boys is to teach them separately for some subjects, then we should be ready for that," Mr Phillips told BBC1's Inside Out programme. "A tough new strategy would compel black fathers to be responsible fathers. If they can't be bothered to turn up for parents' evening, should they expect automatic access to their sons?" Last month, figures showed the extent to which black teenagers were trailing behind white counterparts. While there were signs the gap has been narrowing, the results showed a clear discrepancy between black and white students. Only 35.7 per cent of Black Caribbean pupils in England scored at least five C-grades at GCSE level last year, compared with the national average of 51.9 per cent. Black Caribbean girls also performed significantly better than their male classmates, with 43.8 per cent achieving at least five-C grades compared to 27.3 per cent of black boys.

    Mr Phillips also highlighted the need for a greater number of black teachers as role models in order to stem the trend of academic failure among black teenagers. "We need more male black teachers, tempting them with extra cash if necessary," he said. "I was one of the few lucky ones who escaped the fate of most black men of my generation. "We need to embrace some new if unpalatable ideas both at home and at school. None of us, least of all the next generation of black children, can afford a repeat of the last 40 years." Last September, Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, also called for a significant increase in the number of black teachers in the capital's schools. His comments followed a report showing black pupils are more likely to be suspended or expelled than other ethnic groups. Black pupils also believe they were being victimised by white teachers, according to the research. Ministers launched a scheme to reverse the underachievement of ethnic minority pupils in April 2001, while a further £10m strategy was launched in 2003. However, the notion of segregation in schools has long been controversial. David Bell, the Chief Inspector of Schools, recently sparked a row with his comments surrounding religious "segregation". Mr Bell warned two months ago that the growth of Islamic faith schools posed a potential threat to the "coherence" of British society. While he stated that cultural diversity should not lead to "segregation" in education, Muslim groups reacted angrily to his comments.
    © Independent Digital

    8/3/2005- Trevor Phillips has been accused of stoking up an "educational apartheid" by suggesting that black schoolboys should be taught separately from whites in a bid to improve their academic performance. Some of the strongest criticism came from Keith Vaz, the Labour MP for Leicester East - the constituency with the largest percentage of ethnic minorities in the country, who said: "This will be a huge mistake. If the state education system is failing Afro-Caribbean boys, then it has to be up to the education system to provide the extra resources within the mainstream classroom. "Segregation of the kind proposed will have disastrous consequences for the education system ... It will create educational apartheid." Tony Sewell, an education consultant, said he disagreed with removing boys from class just because of their race and said it would amount to "crude segregation". Mr Sewell, a non-executive director of the Learning Trust which runs education in Hackney, east London, is behind a project called "Generating Genius" - under which promising black students are taken to the Caribbean each summer to work alongside role models. "It's the critical mass of black role models in the Caribbean we think that's going to help them," he said. "They're real role models, not DJs and footballers, but people such as scientists." Professor David Gillborn, from the Institute of Education at the University of London, said: "We cannot separate the kids on the basis of ethnicity alone." However, he added it was important to address the issue of race and low achieving. Only 35.7 per cent of black boys achieve the standard of five top A* to C-grade passes at GCSE - compared with the national average of 51.9 per cent. Mr Phillips, who made his comments on the BBC1 Inside Out programme last night, said he was basing his ideas on a successful scheme in Illinois where black boys' performance had improved after they were taught separately. He said that, in the UK, too many youngsters lacked the self-esteem to do well because it was not seen as cool to be clever. "If the only way to break through the wall of attitude that surrounds black boys is to teach them separately for some subjects, then we should be ready for that," he added. Mr Phillips added: "America may not have all the answers but it does hold a grim warning for us. We need to embrace some new if unpalatable ideas both at home and at school." But despite Mr Phillips' comments, a spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said this year the performance of black Caribbean, black African and black pupils in achieving five top-grade GCSE passes had improved by 2.5 per cent - twice the national average of 1.2 per cent. "This shows that minority ethnic groups are making real progress and closing the gap," he added.
    © Independent Digital

    8/3/2005- Diversity training designed to root racism out of the police does "more harm than good" in some cases, the author of a long-awaited report on the problem said today. Former director of public prosecutions Sir David Calvert-Smith said the training was seen by some officers - including some of those responsible for providing it - as a "politically correct" add-on, which turned them off the idea of ethnic diversity. Speaking ahead of the publication of the Commission for Racial Equality's investigation into forces in England and Wales, Sir David said that six years after the report into the death of Stephen Lawrence, "institutional racism" was still a problem in the police. Some senior officers were "pretty poor managers" and believed that they need pay only lip-service to the need for racial equality, while some recruits were joining the police in order to bully people, he said. The CRE report was commissioned in October 2003 in the wake of the BBC documentary The Secret Policeman, which highlighted racist behaviour among police recruits in several forces. Last June, the CRE's interim report concluded that diversity training for police officers may have simply driven discrimination underground and created a new breed of "stealth racist". Sir David told BBC Radio 4's Today programme today: "We found that although there had been great strides made in some areas within the police service since the Lawrence report, there are still areas which need substantial improvement in order to create the kind of multi-ethnic police force we need to police a multi-ethnic society." Ethnic diversity training was "seen by many officers, and even by some of those who delivered the training, as a kind of politically-correct injection, rather than being integrated into the work of policing", he said. "In some instances, it did more harm than good. It actually turned people off the idea."

    Asked whether Sir William Macpherson's allegation of "institutional racism" in the Lawrence report still applied, Sir David said on the Today programme: "There are areas of the police service in which that phrase could probably still be used". "I think that cultures do take a long time to change," he said. "There are still, I'm afraid, a number of people at middle management level who think - wrongly, I hope - that their bosses are mouthing political correctness, but not actually believing it, and that it is perfectly OK for them to go on behaving in the same sorts of ways that they always have." Chief constables had to "relentlessly reiterate" the racial equality message in order to get it through to their officers, said Sir David. He suggested that promotions should in future be awarded in part on the basis of officers' ability to lead an ethnically diverse team. "There are excellent managers in the police service, but there are also some pretty poor ones and the way in which managers are selected and trained in one of the issues we address," he said. "We would like to see more of a focus on being able to lead a team, get on with people and encourage them, rather than sheer operational excellence. "Perhaps too often in the past people have been promoted because they are very good policemen in the field and not so much because they had the skills to get on with a diverse team." New, more sophisticated strategies have been introduced to police training schools to root out the kind of overt racism seen in the BBC documentary, said Sir David. The chances of recruits being caught out in explicitly racist comments were now "much less" than at the time of filming. But he added: "Unfortunately, you will never get rid of recruits who want to join the service in order to bully people and a number of those will want to bully black people."

    Today's report recommends changes to be made at every level of police activity, from recruitment to training, complaints and governance, in order to imbue forces with a commitment to racial equality. CRE chairman Trevor Phillips said he would be writing to 14 chief constables and the chairmen of eight police authorities, telling them to improve their race equality schemes. Failure to do so would lead to legal action and possibly an enforcement order, he said. If the forces concerned failed to act on such an order, it could lead to a very large fine or even to a jail term for the chief constable concerned, although Mr Phillips added that this was unlikely. Commenting ahead of today's publication, Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) spokesman and Cheshire Chief Constable Peter Fahy said: "Only our harshest critics would fail to acknowledge the progress made since the Stephen Lawrence report. "Acpo believes the police service has made real progress on such issues as the investigation of racist crime, with a significant increase in the number of convictions, in the way critical incidents such as racist murders are handled and in the work carried out to strengthen community relations and cohesion during a time of great tension following September 11." He added: "Ethnic minority communities are not asking for special treatment from the police service. "They want to be protected from crime, disorder and harassment, they want a professional standard of service, officers known and visible to local people and a service that keeps its promises. "The creation of long-term trust between police and local communities, however, will only come from establishing clear standards of service and delivering on those standards, and from the police service's commitment to roll out local neighbourhood policing teams across the country."
    © Independent Digital

    Asian youth 'murdered for officers' pleasure'
    3/3/2005- An Asian teenager was murdered by a white racist after they were placed in the same cell as part of a game to fulfil the "perverted pleasure" of prison officers, a public inquiry heard today. Duncan Keys, the assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers' Association (POA), said that 19-year-old Zahid Mubarek was killed because warders at Feltham Young Offender Institution in west London "thought it would be funny to see what would happen when they put a young Asian lad in with someone who wanted to kill Asians." Mr Keyes named Nigel Herring, the chairman of the Feltham branch of the POA at the time Mubarek was killed, as the "instigator" of a game called "gladiator" or "coliseum", which involved pitting inmates against one another and betting on which one would win in a fight. White inmates would be placed with black prisoners, large prisoners with small, and bullies would be placed together in a bid to spark conflict. Mr Herring thought the game as "funny" and laughed about it, Mr Keys told the inquiry. He said: "I had gone to the general secretary and the deputy general secretary of my own union and I had told them of my deep concerns and the information I had. I was subsequently told to shut up." Fearing his union would do nothing, Mr Keys made an anonymous phone call to the Commission for Racial Equality in May 2004, saying that Mubarek was killed as a result of the game. He also alerted senior prison officer officials about the practice, including the director general of the Prisons Service, Phil Wheatley. Mr Keys said: "I believed that a cover up was taking place. I was just desperate to kickstart an inquiry, a serious inquiry into the information that I had been given." Police investigated his claim but brought no charges. In his July 2004 police interview the prison officer told detectives he believed the game amounted to "a conspiracy to murder". Mr Keys admitted he had no direct evidence linking Mubarek's murder to the gladiator-style fights. He had heard this from Tom Robson, a POA national executive committee member with responsibility for Feltham in 2000. He added that the practice was well known by senior union officials. Mubarak died seven days after he was beaten by his cellmate, Robert Stewart, in March 2000. Stewart, now 24, was later jailed for life for murder.

    Prison Service 'in denial' over racism claims
    9/3/2005- Prison staff systematically reported inmates for complaining about racism rather than investigating potentially racist incidents including serious assaults, a public inquiry heard today. The inquiry into the murder of Asian teenager Zahid Mubarek by his racist cellmate heard prison staff throughout England and Wales were "in complete denial" that ethnic minority inmates suffered any form of racism. Judy Clements, former race equality adviser to the Prison Service, said warders frequently reported ethnic minority inmates for allegedly calling them racist. The practice became so widespread that in October 2001 the then deputy general of the Prison Service, Phil Wheatley, and the director of high security prisons, Peter Atherton, wrote to all governors warning them to ensure it was not being used to discourage inmates from making legitimate complaints. Ms Clements said: "Most disturbing were allegations of acts of serious violence against BME [black and ethnic minority] prisoners and the disparity amongst prison staff in reporting these matters as racist. "Prison staff and management at local level were, in most areas, in complete denial that BME prisoners were subjected to any form of racism. Consequently they seldom intervened." Ms Clements, who was race adviser to the Prison Service from September 1999 to November 2001, said she received "countless reports" from ethnic minority prisoners of overt and covert racism by jail staff. In her written evidence to the inquiry, she said: "I spoke to BME prisoners and received countless reports of alleged ill treatment, believed to be on grounds of race, as well as accounts of alleged blatant racism, usually in the form of name calling." She said the main concerns raised by ethnic minority prisoners included being shipped out if they complained they were subjected to racist abuse by fellow inmates or staff; not knowing who their jail's race relations officer was; and being placed in segregation. Her comments came after the inquiry heard claims that prison officers at Feltham young offenders institution, where Mubarek was bludgeoned to death, set up fights between white and ethnic minority inmates and bet on the outcome. The inquiry continues.

    Racism 'was rife' at Feltham
    10/3/2005- The Prison Service's first race equality adviser told the inquiry into the killing of the Asian teenager Zahid Mubarek yesterday that racism was rife at Feltham young offender institution. Judy Clements, now regional director for London and the south-east with the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said she had heard countless reports of alleged ill-treatment of black and minority ethnic (BME) prisoners. BME staff were also "on the receiving end of some highly inappropriate behaviour". During her regular prison visits, she spoke to BME prisoners "and received countless reports of alleged ill-treatment, believed to be on grounds of race, as well as accounts of alleged blatant racism, usually in the form of name calling." Main concerns raised by BME prisoners included being "shipped out" if they complained they were being subjected to racist behaviour by fellow prisoners or staff, and being refused access to telephones. Mubarek was bludgeoned to death with a table leg by his racist cellmate, Robert Stewart, now 24, at Feltham, west London, in March 2000.

    Beaten inmate 'was not treated for 24 hours'
    11/3/2005- The final day of hearings into a teenager's murder heard shocking revelations that another Asian inmate could have been killed and did not receive medical treatment for 24 hours. The inmate at Feltham young offenders institution was badly beaten in a racist attack just weeks before 19-year-old Zahid Mubarek was murdered by his cellmate, it was revealed today. The revelation came as the public inquiry into killing of Zahid, who was battered to death by his racist cellmate in March 2000, finished hearing from witnesses. An account of the earlier assault was submitted to the Mubarek inquiry yesterday, and gave details of the attack in January 2000, which left the unnamed Asian teenager with a broken jaw after he was assaulted by two white inmates while watching television with a friend.

    Despite suffering serious injuries, the prisoner did not receive medical treatment for 24 hours. When he finally received help, his injuries were so severe that he was hospitalised for 19 days. Even though the assailants were immediately identified, they were never disciplined by prison staff, and police were only informed of the incident a year later. The two suspects were eventually charged with causing actual bodily harm, although it is still unclear whether the case was ever brought to court. In a letter written in 2001 to Nick Pascoe, governor of the young offenders institution, the Prison Service's Muslim adviser, Maqsood Ahmed, said it was "a very serious incident that could have resulted in death". He claimed the two alleged attackers were allowed to carry on with their practise of harassment and beating of young vulnerable Muslim prisoners. Mr Ahmed also urged staff at Feltham to start immediate formal investigations into the incidents, and warned that Muslim prisoners continue to feel that they are "discriminated against, unsafe and completely let down by HM Prison Service". The inquiry also heard from Mr Ahmed that inmates subjected the prisoner to a second attack on July 24 2000, but that the police decided not to take any action due to a lack of evidence.

    The revelations come a day after the Prison Service's former race equality adviser told the inquiry that racism was rife at Feltham. Judy Clements, now regional director for London and the south-east with the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said she had heard countless reports of alleged ill-treatment of black and ethnic minority prisoners. Main concerns raised by ethnic minority prisoners included being "shipped out" if they complained of racist abuse, and being refused access to telephones. The inquiry into the death of Zahid Mubarek has also heard claims that prison officers at Feltham set up gladiator-style fights between white and ethnic minority inmates. Duncan Keys, the assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers' Association, said the 19-year-old was murdered because warders at the prison "thought it would be funny to see what would happen when they put a young Asian lad in with someone who wanted to kill Asians". Zahid died a week after being bludgeoned with a table leg by cellmate Robert Stewart in March 2000. Stewart was later jailed for life for murder.The inquiry is due to finish its initial phase today and a report by the inquiry chairman, Mr Justice Keith, is expected later this year.
    ©The Guardian

    10/3/2005- A Swedish student who is studying law at UL has claimed he had his passport confiscated from him by a local immigration detective because "he didn't believe a black man could be Swedish". Salieu Njie, who lives in Casteltroy, is now planning on holding a "peaceful" anti-racism demonstration on Saturday, March 19, at 10am which he says will involve over 300 protesters marching from the Student's Union in UL to Henry Street garda station. The pasport was confiscated at Henry Street on Tuesday morning when the student went in to apply for garda ID for entry to nightclubs as he did not like carrying his passport around with him. However, Cllr John Ryan, who has been involved with local refugee group Doras Luimnigh since 2000, said that "the vast majority of gardai are very sympathetic and very sensitive to racial issues". A garda spokesperson for Henry Street said that they cannot comment on the issue at present because of "certain factors". An official complaint has been made against the garda in question by the student under the Garda Complaints Act. According to Mr Njie, when he went into the garda station on Tuesday, March 8, he asked for the relevant form to fill out. He claims that the garda in question asked him: "Where did you get this passport?" and "How did you become a Swedish citizen?" before confiscating the passport. Mr Njie made the official garda complaint after advise from Dundon Callanan Solicitors which acts as the Swedish Consulate in Limerick. Originally from Gambia, Mr Njie moved to Sweden in 1987 when he first met his Swedish wife. The 36-year-old father of two, whose Swedish wife and children still live in Sweden said that he moved to Limerick to study law and that he also works part time as a security guard to support his family at home. "It's just terrible that people are under the assumption that a black man can't be a Swedish national. I speak Swedish better than English and have lived there since 1985 with my Swedish wife and two children. I work part-time as a security guard in Limerick and often got the go back to your own country' comments even though I am an EU citizen. But generally I have had no trouble living in Limerick and really like this city. "I just never expected to get this treatment from a guard when they are the people that are supposed to protect me. I am supposed to go to them for help. I just felt very angry about people's ignorance," he said. Cllr Ryan said though that refugees generally find the gardai in Limerick to be "excellent and they actually go to them to report racial abuse". "From my dealings I have also found the gardai to be very fair and I believe this was all a misunderstanding. If a complaint was made though, it should be investigated by the Chief Superintendent but this flies in the face of all I know of the gardai," he stressed. The fact that there was an African St Patrick in last year's St Patrick's Day Parade in Limerick, was another testimony to people's multicultural nature, said Cllr Ryan. Sr Anne Scully from Doras Luimnigh called the incident "dreadful" and agreed that a complaint should be filed. "A law officer does have the right to check out a passport but he should have been issued with a receipt. He should also contact his embassy. I would need to know more in order to comment if this was racially motivated. But he should definitely explain the incident," she said. Accepting that most of the gardai were helpful to him when he was making his complaint and were sympathetic, Mr Njie said he is "very angry that his passport still hasn't been returned to him". "The guard pulled my passport from my hand without even introducing himself to me. Then he disappeared with my passport. He just assumed that it was a fake passport because I am black and gave me no explanation for his actions. This is simply racial terrorism, racial harassment and racial prejudice and shouldn't be tolerated in any civilised w ©Limerick Post

    7/3/2005- In February just 1,413 people sought asylum in Sweden, according to figures released by the Migration Board this week. That's the lowest monthly figure for nearly four years. But while the overall numbers are falling, the government is concerned about Chinese asylum seekers who arrive in Sweden and then disappear while their application is being processed. There are several factors contributing to the fall. It's harder than ever to convince the Swedish government that one needs a safe haven: nine out of ten applications are rejected on the first go-round. Three years ago 35 percent of applicants were permitted to stay in Sweden; five years ago 55 percent could stay. The Migration Board is not only answering with more negative decisions, it's faster. A spokesman said that "unfounded" applications are now easily weeded out. Sweden is not alone: the trend of European Union nations rejecting asylum-seekers is growing, and the United Nations is worried. The High Commissioner on Refugees, while on a visit here last week, urged Sweden last week to think of "protecting refugees rather than crunching numbers". One-fifth of all asylum-seekers in Sweden are from Serbia-Montenegro. Even fewer - less than one percent - are from China, but it is this group that has now attracted the attention of the Swedish police. It seems that 60 Chinese teenagers applied for asylum in November 2004 but disappeared from under the very noses of the increasingly-efficient Migration Board. A few have been seen in Holland and Germany. The Swedish government is now considering putting a police ombudsman in Beijing to try to stop more teenagers from coming to Sweden to apply for asylum, then disappear. Migration minister Barbro Holmberg said the problem seems to be growing. "Our migration attaché in Beijing doesn't have time to work properly with this issue," she said. Holmberg suspects that religious persecution may be at the root of the disappearing asylum-seekers: some of the teens are said to have parents active in the Falun Gong movement. Other authorities within the Migration Board, and Swedish police, hint at smuggling. The teens are all well-dressed, have about the same amount of money, and fancy mobile phones. "We see the pattern that none of them plan on staying in Sweden, but we don't know where they go," says Per Sörensen, head of the Migration Board's unit for children and youth. "One risk is that these young and naïve people are working illegally, then they can be tricked into situations to earn money much faster." Swedish authorities are taking the issue to a European Union meeting in Brussels to ask for help.
    ©The Local

    9/3/2005- The state prosecutor is to take the case of Åke Green, a pentacostalist pastor who in January was found not guilty of spreading hatred against homosexuals, to the Supreme Court. Last year Green was sentenced to one month in prison under a controversial Swedish law that forbids agitation against certain minorities, including homosexuals. In a sermon delivered in 2003 the pastor said that homosexuality is a "cancer on the face of society", and said that it could lead to bestiality and paedophilia. The details came to the attention of the prosecutor when Green himself distributed the text of the sermon to the local media in Borgholm, on the island of Öland. In the original verdict, the court ruled that certain phrases in his sermon amounted to an attempt to stir up hatred of homosexuals. But in January the appeal court in Jönköping overturned the verdict, finding "no evidence that the pastor was using his preaching as a cover to attack homosexuals". Green was freed, a decision which gay rights groups described as "disturbing". On Wednesday morning the state prosecutor, Fredrik Wersälls, announced his decision to appeal against the not guilty verdict. "In the sermon there were statements which must be interpreted as extremely offensive for homosexuals," said the prosecutor in a press release. "We need guiding pronouncements about where the boundaries lie between an objective, genuine discussion and punishable abuse, as well as what the significance is if the person making the offensive statements says he has support for them in religious documents." The Supreme Court has not yet indicated whether it will hear the case but a case which squarely pits the rights of minority groups against the right to free speech is unlikely to be ignored. Sören Andersson, chairman of RFSL, the Swedish gay rights movement, said he supported the decision of the state prosecutor, despite the fact that "many writers maintain that freedom of expression and religions freedom mean that to make statements as Green did should be permissible". "As far as we're concerned, it can never be part of freedom of expression to spread hatred against homosexuals and bisexuals as Green did," said Andersson. "Religious places should not be a free zone for agitation against minority groups, and not just on the grounds of sexual orientation," he added. Speaking to Dagens Nyheter, even Åke Green himself said that he sees advantages in the case reaching Sweden's Supreme Court. "A decision in the highest court is influential to a higher degree than an appeal court verdict. If I am found not guilty in the Supreme Court it will send a strong signal to the legal profession and the rest of society," said Green. The pastor confirmed that if, on the contrary, he was found guilty again, he would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. "Yes, my lawyer and I are completely willing to take it there if the Supreme Court finds me guilty of agitation against homosexuals. It would put another focus altogether on the issues I took up in my sermon. There are advantages to such an outcome." ©The Local

    7/3/2005— A large percentage of the 26,000 asylum seekers earmarked for deportation under the Dutch government's tough amnesty policy will probably be allowed to stay, the Dutch Refugee Council has revealed. Up until mid-February, the immigration service IND had processed 8,636 cases and in 41 percent of these, the IND recommended that the asylum seekers be allowed to stay in the country. In its report "No amnesty, but deportation?" the refugee council also said that some 16,000 to 17,000 dossiers are yet to be assessed, newspaper NRC reported on Saturday. "Our evaluation shows that a lot of misery could have been prevented if the Lower House [of Parliament] had opted for a more expansive amnesty lat year," council director Eduard Nazarski said. The Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG), religious and refugee organisations had demanded at the time that asylum seekers who had been in the Netherlands longer than five years waiting for their asylum request to be processed should be granted a residence permit. That amounted to 6,300 people. But Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk opted for a more restrictive amnesty, deciding to issue a residence permit to just 2,200 asylum seekers. The remaining asylum seekers were to undergo an assessment and any rejected refugees would be forced to leave the country. The estimated 26,000 deportations were to be spread across three years and was the focus of sharp criticism, both domestically and internationally. It was described as the biggest deportation in Europe since World War II. The asylum seekers had entered the country prior to the introduction of tougher immigration laws in April 2001, which have since led to a radical fall in the number of new requests for asylum. The expulsions were designed to clear a backlog in cases from the inundated IND, but many communities questioned why asylum seekers who had lived and worked in their midst for several years and raised their children here would be forced to leave. A protest in The Hague — highlighted by an Iranian asylum seeker who had sewed his eyes and mouth shut in protest — failed to prevent the amnesty legislation being enacted by MPs in February last year. Since then, 13 people have been expelled from the Netherlands via the special expulsion centre in Ter Appel in the province of Groningen. A further 1,511 left the country voluntarily, 997 of whom availed of an extra departure fund set up to stimulate their return. A further 519 were placed on planes by immigration officers either by force or under special supervision.
    ©Expatica News

    10/3/2005- Stung by criticism of her tough asylum policy, Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk has announced she will publicise personal details about asylum seekers who seek publicity. Verdonk caused a stir worldwide last year when she announced 26,000 unsuccessful asylum seekers are to be expelled over the next few years. It has been described as the largest deportation in Western Europe since World War II. Earlier this week, it was announced that many of those earmarked for deportation had been given the right to stay after a full assessment. Many have been waiting five years or more to have their cases dealt with. The minister has told Parliament in a letter that some asylum seekers are exaggerating their cases in the media in a bid to stay. Verdonk said that incorrect information should not be left unchallenged. She intends to bring "balance" back to the date by releasing information about the cases. She was responding to a parliamentary motion calling for an examination of the feasibility of allowing the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) to make public information on asylum seekers or their public representatives if they seek publicity. The move has been stimulated by the announcement that broadcaster Vara is to screen a series entitled "26.000 gezichten" (26,000 faces) in relation to the asylum seekers facing expulsion. Privacy laws currently protect the details asylum seekers provide to the authorities about their circumstances. Citing the need for a balanced public debate, the minister wrote: "The right to the protection of details about personal life is consequently not absolute, but has to be weighed up against other considerations". Verdonk goes on to note publicity must not lead to the newcomer or the newcomer's family getting into difficulties in their land of origin. The chief of asylum seekers organisation Inlia, John van Tilborg, told Radio 1 that the plan was a "great idea". He said releasing the information would make it easier to have real arguments. But he warned that asylum seekers would have to be conscious of the fact that anything they say in public could be countered by the minister.
    ©Expatica News

    9/3/2005— The Dutch Cabinet intends to restrict immigrants' access to social security, Social Affairs State Secretary Henk van Hoof said on Wednesday. In particular, the government intends to limit access to WW unemployment benefits and the AOW old age pension, RTL News reported. A letter from Van Hoof to MPs indicated on Tuesday that the cabinet intends to investigate whether it is possible to force would-be immigrants to take out insurance to guarantee a sufficient pension. Immigrants would be requested to pay a lump sum prior to gaining permission to enter the Netherlands. The government's plan means that those who cannot take pay the lump sum — and therefore will not gain a full AOW pension — will not have the pension supplemented by social security. The consequences of the proposal for people who come to the Netherlands for work — including "knowledge workers" — will be included in the study, Van Hoof said. Currently, immigrants gain 2 percent of the AOW pension for every year spent in the Netherlands means. If an immigrant arrives at the age of 30 and works until the age of 65, he or she will have built up 70 percent of the pension. Van Hoof is proposing that immigrants pay a "catch-up rate" to eliminate the inequality of pensions paid to people born in the Netherlands and immigrants. Dutch people start building up their old age pension from the age of 15. Meanwhile, the cabinet is also considering preventing immigrants from coming into consideration for WW unemployment benefit after an agreed, but as yet unspecified, period. And the time in which an immigrant's residence rights are dependent on having a Dutch partner will be extended from three years to five years. An exemption will be granted to immigrants who are actively involved in integrating themselves into Dutch society. Immigrants who no longer have the right to reside in the Netherlands and lodge an appeal will be refused social security. The cabinet also intends to better apply regulations governing social security for immigrants by closer co-operation between the immigration service IND and municipal councils. Recognising that rights to social security must be built up, the government also said it will honour international treaties governing welfare and the subsequent obligations. The cabinet is working towards creating a balance to prevent immigrants flowing into the social security system and income protection for those who have been here for a longer period of time.
    ©Expatica News

    9/3/2005— Gay couples in the Netherlands have been promised legislative change allowing them — in theory at least — to adopt children from other countries. Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner said the fact that this possibility does not currently exist amounts to discrimination. The Christian Democrat CDA minister also told MPs he is prepared to adjust legislation to amend the situation. But Donner said the matter was not urgent and he would not present a proposal to the Dutch Parliament before the summer recess, news service NOS reported on Wednesday. He also told MPs during a debate in parliament that the lobby for such a right was much ado about nothing because other countries will not be prepared to co-operate with gay couples adopting a child. The minister informed MPs two weeks ago that he was prepared to change legislation if there was at least one nation from which gay couples could adopt a child. "That condition has not been met to the present day," he said. Parliament was not satisfied and a majority of MPs demanded that Donner act more swiftly. The Democrat D66, Labour PvdA and Liberal VVD are to submit a joint bill in the near future that would allow foreign adoptions by gay couples. The proposal can count on support from the green-left GroenLinks and Christian Democrat CDA. Since the legalisation of gay marriages in the Netherlands in 2002, gay couples also have the right to adopt a Dutch child. Unlike heterosexual couples, gay couples cannot adopt from another country. Nevertheless, they can circumvent the law, with some countries allowing single parents to adopt a child. In this case it does not matter if the "single parent" is married. Television personality Paul de Leeuw and his partner Stephan Nugter availed of the gap in the law to adopt two children from the US in recent years. Meanwhile, the D66, PvdA and VVD also want to strengthen the legal position of lesbian couples who have a child. Presently, the non-biological mother of the child must officially adopt the child to have any parental rights. The three parties believe that women whose lesbian partner give birth to a child during their marriage or registered partnership should have equal rights of a heterosexual partner who acknowledges his child. The legislative proposal also states that the maximum age that people can adopt children, currently 46, should be raised or eliminated from existing adoption legislation.
    ©Expatica News

    9/3/2005— A 25-year-old Dutchman was sentenced on Tuesday to two years for attempted arson at a mosque shortly after the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. Six months of the term was suspended. Leeuwarden Court said the extreme right-wing sympathies of suspect Roland M. had played a role in the arson attempt in the nearby city of Heerenveen. M, of Joure, had called the 112 emergency number to report the fire and the emergency services extinguished the flames at the mosque before large-scale damages were inflicted. Nevertheless, the trial judges said, the crime had caused "considerable emotional damage to the Muslim community", news agency AFP reported. The defence lawyer said an 18-month jail term for attempted arson was a tough sentence, but was not sure if an appeal would be lodged. Van Gogh was shot and stabbed in Amsterdam last November. The suspected killer is an alleged Islamic militant who is accused of killing Van Gogh for his criticism of Muslims. The murder sparked a series of retaliatory attacks against mosques and Islamic schools in the Netherlands.
    ©Expatica News

    Annual report from US Department of State cites discrimination against Roma

    7/3/2005- The new annual report on human rights released by the US Department of State criticizes Slovakia for ongoing discrimination against the Roma, a corrupt judiciary and an unhealthy connection between private television station TV Markíza and ruling coalition politician Pavol Rusko. The global report, submitted to the US Congress February 28, dedicated 24 pages to Slovakia. "The [Slovak] government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas," the report states. Discrimination against the Roma, who make up eight percent of the Slovak population, topped the offences. According to the report, the Roma minority faces considerable inequities in education, employment and healthcare. They also suffer from police brutality. Slovak police officers "used excessive force, particularly against the Roma". The report continues: "Lengthy pre-trial detention was a problem. Racially motivated crimes, predominantly by organized neo-Nazi groups targeting Roma, persisted. The crimes were not prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and police occasionally did not investigate the crimes thoroughly." An incident in Trebišov in Eastern Slovakia received special attention. "Authorities reportedly charged six police officers with brutality after the government sent approximately 2,000 police and 1,000 soldiers to the eastern part of the country in February to quell a rash of grocery store lootings. In an effort to discourage further lootings in Trebišov, police raided the Romani settlement in the area and arrested 40 persons. "Roma rights activists reported that police physically assaulted the Roma, injured small children, unnecessarily broke windows and doors and restricted the movement of residents in the settlement near Trebišov. The European Roma Rights Centre reported that several injuries were sustained from the use of electric cattle prods. The Roma Plenipotentiary's Office submitted several complaints about the police action. Police reportedly used pressure and threats to discourage Roma from pressing charges," the report states. Domestic violence against women and children remain problems as well, including trafficking in women. Slovak Deputy Prime Minister Pál Csáky is in charge of minority issues and human rights. Csáky's spokesperson, Martin Urmanic, told The Slovak Spectator that, overall, the US report "was a balanced account". Nevertheless, Urmanic stressed that the report should be read with a grain of salt. "We feel that sometimes foreign organizations and media are rather excessive in their evaluation of the bad situation of the Roma. We don't think that it is all that dramatic, but we admit that it is not easy either," he said. In defence of Csáky, Urmanic said: "The government is not hiding from this problem. The cabinet regularly updates the action plan for improving the situation of the Roma in various areas including health care, education and housing." The Slovak government also joined a recent Central European initiative called The Decade of Roma Inclusion, pledging to invest in programmes designed to help the Roma minority.

    Good and bad in the courts
    The report also focussed on the Slovak judiciary system. "The [Slovak] Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, corruption and inefficiency were serious problems," it states. Several measures in place to counteract judicial corruption were highlighted. "The Justice Ministry continued to take disciplinary action against judges suspected of corruption. A computerized system for random case assignment functioned at almost every level of the courts to reduce corruption." Lower court reform, which was approved in May 2004, is described as a step towards a more efficient judiciary. "Reorganization was an effort to promote judge specialization and increase the efficiency of the overburdened lower courts," states the report. Justice Ministry Spokesperson Richard Fides said that the ministry was dedicated to making steps towards a more effective and transparent judiciary. "We have made a bulk of legislative changes in business, civil and criminal statutes in order to make the operation of the courts more effective. To remove some of the burden on judges, we introduced 600 higher court clerks to manage administrative work so judges could concentrate on their judicial work," he said. According to Fides, "the changes do not show immediately. Months or years are probably needed." The report's accusations of serious corruption problems in the Slovak judiciary caught the attention of Ján Hrubala, the head of the Slovak cabinet's anti-corruption department. "I am the last to deny that the problem of corruption exists in the judiciary, but I always wonder what objective facts are the basis for the authors of similar reports," he said. "Certainly, people perceive the problem of corruption, in general as well as in courts. However, the concrete cases are missing. Last year only one judge was sentenced, and maybe two are being prosecuted." According to Hrubala, most Slovak judges are honourable people suffering from a damaged reputation because of a few crooked justices. "I have to admit that I would welcome a more proactive attitude by the silent majority of judges to clear their profession of such a reputation," Hrubala said.

    Media enters the equation
    The Slovak Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, including academic freedom, and the government generally respects these rights," the report states. It reserved critical remarks for the media, however. Economy Minister Pavol Rusko, who is also the chairman of the ruling New Citizen's Alliance party, was singled out for "influencing TV Markíza's editorial policies, despite having divested his ownership interest". "Media watchdog organizations criticized the station, saying its programming favoured certain political parties." As an example, the report provided the following: "The Christian Democratic Party refused to grant Markíza personal interviews because of perceived unfair treatment by the station." Vladimír Repcík, the general director of TV Markíza defended his TV station against the findings. "I have read this year's report by the US Department of State very carefully. I was pleasantly surprised with the exactness of the data especially in terms of the criticism over inadequate police interference, or various other attacks against the Roma minority. The exactness, however, is lacking in the paragraphs dedicated to our television station," Repcík said. "In our case I consider the report to be very unspecific and general, and so I have to take it just as a subjective opinion of the authors rather than an analysis supported with expert facts. In our case the authors were rather superficial, which I consider to be unprofessional," he said. In general, the report described Slovak journalists as "able to criticize the government without fear of reprisal" and "generally free from harassment or intimidation". The US report, entitled "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices", describes the status of internationally recognized human rights groups in countries that receive assistance from the United States. The report also includes foreign countries that are members of the United Nations. The document also includes reports on several countries that do not fall into the aforementioned categories.
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    8/3/2005– Half of foreigners looking for work in Brussels face discrimination at least once, according to a new study. The investigation, commissioned by the Brussels Regional Job Office (Orbem), was carried out by the KUL and ULB universities and will be made public on 16 March. On Tuesday, La Derniere Heure reported that the study will show that Moroccans and Turks are the greatest victims of racist employers. Sub-Saharan Africans also suffer discrimination when applying for jobs, but to a lesser degree. The Centre for Equality of Opportunity and the Fight Against Racism also recorded "an annual increase in forms of discrimination" since 2000. The universities followed job-hunters for three months and found in 27 percent of cases the candidates had "either reasons to believe they had received unequal treatment or real unequal treatment due to the ethnic origin". When Belgians applied for the same post, the percentage of believed discrimination or actual discrimination rose to 45 percent. The report concluded that statistically foreigners had fewer chances of finding a job than their Belgian counterparts. "The large majority of Moroccan or Turkish workers find themselves doing manual work or jobs paying low salaries," said the report. Other workers who face discrimination include Italians and Southern Europeans. The universities' study blames employers and temp agencies for discrimination and says the law on short-term contracts is being abused to give workers limited rights. In particular, the study shames the European Commission, claiming a number of workers there have had short-term contracts renewed as many as four times. Legally, a temporary contract can only be renewed twice. "Instability is becoming the norm and stable contracts the exception," said the report.
    ©Expatica News

    8/3/2005- The German government plans to ban far-right protests at Holocaust sites amid fears neo-Nazis are seeking to hijack the upcoming 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat, an official said on Tuesday. Freedom of assembly laws will be tightened to allow authorities to prevent rightists from "violating the dignity" of Third Reich victims, said Volker Beck of the Greens Party which serves in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's centre-left coalition. Beck said the reform would allow police to ban neo-Nazi protests close to former concentration camps and at Berlin's Holocaust memorial which will formally be opened in May. Parliament is due to vote on the legislation this Friday. The move comes after the anti-foreigner and anti-Semitic National Democratic Party (NPD) announced plans to hold a march past the Holocaust memorial on 8 May - the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's capitulation. An NPD demonstration in Dresden last month on the anniversary of the city's firebombing in 1945 drew at least 5,000 right-wing extremists and was the biggest neo-Nazi march in Germany since the 1950s. The NPD won 9.2 percent in Saxony state elections last year and now has 12 seats in the state parliament in Dresden.
    ©Expatica News

    11/3/2005- Germany's lower house of parliament Friday voted by a large majority to tighten the right of assembly, thus making it easier in future to ban neo-Nazi demonstrations at historic landmarks. After weeks of heated debate, members of Germany's ruling government coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens as well as the conservative opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) on Friday voted overwhelmingly in favor of tightening the right of assembly and making changes to the existing criminal code. The clamp-down is designed to curtail far-right demonstrations and rallies by far-right groups at historic landmarks such as the former Nazi concentration camps, Holocaust monuments and other memorials that remember victims of Nazi terror and violence. The topic had been debated for years in Germany, but took on a new urgency in the past few weeks after Germany came under increased pressure to rein in its emboldened right-wing extremists. Large neo-Nazi demonstrations in Dresden (photo) during the 60th anniversary of the Allied bombing of the city last month and further planned far-right marches at the Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin on May 8, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, had turned up the heat on policy makers. In addition to sharpening the right of assembly, Friday's vote also approved changing the country's criminal code to include a passage calling for up to three years in jail or a fine for glorification of the Nazis, or justifying or downplaying the atrocities of the Third Reich. "To think of right-wing extremist groups demonstrating in front of memorials for the victims of Nazi crimes, either endorsing, denying, or playing down these crimes against humanity, is unbearable," German Interior Minister Otto Schily said last month. The Bundesrat or the upper house of parliament is expected to ratify the changes within the next week.

    A threat to democracy
    Most parties on Friday hailed the vote as a boost to democracy. "We'll have a few additional possibilities in the future to prevent Nazi mischief on our streets and squares," said Dieter Wiefelspütz, SPD domestic policy expert. "A broad majority of the Bundestag has given the victims of the Nazi regime a clear signal: Germany will remain alert even 60 years after Auschwitz," said Silke Stokar von Neuforn of the Green party. However, Germany's opposition liberal Democrats (FDP) on Friday, voted against the planned beefing up of the right of assembly, saying it had doubts whether the move would work to curb far-right groups. Max Stadler, domestic policy expert of the FDP, said that freedom of expression and assembly were fundamental to a democracy and that a tightening of the law was the wrong way to deal with far-right extremists. Stadler criticized that the Bundestag was worrying showing itself to be increasingly prepared to violate basic rights. He added it was probably okay in a one-off case, but simply went too far on the whole.

    Doubts remain over effectiveness
    Despite the relief among most mainstream parties at Friday's decision, questions still remain over how effective the proposed sharpening of the law will prove in limiting neo-Nazi groups. Many politicians were annoyed that the changes disregarded a CDU demand to include the Brandenburg Gate in the demonstration-free zone around the German Reichstag. Bavarian Interior Minister Günther Beckstein criticized that the new law was "rushed and in parts half-hearted," though it did go in the right direction. Both Beckstein and German interior minister Otto Schily said they had doubts whether the spiking of the law could prevent the yearly neo-Nazi march to the grave of Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy, in Wunsiedel. Others voiced doubts over whether the changes were in line with the constitution. Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy head of the CDU parliamentary group, said there was no guarantee that the new law was in step with the constitution. "We can't guarantee what decision the German Constitutional Court could possibly come to one day," Bosbach said. "We're only doing what we can to give the authorities instruments to prevent demonstrations more easily." Earlier, FDP head Guido Westerwelle called the law "dilettantish" and said that neo-Nazi groups could easily challenge the curbs on their right to demonstrate and had "a very good chance of success" at the Constitutional Court.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    8/3/2005- Two neo-Nazis accused of plotting to bomb a Jewish cultural center in Munich recanted their testimony and admitted in court on Tuesday that they had indeed been practicing to launch attacks. Their evidence infuriated the alleged leader of the plot, Martin Wiese, and the hearing, part of a major neo-Nazi trial, had to be delayed for about an hour until he calmed down. "The accusations are correct," said Alexander Mätzing, going back on previous testimony that he and three co-accused including Wiese had never engaged in paramilitary training, as alleged by prosecutors. But Mätzing, 28, told the court that they had not definitively planned to attack the cultural center on Nov. 9, 2003 as then president Johannes Rau and the head of Germany's Jewish community were about to lay a foundation stone. He did, however, acknowledge that the center was "a target among others being discussed." The ceremony was timed to coincide with the 65th anniversary of Kristallnacht, when Nazi gangs burned down synagogues and smashed the windows of Jewish shops and businesses. Mätzing also said he believed TNT explosives that the extreme-right group, "Kameradschaft Süd" (Comradeship South), had bought "would be used for a bomb attack in the near future." His co-defendent, David Schulz, also acknowledged that charges he had taken part in paramilitary training were essentially correct. "I thought, without really checking, that the shooting exercises in the forest would eventually lead to the use of weapons with real bullets," he said, in evidence about training he claimed was led by Wiese. A spokesman for Munich prosecutors said that the evidence given by the two on Tuesday marked "a decisive turning point" in the trial. Lawyers for the two said that their clients hoped to receive clemency from the judge for changing their testimony. In a declaration to the court, Wiese, 28 said: "I and the others never at any time planned an attack against the Jewish culture center." Weise and his three alleged accomplices could face 10 years in jail if found guilty.

    Classified as terrorists
    On Monday, neo-Nazis from the eastern German state Brandenburg were classified as "terrorists" by a German court as 12 young members of an extreme-right group were jailed for attacking shops and fast food outlets. It was the first time in two decades neo-Nazis had received that status. The group's members were aged between 14 and 18 at the time of the 10 attacks on the immigrant-owned businesses between August 2003 and May 2004 in the small town of Havelland outside Berlin. The Brandenburg regional superior court sentenced the group's ringleader to four and a half years in jail and ordered the other members to be detained for between eight months and two years. No one was injured in the attacks which caused around 800,000 ($1.06 million) of damage. They were members of a so-called "Kameradschaft" named "Freikorps". Researchers fear that neo-Nazi groups are gaining a stronghold in many parts of the former communist east of Germany through such youth-oriented groups. At the end of the 1970s and in the early 1980s a number of neo-Nazi groups were adjudged to be "terrorist" organizations in Germany, but an attempt to punish the publisher of an extreme right-wing newspaper under anti-terrorist legislation failed in the late 1990s.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    10/3/2005- Germany's high court on Thursday heard arguments by attorneys for a neo-Nazi rock band that rightwing extremist lyrics are protected under the nation's constitution. Prosecutors meanwhile called on the Bundesgerichtshof to uphold a lower court conviction on charges of forming a criminal organisation. A Berlin court sentenced the lead singer of the three-member rock band to 40 months in prison. Lawyers for the convicted man, 39-year-old Michael Regener, asked the high court Thursday to overturn the conviction and allow their client to walk free. At issue are lyrics glorifying the Nazi regime. Under German law, any portrayal in the media of Nazi symbols or ideology is banned except for historical instructional purposes.
    ©Expatica News

    10/3/2005- An initiative in Germany wants to secure the basic rights of its around one million illegal immigrants. But, the country still lags far behind other EU countries when it comes to dealing with the issue. Romanian-born Maria came to Germany 12 years ago on a normal tourist visa. A trained technician, who was 20 at the time, she dreamed of a better life in Germany. Her visa expired, but Maria stayed on -- without health insurance and family. Today she works clandestinely as a caretaker for elderly people in private households and lives with the fear of being discovered and deported. Her story, documented by the Protestant Missionary Association in Germany, is far from being an isolated one. Up to a million people in Germany are estimated to be living illegally in the country. They are people who overstay their visas, visit relatives and never return, or asylum seekers who go underground after their applications have been rejected. They come from the Balkans, Russia, Asia, Latin America and West Africa. The problem was largely ignored during the political wrangling that marked Germany's drafting of its first ever immigration law that came into force on Jan. 1 this year. But, now that the furor over immigration has subsided, the Catholic Church, which has long championed the cause of illegal immigrants, has drawn new attention to the issue. Last week during its annual conference in Berlin, it issued a statement, signed by more than 370 prominent personalities in Germany, saying it wanted to raise public awareness of the problem. "Illegal migration is simply not a public topic in this country. Until now it's only been debated behind closed doors and among fringe groups of social workers and church organizations. That has to change," said Jörg Alt, sociologist, migration expert and head of the Catholic Forum on Illegal Immigration.

    A more human approach
    But getting more people, especially policy makers, interested in the topic is only part of the problem. Without documents and registration papers, most immigrants are cut off from even the most basic of services such as health care or education for their children. The problem is exacerbated in Germany because of a clause in the immigration law which makes it mandatory for public institutions such as schools and hospitals to pass on information about illegal immigrants to social affairs offices. Doctors, priests or social workers who helped undocumented persons access basic services risk penalization. "That's a huge hurdle for illegal immigrants who might need urgent medical care but are held back for fear of being detected and deported," said Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, former justice minister and parliamentarian for the opposition Liberal Democrats and one of the signatories to the manifesto on illegal immigration. The group is now demanding an unambiguously worded addition to the immigration law that would strike the punishment clause for those offering humanitarian aid to illegal immigrants and secure them access to medical care, education for their children and protection from exploitation.

    Legalization common in EU
    While the debate on illegal immigration in Germany still centers on stressing basic rights for illegal workers, other European countries grappling with the same problem have made rapid progress. Most recently, Spain -- a country that has overtaken Germany in the past few years in attracting the largest number of immigrants to its shores -- has begun offering its illegal immigrants the prospect of legalizing their status if they can show a six-month work contract or one of three months if they work in the agricultural sector. Experts say that the move doesn't just make life easier for those working clandestinely, but also hold obvious benefits for the host country. "Countries like Spain are much more pragmatic in their approach to illegal immigrants," said Karl Kopp, an expert on European migration at Proasyl, a group working for the rights of asylum seekers. "The immigrants in turn pay into social and tax coffers, fill in jobs that aren't usually taken up by locals and contribute towards stemming falling birth rates." Kopp pointed out that countries like Italy, Greece and Portugal have periodically legalized their illegal immigrants.

    Fears about jobs
    But such ideas face a great deal of resistance in Germany, since many people fear that an amnesty would lead a large influx of foreigners who would take away jobs from Germans, no small issue in a country with an unemployment rate of over 12 percent. Despite the benefits that legalization of illegal workers could bring, experts say it wouldn't stand a chance in Germany. "While countries like Spain are already talking about legalization, in Germany we first need to start a debate," said Alt. While German law forbids an amnesty for illegal workers of any kind, it's deeply entrenched attitudes that would need changing first. "We need to do some serious catch up with our neighbors," admitted Leuthheusser-Schnarrenberger. Karl Kopp of Proasyl said Germany, as a modern country, should be able to carry on a debate on immigration, but so far has not really tackled the issue. "It's a pity because we know that in today's world there can be no dynamism in a society without immigration," he said.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    10/3/2005- Nearly 130,000 foreigners have applied for legal status the government's major reform of the immigration system started last month. Under new rules adopted by Spain's Socialist government late last year, an undocumented immigrant may attain legal status by producing a work contract of more than six months' duration, evidence of residing in Spain at least half a year and proof of no criminal record. The measure requires employers to start the regularization process, though exceptions apply. Spanish Labour and Social Affairs Minister Jesus Caldera said the highest number of applications by nationality - over 41,000 - were filed on behalf of Ecuadorians, followed by Moroccans, Colombians and Romanians. Several other nationalities make up the remainder. Caldera said at the beginning of the amnesty period, which closes in April, "we asked employers not to bunch up their requests in the first few days, but now I think we have to insist they start filing them. "The administration is working fine, and it would be best not to leave the petitions for the last minute."
    ©Expatica News

    11/3/2005- Eleven Bangladeshis died after a boat taking them from Morocco to Spain got lost, leaving passengers without enough food or water. "First reports indicate 11 people died trying to enter Spain. The survivors were rescued by the Algerian navy and are in hospital in Algiers," Zahirul Haque, a Bangladeshi official said. He said he did not know whether the Bangladeshis were seeking to enter Spain illegally or any another details. "As we do not have a mission in Algeria, we have asked our missions in Spain and Morocco to send us a detailed report. When we receive the report we will know more," he said. Bangladesh is one of the world's poorest nations with nearly half its 140 million population living on less than one dollar a day. Thousands of migrant workers travel abroad each year in search of work. Many fall foul of unscrupulous employment agencies who take fees from workers with false promises of jobs and work permits.
    ©Expatica News

    9/3/2005- The newly-elected head of Spain's Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Ricardo Blazquez, said he would bolster the institution's opposition to gay marriage. "From a Christian, ethical and cultural point of view, it is not a marriage," Blazquez, the 62-year-old bishop of Bilbao, told the radio station of Spain's Episcopal Conference. The statement promised to intensify an already bitter debate between the Church and Spain's government, which is seeking to make gay marriages legal from next year. In Europe, only Belgium and the Netherlands allow same-sex marriages, though several countries extend officially recognised unions to homosexuals that convey some but not all of the rights of marriage. Blazquez was voted president of the Episcopal Conference on Tuesday to the general surprise of members. After trailing far behind in the first round of voting, he moved ahead in a second round to replace the incumbent head, who failed by just one vote to get the required two-thirds majority. Blazquez, who will hold the post for the next three years, said he would also continue the church's opposition to abortion and euthanasia. "One can't cut short the itinerary of a life, from its conception to death. So, no to abortion, no to euthanasia," he said.
    ©Expatica News

    11/3/2005- Foreign nationals residing in Portugal are more likely to receive prison sentences than national citizens when confronted with the Portuguese judicial system, a study on criminality and foreigners in Portugal has concluded. The study, presented this week in Lisbon, further found that one in six of all inmates at Portuguese prisons are foreigners. In order for this figure to be proportional, Portugal's foreign population would have to be 1.6 million, and is officially less than a third this figure. "There is a greater likelihood in Portugal of foreigners receiving prison terms, or being held in custody prior to court proceedings", explained Hugo Martinez de Seabra this week when unveiling the findings of an exhaustive study on foreign convicts. However, he did highlight the fact that several of these detainees or convicts had no intention of residing in Portugal upon their arrest, but yet form part of the statistics, citing the example of drug traffickers or even the English fans detained during last summer's European football championships. Paulo Pinto de Albuquerque, law professor at Lisbon's Catholic University, meanwhile explained that "there are definite inequalities in the judicial system when the treatment of foreigners is compared to that received by Portuguese nationals". There are currently almost 2,500 foreigners serving jail terms at one of Portugal's 56 prison facilities, with the majority being from Portuguese-speaking African countries, followed by Brazilians and eastern Europeans. However, the number of African inmates appear to be a downward trend in relation to those from former Soviet republics. The most common offence committed by a foreign convict is that of drug trafficking.
    ©The Portugal News

    7/3/2005- Muslims in Europe have faced increased discrimination since the 11 September attacks, according to a new report. The study by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) covers 11 EU members states. It looks at "widespread" negative attitudes towards Muslims, including unbalanced media reporting which depict Muslims as "an enemy within". The report, "Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims in the EU", is based on second-hand accounts. They include statements by Muslim and anti-racist groups, human rights organisations material, media reports and official documents.

    Clothing bans
    In France, the debate over the French law forbidding religious clothing in schools had encouraged discrimination against Muslim women who wear headscarves, the report says. As a result of the law, which was designed to uphold France's tradition of separating state and religion, some women have been unable to marry, vote or take exams in a headscarf, it stated. In the UK, the report says the media have created the impression that justice officials are successfully prosecuting Muslim terrorists, although only a few people have been convicted and the vast majority of those who are arrested on allegations of terrorism are released without charge. In Germany meanwhile, more than 80% of those surveyed last year associated the world "Islam" with "terrorism" and "oppression of women" - although it was unclear to what extent this resulted in discriminatory behaviour. It also says that Muslim schools in the Netherlands are widely believed to "undermine integration efforts" although it says such claims are "poorly supported by facts". A number of European countries have been engaged in a debate about whether long standing policies of multi-culturalism best serve the minorities involved. Assimilation has been put forward as a means of stopping minorities - and particularly Muslims - from occupying a parallel society that could exclude them from mainstream benefits.

    The IHF warns that "growing distrust and hostility" experienced by Muslims and a possible erosion of their confidence in the rule of law could also fuel support for extremist organisations. The report makes a number of recommendations, including strengthening the law on racial discrimination and promoting systematic efforts to monitor discrimination. It also advocates actively promoting tolerance among EU citizens by encouraging debate in the media over how to cover minorities and avoid "perpetuating prejudice", and also recommends the setting up of elected Muslim representative bodies. The IHF has a consultative status with the UN and the Council of Europe.
    ©BBC News

    NGOs are still often seen as exponents of foreign interests in the Balkans.
    By Risto Karajkov, Ph.D. student in development at the University of Bologna, and also a freelance consultant.

    9/3/2005- Non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, run up against prejudice and ignorance around the world, and Southeastern Europe is no exception. "There are these standard stereotypes that NGOs are money launderers," says Vladimir Milcin, director of the Open Society Institute (OSI) in Macedonia. "There is this confusion and illiteracy. It's a mater of educating the public." Milcin, who has headed OSI Macedonia from its very establishment in the early 1990s, is putting a finger on one of the major biases nonprofit groups encounter across the Balkans. The other major prejudice is that NGOs and their staff work for foreign interests--in other words, that they are spies. Milcin admits that part of the blame must fall on the NGOs and their lack of transparency, a flaw they are slowly moving to repair. But he also says, "No action by the sector itself will eliminate the suspiciousness completely, because there is a dimension of xenophobia directed not only towards NGOs but also against international diplomats, the multilateral sphere in general." According to Ljubisa Vrencev from the Center for Antiwar Action in Belgrade, "For an ordinary citizen it seems obvious that NGOs came with foreigners and that they are more or less independent from the government which by itself implies that there must be ‘something wrong' with them. To make the confusion bigger, NGOs have money, talk about completely new themes, and use incomprehensible terminologies."

    Mushrooming NGOs
    The first years of the transition from communism in the Balkans saw an exponential rise in the number of civil society groups when international NGOs set up operations in the region. Soon enough, local NGOs followed suit. But the region didn't just join an existing trend--it contributed to the emergence of a new global phenomenon, often referred to as "international civil society." The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the bipolar world and was a major factor behind a phenomenon that was soon called "globalization." The cold war ended but was soon replaced with a multitude of more localized conflicts. And the new system benefited from ever-cheaper communication technologies that increased global interdependence and interconnectedness. Around the same time a gradual shift in the donor governments' international assistance strategies started assuming major proportions: channeling aid through nonprofit entities instead of recipient governments as before. Statistics show a massive increase--measured in billions of dollars--in government funding for NGOs, especially between 1991 and 1993. Today NGOs are an established part of the system of global governance, together with international organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the UN. They have achieved a landmine ban, are fighting against the extinction of whales, and are often the first to arrive to aid people hit by crisis. Saso Klekovski, director of the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation (MCIC), one of the larger NGOs in the Balkans, points out that the emergence of NGOs is directly linked to developments in political attitudes. "The boom of civil society came with the end of the welfare state and with the need to privatize some of its services," he says. This, according to Klekovski, also explains differences between NGOs in the United States and those in Europe: "The reduction of the role of the state [in the United States] led to an enhanced role for civil society. In Europe this was never really accepted in the same way. For example, in the Scandinavian countries citizens still prefer to pay high taxes but to have the government take care of social services."

    Skeptical attitudes
    But why are so many people in the Balkans still suspicious of NGOs? "There is resistance to new things," says Klekovski, using as an example derogatory terms with which Macedonians referred to the first private companies after communism. Another source of resistance, according to him, is that "80 percent of Macedonians are not active in anything, they don't go to church, don't play bridge, or go to a sports club. This high percentage of idleness correlates to highly pronounced general mistrust." The achievements of NGOs in the various countries of the Balkans have been impressive. There is no doubt that in some cases they have been capable of initiating or participating in tremendous social change. For example, the liberalization of the media in Macedonia in the early 1990s was very strongly supported by OSI. The youth social movement OTPOR in Serbia played a prominent role in ousting the Milosevic regime. In today's Albania, MJAFT (Enough) is courageously fighting government corruption. In myriad other cases that are often invisible to outsiders, NGOs deliver essential services in small rural environments or mobilize resources for local infrastructure in health, education, social support, and so on. Thousands of schools and hospitals across the region have been renovated or equipped by NGOs. But the critical voices are also becoming louder and louder. It often appears that the "third sector" is a world unto itself, largely detached from other sectors in society. Despite being collectively called civil society, these groups have little in common with the classical meaning of the term. They are usually not rooted in membership and communal solidarity but are small professional structures following modern management norms. This raises many dilemmas about their legitimacy, accountability, and cultural relevance. Ambiguous public sentiment about them often results in lack of cooperation from both business and government.

    Accountability gap?
    Observers seem to agree that accountability in every regard is a big issue. "Throughout the 1990s there was a lot of conflict and post-conflict money, and it was thrown left and right," says Zeljko Vukobratovic from Suncokret-Oljin in Zagreb. "Today, clear and transparent finances are required. The public is more observant now, knowing how money was given in the past." This observation is shared by Jasmina Ivosevic of Bona Fides, an NGO from Bijeljina in Bosnia, who says, "In Bosnia there were huge numbers of NGOs that spent lots of money with very few concrete results. But this period has passed, it was typical of the postwar period until 1999." Much of the legitimacy deficit, whether perceived or real, has to do with the relevance of the agenda an NGO chooses to pursue. The argument is that NGOs are often out of tune with the critical priorities of their societies. "We still do not have a shelter for the homeless in Skopje, and a year ago we got a shelter for stray dogs," says Saso Klekovski. "This is due to the fact that there is a Swiss donor willing to invest in a dog shelter, and no donor to do it for the people, since they think this is a government responsibility." Because Balkan NGOs depend on--mostly foreign--donors, they are unable to provide consistent services on an ongoing basis for an extended period. There is a certain consensus among observers that this inability to grapple with the critical issues is often related to a fear of confrontation. Milcin says, "In the socioeconomic context in which we live there are many people who see the sector as [their] livelihood. They don't want to risk it through confrontation. Yet, I don't think that we can reduce our responsibility by shifting it to the donors. That's just an alibi."

    According to Klekovski one of the major shortcomings of the NGO sector is its continuing inability to hold the government and the private sector accountable. "There is a serious deficiency in controlling the government and business, a complete anemia... and we obviously have a problem in opening the issue of redistribution of wealth. For example, one of the most successful companies in Macedonia, USJE [a cement producer], is in [the business of] extracting natural resources. It uses something that exists now and will be gone in ten years. No one has ever asked that this company return something to the community." There has been quite a lot of talk lately that civil society was big in the 1990s but is now a thing of the past. Most NGOs in the region disagree. It is clear that many of the foreign funders on which Balkan civil society depends will gradually leave. But the sector is already exploring alternative sources of support, and it may not be such a horrible thing if some NGOs were to close down. Jasmina Ivosevic says, "30 to 40 percent of the NGOs in Bosnia will disappear, but those that survive through the selection period will grow stronger." Vladimir Milcin of the Macedonian OSI says that this transition away from international funding is not unexpected and that efforts are under way to reform the legal and fiscal framework to ensure a more enabling environment for domestic fundraising. Many of the Balkan countries and their civil societies will also become eligible for EU accession funds. Fifteen years on from the boom in numbers, funding, and visibility, most Balkan NGOs say they are here to stay. There have been successes and failures, strengths and flaws. As things stand now, NGOs are still fully dependent on funding from richer countries. They still need to work on their relations with the public and relations with their governments. The fact that international donors are leaving may give them a jolt that will prove healthy for everyone.
    ©Transitions Online

    FARE network to receive cheque donation

    8/3/2005- As the debate over racism in football continues, European football's governing body, UEFA, is set to renew its anti-racism partnership with the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network and will signal their involvement in a special event to be staged at Highbury Stadium on Wednesday 9 March 2005. A financial donation of 400,000 Euros is being presented to campaigners by Arsenal FC's vice-chairman, David Dein, and UEFA's Director of Communication, William Gaillard, prior to the kick-off at Arsenal's UEFA Champions League clash with FC Bayern München. The donation comes at a time when high-profile cases of racist behaviour have reignited concerns about the problem across the continent. The cash will be invested in supporting campaigning and educational activities in areas such as Southern and Eastern Europe. Piara Powar, Director of UK anti-racism group Kick It Out, and a leading member of the FARE network, today said, "We have seen in recent months just how crucial grassroots campaigns against racism are to the future of the game. "In some parts of Europe the problem is being ignored. Against this background, the support of European football's governing body is essential to ensuring that the message is heard loud and clear across the continent and that effective action is taken." William Gaillard, UEFA's Director of Communications, commented, "UEFA will not tolerate racism in our sport, and will not rest until racist attitudes have disappeared from both the field of play and the stadium. UEFA shares the outrage created by the recent incidents of racist behaviour in football. "We recognise the need to be working alongside those who have specialist knowledge and understand the problems. We will continue to give leadership to make sure the problem is foremost in the minds of European football. Much still needs to be done but our determination is clear."
    Football Against Racism in Europe

    11/3/2005- A human rights activist from Kenya claimed British soldiers have raped hundreds of women from her Somber tribe. A Canadian lawyer said over 500 indigenous women have died as a result of sexual violence in the last 20 years. A Nicaraguan surgeon accused Honduran soldiers and farmers of raping women from her Miskita tribe. As a two-week meeting on the world's progress toward gender equality neared an end, indigenous women described the double discrimination they are subjected to and the high level of violence it produces. ``For indigenous women, gender-based violence is fueled by racism and discrimination as well as sexism,'' said Elissavet Stamatopoulou, chief of the secretariat of the U.N.'s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She said violence is perpetuated by policies that deny indigenous women access to education, health care and the justice systems.... Rebecca Lolosoli, who founded the Umoja Uaso Women's Group in northern Kenya over 10 years ago to help woman who were allegedly raped by British soldiers, accused the Kenyan and British governments of not supporting Samburu women subjected to sexual attacks - or their children, many of them white. ``So many rapes have been done by the British Army,'' she said, claiming ``the number of raped women (in) the whole Samburu is like 1,600 women, but the area which I come from is like 400 women.'' She claimed many women have been killed by their husbands because of the rapes, though she had no figures. Lolosoli said the rapes have caused the break-up of families, with husbands telling their wives to leave and calling them ``prostitutes.''

    The soldiers have never been prosecuted and never provided support for the raped women or their children, she said. ``We are like forgotten people,'' Lolosoli said, explaining that the British Ministry of Defense only sent some investigators and the Kenyan government ``doesn't believe'' the soldiers were responsible for any rapes. The London law firm Leigh, Day and Co. is preparing a class-action suit against the British government in the name of hundreds of Samburu and Masai women from the semiarid region in north-central Kenya used by British troops for tropical training since 1972. Mirna Cunningham, a former Nicaraguan government minister and member of the National Assembly who is now president of the Center for Indigenous Peoples' Autonomy and Development, claimed Miskita women working the fields across the border in Honduras are raped every year by Honduran soldiers and farmers. ``In Latin America, indigenous women face violence much more than other women,'' she said, citing more than 600 women killed every year in Guatemala, reports of women being used as ``a weapon of war'' in Colombia and the unsolved slayings of women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. ``Remember there is a lot of racism in our cultures,'' Cunningham told reporters. ``Indigenous women are more subject to be raped and accused of being prostitutes because they are raped.'' Celeste McKay, a Metis or mixed-blood descendant of French settlers and Indians who is an analyst with the Native Women's Association of Canada, said indigenous women aged 25 to 44 are five times more likely than non-Indigenous women to die as a result of violence. The association ``estimates that over 500 indigenous women in the past 20 years have died as a result of violence of a sexual nature,'' she said. ``Indigenous women in Canada are vulnerable to this violence because they are marginalized in Canadian society,'' McKay said. ``They are homeless, they are poor, they suffer from the effects of the residential school system'' which broke up families. While Canada promotes the protection of human rights internationally, she cited a recent Amnesty International report which said the lives of indigenous women remain at risk partly because Canadian officials have failed to implement critical measures to reduce their marginalization.
    ©The Guardian

    8/3/2005- Leaders of the fight for women's equality say there is no going back on the revolution that began 30 years ago though the challenges ahead are immense. The comments came at a U.N. meeting to evaluate the world's progress toward gender equality. Now in its second and final week, the gathering has drawn delegates from 130 countries and 6,000 representatives from women's and human rights organizations. On Tuesday, they will observe International Women's Day with a panel discussion on gender equality beyond 2005. But there was an early commemoration on Friday, before most of the ministers and VIPs left, that included two Nobel Peace Prize winners and the heads of the four U.N. conferences since 1975 that built the global women's movement.

    Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, who was last year's Nobel laureate, said women must celebrate their achievements but there is still much to do. She urged women to fight poverty by championing debt relief and open markets, and to tackle climate change and deforestation, she said. ``It is us who will eventually have to convince our governments that women need to be given equal space, to be given an opportunity to exploit their potential, and that it is not a gift for women to participate in decision-making - it is a right,'' Maathai said to loud applause.

    Rigoberta Menchu, the Indian rights activist from Guatemala who won the Peace Prize in 1992, said women should be ``a beacon of hope'' to those fighting racism, discrimination, exclusion, and the lack of economic opportunity. ``We women have to give the example of being inclusive, of fighting exclusion, of fighting racism,'' she said. ``That is why I'm here.''

    Helvi Sipila, secretary-general of the first U.N. women's conference in Mexico City in 1975, said in a video message from her home in Finland that women have made ``considerable strides towards gender equality,'' and ``every day is an opportunity for actions, not just words.'' ``We must ask ourselves more seriously and with greater determination than ever what we can do in order to end violence, to enhance national and international understanding, and to secure world peace,'' said Sipila, 89.

    Gertrude Mongella, secretary-general of the Beijing conference and now president of the Pan-African Parliament, recalled that in her final speech in at the 1995 Beijing conference she said: ``A revolution has begun and there's no going back.'' Ten years later, she said, women are more visible, gender equality ``has become a working concept worldwide,'' and ``women and men are now mobilized to see women's issues as societal issues, whether they like it or not.''

    Former U.N. assistant secretary-general Angela King, who was Secretary-General Kofi Annan's top adviser on women and organized the 2000 U.N. women's conference, said the challenges of five years ago are the challenges of today. A growing number of women live in poverty, women are lagging behind in economic advancement, globalization is hurting many women, the incidence of HIV/AIDS is rising among young women and violence against women is increasing in armed conflict, at home and through trafficking, she said. King said progress is slow for a host of reasons - no budgets for gender programs, only four female prime ministers of independent countries and the difficulty in changing stereotypes of women's limited roles. ``In 1975, the Mexico conference ignited a spark of awareness among women of their shared hopes and common problems,'' King said. ``With each successive conference, the spark grew until it became a living flame in Beijing.'' ``Let us pledge today as the United Nations community, as governments, regions and individuals, that the flame for women's freedom and equality become a shining beacon for action to fully realize gender equality, development and peace,'' she said.
    ©The Guardian

    8/3/2005- The UN refugee agency is marking International Women's Day today with activities involving refugee women worldwide, with a special focus on refugee girls and women in education and leadership. In her speech commemorating the annual March 8 event, Acting High Commissioner Wendy Chamberlin said, "This day provides us with an occasion to review the progress and persisting challenges related to gender equality mainstreaming and women's empowerment." She noted that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had opened the current Beijing+10 Review and Appraisal Conference in New York by saying, "There is no other tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women." The conference, which runs from February 28 to March 11, is organised by the UN Commission on the Status of Women to review the implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Building on this year's International Women's Day theme of "Gender Equality: Building a More Secure Future", UNHCR is focusing on education and leadership for refugee women and girls. "Education is key in preparing girls to protect themselves and manage their lives," said Chamberlin. "It also lays the foundation for girls to aspire for and acquire leadership positions and participate in decision-making." The Acting High Commissioner also announced the creation of the UNHCR Gender Team Award to be presented in June. The award will go to three country operations that have taken innovative activities to promote women's and girls' access to education and leadership.

    Meanwhile, a plethora of activities are taking place around the world to mark International Women's Day, ranging from skills training competitions to women's health workshops, seminars on girls' education, discussions on the role of women returnees, and even attempts by men to ease women's burden.

  • In Moscow, UNHCR organised a conference allowing Afghan, Iraqi and Nigerian refugee women and asylum seekers to discuss their return options. The discussion provided them with information and views to decide for themselves, as well as a network of contacts and support that they don't usually get. "Many refugee women are isolated even from their own nationals as they are dispersed across the city and do not have well-developed community structures. It is of extreme importance for them to hear opinions on issues that concern them so much," said Karima Saoudyn, an Afghan activist in Moscow. A hairdressing competition was also held in the Russian capital, with participants from the UNHCR-sponsored hairdressing course, part of the agency's skills training project to help refugee and asylum seeker women become more self-reliant.
  • In Apartadó, Colombia, UNHCR and its partners are holding workshops on cancer prevention and reproductive health for internally displaced women and women from host communities. Teachers in UNHCR's Pedagogy and Child Protection project are also attending workshops on women's and girls' rights. A play on women's rights, a women's football match and two concerts are also being organised.
  • In Uganda, UNHCR is conducting sensitisation seminars on women's rights, girls' education and sexual and gender-based violence. Sierra Leone's Kissy Town refugee settlement will hold a panel discussion on empowering women for sustainable development in sectors like education, employment, food security, health and HIV/AIDS.
  • Kenya's Kakuma camp is organising a talk for refugee women to express their views on the possibility of returning to south Sudan and the roles they expect to play back home. Dadaab camp is running an HIV/AIDS-awareness campaign and presenting awards to people who have supported girls' education in the refugee camps.
  • In Nepal, winners of a poster competition for December's "16 days of elimination of violence against women" campaign will receive T-s forum in Japan and a joint-UN stall in Mexico helped to raise awareness of women's rights and contributions to society.

    8/3/2005- The economic clout of women migrants could be even more powerful and their contribution to global development enormous if they did not have to face discrimination and inequality in the workforce, says IOM as it marks International Women's Day. With more women migrating in their own right for work these days, their contribution to home economies through remittances is a growing and highly significant force. Women make up nearly 50 per cent of an estimated 185 million migrants who in turn send close to US$100 billion home in official remittances every year. Much more is probably sent through unofficial transfers and these figures do not take into account the enormous contribution of migrants in skills, knowledge and other non-economic benefits. Sri Lankan female migrants in 1999 were already contributing more than 62 per cent of more than one billion dollars in remittances. Now, with women making up 80 per cent of Sri Lanka's migrant labour force according to the IOM's upcoming World Migration Report 2005, that figure can only be higher. However, women's contributions to both remittances and development as a whole would be even stronger if they were not discriminated against in terms of pay, access to skilled jobs or taking out loans to set up businesses. "Ten years on from the World Conference on Women in Beijing, we are still seeing significant obstacles to gender equality. Not only do migrant women face many hurdles in obtaining skilled jobs but in whatever jobs they do, they are significantly lower paid than men and remain vulnerable to exploitation," said Ndioro Ndiaye, Deputy Director General of IOM.

    Women by and large send back home a greater share of their income in remittances than men and also tend to be better savers. In addition, women are the largest receivers of remittances and when in control of finances, this means better health, nutrition and education for the family, which supports the development of stronger and more productive communities. Women migrants can also contribute to development and poverty reduction upon returning home through the use of micro-credits on income generating enterprises. However, in many developing countries, women can't take out loans by themselves or officially hold deeds to land and property. "Making it easier for women to take out micro-credits would bring several benefits," adds Mrs. Ndiaye. "It encourages enterprise instead of dependency, it can mean a self-sustaining business, and it is an effective means for women to improve their own situation and that of their families and so develop their own sense of self-worth and confidence."

    IOM has worked to achieve these objectives through several programmes in recent years. Among these is a programme for returning qualified nationals and another one focused on migration for development in Africa. Both programmes have elements that train women in creation of micro-enterprises through a system of revolving funds. It is equally important to inform women who to want to migrate on the options for legal migration and to prepare for their migration process. This can include assistance to complete the required paperwork and advice on employment systems and other requirements in their country of destination. In the Philippines, the IOM project "The Power to Choose" is helping women migrant workers confront the many new personal challenges that affect their security, productiveness, longevity and support to family and community back home. Using multi-media techniques and real situations, IOM shares key messages and responses to difficulties facing migrants. This video training system has proved to be an effective tool to promote better migrant awareness, preparation and response. Clear measures are needed to address existing discrimination against migrant women in order for countries of origin and destination to reap all the benefits of labour migration. The potential for development is huge, but only if women migrants are both paid and treated on an equal footing with men.
    International Organization for Migration

    There is not one country where women are truly equal with men, reports Cosima Marriner on International Women's Day.

    8/3/2005- Women have made great strides in recent years - increasing their numbers in parliaments, gaining on men in the pay stakes and becoming more educated. The last big international study of gender equality, Progress of the World's Women, issued by the United Nations in 2002, found advances around the world, although the pace of change was too slow in many regions, especially sub-Saharan African countries struggling with poverty, conflict and the effects of HIV/AIDS. Where are the best - and worst - places for women to live? The answer is not as obvious as it may seem. Despite their problems, at least 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have higher rates of women's parliamentary participation than countries such as France, Japan and the United States, the UN notes. Few countries shine on many levels and in some categories there are surprising standouts, including Rwanda and Kenya. Nordic countries such as Sweden, Finland and Norway come closest to female nirvana when judged by political representation, wages, health and family-friendly policies. The worst countries for women to live in - by our standards at least - are likely to be poor and war-torn, or unsympathetic to women's rights, such as Saudi Arabia. But finding the faultlines is not as simple as plotting the borders between East and West. The chasm between the haves and have-nots makes the US "shocking" for many women, says a University of Adelaide academic, Barbara Pocock. Low minimum wages (about $A6.50 an hour compared with $12.30 an hour in Australia), a welfare system aimed at pushing people back into work, expensive health care and the dominance of individual bargaining means many women are left on the outer. In Australia, women are generally well educated and healthy, their wages are relatively close to men's and they have their rights enshrined in law. But academics warn the gains of the 1970s and '80s are starting to erode as women struggle to balance work and family. "We certainly have more [Australian] women in positions of power than we had, we have more women earning higher incomes and they are better educated," says the feminist Eva Cox, a senior lecturer in humanities at the University of Technology, Sydney. "But we haven't changed our work culture nearly enough. On the numbers game we've done a lot better than we have on the power-shifting game."

    Rwanda is an unlikely bastion of female empowerment. But with women occupying 39 of the 80 seats in its national parliament, the war-torn nation boasts the highest proportion of female politicians anywhere in the world. Rwanda's gender balanced parliament is due to two factors: a 30 per cent quota for women enshrined in its constitution and a proportional representation system for elections. Quotas and proportional representation are crucial if women are to increase their numbers in government, says Marian Sawer, professor of politics at the Australian National University. Quotas force parties to stand a certain number of female candidates. Proportional representation provides an incentive to put forward a balanced ticket to appeal to a range of voters. Women in the Nordic countries have benefited from these two measures, making up 45 per cent of the Swedish parliament, 37.5 per cent in Finland and 36 per cent in Norway, according to the Interparliamentary Union. At the other end of the scale are the Gulf states and some Pacific nations. The parliaments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have no female representatives. Nor do Tonga, Micronesia, Nauru or the Solomon Islands. In recent decades Australian women steadily increased their representation in Federal Parliament, only to suffer a decline in last year's election when the proportion of female MPs dipped from 25.3 per cent to 24.7 per cent. Sawer attributes this to the Coalition's increasing move to the right, its aversion to quotas (unlike Labor, which has achieved a 35 per cent quota), and the adversarial nature of Westminster politics. Sawer believes quotas are important if the sexes are to be equally represented. "It's important to ensure there are a range of perspectives represented in Parliament ... It also raises the status of women in society in general," she says.

    Nowhere on Earth can women expect pay equity, but Kenya comes closest. Kenyan women earn 10 per cent less than Kenyan men, the UN's 2004 Human Development Index says. But this is probably due to the relatively small participation of women in the formal labour force in Kenya, says Pocock. This also explains the small wages gaps in Cambodia (where women earn 77 per cent of what men do), Ghana (75 per cent), and Tanzania (71 per cent). An effective minimum wage is the key to narrowing the gap, says Pocock. Sweden has the second best female-to-male wage ratio, at 0.83. Australian women have the seventh smallest wages gap in the world, earning 71 per cent of the male wage. The wages gap is widest where pay rates are unregulated, individual bargaining rights are minimal and immigrants with little protection make up a large proportion of workers. This includes Saudi Arabia, where women earn just 21 per cent of the male wage, Oman (22 per cent), Belize in Central America (24 per cent) and Peru (27 per cent). How much women earn is partly dictated by their education level. Most countries have now achieved gender equality in secondary school education, according to the Progress of the World's Women report. But in parts of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia there are still far fewer girls in secondary school than boys. In Niger, Guinea, Mozambique, Burundi and Chad, fewer than 10 per cent of teenage girls are enrolled in high school.

    Many developed countries - including Australia - score poorly on child care, maternity leave and child benefits for women. A 2004 OECD report found Turkey, Mexico and New Zealand were the only countries in the developed world with poorer family-friendly provisions than Australia. Scandinavian mothers receive the most support. Australia, New Zealand and the US are among a handful of governments that do not require women to be paid some form of maternity leave. In countries as diverse as Russia, Colombia, Laos and Morocco, the government foots the entire bill for three to six months of maternity leave. In other countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, employers must pay maternity leave benefits. The Howard Government recently introduced lump sum baby care payment, which will eventually increase to $5000, but this is not genuine maternity leave, because it is paid to all mothers regardless of whether they return to work after the birth of their child or stay at home. The Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Pru Goward, blames the lack of maternity leave, affordable child care and flexible workplaces for the slow growth in the number of Australian women in full-time work. In 1980, 27 per cent of Australian women were in full-time work. Despite a surge in female university graduates, that figure has increased only to 31 per cent today. "Good child care is essential if you're going to increase the participation of women in the workforce," says Goward. "Women can't work without feeling confident their children are well looked after."

    So poor is their health that Zambian women can expect to live to only 32.5 years, Zimbabwean women to 33.5 and Sierra Leonean women to 35.6, according to the 2004 Human Development Index. The combined effect of civil wars, HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty shorten the lives of many African women and contribute to high maternal mortality rates. Japanese women are likely to live nearly three times as long as African women, on average reaching their 85th birthday. Hong Kong women also live long lives (average age 82.7), as do those in Sweden (82.5), Australia (82) and Italy (81.9). Women in disadvantaged social positions are twice as likely to suffer poor health, says a 2004 World Health Organisation report, because they are likely to be exposed to malnutrition, poor water supply and sanitation, unsafe sex, tobacco, drug and alcohol use, dangerous work and pollution. Health is a key factor in rating women-friendly countries because it is linked to education, wealth, employment and gender bias, says Dr Angela Taft, from the Public Health Association of Australia. Under the Taliban, women in Afghanistan were not allowed to be seen with a man who wasn't a family member. As there were no female doctors, this meant they were unable to seek medical treatment. The suicide rate increased, as did the mortality and morbidity rate. In China and India, where there is cultural preference for sons, there are high rates of foeticide and infanticide.

    Although the UN rates the mistreatment of women as one of the three biggest problems hindering development, there is little internationally comparable data. Results from a UN survey are expected by the end of the year. Among developed countries, Australia has a relatively high incidence of sexual assault. One per cent of women in Australia, Finland and Sweden reported having been sexually assaulted, compared with the 0.6 per cent international average, according to the UN's International Crime Victims survey 2000. Women in Japan, Ireland, Poland and Portugal were least likely to have been sexually assaulted. But Australian women were less likely to suffer domestic violence than those in other countries. "Women in our country are well educated, and the legal system makes physical and sexual assault crimes," Taft says, noting the laws also need to be properly implemented. Eight per cent have been physically assaulted by an intimate partner, according to the UN, compared with nearly half the Bangladeshi female population, 34 per cent in Egypt and 29 per cent in Canada. Violence against women is rife in countries involved in civil wars. In Rwanda from April 1994 to April 1995, estimates of the number of women and girls raped range from 15,700 to more than 250,000, the UN says. Domestic violence increases in countries at war. Women who live in male-oriented societies are also more vulnerable. The first sexual experience of many girls is often unwanted and forced. Gender mutilation and child marriages are common in some countries, and hundreds of thousands of girls are bought and sold into prostitution or sexual slavery every year, according to a WHO report on violence and health. "In countries where women are legislatively and culturally inferior, the rate of violence against women is much higher," Taft says.

    Free at last to lead a life of her own
    "I have my freedom," says Marie Baby Sapateh when asked what she likes best about living in Australia. The 36-year-old Sierra Leone native was one of 2 million people - more than a third of the country's population - forced to flee her homeland in the late 1990s. Sierra Leone was destroyed by a decade of civil war that came to an end in 2002. Sapateh escaped to Guinea first before arriving in Australia in 2001 as a refugee. She suffered the full horror of war in Sierra Leone. Her husband was shot dead in front of her, she was gang-raped, and two of her children went missing. "We suffer the worst suffering," Sapateh says of Sierra Leone women, who have a life expectancy of 45. "They rape women young and old; they don't ask. They amputate some girls. They ask the son to rape the mother." Sapateh has since been reunited with her two children - she declines to speak about the details - and is working as a nursing assistant and living in Marrickville. "My life is happy because I am here with my family. We came here traumatised from war, we were treated badly ... and now we are free." In Australia she has access to medical care, government assistance and better wages - and she is free to wear trousers. "There I eat and sleep, but not like here. Here I have computer, I have video, I have this, I have that ... I can also look after my other family back home. When I was there I couldn't give them five cents. There you are the man's belonging. Here everyone gets their own share."
    ©The Sydney Morning Herald

    7/3/2005- At the end of mass on Sunday, the priest made the last announcement: "This afternoon all the women are invited to a meeting. As you know, March 8 is the International Women's Day. The church is calling on every woman in this congregation to stand up in solidarity with women all over the world to fight for gender equality." The priest was passionate about his call to the women because, according to him, their disinterest in gender issues was partly to blame for the despicable situation they often find themselves in. Indeed, all over Africa, the clarion call was being made for women to participate actively in this year's International Women's Day whose global theme is: "Gender Equality beyond 2006, Building a more secure future." Women across the continent (especially sub-Saharan Africa) face legislative barriers to the realization of their rights. Wanjiru Muigai, a Kenyan lawyer, says the principal goal of the women's movement in sub-Saharan Africa therefore, is legal reform. Kenya offers a good example of legislated gender discrimination. The Constitution of Kenya forms the legal basis of discrimination against women. In Section 82, it outlaws discrimination on the basis of many grounds but discrimination on the basis of sex is not outlawed. Other legal barriers limit women s freedom of association, assembly and expression. These include the Chiefs Authority Act, the NGO Coordination Act, the Societies Act and the Public Order Act. They impose prohibitive legal procedures on the activities of civil society groups. Activists, including women's rights activists, have been calling for the review and repeal of these laws to enable civil society to thrive.

    International Women's Day (8 March) is an occasion marked by women's groups around the world. This date is also commemorated at the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. In Zambia, however, the Day is not a national holiday, and this is one of the major thrusts for this year's celebrations. The Non Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) acting executive director, Karen Mukuka, says this shows how the government attaches very little importance to the affairs of women. "We want the Day to be designated as a national holiday, like all other important dates in the national calendar. This will help to bring into focus issues affecting women." The sub-theme for the NGOCC this year is: "Socio-economic rights, women and children's rights a MUST in the Constitution before 2006 elections for good governance." Mukuka explains the significance of the theme: "What we have done is to add our own voice to the global theme by taking into consideration our local situation. Zambia, as you know, is drawing up a new constitution. We want the constitution to make specific reference to the rights of women and children." Mukuka says the NGOCC will also lend its weight to the call by the civil society to have the constitution ready before the 2006 elections. The Zambian government and the civil society are currently on a warpath over the adoption of the constitution. Zambia is presently updating the Constitution for the third time. President Levy Mwanawasa has constituted a Constitution Review Commission team which has been making rounds in the country collecting people's views. But there are bitter differences on the constituted team and adoption method.
    OneWorld Africa

    8/3/2005- Asia marked International Women's Day on Tuesday with rallies and protests against a wide range of gender inequalities and acts of violence, although there were some celebrations for hard-won victories. In Bangladesh, where hundreds of women continue to be disfigured each year from acid attacks, victims were due to converge on the capital of Dhaka to call for greater government efforts to stop the brutal practice. Nearly 2,000 women in Bangladesh have had acid thrown on them since 1999, according to the Acid Survivors' Foundation, with their attackers most often men who have had their advances rejected. "On Women's Day, our slogan is law, justice and good governance will help fight acid attacks," one of the rally's organisers, Rahman, said. The United Nations-mandated Women's Day was being marked in Pakistan by a similar battle to end "honour crimes". In the central city of Multan, high-profile gang rape victim Mukhtiar Mai led a rally of several hundred women on the eve of Women's Day, less than a week after a court controversially acquitted her alleged attackers. "I shall continue my struggle for the rights of women 'til the last breath of my life and I will not bow before tyranny, exploitation, tradition or customs," Mai said. The 30-year-old was raped for more than an hour in a village in Punjab province in 2002 as punishment for her brother's alleged affair with a woman of a powerful rival clan. A Pakistani court last week freed five men earlier sentenced to death for the attack, while a sixth man's death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. In the Philippines, the decades-old campaign for justice by women who were forced into sexual slavery at the hands of Japanese World War II occupation forces, was again a rallying cry on Women's Day. Twenty elderly women who say they were sex slaves staged a protest at the Japanese embassy because they were "still bereft of justice and recognition by the Japanese and Philippine governments," women's group Kaisa Ka said. In China, women's rights were one of the "hot topics" among lawmakers gathered in Beijing for the annual meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC), according to the state-run China Daily newspaper. The All-China Women's Federation is campaigning at the NPC for a law to protect women in the workplace, following a recent survey in Beijing that showed 86 percent of women had been victims of sexual harassment. At a forum in Bangkok to mark International Women's Day, the United Nations and rights groups warned last December's tsunami disaster had led to wide-ranging follow-up dangers for female survivors. "The Indian Ocean tsunami... has produced some very gender-specific aftershocks, ranging from women giving birth in unsafe conditions to increased cases of rape and abuse," Cholpon Akmatova, from the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, told the forum. "Women, marginalised and disempowered under normal circumstances are more at risk because of their socio-economic status, barriers to choice and lack of access to resources."

    However it was not all bleak news for Asia's women on Tuesday. In South Korea, women's groups staged plays, dances and exhibitions to mark a victory for gender equality - the abolition of a century-old family registration. The National Assembly last week voted to abolish by 2008 the "hojuje" system under which children take the family name of their natural father. Women's groups say the system adds to the stigma of divorce and discriminated against children of divorced women. Events were also decidedly more upbeat in the modern city-state of Singapore, where the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations was due to celebrate its 25th anniversary with a gala dinner on Tuesday night. Aside from raising money for traditional causes such as charities and women's support groups, the council will for the first time also support a sporting cause - a planned all-women Mt Everest climbing expedition for 2008. "We felt the Singapore Women's Everest Team 2008 encapsulates how far we women have come in recent times and hope the team will be a source of inspiration for all women," the anniversary dinner's chairperson, Jennifer Lee, said. (Agencies)

    8/3/2005- The Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia are the top candidates for hosting the new EU gender institute. The European Institute for Gender Equality, announced by the European Commission today (8 March), is supposed to collect, analyse and circulate data to provide a basis for future policies on gender equality. It will operate with a budget of about 53 million euro for 2007 – 2013, and be located in one of the new member states. Social affairs commissioner Vladimir Spidla suggested Prague, Budapest or Ljubljana as among the most likely seats for the institute. Different opinions across Europe remain, however, on what exact measures to take for tackling inequality between men and women. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the new body would make a "very good contribution to promote our values, because the EU is leading in gender issues and we do not want to give this position to the others". However, despite several initiatives in member states to deal with gender-related inequalities, there are still gloomy trends concerning the situation of women in Europe: feminisation of poverty, mainly in old age, as women live longer than men - pension systems do not recognise this difference. Pay gaps of about 15 per cent between men and women, and unequal job opportunities due to insufficient maternity leave and child care provisions also remain. Commissioner Spidla pointed out the new institute should provide objective information as a basis for future social policies, as "new inputs which are not based on prejudices".

    Quotas on women at workplace?
    The EU does not enjoy significant legislative powers in social policy, so it is mainly up to the individual countries to adopt their own tools to promote gender equality. Several EU member states have introduced so called "positive discrimination" measures, such as quotas to encourage more women in employment or political representation. However, the issue proved quite controversial among MEPs debating their common resolution on International Women's Day, according to Slovak Hungarian MEP Edit Bauer (EPP-ED). "While some liberal and socialist parliamentarians consider introducing quotas as the most efficient way to encourage more women at the workplace, several conservative MEPs are strongly opposed [to such a mention in the resolution]", Mrs Bauer told the EUobserver. According to a recently published study on gender-related legislation across Europe, some countries - like Austria, Denmark and Germany - restrict the positive equality measures to the public sector, while others - such as France, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands - include positive equality measures in the private sector. Hungary, Slovakia and Spain have no positive measures to promote equality in their legislation, according to the study. Commissioner Spidla favours the idea of introducing quotas for women, at least in the public sector. "The countries which have come up with such measures – especially the Scandinavian states - have proved that it can be done and that it leads to better women representation in all spheres." "It would be stupid not to exploit the women's talents. The mixed teams are better anyway, the European Commission with its highest number of women in history is the clear example", Mr Spidla told the EUobserver.

    8/3/2005– As feminist groups mark Tuesday, March 8, the International Women's Day, a legal amendment granting citizenship to children of Algerian women married to foreigners, Muslims or non-Muslims, has sparked a furor with rights activists calling for treating men and women on an equal footing. "Frankly speaking, I'm totally against this proposed amendment," Mussalam Bumosbah, a Member of Parliament for the Movement for National Reform (Mouvement Islah), told Tuesday. "Algerian girls often continue their postgraduate studies in Western countries and they might fall in love with non-Muslims, and Islam prohibits a Muslim woman from marrying a non-Muslim. So, religion is a must in the proposed amendment." He regretted that the amendments to the citizenship and family code laws have been ratified by the cabinet at directives from President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. "Unfortunately, the issue will not be debated in parliament and it seems as if legislation is passed by presidential orders, which undermines the country's judiciary," Bumosbah. The citizenship amendment has been put forward against a backdrop of an array of international agreements inked by Algeria to protect the rights of women and children. The parliament will decide the fate of this motion this month through a direct yes-no voting, without discussions.

    Sheikh Abdel-Rahman Shaiban, head of the Muslim Scholars Association, said Islam does not consider the citizenship of a male suitor but his religion. "Muslim women can't get married to non-Muslims, because men are the head of the household," Shaiban told IOL. "The proposed amendment should therefore be in line with Shari`ah (Islamic law) and the Constitution's article two, which stipulates that Islam is the religion of the state." According to the Noble Qur'an, the husband is the head of a household, and as such his wife should obey him. Almighty God does not want to put Muslim women in a position that a non-Muslim becomes her head in her own private life. God has spared her from being under the authority of a non-Muslim husband.

    Algerian feminists and rights activists, on the other hand, urge Muslim scholars to debate the controversial issue thoroughly to enable Algerian Muslim women to get married to non-Muslims in what is known in the Islamic jurisprudence as "Ijtihad" or juristic discernment. "I know many women married to foreigners, who are suffering from denying their children Algerian citizenship," lawyer and women's rights activist Adia Ayat Zahi told IOL. "It is true that Islam doesn't permit marriage to non-Muslims, but we live now in the 21st century and I think that it's high time scholars found a way out and gave women a free choice when it comes to marriage." Zahi further said that Algerians who fought alongside the French occupation (1830-1962) should also be granted Algerian citizenship if they are married to Algerian women in conformity with the president's all-inclusive amnesty. Lawyer Boujoma Ghashier, chairman of the Algerian League for Human Rights, said that Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives an even treatment for men and women.

    Equal Rights
    A global female march for a charter giving women the same rights enjoyed by men gets underway Tuesday in Sao Paulo, Brazil and will come to an end in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in October after passing through over 50 countries. The Women's Global Charter for Humanity was adopted by women's rights groups in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, in December, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP). Coinciding with International Women's Day, organizers expected 30,000 women to attend Tuesday's start of the tour. The Burkina Faso capital was chosen as the final destination because of its poverty and low level of protection for women.
    ©Islam Online

    8/3/2005- On International Women's Day 2005, Norwegian Church Aid is to turn its attention towards human trafficking – especially that involving women – as a prelude to the organisation's largest Lenten fundraising drive so far. Many high profile Norwegians have already offered their support to the cause. NCA believes the needs and rights of victims of human trafficking should be given higher priority in Norway and around the world. Norwegian and international legislation requires victims of human trafficking to be afforded protection and care by authorities in the country in which they are resident. Norwegian Church Aid is therefore launching a nationwide signature campaign on United Nations International Women's Day, March 8th, directed at Norway's Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Erna Solberg, which calls for Norway to provide increased protection for women who have been sold.

    Norwegian Church Aid demands that:

  • Norway's obligations towards victims of human trafficking are fulfilled,
  • Norwegian Immigration Law makes better provision for victims,
  • Victims of human trafficking are granted residence in Norway.

    A large number of well-known Norwegian women and men have voiced agreement with the organisation's demands to increase protection for the victims of human trafficking. Examples include: Kristin Halvorsen, MP, Margareth Olin, filmmaker, Shabana Rehman, comedienne, Long Litt Woon, Equal Opportunities Director, Ebba Haslund, author, and many more. The Norwegian Church Aid website received a lot more traffic than usual this week after the signature campaign - in electronic form - was published on Monday. Visitors to the website are able to submit their name quickly and easily online. The response has been very impressive so far and hopes are high that still more people will voice their support once the campaign is released nationally on Wednesday. Norwegian Church Aid has chosen to place special focus on human trafficking throughout 2005, and this is the theme for the organisation's Lenten Campaign this year. Every year, NCA selects a topical issue around which to mobilise churches, congregations, schools and businesses across the country to one of Norway's biggest annual fundraising drives. This year, human trafficking is in the spotlight.

    "We challenge people in Norway to fight back against this form of violence, and against those who are responsible for it, by offering support to survivors and by helping to stop the trade itself," says NCA Secretary General Atle Sommerfeldt. Human trafficking is the third largest illegal trade in the world after weapons and narcotics. According to UN statistics around 4 million people – mostly women and children – are currently victims of this cruel industry. It is trafficking - and therefore a crime - when a person, either through the use of violence, threat, abuse of vulnerability or any other improper behaviour is forced into prostitution (or any other sexual duty), labour, work as a soldier in a foreign country, or removal of his / her organs. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers. This is due in part to the increasing demand for foreign workers as home helps and au pairs, and the growth in the sex and entertainment industries. Inadequate opportunities within education and employment and the lack of equality between the sexes means women and girls are more vulnerable, and as such easier to control and manipulate. It is therefore important to place focus on this issue, not only today, on UN International Women's Day, but all year round. Norwegian Church Aid says NO to human trafficking in all its forms, and calls for greater protection to be offered to the victims of this most cynical and exploitative industry.

    8/3/2005- Messages from different organisations issued on Tuesday focused on many issues related to women including domestic violence. The Malta Confederation of Women's Organisations (MCWO) in its message said the law on domestic violence should be passed as soon as possible and appealed to the government to work at an international level to eliminate this scourge for all women and children worldwide. Maltese society has waited far too long, it stated. The MCWO demanded action. The Women's Study Group at the University of Malta also focused its message on domestic violence and stated that research carried out locally shows that women attempting to rebuild their lives feel that the system as it is, rather than helping, further abuses them. It would facilitate the lives of so many children and women to be afforded the protection they need, to be allowed to remain in their home, and have the perpetrator removed. The Minister for Family and Social Solidarity Dolores Cristina said that this is the first time that Malta is marking International Women's Day as an EU member. EU accession has highlighted and accelerated the need for legislation and policies to address particular issues hampering the promotion of equality, such as the low participation rate of Maltese women in the labour market compared to the EU average, and the very low rate of women in decision-making and representative positions, negatively affecting the true democratisation of the Maltese society. She said that government is addressing the issue of female representation at decision-making levels by appointing a number of women to high profile positions. However, the process is at the initial stages and both the public and private sectors would benefit much more if the knowledge and expertise of more women were to be utilised, she argued. Union Haddiema Maghqudin (UHM) said that the Maltese culture still gives different roles to men and women. A lot remains to be done in schools and in the education system so that children from the early stages start recognising that there should be no distinctions between the women's and men's rights. Today's children are tomorrow's workers and employers, UHM argued. It is a pity that although 55 per cent of the university students are female, many stop working. The Women's Movement within the Nationalist Party (PN) expressed its appreciation regarding various initiatives taken by the government including the 14-week maternity leave, a year parental leave for each baby and a year tax holiday for those mothers who return to work. It expressed its support towards all those women who besides being discriminated against are also suffering violence due to their social, political or economic situation. The Women's Organisation within the Malta Labour Party (MLP) reiterated that a lot still remains to be done. It said that women are being urged to work outside their homes not for their financial independence but to alleviate the country's economic situation. Not enough is being done to encourage mothers to return to work. The one time tax holiday measure is not enough as it does not understand the problems which mothers meet once they return to work, it concluded.
    ©di-ve news

    6/3/2005- Turkish police have detained dozens of protesters after using pepper spray, batons and boots to break up a demonstration by women's rights supporters. The crackdown occurred after a group of about 150 people gathered in Istanbul on Sunday before International Women's Day on 8 March. Police intervened after protesters refused to disperse and detained 59 people, including 29 women, private news channel NTV said. Television pictures showed riot police charging protesters, beating them with batons and kicking them on the ground. One policeman beat a woman to the ground with his baton, then another ran up and kicked her in the face. A police vehicle was damaged by stone-hurling protesters, and some demonstrators were injured in the melee, NTV said.

    EU membership
    Turkey has promised to do more to improve the plight of women as it legislates reforms required by the European Union before the government begins membership talks in October. The European commissioner for enlargement Ollie Rehn said that Turkey must do more to improve women's right after talks with Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul in the capital Ankara. Turkish women have for decades had the right to vote and access to education. But gender equality is not enshrined in the constitution and cultural tradition often prevents equal treatment. Up to half of the women in Turkey face domestic abuse in a "culture of violence", Amnesty International has said. And dozens of women are murdered by family members each year in "honour killings".

    TDN editorial by Yusuf Kanli

    8/3/2005- The "plight" of scores of women (and men, by the way) subjected to excessive force by police on grounds that they were involved in "unauthorized" demonstrations was one of the items on the agenda of the Turkish-EU Troika meeting. The EU ministers and the new commissioner for enlargement were "upset" with "horrific scenes" of "police use of excessive force" on demonstrators and demanded that Ankara take immediate and effective measures to punish those responsible for the weekend incidents in Istanbul and make sure that such things "that do not befit the Turkey of today" are never again repeated. The police commanders who set our cops on male and female demonstrators in Istanbul must be very ashamed of themselves. At least Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, upon hearing the harsh criticism of the European inspectors --pardon, ministers and commissioner -- flushed red in anger and immediately conveyed his apologies as the number-two of the government for such a thing happening in a Turkey that is preparing to open, God willing, accession talks with the EU later this year. Still, it was not pleasant at all to hear one of the European ministers instructing Gül to make sure that such things never happen in the country again. How unfortunate was it? Neither Gül nor any other Turkish official had thought beforehand that a Troika-Turkey meeting in Ankara on March 7, just a day before World Women's Day -- which every year turns unpleasant in Turkey because of some clandestine demonstration by potential women terrorists -- would be a serious mistake. They could have arranged the meeting on another "safe" date. Thank God the police in Diyarbakir were more aware of the possible repercussions of an intervention in a women's rally there and managed to avoid it. If not, hundreds of women clad in yellow, red and green headscarves -- rally grounds are not public areas and thus headscarves are welcome, but of course it would have been advisable for them to wear scarves of other colors -- could have ended up at the city's police stations. Such a development would have been an even greater shame for a Turkey preparing for EU talks.

    Thank God, at least the Diyarbakir police behaved well and did not provide the Troika-Turkey meeting with another item for the agenda. Nor did the Troika-Turkey meeting discuss violence in the family. Foreign Minister Gül must appreciate the restraint of the Turkish press in not raising such a nasty subject before the meeting with the EU. The story of 54-year-old Hanim Koç from Zonguldak did not appear, either, before the meeting. How would Gül have explained to the senior guests from the EU club that Mrs. Koç -- whose family survives on its ability to collect bits of coal dumped by a coal mine in Balkayasi -- could not care less whether March 8 is "World Women's Day" or not. She couldn't care less, as well, whether or not the EU ministers and commissioner were happy with the performance of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in implementing reforms. Like us, the public must be upset, however, seeing the EU ministers acting an inspectors-general and issuing instructions to Foreign Minister Gül. That was very unfortunate. For millions of men and women in this country, survival has become a full-time job. In a country with -- officially -- a 15 percent unemployment rate, many people are willing to give up every right imaginable just for the sake of employment with a meager minimum wage. And, unfortunately, the brilliant economic performance figures of the government so far have had no effect on these people. These people couldn't care less whether Turkey has appointed a chief negotiator, compromised on Cyprus or let up in working towards the country's EU bid. Women and men, they are just trying to survive. The handover of SSK hospitals to the Health Ministry and the closure of the SEKA paper mills are far more important for them than any other issue.
    ©Turkish Daily News

    8/3/2005- Hundreds of protesters will be gathering outside the Dáil today to call on the Government to tackle violence against women. Supporters of Amnesty Ireland are marking International Women's Day with a demonstration to draw attention to the issue of violence. The campaigners are calling for increased funding and support for voluntary domestic and sexual violence support services, which they say are underfunded and oversubscribed. Amnesty also wants a review of the justice system to ensure violence against women is effectively dealt with, as well as specialist training about gender-based violence for members of the judiciary and other personnel dealing with the issue. The protest will follow the handing over of a giant petition – made up of the handprints of thousands of Amnesty supporters – to Minister of State Frank Fahey at the Department of Justice. The organisation is also calling on the Minister of State to ensure that women fleeing violence in areas of armed conflict are dealt with appropriately in the Irish asylum process.
    ©Irish Examiner

    8/3/2005– Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx marked International Women's Day by focusing media attention on initiatives to tackle domestic violence. On Tuesday, the Belgian press reported that Onkelinx had organised a conference on violence in the home which had highlighted some of the most effective new ideas for protecting women and men beaten by their partners. Spanish Justice Minister Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar was among those who participated in the day in Brussels, informing delegates 73 women were killed in his country in 2003. La Derniere Heure reported that Belgium also has a problem, even if the situation is "less tragic". "The official statistics are equally frightening," noted the Belgian daily. "The number of blows and deliberate injuries in the home between partners and ex-partners is particularly worrying," said Onkelinx. There were 9,611 cases in 2003, which means 12.54 percent of violence was domestic. The minister believes that figure under represents the actual scale of domestic violence in Belgium. She said she wants to implement better means of measuring how effective authorities' methods are at tackling the problem and to keep track of its scale. "According to a study carried out in 1998, one out of seven women and one out of 40 men will suffer serious physical or sexual violence from their partner," stated Onkelinx. The minister wants prosecutors to copy the practices of the Liege and Antwerp offices where domestic violence is treated seriously. In Ghent, La Derniere Heure reported that the police have been using a new scheme to protect women who have clearly dangerous ex-partners. Since September 2002, 10 transmitters have been available for use in serious cases. Women are given a necklace which can send a signal directly to the police station. "The advantage of this system is to ensure an immediate reaction from the police, who will be at the scene within 10 minutes, while it would take more time if the women had to call the usual 101," explained Nienke Kiekens, who manages the scheme. Meanwhile, Le Soir, in its report for International Women's Day, focused attention on the fact that women are still suffering discrimination in the workplace and still do twice the amount of household chores.
    ©Expatica News

    8/3/2005- It's hard to miss that it's International Women's Day today. No fewer than two new networks have been announced by prominent politicians and the long-awaited rumours of Gudrun Schyman's feminist party have been officially announced as... rumours. Dagens Industri reported that Schyman will launch her Feminist party in April. Schyman herself, who has two speaking appearances today, insists she will not present a Feminist party - yet. Meanwhile, the Social Democratic party secretary Marita Ulvskog and former EU minister Margareta Winberg have announced their own feminist network, called Feministas. "We women do not experience Sweden as an egalitarian, mature society. That's why we must fight for a feminist emphasis in politics," said Ulvskog and Winberg via Aftonbladet today. "We want to take back the official space. We want the same rights and have the same respect as men do in this society. If laws are necessary, well, then we demand them," they continued. Feministas has launched its own web page today. They say they want to drive the debate on salaries, domestic violence, girls in schools and even health care issues. "Even when we're sick we're not treated as women," they write on their web site. But Feministas founder Marita Ulvskog does not believe in a Feminist party. "That would be a disaster for women," she told Göteborgs-Posten. She said women would leave the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party in favor of a Feminist party. "Then the Conservatives and Christian Democrats could simply take over politics and women's issues," she said. Prime minister Göran Persson agreed. Speaking on a visit to Malmö, he said he saw it as a serious threat to the ruling socialist coalition. "It would undermine the conditions for both the Greens and the Left party to have a place in parliament," he said. "Then we would quickly find ourselves in a situation where we have a government which works directly against the objectives of a feminist party." But it's not just the socialists who are using International Women's Day as a springboard for a new network. Christian Democrat Maria Larsson has presented her own network,, the 'women's blog'. She says it's an alternative to Feministas and Gudrun Schyman. "Equality is not a Left issue," she said. Indeed, if a page three special in Metro is anything to go by, there are left feminists, right feminists, media feminists, denim feminists and many more. "What type of feminist are you?" asked the paper. Perhaps you're a "post-colonial feminist", trying to move away from the notion of feminism as a white, heterosexual, western movement and acknowledging that ethnicity, sexuality and age are just as important on the equality agenda. If that all sounds a bit wishy-washy and you find yourself raging against sexist advertising and men's violence against women then you're probably a "radical feminist". And if you happen to be of the view that men get a bit of a raw deal too, being discriminated against in, for example, the childcare sector, then you're an "equalist".
    ©The Local

    8/3/2005- The Women of Europe civic initiative staged a happening to highlight the violation of women's rights in Muslim countries and Muslim communities in Europe in the centre of Prague today, Renata Hokovska from the initiative has told CTK. Some thirty people watched the event on Palacky Square where the organisers removed a burka, the traditional Muslim attire for women, from a doll, which was covered with inscriptions, such as discrimination, segregation and domestic violence. The happening was part of the "Life under the Veil - What Remains Concealed" event during which a couple of women wearing burkas were distributing leaflets describing problems of Muslim women. "Women in a number of Muslim communities have no chance to decide about their own lives. They are not allowed to move free without an appropriate escort, they cannot choose a job, participate in public life or drive a car," the leaflet says. Three Czech women who have converted to Islam, also appeared at the happening. They pointed out that the violation of women's rights is not a problem of Islam, but of some Arab countries. "Where men start to have more decision-making power, they implement their own rules, which is true in our country as well," one of them, Sara Brandejska, said. The women had their heads covered with scarves, but they said that no one forced them to wear them. "We are being discriminated against here," another Czech Muslim said, adding that they cannot get a job for the only reason of wearing a Muslim scarf and must often hear offensive shouts on the streets, calling on them to "return where they come from." Hokovska said that this event was neither to offend, nor mock anybody. "We are pointing to Muslim women's problems, since we, too, are women and we are not indifferent to the fate of other women," she explained. She noted that women in Muslim ghettos in Europe do not enjoy all freedoms they have the right to under the European law. With time this problem could concern the Czech Republic as well, she concluded.
    ©Czech Happenings

    8/3/2005— The Dutch employment agency (CWI) and various Dutch businesses are to provide staff from immigrant backgrounds to work as 'coaches' to help talented women from ethnic minorities find and keep a job in the Netherlands, it was announced on Monday. About 100 female employees of the CWI have volunteered to act as coaches. ING, Fortis, ABN Amro and Rabobank, the four main banking groups in the Netherlands, and IT services company Ordina will work on the scheme with a special government integration commission. The programme will be officially launched by the Rabobank. The announcement was made as the PAVEM Commission — which was set up to support the efforts of the 30 largest Dutch municipalities to integrate immigrant women — presented its final recommendations on Monday. Argentinean-born Princess Maxima was a prominent member of the commission. The commission wants to stimulate greater participation in society by immigrant women by entering into agreements with city councils to provide language lessons and to convince municipalities and businesses to offer more trainee jobs for women, news service NOS reported on Monday. Launched in July 2003, the commission will disband later this year and the 30 city councils across the country will then be required to implement its findings. Agreements thus far have been made with 16 councils, with an extra 200 language courses established and a further 2,400 trainee placements and jobs created for immigrant women. In 10 municipalities, the CWI is working with city councils and companies to set up links between employers and potential employees.

    Evening meetings have also been organised in various cities. But in 18 months, the PAVEM commission has not achieved spectacular results. Just 25 percent of women from Turkish and Moroccan ancestry have a paid job and the coaching scheme is thus designed to get more immigrant women into the workplace. Princess Maxima urged employers on Monday to give greater freedoms to immigrant women. "Rally your employees and offer them the possibilities to coach immigrant women and thereby help them to play a greater role in our society," she said. The princess said supporting the coaching scheme would help set off a chain reaction in which immigrant women would no longer be looked upon as "pitiful", but considered as people who can really work. The commission has also advised Social Affairs Minister Aart Jan de Geus and Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk to set up a nationwide language action plan. It is hoped that by teaching the Dutch language to 240,000 older female immigrants they will be able to pass an integration exam — made up of Dutch language and culture components considered necessary for active citizenship — by 2010. PAVEM said a budget of EUR 50 million would be necessary. Both ministers have promised to initiate the action plan, but it remains unclear how much money the government is prepared to invest in the scheme. The commission's recommendation's come as the Netherlands is in the midst of a backlash against immigration due to increased social tension. Concerns have also been expressed for the position of immigrant women who often remain excluded from active participation in Dutch society. Besides moving to restrict immigration for marriage purposes, particularly from Turkey and Morocco, the Dutch government is forcing new arrivals and older immigrants to complete integration courses.
    ©Expatica News

    8/3/2005— Amid international condemnation of violence committed against women, greater rights and the continued emancipation of females were high on the agenda in the Netherlands on Tuesday as International Women's Day was observed. The event was being observed in 65 Dutch municipalities, with most activities planned for Tuesday. But various activities were also held over the weekend and The Hague, Utrecht and Leeuwarden have events planned for the entire week. A large number of activities have an intercultural theme, from belly dancing demonstrations to multicultural food to various readings. And festivities were aplenty, with female orchestras, cabaret groups and a large number of dance and music events planned.

    On a more somber note, the foundation Prime organised a demonstration at the Parliament in The Hague on Tuesday to demand greater rights for sexually-abused asylum seekers. It is hoped the women will be granted the right to stay in the Netherlands and a petition was being handed over to MPs. But on the emancipation side, female firefighters were also presenting a petition to MPs. They also intended to demonstrate their firefighting capabilities on the main square in front of the Lower House of Parliament on Tuesday. They demanded active recruiting be conducted for female firefighters. Currently just 5 percent of firefighters are females and the women are keen for that figure to rise to 15 percent. And trade union confederation FNV is demanding changes to new childcare regulations, claiming that parents are complaining of increased costs and paperwork. FNV leader Agnes Jongerius said for some people, particularly women, paid work is no longer worthwhile due to childcare costs. The Cabinet's plans to combat the problems of an ageing population will have a negative impact on emancipation, the chairperson of the Emancipation Visitation Commission, Tineke Lodders, said on Tuesday. Lodders said cabinet plans to increase the working week to 40 hours instead of 36 hours was a bad idea because the present working week already formed a problem for parents trying to cope with combining work and parenting responsibilities. Meanwhile, various readings and debates were being held in conjunction with International Women's Day. The PAVEM Commission — which works to increase societal participation of immigrant women — organised a debate over multiculturalism and emancipation in the Free University in Amsterdam. On a separate note, it is also launching a "coaching" scheme to get talented immigrant women into the workforce. A debate was also held in the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam, where the present state of play after a special women's conference in Beijing in 1995 was discussed. Several social organisations claimed that emancipation is far from complete. The particular benefits and advantages of women was also being discussed in the Felix Meritus building in Amsterdam, while femininity was being displayed in language, images, sound and dance at the Antropia Cultuur- en Congrescentrum in Driebergen

    International Women's day was first observed in 1910. It focused in the early part of the 20th century on shorter work hours and voting rights. Women later campaigned for contraception rights and the right to both a job and family. The day has been celebrated in the Netherlands since 1978. But not every nation celebrates International Women's Day on 8 March, with Belgium, for example, observing the day in November. The United Nations paid special attention to the occasion on Tuesday amid concern raised by Doctors Without Borders and Human Rights Watch over the raping of women in refugee camps in Darfur, Sudan. And Amnesty International released a report indicating that women are increasingly the victim of violence involving firearms.
    ©Expatica News

    International politics and migration were the main themes of the events taking place across Switzerland as part of International Women’s Day on Tuesday.

    8/3/2005- In Bern, 7,000 postcards calling for more action on violence against women were sent to the government from organisations across the country. The postcards, sent by non-governmental organisations and women’s groups, demanded the proper application of United Nations Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. They also called on Bern to stop exporting arms to countries that did not respect women’s rights. A protest was held outside the parliament building. Inside parliament, Thérèse Meyer, the newly elected speaker of the House of Representatives, gave out roses to female parliamentarians to celebrate the day and to thank them for their commitment. Meyer is only the seventh woman to hold the post. Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey also held a seminar on the extent to which women's issues are a part of Switzerland's foreign policy.

    Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) launched a campaign in Switzerland to help stop female genital mutilation. The population was encouraged to wear a special badge as a sign of solidarity. Some political parties were also involved in women's day. The Social Democrats presented their equal opportunities council, made up of six women and one man. It is intended to promote equality in the party and in Swiss politics as a whole. A demonstration in favour of women’s rights took place in Geneva, while around 30 illegal women workers staged a protest at canton Vaud’s equality office in Lausanne. They called on the authorities to grant them official status. Outside Switzerland, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 30,000 people were due to mark the start of a women's march which is expected to cross through 50 countries before ending in Burkina Faso in October. Other events included a forum which addressed the issues faced by women survivors of the December tsunami in Thailand.

    28/2/2005­ The Cabinet decided on Friday to exempt trailing spouses of skilled expats from applying for a work permit before being allowed to take up employment in the Netherlands. The proposal ­ lodged by Social Affairs State Secretary Henk van Hoof ­ also states that the exemption will lapse if the relationship ends within three years, the website said. The exemption is designed to make it more attractive for skilled foreign workers to enter the Netherlands. The work possibilities for partners often play an important role in the choice of which country an expat will work in. The cabinet had previously decided to exempt skilled expats from having to obtain a work permit. Starting from October 2004, expats who earn more than EUR 45,000 gross no longer need a work permit and can be issued with a residence permit for five years. The income criterion does not apply to foreigners entering into employment as a doctoral student at an educational or research institute or to postgraduates and university teachers under 30 years of age. Knowledge migrants under 30 years of age must earn at least EUR 32,600. It is hoped the plan will make the Netherlands more attractive to specialists in IT, academic research and technology. The government intends to make the Dutch economy one of the most dynamic 'knowledge economies' of Europe. Nevertheless, the plan ­ which aimed at simplifying residence procedures by setting up one point of contact for residence permits ­ was slow to get off the ground because companies needed to first sign agreements with the Dutch government to qualify them for the simplified expat visa process. In October 2004, the cabinet also decided that professional footballers would be allowed a work permit-free probation period in the Netherlands. It was also decided that legal Dutch residents who give testimony against human smugglers could also temporarily work in the Netherlands without the need for a work permit. The proposal to exempt partners of skilled expats from a work permit has been sent to the Council of State for legal advice. Once the advice is received, the new regulation will be published in the government newspaper, Staatscourant (
    ©Expatica News

    3/3/2005— The arson attack that destroyed the Islamic school in Uden last year was not, as the police claimed, a coincidental boyish prank. The chief suspect in the attack, a 16-year-old student of a VMBO school in the town, told news programme Zembla the attack was planned by native Dutch boys. The interview with the boy, identified only as B., is part of Zembla's broadcast "White power in Uden" broadcast on Thursday evening on Nederland 3 at 9.10pm. The Muslim school in the town was burnt to the ground in November, seven days after the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Mohammed B., 26, a Moroccan-Dutch Muslim, was arrested for the murder and his ongoing trial has been told that he wants to take full responsibly for his actions. The Uden arson attack was one of several tit-for-tat attacks on Muslim and Christian properties that contributed significantly to the tension and polarisation between the native Dutch and Muslim communities in the aftermath of the killing. Seven native Dutch boys, including B., were later arrested by the police for the Uden attack. B. told Zembla: "A day after Theo van Gogh's murder we, with a group of boys, decided we had to attack the (local) mosque. We were going to fight, we were going to get them back". This is the first time the 16-year-old student has spoken publicly about the arson attack. B. claims the group initially wanted to burn the mosque. He made a detailed map of the mosque, including the escape routes they could use. "We bought petrol and transferred it to a wine bottle, a piece of material into that and you have a Molotov-cocktail. We walked to the mosque and broke a window by throwing a stone," he said. But the prayer hall did not catch fire, so days later the group attacked the school, he said. The resulting destruction of the Islamic school sent shock waves across the country and over 1,000 people took part in a silent march in the town to demonstrate that they opposed the attack. But B. says the identity of the perpetrators was common knowledge among his fellow students at the VMBO school. "Half of the school knew of our plans. We incited each other. It began more or less as a joke, but then we could not back down." B.'s father was also interviewed by Zembla and he denied it had started out as a racist attack, but rather a clash between two groups of children. The police announced at a press conference on 24 November that seven boys, aged 13 to 16, had been arrested — three for the failed attack on the mosque and the rest for burning the school. They were released after five weeks in custody and must appear before a court on 19 May. Two of the suspects, Zembla said, are back at school. B. told Zembla that he went to see the skeleton of the Islamic school himself the day after the attack. "I did not find it fascinating. If it was a burnt-out chicken shed, I would have felt exactly the same way".
    ©Expatica News

    28/2/2005- The former governor of a troubled youth jail told a public inquiry today that prison officers had objected to his efforts to improve their awareness of race relations. Clive Welsh, who ran Feltham young offenders institution, west London between 1997 and 1999, said staff at the jail complained that he was being "politically correct" after he warned them against using racist and sexist language. Mr Welsh also condemned the then leader of the Feltham branch of the Prison Officers Association (POA) for his poor attitude towards diversity and equal opportunity issues. The unnamed official complained that the range of special diets for vegetarian and ethnic minority inmates was excessive, adding that "the only choice should be 'take it or leave it'". "A comment like this, in a management/POA meeting, from a so-called 'leader' of the staff association, indicates that such thoughts were not isolated," Mr Welsh said in his written evidence to the public inquiry into the murder of 19-year-old Zahid Mubarek at the jail. "Given the perceived power of the POA, such comments, in another setting, could have influenced others." Mr Welsh, who now works for the Cabinet Office, said ethnic minorities were over-represented in Feltham - with black inmates making up 43% of the jail's population in May 1997. He blamed this imbalance on the institutional racism throughout the criminal justice system. The former governor also told the inquiry that up to five prison officers were suspended at anyone time over alleged assaults on inmates, leading to staff shortages. Later this week the inquiry will investigate allegations that prison officers at Feltham set up gladiator-style fights between white and ethnic minority inmates.
    ©The Guardian

    28/2/2005- Black Africans are labelled "aggressive" by council staff in Glasgow simply because they talk louder than Scots, a new study claims. And city council employees are also accused of "looking down on" ethnic minorities and not having enough sensitivity about cultural differences. The report, by leading pollsters MORI, into knowledge and perceptions of the council by the city's ethnic communities found most participants were satisfied with how Glasgow was being run. But some of their comments are bound to concern the council's equality chiefs who have been making efforts to ensure all staff are "culturally aware". As well as the aggressive tag, some black Africans told the pollsters council staff did not make enough effort to pronounce or spell their names properly. Chinese participants complained about the type of food provided by home care services, claiming it was never to the taste of the community's elderly members. And Muslims claimed the council did not provide enough single-sex sessions at leisure centres. They also felt there was a lack of Halal meat on school meal menus and not enough consideration of children's religious practices such as praying and fasting. Standards of customer care at the council were seen to be poor overall, especially when telephone conversations were involved. Anti-racism campaigners described the findings as evidence of "institutionalised racism" in the council. Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action for Housing, said: "We are living in an increasingly multi-cultural Glasgow which seems to deliver services from a white workforce geared for the white community. "The same problems emerge time and time again. It's an unacceptable form of institutionalised racism where cultural differences don't seem to matter." A council spokesman said: "We are committed to equality and fair treatment for all citizens and visitors to the city. This survey will highlight any weaknesses in the system which will then be addressed. "It's also important to highlight that much of the feedback is to do with people's perception of how they are being dealt with."
    ©Glasgow Evening Times

    2/3/2005- A girl was unlawfully excluded from school for wearing a traditional Muslim gown instead of school uniform, the Court of Appeal has ruled. Shabina Begum, 15, accused Denbigh High School in Luton, Beds, of denying her "right to education and to manifest her religious beliefs". Cherie Booth QC represented her at the appeal court hearing in December. Judges were told then the case involved "fundamental issues" of the freedom to practise religion. Miss Begum, whose father and mother are both dead, had worn the regulation shalwar kameez (trousers and tunic) from when she joined the school at the age of 12 until September 2002. At that time she and her brother, Shuweb Rahman, informed assistant headteacher Stuart Moore she would be wearing a full length gown-type garment called a jilbab. The head teacher and governors of the school where 79% of pupils were Muslim said this was not acceptable and she should keep to the accepted uniform policy. After Miss Begum was sent home a series of court cases started and the latest of these was heard at the Appeal Court in December. High Court judge Mr Justice Bennett had already dismissed the girl's application for judicial review, ruling that she had failed to show the 1,000-pupil school had excluded her or breached her human rights.
    ©BBC News

    2/3/2005- Schools which have uniform policies may have to re-assess the way they are enforced, following a court ruling. The Court of Appeal held that a Muslim girl's human rights were violated by a school's insistence on its dress code. The court called on the Department for Education and Skills to give schools more guidance on how to meet their obligations under the Human Rights Act. The department says its guidance does take account of religious needs. Shabina Begum, 15, had accused Denbigh High School in Luton, Bedfordshire, of denying her the "right to education and to manifest her religious beliefs" over her wish to wear a full-length jilbab gown. The school, where most pupils are Muslim, had consulted Islamic scholars for advice, and had argued that Ms Begum had chosen a school with a uniform policy and, if she did not like it, could move to another school. But Lord Justice Brooke, vice-president of the civil division of the Court of Appeal, ruled that her exclusion was unlawful. The school had unlawfully denied her "the right to manifest her religion", he said. A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) said: "Our school uniform guidance states that governors should bear in mind their responsibilities under sex and race discrimination legislation and the Human Rights Act, be sensitive to pupils' cultural and religious needs and differences and give high priority to cost considerations." Currently in the UK there is no legislation that deals specifically with school uniforms, which are a matter for individual schools. DfES guidelines say that where the governing body has decided that pupils should wear a school uniform, it is for the head teacher to enforce the policy as part of day-to-day discipline. But the department "does not consider that exclusion from school would normally be appropriate where a pupil fails to comply with the school's rules on uniform". This proviso applies where a pupil's non-compliance with the uniform policy "results from them having to adhere to a particular cultural, race or religious dress code". The guidelines say schools must be "sensitive to the needs of different cultures, races and religions" and accommodate those needs within their general uniform policy. "For example, allowing Muslim girls to wear appropriate dress and Sikh boys to wear traditional headdress." The guidelines do not go into detail about what would constitute "appropriate" dress.

    New advice
    The Appeal Court judges said they had sympathy with the school, but it had gone about things wrongly. It had "approached the issues in this case from an entirely wrong direction and did not attribute to the claimant's beliefs the weight they deserved". But Lord Justice Brooke added: "Nothing in this judgment should be taken as meaning that it would be impossible for the school to justify its stance if it were to reconsider its uniform policy in the light of this judgement and were to determine not to alter it in any significant respect."
    The sorts of matters schools needed to consider included:

  • whether members of other religious groups might wish to wear clothing not permitted by the school's uniform policy, and the effect this might have on its inclusiveness
  • whether it was appropriate to override the beliefs of very strict Muslims, when liberal Muslims had been permitted the dress code of their choice
  • whether it was appropriate to take into account concerns about such things as other pupils' feeling intimidated or coerced by the presence of very strict Muslim garb
  • whether the school could do more to reconcile its wish to retain its uniform policy with the beliefs of those who considered it exposed too much of their bodies.

    In a statement, Denbigh High School said the case had been lost due to "a small technical breach" of the Human Rights Act. "The judges accepted that the school is entitled to have a uniform policy and could see nothing wrong with it. The policy will be reviewed as it always is annually." Its local education authority, Luton Borough Council, said it was pleased the court had upheld the school's uniform policy. But in light of the judgement, it would developing guidance on school uniform and advising Luton schools' governing bodies to review their uniform policy, taking into account the religious and cultural needs of pupils. The Secondary Heads Association said it was disappointed by the court's decision. "The ruling is not at all clear in what will be expected of schools. It states that schools have a right to uniform policies but students also have a right to disregard them," said the deputy general secretary, Martin Ward. "There are wider implications for school dress codes and school leaders will want to see clearer guidance on this in the near future."

    Individual consideration
    A leading solicitor with a special interest in education, Jack Rabinowicz, said the judgement showed what a difficult balancing act schools had to perform. If a pupil became increasingly religious, a school had to consider the child's views and see whether an exception should be made in its policy. "And that has made it difficult for schools because the whole point is you have a strict regime which applies across the board," he said. He mentioned the recent Ofsted report highlighting how behaviour in schools had declined in recent years. "What this school did was to apply a policy without considering the individual child - and that's what the court says you cannot do." It had re-emphasised the need for individual consideration of individual children. "So to that extent it's a liberal judgement, at a time when most courts and government authorities and trying to ensure a more regulated attitude towards students and their behaviour in school."
    ©BBC News

    2/3/2005- Hazel Blears, the minister responsible for counter-terrorism, said yesterday that Muslims will have to accept as a "reality" that they will be stopped and searched by the police more often than the rest of the public. Ms Blears told MPs that "there was no getting away from it", because the terrorist threat came from people "falsely hiding behind Islam". Her comments, on the day when leading British Muslim groups met to hammer out a strategy on maximising the Islamic vote for the election, provoked immediate condemnation from Islamic leaders. Massoud Shadjareh, chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said: "She is demonising and alienating our community. It is a legitimisation for a backlash and for racists to have an onslaught on our community." The Home Office minister's comments come at an awkward time for the Labour government. It is struggling to pass anti-terrorism legislation through parliament and preparing for a general election where the traditionally loyal Muslim vote is threatening to desert the party. Ms Blears was speaking at the Commons home affairs committee inquiry into the impact of anti-terrorist measures on community relations. "If a threat is from a particular place then our action is going to be targeted at that area," she said, adding: "It means that some of our counter-terrorism powers will be disproportionately experienced by the Muslim community." Statistics showed that of the 17 people found guilty of terrorist acts since 9/11 in the UK, only four of the 12 whose ethnic backgrounds were known were Muslim, Mr Shadjareh said.

    The usually moderate Muslim Council of Britain was in discussions with the Home Office last night about what the minister had meant. Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the MCB, said he feared they legitimised anti-Muslim sentiment and warned the minister against scaremongering to drum up support for the new terror laws: "The remarks are thoroughly unhelpful as we've seen a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in the UK. "It is wholly unacceptable if a government minister is using her office to scaremonger at the expense of our community to ease the passage of legislation designed to curb our civil liberties." Ms Blears' comments come after Monday night's vote over controversial new anti-terrorism powers that could see suspects subject to house arrest. The measures provoked a rebellion that saw the government's majority reduced to 14, and yesterday the bill reached the House of Lords. Ms Blears also cited new Home Office stop and search figures showing that the rise in the number of Asian people stopped under the Terrorism Act was no longer as sharp as those involving white or black people. Counter-terror stop and searches rose from 21,500 in 2002-03 to nearly 30,000 in 2003-04. Those involving white people rose by 43% from 14,429 to 20,637; those involving black people rose by 55% from 1,745 to 2,704 over the same period; and those involving Asian people rose 22% from 2,989 to 3,668. Ms Blears said the figures may reassure the Muslim community that they were not being unfairly targeted but she said it was important for the government to develop a broader conversation with the Islamic community than just talking about the terrorist threat.
    ©The Guardian

    2/3/2005- Fifteen employees of a company that detains and transfers asylum seekers have been withdrawn from their jobs after undercover journalists found evidence of abuse and assaults against detainees. The BBC journalists worked in a detention centre and escorted asylum seekers and immigrants around the country while working for Global Solutions Ltd. The company said it was carrying out a full investigation and the employees had been "withdrawn from frontline duties" pending the outcome of the inquiry. The programme, Detention Undercover - The Real Story, to be shown tonight, shows one officer at Oakington detention centre in Cambridgeshire threatening a detainee, whose mental well-being was reportedly causing concern, for not getting out of bed. Jason Martin, known to his colleagues as Wolfie, is shown telling the man: "Get out of fucking bed before I do you some damage. You just don't want to do it because I'm white. And you think you're not going to do anything 'cos a white person tells you what to do. Well, I'm afraid you're wrong. My great grandfather shot your great grandfather and nicked his fucking country off you for 200 years. I'm not to be fucked about with. Personally I don't go with this Gandhi shit. Passive resistance means fuck all to me." He then tips him out of bed.

    Simon Boazman, the researcher who spent three months in the centre, says: "Many of the officers I met on my shift did try their best to treat the detainees with dignity and respect. But there were a significant minority like Wolfie who were racist." Mr Martin has now taken a job as a prison custody officer in training for a private company and is understood to have no contact with inmates. The other researcher, Andy Pagnacco, worked for the escort service, and was based at a depot at Heathrow transporting immigrants and asylum seekers around the country. Officers were also responsible for putting failed asylum seekers and immigrants on planes to leave the UK. Jalil Chaudhri, known as Jay, who had worked for GSL for 18 months, told Pagnacco that in violent situations he should ignore the company's training in control and restraint. "Forget all that shit they teach you in C & R," he says. "I've smacked them in their faces when no one's looking. I've busted their noses." The company said in a statement: "GSL does not tolerate racism, discrimination or any form of abuse in the workplace. Fifteen employees mentioned in the BBC allegations have been withdrawn from frontline duties pending the outcome of the investigations." Four others had already resigned.
    ©The Guardian

    3/3/2005- Campaigners today called for the government to stop awarding contracts to the firm at the centre of last night's BBC exposé into racism and abuse at asylum seeker detention centres. Undercover journalists secretly filmed employees of Global Solutions Limited (GSL) espousing racist views and talking of assaulting detainees. In response, the firm suspended 15 staff members from "frontline duties" pending an inquiry into the programme, Detention Undercover. GSL said it did not "tolerate racism, discrimination or any form of abuse". The government said it took the allegations "extremely seriously" and was examining them. Today, speaking at a protest outside the Home Office, Emma Ginn, a spokeswoman for the National Coalition of Anti- Deportation Campaigns (NCADC), criticised the government for giving GSL contracts despite allegations of abuse. She said that last year the prisons ombudsman, Stephen Shaw, had criticised the firm for having some racist staff and had voiced concerns about its vetting of employees after it emerged one was a British National party member. Ms Ginn said: "It can't be right that the government continues to use GSL when there is so much concern about racist and abusive staff." The film shows two employees at the Oakington detention centre in Cambridgeshire saying that the asylum seekers are not "worth anything"; another employee tells a detainee to "get out of bed before I do you some fucking damage ... my grandfather shot your great grandfather and nicked his fucking country off you for 200 years." Ms Ginn said the NCADC was concerned at "worrying trends including allegations of failure to investigate [abuse and race allegations] by the police and detainees being removed from the UK before their cases have been dealt with".

    In the film, one employee tells an undercover reporter that detainees cannot complain if they are removed. Another employee who handles racial abuse complaints says he talks detainees out of making complaints. A union official says he stands up for staff who are being investigated even though "we know they done it" and tells a reporter that they can give detainees "some bleeding pain" if they are careful not to get caught. Two former detainees told the filmmakers that they were physically assaulted while in detention and in part of the footage, employees tell one undercover reporter that they should "smack" detainees in areas where there are no CCTV cameras, such as in lifts. Also at today's protest at the Home Office was Richard Solly of the Churches' Commission for Racial Justice, who said that people should not be surprised by abuse at the detention centres because the system was "abusive". Mr Solly said: "What needs to happen is a total change of the terms of debate about asylum because all we have at the moment is the two main parties trying to outbid each other on who can be the most hardline. "We are against any detention against people who are not a genuine risk to society." He expressed deep concern about apparent evidence in the programme that the racist views of some of the employees were exacerbated by their contact with asylum seekers. Geoffrey Duncan of the Thames North Synod of the United Reform Church said that he was especially concerned at the detention of children. He said: "The whole ethos around the subject has to change ... some sections of the media give people such a prejudiced view about asylum and somebody somewhere has got to have enough integrity to say that this is not the truth."
    ©The Guardian

    3/3/2005- A 13-year-old boy believed to be the youngest in Britain to be convicted for racist violence faces jail after terrorising a London estate. The white teenager, who cannot be named, attacked black and Asian people in his two-month campaign. He roamed the streets wielding a golf club as a weapon, slashed a man across the face with a knife and screamed racist abuse at his victims. The boy carried out his reign of terror on the Rouel Road estate in Bermondsey last summer. In one incident he spat at a black man and started shouting racist abuse. When a neighbour looked out of her window the boy shouted: "You black bitch." Then punched her window. In the same month he smashed a black roadsweeper's cart with his golf club. When the man confronted him, the boy shouted: "Go back to your country." When he said he would dial 999, the boy replied: "I don't give a f*** about the police, I'm going to kill you." He then took out a knife and slashed the man across the face. The boy was later arrested. During the police investigation other victims came forward with allegations of the abuse they had suffered. An Asian shopkeeper said the boy had thrown a piece of wood embedded with nails at him shouting, "Paki". On another occasion the boy was alleged to have pressed on the buzzer of a house and stood outside with the golf club ready to attack whoever answered the door. When a woman emerged he shouted abuse and smashed a window with the club. The next day the boy was alleged to have seen the same woman in a park with her children and shouted: "We're coming back to get you". Investigating officer Detective Gbolahan Jegede said: "These were unprovoked and violent attacks which left victims in fear." The teenager was found guilty of two counts of raciallyaggravated criminal damage and assault. He was remanded by the Inner London Crown Court and will be sentenced in April. As well as a potential jail term, police are pressing for an Anti Social Behaviour Order banning him from Southwark.
    ©This is London

    3/3/2005- The government's plans for a single equalities watchdog are to be published in a parliamentary bill. The Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) will eventually take responsibility for tackling gender, race and disability discrimination. It will also promote equality regarding age, religion and sexual orientation. The government is believed to have countered some criticisms of CEHR by increasing its proposed powers. The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), the only one of the three current equality watchdogs to oppose the CEHR plan, appears to be pleased with the plans. Last year CRE chairman Trevor Phillips and the CRE's commissioners voted against supporting the plans for the CEHR. At the time Mr Phillips said of the CEHR that it was the "wrong proposal at the wrong time". The proposals have appeased other groups which previously opposed the plan for a single equalities bodies, such as the 1990 Trust, which describes itself as a black-led human rights organisation. "The Equality Bill is a massive improvement on the white paper proposals," said Karen Chouchan, the 1990 Trust's chief executive. "We are pleased the government has listened to our criticisms and those of the black community," The bill is expected to confirm the government has accommodated the CRE's request for a delay in merging it into the CEHR. The Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission are expected to be merged into the CEHR when it is formed in 2007. However, it is believed the CRE will continue in its current form until 2009. Trevor Phillips will also to head a government-backed equalities review, due to start work soon, leading a panel of experts to investigate the causes of discrimination and disadvantage. His review will work alongside one by the Department of Trade and Industry, which is responsible for the Equality Bill, aimed at modernising the UK's equality laws. Amongst other issues, the DTI review will look at outlawing anti-gay discrimination, a key demand by campaigners for many years.
    ©BBC News

    4/3/2005- Twelve police officers are to be disciplined as a result of the BBC documentary The Secret Policeman, which exposed racism among recruits. The Independent Police Complaints Commission said today that four officers who train recruits will receive written warnings, while seven constables and a sergeant will receive formal advice from a senior officer. The IPCC launched an investigation after the controversial documentary was screened on the BBC in October 2003. Ten officers resigned after the programme was aired but there will be no sackings as a result of the investigation.The documentary sent shockwaves through the police force after exposing racism among trainee officers from forces in North Wales, Cheshire and Greater Manchester.As a direct result, six police officers resigned from Greater Manchester Police, two from North Wales Police and two from Cheshire Constabulary. The BBC documentary was based on footage from undercover reporter Mark Daly, who posed as a recruit while filming with hidden cameras. He secretly filmed recruits for seven months at the Bruche National Training Centre in Warrington, Cheshire, which takes rookie officers from forces across the country. The commission has also recommended changes to national training procedures. It has written to the Greater Manchester force and Centrex, the national police training organisation. The IPPC commissioner, Nicola Williams, said: "I believe that a very thorough inquiry was carried out by Greater Manchester police and an independent review by Hampshire Constabulary agreed. "The BBC were very helpful and supplied 180 hours of videos and audio tapes. One hundred statements were taken and over 1,200 documents and exhibits obtained." The IPCC has also asked that disciplinary procedures should be speeded up in cases of gross misconduct, so that officers could be instantly dismissed when there was "compelling evidence" against them. The commission also called on Centrex to carry out a national review of race and diversity training. "The IPCC is anxious that progress should be made on these proposals with a review of progress in September," said Ms Williams."It is vital that the police service can permanently improve recruit training and ensure that each and every police officer supports the need to treat everybody fairly, regardless of their race, religion or colour." The BBC documentary caused outrage when one officer, PC Rob Pulling, who served in Rhyl, north Wales, was filmed wearing a home-made Ku Klux Klan hood, saying he would like to "bury" an Asian under a train. PC Pulling was also captured on film saying Hitler had the "right idea" and that murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence had "deserved it".The programme prompted the Commission for Racial Equality to launch an investigation into the recruitment, training and monitoring of police officers' conduct and the management of their behaviour. Its report will be published next week.
    ©The Guardian

    4/3/2005- The Government's revised plans to allow judges to impose controversial house arrest "control orders" on terror suspects may still breach human rights laws, MPs and peers warned today. The all-party Joint Committee on Human Rights said Home Secretary Charles Clarke's changes to his new terror Bill may not go far enough. Mr Clarke on Monday backed down over proposals which would allow him to impose the orders on a suspect, instead of allowing judges to make the initial decision. But the committee said today: "We ... question whether the degree of prior judicial involvement provided for in the Government's amendments in relation to derogating control orders is compatible with the Convention requirement that deprivations of liberty must be lawful." It was the committee's second report in a week on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, which is being rushed through Parliament by the Government. The Parliamentarians expressed "regret" that the Bill's rapid progress had made it impossible for them to scrutinise the legislation's human rights' compatibility in time to inform debate. Changes to the control orders' measures proposed by Mr Clarke will see the Home Secretary be able to apply to a judge without notifying the suspect, who will not be entitled to be represented at court. The members said they could "see no reason" why the suspect could not be allowed to be represented at the initial stage, because there will be new powers to detain them while the procedure takes place. The committee also raised concerns about the way lower level control orders will be imposed on the say-so of the Home Secretary. The members said the "unprecedented scope" of the powers and the "potentially drastic" effect on human rights warranted a greater degree of judicial control. "We regret ... that having now accepted the principle of prior judicial authorisation in relation to derogating control orders, the Government does not accept that the procedure for non-derogating control orders should be the same." They went on: "In our view, prior judicial involvement is therefore required in order for there to be an independent safeguard against arbitrary deprivations of liberty through the exercise of the power to make non-derogating control orders." However, the MPs and peers welcomed the "considerable progress" that the Government's amendments had made in involving judges in the decisions.
    © Independent Digital

    28/2/2005- A coalition of NGOs has criticised the Government's attitude to racism ahead of a United Nations meeting to discuss Ireland's efforts in the area. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is due to question an Irish Government delegation about its anti-racism efforts in Geneva this Wednesday and Thursday. The meeting has been arranged to discuss Ireland's progress report on the implementation of the UN Convention of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which was ratified by the Government in 2000. The Human Rights Commission has sent a report to the UN committee outlining its concerns that the Government is failing to recognise the seriousness of racism in Ireland. Around 40 NGOs, meanwhile, have also sent a report to the committee accusing the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats coalition of fuelling rather than containing racism. One of these NGOs, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, said the Government had to stop hiding from the problem and engage with groups working in the area of racism. Spokesperson Aisling Reidy said: "There's hope there that the Government may, when they come back, realise that if they don't get it right, if they don't engage with the NGO community, if they don't engage with people who experience racism, that they're never going to really address problems of racism in Ireland."

    Irish officials to face UN questions on anti-racism efforts
    2/3/2005- An Irish Government delegation is due to appear before a United Nations committee over the next two days to answer questions about Ireland’s anti-racism efforts. The meeting was arranged to discuss Ireland’s progress report on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which was ratified by the Government five years ago. The Human Rights Commission and several Irish NGOs have made submissions to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ahead of this week’s gathering. The submissions express concern about the Government’s attitude to racism and particularly its treatment of the Travelling community and asylum seekers.

    Officials face more UN questions about anti-racism efforts
    3/3/2005- An Irish Government delegation is due to face further questions from the United Nations today about Ireland's anti-racism efforts. Yesterday, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination began a hearing into the Government's moves to implement anti-racism policies. The hearing was convened to discuss the Government's progress report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which was ratified by Ireland in 2000. The Human Rights Commission and several NGOs have all sent submissions to the UN committee expressing their concerns about the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats coalition's approach to racism, particularly when it comes to Travellers and asylum-seekers.
    ©Ireland On-Line

    28/2/2005- Norway requires visas from a wide range of countries, and tourists hailing from them soon may need to put up a bank guarantee as well. The goal is to discourage them from seeking asylum once they've arrived in Norway. Newspaper Aftenposten reported over the weekend that Norwegian politicians are considering requiring a deposit of NOK 50,000 (about USD 8,500) from would-be tourists who come from countries where visa are still required. That includes Russia, India, China and African nations, among many others. The proposal calls for companies or persons who invite visitors from non-visa-exempt countries to Norway to put up a financial guarantee, basically that they'll go home again. If the visitor seeks asylum, the deposit would go straight into the state treasury. The idea stems from Denmark, which has instituted several measures in recent years to crack down on immigration. Even though both of the women who married into Denmark's royal family came from foreign countries, it's not easy for others to obtain permanent residence in the country. The Norwegian proposal is being fronted by politician Jan Simonsen from the tiny Democrats party. Many politicians from the country's bigger parties are leaning in favor of it, to prevent abuse of the tourist visa system. The exact amount of the proposed bank guarantee, however, remains open to debate. Some politicians don't want to make it so high that it causes problems for legitimate tourists interested only in a short-term stay. The parliamentary committee in charge of immigration issues will continue working on the issue this session.

    By Marcin Kornak

    February 2005- When the Second World War ended, societies all over the world drew one general conclusion from it: that a similar slaughter can Never Again occur. The wartime experiences were then so fresh that almost everyone must surely have considered it inevitable that the harsh lessons that humanity had been taught by the war would result in lasting collective wisdom—the wisdom of constructing interpersonal and international relations on the basis of rejecting national chauvinism, criminal political ideologies, and racist nonsense. It seemed perfectly realistic then to think of hammering the world's trauma into a system of global cooperation based on universal solidarity and mutual trust. Today, nothing remains but the fossilized United Nations and the shock of the Second-World-War crimes, which is dwindling from year to year.

    When saying 'nothing remains,' it should be remembered that the air of disappointment should attach mostly to the fulfillment of postwar plans and expectations. The change from the previous system of confrontation to a system of negotiating that is lame but, at least in Europe, functional, is nevertheless valuable, especially when compared to earlier practice. There have been few historical precedents for the peace that has prevailed in most of Europe over the last sixty years, and so it should not be underrated. Immediately after the war, problems in attaining the dream of global peace could be expected. After all, the first signs of the coming bipolar reality were already sketched out during the war. Nevertheless, none of the liberators of the concentration camp could have supposed that the ideology that had inspired the builders of those camps would ever begin to re-emerge. Unfortunately, it began to emerge immediately after the war. It is another matter that, in most countries, nationalist chauvinism and racism were never truly and consistently eliminated from public life. This is, of course, true of Poland as well. It suffices to mention the bloody acts of anti-Semitism in Cracow, Kielce, and the Podhale before the 1940s were out, or the anti-Semitic witch-hunt of 1968. The Polish People's Republic (PRL) may well have resorted willingly to Endek (National Democrat) ideology, but had certain inhibitions in doing so and masked it with internationalist Newspeak. However, after the watershed year of 1989, a true explosion of nationalism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia was unleashed. The aggressive neo-fascist sub-culture known as the skinheads had already emerged in the mid-1980s, producing the future leaders of far-right organizations and parties. By the end of the decade, there was also a visible revival among the still-active members of and sympathizers with the pre-war National-Radical Camp (Obóz Narodowo-Radykalna-ONR) amd the closely-associated quasi-fascist street squads and their heirs in the PRL. During the 1990's, there were several Nationalistic Parties in Poland, which were mutually hostile and were fighting each other. Their consolidation was possible due to father Tadeusz Rydzyk, who inspired a rebirth of the extreme right. Being a director of the Radio Maryja, hes been able to play a key role thanks to the great influence that the station has on its listeners. Rydzyk was able to make different nationalistic leaders form electoral alliance. Thus, in the 2001 elections, chauvinistic right brought a strong group of representatives to the parliament under a common banner of League of Polish Families (Liga Polskich Rodzin LPR). At the same time, the All-Polish Youth (Mlodziez Wszechpolska), LPR's unofficial youth section that refers to its own dark pre-World War II tradition, has become one of the most active youth political organisations in contemporary Poland.

    The far right is a significant force on the political scene in Poland today. Unfortunately a large part of the public and the political establishment have accepted this state of affairs without any critical reflection, let alone any objections. There is an increasing tendency to close one's eyes or simply ignore the consequences for public life of the rebirth of a political tendency that bases its support on appeals to chauvinistic phobias, aggressive nationalism, and attempts at excluding minority groups. It takes only a superficial analysis to find reflections of this in the ideological shape of political discourse in Poland today, as for example in the cases of the claims of the Prussian Trust and the Union of the Expelled, or the "war on terrorism." One of these consequences is the very notable increase since 1989 in the number of incidents with a racist or xenophobic background, and of crimes committed by neo-fascists. It suffice to mention that monitoring of this kind of incidents by the Never Again Association indicate that at least 35 people have been killed in Poland in cases with a chauvinistic background over the last five years. Unfortunately, the institutions of the Polish state are still failing to treat these phenomenon with the requisite seriousness. It is hard to arrive at any other conclusion when the official declarations of the state's officials are compared with the grim realities of everyday life. It is symptomatic that our country has relatively good laws, even at the level of the constitution, in the area of combating neo-fascism and racism—yet the practice based upon these laws is totally inadequate. If state institutions meet the obligations placed upon them by the letter of the law or by international conventions that Poland has ratified, they usually do so in a Potemkin-village sort of way. Whether this happens because of deliberate actions by specific state officials, because of a lackadaisical attitude, or because of ordinary inertia, remains an open question. It remains an incontrovertible fact, however, that the Polish state is not managing to deal with the problems of racism, neo-fascism, or nationalism. Nevertheless, the civic society whose construction has been—not without setbacks—a goal of the Polish system transformation, possesses tools that would permit it took take over at least some of the tasks that the state apparatus seems incapable of dealing with. One of these tools is the possibility for citizens to assemble voluntarily for the purpose of solving a given problem, or, in other words, creating non-governmental organizations. The existence and activity of a set of organizations of this type is one of the fundamental realities of a democratic society.

    After the symbolic year of 1989, there was a true flourishing of the NGO sector, also known as the "third sector," in Poland. It has gradually become one of the important elements in Polish reality. The longest-standing Polish NGO dealing with the struggle against neo-fascism, racism, and chauvinism is the Never Again Association. This organization, of which I am co-founder, was called into existence in 1996 by members and supporters of the Anti-Nazi Group (Grupa Anty-Nazistowska – GAN), an informal youth movement. GAN, in turn, arose in 1992 out of a spontaneous public reaction against neo-fascist violence. The main goal of the Never Again Association is the promotion of opposition to the re-emergence of racism, neo-fascism, and national chauvinism, and the establishment of a public pressure group for the elimination of these tendencies from the domain of generally tolerated attitudes. We observe several basic principles in our work. The first of these is political neutrality—we are anti-fascists because of basic human values rather than narrow political inspiration, and we regard the rejection of political slogans as one of the main reasons for the effectiveness of our work. Second, pluralism—we attract people of very different views and we cooperate with them as long as we share an opposition to chauvinism. The third is an openness to cooperation with other organizations with similar goals. The fourth is respect for and the execution of the existing legal regulations, and the avoidance of violence. The Association attempts to realize these goals by the following methods: public pressure on the political system, state institutions, and public entities; the promotion of positive attitudes and values as well as tolerance and friendly coexistence between peoples and nations; information; educational activity' monitoring; demonstrations and other forms of active opposition. We also attempt to reach these goals through publications, cooperation with the media, and the mobilization for the struggle against racism of all persons and circles that are active in the social, cultural, and political arena. An important part of our activity is Never Again magazine, the most serious periodical in Poland dealing and standing in opposition to neo-fascism. Our magazine is highly regarded and eagerly read by a highly diverse readership.

    We also carry out campaigns and programs around which we attempt to gather the greatest possible amount of social support. One of these initiatives of ours is the football campaign [football is the sport also known as soccer] Let's Kick Racism Out of the Stadiums, which is directed mainly to football supporters, but also to players, coaches, club officials, and journalists who cover the sport. Following the model of Western countries, we attempt to propagate an anti-racist attitude among supporters and work to cleanse the stadiums of the fascist symbols that were ubiquitous until not long ago. Another example of our efforts is the musical campaign called Music Against Racism, to which we have attracted performers of a wide range of musical genres, whose work we use as a means of promoting the idea of openness to other nations and races among listeners. A new campaign that we launched in late 2004 is Delete Racism. The campaign is about cyberspace and its name refers to a key that can be found on every keyboard. The main ways in which this campaign works are through the creation of a Never Again Association website, internet monitoring, and blocking Polish-language neo-fascist sites. We attempt to encompass the largest possible range of issues within our OTHER programs. One of these is our information program, which includes monitoring, an information service and regular releases to the mass media on all incidents of a nationalist or racist character that occur in Poland, which are also published in Never Again. This program also includes an archive of accounts by witnesses to chauvinistic incidents.

    A second program is the Brown Book, a publication that notes various statements that are racist, anti-Semitic, or nationalistically hostile and aggressive in nature. Our monitoring is also part of this effort. Another initiative is the publication of pamphlets, posters, and brochures. We have a program called Equal Chances, as a part of which we carry out informational and educational activity on the subject of the status of and opportunities for disabled people, and monitor instances of discrimination against them. We have also made educational films that are distributed among school and university students. The Never Again Association cooperates on a day-to-day basis with ethnic minority organizations, nationwide organizations with a similar profile, the Catholic Church and other denominational communities, disabled groups, veterans' organizations, artists and cultural figures, and other social and political organizations. The efforts of the Never Again Association are not exclusively the result of our own original ideas. In part, we adapt models that have already been tried by anti-fascist organizations or broader human-rights organizations in western countries. An example of these successful imports is the Rock Against Racism campaign originated and carried out by Tom Robinson, a 1970s rock musician. We have drawn additional inspiration from the work of the UK anti-racist organizations The Anti-Nazi League (whose Anti-Nazi Carnival drew over 100,000 people) and Anti-Fascist Action, which organized the Cable Street Beat in the 1990s.

    Other very important sources of inspiration for us in the fight against racism are Searchlight, from the UK, the biggest and oldest anti-fascist periodical (it has been published since the 1960s) and Norsk Folkehjelp, a Norwegian NGO founded by the Norwegian Confederation of Labor Unions (LO) in 1939. We had the chance to cooperate with the latter organization in a joint project involving the sharing of experiences and projects. Of course, Never Again also draws inspiration from many other sources and it would be hard to list all of them, but failing to refer to one of them would be unthinkable for the image of our work. Namely, we have drawn on the great tradition, over 80 years old, of the Polish and European anti-fascist movement, and the centuries-old treasury of Polish tolerance. We see ourselves as the heirs and the successors of these traditions, and devote space to them in every issue of our magazine. Many NGOs are active in Poland on a level comparable to that of Never Again. For example, there are organizations engaged a broadly-conceived struggle against chauvinism and xenophobia: Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH), the Helsinki Human Rights Foundation, Amnesty International-Poland, The One World Association, the Open Republic Association Against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia, the Gaia Club Cultural-Educational Association, the Campaign Against Homophobia, the Association of Refugees in the Polish Republic, and many minority, social-cultural, denominational, and other organizations.

    The free media, one of the main channels for the idea of tolerance and respect for human differences, play an important role in our shared work and make it possible to stay in touch with the public, and this is a sine qua non for the success of all community work. The non-governmental sector is destined to take upon its shoulders more and more of the tasks for the general good because, by its nature, it is more efficient and, more importantly, better motivated in its work than the bureaucratized and overly formalistic machinery of the state. In an ideal situation, however, the state is favorably supportive of the work of the NGO sector. Only in this situation provides hope for solving many painful social problems. The attainment of such circumstances is one of the main tasks of the anti-racist movement in Poland, and, while the acceptance of our country in the European Union, with its high standards in these areas, will doubtless be helpful, the road to the goal will require a great deal more hard work.

    Marcin Kornak is the founder of the Anti-Nazi Group (1992), the co-founder and main coordinator of the Never Again Association (1996), and the initiator and main coordinator of the Music Against Racism and Let's Kick Racism out of the Stadiums campaigns and The Brown Book, the only register in Poland of racist and xenophobic incidents and crimes. He is the editor-in-chief of NEVER AGAIN magazine, which is dedicated to the problems of racism, neo-fascism, and xenophobia, and is the editor of the anti-racist sports magazine The Stadium. He is a poet and lyricist for rock groups on the independent scene. He has used a wheelchair since the age of 15.
    Pro Memoria magazine

    2/3/2005- Spain coach Luis Aragones believes he has been unfairly treated after a Spanish football federation decision to fine him over a comment about Arsenal star Thierry Henry and remarks about Britain's colonial past. Aragones was cleared of racism but fined euro3,000 on Tuesday for infringing "sporting decorum and dignity." "I'm not a racist and I've never lacked sporting decorum. I've got three or four medals for sporting merit," Aragones told El Pais on Wednesday. "Maybe I lost control of my tongue," Aragones was further quoted. While the punishment was far below the maximum penalty -- suspension of his coaching license or a fine of euro30,000 -- Aragones said it was "unfair." Aragones made a racist remark about Arsenal's French striker Henry, who is black, during a national team training session before a World Cup qualifying game against Belgium in October, in an apparent attempt to motivate forward Jose Antonio Reyes, a teammate of Henry's. He apologized for the remark. A month later, he attacked Britain's colonial past in a confrontation with British journalists before the England vs. Spain friendly on Nov. 17. Aragones' conduct was linked to racist taunting by spectators of England's black players at the game, which led FIFA to fine the federation euro 65,000 a month later. Since then, there has been an upsurge in racist abuse of black players at Spanish games. Aragones has 10 days to appeal the decision. Spain's Anti-Violence Commission, which initiated the case against Aragones by requiring the federation to open disciplinary charges into his conduct, must now ratify the decision. The commission can also appeal the federation's verdict. Alberto Florez, president of the federation's competition committee, which dealt with Aragones' case, said no one in the committee felt Aragones was a racist nor had "acted in a racist way." "A fine, the highest we could apply, is sufficient punishment. Suspension would have been a bit exaggerated," Florez was quoted as saying by sports daily Marca on Wednesday. The federation began its investigation through a Spanish lawyer at the end of the year, and said Tuesday it was "evident" that Aragones' comments "lacked racist character" but said they "did not tally with the obligations of the position he holds." It said the outburst about England before a friendly in November "also supposes an increase in the unfortunate nature of his conduct."
    ©Cable News Network

    By Hiwa Osman, editor and trainer at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting

    28/2/2005- Turkey will receive good news and bad news when a new government is formed in Iraq. The good news is that Jalal Talabani, a long-time friend of Turkey who understands its importance in the Middle East, will be the president. But the bad news is that as a Kurd he cannot do much about Turkish-Iraqi-Kurdish relations. The recent statements from Ankara regarding the city of Kirkuk and their fear of Kurds oppressing Turkmen there have sent a strong message to Iraqi Kurdistan that Turkey's "Kurdophobia" has not subsided, despite repeated Kurdish reassurances that Kurds have no intention to "Kurdisize" the city of Kirkuk. For the Iraqi Kurd leadership, Kirkuk has a Kurdish character. This means it is part of a geographical region called Kurdistan, but does not mean it is exclusively Kurdish. The demographic makeup of the region of Kurdistan includes Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs and Assyrians - and so does Kirkuk. The city of Kirkuk symbolizes for many Iraqis the old Iraq that was rife with destruction, expulsion, discrimination and racism. Looking to its future, Kirkuk has the potential of being the symbol of the new Iraq. The people of Kirkuk took the first step in this direction. On Jan. 9, they went out of their homes, despite the ambient security threats, and voted. But the process of turning Kirkuk into a success story does not stop there. It is only the start, and Turkey can play an important role. Turkey should appease the Kurdish and Iraqi leadership by assuring them it will not interfere in Iraq's internal affairs. It should further declare its support for any efforts to democratize and create an infrastructure that would be conducive to lasting peace and stability in Iraq, especially in the areas near its border. Rather than making a fuss over the situation solely of the Turkmen of Iraq, Ankara should encourage the newly elected Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Assembly to write a regional constitution that enshrines the principles of human rights, equality and civil liberties for all those who live in the Kurdistan region.

    A constitution in the Kurdish region will be a lot easier to adopt and will guarantee everyone's rights there. By doing this, Turkey will send a message to the leaders and the people of the new Iraq that Turkey is a partner that wants to see a strong, stable, free and democratic Iraq - not one that is threatened by civil war. The naming of a Kurdish president for Iraq or the presence of a large number of Kurdish deputies in the Iraqi Parliament should not create a dilemma for Turkey. It should signal the start of a new policy on Iraq and on the Kurds. This can only be done by setting "Kurdophobia" aside and seeing the Kurds as a key ally in the new Iraq. The Kurds and other Iraqis realize that, unlike most of the neighboring countries, Turkey has played no role in encouraging the terrorist violence in Iraq. Turkey should capitalize on this and build upon it. It is the model for an Islamic state that is democratic. It has managed to prove that Islam and democracy are not mutually exclusive. The challenge for Turkey is to prove that Turkey and the word Kurdish are not mutually exclusive either. By the same token, tolerating the word Kurdish or setting "Kurdophobia" aside in Turkey will pave the way for solving Turkey's problems with the former Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, which cannot be solved across the border in Iraq. The PKK issue needs to be taken back into Turkey. In this regard, Iraqi Kurds seem to have enough on their plate. The last thing they want is to create new enemies. They do not see the PKK issue as one they can solve, especially violently. All they can do is prevent the group from using Iraqi Kurdish territory for launching attacks against Turkey. The United States cannot do much to change the sides' minds or hearts regarding one another. It will eventually leave Iraq. Change has to come from within. The Kurds and Turks are stuck with each other, and need to work out a relationship either with or without Iraq. Despite pressure from Kurdish public opinion, the elected Kurdish leadership has said over and over again it does not intend to break away and form an independent Kurdish state. It will send its heavyweights to Baghdad and be part of shaping the new Iraq. But this is conditional; if the violence does not stop in the center and south, no one in their right mind would want to be part of Iraq. If the Kurds are not helped to be a real part of the new order, they will be forced to look at other options. Under these circumstances, Turkey could receive a visit from the Kurds asking the following: Iraq is not working; we don't want to be part of it, nor do we want to have a war with you. And we can't drop our Kurdish identity. What shall we do? Turkey will have to offer an answer.
    ©The Daily Star

    3/3/2005- Eight out of ten students at a Nicosia high school say they wouldn't marry a non-Christian. Responding to a survey carried out at the Koutsofta-Panagides Lyceum in Nicosia, only 8.3 per cent replied that they would do so. The students also said they would prefer to marry a Briton or a Russian rather than a Filipino. The survey, titled ‘Racism and Xenophobia', claims 50 per cent of the student population have racist views, with 14 per cent admitting to being racist. Most students questioned said their preference was to marry a Cypriot and when asked if they would consider hiring a foreign worker, the average student replied that they would not do so. The average student also believes that the Greek race and orthodox religion are the best in the world. Seventy per cent would oppose the building of a mosque or Buddhist temple in their neighbourhood. Discussions between the students, which took place at the school after the survey, came up with the idea of introducing anti-racism programmes into the curriculum. These could take the form of debates, conferences and events, such as meeting people from a variety of different backgrounds. Students also said the government should implement an assimilation programme for foreign nationals living in Cyprus. This should be done with the co-operation of the church, education system, media and families. Christina Loizou of the Cyprus Sociological Association yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that "scientific research should be conducted to cross-check the findings of the survey". She said that "in my opinion, Cyprus has a problem with racism and xenophobia. We don't have any research on this so we can't compare countries". Nicos Peristianis, President of the Sociological Association, believes many of today's attitudes can be traced back to early childhood. "In Cyprus, the orthodox religion is what you are born into – you do not have a choice. It's part of your environment and is something you identify with. Cypriots consider the presence of other religions and races as violating their society, with the presence of foreigners seen as threatening. "Cyprus is an inward-looking society and for the people, the world is the Greek Cypriot community". Peristianis suggested the problem could possibly be one of unfamiliarity. "Most Cypriots, up to now, have not been exposed to other nationalities, except to Turkish Cypriots, where there is a bad recent history. Our community is definitely not multicultural in the sense of not having experienced and lived with different cultures".
    ©Cyprus Mail

    3/3/2005- The Muslim woman at the heart of a death threat scandal in Flanders has resigned. Naima Amzil, 31, handed in her notice after a seventh death threat with bullets was sent by post to her employer Rik Vannieuwenhuyse. Vannieuwenhuyse, who runs the Remmery firm in Ledegem, has been repeatedly threatened by right wing extremist group Nieuw Vrij Vlaanderen for allowing Amzil to wear her headscarf to work. But despite her employer's refusal to bow to racist demands, Amzil said this week that the pressure had become too much to bear. Visibly shaken, she told reporters, "it was really becoming too difficult. I can no longer stand this situation that has been continuing for three months." Vannieuwenhuyse said later on television, however, that the resignation would only be temporary. He has been widely praised for his defiant handling of the situation and was invited to the royal palace by King Albert II in January. The first threatening letter arrived in his post box on 24 November 2004. He was told that his life and the lives of his family were in danger if he continued to allow Amzil to wear a Muslim headscarf to work. Although receiving the full support of her employer, Amzil decided voluntarily to remove her headscarf in an effort to calm things down. But her efforts were thwarted when new letters arrived demanding that she be sacked. Vannieuwenhuyse was put under police protection and has since risen to become a symbol of resistance to extremism in Flanders. "He is still supporting me and will always but I just can't go on," said Amzil. "It was becoming too difficult and I was more and more afraid for him and his family, especially after the last two letters," she added. The latest letters to the Remmery firm had contained bullets. Vannieuwenhuyse's actions prompted spontaneous support from Flemish employers union, Unizo, which organised a petition on his behalf and gathered 26,000 signatures. Unizo said that it regretted Amzil's decision but understood it. The Greens in the Belgian parliament demanded answers from Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx on the progress of the enquiry into who was behind the death threats. The Ecolo party declared itself "revolted" by the treatment of Amzil and her employer. The humanist cdH party also called for more government action. The threats against them were "inhuman and intolerable" said cdH president Joelle Milquet. Amzil said she now wanted to spend some more time with her family and recover from her ordeal. "It won't be easy. But my husband is working and we'll cope," she said.
    ©Expatica News

    4/3/2005- Germany's extreme rightwing parties have clearly lost membership with the major exception of the National Democratic Party (NPD) which has gained entry into one state parliament, the Berlin government said. In a response to a query posed by the opposition liberal Free Democrats (FDP), the government said that the NPD did lose membership a few years earlier when Germany had unsuccessfully sought to have the party banned. At the time, the NPD lost around 1,000 of its membership then of some 6,100, the government said, according to a report issued by German federal press office. But after the NPD gained entry in the Saxony state parliament last year, membership has again been rising, the report said. However, other parties have been losing members. The extreme rightist Republicans saw their membership drop from 14,000 in 1999 to around 8,000 in 2003 amid internal party squabbles and defeats at the ballot box, the government said. It said this trend is continuing. Another party, the "German Peoples Union" (DVU), also had been unable to compensate for the loss of older members by attracting younger people, the report said. Amid pressure kept up by the authorities banning extreme rightist associations, the neo-Nazi scene has now gone over to regrouping itself into so-called "comradeships". In 2003, there were 160 such groups with some 3,000 members. At the same time, there was a slight decline between 2001 and 2003 in "politically rightwing-motivated criminal deeds" and crimes with an anti-foreigner motivation, the government said.
    ©Expatica News

    A history of persecution
    Claude Cahn, acting executive director of the European Roma Rights Center

    28/2/2005- Decades after the Holocaust, which counted them among its victims, Roma, or Gypsies, remain at the extreme margins of European societies, despised and excluded. Roma are a people of Indian origin whose thousand-year history in Europe has been marked by oppression, slavery and raw, systematic persecution. In recent years, Roma in Europe have faced lynchings, pogroms, racist denial of access to services, and other serious violations of fundamental human rights. When Bosnian Serb forces overran eastern Bosnia in April 1992, Roma were targeted for attacks. One Romani man in a refugee camp in Debrecen, Hungary, told the European Roma Rights Center in 1996: "The whole Romani community of Zvornik was slaughtered. Our houses were destroyed. ... It was a bear hunt." In 1999, after the NATO bombing and the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo, a large number of Roma were ethnically cleansed from the province, together with Serbs and other ethnic minorities, by ethnic Albanians. Before 1999, Roma in Kosovo had achieved the greatest advances of Roma anywhere: There was Romani radio, there were Roma in the public administration and an apparently integrated class of Romani intellectuals. But as the conflict between Serbs and Albanians heated up, Roma were, as one Romani activist from Kosovo put it, "caught between two fires." Much of the Kosovo Romani population today lives in Serbia and Montenegro, often in appalling conditions, unable to return to Kosovo and denied even rudimentary compensation for their suffering. Racially motivated violence against Roma is not confined to war zones. Since the end of Communism in Eastern Europe, Roma have born the brunt of a rise in racism and racist violence. After the fall of the Ceausescu regime, a wave of pogroms broke out in Romania, with more than 30 Romani communities subjected to expulsion, arson and killing. Similar episodes have taken place in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine and the former Yugoslavia since the end of Communism. When Roma fall victim to racist violence, European criminal justice systems often fail to provide adequate remedy. Roma are especially unlikely to receive justice when the perpetrators are police officers.

    Today, Roma are subjected to grinding discrimination all over Europe. Most countries in Central and Eastern Europe have effectively segregated school systems. In some countries, Roma are more likely to be found in schools for the mentally disabled than non-Roma by factors that are simply obscene. In Romania, many Romani children are simply not in school at all. Unemployment among Roma in the Czech Republic is estimated at 70 percent to 80 percent, with total joblessness reported in some areas. A similar situation exists in Hungary and Slovakia. Roma also fall victim to discriminatory treatment in public administration, are often not served in pubs, restaurants and discotheques, are likely to be denied housing on ethnic grounds and to live in substandard settlements with few or no public services. Residential segregation is also reported in a number of areas. Racism and racist violence toward the Roma is not new. Roma were the targets of medieval persecution in Western Europe and were reduced to slavery in Eastern Europe. Persecution of the Roma culminated again during World War II, when hundreds of thousands of Roma lost their lives in the Holocaust. Clumsy policies of assimilation in the modern era have destroyed Romani culture, crafts and way of life, leaving a confused and divided people in their wake. In recent years, Roma have begun fighting their oppression, often using strategies inspired by the U.S. civil rights movement. Groups such as the European Roma Rights Center have recently won victories, including an award of more than $1 million for 74 Romani victims of a 1995 pogrom in Montenegro and a ruling by Britain's House of Lords, in a case involving Roma from the Czech Republic, declaring British border policy racist and illegal. For the time being, however, such progress has been a mere drop in the bucket compared with the scope and intensity of forces ranged against the Roma - the racism and racial discrimination, the contempt and suspicion in which European publics hold "Gypsies." This year, 60 years after the Nazi death camps were liberated, Europe remembers the Holocaust dead. The continued suffering today of the Roma victims and their descendants also deserves attention.
    ©International Herald Tribune

    Two cases currently before the court offer the EU an opportunity to set a landmark precedent that will put the values of equal justice beyond dispute
    By James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative and Senior Legal Counsel of the European Roma Rights Center

    2/3/2005- The European Court of Human Rights is hearing oral arguments in two of the most important cases in its history. As in Brown v. Board of Education, the case that ultimately broke the back of racial segregation in America half a century ago, the European Court is being asked to give meaning to the fundamental principle of equality. The resulting decisions could establish clear ground rules to guide future policy toward Europe's increasingly numerous ethnic and religious minorities. The plaintiffs are members of Europe's poorest and largest minority group -- the Roma, or Gypsies, whose ancestors are believed to have migrated from India centuries ago. One case concerns 18 Roma children from the northeastern city of Ostrava in the Czech Republic who were placed in "special" schools for those deemed mentally deficient, where they receive a markedly inferior education. The children argue that such schools are a barrier to social and economic progress. Many Roma are sent to special schools even though they show no sign of mental disability. Few go on to finish high school or attend university. As a result, Roma unemployment rates in the Czech Republic, as in much of Europe, far exceed those for the rest of the population. Evidence before the court indicates that, in some Czech communities, Roma children are 27 times more likely to be sent to special schools than non-Roma children. The plaintiffs suggest that this amounts to racial segregation. The government vigorously denies this. The court's hearing was set for yesterday. The second case comes from Bulgaria. In 1996, military police shot and killed two Roma conscripts. The victims, who had recently absconded from a military construction crew, were known to be unarmed and not dangerous. The shooting, by automatic weapon fire, took place in broad daylight in a largely Roma neighborhood, where the grandmother of one of the victims lived. Immediately after the killing, a military police officer allegedly yelled at one of the town residents, "You damned Gypsies!" while pointing a gun at him. Last year, one panel of the court found that both the shootings and a subsequent investigation that upheld their lawfulness were tainted by racial animus. At the request of the Bulgarian government, the court's Grand Chamber agreed to review the matter before the end of last month.

    Though the facts of both cases are heart wrenching, their importance extends beyond the courtroom. At a time of rising concern about immigration, religious extremism and ethnic violence, what must government do to secure the promise of equal opportunity for all? Over the past decade, the EU has grown more ethnically diverse. Immigration to Spain, Italy and Greece has surged, adding to longstanding immigrant populations in northern Europe and to the number of so-called "guest workers" in Austria, Germany, and Luxembourg. The most recent stage of EU enlargement last May added millions of Roma from the new member states of Central and Eastern Europe. Just as Europe's ethnic makeup has been changing, so have its laws. In 2000, the EU's executive arm -- responding in part to the growing popularity of anti-immigrant and neo-Nazi political parties -- enacted the most far-reaching anti-discrimination legislation in the world. To date, however, this legislation has lain dormant. In many countries, lawyers and judges lack familiarity with legal concepts of discrimination. Perhaps not surprisingly, acts of exclusion, segregation and violence often go unpunished. The two cases soon to be heard in Strasbourg provide an opportunity to change this. A finding of discrimination would establish a landmark legal precedent, putting core values of non-discrimination and equal justice beyond dispute at a time when Europe's politicians consider how best to absorb millions of new immigrants and minority members. Just as importantly, such a ruling would send a powerful signal that racism and xenophobia have no place in the new Europe. But perhaps the greatest significance of these cases lies in their very presence on the docket of Europe's highest rights tribunal. A decade ago, few minority victims would have been inclined or able to seek legal remedies for discrimination. The success of some in having their claims heard is testimony to the growing power of law as a force for positive change in Europe.
    ©The Taipei Times

    The number of asylum seekers in the world's 38 industrialised countries in 2004 fell to its lowest level in 16 years - but for several of the EU's new member-states the figures rose sharply. The BBC's Central and South-East Europe analyst, Gabriel Partos, examines what lies behind the European trends reported by the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR.

    1/3/2005- The world's three largest traditional destinations for asylum seekers - the United States, Germany and Britain - have all registered huge drops in the number of people applying for asylum in recent years. Last year they were overtaken by France as the leading receiving country. In general, the scale of the asylum problem across western Europe is now down to a level last seen in the mid- to late 1980s. The continuing drop in numbers in recent years has been due to a combination of factors: a stricter asylum policy in the receiving countries and greater political stability - or at least a widely-shared hope for a better future - in some of the major source regions, including Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans. But Serbia and Montenegro - primarily through Kosovo - remains the second largest source of asylum seekers after the Russian Federation. In spite of this overall downward trend - 19% across the EU as a whole - the EU's 10 new members actually registered a small increase of 4% in asylum seekers last year. Cyprus, Malta, Poland and Slovakia - plus Finland from among the older EU members - actually saw a marked increase in arrivals last year. The UNHCR's spokesman for Europe, Rupert Colville, identified two reasons for this contrasting trend. "Some countries are getting a large number of Chechens - people from the Russian Federation but the majority of them Chechens. "In the case of Cyprus, which has gone up a lot, it's a bit of a local anomaly, really, in that they've had a large number of Bangladeshi and Pakistani students who were in Cyprus, who have then been claiming asylum. It's a sort of disconnect between the migration system and the asylum system."

    'Magnet' countries
    Behind these specific reasons, there is also a broader trend. In many cases the new members - whether on the eastern fringes of central Europe or in the south and eastern Mediterranean - now form the new borders of the EU. Apart from being the first - and often the easiest - point of arrival in the EU, these countries are also becoming increasingly prosperous and, therefore, more of a magnet for would-be asylum claimants. But claiming asylum in itself does not by any means guarantee success. Rupert Colville highlighted the situation in Slovakia, which "is definitely very overburdened with asylum seekers". "It has a very young asylum system, very fragile, let's say. They had 11,300 in 2004, which is a lot for the Slovak Republic. "However, hardly anyone is getting recognised [as refugees] in the Slovak Republic, even though they have a high number of Chechens coming there, whereas in neighbouring countries, like Austria for example, you find a much, much higher recognition rate."

    Different patterns
    Even among the new central European members of the EU there are diverging trends. The Czech Republic and Hungary have been following the downward shift in western Europe, with a massive 52% reduction in last year's asylum claimants in the Czech Republic and a one-third drop in Hungary. Similarly, Bulgaria and Romania - which will form the next wave of EU enlargement - have seen a sizeable decrease. In general, though, the contradictory developments across the EU are a source of concern to the UNHCR. "What is a glaring omission, I think, is any kind of burden-sharing mechanism," says Mr Colville. "That's worrying us, particularly for these new member-states. Obviously, as the new border states, they are coming under some pressure. And there's really no system for the EU to help out countries which are getting their undue share of the numbers." The limited extent of existing burden-sharing mechanisms is less of a problem at a time when the numbers of asylum seekers are down to a level last seen nearly 20 years ago.

    Crisis plans
    The danger is that if there is another major conflict that would prompt a large wave of asylum seekers, the EU's new members with their limited resources could easily be overwhelmed. Friso Roscam Abbing, a spokesman for the European Commission, says however that the EU is not turning away from the problem. "We are obviously aware of the increase in the number of asylum seekers in a number of EU member states, and precisely in those who have external borders," he says. The "Hague programme" adopted last November by European leaders said there should be assistance for member states which merely due to their geographical location faced an influx of asylum seekers or immigrants, Mr Abbing noted. "This is where the whole idea of solidarity - very solemnly enshrined also in the European constitutional treaty, in the chapter on immigration and asylum - and burden-sharing kicks in." In 2000, after lengthy negotiations, EU leaders allocated 216m euros (£149m; $286m) to a European Refugee Fund (ERF), to run until the end of 2004. Last year, they agreed to extend the fund for the period 2005-2010.Some 10m euros of the fund can be used in an emergency, to house, feed and offer medical assistance to a sudden large influx of refugees anywhere in the EU.EU leaders have also pledged to develop a common asylum system by the end of the decade, but that may be harder to achieve than handing out money.
    ©BBC News

    Meeting of the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men and Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population
    Speech by Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General

    1/3/2005-Some days ago, the French media reported the dramatic story of Aissata, a young migrant woman who was about to be expelled from France, following the authorities' rejection of her asylum request. This woman was forced to get married in her country to a man who tortured her and treated her like a slave. She has a three-year old child. She is sick and seven months pregnant. According to the media, the French authorities have now granted her a temporary resident permit, to allow her to give birth and recover in France. This case was denounced by an NGO, the "Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples". I am afraid this is not an isolated case. It is therefore my firm conviction that a Europe committed to Human Rights should be a safe haven for vulnerable persons like Aissata, irrespective of the origin or legal status. Today, I will leave Paris for New York to participate in the 49th session of the UN Commission on the status of women. The Commission is due to review the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, established during the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing ten years ago, in 1995.

    My luggage for New York is particularly heavy. I shall tell you why:
    My luggage is heavy because of the good and very comprehensive texts I carry.

  • All 46 member countries of the Council of Europe are committed to protecting women's fundamental rights, to fight discrimination and to take measures to ensure the protection and the advancement of women in a series of policy sectors. The more than 400 million women in Europe should in principle sleep soundly, as the signatures of the high representatives of European governments (incidentally nearly all of them are men) appear on texts such as the European Convention for the protection of Human Rights and the European Social Charter.
  • Many recommendations from our Committee of Ministers and Parliamentary Assembly clearly identify both the challenges and the measures to take. Let me just mention two recent texts which are also relevant for our discussions today: First the Committee of Ministers Recommendation on the protection of women against violence, adopted in 2002, which provides measures for dealing with particular forms of violence against migrant women, such as genital mutilation, forced marriages or killings in the name of honour. Second the Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation on domestic slavery, adopted in 2004.

    However, my luggage is also heavy because of the amount of bad news I bring.

  • Ten years after the Beijing Conference, effective gender equality is still far from being a reality in Europe. Despite significant achievements both in legislation and in policy, women's fundamental rights are still being massively violated. Women are still victims of discrimination in key-areas such as education, health and employment. Women remain in a very unfavourable position in public and political life. In addition to this, new forms of violations of women's rights have emerged, such as those connected to gender based-violence and to trafficking.

    Not all women have an equal chance of becoming truly independent and choosing how to live. Very often, the reasons relate to social circumstances, nationality or membership of ethnic minorities or immigrant communities. The challenge we face is about enabling all women to make free choices and to exercise their basic rights in their daily lives.

    This hearing today is also about heavy luggage. The luggage that many women living abroad are obliged to carry every single day; luggage that we sometimes impose on women from second and third generations of migrants: they are not "abroad", but they "feel abroad".

    The status and the situation of migrant women deserve a particular attention. Far too often, migrant women are subject to double discrimination: first, because they are or we treat them like foreigners; second, because they are women.

    A migrant woman seems to accumulate all disgraces. You just add sickness and poverty and you have a perfect candidate either for the woman of the year award or for expulsion, depending on who judges and who decides.

    Although many legal provisions exist for the protection of migrant women, there are still many obstacles to equal opportunities in society for immigrant women. Their status is still one of subordination and dependence.

    This situation is one of the obstacles to social, economic and national integration, and represents a risk for the future of these women and their daughters. It is clearly a barrier to the effective protection of their human rights, to equality between women and men and to democracy.

    European societies are becoming increasingly aware of cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, but obviously many important questions have still to be faced and resolved:
  • Status: immigrant women's legal status, their human rights, their equal value and dignity in their countries of residence as well as in their own communities. Women, in particular young women, are often still victims of specific violence: forced marriages and polygamy, unilateral repudiation, genital mutilation, and so called "honour" killings.
  • Occupational segregation: old patterns of segregations persist. Immigrant women were marginalised into menial and monotonous jobs (cleaning ladies, kitchen aids, etc.), unskilled and low-paid industrial jobs, which still remain predominant job sectors for them.
  • Exclusion or marginalisation from public and political life: women's exercise of political and social rights is affected for reasons which have their roots in intolerance and sexism.
  • Future of labour market: the problems faced by the new generations are different from those of the first generations. They continue to be excluded from enjoying equal opportunities through racial and ethnic discrimination, intentional or unintentional, direct or indirect. Even if they have been trained and educated in their European home countries and have similar career aspirations as the young European women, they find that they are denied equal opportunities in the labour market.
  • Lack of support structures: there is a link between the growth in the economic activity of European women and the labour market participation of immigrant women. More and more European women have been entering the labour market, although support structures for working mothers are still underdeveloped, except in Nordic countries. The number of domestic female workers in Europe is estimated at more than a million. It is very important that immigrant women employed as domestic workers are not confined to undeclared and socially unprotected jobs, with the risk of an ethnically defined female underclass emerging.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,
    I am Dutch and my husband is Italian. I have been living in France for many years; my children have three nationalities and my family speaks several languages and enjoys many cultures. In a sense, I am a migrant woman. I know I am a privileged one. I can enjoy the best of every country, because I feel protected and at home. I wish every single migrant woman in Europe could feel this way. I shall do my best for this to become possible and true…

    In the meanwhile, I'll ask a few men to carry part of my luggage.
    ©Council of Europe

    Acquittal overturned for skinheads who urged drivers to 'Honk if you hate Gypsies'

    25/2/2005- The Supreme Court of Canada has ordered a new trial for six skinheads who waved placards denouncing "Gypsies" at a 1997 demonstration to protest against immigration from the Czech Republic. After a 47-day trial, the five men and one woman were acquitted of willfully promoting hatred against "the Roma," a group whose name was found not to be interchangeable with "Gypsies." Jewish groups erupted in protest at that ruling, saying serious damage had been done to the country's hate law based on a mere technicality. "It was not necessary for the Crown to prove that the terms "Gypsies" and "Roma" were interchangeable," Madam Justice Louise Charron wrote in yesterday's 9-0 ruling. "The trial judge misdirected himself and erred in law by focusing entirely on one statement in the information." The Crown appealed the acquittals, first to the Ontario Court of Appeal, where it was defeated, and finally to the Supreme Court. The strange case began on a Saturday afternoon, when a ragtag group of 25 skinheads gathered beside a busy road in Scarborough, Ont., to wave placards denouncing mass immigration from portions of Eastern Europe. "Canada is not a trash can," one sign said. "Honk if you hate Gypsies," another exhorted. Yesterday, Judge Charron attempted to cut through a fog surrounding the definition of Roma and Gypsies. "The ethnic flavour to the demonstration, the fact that it was outside a motel housing refugee claimants who were at times described by the witnesses as Roma, and the fact that the Roma people had been persecuted by the Nazis while a Nazi theme was apparent at the demonstration, were all factors to take into account," Judge Charron said. She agreed with Crown counsel Jamie Klukach that the trial judge should have taken judicial notice of the fact that some dictionary definitions show "Gypsy" can refer to "Roma," and then considered that fact together with the rest of the evidence.

    "It's a good day for justice in Canada," Canadian Jewish Congress executive director Bernie Farber said. "We've always held that if the hate law was written for anything, it was written for this case. The Supreme Court has righted a very bad wrong." David Matas, legal counsel for B'nai Brith Canada, said: "It will be far more difficult in the future to play a game of words when the real issue is the impact of the hate on the targeted group. Today's decision reconfirms the workability of hate crimes legislation to meet its goal of protecting ethnic minorities in Canada." However, defence counsel Peter Lindsay said it constituted a setback to the cause of free speech. The court has gone back on a commitment it made in the case of Alberta schoolteacher James Keegstra to require strong evidence that individuals intended to foment hatred before allowing them to be silenced by the state, he said. Mr. Lindsay's co-counsel, David Gomes, said the demonstrators were simply expressing a commonly heard sentiment at the time: that questionable refugee claims were being made by would-be immigrants from Romania. "The demonstrators were clearly targeting Gypsies," he said. "They were not clearly targeting Roma. That they were skinheads does not change this." Mr. Lindsay said that the length of the trial and appeals are a factor that should be taken into account when the Crown decides whether to prosecute again. "I have had cases involving actual violence where the Crown didn't devote nearly as much in the way of resources," he said. "Cases involving real violence are thrown out for taking too long to come to trial, yet this case gets 47 days of court time."
    ©Globe and Mail

    1/3/2005- Friends and foes alike complained Monday about the use of Canada's powerful national-security laws to detain and deport infamous Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel. While Zundel's supporters bitterly criticized the legal proceedings as a sham, even those who despise his views said the legal process was dangerous to freedoms Canadians cherish. "Zundel is a nasty character and Canadians understandably would like to get rid of him," said Alan Borovoy of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. "But I don't think it's fair to pay a price that is so potentially damaging to civil liberties." Zundel, 65, who has no criminal record in Canada, was scheduled to be put on a plane to Mannheim, Germany on Tuesday, ending his more than four decades in Canada as a landed resident. After hearing evidence from Canada's spy agency, much of it kept secret even from Zundel and his lawyers, a Federal Court judge sided with the government last week that the German citizen threatened national security. Justice Pierre Blais, a former head of the spy agency, concluded Zundel was an influential figure among international neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups that have resorted to violence to further their political aims. "Zundel's activities are not only a threat to Canada's national security but also a threat to the international community of nations," Blais said. In a web-based response, Zundel's U.S.-based wife Ingrid Zundel attacked the justice system. "Canadians might want to ask themselves if they really want a country and care to finance a system where inconvenient dissidents can be imprisoned for years without ever knowing why, just like in Stalin's days," she said.

    The use of national security certificates, toughened after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., have come under increasing domestic criticism. "I'm certainly not a fan of (Zundel's) racist views," said Matthew Behrens of Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, which has lobbied for the release of six Muslim men detained in Canada as suspected terrorists. "Regardless of who they are, I don't think anyone should be subject to a security certificate where they're not allowed to see the case against them." At the Toronto West Detention Centre, where Zundel was detained the last two years in solitary confinement without charge, guards were busy clearing out his cell Monday. Citing security concerns, Immigration authorities refused to tell even close associates which flight he would be on. "Security has become the catch-all reason for denying people access to information," said supporter Paul Fromm. "His lawyer is not even allowed to see him off. What are they really saying - that his lawyer will become demented and start murdering people right, left and centre in the airport? It's absurd." Zundel faces immediate arrest on arrival in Germany, where is wanted for publishing his views that the slaughter of six million Jews and others in Nazi death camps was an elaborate hoax. While Jewish groups in Canada couldn't wait to see him gone, white supremacist websites buzzed with anger. "Zundel's trial has truly been a kangaroo court, and the time for extreme measures has come," wrote one poster. "I don't necessarily mean violence, but on this occasion and during this period of time, our movement truly needs to bring our demonstrations and activism to the next level." Zundel and his hard-hatted followers were once a familiar site in mid-town Toronto, where he lived in a heavily fortified residence known as the bunker. During an attempt to become an American citizen, he was arrested in Tennessee for overstaying his visa and returned to Canada in February 2003.
    ©The Canadian Press

    1/3/2005- The Canadian government deported Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel to Germany on Tuesday after fighting for two years to have him kicked out as a threat to national security, authorities said. Zundel faces immediate arrest in Germany, where he is wanted on a charge of denying the Nazis murdered six million Jews in World War II. "We can confirm that Mr. Zundel has been removed from Canada. He has arrived in Germany," said Helen Leslie, a spokeswoman for Canada's Border Services Agency. "He was accepted by the German authorities." Zundel's long battle with Canadian authorities ended last week when a Federal Court judge ruled his membership in a white supremacist movement meant the government was justified in seeking to expel him. The judge said Zundel was "not only a threat to Canada's national security but also a threat to the international community of nations." Zundel, 65, a German citizen, moved to Canada in the late 1950s and lived in the country until 2001, when he left for the United States after becoming involved in a legal fight over complaints he was distributing anti-Semitic literature. Zundel, whose name is spelled "Zuendel" in Germany, ran a Web site denying the Nazis had killed six million Jews and once described German dictator Adolf Hitler as "a very decent man and a very peaceful man." In 1988 he was convicted in Canada of "knowingly publishing false news" after he issued a leaflet entitled "Did six million really die?" He took his case all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1992 struck down the "false news" law. After overstaying his U.S. visitor's visa he returned to Canada in February 2003 and was arrested. Ottawa said it feared he could incite his followers to commit acts of violence. Zundel's lawyer, Peter Lindsay, said his client had been unfairly treated because he was not shown the evidence against him when his case went before the federal judge. "We've had a secret trial, he's going to be deported, and he'll face charges for something that Canada says isn't a crime. Go figure," he told Reuters. Len Rudner of the Canadian Jewish Congress said he was very pleased Zundel would be heading back to Germany, adding: "It could not happen to a nicer man." Zundel never backed down from his views and said it was libelous to brand him a hate-monger. "I've made my contribution to this country. I've paid my taxes," he told reporters in 1998. "How dare you tell me what I can say and I cannot say? ... Canada has become an absolutely Stalinist, repressive, censorship-happy society, if you are a dissident."

    Holocaust denier charged in Germany
    2/3/2005- A German man deported from Canada for denying the Holocaust has been detained by police upon his arrival in Germany. Sixty-five year-old Ernst Zuendel faces charges of inciting racial hatred and for denying that the Nazis killed six million Jews, which is a crime in Germany. German prosecutors issued a warrant for his arrest in 2003, but Zuendel fought deportation from Canada, where he had lived since 1958. Last week when a Canadian Federal Court judge ruled that Zuendel's membership in a white supremacist movement meant the government was justified in seeking to expel him.
    ©Deutsche Welle

    1/3/2005- The U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights abuses released yesterday noted Canada had problems with police brutality, people trafficking and anti-Semitic acts. Violence against women also remained a concern, said the report, with Amnesty International charging the federal government had failed aboriginal women in particular. Unequal opportunities and treatment of aboriginals was another issue cited by the department. "Aboriginals remained under-represented in the workforce, over-represented on welfare rolls and in prison populations and more susceptible to suicide and poverty than other population groups," said the report. Government corruption wasn't considered a "significant problem," despite the Liberal sponsorship scandal involving $100 million worth of government contracts. But the report noted the case "tarnished the reputation" of the government. Police using excessive force was an issue in several cities in 2004. In Edmonton, police allegedly knocked a man to the ground for jaywalking, repeatedly kicked someone for swearing and hit a handcuffed person in the face many times. The report also mentioned two Saskatoon police were fired in November in connection with an aboriginal teenager found frozen on the outskirts of the city in 1990. "There were a number of reports of harassment of religious minorities," said the department, including 17 incidents involving Muslim institutions and mosques. B'nai Brith received nearly 600 reports of anti-Semitism in the first eight months of 2004, compared with 584 reports for all of 2003. Trafficking in people is also a problem in Canada, said the report, despite a new law with penalties of up to life in prison and maximum fines of $1 million. A year ago, the RCMP conservatively estimated 800 people a year were trafficked into Canada, while up to 2,200 people were smuggled into the U.S. "Asian women and girls who were smuggled into the country often were forced into prostitution. Traffickers used intimidation and violence, as well as the illegal immigrants' inability to speak English, to keep victims from running away or informing the police." The department commended the Canadian government for its "strong commitment to children's rights and welfare through its well-funded systems of public education and medical care." Among the worst abuses cited in the report were torture in Syria, serious abuses in China and the crisis in Sudan, where a government-backed militia is killing civilians. North Korea was criticized as one of the world's most brutal regimes, while Egypt and Iran were also condemned for their record on human rights.
    ©The London Free Press

    26/2/2005- The founder of human rights organisation Amnesty International, Peter Benenson, has died aged 83. He died on Friday at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, after a long illness. The British lawyer set up the group in 1961, after reading an article about the imprisonment of two students in Portugal who drank a toast to liberty. "Peter Benenson's life was a courageous testament to his visionary commitment to fight injustice around the world," said Amnesty's Irene Khan.

    'People power'
    "He brought light into the darkness of prisons, the horror of torture chambers and tragedy or death camps around the world. "This was a man whose conscience shone in a cruel and terrifying world, who believed in the power of the ordinary people to bring about extraordinary change and, by creating Amnesty International, he gave each of us the opportunity to make a difference. "In 1961 his vision gave birth to human rights activism. In 2005 his legacy is a world-wide movement for human rights which will never die." A public memorial service in tribute to Peter Benenson will be held by Amnesty International at a date yet to be announced. The impetus for the movement began after Mr Berenson read how two students in a Portuguese cafe had been imprisoned after raising their glasses "to liberty".

    Frontpage news
    A front page appeal in the Observer newspaper for the "forgotten prisoners" followed, as did the term "prisoner of conscience" and Amnesty International was born. In its first few years its founder provided much of its funding and was involved in all aspects the organisation. "At that time we were still putting our toes in the water and learning as we went on," he later said. "We tried every technique of publicity and we were very grateful to the widespread help of journalists and television crews throughout the world who not only sent us information about the names of prisoners but also, whenever they could, gave space to stories about prisoners. "It's the publicity function of Amnesty that I think has made its name so widely known, not only to readers in the world, but to governments - and that's what matters." Today, Amnesty International is in its 44th year and is the world's largest independent human rights organisation. It has more than 1.8m members world-wide.
    ©BBC News

    25/2/2005– Voicing "profound concern" at continuing institutional and large-scale racism and xenophobia worldwide, a panel of experts appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for renewed counter-efforts at the international and national levels, including education and awareness-raising campaigns. "The Eminent Experts are determined that their work should follow a humanitarian vision of an 'ethic of human solidarity,' based on central values of human dignity, respect for diversity and the importance of effective measures for the protection of people," the five-member panel said at the end of a three-day meeting yesterday in Geneva. "The Eminent Experts call on governments, international organizations and civil society to take practical steps to help bridge the gaps between international legislation, resolutions and decisions and the practice of States and societies." They noted that next year will see the holding of the five-year review of the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. "It is essential to use this opportunity not only to take stock of achievements and shortcomings, but also to draw a clear perspective for the enhanced implementation of the commitments made at the 2001 World Conference," they added. They called on Member States to allocate adequate resources within their national budgets to counter racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Meeting with the panel, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour recalled that during her three years as chief prosecutor for the UN war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, she was confronted with some of the worst excesses of intolerance and injustice and the grossest abuses of the most basic human rights. One must never forget the horrendous massacres in Rwanda in 1994, which killed up to 800,000 people, and the massive killings a year later in Srebrenica, Bosnia, where 8,000 Muslim men and boys died, both driven by racial and ethnic intolerance and hatred, she said. Those events reminded the world, in all their brutality, that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance were not a vanishing phenomenon, and that the need for vigilance was never exaggerated. The Independent Eminent Experts are Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former Tanzanian Prime Minister Salim Ahmed Salim, former Polish Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka, and Edna Maria Santos Roland of Brazil, General Rapporteur of the World Conference against Racism.
    ©UN News Centre

    1/3/2005- European countries are opposing a move by the United States to push a U.N. conference into stating that women do not have the right to abortion, French and British officials said on Tuesday. Ten years after a women's conference in Beijing, thousands of delegates have convened at the United Nations to review the platform of a 1995 landmark U.N. conference and invigorate efforts to improve women's lives during a two-week session. But the Bush administration's proposal that a final draft document from the conference be amended on abortion rights has plunged the session into controversy. Nicole Ameline, France's minister for parity and equality, said European Union members came to the conference supporting a declaration drawn by the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women and that it "should be accepted as it is, and by a consensus." Ameline told a news conference that while the 1995 Beijing platform did not advocate abortion, changing the 2005 declaration -- which simply reaffirms a commitment to policies agreed by world leaders in Beijing -- would send the wrong signal. "It is a question of perception," she said. "It is very important not to give the impression to the world that there is a step back or a reinterpretation of this issue." Amelie said women in developing countries, struggling for education, jobs and health care used the Beijing document in negotiations with governments and feared any backtracking. EU delegates said conference organizers were negotiating with the United States in hopes the Bush administration, which bars federal funding for organizations that perform abortions abroad, will issue a separate statement rather than touch the main closing document. Britain's U.N. ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, told the meeting of ministers and officials from 135 nations that the EU would be working "for an unequivocal reaffirmation of Beijing without reservation." Luxembourg, which holds the EU presidency, made a similar but less direct statement. The U.N. Commission on the Status of Women had hoped to focus on issues like preventing AIDS and halting trafficking. It drafted a short final statement reaffirming the Beijing action platform and pledges to implement it. In Beijing, abortion was treated as a health issue, with the 150-page platform saying it should be safe where it was legal and criminal action should not be taken against women who had abortions. U.S. envoy Ellen Sauerbrey told reporters on Monday, "There is no fundamental right to abortion" and blamed nongovernmental organizations for "trying to hijack" the issue and make abortion a right. In response to the U.S. position, some 160 health, parliamentary, human rights and women's advocacy groups from around the world issued a statement, asking governments to "oppose unequivocally the amendment." "Let's affirm the platform fully and move forward," the statement said.

    The Commission on the Status of Women met this morning to continue its general discussion of implementation of the Beijing outcome texts, due to conclude this afternoon. Women's efforts to take rightful place in societies after tragedy of war highlighted, as women's commission concludes high-level debate Hears from 48 More Speakers in Review Of Progress 10 years after Beijing Women's Conference.

    2/3/2005- Ministers from countries emerging from inter- and intra-state conflicts described efforts under way to shake off the tragedy of war and catapult women to their rightful place in societies, as the Commission on the Status of Women concluded its high-level discussion on implementation of the Beijing agenda. Afghanistan's Women's Affairs Minister, one of 48 speakers today, said the story of Afghan women was inextricably linked to the story of the nation. The world watched with awe, as a new wave of optimism unfolded following the collapse of the Taliban rule three years ago. It was like coming out from the dark after 23 years of quiet solitude, she said, adding that "The shackles we carried during the past 23 years may have been broken, but continue to stand in the way of our vision."War had destroyed the foundations necessary for Afghanistan's growth as a nation, she explained. And, owing to a lack of data, it was impossible to describe with accuracy the extent to which the women suffered, but their story was a "living example of the worst that could happen to women under the regime of despotism, lawlessness and armed conflict". Despite the many issues still deeply affecting Afghan women in such critical areas as health and education, the new Constitution contained explicit provisions banning discrimination against women and promoting their protection. And, the Government had been mandated to take appropriate measures to eradicate negative customs contrary to Islam. Iraqi women had occupied a distinguished place in society in Iraq's history, but in recent years, they had suffered dictatorial practices and the effects of war, its Minister of Women's Affairs said. As a result, many women had been affected by poverty, while the number that headed households had increased. The quality of life had worsened overall, accompanied by a marked decline in health services. Notwithstanding the challenges of terrorism, however, Iraqi women had participated in the January elections, whose outcome was a testament to their courage. Moreover, women had won more than 30 per cent of the National Assembly seats and they were positioned to play a significant role in the building of a democratic society and the drafting of the country's new Constitution.

    Also emerging from years of conflict, the Democratic Republic of the Congo had still seen women make substantial strides and the Government had done its part towards implementation of the 12 critical areas identified at Beijing, its Minister for Women and Family noted. Nevertheless, poverty and HIV/AIDS remained persistent, major challenges. She was indignant about the thousands of cases of sexual violence against Congolese women, specifically the use of rape as a weapon of war. Also infuriating had been the reports of rapes perpetrated by United Nations personnel seeking to keep the peace in her country, and she called for reparations and the swift prosecution of the perpetrators. A United States' representative of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs said that the United States had worked with many nations to improve the lives of women and girls around the world, and together, they could be proud of their achievements. In many Muslim countries, while much remained to be done, the bigger picture was one of freedom expanding and surmounting the forces of tyranny, including those that held women in second-class status. One only had to look at the elections in various quarters and the expanding roles for women. In Iraq, the Iraqi women's initiative and the United States-Iraqi women's network had laid the groundwork for the turnout of women voters in the recent historical elections. Turning to women's reproductive health, she said her country had a long history of supporting reproductive health care on the international level, including voluntary family planning, and it was the world's largest supplier of contraceptives. She had concerns, however, about efforts to mischaracterize the outcomes of Beijing and Beijing +5. There had been no intent on the p


    Liza Frulla, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister Responsible for Status of Women, Canada, said that a sustained effort would be required to keep the Beijing agenda alive, including in the context of the United Nations. Gender equality and women's human rights must be at the forefront, as preparations began for the 2005 review of the Millennium Declaration and Millennium Development Goals. Full implementation of both the Beijing Platform for Action and the Cairo Programme of Action were essential to the achievement of the Goals. She urged that those interconnections be explicitly incorporated throughout the five-year review process of the Millennium documents. Advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights was "nothing less than intrinsic to the achievement of gender equality and of the ‘MDGs'", she stressed. She said that women had made great strides since the first world conference in 1975, but the gains were not even and they were constantly threatened. Women must stand strong, not only to ensure that the gender equality bar remained high, but also to ensure that it was not lowered. Women's human rights needed to be rigorously protected and promoted in all areas, from economic and political to sexual and reproductive rights. Ministers responsible for women's status must support women's efforts and be steadfast in working towards the main goal -- gender equality -- in itself and as an integral part of sustainable social, economic and democratic development. Among the many strengths and achievements in Canada in that regard was its strong legal framework in support of gender equality and its continually improving access to student loans to support women's higher education. The Government had also taken a major step by doubling the length of parental benefits available to eligible workers under an employment insurance system. Canada's main gaps and challenges included the need to reduce poverty rates among women, which were still too high, she said. The Government also recognized the need to improve the situation of aboriginal women who faced discrimination. It also recognized the need for a national child care system, as children's development, no doubt, was a vital building block for gender equality. It also knew that it had the tools for gender-based analysis to develop policies and programmes to meet those challenges. It needed to apply them more systematically now to get the desired results. Government accountability to Canadians for progress on gender equality needed improvement. As Canada looked forward, it would build on its strengths, and learn from the experience, its own and of others. It had already begun, through a $5 billion commitment over five years, building a framework for an early learning and childcare initiative.

    Melanie S. Griffin, Minister of Social Services and Community Development of the Bahamas, said that her country had made some tangible progress in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, paying particular attention to the promulgation of gender equality legislation, empowerment of women, reproductive health and poverty among women. The Government had made efforts to establish equal pay for equal work and address inequality in the workplace. The Bahamas now offered reproductive health services free of charge, as well as a variety of family planning programmes. Also among the country's priorities was the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS, she said. The Government had recently appointed a commission on family violence. Measures in the areas of protection, information and support would continue with the help of the country's development partners. Many quotas had been introduced in the Bahamas to promote women's participation in the public life. For instance, women now comprised some 20 per cent of the Parliament and 25 per cent of the cabinet of ministers. In conclusion, she said that the country had suffered greatly from devastating hurricanes, and the cost of restoration had taken a heavy toll on development. However, the Bahamas remained committed to the cause of the advancement of women. She pledged the country's continued support to the Beijing Platform for Action.

    Aida Mbodj, Minister of Family and Social Development of Senegal, said the President remained strongly committed to the idea of gender equality, and had proposed a framework for action recently at the African summit to build women's capacity throughout Africa. Her Government had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as treaties on children's rights. It had also adopted laws criminalizing violence against women and girls. Since the country's political transformation, in March 2000, the legal framework in support of women's rights had been consolidated, and the leadership was now working out more robust national policies in the area of gender equality. The 2001 Constitution contained provisions on gender equality, as well as on the right of the access of all persons to land ownership, education, health, the exercise of power and to public services, she said. The Constitution rejected all forms of inequality and injustice to women. In the past few years, the Government had promulgated new laws and revised old ones, in harmony with its international commitments. There was a new family code and a new agricultural guidelines law, which strengthened the access of women and young persons to land and land tenure, and a law on reproductive health was being finalized. Those important legal gains had been bolstered by institutional and policy measures undertaken by the President, she continued. Those included free care for births in five of 11 regions. That measure would be extended to the other regions beginning in July. Many mechanisms for funding and women's capacity-building had also been put in place. For example, there was a credit project for women, a fund for women entrepreneurs, projects to fight poverty, training projects, and a women's household chores relief programme. There was also a structure of support for girls' schooling and obstetric emergency centres in health-care facilities. And, all ministers and certain senior officials had received training on gender mainstreaming in policies and budgets.

    Patricia Espinosa, President, National Institute for Women, Mexico, highlighted the importance of the national preparatory process for the current session, which had allowed countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to make a significant contribution to the work of the Commission. The Ninth Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, which had been held in Mexico last June, had played an important role in that respect, having allowed its participants to develop a regional network of national mechanisms for women and identify the progress achieved, the lessons learned and the challenges remaining. For Mexico, it had been an opportunity to reaffirm its international commitments and continue to promote respect for human rights of women in all the critical areas of concern. Mexico had made significant progress towards the elimination of discrimination and achievement of equality, she said. Ten years after Beijing, the creation and strengthening of national institutions had facilitated the advancement of women in the country. In terms of legislation, she highlighted the amendments to the constitution and reforms of the Code of Electoral Institutions, which ensured participation of women in posts subject to popular elections. Introduction of quotas had led to a 22.8 increase in the participation of women in the Congress. Some 22 federal entities had established obligatory temporary measures. In the fight against gender-based violence, 24 of the 31 federal entities currently had laws on the handling and prevention of domestic violence. At the national level, a programme "for a life without violence" had been initiated. Mexico's social policy included concrete measures to address the needs of women living in poverty.

    Nouara Saadia Djaffer, Minister Responsible for the Family and Conditions of Women of Algeria, said that the Beijing agenda had been a major step in the history of women's struggle to protect their rights, and had reflected the international community's strong determination to adopt measures to ensure that such rights were implemented. She reiterated Algeria's commitment to turn into reality the very important recommendations made at Beijing and during its follow-up in 2000, and she applauded the will of States to implement them. In Algeria, the Council of Ministers had, last month, adopted two draft bills to revise two laws, thereby ensuring that the national legislation was in keeping with the country's national values and international commitments. The bill revised the nationality code and aimed to enshrine gender equality, protect children's nationality, grant the privilege of acquiring nationality through marriage to an Algerian man or woman, and acknowledge Algerian nationality flowing from mother to daughter. Other bills inserted in the family code re-established a balance of rights and duties between the spouses. She explained that the new text also stipulated that there should be full recognition of women's ability to enter into marriage; the marriage age was standardized at 19 for both men and women. In addition, polygamy was now strictly regulated, and husbands were required to provide housing for even those minor children living with the mother in the case of divorce. The current Commission session was an opportunity to assess what was being done, but also to ponder those policies and programmes that could guarantee a better grasp of the situation of women, both nationally and internationally, to ensure implementation of their fundamental rights. Her country was devoted to the principles of equality and equal rights for men and women, and, owing to the President's political will, had been pursing many efforts along those lines, despite the difficult terrorist and humanitarian situation its people faced. As a result, much had been accomplished, including the establishment of a ministry of women and children. Special attention had also been paid to education at all levels. The concept of reproductive health had also been strengthened, paving the way for reduced infant and maternal mortality. Women's life expectancy now was 74.9 years.

    Farkhanda Hassan, Minister, Secretary-General of the National Council of Women of Egypt, noted a remarkable improvement in the status of Egyptian women, who now had increased access to education and employment. Today's young generation of women had boundless aspirations and competed with their male peers in all areas and all levels of education. In the past 10 years, there had been a significant increase in the number of women occupying high managerial posts and other decision-making positions. One of the country's most significant achievements had been the establishment of the National Council of Women in 2000 -- an independent government institution directly under the President of the Republic. For the first time in Egypt, the Council had developed gender-sensitive indicators to monitor the implementation of the national development plan, as well as methodologies for gender auditing of national budgets. In addition, it had developed a gender-sensitive strategy to be integrated into the national plan for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Among Egypt's other accomplishments, she listed the creation of an Ombudsman Office and Equal Opportunities Units in ministries. The Nationality Law had been amended in 2004 to allow Egyptian women to bestow their nationality upon their children if they were married to non-Egyptians. Family courts had been established last year, ending a bitter phase in the lives of Egyptian women seeking divorce. Due to its unconstitutional nature, a decree was abolished that stipulated that the wife should obtain her husband's approval for the issuance of a passport and as a condition to travel abroad. In terms of economic empowerment, special attention was given to female heads of households. The National Council for Women had established a centre for the political empowerment of women as a pilot initiative that provided intensive training programmes. In conclusion, she turned to the issue of women and peace. Egypt had initiated peace in the region since 1977, and its efforts continued to this day, culminating in the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit that President Mubarak had called for last month. Peace initiatives were not restricted to governmental efforts, however. Among the non-governmental efforts, was the First Lady's Women for Peace Movement, which as an example of the efforts to achieve peace not only in the region, but all over the world.

    Hamilton Lashley, Minister of Social Transformation of Barbados, said that, in an effort to promote gender equality at the national level, his Government in 2000 had redesignated the Bureau of Women's Affairs to the Bureau of Gender Affairs. The restructured organ was mandated, among other tasks, to facilitate a programme of gender mainstreaming of national development policies and programmes, and to promote the achievement of gender equality and equity. Several initiatives aimed at creating an awareness of gender and national development had been undertaken, including gender sensitization workshops with gender focal points and the identification of strategies for the incorporation of gender into national sectoral policies, plans and projects. The Government was "totally committed" to elimination or condemning any policies or legislation that sought to nullify women's enjoyment and exercise of their fundamental rights and freedoms. In order to promote women's advancement, he said his Government had identified 5 of the 12 critical areas of concern outlined at Beijing as priority issues. Those were: the persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women; violence against women; inequalities in and unequal access to health-care and related services; inequality between men and women in the sharing of power and decision-making; and insufficient mechanisms to promote women's advancement. In addition, gender mainstreaming had become an integral component of the process of achieving gender equality and sustainable development. The ever emerging development challenges necessitated that programmes and policies be kept under constant review, for which 68 persons across the public sector had been identified as focal points. The fight against poverty was seen as key to the social and economic transformation of women's lives. In Barbados, more women than men lived below the poverty line, and many of them were heads of households. The Government had implemented several programmes to assist in the alleviation and eradication of poverty, and women's empowerment through education. He said his Government had taken the necessary steps to eradicate violence against women. Through the national machinery for gender equality, support had been provided for the implementation of public education programmes to raise awareness about the causes and consequences of gender-based violence to national development. The Government also adopted a rights-based approach to health, particularly with respect to reproductive health, and regarded the availability of adequate health care as a fundamental human right. Health-care services, therefore, were provided free at the point of contact between the individual and the health-care provider in all health-care institutions. There was also a national programme to integrate gender into HIV/AIDS action programmes at the community level, and a campaign had focused attention on women's vulnerability to the infection. In addition to the relevant remaining challenges, globalization and trade liberalization had also severely challenged the economies of developing countries, with women suffering the most.

    Narmin Barzingy, Minister of Women's Affairs of Iraq, said that Iraqi women had occupied a distinguished position in society throughout her country's history, since Babylon. However, in recent years, they had also become victims of war, dictatorial practices and general crisis in her country. As a result of that crisis, many women were affected by poverty; the number of female heads of household had increased and the level of life declined. The percentage of illiteracy among women was very high. There had also been a decline in the health services. Notwithstanding the challenges of terrorism, Iraqi women had participated in the January elections, she continued, the outcome of which was an additional testament to their courage. As a result of the elections, women had won over 30 per cent of the National Assembly seats. Thus, they would be able to play a significant role in the building of a democratic society and the drafting of the country's new constitution. No legislation undermining the status of women and their rights should be allowed. Islam should not be allowed to be interpreted in a way that would undermine women's rights. For the first time in 35 years, new concepts of civil society and non-governmental organizations had emerged in the country. In that connection, she noted that all political parties in the country supported the advancement of women and believed that women should take their rightful place in society