Political deal delays action on same-sex partnership legislation, activists say

Michaela Penickova says she is as normal as any other Czech. "I go to work. I pay taxes. I take the same train. I go to the same shops. I take the same bus," said Penickova, 29. "I don't eat small children or hit people on the street." But she and her partner, Olga Mavridisova, 44, say that until they have the same rights as heterosexuals, they will be second-class citizens. "Officially, we are nothing," Mavridisova says. The Veltrusy couple wants the government to recognize the validity of their relationship by passing a same-sex domestic partnership law. But there is virtually no chance that lawmakers will adopt such a measure in the next four years.

Although the ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD) officially supports a domestic partnership law, its junior partner in the coalition government -- the conservative Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) -- strongly opposes it. The CSSD-led coalition, formed after June's parliamentary elections, needs all the votes of the KDU-CSL deputies to maintain a one-vote majority in Parliament. The KDU-CSL says the law threatens the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. Party leaders say they will not negotiate on the issue. "We just don't want this to reach the family status because we consider family the basis of society and the environment for upbringing children," said Josef Janecek, a KDU-CSL deputy. "It might discredit the family if the law is passed. We are not against same-sex partners living together, but on the other hand, we have to support family standards."

The law would create procedures for registering and dissolving same-sex partnerships. It would allow a partner to become a beneficiary if his or her partner dies, making the surviving partner eligible to collect inheritances and social benefits that went to the deceased partner. Couples could be taxed together and gain the right to share housing. They would be granted other rights of family members under health and citizenship laws. This law would mean that there are equal rights for everybody, Mavridisova said. Partnership bills have failed three times in Parliament. The law was proposed and rejected in 1998 and 1999. When the Chamber of Deputies voted on it in 1999, it lost 91-69, with 13 abstentions. A block of 20 deputies from the KDU-CSL voted against it, joined by 26 Civic Democrats (ODS) and about one-third of the CSSD's 74 members. Last year, the Cabinet approved a draft of a new law that was sponsored by the CSSD. A final version was submitted to the Chamber of Deputies in October 2001. The chamber voted 85-60 to return the bill to the government for a revision. "The Social Democrats threw us out to make a government," Mavridisova said. "It is quite a disappointment." "I think we have the right to live as all the other people in this country," she added. "I want to take Michaela as my wife, and it is not fair that over the next four years we will be discriminated against."

Homosexual rights groups did not quietly accept what they call a broken promise. In August, two such groups, The Gay Initiative and STUD Brno, teamed up with two outdoor advertising agencies to create a billboard campaign intended to remind the CSSD and the public that the party's platform supported the law. About 150 billboards that depicted two men kissing, next to a caption that read "It may help someone and hurts no one" were placed along the country's highways from August until mid-September. The billboard space was provided by advertising agencies Engine Room and BigBoard. The campaign drew a negative response from CSSD Deputy Milada Emmerova, chairwoman of the chamber's Social and Health Committee. "I really didn't like [the billboards]," she said. "I am afraid all of these activities -- commercials of all kinds -- are going to end up in the toilet. I am not saying [homosexuality] should be taboo, but it s them. Even though this was in their program, they were not very enthusiastic about it. "Nobody was hurt by this because it wasn't a serious item. Christian Democrats had to pretend they wanted something and CSSD had to give up something." Mavridisova and Penickova are optimistic the law will eventually be approved. "It will finally mean that we are a real democratic country with no differences among people. It will not be that I'm just a lesbian, and I can't do this or that," Mavridisova said. "I will be a human being."
©The Prague Post

France's far-right breakaway party the National Republican Movement (MNR) of Bruno Megret appeared headed for oblivion Monday after it lost control of its last electoral stronghold. In a municipal by-election Sunday in the town of Vitrolles outside Marseille in southern France, Megret's wife Catherine -- mayor since 1997 -- was easily beaten by the Socialist candidate Guy Obino by a margin of 54 percent to 46. After disastrous performances in presidential and parliamentary elections this year -- in which Megret and the MNR won respectively 2.3 percent and one percent of the vote -- the party is in dire financial straits, and has suffered a wave of resignations. The party's only other mayor -- Daniel Simonpieri in Marignane just beside Vitrolles -- has refused to renew his membership of the MNR and this year supported National Front (FN) leader Jean-Marie Le Pen for the French presidency. Le Pen's former deputy, Megret, 53, split away from the FN in a bitter dispute in 1998 and formed his rival far-right party. The Vitrolles by-election was called after a judge annulled Catherine Megret's victory in March 2001 on the grounds that her supporters had distributed defamatory tracts against one of her rivals. "I am extremely disappointed. It's a victory for corruption and disinformation," Catherine Megret said after her defeat. Obino told supporters that "Vitrolles is free." Obino's victory was aided by the decision of the main centre-right candidate -- from President Jacques Chirac's UMP party -- not to stand in Sunday's vote.
The Tocqueville Connection

Keeping Afrikaner hope alive `Black Africa is wiping out everything we have brought'

Every morning, thousands of South Africans switch their radios to 104.2 on the FM dial. They tune in to hear "Die Stem," the national anthem during the apartheid years, and to hear the weatherman describe the sizzling heat in South West Africa, the former South African territory that has been called Namibia by the rest of the world since 1990. They listen to commentators discuss whether AIDS is the solution to "the problem of black population growth." They call in to defend white separatists accused of plotting to topple the black government. Perhaps many hearts soar when political analysts contemplate reclaiming South Africa, or at least a portion of it, for white Afrikaners.

This is Radio Pretoria, where apartheid is still revered and the white man reigns supreme. While this country often promotes its multicultural identity, this radio station steadfastly opposes it, with white station managers groaning openly at the surge in racial intermingling since white rule ended in 1994. The radio station provides a unique voice for conservative Afrikaners, the white minority that oppressed blacks for decades and then resisted, sometimes violently, the transition to multiracial democracy. Today, many rightist Afrikaners, who feel uneasy in this new South Africa, look at the past with nostalgia. So they turn to Radio Pretoria, which broadcasts in the Afrikaans language and nurtures the memories and aspirations of a small but vocal audience of more than 100,000 people.

The studio is a treasure trove of apartheid memorabilia: portraits of former presidents, old Afrikaner flags and a framed copy of "Die Stem" adorn the walls. The station managers proudly acknowledge that they refuse to hire blacks, even though racial discrimination is unconstitutional these days. This policy has inevitably raised eyebrows. Last year, the Independent Communications Authority refused to renew Radio Pretoria's operating license because of its hiring practices. It said that it had no vendetta against the station but that it had to obey the law. The station can continue broadcasting until the hiring issue, among others, is resolved next year in court. The reprieve gives station managers time to promote their dream of establishing a whites-only homeland, an independent territory within the borders of South Africa that would be occupied and controlled by whites. Afrikaners, who are the descendants of Dutch, German and French settlers, have little chance of regaining power through an election. In a country of 44 million people, they make up only about 8 percent of the population, and even among Afrikaners, the station does not have an enormous pool of dedicated listeners. But station managers here still insist that a white government would be better for everyone, including black people, even though many Western governments praise the black government's performance.

"What do we have to offer Africa?" asked the Reverend Mossie van den Berg, 70, the chairman of Radio Pretoria, seemingly indignant that anyone might ask such a question. "This European heritage of civilization, development, ambition. "We, the Afrikaner people, opened up this country, developed this country, put this country in the front ranks of the developed countries of the world. And it is now on the rim of becoming a typical banana republic. Black Africa is wiping out everything we have brought. We would like to bring it up to a civilized level." "We voted against this new South Africa," van den Berg added, his gray eyes glinting. "But we lost," Jaap Diedericks, the station manager, said. Diedericks was sitting with van den Berg under an oil painting of Hendrik Verwoerd, a former prime minister and the principal architect of apartheid, whose fiery rhetoric still inspires employees at Radio Pretoria. But Died of whites is unemployed, something that was unimaginable under the white government. Then there is integration. Wealthy blacks are moving steadily into white neighborhoods, which is sometimes hard to accept, particularly for people who still embrace the idea of racial separation. Diedericks, however, says he is flexible on the issue of community integration. "Blacks are fine as long as they behave and are up to standard," Diedericks said. "Of course, mixed marriages are completely out."

Unable to cope with the changes, many Afrikaners have decided to start over elsewhere. No one knows precisely how many people have emigrated, but the trend is already raising alarm bells. On Radio Pretoria, young people are urged to reproduce so that the community can increase its numbers and its political clout. "Our natural growth will have to improve, you know that?" a commentator told a group of young people recently. "There can only be growth in the numbers of the people if we have four children per household." Not everything is politics and race. Radio Pretoria also runs a farming show every morning that tracks the prices of wool, corn and cattle. Music makes up 70 percent of the programming: Afrikaner accordion music, German march music, Swiss yodeling nd some old American favorites. "There is one thing we don't play: this rap, this underground township music," van den Berg said. "Good Western music is known by its melody, not by its rhythm. For rhythm, you need nothing more than a drum and a stick. For melody, you need 30 or 40 instruments."

Delene Visser, 58, a housewife who lives in the tree-lined suburb of Doringkloof, listens to Radio Pretoria in her kitchen and in her car. She loves the music and the women's program, which focuses on children and health. Listening to Radio Pretoria helps her forget about crime and affirmative action, she said. "You feel more at ease when you have that on," Visser said. "It's my language, my kind of music, my kind of people. We just hope the radio station survives." The managers of Radio Pretoria are convinced that it will survive. To close it, they say, might touch off an uprising among whites, and no one wants that. Besides, the black government supports freedom of speech. Despite all the naysayers, the station managers remain hopeful that if they fight hard enough and broadcast long enough Afrikaners may someday end up with their own homeland. "We all believe we're going to get some form of self-determination so we can keep our identity," Diedericks said. "If we're not forced to marry blacks and we're not forced overseas, it will happen."
©International Herald Tribune

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has dismissed as "unfortunate" comments by singer Harry Belafonte likening him to a domestic slave on a cotton plantation. Mr Belafonte attacked Mr Powell during a radio interview, comparing the retired general to a slave who had abandoned his principles "to come into the house of the master". Mr Powell said the analogy was a "throwback" that the singer should have thought about more carefully before using. "I think it's unfortunate that Harry used that characterisation," Mr Powell said in an interview with the CNN's Larry King Live. "If Harry had wanted to attack my politics, that was fine. "If he wanted to attack a particular position I hold, that was fine. "But to use a slave reference, I think, is unfortunate and is a throwback to another time and another place that I wish Harry had thought twice about using." Mr Powell is the highest-ranking African-American official in US government history.

'Selling out'
Mr Belafonte, who shares Mr Powell's Jamaican roots, accused the Secretary of State of betraying his race by joining President George W Bush's conservative government. But Mr Powell said he was proud to be serving his nation under President Bush. Mr Belafonte made the controversial remarks on Tuesday, during a radio interview with station KFMB in San Diego, California. "There's an old saying," the singer said. "In the days of slavery, there were those slaves who lived on the plantation and were those slaves that lived in the house. "You got the privilege of living in the house if you served the master... exactly the way the master intended to have you serve him. "Colin Powell's committed to come into the house of the master. When Colin Powell dares to suggest something other than what the master wants to hear, he will be turned back out to pasture."

Others attacked
Mr Powell was not Mr Belafonte's only target within the Bush administration. The singer likened Justice Department tactics to those used employed in the 1950's during the infamous McCarthy communist "witch-hunts". Belafonte was a major star in the 1950s and 1960s. His most famous song, Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), popularised calypso music. He is now a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund.
©BBC News

The European governing body Uefa is to launch an investigation into the racist abuse and violence that marred England's 2-1 victory over Slovakia in Bratislava on Saturday night. Officials from the Football Association lodged a complaint with the governing body after Ashley Cole and Emile Heskey were subjected to racist chants from a large section of the home crowd throughout the match. Uefa will also examine security arrangements in Slovakia which failed to prevent running battles before and during the match between supporters and riot police. Violence broke out in the stadium during the first half after missiles were thrown into the English section and some of the visiting fans tried to rip down a thin fence dividing them from Slovak supporters.

On Friday evening two England fans were shot as security guards in a city centre bar fired warning shots to clear England supporters. Gareth Jones, 30, from Coventry, had a bullet removed from his neck in hospital yesterday, and Phil Holland, from Worcester, was shot in the knee but discharged himself from hospital. Two security men were arrested and detained in connection with the incident. The FA spokesman Adrian Bevington said: "The racism is very disappointing. Throughout the game Emile Heskey and Ashley Cole, in particular, suffered a torrent of racist abuse whenever they got the ball and they deserve credit for the way they conducted themselves throughout that." Heskey described the abuse as the worst he had encountered. "It wasn't just a few people it was the whole stadium," he said. "It was very hard but we just tried to block it out." The referee Domenico Messina referred to the abuse and the violence in his match report and Uefa will be under pressure to take firm action. Last week PSV Eindhoven were fined just 15,000 (£9,500) after their supporters abused Thierry Henry and Sylvain Wiltord during a Champions League match, a decision understood to be under review. "Uefa utterly deplores any form of racism," said Mike Lee, Uefa communications director. "We are appalled at what appears to have occurred against England last night."

One sanction thought to be under consideration is banning Slovakian supporters from attending the return match next year. Referring to the violence, Lee said: "There were some ugly scenes but we need to look at exactly what went on and we cannot prejudge." The disorder came as England played their first competitive match since the summer World Cup in Japan and South Korea, during which supporters were praised for their good behaviour. Paul Newman, the FA's head of communications, said some of the tactics employed by the police were "inappropriate", but events in Bratislava appeared to confirm fears that the violence associated with English supporters will return when the side play in Europe. Saturday night's events will raise fears that the next two major tournaments, Euro 2004 in Portugal and the 2006 World Cup in Germany, will be marred by English hooligans. Some 6,000 England fans, 4,300 of whom had tickets, made the trip to Bratislava for the game and many seemed intent on trouble. They found locals happy to respond to their attempts at intimidation.

The tone was set on Friday night as rival groups of supporters fought running battles in the streets. The England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson witnessed some of the violence from his hotel room window and heard the shooting. "I heard shots and I thought it was fireworks," he said yesterday. "I looked out of the window and it was like the wild west. "I understand fans from both England and Slovakia were involved in fighting but I did not know exactly what was happening. "I saw 50 or 60 police running into McDonald's and then 'boom'." There was also trouble elsewhere in Europe as fans made their way to and from the game. Ten England fans were arrested in Prague after a dispute over a bill in a lap-dancing club. In Vienna ye ©The Guardian

The Bangladeshi feminist writer, Taslima Nasreen, has been given a one-year prison sentence on a charge of writing derogatory comments about Islam in several of her books. This is the first sentence against the writer who was forced to flee the country in 1994 after receiving death threats from Muslim extremists. Taslima Nasreen's criticism of traditional Islamic values and customs angered many hard line Islamic groups in Bangladesh. In 1994, one of the groups put a price on her head after she reportedly called for revising Koran to give more freedom to Muslim women. Ms Nasreen has denied she made any such comment.

Hard line
Taslima Nasreen was tried in her absence by a magistrate court in Gopalganj, nearly 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the capital Dhaka. The case was filed by a hard line Islamic leader, Mohammad Dabiruddin, who heads a local religious school. Mr Dabiruddin accused Taslima Nasreen of writing offensive comments about Islam - and magistrate Shah Alam found her guilty of hurting the sentiments of the Muslims. In 1994 Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's government charged Taslima Nasreen of blasphemy for some of her controversial comments about Islam.

She fled after being granted bail in the case and has been living in exile - mostly in France and Sweden - ever since. In 1998 Ms Nasreen returned to Bangladesh to visit her ailing mother, but left the country after her mother's death. The Bangladeshi Government has already banned three of her books - "Shame", "My Childhood", and "Wild Wind". The government said the books might hurt the people's religious sentiments. Senior lawyers say that in order to appeal against the verdict, Taslima Nasreen must first surrender before the trial court.
©BBC News

Very much in tune with the on-going Convention on the Future of Europe and mindful of the recent deaths of refugees off the Italian coast, MEPs Monday argued for comprehensive EU legislation on common asylum. They spoke out against the Commission's proposal for "open coordination" on asylum procedures fearing a downwards trend towards the "lowest common denominator" of member state legislation. The plenary debated two reports by socialist MEP Robert Evans on common asylum procedure and internal security. Mr Evans took a practical approach to the issue seeing "open-coordination" as a step towards an EU policy in the area. His fellow MEPs took a different view. The conservative MEP Eva Klamt said the EPP rejected the idea because it would "circumvent" community decision-making procedures and that the parliament would be "ignored." Socialist MEP Maj Britt Theorin spoke of it being "no substitute for harmonisation of legislation."

Security is a "questionable ally"
Some MEPs took offence to the fact that asylum and security issues had been lumped together in the same debate. Arguing that it was just down to "organisational" issues in the parliament, justice and home affairs commissioner, Antonio Vitorino, did agree that "refugees should not be victims of last year's events." Green MEP, Jean Lambert, said security was "a questionable ally" which could be used as a "deterrent" for real progress on asylum issues. Another expressed the concern that "in the current climate of fear" the most oppressive asylum policies would be pushed through by the Council. And indeed, a few MEPs did make the indelible link between setting up an asylum policy and the threat to national security, although the Commission proposal itself suggests the likelihood of a terrorist entering a country by seeking asylum are small. Swedish liberal MEP Olle Schmidt warned that "the protection of the law should never be sacrificed in the fight against terrorism. Terrorism will triumph if we sacrifice the protection of the law, personal integrity and protection of the human rights". Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, António Vitorino emphasized that the Commission proposal was only looking towards "first generation" legislation which would be minimum common rules. Agreeing that, ultimately, this is not enough, the Commissioner nevertheless defended open-coordination as being a method that would offer "transparency" and leave subsidiarity intact. Although MEPs would like to see a common EU asylum policy, this area remains very much member state domain. To this end, parliament has only the right to be heard and the EU 15 decide by unanimity.

Earlier this week, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) held a conference on the integration of migrants attended by some 200 representatives of civil society organisations, many of which deal directly with the integration of immigrants and refugees into European society. A wide range of speakers spoke in support of a "civic integration, based on bringing immigrants' rights and duties as well as access to goods, services and means of civic participation progressively into line with those of the rest of the population..." "The discussions that we have had at the conference show that the debate has moved on: it is political rights that are at the top of the agenda," remarked EESC rapporteur Miguel Pariza. The main conclusions were that there is a need for a set of fundamental rights for all residents of the Union, and that the Convention should propose an overall package of rights and obligations as part of a European civic citizenship for all residents of the Union.

Promotion program
As far as the EU's economy was concerned, the conference concluded with a call for migrants to be seen as part of the solution, particularly against the background of falling or stagnant birthrates. Also, to properly manage flows of migrants, more funds are needed to assist in the development of countries from which migrants move in greatest numbers. Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, António Vitorino announced details of a programme of preparatory actions to promote the integration of immigrants for the period 2003-2005. He added: "It is my hope that this programme will run over a three-year period with an amount of 4 million euros a year. It is also my hope that civil society will take this opportunity to come forward with concrete, new ideas to improve integration. On political rights, he commented that "I tend to share the view of those who consider that - with regard to integration - it would be important to grant the right to vote and to stand as a candidate at least in local elections to all residents." More generally, he took the view that the success of an immigration policy "can only be judged by the way in which it is able to integrate immigrants into the society of the host country."

Controversial £340,000 award confirmed - but campaigners will have to clean up website to claim cash

The strategic grants committee of the lottery community fund is next week set to stick to its guns and confirm its £340,000 grant for an asylum seekers' support group. It is expected to attach conditions, including compelling thebody to remove what it deems inflammatory material from its website. The board, whose chairwoman, Lady Brittan, has received hatemail over the grant to the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, will on Tuesday consider five options after being asked by ministers to review the award. Legal advice to the community fund has confirmed that it cannot rescind the grant without evidence of lawbreaking. As well as requiring the NCADC to clean up its website, which accused the home secretary, David Blunkett, of "colluding with fascism", the board may opt to stage the award, which will finance the group's work helping asylum seekers fighting deportation orders.

Fund staff yesterday met officials from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to outline options to be considered by the board. The meeting was described by fund sources as "chilly but amicable", while the department insisted ministers were not attempting to interfere with the fund's independence. Meanwhile charities fearful that the controversy could influence the current lottery review are launching a mass email campaign to express concern to the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, who is drawing up plans to give lottery players a greater say in where money goes. Voluntary sector leaders yesterday urged the government to maintain the independence of the lottery grant distribution bodies or risk subsuming lottery funds within general public expenditure. Their intervention is an indication of how a Daily Mail-led outcry over a single lottery grant - one of thousands issued annually - has dramatically spiralled within two months into a full-scale row raising questions over how far the government should dictate the activities of the charitable sector, under pressure from a tabloid agenda.

It has also raised issues of media responsibility, with the Daily Mail forced to distance itself from a hate campaign launched against Lady Brittan and community fund staff since the paper attacked the NCADC award. Lady Brittan is understood to see the mail as a venting of anger by individuals frustrated at a perceived lack of national debate over immigration. Sources at the community fund, who said there was no pressure from the culture department officials yesterday to withdraw their grant, pointed out there was little they could do but go ahead with the award. "Legally we are obliged to give this money," said a source. "We will be accused of wasting public money in years to come if we fight a court case we are going to lose." Voluntary sector leaders view the row as more than a vitriolic tabloid campaign. Stephen Bubb, head of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, said: "People in the sector have probably been too slow in waking up to the fact that what is going on is actually about the independence of the sector. "We have made some real progress with the government in two recent reviews where they have recognised the needs of the sector. Then what happens when a voluntary organisation does something they don't like? "The boot goes in."

The real concern would be if the row influenced the lottery review, by tempting the government to "emasculate" the community fund, so taking away a vital funding stream for hundreds of "small beer but extremely worthwhile causes". Charities were yesterday asked by the ACEVO to lobby the review to protect the fund. Stuart Etherington, the chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, also called for protection of the independence of lottery allocations: "If the government is de ©The Guardian

"They say, France is one and indivisible," said Dogad Dogoui, with characteristic deadpan humor, as he poked at a lunch of fish recently. "I say, yes, and with lots of people who are invisible." After 17 years in France, Dogoui said, he is still uncomfortable with the French treatment of blacks. He is one of hundreds of thousands of nonwhite immigrants, mainly blacks and Arabs, whom France has absorbed over the years from its former colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. But French sensitivity to the Arabs in their midst, largely because of the potential for a spillover of violence from the Middle East, far outstrips that toward blacks here, he said. So last year, Dogoui, a stocky, cheerful man who earns a living advising foreign companies how to do business in France, founded a club for black business leaders. Now, he is spearheading a drive to involve more blacks in politics. French attitudes toward blacks, he conceded, are ambiguous. The cradle of human rights, Paris raised a statue early in the last century to Toussaint- Louverture, the black Haitian liberator.

For years, the French have denounced American racism, and the road from Harlem to Paris was wide, inviting African-Americans like the singer Josephine Baker, musicians like Sidney Bechet and writers like Richard Wright, Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. Yet, today, blacks are not much on the French agenda, said Dogoui, 38, who moved here from Abidjan, Ivory Coast. He said he thinks they should be. "For 30 years France has been changing," he said. "But they don't open their eyes and see it." Officially, blacks number about 1.5 million of a total population of 59 million. But the unofficial number is higher, Dogoui said, and more come daily. In national elections this year, Christiane Taubira, an economist from French Guiana, became the first black candidate for president, drawing 660,000 votes, or 2.3 percent of the total. But in French politics, Dogoui said, "blacks arrange the chairs at conferences and clean up afterward." No black person sits in the National Assembly or in regional Parliaments. In all of France, he said, there are only about 100 black city council members. "That's ridiculous," he said, "What does that mean, among 36,000 towns and cities?"

As a student, Dogoui supplemented an allowance from his father by working with other black and Arab immigrants in a packaging plant in a Paris suburb. While there, he saw how long hours on the factory floor prevented the blacks from overseeing their children's education. But what particularly troubled him, he said, was how the workers clung to an immigrant mentality, happy to have escaped poverty and content with the simplest of jobs. "They forget that their kids are not immigrants," he said. They nevertheless showed enough concern to complain that the schools offered their children none of the extra help they needed or a place to study after hours. "It's not a financial question but a question of interest," Dogoui said. While white pupils are encouraged to continue studying, black children are steered toward vocational training, he said. He said he had heard of black students telling their teachers they wanted to study medicine, only to be laughed at. "Black kids say, 'Why should I study journalism?'" Dogoui said. "There are no blacks on TV." Dogoui likes to tell a story about his 10-year-old son, who returned recently from a trip to London, where he visited stores owned by nonwhites. "They're bosses there," the boy told his father, with an unmistakable note of wonder.

During a layover recently at the Amsterdam airport, Dogoui sat in a lounge with other business people. One-third of them were black, he said, yet he was the only French person. The others were from North America, Britain and the Netherlands. France's largest corporations, claiming that competent blacks are unavailable, have no black directors or senior executives, he sa ©International Herald Tribune

Amid all the fanfare that accompanied the publication of the proposed new government programme, one question has been left with no clear answer: Who's going to deal with the Roma issue? The incoming government said it was assigning policy decisions on Slovakia's Roma minority to the Culture Ministry, but when he heard that, Culture Minister Rudolf Chmel was as surprised by the news as anyone else. "I have been abroad for a number of days. I don't know why the parties made this decision," Chmel told the daily Sme.

This is the third government to leave the Roma issue without a solid home. Under the previous government, Roma rights were the responsibility of Deputy PM Pál Csáky, who was charged with finding solutions to the problems of high unemployment, low education levels and massive discrimination that afflict Slovakia's Roma minority. Csáky now says the Roma issue needs more attention than he can give it. "The deputy PM's office is constructed in such a way that [dealing with the Roma issue] simply does not fit in," Csáky said, adding that he thinks a separate office should be created to deal with the issue. Chmel agreed, suggesting that his office was not the right place for the Roma either: "The Roma question is not related only to culture. It is far more complex and demands an autonomous solution." Before 1998, responsibility for the Roma fell to the Ministry of Social Affairs, which was also one of the candidates for the job in the new government. In 1999 the government established the office of the high representative for the Roma. Klára Orgovánová, the last person to hold this position, expressed her surprise at the new coalition's stance on the Roma issue. "No one has contacted me, not even to discuss the proposals included in the government programme," she said.

The Roma were not excluded entirely from the government proposals. In fact, the programme states that the Roma question is a priority for the government. However, apart from the Education Ministry, which will ensure the Roma get access to elementary education in their own language, according to the programme, no other ministry has made public any plans to take action on behalf of the minority. Observers say the government's apparent unwillingness to take the problems of the Roma seriously could draw harsh criticism from the European Commission, which on October 9 released a report urging Slovakia to improve its record on relations between the Roma and majority Slovaks.
©The Slovak Spectator

Gay rights activists picketed last night's Music of Black Origin awards in London in protest at the nomination of three singers whose songs advocate the incineration of homosexuals. Capelton, Elephant Man and TOK - all nominated for best reggae act - have become notorious for lyrics that urge the burning, shooting and battering to death of gays. In the event, none of the three made it to the winner's rostrum at the London Arena. Instead, after taking the £20,000 Mercury Prize last month, it was again Ms Dynamite's night. The 21-year-old songwriter, known to her Scottish mother in Archway, north London, as Niomi McLean-Daley, took best single, best new UK act and best newcomer, a relatively modest showing given her stellar talent. Tellingly, her music does much to subvert misogynist rap stereotypes - her lyrics even have a pop at R&B's obsession with fashion and conspicuous consumption.

For once female artists dominated the awards, reflecting the way new black British music has emerged from the underground scene to become a worldbeater in the past two years. Mis-Teeq won the Daily Telegraph best garage act, a musical form until now inseparably linked with guns and gangsta violence, while Norah Jones, the daughter of the Indian sitar legend Ravi Shankar, took the jazz award. Two of the prizes were posthumous. Aaliyah, the American killed when her plane crashed into the Caribbean, won best video. There was a lifetime achievement award for Lisa Lopes, killed in a car crash in Honduras in April, where she was doing voluntary work for a children's charity. The cult popularity of controversial reggae stars such as Capelton has put broadcasters and record companies in Britain in something of a fix, with the BBC - which was forced last month to withdraw his songs from its websites - arguing that such dancehall hits had almost become "unofficial anthems for some people in Jamaica".

Capelton is regarded by many critics as a major musical figure, the heir to the legacy of Bob Marley. He is also one of the leaders of a new wave of fundamentalist burn-again Rastafarianism, Bobo Dread - known as "the Jamaican Taliban" to their detractors - that is sweeping the island. While Marley's militancy was softened by a mellow ganja vibe, Capelton's concerts are more like religious revivalist meetings with fans holding hundreds of burning aerosol cans in the air. Capelton insists the fires he sings about throwing gay men into are metaphorical allusions to cleansing and purity. "Is not really a physical fire. Is really a spiritual fire, and a wordical fire, and a musical fire," he said. "But people get it on the wrong term. People get confused ... We come to burn for injustice and inequality and kill indignity and exploitation." But his explanations did not wash with Peter Tatchell, of the pressure group, OutRage!, who organised the protest outside the London Arena. "I hope other Mobo award nominees will publicly dissociate themselves from the homophobia of TOK, Capelton and Elephant Man. It would be great if some Mobo winners used their acceptance speeches to make it clear that racism and homophobia have no place in popular music," he said.
©The Guardian

Islamic groups in the Netherlands have reacted angrily to a suggestion that only Dutch should be spoken in mosques. The proposal - by a political colleague of the murdered anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn - came at the opening of a controversial new citizenship course for immigrant clerics. The BBC's religious affairs reporter, Mark Duff, says the issue raises questions about how different faiths and values can coexist in today's culturally and racially mixed Europe. The idea that only Dutch should be spoken in the Netherlands' approximately 450 mosques came in an off-the-cuff remark from the country's immigration minister, Hilbrand Nawijn. Mr Nawijn told journalists that Muslim clerics had a duty to convince their fellow believers that they should be loyal to the values and norms of Dutch society. He said the new citizenship course was needed to improve the integration of immigrants - and that he would be looking at how best to promote the speaking of Dutch in places of worship.

New law
Mr Nawijn also said he planned to propose a new law that any religious leader who failed the course would be denied a visa. A spokeswoman for Mr Nawijn said his comments reflected his deepest wishes - but stressed that he had not spelt out whether ritual prayers as well as sermons should be in Dutch. The new course - which is mandatory for all newly-arrived foreign clerics - includes lessons in Dutch society and language. Among the issues it will address are freedom of speech and religion, euthanasia and non-discrimination.

European debate
Most sensitive of all is likely to be the question of sexuality - especially the place of women and homosexuals in society. Mr Nawijn's mentor, the murdered - and gay - Pim Fortuyn, incensed many of the country's 800,000 Muslims by dismissing Islam's view on gays and women. A spokesman for one immigrants' group said young Muslims in the Netherlands today felt victims of a new anti-Islamic political culture. "We are born here, we speak Dutch: why do people not trust us?" he asked. The debate has resonance across Europe, not least in Britain, where the minister responsible for immigration, Home Secretary David Blunkett, is on record as saying that immigrants need to learn how best to accommodate their own culture to life in Britain today.
©BBC News

The Malaysian prime minister said Tuesday that new procedures being used to screen some foreign passengers at U.S. airports were "anti-Muslim hysteria." Also Tuesday, the opposition Democratic Action Party said the United States should apologize to Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi, who was searched at Los Angeles International Airport and asked to remove his belt and shoes, before being allowed to continue on to New York. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told reporters that the new U.S. immigration policy requiring tens of thousands of visitors to be photographed and fingerprinted was upsetting because it "labeled" the "whole Muslim world" as suspect for the actions of a few of that faith on Sept. 11. "It's unfortunate that this is the stance taken, but it's their country," Mahathir said.

Robert Johnson, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, which administers airport screening, declined to comment. The new rules, which target visitors from mostly Muslim and Middle Eastern countries, took effect Tuesday. All citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Sudan will be checked. Visitors from Malaysia and other countries including Egypt who are believed a security risk will be fingerprinted and photographed. The pictures and fingerprints are to be matched against criminal and terrorist databases. But even before the new regulations took effect, Mahathir's deputy got a taste of America's strict post-Sept. 11 security environment when he traveled through Los Angeles to a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly two weeks ago.

"All of us had to undergo the same security checks, even the pilot," Abdullah was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper Tuesday. "I was not exempted ... and I agreed to take off my shoes." Although Abdullah tried to downplay the incident, the Democratic Action Party called the demands made of him "disrespectful." "It is unimaginable to think that the Malaysian authority would ask Dick Cheney, the vice president of the United States, or any other top government leaders ... to take off their shoes" at an airport, party spokesman Ronnie Liu said. In the past year, Malaysia has arrested 63 people accused of plotting attacks aimed at establishing an-Islamic state in Southeast Asia. One of the suspects allegedly allowed two of the Sept. 11 hijackers to use his apartment for a meeting in January 2000.
©Nando Media

The Benes Decrees will not hinder Czech EU membership. This was the conclusion of a report from J. A. Frowein, researcher on international law of the Max Planck Institute of Heidelberg, who was tasked by the European Parliament to analyse the problem ahead of enlargement. The report, seen by the EUobserver, concludes: " The Czech accession to the European Union does not require the repeal of the Benes Decrees or other legislation mentioned in that context." Mr Frowein points to the German-Czech Declaration of 1997, which did not insist on a repeal of the Benes Decrees even though Germany was the country most affected by the Decrees. He recommends the Czech Republic to confirm in relation to enlargement that it regrets the law as it did in the German-Czech declaration of 1997.

Ahead of the Austrian general election, which is to take place on 24 November, the Austrian minister of foreign affairs, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, did not draw any direct conclusions on the basis of the report. Officially Austria still links ratification of Czech enlargement to the repeal of the Benes Decrees. Speaking to the press in Brussels the Austrian minister emphasised that the report was only "one report, made upon request from the European Parliament". Ms Ferrero-Waldner said the report only narrowly analysed the legal aspects of the Benes Decrees, whereas political and moral aspects have to be taken into consideration also. She said the Austrian government now needed to analyse the report in detail and then to engage in bilateral negotiations with the Czech Republic.

The EU-Parliament is going to debate the Frowein-report on November 18-22 in order to present a recommendation to the EU Summit in Copenhagen December 12-13. The European Parliament debated the issue of the controversial Benes Decrees with enlargement commissioner Günter Verheugen during the March plenary session earlier this year. The Decrees, adopted after the second world war to expell the German and Hungarian minorities from the Czech Republic, are an important issue for the Czech Republic's accession to the EU. Although the Decrees are not applied anymore in the Czech Republic, Austria points out they are not compatible with EU standards on human rights.

Delegates at an anti-racism conference voted Wednesday to expel non-blacks from the meeting, saying it was too traumatic to discuss slavery in front of them. The dozen or so whites and a couple of Asians, mainly interpreters and members of non-governmental groups, left without protest. The more than 200 delegates from several countries voted overwhelmingly for the restriction, with about 50 abstaining, officials said. The event was organized by various non-governmental organizations. "This is an African family occasion and therefore they should not be allowed to sit down and talk with us," said Garadina Gamba, a spokeswoman for the British delegation. Conference chairwoman Jewel Crawford of the United States said "There are a number of black people who have been traumatized by white people and they suffered psychologically and emotionally and, as a result of that trauma, some of them did not care to discuss their issues in front of them." But Jean Violet Baptiste, spokeswoman for the Guyana-based African Cultural and Development Association, said organizers should have made clear that only blacks were welcome: "You can't have people come all this way and then ask them to leave." A major issue at the meeting is a plan by black activists from the Caribbean and North America to sue France for making Haiti pay millions of dollars for recognition of its independence nearly two centuries ago. Attorney General Mia Mottley of Barbados urged delegates to build upon last year's U.N. conference against racism in South Africa, which recognized slavery and the slave trade as a crime against humanity. The meeting, titled African and African Descendants' World Conference Against Racism, was hosted by the government of Barbados. Organizers included the Congress Against Racism Barbados and the U.S.-based Congress of People of African Descent.
©Associated Press

Bridgetown, Barbados - Saying they'll have no part in discrimination, delegations from Russia, Cuba, South Africa, Colombia and France's overseas territories on Friday abandoned an anti-racism conference that voted to exclude whites. The walkout, on the fourth day of the six-day African and African Descendants World Conference Against Racism, came after a day of negotiations failed. "Cuba will never support any action aimed at segregating a group of people. Furthermore, Cuba believes that such a decision is intolerant and contrary to the purposes of this conference," Maria Morales, the spokeswoman for Cuba's delegation, told the conference, reading from a prepared statement. The South Africans said that the conference had gone adrift and that they could not endorse the decision to exclude non-blacks.

It was unclear how many delegates left the conference late on Friday, and whether all were black. But most of the 250 delegates at the meeting hosted by the Barbados government whistled and cheered their approval as chairperson, Jewel Crawford of the United States, stood by the vote. "The motion will stand and the democratic process will be respected," Crawford said. "The motion of exclusion was the will of the majority because there are sometimes when we feel that we just want to have a meeting of our own." Ghanaian delegate Maya wa Taifa agreed, arguing that Africans are normally too generous for their own good and that "our over-hospitality" backfired on the conference. The move to exclude whites was proposed by the 60-strong British delegation, which said it was under the impression that the conference was entirely for blacks to discuss issues from racial profiling to reparations for slavery.

Whites and Asians left the meeting
Some 200 delegates voted on Wednesday for whites and Asians to leave the deliberations, saying slavery was too painful a subject to discuss in front of non-Africans. Fifty delegates abstained and more than a dozen white and Asian journalists, interpreters and delegates left the meeting. In an ironic twist on Friday, delegates were shocked by an impassioned plea from Mauritanian Bakary Tandia for the conference to denounce slavery in the African countries of Mauritania and Sudan. He said such conferences lay too much emphasis on demands for reparations from former white colonisers and "hardly focus on what is happening on the continent, where slavery is alive in some places". Tandia, co-chairman of the New Jersey-based Africa Peace Tour lobbying group, said Arabs in Mauritania and Sudan hold blacks against their will. He charged that up to 900 000 black Mauritanians, mostly women and children, work without pay as domestic servants and herders. "These people are owned as property by Arabs and are so enslaved that they cannot even give testimony in a court of law ... They have no rights," Tandia said. Conference organisers said they planned a resolution of condemnation before Sunday's end to the meeting, billed as a follow-up to last year's UN anti-racism conference in South Africa.
©News 24

White and Asian people were ordered out of a conference on racism being held this week in Bridgetown, Barbados, after black organizers said it was "too painful" to discuss slavery in front of them. Ten whites — including at least two white journalists — and two Asians left after cheering delegates approved a proposal to ban them. The ban was brought to the table by a British delegation of about 60 people. Nearly 95 percent of the 250 people in attendance voted in favor of the ban. The conference — dubbed the African and African Descendants World Conference Against Racism — is seen by organizers as a follow-up to the U.N.'s anti-racism conference held last September in Durban, South Africa.

Just as at that conference, a delegation from the United States is in attendance. It is led by Jewel Crawford, a medical officer with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry — part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — in Atlanta. She defended the racial expulsion vote as necessary. "I think not to have dealt with it would have harmed the conference because our people have been traumatized by racism," she said in an interview with the Barbados Daily Nation newspaper. "We have been traumatized by white people and when we come to a meeting to talk about how we've been traumatized, sometimes their presence is upsetting." Added Kuba Assegai, an activist from Connecticut: "How can they heal when the perpetrators are there?" A leader of the British delegation, Kwaku Bonsu, told reporters, "We told [organizers] emphatically that we don't want to be sitting down with no Europeans or Asians and they assured us that this is an African and African-only event and that is why we came here."

The conference, which began Wednesday and ends tomorrow, is a follow-up to the Durban conference, which was plagued by anti-Semitism from several nations' delegations. It prompted the U.S. refusal to participate. Whites were allowed to attend the Durban event. Sponsors of this week's conference include the Commission for Pan African Affairs, the government of Barbados, the Congress Against Racism, the Barbados Tourist Authority and the U.S.-based Congress of People of African Descent Inc. Also endorsing the event were hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons and the civil rights group 100 Black Men of Atlanta. The Atlanta group disassociated itself immediately from the exclusion vote. "Whatever is going on there, they did not ask us," said William J. Stanley III, president and chairman of the board of 100 Black Men of Atlanta. He said the group offered its support in name, but did not send any members. "It would hardly be fair to have agreed to allow people to come to Barbados, and for these people to have paid to come and provide coverage and then to tell them to leave," Mr. Stanley said in a telephone interview. "We lent our name to the conference, but whatever is going on — they didn't ask us."

Conference registration was coordinated by the Black World Today, a black news Web site. The news agency's phone has been disconnected. A spokeswoman at the Barbados prime minister's office said that no one could discuss the conference or the government's sponsorship. A manager at the Barbados Tourist Authority, which provided a financial contribution of an undisclosed amount, said that the sponsorship would be reviewed. The Authority also arranged for discounted air and hotel rates for those coming to the West Indies island. "The chairman of the authority is very aware of the conflict," Gerald Cozier said. "It is something that he will deal with." Among the Americans scheduled to attend the conference this week are actor Danny Glover and Roger Wareham, an activist lawyer who in April filed slavery-reparations lawsuits against FleetBoston Financial Corp., Aetna Inc. and the CSX Corp.
©The Washington Times

It ended as it had begun. The same rousing fanfare and pomp that had greeted the participants to the African and African Descendants World Conference Against Racism here a week before resonated once more as the delegates filed from the Sherbourne Center and back to their respective communities. Between this beginning and end there was a score of scintillating moments that ran the gamut of emotions. From the very inception there was a moving invocation from the Rev. Aaron Larrier, the event's president, who observed that if you turned the map of Barbados upside down it mirrored Africa. "Rather than calling Barbados Little England,'" he said, "we should call it Little Africa.'" Then the first female Attorney General of Barbados, Mia Mottley, offered an extended welcome that touched on a number of controversial points that would surface as the conference progressed, particularly the issue of race and color. Zimbabwean representative Sabelo Sibamda electrified the audience during one of the plenary sessions, passionately recounting and correcting the broad misconceptions about his country's current crisis on the question of land reform. It contained all the conviction and insight of an earlier report from a psychologist who in her presentation carefully delineated the terrible consequences of post-traumatic slave disorder.

All of these compelling moments were almost overshadowed by a resolution that passed asking all non-Africans to leave the conference. It may not have been a defining moment for a conference already beset with financial and ideological problems, but it certainly consumed a lot of time and created an unnecessary amount of turmoil and stress. Two days after the resolution was introduced by a member of the British contingent, the issue continued to be a source of tension and endless debate. And many feel it may have a lasting impact and negatively affect future endeavors. David Comissiong, the Director of the Commission on Pan-African Affairs in Barbados is more sanguine about the aftermath of the proceedings. "The decision to exclude non-Africans only applies to this conference," he explained. "It doesn't mean the new organization, which we hope to forge from this conference, will entertain such an exclusionary procedure as part of its policy. This issue may present a problem to some of the institutional bodies, but at the level of the people's organization, I don't think it will present a problem."

The departure of the Cuban delegation was particularly disturbing, Comissiong continued since he had personally worked so hard to develop strong fraternal relations with the country. "But as we form the new organization out of this conference, they have expressed an interest in working with us and we are hopeful about that eventuality." He noted there were more than 650 people registered for the conference and fewer than 15 had departed, including members of the South African and Zimbabwean delegations. Among the disgruntled delegates remaining was Dr. Lily Golden, a member of the Russian delegation. Dr. Golden said she had traveled more than 4,000 miles to attend the conference in order to deliver a message about the spread of racism in her homeland and parts of Eastern Europe. "But when I arrived I was met with more racism," she lamented. "This is very upsetting and the decision must be changed." During several impromptu meetings with Comissiong, Dr. Jewel Crawford and other members of the Central Organizing Committee, Dr. Golden tried to offer "a way out&a way to save face," she said. "Since the resolution was not on the agenda, it can be retracted. This is not the policy of the Barbados government or the United Nations. This conference is very important for the future of Africans from all over the world and we cannot make mistakes." "We took the resolution and placed it before the body and they voted in favor of removing the non-Africa the programs and projects together. " Dr. Crawford said that the end result of the conference would be the drafting of the "Bridgetown Protocols," and the formation of a new organization to carry on the process that began in Durban, South Africa last year. "The plan is to structure a new organization to further empower us as we move to gather the funds to finance the various programs and projects. We will also put in place new leadership." Does she hope to be part of that new leadership? "If it's the will of the people," she smiled. The will of the people, at least that of the majority of delegates who attended the weeklong affair, was that despite the clamor around the resolution to eject whites, the conference had done a good of job of extending the spirit of Durban and achieving most of the intended goals. As for the next major conference, the third leg, many feel it should occur in Washington, D.C. or in London, which would symbolically complete the triangular aspect of the so-called TransAtlantic slave trade.
©The Black World Today

Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe was recovering well in hospital Monday, a day after stabbed in the stomach by a man who said he hated homosexuals. Delanoe, who is one of France's few openly gay politicians, "spent a good night and his doctors are very reassuring," his deputy Anne Hidalgo told French radio. He was expected to stay in hospital for eight days. The 52 year-old mayor was attacked early Sunday morning as he greeted members of the public at the Paris city hall -- or Hotel de Ville -- as part of an all-night festivity organised across the capital. His assailant, Azedine Berkane, was being held in police custody Monday and was expected to be placed under judicial investigation for attempted murder by the end of the day. On Sunday he told police that the knifing was an "isolated, unpremeditated" act, but that "he did not like politicians and in particular he did not like homosexuals," investigators said. Newspaper reports Monday described Berkane, 39, as a shiftless loner. He lives with his Algerian parents in a poor estate in the northern Paris suburbs and has been unemployed most of his life. Investigators said he has been hospitalised for psychiatric treatment at least twice. He is a devout Muslim, and has several convictions over 20 years for theft and drug-dealing. In prison he developed an interest in computers, newspapers reported. Police said that Berkane carried a knife with him all the time, but he could not have known he would come across Delanoe in the Hotel de Ville, so the act must have been spontaneous. Delanoe, a Socialist elected in March 2001, had come back to the majestic riverside building after touring sites in the capital which were open overnight as part of the celebrations known as "Nuit Blanche" -- or "Sleepless Night." Berkane, who was in a crowd of about 100 people in the city hall's ornate reception rooms, suddenly lunged at the mayor with the knife. Delanoe bled profusely and was taken to hospital, where doctors pronounced him out of danger. The attack reopened debate about the security of public officials. This became a live issue after a gun-attack in March in which an unbalanced loner killed eight councillors during a municipal debate in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre. In July President Jacques Chirac -- himself for 18 years mayor of Paris -- was unscathed when a man opened fire during the annual Bastille day parade in the Champs Elysees. But Hidalgo said Delanoe wished to remain an accessible figure and did not want to turn the Hotel de Ville "into a barricaded castle." A quiet-spoken career politician, Delanoe came out as a homosexual in a television interview in 1998, and after municipal elections in March 2001 he became the capital's first left-wing mayor in 130 years. After the left's defeat in parliamentary and presidential elections earlier this year, he is one of the country's most prominent Socialist politicians. In charge of a five billion-euro (4.9 billion dollar) budget and 44,000 municipal employees, he has launched several high-profile initiatives -- such as the "Paris-plage" summer attraction, in which a long section of the bank of the river Seine was turned into a beach. Opinion polls suggest he remains a popular leader, though his programme to discourage private car use by carving out large separate lanes on main roads for buses and taxis has angered some residents.
The Tocqueville Connection

French police say a man detained for the drive-by shooting of a French teenager has confessed to the crime. Mohamed Maghara, 17, was shot and killed on Friday as he chatted with friends outside a cafe in Grande-Synthe, near the northern port of Dunkirk. Maghara was of Moroccan descent and was at a cafe popular among the North African community. The killing was quickly condemned by the government as "obviously racist" and was followed on Saturday by a silent protest march by hundreds of residents. The unnamed suspect - a 45-year-old white lorry driver - is reported to have told police that he had a grudge against Arabs. Police detained the man in a dawn raid on his house following a tip-off, prosecutor Jean-Philippe Joubert told reporters.

Double shooting
The killing on Friday came half an hour after another drive-by shooting, apparently carried out by the same man. Shots were fired at the window of another cafe frequented by North Africans in Dunkirk. As he fired ther shots, the man reportedly shouted: "Watch out! I'll kill you all!" Three people were injured in the shooting, one seriously. The shootings horrified the town and the rest of France. About 300 people joined a tense but silent march on Saturday. Two vehicles and several rubbish bins were later set alight. In an interview published on Monday in Le Progres paper, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin called it "a horror... a racist attack is an attack on France and its values".
©BBC News

A symbolic stronghold of the far-right in France has fallen to the socialists. Voters in Vitrolles, outside Marseille in the south of France, ousted Mayor Catherine Megret. The National Republican Movement (MNR), led by her husband Bruno, is an off-shoot of the National Front, which earlier this year propelled Jean-Marie Le Pen to the second round of the French presidency. The MNR has been struggling at the polls, and Vitrolles was the last town it ran. Ms Megret had been mayor of Vitrolles since 1997. "I am extremely disappointed. It's a victory for corruption and disinformation," said Ms Megret. She held the seat in March 2001, but the election result was annulled by a judge who ruled that her supporters had distributed election material which defamed another candidate. In Sunday's fresh poll, socialist Guy Obino beat her by 54% to 46%. "Vitrolles is free," he declared after his victory. The mayor of the MNR's only other town, nearby Marignane, has started backing the National Front instead. The loss of Vitrolles caps a miserable year for Mr Megret, whose policies are seen as further to the right than those of Mr Le Pen. Mr Megret took only 2.3% of the presidential first-round vote, and in the parliamentary elections which followed his party slumped to just 1%. Mr Megret was once Mr Le Pen's deputy, but broke away in 1998 to form the MNR after an internal dispute. Mr Obino's victory comes as a welcome result for the battered French Socialist Party, still reeling after losing Lionel Jospin from the French presidential election and then losing the subsequent parliamentary poll. However, Mr Obino was helped to victory by decision by President Jacques Chirac's centre-right alliance, the UMP, which did not contest the seat.
©BBC News

Far-right campaign raises fears of racial violence

The British National Party is bidding to win the mayoral election in a city hit by violence during last year's race riots, raising fears of further outbreaks of trouble. The party, which advocates the voluntary repatriation of ethnic minorities from Britain, has put up a candidate in next month's election in Stoke-on-Trent, one of the most deprived parts of the Midlands. It will be the first time a far-right party has put up a candidate to become mayor of a British city outside London. Stoke was hit by racial upheaval last year after earlier race riots in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford.

The system of directly elected mayors was put forward by Labour as a way of reforming local government, but campaigners at the time predicted that it could provide an avenue for extremist parties to gain power, as it did with Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front in France. Anti-fascist campaigners have warned that the BNP could produce a strong showing in Stoke, or even win, if voter turnout is low. The BNP's candidate, local unemployed man Steve Batkin, missed winning a council seat by only 70 votes during local elections earlier this year in which the BNP took three seats in Burnley. At least 12 mayoral candidates are expected to contest the Stoke election, which will be a postal ballot. Both factors could give the BNP a boost, with the vote split among a large field and BNP supporters able to avoid anti-BNP campaigners who protest outside polling stations during normal local elections. 'The BNP were a whisker away from winning council seats in Stoke,' said Roger MacKenzie, race and equality officer for the Trades Union Congress, which is helping to run a local anti-BNP campaign. 'This election is going to be tough. The BNP are playing on people's fears.'

The BNP's Stoke campaign is based on fanning anti-asylum seeker and anti-Islamic sentiment. Campaign co-ordinator Simon Darby said a BNP mayor would seek to ban the slaughtering techniques used in the production of Muslim halal food. Darby added that the BNP would also seek to prevent asylum-seekers from being housed within the city's boundaries. 'We don't like asylum-seekers being housed here,' he said. Anti-racism activists say the BNP campaign could provoke unrest in the city, which has a large Pakistani minority. Last year's riot was sparked by false rumours of a BNP march in Stoke. 'It has been an area of racial tension since the riots,' said Julie Waterson, national organiser of the Anti-Nazi League. 'Unless we challenge the BNP, they are well placed to do well in this election.' The Anti-Nazi League is planning to hold a rally in the city in the run-up to the election, on 17 October. The may oral post will carry a salary of £68,000. The mayor will effectively become the council's chief executive, able to appoint supporters to key jobs and influence policy.

BNP leader Nick Griffin, who has convictions for publishing hate literature, said the BNP had been heartened by the result of a mayoral election in Hartlepool, where a 'joke candidate' dressed in a monkey suit won the ballot. 'If a monkey can win in Hartlepool, then who knows what we can do in Stoke. We could win, but we could also just as easily get 10 per cent as 30 per cent,' he said. In the wake of its successes in Burnley, the strongest electoral showing by the far-right since the early 1970s, the BNP has identified elections where it believes it can do well. The Stoke mayoral elections are the first target, to be followed by local council elections next May and assembly elections in Scotland and Wales.
©The Observer

New arrivals have better diets, take a while to adopt bad habits, researchers speculate

Immigrants are healthier than people born in Canada and are less likely to get depressed and drink heavily, two new federal studies show. But the longer they stay here, the sicker they get. According to a study based on the 2000-01 Canadian Community Health Survey, 59.6 per cent of immigrants reported that they had a chronic condition compared with 65.2 per cent of people born in Canada. Researchers are stymied by some of the findings but speculate new arrivals to Canada are not as prone to fatty North American diets and unhealthy habits such as smoking until they have lived here for some time. "Immigrants have superior health," said Statistics Canada research analyst Claudio Perez. "Over all, immigrants tend to eat more fruits and vegetables than other Canadians. But immigrants who have been in Canada the longest have the worst health. Perhaps it's because over time they adopt unhealthy North American habits such as smoking and drinking."

The study surveyed 92,000 people including 18,160 immigrants from all over the world. Researchers say it sheds light on the so-called "healthy immigrant effect," which suggests immigrants are healthier than the Canadian-born population despite age differences. The study found that people born in Canada are more likely to have poor health habits, such as smoking, heavy drinking and obesity, compared with first-generation immigrants. The Canadian-born population is more likely to have some chronic health condition, such as arthritis or epilepsy. Newly arrived men had lower odds than Canadian-born men of reporting heart disease. But there is no difference between immigrants and their Canadian-born counterparts when it comes to diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer. Mr. Perez dispels the theory that immigrants are healthier because only healthy immigrants are allowed into the Canada as part of the immigration process. "We only exclude the very severe cases that would place a burden on the health-care system," he said.

A second study by Statistics Canada, Mental Health of Canada's Immigrants, also found immigrants to be mentally healthier than the Canadian-born population. They are less likely to be depressed and abuse alcohol. The study found 7.9 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 75 reported having experienced at least one major episode of depression in the 12 months before the survey. The rate among people born in Canada was 8.3 per cent, whereas the rate among immigrants was 6.2 per cent. The Canadian-born population is five times more likely to have a drinking problem than immigrants, the study found. Alcohol dependence was reported by 2.5 per cent of the Canadian-born population while only 0.5 per cent of immigrants reported drinking heavily. Those from Asia had the lowest rate of depression, while those from Africa had the lowest rate of alcohol dependence. But like the other health report, it found the longer immigrants live in Canada, the more likely they are to suffer depression or alcohol abuse.
©Globe and Mail

The Paris prosecutor's office said Friday it had filed an appeal against a court ruling that released 92-year-old French Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon from prison earlier this week on health grounds. The French justice ministry on Thursday had asked prosecutors to draft an appeal amid a nationwide public outcry over the decision, which allowed Papon to walk free on Wednesday after serving only three years of his sentence. Prosecutors said they based their appeal on the idea that Papon's release due to his age and poor health disturbs public order, citing as proof the emotional protests seen in cities across France since the ruling. "In its ruling, the court said that the suspension of Maurice Papon's sentence, given his age and state of health, would not disturb public order. This analysis is obviously erroneous," public prosecutor Jean-Louis Nadal said in a statement.

Papon, a former official in France's Vichy government, had been sentenced in 1998 to 10 years in prison after being found guilty of complicity in the deportation of more than 1,500 Jews from the southwestern city of Bordeaux. Papon's attorneys have dismissed the idea of an appeal, with one saying it had "no chance of succeeding". But the decision to release Papon, who has returned to his family home in Gretz-Armainvilliers east of the capital, sparked outrage both in France and in Israel. Jewish groups and human rights associations, who have organized several protests, have charged that Papon has never shown any remorse for his actions and that he was not sick enough to qualify for a medical release. "This release opens a wound that we thought was long closed. It's an insult to the Republic, to history and to truth," said Samy Ghozlan, president of the Council of Jewish Communities in the northeastern Paris suburbs. Ghozlan was one of about 200 protestors who gathered Friday at the site of a former Nazi transit camp in Drancy, outside the capital, to denounce Papon's release.

"We live under an amazing French judicial system that put in place a humanitarian law, and the first beneficiary is a man accused of complicity in crimes against humanity," said Drancy mayor Jean-Christophe Lagarde. "You get the impression that (Papon) is a new (Augusto) Pinochet," Lagarde said, referring to Chile's aging former dictator, who likely escaped prosecution for human rights abuses in July when Chile's Supreme Court deemed him mentally unfit to stand trial. "Pinochet also used his illness to escape justice," he added. An association of relatives of those deported from Bordeaux, where 250 protested late Thursday, has organized another demonstration in Drancy later on Friday.
©The Tocqueville Connection

Increasing numbers of refugees from Iraq are finding their way to Norway. More people arrived directly or indirectly from Iraq than from any other country last year, giving them the largest growth rate of all ethnic groups. The state Central Bureau of Statistics reported Thursday that around 13,600 persons from Iraq now have residence permission in Norway. Last year, the number of persons with Iraqi heritage arriving in Norway grew by 1,300, or around 10 percent. All told, Norway has 310,700 residents who emigrated from another country. That makes up around 7 percent of the country's total population, which now stands at about 4.5 million. Some 9,300 prospective immigrants arrived in Norway in 2001. Another 4,000 were born to parents who both have immigrant status. Persons from Sweden, Denmark and Pakistan continue to make up the largest first-generation immigrant groups in Norway. At the beginning of the year, 21,900 persons from Sweden, 17,800 from Denmark and 14,000 from Pakistan had legal residence status in the country. Another 11,000 persons born to parents who both came from Pakistan live in Norway, bringing the total Pakistani immigrant group as calculated by the statistics bureau to 25,000. Persons from Somalia made up the next largest group of would-be immigrants arriving in Norway last year, with 1,200 entering the country in 2001. Around 1,000 came from Pakistan and 900 from Afghanistan.

A million pound campaign to promote tolerance and multiculturalism was launched in Scotland yesterday after a survey revealed that one in four Scots admit to being racist. Around 24% of those questioned in a System Three poll for the Scottish executive said they believed they were slightly racist; 1% of respondents said they were strongly racist. The survey comes as crime figures reveal the number of racist incidents north of the border is on the increase, with the number of reported incidents at around 3,000 last year. Campaigners say that, when the number of unreported incidents is taken into account, the true figure for race crimes is far higher. Despite this, almost 80% of Scots still believe they offer a friendly welcome to those from other cultures.

The Scottish first minister, Jack McConnell, launched the 'One Scotland, Many Cultures' TV, cinema, radio and billboard campaign in Edinburgh yesterday. Mr McConnell and his ministers are hoping a five-week advertising blitz will help change attitudes north of the border. But they will have a long way to go before they can claim success: the survey reveals that racist attitudes are ingrained. Almost half of Scots believe racism is a serious or very serious problem, while nearly 50% surveyed said they did not think terms such as "Chinky" and "Paki" were racist, used in relation to food or shops. Despite the prevalence of racism north of the border, Scotland's population is falling and ministers believe asylum seekers and economic migrants are essential. Launching the campaign, Mr McConnell said: "I am convinced that making the most of the diverse cultures in Scotland is fundamental to a more prosperous Scotland. "We need a growing population. We must therefore make the most of all our talent and ensure that Scotland is a welcoming place for people from all backgrounds." To do this, however, ministers must first convince Scots that more migration is desirable. More than half of Scots questioned said they would be worried if more people from ethnic minorities came to live in their country.

System Three questioned 1,000 Scots aged 16 or older for the survey.
·More than 10% of people said they had been the victims of racist abuse
· Around 50% said they had been exposed to racist behaviour, generally as a witness
· Almost 50% said they did not think using terms such as "Chinky" and "Paki" in relation to shops or food was racist
· About 24% of people surveyed said they believed they were "slightly racist"
©The Guardian

Some groups like Anti-Racist Action take to the streets to do battle against white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Other people stress education. In the end, though, inclusion of minorities appears the best way to ensure a just society in Quebec

Kiranpal Singh knows that he projects a double image. To his own community - the more than 12,000 Sikhs in Montreal - his dark skin, his height, his turban and his graying, chest-long beard mean one thing. But after Sept. 11, 2001, in the suspicious eyes of some outsiders, he looks like the paymaster and mastermind of Al-Qa'ida. "Sometimes I have problems," Singh says. "I accept that. But we cannot run away - that's not a solution! We must educate people." Light is flooding through an upstairs window of the Gurdwara Nanak Durbar in LaSalle - Montreal's largest and newest Sikh temple. The orange Sikh flag flutters high above, on one of the tallest freestanding flagpoles in the world. Singh serves as the temple's president. In the past year, he's also become a spokesman for a privacy-loving group that has every right to feel embattled. Sikhs and Muslims, of course, belong to very different faiths - and have often clashed on the far side of the world. But in Canadian cities, where few if any Muslims dress like Osama bin Laden, Sikhs have felt the sting of prejudice aimed at Muslims. It's not just the occasional harassment in the métro - the cries of "Taliban!" and "bin Laden!" It's not just the small-scale humiliations - the man in Laval, for instance, whose turban was ripped away in the street. Beyond all this, there have been threats that could (if Singh were the worrying sort) leave him in a cold sweat at night. "Terrorists!" shouted a man from a car that was parked near the temple one day. As the car sped off, the man yelled, "We'll be back!" Such events show that racism in Montreal is alive, well and sometimes flagrant.

Fighting it is a constant battle. Yet Singh refuses to draw the easy conclusion that ours is a racist city. "We are living in a good country," he says. "It is more tolerant than many other places. We appreciate that." It's only normal, he suggests, if teenagers shout "Go back to your own country!" at Sikhs. It's only normal when kids in the schoolyard tell his 9-year-old son to remove his headscarf (only after puberty do Sikh boys begin to wear a turban). Singh has a wider definition of normality than many minority leaders do. But what's abnormal, he goes on to say, is how some adults in LaSalle treated a 12-year-old Sikh boy named Gurbaj Singh Multani last spring. Gurbaj missed much of the 2001-2 school year because of a legal battle. It was provoked by the refusal of the Commission Scolaire Marguerite Bourgeoys to let him wear a kirpan, the small ritual dagger that male Sikhs carry as an act of faith. Karen Mock, the executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, watched in dismay. "There is no evidence," she says, "of a kirpan ever being used as a weapon in Canada. But we saw the racist hysteria that resulted in Gurbaj's case." In May, a Superior Court judge ruled in the boy's favour; but the school board and the Quebec government appealed. Gurbaj has now switched to a private school, where he will not have to endure the taunts, jeers and cries of "Paki!" that he faced from LaSalle parents last spring. Those insults, hurled by adults at a Sikh child, are what disturb Kiranpal Singh even now. Others in Quebec were also upset. Pierre Anctil, the head of the Conseil des Relations Interculturelles, is an urbane and mild-mannered man; his words can be as smooth as butter. But when he speaks of young Gurbaj, he seems downright angry:
"I profoundly regret the way that some parents insulted the boy. That offended me deeply. It's an example, sad to say, of ignorance and contempt." "We should be more tolerant," Kiranpal Singh remarks. "We should be more wise and when they do arrest white supremacists, the courts often downplay or avoid discussing their involvement in the movement." ARA Montreal emerged in late 1997, in response to "the growing number of white supremacist and racist attacks." It says the city is home to several fascist groups, operating in a clandestine fashion and sometimes using the Internet for recruitment. Exact numbers are unknowable, but ARA estimates there are over 200 organized racists in Montreal. About half are "Nazi boneheads (often mistakenly called skinheads)." It's a delicate matter of wording: some ARA members also shave their heads. The group's first large-scale action took place on Feb. 28, 1998, when it wrecked plans to hold a white-power concert. "Since racists know they cannot publicize the location of their concerts," ARA says, "they resort to advertising meeting points where concert-goers get the location of the venue. "In response we organized over 150 angry anti-racists and converged on the meeting point. ... Our efforts succeeded in scaring away dozens of Nazis and ruining their concert." Or to put it another way, over 150 supporters of ARA showed up at the Jolicoeur métro station ready for a confrontation. "You started the fight," the boneheads told ARA in a bitter E-mail, "and one of us got hurt, not due to the efforts of your stupid squeegee kids, but because he stood up for what he believed." ARA claims not to know what the boneheads mean: "Although we had the Nazis outnumbered, we're not cowards like them and chose not to physically attack anyone. We did make a couple of 'proud white men' cry, though, hopefully out of shame!" The Montreal branch of ARA belongs to an international network. In various cities, ARA has come under fire for its aggressive stance against prejudice. Its members have entered neighbourhoods where racists allegedly live, warning local residents "there are dangerous people living amongst them."

Such behaviour causes unease. It seems close to vigilante tactics. Indeed, some conservative commentators, like Mackenzie Institute president John C. Thompson, have dismissed ARA as "leftist hooligans." ARA responds that "while racists have a right to free speech, that does not take away our right to counter-demonstrate. Free speech comes with responsibility." The group deploys ridicule, even intimidation against people whom it believes are committed to acts of hatred and bigotry. ARA is "committed to ensuring that bigots and terrorists never feel safe to operate openly in our communities. We will never let the Nazis have the streets!" Nor cyberspace. ARA's Web site includes the names and photographs of about 25 Montrealers it says are "known Nazis." Peter Flegel, the co-founder of Black Youth in Action, practises a much more moderate kind of anti-racist work - he goes to conferences, sits on panels, writes reports and so on. Yet Flegel admires the work of ARA: "They're needed. To me it's like the Martin Luther King - Malcolm X thing. I'm more suited to the Martin Luther King approach. But I respect what Malcolm X achieved. I wouldn't negate what ARA do, especially in countering neo-Nazis."

Kalpana Das has her doubts about racism - not just how it's fought, but how it's defined. As the director of the Intercultural Institute of Montreal, she spends her time negotiating between cultures and traditions. And she argues that the common view of racism can end up "scapegoating the majority as victimizers, and all others as victims. We need to move beyond this adversarial positioning. "We are all victims, and we are all victimizers. Knowingly or unknowingly, we always victimize somebody." A Bengali woman, highly articulate and highly cultured, Das arrived here in the 1960s. At first she was drawn to French-speakers, whom she found warm and open to foreign cultures. Today she's happy to be called "Québécoise" - as long as the label isn't used to hide her origins in India. "I'm a hyphenated Quebecer - if I deny that, I'm denying all my life's work." But Das no longer finds pure laine Québécois curious about fore into complacency about racism - as though the language law alone would ensure a harmonious process of integration. As the kirpan case suggests, that may be wishful thinking. The largest school board in the province, the Commission Scolaire de Montréal, is proud of its anti-violence programs. But, like other boards in Quebec, it leaves anti-racist projects up to individual schools. Anything they do is usually geared to March 21, International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. "This approach is passé," says Frantz Benjamin, a Haitian-Canadian member of the Commission Scolaire de la Pointe de l'Ile. "Something much more comprehensive is needed. The Quebec Ministry of Education has proposed an entire program for intercultural education. But even in Montreal, it has never been put into practice." Other cities and provinces offer anti-racist programs in the classroom. At least, they used to. Spending cutbacks in the 1990s led to a serious erosion of anti-racism education.

Karen Mock, of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, points to the Internet as proof of why anti-racist programs should be revived. Far-right Web sites can appear credible; Holocaust deniers have grown sophisticated in peddling lies online. "If young people were taught anti-racism and human-rights education," she says, "then when they logged onto some of this garbage, they would know they were being lied to." The makeup of the student body may affect how such issues are taught in the classroom. "In smaller communities," Mock remarks, "people will often say, 'We don't have a problem because we don't have many minorities here.' But that makes it sound as if racism is caused by the visible minorities!" Last month, one school board in rural Quebec voted unanimously to ban the kirpan. The area has no Sikh children. Perhaps an unspoken motive behind the vote was to ensure it never will have Sikh children. At the heart of anti-racist education, notes Shirley Sarna of the Quebec Human Rights Commission, lies the awareness and acceptance of diversity. It can help you see the problems inherent in rules that may have made excellent sense in the past. One example: the common prohibition of hats and other headgear. Schools often impose the rule to prevent boys slouching into class wearing baseball caps. But when children show up in a turban, a kippah or a hijab, an anti-hat policy can be a weapon to enforce uniformity.

Norma Gaona, who immigrated from Argentina in the 1980s, is now a member of the Commission Scolaire de Montréal. She belongs to an audible, rather than a visible, minority. Latin Americans are often held up as a model of graceful integration into Quebec society. (The Uruguayan-born Joseph Facal, a Parti Québécois cabinet minister, acts as poster boy.) But the image may belie the truth. The 1996 census showed that Latin Americans in Quebec suffered from a 28.6 per cent rate of unemployment - a couple of points higher than blacks, and more than double the figure for society as a whole. "There's a great difference," Gaona notes, "between immigrants from South America and those from Central America. The Central Americans are less likely to be well educated. "We know that the higher the level of education, the less likely a Latin-American immigrant is to suffer discrimination." Gaona calls on elements of the media to stop identifying offenders by their skin colour or place of birth: "It hurts the whole community. It reinforces negative stereotypes. And it strengthens the feeling among immigrants of being victimized."

The black students who have made it to John Abbott College sometimes give the associate dean, black psychologist Myrna Lashley, the impression that they lead two sets of lives. Looking out of her office window, she sees them mingling happily with other students - "but they live another life in a black world. "And if you talk to them in that context, the stories come out. Being pulled over by the police. Being targeted in the métro. Even their accents change." Yet Lashley is an optimist. She says she has fait community harmony: that image is resisted by officers themselves. They feel they have the law in their hands. But now I think it has improved." In terms of employment, at least, it has improved beyond recognition. Last November, the Montreal force won the Quebec Prize for Citizenship because of its affirmative action program. Between 1991 and 2001, the force hired 113 members of visible minorities and 199 members of what are defined as "ethnic communities" - as well as 11 aboriginal people, who apparently fit into neither category. The police went to multicultural events. They held minority recruitment fairs. They made their presence felt in a positive way in Montreal neighbourhoods where visible minorities are concentrated. And the process seems to have worked.

It's a question, finally, of power.
Think of the lack of non-white faces in the executive suites and boardrooms of big companies. "There's a desperate need for Québec, Inc., to become more diverse," says Jack Jedwab, director of the Association for Canadian Studies. "Québec, Inc. is taking baby steps, but the population is diversifying, so the gap keeps growing." Jedwab adds that while visible minorities are growing in population, "they aren't usually involved in the decision-making process. Governments will have to take action on this, because there's a lot of frustration out there. And it's deepening." Think, too, of how under-represented visible minorities are in the publicly funded cultural life of Quebec. Film-maker and writer Julian Samuel, himself born in Pakistan, has dubbed the situation "le refus local." Whether it be the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec, Radio Canada, Telefilm Canada or other key institutions, Samuel says the pattern is clear: "an almost complete exclusion of visible minorities." Aesthetic judgments, he claims, serve as a smokescreen for discrimination. Fo Niemi notes that in Montreal, racial violence is rare. But, he adds, you can measure the prevalence of racism in other ways. "If you look at a different indicator - visibility in top echelons of decision-making - I would say we're a very segregated society. How come after 20 years no black police officer has risen above the rank of sergeant?" Even the labour unions in Quebec, Niemi says, have refused to put their progressive rhetoric into practice. Like many big corporations, unions have been slow to promote visible minorities. So why is there not more anger on the part of the excluded? "It's learned helplessness," Niemi suggests with a grim smile. "The rats at one point stop trying to swim away - they just sink."

Khamlay Mounivongs, a Laotian-born education professor at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, looks forward to a day when immigrants begin to fill high-level management jobs, to become police chiefs and army generals - in short, to wield serious power. If and when that happens, "old-stock people will begin to admire the newcomers. Relationships will become more tolerant. And the pit of racism will not be so deep." Yves-Eugène Joseph, a priest of Haitian origin, offers this advice to the victims of racism: "Be patient. Always keep your head high. Know that you're not inferior, regardless of what anyone says about you. We have our dignity. We're equal to everyone else. Together, we'll win."

Yes, but when?
Joseph laughs. "That's the great question," he says.
©Montreal Gazette

The controversial Austrian politician, Joerg Haider, has turned down an offer to resume the leadership of the far-right Freedom Party. The surprise announcement came just three days after Mr Haider - who led the party until the year 2000 - was nominated for the position. He said the party wouldn't accept the policies he wanted to introduce, and that the Freedom Party ministers now had the possibility of imposing their line on the party. The far-right group has been in increasing turmoil since its leading ministers resigned from coalition government last week, after a bitter row with Mr Haider. The resignations led to the fall of the Austtrian Government. New elections are expected to be held later this year.
©BBC News

Of all the theatrical turns taken by the Austrian far rightist Joerg Haider, perhaps none was so astonishing as the explanation he has offered for his decision not to reclaim the helm of his Freedom Party. A stranger approached him outside a restaurant and warned him darkly not to persist in obstructing Austria's purchase of 18 fighter jets - and to think of his family, Haider said in a television interview Monday. That, said Haider, reminded him of Pim Fortuyn, the Dutch populist leader gunned down in May, and prompted his stunning announcement Saturday that he was withdrawing from the party leadership tussle he himself had set in motion with the apparent aim of re-emerging on top. "I have to give way to violence," he said. "I don't want to put myself or my family in danger."

Haider, 52, led the Freedom Party from obscurity to almost one-third of the popular vote and a role in government. In return for his party's gaining a share of power, Haider agreed to step down as party leader. Haider opened the leadership vacuum last week when he ousted the current party boss, Susanne Riess-Passer, who was also the nation's vice chancellor, and several other party officials serving in government posts. That prompted Austria's chancellor, Wolfgang Schuessel, to dissolve Parliament and call an early election, most likely to be scheduled for late November. Schuessel, who is a member of the conservative People's Party, said he could not govern with a coalition partner crippled by internal feuding. Haider's maneuvers have left Austrian politics in chaos, his party in a free fall and his reputation as a political tactician in tatters. "What we're seeing is not just an internal party breakdown, but the breakdown of the party's electoral base," said Peter Ulram, a pollster and political scientist. "They are headed for a tremendous defeat."

Support for the Freedom Party, which crested at 27 percent during elections in October 1999, plunged to 14 percent in a poll published over the weekend by Der Standard, a Vienna newspaper. The Freedom Party's fall comes at a time when Europe's rightward political drift seems to have halted. In Sweden on Sunday, the Social Democratic Party clung to power. In Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a Social Democrat, opened a narrow lead over his Conservative Party challenger, Edmund Stoiber, although he fell behind again in one poll Tuesday. Political analysts cautioned against drawing a line between Stockholm, Berlin and Vienna.

The political drama here, they said, is at heart personal. After Haider ceded leadership of the Freedom Party, he remained governor of Carinthia and sought to manage his colleagues in the government from afar. But when Riess-Passer and other officials gained more stature and independence, Haider became frustrated. He began making mischief, notably last February, when he went to Iraq for a meeting with Saddam Hussein at the same time that Riess-Passer was visiting the United States. Haider also objected that the party was moderating some of his long-held positions, such as opposition to the enlargement of the European Union. Riess-Passer also sought to distance herself from Haider's history of xenophobic, racist and anti-Semitic remarks. Matters reached a critical point two weeks ago when Riess-Passer favored delaying a tax cut to finance relief from floods last month. Political oddsmakers said they could not rule out that Haider might change his mind again before the party's convention Saturday.
©International Herald Tribune

Austria's far-right Freedom Party, which has been thrown into turmoil over recent days following a string of resignations, has nominated a new candidate for leader of the party ahead of general elections in November. he new candidate is the outgoing Minister for Transport, Mathias Reichhold. The controversial former leader, Joerg Haider, had been offered the position, but he withdrew unexpectedly on Saturday. An election will be held to fill the post at an extraordinary congress of the Freedom Party next Saturday, and so far Mr Reichhold is the only candidate. It has been, in the words of one senior Freedom Party official, a disastrous few days for the far-right party. A bitter power struggle between Mr Haider and the then leader of the party, Vice-Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer, triggered the collapse of the Austrian Government just over a week ago. The stage then looked clear for Mr Haider to once again take over power in the party he built up from a small minority group into one of Europe's most successful far-right movements. But he threw the party into disarray at the weekend when he declared he was not standing after all. He later said he had made the decision because he had received a threat to his family's safety.

Grassroot anger
But the outgoing general secretary of the Freedom Party, Peter Sichrovsky, said anger from rank-and-file members who blame Mr Haider for the collapse of the coalition could also have played a part in his decision not to stand. It is now up to Mr Reichhold to try and heal the divisions in the deeply split party in time for the forthcoming general elections. But quite how the party will fare in the campaign without the charismatic Mr Haider at the helm remains to be seen. As one observer put it, the party now has to decide whether it wants to turn itself into a mainstream conservative group or to remain a far-right populous movement, skilled at winning votes, but not fit to govern.
©BBC News

Ministers want to agree a common policy (AP) European Union justice and home affairs ministers meeting in Copenhagen have backed a proposal to forcibly expel illegal refugees and immigrants. The ministers from the 15-member EU - who are trying to agree their common immigration policy - asked the European Commission to come up with concrete proposals for financing both voluntary and forced repatriation. "We prefer voluntary readmission, but we also agree that we must reserve the right to compulsory repatriation," Danish Immigration Minister Bertel Haarder, whose country holds the EU presidency, said. The ministers also aim to stop "asylum shopping" - the phrase used to describe how would-be refugees move through EU member states in an effort to find the best host country. The United Nations Convention on Refugees - which defines a refugee as someone with a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion - is 51 years old. Some governments believe that convention's definition of persecution is too narrow - they want to be able to grant refugee status, for example, to women and children who are fleeing physical abuse. For those denied refugee status, the question of how they should be returned to their home countries remains.

Rise of the far right
The EU also said the repatriation of Afghan refugees was the top priority of its asylum policy. The UK Government is an enthusiastic proponent of sending Afghans back home now - huge numbers are already returning. But the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is warning that safety can not necessarily be assured in Afghanistan. All this is being discussed against a background of concern that far-right, xenophobic parties are gaining support in Europe. But the deadlines stretch ahead into the future. A common definition of a refugee is to be agreed by the middle of next year, a full common asylum and immigration policy by 2004. The BBC's Tim Franks in Copenhagen says that no-one is predicting consensus soon.
©BBC News

Charter pilot bars men after passengers cite terrorism fears

Four British Asian passengers were turned away by the pilot of a charter flight from Gerona in north-eastern Spain to Luton on Thursday because other passengers feared they were terrorists and refused to travel with them. The four neatly-dressed, short-haired young men, who belong to Luton's Indian community according to El Pais newspaper, were forced to travel overland to Barcelona to catch a different flight 10 hours later. Twenty-four passengers on the Thursday morning My Travel MYT650 charter flight told the captain they would refuse to travel with the men because they had been behaving suspiciously, a spokeswoman for the Manchester-based airline explained.

Rather than invite the 24 passengers to catch another plane, the captain chose to bar the four men, whose family names were given as Bhatti, Mahi, Thind and Badihan, from entering the aircraft. My Travel yesterday backed its pilot, saying he "took the correct decision". They were discovered by El Pais' Gerona correspondent, sitting despondently in the airport cafe and complaining at "the intolerable racism" they had been subjected to. Ground staff at the airport originally refused to tell them why they had been excluded from the flight, even though police had waved them through after twice scanning their bags.

"They were indignant but resigned to their fate," Gerard Bague, El Pais' Gerona reporter, said yesterday. The men, who had stayed for a few days at an apartment in the nearby Costa Brava resort of Blanes, told him they were convinced they had been the victims of straightforward racism. "They were British citizens with British passports," said Mike Hall, who sold them their tickets at Gerona airport's Flightline travel agency office and then helped rearrange their trip. "I told them that, because of September 11, people must have been nervous. "They said the police had checked them and searched them and there were no guns or knives on them. "I lent one of them my phone because he said his parents were elderly and would worry about him."

Mr Hall described the group of men, who were only carrying hand baggage, as "quiet" and said he had not seen them behaving unusually. "It was a difficult decision to make. We had 24 people who refused to fly," the spokeswoman for My Travel said. In a statement the airline said: "The security and safety of all our customers is our paramount concern. Any customers acting in an unusual fashion are likely to be subject to increased security and monitoring. The captain decided that in order for the flight to depart without delay or incident, he would make alternative travel arrangements for the group of four." The men were eventually put in a taxi to Barcelona and flown home by EasyJet, arriving 10 hours late at Luton. My Travel had not yet offered them compensation yesterday, though a spokeswoman did not rule that out. "We would welcome further discussion with them. We do offer our apologies," she said.
©The Guardian

France's bad boy of literature Michel Houellebecq, who shocked and thrilled the country with books on sex tourism and society's moral downfall, will stand trial on Tuesday for slamming Islam as "stupid" and "dangerous". The 43-year-old author, who shot to worldwide celebrity with his 1998 bestseller "The Elementary Particles," will face off against French Muslim associations who accuse him of racial insult and inciting religious hatred. At the heart of Houellebecq's latest polemic is an interview given last year to the French literary magazine Lire, in which he said: "The dumbest religion, after all, is Islam." "When you read the Koran, you're shattered. The bible at least is beautifully written because the Jews have a heck of a literary talent."

The largest mosques in Paris and Lyon, the National Federation of French Muslims (FNMN) and the World Islamic League have filed suit against Houellebecq for anti-Muslim racism, claiming the proof appears clearly in the text of his latest novel, "Plateforme". The author, used to controversy spun from his acerbic and nihilistic novels, has neither retracted his comments nor defended his main character in the book, who has an ingrained hatred for Arabs. "A writer is not interviewed as if he were on a political stage with a microphone," his lawyer Emmanuel Pierrat told AFP. "If someone had questioned (Charles) Baudelaire, we would probably have some surprises." But Chems-eddine Hafiz and Gilles Devers, lawyers for the Paris and Lyon mosques respectively, said in a statement that "it is anti-Muslim racism that is at the heart of the trail, not the personality or the provocative tastes of one successful author or another."

During last year's maelstrom of controversy, which has helped keep Houellebecq's books on the best-seller list, the author had responded unapologetically to his critics, saying: "It has brought me little but problems, but it just is this way: I attack, I insult. I have a gift for that -- for insults, provocation. "In my novels, it adds a certain spice. It's rather humorous, no? What I think as an individual seems to be of no importance here," he said. Houellebecq currently lives in Ireland and is working on the film adaptation of his novel "The elementary particles."
©The Tocqueville Connection

In this major essay - part of a new collection of essays on Britishness, published tomorrow by The Foreign Policy Centre - the Home Secretary David Blunkett sets out the political philosophy behind his controversial policies from civil liberties and security to asylum and immigration, and sets out why he believes that the left's response to the rise of the European far right should include ensuring that immigrants can speak English at home.

Globalisation has increased the extent and complexity of migration throughout the world. In the year 2000, there were some 168 million people living outside their country of origin - 21 million of whom were refugees or displaced persons. Migration is now of crucial importance to developing countries, for whom remittances from migrant workers can outstrip overseas aid in economic significance. So, for example, "Migradollars" earned in the USA are now the most significant source of foreign exchange for many Central American countries. And managed migration also benefits advanced economies, supplying the workers they need at different skills levels, and cementing trade links. But migration also brings significant cultural, as well as economic, benefits. It increases the diversity of our societies, and builds up our cultural capital. In the UK, we have always been an open, trading nation, enriched by our global links. Contemporary patterns of migration extend this tradition. Unless properly managed, however, migration can be perceived as a threat to community stability and good race relations. Where asylum is used as a route to economic migration, it can cause deep resentment in the host community. Democratic governments need to ensure that their electorates have confidence and trust in the nationality, immigration and asylum systems they are operating, or people will turn to extremists for answers. This is a key issue that I want to address in this article. But I want to start by looking at how the events of 11 September have shaped contemporary political debates. In particular, I will examine how they have acted as a prism through which many issues of social order, community cohesion and cultural diversity have been viewed in recent months.

11 September
People from all over the world were killed in the attacks on the World Trade Centre. They came from many different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu believers were killed together as they worked in the towers. It is a bitter irony of the terrorist atrocity that the centre was targeted as a symbol of US capitalism, yet as a hub of global finance, its workers came from across the world, including Islamic countries. Wall Street's bankers and stockbrokers are multinational, reflecting the integration of finance capital in the global economy. And its waiters, cleaners and chefs are equally cosmopolitan, reflecting the reality of mass migration in the modern world. The 11 September atrocity has come to crystallise the fear and insecurity many people feel in this new globalised age. It was such an appalling, inexplicable and morally unimaginable act of terror that it appeared almost to symbolise our vulnerability itself. But it is not simply fears that were evoked on September 11 and during its immediate aftermath. Rather, an extraordinary mutuality emerged in New York itself and across the United States of America, building on a national identity and commitment which embraces those from different cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds. It was a mutuality which spread outwards to embrace the kind of internationalism which is always talked about on the Left of politics, but which in this case, interestingly, did not appear wholly to engage some of those who would count themselves as internationalists. How many of those who normally preach solidarity and interdependence were opposed to the action against the Talib against Islam. To portray it as such is politically misguided and historically wrong. It reduces the diversity of the states of the entire Islamic world - their structures of governance, civil societies, and religious and secular practices - to an extreme and crude parody of the faith to which the majority of their populations give adherence. It is akin to reducing the whole of the world in which the Christian faith is practiced to the actions of a cult. Moreover it ignores the fact that a substantial proportion of the citizens of the West are themselves Muslims - something which is very important to social cohesion in countries such as the UK.

People who talk about a clash of civilizations also imply the West has a moral superiority over Islamic culture. This is scarcely credible, not least because the most appalling genocide the world has ever seen took place in the 20th century in the heart of Europe. And historically, it is basically wrong. It obscures the depth of shared history that has formed our societies in both East and West. Trade and commerce, intellectual engagement, and cultural exchange have taken place throughout the centuries. So to suppose that there are two civilisations that have no shared roots or mutual ties flies in the face of history. This is not to say, of course, that there isn't a continuing tension between modernity and the cultural practices of some of those entering highly advanced countries. This is not true, of course, for the majority of those entering the more developed world, but it is for those who, because of education or geography, find themselves catapulted into effectively different centuries. They are making a journey in the space of a few weeks or months, which it has taken us hundreds of years to make. Recognising and helping people with this change is as much part of the job of the settled community of similar religion and culture as it is of the host nation, and this is one of the challenges that we need to face. Accepted norms hundreds of years ago in this country, but now rejected, remain acceptable from particular cultures of varying religions. This is why Pim Fortuyn, the leader of the Libertarian Right movement in the Netherlands before his assassination in the Spring of 2002 had a point to make about the clash of modernity with long held cultural traditions - but not of course the solution he offered. Those who struggle intellectually and morally between their dislike of the Taliban with their instinctive opposition to the United States, found themselves equally at odds with modernity and cultural correctness when it came to Afghanistan. The military engagement in Afghanistan illustrates not a war of competing civilisations, but a defence of democratic states from terrorist attacks sponsored by deep oppression and brutalisation. But democracy is not only defended in military terms - it is defended in depth through the commitment of its citizens to its basic values. When the people of New York pulled together after 11 September, they were displaying not just mutual sympathy, support and solidarity, but a patriotic commitment to their democracy. By that I mean patriotism in its most decent, and deeply expressed sense, of civil virtue - a commitment to one's community, its values and institutions. It follows that the strongest defence of democracy resides in the engagement of every citizen with the community, from activity in the neighbourhood, through to participation in formal politics. Interestingly, Robert Putnam, the American theorist, has conducted a survey of social capital in the USA since 11 September. He found that people have become more concerned about community and politics, and more engaged as citizens, as a result of the atrocity. Rather than terrorizing people, the attack appears to have stimulated greater social cohesion and civic awareness.

Security and social order
But the defence of our democratic way of life also requires that the threat to security at home is met.Securing basic social order, and protecting people again eroded. Of course, the democratic state can sometimes abuse its power as much as those who seek to destroy it abuse fundamental rights and democratic practices. In simple terms, there is an obligation on those who have some influence over the levers of state power to be more careful to maintain democratic freedoms, than there is on those who oppose these values. In spelling out to the House of Commons what I believed to be the balance between meeting the terrorist threat and the danger of over-reaction, I genuinely believed that the failure to take action would be an act of weakness. As I had already reflected prior to 11 September, this was surely the lesson of the failure to understand the Nazi threat in Weimar Germany, or the social disintegration which led to the military coup against the elected government of the Spanish Second Republic.

Most of the criticism of the Act focused on the provisions for detention of foreign nationals in the UK who are suspected of terrorist activity or represent a threat to national security, in circumstances where a prosecution cannot be brought in this country, for either juridical or evidential reasons. My opponents on the Right argued that I should simply deport these people, whatever the consequences. On the opposite wing of the argument, civil libertarians accused me of breaching the fundamental principle of detention without trial. I was not prepared to abrogate Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and deport people to countries where they could face death and torture. But neither was I prepared simply to let people stay in the country freely if they represented a threat to national security. My solution was to permit detention of these foreign nationals, building on existing immigration powers, but give them a right of appeal to senior judges on the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, who could overturn my ruling with access to the available intelligence evidence. In addition, those detained could leave the country at any point if they could find a safe third country to take them. I believe this to be a correct and morally defensible means of protecting the basic right to security, as well as the liberties and freedoms, of the people I am elected to represent. The provisions of the Act are subject to statutory review, and many of the major clauses must be renewed by primary legislation after a set duration. I believe the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act will stand as a good example of the balances that must be struck by those who seek to defend the basic principles of democracy in conditions of uncertainty and threat. However, we also need to face the fact that to protect democracy, we must strengthen it. This is not about returning to a 19th century form of Parliamentary representation, and therefore relying solely on accountability through the ballot box. It is more fundamental than that. We need to engage people with participative democracy, so that they are part of the process. At present, they simply do not feel that government is "on their side". We need a new relationship between governed and governing, which reflects the profound changes that have taken place in our society. Globalisation has changed the nature of the power held by nation states, and the balance of forces in society. Aspirations are now much greater for control over the consumption of both public and personal goods and services. And people want to be active in civil society, sharing in the governance of their own communities of geography or interest. But to protect the framework within which democracy can flourish, change and grow, it is necessary to understand the pysche and contempt for democracy displayed by those who would use suicide bombing and terror to get their way. This is true whether initiated by those funded and organised by Osama bin Laden, or by those who choose to send teenagers to their death as suicide bombers in the (legitimate) cause of establishing a viable Palestinian state. By the same token, of course, democratic states like Israel who act to Dismissing this as either a right wing agenda or of marginal relevance can only lead to the demise of progressive politics. There are wider implications here for the political thinking of the centre-Left. In my recent book Politics and Progress I examine the importance of social order and security to a healthy democracy and strong civil society. My argument is that the centre-Left has never adequately theorized social order - its importance, and the conditions in which it is sustained. In addition to a tendency to be suspicious of any external military action, we have in the past assumed too readily that a fair society of free and equal citizens would naturally be a harmonious one, and that the role of the state in protecting social order would become less important as social justice was achieved. At its crudest, this was expressed as a simple economic reductionism: that crime and disorder were simply the result of unemployment and economic crisis. Whilst it is certainly true that the highest rates of crime are found in the most disadvantaged areas, this kind of simplistic cause and effect analysis - with the ethical laxity towards criminal acts that usually comes with it - is not tenable in contemporary societies. The causes of crime, as well as the solutions for tackling it, are far more complex and multifaceted than simple material poverty can explain.

Tony Blair's famous soundbite, "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" demonstrated for the first time that the Labour Party cared about dealing with criminals, and knew how to tackle crime. It repositioned the centre-Left on crime, in a politically crucial fashion. But we have yet to fully develop that lead through into our political theory. Too often the debate is polarized between liberals and authoritarians. There is a tendency for those who justifiably want to protect human rights to fall into the trap of placing themselves on the side of the criminal, rather than the victim. In fact, whose side you are on is not only an important signal to the public, but a recognition of representative democracy itself. We need to be clearly placed on the side of the victim, but also on the protection and integrity of society. Individual rights, not subsumed but set within the context of broader freedoms, place those who believe in interdependence and mutuality firmly on the side of securing justice, and not simply "due process". What I have tried to offer is new thinking on tackling social disorder and crime, based on a civil politics for the centre-Left; a politics of mutualism and civil renewal that places a premium on active self-government within communities. My core belief is that the good society is one in which people are active as citizens in shaping what happens in their communities. People are only genuinely free and fulfilled when they themselves determine what happens in their community, not when someone else does it for them, or when they simply abdicate responsibility and retreat into the private realm. What this means is that we have to nurture trust, confidence and the capacity to get things done in communities. None of that is possible if an area is plagued by crime, disorder and social disintegration, any more than maintaining liberty and making progressive change is possible if the state is threatened. Establishing basic order and security is a prerequisite of building social capital.

But beyond that, it means building community solutions to social problems. In terms of crime reduction, it means drawing on the moral resources of the community to tackle offending behavior - helping parents deal with difficult children; ensuring that antisocial behavior is not condoned or tolerated; and enabling people actively to shape policing strategies and assist the law enforcement agencies. A civil politics also places the community at the heart of the process of justice. It sets out to make criminal justice comprehensible to the community, so that the processes of law are demystified, and the sentences imposed on criminals bear some tangible relation democratic forces, particularly from the far Right, gain support in conditions of fear and insecurity, mutual distrust and ignorance. When crime and insecurity rises, people look for authoritarian solutions, unless there is a credible alternative. This is what has happened in Europe in recent months. The substantial vote for Le Pen, and other anti-immigration or overtly fascist parties, has come about because millions of ordinary voters have felt alienated from the mainstream political process, and have looked for solutions from extreme parties. Of course, there are tactical lessons for the Left as well. Le Pen's breakthrough came about because the Left vote in France was fundamentally split. Large numbers of French voters abandoned the French socialists in favour of Trotskyist candidates, only to find themselves having to vote for Jacques Chirac in the second round to keep Le Pen out. Such sectarianism mirrors the disastrous policy of dividing the Left opposition to fascism that Stalin imposed on Western Communists in the early 1930s. Describing Parliamentary socialists as "social fascists", the communists effectively prevented the formation of a united anti-fascist bloc, fatally weakening the opposition to the rise of the Nazi Right until it was too late. Those who write off any engagement with mainstream politics, and denigrate the motives and morals of democratic politicians, make the same mistake today.

Giving meaning to citizenship
A major part of the progressive response to this challenge must be found in giving content and meaning to citizenship and nationality. Too often, we have let citizenship go by default. Until 2002, we had not taught citizenship in our schools. Nor have we sought to induct new members of the community into what it means to be a British citizen. Nor have we actively promoted community cohesion and a shared sense of civic belonging. An active concept of citizenship can articulate shared ground between diverse communities. It offers a shared identity based on membership of a political community, rather than forced assimilation into a monoculture, or an unbridled multiculturalism which privileges difference over community cohesion. It is what the White Paper Secure Borders, Safe Haven, called "integration with diversity". The starting point for an active concept of citizenship must be a set of basic rights and duties. Respect for cultural difference has limits, marked out by fundamental human rights and duties. Some of these boundaries are very clear, such as in the examples of forced marriage or female circumcision (more accurately described as female genital mutilation, for that is what it is). These practices are clearly incompatible with our basic values - an observation which went unremarked in the first edition of my book, but one for which I was later vilified! However, other issues are less clear, and it is for democratic politics to resolve disagreement and find solutions. Respect and support for diversity within the boundaries established by basic rights and duties is equally crucial. People must be free to choose how to lead their lives, what religion to follow, and so on. Such diversity is not only right; it is desirable. It brings immense social, economic and cultural benefits to our society. But there must also be greater content to citizenship beyond these foundations: it must be an active, real expression of the life of the community. Citizenship should be about shared participation, from the neighbourhood to national elections. That is why we must strive to connect people from different backgrounds, tackle segregration, and overcome mutual hostility and ignorance.

Of course, one factor in this is the ability of new migrants to speak English - otherwise they cannot get good jobs, or share in wider social debate. But for those long settled in the UK, it is about social class issues of education, housing, jobs and regeneration, and tackling racism. I have never said, or implied, that lack of fluency in English was in any way directly responsible important to have a set of guiding values which underpin a framework of policy. Without this foundation, the events that emerge from nowhere can blow you off course and obscure the work you are already doing. Given the tendency to collective amnesia in the Britain of the 21st century, where published policy or even immediate action is forgotten within weeks, I certainly don't hold my breath as to whether I should find myself equally subject to the winds of misfortune.

The Rt. Hon David Blunkett MP is Home Secretary of Great Britain. This essay Integration with Diversity: Globalisation and the Renewal of Democracy and Civil Society appears in the collection Rethinking Britishness, published tomorrow by The Foreign Policy Centre
©The Observer

The former Europe minister, Keith Vaz, today waded into the row over David Blunkett's call for Asian migrants to speak English at home, calling it one of the "silliest" remarks ever made by a home secretary. Mr Vaz - one of Westminster's most prominent Asian MPs until he was reshuffled by Tony Blair after the last election - accused Mr Blunkett of using the Asian community as a "cheap target". The row erupted after the publication today of Reclaiming Britishness, in which the home secretary contributes an essay, saying speaking English at home would help immigrants "overcome the schizophrenia which bedevils generational relationships". Mr Vaz said: "If this was a Conservative home secretary he would have been asked to apologise by now. The immigrant community has become a cheap target." The former Europe minister Mr Vaz said that spending a night with an Asian family in Leicester would show the home secretary "how wrong he is". He said: "I am issuing an invitation to people in my constituency to offer Mr Blunkett a night in Leicester.

This morning the Home Office defended Mr Blunkett's remarks. A spokeswoman insisted Mr Blunkett was discussing integration and "would never tell people what to do in their own homes". "He is not seeking to dictate people's private lives," the spokeswoman said. Mr Blunkett said citizenship had to be about "shared participation - from the neighbourhood to national elections". He wrote: "That is why we must strive to connect people from different backgrounds, tackle segregation, and overcome mutual hostility and ignorance. "Of course, one factor in this is the ability of new migrants to speak English - otherwise they cannot get good jobs, or share in wider social debate. But for those long settled in the UK, it is about social class issues of education, housing, jobs and regeneration, and tackling racism. "However, speaking English enables parents to converse with their children in English, as well as in their historic mother tongue, at home and to participate in wider modern culture. "It helps overcome the schizophrenia which bedevils generational relationships. "In as many as 30% of Asian British households, according to the recent citizenship survey, English is not spoken at home."
©The Guardian

The clinic needs a licence to store frozen sperm Europe's first fertility clinic dedicated to lesbians and single women opens in London on Monday - but still lacks a licence to carry out treatments. The "Mannotincluded" Women's New Life Centre is based in Harley Street, and says it will offer a confidential service to women without a male partner. There is already an internet site which matches prospective parents with sperm donors. The clinic's founders claim that lesbians and single women are treated in an "insensitive" way by established centres. John Gonzales said: "Even those clinics that do accept them do not seem to understand the different needs and circumstances of these social groups." Like the website, the clinic will vet potential sperm donors and test them for HIV and genetic defects. However, it will also offer pre-treatment assessment and emotional support to women patients.

At present, the clinic aims to offer only donor insemination, rather than the full range of fertility treatments including IVF. Mr Gonzales said that women would be made aware of the ethical and legal issues surrouding assisted reproduction - and the implications for any children born. However, the centre is still without a licence to carry out donor insemination and to store frozen sperm on the premises. It has applied for one, but no treatments can be carried out unless this is granted by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). In the meantime, only assessments and counselling can be carried out. Ann Furedi, HFEA spokeswoman, said: "We will consider the centre's application in the same way as any other centre applying for a licence to carry out donor insemination." Gay and lesbian groups have welcomed the clinic's arrival. Alex Friesen, from the Rainbow Network, said: "The stress generally felt by couples who used assisted reproduction services is even greater for lesbians and single women."
©BBC News

At least 14 people have died after a boat packed with suspected illegal immigrants from Liberia sank off the coast of southern Sicily. Italian police and coastguards rescued 92 people after the early-morning shipwreck. The 10-metre (30-foot) vessel with up to 150 people on board went down within sight of the rocky shore. Police said the accident may have happened when the passengers all rushed to one side of the wooden vessel, hoping to see the Sicilian coastline. Among the 14 bodies recovered so far were nine men, four women and a girl of about 15. Divers were continuing to examine the sunken wreck and officials said more bodies could yet be found. About 40 passengers swam from the wreck to a large rock and were rescued by boat and helicopter. Some who stayed with the sinking vessel were also rescued alive, while the remainder are believed to have swum ashore.

Smuggling suspected
Twelve of the survivors were taken to hospital but the others were in good condition. Everyone on the boat was Liberian, bar one Egyptian whom Italian police suspect of being involved in people-smuggling. Hundreds of illegal immigrants from North Africa, Albania, Turkey, Pakistan and India arrive in Italy each week aboard small boats run by people smugglers. Italy has set up permanent reception centres in Sicily and southern parts of the country to process the new arrivals. But, under a harsher new immigration law which comes into force this week, most will be expelled.
©BBC News

Germany's conservative opposition, trying to regain its lead in the opinion polls before national elections, opened a new front Monday, contending that the government of Gerhard Schroeder was undermining national security and the economy by letting in too many immigrants. Schroeder has revived his own supporters and earned a small lead in the polls by running hard to the left. His rival, Edmund Stoiber, who has run a bland, centrist campaign, is making a last-minute lurch to the right, trying to win back his own voters in an unusually volatile climate before Sunday's election. In a television interview Monday morning, Stoiber said he would throw out a government reform passed earlier this year designed to open Germany to qualified immigrants with needed skills. "When there are more than four million jobless," Stoiber said, "then it is irresponsible to open up the job market to everyone." Stoiber's spokesman on police and immigration matters, Guenther Beckstein, said Monday that the government was hurting domestic security and compromising Germany's economic future with its immigration policy. Beckstein cited a Greens politician who called the new law a step toward making Germany "a modern, multicultural land of immigration." Beckstein said, "That is exactly what we don't want." Instead, Germany must integrate the 7.3 million foreigners who live here and find work for the more than four million Germans who do not have jobs, Beckstein said. He called for the deportation of any foreigner sentenced to prison for more than two years and for limits on the residence permits of immigrants on welfare.

Schroeder called the new conservative strategy a sign of "helplessness and aggressiveness," adding: "It is a desperate attempt to find a topic with which one can arouse emotions, but I think the public will see through it." Schroeder has revived his chances to win re-election through his handling of Germany's disastrous floods and his sharp message of opposition to a new, American-led war in Iraq. His campaign to preserve the peace - in open and pungent opposition to the Bush administration - has won him support, while making Stoiber seem wishy-washy, unwilling to support the Americans but also unwilling to rule out a war in Iraq. While many had thought that Stoiber would run to the right, he had instead sounded moderate on social issues while hammering hard at the poor state of Germany's economy. But Schroeder has argued that unemployment and low growth are a result of global factors beyond his control, not his inability to challenge his union supporters and make the labor market more flexible.

In early August, polls indicated, Stoiber's conservatives were between 5 and 7 percentage points ahead of Schroeder's Social Democrats, who govern in coalition with the Greens. Now, with the vote on Sunday, Schroeder has opened a small lead, and has the momentum. He has sought to capitalize on his own popularity and that of his foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, a Green, by trying to run as a kind of personality ticket, highly unusual in a parliamentary democracy. Fischer, an elfin former radical, is Germany's most popular politician, with an approval rating of more than 80 percent in the polls. So on Sunday evening, Schroeder held an unprecedented joint rally in Berlin with Fischer, under a giant red and green poster that read, in English: "Go on!" - to another term with what is called his red-green coalition. "I want this foreign minister and no one else," Schroeder said, pointing to Fischer. The foreign minister then returned the favor, saying: "I do not want to become chancellor. I want Gerhard Schroeder to be the next chancellor." But as the immigration question returned to the political agenda, Deutsche Bank said that Germany's population could fall from 82 million to 65 million in 50 years, with the workforce shrinking by 27 percent, to 30 million by 2040, unl ©International Herald Tribune

Across Europe the right is getting tough on foreigners and asylum seekers to court support at the polls

Sweden's Social Democrats escaped the European lurch to the right with their third consecutive election victory yesterday, but not without seeing an unexpected surge by the centre-right Liberal party, which wants tough new immigration rules. Although Goran Persson's leftwing Social Democrats recovered from a trough of 36.4% four years ago to take 40% of the vote, it was the success of the maverick Liberal party which caused the greater stir. With immigration at the heart of its manifesto, it almost trebled its support, winning 48 parliamentary seats with 13.4% of the vote compared with 17 in 1998, when it took only 4.7%. Although it is in favour of immigration to fill gaps in the labour market, and insists it is not racist, the party has espoused the kind of policies pioneered by successful anti-immigration parties in Denmark and Norway. During the campaign it argued that immigrants unable to find work within three months of their arrival in Sweden should be sent back to their home countries. Its leader, Lars Leijonborg, insists that immigrants should take Swedish language tests before being given citizenship. About 7.3% of Sweden's 9m population are migrants from outside the EU. "After four straight election losses it was do or die. "We won. Our message was change," a jubilant Mr Leijonborg, 52, said yesterday.

Immigration has never been a serious subject of debate in a Swedish election campaign but the Liberal party has ensured that the new government - likely to be a coalition of Social Democrats, greens and former communists - will have to tackle the issue. "The big winner was the Liberal party," said Anders Mellbourn, director of the Swedish Institute for International Affairs. "They were the dominant non-socialist party in the 1950s but have looked like they were facing extinction. There has been a vacuum about immigration and they probably picked up some of the racist vote, even though their leader specifically told racists not to vote for them." Liberal party sources stress that their message is "yes" to immigration but "no" to segregation. "We have a big divide in our society," a senior party member said. "In the inner cities we have a lot of immigrants living on benefit, out of work or on drugs, and a gap is opening up between ordinary Swedes who have had/have jobs and immigrants who have always been unemployed." But Akhenaton de Leon of the Norwegian anti-racism group Omod said: "This is just the beginning. "Once the taboo [of talking about immigration] has been broken the floodgates will open and the issue will be talked about in the same crude fashion in Sweden as it is in Denmark and Norway."
©The Guardian

The outgoing U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights isn't leaving quietly.

When a meeting of diplomats, non-governmental organizations and writers convened in 1997 at U.N. headquarters to consider how to commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one option was rejected unanimously. There would be no attempt to redraft or update the document, because a new version would surely be weaker. To the fundamentalists in the U.S. Congress and other parts of the world, international human rights was like something said by Humpty-Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass: When he used a word, it meant exactly what he wanted it to mean, no more and no less. When the Israelis killed Palestinians in Hebron several years ago, for instance, the U.N. statement assigned no blame, regretted the Palestinian deaths and hoped for peace.

But 1997 was also the year that Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, took office as the U.N. high commissioner for human rightsand when she used the phrase human rights, it meant exactly what it should. Robinson's statement on the Hebron killings condemned the Israelis and said they should abide by the Geneva Convention. On her watch, human rights would come to mean a lot more inside the U.N. bureaucracy than ever before. After the Berlin Wall fell, there had been a brief period of consensus, culminating in the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, which called for the appointment of the first U.N. high commissioner for human rights. The next year, José Ayala Lasso, a highly unmemorable Latin American diplomat, got the job. Perhaps the defining moment of his tenure was creation of a "Human Rights Fax Hotline" to report human rights violations. Then a persecuted peasant in Central Africa could run bleeding through the bush to his nearest post office, where government officials, in return for the equivalent of a month's salary (if the phones were working), could obligingly send his complaint fax to Geneva, where it would curl up on the floor with thousands of othersto be ignored.

Things changed when Robinson accepted U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's job offer: She brought a sense of urgency to the position, along with the authority of a recently retired head of state. This upset the type of U.N. bureaucrats who would much rather file reports of massacres at the bottom of a cabinet than upset governments of any hue. But for Robinson, human rights transcended national affiliations. Just because China was big, or Israel had friends in Washington, was no reason for her to stay silent. Robinson recalls: "I got very wise advice from a friend of mine when I startedMary, remember, if you get too popular in that job, it means that you're not doing a good job.' So I didn't actively seek to be unpopular, but I knew that to do the job well ... you've got to be prepared to criticize both developed and developing countries."

While her outspokenness won her many friends at human rights organizations, governments were more uncomfortable. She transformed her position into that of a real international ombudsman, one who delivered withering judgments without fear or favor. This certainly was not appreciated in Washingtonand the Bush administration actively opposed an extension of her term. "Robinson paid a price for her willingness to stand up to powerful governments that violate human rights," says Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch. "She has set a standard of candor and strength for future high commissioners, and we are sad to lose her as an ally."

In the end, it was almost certainly her criticism of the United States and Israel, in particular, that cost her the job. "It's ironic in a way," Robinson told In These Times, "because the issue I'm most committed to is the integrity of the human rights agenda, and shaping it so it's not politicized. I applied that faithfully to addressing the pro expanded definitions of racism and offered support to many people who previously did not have much of a voice. "I think we achieved an extraordinary breakthrough in Durban against all the odds," Robinson says. "I was in Mexico for the first of the follow-up regional conferences from Durban, and it was a joy to see how much it means for countries in Central and South America, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, the way it has brought new hope for indigenous peoples, for people of African descent, for black Brazilians."

September 11 gave the United States yet another reason to ignore the results of international conventions like Durbanand indeed to ignore its own Bill of Rights. Robinson is very concerned about a deterioration of human rights since the terrorist attacks. Citing the examples of immigration detainees and Guantanamo Bay prisoners held by the United States, Robinson complains, "Governments are using [the terrorist attacks] to clamp down on human rights and freedom of expression. Human rights defenders are branded as terrorists; the climate is harsh for asylum seekers and refugees." Despite this setback, she remains hopeful. "I think that the international human rights norms and standards have a contribution to make to a more ethical globalization. We have the international norms and standards; we have the treaty bodies working more effectively; we have the rapporteurs; there's an ability to name and shame; it's accepted that human rights don't stop at borders. If there are violations in a country, the international community is rightly interested."

Robinson is particularly optimistic about the development of an International Criminal Court. "I really think the International Criminal Court is an extraordinary step forwarda way of symbolizing that we are going to end impunity for egregious human rights violations. It may take time, but now there is going to be a permanent court, and you can be brought before it if you haven't been before a national court." But once again, the United States is standing in the way. The Bush administration "unsigned" the treaty creating the court, passed what opponents are calling the "Hague Invasion Act" (authorizing the president to use military force to rescue Americans held by the court), and has threatened to veto every U.N. peacekeeping mission unless U.S. officials are guaranteed immunity. "Now if other countries are under pressure on human rights instruments they've signed," Robinson worries, "they may say, Well, if the U.S. can unsign a treaty, then so can we.' "

Looking back at her tenure, Robinson is most proud of helping to change the developing world's attitude toward human rights. "I was quite taken aback by how many leaders of developing countries told me, Don't you know human rights is just a Western stick to beat us with? It is politicized, nothing to do with real concern about human rights.' " Recognizing that there was "an element of truth in that," she has defended the idea, unpopular with the neoliberal consensus of the last decade, that economic and social rights are integral to the protection of political rights, invoking the "express vision and mandate of the establishment of the High Commissioner's office, which was to seek consensus on the right to development. That's an individual and a collective right, the right of the people to gain the full flower of their human rights." She claims one consequence of her success is that there is "more linkage being made by leaders of developing countries between human rights and economic and social development. They began to realize that if you got your human rights right, you accelerated human development and economic development."

She says the crucial issue now is "national capacity building"building the infrastructure of efficient governance, courts and non-governmental organizations, that is needed to build societies based on rights in the developing world. She plans to devote her time to that project, now that she is quitting what she calls, with a smile, "the day job." The day before l ©In These Times

White supremacists infiltrate the anti-globalization movement.

Neo-Nazi rallies in America's urban centers are most often the tiny affairs of a few racists, and are often drowned out by massive counter-protests. But on August 24, hundreds of followers of the National Alliance and other neo-Nazis, under a front called Taxpayers Against Terrorism, held their fourth and largest anti-Israel event in Washington since September 11. The racist National Alliance and other white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups are piggybacking on anti-globalization and anti-Israeli occupation movements with a new enthusiasm by adopting anti-corporate and pro-Palestinian rhetoric, hoping to recruit young activists drawn to the post-Battle of Seattle political milieu.

Neo-Nazis "are definitely gaining confidence," says Zein El-Amine, who helped recruit progressive Arabs to the rally's counter-protest. "They are getting more sophisticated with their organizing. & They had Arabic signs at this demo that said Zionism is terrorism.' " The confidence shows in numbers. The rally of more than 300 on August 24 was significantly larger than its counterpart on May 11, thanks to online organizing and a new tactic of holding a "Rock Against Israel" concert featuring hate rock acts Brutal Attack, Celtic Warrior and Intimidation One at a "secret location" after the protest. Only those who attended the rally were allowed entry to the show, which was held at a National Guard armory in White Marsh, Maryland.

The progressive-sounding Web site www.g8activist.com is home to the so-called Anti-Globalism Action Network (AGAN), another front for the National Alliance. At first blush, the group sounds legit. The URL is designed to resemble www.g8activist.ca, a real anti-globalization site, and AGAN claims to stand against the Bush administration's imminent war on Iraq. The site has reposted an article by David Finkel from the socialist magazine Against the Current that criticizes Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. National Alliance members like Bill White often post to the boards at www.indymedia.org to hype forthcoming events; others make dubious free speech pleas "towards a broadening of the anti-globalism movement to include divergent and marginalized voices," as the AGAN Web site puts it.

While the tactics are new, the strategy isn't. According to Finkel, a longtime pro-Palestinian activist: "Fascists and racists of all stripes usually strike a pose of anti-globalism' and sometimes even anti-capitalism,' and anti-Semites in particular pose as friends of the Palestinian people when they feel it will advance their real agenda of promoting hatred of Jews." In the United States, groups like the White Aryan Resistance and followers of Lyndon LaRouche tried to join coalitions against the Gulf War in 1991, and modern-day "Third Position" groups who claim to be "neither left nor right" simultaneously claim both Che Guevara and Benito Mussolini as inspirations. A few dozen members of Nazi and white-supremacist groups skirted the edges of the anti-WTO protests in Seattle in 1999, managing to conflate themselves with the anti-racist anarchist militants of the "black bloc" in the minds of mainstream anti-hate organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. Implying cooperation between the two groups, the SPLC asked in a 2000 report, "How is it that members of the far left' and right' found themselves facing down police together?" The ADL continues to list the circle-A symbol of anarchism as a "general racist symbol" on its Web site.

The National Alliance is also working to exploit continuing fear of terror attacks with a new community-based "terror-free zone" campaign, which calls for an end to U.S. aid to Israel alongside a return to pre-1965 U.S. immigration regulations. The National Alliance leaflet, being distributed in working-class neighborhoods, says the group will collect names of neighborhoo ©In These Times

Prosecutors Tuesday urged a judge to throw out a case against Michel Houellebecq, the French bad boy of literature, who is being sued by Muslim groups for allegedly inciting religious hatred. "We cannot say that when we express an opinion on Islam it implies that we are attacking the Muslim community," prosecutor Beatrice Angelleli told the court. The outspoken author, who has provoked readers with his books on sex tourism and moral decay in society, is defending himself against four French Muslim organisations who sued him over an interview last year with the literary magazine Lire. Houellebecq told the magazine: "The dumbest religion, after all, is Islam. When you read the Koran, you're shattered. The bible at least is beautifully written because the Jews have a heck of a literary talent."

The case and its implications for freedom of speech has evoked memories of the Salman Rushdie case, where the late religious leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, pronounced a death sentence on the British author for defaming Islam in his novel "The Satanic Verses." Prosecutor Angelleli told the judge late Tuesday: "We cannot say that (Houellebecq's remarks) are biting opinions. Perhaps he is a troublemaker. But we are not here to be moral but to punish crimes." She then called on the judge to throw out the case. The judge is to make ruling on October 22. Jean-Marc Varaut, a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, the Paris mosque, expressed atonishment at the prosecutors' request. "I do not understand the position of the prosecutors, which is less than the protection that other communities have received," he said. "To call Islam 'the dumbest religion' as (Houellebecq) has done, is a provocation."

Houellebecg told the Paris court earlier Tuesday that he despised Islam -- though not its practitioners. "I have never displayed the least contempt for Muslims, but I have as much contempt as ever for Islam," the 43-year-old writer of the international bestseller "Atomised" told the courtroom. "There is a conventional wisdom that says that the founding texts (of the monothestic religions) preach only peace. But in reality the monotheistic texts preach neither peace nor love, nor tolerance. These are texts of hate," he said. Houellebecq's comments to Lire were made in a promotion for his latest novel "Platform," and came just before the September 11 attacks, in which relations between Islam and the West came under some strain. He told the court that he had never hated Islam -- "The whole tone of the interview was one of contempt, not hate" -- and he said that anyone who knew him "knows that to get a general opinion out of me is almost absurd. I am always changing my point of view."

His lawyer Emmanuel Perrat said Houellebecq's comments should enjoy the privilege of artistic licence, and that it was a valued part of France's secular tradition that there is no recognised crime of blasphemy. However Chemseddine Hafiz and Gilles Devers, lawyers for the Paris and Lyon mosques, said in a written submission: "The fact that a famous author can be allowed to proclaim clearly his hatred for Islam in a magazine like Lire constitutes incitement to religious hatred." Houellebecq's critics say his feelings are borne out in the novel "Platform," whose main character has an ingrained hatred of Arabs and Muslims after his girlfriend is killed by terrorists. During the controversy that followed the interview's publication last year, the author responded unapologetically to his accusers. "It has brought me little but problems, but it just is this way: I attack, I insult," he said. Several French writers have signed a petition in defence of Houellebecq, who travelled from his home in Ireland to attend Tuesday's hearing. Next month, a similar case is being brought by French Muslim groups against prize-winning Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci for outspoken attacks on I ©The Tocqueville Connection

In the past few weeks Nelson Mandela has called America a 'threat to world peace' and lambasted Dick Cheney as a 'dinosaur'. That's not the sort of language you'd expect from the kindly old statesman who forgave his jailers. But he has always been misunderstood in the west. And now he's got something to be really angry about

Say what you like about Nelson Mandela, but he is not a man known to bear a grudge or lose his temper easily. Having waited 27 years for his freedom, he emerged from jail to preach peace and reconciliation to a nation scarred by racism. When he finally made the transition from the world's most famous prisoner to the world's most respected statesman, he invited his former jailer to the inauguration. So when he criticises US foreign policy in terms every bit as harsh as those he used to condemn apartheid, you know something is up. In the past few weeks, he has issued a "strong condemnation" of the US's attitude towards Iraq, lambasted vice-president Dick Cheney for being a "dinosaur" and accused the US of being "a threat to world peace". Coming from other quarters, such criticisms would have been dismissed by both the White House and Downing Street as the words of appeasement, anti-Americanism or leftwing extremism. But Mandela is not just anyone. Towering like a moral colossus over the late 20th century, his voice carries an ethical weight like no other. He rode to power on a global wave of goodwill, left office when his five years were up and settled down to a life of elder statesmanship. So the belligerent tone he has adopted of late suggests one of two things; either that some thing is very wrong with the world, or that something is very wrong with Mandela. What Mandela believes is wrong with the world is not difficult to fathom. He is annoyed at how the US is exploiting its overwhelming military might. Earlier this month, after President Bush would not take his calls, he spoke to secretary of state Colin Powell and then the president's father, asking the latter to discourage his son from attacking Iraq. "What right has Bush to say that Iraq's offer is not genuine?" he asked on Monday. "We must condemn that very strongly. No country, however strong, is entitled to comment adversely in the way the US has done. They think they're the only power in the world. They're not and they're following a dangerous policy. One country wants to bully the world." Having supported the bombing of Afghanistan, he cannot be dismissed as a peacenik. But his assessment of the current phase of Bush's war on terror is as damning as anything coming out of the Arab world. "If you look at these matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace."

And then there is the dreaded "r" word. Accusations of discrimination do not fall often or easily from Mandela's lips, but when they do, the world is forced to sit up and listen. So far, he has fallen short of accusing the west of racism in its dealings with the developing world, but he has implied sympathy with those who do. "When there were white secretary generals, you didn't find this question of the US and Britain going out of the UN. But now that you've had black secretary generals, such as Boutros Boutros Ghali and Kofi Annan, they do not respect the UN. This is not my view, but that is what is being said by many people." Most surprising in these broadsides has been his determination to point out particular individuals for blame. As a seasoned political hand, Mandela has previously eschewed personal invective but has clearly made an exception when it comes to Cheney. In 1986, Cheney voted against a resolution calling for his release because of his alleged support for "terrorism". Mandela insists that he is not motivated by pique. "Quite clearly we are dealing with an arch-conservative in Dick Cheney... my impression of the president is that this is a man with the Middle East - a suggestion quashed by the Israeli government, which was apartheid's chief arms supplier. Last year he was personally involved in the arrangement - sanctioned by the UN - to send South African troops to Burundi as a confidence-building measure in a bid to forestall a Rwandan-style genocide. That does not mean he always gets it right. He advocated a softly-softly diplomatic approach towards the Nigerian regime when Ken Saro-Wiwa was on death row. Saro-Wiwa was murdered and Abacha's regime remained intact. Nor does it mean that he is above criticism. Arguably, he could have done more to redistribute wealth during his term in office in South Africa, and he maintained strong diplomatic relations with some oppressive regimes, such as Indonesia. In July, a representative of those killed in the Lockerbie disaster described Mandela's call for the bomber to be transferred to a muslim country as "outrageous". But it does mean that he is above the disparagement and disdain usually shown to leaders of the developing world that the west find awkward.

But if there is something wrong with Mandela it is chiefly that for the past decade he has been thoroughly and wilfully misunderstood. He has been portrayed as a kindly old gent who only wanted black and white people to get on, rather than a determined political activist who wished to redress the power imbalance between the races under democratic rule. In the years following his release, the west wilfully mistook his push for peace and reconciliation not as the vital first steps to building a consensus that could in turn build a battered nation but as a desire to both forgive and forget. When he displayed a lack of personal malice, they saw an abundance of political meekness. There is an implicit racism in this that goes beyond Mandela to the way in which the west would like black leaders to behave. After slavery and colonialism, comes the desire to draw a line under the past and a veil over its legacy. So long as they are preaching non-violence in the face of aggression, or racial unity where there has been division, then everyone is happy. But as soon as they step out of that comfort zone, the descent from saint to sinner is a rapid one. The price for a black leader's entry to the international statesman's hall of fame is not just the sum of their good works but either death or half of their adult life behind bars. In order to be deserving of accolades, history must first be rewritten to deprive them of their militancy. Take Martin Luther King, canonised after his death by the liberal establishment but vilified in his last years for making a stand against America's role in Vietnam. One of his aides, Andrew Young, recalled: "This man who had been respected worldwide as a Nobel Prize winner suddenly applied his non-violence ethic and practice to the realm of foreign policy. And no, people said, it's all right for black people to be non-violent when they're dealing with white people, but white people don't need to be non-violent when they're dealing with brown people."

So it was for Mandela when he came to Britain in 1990, after telling reporters in Dublin that the British government should talk to the IRA, presaging developments that took place a few years later. The then leader of the Labour party, Neil Kinnock, called the remarks "extremely ill-advised"; Tory MP Teddy Taylor said the comments made it "difficult for anyone with sympathy for the ANC and Mandela to take him seriously." He made similar waves in the US when he refused to condemn Yasser Arafat, Colonel Gadafy and Fidel Castro. Setting great stock by the loyalty shown to both him and his organisation during the dog days of apartheid, he has consistently maintained that he would stick by those who stuck by black South Africa. It was wrong, he told Americans, to suggest that "our enemies are your enemies... We are a liberation movement and they support our struggle to the hilt." This, more than anything, provides the US and Britain with their biggest problem. They point to pictures of ©The Guardian

Greece's highest court has ruled against thousands of Nazi victims who are seeking compensation from Germany for World War II atrocities. The Special Supreme Court in Athens said on Wednesday that Greek courts could not try ases against a foreign country. But a lawyer for the 60,000 Greek claimants said the case, which has strained relations between Germany and Greece, would go before European courts. Among the plaintiffs are descendants of an infamous 1944 Nazi massacre in the Greek village of Distomo, where German forces went on a rampage and killed 218 men, women and children. "We won't let this go by like that, we will fight it with all our strength because we want to see justice," said Manolis Glezos of the National Council for War Reparations. The ruling is the latest in a long legal saga for the victims, who are seeking damages for massacres in more than 60 Greek towns and villages.

Property seizures
Germany has maintained that it settled all such claims in the 1960s with a $67m payment. But in a 2000 Supreme Court judgment, the Distomo claimants won about $27m in compensation. Germany refused to pay, and the Greek court then authorised the seizure and auction of German state properties in Athens - such as the Goethe Institute language school. But the Greek Government refused to approve selling the land for compensation, and court officials stopped trying to seize German property after Berlin launched a legal appeal. The rarely-convened Special Supreme Court, Greece's highest legal authority, includes judges from all of Greece's high courts.
©BBC News

Several thousand people, many of them immigrants from Africa and Asia, marched through Paris on Saturday to demand that the government provide legal residency papers to illegal immigrants, many of whom have lived and worked in the country for years. Police said the protest, which passed through some of the capital's main immigrant areas in the north of the city, attracted 6,500 people, although organizers said the number was nearer 12,000. The protesters, many of whom were "no-papers" immigrants, as illegal migrants are called here, were demanding that the conservative government provide a global solution to their predicament, rather than processing them case by case. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has so far refused such an approach, a position he reiterated on Thursday after a meeting with representatives of the immigrants. Jacques Gaillot, a controversial Catholic bishop who supports the protests, said treating such cases individually "has never worked". "It would be greatly to France's honour if it regularized everyone, once and for all," he said. The movement -- the latest of several in France in recent years -- began in August, when a group of "no-papers" immigrants occupied the medieval church of Saint-Denis just to the north of the capital. The protestors have since left the church, and have been holding street protests in which a large number of illegal immigrants, many of them Africans, have been taking part openly. Romain Binazon, a spokesman for the movement who is from the west African state of Benin and who has spent 11 years as a "no-papers" worker in France, said: "We want the government to clear the decks, the way Mitterrand did." That was a reference to a measure taken by Francois Mitterrand in 1981, after he was first elected president. The new Socialist government then provided residency papers for almost all illegal immigrants then present in the country.
©The Tocqueville Connection

By By Jeroen Bosch

During the usually quiet summer months, the List Pim Fortuyn (LPF) has managed to get onto the front pages of the papers almost every day with either a new bout of internal wrangling or a scandal, caused by loose talk by ministers, or confidential documents suddenly circulating amongst the eager ranks of the press or, last but not least, the unmasking of a former extreme right Centrum Partij and later fascist CP'86 member as an advisor to the deceased Pim Fortuyn and his party. The internal ructions and scandals have deeply disturbed LPF voters and the party has now fallen back in the polls. On current scores, it would only keep 8 of the 26 seats it now holds in parliament.

At the beginning of August, the trial of Volkert van der Graaf, Fortuyn's suspected killer, commenced and the LPF's deputy leader, Ferry Hoogendijk, targeted one of the trial judges, accusing him of being "extreme left" and a "professional activist" because he had worked for the Refugee Council. Hoogendijk's eruption must be seen in the context of the theories, widespread in the LPF, that the bullets which killed Fortuyn were fired by "the left" and that media demonisation of Fortuyn led to his murder. Needless to say, the LPF has no faith in the trial because it has no faith in the judge. In consequence, the LPF initiated a debate in parliament about getting rid of a suspect's right to silence& Van der Graaf has yet to make a statement. Van der Graaf's hunger strike, in protest at round-the-clock camera surveillance of his cell and prison conditions, is entering a critical phase and the LPF has demanded that he be force-fed. Meanwhile, the public prosecutor has successfully requested an adjournment of the trial because of "unfinished research" and the trial will resume in September.

Nevertheless, the LPF is still hitting the headlines. For example, the news programme NOVA has revealed that Rien Boiten, a former member of the late right-wing extremist Hans Janmaat's Centrum Partij, was a personal advisor to LPF MP Willem van der Velden. Boiten, who was also involved in the fascist CP'86 and once stood as a candidate in parliamentary elections in the Hague, knew Van der Velden from his time in Nederland Mobiel, a right-wing conservative motorists' lobby. Boiten also tried his luck in Leefbaar Nederland (LN), the party of which Fortuyn was the leading candidate for several months, but was suspended for putting racist lyrics up on LN's website He then followed Fortuyn out of LN and was a founder of the LPF, also claiming to have been Fortuyn's personal advisor on some issues. Fortuyn, apparently, was fully aware of Boiten's background but said that it had to be kept secret because the media would attack him for being a right-wing extremist. Boiten is certainly a busy man. He moderates a website discussing the LPF, organises for the party in Flevoland province, writes press statements for the LPF's parliamentary group and was involved in the coalition negotiations between the LPF, the liberal VVD and the conservative CDA. In the latter role, he was so prominent that he was in the team which sent former LPF leader Mat Herben back to the negotiating table to win a better deal for the party. New LPF leader, Harry Wijnschenk, a former magazine editor, was immediately confronted with the facts about Boiten. At first, he denied knowing him but later did a U-turn.

Now formally suspended from the LPF, Boiten is not the only example of the way the LPF attracts right-wing extremists. In Rotterdam, city councillor Michiel Smit of Leefbaar Rotterdam, the LPF's branch in the city, which holds 16 seats on the 45- seat council, has launched a frontal attack on Muslims. Now all Imams will have to speak Dutch during their mosque services, the city council is to stop making multi-lingual announcements and mosques will s August, just when it seemed that new leader Harry Wijnschenk, had restored peace and quiet in his troubled party, three LPF government ministers hit the news headlines. During the a debate in the new parliamentary session, the first LPF minister to make news was health care chief Eduard Bomhoff who, it was revealed, had summarily sacked one of the top civil servants at his ministry without even having spoken to him, probably because of an old feud or because he did not like the man's Social Democratic politics. Next in line for the front pages was LPF integration and asylum minister, Hilbrand Nawijn, who, during a single week, announced a new policy proposal every day. His ideas include the repatriation of any young Moroccans found guilty of a crime; forcing city councils still providing shelter to refugees who cannot return to their country to cooperate with his ministry; the removal of funding to projects which help migrants to integrate and the immediate repatriation of 80% of refugees arriving in the Netherlands. Some of his other bright ideas for community relations include the deportation of Imams who violate the law and the deportation of migrant men convicted of beating their wives. Nawijn's racist policy package has excited LPF supporters but has provoked disgust among mainstream politicians, social researchers, city councils and the media alike. In consequence, he has had to retreat on his plans to send young Moroccan offenders to Morocco because many of these youngsters are Dutch citizens. Meanwhile, Nawijn "is looking into matter" . Experts have warned that he is no fool, is well qualified to speak on asylum issues  on which he worked for more than 14 years  and that his plans should not be underestimated. Nawijn, they say, dangerously hurls criminals, refugees, subsidies and migrants all into the same pot.

Last in the queue to generate a scandal is the LPF's economic affairs minister, Herman Heinsbroek, who wrote an internal memorandum about the "restoration of values in the Netherlands" which was then leaked to the press. Heinsbroek's shopping list includes the return of corporal punishment in schools and punishment of parents who complain if their children are so dealt with. Heinsbroek is also demanding that police officers, teachers and elderly people should again be accorded respect and wants a media campaign to teach everybody about "decent" values and habits in the Netherlands. A loony multimillionaire, Heinsbroek claims he "can sell everything, including values" but says that he is annoyed by too many cycle paths and bleats that he feels limited by the speed limits on Dutch roads.

None of the LPF's policy blueprints have the official sanction of prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende. However, he has indicated that their policy plans could be put forward at the end of September during the budget debate in parliament. It remains to be seen how the LPF will develop, but given the fact that the party is more or less re-organised, a debt of £260,00 notwithstanding and given that, despite new leader Wijnschenk having the support of a huge chunk of the party, it is Heinsbroek who is making the running and is expected to emerge as unofficial leader of the LPF, it is gaining renewed confidence.

The hot summer will be followed by a harsh political autumn. Later this year, there will be council elections in some cities which will be contested by local LPF branches. The ballots will be a good test of where the party stands on local issues. In the meantime, some parliamentarians like social democrats Dick Benschop and Ad Melkert have opted to quit politics, because of the "sick climate" in Dutch politics and death threats continue to be sent to politicians, football coaches and journalists. Green Left leader, Paul Rosenmoller, has still has the police bodyguard he has needed since 6 May, the day of Fortuyn's murder. In this strained atmosphere, many ordinary Dutch people feel afraid to oppose the LPF's repressive and discriminatory politics, migrants feel rejected because Naw ©Alert!

Two men formerly suspected of murdering Stephen Lawrence were jailed yesterday for a race hate attack on a black police officer in the same road as the teenager was stabbed to death. Neil Acourt drove a car at Detective Constable Gareth Reid and David Norris hurled a drink and shouted "nigger" at him as he crossed a road in Eltham, south-east London.

Sentencing the men at Woolwich crown court to 18 months' imprisonment, Judge Michael Carroll told them: "You came into Eltham and went to the area where Stephen Lawrence was murdered nine years ago. You committed this particular offence about half a mile away from where that murder took place, indeed in the same road." The judge said the attack on Mr Reid was "one of the more serious incidents of this kind". He said: "This court has a duty to make clear society's abhorrence of racially aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress. "As well as a punishment, I intend to send a signal to others it is not acceptable in Eltham or elsewhere to behave in this kind of way." When they were led away both men mouthed "fit-up" to the press.

However, Detective Inspector Mark Castell, manager of the Greenwich community safety unit, said: "This is a good day for the people of Eltham and victims of race crime." The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said: "The fact these two individuals did not even think twice about racially assaulting a police officer shows what a menace to society they clearly are. This custodial sentence should send a very strong signal that racism is not tolerated in this city." During their spell in prison between their conviction in July and yesterday's sentencing, the pair were kept isolated because of their notoriety. They are likely to have to be kept apart from other inmates for their own protection.

The pair were convicted after the jury was told how they targeted Mr Reid "by virtue of one reason and one reason alone - his colour". On May 11 last year Mr Reid, a police officer since 1990, was returning home after his day shift. Mr Reid, who was not in uniform, heard shouting coming from a car held at traffic lights and recognised the driver and passenger as suspects from the Lawrence investigation. The car raced out of the junction and drove towards Mr Reid, who was standing on a traffic island. He believed the car was going to hit him. He told the jury: "The next snapshot I have is this arm, or the hand making a flicking motion and the [drinks] container coming out of the window. I could hear laughter and I heard the word 'nigger'." The jury took less than two hours to convict Norris, 26, of Chislehurst, Kent, and Acourt, 27, of Greenwich, south-east London, of causing racially aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress.

John Hurlock, defending, indicated the pair would appeal. He said both had lived reclusive lives since the Lawrence inquiry and did not feel safe. Both had trouble getting work. The pair became notorious after the investigation into the death of 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence, who was fatally stabbed when he and a friend were attacked by a gang of white youths in April 1993. They were among five young white men arrested. Acourt was cleared in 1996 of murdering Lawrence after a private prosecution brought by the teenager's parents. The case against Norris was dropped before it came to court. The failure of the Metropolitan police to bring anyone to justice for the murder has been a source of frustration and embarrassment to the force, which was branded institutionally racist by the Macpherson report into the initial inquiry.
©The Guardian

Riot police allowed about 3,000 radical Basque nationalists to march Sunday through the sunlit center of San Sebastian shouting pro-independence slogans, despite an official ban on the demonstration. The decision, fiercely criticized by Madrid, illustrates the difficulty of enforcing the Spanish government's policy of outlawing the separatist movement it says forms an integral part of the terrorist group ETA. Opposition to the measures, which include a ban on Batasuna, a radical separatist political party linked to ETA, is growing among Basque nationalists, even those strongly opposed to ETA's murderous tactics.

"For Freedom," read the banner at a silent protest in Guernica called Saturday by Batasuna's political rival, Eusko Alkartasuna, a member of the coalition running the Basque government. The party shares Batasuna's aim of an independent Basque country, but not its tactics. Nationalists of all colors feel threatened by Madrid's latest moves: A Spanish judge has suspended all Batasuna activities for three years, while the ruling Popular Party, backed by most of the Spanish Congress, has asked the Supreme Court to outlaw the party it says is part of ETA, which has killed more than 800 people in its war for independence. "Emotions are running very high, the tension is very noticeable," said Jose Maria Larranaga of the radical nationalist union ELA. "We see this as a kind of coup d'etat against the Basques. I don't agree with ETA, but I also don't agree with banning Batasuna; that is going to create a lot of problems."

In San Sebastian, masked riot police in black jumpsuits stood waiting near the city's gorgeous seafront, packed with revelers and tourists attending an annual rowing regatta. As the demonstration, called in support of Basque prisoners, set off behind a banner declaring, "The Basque Country Needs Freedom," the police moved to block the street. "It's a disgrace, a shame what those police are doing," said a well-dressed, middle-aged woman walking past. But after taking the names of those leading the march, the police allowed the protest to move on amid traffic on a main, tree-lined avenue. "They only let us go because there are too many people, and on a day like this, banning the march could cause major trouble," said Leire, who would not give her full name. She was herself imprisoned for 10 years because, she said, "I was a militant separatist - I still am." As the rally ended, the protesters raised their left fists and sang the Basque nationalist anthem; a few even shouted, "Long live military ETA!"

Leopoldo Barreda, spokesman in the Basque country for the Popular Party, accused the Basque government of "negligence" in allowing the march to proceed. "There must be some kind of political responsibility, someone must have given the relevant instructions and someone will have to explain why those responsible for maintaining order in the Basque country proved incapable of stopping the terrorists' friends from marching through the streets of San Sebastian," Barreda said. One of those marching, Joseba Alvarez, is a member of the Basque Parliament for Batasuna, but under the judicial order suspending the party's activities, he is barred from speaking in Batasuna's name, from holding meetings or rallies, and from taking part in politics as a member of Batasuna. Despite all this, Alvarez says separatists will continue to organize. "The Basque people engaged in political activities during Franco's time, when there was no legal infrastructure," he said. "If Madrid takes away our basic rights, we will find other ways to continue the struggle for independence." And, he warned, "If you close down all democratic, political routes, it will feed the violence."

Despite concern that the protest Sunday, and another, illegal gathering Saturday evening in Bilbao, would provoke clashes between militant youths and the police, the n ©International Herald Tribune

Austrian Vice-Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer and another minister from her far-right Freedom Party have resigned from their cabinet posts prompting speculation that an early general election will be called. Ms Riess-Passer, who is the party's current leader, resigned along with Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser after the Freedom Party's former leader, Joerg Haider, led a party revolt against them. Mr Haider has been at odds with his party colleagues in the coalition government over their support for suspending a tax cut to help flood relief. Conservative Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, who formed the government with the Freedom Party in 2000, said on Sunday he was "not afraid" of calling an early election. Ms Riess-Passer said that internal disputes had shaken the Freedom Party and she had no choice but to resign. "These internal party disagreements have crippled the party and have seriously hurt the trust of the voters," she said. "It's my view that this is the only honest way to go."

'November election'
Mr Haider is strongly opposed to the coalition government's decision to postpone a reform of the tax system due to take place in 2003. That measure, designed to benefit low-income groups, has been championed by the Freedom Party. But the government decided to postpone it in August because of the bill for summer flood damage, put at about six billion euros. Ms Riess-Passer agreed with Chancellor Schuessel that the flood bill placed too big a burden on Austria's budget deficit.

Mr Haider, who led his party to electoral success in 2000 before resigning the leadership, rallied 400 party rebels behind him at a rally on Saturday before confronting the party leader at talks in Vienna on Sunday. "This would have to end in an early election," he told the news magazine Profil. The Austria Press Agency quoted unnamed Freedom Party sources on Sunday as saying the current government would cease work on 19 September and a new election would be held either on 17 or 24 November of this year.
©BBC News

By Nickolai Butkevich*

In a series of actions that seem to draw inspiration from the passage of a tough antiextremism law passed in July, the Russian authorities have launched an unprecedented crackdown on anti-Semitic and hate literature directed at Chechens, Roma, and other ethnic and religious minorities. Until August, the government's view on hate speech and hate literature -- illegal under Article 282 of the Criminal Code -- seemed to be that they posed no real threat. Complaints by minority leaders and human rights activists about publications and declarations by extremist politicians or neo-Nazi groups were routinely rejected by prosecutors, or were initially accepted as the basis for criminal investigations that were later dropped. Many of the handful of cases that made it to court ended in farcical verdicts, such as a February 2001 trial in Samara, where a judge ruled that a former deputy mayor's call on local television to "Drive out all the Jews and destroy all the synagogues" did not incite ethnic hatred.

Last month, however, the racist and anti-Semitic papers "Limonka" (the National Bolshevik Party's newspaper) and "Russkie vedomosti" have been shut down, and there have been several other law-enforcement actions against illegal anti-Semitic and racist publishing. It remains to be seen whether or not this crackdown is the beginning of a consistent effort to wipe out such publications or simply yet another government campaign that will peter out after some initial, widely trumpeted achievements. More importantly, what are its implications for interethnic relations and freedom of speech in Russia?

According to an 8 August report on RTR television, police undertook a sting operation that day against a center of chauvinist publishing: the Moscow office of the Union of Writers. According to the report, when sales clerk Anatolii Yakovenko realized that he had just sold a copy of "Mein Kampf" to an undercover police officer, he made a desperate grab for the book, but quickly gave up. He took out his suppressed fury on journalists, who appeared shortly after the arrest, making it likely that the police had specially invited them to record the sting for PR purposes. "You guys from Israeli television come here, but I am a real Russian writer!" Yakovenko raved at the Russian news crew. He was then arrested. Police next arrested Nadezhda Sharova, a bookseller at the Olympic Stadium market. Twelve copies of "Mein Kampf" were confiscated from her. Both detainees face stiff fines, according to the RTR report.

Illegal anti-Semitic and racist literature is easily available in many Russian cities. In Moscow, such literature is on sale in front of the former Lenin museum and on Lubyanka Square -- within sight of the FSB headquarters. One bookstall in the center of Moscow owned by the Ring company is typical. It sells over 30 blatantly anti-Semitic books, six days a week. Available titles include "How an Anti-Semite is Made" by Deacon Andrei Kuraev, "What the Jews Want from Us" by Aleksandr Sevastyanov, and "Russia Under the Rule of the Masons" by Oleg Platonov. Several months ago, the bookseller working this stand told Aleksandr Brod, the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union's Moscow bureau chief, that the books are selling so quickly that she has to replace them with new copies several times a week. Two weeks after the raid on the Union of Writers, Brod reported that despite subsequent police raids, confiscations, and fines, anti-Semitic and racist literature is still widely available in Moscow. Apparently, demand for such material is strong enough to trump the risks of selling it.

Also last month, the Media Ministry issued a warning to a Nizhnii Novgorod television station after it aired a news item on Chechen refugees which the ministry, citing the new antiextremism law, fou their participation in a mass skinhead attack on the Yasenevo market in April 2001, during which several non-Russian market traders were injured. The Ministry also issued warnings to the Yekaterinburg anti-Semitic newspaper "Russkaya Obshchina Yekaterinburga" and the Novosibirsk newspaper "Russkaya Sibir" for inciting ethnic hatred. The editor of "Russkaya Sibir," Igor Kolodezenko, authored a 2001 brochure entitled "Anti-Zionism in Russia" in which he wrote: "We Russians have no choice: Either we drive the Jews out of power over Russia and cure ourselves of this deadly attack, or they will finish us off."

Given the complex multiethnic nature of the Russian Federation, Kolodezenko's statements are the rough equivalent of shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater. If organizations, politicians, or individual fanatics are allowed to flout the law to this extent, it sends several dangerous signals. Their readers may see the impunity enjoyed by the authors of such extremist publications as a covert wink from the authorities that violence against the targeted group will be tolerated. The targeted groups may react with defensive nationalism against Russians. Obviously, adopting a "hands-off" position on individuals or groups who call for interethnic or interreligious violence is a recipe for disaster.

But what about other forms of hate speech, where there is no obvious call to violence? Here it is less clear how to strike the necessary balance between free speech and respect for the law so as to preserve interethnic stability. On the one hand, freedom of speech is one of the few clear victories of the reform process in Russia, but under the Putin government, it seems increasingly under threat. Under current conditions, a campaign against hate speech might be extended by overzealous bureaucrats to include a crackdown on opposition political speech or even the discussion of sensitive social issues. On the other hand, what about the readers of hate media, whose minds have been methodically poisoned with hatred against other ethnic and religious groups? If they believe, as their favorite authors do, that Chechens or Jews or Jehovah's Witnesses are utterly evil, do they really need to be directly incited to violence, or will they eventually draw their conclusions on their own about the need to "take action?"

Clearly, hate speech in Russia is a complex problem that cannot be solved by either totally suppressing it or ignoring it in the name of free speech. A limited, carefully targeted campaign against the worst violators of anti-hate-speech laws -- combined with increased funding for government programs promoting tolerance plus more Western support for Russian NGOs and media that deal with interethnic issues -- might go a long way towards making Russia a more stable and just nation.

*Nickolai Butkevich is research and advocacy director at the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (UCSJ).

Austria's far-right figurehead leader, Joerg Haider, is retaking the leadership of his Freedom Party in a dramatic return to national politics. The party's executive committee nominated him as party chairman after meeting in Linz on Wednesday. The decision needs only to be rubber-stamped by a meeting of party members on 21 September, and correspondents say he is guaranteed victory. Party leaders also chose the low-profile Social Affairs Minister Herbert Haupt to be the party's candidate for chancellor in November's snap elections. The early election was called after Mr Haider led a party revolt over tax policies in a bitter power-struggle with Susanne Riess-Passer, who resigned on Sunday as leader and Austrian vice-chancellor. Her move triggered the collapse of Austria's ruling coalition. The election is expected to be scheduled for 24 November when parliament meets next Thursday. "The Freedom Party is in a difficult position and I will lead them through this difficult phase," said Mr Haider on Wednesday, accepting his party's nomination. Mr Haider stepped down as leader in Ms Riess-Passer's favour in 2000, but many analysts believe he has continued to lead the party behind the scenes. The public row between the two centred on whether to delay tax cuts which the party had previously promised. Ms Riess-Passer had fallen into line with a government decision to delay the cuts because of the summer floods, but Mr Haider demanded that the cuts should go ahead as promised.

Reins of power
Before Wednesday's meeting, Mr Haider had kept his leadership intentions secret. Even as he arrived for the meeting, looking relaxed and confident, he refused to say whether he would be seeking to take over the leadership. Many prominent party figures had publicly backed him. "There is no realistic alternative to Haider," said party general secretary Karl Schweitzer, before the meeting. Ms Riess-Passer had also expressed backing for Mr Haider as leader. Analysts believe the current power struggle was triggered by Mr Haider's desire to take over the reins of his party once more. His decision to stand down in 2000 was seen as an attempt to give the party a more acceptable face, after it had entered into coalition government with the Austrian People's Party. But his public insistence that he had retreated from national politics to the province of Carinthia, where he is governor, failed to convince many Austrians that he had really ever let go of power.

International fury
Mr Haider's first period as party leader provoked a storm of international protest and sanctions, when a coalition deal was struck early in 2000 with Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel's People's Party. He had made a number of comments seen as xenophobic and anti-Semitic. In 1995 he described World War II concentration camps as "punishment camps" and said the Nazi SS was "a part of the German army which should be honoured". Mr Haider currently has a number of strong policy disagreements with Mr Schuessel's government. As well as opposing the tax cut delays, he is strongly against to European Union expansion and to Austria's plans to buy Eurofighter combat jets. "The Freedom Party under Haider will once again be what it was in 1999 and earlier elections, a platform for protest voters," said Fritz Plasser of Austria's Centre for Political Research. "It will be an all-around attack against everything, especially the polarising issue of the effects of EUexpansion on Austria."
©BBC News

A top United Nations official, Sergio Vieira de Mello from Brazil, has taken over from Mary Robinson as head of the UN's Human Rights Commission. Mrs Robinson's five years in the world's top human rights job has sometimes been marked by controversy. She fell foul of the United States when she suggested that the war against terrorism might be undermining human rights standards. In contrast, the appointment of Mr de Mello has been welcomed by the US, but some human rights groups fear he may lack the political experience necessary for the job.

Uneasy position
Mr de Mello himself has described the post as a "political minefield", and the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Berne says he has certainly taken over one of the most difficult and delicate jobs in the UN. The human rights commissioner is supposed to condemn human rights abuses wherever and whenever they occur. But in practice it is not so easy, as Mrs Robinson found out. Our correspondent says the world will unite to condemn human rights abuses should they take place in small and powerless nations, but criticise one of the big powers and the human rights commissioner is accused of meddling. The US-based Human Rights Watch group said: "The new high commissioner must show strong and principled leadership at a time [when] the UN human rights system and international law are under attack." During her time in office, Mrs Robinson managed to irritate the US, Russia and China with her comments on their human rights records. Her successor is thought to have a less out-spoken style.

'Reviewing priorities'
Mr de Mello's appointment has been warmly welcomed by the US where Mrs Robinson's departure seems to be something of a relief. Speaking publicly for the first time as UN high commissioner, 54-year-old Mr de Mello said his aims were threefold. "My immediate priorities are broad things like protection of civilian populations in conflicts, combating racism, the rights of women," he told reporters in his new office in Geneva. "Those are the three huge chapters that require a lot of attention in addition to all geographical hotspots that are already well known." However, he also said he needed to "review my priorities before I speak to governments".

Field experience
Mr de Mello is no stranger to the campaign against human rights abuses. He has spent more than 30 years in the field working for various UN agencies. He has been posted to Sudan, Mozambique, Peru, Kosovo and earlier this year served as UN administrator for East Timor where he guided the new nation to independence from Indonesia. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Mr de Mello's work in East Timor had been briljant. But some human rights groups fear the new commissioner's long experience in the field may not equip him for the political challenges he will face at UN headquarters in Geneva and New York. Upholding human rights the world over - and judging each nation by the same standards - is likely to be Mr de Mello's most difficult task.
©BBC News

The home secretary, David Blunkett, acted unlawfully in deporting an Afghan refugee family to Germany after they sought sanctuary in a British mosque, a high court judge ruled today. Farid Ahmadi, 33, his wife Fariba, 25, and their two young children, aged five and three, were last month flown back to Germany, where they had first claimed asylum. They travelled on a specially chartered military jet at a cost to the taxpayer of an estimated £30,000. But today Mr Justice Scott Baker, sitting in London, ruled: "As a result of an unlawful act, this family were removed from this country when they should not have been." The judge ruled that they should have been allowed to remain while they challenged their removal on human rights grounds that the mother and children's mental health would suffer if they were sent back to Germany. The home secretary had been wrong to rule, in the light of medical evidence of their mental suffering, that they had "no arguable case" and that their challenge was "manifestly unfounded". The judge adjourned the case until tomorrow morning to decide what the next step should be in the light of his ruling, and whether or not the home secretary should now be ordered to return the Ahmadis to the UK.

The family, which came to Britain in June 2001 after complaining of their treatment in Germany, had sought sanctuary in a mosque at Lye, near Stourbridge, West Midlands, supported by a network of family and friends. The parents were later forcibly removed in a raid by police and immigration officers after the home secretary ruled it was the German authorities who had responsibility for determining their asylum claim. During a one-day hearing yesterday, David Pannick QC, appearing for the family, accused Mr Blunkett and the Home Office immigration authorities of "breaking the rules" in the rush to get the family back to Germany. He told Mr Justice Baker that the family's human rights had been abused because they had been entitled to have their legal challenge to deportation considered by an independent adjudicator before removal. Medical reports had suggested that deporting Fariba and her daughter Hadia, five, and son Seera three, would cause them "considerable mental harm". Mr Pannick also said the home secretary had fought off an 11th-hour court bid to block their removal by relying on "plainly erroneous" statements that the family had already been granted residence in Germany, where they would be allowed to "live in the community".

The undisputed facts were that they had no settled rights of residence and had only been granted "tolerated status" by the Germans, which provided temporary protection from being returned to Afghanistan but required them to live in a residential centre. A Home Office spokeswoman said the government would seek leave to appeal, adding: "We are disappointed with the judgment. "It is the home secretary's view that this will create such a precedent that every illegal immigrant and failed asylum seeker will cite psychological damages to frustrate the proper operation of asylum laws." She pointed out that the judge had not yet ordered that the family be returned to the UK and that the issue will be considered further tomorrow.

The chief executive of the immigration advisory service, Keith Best, said the decision could have a huge impact on Mr Blunkett's plans to reform the asylum system. The home secretary's nationality, immigration and asylum bill proposes sending some unsuccessful asylum applicants to another country and forcing them to conduct their appeals from there. "This should be a warning to the government over their changes to the appeals process," Mr Best said. "What would happen if, under the new bill, someone was returned to a country where they were prevented from mounting their appeal or stopped from getting proper legal advice?"

The Ahmadis fled Afghanistan in 2000, ©The Guardian

Last Wednesday, the Federal Council made public its ideas on revised rules for asylum seekers. The government's revision plans must be seen against the background of the initiative "Against Abuse of the Asylum Laws" launched by the right-wing Swiss People's Party. The SVP initiative calls for a more rigorous treatment of asylum seekers, focusing especially on the so-called third-country rule. In the SVP plan, an application from an asylum seeker who is coming to Switzerland from a safe third country (i.e., a country not his homeland to which he has fled) should not be considered at all, if that individual has applied for asylum - or could have done so - in that other country.

The government regards that formulation as an invitation to conflict. It has therefore drafted a different regulation, under which an applicant's return to a "safe third country" would occur only with that country's agreement. Moreover, the normal processing of an application for asylum would be considered if the applicant has close relatives in Switzerland, has close ties to other people here, or is "obviously" a refugee. If an asylum seeker arrives here by air, his application is to be processed on a "transit" basis in future, provided that this seems possible within no more than 20 days. The individual may be held at the airport, or "at another appropriate place, under exceptional circumstances," for a maximum of 60 days, until a decision can be taken about any appeal of the initial ruling and his or her deportation from the country can be arranged.

Similarly, under the proposed new regulations a larger portion of decisions on applications shall be made at the points of reception than has previously been the case, before the asylum seekers are assigned to one or another canton. The draft revision that was originally sent out for public comment also proposed that an applicant would have a right to a residence permit six years from the time of temporary acceptance, or in hardship cases, if no decision has been taken on an application after six years. The problem was, of course, that temporary acceptance often becomes a permanent arrangement. Under the new draft revision, however, this problem is dealt with by differentiating cases at an earlier stage. If deportation from the country is impermissible, or unreasonable, "humanitarian approval" will be granted. This implies granting the asylum seeker equal status with other foreigners on the job market, access to integration programs, and under some conditions the right to bring family members into the country. However, if deportation is impossible for reasons having nothing to do with the individual applicant (e.g., political conditions in the home country, etc.), only provisional status will be granted. In both cases, the right of residence would be cancelled once the conditions which formed the basis for it no longer obtain.
©NZZ Online

Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, believes that many people think Tony Blair and George Bush are being racist in their selective condemnation of countries possessing weapons of mass destruction. In an interview with Newsweek magazine, the 84-year-old statesman said there was a feeling that Britain and the United States no longer respected the United Nations because the organisation has had a series of black secretary generals, including the incumbent Kofi Annan.

Asked about the evidence of Iraq's efforts to build nuclear warheads and weapons of mass destruction, Mr Mandela said:
"Neither Bush nor Tony Blair has provided any evidence that such weapons exist. But what we know is that Israel has weapons of mass destruction. Nobody talks about that. Why should there be one standard for one country, especially because it is black, and another one for another country, Israel, that is white." Mr Mandela was then asked whether the issue was a racial question. "That element is there," he replied. "In fact, many people say quietly - but they don't have the courage to stand up and say publicly - that when there were white secretary generals you didn't find this question of the United States and Britain going out of the United Nations. "This is not my view, but that is what is being said by many people."
©The Guardian

He's the Cambridge law graduate and father of four who is transforming the British far right. Just don't mention homosexuals or the 'holohoax'. Andrew Anthony meets Nick Griffin of the BNP.

In Identity, the magazine of the British National Party, there is a regular feature called 'People like you are people like us'. The idea is to show how members of the BNP, Britain's most prominent far-right political group, are what party activists tend to refer to as 'normal'. Normality, with all its moral constraints and mainstream appeal, is seen by party strategists as vital to the BNP's new image. If the party can convince the voting public that its members and outlook are not only ordinary but temperate, the thinking goes, it can become a normalised part of the political process. In terms of presentational nous, it's hardly a revolutionary concept. But it marks something of a radical departure for a party that, like the rest of the British far right, has been historically obsessed with punch-ups and putsches.

What seems simple in theory, of course, can often prove more problematic in practice. The subject of 'People like you' for the June issue of Identity is Gary Shopland, a 39-year-old endurance runner. Shopland appears to relish physical discomfort. He once ran 500 miles across Death Valley in California, and, in the same way, has also traversed the Andes. He was hospitalised on the Himalayas with altitude sickness and heat exhaustion. A former paratrooper in the Territorial Army, Shopland lives with his parents on an estate just beyond the outskirts of Huddersfield. He says he joined the BNP because he got involved in a number of fights with Asians. His two overriding interests in life are long-distance running and keeping Britain white. If you were searching for an adjective with which to describe Shopland, 'normal' would not be the first to come to mind. A man who thrives on extreme challenges, he does little to challenge the stereotype of an extremist. In his spartan bedroom there are several photographs and press cuttings of himself in running guise, a Cross of St George and some BNP literature. Also present on a grey afternoon in May are Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP and editor of Identity ; Griffin's wife; a very tall and well-built postman acting as Griffin's driver and bodyguard in the region; Shopland and myself.

Griffin, a 43-year-old Londoner who lives in mid-Wales, is perhaps the most media-literate figure to emerge from the extreme right since Oswald Mosely. His predecessors have traditionally been buttoned-up, paranoid characters who did not welcome press interest. By contrast, Griffin thrives on limelight, so much so that some critics have suggested that the media have given him an easy ride. One of the first things you notice about the man is his air of unapologetic certainty. It's not quite arrogance; more a conviction that the only reasonable response to his opinions is complete agreement. His physical presence, however, is less convincing. Medium height with a slight paunch, he has dark brush-like hair, and small, fleshy features that, when not shaped in an outraged scowl, appear vague and a little characterless. Had things gone according to plan in Huddersfield, we would all have been in a local leisure centre watching Shopland set a new world record for distance run over 24 hours on a treadmill. In the event, a blistered toe, later described by Identity as an 'injury caused by sub-standard equipment', meant that Shopland retired after seven hours - 17 hours and a good many miles short of his target. Consequently, the atmosphere in the bedroom is one of mournful anti-climax, tinged with comic defeat.

Even Shopland's blister is deemed by Griffin not sufficiently heroic to warrant a photograph. With his leader's encouragement, Shopland mumbles something about giving it another go when his foot heals. It's a picture that all too neatly sums up the post-war experience of 1993, or a more serious upturn in the party's fortunes. Historically, one of the many reasons that right-wing extremism has failed to attract voters in Britain is because it was unable to hide the nature of its extremity. And one of the key reasons it has gained some success in Europe is because charismatic leaders, like Pim Fortuyn or Jean-Marie Le Pen, have made themselves figureheads. Griffin, a veteran of the far right, is confident that he has learned both lessons and, by taming his rhetoric, aims to become the acceptable face of nationalism.

On a Sunday afternoon in the Bristol suburb of Brislington, furtive groups of men hang around a McDonald's car park. This is the assembly point for directions to the BNP meeting. Ostensibly a safeguard to avoid sabotage, the preliminary gathering lends an air of clandestine importance to the rather mundane business of filing into a nearby working men's club. In the hall, 50 or so men, and six women, sit facing a Union Jack and a Cross of St George. They are mostly middle-aged, with one or two men in their twenties from the party's supposedly marginalised tattoo tendency. On my left is a new recruit, a retired computer businessman called Peter Hunter. Wild-eyed and bearded, he tells me that he is a former Conservative, but now feels 'disenfranchised by the major parties'. What bothers him most is data protection. 'We are the most spied-upon nation in the world,' he continues, warning of the dangers of email surveillance. He once wrote a novel, he says, about a libertarian loner who launches a terrorist attack on the British state. It is clear that his authorial sympathies were with the terrorist. On my right is Janet Ashman, a fastidious-looking woman in her fifties. 'It is already too late,' she laments, 'too late to get back to old standards. I judge Persian cats. I described one cat as having an appealing golliwog face, and I've been reprimanded for that. I could have been struck off!' Both Hunter and Ashman insist that race is not the reason why they joined the BNP. There are three speakers before the main event of Nick Griffin. The tone of all their speeches is fearful and despondent. Clive Courtney, the organiser for Bristol, reads through a litany of local news stories, featuring muggings, robberies and rapes. He can barely speak for disgust, and for a while it seems as if he might actually start crying.

Another speaker lists the numbers of non-white families moving into villages around Bristol. 'It's happening in Tweedon,' someone shouts from the audience. 'We've got 11 of them,' shouts someone else. There is much shaking of heads. The scene is reminiscent of one of those paranoid sci-fi movies from the 50s in which the 'decent' town's folk rise up against the alien invaders from outer space. The third speaker complains about missing his Sunday lunch. So far there is nothing here to support Griffin's contention that the BNP will prove a major force in the new century. Professor Roger Griffin (no relation), an academic expert on the far right, has spoken of the 'fascist's obsession with the nation's current decadence and imminent rebirth in a nebulously conceived post-liberal new order'. The BNP denies the fascist label, and proposes a more 'populist', if crudely limited, ideology (anti-Europe, anti-global, support the countryside, smaller government, more referendums, bigger military, pro capital and corporal punishment, anti-gay, and, of course, anti-immigration). But on the evidence of Brislington the only thing binding its supporters together is race and a shared sense that things used to be better at some indistinct point in the distant past.

After a sour 90 minutes, there is a break, during which I speak to an organic farmer and longtime road protester from Somerset called Robert Baehr. He left the Greens, he says, because they were multiculturalist and feminist. He is worried that the orchard that he plans to bequeath to his sons will be seized by the Islamic republic he believes Britain is set to become. 'They will do to us what the grey squ claims he made about Stephen Lawrence at a previous meeting. 'He said something about him being murdered because of drugs. We'd never heard that. I said it's probably true, but my other half said that if it got out it could be very damaging. He thought it showed his inexperience.'

Griffin was more circumspect in Brislington. Even his most trenchant comments he sets against government policy as a means of justification. 'If Blunkett deports one asylum seeker,' he states, 'we can deport all of them. There is a moral equivalence.' He appears more concerned with persuading the handful of potential members present that the BNP are a legitimate political operation. 'The people we are signing up to the party are not crude racists. We are much more normal than we were. That really is a remarkable step forward.' On this form, Griffin could superficially pass for a mild man with strong views. He is intelligent, well-read, and knows how to string an argument together and how to unpick one. But the problem is that beneath this veneer of respectability a pattern of scheming, intolerance and racism remains clearly visible. The new-model Griffin was only unveiled in the late 90s. For the better part of the previous 25 years he had devoted himself to hard-core extremism. When he joined the NF in the mid-70s, it was visibly a neo-Nazi party, complete with armbands, confrontational marches, and a leader, Tyndall, with a predilection for dressing up in Nazi regalia. A committed activist, Griffin worked his way up the ranks, which were not extensive, and in 1983, along with a couple of other young hopefuls, he staged a coup that dislodged Martin Webster, the leader at that time. Five years later Griffin was among a party of NF hierarchy which made an all-expenses-paid visit to Libya a few weeks before the Lockerbie bombing (and just a few years after the murder of WPC Fletcher). Their purpose was to gain funds from Colonel Gaddafi, who was also bankrolling the IRA at the time. During this period, the NF adopted a pro-Ayatollah Khomenei stance. Not long after, Griffin found himself on the losing side of an internal power struggle and decided to leave the NF for the International Third Position, an umbrella group set up by an Italian fascist called Roberto Fiore, who was on the run in England from the Italian authorities. In 1989, Griffin lost an eye in a firearms accident, and was in and out of hospital for almost a year. During that time, he says, a Catholic faction took over the ITP and he retreated to a small-holding in the Shropshire countryside.

It was Tyndall who brought him back into politics. He was concerned that a modernising wing of the BNP was undermining his power, and employed Griffin to write a series of counter-attacks which offered a staunch defence of old-fashioned NF-style values. Following the council by-election of the BNP's Derek Beacon in 1993, Griffin wrote: 'The electors of Millwall did not back a postmodernist rightist party, but what they perceived to be a strong, disciplined organisation with the ability to back up its slogan "Defend Rights for Whites" with well-directed boots and fists. When the crunch comes, power is the product of force and will, not of rational debate.' In 1997, Griffin was the subject of a Cook Report sting. Thinking he was talking to representatives of the French National Front, Griffin complained: 'Britain does not have the tradition of intellectual fascism which is such an important factor in many other countries. While I do have a number of proposals to help rectify this deficiency, the truth is that this is a handicap which we can never overcome completely.' He also announced that the BNP should not try to appeal to 'middle-class notions of respectability... It is more important to control the streets of a city than its council chambers.' It was after the Cook Report was aired that Griffin reevaluated his language and tactics. Ditching Tyndall, he joined up with the 'liberal' wing of the party. In September 1999, he defeated Tyndall in the party's leadership election, and, distributing material likely to incite racial violence, for which he received a two-year suspended sentence. He wrote in his own publication, The Rune: 'I am well aware that orthodox opinion is that 6m Jews were gassed and cremated or turned into soup and lampshades... I have reached the conclusion that the "extermination" tale is a mixture of Allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lie, and latter witch-hysteria.' He is unabashed about this statement when I remind him of it. 'I'd still say those three,' he says, 'but I'd add "and fact" if I was being polite and reasonable about it. The reason people like me aren't polite and reasonable sometimes about the Holocaust is nothing to do with anti-Semitism or wanting to give offence. It is to do with frustration with how it is used to prevent any genuine debate on questions to do with immigration, ethnicity and the cultural survival of the western nations.'

Pushed further on the Holocaust - what he has in the past called the 'Holohoax' - he becomes more animated and more intransigent. His face reddens and his voice grows uncomfortably loud. The lunchtime murmur of hushed conversation and hesitant cutlery is drowned out by a full-bloodied reappraisal of Nazi atrocities. 'The only reason the Nazis were so fanatically anti-Jewish was the very close correlation between some Jews and communism,' he continues. He insists the number of deaths at Auschwitz has been inflated, and is emphatic that no more than 3.5m Jews had perished under Nazi rule. What is most extraordinary about this performance are his protestations that he had never before realised Jews were so sensitive about the Holocaust. But now, he explains, having spent some time with Jews, he understands that 'it is part of their religion and it's a very strong and personal belief with them'. So the systematic massacre of millions of civilians becomes in Griffin's conception less an actual historical event than a religious belief, or an optional part of cultural identity. His determination to cast doubt on Nazi crimes seems particularly perverse given his stated aim to break the link between British nationalism and Nazism. He acknowledges that for years the parties in which he has been active have maintained a 'semi-hidden agenda' of neo-Nazism. He dismisses this as just a 'historical accident', for which he blames 'several individuals'. What concerns him more is the subterfuge that prevented open discussion of policy. 'It meant there wasn't a coherent, thought-out British-based set of ideals at the heart of the British nationalist movement, which is patently absurd.' Griffin, then, is asking us to overlook his past actions and instead accept his current word: that he is not a neo-Nazi, even though he was active for years in what he admits was a neo-Nazi party; that he is not an anti-Semite, even though he has been a passionate Holocaust-denier; that he rejects violence, even though he has defended its use on various occasions in the past; and that his reform of the BNP is genuine, even though he has previously played an influential role in parties with a 'semi-hidden agenda'.

He goes so far as to describe his extremist past as a necessary prerequisite for a reformist leader. 'Someone who's not been through the nationalist mill wouldn't have a lot of respect among nationalists,' he argues. He uses the same paradoxical logic to defend Tony Lecomber, a key figure in the BNP who has convictions for handling explosives and beating up a Jewish schoolteacher. Apparently it is precisely Lecomber's criminal record that gives him the credibility to dissuade youngsters from taking the violent path. Griffin is adamant that the changes he has made to the party are genuine but adds the intriguing rider that it could only be someone with his political background who, if necessary, could convince the party to adopt the 'ruse' of reform. If Griffin's reform is not a ruse then it certainly has limits to its tolerance. In response to the protests following the Soho bomb planted by former BNP member David Copeland, Griff homosexuality as a wonderful lifestyle,' he explains, 'which as a matter of fact it very often isn't. But plenty of people promoting it are heterosexual. So if you fined or even imprisoned a BBC filmmaker for breaching those laws, then it's not persecuting a homosexual necessarily, it's persecuting someone for breaking those laws.' While the criminality of a number of its leaders, the Holocaust revisionism and the homophobia may give a flavour of the BNP, it is the issue of race that remains its defining characteristic. Here again, though, Griffin claims the party is changing. He says he is aiming to shift the focus from race to culture. 'The tendency within the nationalist movement is to think within terms of multiracialism, but the debate will be about multiculturalism. All the West Indians I met in Oldham, and you could count them on one hand, were voting for the BNP. To an absolute purist that's anathema. That's silly to me because one per cent of our genes are from Africa. We've already assimilated a proportion and it hasn't had the terrible effects that the purist race freaks talk about.'

This is typical Griffin: bald political analysis, followed by implicit controversy (West Indians pledging to vote BNP), and finished off with an attack on extremism. In fact, the BNP is still committed to a uni-racial society (or at least an all-white one), it's just that its stated policy now is voluntary rather than enforced repatriation - a distinction that, if ever put to the test, would doubtless arbitrary. When he makes the effort, Griffin knows how to play with received opinions and casual assumptions. And he often attempts to disarm his opponents by agreeing with them. For example, he has recognised that he can recruit the liberal's politics of guilt for use in his own politics of hate. So when white bleeding hearts or black radicals accuse white people of being inherently racist, he is in complete accord. That's right, he says, that's perfectly natural. He also argues that it is immoral to import Third World skilled labour because Third World countries are in much greater need of that labour. But he seems unable to maintain this more nuanced stance for long before returning to more instinctive scare tactics. When I ask him about rumours that the BNP are thinking of admitting black members, he replies: 'We can put up with the blacks. The question of Islam is another matter. They convert the lowest groups wherever they go. As things stand now, we are going to end up with an Islamic republic some time in the future.'

It is old mill towns in the north, such as Burnley, that are the BNP's heartland of support. They tend to be impoverished (although, as in the case of the firmly middle-class Cliviger with Worsthorne, there are exceptions to the rule), and bi-cultural, featuring two geographically separate communities competing, in their own minds at least, for scarce resources. It's a picture of Britain that few enjoy looking at, which is one of the reasons that the authorities have not shown much appetite for confronting the problems that brought it about. The BNP has not helped matters, but it cannot be blamed for the conditions it breeds in. Its only hope lies in despair. That's true for any party that isn't in government,' counters Griffin. 'At a certain cynical level, the worse the mess then the more one rubs one's hands in glee. The circumstances are good for us but there is sufficient human cost that you have to regret the fact that it's come to this.' Griffin claims to be gaining support from members of groups, such as trade unions, that were pre viously the preserve of the left, while still pulling in disaffected conservatives - as well as, presumably, straight-forward fascists. There are obviously economic solutions to the problems that beset places like Burnley, but perhaps more challenging are the cultural questions that also accompany them. At present, multicultural society has more than its share of inconsistencies, hypocrisies and contradictions. It's an idea that isn't sure how to become a realit not a man at ease with permissiveness. His sympathies are more in tune with Le Pen than Fortuyn. 'The Dutch model is not a realistic model. Dutch nationalism is developing along Dutch characteristics. We don't think of ourselves as a nation that is tolerant of drugs. Our people think of themselves as people who go around and look at castles on a Saturday.' He speaks disparagingly of the liberal elite, urban values and London in particular. In Brislington, speaking of Burnley's white population, Griffin told his audience: 'They'd rather have a poorer English/British Burnley than a rich cosmopolitan one.'

When I ask him to name his ideal political state, he thinks for a while and then says: 'In some ways middle mediaeval England, at a time when serfdom had given away to huge numbers of people owning their own plot of land and having access to the village commons.' You get the impression that Griffin believes everything degenerated after that. The question most often raised in relation to Griffin is whether he secretly harbours a respect, or even fondness, for the Nazi regime of the 30s and 40s. There's more than enough in his political life to make that a valid question. But equally there's no shortage of his and the BNP's pronouncements to be able to reach a conclusive answer. Griffin may have a future, but it is one that will always be limited by the past. He is destined never to understand the diversity of the modern world, because he refuses to grasp its most sacred truth: there is no such thing as normality.
©The Observer

A Labour MP was accused today of "stoking the flames of prejudice" after he complained of growing racial tensions caused by street crime in his constituency. Ealing Southall MP Piara Khabra said his Asian constituents believed that the vast majority of street robberies in the area were being carried out by Somali youths. And he suggested that the Asian community would act if police failed to clamp down on the problem. Mr Khabra told Radio 4's Today programme: "If they [the police] don't [take action] then I think the community has got every right to organise to protect themselves. There are ways and means to do that." But Suresh Grover, of racism watchdog The Monitoring Group, fiercely criticised Mr Khabra. Mr Grover said: "I think any member of parliament is right to raise concerns that really affect the community. But I think he is stoking the flames of prejudice and I think that his comments are absolutely irresponsible. "I live and work in Southall. I have lived and worked in Southall for 35 years. A large number of my clients are Somali people. "They are a marginalised, victimised community in Southall. They have no provisions that Asians and other people enjoy, they have no community groups that are funded by the local authority, they have no voice in Southall. "And it sickens me that these flames of prejudice are being stoked by members of parliament and individuals who are using the figures on race crimes to victimise a community that should be welcomed."
©The Guardian

A GARDA operation aimed at rounding up illegal immigrants has been accompanied by an increase in the numbers seeking asylum. The twist to Operation Hyphen was revealed last night as official figures showed that asylum applications went up 30% between June and July. The statistics disclose that a total of 1,133 sought asylum in July, the biggest monthly total by far this year and up substantially from the June figure of 869. The July figure pushed up the overall total for the first seven months of the year to 6,218, compared to 10,325 for all of last year, 10,938 in 2000 and 7,724 in 1999. At first immigration officials were baffled by the significant rise for July. But further analysis established that the increase in applications was not matched by a similar rise in requests for accommodation. Officials are now satisfied that a large group of immigrants who were living here illegally decided to apply officially for asylum to ensure they were not arrested in the wide ranging Hyphen operation.

According to the Department of Justice Operation Hyphen was aimed at immigrants who were either already facing deportation orders or were people suspected of being in the country illegally who had either failed to register with the authorities or had overstayed their visas. The drive to enforce deportation orders made by the Minister for Justice was stepped up earlier this year by the intelligence unit within the Garda National Immigration Bureau. More than 500 illegal immigrants face deportation as the authorities get to grips with the backlog in asylum applications. This compares with a total of 365 people deported last year and 200 in 2000. But with 4,500 deportation orders signed by the minister, there are currently 2,610 people here illegally. The latest figures show that Nigeria again accounts for the biggest portion of the asylum applications, responsible for 2,150, followed by Romania (800), Moldova (331), Ukraine (215) and Poland (200).

Army kept goods Nazis had stolen

Hungarian Holocaust survivors who filed the only Holocaust reparations lawsuit against the US government have overcome the first barrier to winning their case. The survivors' group sued in US District Court in Miami in May 2001 seeking compensation for property seized by Nazis in 1944 and recovered by the US Army the following year but never returned to the original owners. The Justice Department urged dismissal of the suit for two reasons: that the statute of limitations had run out and that the government was entitled to immunity from such a suit. US District Judge Patricia A. Seitz ruled last week that the plaintiffs were entitled to have the statute of limitations waived. Seitz also held that the government's immunity argument was only partially valid. Her rulings Wednesday paved the way for the case to proceed.

Although there have been dozens of Holocaust-related lawsuits filed in the past five years, the Miami case is considered particularly important because it is the only one in which the US government - rather than a foreign government or foreign company - has been named as a defendant. A Whittier Law School professor, Michael Bazyler, said Seitz's ruling, although not guaranteeing victory for the plaintiffs, is very significant. ''In Holocaust-related litigation, the most important step other than a trial is the motion to dismiss,'' he said. It is a difficult hurdle for the plaintiffs because ''the cases are based on events that occurred long ago on foreign soil,'' said Bazyler, author of the forthcoming book ''Holocaust Justice: The Battle for Restitution in America's Courts.'' The Miami case stems from the Nazi seizure of more than $200 million in gold, jewelry, Oriental rugs, fabrics and artwork, among them works of Durer and Rembrandt. The booty was loaded aboard a train, which came to be known as ''The Gold Train,'' headed for Germany. But the train was abandoned by the Nazis in Austria, where it was recovered by the US Army. The treasure trove ultimately vanished, a US commission said two years ago.

The plaintiffs claim that the United States knew or easily could have learned the provenance of much of the stolen goods and acted illegally by failing to return them to their rightful owners. ''This is the first suit of its kind that we are aware of, and it is highly significant that the court upheld the plaintiffs' critical legal argument on the statute of limitations'' and other issues, said one of the plaintiff's lawyers, Jon Cuneo of Washington, D.C. ''We are very happy now that we have won the first round and will have the chance to get the full information that was kept from us all these years,'' said plaintiff David Merlmelstein, who was 15 when the German Army invaded Hungary in 1944. The suit contends that silver candelabras and cups used in Jewish prayer ceremonies were taken from his parents' house, later recovered, but never returned. The Justice Department had no comment on Seitz's decision.

Justice Department attorneys contended that because Hungarian Jews knew as early as 1947 that the US Army had taken possession of The Gold Train, the six-year statute of limitations expired no later than 1953. But Seitz said the suit's allegations were sufficient to justify rolling back the statute of limitations - citing allegations that ''plaintiffs were induced or tricked by the government's misconduct into allowing the filing deadline to pass.'' The plaintiffs said that starting in the summer of 1946 the US government declared it was not possible to identify the individual owners of the property on the train, or even the appropriate country of ownership. They assert the Army possessed evidence of ownership, including inventories prepared by the Nazis. Subsequently, the US government sold, distributed, or requisitioned the property, the suit stated. The plaintiffs contend that the property ©Boston Globe

A court in northern France found in favor of a female Jehovah's Witness who filed a complaint after being given a blood transfusion against her will, her lawyer said Tuesday. The 24-year-old woman suffered a hemorrhage after giving birth and was hospitalized late last month in the northern town of Valenciennes. Hospital staff gave her a blood transfusion the next day even though she had refused one, as Jehovah's Witnesses do not allow the procedure. Her attorney immediately filed a complaint, and a court in the northern city of Lille ruled in her favor two days later, barring the hospital from administering another transfusion against the patient's will. "My client had categorically refused the transfusion and signed a waiver at the hospital," said the lawyer, Franck Berton. "Despite that, doctors pressured her, persuading her the operation was necessary, and decided to proceed despite her constant refusal," he added, calling the incident a "serious and obviously illegal attack on individual freedom". The attorney qualified the decision as precedent-setting, as he said it was the first time French courts were asked to examine a law passed in March on the inviolability of a patient's body. The young woman, mother of a newborn son, has since been released from hospital and is in good health, Berton noted. The Jehovah's Witness organization is classified as a sect and not a religion in France.
©The Tocqueville Connection

Several foreign nationals have been attacked by groups of nationalist youths on Moscow streets and in the metro, the city's famous subway system, Russian police and radio stations reported Tuesday Among those attacked and beaten up are a librarian working at the U.S. Embassy, a diplomat from the West African state of Mali, the son of a diplomat from Yemen, an Iraqi diplomatic employee and two businessmen According to media reports, the librarian, identified as 23-year-old Lucas Murdoch, was approached by two skinheads and punched in the face several times. The attack took place on a busy metro line in central Moscow. Police have classified the attack as hooliganism, refusing to accept it as a racist attack despite the fact that the victim was black Several Africans, including a Malian diplomat, were attacked by a gang of youths at Marxistskaya metro station in eastern Moscow, while the 18-year-old son of the first secretary of the Yemen embassy was beaten up in southwest Moscow A Turkish businessman was assaulted by seven teens in downtown Moscow. The gang beat the man until he lost consciousness, then stole his wallet and mobile telephone. Two of the attackers, aged 16 and 17, were later arrested, as was a 15-year-old from another gang, which assaulted another businessman on the same street Meanwhile, a technical employee of the Iraqi Embassy who had been missing for almost two weeks amid fears he had been abducted was found at a Moscow hospital Avad Karim had been attacked and robbed, police said. The Iraqi had been hospitalized with serious head injuries after being beaten up by a gang, and had been unable to identify himself. Karim told the police he had met a woman in a bar who turned out to be a member of a gang, which beat him up, robbed the man of $2,500 and threw him out of a moving car Police said they had detained a 27-year-old woman, but she jumped from a fifth-floor window at a police station during questioning Police said the woman received critical injuries in her attempt to escape the law Attacks on foreigners in Russian cities have become increasingly frequent and violent, with diplomats and students from African and Asian states being targeted for attack by groups of skinheads In April, a group of ambassadors demanded increased protection from the Russian authorities as extremist organizations issued a threat to kill dark-skinned foreigners on the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birthday.
©Nando Media

German engineering giant Siemens has hastily abandoned plans to register the trademark "Zyklon", the same name as the Zyklon B poison gas used in Nazi extermination camps, BBC News Online has learnt. A year ago, Bosch Siemens Hausgeraete (BSH), the firm's consumer products joint venture, filed two applications with the US Patent & Trademark Office for the Zyklon name across a range of home products, including gas ovens. Jewish groups have condemned the move, in particular because Siemens used slave labour during the Nazi period. "We are very sorry if this trademark application has caused any offence," Bosch Siemens spokeswoman Eva Delabre told BBC News Online, confirming that the firm had never used and had now no intention of using the name in the US. Last month, UK sports goods maker Umbro apologised after complaints that it named one of its sports shoes Zyklon.

Name blame
Zyklon B, originally an insecticide, was widely used in gas chambers in the latter stages of the Nazi Holocaust. The word Zyklon means "Cyclone" in German, and is already applied to some Siemens vacuum cleaners in its home market. It uses a technology similar to the bagless "cyclone" vacuum cleaners pioneered by UK inventor James Dyson. But while the name may have been chosen innocently, it was condemned as insensitive by observers. "Siemens should know better because it was directly complicit in the use of slave labour," said Dr Shimon Samuels, head of the European arm of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organisation. "This is a major, major scandal."

Hasty retreat
A reader had alerted BBC News Online to the Zyklon trademark application. When BBC News Online queried Bosch Siemens about its plans for the Zyklon product range, the company quickly made an about-turn, saying that "today BSH has begun taking the necessary steps to withdraw its trademark applications" for Zyklon.

Compensation claims
Like many other large German firms, Siemens is now involved in plans to compensate victims of the Nazi regime. The German Government is still working on ways to deliver about £3.5bn in reparations to victims and their families. Efforts to distribute compensation have been complicated by a mass of private lawsuits, mainly in US courts, alleging use of slave labour and other forms of profiteering from the Holocaust.
©BBC News

Scenes of far-right demonstrators attempting to disrupt the political rally on Szabadság ter last Friday were exclusively captured on film by The Budapest Sun. During the speeches made by former Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and other center-right political political figures, the bells of the local Reformed Church were rung - an incident which the organizers and many members of the audience believed was an attempt to drown out the speeches. At the time of going to press we were unable to contact the Church's administration to establish whether there was any specific link between the unscheduled bell-ringing and the demonstration. During the later stages of the demonstration, far-right elements of the crowd, who despite being in a minority waved nationalist flags and sported nationalist emblems on their clothing, took to collecting and burning the left-wing newspaper pages which organizers had asked demonstrators to sit on in protest against what they alleged was a strong left-wing bias in the media following the general elections. The light police presence at the rally made no attempt to stop protesters from burning the papers, and police confirmed after the event that there had been no arrests made.
©The Budapest Sun

Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs today concluded a two-day visit to Romania, which highlighted the rapidly improving relations between the two neighbors. Kovacs, on his first trip to Romania since he took office after general elections in April, met with President Ion Iliescu, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, and Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana. He also met Bela Marko, the leader of Romania's ethnic Hungarian party. Kovacs today hailed relations between his country and Romania, which hosts a 1.6 million-strong ethnic Hungarian minority, Europe's largest.

Kovacs, speaking at a joint news conference with Geoana, said good bilateral relations and considerate treatment of ethnic minorities are complementary: "Our goal is to preserve the current excellent state in our bilateral ties and ensure their further quality development in the context of Hungarian-Romanian relations. We'd like to pursue the three basic objectives of Hungarian foreign policy [Euro-Atlantic integration, greater Central European stability, and better ties with ethnic Hungarians abroad] coherently. We are convinced that a friendly bilateral relationship is a prerequisite for settling [the issue] of Hungarian and Romanian minorities living in each other's countries. Again, this is true vice-versa, since a positive feeling among the ethnic minorities may also have a positive impact on our interstate relations."

Relations between Hungary and its neighbors, Romania and Slovakia -- home to Europe's second-largest ethnic Hungarian minority, some 600,000 -- became strained after Hungary's previous center-right government last year adopted a measure known as the Status Law, which granted certain economic and cultural privileges to ethnic Hungarians living abroad. The law came into force in January. The atmosphere between Bucharest and Budapest improved after Romania's ex-communist social-democratic government found a willing dialogue partner in Hungary's new socialist-liberal coalition government led by Peter Medgyessy, a former communist who replaced nationalist Viktor Orban. A first meeting between Nastase and Medgyessy in Romania in July was hailed as a big step toward better relations. The fact that Medgyessy himself was born in Romania and spent his first years in Bucharest, together with his knowledge of Romanian, further added to establishing a more relaxed, even warm, relationship between the two governments.

Geoana and Kovacs today said the two countries have overcome what they called "the difficult moment" of the adoption of the status law. Kovacs also stated Hungary's support for Romania's NATO bid. Furthermore, the two foreign ministers announced that Romania and Hungary intend to sign a strategic partnership agreement during Nastase's visit to Budapest, which, according to unnamed officials, could occur next month. Geoana said, "I understand that [the strategic-partnership agreement] is in its final stage of evaluation by Budapest experts. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase has received with very much interest -- and actually accepted -- his Hungarian counterpart's invitation to go on an official visit to Budapest and sign the document, which represents the accession of both countries together in Europe and NATO -- together in the 21st-century Europe." Geoana also hailed improvement in the treatment of the small ethnic Romanian minority in Hungary and spoke about the need to improve economic cooperation, which in his opinion should become the focus of Romanian-Hungarian relations. Kovacs also announced that Hungarian President Ferenc Madl is due to visit Bucharest next month.

Referring to the Status Law, Kovacs said Hungary is ready to modify it to suit not only the needs of ethnic Hungarians but also other states' concerns, as well as European norms. "The implementation of the law on Hungarians l territorial character." Romania and Hungary in December signed a memorandum that made certain concessions to the Romanian side, including granting work permits in Hungary to a limited number of Romanian citizens, regardless of their ethnic origin. But Slovakia, which enjoys a better economic situation than Romania, has insisted that the law should not have effect on its territory and has yet to come to an agreement with Budapest. Slovak Deputy Foreign Minister Jaroslav Chlebo told our correspondent, "The law should be modified to be acceptable as a law of a friendly country, to somehow deal with the [ethnic Hungarian] citizens of the Slovak Republic and not with the territory [of Slovakia], because one of the principles on which we are building our position is that if any law of Hungary should be valid, it should and could be valid [only] on the territory of Hungary."

However, Chlebo said Bratislava is in permanent contact with Bucharest, since the Status Law involves several countries, and even the European Union, of which both Hungary and Slovakia hope to become members in 2004. But Chlebo urged the European Union to state its position more firmly: "We are exchanging our positions with our Romanian counterparts and, as I started by saying, as this is a pan-European issue, I suppose the solution cannot be found on a bilateral track only -- a solution of a pan-European sort should be found. European institutions should have [announced their positions] on the issue and those words should be very clearly stated." Chlebo also said that whatever the results of the upcoming general election in Slovakia, his country's position on the Status Law is unlikely to change.

It is harder to ensure that 50% of 18 to 30-year-olds take part in higher education if those from certain communities are imprisoned for "throwing stones", says Gargi Bhattacharyya

Ethnic minority communities have high rates of participation in higher education in this country, disproportionately high according to some recent accounts. The government's much-discussed concern about participation is not, then, focused on minority communities - because it seems even the least affluent of these are developing increasing interest in HE. For now, refugee communities remain unaccounted for, but who doubts that these much-abused recent arrivals will soon catch up? While surveys of public opinion show that racism continues, and perhaps hardens, those who suffer it put their faith in education. Unlike some other sections of society, ethnic minority communities appear to want to enter HE. As a result, the sector needs to do a little more than just try to attract minority students. In terms of addressing divisions between ethnic communities, the social role of universities is now shaped by the demands of that new quest, community cohesion. Education has to teach us about the mysterious glue that will stick us together - and for that to happen, everyone must take part.

It is difficult now to remember a time before September 11. Before the absolute division of us and them, which transformed Muslims, foreigners and the undeserving poor into threats to civilisation. But it is worth reminding ourselves that not long ago Britain was concerned with more mundane forms of social antagonism. The uprisings in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham in the spring of 2001 took place before the world was re-divided by the war against terrorism. These disturbances were understood at the time as another episode in Britain's difficult history of race, riots and policing. Painful, but no more sinister than another expression of "racial tension" - no more than another minor skirmish from another generation of disaffected youth. Another scuffle with the police that registers but doesn't change the racial order of things. The trials and sentencing of young men arrested in connection with these disturbances, however, take place in a new era. In Bradford, 100 Asian men, between the ages of 18 and 34, have been charged with riot under the Public Order Act. Many of them were students, studying for A-levels, or at local universities. They have received custodial sentences of between 18 months and six years, despite pleading guilty and, in many cases, handing themselves in to the police. Last week, the first defendant to plead not guilty was sentenced to eight and half years. A further 200 have yet to come to court. On July 4 of this year some of the female relatives of those facing charges came together to support each other.

What began as a self-help group has become the campaign Fair Justice for All - a group challenging the disproportionate sentencing. At a public rally in Bradford on Bank Holiday Monday, Zahida Khan, one of the founders of the campaign explained that the women wanted to understand sentencing policy and how they could help themselves. Everyone regretted the disturbances and agreed there was a need for punishment - but they didn't understand the charge of riot. Outside the meeting, the police circled in vans and on horseback. Another speaker told of her response when her son told her his picture was in the paper. Headshots of young Asian men suspected of taking part in the disturbances had been published in local newspapers. Like many parents, the speaker said that she "went mad", screaming at her son. The next day she took him to the police station. "We were a community and the community was against violence. We thought we would get justice. Our children should have got proportional sentencing, not these disproportionate sentences. "What will happen to our children when they come out of prison? Most o for criminalisation and imprisonment. It is pretty well impossible for post-compulsory education to play its (central and essential) role in community cohesion if some communities are siphoned into prison instead. Higher education is not only a route to more skilled and better paid work, it has become a necessary training for any kind of participation in public life, a pre-requisite if you want to take part in debates about our society and its future, especially if you wish to act as the representative of others. Whatever the intention, the disproportionate sentences being doled out in Bradford ensure that a significant proportion of the younger Muslim community will not be able to take part in this process. Instead they are beginning prison sentences where they face the ridicule of other prisoners - because they are in for "throwing stones". Increasing the participation of these 18 to 30-year-olds in this other state institution promises to teach them the transferable skills of the prison system, but it is unlikely to prepare any of us for living together. As Arshad Javed pointed out, gesturing to the boys at the back, most of whom were awaiting trial, "You are the leaders of tomorrow, not just of this community, but of the whole of Bradford." College or prison? In that old dilemma about how to build a better world, I still know which one I would choose.
©The Guardian

Around 3,000 immigrants marched through the French capital Saturday to mark the sixth anniversary of the occupation of a Paris church by African immigrants, and to demand official recognition by French authorities. The protest by the so-called "sans-papiers" or "those without papers" marked the first large-scale rally by immigrants for regularisation of their immigration papers since the election of a centre-right government in June. It comes just days after other immigrants occupied a cathedral in a Paris suburb. "We will need this mobilisation to fight plans against the right of asylum and immigration," Michel Tubiana, president of the League of Human Rights said, alluding to proposals by the government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin to tighten legislation on immigration.

Backed by left-wing political parties, trade unionists and immigrant pressure groups, demonstrators marched behind a banner which read "The Saint Bernard Collective", recalling the 318 Africans who occupied the Saint Bernard church in northern Paris for three months in 1996. At dawn on August 23, 1996, security forces smashed open the door of the church and expelled the immigrants. Some of the veterans from that action, all but one of which have since received their official papers to allow them to remain in France, took part in Saturday's protest alongside many immigrants from north Africa who have been occupying the Saint Denis cathedral in one of Paris's northern suburbs. For the Saint Denis immigrants, it was a source of pride to walk behind the banner, Algerian immigrant Nadia Chebili said. "I was born before (Algerian) independence, under the French flag. I would like to live here (but) even without papers, I'm staying," she said.
©The Tocqueville Connection

British television is 'institutionally racist', with programme-makers excluding ethnic minorities and 'ghettoising' them away from parts in the mainstream shows, according to Britain's biggest broadcasting union. The claims by Bectu come as statistics from the Independent Television Commission reveal that wide-ranging redundancy programmes have that meant many of the UK's leading television companies have cut back on ethnic employees in their programming and management departments.

Several now have no minority staff at all. Last year seven ITV franchises, including those which make hit shows such as Taggart and Emmerdale, had no ethnic minorities in broadcasting management. At Channel 4 the percentage fell from 8.2 per cent in 2000 to 5.7 per cent last year. In the crucial area of programme-making, Channel 4's percentage of employees from ethnic minorities more than halved from 13.5 per cent to 6.6 per cent between 2000 and 2001. 'The latest statistics on ethnic minorities prove the industry is institutionally racist,' said Rose McDonald, of Bectu's black members committee. 'They pay lip service to what they say they were going to do. They're not transparent, they need to be better monitored. They are burying their heads in the sand.' She was backed up by leading black actors, who said that many television companies patronised people from ethnic minorities. 'There is a sense that when you go and see TV companies you approach them with cap in hand,' said Lennie James, the black actor and playwright, who appeared in Snatch and 24 Hour Party People.

'As a director, writer, actor or producer, there are limits to what television will allow you to do,' James said. 'So someone of colour can't just have a part written for them. It has to be written for them as a person of colour. Black and Asian writers are constantly frustrated because of how simplistic television companies can be. If some company head doesn't understand what you're trying to say, then it is always you who will have to compromise. It's never the other way around.' The figures also reveal that five other ITV franchises, including Central and Ulster, had no ethnic minorities in their programme-making departments last year. The number of ethnic programme-making staff at Carlton dropped from 14 to 4 between 1999 and 2001. At arch-rival Granada the figure fell from 39 to 19 over the same period. The BBC, meanwhile, wants 4 percent of its senior managers to come from ethnic minorities. Currently the figure is 3.4 per cent.

Bectu says Britain is a stark contrast to the achievements of African-American actors at this year's Oscars, where Halle Berry made history as the first black woman to win Best Actress Oscar and Denzel Washington was the first African-American to win Best Actor since Sidney Poitier in 1963. Itadded that British black independent producers felt they were in the same position as women producers 20 years or so ago and were 'ghettoised' away from mainstream programme-making. Two years ago, in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, the UK's broadcasters signed up to an industry-wide initiative called the Cultural Diversity Network which was designed to increase the proportion of people from ethnic minorities working in broadcasting. The initiative was promoted by then Culture Secretary Chris Smith and BBC Director-General Greg Dyke, who famously described the corporation as 'hideously white'. But the shock figures have prompted calls for the Government to consider introducing statutory quotas.
©The Observer

Mainstream TV drama in Canada still looks overwhelmingly Caucasian, says a new report that analysed nearly 70 hours of broadcasting on five channels. Mysterious Ways, Degrassi: The Next Generation and Da Vinci's Inquest were among about 20 English-language shows viewed during the pilot study by Simon Fraser University researchers. Visible minorities made up just 12 per cent of 1,200 characters featured in the sample, and of those most were little more than minor characters, said Shane Halasz, who assisted with the study. "What we're seeing with this is a very superficial level of inclusion," Halasz said. "They are walking on. They are not too central to the over-arching story line."

Black characters made up about six per cent of characters in the shows surveyed, while South Asian actors represented two per cent and Latin Americans composed one per cent. The larger number of black characters — despite "the fact there are more Canadians of Asian origin or descent in Canada than blacks" — could be the result of an urban, Toronto-centric broadcasting bias, the study noted. Aboriginal characters were barely represented in the viewing sample, said Halasz. The Simon Fraser team watched one or more episodes of 21 dramas that aired on Global, CBC, CTV, CHUM and Showcase networks in 1999 or later; the sample did not represent every show that aired during that period. For example, the team did not watch Dream Storm, a CBC TV movie that aired last year, based on the old CBC series North of 60, which was set in an aboriginal community.

The team was somewhat limited in what programs it was able to lay its hands on and future studies will likely include a larger sample, said Halasz. The study also found problems with the way non-Caucasian characters are written into TV scripts. Many did not have realistic ethnic accents and were often presented without cultural context, said the study. "There seems to be a real mainstreaming element to the way visible minorities are portrayed," said Halasz. "The workplace seems to be a convenient place to include a person of colour for cosmetic purposes . . . without having the obligation to look at cultural custom . . . or what happens in their house."

Dhirendra, an Ontario-based actor who starred in last year's CBC production Jinnah on Crime, said it takes a deft, subtle touch to weave cultural background into a storyline. If a South Asian actor was playing a doctor on ER, for example, ``you don't want him to be telling patients to resort to . . . herbal remedies or yoga," he said. He remembered how once, smoking a cigarette for the cameras while working on a movie in England, the production team became carried away with proper cultural presentation. "The director comes out and this ethnic advisor comes out with him," he said, recalling that he was told "a Pakistani person would not hold a cigarette like that." Nor is there a shortage of non-Caucasian actors looking for work, said Dhirendra. Often, the problem is those behind the scenes aren't comfortable challenging the status quo. "Writers do not like to write about things they don't understand," he said.

"It starts with creating opportunities within crews, administration staff, the research team and the writers. Then it is echoed eventually in the actors." Broadcasters are often afraid to take a risk on an unknown actor, said Rob Bromley, who was associate producer for the Jinnah series. "In television, it's big money," said Bromley. "That's what it comes down to — having the guts to do something different."
©The Toronto Star

A government minister from an anti-immigration party suggested today that the Netherlands deport criminals from immigrant families. The official, Immigration Minister Hilbrand Nawijn, said in a newspaper interview that he wanted to deport criminals from Moroccan and other immigrant families even if they were Dutch citizens. Many immigrants in the Netherlands have dual citizenship. Mr. Nawijn's party, the Pim Fortuyn List, took charge of immigration when it joined the Christian Democrats and the VVD liberals in a coalition last month with pledges to crack down on crime and immigration. "The times for talking and being nice are over," Mr. Nawijn said. "Dutch hospitality should no longer be abused." The interview appeared in the regional daily De Gelderlander.

A government spokesman confirmed that the newspaper's account of the interview was accurate. Mr. Nawijn's comments took his coalition partners by surprise, with the Christian Democrats saying the interview had come as a shock. The Christian Democrat Party immediately distanced itself from Mr. Nawijn's comments and rejected any plans to deport Dutch citizens, irrespective of their background. The VVD liberals said plans to deport anyone with a Dutch passport was unworkable. "It would be discrimination," a spokesman said, but added that the party was willing to examine the possibility of removing the right to dual citizenship. The Netherlands, which has significant Afro-Caribbean, Turkish and Moroccan communities, has been dominated by a debate about ways to break down social barriers in a country where 10 percent of the population is of non-Western origin. Mr. Nawijn said he had talked to the Moroccan ambassador in The Hague about his plans to deport criminals responsible for serious offenses like violent crime and theft. The embassy had no immediate comment.
©The New York Times

Australia has accused Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe of practising ethnic cleansing by forcing white commercial farmers off their farms as part of his land reforms. Mugabe has been denounced in the West for forcing white farmers off their farms so their land can be redistributed to black war veterans, a policy he says is aimed at reversing the effects of colonialism. But in one of the strongest criticisms yet of Zimbabwe's harsh land policy, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer admitted attempts to solve the crisis and achieve reconciliation through diplomacy had failed. "There's no doubt that that reconciliation process has now failed," Downer told Channel Ten television in Australia Sunday. "President Mugabe appears to be entirely oblivious to the views of the international community, he's effectively conducting a policy of ethnic cleansing on the farms," he said. Downer described Zimbabwe as being in a state of economic collapse. About six million Zimbabweans -- almost half the population -- were short of food and half that number were gripped by famine through a combination of drought and disruptions caused by the land reforms, he said. Mugabe has ordered 2,900 of the country's remaining 4,500 white commercial farmers to quit their land without compensation. Nearly two-thirds of those farmers defied his August 8 deadline and police have arrested nearly 200 farmers. Mugabe has been in power since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980. He says his land drive is aimed at correcting colonial injustice which left 70 percent of the country's best farmland in the hands of white farmers. Commonwealth heads of government decided at a meeting in Australia in March to suspend Zimbabwe from councils of the Commonwealth after the country held elections derided in the West as rigged.

Sanctions discussed
That decision, instead of complete suspension or expulsion, was coupled with the establishment of a tri-nation committee, comprising the leaders of Australia, South Africa and Nigeria, to decide what further action might be taken against Zimbabwe. Mugabe has so far rejected all attempts to talk to the Commonwealth and its "troika" of leaders. Downer said the troika was in the final stages of a round of consultations and the imposition of "smart sanctions" was being discussed. He said it was unlikely South Africa and Nigeria would back such sanctions, meaning they would only be symbolic if Australia then decided to act by itself. "The time might well come when it's an entirely appropriate symbolic gesture but I just do think we need to continue to work through the troika process," Downer said. The Commonwealth imposed similar targeted sanctions on trade and sporting ties with Fiji after a nationalist coup in May 2000.
©Cable News Network

Argentina has emerged as the location of choice for Web sites set up by the world's ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi political groups. In recent years, race-hate groups in Europe and in other Latin American countries have come under increasing pressure to curtail their online activities. Authorities have dismantled some extremist sites, or pressured Web-hosting companies to close sites temporarily for posting offensive or illegal content. Neo-Nazi groups experience few such problems in Argentina. Aided by inexpensive high-speed Internet access and an outdated anti-discrimination law, race-hate groups from all over the Spanish-speaking world are making Argentina their virtual home base. "The late 1990s saw the re-birth of neo-Nazi groups in Argentina, both in the real world and on the Internet," says Sergio Widder, Latin America representative for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization. "The ultra-right in Argentina is using the Internet to help create a neo-Nazi network in Latin America." According to the Wiesenthal Center, the number of sites worldwide it deems "problematic" has grown to 3,000 today from one in 1995. Specific numbers for Argentina were unavailable.

The highest-profile site in Argentina is City of Freedom of Opinion, run by the neo-Nazi New Triumph Party (PNT). Its leader, Alejandro Biondini, appears at public meetings in SS-style uniforms, giving the Nazi salute. Set up as a modest online newspaper in 1997, the site has since mushroomed into a much-visited portal connecting more than 300 extreme right-wing groups in Europe and Latin America. The site, in Spanish and other languages, boasts a news agency and a bulletin board for neo-Nazis. The PNT offers free e-mail and Web-hosting services for race-hate groups around the world. On the site, the PNT says it specifically offers hosting facilities to extremist groups whose Web sites have been prohibited or whose activities have been curtailed in other jurisdictions.

The portal allowed neo-Nazi groups from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay to plan a congress in April 2000, to be held in Chile on the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birthday. The Chilean authorities eventually banned the meeting. Numerous other Argentine race-hate and ultra-nationalist sites provide a regular channel of contact for extremists in Chile, Uruguay, Brazil and Europe. Many glorify Germany's Nazi Party and Italy's fascism, championing the country's European roots, and lashing out against drug addicts, Marxists, Jews, and homosexuals. One site, True Peace, set up by Carlos Torlaschi, president of the Group of Retired Admirals of Argentina, celebrates the military and police officers who killed some 30,000 Argentine citizens during Argentina's 1976-83 "dirty war" against suspected leftists.

Argentina is an ideal online location for many extremist groups. Despite the country's profound economic slump, Internet penetration remains one of the highest in Latin America, and super-fast Internet access is widely available. Both factors are a legacy of the decade in which Argentina's currency was fixed at parity with the U.S. dollar, making the import and use of technology inexpensive for Argentines. But since currency devaluation in January, the peso has plummeted by some 70 percent against the dollar, making Argentina a cheap place for foreign groups to set up hosting facilities. Furthermore, a 1997 decree issued by then-President Carlos Menem explicitly stated the government's refusal to interfere with production, creation, and dissemination of information distributed on the Internet. The decree guaranteed Web sites freedom from censorship.

Anti-discrimination advocates have found it impossible to use the country's anti-discrimination law, passed in 1988, as it does not cover Internet publication. "We could try to act against the companies hosting these sites, but the legislatio authorities appear unconcerned at their activities. "Our intelligence reports do not indicate that the extreme right is very active," says President Eduardo Duhalde's spokesman, Eduardo Amadeo. "They keep talking about racial issues, and anti-Semitism has never been a vote-winner in Argentina."
©Nando Media

Around 400 illegal immigrants reoccupied a famous basilica north of Paris on Tuesday after a meeting with interior ministry officials failed to meet their expectations. The group, which had taken over the Basilica of Saint Denis on August 17, asked for their situation be legalised "without conditions," but failed to get assurances that this would be done. Spokesmen for the demonstrators, called "sans-papiers" or "those without papers" said they would continue the occupation until their demands were met. Their cause has received the backing of Saint-Denis's deputy mayor and the priest in charge of the basilica, Father Bernard Berger. But others were less happy with the occupation, notably a small group of royalists who have long held the vain hope of seeing the French republic return to a monarchy. They denounced what they called a "profaning" of a basilica that was used in times past as the final resting place for more than 40 French kings. The remains in the tombs were taken away in the French Revolution and dumped into mass graves. Some of the "Committee of Saint Louis," as they call themselves, were believed to have been behind a false bomb alert on Monday that forced the immigrants to evacuate the basilica for one hour. The Saint-Denis demonstration is similar to a protest by some 300 Africans who occupied Saint Bernard church in Paris in 1996 for three months in a protest demand for official papers. All but one of the Saint Bernard demonstrators have now received their papers.
©The Tocqueville Connection

Jewish community groups yesterday denounced the British sports supplier Umbro for calling a running shoe Zyklon, the name of the poison gas used by Nazi Germany to murder millions of Jews during the second world war. Zyklon B, also known as Cyclone B, was originally developed as a commercial insecticide, but the Nazis discovered that it could kill humans by starving their bodies of oxygen if it was dumped into airtight chambers. Umbro's use of the name was an "outrageous misuse of the Holocaust" and "an insult to its victims and survivors", Shimon Samuels, of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said yesterday. It also amounted to "an encouragement to neo-Nazis and skinheads who terrorise the football terraces and a dishonour to sport itself", he wrote in a letter addressed to Umbro's chief executive Peter McGuigan, which demanded an investigation into the incident and a public apology. Dr Samuels' feelings were echoed by a spokesman for London's Community Security Trust, which combats anti-semitism and racism. "At best this is extremely unfortunate and at worst it's an absolute disgrace," he said. "I'm very surprised that no one realised given the multi-million pound budgets that these sports companies work on." But a spokesman for Umbro said the name of the trainers was "purely coincidental". "Obviously it's unfortunate that it means something to some Jewish people, but it wasn't named to offend anyone and we do apologise if it does," he said. "I have spoken to the person who named the shoe and obviously that person did not realise what it meant. "We do have a number of products with similar sounding names such as Zypro, and I think it fitted into that line, but we will be changing the name now." The firm launched the trainer in 1999.
©The Guardian

France and Romania are expected to sign an agreement on tackling illegal immigration and organised crime. The signing will coincide with the visit of the French Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, to the Romanian capital, Bucharest. French police have recently made a number of high-profile arrests among Romanian gangs who force immigrants into prostitution, and recruit children and disabled people to beg in France. Government estimates say there are 2,000 Romanian children on the streets of Paris and the southern city of Marseille alone. France attracts high numbers of Romanians in search of a better life. Numbers have swelled since visa restrictions were lifted in January.
©BBC News

Still riding the wave of anti-immigration sentiment espoused by the murdered populist politician Pim Fortuyn, the Netherlands announced new measures yesterday which will turn it into one of Europe's least welcoming places for those seeking sanctuary. In a television interview which has alarmed anti-racism groups, Hilbrand Nawijn, the new immigration minister, said that illegal immigrants should be locked up in disused military barracks for two months and have their social security payments cut by 90%¹. A former head of the immigration service, and one of the ministers from Fortuyn's movement, Mr Nawijn said one of the first things he wanted to do was to get tough with immigrants, especially those with criminal tendencies. "I'm thinking about illegal immigrants who cause trouble in the Netherlands," he told the Nova TV programme. "They come from countries like Turkey, Morocco and North Africa and it is generally the criminal illegal immigrants that cause trouble here. We need to be as tough as possible." Controversially, he vowed to evict large numbers of illegal immigrants he said were taking social housing meant for others. "There are lots of illegal immigrants in the larger cities living in housing intended for use by Dutch people or legal foreigners.² That must be stopped," he said.

Under Mr Nawijn's plans, which will take effect within six months, asylum seekers will be detained in converted army barracks for up to two months and then expelled from the country immediately if their applications are turned down. It is a significant departure from the current system, in which asylum seekers live in open accommodation and can travel freely, although they cannot work while their applications are being dealt with: a process which can take years. Mr Nawijn also indicated that the Netherlands will try to renegotiate EU agreements with countries which refuse to take back nationals who have been denied refuge in the union. Companies will be liable to a fine of £1,350 for every illegal immigrant they hire, he added.

Anti-racism groups said they were deeply concerned by the policy, which includes a plan to penalise newcomers who fail to complete Dutch language and citizenship classes: a key plank in Fortuyn's manifesto. The terms for bringing in relatives from abroad will be tightened, and carrying identity papers will be mandatory. "I think it's a sign of the new hardline attitude towards foreigners in general, especially those perceived to be causing problems," said Dick Houtzager, a lawyer at the National Bureau against Racial Discrimination in Rotterdam. "I'm worried that this signals a total lack of consideration for humanitarian circumstances on the part of the new government. The immigration policy of the last government was already harsh and caused a lot of problems but this is harsher. "We don't have anything against an open debate on foreigners and criminality but now it seems that all the hidden biases and prejudices are starting to come out in a very unsubtle way, and that's something we deplore." The solution, he suggested, was to spur integration, not to crack down on immigration. "If you look back to September 11 we do notice a change in the climate. People are celebrating the end of political correctness and feel as if they can say what they want."

Fortuyn may be dead and buried but it seems his political legacy lives on. One of the Netherlands' most prominent businessmen said earlier this month that immigrants were responsible for most shoplifting and street robberies and, much to the concern of human rights groups, the government has begun an unprecedented inquiry into the activities of the country's 800,000 Muslims.

Note by Suzette- I CARE News:
¹ Of course illegal immigrants don't receive welfare, you have to registered to get it. The 90% cut concerns the money spend on a ©The Guardian

Thousands of German right-wing extremists marked the 15th anniversary of the death of Hitler's deputy Rudolph Hess Saturday by marching through the southern German town where he is buried. Several hundred police officers flanked around 3,000 neo-Nazis, many of whom carried pictures of Hess and waved banners as they rallied in the Bavarian town of Wunsiedel. The August anniversary of Hess's death has long been a focal point for neo-Nazi demonstrations. Hitler's deputy until 1941, Hess was sentenced to life imprisonment at the post-war Nuremberg war crimes trials. He hanged himself in Berlin's Spandau Prison on August 17, 1987. Many far-right groups claim he did not commit suicide and allege he was killed by British military guards at the jail.

Police said they had sealed off the cemetery where Hess is buried and had made 34 arrests, mostly for possession of Nazi symbols and weapons, banned under German law. In previous years Germany has banned planned marches by far-right groups around the anniversary period. Meanwhile sentiment in government for a ban on the country's oldest rightist party, the National Democratic Party (NPD), has grown. The country's post-World War II constitution, written with memories of Hitler's rise to power in 1933 in mind, allows the Constitutional Court to ban parties opposing democratic rights.

Germany's highest court said in May it would wait until after the general election on September 22 to hear proceedings on a government bid to ban the NPD. Critics fear the move could give the party extra publicity. The NPD says its membership rose last year by about 1,000 to some 7,000, because of media attention. The NPD has said it will campaign in all 16 of Germany's federal states ahead of the election.
©The New York Times

The top U.N. human rights official said Sunday she plans to discuss a ``significant number'' of human rights cases with Chinese officials on her last visit to this country before leaving office. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson was to attend a workshop for judges and lawyers and to meet Vice Premier Qian Qichen during the two-day visit. Robinson wouldn't give any details, but she described her seventh visit to China as human rights commissioner as a ``good opportunity both to discuss the technical cooperation and to raise issues of human rights.'' ``I have indicated cases that I wish to discuss,'' Robinson told reporters after arriving at Beijing's airport. ``There are a significant number of cases.'' The former Irish president also is to meet King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, who is in Beijing for medical treatment. The legal workshop is part of efforts by the United Nations and foreign governments to raise professional standards in China's courts and to reduce human rights abuses and political interference in court cases. Robinson is to leave Tuesday for Cambodia, where she is to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen and address the National Assembly, and then fly on to East Timor on Thursday. Robinson is to step down in September. Her replacement is Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil, who headed the U.N. mission in East Timor until May.
©The New York Times

• Nazis stay away from "Red, White & Blue" rally
• ANL protestors break through police ban

The British National Party's "Red, White & Blue" rally last weekend flopped in the face of Anti Nazi League protests. Fewer than 400 Nazis turned up for the Lancashire event – less than half the number predicted by BNP führer Nick Griffin. Some 100 Anti Nazi League protestors broke through the 5km exclusion zone imposed by the police and mounted a picket next to the rally site. Last year's "Red, White & Blue" attracted 300 Nazis to Griffin's farm in north Wales. This year the BNP could only muster an attendance of 400 – despite being only 10 miles from Burnley, where 10,000 people voted BNP in last May's local elections. This is a major setback for the Nazis – they had hoped to capitalise on their electoral support and use their so-called "festival" to consolidate their base.

Griffin was visibly rattled during his "keynote" speech. The BNP leader lost his composure and delivered a garbled racist rant – at one point yelling: "Who is Stephen Lawrence anyway?" Griffin ended his speech begging his hardcore Nazi audience to "bring along one or two of your friends next time". In his final rally, Griffin announced that the BNP is now "the only socialist party in Britain". This rhetoric mirrors Hitler's pronouncements in the 1920s and 1930s. Hitler's "national socialism" led directly to the gas chambers. But the fightback against the Nazis is working – as the poor BNP turnout their "festival" of race hatred demonstrates.
©Anti Nazi League

France's highest administrative court has ruled that the mayor of the Alpine resort of Annecy acted illegally when he banned the extreme right-wing National Front from holding a summer seminar in the town. "The grave harm this refusal does to the fundamental freedom of a political party to hold a meeting appears manifestly illegal," the Conseil d'Etat or state council said on Monday. The ruling is a victory for National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who cried foul when municipal officials in both Annecy and the southwestern city of Pau blocked his anti-immigrant, anti-Europe party from holding summer meetings. The far-right firebrand shocked the country by qualifying for the decisive presidential election run-off in April with nearly 17 percent of the vote, before being defeated by French President Jacques Chirac in the second round. "Our freedom of expression has continued to shrink in the face of pressure from our political adversaries, especially since we showed we were the country's second-largest political force in the presidential election," Le Pen said earlier this month. Annecy's centre-right mayor Bernard Bosson justified his decision by saying the agreement between the local authority and the private company running the proposed venue banned the holding of political events there. The court said however that the council could only ban such an event for reasons of public order or fears of litter problems.
©The Tocqueville Connection

More than 100 illegal immigrants have taken up residence in a suburban Paris church - the burial place of French kings - in a protest to demand residence permits. The priests of the Saint Denis basilica say they are not occupiers, they are welcome guests, and that police will not be allowed in to remove them by force. The sit-in has been organised by an immigrants' support group, Co-ordination 93, which aims to have the basilica full by Saturday, the sixth anniversary of a police operation to end another Paris church sit-in. Mass is being celebrated in the basilica as normal, despite the presence of the so-called Sans Papiers (people without papers), from 19 different countries.

Crypt home
Tourists visiting the tombs of all but three of the French Kings from the 900 years before the 1789 Revolution have to move around the protesters' sleeping and cooking areas in the basilica's crypt. Many of the immigrants have been living in France for years, waiting to receive proper papers allowing them to live and work. "We know by experience that the only way to get something is to stage a big protest," said Ali Mansouri, a spokesman for Co-ordination 93. "We'll stay as long as our problem hasn't been sorted out," said Mr Mansouri.

He says the group has registered 25,000 people without papers in the Seine-Saint-Denis region. Most of the protesters are from Algeria, but there are also representatives from other African countries, and from eastern Europe. Mr Mansouri said most immigrants were obliged to live in France for 10 years before receiving papers, but Algerians had to wait 15 years. Protests are scheduled for Saturday in many parts of the country to mark the anniversary of the police's removal of 300 illegal immigrants from the Church of St Bernard in northern Paris, after an occupation lasting several months. The Saint Denis basilica dates back to the 12th century and is one of the earliest buildings in the Gothic style.
©BBC News

By Jeroen Bosch

Just two days after the reburial of populist Pim Fortuyn's body in Provesano, Italy, his party, the List Pim Fortuyn (LPF), proudly presented its four cabinet ministers in the new Dutch government, led by the Christian Democrat (CDA) Jan Peter Balkenende. The traditional visit by the new government to Queen Beatrix also revealed five ministers for CDA, and four for the liberals (VVD). The government is widely seen as centre-right and many organisations are already protesting at its policies and plans. But already, the coalition has been plunged into disarray after Fortuyn's successor, Mat Herben quit his post as LPF-chief on 9 august.

In the weeks before the official presentation of the coalition, the leaders of its three parties held intense negotiations about its intended policies and though Herben, Fortuyn's former spokesman, was criticised by party members for ruining Fortuyn's legacy' he emerged with a key ministerial post giving him responsibility for integration and asylum policy.

The LPF failed to win the appointment of a special minister for security but saw one of its favourite targets, the ministry for development aid wiped out. Though at first sight, the LPF has moved forward it is still wracked by fierce internal rows about money and the re-organisation of the post-Fortuyn party. At one stage, founding members of the party, including the LPF's 26-strong parliamentary group, threatened to quit the party. That conflict culminated in a special party congress, widely covered by the media, at which Herben seemed, for the moment at least, to have managed to close the ranks again. In a newspaper interview, nevertheless, LPF MP, Winny de Jong, warned Herben that he "should stop making the pathetic statement that This is what Pim wanted'". Herben was often pictured, during breaks in the negotiations with the other parties, with books by Fortuyn and, during interviews at his home, there is always least one book by the assassinated populist visible in the background.

The macabre exhumation and reburial of Fortuyn on 20 July formed a bizarre backcloth to the discussions about ministerial portfolios. The day before, Fortuyn's body was raised from its grave in Driehuis, in the presence of a media army from a commercial TV station which broadcast the event live. Fortuyn¹s brothers, who are very keen on the media and, it seems, money, had sold the station exclusive rights. Fortuyn's body was then transported to Rotterdam Airport where a complete hangar was reserved for him. When the cortege arrived, several hundred people where there to rubber-neck and applaud. During the night, a group of relatives stood vigil at the coffin before flying off together with the cadaver ­ the coffin wedged between the seats of the plane ­ to Italy where, again, hundreds of people, mainly Dutch were present. In an enormous monumental grave, Fortuyn found his last resting place in the small village of Provesano. This ceremony was also broadcast a live on Dutch television.

Meanwhile the LPF, not invited to take part in any of this gruesome ceremonial, was busy trying to grab ministries and state secretaryships to "give shape" to Fortuyn's ideas. Most of the party's candidates for high office were recruited at the last minute and then presented as "the best persons for the job". No reporters have bothered to question why these people were never asked to be ministers by CDA or VVD, because several of the LPF appointees are former members of these parties. The new health care minister, Eduard Bomhoff, is a former social democrat (PvdA) member and a columnist of NRC, the same paper charged, by LPF's legal adviser Gerard Spong, with inciting hatred against Fortuyn before his murder. Spong, himself, did not were condemned throughout the world at the time. Bijlhout claimed in talks with prime minister Balkenende that her membership of the Volks Milities was before the killings, but a Dutch TV station revealed photographs which proved otherwise. The LPF then recruted another woman, Fiona de Vilder, for Bijlhout's job. De Vilder did not last long either. After talks with the prime-minister, de Vilder, a neighbour of Heinsbroek, said she could not handle the pressure of the job and the media and threw in the towel leaving the post unfilled.

The choice of ministers has thus not exactly been received with acclaim in the ranks of LPF voters who see the new ministers as part of the already existing establishment and not as the "new political leaders" they want. The LPF has moved rapidly from being a kind of anti-political, anti-establishment right-wing protest movement to a party entangled in establishment politics. Though it undoubtedly represents a shift to the right its ideas are, in fact, not so far removed from those of from VVD or CDA. What is most important is that the key issues of the election campaign ­ integration and immigration ­ are now in hands of the LPF and new man Nawijn is already boasting cuts of 90% in the housing and care budget for asylum-seekers.

On the day the government was presented, there were protests by employees and trades unions in that sector. Other measures envisaged by the government are forced integration courses for migrants, with punishments, including the loss of residence permits, for those who fail the tests. Migrants already living in the Netherlands will also lose part of their income if they fail. The coalition wants to impose stringent rules for marriages to people from abroad while family unifications will be subject to harsh new procedures and there will be savage cuts in state payments for children living abroad.

Refugees without identity papers will have just three months to prove who they are and where they came from or they will be expelled. To remain in the Netherlands without papers will be a criminal offence and a special military police team will be set up to lead the hunt for illegals'. Meanwhile, local councils which continue to provide refugees with assistance to which they are no longer entitled will face penalties. Many of the families affected by the planned changes have children born in the Netherlands and have been in the country for as long as eight years. Any countries refusing to take back refugees or migrants will find that their development aid has been axed. Illegals', who are sometimes held in jail for as much as 12 months without being charged, can no longer be freed by a judge after examination of their case .

The Balkenende government will also introduce tough measures on health care, hitting poorer people, will cut subsidised jobs in both the health sector and the police but will be nice to car owners and the nuclear power industry. Finally, a raft of successful projects for drug abusers and psychiatric patients will be stopped and those assisted until now will be treated as criminals. Solidarity and humanity, keywords, one would think, for Christian Democrats are miles away from the government's plans. If Fortuyn has a legacy, it is that he and his successors have engendered an atmosphere of intimidation and fear. Prominent politicians like former PvdA leader Ad Melkert and the leader of the Green Left party, Paul Rosenmoller, for example, are still under police protection. Melkert, who has been offered a job at the World Bank in New York, wants to leave the Netherlands because he no longer feels safe and, since Fortuyn's 6 May murder, he has lived with a police portacabin in front of his house and regular checks for possible bombs.

Herben, also, has had police protection, having to spend the night in a police station the day before the presentation of the new government because of threats to his home. Ironically, because he did not protest in parliament at Melke (and anti-fascists) is to mobilise solidarity and protest against suspicion and hatred and to show that the policies of the new government will bring more harm than good to Dutch society and people.

France plans to reform its voting system ahead of future elections in an attempt to stem the threat of the far right, whose success in last Spring's presidential election stunned the nation. French newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro on Monday discussed the possible reforms to the voting systems for legislative, European and regional elections. Sources close to Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin conceded that "these options were indeed under discussion."

Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front (FN), sent a shockwave across Europe last April when he took second place behind Jacques Chirac in the first round of France's presidential election, ousting incumbent Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin. Although squarely beaten in the presidential run-off, Le Pen had hoped to replicate the massive 16.86 percent, which saw him into the second round of the presidential election, in legislative elections held in June. In the event, the FN failed to win a single seat, partly as a result of record abstention rates, and won just 11.23 percent of the overall vote.

But the FN's success left France's political establishment seriously shaken, and arguably damaged France's image throughout the world. According to the newspaper reports, France could seek to implement reforms ahead of regional, local, European and senatorial elections in 2004, and future legislative elections, to minimise disruption from the FN and other far right movements. Under current French rules for legislative elections, the two frontrunners from a constituency move through to the run-off, as well as any candidate who has the support of 12.5 percent of the registered electorate. The FN has scant hope of winning more than a handful of seats under the present system, but with a strong showing it can potentially move through to the second round in enough constituencies to create a nuisance. This happened most spectacularly in the 1997 legislative election, when the FN split the right-wing vote in 76 out of 577 constituencies and contributed to the left's victory.

New rules would limit the number of second round candidates to two. Raffarin may also redraw the electoral boundaries for legislative elections, to incorporate the results of two population censuses, carried out since the last update in 1988. For regional elections, plans could involve lifting the barrier to the second round from a current five per cent of the vote to between seven and 12 per cent. European elections may in future be held at regional rather than at national level. Regional lists would likely tip the balance in favour of the dominant parties -- Chirac's governing centre-right Union for the Presidential Majority and Francois Hollande's opposition Socialist Party. Lionel Jospin had made a stab at similar European election reforms in 1998, but backed down following fierce opposition from minority left-wing parties, such as the Green Party and the Communist Party.
©The Tocqueville Connection

A government watchdog on racism is to investigate concerns of discrimination in the appointment of consultant doctors. The National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI) said it would be looking into the matter as part of their next strategy, to be published in September. "Racism is often much more subtle than racist abuse or attack. For instance, one issue that should be looked at is that 50% of non-consultant doctors are non-EU citizens, yet only 2% of consultants are," said Philip Watt of NCCRI. "Now there may be a variety of reasons for that being the case, but one of the reasons why, if you had a figure like that, is that there may be some form of discrimination going on." "It's certainly is something we're looking at. It requires a good bit of research and it's something that needs to be measured over a course of time." He recognised that a regulation limiting non-EU doctors to a maximum seven-year stay in Ireland was a factor, but noted that this had been extended recently.

Also in relation to hospitals, he said the NCCRI was drawing up guidelines on how hospitals should deal with an increasingly cross-cultural workforce as well as greater numbers of patients from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. "We're proposing to set up a code of practice for hospitals on how to deal with diversity in the workplace," said Mr Watt. He said a very high percentage of nurses in Dublin hospitals were non-EU, mainly from the Philippines. "There are huge cultural sensitivities. You can not reprimand people in front of patients, particularly from these countries. Filipinos find it particularly humiliating. "Also hospitals need to ensure different religions, such as Islam, are respected and that hospitals have somewhere for these people to pray." He said the NCCRI will also investigate areas such as the provision of health services and the rights of migrant workers under its next strategic plan.

Mr Watt said some ethnic communities were not receiving equal health services. "One form of discrimination is that if you treat everyone the same, that can amount to a form of discrimination, because if someone's needs are much greater than another's, if extra resources aren't put in place that amounts to a form of discrimination." Mr Watt also slammed the way some campaigners against the Nice referendum had claimed that the country would be flooded with migrant workers from Eastern Europe. "I would object to that kind of argument used in a very xenophobic way. Migrant workers are essential to our future economic progress."
©Irish Examiner

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal yesterday ordered John Micka, Machiavelli and Associates Emprize Inc., Joanne Vestvik and Ken Fast to immediately cease communicating hate messages on a particular Internet Web site. This is the second ruling by a tribunal this year involving a hate site on the Internet. A similar order was handed down to Ernst Zundel in January.

Mark Schnell filed complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 1999 and 2000, claiming that John Micka and Machiavelli and Associates Emprize Inc. discriminated against him. He felt the site communicated messages likely to expose persons to hatred and contempt based on their sexual orientation. Mr. Schnell alleged that the comments on the site were offensive and derogatory, and that these messages implied that homosexuals are paedophiles.

In reaching his finding, Tribunal Chair Grant Sinclair emphasized that, "If the telephone is ideally suited to spread prejudicial ideas, the Internet is even better positioned. It is a very public form of communication, inexpensive, easily accessed, and can communicate many messages simultaneously to a world-wide audience."

Mary Gusella, newly appointed Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, echoed the Tribunalís concerns. She said that the Commission had a message for operators of hate Web sites. "Spreading hate is against the law in this country and will not be tolerated," stressed the Chief Commissioner, "and we will continue to serve the interests of Canadians by ensuring that meritorious complaints are reviewed by the Tribunal."

Complaints against Ernst Zundel were filed with the Commission in 1996, alleging that the material on his Web site could expose Jews to hatred or contempt.
The Tribunal ruling is only the second dealing with internet hate sites and continues in the same vein as the previous landmark Zundel ruling
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

A US federal court began preliminary hearings on Friday into a multibillion-dollar lawsuit brought by South African apartheid victims against a host of multinational corporations and banks. Leading the class action --filed against the likes of US firms Citigroup and IBM, Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse, and Germany's Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank --is flamboyant US attorney Ed Fagan. Fagan, who netted a $1,25-billion payout in 1998 for Holocaust survivors from Swiss banks, told the court that the apartheid victims' claims focused on "the single worst human rights violation in history". Figures of anywhere between $50-billion and $100-billion have been bandied around in the apartheid lawsuit, which accuses foreign companies of helping to prop up the former white minority regime in South Africa.

Friday's hearing under Judge Richard Casey in US District Court here marked only the first stage in the legal process, with any trial still at least six months away. Fagan was seeking to consolidate his clients' claims into one single case, arguing that the charges against the multiple defendants rested on a common foundation. "The facts are identical. The conspiracies are identical," Fagan said, adding that all the defendants had supplied either equipment or money to a political system, knowing that the system would use them to oppress people. The class action was filed under the Alien Tort Statute, under which alleged victims of human rights abuses, perpetrated in other countries by non-US citizens or corporations, can file in US courts. It is being closely monitored in industry circles, amid concerns it could trigger a wave of similar lawsuits against other multinationals that have operated in countries with poor human rights records.

Other companies targeted by Fagan's team include US computer giants IBM and Unisys, as well as oil major Mobil. So far only Citigroup, Credit Suisse (US) and UBS have actually been served with suits, and lawyers for all three requested the right to file a motion to dismiss the case as soon as possible. Opposing Fagan's request for 45 days to serve all remaining notices and consolidate all the claims, the three firms said the charges required immediate rebuttal given the publicity surrounding the class action. "These allegations are being used to attack the character and reputation of these corporations," said Owen Pell, representing Citigroup. "We believe Mr. Fagan has misstated international law and all these claims can be dismissed." Members of the defence team also accused Fagan of using the case as a "platform for a publicity campaign". Judge Casey gave all sides until August 23 to prepare their arguments on how best to proceed with the lawsuit. The five initial plaintiffs --expected to rise in number --have highlighted gross human rights violations such as torture or murder in their claims. Their main challenge will be to persuade the court of the defendants' intent to cause human rights violations. Behind the scenes, divisions are widening between Fagan's team and another alliance representing victims, which accuses Fagan of steamrolling claims through and raising victims' expectations of large payouts.

Fagan (49) is a controversial figure, who has been variously described as a champion of lost causes and a gold-digging opportunist. Critics deride him as a publicity hound and his combative character has alienated fellow lawyers in previous class actions. Admirers, however, call Fagan's aggressive style in shaming companies and governments the golden key to winning settlements that many had considered impossible.
©Daily Mail&Guardian

Lawyers acting for an Afghan asylum seeker couple have lost a battle to have their children released from a detention centre. The four-year-old boy and six-year-old girl were held after being taken to Harmondsworth Detention Centre, near Heathrow, to visit their parents, Farid and Feriba Ahmadi. The couple's lawyers said the move was illegal and the children must remain with family friends who had been caring for them -a view upheld by the High Court in a ruling late on Friday. But it is understood that officials have now persuaded the court that the Home Secretary has the final say in some immigration cases and the children should remain in custody. The Ahmadis were detained after being forcibly removed from a mosque where they had taken refuge two weeks ago, attracting widespread condemnation of police tactics. Mrs Ahmadi told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that her children were scared and did not understand what was happening to them.

'No precedent'
The family's immigration lawyer, Pierre Makhlouf, said there had been no warning of what would happen when the children were taken to see their parents by a family friend on Friday. He said a High Court judge ordered the release of the children, after an 11th hour appeal on Friday night. The Home Office refused, prompting Tory former Home Office minister Ann Widdecombe to demand an explanation. She said: "I know of no precedent for a government minister defying a court ruling."

Ahead of Saturday's ruling Mr Makhlouf said:
"The position of the family lawyers is that this detention is illegal and should not have taken place without the approval of the High Court. It seems to me to be a cynical ploy which disregards the views of the court and the lawyers who have been acting, in this case, in the interests of the children and in the interests of the parents, who are both seriously traumatised." He said papers had been logged to make the children wards of court and that they should not have been removed from their carer until a decision on their parents asylum application was made. Mr Makhlouf said he was calling for a psychiatric assessment of the parents, adding that he was convinced they suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.

A Home Office spokeswoman said the Ahmadi children had been "reunited" with their parents. She said: "Detention remains an unfortunate but essential element in the effective enforcement of immigration control. "Although very regrettable, sometimes it is necessary to detain families with children." Ms Widdecombe said the situation was a "mess" and called on the government to explain its actions. "Where you have got the intervention of the courts, then that is something which, however irritating, has to be supreme," she said.

The Ahmadis say they fled the Taleban regime two years ago with their children to seek refuge in Britain. Their case caused uproar among Muslim elders after the police and immigration officers smashed their way into a mosque two weeks ago. Their children were not at the mosque when officers stormed in and seized the couple. They say there is nothing left for them in Afghanistan and that they had started to build a future for themselves in England. The Home Office says the couple should be returned to Germany, where they first sought refuge from the Taleban. It has suspended their deportation until after a judicial review into the case.
©BBC News

The commission for racial equality lacks independence, is unrepresentative and needs wholesale reform
Comment by Faisal Bodi

The most outrageous aspect of Gurbux Singh's departure from the commission for racial equality is not his disgraceful behaviour, nor the size of the "golden handshake". It is the exposure of a kind of government influence in the watchdog that, regardless of the extra-curricular misdemeanours of its office-bearers, have made it a poisoned chalice for all chairmen.

From the moment it was conceived in 1976, the CRE has been handicapped by an obligation to serve two masters. As a child of the Home Office, it is subject to its discipline. At the same time, it must try to fulfil the expectations of its clients, Britain's ethnic minorities. But what is good for ethnic minorities has not always been good for the Home Office. Singh's predecessor, Herman Ouseley, was appointed in April 1993, the month that black teenager Stephen Lawrence was killed. Ouseley's attempts to take up the case ran into a dead end: the Conservative government had no interest in antagonising middle Britain by accusing the police of racism.

Similarly last year's northern riots extended a timely opportunity to Gurbux Singh to grasp the nettle of acute anti-Muslim discrimination. But however willing he may have been, he was steamrollered by an incoming home secretary equally anxious to lay down his own, rightwing marker. Given that the chairman, like the organisation's commissioners, is appointed directly by the home secretary it would have been a brave and principled figure who bared his teeth. If, on the one hand, Whitehall has always kept the CRE on a tight rein in a bid to control its field of operations, on the other it has given it the freedom to do as it wills in the paddock. This has worked to the commission's detriment. The lack of government interest and of client accountability has spawned a level of professional patronage, unscrupulousness and incompetence that has eroded the confidence of ethnic minorities.

In areas where the commission has scored some success, such as its work with the armed forces, its achievements have been marred by perceived conflicts of interest. Bob Purkiss, a commissioner from 1994 to 2001, took the lead in a commission investigation of the army in 1994 and subsequently played a leading role in developing the CRE/Ministry of Defence five-year action plan to reform the armed forces. As part of that plan, in 1999 the MoD struck a £5m contract with a race consultancy firm called Focus. A year later, Focus employed Purkiss. At the helm of the CRE during its army probe was Herman Ouseley. Just two days after he left the commission in January 2000, he too joined Focus.

The commission's emphasis on promoting its work -it spends more than twice as much on PR than legal costs for fighting discrimination -has also laid it open to accusations of publicity seeking. The commission has regional equality councils which are part-funded by local authorities, but only a small proportion of their work is taken up with discrimination cases. An urgent priority for the CRE should be to devolve more power and resources to grass roots organisations. Ineptitude has been a feature of the commission's work. Apart from the loss of tapes relating to a two-year investigation of racism in prisons, the CRE has also managed to misplace other important documents. In 1993 the CRE declared a verdict of "unlawful discrimination" against Oldham council after investigating racism in housing policy. As a result, it instituted a five-year plan of reforms with the council. When, after last summer's riots, I asked the CRE for an update on the reforms it said it could not find the final status report. Then, an audit that the CRE hoped would confer it with the prestigious Investors in People recognition, showed it to be failing to ensure dissolution.

The government is reportedly determined to merge the anti-discrimination departments dealing with gender, race and disability (and perhaps religion if it comes to its senses) into a single human rights commission. The biggest lesson its planners can draw from the CRE experience is that it should be designed to remain free of day to day political interference.
Faisal Bodi is a writer on Muslim affairs and editor of www.ummahnews.com
©The Guardian

Tycoon accuses immigrants of fuelling crime

A fresh debate about immigration has broken out in the Netherlands after one of the country's most prominent businessmen claimed that immigrants were responsible for the vast majority of incidents of shoplifting and street robbery. In his company's annual report Jaap Blokker, co-owner of the Blokker supermarket chain, complained of "an entire asylum seekers and illegal immigrants industry" sustained by over-indulgent politically correct politicians. The authorities preached multiculturalism, he said, but did nothing to protect shopkeepers from the "monoculturalism of street crime and robbery" which he claimed was largely committed by just three groups -Moroccans, East Europeans and immigrants from the Antilles. His company yesterday refused to elaborate on his comments but politicians and many ordinary people have expressed support for his stance.

MKB Nederland, the country's largest employers' organisation, has said it too is concerned by the amount of crime committed by newcomers and has called on the government to get tough and impose longer prison sentences on immigrants caught shoplifting. It claims that the lion's share of shoplifting in Rotterdam is perpetrated by immigrants and says it believes that the picture is the same nationwide. But Rotterdam's police force said yesterday that it did not carry out racial profiling and had not released new figures on shoplifting. It admitted it was possible to profile criminals using their recorded birthplace. One police source told the Guardian that a local government report earlier this year had shown that 90% of street crime in Rotterdam was committed by immigrants. However, he stressed that as almost half of the port city's population was of foreign extraction, the figure was not as dramatic as it first looked.

Although Mr Blokker's comments have been well received in a country where the late Pim Fortuyn's anti-immigration party holds four cabinet positions, anti-racism groups have expressed alarm at the sweeping nature of the accusations. "He [Mr Blokker] writes that every immigrant is the same, that they are all criminals and that just isn't true," said Hubert Fermina, director of the country's national bureau against discrimination (LBR) "It is discrimination and we will be studying his comments carefully to see if they break the law and to see if we can mount a legal challenge. "It is true that we have big problems with immigration in this country but you can't lump everyone together." LBR has requested a meeting with Mr Blokker to try to understand why he chose to use his firm's annual report to launch such a scathing attack upon immigrants. However, so far its overtures have been rebuffed. The flamboyant Fortuyn may be dead, killed by an assassin, but the immigration debate which he triggered is still very much alive.
©The Guardian

The British National Party is to hold a rally in Burnley that threatens to trigger a repeat of the race riots that tore the northern town apart last summer. The BNP's 'Red, White and Blue' festival is billed as the 'biggest date in the nationalist calendar' and the decision to hold it close to the racially tense town, which recently elected three BNP councillors, has been seen as a ploy to anger the Asian community. The Observer has learnt that activists sympathetic to the Combat 18 racist terror group will be present. The anti-fascist group Searchlight has also warned that football hooligans will attend the festival, raising the prospect of serious disorder. 'A lot of these people will be drinking and they may be tempted to go into Burnley looking for trouble. Local Asians are obviously very concerned,' said spokesman Nick Lowles.

Among the musicians playing at the festival will be David Calladine, who once played in the infamous pro-Nazi band Skrewdriver and the Scottish white power band Nemesis, who earlier this year played at the neo-Nazi 'Hammerfest' music festival in the United States. Security at the event is run by BNP chief steward Warren Bennett, a football hooligan given a three-week jail term in Holland for being part of a conspiracy to wreak havoc at a Scotland game. Another BNP steward, Colin Smith, has convictions that include possession of an offensive weapon and drugs charges. BNP leader Nick Griffin, architect of the party's attempts to move into the mainstream, said that the rally was a 'family affair' and should not anger Burnley's Asians. 'They have their melas (festivals), so why should they get cross that we have ours?' he said.

The two-day event begins on 17 August at a rural site at Sawley, 10 miles from Burnley's town centre. Up to 1,000 supporters are expected to attend and Lancashire police are mounting a large security operation. One possible flashpoint will be a rival Anti-Nazi League demonstration gathering in Sawley. Since its election victories in Burnley in May's local council elections, the BNP has concentrated on consolidating its support in the town. Racial problems are still rife. Last week an anti-racism concert scheduled for next month was cancelled over public safety fears. Last month one of the BNP councillors refused to support a council motion condemning racist chanting at local football games. The BNP has been targeting neighbouring Blackburn for its next electoral triumph. The group held a rally there recently that was attended by more than 180 people.
©The Guardian

Austrian police have arrested three people and seized a large cache of arms and explosives in an operation against right-wing militants. Police found 50 automatic weapons and a kilogramme (2.2lbs) of explosives in raids in the capital, Vienna, and nearby provinces. Two of the detained men have links to extremist groups, police said. State television said police had been watching the suspects for some time and had decided to swoop when the men moved the weapons from a hiding place. The raids took place on six apartments in Vienna and in the eastern and southern provinces of Lower Austria and Styria.

Large arsenal
A police spokesman said officers recovered dozens of guns, including sub-machine guns and semi-automatic weapons, as well as computer discs and right-wing propaganda. It is not known when, or how, the men planned to use the arsenal. The detained men have not been publicly identified but are said to be aged 36, 42 and 43. Austrian police chief Gert Prolli said that one of the suspects belonged to a violent neo-Nazi organisation, known as Vapo. Investigations are continuing.
©BBC News

Marking the 50th anniversary of one of the last spasms of Stalinist terror, Jews gathered in a Moscow synagogue Monday to reflect on the improvement of their condition in Russia over the past half-century and warn that anti-Semitism still plagues the country. The ceremony at a synagogue dedicated to victims of the Holocaust commemorated the Aug. 12, 1952, execution of 13 members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in the basement of Lubyanka, the infamous Moscow building that was headquarters of the Soviet secret police. Although the number of victims was tiny compared to the tens of millions of people estimated to have died under dictator Josef Stalin, the killings are seen as an especially shocking demonstration of how the system had become debased by paranoia and bloodlust. Stalin died in 1953. The committee had once been an important propaganda tool for Stalin in the fight against the Nazis, and the Soviet Union allowed some of its members to travel to the United States for fund-raising events. But after the creation of Israel in 1948, Stalin began to see the group as a potential threat to his grasp on power, and members were arrested and tried in secret. Among those tried and executed were several prominent Yiddish writers, including poet Yitzhak Feffer and novelist David Bergelson.

``We have a task. Those of you living today -- do everything so that such a tragedy cannot be repeated,'' Russia's chief rabbi Adolf Shayevich said at the opening of the memorial ceremony. ``You all very well remember the system that broke and destroyed its children.'' Israeli Ambassador Nathan Meron chose to reflect with melancholy satisfaction on how Russia now has close relations with Israel. ``It is very sad that (committee members) were not living to see ... the establishment of diplomatic relations between the state of Israel and the new Russia,'' Meron said, and went on to praise improvements for Jews in Russia. ``The life of the Jewish community in today's Russia is free, without limits,'' he said. However, some speakers noted recent indications of resurgent anti-Semitism in Russia, drawing attention to the appearance of anti-Semitic flyers at some bus shelters and to the case this year when a woman was injured when removing an explosives-rigged anti-Jewish sign placed along a highway. Yevgeniya Albats, a prominent journalist, said Russia's Jews must fight against such eruptions of prejudice, saying that previous oppressions were encouraged by Jews' failure to fight back. ``It was because we were silent. It was our fault,'' she said. The ceremony ended with a performance by singer Mark Aizkovich, who has written songs based on the poems of some of the writers killed 50 years ago. Smiling broadly, he urged the gathering of about 150 people to remember the joy the authors brought their readers, but got only some hesitant hand-clapping to lively passages before attendees began drifting out.

With political activism on the rise across the country in the run-up to September's vote, Slovakia's Roma minority, estimated to represent 4 per cent of the country's eligible voters, has been receiving increased attention in the already rancorous election campaign. Mainstream political parties such as opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and non-parliamentary New Citizens' Alliance (Ano) have highly visible Roma candidates and caucuses within their parties, but non-partisan efforts are also underway to get out the Roma vote, and ensure the votes are counted. One program, run in cooperation between the Washington D.C.-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Association of Roma Settlements in the Preaov Region, is engaging Roma communities and leaders throughout east Slovakia to explain the importance and mechanics of voting.

"Its very similar to the [Rock the Vote] program four years ago to mobilise young voters, but we're trying to mobilise Roma voters," said Peter Pollák, one of the project's leaders and deputy-director of the Spiaská Nová Ves District Office with responsibility for Roma issues. "We are holding a series of meetings in different Roma communities where we explain why it is important for Roma to go and vote. We are also explaining the basic elements and procedures of voting - that it is direct, secret and that every vote has the same value," he continued, adding that the campaign is strictly non-partisan. One of the biggest problems, says Pollák, is not necessarily getting Roma voters to vote, but making sure they know how. "In [last year's local] elections, maybe 70 or 80 per cent of eligible Roma voters went to the polls, but many of their votes weren't counted because they had been improperly cast. "Some Roma, for example, can't read or write, so we explain what they can do, who they can go to for help," said Pollák, adding that an illiterate voter is permitted to take another eligible voter into the booth to offer assistance.

A key part of ensuring the Roma vote is counted, says Pollák, is getting representatives of Roma communities onto local election commissions - the ad hoc boards that oversee election administration at each individual polling place - to help Roma deal with literacy problems or other logistical difficulties. "Very few Roma have ever been on election commissions, and we are explaining how they can get on. We are also explaining how the commission works, how the elections work, what election officials can do when someone wants to vote but is not listed in the voter registry." said Pollák. Besides the mobilisation campaign for September's parliamentary elections, Pollák has also organised a training program for Roma who want to run in local government and regional parliamentary elections, scheduled for December.

This program, with 30 participants, is organised by the civic foundation Dôstojný ivot (Dignified Life) in the eastern Slovak town of Spiaská Nová Ves, whose district contains some of Slovakia's most notorious Roma settlements. "The first sessions were about law and how government works, who has what function in village and town administrations. Later we cover what people can accomplish as a member of regional or local government and related laws, so that if people run and are elected, they are ready to assume their function," explained Pollák, who is part of the training team. "In other sessions we talk about the basics of social work; we also talk about media and running a campaign because, of course people have to get elected before they can do anything. We teach potential candidates how to speak to voters and journalists, how to present themselves on television, for example."

Another NDI-backed program, Improving Participation of Roma Women in Public Life, is training 15 women in Spiaská and another 15 in eastern Slovak regional capital Koaice to take on leadership roles in their communit the community."
©The Slovak Spectator

Two Roma parties running for the September parliamentary elections are up for a tough contest this fall, with sceptics saying that an independent Roma party winning seats in the legislature is still years away. The fragmented and often changing Roma political scene has lead analysts as well as some Roma politicians to believe that a more effective way of helping the Roma population through national politics is by means of alliances with popular start-up or previously established political parties. Unlike the Hungarian minority, Slovakia's slightly smaller Roma population, estimated at 400,000, lives mostly in poorer regions of the country and has had little voice in influencing Slovak political life. Blame has been put on the political immaturity of Roma leaders, who for 12 years since the fall of communism have failed to unite Roma behind their movements.

However, mainstream parties have also been criticised for traditional pre-election efforts to lure Roma politicians into supporting their party colours, promising increased attention to Roma issues. These vows, however, remain unfulfilled in the eyes of the Roma community and even forgotten shortly after polls close on Election Day. "We won't be fooled by big parties again. We don't believe them anymore," said Ladislav Fízik, head of the Political Movement of Roma in Slovakia (Roma), which is running in September's parliamentary elections as one of two ethnic Roma parties. The second party is Roma Civil Initiative (ROI), established in 1990 and the oldest Roma party in Slovakia. But while both Fízik and ROI leaders believe that they can attract a five per cent election return in September, the quorum required to enter parliament, political analysts and experts on Roma issues say the belief is an illusion.

"They have zero chance," said Michal Vaaeèka, analyst on Roma issues with the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO). "Zero." He explained that even if all of Slovakia's Roma voted for one ethnic Roma party, the votes would not be enough to gain a place in parliament. Of the large Roma minority in Slovakia, only about half are eligible to vote, accounting for around 4 per cent of all eligible voters, Vaaeèka said. Added to that is the variety of living standard within Slovakia's Roma communities, with around 130,000 living in the poorest areas mainly in central and eastern parts of the country, and the rest living more or less integrated in villages, towns and cities. Addressing the needs of all would be a job impossible for a single party, Vaaeèka thought. A more realistic strategy would be joining influential mainstream parties, a move several Roma politicians and activists have made in the past, as well as in preparation for upcoming general elections. That, however, leaves Roma politicians vulnerable to the decisions of the larger parties on where to place Roma candidates on their parliamentary lists, as well the extent to which the parties will keep pre-election promises after getting into parliament.

Alexander Patkoló, head of the Slovak Roma Initiative (RIS) has thrown his hat in the ring with the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), which features him at 75th place on its 150-member candidate list, despite originally promising Patkoló a spot among the first 20 candidates. "I was assured by [head of HZDS Vladimír] Meèiar that whatever the result of the elections, I will sit in parliament," Patkoló said insisting that HZDS respected his opinions and that the biggest opposition party had an honest interest in solving Roma issues. Patkoló also said that he and other Roma politicians had supported the now-defunct Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) of Prime Minister Mikuláa Dzurinda in 1998 parliamentary elections, but have been disappointed in the current cabinet's policies towards Roma. The start-up New Citizen's Alliance (Ano) party lead by p calls their "naive conviction" that all Roma voters will vote Roma parties - Tibor Loran, vice-chair with the Council of Roma NGOs, thinks that their expectations are exaggerated. "These [Roma] parties are not standard political parties, they lack transparent election programs. This isn't enough. Not even for Roma from the poorest settlements. Chances are that those [mainstream parties] will prove that they'll try for greater participation of Roma in civil life," Loran said.
©The Slovak Spectator

Some 40,000 gypsies were expected to descend on a disused NATO air base in the eastern French village of Damblain from Tuesday for a religious gathering that has riled local officials. About 200 caravans set up camp on the tarmac at the 300-hectare (740-acre) site, putting out chairs and tables and spreading out laundry. Men cleaned their vehicles as children played between the cars, all under police scrutiny. Organizers said they expected 8,000 caravans, or a total of 40,000 people, to arrive in the coming days. Police are patrolling the area within a 40-kilometer (25-mile) radius of the base, and 200 riot police have been dispatched to the site with another 200-300 on the way, amid fears the meeting could spin out of control.

"An entire city is going to show up in a rural area that lacks the necessary infrastructure," said Vosges regional council vice-president Serge Essermeant. "We've passed regulations on rave parties that we deemed dangerous -- how can we allow this kind of meeting to take place?" Dozens of local officials, led by Essermeant, paraded through the streets of nearby Epinal last week to demand that the gathering be cancelled. No incidents were reported on Tuesday. The gypsies are members of Life and Light, a protestant evangelical group founded 50 years ago by a French minister that claims to have 100,000 faithful among France's 250,000-strong gypsy population, and 500,000 members in Europe.

Life and Light official Joseph Charpentier explained that convention participants -- mainly from France, but also from Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands -- were merely gathering to pray. "People are coming to unite around the word of God, they've come to demonstrate their faith," he said. But the new center-right government has taken aim at gypsy communities, with Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy vowing to crack down on their makeshift camps, possibly by confiscating their vehicles. He has also proposed that newly-created regional intervention groups -- made up of police, customs officials and tax agents -- exercise tighter control over gypsies. Charpentier rejected the criticisms, saying: "We want to restore the gypsy community's public image and show that we can meet without any problems." The installation of toilets, water sources and power was running on schedule and should be finished by Friday, he added.

From August 21, participants will meet for chants, dancing and prayers until August 25, when the group will perform adult baptisms. The event wraps up on August 31. "You'll see how beautiful it is," said one woman in her 60s, her eyes twinkling with excitement as she spoke about the "huge gypsy family" gathering in Damblain. It is the third time in a decade that the Life and Light group has organized a meeting at the former NATO base, after gatherings in 1994 and 1996. Last year's convention at a disused air base in Marville, northeastern France, attracted 30,000 followers. The interior ministry has ordered that the gathering be held at a different location each year through 2007 in a bid to appease irritated local officials. Life and Light operates mainly in Europe but had also spread into the United States, India and Latin America.
©The Tocqueville Connection

Immigration lawyers trying to prevent the deportation of an Afghan family have failed in a last minute attempt to block the government's plans. Farid and Feriba Ahmadi and their two children will now be flown to Germany - the country where they first applied to become refugees - in a specially chartered plane on Wednesday morning. Mr and Mrs Ahmadi had sought refuge at a mosque in Lye, near Stourbridge, West Midlands, but were forcibly removed by police who stormed the building. They have been held at Harmondsworth detention centre near Heathrow since the raid three weeks ago.

Mental health
Pierre Makhlouf, the family lawyer, mounted a number of legal challenges in an effort to allow the family to stay. The last legal move was a judicial review against deportation which concluded just after midnight on Wednesday with the judge ruling in favour of the Home Office. Mr Makhlouf had argued that sending the family back to Germany would be detrimental to the mental health of Mrs Ahmadi and the children. The children, aged four and six, have been made wards of court and cannot be named. He said: "They were very distressed when I told them, Mrs Ahmadi was distraught and crying. "Everyone in the campaign is very upset but they continue to support the family." A private plane has been chartered to fly the Ahmadis from Birmingham to Munich, at a cost believed to be about £60,000.

Religious bigotry
Authorities there have agreed not to return them to Afghanistan, but to find them a home on humanitarian grounds. Speaking from Harmondsworth, Mrs Ahmadi told the BBC World Service that she had been happy in Britain. "When they deport me to Germany, maybe something very bad will happen with my children and with me. "I'm so stressed at the moment." She added: "I know Germany is a good country, better than Afghanistan, but weare happy here." Mr Ahmadi, 33, a mechanic, and his 24-year-old wife, who wants to train as a nurse, arrived in Germany after they fled Taleban-controlled Afghanistan in 2000. Mr Ahmadi said he was tortured twice because he is the son of an army brigadier, prominent in the pre-Taleban regime. They arrived in Germany and spent seven months in asylum camps, where they claim they faced racism and religious bigotry.

'Emotional harm'
Mrs Ahmadi suffered two breakdowns and was admitted to hospital twice, say her supporters. Authorities there have agreed not to return them to Afghanistan, but to find them a home on humanitarian grounds. Elane Heffernan, from the Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers, said the family had come to Britain because their only relatives were here. "They thought this was a democratic and safe place to come but they were wrong," she said. "Psychological reports, which the Home Office accepted at the hearing last night, have shown they will suffer emotional and traumatic harm by returning to Germany. "Why are we doing this?"
©BBC News

The government has deported an Afghan family whose emotional bid for political asylum had become the focal point of an intensifying public debate over Britain's obligations and fears concerning immigrants and refugees. Farid and Feriba Ahmadi and their two young children were put aboard a chartered plane at a military air base Wednesday and flown to Germany, where they had made their first asylum claim after leaving Afghanistan two years ago. The Ahmadis said that they had fled repression under the country's Taliban rulers. Farid's father was a general during a previous government. But they found life in German asylum camps cold and alienating. They moved on to the English town of Lye, where they had friends and family. But in February, the authorities ordered them to return to Germany. Their case became prominent last month when news broadcasts showed police battering down the front door of a mosque where they had sought refuge and taking them into custody.

Their two children, ages 4 and 6, who were staying with friends, were seized Friday night when they went to visit their parents at a detention center near Heathrow Airport. Lawyers for the family made at least four appeals to Britain's high court seeking to overturn the deportation order. All were unsuccessful. In their last attempt, they said that Feriba Ahmadi had suffered two nervous breakdowns and that her condition would worsen if she were deported. "I spoke to them last night," Pierre Makhlouf, a lawyer for the family, said. "They were in tears, sobbing and crying. I tried to give them some encouragement, that the Germans have pledged to give them humanitarian status and that they wouldn't be sent back to Afghanistan, at least not for the moment. But they were distraught." He said the government's action had been designed "to send a message to the British public that the government is willing to be forceful and tough in enforcing immigration laws." Soraya Walton, a family friend, said on BBC radio: "They've used this family to make an example, to say to people: We don't want any asylum-seekers."

The Labour government has sought to walk a fine line between human rights advocates and those who fear that the country is being overrun. Recent polls indicate that Britons rank immigration as their second major source of concern, after the public health system. There are also concerns that terrorists have taken advantage of loose immigration laws to operate out of Britain. A spokeswoman for the Home Office, which handles immigration matters, denied that the government was cracking down on asylum-seekers. Because the Ahmadis had first applied for asylum in Germany, she said, they were not eligible to apply in Britain. "There was simply no legal basis for the family to stay here," she said.

Britain attracts more asylum-seekers than any other country in Europe, and it has a huge backlog of applicants. The government reported making 119,000 "initial decisions" on applicants last year, while 71,000 new asylum-seekers applied. Only 9,285 people were removed from the country after their appeals failed. Critics say thousands of asylum-seekers simply disappear into the population, while as many as 100,000 other immigrants enter the country illegally. Migration Watch UK, a private group that supports sharp curbs on immigration, warned recently that 2 million more immigrants could arrive in Britain over the next decade, a number the government disputes. The government has introduced legislation to tighten the laws and speed the processing of asylum applications. But critics say it is not enough. "If you have a real immigration policy and enforce it, people will be expelled," said Harriet Sergeant, author of a report on asylum policy for the Center for Policy Studies, a right-of-center research organization. "Up to now we haven't had one. A well-thought-out and well-broadcast poli ©International Herald Tribune

Norway's center-right coalition government called for a series of measures to combat racism and ethnic discrimination on Monday (July 2002), including stronger laws and economic punishment of companies convicted of illegal bias. The four-year action plan was presented nearly 18 months after the racially motivated murder of a black teen-ager in the Norwegian capital caused an anguished national debate over the problems of discrimination and racial hatred. "We are all responsible for fighting racism and discrimination," Justice Minister Odd Einar Doerum said. "The state has the main responsibility, but the authorities can't do it alone." The government listed 47 measures that will be proposed to parliament over the next four years. Those included laws allowing prosecution for use of racist and Nazi symbols, stripping government contracts from companies found guilty of discrimination and revoking liquor licenses from bars or restaurants for similar convictions.

Doerum also called for additional training for police and court officers and recruiting minorities. Anti-racism activists praised the effort but said the plan had too few concrete measures. "It is full of good intentions," said Nadeem Butt, leader of the Anti-Racism Center. "But there is too little concrete for such areas as work, housing and school." Of the 47 suggested measures 17 dealt with making changes to the police and justice system. "We have taken the criticism from citizens with a minority background seriously," Doerum said. This Scandinavian country of 4.5 million was shocked by the January 2000 murder of 15-year-old Benjamin Hermansen, an Oslo native with a Norwegian mother and an African father. Three neo-Nazis were convicted and sentenced to prison for the killing.

Thousands of people marched against racism after the killing, and minority groups began to tell of their struggles in daily life, in the job and housing markets, in nightlife and in dealing with the legal system. Norwegians were used to quiet isolation on the northern fringe of Europe. And even though the 140,000 residents of non-European origin foreign make up just 3 percent of Norway's population, it is a staggering increase on the 3,549 who lived here in 1970, according to government figures. After Benjamin's murder, the government set up a panel to recommend ways of combating racism and integrating groups into Norwegian society. Its March 2001 recommendations have been under review until now.

Climate change, language, and cultural survival are among the topics Inuit from around the world are gathering to discuss in a northern Quebec community. Close to 800 people have gathered in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik this week for the meeting of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference. The international organization has represented Inuit from Russia, Alaska, Greenland and Canada for 25 years. It now meets every four years to discuss issues that concern Inuit. Politicians, dignitaries, musicians, elders and youth began arriving over the weekend for the four-day event. In Kuujjuaq, workers raced to complete last-minute preparations to the community's new $9 million cultural centre. In the auditorium, throatsingers, drum dancers and dignitaries prepared for Monday's opening of the conference.

While the delegates come from different countries across the Arctic, they'll discuss concerns they have in common. Among the top concerns are preserving Inuit language and culture, trade and development between the regions, and the impact of climate change on the Inuit way of life. "We all have to talk about climate change," says Holman resident Joseph Haluksit. "We've been seeing changes for a long time now, earlier break up, it gets warm earlier and you know, different atmosphere." George Berthe is with Makivik Corporation in Nunavik. He's been to meetings of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference before. Berthe says the importance of the meetings go beyond the items on the agenda. "We've dealt a lot of issues, passed a lot of resolutions," he says. "But the most memorable events and things that happened to me at I.C.C. are making friends, creating dialogue with other regions and also after the meeting keeping those connections." Makka Kleist, an I.C.C. delegate from Greenland, says bringing Inuit together from around the circumpolar world is a key to survival. "It's our existence, it's a question about whether we want to exist for another 1,000 years or a couple of years," he says. "It's a question of far beyond what we can imagine right now."

Meetings of youth and elders from around the Arctic are also being held this week, as is a music festival each evening. Preparing for the conference has been a huge job for the town of 2,000. With space at a premium, the mayor of Kuujjuaq says people have moved out of their own homes to make everyone feel welcome. "People were very kind," says Michael Gordon. "Some families left their homes to live in either their cabin, their shack or their tent in order for I.C.C. to take the house for its use."

Judith Sehume, a 20-year-old high school senior, stood a block from the squat, red-brick Hector Pietersen Museum here. Scrunching her face in concentration, she confessed she couldn't recall who Pietersen was. In 1976, Pietersen became an icon and martyr for the struggle of black South Africans against the white apartheid regime when he was shot dead at the start of the anti-apartheid student uprising in Soweto. But, barely eight years after apartheid formally was ended, many young South Africans see the white-rule era as a history as distant as World War II — and as irrelevant to their present lives. Young South Africans' lack of knowledge and interest in their country's tortured past unnerves some of their elders.

"I'm taking commercial courses" at school, said Sehume. "I don't know a lot about history.'' Interviews with South Africans in their teens and 20s, educators and social observers reveal that younger South Africans view apartheid as a distant episode better left buried. "Apartheid is like AIDS, something you sort of tune out," said Monde Ncapai, 20, a first-year electrical engineering student at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. "Students here, whatever colour, we see each other as equals, unlike the previous generation. It's not an issue in our day-to-day life.'' "Apartheid is an old story," said Tshepo Litelu, 20, who was shopping at one of Johannesburg's upscale malls. "You dwell on that, it just turns you sour.''

Such attitudes gall Dumisani Ntshangase, who, as a 10-year-old, participated in the Soweto student uprising of 1976 that ignited the long anti-apartheid struggle. In June that year, students protested inferior education and the imposition on them of the Afrikaans language. Police fired on them, killing Pietersen. In the week of violence that followed, 176 people were killed. Ntshangase, 36, a doctoral student at the University of Witwatersrand, said he felt estranged from younger students over their lack of racial consciousness. "It's an alienating experience for someone of my generation," he said. "We grew up making that differentiation, thinking that holding on to our different identity was noble. How did we manage in such a short time to produce a generation that is oblivious of our history?''
©The Toronto Star

Officials in the French channel port of Cherbourg vowed Wednesday to fight human trafficking, after police detained a group of illegal Iraqi Kurd migrants who had been released just days before. "I am going to fight against this mafia of smugglers," Cherbourg Mayor Bernard Cazeneuve told AFP by telephone, promising to crack down on squats and other refuges for illegal migrants. The mayor's anger was sparked by the arrest on Tuesday of 18 Iraqi Kurds who hid aboard trucks in a bid to reach Britain, 16 of whom had been detained last week and released on a technicality. The refugees were carrying different identity papers and gave false names, but officials quickly recognized them as part of a group of more than 30 Iraqis evicted from a squat in Cherbourg last week. After their eviction, the group was taken to a detention center in the greater Paris area but quickly returned to Cherbourg by train after their release to make another attempt to get to Britain. Of the 18 detained on Tuesday, the 15 adults each were given a suspended fine of 1,000 euros (dollars), before the group was released Wednesday evening. Despite being barred from traveling once again to the border, the migrants risked being arrested for a third time, according to their lawyer, Thomas Baudry. More and more illegal migrants are testing their luck in Cherbourg, combing the port in the hopes of finding a spot on a truck that will take them to Britain, where many hope to seek political asylum. "We've fled the regime of (Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein, we're afraid and we don't want to go back," one of the refugees evicted from the Cherbourg squat told journalists last week. "For us, England is the land of liberty." Officials in Cherbourg said the number of migrants detained had jumped since March. Cazeneuve said he had received a letter from the interior ministry saying 80 migrants had been detained in Cherbourg by border police in two days, at the time when the illegal squat was discovered two weeks ago. The mayor said the situation had gotten worse since France and Britain reached a joint agreement to close the controversial Sangatte refugee camp near Calais, but Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy refuted that argument. Nonetheless, Cazeneuve was firm about his plans for putting an end to illegal immigration in his town, saying: "Will Cherbourg be the next Sangatte? Forget about it."
©The Tocqueville Connection

The UN's outgoing human rights commissioner, Mary Robinson, says she was prevented from continuing in the job because of pressure from the US, which she has accused of neglecting human rights during the war against terrorism. "I am not somebody just to walk away," Ms Robinson said. "If I had been hard-pressed, I would have stayed, [but] there seems to have been strong resistance from just one country." Her remarks came a week after the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, announced her replacement, a veteran Brazilian diplomat described yesterday as "somebody who doesn't run afoul of the big powers".

Ms Robinson, 57, a former Irish president and only the second person to hold the post of high commissioner for human rights, has been a vocal critic of the US since September 11 - not least over Washington's decision against granting prisoner of war status to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. "I believe that the emphasis has been on the war on terrorism, and that there has been a blurring of the edges and a lack of precision," Ms Robinson said in an interview with Reuters. "A lack of precision means a lack of protection." The climate had become "much more difficult for human rights", she said. Tension between the commissioner and the Bush administration pre-date military action in Afghanistan, and turned particularly rancorous over the world conference against racism in Durban, South Africa, which almost collapsed under the weight of a Syrian-led campaign for delegates to declare Israel a racist state. But this is the first time Ms Robinson has blamed Mr Annan's decision not to extend her tenure on lobbying by Washington.

Her replacement, Sergio Vieira de Mello, a career UN diplomat with a background in humanitarian relief and peacekeeping, seems certain to adopt a less outspoken style. "He's a very diplomatic operator, somebody who doesn't run afoul of the big powers," a UN official told the Guardian. "And somebody who is very effective in that way up to now." Asked if Mr Vieira de Mello was expected to avoid confrontation with the US, the official said: "The short answer is yes, and the long answer is yes." But a spokesman for the secretary general said Mr Annan had taken the decision not to reappoint Ms Robinson "independently". "It's not one state or one body of states saying this is what we want - otherwise, frankly, you'd have a very different-looking UN," he said.
©The Guardian

The bodies of 13 illegal immigrants have been found on the shoreline near the Spanish city of Tarifa. The group - eight from sub-Saharan Africa and five from north Africa - are believed to have drowned while trying to swim to shore. A police helicopter on an early morning patrol of the narrow strait between Spain and Morocco had previously spotted people in a boat. Southern Spain is known as a popular entry point into Europe for thousands of illegal immigrants. Last year Spain expelled or refused entry to nearly 45,000 immigrants, according to official statistics.

Human trafficking
A Spanish guard patrol came upon the bodies early on Thursday morning along a deserted stretch of coast near the town of Barranco Hondo. Two or three of dead were pregnant women, according to the police. Spain's Interior Minister, Angel Acebes, said the dead migrants were victims of human trafficking. "The people responsible for these deaths are only and exclusively the organised mafia networks that use human lives for their own benefit," he said. Army divers based in Ceuta, one of Spain's two enclaves on the Moroccan coast, are searching the waters for more victims. "We do not rule out finding more bodies," a police spokeswoman said. Shortly after the bodies were found, police arrested eight Africans further along the Tarifa coast. They may have been on the same boat as the 13 victims.

Dangerous gamble
The rocky shore at Tarifa is a popular entry point for thousands of illegal immigrants. Located on Spain's southern-most tip, the city is separated from Morocco by only the 14-kilometre ( 8.75-mile) wide Strait of Gibraltar. According to the Moroccan Workers and Immigrants Association in Spain, some 4,000 people have died or disappeared since 1997 in the Strait of Gibraltar and the Atlantic waters between Africa and Spain's Canary Islands. In February, 10 people died while trying to cross from Morocco into southern Spain. And on 24 July, another 14 people were declared missing, including a child whose parents later made it across the strait to Tarifa. The two Moroccans who smuggled that group into Spain were imprisoned and charged with involuntary homicide. The issue of illegal immigration has become a bone of contention between Spain and Morocco. The uneasy ties between the two countries erupted into crisis in July when Moroccan troops occupied the tiny disputed island of Perejil, which is claimed by Spain. Spain responded by sending its military to take the island by force.
©BBC News

'Everyone thinks this is the home of human rights. There are no right.'

In the early morning hours, the construction bosses come to the smoky cafes near the Gare du Nord train station. One day they might need a half-dozen bricklayers. The next day it might be painters. The workers are gathered together and driven to the construction site, then dropped off at the end of the day. They are all foreigners, part of a broad invisible economy that exists somewhere between the illegal and the ignored. They and possibly as many as 3 million more across Europe work in restaurants, on farms and at construction sites, doing jobs that pay little but often require the kind of heavy lifting that many Europeans now shun. As many European countries put up new barriers against what is increasingly perceived as an invasion of immigrants, little thought is being given to how Europe's envied standard of living has come to depend on the manpower the illegal workers provide - or how it might fall if immigration were curtailed.

"There is a lot of hypocrisy," said Jean-Philippe Chauzy, a spokesman for the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration. "The jobs are there, and they basically act as a magnet. It's like a horse and carriage - you can't have one without the other." He noted that there was talk of keeping illegal workers out, but not of cracking down on people who employ illegal workers. To do that, he said, would not be "a vote-winner." The sans papiers,as those without legal immigration papers are referred to in France, come from as close as Eastern Europe and Turkey, and as far away as Central Asia and the former French colonies of West Africa. They enjoy none of the workers' rights and protections or social benefits of the state. They are paid less than the legal wage, and are often paid late, with no legal recourse. And although many have lived and worked in France for years, they have no right to vote or even complain openly about their condition.

"The immigrants do all the heavy work in France, but they don't get what they deserve," said Yashar, a man in his twenties who said he came two years ago from Turkey's Black Sea coast and works in restaurants and at other odd jobs. "It's a great injustice." "They leave us here, but they don't give us papers - they exploit us," said Kahraman, a 30-year-old Turk sporting a black leather jacket in a crowded cafe thick with cigarette smoke and the scent of strong Turkish tea. "The bosses who make us work don't pay taxes." "Everyone thinks this is the home of human rights," he said. "There are no rights. There's no right to work, no right to food. I can't send money to my family. Where are the human rights?" Kamel Abichou, 37, a Tunisian, has fake papers. He works each day in catering for a total of 131 hours a month. He is sure his employers know he is here illegally, and use that knowledge to benefit. He is always paid late, he said, and two or three hours of work are regularly "forgotten." He is always asked to stay later than others. Abichou belongs to no union, and he said he never complained for fear of losing his job. There are no real figures on how many illegal immigrants live and work in France without papers, but the numbers are probably in the hundreds of thousands, and in the millions throughout Europe.

"The difference between the United States and Europe is that the U.S. has developed a lot of methodology to count the illegals," said Jean-Pierre Garson, a researcher on migration issues for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which groups 30 affluent countries. Immigration experts often quote an educated guess of about 3 million migrants living and working in the 15 countries of the European Union. The only solid figure is how many people took advantage of an amnesty that five European countries offered in the 1990s; then, a total of 1.5 mil highly sought-after skills. But most of the people coming to Europe have lesser skills or none at all. Their presence has prompted a popular backlash in many countries, helping to create strong gains at the ballot box for far-right, anti-immigrant political parties that blame the newcomers for rising crime and unemployment. In the Netherlands, a new government has taken power after a huge popular outpouring for the anti-immigration political maverick Pim Fortuyn, who was assassinated the week before May elections. The new government that was formed after the vote is promising curbs on immigration. In Denmark as well, the government has instituted new curbs on migrants.

In France, President Jacques Chirac used his Bastille Day speech on July 14 to promise to speed up the processing of asylum applications. That would be a significant change, because many foreigners who get into France from outside the EU turn themselves in to authorities and claim they were politically persecuted in their homelands. While they wait for their applications to be processed, they are allowed to live freely, but they have to support themselves. And so, lacking papers, they take jobs in the underground economy. Processing those claims takes about 18 months and sometimes much longer; Chirac said he wants it done in a month. The logic is that this would mean fewer people working illegally. Under the current confusion, even if an asylum seeker is rejected, as happens 90 percent of the time, he or she has already put down roots and usually never leaves. Of the people turned down, about 70 percent simply vanish into French society. Some asylum seekers call Chirac's declaration good news. Demba Sow, 42, a Senegalese who won the right to stay in France five years ago, said: "This will represent a sea change for people waiting for papers. It will enable them to come and go on the French soil. And above all, work legally." However, many migrants and their advocates fear that speeding up the asylum process could lead to hasty decisions that could result in refugees who truly need protection being sent back to their home countries. Some migrant advocates say that legalizing the status of the sans papiers is the way to go. "A migrant who is illegal cannot integrate," said Chauzy, the spokesman for the immigration advocacy group in Geneva. "He or she is forced into the underground economy." And that, he said, is "probably the best way to fuel xenophobia and resentment against foreigners."
©International Herald Tribune

The Home Office united with campaign groups yesterday to dismiss an assertion that more than 2 million migrants will arrive in the UK over the next decade. The figure was produced in a report by Migration Watch UK, founded by Sir Andrew Green, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Syria, and David Coleman, a demographer from Oxford University. Set up in December last year, the group describes itself as an independent thinktank that has "no political axe to grind" and is funded by the public. "We are producing what we hope is the best description of the [migration into the UK] situation," said Sir Andrew yesterday. He added: "We do not believe the present situation is either sustainable or in the interests of any group in our society." The research combines government statistics with estimates by the group itself of figures such as the number of illegal entrants. Sir Andrew said that the key figure on which Migration Watch UK based its findings - 180,000 immigrants a year - came "straight out of a Home Office document".

A Home Office spokeswoman flatly denied that the group's figures were accurate and said the country was likely to see net migration of around 135,000 people a year - a far cry from the 200,000 claimed by Migration Watch UK, which would equate to a city the size of Cambridge. "The figures in the report are an overestimate," she said. "They include returning British citizens, for example, as well as people who are not settling here permanently." Tauhid Pasha, of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: "David Coleman's report at the very best should be treated with scepticism, and at worst is scaremongering." The council dismissed Migration Watch's claim that only 27% of asylum seekers were granted asylum or special leave to remain, saying the real figure was just over 50%.

Sir Andrew said yesterday: "Let's not close down the debate by talking about scaremongering or racism... Even if they were all paragons, 2 million people would be a problem. "Unless reasonable, rational people address these issues, you leave the field wide open to a bunch of extremists, and we are strongly opposed to that." The BNP has welcomed the creation of Migration Watch. Sir Andrew is chairman of the British charity Medical Aid for Palestinians, and a board member of Christian Solidarity Worldwide. He became interested in migration issues when principal adviser on the Middle East to the foreign secretary, and his efforts to remove from Britain what he saw as Islamic extremists were frustrated by the courts. Dr Coleman, the group's consultant, has repeatedly criticised immigration rates.
©The Guardian

500,000 residents remain foreigners after collapse of Soviet Union

Latvia Aleksandra Matrosova was 18 when she arrived here in 1944 to work as a nurse in the Latvian Brigade of the Soviet army. Now 76, she is still not a citizen in the place where she has lived most of her life. She speaks little of the new state language, Latvian, and is prohibited by law from using her native one, Russian, in any official way. "They said, 'We'll turn you into a Latvian citizen,"' she said, recalling the heady days when Latvia regained its independence as the Soviet Union collapsed. "Instead they've turned me into an occupier."

Latvia has progressed almost unimaginably in the decade since it threw off the yoke of Soviet domination. Its economy is growing, tourism is developing and the immaculately restored, cobblestoned capital is a pulsing, increasingly cosmopolitan center of arts and commerce. It is on the verge of membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the EU. Even so, Latvia still struggles with one of the most divisive legacies of its Soviet past:
how to integrate thousands of non-Latvians who were left here when the Soviet Union disappeared. A decade after independence, more than one in five of the 2.4 million people who live here have not been made citizens. Most are Russians, but there are also Ukrainians, Belarussians and others who settled here during nearly 50 years of Soviet rule. They were allowed to remain as "noncitizens," but denied the right to vote or travel as freely as citizens. They also cannot work in a variety of jobs, including almost every public or government position, even in towns where Russian speakers are the majority of the population.

"The main thing is your dignity," said Viktor Yolkin, 25, an ethnic Russian who runs a youth club in Latvia. "You feel somehow like a second-class citizen." The status of Latvia's noncitizens remains a significant irritant in relations with Russia, of course, but the issue is also a concern for NATO and the Union. In recent months, representatives of both organizations have pressed Latvia's government to speed up naturalizations and ease the strict language laws, which impose fines for violation as high as $170. In May, under unusually public pressure from NATO, Parliament dropped a provision that required candidates for political office to speak a high level of Latvian. Latvian officials strongly defend the laws on citizenship and language. They say they are necessary remedies for decades of Soviet repression of Latvians, their language and their culture. "The easiest thing to do would be to create a process that gives citizenship automatically," Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins said. "But you have to create a mentality of citizenship. What we need are Latvian patriots."

Along with Lithuania and Estonia, Latvia suffered horribly during the 20th century. Once a part of czarist Russia, it won independence after World War I only to lose it again when the Soviet Union occupied the three countries in 1940 under the notorious Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany. A year later the Nazis and Latvian fighters drove out the Soviet army, but the Soviets returned, deporting thousands of Latvians to Siberia and imposing Russian as the dominant language of life and politics. After independence, Latvia granted citizenship to anyone who lived in Latvia before June 17, 1940, the day the Soviet Union first occupied the country, or their descendants, as well as children born in the newly independent Latvia. In 1995, facing criticism from the West as well as Russia, Parliament amended the constitution to allow naturalization of noncitizens. Since then only 55,000 noncitizens have become citizens. Others died or emigrated. At the beginning of the year, 523,000 people remained noncitizens, most of them ethnic Russians. The number applying for citizenship each year has started to decline, with l ©International Herald Tribune

The French government Tuesday outlawed an ultra right-wing group linked to the man whotried to assassinate President Jacques Chirac, but the organization vowed it would return in another guise.Paris adopted a decree breaking up the Radical Unity group in accordance with a 1936 law prohibiting theexistence of militia organizations that provoke violence, racial discrimination or ethnic hatred.Maxime Brunerie, the 25-year-old who tried to shoot Chirac with a .22-caliber rifle during the Bastille day parade here on July 14, was involved with various right-wing and neo-Nazi groups including Radical Unity. Last week he was placed under investigation for attempted assassination and is in police custody pending a possible trial.

"The protection of peace and public order imposed the disbanding of this grouping," a government spokesman quoted Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy as saying. "Radical Unity advocates, notably through its publications, a basic hostility to all forms of immigration, and its ideology is founded in the exaltation of the white race and hatred of foreigners, especially directed at the Jewish and Arab communities," Sarkozy said. The decree goes into effect once it is published in the government's official gazette. But Fabrice Robert, one of Radical Unity's two leaders, vowed the group would be relaunched within weeks, "with a movement that is wider in scope, legal and registered". "You can ban an organization but not men and their ideas," Robert told AFP by telephone. Radical Unity, created in June 1998, is a 2,000-strong umbrella group that operates on the extremist fringes of France's mainstream far-right parties and is unapologetically racist, anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant.

Following the attempt on Chirac's life, the group attempted to distance itself from Brunerie but nonetheless posted a message of support for him on its website the day after his arrest. In a failed bid to head off the government decree, Radical Unity said in a written statement last week that it was not a paramilitary group -- the type of organization targeted by the 1936 statute. Civil rights associations, who had called for the disbanding of Radical Unity and a ban on its website, hailed the government's decision, taken at the last cabinet meeting before August holidays. The International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) urged the government to build on its ban of Radical Unity by hitting out at similar groups. "There are other disturbing organizations like Radical Unity. They have to be rooted out and we shouldn't have to wait for a serious incident for that to happen," said LICRA's deputy leader, Richard Serero. But League of Human Rights president Michel Tubiana warned the move was not enough, saying: "It's not by banning a movement that one can ban ideas from flourishing." A Paris court is due to rule on Thursday on a petition filed by two civil rights groups asking that Radical Unity's website be shut down.

A message on the site, still up and running on Tuesday, urged members not to lose faith, but acknowledged: "This is probably the last commentary that will appear at this address, and the last in the name of Radical Unity." Since World War II, several dozen organizations have been disbanded in France, including far-right groups during the brutal war of independence in Algeria and Trotskyist organizations following the May 1968 protests. Under late Socialist president Francois Mitterrand in the 1980s, several Corsican nationalist groups and the Basque separatist group Iparretarak were also broken up. Radical Unity's members have expressed frustration with France's best-known far-right party, Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front, and have instead been drawn to the rival National Republican Movement of Le Pen's former deputy Bruno Megret. Brunerie stood for Megret's party in municipal elections last year.
©The Tocqueville Connection

A French court has ordered that the website of an ultra far-right group linked to the man who allegedly tried to assassinate President Jacques Chirac be shut down. The ruling is the result of a complaint lodged by the Union of French Jewish Students (UEJF) and the anti-racism group J'Accuse, which requested the ban on Radical Unity's website on the grounds that it violates French laws against the incitement of hatred and racial violence. The group has been linked to Maxime Brunerie, the man arrested for trying to shoot at Mr Chirac at the annual Bastille Day parade. Radical Unity has two days to comply with the ruling, after which it will face a fine of 5,000 euros ($4,850) a day. The decision comes two days after the French Government voted to disband the far-right group. On Tuesday, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy justified the government's decision to outlaw the group as necessary for "the protection of peace and public order". The judge said the site displayed evidence of anti-Semitism on a number of its pages.

Web message
Mr Brunerie allegedly posted a message on another website, run by the British neo-Nazi group Combat 18, which the two associations said was linked to the Radical Unity website. The message urged users to watch television on the day of the shooting, although it did not spell out Mr Brunerie's intention to shoot the president. Mr Brunerie was put under criminal investigation last week, after psychiatrists said he was mentally fit for trial. He is said to have a number of links to far-right organisations, standing as a local election candidate for the National Republican Movement (MNR), an offshoot of Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front. French police also said Mr Brunerie had taken part in several far-right demonstrations since 1997 and that "extremist propaganda of a neo-Nazi" nature had been found at his home in Courcouronnes near Paris.
©BBC News

Gurbux Singh, the chairman of the commission for racial equality (CRE), has resigned today after admitting to a public order offence at Bow Street magistrates court. Mr Singh, 51, who was involved in a confrontation with police last month outside Lord's cricket ground, was fined £500 and ordered to pay £55 costs. In an incident following a one-day international between India and England - which India won with three balls to spare - Mr Singh had waved his fists at police officers and told them: "I'll have your jobs. Do you know who I am?" In a statement released after the court hearing today, Mr Singh told of his "deep regret" at the incident, and announced his resignation. He said: "I have today stepped down as chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality. I have decided to do so in order that a line can be drawn under recent events. I also believe this to be in the best interests of both the CRE and race relations in general. "I have communicated my decision to the Home Office and my departure is by mutual consent."

William Boyce QC, representing Mr Singh, told the court that his client was a man of honour and integrity. He said: "He deeply feels he has let himself down and others. He is a defendant who will punish himself far more seriously than the court can or will, and will continue to punish himself. He will never forget today." He continued: "He is selfless in the service of others, a man of honour and integrity and has taken what the court may feel is an admirable position. He intends to step down as chairman of the commission for racial equality." Mr Boyce said Mr Singh had already been punished by himself and the circumstances and was "now unemployed". He invited the district judge, Nicholas Evans, to consider a conditional discharge. The judge gave Mr Singh credit for his guilty plea and for apologising in full to the police officers. But handing down a £500 fine plus £55 costs, he said: "This was disgraceful behaviour for a long period of time."

Mr Singh, who was born in the Punjab region of northern India, had been headhunted for the £120,000-a-year CRE post by the former home secretary, Jack Straw. He has played a leading role in race relations since his appointment in May 2000. Much of his role in running the CRE, which has an annual budget of more than £16m, has focused on the government's drive against "institutional racism" in the wake of the inquiry into the racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. A number of high-profile supporters were in court to see Mr Singh sentenced. Among them was the MP Peter Bottomley, who said outside: "Gurbux Singh has set an example to people in public life. He acknowledged what he had done wrong, even though this made prosecution inevitable. "That is the sign of a good and big-hearted man. Although leaving the CRE may have been inevitable, it's a penalty which many others in public service have never been asked to pay. "I hope Gurbux Singh will be used by the public services as someone who can help them to make this country non-racialist, so that the colour of someone's skin is no more or less important than that of their eyes and hair. I think the Metropolitan police should employ him." Baroness Flather, who was a commissioner at the CRE from 1980 to 1986, said: "I'm very distressed because I think this is one occasion where police should have exercised discretion." Another peer, Baroness Howells, said: "He had too much to drink and made a mistake but he paid the ultimate price. "I think he's sorry but knowing Gurbux, he's devastated, A that it happened, and B that he had to be charged in a magistrates court."
©The Guardian

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), together with the Athens-based non-governmental organisation, the Greek Helsinki Monitor, has filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights against Greece, arising out of an incidence of police violence against Roma in Mesolonghi, Greece, in May 1998. The incident involved two young Romani men who were arrested for allegedly attempting to break into a kiosk. They were taken to the Mesolonghi police station and interrogated. During the interrogation, both were severely beaten by the police. A forensics report, issued the following day by Dr. Orfeas Perides, a regional forensics expert, indicated that both young men bore "moderate bodily injuries caused in the past 24 hours by a blunt, heavy instrument."

An internal Sworn Administrative Inquiry concluded that two officers, Police Lieutenant Apostolos Tsikrikas (Chief Commander of the Security Department) and Lieutenant Andreas Avgheris (Deputy Commander of the Security Department) had treated the applicants "with particular cruelty during their detention." The report also established that Officer Tsikrikas physically abused both of the young men and that Officer Avgheris has struck one of the men with a truncheon intensely several times. Although the Sworn Administrative Inquiry recommended both officers be temporarily suspended from service, that was never done.

At the conclusion of a criminal investigation into the matter two years later, the Misdemeanors Prosecutor of Mesolonghi recommended that three of the police officers be tried for causing bodily harm. Despite this recommendation, the three-judge Misdemeanor Judges Indictment Chamber dropped the criminal charges against two of the officers and indicted only Officer Tsikrikas. The Appeals Court of Patras, ignoring the testimony of the two Romani men, the findings of the Sworn Administrative Inquiry, and the results of the Mesolonghi Public Prosecutor's investigation, went on to acquit Officer Tsikrikas of the charges.

The applicants have now taken their case to the European Court of Human Rights, alleging violations of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment), Article 13 (lack of an effective legal remedy), and Article 14 (discrimination), in conjunction with Articles 3 and 13. They are seeking a finding that the Greek government has violated its obligations under the European Convention and just compensation.
©European Roma Rights Center

While praising Canada's overall human rights record, a UN committee has reminded Ottawa of the inequalities encountered by Aboriginal peoples, African-Canadians and other minorities. And the committee heard that immigrants and refugees in Canada face the risk of being unfairly branded as criminals and terrorists in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks last year. The issues came up in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday when Canada presented its status reports to the 18-member UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Canada is the first of 11 countries to be examined by the panel, in session until Aug. 23.

Experts on the committee questioned the Canadian delegation on Canada's measures to promote the human rights of its citizens and guarantee equality in employment and education. While satisfied with Canada's overall record, the experts were critical on several matters relating to the treatment of minorities and newcomers. Summing up the two days of spirited debate, Kurt Herndl, the Austrian expert on the committee who served as country rapporteur to the reports of Canada, pointed to problems affecting Aboriginals, African-Canadian and immigrant communities in the country. "There is the problem of continuing land claims," Herndl said. "There is the problem of the deaths in custody, especially of Aboriginal people. There is the problem of access to the justice system." "It is recognized that there is an unreasonably high proportion of African-Canadians in detention," he said. Noting the "wage gaps" between citizens and immigrants, Herndl said the poverty rate among migrants is higher than the rest of the population and that migrant children have less educational opportunities than Canadians.

Norman Moyer, head of the Canadian delegation and an assistant deputy minister at the Canadian Heritage department, said in an interview that the delegation appreciated the experts' observations that were made "in a sensitive and sensible way." "These are issues that are already being worked on in Canada," Moyer said. "They are not drawing to our attention areas that we haven't already thought of and begun to work on. It's at best a process of reminding and pushing (us) to go further." The official delegation defended Canada's record and told the UN committee that the Canadian government is "deeply committed to the eradication of racial discrimination" and has enacted measures over the years to fight discrimination and intolerance domestically and internationally.

For the first time, Canadian non-governmental organizations attended the committee session and submitted their own reports. They included Amnesty International Canada, the African Canadian Legal Clinic of Toronto and the National Anti-Racism Council of Canada. Danielle Koster, a director with Amnesty International in Canada, complained that since Sept. 11, the government has been doing little to combat "some of the stereotypes of refugees, that they are terrorists and criminals." "People are concerned. We have to make sure there's a balance between security and making sure that it's real security, that it's not security at the expense of human rights." Koster also mentioned the disproportionately large number of Aboriginals and African-Canadians who end up in jail. Despite the concerns expressed, the two-day session was marked by a generally friendly atmosphere and interest for a constructive dialogue. "I think the knowledge that we gained is positive," said Margaret Parsons, executive director of the African Canadian Legal Clinic. "It gives us hope to go home being able to hold the Canadian government accountable and responsible for certain measures in terms of the eradication and elimination of racism." The UN committee's job is to monitor implementation by the 162 countries that are party to the 1969 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

'A bizarre waste of time': Officials grilled over 'discrimination' against blacks, Chinese and natives

Allegations that Canada discriminates against blacks, Chinese and aboriginal Canadians were discussed yesterday by the United Nations committee on the elimination of racial discrimination.
Canada yesterday appeared before a United Nations committee on the elimination of racial discrimination to defend itself against allegations that racial injustices persist against black, Chinese and aboriginal Canadians, and that immigrants do not earn as much as people born in the country. At the same hearing in Geneva, committee members told Canadian officials Ottawa was wrong to resist giving the UN the power to rule on individual complaints of racism in Canada. Forty-one countries, including Australia, France and Germany, have handed the committee jurisdiction over individual complaints. But the United States and the United Kingdom are among countries that, like Canada, prefer domestic courts to deal with allegations of racism. This is the old story of [the balance between] freedom of expression and the suppression of hate propaganda," said Kurt Herndl, a retired Austrian diplomat who serves on the 18-member committee as co-ordinator for reports on Canada.

Canadian officials noted, however, that committee rulings on cases brought by individuals from other countries have leaned farther toward suppressing free speech than Canada is ready to tolerate, even though Canada itself is moving in that direction with progressively tougher anti-racism laws. "We would prefer to see, at this stage, individual complaints handled through Canadian human rights tribunals and commissions," said Norman Moyer, an assistant deputy minister with Heritage Canada, who headed the Canadian delegation.

The committee meets twice a year to review the anti-racism record of up to a dozen of the 162 countries that have adopted the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, enacted in 1969. It grilled Canada, which ratified the treaty in 1970, after receiving 200 pages of government reports about Ottawa's performance, and numerous other submissions from human rights and community activist groups. Canada has some of the toughest anti-racism laws in the world, but submits to such grillings because it "believes that the world community will be gradually moved along if we and other countries support the processes," Mr. Moyer said. He echoed Sheila Copps, Minister of Canadian Heritage, by adding that Canada also learns from the criticism of others. "It allows us to look at our work objectively and to improve our initiatives," Ms. Copps said in a press release.

Other commentators feel Canada and the UN could be spending their time more productively. "It seems like a bizarre waste of time, when so many people of so many colours and ethnic groups are being oppressed in so many places, for the UN to be scrutinizing a country that clearly lives under the rule of law," said Fred McMahon, director of the Centre for Trade and Globalization Studies with the Fraser Institute in Vancouver. The committee highlighted allegations of increased discrimination against black Canadians, who number about 525,000 among Canada's 30-million population. The Canadian delegation said the government had begun meeting with members of the black community to "explore their special circumstances." A problem of prejudice against the Chinese remained unresolved, the committee continued, referring to a head tax imposed by Canada on Chinese immigrants at the end of the 19th century. Some survivors are suing the government for compensation, prompting the Canadian delegation to tell the committee the issue was before the courts.

Several committee members spoke out about land rights for aboriginal Canadians. The delegation said government grants help natives fund land-claims research. The committee charged th relatives of Canadian residents take a little longer to do so, while refugees take the longest. Regis de Goutte, a French magistrate who serves on the committee, said Canada's recent laws limiting expression on the Internet showed it is ready to limit free speech. "That shows they have accepted there are exceptions to freedom of speech and so should allow individual complaints to be heard by the committee," he said.
© National Post

Officials in Cherbourg have said they are worried that their town could become the focus for asylum seekers wanting to reach Britain. The fears follow the decision to close down the Sangatte refugee camp near Calais. The mayor of Cherbourg has written to the French interior minister to express his concern after three dozen refugees, believed to be Iraqis, were found squatting in a municipal building. The discovery has put the authorities in Cherbourg on alert. In his letter to the interior minister, the town's mayor said he was concerned that the decision to close the Sangatte camp would mean that asylum seekers trying to reach Britain would increasingly come to other channel ports, such as his.

Route to UK
The refugees - aged between 15 and 30 - were found in a disused municipal building at the end of last week. It is thought they had travelled from Iraq, via Turkey and Germany - and were heading towards the UK. Last month the British and French governments announced the Sangatte Red Cross centre, near Calais, would close before the end of next March - on condition that Britain tightened its immigration laws.
©BBC News

French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen on Wednesday cried foul after municipal officials in two different cities blocked his National Front from staging its annual summer seminar in their backyards. "Our freedom of expression has continued to shrink in the face of pressure from our political adversaries, especially since we showed we were the country's second political force in the presidential elections," Le Pen said. The far-right firebrand shocked the country by qualifying for the decisive presidential run-off in April with nearly 17 percent of the vote, eliminating then Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin from the race. French President Jacques Chirac defeated Le Pen in a landslide on May 5, but city officials in Pau and Annecy seem loath to give the National Front any opportunity to spread its anti-immigrant, anti-Europe platform on their soil. The party's summer seminar was first set to take place in the southwestern city of Pau, but Socialist Mayor Andre Labarrere refused, citing construction problems but admitting he could not sanction the event. Party officials then turned to the Alps town of Annecy, where it had already held meetings in 1992 and 1993, and signed a contract in early July with a hotel that agreed to handle the four-day event in late August. But center-right mayor Bernard Bosson later vetoed it, saying it could not take place at the hotel, as it was located in a public park. The National Front was also forced to cancel its end-of-summer "Blue, White, Red" bash -- named for the colors of the French flag -- as the wooded site in the Bois de Vincennes outside Paris is hosting a circus at that time. One party official suggested the cost of the party was prohibitive, but spokesman Bruno Gollnisch said finances had not significantly affected the decision, criticizing Paris officials for not offering an alternative site.
©The Tocqueville Connection

New freedoms and better quality of life are said to be threatened

After more than a decade of celebrating the births of dozens of new democracies, the United Nations warns this week that democratic gains risk being reversed in many countries as authoritarian leaders manipulate elections and millions lose faith in democratic systems. In dozens of nations, a democratic culture that allows room for political opposition, a free press and robust citizens' action groups is failing to develop or is being stifled, a report to be released Wednesday concludes. The study, "Human Development Report 2002: Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World," also found that economic slowdowns in many countries add to a popular perception that democracies cannot improve living conditions.

"Since 1980, 81 countries have moved into the democratic column, and indeed some 33 military governments have been replaced by civilian governments," said Mark Malloch Brown, administrator of the United Nations Development Program, which published the report. In comments to reporters last week, he added that 140 of about 200 countries have held multiparty elections. "The concern is that one multiparty election does not a democracy make," he said. "The international cheerleaders for democracy have underestimated what it takes to build a functioning, properly rooted democracy."

The United Nations Development Program's annual Human Development Report was created in 1990 to measure the progress of nations not in dry economic statistics but in the lives of ordinary citizens. Over the objections of some governments, in rich as well as poor countries, the report has become increasingly pointed in its criticisms of political chicanery, corruption and human rights abuses. The critical trend has been encouraged under Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The report ranks countries by quality of life, based largely on life expectancy, education and personal incomes. This year Norway ranks first, as it did last year, followed by Sweden, Canada, Belgium, Australia and the United States. The countries at the bottom of the index are all in sub-Saharan Africa: Sierra Leone, where life expectancy stands at barely 39 years, is worst, followed by Niger, Burundi, Mozambique and Burkina Faso. The report is scheduled to be posted online at www.undp.org. The report concluded that although a majority of the world's people live in at least nominal democracies, in 106 countries political freedoms and civil rights are limited, and civil wars within countries since 1990 have cost 3.6 million lives. About 2.8 billion of the world's 6 billion people live on less than $2 a day. More than 60 countries have lower per capita incomes now than they did in 1990.

"Democracy doesn't seem to be responding to the real agenda of the world's poor," Malloch Brown said. The report says that money politics serving special interest groups is of concern to voters in democracies as divergent as the United States, where corporate contributions rose to $1.2 billion in the 2000 election, and India, where 80 percent of funds for major political parties in a 1996 election came from large corporations. Voter turnout seems to be declining everywhere, the report found. Polls often show a dwindling confidence in democracy and the free market, most recently in Latin America, the report said. The failure of rich nations to expand free trade rapidly enough to make a difference to struggling economies is a factor in this, United Nations officials say. Sometimes, the report found, new democratic hopes unmet by elected governments lead to public disgust for the system and regression to military rule. Experts often cite Pakistan, where corrupt and inefficient elected governments in the 1990s were exposed and hammered by a free press. So there was little public opposition when General Pervez Musharraf seized power in 1999. More recently in Zimbabwe, a suspect electio ©International Herald Tribune

For a while, Fadime Sahindal seemed an ideal symbol of second-generation immigrant success in a country that prides itself on its openness and tolerance. She spoke fluent Swedish, had a Swedish boyfriend and believed that foreigners should adapt to Swedish culture. Last year, she spoke passionately in Parliament about the difficulties of being a young Turkish woman pressing for Western-style independence against the wishes of her deeply traditional parents. But it was this very desire for independence that provoked her father into a rage so great that he killed her in January, turning her into the tragic emblem of a European society's failure to bridge the gap in attitudes between its own culture and those of its newer arrivals.

As Sweden prepares for national elections this fall at a time of rising anti-immigrant sentiments across Europe, the case has hardened many Swedes' attitudes toward non-Nordic immigrants, who make up about 9 percent of the population. Rightist parties want to require immigrants to conform more thoroughly to Swedish customs with language lessons, citizenship tests and the like. "It's hard to say what Swedish society should do," said Marianne Broddesson, the treasurer of Terrafem, a support network for immigrant women. "It has to do with the whole social situation in the country, and it's very, very complicated. It has to do with segregation, doesn't it? - with people who don't want to enter into Swedish society, and who don't realize that their kids are growing up here. But how do you tell people to become more Swedish?"

By all accounts, Fadime's father, Rahmi Sahindal, had little interest in becoming Swedish. Originally from a small Kurdish village, he moved to Sweden with his family - five daughters and one son - in search of better prospects. At the time of the relocation, Fadime was 11. Neither Rahmi Sahindal nor his wife learned to speak Swedish. Instead, they clung hard to their Kurdish identity, living as part of a patriarchal clan of some 400 emigrants from the same region. Authority was vested in a network of male relatives, and the concept of honor - to the family, and to tradition - was all-important. Fadime's two older sisters both married first cousins from back home. But Fadime, as she is universally known in Sweden now, refused to enter into such an arrangement. Instead, in the late '90s, she secretly began dating a Swede named Patrick. But her father, who worked in a dry cleaner's, once saw the couple holding hands and exploded with anger.

"Fadime said she knew from that instant that she could never live with her family again, that she could never be secure again," said Leiff Ericksson, one of Sweden's best-known lawyers, who represented Fadime after her father threatened her. She moved north, returning home only to fetch her possessions under police escort. Her father - and her brother, who now hated her with all-consuming passion, family members say - continued to threaten her over the telephone. She went to the authorities, who decided to prosecute. The case received a great deal of publicity, and the trial became the subject of a television documentary. Television cameras recorded, too, how Mesud Sihandal, Fadime's brother, tried to attack her during a break in the trial. The father was ordered to pay a fine. The brother, 17, received a suspended jail sentence.

Fadime then prepared to defy her family again, by returning from the north to move in with her boyfriend. But in a sad twist to a very sad tale, Patrick was killed in a car accident two weeks after the trial ended. Several days later, Fadime's brother attacked her in an Uppsala street, beating her so badly that she was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. In the subsequent trial, Mesud, who had a criminal record, testified in court that Fadime was a "whore." "I asked him in court, 'You say that Fadime has dishonored the family, and what hav woman who has been plagued by psychiatric problems for most of her 24 years. The sisters spoke often, and it was at Songul's Uppsala apartment that Fadime was killed. At least three people saw Rahmi Sihandal shoot his 26-year-old daughter that January day - Fadime's mother, a teenage sister and Songul. "At the hospital, the doctors said that Fadime was dead," Ericksson said. "At that point, one of her older sisters phones a male member of the family, in Songul's presence, and says, 'The whore is dead now.'"
©International Herald Tribune

An uncompromising voice for human rights

Mary Robinson, whose successor as UN human rights commissioner has been named as Brazilian Sergio Vieira de Mello, has had a sometimes controversial spell in office. Mrs Robinson, a former president of Ireland, won the praise of human rights advocates. But she angered governments around the world with her outspoken and uncompromising criticism of their human rights records. In March 2002 she announced that she would not be seeking a second term. The events of 11 September and their aftermath have done nothing to divert the direct approach for which she has become famous. Flying in the face of the so-called coalition against terrorism, she made a vocal plea for a pause in the US bombing of Afghanistan to allow in more food aid. She also stated bluntly that Afghans who abuse the rights of captured Taleban forces should be barred from any future administration.

One more year
The international community was taken by surprise last March when the former Irish president announced she would not be seeking a second term. Appointed in 1997, she was only the second High Commissioner for Human Rights - the post was created in 1994 - but had turned the office into one of the most high profile departments within the UN. She has acknowledged that her outspoken views on civil liberties have made her an "outsider" and an "awkward voice". Mrs Robinson had visited 60 countries, ruffling feathers not only in China, Moscow and Israel, but also among Western powers by questioning the legality of the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia. But the pressures of the opposition she encountered from UN member states, as well as limitations on funding seemed to have taken their toll. She said she believed she could achieve more for human rights "outside of the constraints that a multilateral organisation inevitably imposes". Two weeks later, however, she reversed her decision to go after an appeal from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Instead, she asked for a one-year extension of her then current term to September 2002. True to form, the going since then has been anything but smooth.

Troubled waters
The UN conference against racism in September 2001 was widely viewed as a disaster after it descended into a bitter row between Israel and Middle Eastern countries. Held in South Africa, the conference nearly collapsed after the US and Israeli delegations announced their withdrawal, complaining that the meeting had been taken over by Islamic extremists. But Mrs Robinson was characteristically defiant, and stated firmly in her closing speech that breakthroughs had been made. And then there was 11 September. As Washington gathered friends and former foes alike into its coalition against terrorism, Mrs Robinson was one of the few figures of any international standing to warn of the impact on Afghanistan's civilians. She jousted once again with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, cautioning China not to use the war against terrorism as a pretext to suppress ethnic minority groups. Mr Jiang, who has courted international support for Beijing's campaigns against Muslim separatists and Tibetan supporters of the Dalai Lama, was unimpressed. But given her career experience, such rebuffs have been a matter of course.

'Demanding position'
At 25, Mary Robinson became Ireland's youngest professor of law on her appointment to Trinity College in 1969. That same year she became a member of the Irish Senate - a seat she occupied for two decades. As a Labour candidate she fought two unsuccessful elections to enter the lower house of parliament. She became known in Ireland as a strong supporter of women's rights - campaigning for the liberalisation of laws prohibiting divorce and abortion. Outside the country, she gained a reputation as a prominent human rights lawyer. After her 1990 inauguration as the s ©BBC News

William Pierce, the neo-Nazi whose novel "The Turner Diaries" inspired Timothy McVeigh to bomb the Oklahoma City federal building, died Tuesday at age 68. Pierce died Tuesday afternoon of kidney and liver cancer, a source close to him told CNN. Groups who monitor the National Alliance also reported Pierce's death. Pierce, native of Portland, Oregon, earned a doctorate in physics and later taught at Oregon State University. But as the leader of the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group based in a compound in Hillsboro, West Virginia, Pierce espoused hard-line anti-Semitic and anti-black rhetoric. The National Alliance is considered the largest extremist group on the American far right. It is estimated to have 7,000 to 8,000 active members and at least double that number of donors, according to sources who monitor the groups. "The Turner Diaries," written under the pseudonym Andrew MacDonald, described the violent overthrow of the federal government and the extermination of blacks and Jews in the United States. McVeigh cited the book as his inspiration for the bombing of the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City. In addition, Pierce was also the owner of Resistance Records, a record company that produced hate rock. The Anti-Defamation League, which monitors extremist groups, said "We hope the National Alliance will die with William Pierce." Calls to the Hillsboro compound were not returned.
©Cable News Network

Legal action against the British government began at the High Court in London on Monday, on behalf of six Czech Romanies denied entry to Britain in July last year. The human rights group Liberty is seeking a judicial review of British immigration law, claiming the six were subjected to "discriminatory, humiliating and unlawful" treatment by U.K. immigration officers stationed at Prague Airport, who refused to let them board their plane to London. The controversial controls - aimed at stopping Czech Roma from applying for asylum in Britain - have been in place for a year. As the first legal challenge in Britain to the controls got underway, Radio Prague's RobCameron spoke to Roger Bingham, communications manager for the British human rights group Liberty.

"The six people, who are all actually taking the cases anonymously, went to Prague Airport to catch flights to London in the course of July of last year. They all had valid airline tickets, they're all Czech nationals, and so don't need a visa to travel to the U.K. But they were all singled out for extended questioning, apparently by reference to the colour of their skin. They were prevented in the end from travelling to the U.K., and effectively we believe this was an instance of racial discrimination that has also prevented them travelling perfectly legitimately and indeed appears to be based on preventing them even entering the asylum system should they wish to claim asylum."

The British government denies that the pre-clearance controls at Prague Airport are discriminatory or unlawful. They say they're merely the most practical solution to a serious problem, which is the British asylum system being abused by Czech citizens. What would you say to that?

"The problem in terms of whether the asylum system is being abused or not is a problem you can answer within the asylum system. Simply, if the system is having trouble processing claims and establishing what's a legitimate claim and what isn't, that's about resourcing the asylum system here, it isn't about preventing people even having access to it. Bear in mind too that not all of these people were even interested in seeking asylum; at least one was an elderly woman seeking to make a short visit to her granddaughter, who lives in the U.K. What this is clearly, is people being prevented from travelling, and if the government's justification is 'because our asylum system is struggling under the weight', that's actually not a justification for stopping people travelling - it's a justification for improving our asylum system."

The British government would say that if legitimate travellers have been turned away unlawfully, that's simply the system not working properly. But the fact remains that the system was put in place to deal with a real problem, and that problem is that the overwhelming majority of Czech Roma travelling to Britain are doing so to claim asylum, asylum which Britain says they as Czech citizens don't even have the right to claim.

"Well, we'd dispute both of those. I don't believe the British government does say that no Czech citizen can apply for asylum, I think that's a reference to a ministerial authorisation that said it was possible to fast-track their return. That authorisation has now been rescinded incidentally. However, again, we actually have an obligation under the Refugee Convention to allow people who are seeking asylum to apply for it. Now if we then determine that it is a false application, that it's not based on sufficient need, then they can be deported. But stopping people at the gates if you like, stopping people applying for asylum, directly contravenes our obligations under the Refugee Convention."

How confident are you of winning this case?

"I never try and second guess the courts. The case starts today. We don't even know yet when we'll get a ©Radio Prague

"An Afghan came into my room, rudely woke me up from my nap, and asked to use my razor. I told him to come back after I had finished sleeping. He left in fury. The next thing I knew, the jeans I was wearing were on fire. He crept back in while I was sleeping and set them ablaze. I responded angrily and then all hell broke loose. A gang of his compatriots assaulted me and in the fight I lost a tooth," said an African asylum-seeker at the Dêbak refugee center. The center, which also serves as the headquarters of the other refugee centers across Poland, currently hosts some 300 refugees. Chechens form the bulk of the population, about 60 percent, Afghans are next with over 30 percent, and other nationalities, including Africans, make up the remaining 10 percent. Due to a fragile peace, which is threatening to fail into even more chaos after the assassination of one of the Afghan vice presidents, more refugees from this part of the world cross several borders daily to get to Poland, which to most symbolizes a giant step towards freedom. Some of the ordeals that these refugees have to go through sound unreal, but are nevertheless true. "We often pay huge sums to buy our way to freedom, about $5,000," one said. The refugees; men, women and children all have to go through the same hardships without exception. "In front of my eyes, a woman had her baby pulled from her grip and shot dead by a smuggler. The child had been crying persistently and the smuggler didn't want the child's cries to attract the attention of border guards in Ukraine. The woman hasn't recovered from the shock, and never will," he added. Last week a group of over 20 newly arrived Afghans were transferred to the refugee center of Smoszewo. Amid the great responsibility and urgency dealing with the ever increasing number of new arrivals, the Dêbak center is currently experiencing a power struggle. Two assistant directors have been fired in less than three months, and the current director, El¿bieta Przychodzeñ is on the hot seat. She has been asked to resign her post, and is currently on sick leave in order to buy some time, as she cannot be fired under such circumstances. The situation has created a power vacuum. Reliable sources say the situation is the work of a top figure at the Department of Immigration and Repatriation, who hopes to take over the post.
©The Warsaw Voice

Authorities have arrested three men in connection with a plan to produce and distribute compact discs of banned neo-Nazi music that calls for the murder of politicians, entertainers and police officers, the Berlin prosecutor's office said Tuesday. The three, identified only by their first names and last-name initials, are accused of planning to reproduce the CD "Notes of Hate" by the neo-Nazi rock band White Aryan Rebels. The men planned to print 3,000 copies of the CD in eastern Europe before importing them into Germany and distributing them underground, said Ariane Faust, a prosecutor's office spokeswoman. An informant's tip led to the arrests after coordinated searches of seventeen buildings in the states of Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia over the weekend, Faust said. The men were arrested in Berlin and are in custody, but have not been charged.

It is a crime in Germany to publish Nazi slogans and materials. The men could also be charged with inciting violence, Faust said. The CD includes "incitement against dark-skinned people, Jews, homosexuals and people who have worked against the extreme right," said Fritz Stepper, a spokesman for Germany's domestic security agency, which tracks hate groups. One song names sixteen politicians and others who have criticized right-wing extremists, Stepper said. Those threatened included politician Rita Suessmuth, who headed a commission that last year recommended admitting thousands of immigrants to Germany each year, and Michel Friedman, a German Jewish leader and talk show host. Authorities began investigating the case in 2001 when the CD first came out, but were unable to find out who produced it. Police still don't know the identify of the members of the band, Faust said.
©Nando Media

Police today raided a mosque in the West Midlands to forcibly remove two Afghans who had refused an order to leave the country. Farid and Feriba Ahmadi, who have two children, were taken rom the Ghausia Jamia mosque in Lye, Stourbridge, during an early morning operation involving 12 police officers, two of them reportedly in riot gear and equipped with a battering ram. The couple took refuge in the mosque last month when the Home Office ruled they had no case to stay in Britain on compassionate grounds. The operation to remove them left a small area of scratches on the paintwork of a steel door adjoining the main prayer area. Mr and Mrs Ahmadi were this morning detained while preparations were made to deport them to Germany, where their asylum claim was being processed before they came to Britain. A family friend said she was caring for the couple's son, Hadia, and daughter, Seera, after being asked to protect them from the potential trauma of a forcible eviction from the mosque. "They have already been through a massive amount of stress in their short lives," Soraya Walton, who has campaigned on behalf of the family, told BBC West Midlands radio.

"Nobody actually ever thought they [the immigration service] were going to do this. I am rather shocked by the heavy-handedness of how immigration deal with this type of situation." Paul Rowlands, one of six local people present during the incident, said he was disgusted at the way police conducted the operation. "It was completely compassionless, it was like a military operation. The police were wearing flak jackets. It was incredible. It was as though they were arresting murderers." Mr Rowlands voiced fears that the local and national Muslim community would react badly to the manner of the arrests, viewing the police action as desecration of sacred ground. "We didn't dream they would batter the door down to a place of sanctuary," the 39-year-old added. Fellow campaigner Jerry Langford said local trade union groups had supported the family's fight to stay in Britain, which was also backed by a 1,000-strong petition collected in the area.

Mr Langford, a 54-year-old engineer, said: "It's disgraceful because this family fitted all the stereotypes the government is demanding. They have made every effort to learn English and to integrate into the local community." The couple had been persecuted by the Taliban and Mr Ahmadi had twice been tortured by the former regime, Mr Langford claimed. "How can it be safe for civilians to go back there?" he asked. An immigration service spokesman said: "All we can say is that an operation by the immigration service, assisted by West Midlands police, took place this morning. "Two people unlawfully at large were detained prior to their removal."
©The Guardian

Muslim leaders in a West Midlands town say there should be a public inquiry after police raided a mosque. Officers used a battering ram to break into the prayer room of the Ghausia Jamia Mosque in Lye, near Stourbridge, on Thursday morning. An Afghan couple and their two children had taken refuge in the mosque 28 days ago after the Home Office began deportation proceedings against them. Farid Ahmadi, 33, and his wife, Feriba, 24, are thought to be in a detention centre at Heathrow Airport.

'Mosque violation'
Their children Hadia, six, and, Seear, four, are in hiding with friends of the family. They were due to be deported to Germany on Friday but they have won leave to seek a judicial review into the handling of their deportation. Campaigners lobbying for the family to be allowed to claim asylum are demonstrating outside the Manchester offices of the immigration minister, Beverley Hughes, on Saturday. Muslim groups and the family's supporters have heavily criticised the police action at the mosque. After the raid there were protests by 40 people outside Lye police station and a number of people were detained. West Midlands Police held a meeting with representatives of the mosque on Thursday night. Among those at the meeting was Abdul Qadas a local conservative councillor. He said: "As far as I am concerned the religious place, our mosque, has been totally violated by the Home Office.

'Future prevention'
"They have disgraced our religion and it should not have happened. "We have to allow the police and the Home Office to come up with some sort of solution as to why this happened and how in future, events such as this can be prevented." Sergeant Andy Pugh from West Midlands Police said that all the questions and points raised at the meeting would be addressed within the next couple of days. A Home Office spokesman said: "We are aware of the sensitivity of entering a mosque and the decision was not taken lightly. "But we believe we had no option." However Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the self-styled Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, said he was worried about the way the family were treated. "You have a family trying to find shelter for a little while and they are being treated like criminals, like terrorists."

'Welcome refugees'
Salman Mirza, who works for a West Midlands-based asylum charity, said the decision to send riot officers armed with batons had highlighted the "brutal face" of government asylum policy. "Even the Israeli army did not enter the Church of the Nativity when there was a siege. "What happened yesterday was over the top. "We want to say to Beverley Hughes tomorrow that refugees fleeing from regimes such as the Taleban should be welcome here." The Ahmadi family have been living in Lye near Stourbridge for the past year after fleeing the Taleban. They were smuggled illegally into the UK from Germany on the back of a lorry after leaving Afghanistan. The family does not want to return to Germany because it says it suffered racial abuse there.
©BBC News

Immigration minister Beverley Hughes says she will seek talks with Muslim leaders to prevent mosques being used as sanctuaries. She was speaking after an Afghan couple seeking asylum in the UK was arrested during a dawn raid on a mosque in Stourbridge, West Midlands, on Friday. The raid led to protest from religious leaders and prompted calls for a public inquiry. About 50 supporters of Farid and Fariba Ahmadi are holding a demonstration outside Ms Hughes' constituency surgery in Stretford and Urmston in Manchester. However, Ms Hughes defended the decision to arrest Farid and Fariba Ahmadi at the Ghausia Jamia Mosque where they had taken refuge for the past month. She said: "I understand their sensitivities completely but equally I understand that if people do decide to prevent a lawfully-taken decision from being taken then the police and the government have to take a decision about how to deal with that difficult situation." She said she would seek talks with the leader of the British Muslim Council to stop people using mosques as refuges.

Talks held
The raid has been condemned by Muslim leaders as well as the Bishop of Barking, the Right Reverend Roger Sainsbury. But a spokeswoman for West Midlands Police said on Saturday talks had taken place on Friday night with community leaders, immigrations officials and a local MP. "Issues of concern were discussed and an understanding was reached between those who attended the meeting regarding the incident itself. "We did express our concern over any distress the incident may have caused to members of the mosque and the local community." The Afghan couple and their two children took refuge at the mosque after the Home Office began deportation proceedings against them. The parents are currently in a detention centre near Heathrow Airport after their solicitors won a judicial review of the decision to return them to Germany, where they had been detained before fleeing to the UK last year. Their children Hadia, six, and, Seear, four, are in hiding with friends of the family. Feriba Ahmadi told The Times newspaper that when the police raided the mosque, "They woke me up and it was so frightening. My head was all mixed up. We did not know they were coming then". She said she had not spoken to her children since Wednesday. They are being looked after by family friend Soraya Walton, who told the BBC: "I'm not using them as a bargaining chip, I'm giving them the freedom they deserve. "They deserve respect and they haven't had any respect from the government with regards to their well-being. "As far as I'm concerned the children are better off playing around than put into a detention centre." The Ahmadi family were living in Lye near Stourbridge for the past year after fleeing the Taleban. They were smuggled illegally into the UK from Germany on the back of a lorry after leaving Afghanistan. The family does not want to return to Germany because they claim they suffered racial abuse there
©BBC News

Albanians keep settling in environmental disaster area

Albania Five years ago, Flutorime Jani and her extended family settled on the grounds of an abandoned chemical plant. Fleeing the barren, lawless mountains, they found a spot a few kilometers from this city, Albania's main port. At first they thought they were lucky. "The land was free," Jani said. Bricks and tiles were also free. The men stripped them from the old factory buildings and created shacks. The word spread, and today the plant is a shantytown with more than 3,000 inhabitants. Today, it is also a place where experts say people are being collectively poisoned. Until 1990, this state factory made a range of hazardous chemicals, including chromium-6, used in leather tanning, and lindane, a pesticide so dangerous that many countries ban it. Jani is among those who complain of nausea and stomachaches. "The pains come often, like the clouds," she said, raising a hand helplessly to the heavens.

Last year, the United Nations Environment Program, in its first assessment of Albania's environment, designated this site of the former Porto Romano chemical plant an environmental disaster area that posed "grave risks to human health, groundwater and the marine habitat." The report called for closing the area, removing the settlers, and onitoring the health of 10,000 people living on the fringes of the plant. The government's only action was to build a wall blocking the access road. Angry residents tore it down, and new settlers keep coming. "We have no money to fence it off," said Miri Hoti, the mayor of Durres. He implied that the foreign experts were overreacting. "These people come here voluntarily, though it's banned, the mayor said. There is no other housing."

About 400 tons of chemicals - chromium salt, methanol, lindane, methylamine - are still stored on the 300-hectare, or 750-acre, site, leaking from corroded steel barrels and spilling from torn bags, blown about by the wind. The acrid sting of lindane fills the air. ome residents keep vegetable patches. Cows and goats rummage among the rusting metal vats. Children play on the contaminated grounds and roll in the noxious dust. New homes are going up along the plant's open dump site, which holds 20,000 tons of hazardous waste. The unfolding crisis here is the result of the anarchy that began a decade ago with the end of the harsh Communist regime. It was compounded when vast pyramid investment schemes collapsed in 1997, ruining countless Albanians. he Janis, from the mountains near Macedonia, were among the losers. Flutorime Jani, looking worn at 53, said that the vegetables she grows here and the milk from her cow taste different. On hot days, she has to leave her home because of the overwhelming vapors coming off the walls, once part of the lindane warehouse. "Where do we go?" she said. "The authorities are doing nothing for us."

Samples taken by the experts help explain why things here taste different. Milk from Jani's cow had lindane concentrations 100 times higher than the European safety limit, the report said. On family vegetable plots, lindane concentrations were more than 600 times what the Dutch would consider hazardous waste. Lindane accumulates in the food chain and long-term exposure can lead to lung, liver and kidney damage, the report said. Water samples from a well had more than 4,000 times the level of chlorobenzene acceptable in drinking water in Europe. Intense exposure to this solvent can affect the nervous system, bone marrow, blood and fertility, the report said. Besnik Baraj, a chemistry professor at the University of Tirana, offered a guided chemical tour. "This is chromium-6," he said, walking past green-yellow piles along the path. "Our university can transform this into less harmful chromium-3, but we would need some $50,000 to do an assessment, study samples and get started, which is money we don't have." In its prese ©International Herald Tribune

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that French courts failed to give fair treatment to Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon after his 1998 conviction for crimes against humanity. Papon, now aged 91, was a senior civil servant in the wartime Vichy administration, who organised the deportation of some 1,500 Jews to Nazi camps. The Strasbourg-based court said France wrongly denied him the right to appeal against his conviction and 10-year prison sentence. Other complaints brought by Papon were rejected. He was awarded 29,192 euros in legal costs, but no damages. Papon, who is currently in prison in Paris, is the highest-ranking French official to be convicted for crimes against humanity. His lawyers said they would now take his case back before France's highest appeals court, the Cour de Cassation.

Legal change
A French court ruled in 1999 that Papon had forfeited his right to appeal by briefly fleeing to Switzerland shortly after his conviction, and not appearing in court. The seven-judge chamber of the rights court based in Strasbourg said the ruling was a "particularly severe sanction" which hindered Papon's right of access to law courts, guaranteed in Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The French court ruling was based on French laws as they stood at the time. The legislation has since been changed, to bring it into line with European law, and now allows an appeal to be heard without the defendant being in court.
©BBC News

Amnesty International will condemn Canada for its treatment of aboriginals at a United Nations meeting next month citing, among other things, British Columbia's treaties referendum and the freezing deaths of native men in Saskatoon. "Clearly, the human-rights challenges that aboriginals are facing in Canada continue to be a significant concern for us," said Alex Neve, secretary- general of the English branch of the Canadian section of Amnesty International. "We think it's serious enough that it needs to be brought to the attention of a UN committee." Amnesty International will present its report to the UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination in Geneva on Aug. 13. It will mark the first time the human-rights organization has protested to the international body against the treatment of natives in Canada. In the end, the committee can make recommendations stemming from the Amnesty International report but cannot demand that they be adopted.

Among its allegations of racism, the report highlights the B.C. government's controversial referendum on the native-treaty process in May. In a ballot in which 37 per cent of the province took part, British Columbians voted 87 per cent in favour of a form of aboriginal self-government that natives already had rejected. The voters also backed measures to restrict the authority of aboriginal governments, limit land claims and end tax exemptions. The referendum infuriated B.C. native groups, who said it would put an end to treaty negotiations in that province. The Amnesty International report calls on the federal government to remind provincial governments that initiatives such as the referendum "can lead to or exacerbate racial discrimination." "One of the very disturbing aspects of the referendum is the divisiveness it has generated in B.C., a divisiveness often reflected more widely within a segment of Canadian society that believes that aboriginal and treaty rights are special rights that are contrary to the dominant ideological position in Canada that 'everyone should be treated equally.'" The British Columbia government had no immediate comment on the report yesterday.

But Chief Doug Kelly of the Soowahlie Indian band near Chilliwack, B.C., welcomed the condemnation of the referendum process. "I appreciate their support. What they're saying reflects our view and our experience with the whole referendum process -- it's divided our communities and made the job of negotiating treaties that much more difficult." The report also makes reference to the police shooting of Indian protester Dudley George in an Ontario provincial park in 1995 and the freezing deaths of in Saskatchewan. In September, 2001, two Saskatoon police officers were convicted of unlawful confinement for forcibly abandoning an aboriginal man, Darrell Night, on the outskirts of the city in freezing temperatures in January, 2000. Mr. Night survived. But his complaint cast suspicion on the freezing deaths of five native men in Saskatoon in the past decade. The group is calling on Canada to press Saskatchewan to ensure that the freezing deaths are part of an inquiry into aboriginal people and the justice system and for antidiscrimination training for police officers across Canada.
©Globe and Mail

The Constitutional Court this week opened the door for foreigners to teach in Portugal, irrespective of whether they are European Union citizens or not. In the ruling, the Court found that treating some foreigners differently to others, was unconstitutional. In the verdict, which answers a complaint lodged in 1998, the Court said that existing legislation was "disproportional and unreasonable" The Court further states that discriminating between EU and non-EU citizens violates Article 15 of the Constitution. In this Article, it states that all foreigners enjoy the same rights and duties as Portuguese, with the exception of those relating to politics Trade unions have since expressed little concern over this ruling that permits foreigners to apply for jobs at Portuguese schools and subsequently, state departments. They argue that "after tax, what remains of a teacher's salary will not attract too many foreign candidates".
©The News

After more than a decade of legislative setbacks, plans for the first national museum focusing on the history of blacks are moving a step closer toward giving visitors to the nation's capital a different perspective on American history, organizers say. The United States has hundreds of black exhibitions and monuments. But the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will be on the Mall in Washington, will provide the most comprehensive look at the achievements and struggles of black people in America, said Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia. "It would tell the whole and complete story in its entirety," Lewis said. "It would be very similar to the Holocaust museum. It would get us as a nation to face ourselves and our history." Lewis guided legislation through Congress that called for a presidential commission to determine the location and the cost of the museum, and the effect it might have on regional black museums. Members of the commission include the baseball star Hank Aaron and the actress Cicely Tyson. The panel's first meeting was this week. It is expected to report its findings to the president and to Congress in October, when Congress will vote on whether to approve financing and construction.

One possible location for the museum is the 120-year-old Arts and Industries Building of the Smithsonian Institution, which is used for temporary exhibitions. But a new building is a possibility, despite the limited space on the Mall, Lewis said. The museum will be paid for by contributions from the public, said officials, who added that a preliminary cost estimate would be ready this fall. Similar legislation calling for the National Museum of the American Indian took only months to be signed into law in 1989, but it has taken 12 years for the black museum legislation to pass the House and Senate. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, said that a bipartisan group united last year in support of the bill. President George W. Bush, who has been a strong supporter of the museum, rapidly signed the bill into law last December. "I hope the museum, when it's built, will remind visitors of both the suffering and the triumph, the hurt that was overcome, the barriers that are being cast away," he said this year at an event celebrating black music. Opponents of the bill in previous years said they worried that a national black history museum would make other ethnic groups feel overlooked and demand similar museums. Since a commission for the black museum was established last year, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has strengthened its efforts to establish a Hispanic museum. "Caucus members have been discussing a museum for a while, but now that there is movement there is a little more hope," said Ingrid Duran, president of the Hispanic Caucus.
©International Herald Tribune

A newly stated Conservative commitment to social inclusiveness and tolerance came in for a test Monday when a senior member of the party announced that he was gay. Alan Duncan, 45, the Tories' parliamentary spokesman for foreign affairs and a central figure in Conservative politics for the past decade, made his acknowledgment in a front-page interview in The Times of London. "Living in disguise as a politician in the modern world simply isn't an option," he said. "The Tory view has always been, 'We don't mind, but don't say.' Well, that doesn't work any more." The party leader, Iain Duncan Smith, promptly sent him a letter of support, saying, "What you have done is honest and will not affect you in any way politically in the future."

Homosexuality has been a divisive issue in the Conservative Party, and while a number of Labour politicians have declared they are gay, Duncan is the first sitting Tory member of Parliament to do so. Others who have been exposed in the press in recent years have resigned or lost their seats. Duncan's revelation emerged at a moment of feuding in the party between factions identified in newspaper shorthand as traditionalists and modernizers. The internal struggle came to the surface last week when Duncan Smith abruptly removed the party chairman, David Davis, after Tory liberals claimed that he was blocking progress toward opening up the ranks to women and members of minority groups. He was replaced by Theresa May, the first woman ever to head the party, and she hailed Monday's announcement as another signal, following her own appointment, that the Conservatives were practicing tolerance. "There are many people who will say this shows a Conservative Party that has moved on," she said. "It's always been an open, decent and tolerant party, but this is a very upfront example of that."

Davis, who learned of his demotion while on vacation in Florida, returned to London over the weekend and gave an angry televised statement attacking his enemies in the party. He said he was the victim of "a cowardly campaign of character assassination" and called the arguments used against him "a tissue of lies." Davis was a contender for the leadership of the party last year and is viewed as an alternative if Duncan Smith should falter. "Vendettas and character assassination have crippled three previous Tory leaders," Davis said, adding that Duncan Smith himself would be the victim of continued "unpleasantness and division." The Tories lost the last two national elections to Labour after dominating British politics for most of the 20th century. They were abandoned by the centrist voters that Margaret Thatcher succeeded in bringing into the party ranks in the 1980s, and today they have become a party of rural England, with no meaningful representation in Scotland, Wales and urban areas of England.

The age and social profile of their members is similarly narrow, and much of the inside fighting is over how to become more in touch with changing times. In public opinion polls they cannot break free of the 30-percent mark, a number that they need to rise above to become electable again. "The Conservative Party has been very slow to catch up with the modern world," John Bercow, a member of Duncan Smith's leadership team, said Monday. "It is doing so now." During last year's leadership contest, the early favorite, Michael Portillo, sacrificed support within the party because of his admissions of gay experiences during his university years in Cambridge. Michael Brown, a former Tory member of Parliament who left office in 1994 after tabloids reported he had gone on vacation with a man, said Monday that there had always been many gay Tories "in the closet." Speaking to the BBC, he said, "What Alan Duncan has done is to make sure that next time there is a Tory MP doing this, it is just one big yawn. Which is what it should be today."
©International Herald Tribune

A Moscow court has ordered the closure of a radical newspaper, Limonka, for inciting ethnic and social unrest. Limonka - a slang word for grenade - is the mouthpiece of the National Bolshevik party which promotes an anti-Western and anti-Semitic agenda. Its leader, Eduard Limonov, is awaiting trial on charges of terrorism, forming an illegal armed group and possession of arms. The paper - which has a reputation based on its strident anti-American, anti-Nato, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist editorials - says it will appeal against the court order.

Russia and the West
Mr Limonov said the Russian authorities had exerted pressure on the judges. The rapid growth of extremist organisations in Russia - as well as a number of high-profile hate crimes over recent months - have prompted the country's authorities to launch a crackdown on political extremism and manifestations of racism. Over recent months, Limonka has spoken out increasingly sharply against President Vladmir Putin's efforts to bring about closer relations between Russia and the West. After tolerating Limonka for the eight years of its existence, Russian officials were spurred into action by articles which appeared to call for the violent overthrow of President Putin and his government. Jewish organisations, as well as human rights groups, say Russia has a poor record in tackling anti-Semitic and racially motivated crimes. Mindful of international criticism, Russia's parliament recently passed new laws which, theoretically, prohibit extremist activities. Critics say the laws are deliberately ambiguous and will lead to severe restrictions on press and personal political freedoms.
©BBC News

There has been a dramatic increase in racist attacks in Northern Ireland in recent years. BBC News Online spoke to a leading Belfast Muslim who says he has borne the brunt of growing intimidation and physical attacks on ethnic minorities. For Jamal Iweida, each of his seven years in Northern Ireland has seen an annual increase in racism. Originally from Palestine, Jamal left Jordan in 1995 to study at Queen's University in Belfast. He says the early years of his new life were relatively happy and free of problems concerning his race. But in more recent years, a nastier side to Northern Ireland society has emerged. Rarely a day passes that someone does not shout a racist remark to him in the street. The naked intimidation he suffered in his south Belfast home has now come to a head. Verbal abuse, stonings, vandalised cars, dogs being set loose and face-to-face threats have forced Jamal and his family to leave Finaghy.

Jamal says Muslims have been living in Belfast for more than 100 years. They, like many other ethnic minorities, are an integral part of Northern Ireland's social, educational and economic life. Now president of the Belfast Islamic Centre, his roots are firmly planted in the city. He married a woman from Bangor in County Down and they now have a young son who is almost a year old. Jamal says "lip-service" is being paid to the problem of racism, but no firm action is being taken. "I have been in Northern Ireland for almost the last seven years and I have noticed a clear increase in racism over the last five years," he says. "When we came here at the beginning, it was very quiet and very friendly. We have to say that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland are very friendly, very kind and tolerant towards us. "But the problem is that there is a small minority who cause this trouble."

Paramilitary ceasefires
Racial abuse has increased year on year, he says. "Now, when you are walking down the street you will get - almost every day - called names." In February, a report said there were more than 350 racial incidents reported to the police between 1996 and 1999 - a 400% increase. The number of racist attacks on children doubled - rising from 8.5% of total attacks in 1996 to more than 16% in 1999. The annual total increased from 186 to 269 incidents between 1999 and 2000 - a rise of 45%. Jamal says many people from ethnic minority communities came to Northern Ireland following the paramilitary ceasefires and Good Friday Agreement. Some came from Britain and other countries to find work or to study. Part of the problem behind racism against Muslims is the way they are portrayed in the media, says Jamal.

'Respect other cultures'
Following the terrorist attacks on the United States last year, the Belfast Islamic Centre was targeted. Bricks were thrown at the south Belfast building and windows smashed. "Using certain terminologies and promoting certain stereotypes in Hollywood movies about particular Muslims and Arabs causes a lot of tension and misunderstanding about Islam, Arabs and the culture from the east," says Jamal. Educating people to respect other cultures is something which must begin at an early age, he believes. And he fears for the future of his young son growing up in Northern Ireland. "I want my child to live in an environment which is free from any kind of racism. I want my child to walk down the street and not be called names because he may look different." He points to the failure of most politicians and church leaders to speak out against racist attacks.

'Deep roots'
Politicians in Dublin have spoken out against racist attacks in the Republic of Ireland, but that has been an example poorly followed north of the border, he says. But outside of the intimidation and racist attacks, Jamal says that Northern Ireland is a permanent ©BBC News

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