Headlines May 2, 2003

By Vladimir Malakhov, Published 14-3-2003. Original in Russian Translation by Mischa Gabowitsch

Russian society is deeply divided amongst "ethno-centric lines" argues Vladimir Malakhov. Bureaucracy and the police possess intricate means with which to discriminate against immigrants whilst the media is playing its part in reinforcing stereotypes about non-Slavic minorities. Malakhov calls for a new, structured way of looking at migration problems on a sociological level.

The way we act directly depends on the categories by means of which we order and organise social reality. This, roughly, is what sociologists mean when they talk about the discursive organisation of society. In what follows I would like to propose some thoughts on the categories at the basis of the discursive organisation of Russian society. More precisely, on those which determine the perception of migration in Russia. Russian officials always know which card to draw from their rhetorical pack. Depending on the situation, they either talk about the multinational character of the country, about the need to reinforce the friendship between peoples and foster "dialogue between cultures", about the "national question" (which, appendix-like, is in the habit of unexpectedly causing pain to the state organism) growing more serious, or about "inter-ethnic relations" worsening (assuming that relations between "ethnies", like those between neighbours, can improve or deteriorate), or finally about the dangerous consequences of the "conflict of cultures". The paradigm of "cultural conflict" (or "clash of civilisations" in another version) has come in handy for our bureaucrats. The formula is fashionable, it is sanctified by the authority of a venerable political scientist, and it frees them from responsibility. A bloody fight for the redistribution of property breaks out, we're unable to stop it, but that's not surprising, since it is fueled by "ethnic crime" and the "Chechen" ("Azeri", "Georgian") mafia. Skinheads flock together in order to terrorise those they consider "Black"; once more we're helpless; but again there is an explanation: it's a reaction to a "tilted ethnic balance". The villages are becoming depopulated, the economy lacks two and a half million workers each year, but instead of working out measures to attract and adapt migrants, we keep talking about threats to "ethno-cultural security".

An analysis of the patterns which mould what the authorities say about "the problem of migration" reveals a twofold structure. First, they wearily express their concern about the uncontrollable flow of non-Russian migrants, which is identified with a flow of crime, drug addiction, unemployment etc; and next, they cheerfully report about the law-enforcement agencies' success in catching illegal immigrants. The bureaucratic mind cannot and will not reveal the content of the expression "illegal migrants". In fact, why are they in an illegal position? Out of malicious intent, or due to objective reasons? Reasons such as registration rules which, to put it mildly, not everyone is able to comply with? According to Bureaucratize, the illegals are mainly "foreign citizens and persons without citizenship". But where do these "foreign citizens" come from? From Kazakhstan, whose citizens still have no passport except their Soviet one, or from Vietnam? And how did they get to the territory that this particular official is in charge of? Did they come here for seasonal work, as Moldovans, Ukrainians and others do, or did they escape from places where they were threatened with physical destruction, as is the case of Meskhetians from Uzbekistan, Kurds from Iraq, or those Afghans who, in the Eighties, were building socialism together with the Soviet Union, only to become the prey of the Mojaheddin in the Nineties? And finally, who are these people by profession, age, and education? What are their social and linguistic skills? Do they assoc thus the diversity of social collisions linked to migration merges into a single blot called "the problem of migration". If we make an effort to scrutinise this vague entity, we will be able to discern a number of components. Let's start with the economic one. Above all this is about employment issues. These are especially serious in regions of so-called "oversupply of labour". But is it true, as a widespread opinion would have it, that migrants take jobs away from the local population? Or do they more often occupy those segments of the labour market where the locals do not readily go (petty trade, kebab or cheburek(1) eateries etc)? Sociological studies show that in this segment, as well as among middle-men, competition is higher among groups of migrants than between them and the natives. Moreover, successful entrepreneurs create jobs rather than taking them away. The same goes for the opinion that migrants claim scarce social goods. Working people are not just consumers, but also producers of resources. What would Moscow's construction firms do without cheap labour from Central Asia? What would dacha builders from Central and North-West Russia do without navvies from Tajikistan, concrete workers from Moldova, stonemasons from Armenia, and carpenters from Ukraine?

Another component in the complex of issues linked to migration is the social element: the burden on cities' infrastructure, the rise in crime, the upsurge of xenophobic feelings, the strengthening of extreme nationalist groups. It is with xenophobia and right-wing radicalism that people usually associate the notorious "ethnic balance", damage to which, they say, leads to a surge of xenophobia, which in turn makes various "fronts for the liberation of Russian territory" surface. But who measures this balance, and using what criteria? At what number of migrants is it breached? And how do we calculate this number - do we lump together all those who are ethnically different from the majority, including those who settled a relatively long time ago and are well integrated into local life, or do we except certain people? And finally, how do we categorise the children of migrants, who finished school here and consider this place their home? What is special about public issues is their discursive nature. I would even say their discursive origin. A problem becomes public only once it is being publicly discussed. In Russia, for instance, the issue of disabled people does not exist. It does exist in the West, but not here. What does exist are people suffering from an inability to lead a fulfilled social life (because of the lack of decent wheelchairs, premises for the disabled in public transport or house entrances, and so on); but since society is absolutely indifferent to these topics, the problem does not exist. Thus a problem is created by talking about the problem. But this means that we can create any problem. For example, we know that in our society, there is a high level of crime. But as long as TV and radio journalists as well as press reporters and commentators call the suspects suspects and the criminals criminals, rather than "Chechens", "Azeris" or "people of Caucasian nationality", we do not know that there is a problem of "ethnic crime". It seems that the "breach of the ethnic balance" is one of those dangers which we never suspect exists until we turn on our TV set.

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that all problems linked to migration are imaginary and should be brushed off. The objective of my essay is to attract attention to those ways of conceptualising these problems that make them unsolvable. Let us try to trace how such concepts as "cultural conflict", "ethno-cultural security" and "ethnic balance" enter the language of the bureaucracy. They are borrowed from the language of the expert community. But where do the experts themselves find these concepts? Not in the pure ether of thought, probably. The holders of degrees in history, philosophy and psychology who consult officials are mortals, too. Like all mortals, they have sympathi youths). Let's take a liberal channel, REN-TV: there's a brief report about what happened; an interview with youngsters demonstrating in front on the police building to protest against the detention of their friends involved in the brawl; and footage from a rally at a Palace of Culture where the protesters demand that the authorities expel all Caucasians from town. Next, an interview with a representative of the "Armenian diaspora" (not from Kranoarmeysk, no: a federal-level functionary) wondering why Russians treat Armenians so unfairly; after all, the Russian and Armenian peoples have always lived in peace and harmony. The report closes with pieces of analysis: experts quote data about the number of Armenians in Russia, then gradually move to the topic of ethnic crime and its connection to drug traffic. For a titbit, we are treated - guess what! - to information about the number of Azeri gangs in Moscow. This way of presenting things is all the more symptomatic since this report didn't come out on pointedly Orthodox "Muscovy", but on a channel priding itself on its openness. There is a whole system of tacit assumptions behind such reports, and these assumptions in turn reflect a specific type of perception: the ethnocentric type. Once viewed through an ethnocentric prism, social conflicts look like conflicts between "ethnies" (and the cultures, religions and ways of life associated with them). The ethnocentric imagery has permeated the substance of the Russian mass media. Imagined ŕ la Lev Nikolayevich Gumilyov(2) to resemble living organisms, ethnies are used by our journalists and experts as replacements of social groups.

Allow me to dwell on this in somewhat greater detail. Theoretically, any set of people singled out by a given criterion may be called a group. Blondes or people who wear glasses, say. However, in order for a set of people to count as a social group, it needs to fulfil two criteria: among its members, there must be both firm ties and a specialisation of roles. Individuals appearing as a group to the external observer on the basis of certain attributes (shape of nose, language, behaviour) do not necessarily constitute a group in the sociological sense of the word. Those relegated to a unit called "Armenians" by statistics need not belong a social unit. A native Saint-Petersburger with an Armenian surname who plays in a symphonic orchestra and a refugee from Stepanakert working engaged in small-time shoe trade have no more in common than two blonde people. "The Armenians" do not exist as a social group. REN-TV's correspondents and the experts they invited mistook a statistical unit for a real agent of social action. The word "racism" used in the title of this essay does not refer to something that bears no relation to our life or touches it only peripherally, such as extremist groups whose actions make decent people blush. I use the word "racism" in a strict sense. Racism is the claim that there is an interdependence between a certain group's social position and its cultural features. Racism starts when it is alleged that a certain group of people engages in a certain type of activity not due to historical, economic and a host of other reasons, but because such are this group's essential attributes. The origin of these attributes is not traced biologically. Contemporary racism rarely speaks about blood and genotype, but it does always speak about culture. "They" act as they do because this type of behaviour is determined by their culture. And there is nothing you can do about this. Some people must clean boots, others must sell drugs, and others still must be racketeers. Racist thinking pervades our consciousness. We are all a little bit racist. We believe in ethnic balance. We tacitly approve of the everyday humiliation of people in the metro under the pretext of "passport checks"; after all, those who are checked do look somehow wrong. Our consciousness has no room for the idea that public order might be possible without the institution of propiska(3) . We do not see what, except restrictive their data) say that in Moscow and the Moscow oblast' [region], there are "already around 1.5 million Muslims". Apparently, this figure has been obtained by adding the numbers of Tatars and Azeris leaving in and around the capital, plus those originating in Dagestan and other regions of the North Caucasus. The logic behind these calculations assumes that the Southerners migrating into the Centre are a group separated from the majority by a huge cultural distance. This is no laughing matter: history shows that it has not always been possible even to build bridges for a dialogue between Christianity and Islam; and in a situation of socio-economic instability, we may not be far from a conflict of civilisations. Do those who say this believe in what they try to instil in their listeners? I will allow myself to doubt this. The assumption of a cultural incompatibility between the Slavic majority and non-Slavic minorities is absurd. If only because the vast majority of non-Russian migrants in Russia are from the former Soviet republics, and those from the North Caucasus are even Russian citizens. Culturally they are Soviet people. Their "ethnicity" is Soviet, however much specialists in ethno-psychology may attempt to persuade us of the contrary.

Most of these people were socialised under the same conditions as everybody else in the country. They went to the same school, they served in (or evaded) the same army, they were members of the same semi-voluntary organisations. They usually speak perfect Russian. As to religious identity, most of those dubbed Muslims have hardly been to a mosque more often than those called Orthodox have been to a Christian church. Of course, there is a cultural distance between the migrants and the receiving population. But once more, this is due to distinctive ways of socialisation, and the distinctive habits acquired in the process. It is the distance between rural dwellers and townspeople, between inhabitants of small towns and residents of anonymous megalopolises. It is the distance between poorly educated people with little social skills and an environment with a higher level of education and, consequently, advanced professional skills. Cultural differences are just trimmings to structural and functional differences. People become members of specific groups depending on the social resources at their disposal. The bureaucracy, for example, has a resource called power. The members of this group use this resource with maximum efficiency by superimposing so many restrictions upon the procedure of registration in big cities that potential bribers are obliged to queue. Is there any need to add that the most generous of the latter are those who find it most difficult to register? They are the "non-Russians", a group which in its turn breaks up into several sub-groups, depending on the severity of the secret instructions applying to them. Large-scale proprietors have another resource: the possibility to employ people. Once again, it will be unnecessary to remind you that "non-Russians" having no rights and no passport are prepared to work, and do work, under the harshest circumstances, where no-one even thinks about medical insurance and the other luxuries of advanced capitalism. The resources at the disposal of our glorious police are known to everyone who has observed with what zeal they stop passers-by of a certain outward appearance, and how disappointed they look whenever these people's ID turns out be in order.

This is how migrants of non-Russian origin become members of this or that ethnic group. We do not know what part the "natural" longing for "one's own people" plays in this. But we do know that even if they were burning with desire to assimilate completely, they would hardly manage. Conditions are such that they are forced to join existing ethnic networks, thus condemning themselves to existing in a sort of ghetto. But in the eyes of a group not faced with such problems (the Russian majority), this behaviour looks like a cultural reflex - the non-Russian migrants' desire not t effectively practised in Russia in the framework of various local "registration laws", gives rise to widespread corruption and discriminatory practices and makes it very difficult for immigrants to obtain residence permits.

23 May 2003- The Football Union of Russia (RFS) today proposed to UEFA a game between the Russian national team and a side comprised of foreign players from the Russian League to highlight their campaign against racism.

'All Stars' match
The proposed 'All Stars' match would be played in the Russian capital Moscow under the banner of the RFS's 'Football against Racism' campaign and is intended to draw the attention of fans and the wider public to the development of the campaign against racism in Russian football. In the lead-up to the match, it is proposed that many of the players involved will also take part in anti-racism events in schools and other public places. This proposal will now be considered by UEFA as part of its financial aid package ( 32,900 per member association) for national anti-racist campaigns.

'Anti-racism code'
The RFS is also planning to develop an 'anti-racism code' which will state the conduct expected by fans and which all Russian clubs will be invited to sign. The Russian authorities have asked the FARE (the Football Against Racism in Europe network) to support their initiatives. The Russian league is highly cosmopolitan with 263 foreign-born players from the rest of Europe, Asia, South and Central America and Africa playing in the Premier League and first division. The Russian Professional Football League, Russian clubs, the Russian Football Tourist Agency and Rostelekom are also acting as partners for the project.

'Unite Against Racism'
Earlier this year UEFA and FARE organised a 'Unite Against Racism' conference in London which brought together delegates from across Europe and resulted in the launch of a draft good practice guide intended to create a code of conduct for European football clubs. Meanwhile, UEFA's stance against racism and xenophobia was given further support at Wednesday night's UEFA Cup final at the Stadio Olímpico in Seville. Throughout the match, hoardings carrying the slogan ‘unite against racism' were on display and 1,200 t-shirts and information kits were given out. Information brochures from the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network were also distributed and the match programme featured an anti-racism message.

Ministry of Justice: Russian will not become "third official language"

A working party set up to examine the position of the fast-growing minority of Russian speakers in Finland has proposed legal recognition of their linguistic and cultural rights. In practice this means Russian would be granted some kind of official status as a minority language. Making a language official by law is a somewhat ticklish political suggestion. There has even been talk of whether Russian should be accorded the same rights in law as Swedish, making it a third official language and effectively rendering bilingual Finland a trilingual country. However, Minister of Justice Johannes Koskinen (Social Democrat) puts a damper on any dreams there might be of a third official tongue or any other significant legal amendments in this direction. "The language issue is one aspect of immigration policy, and only after the basic lines have been drawn up there will it be time to look at what sort of changes in the law are required in future", he said.

Public debate on the status of the Russian language has touched among other things on the terms of the Language Act, which provides for speakers of the national languages of Finnish and Swedish. The Act states for example that a community should be bilingual if a minimum of 8% of the residents (or alternatively 3,000 persons) speak as their mother-tongue a language that is different from the majority. Under such conditions, the town or municipality will have a name in two languages, and all road-signs will be in both languages. This is over and above a stipulation that - since Finland is a bilingual country - it should be possible to seek justice and public services in either of the languages. In most cases the minority language is Swedish, spoken as a first language by fewer than 6% of the entire population, although there are regions of the country - on the south and west coasts and throughout the Ĺland Islands - where Finnish speakers will find themselves in a minority. Scarcely any communities in the Ĺland Islands can boast the threshold 8% of Finnish-speakers.

The relevance of the Language Act in the discussion begins to become clearer when one considers that the south-eastern city of Lappeenranta (pop. c. 58,000) already has around 1,500 Russian-speakers, and this figure could easily double during the next ten years. "You should understand this has nothing to do with the Language Act, however. That concerns only the two national languages of Swedish and Finnish", warns Sten Palmgren, a Senior Adviser for Legislative Affairs at the Ministry of Justice. Palmgren points out that thus far we have not reached anything like a situation where Russian might be mentioned in the Finnish Constitution as a minority language in the same fashion as Sámi in Lapland or Romany, spoken by the ethnic Roma minority. The clause in the Constitution that reads "The Sámi, as an indigenous people, as well as the Roma and other groups, have the right to maintain and develop their own language and culture" also covers the rights of Russian-speakers to their own language and culture. The specific reference to the Sámi and Roma by name is based on the fact that both groups have lived in Finland for centuries. They are also Finnish citizens. According to Statistics Finland there are now slightly more than 33,000 residents of Finland who declare themselves as Russian-speaking.

The initial task of the working party was to examine what sort of research should be carried out on the position of the Russian-speaking minority. In the event it rather exceeded this brief and ended up presenting a clutch of anomalies relating to the position of Russian-speakers, and offered possible solutions for these. The group recently handed in its report to the Ministry of Labour's Advisory board for Ethnic R marginalisation. One specific fault that was mentioned is the curious fact that the Finnish Orthodox Church has no Russian-speaking clergy.

Finland has been criticised by ECRI, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance. In a report from July 2002, ECRI observed that Finland had not paid sufficient attention to the position of the Russian-speaking minority in the country, and that there appeared to be discrimination in some fields, including employment, housing, and access to public services.
©Helsingin Sanomat

26/05/2003- Ten years ago this week, four German youths set fire to the home of the Genç family in the town of Solingen. Five family members, including three children, died and became worldwide symbols for victims of racism.

The small town of Solingen is planning big things for this Thursday.
Ten years after four right wing youths set fire to the home of a Turkish family, killing five and injuring 14, the city is planning another somber ceremony to remember Gürsün Ince, 27, Hatice Genç, 18, Saime Genç, 4, Hülya Genç, 9, and Gülüstan Öztürk, 12. The town has worked a decade to rid itself of the hateful association with right wing violence that propelled it into the international headlines in 1993. Following the attacks on May 29 the city responded quickly, setting up anti-racist organizations and events to integrate the city's foreigners and planting trees at the site of the burned down house, one for each victim. This Thursday, the town plans to add to the symbolic gestures by renaming a street in honor of the Genç's hometown in Turkey, Mercimek.

Working to distance itself from the attack
As much as they've accepted the horrible incident as a part of their town's history, Solingen officials work hard nowadays to send out the message that they're no different from any other town. "The words 'Solingen is everywhere' dominated the discussions," wrote the town's Mayor recently. "Even today, I'm convinced that there is nothing that differentiates us from any other city." But the name of the city has stuck -- as it has with brutal attacks on foreigners in Rostock, Hoyerswerda, Hünxe and Mölln -- imprinted on the minds of Germans as a symbol of right wing racism. The fire in Solingen capped a wave of violence against foreigners in the years following the fall of the wall, highlighted by high-profile cases in those five towns.

German President a valuable ally
German President Johannes Rau, who at the time was premier of North-Rhine Westphalia, the state in which Solingen is located, has made frequent visits back to the home of the Genç family and will hold a speech on the anniversary day. Other politicians are planning meetings with members of the Turkish community, Germany's largest foreign community. "The most moving for me has been the poise the Genç family has shown," Rau told the German press agency, dpa. "There was no hate, no leave-taking (from the greater community), only the call for reconciliation between people and the population. That was the positive signal after the horrible incident." The Genç family continues to live in Solingen. With the more than 1.4 million euro they received in insurance and donations, the family built a high-security home surrounded by a wall and a fence and watched over by security cameras.

"Allah should burn them"
Of the survivors, Bekir Genç, now 25, remains the worse off. He suffered burns on over 36 percent of his body and had to be operated more than 20 times. Two of the four men convicted in 1995 of the crime after a lengthy trial, were released early from their ten-year sentences. The other two -- Markus Gartmann, 23 at the time, and Christian Reher, 16 at the time -- remain behind bars. The Genç family lawyer is trying to get President Rau to help them track down the two released from prison in order to collect the hundreds of thousands of euros a court ordered the arsonists to pay the family. Mevlüde Genç, the mother and grandmother of four of the victims, told the newsmagazine Der Spiegel that she was against the pair's early release. "Allah should burn them," she said. "like they have burned me."

Related link: Men Sentenced for Setting Fire to Rostock Refugee Complex (17/06/2002)

©Deutsche Welle

28.05.2003- "We have not forgotten you; we will never forget you," reads the sign marking the spot where five people died in Germany's worst attack on foreigners. A decade on survivors are still struggling to heal wounds. On May 29, 1993, the town of Solingen woke to the sound of sirens: House number 81 on Unteren Wernerstraße was in flames. It was no ordinary blaze. Four right-wing radicals had set fire to the home of the Turkish family Genç, killing two women and three young girls, and shaking the town out of its sleepy air. Hatred against foreigners, a phenomenon that had struck Germany before, had come home to the otherwise peaceful working-class town with its large Turkish community.

A night of horror
The deaths of Gürsin Ince, 27, Hatice Genç, 18, Gülüstan Öztürk, 12, Hülya Genç, 9, and Saime Genç, 4, are not easily forgotten, not for the family, and not for the town. "I had never seen anything like it in my life," Wolfgang Schreiber, editor of the local newspaper, the Solinger Tageblatt, told Deutsche Welle recalling the night of the attack. "A house so entirely engulfed in flames from the basement to the attic ­ it became very quickly clear that it was not a normal fire, but rather that something horrific had taken place ­ that people had run for their lives, jumped out of windows." The journalist remembers the trauma of the day's events. "The horror continued throughout the night until the early morning, and by that time the feeling had set in that we were experiencing something so terrible, something that had never before been experienced in Solingen," he said.

Remembering and moving on
Today, all traces of the burned out house have been removed. Only a vacant lot with five trees ­ one for each victim ­ and a slightly withered plaque with the statement "We have not forgotten you, we will never forget you" reminds the town of the people who once lived here. The Genç family has since packed up and moved on, not out of Solingen, but to a new house built with the money they received from insurance and donations. Although the house is surrounded by a high metal fence and video cameras watch over the property, the front door is open for friends and town officials. "I have never thought, and never will think about turning my back on Solingen," Mevlüde Genç, the family matriarch who lost three daughters, a granddaughter and a niece in the fire, confessed to Deutsche Welle. "We have been here more than 30 years, with all the joy and sadness that entails; we live here, that is simply the way it is. We are satisfied with the community and the work of the city council. Fate has hit us, but we don't think about it."

Healing wounds
In the family's new home, dozens of medals and honors, including the Order of Merit for the Federal Republic of Germany ­ the highest honor in the country ­ fill a display cabinet. They are in recognition of Mevlüde Genç's strength and tolerance, characteristics she most likely only reveals in public. On the inside, the violence and the loss of life are very much a part of her everyday life. Ayla Olsen, a long-time family friend says that the wounds have healed, "but the pain and the sadness are still present ­ they are there in the stillness." "The crime will always be present, but they [the family] has learned to live with it," Olsen says. "It has left its traces, both mentally and physically, as we can see with some of the family members, but they understand how to start over again building a new life."

Life springs forth again
A decade after the tragedy, the next generation of Gençs is growing up in Solingen. Bekir, the son who suffered burns on over 36 percent of his body, is 25 and has his own family. Mevlüde is now a proud grandmother. "Bekir has a three-year old child," she boasts, "and if God so wishes, the next c ©Deutsche Welle

28 May 2003 - Speaking 10 years after a racist murder of five Turks in Germany, a spokesman for the country's Turkish community complained that regular politicians were still airing racist views. Kenan Kolat, deputy chairman of the Turkish Community Council, said right-wing slogans still found their way into regular political discourse and said it was dangerous to politicize discussion of immigration. He said debate in the early 1990s about whether Germany was taking in too many refugees created a climate of violence. "That let out of the bottle the genie that is still a problem today," he said.

Germany is solemnly marking this week the 10th anniversary of a May 29, 1993 attack in which four youths burned down a family's home in Solingen, western Germany, killing two women and three children. The speaker of the federal parliament, Wolfgang Thierse, met Tuesday with Kolat and other leaders to affirm efforts to fight racism. In Solingen itself, the municipality was to rename a street this Thursday for the victims' hometown in Turkey, Mercimek. German President Johannes Rau praised the survivors from the family this week, saying they had shown no hate, but had called for reconciliation. The four Nazi-inspired attackers were sentenced to prison. Two have completed their sentences and two are still serving their time.

27 May 2003- Three young neo-Nazis went on trial in east Germany yesterday charged with the "bestial murder" of a schoolboy. The teenager was tortured and killed after his attackers decided that his baggy trousers and dyed blond hair made him "look like a Jew". The men aged 17, 18 and 24 faced charges on separate counts of causing grievous bodily harm, coercion, attempted murder, and murder by a court in the town of Neuruppin. They are accused of killing Marinus Schoeberl, 17, a white German, whose mutilated body was discovered in a farm silage pit near the isolated village of Potzlow, north of Berlin, last November, four and a half months after his death. The accused, named only as Marcel, Marco and Sebastian, appeared in court to hear statements read out by their lawyers in which they confessed to the killing but showed no remorse.

Gerd Schnittcher, the chief state prosecutor, said: "The accused are part of an extreme right-wing scene. Acts of violence are nothing new, but we are dealing with a new dimension here. The details of the murder are so cruel that I can hardly bring myself to describe them. It was bestial." The court was told how in July last year, Schoeberl had joined a group of young people in a flat in Potzlow where they got drunk. The three neo-Nazis in the group took exception to the boy's dyed hair and trousers. "They saw this as a provocation," state prosecutors said. Schoeberl was punched and kicked by the three who forced him to "confess" that he looked "like a Jew". The boy was taken to another flat in the village and beaten further before being dragged to a derelict pigsty on a deserted farm.

There, the prosecution said, Schoeberl was tortured according to methods shown in the film American History X, in which a neo-Nazi brutally murders two black men. In their confessions yesterday, the accused admitted to kicking Schoeberl's head repeatedly, which was propped up against a stone block. In earlier evidence, one of the accused admitted to "feeling sick". One of the group admitted yesterday to "finishing off" their victim by hurling a heavy stone against his head. Schoeberl was then dumped in a disused silage pit. The dead boy was discovered last November after one of the assailants boasted of the killing to friends. One of the group then told police. Police said they suspected that people in the village who knew about the killing might have closed ranks because of threats issued by the ringleader, a scaffolder with a record of neo-Nazi violence.
© Independent Digital

Neo-Nazis admit killing
May 30, 2003- Three young members of the neo-Nazi scene have admitted killing a 16-year-old neighborhood boy in the Brandenburg village of Potzlow, but their motive remains unclear. The killers - two youths who were 17 at the time of the crime last July, and a brother of one of them, who was 23 - confessed on the first day of their trial on Monday. According to prosecutors, the three caused the victim, identified only as Marinus, to become extremely drunk before one of the 17-year-olds, Marcel S., repeatedly bashed and kicked his head against a stone pig trough - an action that prosecutors claim the three copied from a Hollywood film about the far-right scene, "American History X." Marcel S. did not deny they had called Marinus a "Jew," but added, "what a Jew is, we didn't really know."
©Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

May 232003- "Fascists are Zionists, just like Micha," one participant writes on the Moroccan Web site www.maghreb.nl  just before Micha, a Dutch-born Jew living in Israel, blasts Israeli policy. Anyone who frequents the site knows that Micha very often is critical about Israeli policy. But attacks like the one on Micha on the Moroccan Web site are commonplace in the virtual community of Moroccans in Holland. Moroccan anti-Semitism is on the rise in Holland. Dutch Jews already have known it for several years: According to the Center for Information and Documentation about Israel, or CIDI, the Dutch equivalent of the Anti-Defamation League, the number of anti-Jewish incidents has been increasing since 1997. Since the Palestinian intifada began in September 2000, however, the number of incidents has increased and their nature has changed, becoming more violent and physical. Muslim immigrants  primarily Moroccan youths  are responsible for the sharp rise in incidents, according to CIDI. In its 2000 annual report, Tel Aviv University's Institute for the Study of anti-Semitism and Racism reached to a similar conclusion: It registered an increase of 50 percent in violent anti-Semitic incidents in Western Europe, most of them in countries with large Muslim communities.

In cities like Amsterdam, Jews who until recently walked freely with their yarmulkes now prefer not to. Many say they have been subjected to name calling, physical attacks and aggressive behavior from Moroccan youths. It began in neighborhoods such as West Amsterdam that are populated mainly by Moroccan immigrants. But even in the southern parts of Amsterdam, which since World War II have had a large Jewish population, many Jews prefer not to walk outside with visible signs of their faith. Dutch society long has ignored or downplayed the situation. Common responses were that the situation really couldn't be as bad as it seemed, or that Jews were too quick to label all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism. In recent weeks, however, the tide seems to be changing. On May 4, the day Holland commemorates its soldiers, Jews and other civilians who died in World War II, Moroccan youths disturbed various commemoration ceremonies in Dutch cities, mainly in Amsterdam. It took a week until Michel Rog, a local politician for the center-left party D'66, filed an official complaint of anti-Semitism with Amsterdam police. Rog is a member of the neighborhood council in the De Baarsjes area of West Amsterdam, and participated actively in the local commemoration ceremony. "Suddenly a group of 10, 20 young Moroccans came and began to shout Joden moeten we doden,' " he said. They repeated the slogan, which means "We should kill the Jews," again and again. Similar incidents took place in other Amsterdam neighborhoods, where Moroccans disturbed speeches and the traditional two minutes of silence for the dead, shouting the same slogan or "Hamas Hamas, put the Jews into the gas." Elsewhere in Amsterdam, Moroccan youths destroyed flowers after the ceremonies, set them on fire or played soccer with them. Non-Jewish participants in the ceremony were perplexed, but remain divided over what the Moroccan youths could have meant.

Some, like Rog, feel the youngsters intentionally used anti-Semitic slogans on a day commemorating Jewish victims of Nazi persecution. Others think the incidents have no political meaning. "They're just bored and want attention," one man said on a popular current affairs talk show on Dutch public television. "They don't even know what they're saying because they're not familiar with Dutch and Jewish history. So how can they have bad intentions?" Other Dutch media picked up the debate. Where does this come from, people asked, and who is responsible? Is it a lack of education? Incorrect information from their Moroccan parents? "I hear outra to stop in 1945. "Tell the youths exactly about the second Holocaust, of the Palestinians, that continued decades long," the participant wrote. "And please explain to those youngsters, then, that a people that has experienced something horrific does not hesitate to perform the very same on other peoples." Another chat participant, writing after last week's terror attacks in Casablanca, said, "I'm sure that it's the Ku Klux Klan. Or would it be the Jews themselves? After all the Jewish center" that was bombed "was empty due to the Sabbath." Many Muslim immigrants in Holland watch satellite broadcasts in Arabic, usually state-owned stations from the Middle East and North Africa. Until recent weeks, larger Dutch society was mainly unaware of — or at best indifferent to — the potential consequences for Dutch society. Since the May 4 incidents, however, the number of anti-Semitic incidents that makes it into the media is steadily rising. On Tuesday, the daily newspaper Trouw published a picture from a leaflet with a hand-written message that had been displayed in the window of an Amsterdam restaurant: "All parked bikes here will be eliminated, as will descendants of Sharon," a reference to the Israeli prime minister.

One of the people most criticized after the May 4 incidents is Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen. Several months ago, when he was mooted as the Labor Party's candidate for the premiership, Cohen was widely praised for the diplomatic way he has maintained tolerance and understanding in the Dutch capital, which has residents of 168 different nationalities. In his two years as mayor, Cohen — a secular Jew married to a non-Jewish woman — has cultivated good relations with all ethnic and cultural groups in the city. He often invites Muslim leaders to his office and visits Muslim cultural centers or mosques. Following the May 4 incidents, many felt Cohen should stop talking to the Muslims and "take some action." "It's time to establish clear limits, and you can only do that when you file official complaints with the police and prosecute people accordingly," said Rog, the local politician who reported the May 4 incident. "Mr. Cohen only wants to talk." Cohen denies the allegations, but, in his many media appearances since May 4, has refrained from specifying how he plans to act against the increase in anti-Semitic incidents. Recently, Cohen was shown remarks from a speech by an Amsterdam imam whom Cohen speaks to regularly, which explicitly called for Muslims to exterminate the Jews. Cohen restricted himself to a diplomatic denunciation of the speech.

24 May 2003- With her tumble of blond hair and angelic smile, seven year-old Niki Lakatos looks little different from thousands of Hungarian first-graders, but for the school authorities her Gypsy heritage sets her apart. When she first lined up in the school cafeteria here in Patka, a sleepy town an hour's drive southwest of Budapest, she was handed a plastic cup, while her classmates drank from glasses, and told not to eat with them but with the other Roma, most of whom languish in remedial classes. Niki is half-Roma and this was her initiation into the discrimination the minority suffers in Hungarian schools, ranging from petty mealtime rules to separate schools. "Never in this world would I have imagined the level of discrimination against my daughter," said Niki's mother, Rita Gram, herself not a Roma, at their dilapidated home on the outskirts of Patka. "Municipal and school officials have come to expect that Roma parents won't complain." Gram did. In October she wrote to the national ombudsman for minorities who launched an investigation. His report, released in January, not only confirmed the discriminatory practices in the canteen, but also found that Roma students were almost automatically shoved into remedial classes. When AFP visited the primary school this week, principal Maria Fuchs admitted that the school's two remedial classes - one for students from grades one to four and another for those in grade five to eight - are made up entirely of Roma children. Fuchs said that of the school's 26 Roma pupils, only Niki and one other were in regular classes, while the rest were put into classes for slow learners on the recommendation of a county committee on student preparation. It had also recommended that four non-Roma children be put in the remedial classes, but Fuchs said they were still in "normal classes." The ombudsman's report said the body's recommendations on Roma children was not based on scientific evaluations, but on race. "We could not confirm an objective reason for the differentiation of the children beyond their ethnicity." A recent study commissioned by the Hungarian education ministry found that Patka was no exception, and that segration of Roma children has increased sharply in the past 20 years. Reseachers said at 178 primary schools known to have significant Roma populations, 330 remedial classes were created and filled entirely with Roma students. They added that there were some 770 all-Roma classes nationwide, compared to only 110 in the early 1980s.
©Hi Pakistan

Refugee centers flooded with hundreds of Chechens in search of a safe home

Madina gave birth on the road, while traveling from one refugee camp to another. But that was the least of her travails. The bright-eyed woman, bouncing 10-month-old Murat on her lap, shyly explains how the death of the family patriarch was the catalyst for her departure from what she says is a war-torn wasteland: the Chechen Republic. "My father was killed by the Russian Army," she said. "There are fewer and fewer Muslims where we are from. We knew we had to go." She straightens one of her few possessions, a white blanket that covers her bed in the Zbysov refugee center, 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) southwest of Brno. "The Army would come every day, and they were beating up my brother, even me. We couldn't sleep in our houses," she said. Timur, her husband, takes over the story. "Right before we left, they started just taking men away because they were Muslim and then they would demand payment from the parents for the return of their sons' dead bodies," he said, repeating an accusation made by many Chechen refugees who have arrived here during the last three years. Madina and Timur, who spoke on condition that they and their child be identified with pseudonyms, said they remain frightened that the Russian Army will harm their family members who still live in a village outside Grozny, the republic's capital. The couple would not consent to be photographed. Still weary from travel, Madina and Timur are among the 430 Chechen refugees, most believed to be Muslims, who crossed the border from Poland at the beginning of May in the hope of obtaining political asylum in the Czech Republic. Since January, 1,200 Chechens have sought asylum here, accounting for nearly one-third of the total number of asylum seekers. It is likely that most of the applicants, many of whom the Polish authorities turned down for asylum, will also be rejected in this country, officials said.

Nine years of hell
Unlike civilians in conflict-ridden Kosovo and Bosnia in the early 1990s, Chechens are not officially recognized as a group in need of protection, even as their province is ripped by civil war. Recent elections there have done nothing to solve the problems, say refugees who come here. The first war, led by Chechens demanding independence, raged from 1994 to 1996. Hostilities began again in 1998 and have continued as rebels demand an Islamic state and claim responsibility for attacking civilians, including last year's hostage-taking at a Moscow theater that resulted in hundreds of deaths. Russia has been criticized by leading human rights groups such as Amnesty International and the Council of Europe for the torture, killing and rape of civilians during the conflict in the Chechen Republic. A UN report released in February concludes that discrimination and a communist-era registration system prevent Chechens from being able to resettle in other parts of the country. Many endure grueling stays in overcrowded refugee camps in other countries. Those Chechens who make it here then must contend with this country's 1 to 5 percent asylum acceptance rate and an average wait of three years to obtain a decision from the Interior Ministry. About 8,000-9,000 refugees apply each year for political asylum but only 80-100 are accepted. Seven hundred Chechens applied for asylum last year. Of those, 28 were accepted. "Our problem with the asylum procedure in the Czech Republic is the low recognition rate and the length of the procedure," said Marta Miklusakova, public affairs officer for the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Prague. Asylum acceptance rates in the European Union hover at 27.4 percent, according to the UNHCR. Most asylum cases in EU countries are resolved within several months. Other former Eastern bloc nations, such as Hungary, also resolve cases quickly, Miklusakova said.

Why here?
Madina and numerou
Lack of documentation
He said that to obtain asylum, he needs to prove to the authorities that he will be persecuted if he returns. "But I don't have any documents that can prove that," he said. Although Madina and Timur said they plan to wait it out, Anna Grusova, director of the Counseling Center for Refugees in Prague, said the sudden influx from Poland looks like an organized attempt by a group to make its way to higher economic ground. She notes that 11 Chechen refugees who turned up in Austria recently had applied for asylum in the Czech Republic. "But you cannot make a generalization. Some Chechens really want to stay here; others want to go farther west," she said. She said that the temporary protection status that the Chechens previously received will not likely be granted again. "The world is pretending this war is not happening," Grusova said, suggesting that after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Russia has had free rein to crack down on Chechen terrorism, even if innocent civilians are adversely affected. "This leaves the Chechens in a dead hole. They are not accepted anywhere." Grusova pointed out that the Interior Ministry has long taken a so-called third way toward Chechens. "The policy up to now was that the Chechens could apply for asylum, but most would receive no answer. They were not accepted but they weren't rejected." This policy, she said, did not satisfy those who really wanted to stay here and get on with their lives. Grusova is urging the ministry to offer the Chechens a toleration visa that would require them to go back when the conflict ends. The visa would allow the Chechens to work, something they can't do until a year after they have applied for asylum, and then only on a limited basis.

The lucky few
Svatopluk Karasek, head of the Chamber of Deputies subcommittee on migration, does not think the new arrivals have a good chance for any kind of visa. "They should have applied in Poland, which under the asylum rules is a safe country, so if they were rejected there they technically can't apply here," he said. The Interior Ministry refused to answer questions regarding the Chechens' asylum prospects. Tomas Haisman, head of the ministry's department of asylum and migration, said the delays and low acceptance rates reflected vigorous interviewing and fact-finding procedures that were consistent with EU norms. aisia Izmailova, a 49-year-old mother of three and a pharmacist, is someone whose facts added up. The Grozny native was granted asylum earlier in May, three years after a bomb destroyed her house. "I left for the Czech Republic in 1999 when the Russians started to blackmail and persecute us," she said at a women's weekly meeting run by the counseling center. Izmailova said refugee advocates in Russia were able to provide supporting evidence for her claim. She advised new arrivals from Chechnya to write letters and fight for their cases. Izmailova said she is broken from her long stays in Russian refugee camps outside Chechnya, where she says she had to pay bribes just to stay alive. "I don't really want anything now -- just to live without hearing bombs and to pay my rent."

Who gets in

Asylum applications in 2002 for the Czech Republic:

  • 8,482 total applicants
  • 103 accepted
  • 1.2 percent acceptance rate

    Where they applied from (top three countries)

  • Vietnam 891
  • Slovakia 843

    Where they were accepted from (top three countries)
  • Russia (Chechen Republic) 28
  • Belarus 26
  • Afghanistan 17
    Source: United Nations High Comission for Refugees/Interior Ministry of the Czech Republic
    ©The Prague Post

    Nearly 30 universities were in danger of breaking the race laws by failing to have adequate anti-discrimination policies in place, according to previously unreported government research. The research, which was commissioned by the sector's Equality Challenge Unit, found that 28 of the 130 universities and colleges it surveyed had such poor anti-racism policies they were failing to comply with the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 (RRAA). Of the 130 universities, 34 were found to have model policies, 31 were good, but needed some improvement, 20 were developing "appropriately", but had significant deficits, 17 had major work incomplete and 28 were not yet up to the provisions of the RRAA requirements and needed "urgent" revision.

    Professor Gus John, the report's author, said these institutions had policies and plans "so wide of the mark as to suggest a total lack of interest in the issue and a poor effort to demonstrate that they have some sort of policy or plan in place". The ECU said today it had worked with universities to make sure they had proper policies in place and expected them all to comply with the act by the end of this month. Professor John's report, delivered in February, said: "Many HEIs are still struggling to come to terms with what the legislation requires and remain on a steep learning curve. What is more, it begs the question as to what precisely HEIs had done in response to Section 71 of the 1976 Race Relations Act and as a result of the findings and recommendations of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report." The RRAA places a positive duty on all public institutions to have policies in place to promote racial equality in the workplace. Guidance for the sector has been provided by both the ECU and the Commission for Racial Equality. Professor John, a visiting lecturer in education at Strathclyde University, said he was contractually obliged not to name the offending institutions, but said: "Those institutions are subject to legal challenge. It raises questions about the extent to which in a multi-ethnic environment they are institutionally capable of responding to the needs of black and minority ethnic people. And even more importantly of discharging their leadership function in terms of promoting racial equality within society as a whole. "Universities are powerful - they prepare people for the market place, and produce society's leaders; society has a right to expect that they would set a good example." He said the ECU responded by providing all universities with an action plan to improve their policies, which they are due to report back on at the end of this month.

    But the research, which was discussed at a CRE conference in February when it was published, has not been publicised. Professor John added that universities seemed to have a particular problem responding to issues of racial discrimination. "Even where there is evidence of movement of issues to do with gender and with disability, people are not so foot sure about race. There is a general reluctance to address issues of racisms and especially of institutional racisms." The report was based on evaluations made on the basis of information provided by the 130 individual institutions. Professor Joyce Hill, head of the ECU, said the higher education sector had decided to review the policies of all its institutions with the backing of the CRE. Many of the universities with inadequate policies in place were in fact doing a lot of work on race relations, she said, but had failed to articulate it or produce proper documentation. They had been given until May 31 to comply. "I am confident that they will be satisfactory this time round. In many of the institutions people had not appreciated the difference in requirements in the way policies and action plans are set out," said Professor Hill. She said Professor John's report had not been intended for publication but to help universities develop the prope ©The Guardian

    27 May 2003- Police forces, schools and hospitals are to be subject to investigations by a human rights watchdog with wide powers to uphold civil liberties across Britain, under plans backed by ministers. The body will be responsible for making Britain compliant with Labour's flagship human rights legislation, which came into force 30 months ago but which has so far proved ineffective. A parliamentary inquiry has found evidence of widespread human rights abuse in care homes and other institutions responsible for the vulnerable. Ministers and civil rights campaigners are also concerned that the initial impetus that accompanied the introduction of the Human Rights Act in October 2000 has stalled in the year that marks the 50th anniversary since the landmark European Convention on Human Rights came into force.

    Privately, ministers have accepted the case for establishing a human rights commission and want to consult on how wide its new powers should be. Some ministers favour a watered-down commission limited to promoting human rights and issuing advice on best practice and education, but equality groups want it to have power to investigate public organisations that fail to uphold the new laws. Yvette Cooper, a minister at the Lord Chancellor's Department, has told civil right groups: "The Human Rights Act and the approach it takes are far from embedded across society at this stage." She said there were misconceptions over the Act that needed to be challenged. And she warned that if the Government did not champion the Act, "we risk creating a climate in which a reactionary government can get away with pulling out". The parliamentary inquiry found the case for a human rights commission for England and Wales "compelling". The joint human rights committee of MPs and peers, whose report follows a two-year inquiry, says public bodies such as local councils and hospitals "do enough to avoid litigation and no more. They have not put respect for individuals' rights at the heart of their policy and practice. We have found widespread evidence of a lack of respect for the rights of those who use public services, especially the rights of those who are most vulnerable and in need of protection."

    The committee recommends a move to an integrated body combining the human rights commission and the single equality body the Government has unveiled to enforce discrimination laws. Ms Cooper says: "Parliament's joint committee on human rights has argued strongly that human rights should be part of a new single equality commission, not to take human rights litigation, but to promote and champion the values of human rights across society. We need to consider their case. Because whatever we do, we need to strengthen support for human rights and responsibilities and the values of respect for human dignity across our society." But many equality and human rights campaigners fear the Government may wish to establish a "toothless" watchdog. There is understood to be a perception within the Government that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has "spun dangerously out of control". Lord Lester QC, a member of the joint committee, says the commission must have sufficient powers to do its job. "The commission should have the power to conduct inquiries ... on its own initiative," he said. "It should have the necessary powers to make this role effective." John Wadham, director of the human rights groups Liberty, says: "It's been very unfortunate that a human rights commission was not set up when the HRA was implemented and we believe it is very important that when the Government sets up a new body to deal with equality issues, that body has a clear remit to promote human rights and a culture of human rights." One minister said that the Government would announce its response to calls for a commission before the end of the summer recess.

    Three faces of th have her marriage legally recognised, but last month the House of Lords refused because the law had not been changed here. Lord Nicholls said allowing someone to be regarded as of the opposite sex would mean a change in the law with far-reaching ramifications. Such decisions required public consultation and should be taken by Parliament rather than the courts, he added. Mrs Bellinger had gender reassignment surgery in 1981 and went through a marriage ceremony. She said the law lords had declared her a "bloke" and her husband a homosexual.

    Louis Farrakhan: Freedom of Speech
    Louis Farrakhan, leader of the militant black group The Nation of Islam, was banned from the UK in 1986. Douglas Hurd, Home Secretary at the time, issued an exclusion order him because he described Jews as "bloodsuckers" and whites as "devils" with whom he advocated "settling the score". The ban was enforced by successive home secretaries but was challenged in the High Court by Mr Farrakhan, 69, who said his freedom of expression had been infringed. Last July, the Lords upheld the ban. They said Mr Farrakhan should have no further right of appeal. In October, he won a court fight to prove his exclusion from Britain breached his human rights. But the ruling was overturned at the Court of Appeal.
    © Independent Digital

    An archive documenting 50 years of asylum seeking in the UK has been given a new home by the University of East London.

    May 27, 2003- The Refugee Council's archive has been re-housed and re-catalogued to the university's Docklands site to make the materials more readily accessible to the public. Last week, Jeff Crisp, head of evaluation and policy at the United Nations high commission for refugees (UNHCR), and Fazil Kawani, of the Refugee Council, were among the speakers at the archive's formal opening. The Refugee Council Archive comprises nearly 13,000 documents relating to all aspects of refugee history, policy and practice in the UK and worldwide dating back to the 1950s. Over the past few months, staff at UEL have been installing and cataloguing the archive in a dedicated suite at the learning resources centre at UEL's Docklands campus.

    Phil Marfleet, co-ordinator of the centre, said: "Since we had the postgraduate programme in refugee studies we offered to house, maintain and develop the archive and make it accessible to all users. There are 13,000 items including books and journals, but also reports, proceedings, informal research data, press cuttings - a whole mass of material that for people who are interested will be a hugely valuable resource." The archive will be accessible to researchers, agencies, community groups and refugees. It forms a core part of the university's refugee studies centre, which has in recent years developed a strong programme of teaching and research on issues including globalisation, migration, ethnicity and racism, human rights, refugee law, social policy and cultures of exile. It runs postgraduate programmes in refugee studies and works in partnership with universities and agencies worldwide.

    Mr Crisp, who is based at UNHCR's headquarters in Geneva, said: "This is a fantastic resource, and it contains some extremely rare items unavailable anywhere else in the world. In the field of refugee studies, we are all very focused on all that is happening in the world today, but for full understanding we need to know about our history and learn lessons from the past." Fazil Kawani, communication director at the Refugee Council, said: "This archive dates back to 1951, and we are delighted that it is now being hosted by UEL. East London has a diverse population including many communities founded by refugees. It is also important as a record of people's lives; people who have crossed borders and been forced to leave their homes, livelihoods and families."

    The archive is open Monday to Thursday from 9am to 5pm and from 9am to 3pm on Friday. For more information, contact Paul Dudman, archivist, on 020 8223 7676.
    ©The Guardian

    May 28, 2003- The archbishop of Canterbury believes the Church of England should change its teaching to accept gay relationships, his biographer was quoted as saying Tuesday. The archbishop, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, privately feels the Church should alter its position on homosexuals as it has on slavery, marriage after divorce and money-lending, Rupert Short wrote in his biography, an extract of which was published in The Times of London. Separately, Anglican leaders said Tuesday that they could not support ceremonies blessing homosexual relationships. "There is no theological consensus about same sex unions," said a statement by the Anglican Communion office. "Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorization of such rites."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    May 25, 2003- Muslims from across the country gathered yesterday on two very different downtown D.C. stages, one group looking inward as a way to strengthen their community, the other railing outward over their tenuous place in a post-9/11 United States. The more vocal assembly also was the more public, a Muslim Solidarity Day that boomed warnings across Freedom Plaza about an erosion of civil liberties. President Bush and Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, the two men held responsible, were censured for the detention, interrogation and profiling that speakers said have many people living in fear. War with Iraq has only heightened concerns. "We now live in a climate of secrecy," said Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, which organized the rally. "I think civil rights and civil liberties are in jeopardy."

    The event attracted several hundred men, women and children, some from as far as Ohio. They worried aloud about the government targeting mosques, monitoring activities, recruiting informants. They considered this a "first step" of speaking out, though their numbers were far smaller than the thousands expected, organizers said. "What scares me," said Asma Ashqar of Alexandria, "is that we've been talking about democracy and freedom of speech, [but] when you say your opinion, that's when you're opposing, that's when you're a terrorist." Shadi Balawi and his wife and two young sons rode a bus from Cincinnati to "stand for justice," as a stage banner urged. A native of Jordan who is studying aerospace engineering, Balawi recently reported to federal authorities for the registration and fingerprinting required by the 2001 Patriot Act. He has heard comments from strangers -- "Go back home," a driver shouted toward him at a gas station one day -- and his wife, who wears traditional dress and covers her head with a hijab, sees the stares of strangers. "This is something we feel," he explained. "There is some kind of injustice here. We need to stand up to it and say, 'This is not right.' "

    Toward the back of the crowd, under a frequently threatening sky, Faheem Darab and his brother held a long green banner that in Arabic praised Allah and the prophet Muhammed. Darab needs no sign to be identified, though, and recounted how he and a group of Arab Americans traveling to Saudia Arabia this year for the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, were stopped at Dulles International Airport and questioned for 20 minutes about their travel. "We were walking down the tunnel, about to get onto the plane," the University of Virginia student said. "Everyone was being allowed to pass, but every single person in our group got stopped." He would expect that in other countries, he added, but not the United States. "Justice and peace are our lives . . . but they're under attack." Half a dozen blocks away, in the posh confines of the Grand Hyatt Hotel and Convention Center, more than 1,000 other Muslims heard far different speeches, intended to strengthen their religious beliefs and identity. Islam as a religion of "peace and justice" was the overriding theme. "We wanted to bring people together, to educate ourselves, to educate our children," said Ali Shakibai of Hartford, Conn., a spokesman for one of the organizers. The convention was a first for the Universal Muslim Association of America and drew Shia Muslims from the United States and Canada. Shiites are the second-largest branch of Islam, representing 10-15 percent of the faith.
    ©The Washington Post

    Staff needs to reflect community, forum told. Washington Post manager sees hope on horizon.

    May 23, 2003- Minority hiring and promotions in the newsroom may be too hot a potato to handle at times, but it is a necessity that no management can ignore, says the Washington Post's deputy managing editor Milton Coleman. Despite criticism of the media's diversity policies after the recent firing of reporter Jayson Blair, Coleman said the isolated incident of fabrication and plagiarism at the New York Times has nothing to do with the fact that the writer is black. He said the controversy should not distract from the need to have a newsroom that's reflective of the ethnically diverse community. "I know that there are those who believe that it reflects poorly on diversity, but I do not accept that argument," the 26-year Post veteran told a packed forum at the 2003 Innoversity Creative Summit in Toronto yesterday.

    The two-day summit, which is partly sponsored by the Star and wraps up today at the Colony Hotel, aims to offer opportunities for a diverse audience to develop contacts in the media industry and to give industry executives a chance to share strategies for embracing cultural diversity. "It's always tougher to deal with diversity than it is to ignore it," Coleman said. "There will be backlash no matter which way you cut it. There will be black backlash, white backlash, Latino backlash, Asian backlash. It's going to be there. To which, I say, `Welcome to the world.'" Diversity issues in the newsroom are a familiar territory for Coleman, who runs the newsroom personnel office, where he has been responsible for minority staff hiring and training programs since 1996. Prior to that, he was a reporter on minority and immigration issues, state and local politics, a city editor and an assistant managing editor for the metropolitan section. The path to boost the minority representation in the newsroom from 12.9 per cent of 451 staff in 1985 to 20.8 per cent of 653 editorial staff in 2002 hasn't been easy or smooth. But he said the paper has evolved along with the changing demographics. "People who previously thought they were the smartest folks in the world have learned that there's a lot of things we don't know," Coleman explained. "I always tell people to recognize two things: We don't know as much as we think we know; and a lot of what we know is not as important as what we think." But ethnic diversity is such a sensitive issue that whenever someone gets hired or promoted, suspicions still grow over "who got it and why. But people are people," Coleman noted.

    Since 1985, prompted by the need to represent the community where the racial minority jumped from 36 to 42 per cent in the last decade, the Post has gone through various stages of diversifying its newsroom. The paper offers diversity training to its managers and mentoring programs for minority youth in high school who display writing and reporting skills. Coleman maintains that open and candid dialogues in the newsroom can only help improve a paper's coverage of the very community it represents. "We have to find ways to create a climate in which there's not a reluctance to talk about race," he noted. "We have to be candid with one another." The summit continues today with workshops on employment trends in the media, politics and strategies to get into the industry, the art of branding diversity, balancing coverage and telling the truth in news coverage, the craft of investigative TV journalism and media monitoring.
    ©The Toronto Star

    26/5/2003- The Commission today, 27 May, will present its analysis of the development of a common policy on illegal immigration, smuggling and trafficking of human beings. The Commission is expected to urge EU member states to cooperate further. Areas which will be pin-pointed include policies towards visas and the management of external borders, issues on return policy and the appropriate financial resources needed to manage these areas. The Commission will stress the importance for Member States to reinforce mutual co-operation over visas and external border controls. But it will outline that such co-operation will have a significant financial burden attached to it. The Commission will also urge the Council to give their views, preferably before the end of 2003, about the development of the Visa Information system (VIS), on its legal base and the costs involved. This communication, which will be sent to the European Parliament and the Council, will be discussed next week at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 5-6 May, and then at the Thessaloniki summit two weeks later.

    Deporting asylum-seekers to centres outside EU
    A report over a UK proposal under which asylum-seekers could be deported to special centres outside the EU, was postponed for next week. The Commission's report will focus on the legal, logistic and financial impacts of this proposal but will leave any political decision on this issue to the EU ministers, the EUobserver has learnt. Member states are questioning how this system would work but it appears that the Commissioners have also different views on the proposal. The blueprint would allow for reception centres to be set up in countries such as Albania, the Ukraine and even Romania, where only those asylum-seekers whose applications were successful would be allowed to enter the EU. The plans also foresee the establishment of safe havens where refugees would stay until they could safely return to their homes.

    27 May 2003- The European Commission has delayed the publication of its analysis on the development of a common policy on illegal immigration until next Tuesday's meeting. The delay was caused by the absence of Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner, Antonio Vitorino from the weekly Brussels meeting, who was therefore unable to give some indication of the sum the EU would have to pay to reinforce co-operation over visas and external border controls. The Commission wants a new budget line in the financial perspectives, from 2007 onwards, to have the necessary financial mechanisms to support co-operation in this field. The Commission's analysis will now come only two days before the EU Ministers discuss it at a Council meeting on 5 June.

    Besides its scoreboard on illegal immigration, the Commission will also present its report over the UK proposal under which asylum-seekers could be deported to special centres outside the EU. The Council is also expected to deal with a joint report by Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino and Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou on immigration, integration and employment. These three proposals are also expected to figure on the Thessaloniki summit agenda.

    A report by the United Nations refugee agency has confirmed that there has been a substantial fall over the past year the number of people seeking asylum in Europe and North America. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has found that asylum applications in Europe, North America and Japan have fallen by 16% in the first three months of this year, compared with the previous three months. The total number of registered would-be refugees was about 120,000, and the downward trend is now well established.
    Two main factors are at work.

    Politically sensitive
    First, the ousting of politically repressive regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan has reduced the outflow of asylum-seekers from those two states. And secondly, in response to strong public pressures at home, Western countries have tightened border controls to limit the numbers reaching their territory and applying for refugee status. The sharpest drop in applications is in Britain, where in the past year the government secured the co-operation of France to help cut down on the influx of illegal entrants to Britain across the English Channel, many of whom applied for asylum. Refugee aid organisations in Britain have criticised the government for setting itself a target to cut the number of asylum applications by half. They say that genuine refugees, who can show they are fleeing from persecution, should not be treated as some kind of threat. But in many European countries the asylum issue has become closely linked to another politically sensitive question, that of the growing proportion of immigrants from faraway countries and different cultures. So the decline in the asylum statistics will be widely seen as a success for many governments which have faced a new challenge from right-wing and anti-immigrant parties in recent years.

    Public demands
    Europe was unprepared for the historically large influx of people that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall. It has caused a deep re-think of social attitudes and government policies throughout the continent. Above all, the public has demanded a clear distinction between refugees and economic migrants. But the duty of states to give asylum under the Geneva Convention is still in force.
    ©BBC News

    May 18, 2003- Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt claimed victory on Sunday after the ruling Liberals and Socialists won a parliamentary majority in a general election that also produced big gains for a far-right party. The anti-immigration Vlaams Blok won the largest vote in its 25-year history, five months after race riots rocked the port city of Antwerp. But it stood no chance of entering government. The Liberals and Socialists registered gains in both parts of the linguistically divided country of 10 million people, despite the collapse of their Greens coalition partners. ``Voters have given us the mandate to continue our work of modernisation and change in this country in the next few years,'' Verhofstadt, 50, told cheering members of his Flemish Liberal party as he prepared to head a new center-left government. With economic growth sluggish and unemployment high, Verhofstadt has vowed to keep cutting taxes and reform state bureaucracy and an overburdened judiciary. Flemish Christian Democratic opposition leader Stefaan De Clerck conceded defeat after failing to restore his party to power, which it lost in 1999 after more than 40 unbroken years in government. ``We didn't succeed,'' he said. The VRT broadcasting network forecast the Liberals and Socialists would hold 93 of the 150 seats in the lower house. The Socialists made the biggest gains but fell just short of overtaking Verhofstadt's Liberals as the largest party in the Dutch-speaking northern region of Flanders, which traditionally takes the initiative to form a new government.

    Record far-right vote
    With almost all votes counted, the Vlaams Blok, which has ties with French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, boosted its share of the vote to a record 17.9 percent in Flanders from the 15.4 percent it won in 1999. Support for the Flemish nationalist Blok, which campaigned for zero tolerance on crime and ending immigration, spread from its urban strongholds into rural areas. ``This is a very important victory for the Vlaams Blok,'' party leader Filip Dewinter told Reuters. But Belgium will not follow Austria by bringing a far-right party into a ruling coalition as all mainstream parties refuse to deal with the Blok, branding it racist and xenophobic. In the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia, the extreme-right National Front scored 5.2 percent despite an almost invisible campaign boycotted by public broadcasters. Parties are organized along linguistic lines and obliged to form coalitions with each other to reach a majority. About 7.6 million Belgians had been expected to vote in a country where apathy has risen despite voting being compulsory. Verhofstadt, whose round glasses, mop of ginger hair and boyish face make him look like Harry Potter's elder brother, urged voters to judge his coalition on its handling of public finances and the economy. It cut taxes while balancing the budget for three years and reduced Europe's second highest per capita national debt. The coalition passed some of the world's most progressive social legislation, legalising gay marriage and euthanasia. But Belgium angered the United States by opposing the Iraq war and helping France and Germany block NATO moves to boost Turkey's defenses before the conflict. A complaint filed under a Belgian law by victims of U.S. bombing in the 1991 Gulf War against former U.S. President George Bush senior and other U.S. officials has also strained ties.

    19/05/2003- An influx of refugees has generated significant increases in crime and the potential for unrest on the streets, the leader of police chiefs said yesterday. The warning came days before the Prime Minister is due to claim that monthly arrivals of asylum seekers have fallen from about 9,000 last October to an average of 5,000 a month in the first quarter of this year. However, Chris Fox, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), warned that many criminals were slipping untracked into Britain amid genuine refugees in the largest flows of immigration for 40 years. Gangsters from the Balkans, eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa have, according to Mr Fox, generated increased levels of drug dealing, prostitution, kidnapping, extortion and fraud. Some crimes, such as kidnapping, are regarded as "new", not having been favoured by established British crime groups.

    "They are opportunistically looking for the chance to get involved in criminal activity, whether it's prostitution, or drugs, or violence and extortion. It is a very difficult policing problem," said Mr Fox. "They bring with them different cultural values. The danger of this subject is everyone starts talking about racism. It's not about racism. But they bring with them some of the things they used to do in their own countries." He added: "If you go to any force in the country, you will find an increase in crime involving what I would call the new communities. It's not just a London, Birmingham, Manchester problem." In Northamptonshire, for example, where Mr Fox was previously chief constable, there was "a problem with young Serbians and Kosovars who all carried knives because that's the way they did it, that was their lives. "But when we got talking to them and they realised that we didn't do it, and the police officers weren't armed, they slowly stopped doing it." Mr Fox said that top, international criminals had been monitored for years. "But the second tier - where you have a criminal fraternity moving from a city abroad to a city here - are more difficult to track."

    The problems that high levels of asylum seekers bring to Britain is expected to be a central issue at the annual conference of ACPO in Birmingham this week. Mr Fox, its first full-time president, said: "There's a huge movement of people going on, bigger than since 30 or 40 years ago. "This is not about racism. Immigrants are not the cause of crime levels. It's just that they are being exploited. "Or, if they are not integrated properly into areas that already have social problems, if they are moving into areas that are already some of the most deprived and poor in the country, they bring on-street tensions and that leads to problems for us." Cities and towns such as Northampton, he added, had problems "with just having a lot of young men in the town without work - they couldn't work because they hadn't got their clearance through. So they were just hanging about. "That brings with it tension. They talk to the wrong girl and the local lads get upset. It's as simple as that."

    Mr Fox said the increase in the movement of people over the past four years had been "dramatic". Reports last year of refugees suffocating in lorries, television pictures of asylum seekers and reports of problems in local communities "could have looked like a tidal wave". This began, he said, "to give a perception which causes unrest, whether it be on the political extremes, with people who have very strong views, or generally". Mr Fox warned: "This is not just police business, it's everybody's. This puts pressure on schools, and social services and health. "Everybody has got to be prepared to work together to ensure that the people who are here are properly integrated ©Daily Telegraph

    A council has been ordered to do more to stamp out race discrimination

    19th May 2003- Conwy County Borough Council, in north Wales, has been given 28 days to produce an action plan to promote racial equality. The deadline was set out in a compliance notice sent by the Commission for Racial Equality. It is the first time such a compliance notice has been sent to a local authority. Under the amended Race Relations Act, all local authorities are required to produce a Race Equality Scheme, detailing how they are promoting equality in jobs and services. The CRE, which polices the act, last month sent a letter to Conwy Council asking to see its document. The council responded to the reminder but the CRE was not satisfied and last week sent the compliance notice. A CRE spokeswoman said: "Conwy County Borough Council was issued with a minded letter on 4 April 2003 but in the council's response on 17 April, there was no satisfactory evidence that any real progress was being made. "The council is now required to provide the CRE with written information to verify that the duty has been complied with within 28 days of the date the notice was served." Conwy County Borough Council said: "We are currently working on our Race Equality Scheme, it is overdue, but we will publish it as soon as it is completed."

    May 21 2003- A newly elected British National Party councillor was given a security escort as he arrived for his first Sandwell Council meeting last night. About 50 demonstrators gathered outside the Council House in Oldbury to protest against the victories of two BNP members at the May 1 local elections and trade union officials said they would refuse to co-operate with the far-right councillors. BNP member John Salvage won the Princes End ward seat by just 37 votes while David Watkins won in Great Bridge by nearly 100 votes. Coun Salvage had to be escorted in and out of the meeting by security guards and there were about 40 policemen to prevent any trouble. Coun Watkins did not turn up. Council worker Tony Barnsley, who is also the assistant branch secretary for Sandwell Unison, said: "We think they have conned their way into power simply by blaming asylum seekers. "I understand people's frustrations in the community, but voting for people like this is the wrong way to deal with it. "As a trade union we have also protested against the closure of public services, but we do not spread racial hatred. "Our members - particularly our black and Asian members - simply feel threatened by them. "I will refuse to work for them and we are encouraging our members to do the same."

    Coun Salvage denied his electoral success was simply down to scaremongering over asylum seekers. He said: "One of the biggest things that people were upset about on the doorstep was the council tax rise. "The dispersal of asylum seekers in the town which has caused people to lose their jobs was another big worry." He also declared he would be protesting about any compensation claims from the so-called "Tipton Taliban", the three Britons captured in Afghanistan and still being held by the US at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. "If it comes up in meetings we would definitely have something to say, because they were captured in a place where they should not have been and so should not be getting any support," he said. Coun Salvage's first meeting came on the same night that veteran anti-racism campaigner Les Taylor was awarded the position of Honorary Alderman. Coun Bill Thomas (Lab Rowley) was elected leader of the council and Coun Martin Prestidge the new mayor.
    ©Birmingham Post

    May 21 2003- Coventry City FC has stepped up security on its website's fans' forum following a spate of racist messages. A statement warning users about misuse of the forum was posted on the website homepage at www.ccfc.co.uk this week. It read: "Due to the current spate of racist messages being posted on the official website, the club would like to reiterate its stance on racism. "Coventry City is fully behind the Let's Kick It Out campaign and will not tolerate racism of any kind connected to the football club. "On the whole, users on the fans' forum cause no problem but in recent weeks a number of racist messages have been posted and if they continue the forum will be closed indefinitely. If the misuse of the forum persist the club will have no choice but to close the forum until a registration platform is in place, which enables us to ban users who post offensive messages of any kind." But club spokeswoman Jo Lea told the Evening Telegraph today that measures were already in place to monitor all messages. She said: "The forum will not be pulled because we are now monitoring all messages before they are put up. "We will soon be re-launching the website with a registration system so that anyone leaving abusive messages will be banned."
    ©ic Coventry

    May 21, 2003- Anti-racism campaigners have demanded a meeting with schools bosses after violence outside Glasgow's Hillhead High School. The government-backed Glasgow Anti-Racism Alliance fears racial tension could have played a part in the trouble, which ended in seven arrests last week. A teacher was injured during the gang battle. Council, school, and police bosses have previously insisted the events - which saw six youngsters charged with breach of the peace and a seventh with breach of the peace and assault - had nothing to do with race. But parents of some children at the school, which has won awards for its work against racism, reacted angrily to the claims. Several people contacted the Evening Times claiming the fights started after an attack on an Asian girl. Glasgow Anti-Racism Alliance said it had been told tensions between pupils were racial. Director Jatin Haria said: "We are asking for a meeting with the education department."
    ©Evening Times

    A sharp drop in the numbers of people seeking asylum shows the UK has "turned the corner" in dealing with the problem, according to Tony Blair. Britain was "now on track" to meet his target of halving asylum claims by September, the prime minister said at his monthly Downing Street press conference. Mr Blair's comments came as Home Office figures showed a 32% fall in the number of people applying for asylum in Britain in the first three months of this year, down from 23,000 to 16,000. He said further legislation was being drawn up to tackle groundless asylum applications, the problem of asylum seekers destroying documentation and abuse of the legal aid system. Mr Blair said the "relentless focus" had been on "cutting the number of asylum applications", with numbers falling by more than 45% since the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act was passed last year. "So we remain fully on target to meet our pledge to cut applications by half by September. The figures also show that we are removing record numbers whose claims do not succeed," he said.

    'Good news'
    He dismissed accusations that the drop in asylum claims meant the government had some how "fiddled the figures". "They are calculated the same way they have been for years and years and years," he said. "Just as in the same way when asylum figures were rising no-one said the figures were fiddled, when they are falling, on exactly the same basis, people should take that as good news because it is." Mr Blair also denied claims that asylum seekers were able to get visas or work permits "in order to change the figures". "Employers apply for work permits - work permits aren't given to asylum seekers," he said. Mr Blair was speaking just hours after Home Secretary David Blunkett reacted with anger at the claims the figures were fiddled.

    ID cards
    He described as "liars" those suggesting the figures had been massaged by a rise in the number of work permits being allocated. Mr Blunkett said there was still "a mountain to climb", adding that he hoped to bring the controversial issue of identity cards to the cabinet for discussion "shortly". Keith Best, speaking for the Immigration Advisory Service, said he feared many people coming to the UK were unaccounted for and "will therefore not be statistics that can be put on the front page of a newspaper". Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said he was pleased to see the figures had gone down and argued that Conservative policies - such as changes in the benefits to asylum seekers - were now being followed by Labour. But he told BBC Breakfast that he still had concerns about the reduction across the country. "It may be some form of manipulation has occurred ... I cannot get a straight answer from ministers," he said.

    'Sue me'
    While he was sure the Home Office figures were accurate "within a smidgeon", he also said it could be that asylum seekers were able to get visas or work permits "in order to change the figures". But Mr Blunkett warned: "If they continue to claim that we have somehow fiddled the figures I will publicly, not within the confines of Parliament, describe them as liars and I will invite them to sue me." He said the credibility of the statistics was "absolutely vital" in showing what was happening and whether the government's asylum policy was succeeding. But Margaret Lally, acting chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "A reduction in asylum numbers is hollow and meaningless if those affected are people fleeing persecution." Mr Blunkett said ID cards would help him find out whether people were working and drawing on services legally. "I don't think I will get them in this Parliament. I shall be putting my recommendations to Cabinet hopefully before this summer," he told Today. More than 60 failed asylum seekers were sent back to Kosovo on Thursday. A plane chartered by the Home Office left Stansted airport in Essex bound for Pristina. The figures announced on Thursday are still much higher than when Labour came to power in 1997 - for the whole of that year 30,000 people applied for asylum in the UK. Asylum claims reached a record total of 110,000 last year, prompting Mr Blair to announce his target of halving the number seen in October's figure of more than 9,000 applicants. By December, the numbers had fallen to 6,670, with the government saying new measures introduced Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act were paying off.
    ©BBC News

    The newspaper rift over the controversial issue of asylum seekers widened today after the Independent accused the right-wing press of racism. It cleared its front page for a dramatic display of statistics on immigration under the provocative headlined "Asylum. The facts (Or why you shouldn't believe everything you are told by the Government, the Tories, and the right-wing press). In its editorial, it said the campaign against immigration was motivated by race, and said asylum seeker had become a "synonym for non-white immigrant." And the paper accused the government of "timidity in challenging the myths of the xenophobic press." "The Conservative Party is not motivated by compassion... [it] sees a political opportunity in the ferocious campaign on asylum seekers being conducted by the right wing press," it said. "It should be clear that this is about race. Asylum seeker has now become a synonym for non-white immigrant.

    "Mr Blunkett and Mr Blair seem to have decided that, since the issue is one of perception rather than reality, the battle must be fought with ssyumbols and rhetoric. This is asking for trouble. "Claming the numbers of asylum seekers is falling will do nothing to restrain the right wing press in full cry; it only encourages them to report new scare stories about work permits, visas, student overstayers and the rest. "Mere statistics are weak against a vision reinforced every day of Britain as an island nation (with a tunnel) besieged by a mass of non white humanity trying to get in." Its front page statistics included a poll last year which said the public believed the UK hosts nearly a quarter of the world's refugees. The true figure, said the paper, was less than two per cent.

    An average family seeking asylum, it said, receives 24 per cent less than its British born equivalent in income support and benefits. In 2002, the UK was eighth in terms of the number of asylum applications per 1,000 of the population. Research published last week into the coverage of asylum seekers revealed the explosion in the use of inaccurate and indiscriminate labels such as bogus asylum seekers. The Sun, Daily Mail, Express and Star have been at the forefront of the campaign against asylum seekers. It is not the first time the Independent has turned its entire front page over to statistics on a single issue. During the war in Iraq, it counted the cost of the conflict in terms of the military action and the lives lost during the campaign.
    ©The Guardian

    Norway's government wants to make it easier for those being persecuted because of their gender or sexual inclination to be granted political asylum. Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Erna Solberg told newspaper Vart Land that the rules would be made clearer. This week Solberg will send proposed regulations to a hearing that she hopes will help clarify the conditions for being classified as a refugee with right to asylum. Norway's refugee law currently adheres to international convention, which classifies five types of persecution, on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, membership in a special social group, and political opinion. Solberg wants to give the issues of gender and age a higher weight in assessing refugee status. "It shall be easier for refugees suffering from gender-based persecution to receive asylum in Norway," Solberg said. Solberg also promised that asylum seekers would be interviewed by a person of the same gender.

    19. May 2003- Swiss voters have thrown out a proposal to give the country's 700,000 disabled immediate access to public buildings. The high cost of improving access is thought to have persuaded voters to reject the initiative. More than 62 per cent of voters followed the government's recommendations and voted against the proposal. The vote had been expected to be a close one, with some analysts predicting that the financial argument could lose out to the moral one for giving the disabled equal rights in society. Currently, less than 30 per cent of buildings across Switzerland are accessible to the disabled. The initiative also called for disabled rights to be enshrined in the constitution.

    The disabled movement said it was disappointed with the result. Peter Wehrli, director of the centre for independent living in Zurich, who is himself disabled, said it was a great shame for Switzerland and represented a setback for the Swiss disability lobby. He added that although he could see that the economic situation had played its part in the outcome, he believed there were other reasons for the proposal's rejection. "I'm convinced that behind the economic argument there is an issue of racism," Wehrli told swissinfo. "I think it's the same situation as with women's right to vote. It took Switzerland 50 years longer than most other European countries to recognise women as citizens and the same is happening with disabled people," he added. But he said the disability movement had learned a lot from the experience and would keep lobbying for its cause. "We'll have another people's initiative and perhaps another one. It'll take another fight and that's very sad for us, but the fight will go on," Wehrli said.

    Money matters
    But the government, which opposed the motion, maintained that a "yes" vote would be too expensive both at a federal and cantonal level. Luzius Mader from the justice ministry had earlier estimated that the financial impact of the initiative would cost the transport sector up to SFr4 billion ($3 billion). He said that under a new law due to come into force next year, which phases in changes, the costs could run to SFr600 million. "The difference occurs because the initiative requires guaranteeing access to public transport immediately, whereas the law allows for a transition period," said Mader. Under the new law, transport companies would have up to 20 years to make changes to their buildings, rolling stock and vehicles. It would also guarantee the disabled access to all new public buildings.

    Not far enough
    But supporters of the disabled access initiative argue that the new law does not go far enough, especially as it does not apply to existing buildings unless they are being renovated. Mark Suter, a wheelchair-bound parliamentarian who is in favour of the motion, rejected claims that the costs would be too high and insisted that the country's disabled should have the same rights to mobility and access as the rest of the population. "We don't want to trade off human rights against costs," he told swissinfo ahead of Sunday's the vote. The government, meanwhile, insisted that a "no" vote was not a vote against the disabled. The justice minister, Ruth Metzler, said in the run-up to the ballot that the government and parliament were in favour of the law, but the initiative would have gone too far.
    ©NZZ Online

    23 May 2003- A new computer game in which players take on the role of asylum seekers has been withdrawn by the Swiss Federal Office for Refugees. Around 20,000 people a day were logging on to the Internet to play "Swiss Checkin", which was devised by the government to raise awareness about asylum seekers. However, the game was scrapped on Thursday, following protests from non-governmental organisations. Jurg Schertenleib of the Swiss Refugee Council told swissinfo that Swiss Checkin was simply too superficial. "Asking for asylum in Switzerland, or in any European country, is not a game," he said. "Life is not a game, and especially not for refugees who have suffered torture and persecution."

    Tough choice
    Players were asked to choose from six potential asylum seekers: there was Celestina from Angola, whose family were all killed in the civil war and whose violent husband was trying to force her into prostitution. Or Bagram, an ethnic Albanian from Kosovo, who was being persecuted by his neighbours because he worked for a company run by Serbs. All six characters were based on real cases that staff at the Federal Refugee Office had dealt with in the past. When a player chose a character, he or she had the option of learning about the asylum seeker's home country and how tough life was there. Sibylle Siegwart, who invented Swiss Checkin, said her aim was to give people a better idea of just how hard life can be for people fleeing their own countries. "There's a lot of wrong information out there about asylum seekers," Siegwart told swissinfo. "So we looked around for a way to reach people in a more playful way."

    Tasteless options
    But Schertenleib said he was incensed by some of the options the game presented to players. Before starting on their journey, for example, players also chose five objects to take with them. On offer were real and false identity papers, money, illegal drugs, weapons, a sleeping bag, medicines, books, a child, or a wife. "I don't consider a wife or child to be objects," said Schertenleib. "And, in any case, I don't believe that real asylum seekers have choices like this." Schertenleib believes there are better ways to overcome prejudices about asylum seekers. "We have our own schools project, in which school children meet a real refugee, face to face, and hear the real story of what he or she suffered. This project is a big success," he said.

    Reality too complex
    Sibylle Siegwart agreed that the game was not exactly the same as reality, but said it had generated a very positive response from players. "The feedback was great, especially from young people. They said it was really cool," she said. "Obviously we wanted to stick to reality, but that is very difficult. Reality is much more complex. "It's a difficult balancing act. If it had been too complex, nobody would have played it." The Federal Office for Refugees pointed out that during the time Swiss Checkin was online, the department's own homepage received a record 240,000 visits. Officials said this suggested that players of the game were also taking the opportunity to find out more about Swiss asylum policy.

    Tedium and temptation
    And it's certainly true that those who played Swiss Checkin got a very clear picture of how miserable life can be for asylum seekers once they get to Switzerland and are waiting for the authorities to decide on their claim. Many wait months in hostels, with no work and no income. Swiss Checkin provided a very accurate picture of a life which is part tedium, part temptation. "During this time they have the option to do something good for Switzerland, or they can learn a language," explained Siegwart. "But they also have the chance to do bad things: they can steal or turn to prostitution."

    Crime and punishment
    Should a player have opted for a life of ©NZZ Online

    May 23, 2003- Five members of the neo-Nazi organization Skinheads Sächsische Schweiz, or Saxon Switzerland, were sentenced in Dresden on Thursday to probationary terms of 18 to 24 months after being convicted of belonging to a criminal organization. The skinheads are all men between 25 and 31 years of age. Prosecutors and the defense agreed beforehand to the sentence, which the prosecution said was the first ever in Germany in which a far-right group was convicted of being a criminal organization. But the prosecution case was hobbled by investigators' refusal to disclose the extent to which they had infiltrated the group with informers, the same reason for the failure earlier this year of the federal and state governments' attempt to have the constitutional court ban the far-right National Democratic Party.
    ©Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

    May 21, 2003- The Greek government announced Tuesday that it planned to construct the first mosque to operate in Athens since Ottoman rule ended 170 years ago. "A reason to speed up the project is the Olympic Games in 2004," Foreign Minister George Papandreou said. "We have to insure that representatives of Muslim countries and Muslim spectators have the right to exercise their religious needs," he said. The mosque and a cultural center are planned for the northeastern outskirts of the city, near the new international airport. Mosques currently operate only in parts of northern Greece, home to the country's 120,000-strong Muslim minority. In Athens, no mosques have operated since Greece gained independence after four centuries of Ottoman rule in 1832. Old mosques were converted into museums or abandoned decades ago. "Athens is the only capital in the European Union without a mosque," Papandreou said. Thousands of Muslims in Athens - mostly Asian immigrants - hold prayers in private homes or travel more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) to northern Greece for marriages, burials and other ceremonies.

    (also see I CARE News May 2: Prayers for mosque in Athens fall on deaf ears)
    ©International Herald Tribune

    May 22, 2003- Equal Opportunities Minister Katalin Levai, Health Ministry state secretary Kinga Goncz and minority rights ombudsman Jeno Kaltenbach are investigating reports that Roma women have been accommodated at separate gynaecology wards in hospitals in Eger and Salgotarjan. Jozsef Kovacs, director of the Markhot Ferenc County Hospital in Eger, said he is unaware of photographs showing Roma mothers being placed in separate wards. Emese Hampot, head of the Heves County health and social affairs office, said no action is being taken at this point. The Ethnic Minority Rights Office recently learned that Roma women were being placed in separate wards at Eger hospital. Several Roma told the office that they had only Roma roommates when they went to hospital to give birth, but others said they were accommodated in "mixed" wards. On another matter, government spokesman Zoltan J. Gal said the cabinet finds reports on sterilisation of Roma women deeply shocking. The European Roma Rights Centre conducted a study of sterilisation claims in March, and several complaints were filed with the Ethnic Minority Rights Office. The latter took one Szabolcs county woman's case to court, but the court rejected the lawsuit.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    14 May 2003- From a stage festooned with blue and yellow balloons, the band is belting out a Fun Lovin' Criminals number. "Euro rallies" are being held every the day this week around Bratislava, to rouse a largely apathetic population to vote in a weekend referendum on EU membership. But 200 miles to the east, in the town of Kosice, Slovakian citizens are having a very different campaign experience. A delegation of EU politicians is visiting the urban ghettoes of the Roma, or gypsies, who make up about 10 per cent of the population. As Ulla Sandbaek, a Danish MEP and champion of unfashionable causes in Brussels, walks through the crowd, a woman shouts: "Go away and take your cameras away too. We're tired of you all coming to gawp at us and then going away doing nothing." The MEP and her translator calm the crowd and listen to a litany of complaints – of near 100 per cent unemployment in the ghetto, how children are sent to schools for the mentally subnormal and claims of forced sterilisation. Ms Sandbaek says that in a week the delegation has seen discrimination against Roma in schooling, employment, housing and reproductive health. "When Slovakia joins the EU, something will have to be done or these people will be taking their government to the European Court," she said. As the delegation leaves she asks: "How many of you will use the opening of borders to leave?" A man replies: "Oh, all of us. As soon as possible. I would like to go to England!" These people are clearly more eager Europeans than their compatriots at the pop rally.
    © Independent Digital

    May 14, 2003- When the bell rings at the junior school in the eastern Slovakian village of Zboronovce, the Gypsy, or Roma, children go one way, the whites the other. "I would like to be there, because they learn better than here," says Kalo, a 15-year-old Roma boy, pointing to the spruce modern building on the other side of the school yard. Like almost all his Roma fellow pupils, he attends classes for the mentally subnormal, housed in a cramped building, in the run-down part of the school. "The whites think gypsies stink, they tell us we are dirty... we call them names and the whites call the blacks names, everyone hates each other," he says. Only four of the more than 200 Roma pupils in Zboronovce have passed the psychological assessment that opens the doors to the "normal" school. For most, their hotch-potch patois of Romany and Slovak means they fall foul of the language test. It's a pattern that is repeated across Slovakia. The headteacher blames their poor performance on "mental and social backwardness" and the poor conditions in the settlement where they live - set half a kilometre down the hill from the village proper.

    'Declared will'
    Walking home with Kalo from school, the contrast from the village's neat cottages and carefully-tended gardens is stark - children run naked through the settlement's rubbish-strewn streets, or scrape around in the muddy river. Housing is a mixture of socialist-built blocks run to seed with a tacked-on shanty town. Unemployment is 100%. These are not scenes the European Union wants to see, just a year before Slovakia, along with nine other mainly eastern European countries, becomes a member state. Brussels has been exerting pressure on Bratislava to improve things as it negotiated its way into the union, but the results have been largely theoretical. "Formally, there is a declared will to tackle the issue. Formally, the government has agreed a strategy," says Klara Orgovanova, the government co-ordinator for Roma affairs - a post set up at Brussels' behest. "But in reality few things have happened, and only slowly... no- one wants to see the long way ahead and no-one wants to do it themselves - everyone wants it to be done by someone else." The EU has allocated 16.6m euros in the past three years to help the Slovak Roma. But the 1.2m euros set aside for an infrastructure project in Zboronovce have still not made their way onto the ground.

    Asylum claims
    The village mayor blames the delay on a land dispute which has prevented her purchasing the necessary plot. But local Roma activists say the real reason for the hold-up is that the mayor fears a flagship project could attract more Roma to her doorstep. Europe's agenda in throwing money the Roma's way is not entirely altruistic. Recent years saw thousands of Roma try, largely unsuccessfully, to claim asylum in EU member states. Brussels knows that once the borders open, many of the half million Slovak Roma will want to head west. Marek lives in a picture-book village near the High Tatras mountains. There, Roma and whites live side by side and share a similar lifestyle and aspirations. He has applied for asylum in both Spain and Finland and says he cannot run his construction firm because of the rampant discrimination he encounters. "When you ring up a company for subcontracting work they say Yes. But when I come to the site and they see I am dark they say No". "I would like to leave because I don't see Slovakia providing the same conditions (as western countries) in the next year or two and I don't see the Slovaks suddenly changing their mentality or their policy towards us after they join the EU".

    Ghetto trap
    Brussels has no power to change the deep-rooted prejudices of the Slovak population. But once Slovakia joins the European club, Bratislava will be expected to play by the rules on minorities and equal rights. Marek has the wherew ©BBC News

    19 May, 2003- Anti-racism activists are calling for action against neo-Nazi groups in Slovakia, appealing to officials to take the threat of growing extremist violence seriously. It is estimated that there are about 5,000 right-wing extremists in Slovakia. Although the police force has started several activities to crush neo-Nazi and other extremist groups over the last two years, observers agree that much more needs to be done to prevent more racial violence across the country. At the same time, Slovakia has a second world war history that activists believe should serve as a warning even today. Between 1939 and 1945 Slovakia served as a Nazi puppet state, with its elite succumbing to the rule of Hitler's regime, and later allowing about 70,000 Jews to be deported from Slovakia to Nazi death camps, including the infamous Auschwitz. On May 8, the bank holiday marking the victory of the allied forces in Europe over Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany in 1945, a group of activists from a Bratislava-based NGO People Against Racism (LPR) organised a march through the city calling for police to take a zero-tolerance approach to all expressions of hate based on the Nazi ideology.

    Head of LPR, Ladislav Durkovic, says: "We celebrate the victory over fascism on May 8 but there is a tendency to forget the horrors inflicted on people during that war. "Today, [almost 60 years later] we see Nazi swastikas sprayed on the walls of buildings, we see young neo-Nazis with their swastika tattoos walking down the streets of our towns and we see a growing number of victims of these extremists. We also see that those responsible for acting against these groups are not doing so." Although having failed to respond to those allegations on a national scale, the Interior Ministry's press officers assured The Slovak Spectator that those in charge of the problem of extremists activities were dedicated to making Slovakia safe for all citizens including those not of Slovak ethnicity. Alena Koiaová, press officer with the Interior Ministry said: "The police are doing well in terms of fighting racism and extremism. Only recently we arrested an extremist movement leader in eastern Slovakia," she said. "However, we will be strengthening our fight in the field of racism and extremism both materially and in terms of personnel," she added. She also said that the police "profited greatly" from regular meetings and communication with NGOs that deal with human rights and Roma issues.

    A special commission for coordination of activities in the field of fighting extremism was set up more than two years ago, with Interior Ministry and police experts as well as NGOs such as People Against Racism meeting regularly to discuss measures against extremist groups. But although Durkovic admitted "some progress has been achieved" since then, he added that progress was "too slow". Even the ministry's regular report on the security situation in Slovakia in 2002 stated that racially motivated crimes, a number of which carried traces of extremist crimes, had risen to 109, almost three times the previous year's figures. Activists say the figure is still far below the true number of crimes and say that many victims do not report their cases to the police because they lack trust in the police force. Officials, however, assure that their officers receive courses in tolerance as part of their basic training. "A policeman must help our citizens as well as tourists regardless of their nationality or skin colour. We have to protect the citizens from any illegal acts, including racism and extremism so that every decent person feels safe in Slovakia," Koiaová said. She added that Slovak police chiefs were determined to take strict measures against officers who tolerated extremist opinions or acts. But before that happens, analysts have said the police should increase the number of staff that monitors, and acts against extremists in Sl ©The Slovak Spectator

    The conflict between the authorities and non-governmental organisations in Belarus is heating up.
    By Irina Levshina, journalist for the BelaPAN news agency in Minsk. (16-May-2003)

    Human rights and opposition activists have accused the authorities of waging a political war against the third sector, after the justice ministry ordered the closure of four large non-governmental organisations, NGOs. The ministry filed lawsuits to liquidate four regional organisations on various administrative charges, and the legal proceedings are set to begin shortly. Amidst growing concerns about the human rights situation in Belarus, the move is likely to upset the international community - especially the United States and United Nations, which recently issued a stern resolution on Belarus. At home, representatives from the four NGOs involved insist that the allegations levelled against them are only a pretext for obstructing the work of the third sector. "The charges are simply laughable, and are not backed by any real evidence," Viktor Korneenko, head of the Civil Initiatives Centre, one of the four, told IWPR. The centre - the largest public structure in the Gomel region - is accused of using incorrectly drawn-up forms for its events. Another NGO, the Grodno regional association Ratusha, is charged with carrying out publishing activity without permission from the authorities.

    The agency of regional development organisation Varuta - from Baranovichi in the Brest region - is charged with using the abbreviated name of its organisation in internal documentation, and the Youth Christian and Social Union is charged with falsifying documents of its meetings. Ales Belyatsky, the leader of the Assembly of Democratic Non-governmental Organisations, told IWPR that the move to liquidate these associations is part of the government's "political campaign", noting that Ratusha and Varuta are major resource centres which help development of democratic public structures in their regions. Opposition leaders also believe that the move is politically motivated. The United Civil Party issued a statement saying that the justice ministry's actions mark the beginning of a campaign for a nationwide referendum to extend President Alexander Lukashenko's term and preparation for parliamentary elections in 2004. "This is a planned political purge of the third sector," the statement said. "The regime has set the task of eliminating democratic organisations' ability to influence the situation in the country - including election campaigns." The heads of the ten largest public organisations in Belarus sent a letter to Justice Minister Viktor Golovanov demanding that persecution of their colleagues be stopped. The minister is yet to respond to this appeal.

    However, not all NGOs wholeheartedly support the position of the four under threat, arguing that the public sector should avoid the political involvement that could lead to their closure. "In conditions of economic and social difficulty, it's hard enough for us to survive. You can't use NGOs to solve political problems," argued Svetlana Koroleva, head of the Woman's Answer organisation. Yet the largest and most influential of the country's 2,000 registered organisations routinely get involved in politics, forming two distinct camps ­ pro and anti-government ­ which contribute further to the split in Belarusian society. Unsurprisingly, the political involvement of groups opposed to it has angered the government. President Lukashenko has repeatedly referred to human rights activists as "grant-suckers", a reference to the support they receive from western donors. In an address to parliament last month, the president said that there should be fewer public organisations, but they should be "powerful" ­ as examples he cited the state-supported Trade Union Federation and Belarusian National Union of Youth. Lukashenko called on these bodies to support st ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    On 8 May 2003, PRIAE successfully launched the first publication from the Minority Elderly Care project, encompassing the experiences of ethnic minority elders in ten European countries. Researchers in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and the UK are examining 27 minority ethnic groups over a three-year period.The first report from this EU 5th Framework-funded work details the position of minority groups in each country. This is the first time that such qualitative and quantitative analysis has been undertaken, with much data on BME elders being collected for the first time. The research examines health and social care as well as welfare and housing provision.Speaking at the launch event at the European Parliament in Brussels, Claude Moraes MEP said, ‘We realise that the research available on these issues was negligible and there was a huge gap to fill, that gap is now being filled by the work that PRIAE is doing'.Stephen Hughes MEP added, ‘It's urgent that we act and make sure that this research does not lie on the table and begin to gather dust'.

    May 20, 2003- Michl Ebner MEP (PPE-Süd Tirol) successfully launched a draft resolution on linguistic diversity and regional or minority languages today at a meeting of the European Parliament Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, the Media and Sport. Having passed this first test it will now seek support at a second committee reading in June followed by the Plenary Committee in Strasbourg in July for final approval. If successful at the plenary stage the implications of the resolution for lesser-used languages will be far reaching and would give a legal basis for the promotion of them. The resolution makes three main proposals.

    Firstly, that there should be a European Agency for Linguistic Diversity and Language Learning; a recommendation which acts to complement initiatives from the EU Commission and their similarly entitled language diversity Action Plan'.
    Secondly, that there should be a programme for linguistic diversity which makes an explicit inclusion of regional and minority languages and gives them legal backing. It would not only enable them to access funding from mainstream EU programmes but also ensure specific, ring-fenced lesser-used language funding.
    Thirdly, that the remit of the European monitoring centre for racism and xenophobia be expanded to cover language discrimination and the protection of minorities. This would mean that speakers of lesser-used languages would have some protection when they suffer discrimination on the grounds of language.

    Mr Ebner referred to the 40 million lesser-used language speakers already in the EU with a further six million joining them after accession. He described the resolution as an important breakthrough' and that he hopes to enjoy broad support across the Committee for the plenary, something that will underpin cultural and linguistic diversity'. Talking to Eurolang he added that there would be cross-party support and that the main parties already supported the proposal'. The Committee strongly supported the Resolution. Portugese MEP Moura Graça (PPE-DE) referred to the incalculably rich wealth of lesser-used languages' but pointed out how France was not favourable to its regional' languages and that in a political context it would be difficult to call France xenophobic for discriminating against regional languages'. Pietro Mennea MEP (PPE-DE) stated that one test of European integration will be its ability to defend its regional and minority languages'.

    Meanwhile the new draft EU constitution just published under Article 3 (3) the Union's objectives' states that the richness of its cultural diversity is respected'. However, the draft does not include the full wording of a proposed amendment that the richness of [the Union's] cultural and linguistic diversity is respected.' One of the original proposers of the amendment, SNP MEP Professor Neil MacCormick, had earlier told Eurolang that: 'linguistic diversity is a value to be respected in the European Union' and that it should be enshrined in its Constitution' and that a legal basis is needed for the sake of active support for Europe's many languages'. Some Italian MEPs have also joined in to support this amendment. The current draft Constitution makes no mention of the word linguistic' but does mention that the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, (Ch. III, Art. 22, which states explicitly that: The Union shall respect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity') will be an integral part' of the Constitution (Article 5: Fundamental Rights'). However, while the draft EU constitution may state that it respects' linguistic and cultural diversity it does not mean that this respect will necessarily lead to any affirmative action. The above-mentioned Charter itself is also currently not legally binding only acting as an expression of goodwill. Both o ©Eurolang

    Tariq Ramadan targets the struggle of balancing Muslim roots, European present

    PARIS May 19, 2003 - The lecture draws such a crowd at the Institut du Monde Arabe that its organizers begin to panic. Tables are removed and more chairs added. Still, by the time Tariq Ramadan arrives, it's standing room only, with stylish 20-somethings - many wear- ing headscarves - lining the walls. For this throng of jeunes de banlieue - sons and daughters of Muslim immigrants struggling to break free of the impoverished suburbs ringing French cities - Mr. Ramadan is a combination of spiritual leader and rock star. Soft-spoken, with the charisma of Bill Clinton, the Swiss-born professor teaches at the University of Fribourg and the College de Geneve, but travels extensively around Europe on speaking engagements. He offers a fresh approach to Islam's troubled encounter with the Western world: a "third way" of integrating Muslims into European society.

    For a rising generation in search of an identity that straddles Muslim roots and a European present, the paramount question is "how to be at the same time fully Muslim and fully Western," says Ramadan, who has been speaking on this issue for about a decade. He urges young Muslims neither to assimilate - and thus lose their culture - nor to separate themselves and reject Europe. "The essence of my work," he says in an interview, is to break down the "us versus them," or "ghetto mentality." Ramadan's credibility among his young listeners is powerfully enhanced by his lineage: His grandfather, Hassan al-Banna, founded the radical Muslim Brotherhood to fight the British occupation of Egypt. But that same lineage makes some French wary. Ramadan, now in his 40s, was once associated in the French press with the radical-leaning Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF) because he gave speeches to their followers. But the professor is critical of extremism and fundamentalism. He has spoken out against French mosques that receive money from the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, concerned that this reliance will promote radicalism, imported along with imams from these countries. He publicly distanced himself from his brother Hani Ramadan after Hani published articles advocating literal interpretations of sharia, or Islamic law.

    An advocate of inclusivity
    Ramadan calls himself an independent, promoting Western values of open dialogue by using his bully pulpit liberally. The activist scholar is known for his stance of inclusivity toward women, Europeans, and Jews. At times critical of the West, he also takes his coreligionists to task for the Sept. 11 attacks and for anti-Semitism. Ramadan has written a series of books aimed at reconciling the relationship of Muslims, their faith, and their adopted countries. He presents, says Jocelyne Cesari, a resident scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, "what young people want to hear ... [the idea] that you can find a way to practice Islam without questioning the basic values and norms of European society and secularity." Writing and lecturing primarily in French, Ramadan has had particular impact in France. The majority of his audiences are the descendants of immigrants from France's former colonies, especially Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. The majority of immigrants first came to France to fill labor shortages in the 1960s and, like their counterparts who went to other West European countries, were expected eventually to go home.

    But by the 1980s, it was clear the newcomers were in France to stay. They began to debate what it means to be a Muslim in the West - a situation that the Islamic world has seen as incompatible. With some 5 million Muslims, the largest number in Europe, France has been struggling to understand and integrate this ever-growing population, only half of whom are citizens. Ramadan asks Muslims to go back t
    Recognizing common ground
    While Ramadan wants Muslims to integrate into and learn from Europe, he also asks that Europeans work to accept the Muslims among them. Many of Ramadan's followers believe that racism and a fear of Islam contribute to the high unemployment rates among young people in their communities - hitting 30 percent in some of the banlieues. One way toward better understanding, he says, is to promote "inclusive memory" - recognizing the commonalities and overlap between Muslim philosophy and Western philosophy - so that Muslims "feel part of" and invested in "the present." To reframe the dialogue between Islam and the West, Ramadan proposes that Muslims, rather than seeing the West and Western democracy as "anti- Islamic," view democracy as "a model respecting our principles." Accordingly, France, in the spirit of democracy, should be more flexible on such issues as the right to wear a headscarf - a decade-long area of contention between religious Muslims and the French government. Girls and women are not allowed to wear the scarf to school, as France believes it contradicts the laws of laďcité, or separation of church and state. By keeping girls who wear the scarf out of school, Ramadan says, the state pushes them toward Koranic schools - thus separating them and their families from public schools and the mainstream. The result could be insularity and ultimately, perhaps, radicalism.

    Like any spiritual figure in a secular country like France, Ramadan has his critics. Some, like Olivier Roy, an expert in the Islamic World at National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) say that Ramadan's philosophy is ambivalent because it doesn't offer anything to Arabs who choose not to practice Islam, who simply want to be French. Some worry that his admonition to return to Islam's sources will inevitably lead to fundamentalism. Others disagree. "I think that people don't understand what he wants to do. They put on him the image of Hassan al-Banna, but they don't really listen to what he is saying." says Ms. Cesari.

    Also see I CARE News May 16: 'Belgian Malcom X' Seeks office
    ©Christian Science Monitor Service

    22 May 2003- Are media hype and inflammatory political rhetoric creating a rising tide of hostility towards Muslim communities in Europe? At a conference on "Youth and Gender, Trans-national Identities and Islamophobia" organised by the European Commission in Brussels today, researchers, policymakers and social workers will discuss the situation of young Muslim immigrants in several European countries. They will assess the public perception of the Islamic community in Europe, in the context of world events such as the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and tensions in the Middle East. They will also discuss the impact of EU and national employment, education and welfare policies on Muslim communities in order to improve policy making at national and European levels. "The fight against crime and terrorism should not turn into racism," said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. "There is a growing intolerance towards Muslim communities in Europe. We must strive for greater integration. Only through dialogue and tolerance can we benefit from Europe's cultural diversity one of the main assets and founding pillars of the European Union."

    Integration or isolation?
    The meeting forms part of the EU strategy to combat Islamophobia and anti-semitism launched in 2002. It will explore how social and political factors affect integration. There is growing concern among civil rights organisations that since the events of September 11 2001, in the USA, there has been intense scrutiny of Muslim communities throughout the world. There is evidence of stereotyping and hostility against Muslim communities. Racist organisations are also growing stronger.

    These could not only harm relations between communities but also lead to the marginalisation of Muslims, especially the young - already living under difficult circumstances with regard to education and job opportunities. The conference intends to challenge myths and stereotypes and to promote discussion based on evidence of contributions being made by Muslim communities to European economic growth.

    Sticking to their roots
    The conference will also examine the creation of trans-national networks and groups living across the European Union, with specific reference to Muslim communities from South Asia, North Africa and Turkey. These links might have been perpetuated as a result of the continuing lack of integration in European society. Many immigrants experience alienation, and as a response they adhere more closely to their political and religious traditions.

    Youth and Islam
    In addition, in the context of the potential isolation of young Muslims, the conference will explore the extent to which young Muslims, brought up and educated in the European Union, may be influenced by the idea of Islam while defining their identity during the critical years of their youth. Participants in the conference will analyse how "identity" is shaped, and which factors have an impact on it, in order to take better account of these factors in the design of national and European policies.

    For further information please visit:

  • ftp://ftp.cordis.lu/pub/improving/docs/conf_youth_gender_agenda.pdf
  • European Commission
  • European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia

    ©European Union on line

    By Andrew Elkin, Alternative Media Intern for Alternatives in Casablanca, Morocco

    19-5-2003- The suicide bombings that rocked Casablanca Friday night also shook the foundations of Moroccan society. Although the targets seem to have been chosen for their Western and Jewish links, the victims were mostly Moroccan. A major question in the wake of the attacks is how revamped national security and increased awareness of fundamentalist movements will affect the democratic process which has been undergoing a slow reform since King Mohamed VI took the throne in July of 1999. It is impossible to know so soon what steps the government will take to reassure Moroccans of their security, but those active in civil society aren't letting their guard down. "This battle is wide open," said Kamal Lhabib, a founding member of Alternatives du Sud and a representative of the Coalition of the Left. "We have to turn once again to a security system that supports democracy, to work on links with the average population and focus on issues like poverty and unemployment. This is the great challenge for the government right now." According to Lhabib, the current rate of democratic reform is insufficient for fighting the extremist threat. Corruption is still common and the parties in power are seen as self-serving, an impression which only helps to further the disillusionment of the average voter. "We have to resist complicity in a political system that attempts to reinforce its own interests," Lhabib said.

    The poor urban areas in and around Fez, Casablanca, Tangier and Sale are breeding grounds for the fundamental Islamist movement in Morocco. Fundamentalism has been on the rise for several years, but the greatest threat it was thought to pose to democracy here is the direct political action of the Party for Justice and Development (PJD). In last September's legislative elections, the PJD jumped from 9 seats to 42, landing as the third largest party in Parliament and assuming the role of opposition. Those most susceptible to the lure of extremism are the young. An estimated 35 per cent of Moroccan university graduates are unemployed, and in the poor city centres and shanty towns where parents cannot afford to send their children to university the jobless rate is much higher. A lot of youth lack even the most basic means of life, and the fundamentalist movements claim to offer a way out. "Our culture is based on tolerance but these movements prey on the youth that have nothing else on offer," said Mohamed Benbouzid, director of the national youth association, Chouala. The solution, Benbouzid said, is to create a political space for the sustainable development of Moroccan society in the rural areas as well as in the cities. "We have to work toward a society that is more democratic, because it is through democracy that we will overcome this threat."

    Even before the attacks, however, Moroccan civil society had started working to counter the threat of extremism and on May 17, the day after the attacks, a collective of 18 associations and a political party were moving further in this direction. The group, whose members include representatives of Morocco's human rights, women's solidarity, a union of professionals in the performing arts and the party of the Unified Socialist Left issued a statement noting that the civil society had time and again signaled the problem of Islamic extremism and the politics of hate, racism and anti-Semitism. In early May, after a debate between Islamists and representatives of the secular Left, the Coalition of the Left was created in order to mount a formal and vocal opposition to fundamentalism in Morocco. "If we are engaged in a system that limits itself to involvement in economic ventures rather than supporting the people, democracy will lose out," said Lhabib. "Unfortunately, we have already lost a lot of time in this respec ©Alternative Media

    21/05/03- Kingston Police Chief Bill Closs' new policy to prohibit racial profiling by his officers is a good one. It takes the force one step closer to proving it's accessible -- and accountable -- to the public it serves. Racial profiling targets someone because of their race, colour, ethnicity or other factors rather than on reasonable suspicion or evidence. In a nutshell, racial profiling singles someone out just because they are black or hispanic or, following the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States, Islamic. Closs and his officers first faced allegations that some front-line officers target young black men following a high-risk takedown two years ago. The accusations resurfaced in March after two black youths, one of whom was involved in the earlier takedown instance, were detained. According to police, both incidents were cases of mistaken identity. Police were cleared of any wrongdoing in the first incident. The latter is still under investigation. Closs apologized to the youths and their families but he's decided, rightly, to go even further.

    Although Closs says many of his officers feel the order is unnecessary "because we don't do it," he instituted the new policy -- believed to be the first of its kind in Canada -- at last week's police services board meeting to prove his force is fair and just. In addition to a ban on racial profiling, Closs wants officers to record the gender, race or ethnicity of people questioned by police. The police services board will vote on the proposal to keep such statistics next month. Two local officers will attend a diversity training course and relay their new-found knowledge to their colleagues. Closs has also planned two town hall-style meetings for minority youth and adults in Kingston to battle growing misconceptions about the force's rank and file. Not surprisingly, Kingston is not the only force to face such accusations, nor is it the first to take proactive measures.

    Today, more than 20 U.S. states have passed measures to stop racial profiling, often requiring officers to track how minority groups are handled. In Britain, police have collected race statistics since 1991. Despite an increasing trend to restrict racial profiling elsewhere, Toronto Police, the country's largest municipal force -- and one which has repeatedly come under fire for acts of alleged racism -- and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police say the practice is not systemic. In fact, at a racial profiling summit in February, OACP President Tom Kaye said it plans to keep the status quo. Not Closs. The chief will no doubt face staunch criticism for setting such a progressive policy and it won't likely please everyone, but he believes it's what's needed. "Will this solve everything?" Closs asked at last week's police services board meeting. "Absolutely not, but it's a start."
    Indeed it is.

    A Juristat report this fall will attempt to gauge how much hate crime there is

    May 19, 2003- This fall, for the first time, Canadians may get an accurate idea of how much hate crime takes place in their country. That's when the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (Juristat) hopes to publish its final report on a pilot survey of hate crimes reported to police. But it's not clear yet that police forces across Canada are able and willing to collect hate-crime data that are consistently comparable across the country. In the meantime, Canadians will keep relying on a patchwork of sources, notably:

  • A four-year-old national "victimization survey" whose findings are startling but not necessarily reliable.
  • A handful of police departments that issue local hate-crime statistics.
  • Anecdotal reports, ranging from the B'nai Brith's annual announcement of how many anti-Jewish crimes it has been told about, to individual complaints from Sikhs and Muslims, gays and lesbians, blacks and Asians, and others who say they have been assaulted, raped, robbed or vandalized because of bias, prejudice or hate.

    Canada's current hate-crime regime stems from 1996. Criminal Code amendments provided for "enhanced" sentencing when crimes are motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on "race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor." The thinking behind stiffer sentences for hate crimes, one of Juristat's hate-crime studies says, is that hate crimes are harder on the victims than non-hate crimes. U.S. studies have found hate crimes are more likely to involve "excessive violence, multiple offenders, serial attacks, greater psychological trauma to the victim, a heightened risk of social disorder, and a greater expenditure of resources to resolve the consequences of the act," the Juristat report adds. A Boston police study found that in assaults motivated by hate, the victims are twice as likely as regular assault victims to be injured, and four times as likely to need hospital care. And the American Psychological Association says hate-crime victims "often experience intense feelings of vulnerability, anger and depression, which subsequently can lead to the formation of a number of physical ailments, learning problems and interpersonal conflicts . . . similar to post-traumatic stress disorder."

    Canadian police forces have gathered crime statistics since 1962 based on criteria set down by the Uniform Crime Reporting, or UCR, system. But hate crimes have never been included. However, the 1999 General Social Survey, which for the first time asked a sampling of Canadians whether they had been victims of hate crime, suggested there were more than 210,000 hate crimes a year targeting individuals in Canada, and 62,000 more directed at property, such as vandalism and theft. The survey suggested four per cent of all crime in Canada was motivated by hate, including 11 per cent of assaults. But its sample was so small that many of its findings were thought to be too unreliable to publish. The 1999 survey did help spur a four-year Juristat study to determine whether it is practical to collect reliable national hate-crime statistics from police reports. The study is winding up this year with the pilot survey. Among those contributing to the study is the Toronto Hate Crime Unit, which has been collecting hate-crime statistics for 10 years and has recorded an average of only 235 hate-crime complaints per year, suggesting a far lower incidence than the 1999 social survey. However, Toronto police acknowledge their count is probably low due to "the reluctance of some members of the public to report their hate victimization to police." Another contributor is the B.C. Hate Crime Team, which includes municipal police and RCMP detachments across the province but has released few stat ©Vancouver Sun

    May 19, 2003 - The two-lane concrete bridge that runs over a calm 30-foot-wide creek between citrus groves on one of Florida's rural state roads has almost no distinguishing feature, except, that is, for its name. Nigger Jim Hammock Bridge in Florida's Hendry County is just one of 144 places throughout the United States whose name or an official version of it includes the derogatory term for black people, a term seen as the ultimate, signature word for racism in America. Many of these names are not widely known to still exist, according to local officials. But they continue to appear on some maps and a database kept by the federal government. "The vestiges of Jim Crow discrimination throughout the South have some leftover elements. This is just part of that," said Earl Jones, a lawmaker in Greensboro, North Carolina, who is sponsoring a bill to change such place names in his state. "We've still got some cleaning up to do," he said in a telephone interview. According to the United States Board of Geographic Names, 35 states have locations whose names include the derogatory word. California, the third-largest state by land area, has 26 such place names, followed by Nevada with 13. Most of them label bodies of water -- streams, bays, reservoirs, creeks and lakes. Others are summits, valleys, trails or mines. Maryland has an island called Negro Island or Nigger Island in Wicomico County. Washington state has a Nigger Creek in Chelan County, according to the federal database. In North Carolina, which has seven such sites, a bill the Senate plans to take up this week would force counties to register new names with state officials who then will notify the U.S. geography board.

    Local legacy
    The federal government took steps decades ago to erase the charged term from its use. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names, responsible for maintaining uniform geographic name usage throughout the federal government, universally changed in its federal database all names using "nigger" to "negro" in 1963 as well as all names using "Jap" to "Japanese" in 1971, according to Roger Payne, executive secretary of the federal board. But such derogatory names may still exist on state and local maps, resulting in the dually listed "negro" and "nigger" sites in the federal database. Payne said the database has more than 1,000 references to "negro" but that many, particularly in the U.S. Southwest, may be uses of the Spanish word for black referring to a geographic feature's appearance rather than to black people. "Only 144 can be documented as using the pejorative form," he said, referring to "nigger" on maps. But locally, use of the word in place names has taken much longer to disappear. Geographers and historians attribute that to both remnants of racism and a general opposition to change. "For a lot of people, they don't see a problem with it. It's been around for ages," said Derek Alderman, geographer with East Carolina University. "They don't question why this feature is named the way it is." "But I think this is much bigger, goes much further than the feature itself. It's a cultural representation," Alderman said. "Maps are important cultural records. They say a lot about society and about what people value."

    Other offenses
    Some American Indian groups have long tried to get lawmakers to remove "squaw" from location names, arguing that the word is a derogatory term for women. In the Florida Keys, Jewfish Creek has kept its name despite a petition by a Washington, D.C., man who argued that the name was anti-Semitic. While some efforts to change names have been met with limited success, historians and geographers say movements to erase "the 'N' word" are altogether less controversial. "It's the ultimate politically incorrect thing," said David Pilgrim, professor at Ferris State University and director of the Jim Crow Museum in Big Rapids, Michigan. He said legislation will not stop people now from referring to locations by offensive names, but that over time it may. "That won't get rid of it in the local lore, in the many towns where people refer to 'the black bottom' or 'niggertown' or 'darkietown' in the local lingo," he said of legislation. "But eventually, when you change laws it makes a difference."

    May 20, 2003- "This is serious. This is like an electronic hate crime," says Hispanic advocate Hector Perez. What has Perez alarmed begins with the click of a button, and a quick download later, a game shows up on your computer. It features a Nazi Storm Trooper and is free for the downloading, offered from a site run by a self-proclaimed American Nazi. "For over a year now, we've been averaging about two million hits a month," says the site's operator Gerhard Lauck. Hate games are the latest high-tech tool showing up on Neo-Nazi and white supremacist web sites. Experts who track these groups say this is a threat that cannot be ignored. "We want to be sure that parents know about these games. They're trying to get kids who are impressionable, be able to teach them, sort of, how to hate," says Brian Marcus with the Anti-Defamation League. "I think this is a clear effort to reach kids that the white supremacist movement has been trying to reach for many decades." says the Southern Poverty Law Centers Mark Potok.

    In one game, racist messages are built right into the scenery. In another, the player is instructed to kill Jews, Hispanics and African Americans. One game has a shooting gallery featuring civil rights leaders. As a member of the NAACP, Jim Wiggns has seen racism firsthand. To him, these games are frightening. "I've never seen it marketed to a younger group and put in video games to make it attractive to the next generation," he said. Lauck admits, kids are his target audience. "If you're a young kid, something you'd say, 'Hey, this is really a neat game, the teachers would really hate this. It's really that bad.' So of course, if the teachers would be against it, the kids would really want it, of course." And Lauck has no problem with kids playing his games without their parents knowing about it. "It sickens me as a family person, and it sickens me as an immigrant," says Perez. Perez, an advocate for the Hispanic community, believes the games are criminal. "This kind of stuff is hateful," he says. "This kind of stuff is painful to see." As hate groups extend a high-tech reach into homes and young minds, civil rights leaders and parents vow to ultimately win the game. "The best thing the parent can do is to talk to his or her child about what these games represent."
    ©KBCI tv

    Illegal immigrants in Switzerland are not receiving basic medical care because of exorbitant costs and the fear of being reported to the authorities. Those attending hospitals are often refused emergency treatment because they don't have medical insurance. This is despite a Swiss law that obliges hospitals to treat all emergency cases, regardless of whether or not the patient is covered. According to the Contact Centre for Immigrants in Switzerland, hospital authorities sometimes report illegal immigrants, deterring others from seeking even emergency treatment. Those illegal immigrants who do take a chance often use a false identity to avoid being found out. This can cause potentially fatal confusion over their medical history. Beat Wagner, spokesman for the Swiss Red Cross, which provides health services for immigrants, says most illegal immigrants are unaware of what healthcare they are entitled to in Switzerland. "They come from other cultural surroundings and are not familiar with a modern, western European healthcare system," Wagner told swissinfo. "They do not know the language and they may have difficulties linked to their status in Switzerland."

    Right to insurance
    Since 1996 it has been compulsory to have health cover in Switzerland. The law, reinforced last December in a directive by the Federal Office for Social Security, includes the right of illegal immigrants to medical insurance. But most medical insurers continue to refuse their applications. Mark Halldimann, a member of a support group for illegal immigrants in Bern, says he has repeatedly witnessed applicants without legal Swiss citizenship being systematically rejected by insurers. "The Federal Office for Social Security has confirmed to us that it has received complaints about it," he told swissinfo. "This proves that the directive is not being respected."

    Insurers reluctant
    Nicole Bulliard, spokeswoman for santésuisse, which represents health insurers, says companies are often reluctant to arrange insurance for fear of attracting the attention of the immigration authorities. Bulliard also claims it is difficult to set a premium when companies are unable to find out how long a person has been in the country. But even if an illegal immigrant does succeed in being offered health insurance, the costs can be crippling. On average they tend to earn between SFr1,000 ($760) and SFr1,500 per month. The monthly charge for basic health insurance is between SFr250 and Sfr300. But the alternative is either not receiving medical treatment or, in some cases, being charged large amounts by hospitals.

    Crippling costs
    The Information Centre for African, Asian and Latin American women cites one example of a female illegal immigrant who was told by the Triemli hospital in Zurich that she would have to pay SFr10,000 in order to get her broken arm treated. For the hospitals, though, treating a non-insured person is not cheap. Delivering a baby can cost around SFr3,500, while a Caesarean section can set a hospital back Sfr10,000. Non-insured illegal immigrants can turn to private organisations offering healthcare at reduced or no cost. However, according to a report by the humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders, these services vary dramatically between cantons. The charity found that French-speaking cantons generally provided more assistance than the German-speaking ones.
    ©NZZ Online

    Zurich's city council has called for an urgent rethink of Switzerland's asylum laws, and put forward ten proposals including allowing asylum seekers to work. It said that the present conditions endured by asylum seekers in Switzerland were "nothing more than an invitation towards petty crime". The move comes at a time when the German-speaking cantons are tending towards tougher measures on asylum seekers. Zurich, Switzerland's largest city, has demanded an end to "the stigmatisation of asylum seekers and& the pursuit of a policy that creates an environment that encourages criminality". "It's the same people who forbid asylum seekers from working who also reproach them for being lazy," said the city council in a statement. The comment was directly aimed at the Zurich branch of the rightwing Swiss People's Party, which two weeks ago publicly denounced foreigners for not working. The People's Party was also criticised by the head of the anti-racism commission, Georg Kreis, who called its comments "false and vexing".

    Asylum policy
    Zurich's mainly leftwing city council ­ comprised of four Social Democrats, one Green Party member, three Radicals and a magistrate with no political affiliation ­ is scathing of Switzerland's asylum policy. "It's above all the towns and communes who live with the social and financial consequences of an erroneous asylum policy," wrote the city councillors. Zurich lambasted the recent revision of asylum rules, saying the measures were aimed at discouraging asylum seekers from coming to Switzerland. It said that not only had Switzerland severely tightened its entry requirements, but that the standard of living of foreigners was also "barely acceptable". Zurich's parliament singled out for particular criticism the lack of space in accommodation centres and the ban, in some cantons, on foreigners working for 12 months - even though nationwide it has been reduced to three months. This meant asylum seekers were generally left to their own devices during the day, and they tended to gravitate towards neighbouring towns, said the statement.

    Petty crime
    But with only SFr3 a day in pocket money, this was "nothing more than an invitation towards petty crime," said the city council. It added that it was surprised that so few asylum seekers were involved in crime given the circumstances. The city authorities concluded that in the realm of policy towards foreigners, Switzerland was now in the same situation as it had been with its drug policy at the beginning of the 1990s. "The towns and the communes have to live with the consequences of the decision, whereas the country and the cantons keep passing the buck back to each other," said the statement. For this reason, the city parliament had decided to present its own proposals to allow Switzerland to deal "reasonably and humanely" with the rising tide of migration. These measures could benefit everyone, it added.

    Ten rules
    Entitled "Ten rules for a new Swiss asylum policy", the proposals start with the right or even the obligation for asylum seekers to work in order to finance themselves, and the right to education for young people. It goes on to advocate that people in asylum centres should be able to organise their living conditions themselves and provide each other with a mutually supportive network. Zurich is also in favour of Switzerland joining the European Union's Schengen and Dublin agreements - governing the movement of people and asylum seekers - as quickly as possible. Decisions on asylum should be made within six months, and asylum seekers known to be criminals should be immediately deported, it added. It is also demanding that the federal government and the cantons assume responsibility for the costs borne by local communities and to make sure that these costs are calculated in a realistic way.

    Reservatio fact that choice to come to Switzerland does not always correspond to expectations. In that area, I think the analysis is pretty naďve and fill of wishful thinking," he added.

    Reinhard Wegelin, secretary of the Zurich city people's party, said that he was glad that the city council had "woken up" to the asylum problem. But he said that he did not agree that asylum seekers should be allowed to work. "That's the only way we can make Switzerland less attractive as a destination [for asylum seekers]," Wegelin told swissinfo. He said that the Zurich city council should rather take its arguments to a national level. Wegelin added that Zurich city council should be obliged to start a discussion with other city councils on how to add "pertinent" measures to the asylum law.

    But referring to the tough new asylum proposal by the rightwing People's Party, which was narrowly rejected in a nationwide vote last November, the city said that Switzerland was in an "emergency situation". "The rightly rejected initiative has not only made the debate around these questions much harsher but has also led to an essentially nasty tone and content [in these debates]." Zurich has now added its voice to that of the Federal Commission for Foreigners, which said in mid-January that it was worried about the level of the debate in political discussions about foreigners. Sociologist Kurt Imhof says "anti-foreigner" attitudes tend to increase before elections - the next is due in October - and in times of uncertainty. "In periods of crisis, tolerance reduces; in periods of confidence… the topic of foreigners disappears," he told swissinfo.

    Simplistic solutions
    Imhof said that political parties, such as the People's Party, tended to favour simplistic solutions. "The black or white solutions are successful in a society that has totally lost its sense of direction." The position taken by Switzerland's largest city is in sharp contrast to recent statements made by cantons in the German-speaking part of the country. Aargau, Lucerne and St Gallen have written to the justice ministry calling for tougher measures on asylum. Aargau has proposed a ban on mobile phones for asylum seekers suspected of being involved with drug trafficking. Lucerne is studying ways of limiting the freedom of movement of asylum seekers who are criminals or "anti-social". But on a cantonal level, Zurich is not far behind its neighbours. Rita Fuhrer, who is in charge of police matters for the canton and is a member of the People's Party, has given her approval to an increased surveillance of asylum seekers' correspondence and payments. On Thursday, a federal parliamentary commission charged with examining the asylum laws recommended that they be tightened to deal alleged abuses of the system.

    The Federal Health Office has been hit with legal action over its decision to ban Hong Kong-based firms from attending an international watch and jewellery fair in April. The fair's organisers and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC), have lodged separate appeals against the ban, claiming it was illegal and unreasonable. Both parties say they are also considering claims for damages. Bernhard Keller, spokesman for the BASELWORLD fair, told swissinfo that the ban was excessive and not based on a realistic appraisal of the situation. Health officials imposed the ban on exhibitors and staff from Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Vietnam just two days before the fair opened. Thomas Zeltner, director of the Federal Health Office, said the restrictions were designed to prevent the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars). The ban affected more than 300 exhibitors and around 2,500 staff from Hong Kong - the second biggest delegation at the fair behind the Swiss.

    Heavy losses
    At the time, the TDC placed the cost at having to withdraw from the fair at around HK$50 million (SFr8.43 million) in airfares, hotels and marketing costs. The total loss of trade is estimated to be far higher. Keller said the ban was unlawful and unreasonable, arguing that the ban had prevented people from manning their stands but not from attending the fair as visitors. "The measures imposed made no contribution whatsoever to the protection of the [Swiss] population," he said. Elke Brockmann, spokeswoman for the TDC, told swissinfo that the measure was "discriminatory and unjustified" and had led to heavy financial losses for Hong Kong firms. "The decree was enforced in such a way that the firms were unable to conduct business at the stands [during the fairs]," she added.

    Sars epidemic
    Responding to the news of the appeals, the Federal Health Office defended its decision to restrict access to BASELWORLD, saying it was justified in taking such action at a critical phase of the Sars epidemic. "To have underestimated the situation could have lead to a disaster in Switzerland," said vice-director Dieter Hartmann. Geneva-based lawyer Charles Poncet said the appeals were unlikely to succeed, as there was sound justification for the Federal Health Office's decision. "Having to chose between harming people or causing [others] difficulty because they are prevented from entering Switzerland [due to the] risk of Sars, it's quite obvious the balance falls on the side of caution," said Poncet. "I would be very surprised if this was overturned on appeal. To put it bluntly, the appeals don't stand a chance in hell," he added.
    ©NZZ Online

    Her crime? To be an asylum-seeker in Blunkett's Britain

    Beriwan Ay shares a cramped room with her two younger sisters, her brother and mother. There are four single beds and a bunk bed but the walls are bare. Through a small window that opens only a fraction, all she can see is a high fence. Beyond are steel gates and a perimeter wall topped with barbed wire. The guards at Dungavel detention centre near Glasgow allow her outside for two hours a day if they are in a good mood. The 14-year-old has never committed a crime, but she is one of more than 50 children currently being held at detention centres for asylum-seekers in Britain. Thousands of children pass through such centres every year with some held for months at a time. David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, argues that children such as Beriwan, who come to Britain to seek asylum, must be locked up, otherwise they would escape and live illegally in this country. However, leading campaigners say there is no evidence to support this claim.

    The Ay family, Kurds who fled persecution by military police in Turkey, have been locked up in removal centres for nearly 10 months, and the psychological impact is already taking its toll. The children are believed to be the longest-serving children in detention centres. "I don't sleep properly, I feel very tired all the time and I'm behind on my schoolwork because the books we use are for primary school children," said Beriwan, who wants to train as a lawyer. "My little sister is depressed and her hair is falling out. This place feels like a prison." The Ay family ­ Beriwan, sisters Newroz and Medya, brother Dilowan, mother Yurdurgal and father Salih ­ left Turkey in 1988. They lived in Germany for 11 years but came to Britain after the German authorities threatened to send them back to Turkey. This happened to the father, who was deported to Germany last year. For three years, the children attended a school in Kent, where their teacher Jane Cummins describes them as an "exceptional" family. "They were all that you would want your own children to be," said Ms Cummins, a language support teacher.

    This week, a petition containing 20,000 signatures from people protesting over the detention of children in Dungavel will be presented to the House of Commons. The Ay family's case will also be heard in the High Court. Beriwan said she is scared of going back to Germany. "We came to England because we thought it was a democratic country," she says. "I have done nothing wrong, so why do they treat us like this?"
    © Independent Digital

    Tony Blair was accused of caving in to evangelical Christians last night after it emerged that new government legislation will allow faith schools, churches, hospices and other religious employers to sack lesbian and gay staff. Equal rights campaigners were furious when they discovered that regulations intended to combat discrimin- ation in the workplace contain wide-ranging exemptions for any employer "with an ethos based on religion or belief". The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said that the move would institutionalise homophobia in a way that "makes Section 28 look like a tea party". Others claimed that the exemptions exposed the "dangerous" influence church groups have over the Prime Minister.

    The 2003 Employment Equality Regulations were originally drafted by ministers with the aim of achieving a historic breakthrough in combating harassment and bias in the workplace on grounds of sexuality or religion. Drawn up to comply with an EU directive on workers' rights, they were meant for the first time to give protection to Muslims and to gays. An employer found to discriminate when hiring, promoting, demoting or training staff would be in breach of the law. But The Independent on Sunday has learned that the statutory instruments slipped out to Parliament last week were watered down following direct intervention by Downing Street. A Whitehall source said the decision was made "at the highest level" and that Barbara Roche, the equalities minister, had been overruled.

    One key clause inserted into the regulations states that an exemption applies when an employer acts "so as to comply with the doctrines of the religion ­ or so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion's followers". The wording of the clause is almost identical to that submitted by the Church of England. The Archbishops' Council's submission, which was leaked to the IoS, states that an exemption should apply "to comply with the doctrines of the religion or avoid offending the religious susceptibilities of a significant number of its followers". Other major changes to the original draft, allowing discrimination against atheists or others who do not share the religious beliefs of their employer, were made following strong lobbying from evangelical groups. One of the biggest loopholes allows an employer to dismiss or fail to hire an individual if he is "not satisfied" that they fit his own "ethos based on religion or belief".

    Critics claim that this would allow firms such as Stagecoach, run by Scottish evangelist Brian Souter, or Vardy, the North-east car dealership owned by millionaire Christian Peter Vardy, to discriminate freely. Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrats' equality spokesman, condemned the new regulations, pointing out that they would actually weaken current employment rights of gay men and lesbians by institutionalising in law justifications for discrimination. "When faced with pressure from those who wish to continue to harass and discriminate against people on the basis of lawful private behaviour or their sexuality in circumstances where sexuality is patently irrelevant to their ability to do the job, the Government has simply caved in," he said. Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society said the regulations were a "witch-hunter's dream come true". "Organisations with a 'religious ethos' employ around 200,000 people, most of them in jobs paid for out of the public purse. This includes over 100,000 teaching posts in faith schools," he said. "The Government has given in to religious pressure at every stage of this process." The Deputy Prime Minister's Office said that religious employers were a special case "as they bring diversity to public life and delivery of services". "We listened very carefully to responses in the last consultation and on reflection we decided it © Independent Digital

    An attack on hundreds of graves at a Jewish cemetery in east London has been condemned as "odious". Police discovered 386 graves had been pushed over or otherwise damaged at the Plashet Cemetery in East Ham on Thursday. President of the Parliamentary Committee Against Anti-Semitism Lord Greville Janner described the attack as "a disgraceful and odious outrage". It is initially being treated as a racially-motivated crime, although Scotland Yard says there was nothing to suggest "an organised or systematic use of anti-Semitism". A spokesman added: "There was no evidence of any disturbance to the graves themselves and there was no evidence of any graffiti daubed." No-one has yet been arrested and police are keeping an open mind about the attack. Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain of the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain said: "It is desperately hurtful for the families affected, but also a sad reflection on a small group of people who can only express themselves through acts that even five-year-olds know are wrong." He added attacks happen periodically against both Jewish and Christian cemeteries."It is very hard to know whether it is mindless vandalism or specifically anti-Semitic," he said.

    Numerous desecrations
    "The only thing you can say for sure is it reflects their lack of intelligence." The Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitic incidents in the UK, recorded 89 between January and March - a 75% rise on the previous year. Mike Whine, director of communications for the trust, said: "The massive desecration of Plashet cemetery is unprecedented in its scale. "Although there have been numerous cemetery desecrations in previous years, none of these incidents have involved the damaging of so many headstones." Khadim Hussain, 58, whose home overlooks the cemetery, said four teenagers, were seen leaping over the wall on Wednesday evening. He added youths were often seen inside the cemetery and would jump over his garden wall.
    ©BBC News

    Schools that are judged not to be doing enough for black pupils will be "named and shamed" and could be sued if they fail to improve, Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said yesterday. The CRE and the Office for Standards in Education are drawing up guidelines for inspectors to judge schools on their race records. Mr Phillips said he would be zealous in enforcing them. "I'm talking about naming and shaming schools and that's only going to be the beginning," he said. "People used to say the most dangerous thing in the world was a nigger with a gun. Well, a black man with the power of law and the ability to put schools in the High Court is a pretty dangerous thing."

    New legislation will compel schools to do more to reverse the upward trend in black exclusions by applying statutory race-relations policies. Mr Phillips said boys, in particular, were often being punished by teachers simply for being black. His remarks came days after Ryan Bell, a black 15-year-old from a London council estate, was expelled from Downside, a public school in Somerset, for drinking. Mr Phillips's television company, Pepper Productions, had paid for Ryan to attend Downside after he was expelled from a London comprehensive school for being disruptive. Mr Phillips told The Telegraph that independent schools would also be targeted in his crackdown, although they are not covered by the new legislation. "We will expect the independent sector to pay no less regard to race equality than the public sector," he said. "They, too, are inspected and have a duty to pupils."

    Ryan attended Downside, Britain's oldest Roman Catholic school, for almost two years. He seemed to adapt well. He made friends, excelled at rugby and showed a talent for Latin and biology. The experiment, however, began to turn sour when he was suspended twice for spraying graffiti and for stealing a classmate's phone, although this was described by the school as a prank. Last week, Ryan was expelled after a Sunday afternoon drinking binge with five fellow pupils which resulted in his hospitalisation. Mr Phillips said he did not want to comment on Ryan's case, but added: "There are one or two other high-profile examples of young men getting legless that I can think of, but one has to be sensible about this. People get excluded not just for one event but for a series of things." Father Leo Maidlow Davis, Downside's headmaster, said: "Since this is Ryan's third suspension for a serious breach of school regulations, I have decided with regret that he will not be readmitted." Ryan said he still hoped to sit his GCSEs later this month, although it is not clear where he will continue his education. Mr Phillips, the former journalist and broadcaster, unveiled his threat to name and shame schools at a conference on black achievement in London yesterday. He pointed to figures showing that black pupils were four times more likely than white classmates to be excluded. Under new race-relations laws, schools have a duty to be active in tackling racism and improving the education of ethnic-minority pupils.

    Schools will also be judged on their record. In one London borough, Hackney, only seven per cent of black boys achieve five good GCSEs, compared with a national average of 51 per cent. Mr Phillips described the figures as a disgrace. He said: "What is even worse is that our children are being bypassed by new groups who do not even enter school with English as their first language. That is the level of crisis we are facing." New figures show that between the ages of seven and 16, Afro-Caribbean children's attainment levels actually fell, relative to the average - the only minority group to do so. Mr Phillips said: "If anyone says that black children are not in special circumstances and should not be treated differently, they are wrong." However, his remarks were criticised by John ©Daily Telegraph

    Police are joining forces with other groups for a forum to tackle race-hate crimes in London, thought to be the first of its kind in Europe. Launched at the House of Commons on Tuesday, the Race-Hate Crimes Forum brings together 30 organisations with the aim of helping victims of racial hatred and reducing crime numbers. The Metropolitan Police Authority is behind the initiative, which comes just weeks after the anniversary of the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. Representatives will also come from the courts and voluntary groups. Peter Herbert, a member of the MPA who will chair the forum, said: "The establishment of the Race Hate Crime Forum is a landmark event in the capital and the first of its kind in Europe. "Ten years after the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the forum will help establish a uniform approach across the Criminal Justice system, statutory agencies and voluntary agencies when dealing with race hate crimes. "It is still the case that race hate crime is one of the most evil and insidious forms of discrimination, which needs to be combated with all the resources available to Londoners." The Macpherson Report into the killing of Stephen Lawrence found "institutional racism" in the police and recommended the Home Office, police services, local government and other agencies create a unified system for recording all racial crimes. The London Race Hate Crimes Working Group was set up in July 2001 and the forum will co-ordinate work in helping victims and tackling crime.
    ©BBC News

    No charge will be brought against any police officer in connection with the two botched investigations of the 1997 murder of the black musician Michael Menson, even though the police complaints authority found negligence and racism in the investigations. It emerged last night that the crown prosecution service has written to his family saying there is insufficient evidence to bring charges against former and serving members of the Metropolitan police. The investigations of Menson's death have been compared with that of Stephen Lawrence as an example of how institutional racism in Scotland Yard prevented the police doing their job properly. Menson, who had a history of mental illness, was racially abused and set alight in Edmonton, north London in January 1997. He died nearly three weeks later. The police treated the case as suicide, even though in hospital he told several people, including his brother and a woman officer, that he had been attacked by four white youths. It was only when an inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing in September 1998, and after Menson's family met the home secretary, Jack Straw, two months later, that a third set of investigators, led by the race and violent crime task force, were appointed and three suspects charged. In December 1999 one man was found guilty of murder and another of manslaughter.

    A three-year investigation for the police complaints authority by Cambridgeshire police has found that the first two investigations were unprofessional, uncoordinated, in part negligent, and at best inept. It also found examples of institutional racism. The family were checked with special branch to see if "political motivation might be at play". The unreleased report also found that at the inquest an officer told a pathologist: "I don't know why they're worried - this only concerns a fucking black schizophrenic." The prosecution service told the family in its letter last week: "Although there were undoubtedly failings in the two investigations preceding the one which finally brought the offenders to justice, I do not consider that any are sufficiently wilful or grave as to justify criminal proceedings. "It is an offence for a public officer wilfully to neglect to perform a duty which he is bound to perform by common law or statute. The neglect must be wilful, and not merely inadvertent and culpable in the sense of being without reasonable excuse or justification."

    Kwesi Menson, the dead man's brother, said last night: "I am deeply concerned. We seek a meeting with the director of public prosecutions. We think prosecutions ought to be brought, because we have been told there is clear evidence of serious failings. "Those responsible must be made accountable. We are determined that those police officers should be made to answer for their actions." The family's solicitor, Michael Schwarz, would not rule out legal proceedings against the prosecution service, the Met or individual officers. Some involved have retired. Scotland Yard said last night that "disciplinary action" was being considered against serving officers. Commander Cressida Dick said the case had been "extraordinarily important" in the history of London and the Met. "What happened when Michael was murdered would not happen today, it would be a very different investigation today," she said. The complaints authority said it would meet Scotland Yard to review the latter's suggestions for disciplinary action.
    ©The Guardian

    An international body yesterday welcomed the acknowledgement by the British Government that they committed a number of atrocities in the country during the colonial era. Pan -African Reparations Movement chairman, J D Akumu, said plans are underway for a National Conference, which will unearth the colonial atrocities committed by the British Government. "We will not accept any attempt to circumvent the declarations which were made in Durban, South African at the World Conference against racism," he said. Akumu further said the British and other nations who benefited colonialism must be prepared to apologise and pay reparations.On Thursday, police in the UK said they were investigating claims that British officials committed murder, rape and torture in overcoming the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya. The claims were made in a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) TV programme, White Terror, broadcast last year. More than 6,000 statements have been taken from survivors of the uprising claiming human rights abuses. A spokesman for London Metropolitan Police said anti terrorist officers were making preliminary inquiries into the claims.
    ©East African Standard

    15 May 2003
    A new UK-based web site has been set up to log negative and unethical media coverage of refugee and asylum seeker issues. The Media HateWatch UK project will be based at www.diversity-online.org, a site funded by the European Union and run by the International Media Working Group Against Racism and Xenophobia, known as IMRAX. Co-editor Lionel Morrison said the project had been established in response to concern about UK media coverage of asylum issues, particularly tabloid coverage. "We've made space on our web site for this project to deal with this abuse of coverage - to try and dissect the news," he said. The site lists the six most recent submissions of abusive or hateful stories on asylum seekers, and provides a full archive of submissions for journalists or researchers who register with the site. "Nearly every story recorded on the HateWatch site breaks the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) code. They are flouting their own rules," said Mr Morrison.

    The PCC is an independent body that deals with public grievances about press coverage. The PCC Code of Practice is drawn up by editors themselves and all publications - national and regional newspapers and magazines - are bound to this code. By building a body of evidence in the HateWatch archive, the organisers hope ultimately to take action against publications that print racist and unethical coverage. "The attitude of the Attorney General has been that it is not worth prosecuting publishers for just one story. We're hoping that this project will show this trend over a long period so that the Attorney General can't use the same excuse." Mr Morrison also observed that since the end of the war in Iraq, negative coverage of asylum issues had accelerated.

    See also:


    By Jeroen Bosch

    Factional warfare is an almost congenital condition of the Dutch far-right. On the rare occasions when far-rightists appear on TV, they habitually call each other "idiots" and "phoney nazis", when asked by reporters on their opinion on other fascist groups. Nazis in the Netherlands are also very opportunistic. For example, the Nederlandse Volks Unie demonstration (NVU), the group's leader Constant Kusters branded the populist Pim Fortuyn "a bald-headed clown who should open an S&M-club" but, when Fortuyn was murdered, he tried to exploit the hysterical anti-left atmosphere by demonstrating his sympathy for Fortuyn in Harderwijk.

    Kusters' acrobatics culminated in a near mutiny in the NVU's ranks because most NVU members hated the right-wing democrat Fortuyn and his eccentric life-style. German nazis, mobilised to Harderwijk by the NVU were incandescent when they found out it was not a demonstration against anti-fascists as they were told but a sympathy parade for the gay Fortuyn. Though conflict is endemic on the non-mainstream right, it has escalated during the past two months. In earlier articles, we have described the collapse of the List Pim Fortuyn (LPF) through internal row and how the Fortuynistas in Rotterdam in Liveable Rotterdam (LR), kicked the notorious right-winger Michiel Smit out of the party. His removal, however, has had little practical effect because Smit continues to vote for every LR resolution tabled on the city council at the same time as drawing fire away from it with his virulent racism.

    Smit started now his own outfit, Nieuw Rechts (New Right  NR) and is hoping to set up branches nationwide. NR's first more or less successful action has already taken place with a 100-strong demonstration in The Hague in support of the war in Iraq. Amongst those taking part was former LPF star Winny de Jong and a few fascist New National Party (NNP) members hovered around the demonstration's heavily guarded fringes without actually joining it. The NR march also attracted opposition from Anti-Fascist Action (AFA), which had warned that the event was a cover for anti-Islamic incitement. The demonstration ended after less than an hour without incident and, for Smit, it was a big success and a major boost to his campaign against the building of a mosque in Rotterdam. Such a proactive extreme right-wing party has not seen for some time in the Netherlands.

    Meanwhile, the NNP, another party with a supposed stronghold in Rotterdam, staged a demonstration at the beginning of March in the Feijenoord district, where it has two seats on the local council. This demonstration, against the building of a new mosque, attracted about 50 people, all members of the NNP and not locals as the fascists had hoped for. As in the Hague, there more police than demonstrators. The NNP's move to march in Feijenoord was a smart one because it knew that, on the same day, AFA would be busy in Apeldoorn preventing the nazis of the NVU from demonstrating there. Not all NNP members were pleased, however. Prominent member and local councillor Jan Teyn, a former Centrum Democraten and fascist CP'86 activist publicly criticised the party leadership for organising the demonstration without consulting the NNP's Rotterdam branch . In the end, Teyn participated in the demonstration, but the ground for more rows had been laid and, only weeks later, Teyn was removed from the party, officially because he was selling hate music by German nazi bard Franck Rennicke and hate band Landser on his web site. The CD "For Segregationists Only"  by the racist US country band Johnny Rebel  which openly sympathises with the Ku Klux Klan was also for sale on the same web site.

    Teyn claims, though, the the real reason for his exclusion is different: that the leadership and Florens van der Kooi, his fellow councillor recruit fascists from other organisations to defend their barracks they failed because of ideological differences. Remy Hoven, for example, a former leader of Stormfront Nederland (SFN), refused to call on his gabber/skinhead network to go to Eindhoven. Even though the anti-fascist campaign is still just warming up, support for De Kazerne is already declining.

    Recent antics by Tim Mudde, the NB's leader and boss of the nazi hate music band Brigade M, have also poured petrol of the fires of internal squabbles. At the end of March, at a farewell gig for the English nazi band English Rose in Belgium, Mudde sacked two of the members of Brigade M, singer Dave Blom and a second guitar player, claiming it was "a non-political" move but the inevitable rumours that it was down to politics were proven correct. Mudde, it appears, had reacted badly to an internet discussion about Brigade M's rules in which Blom came across as too national socialist oriented, being a member of the NVU and not sufficiently interested in the topics that Mudde finds important, anti-globalism, the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, the war against Iraq etc. Blom, who was a singer at the beginning of his "career" in the nazi band Landstorm but was kicked out of that, too, because of his heavy drinking, probably has big difficulty adjusting himself to the strict requirements of Brigade M membership which include vegetarianism and abstention from alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

    One of the biggest eruptions of the most recent fighting in Dutch nazi ranks has  not for the first time  been in the Nederlandse Volks Unie and centred on its self-styled "Führer" Constant Kusters. After the NVU's abysmal attempt at a demonstration, in Apeldoorn on the 8 March, uproar broke out against Kusters' decisions and strategy on the day. The slogan for the demonstration  "Stop Asylum Now!" also came under fire, the critics pointing out that there are hardly any refugees arriving in the Netherlands any more due to the stringent curbs imposed by the Dutch government. Kusters' gigantic error of telling NVU members to gather at Apeldoorn railway just at the time when anti-fascists were about to end their demonstration there hardly helped either. The critics, led by Eite Homan, the veteran leader of the Aktiefront Nationale Socialisten (ANS), had wanted to demonstrate in another town in the near Apeldoorn but Kusters dismissed that as an illegal act. After hours of negotiating with police and frantic messages coming in from Apeldoorn that 500 anti-fascists were still awaiting the nazis' arrival, Kusters insisted on going ahead in the hope of grabbing some publicity. In the meantime, however, the police blocked their path and an attempt by the ANS faction in the NVU to stop traffic on a nearby motorway turned into a huge flop.

    One of those most energetically trying to block the motorway was the German nazi, Michael Krick, one of the NVU's most radical members, who is firmly in the camp of the ANS faction and, on the day, was armed with a riot police helmet and a home made shield. Krick now has his own problems following his extradition to Germany on 14 April. The German authorities want to prosecute him for several criminal offences, including displaying an SS tattoo at a nazi demonstration in Berlin and possessing CDs with Holocaust denial lyrics. Throughout the months-long extradition process, Krick was on bail and able to walk around freely and call for terrorist acts against political opponents, judges and police officers at NVU meetings. Krick fled to the Netherlands in February 2001 and married a female NVU activist some months ago, wearing a SA uniform at the ceremony. At present, he is awaiting trial  and helping police with their enquiries in an attempted murder case  in a Munich prison but is expected to return to the Netherlands after serving his expected prison term in Germany. Whether the NVU will still exist by then is another matter. Krick's ANS faction is not at all enamoured by Kusters' attempts of Kusters to follow a "consen month, Glimmerveen published a special edition of Wij Nederland full of letters to Kusters, the latter's answers, and his own vision of the NVU. Among other things, Glimmerveen has charged Kusters with misuse of NVU funds for his own benefit and threatens him with court action.

    None of this arguing and infighting in the ranks of the extreme right and the nazis is by any means new. Just to gloat over it is naďve, however, and anti-fascists need to continue their close monitoring of developments in the enemy camp and not laugh too soon.

    Animal rights activist and former sex symbol Brigitte Bardot has unleashed a torrent of venom against modern France, blaming modern art, gay culture, fast food, trash TV, politicians -- but above all Muslim immigrants -- for the country's descent into decadence. In a new book entitled "A cry in the silence," the 68 year-old ex-actress confirms her reputation as a misanthropist of heroic proportions, interspersing vivid diatribes against most of humanity with elegiac passages about France as it used to be. "I do not hold religious Muslims in high esteem," she concedes in her introduction, and throughout the book her deepest wrath is reserved for the "Islamisation" of France and -- her particular bete noire -- the Muslim ritual of animal sacrifice at Eid el-Kebir. "For 20 years we have submitted to a dangerous and uncontrolled underground infiltration. Not only does it fail to give way to our laws and customs. Quite the contrary, as time goes by it tries to impose its own laws on us," Bardot writes. "We were disturbed by their barbaric practices; we went to court; we condemned their unacceptable behaviour which left homes covered in blood, and filled rubbish chutes with skin, bone and oozing brains. To no avail!" says the activist, who has been convicted three times for inciting racial hatred.

    The anti-racist group Movement Against Racism And For Friendshp Between Peoples (MRAP) said Monday it would once again sue Bardot over the book. "This work is unacceptable. It is a real call for racism, discrimination and violence," said president Mouloud Aounit. Elsewhere in "A cry in the silence," Bardot describes those responsible for the September 11 attacks in the US as "monstrous, satanic men," and then adds:
    "All those 'youths' who terrorise the population, rape young girls, train pit-bulls for attack ... spit on the police -- they are the ones who at the smallest signal from their chiefs will suddenly put us through the same kind of thing that happened in a Moscow theatre." There are plenty of other targets for Bardot's unflinching abuse -- notably modern gays who, unlike her own dignified homosexual friends, "jiggle their bottoms, put their little fingers in the air and with their little castrato voices moan about what those ghastly heteros put them through."As for modern art it has become "shit -- literally as well as figuratively." "Shit has been put on show in little dry piles, accompanied by used sanitary towels and condoms, forming new millennium sculpture -- acclaimed by all the jet-set dolts, the experts, the arses, the motors of what we call fashion," she says.

    In politics she likes President Jacques Chirac "as a human and a friend," and praises his stand on Iraq. Far right leader Jean-Marie le Pen and Trotskyist Arlette Laguiller are sincere and consistent. But the rest are "weather vanes who turn left or right as the fancy takes them." Not even French prostitutes are what they used to be, bemoans the star of "And God created Woman." "Our lovely, kind street-walkers have been replaced by girls from the East, Nigerians, travellers, trans-sexuals, drag-queens, bearers of AIDS and other friendly gifts. Having a risk-free go is becoming a real exploit," Bardot writes. It is time, she says, to re-open the "maisons closes" -- the authorised brothels shut down by the government in 1946 when Bardot was 11. "All spent fluids would enjoy the medical and sanitary surveillance that is indispensible to our age -- an age in which all venereal diseases come to us borne by men and women who traffic their various orifices and contaminate those who fill them," she writes.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    Thursday, May 15, 2003
    French movie legend Brigitte Bardot is being threatened with a law suit by two rights groups who accuse her of inciting racism in her new book. "Cry in the silence," (Cri dans le silence) takes on issues such as racial mixing, immigration, the role of women in politics and Islam. "We're going to go to the corrections court against Brigitte Bardot," Michel Tubiana, president of France's Human Rights League, said in a telephone interview Thursday. On Monday, the rights group Movement Against Racism and for Friendship of People called for a boycott of the book, saying it was a source of "racist propaganda." Bardot and her publisher, Editions du Rocher, denied the allegations. In a statement, they said they were "particularly shocked" about the boycott and efforts to portray the book as racist. Bardot and her publisher "are ready and waiting" for any lawsuit, the statement said. They also raised the prospect of countersuits and vowed to defend their right of freedom of expression. In the new book, "everyone is targeted: teachers, the unemployed, illegal immigrants, homosexuals, the Paris mayor," Tubiana said. Passages of the book were published last weekend in the daily France-Soir. The excerpts laid out Bardot's questioning of the role of women as ministers in government and criticism of "average" French people. But the rights groups focused on the alleged anti-Muslim comments. "I'm against the Islamization of France...our grandfathers, our fathers gave their lives for centuries to chase all successive invaders out of France," one excerpt said. Asked what passages shocked him, Tubiana said: "saying, for example, that Muslims can't be French -- that's a real problem -- or that Muslims are invading France, that Muslims are all terrorists. ...This type of generalization is unacceptable." Passages about Muslims, Tubiana contended, break French anti-racism laws that prevent inciting hate and discrimination on racial or religious or racial grounds. Bardot, 68, a former screen siren and animal rights campaigner, was convicted in 1997 and 2000 of inciting racial violence after she criticized in print the Muslim practice of slaughtering sheep.
    ©Associated Press

    Even as Europe's Islamic population rises, many Muslims feel marginalized and uncertain of their place in European society.

    Editor's Note: First in a two-part series: To Be Muslim in Europe. On Monday, May 19, a profile of a more moderate leader.

    To his supporters, Dyab Abou Jahjah is a hero, a champion of Europe's Muslim immigrant underclass. But to many Belgians, the young, Lebanese-born activist embodies the Continent's growing fear of extremism within its Muslim population. Now, the man sometimes called the "Belgian Malcolm X" is trying to make the leap from activism to political office: He is running for a parliamentary seat in a heated election Sunday in which immigration is a pivotal issue. Mr. Abou Jahjah's confrontational style is forcing Belgians to consider questions echoing elsewhere in Europe: Are immigrants welcome? What does it mean to be a European? Railing against high minority unemployment and government inertia, Abou Jahjah says he wants to form a Continent-wide political movement to defend Muslim rights. "I am not going to be docile, I am not going to tell you what you want to hear," he says repeatedly in public appearances, separating himself from mainstream moderate Muslim politicians who have emphasized integration. Handsome, clean-shaven, often dressed in jeans, Abou Jahjah is a charismatic debater. With a master's degree in international politics and fluency in four languages, he has all the right European credentials. Since founding the Arab European League (AEL) two years ago, he has attracted a following of thousands of jobless, frustrated young immigrants who feel shut out by mainstream European society. The AEL now has growing branches in France and the Netherlands.

    "He says what we all think," says Hafid, an unemployed Moroccan-Belgian from Borgerhout, an impoverished immigrant neighborhood in the port city of Antwerp. "They don't want us in Belgium. They call us monkeys. But we were born here. This is our country, too. But what do we get? Everybody thinks we are terrorists and criminals." Abou Jahjah is among a handful of young Muslim leaders emerging in Europe. While their religious emphasis and methods vary - some borrow protest techniques and slogans from the US civil rights movement - their message is the same: Improve conditions for the Continent's minorities. Professor Herman De Ley, director of the Centre for Islam Studies at the University of Ghent, attributes Abou Jahjah's popularity to a new assertiveness among the children of the Muslim immigrants who began arriving in Belgium to fill labor shortages after World War II. "This generation ... demands their rights as citizens and are willing to use radical means to have their demands met," he says. The expansion of the AEL "is not dangerous," he says. "Rights have to be fought for."

    But Belgian authorities view Abou Jahjah as a danger, a "fundamentalist agitator" whose militance is apparent in his editorials in Arabic newspapers and his AEL activities. In a piece for an Egyptian paper, for example, he wrote that after Sept. 11, "in the Arab ghetto in Brussels, people were smiling." Police have blamed Abou Jahjah for fomenting recent racial violence. They have also investigated him for alleged links with "criminal elements" and for suspected funding from extremist organizations in the Middle East. Recently, however, Belgian State Security released a report saying it had found no evidence of terrorist ties, and has categorized him as a radical Arab Nationalist. Abou Jahjah received political asylum in Belgium in 1991 after telling authorities he had fled Lebanon because he had had a falling out with the armed group Hizbullah. Now, however, he says he never belonged to Hizbullah, but fought in the Lebanese Civil War within Arab Nationalist factions who sought an end to the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Abou Jahjah also argues that he has never had terrorist conn Antwerp." Most Belgians first heard of Abou Jahjah last November, after his arrest for allegedly inciting race riots after a mentally disturbed Belgian killed a young Islamic religion teacher. Five days later, Abou Jahjah was released because of insufficient evidence. But the incident thrust the topics of immigration and prejudice - which mainstream politicians had been reluctant to openly discuss - into the limelight, revealing deep cultural divisions and resentment between predominantly Catholic Belgians and the country's almost 400,000 Muslims. AEL activities have fanned many Belgians' worst fears about the group's motives. Weeks before last November's riots, the AEL organized Muslim "civilian patrols" to monitor alleged police brutality in immigrant neighborhoods in Antwerp. The patrols carried video cameras, and they wore black, which reminded older Belgians of the black uniforms of prewar Nazi brigades. In Antwerp, which Abou Jahjah refers to as the international capital of Zionism, due to its large Orthodox Jewish population, the AEL organized a pro-Palestinian rally last April that drew 3,000 young Muslims, with protesters chanting "jihad" and "Osama bin Laden." The march ended in riots in Antwerp's commercial center.

    "Groups like the AEL "are a growing factor because of the growing population rates of immigrants - and because, I think, we still fail on measures of integration, acceptance, and tolerance," says Hannes Swoboda, vice chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs. According to the Vienna-based European Monitoring Center for Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), Europe's ethnic minorities are more likely to be unemployed, hold less-secure jobs, and receive lower pay. In a study following the Sept. 11 attacks, the EUMC found signs of increased interest in Islam among Europeans, but also evidence of a worsening situation for Europe's Muslim immigrants. The report concluded that immigrants felt increasingly isolated by suspicion as the political debate over immigration collided with a crackdown on terrorist threats. "When people have so much fear and are looking for simple solutions, that means you'll find all the 'isms' increasing - fundamentalism, nationalism, extremism," says Beate Winkler, director of the EUMC. "There [can be] positive aspects [such as the beginning of dialogue], but political leaders have to show leadership, there must be concrete actions that counter them." In neighborhoods like Borgerhout, crime is on the rise, along with unemployment, which is 40 percent for immigrants under age 30 - compared with Belgium's overall unemployment rate of 11.6 percent. "Many of us are angry," says Hafid. "You can't get a job, you can't get an apartment, and most of the Belgians don't even speak to you. That's why a riot is like a party."
    ©Christian Science Monitor Service

    Belgium's voters go to the polls on Sunday(18 May) to elect a new government.

    The current Liberal-led "rainbow coalition" with the Socialists and Greens looks set to win a second term, with Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt at its head. But there are worries that the country's far-right Vlaams Blok Party could see another surge in support in the north of the country. The party's share of the vote been rising steadily. Now some are beginning to question the mainstream's strategy for curbing it. At a typical Vlaams Blok rally the faithful congregate to hear the creed of Belgium's far right. There are fiercely anti-immigrant speeches and attacks on multiculturalism. At the core of the message is the call for independence for Flanders, the northern Flemish-speaking part of the country. The hall inevitably explodes in a rendition of "De Vlaamse Leeuw" - the anthem of Flanders. But now the party has enlisted a former beauty queen to help present a softer front. Anke Vandermeersch is running for the Senate in the elections. As she treads the campaign trail, peddling her fliers and leaflets at the Hoboken market just outside Antwerp, this tall peroxide blonde towers above most of the shoppers. But it is soon clear that despite the pretty packaging the Vlaams Blok's message has not changed much. "We still are very much against the multicultural society. We need people who emigrate here to adapt. If they don't adapt to our systems, to our laws, to our values, they should go back to where they came from," she tells the BBC.

    Cordon sanitaire
    Antwerp is a stronghold of the Blok, its suburbs and centre proving fertile ground. In the last local elections one in three people here voted for them. They are the largest party in the city. The only reason they do not hold office locally is because an alliance of all the other mainstream parties, known as the cordon sanitaire, has kept them out. But conversations with people in the marketplace show many are frustrated with that policy and will vote for the Blok once again. "Give them a chance," says one bespectacled man at a flower stall. A woman pauses while buying waffles to say: "Let them get into government and prove what they're worth." Not everyone goes this far. But Belgium's mainstream parties are beginning to admit that the strategy for curbing the rise of the far right may not be working.

    Muslim voice
    Stefaan De Clerck - the leader of the opposition Flemish Christian Democrats - seems to be bracing himself for another rise in the Vlaams Blok's share of the vote, which already stands at 15%. "The so-called democratic parties decided to organise this 'cordon sanitaire' against the Vlaams Blok, but finally we have to conclude it hasn't helped our situation," he said. "They're still growing and that's a problem." But the rise of the right has generated another challenger to Belgium's mainstream parties. The movement Resist claims to speak for the country's young and frustrated Muslims. Its main spokesman, Dyab Abou Jahjah, who is now fighting for a seat in parliament argues fear of the Vlaams Blok is already dictating the establishment's political agenda. "Vlaams Blok talks about security, so they start talking about security. Vlaams Blok talks about assimilation they speak about assimilation. That's the power of the Vlaams Blok," he said. "It is imposing itself on the governing parties without being in government." There is no chance that the Vlaams Blok will get into power through these elections, but any increase will be a worry and an embarrassment for a Belgian political establishment which has watched the popularity of these Flemish Nationalists rise steadily over the last 10 years.
    ©BBC News

    As part of Slovakia's commitment to the European Union, the country has promised to guarantee that minority languages will be an integral part of elementary and high-school education. A new project, coordinated by the State Education Department, aims to establish the Romany language and Romany history as part of the curriculum at three high schools in Slovakia. One of these, opening in Koaice in September 2003, will focus on computer technology and foreign languages. The other two schools are an already-existing Slovak-English bilingual high schools in Bratislava, focusing on state administration, and the Gandhi school in Zvolen, focusing on social services and terrain work and set to open in September 2004. The lessons in Roma language and history will be compulsory for all students, who will be both Roma and non-Roma.

    The initiator of the project and director of the government's department of ethnic education, Ján Cangár, says this is step forward that was a long time coming. "The Roma haven't been given this right up until this point. There are no teachers and no books. We want the Romany language and history implemented in national education," he says. "We have to try it because as yet we don't have the experience [to be sure of the results]. The whole experiment will last for nine years, maybe less. In the end, there will be a curriculum for elementary and high schools," he says. Those involved in the project, including the founders of the schools, will take part in an international seminar in Strasbourg on May 26 and 27, where they will learn about different types of schools. "In Europe they don't have much experience of the Romany language and history being taught," says Cangár. "The European Council realises that it's important to create opportunities for the Roma to be educated in their mother tongue." In his view, teaching the Romany language in schools is the first rung of the ladder.

    The Romany language spoken in Slovakia consists of three dialects: Slovak Romany, spoken in eastern Slovakia; Hungarian Romany spoken in the south and southwest of Slovakia; and the Olah or Wallachian dialect, which shares some mutual elements with Balkan Romany. Approximately 80 percent of Roma in Slovakia speak the eastern Slovak Romany dialect and that is the one that will be taught in the high schools. So far, Romany language and literature has been taught only at the Secondary School of Arts in Koaice and at the department of Romany studies at the University of Constantine the Philosopher in Nitra. "There is a gap to be filled," says Anna Koptová, director of the Good Romany Fairy foundation and a prospective founder of the Koaice-based high school. "We want [Roma] kids to study and get a grade in the Romany language as part of their high-school diploma, and we want them to know their own history, traditions, and culture. If they don't go on to university, they will get a chance to complement their high-school diploma with another year of professional schooling in the area of health care, education, or social work so they can work as social workers etc. For this reason our project is for five-year high-school education," she said.

    An important goal of the initiative is to increase the number of Roma high-school students. Organisers hope it will show Roma that they have a place in the Slovak education system, thus motivating more of them to take an active part. "According to statistics, there are only three Roma students in high schools in eastern Slovakia," says Koptová. "These are terrible numbers that force you to think and try to do something. The reason for these low numbers is the fact that Roma children don't achieve high enough results to compete for places in high school," she explains. But most Roma children encounter problems at the beginning of their schooling, which often results in them dropping out of school at a for such initiatives. Due to unemployment and the low educational level of many Roma families, parents are often unable to help children with their homework. A way of solving this problem can be seen in Pecs, Hungary, where the Ghandi school established there in 1991 is a boarding school during the week. Children only go home at weekends. This Hungarian model where kids board from the fifth grade until they take their high-school diplomas is being adopted in Slovakia by Nataša Slobodníková, director of the KARI (County Association of Roma Initiatives) union and prospective founder of the Gandhi school in Zvolen.

    "The Gandhi school in Pecs has excellent results," says Slobodníková. "Between 70 and 80 percent of its former students are studying at various universities and institutes of higher education. This is fertile ground for creating and fostering a Roma intelligentsia. The high school in Pecs has 85 percent Roma students and 15 percent talented but socially disadvantaged Hungarian pupils." Organisers say they will look for teachers for the new schools at the department of Romany studies in Nitra and in teacher-training institutes. Teachers' assistants will find gifted Roma kids to apply to the high schools. "We don't believe Romany kids [will automatically] have lower average grades," says Slobodníková. "We believe a lot depends on the teacher's attitude, the students' interest in studying, and the creation of opportunities, which means boarding school. The Gandhi school [in Zvolen] will create the conditions for them to be successful."
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    Muslim women in Russia will be permitted to wear headscarves in passport photos, the country's Supreme Court has ruled in what has been hailed a victory for civil rights. The decision followed an appeal by a group of women from the predominantly Muslim republic of Tatarstan, who had been campaigning to overturn a 1997 Interior Ministry ruling which forbade women to wear scarves in the photos. The passports are required internally in Russia for every citizen, but the Muslim holy book - the Koran - requires women to dress modestly, and women in many Muslim societies wear headscarves. The Supreme Court originally rejected the ruling in March, and an earlier appeal by another group of Tatarstan women was also rejected by the same court last year. These moves led to condemnation from human rights groups who said the rulings indicated growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the country.

    'Secular state'
    The women had gone to court claiming that the ruling infringed their civil rights. They also said that they had been inspired to file the suit after hearing that Saudi Arabian women were permitted to wear a full length veil in their passport photos. The Russian Interior Ministry countered that wearing a headscarf or hat in a passport picture makes identification difficult. "The Koran is not a legal document on the territory of the Russian Federation," a ministry spokeswoman told Russia's Interfax news agency. "We have a secular state and no one religion should dominate." Russia's Council of Muftis welcomed the decision to overturn the ruling. "The Supreme Court, in effect, fixed the Muslim's right to profess their religion full-fledged," council co-chairman Nafigulla Ashirov told Interfax. Russia has some 20 million Muslims out of a population of 147 million population, but rights groups have condemned Russia for fermenting anti-Muslim sentiment to aid its mission against separatists in Chechnya.
    ©BBC News

    Addressing the plenary session of the European Parliament on Tuesday night, 13 May, EU enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen expressed concern about a police raid in the Brussels-sponsored Human Rights Association in Turkey. Mr Verheugen said that the police raid was highly incompatible with the EU human rights requests and he spoke about "incomprehensible harassment". The Human Rights Association received large grants from the European Commission between 1992-1999 and it is expected to give more money to the organisation for work which goes towards fulfilling the EU's democratic criteria - known as the Copenhagen criteria. A Commission spokesman said that there is a "yawning gap" between stated reforms and their implementation.

    Turkey regrets actions
    Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said he regretted the action by the authorities and recognised the importance of correct implementation of the political reforms adopted by Turkey. He went on to add that the Turkish judiciary bodies were the ones responsible. Still Mr Verheugen remained critical and underlined the gap between the political reforms and the attitude of the Turkish executive and judicial authorities. He added that the actual implementation of reform will be one of the key aspects of the 2004 Commission's report on Turkey that will establish whether the country fulfils the political criteria or not - and thus is eligible for EU membership. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül will visit the enlargement commissioner this Thursday, 15 May. Mr Verheugen told MEPs that he would bring up the issue in the meeting. At the plenary session this week, MEPs adopted a report stating that the conditions for the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey are not yet in place.

    Refugees have been removed from a directive aimed at granting third-country nationals who have resided for more than 5 years in an EU country, freedom of mobility from one member state to another. This change was made due to German and Spanish resistance, sources said. If immigrants from non-EU countries – ‘third-country nationals'- are granted an EC statute of long-term residence, they would also enjoy equal treatment with EU nationals on employment, education and social security. Germany's internal problem with asylum and immigration has also led the EU Justice Ministers to defer once again an agreement on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third-country nationals. As refugees were removed from the proposed directive, the Commission will be tabling a proposal within one year, for a directive to extend the long-term residence status to refugees and persons under subsidiary protection. With this compromise, the Council hopes that Germany may ease its restrictions on the two directives currently under discussion - one on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third-country nationals and the other on the status of those that are long-term residents - as the deadline is June 2003. Disagreement however between EU states also exists over whether refugees and those under subsidiary protection, should be granted the same rights. "There is still some way to go," Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino said. "I hope willingness to compromise could be reached."

    Online visa information system
    Mr Vitorino also briefed EU ministers over the proposed Visa Information System (VIS) by which EU states would co-ordinate and access information about issued visas. But three issues have yet to be decided by the EU states – whether the online visa system would be self-standing or linked to the Schengen system; on its general architecture and the costs involved. This online system would enable EU states to have access to photos, identity and biometric information of the person to which a visa has been issued. Mr Vitorino also said that the same is currently being planned for passports and travel documents. Co-ordination measures between EU states are becoming even more crucial due to EU enlargement, which will considerably expand the EU borders to the East.

    When immigration lawyer Gary Segal hopped into a Toronto cab last fall, he was reminded why tighter regulation of so-called immigration consultants is badly needed. A sign offering "professional" advice on settling in Canada was posted with a telephone number. The expert peddling his services turned out to be the cabbie, Segal recalled Thursday. " 'Yes sir,' he told me. 'Taxi driver during the day, immigration consultant at night.' " Asked what credentials he brought to such important work, the cabbie responded: "I immigrated didn't I?"

    An advisory panel on Thursday urged Ottawa to appoint a regulatory body to rein in immigration consultants who currently operate with no professional standards. Immigration Minister Denis Coderre said action will be taken before 2004 to eliminate this legal "grey zone" that has drawn criticism from the United States. "Right now, even a lawyer . . . disbarred for fraud, the next day can open his own office and become an immigration consultant. What we need is professionals. "I'm not against consultants," Coderre said outside the Commons. "I'm against those vultures." He formed the advisory panel of immigration lawyers, consultants and academics last fall. It says immigration consultants should be licensed and monitored through a self-regulatory body to be initially appointed for a two-year term. One-third of its members should be made up of immigration consultants, it said. After two years, the board should be elected and mostly made up of immigration lawyers selected by their peers. "Although there are many consultants who conduct their work in an ethical manner, there are many who do not," the panel report says. "This behaviour harms Canada's reputation abroad. It harms Canada's national security. It harms vulnerable applicants and it causes serious problems for Canada's economic self-interest." The rule-setting agency would develop a code of conduct, complaints process, compensation fund, bilingual services and a national education program. Moreover, licensed immigration consultants should have to carry a minimum of $1 million in liability insurance, the panel recommends. Grandfathering should not be allowed to exempt those who've worked for years in the business, it said. But graduated membership in the regulatory body could be offered to allow educational upgrading over a period of five years, for example. All members should have to complete an accreditation exam and meet standards to be set by the new body, the panel advised.

    Segal, an immigration lawyer for 36 years, says the recommendations don't go far enough. Immigration consultants, even those with years of experience, shouldn't be allowed to regulate themselves, he said. Any regulatory body should be tightly controlled by qualified immigration lawyers working with Ottawa, he said. The legal vacuum in the business has meant tragic incompetence in cases where lives are at stake, Segal says. "The horror stories are unbelievable. "Exams should be set by senior government people in conjunction with senior immigration lawyers. That's the only way you can properly test these people. "The U.S. requires you be an attorney and file a document each time you make a representation to the government on behalf of the client."
    ©National Post

    Holocaust denier tells court he owes his life to Nazi butcher

    Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel wept in court yesterday as he said he owed his life to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. "There is more to Adolf Hitler and his government than Jews, Auschwitz and violence. The violent acts were committed as war-time measures," said Zundel, 64, who was seeking release from detention. The federal court is reviewing a national security certificate that brands Zundel a national security risk. Should the court find the certificate is reasonable, he will be deported to Germany to face charges there of inciting hatred.

    Bail hearing
    The court documents don't allege that Zundel has any personal involvement in violent acts but that he is involved in terrorism as a "patriarch and figurehead" to white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups in Canada and abroad. Yesterday's bail hearing was to determine whether Zundel is a flight risk and should be detained. The hearing continues on May 16. Zundel stopped to regain his composure as he described his feelings for Hitler. "Germans suffered terrible hardship ... my father had no hope, no job. Once he got a job, he was able to (have more children). I owe my life to that man (Hitler)," Zundel said in a tiny courtroom packed with supporters, media and members of the Jewish community. "We Germans know a different Adolf Hitler and admire him for peace, work, bread, honour and a place in the sun," Zundel said. He told the court his father, who was unemployed for four years during the Depression, delayed having him until prosperity returned to Germany. Zundel described himself as the "Gandhi of the right," who urged others to refrain from violence and engage in debate. "To say he's a pacifist, yet he honours Hitler, one of the worst mass murderers in world history, that tells you everything you need to know about Zundel," said Len Rudner, spokesman for the Canadian Jewish Congress. "Zundel's words offend a huge group. Toronto has one of the largest populations of Holocaust survivors and his words are an insult not only to them and the rest of the six million Holocaust victims, but also the 20 million people of many nations who lost their lives during the Second World War because of Hitler," Rudner said.

    'All hearsay'
    Zundel's lawyer Doug Christie said, "There's not one iota of evidence from a witness, but all hearsay. I don't think the certificate is reasonable and I don't think Mr. Zundel is a threat to the security of Canada." While Christie spoke to reporters, anti-poverty activists yelled profanities and shouted, "You defend Nazis for a living." Zundel had been in detention in Niagara Falls since Feb. 19, after he was booted out of the United States. Previously he had lived in Canada for 42 years.
    ©Toronto Sun

    A 'lightning rod' for far-right groups May 17, 2003

    A court hearing for Ernst Zundel resurrected some of Canada's most notorious neo-Nazis and white supremacists yesterday as old associates of the man called the patriarch of the white power movement came to testify on his behalf. From the hate-filled lyrics of a Canadian racist rock band to a videotape of a meeting in Toronto to celebrate the birthday of Adolf Hitler, the recent history of the fringe of the extreme right was on display for a Federal Court judge who must decide whether the government's declaration of Mr. Zundel as a threat to national security is appropriate. The government contends that Mr. Zundel, who faces deportation to his native Germany for trial on hate charges, is a lightning rod who draws white supremacists together. Douglas H. Christie, Mr. Zundel's lawyer, dismissed the allegation. Outside the courtroom, however, Jewish groups noted that his hearing is doing precisely that.

    Present at the request of Mr. Christie, who told court he intends to call them as witnesses, were:

  • -Wolfgang Droege, who was involved with the Ku Klux Klan, before he founded the racist Heritage Front in 1989, according to government documents filed in court. Mr. Droege has been convicted of weapons and drug offences, of assault and for his involvement in a plot to overthrow the government of the Caribbean island Dominica. Mr. Droege was not called to testify as the court ran out of time. He carried with him an enormous roll of high-denomination banknotes and, as he waited to take the stand, he added a $100 bill to it and replaced the roll in his trouser pocket.
  • - George Burdi, who has since renounced racism, was the founder of the Canadian branch of the Church of the Creator, a virulently racist U.S.-based organization. He formed a punk band in the early 1990s called RaHoWa, a term for racial holy war, that released CDs on Resistance Records, an independent label that he founded. He was convicted of assault causing bodily harm after a woman was kicked in the face at a rally opposing the band and in 1999 pleaded guilty to wilfully promoting hatred. Mr. Burdi left the white supremacist movement in 1997 and has since worked with anti-racist groups, he said. He testified yesterday that Mr. Zundel "got very upset with me for holding these types of views and writing these types of lyrics. He asked me to leave his premises, not to use his computers any more and not to come back."
  • - Max French, who twice ran for mayor of Scarborough although he picked up little voter support. He was at the centre of the Heritage Front Affair, detailed in a 1994 report to the Solicitor-General of Canada by the Security Intelligence Review Committee, after several members of the front also joined the Reform party. That report says Mr. French collected uniforms that belonged to dead Nazis, earning him the nickname of Necro-Nazi, although Mr. French denied having ever heard of this term. He traveled to Libya in 1989 with members of the extreme right for a conference and rally. Like Mr. Droege, Mr. French was not called to testify before court was adjourned. "It seems like old times," said Mr. French. "When an old friend is in a pinch you do what you can do," said Mr. French on why he was here to help Mr. Zundel.

    Jewish groups said the day showed the danger the movement presents. "It is painful," said Anita Bromberg, in-house counsel for B'nai Brith Canada, after the hearing. "To hear the anti-Jew remarks and the anti-Chinese remarks, to go through all of this again and hear the hate propaganda once again is painful. They want us to believe they've now disbanded and it no longer exists, but given the number of hateful sites on the Internet it has clearly not disappeared," Ms. Bromberg said. "The power of organizations like the Heritage Front is not what it once was," said Len Rudner of t ©National Post

    Saturday, May 17, 2003
    The Bush administration is pushing Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN high commissioner of human rights, to be the UN representative in Iraq, saying such an appointment could broaden the organization's role in the faltering reconstruction effort, senior administration officials and Security Council diplomats say. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's decision on whom to appoint special representative in Iraq has taken on urgency since the arrival recently of Paul Bremer, the presidential envoy, to lead Iraq's reconstruction. Senior diplomats said Thursday that a high-profile UN representative should be sent to Baghdad as soon as possible to become a partner to Bremer in his effort to reinvigorate the postwar operations. Only a month ago, a senior administration official vowed that: "Iraq will not be put under a UN flag. The UN is not going to be a partner." But now, with the American military victory yet to translate into stability in Iraq, administration officials seem more willing to acknowledge the United Nations' expertise in reconstruction. Officials also emphasized that it was up to Annan to make the appointment and that Vieira de Mello should not be seen as the American candidate.

    Vieira de Mello, a Brazilian fluent in English and French, has been an international official for more than 30 years and has been praised for leading the UN postwar reconstruction effort in East Timor from 1999 to May 2002. He organized the repatriation of refugees to Cambodia in 1992 and worked in the former Yugoslavia. He is considered someone who can work on the ground in international operations and a seasoned diplomat who could win broader international involvement and greater financial support for the effort in Iraq. "He's the kind of person who has shown that he is a good administrator, that he is interested in getting things done for the good of the people," a senior administration official said. Administration officials say Vieira de Mello is highly regarded by the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, who invited him to the White House in March and introduced him to President Bush. Britain and other members of the Security Council have persistently demanded that the United Nations be given a strong role in postwar Iraq. These foreign officials hope that by appointing Vieira de Mello, an official acceptable to the United States and most of the rest of the Security Council, the United Nations would be in a stronger position. But Annan has yet to decide whether he would allow Vieira de Mello to leave his current post, senior international officials said, adding that it might send the wrong message that human rights are a lower priority than the reconstruction of Iraq. If the administration agreed to specify how it might broaden the role of the UN representative in Iraq, these officials said, then Annan might be willing to transfer Vieira de Mello temporarily. Asked on Thursday about Vieira de Mello's prospects for the job, one senior Security Council diplomat said, "He is the man Washington wants."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    The United Nations has tabled an alternative plan for dealing with asylum seekers coming to Britain amid fears that David Blunkett's scheme for an offshore processing centre outside Europe will be seen as dumping refugees on poorer countries. Germany's interior minister, Otto Schily, openly criticised the home secretary's proposal to deal with asylum seekers during a visit to London at the weekend, saying that he believed that it would increase rather than reduce the numbers trying to get into Europe. Mr Blunkett hopes that the European Union will agree next month to set up a "protection zone" on a pilot basis by the end of the year. It is to be located in an as yet unidentified country beyond the EU's expanded eastern frontier, such as Russia or Albania, to process the claims of asylum seekers hoping to enter Europe. Asylum seekers arriving in Britain or other EU countries would be sent to the international transit centres to have their claims for refugee status decided. But Mr Schily's criticism is a blow to Mr Blunkett. "I'm a bit sceptical," he said. "We agree on the same aims, we want to reduce the figure of people coming to Europe. But these camps won't work, they will only attract additional refugees coming there, and this will not prevent others coming directly to our countries, so I don't see the benefit of it." Next month's European summit in Greece is expected to agree proposals which will mark a major departure in the way that Europe treats asylum seekers. A paper from the European Commission detailing the options is already in an advanced draft and is to be presented to EU home affairs ministers on June 6.

    But it has now emerged that the UN high commission for refugees (UNHCR) has put forward an alternative to Britain's proposal that would ensure that all asylum claims were processed within Europe and that each country kept open their own door to claims from genuine refugees. The agency welcomed British support for new resettlement programmes in regions of the world close to major conflicts but is highly critical of the scheme for offshore processing centres for those who make their way illegally to Europe. In an interview with the Guardian, Raymond Hall, the UNHCR's European director, said they would support the joint European processing of asylum claims but only for the limited number whose claims were "manifestly unfounded" and who would be given the legal chance to rebut the assumption that they were economic migrants. Britain at present has a "whitelist" of 17 countries, mostly in eastern Europe, from which it considers asylum claims to be "manifestly unfounded". Mr Hall said the joint European processing of such claims would "offload national asylum procedures from this major irritant of abuse which is one of the factors that is undermining the credibility of national asylum procedures at the moment." He said it would also promote a common set of standards for the treatment of asylum seekers across Europe and would provide for the more effective return of those who were rejected. Return agreements with countries of origin would be negotiated collectively by Europe rather than individually by each European country as happens at present.

    "This pooling of asylum determination capacity within Europe would be monitored by the UNHCR. It would be very quick, thorough and fair so that people are not left stranded for months," said Mr Hall. "But we are also very concerned that national asylum procedures continue to function because these will remain the pillar at the moment of the 1951 convention. Manifestly founded cases should continue to go through the national procedure and that should not be lost at this stage." He said the UNHCR were strongly opposed to the idea that every asylum seeker arriving in Britain should be sent back to the processing centre in Russia or Albania. He also feared that there was a ©The Guardian

    Discrimination at work is "rampant" all over the world, says the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in the first-ever global report on the issue. The practice deprives women, ethnic and religious minorities and migrants of equal jobs or pay, it claims. "There is not one country in the world that can say it is free of this problem," Manuela Tomei, the report's author, told a news conference in Geneva. While the most blatant types of discrimination were fading, "subtle, less visible and more insidious forms" had emerged, including pre-employment testing for HIV/Aids, the report said. "Every day, around the world, discrimination at work is an unfortunate reality for hundreds of millions of people," said the organisation's Director-General, Juan Somavia, in an introduction to the report.

    According to the report, Time for Equality, the most common targets of discrimination are:

  • Women, held back by the "glass ceiling" effect imposing arbitrary limits
  • HIV/Aids sufferers - 42 million across the world - who face pre-employment testing and then rejection
  • People with disabilities, making up to 10% of the world's population, who are denied jobs, training and education
  • Believers in minority faiths.

    Some 158 of the ILO's 175 member states have ratified a convention protecting workers from exclusion or preference on grounds of race, colour, religion and political opinion. But the United States, China, and Japan, as well as Singapore and Thailand, are among states yet to sign up. The report does acknowledge some success from legislation in Europe and North America over several years, and more recent measures introduced in India and post-apartheid South Africa. Many individual members of minority groups - black Americans, Australian aborigines, Gypsies in Europe, or people at the bottom of the caste system in India and Nepal - have benefited from affirmative action and other anti-discrimination measures. How to combat discrimination more effectively, though, is the subject of much disagreement. "Affirmative action is necessary, but insufficient. It has, of course, to be complemented with other social policy measures," said Ms Tomei. Governments should do more to convince employers that ending discrimination makes good sense, she said. ILO studies in Australia found companies that wholeheartedly applied equal opportunities policies increased the productivity of their workers, she said. The ILO also cited research in the US which found that firms with affirmative action programmes also had more streamlined and efficient recruitment procedures for all their employees. In most nations, companies are no longer allowed to state in job advertisements that they refuse applications because of race or gender, Ms Tomei said. "Advertisements might now ask for people who look good, or have a pleasant appearance," she said. But this was often code language meant to exclude minorities.
    ©BBC News

    Arsenal's captain Patrick Vieira, currently out of action with a knee injury, has now been fined by Uefa for comments he made to the media after the Gunners' Champions League clash with Valencia. Vieira blasted the European governing body after he and black Arsenal team-mates were subjected to racist abuse during the Gunners' 2-1 Champions League defeat at the Mestalla in March. The abuse prompted Valencia's embarrassed black striker, John Carew, to apologise to Vieira, who subsequently accused Uefa of being lax and complacent in their attitude towards racism. "They keep saying they will do something about it but all they are doing is fining clubs 2,000 or 3,000 pounds and nothing really happens." Ironically, Uefa appear to have proved Vieira's point by fining the player Ł2,3000 for his comments and Valencia a paltry Ł9,250 for the behaviour of their fans. In other words, a big club failing to prevent racist abuse from its followers receives a fine which is only Ł7,000 more than the one Uefa hand to an individual who had to put up with that abuse and then had the temerity to speak out about it.
    ©Soccer Age

    England captain David Beckham is set to head a Football Association campaign to combat racism and violence among national fans. FA officials said that Beckham would record a message to be played before the kickoff at England's next two home matches. England play a friendly international against Serbia and Montenegro at Leicester City's ground on June 3 followed by the Euro 2004 qualifier against Slovakia at Middlesbrough eight days later. The move follows racist abuse and crowd trouble at last month's Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey at Sunderland's Stadium of Light, for which England were fined 150,000 Swiss francs ($111,600) by UEFA last Thursday. England escaped being ordered to play the Slovakia game behind closed doors with UEFA acknowledging FA efforts to stamp out hooliganism, including plans to ban for life fans who run on to the pitch at their matches. A senior FA official added: "Beckham is the ideal person for this as he's the one player all his team mates and all the England fans respect. We hope people listen to him and act accordingly." FA sources said when Kevin Keegan was England manager his recorded messages in 1990 and 2000 asking supporters not to boo the other team's national anthem had considerable effect in improving fan behaviour. England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and other leading players would join Beckham in the initiative. The anti-racist group Kick It Out welcomed their involvement.
    ©Daily Telegraph

    The British National Party was roundly attacked after more than trebling its seats on local councils. Anti-racism campaigners and politicians said it was "sad" and "shameful" after the far-right party took its tally of council seats from five to 16 in yesterday's local elections. In Burnley, the scene of riots and racial tension two years ago, the extremist group won five extra seats to take its total to eight and become the second biggest party on the council behind Labour's 24 seats. And in Oldham there were violent clashes between demonstrators and BNP supporters after the right wing party's leader Nick Griffin failed to take his target seat. But Mr Griffin shrugged off the widespread criticism, saying his party did extremely well despite what he described as "Zimbabwe-style" election campaigns against them around the country.

    Burnley's Labour MP Peter Pike said of the BNP: "They are a racist, divisive party. "Questions must be asked as to how at this stage of a Labour Government are the Tories and Liberals not in a position where they are picking up votes." The MP added it was a "sad blow" that the council's deputy leader Andrew Tatchell had been ousted. Labour campaigner Shahid Malik, a ex-member of the Commission for Racial Equality and Labour's NEC, said it was "shameful" that the BNP fielded more candidates than the Tories and Lib Dems in Burnley. But he added the BNP success should be kept in perspective considering it had just 16 seats out of some 22,000 in the country. A Liberal Democrat spokesman said all three parties needed to learn the lessons of the BNP's success.
    ©ic Newcastle

    After winning five seats in Thursday's council elections in Burnley ­ a result that brings its total representation to eight and makes it the second biggest party ­ the British National Party is now threatening to exert real influence on the Lancashire town. For the far-right organisation, the first stage of turning votes into power will be the securing of a place on the council's eight-member executive chamber. The BNP has seats in Hampton with Park ­ its greatest triumph which saw the defeat of the deputy council leader, Andy Tatchell ­ Lanehead, Gannow, Briercliffe, Whittlefield with Ightenhill, Brunshaw and two councillors in Cliviger with Worsthorne. Labour is still the majority party with 23 seats, maintaining its discretionary power to elect cabinet members. The Liberal Democrats have one fewer seat than the BNP with seven councillors, and the Conservatives have three. The other three seats are held by independents.

    The BNP's success in Burnley will make up for the failure of Nick Griffin, the party leader, to win a place on Oldham council. Elsewhere, the party held or won another eight seats, with notable victories in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and the Black Country boroughs of Sandwell and Dudley. Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said the success of the BNP should "set alarm bells ringing in all the political parties". He said: "Whilst I don't believe that the people of Burnley thought that they were voting in favour of racism, I also don't think that they were under any illusions about what the BNP stand for. Anyone who cast a vote for the BNP ... made a mistake, the BNP will not offer any real solutions."

    The most humiliating defeat for Labour in Burnley was of Andy Tatchell by Len Starr. Mr Starr, whose victory was regarded as a BNP coup, was celebrating in a pub with a large band of supporters. He felt it was only democratic for a BNP inclusion in the cabinet. Mr Starr, 56, who has an "Asian boss" as a transport controller, dismissed suggestions his party's increase in popularity was the result of a protest vote by the 42 per cent of Burnley's 89,512 population that turned out. "Last year could have been called a protest vote, this year it has gone beyond a protest ... this shows the voters get the final word." In line with the modern face of the party, Mr Starr insisted its policies had nothing to do with racism. "I love to be touched by other cultures, but my preference is to travel abroad to be touched by them." Stuart Caddy, the leader of the council, said it was "very unlikely'' that the BNP would be invited to join the cabinet. He expressed bafflement at the BNP gain and conceded that it was not a protest vote. "Our plan now is to find out the route of this," Mr Caddy said. Three BNP women featured among the winning candidates, including Patricia Thomson, a secretary, who claimed the seat in middle-class Briercliffe from the Liberal Democrats. She said she was keen to protect the rural atmosphere and retain it for future generations. The Pakistani community expressed disbelief at the result. Worshippers leaving Ibrahim Mosque on Elm Street said they were fully expecting a sound defeat for the BNP, and were unprepared for the diametric opposite.

    Contrary to popular belief, it was not the poorer areas of Burnley who voted in the BNP. They stayed staunchly Labour. Ironically it was the more affluent areas such as Briercliffe who voted with their feet. There was growing bafflement at this middle-class trend to vote BNP. Only Nasir Ilyas, 26, a solicitor had a ready answer. "The affluent community is believing the lie that us Asians are sapping resources and they are scared that what is happening in the poorer places may happen to them.''
    © Independent Digital

    The leader of the British National Party (BNP) said Sunday he has met with French National Front chief Jean-Marie Le Pen to discuss an alliance in the run-up to EU elections in 2004. Nick Griffin said his dinner with the fiery French far-right leader, the surprise rival to Jacques Chirac in the presidential runoff election last year, took place last weekend in London. "The aim is to have a group which would cooperate in the European Parliament to protect and to try to preserve the national freedoms of the different countries and to apply pressure to limit the amount of immigration in Europe as a whole," he said. He confirmed a Sunday Times report that the BNP and National Front were interested in reforms put forth by the European Commission that would enable political groups vying for seats in the parliament to draw on EU funds. "The fact that the European bureaucrats intend to build a federal superstate are talking about a system whereby parties will be funded on a European basis instead of a national basis, we regard as quite disgraceful," Griffin said. "But nevertheless, if that's how the system is going to work, then clearly we have to be in a position to use the system as well as anybody else," he added. The National Front currently has five members in the European Parliament, where they sit as independents. The BNP has none, but in polls in England last week it captured 16 seats on local councils.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    A disturbing picture of the huge gulf in health, wealth and unemployment between white Britain and ethnic minorities was revealed yesterday. Figures from the 2001 national census show that, while England is becoming more multicultural, second and even third-generation immigrants are still among the most deprived in society. The figures show black, Asian and other ethnic minorities are twice as likely to be unemployed, half as likely to own their home and run double the risk of poor health, compared with white Britons. They also show the proportion of Muslim children living in overcrowded accommodation is more than three times the national average, that they are twice as likely to live in a house with no central heating and children from Pakistani and Bangladeshi families suffer twice as much ill-health as their white counterparts. Data from the census has given the most detailed picture of ethnic Britain. The census form allowed people to describe themselves as mixed race, rather than having to choose White, Asian, Black or Chinese ethnicity, while more questions than ever were asked about people's homes, family set-up and overall health.

    The census data undermines the belief that first-generation immigrants may suffer but their subsequent, British-born offspring move off the breadline and become better off. Instead, the results prove the gap between the richest and poorest in Britain today has never been clearer. Just 4.5 per cent of white British men aged from 16 to 74 are unemployed, compared with 9.1 per cent of Pakistani men, 10.2 per cent of Bangladeshis and 10.4 per cent of black men. While more than 80 per cent of people of mixed race were born in Britain, the unemployment rate among those aged 16 to 24 in that ethnic group is more than double that of their white counterparts. More than a quarter of mixed race people aged 16 to 24 have no qualifications, compared with one in eight white British people of the same age. And more than two thirds of white Britons live in owner-occupied homes, compared with a quarter of Pakistanis. People from ethnic minorities are in poorer health: a third of Bangladeshi men and more than a quarter of Pakistani men aged between 50 and 64 say their health is "not good", compared with less than one in ten of white Britons.

    Adam Sampson, the director of the homeless charity Shelter, said: "Coming at a time when the British National Party has been winning large electoral gains on the back of their claims black people are coming over here and taking our houses, the census data gives us a true picture of what is really happening. People from ethnic minorities experience worse housing problems than other people and are more likely to be in overcrowded, unfit homes." Mr Sampson added: "Overcrowded housing has been linked to respiratory illness, infectious diseases, mental health problems, disruption at school and other problems. Some people from ethnic minorities are moving up and becoming wealthier, but for some children the future is bleak. They are getting the worst start in life and the problem becomes a vicious circle because of the correlation between poor housing, poor education and future criminality." Part of the problem, according to Shelter, is that a lot of the larger social housing stock in the country has been sold, leaving only smaller one or two-bedroom homes. Mr Sampson said: "People from ethnic minorities are being given homes that are simply not big enough to house their often larger families. If they do buy their own houses, they can't afford enough room and so while on paper it may look as if they are affluent owner-occupiers in stable housing, the reality is often very different."

    Mike McLeod of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at Warwick University said: "The deprivation suffered by ethnic minorities is a major problem and has disturbing consequences. "In some pa © Independent Digital

    Asylum groups welcomed a Commons cross-party report today which warned that spiralling numbers of asylum seekers could overwhelm Britain and trigger "social unrest". The hard-hitting study from the Home Affairs Select Committee said the asylum issue may already have led to a "political backlash" as voters turned to extremist parties. It comes a week after local elections in which the British National Party won 16 seats and became the second-largest party in Burnley, the scene of race riots two years ago. The MPs' analysis of the system which deports failed asylum seekers came up with wide-ranging criticisms and a range of proposals to make it "more humane". The acting chief executive of the Refugee Council, Margaret Lally, said: "We very much welcome this report from this influential committee, which we believe to be one of the most compelling contributions to the asylum debate in recent years. "We look forward to the Government implementing the committee's recommendations without delay." The MPs condemned the "absence of reliable statistics" on how many failed applicants stay on in Britain. Setting "wholly unrealistic" targets for removing failed asylum seekers -such as the 30,000-a-year figure which Home Secretary David Blunkett was forced to drop last year -was singled out for particular criticism by the committee. Such actions by the Home Office aroused "false expectations" and were "demoralising for all concerned", they said. They also condemned as "morally unacceptable" the system which allowed failed asylum seekers to be left "destitute" while awaiting deportation. Such people should be given cash handouts or be allowed to work while awaiting their flight home, the members said, and "modest allowances" should also be paid to people who will be penniless when they arrive back in their home country.

    To help establish how many people were remaining here illegally, the MPs backed Government suggestions that passport checks should be reintroduced on people leaving the UK. "In Britain in the space of some 20 years numbers of asylum seekers have risen from 4,223 in 1982 to 110,700 in 2002," said the report. "Clearly, this is unacceptable. If allowed to continue unchecked, it could overwhelm the capacity of the receiving countries to cope, leading inevitably to social unrest. "It could also, and there are signs this may already be happening, lead to a growing political backlash which will in turn lead to the election of extremist parties with extreme solutions." Home Office minister Beverley Hughes said: "It is precisely because we are aware of these issues that we have taken decisive action to focus our policy on reducing illegal entry to halve the number of asylum applications by September. "The UK Immigration Service is currently removing more people than ever before. "Provisional management information suggests that we removed 24 per cent more failed asylum seekers in 2002-2003 than in 2001-2002, and the numbers of people returned are increasing month by month. "Real progress is being made." The Conservatives announced they have set up a commission to take an in-depth look at the future of Britain's asylum policy. Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said he has asked Timothy Kirkhope MEP to chair the commission as part of the party's "ongoing review" of asylum. The Home Affairs Select Committee will today begin an inquiry into another aspect of the asylum system -the applications process.
    © Independent Digital

    The Know Racism campaign has succeeded in making Irish people more tolerant of cultural differences, its chairman said yesterday. Joe McDonagh, who took on the job after finishing his term as GAA president, said the campaign had started from scratch almost two years ago. "Undoubtedly, underlying [racist] perceptions and attitudes were there, not all of which was our own fault. We are located on the periphery of Europe. But the campaign has raised awareness of racism and many other EU countries are now aware of it and how successful it has been," he said. Mr McDonagh was attending the launch of the report on the Know Racism campaign. Justice Minister Michael McDowell said he was satisfied with the progress made against racism.

    The Irish Refugee Council acknowledged the progressive work of the campaign but said it had been undermined by Government actions. "Putting money into an anti-racism campaign is an expensive way of trying to deal with a problem that is in part created by bad policies. That includes polices that keep refugees out of work and out of education, creating the impression they are spongers," said chief executive Peter O'Mahony. As part of the Know Racism campaign, more than 1 million worth of grants were distributed to community groups, unions and government organisations. Around 100,000 Know Racism badges were distributed, featuring a logo designed by John Rocha and 1.3 million anti-racism leaflets were posted to houses. A series of anti-racism ads were produced, including one featuring the Dublin footballer Jason Sherlock and another with the Boys in Green -a group of multi-ethnic soccer Irish soccer supporters. "The Jason Sherlock ad had one of the highest ever recall rates among people and it got a great reaction. We are planning another series of adverts in relation to the Special Olympics," Mr McDonagh said.

    Know Racism are also working with all the major sporting organisations to implement an anti-racism sport charter for players and spectators. Mr McDonagh said the campaign still needed to tackle the level of racism against migrant workers. More than 40,000 work permits were issued last year to workers primarily from Latvia, Lithuania, the Philippines, Poland and Romania. "The alarming thing about migrant workers is that these people are here at our invitation. We're still having difficulties filling our labour shortages but I think it's something that the Tánaiste Mary Harney has said she will address," Mr McDonagh said.
    ©Irish Examiner

    Whoever believes Belgium is boring and politics is dead should have been at Thursday's May Day rallies in this small, affluent country best known for its strong beers, calorific chocolates and pedophile scandals. With just more than 2 weeks to go until Belgians head to the polling booths, the divisions between right and left, working class and middle class and French-speaking Wallonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders and were laid bare in a series of election rallies across the country.

    In Brussels, the headquarters of both the European Union and NATO, the French-speaking Socialist Party, known by its local initials PS, commemorated Europe's Labor Day in traditional style. At a concert venue in the run-down St Josse district of the Belgian capital, Socialist apparatchiks gathered to hear the party's politburo deliver a series of tub-thumping speeches that would not have sounded out of place in Karl Marx's era. Against a blood-red backdrop emblazoned with the Socialist's campaign slogan ("Progress for all,") party leader Elio di Rupo told the largely middle-aged and middle-class audience of activists: "My thoughts go out first of all to all the oppressed people on the Earth." According to the dandyish son of Italian immigrants, these included the people of Iraq "who have just suffered the worst of aggressions," Belgian pensioners forced to suffer welfare cuts and the innocent victims of capitalist speculation and colonialist folly. In full Biblical flow, Di Rupo pledged that the PS would not succumb to neo-liberal temptations but would "always be on the side of the weak, the sick and those who suffer." This meant saying no to business-friendly tax cuts, no to the privatization of services like Belgium's ailing state-owned railways, no to private pensions to fund the country's demographic time-bomb and no to any tinkering with the country's generous social security system. But most of all --according to Di Rupo --it meant saying no to the very system which has made Belgium one of the richest countries in the world. Hailing the workers who had marched behind the red flag ("our symbol") in defense of workers' rights, the socialist chief said: "May 1 is a special moment to reaffirm the need for a permanent resistance to capitalism." After the obligatory standing ovation, the party faithful held their fists in the air and belted out the communist anthem "L'Internationale" before leaving to the strains of "Che Commandante" --an upbeat Cuban ditty.

    If the PS was a no-hoper party on the fringes of Belgian politics, this festival of "Old Labor" thinking could easily be dismissed. But the Socialist Party forms part of Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt's "rainbow coalition" government and is the largest grouping in Wallonia. So at the end of the meeting, I asked Deputy Prime Minister Laurette Onkelinx if the PS really was as anti-capitalist as it sounded. "Of course we are against an unregulated market economy," she replied in a masterful display of ambiguity. As the minister was sped away to another May Day celebration in her chauffeur-driven car, several poor Moroccans and Turks glanced up for a minute before carrying on with their daily chores.

    One hour east of Brussels, in the undulating green fields of Limburg province, it was a different story. There were plenty of real working-class people drinking Trappist ales and eating chips with mayonnaise, but there were not many Moroccan or Turkish faces to be seen. Given that this was the May Day rally of the far-right "Vlaams Blok" party, it was hardly a surprise. The Flemish nationalist grouping, whose slogan is "Our Own People First," have made a name for themselves by demonizing poor immigrants in wealthy Flemish cities like Antwerp, Gent and Bruges. It is a tactic that has paid off. A quarter of a century ago, when the party was founded, it gained less than 2 percent of the vote in Flanders. At the last elections it received over 15 perce had stopped and the rain eased off, I asked the party's leading light, Filip Dewinter, how he felt when critics accused him of being a racist or a fascist. After recounting how his father was jailed for opposing the Nazis, the suave 40-year-old father of three says: "I don't have any sympathy for National Socialism, racism or neo-fascism, but we are a right-wing Flemish nationalist party with no complexes." For the Vlaams Blok, this means tackling the sensitive issue of multiculturalism head-on. "There should be a stop to mass immigration from third world countries," says Dewinter over beer and cheese sandwiches. "For the immigrants who are already here, there is a clear choice: either they have to assimilate or they have to go back to their own countries." Some of the Blok's policies might be distasteful, but at least the party does not duck issues --like crime and immigration --that are at the top of ordinary working people's concerns. The Socialists, on the other hand, appear to have all the right --or at least right-on --answers, but one can't help wondering whether they are asking the wrong questions.

    On May 18, Belgian voters will have to decide whether to stick with one of the mainstream parties of the center left and right or plump for fringe groupings like the Vlaams Blok. For many of those who have not benefited from Belgium's recent years of growth, the choice may not be as obvious as it first appears.
    ©United Press International

    The mayor of Paris on Thursday unveiled a plaque to the memory of a young Moroccan who was drowned on May Day,1995, by skinheads not far from a demonstration by the anti-immigration Front National (FN) party. Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe unveiled the plaque on the Carrousel bridge in central Paris in memory of 29-year-old Brahim Bouarram, thrown into the River Seine on May Day eight years ago, while a rally by the extreme right-wing FN was held nearby. Thursday's ceremony was attended by hundreds of representatives of anti-racist groups and local politicians. Delanoe said he wanted to inscribe the name of Brahim Bouarram into the history of Paris, quoting a line by French poet Alfred de Vigny, "I am the colour of those who are executed."

    The FN again held their traditional May Day rally nearby, although attendance was down, with between 3,500 present according to police and 15,000 according to organisers, compared to between 10,000 and 100,000 in 2002. FN leader Jean-Marie Le Pen derided the memorial plaque, referring to "the unfortunate Moroccan who was thrown into the water". "The bridge will soon look like a religious site because every year another plaque is added to thank the little hooligans who defame the Front National every year," he said. Le Pen also mentioned Delanoe's "buttonhole", a reference to the wound that the mayor received when he was stabbed at the town hall last October. Polls show that the extreme-right party has gradually lost support over the last year, despite Le Pen achieving a surprise victory over his Socialist rival Lionel Jospin in the first round of presidential elections in 2002. He was trounced by Jacques Chirac in the second round following a mass public mobilization which saw over a million people take to the streets against Le Pen on May Day 2002. Last month, Le Pen was stripped of his European Parliament seat for slapping a rival politician.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    Tension rising in France as population changes

    To enter the Rue du Bon Pasteur in the heart of this Mediterranean port is to leave France. Or, rather, it is to leave a France still fixed in the imagination of many: a land where French is spoken and the traditions of a secular society are enforced. The Rue du Bon Pasteur --in English, the Street of the Good Shepherd --is a haven owned, operated and populated by Arab Muslims. Arabic is spoken. All the women cover their hair with scarves. Men in robes and sandals sit together in cafes where they reach out to Arab nations via satellite television. A score of newspapers and magazines flown in daily from the Arab world are sold from a kiosk on the corner. The Attaqwa mosque in the middle of the block calls so many worshippers to prayer every Friday that dozens of them are forced to lay out their prayer rugs outside on the street. The Rue du Bon Pasteur reflects the new political and social reality in France, whose population is about 7 percent Arab and Muslim, the highest percentage in Western Europe. Demography has transformed the country, especially in Marseille, where about 10 percent of the population is Arab and about 17 percent Muslim --a figure elevated by immigrants from the former French colony of Comoros in Africa. "We are no longer a France of baguettes and berets, but a France of Allah-hu Akbar and mosques," said Mustapha Zergour, the director of Radio Gazelle, a radio station geared to the Arab community.

    Complicating the Arab-Muslim community's troublesome place in French society are feelings of division in its own ranks --by ethnicity, history, religiosity, politics and class --as well as alienation from mainstream France. Muslims have lived in France since the colonization of Algeria in the 1830s, and many have been integrated into middle-class life for decades. But today, with the Arab population surging in recent decades, France faces twin identity crises --that of the nation itself and that of its Muslims. Stress shows itself in many of the same symptoms found among minorities anywhere --in lawlessness and joblessness, in broken families and in the abuse of women impossibly trying to appease the demands of competing cultures. "I don't feel French. I have never felt French," said Jamila Laaliou, a 24-year-old female employee of the Marche du Soleil, a covered food market by the mosque. "Here I feel safe, because everyone is Arab. But the France outside is a France of racism, and the racism has gotten worse since September 11." Born in France of Moroccan parents, the young woman said she obeyed the French law that required her to go bareheaded when she attended state-run schools. But the dress she now chooses is telling of the line she walks as a Muslim woman living in a Muslim community in a Western country. She wears what she calls a half-veil --a black scarf tied behind her neck that is less than the full head-covering that might provoke French sensibilities, but symbolizes her commitment to Islam and shields her from the advances of men in the rough northern suburb where she lives. "If you dress with a veil, no one here bothers you," she said. "But the French, when they see a woman who wears the veil, they think 'terrorist."

    To help integrate Arabs and Muslims into French society, the center-right government has embarked on an ambitious project to create an official Islam for France. France's Muslim population is in the process of electing representatives to a national Muslim council that will address issues such as education, dress and work. Similar councils have long existed for Catholics, Protestants and Jews. But the Arab-Muslim leadership in Marseille is so divided that a grand mosque, like ones in Paris and Lyon, cannot be built because there is no agreement on what its purpose would be or who would head it. A sprawling building that are humiliated, these puppets who move in the hands of the West and America," he said. "If they are told to speak, they speak. If they are told to shut up, they shut up. If they are told to beat their people, they do it." That message is particularly appealing to a vast underclass of young people who live in crime-ridden, high-rise buildings in isolated areas. It is there that Zarfaoui's followers try to lure teenage boys toward the cause of conservative Islam. According to his followers, they are making headway as tutors and even informal surrogate fathers. Police investigators are also seeing a new trend: crimes committed in the name of Islam. "It used to be the case that, when one became a religious Muslim, one obeyed the law," said one veteran investigator. "That's no longer the case." More often than not, however, it is poverty, not ideology, that breeds crime. At the Bellevue Pyat high-rise slum in central Marseille, for example, inhabited almost exclusively by Muslims from more than half a dozen countries, is littered with garbage and concrete debris and infested with rats, roaches and scorpions. It is so dangerous, the police investigator said, that many officers refuse to enter the complex. "Whoever is the strongest rules here," said Sid-Ahmed Minouni, who trains teenage boys at a boxing school just outside. "For many young people, the only language is the language of force."

    The violence of the streets has penetrated the schools as well. In March, at the Edgard Quinet school, whose student body is 95 percent Muslim, three North African teenagers tied the hands and feet of a 14-year-old girl from Algeria named Naima. They put her into a garbage pail and threw lit cigarette butts into it before they closed the lid. She was rescued by classmates and took refuge in the school. After Jean Pellegrini, the school's principal, filed a complaint with the police, the mother and brother of one of the boys demanded that he withdraw it. "The brother told me his mother was suffering and we had shamed the family," Pellegrini said. "I said, 'I understand the shame, but a young girl has been attacked.' When he tried to hit me and threatened to kill me, I called the police." Although the incident could have happened in any inner-city school, the prejudices in traditional societies that devalue women made the event more difficult to deal with, teachers and students said. "If you dare to wear tight pants or a short skirt, the boys will call you 'Easy,' 'a dog,' 'a whore,"' said one 15-year-old girl. "When boys come up and hit you, they say it's because of their religion," said another. "They don't know the real meaning of Islam." For Pellegrini, the problem is larger: a feeling of alienation from French society. "The kids feel that, somehow, integration doesn't work," he said. "They know that doors will remain shut not because of their religion, but because of the way they talk, the places they come from and sometimes the color of their skin."
    ©The New York Times

    The French government on Saturday called on the country's new national Muslim council to fight against Islamic fundamentalism and sought to play down a controversy about Muslim women wearing headscarves in public. Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and his hardline Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy called on the newly elected French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), meeting in Paris for the first time, to help solve the controversy over Muslim veils. "The Republic expects you to be the enlightened voice of Islam to fight against currents which could threaten our social cohesion," Raffarin told the first general assembly of the CFCM, which represents France's five million Muslims. "On the question of the veil, I don't want to trigger a pointless conflict," he added. Sarkozy sparked renewed debate over Islam by telling a large Muslim gathering last month women must remove headscarves for identity photographs, prompting loud boos from the audience.

    The wearing of the traditional veil generates heated debate in France, a secular state with a Catholic majority. A survey last week showed more than a third of French people think Muslim women should be barred from wearing headscarves in public. "The veil is a symbol for those who wear it. It is also for those who are opposed to it," said Raffarin. The prime minister told reporters last week he did not plan to ban Muslim veils, but he left his exact plans vague. The government plans to tackle the issue during debates on a planned new law to reassert secular values in state schools against growing radical Islamic trends and a rise in anti-Semitism. "We will consider, following this debate, what measures ought to be taken. You will play a key part in this discussion," Raffarin told Saturday's meeting.

    His comments were welcomed by the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (OUIF), a traditionalist group which sits on the new council. French commentators were alarmed when the UOIF, styled on the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, won a third of votes for the national council in elections last month. However, the general assembly was due on Sunday to confirm a moderate as president of the council. Sarkozy, who has championed the creation of the Muslim council after years of thwarted efforts, called on Muslims to promote a positive image of their faith by rejecting extremism. He said the absence until now of a Muslim representative group had helped fuel myths of a hidden, secretive faith. "It is this clandestine image which worried some of our fellow citizens, which was at the source of a lot of misunderstandings, and it is the past which we can now turn our backs on," he said. One of the council's first tasks will be training imams, which at present are mostly foreign. Sarkozy said only a quarter of the country's 900 imams spoke French, between a third and half did not have residence permits and many were underpaid.

    Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy was booed and whistled at when he told the annual conference of one of France's most important Muslim groups last month that Muslim women would have to go bareheaded when posing for pictures for their identity cards. He did not seem to notice, or he chose to ignore, that the vast majority of the women in the audience were wearing headscarves. A few of them had even swathed their faces in black and hidden their hands under black gloves. Among the items for sale at one of a score of kiosks was a shopping bag with the silhouette of a woman wearing a veil and the phrase, "I love my veil," in English and Arabic. In a sense, France's center-right government is trying to create a model Muslim citizenry in France. President Jacques Chirac has spoken about his vision of a "tolerant" Islam. Sarkozy said recently, "There is no room for fundamentalism at the Republic's table." For them, model Muslims would be French-speaking and law-abiding. They would celebrate the 1905 French law that requires total separation between church and state. They would attend mosques presided over by clerics who are French-trained and avoid politics in their sermons. Model Muslim women would not try to wear headscarves into the workplace; model Muslim girls would not try to wear headscarves to school. Most important, model Muslims would call themselves French first and Muslim second. The thinking goes something like this: Muslims must be integrated into French society to avoid a culture clash that could contribute to terrorism.

    So the French government has embarked on a two-pronged strategy that will give Muslims what French leaders call "a place at the table" but monitor and regulate their activities at the same time. This strategy was behind Sarkozy's campaign to put together an official Islamic council led by a "moderate" suit-and-tie-wearing mosque rector to interact with the French state. It also informs Sarkozy's belief that the only way France can stop radical foreign clerics from preaching on French soil is to create a homegrown variety that identifies more with French culture and tradition. And it is the reason French intelligence has assigned operatives to monitor sermons in mosques and prayer centers every Friday. The idea of the French state regulating a religious community is rooted in Napoleon Bonaparte's bold concordat concluded with the papacy in 1802. While the concordat recognized Catholicism as the "preferred religion" of France, it also forced the pope to accept nationalization of church property in France, gave the state the right to name bishops and police all public worship and make the clergy "moral prefects" of the state.

    A few years later, France sought to transform the Jewish population by controlling those citizens' behavior, going so far as to propose briefly that every two marriages between Jews be matched by a marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew. But in an era in which the French state enjoys less and less direct control over its citizenry, transforming a Muslim population into an ideal, even imaginary, citizenry may be too much of a stretch. "It is very difficult to say it openly but this is a very troubling situation, a crossroads," said Pierre Birnbaum, a professor at the Sorbonne and the author of "The Idea of France" (Hill Wang, 2001). "The state, which is no longer the center of the nation, may not be in a position to rule on religion from above. It may not have the power to integrate."

    France is home to about 5 million Muslims, about 7 percent of the population. But that figure is hopelessly unreliable because under French law, people are not officially counted, polled or classified according to religion. Officials say they do not know whether there are any Muslims among France's 577 members of the National Assembly, although a Muslim cultural organization affiliated with the Paris Mosque says the ©International Herald Tribune

    Calais residents who dare to help asylum seekers in northern France are being criminalised by the French authorities, according to the Kent Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers. Since the Sangatte refugee camp was closed, just before Christmas 2002, French asylum support groups have tried to provide food and material support to asylum seekers in northern France. But following a visit by colleagues this side of the channel, a number of allegations of ill-treatment have emerged:
    French police officers are, reportedly, arresting people who offer asylum seekers support, such as temporary accommodation in their homes. These people are then being accused of people-smuggling. Under French law, giving shelter to someone without papers ('sans papiers') is considered a serious offence with a maximum five-year jail sentence.
    When food is given out to destitute asylum seekers by support groups, the police are said to arrive and arrest any asylum seekers present. This means that support groups cannot assist asylum seekers without risking their arrest and intimidation by police officers.
    Members of refugee groups in France also claim that they have frequently witnessed refugees being beaten up by the police. In one case, two police officers allegedly held a refugee face down on the ground at the railway station and kicked him.

    Down and out in Paris
    In a separate development, the Red Cross in Paris is reporting that, since the closure of the Sangatte camp at Calais, many asylum seekers hoping to enter Britain are sleeping rough in a park near the Eurostar terminal in Paris. Up to 200 gather there daily.
    ©Institute of Race Relations

    Human rights groups urge compassion toward minors crossing illegally from Africa to Europe

    The homes in northern Morocco's impoverished villages are roofed with metal sheets held down with rocks or broken appliances. Parents send their children to unpaid jobs, instead of school, hoping that at least they will learn a trade. But many of these youngsters see the road out of poverty not in some apprenticeship, but on a map. For them, hope begins in nearby Ceuta, a Spanish outpost on the tip of North Africa that is Europe's door, just eight miles from mainland Spain. In a pattern alarming social workers and irking Spanish politicians, these children, who range in age from 10 to 17, are immigrating to Spain on their own, often risking their lives as they cross the Strait of Gibraltar. Like their adult counterparts streaming from poorer parts of the globe to Europe, the youngest migrants are finding themselves increasingly unwelcome.

    The number of Moroccan minors entering Spain has risen steadily since the Spanish Interior Ministry registered them for the first time in 1998. From 811 that year, the number more than quadrupled to 3,500 in 2002. But when they arrive, they find few options for getting an education or eventually a job. The chief problem, say human rights advocates, is that Spain views these children as simply another source of illegal migration, not as minors protected by international treaties. "There is a resistance to give children papers, because no one wants them to become citizens later on," says Liliana Suarez Navaz, a professor of migration and multiculturalism at the Autonomous University in Madrid. "But without papers, these children get stuck in no man's land. They often go to the street, and the street is mean. Children who never would have stolen or done drugs in Morocco are guaranteed this world on the street."

    In a nationwide conference on Moroccan minors, held in mid-March, Spanish and international human rights groups urged Spain to show more compassion toward the children. Under Spanish law, undocumented minors who have spent nine months in Spain must be given residence permits, if their guardians at home cannot be located. But the granting of a permit is considered a feat, says Elena Arce Jiménez, an attorney specializing in immigrants' rights. "The officials pass the responsibility on like a hot potato, hoping that in the meantime the child turns 18 ... and can be sent back to Morocco." Ceuta is ground zero in the controversy. When the European Union began softening borders between member countries in the 1990s, Ceuta became a new crossroads between Africa and Europe. The EU subsidized a $300 million fence to help authorities stem clandestine immigration from Morocco and the rest of Africa. But, just as on the US-Mexican border, immigrants continue to overcome the barriers.

    The lure of Spain, with its per capita income 14 times as great as that in Morocco, is strong for youth in the North African country, where more than 40 percent of the poor are younger than 15. Minors caught trying to cross to the mainland are taken to Ceuta's children's refugee center, where recently some 100 Moroccan adolescents were being housed. The children often escape, only to be returned by the police the next day. "Their goal is not to stay in a residence center, only to be deported home at age 18," says Ana Moreno, a nun who works with immigrants in Ceuta. "On the street, there is at least the chance to slip into a truck crossing the sea." Mohammadi Ananou, Spain's social welfare officer in Ceuta, denies that papers are illegally withheld from the children. Neither the government delegate nor Ceuta's social affairs department would say how many children have received residency papers in the last year. Nor does any national body carry those figures.

    Pressured by Spain, Morocco's ambassador to Spain recently said his country wants its ©Christian Science Monitor Service

    Neo-Nazi groups are spreading throughout Germany, garnering a new following at college-prep schools.

    The intention of the flier received by the student-body president of the Elisabeth Gymnasium in the western German city of Mannheim last year was clear: "Stop the filling of our schools with foreigners," it urged. "Stop foreigner violence in our schools. The boat is full." Other letters -disseminated, it was later discovered, by an organization related to the right-wing National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) -were also received by high schools in the nearby town of Ludwigshafen, which called on students to help halt immigration. The letters also urged students to support "the freedom of opinion for all political groups and standpoints," a reference to ongoing efforts in Germany to ban radical right-wing groups. While the recipients of the letters in Mannheim and Ludwigshafen promptly alerted the authorities, such open propaganda efforts signal a recent change in Germany's radical right-wing landscape. Throughout most of the 1990s, right-wing youth groups and neo-Nazi gangs tended to be concentrated in Germany's lower-level high schools, known as Realschulen and Hauptschulen. They are now, according to observers of the scene, attempting to make headway in the university-track Gymnasiums and recently, especially in the states of former East Germany and in Berlin, they have been experiencing some success. "It is a problem that is present in almost every school in Berlin," says Bianca Klose, head of the Mobile Consultation Program for the Center of Democratic Culture, a program that helps educate teachers and students alike about Germany's right-wing scene. "People say that it isn't as bad as it was three or four years ago. I disagree. I say the right extremists have just learned not to be so obvious. I would say the problem is growing."

    Beyond school grounds
    While there are no statistics that focus exclusively on right-wing extremism within Germany's schools, the problem in German society at large is on the rise. According to recently released statistics, more than 10,500 right-wing crimes were committed in 2002, up 5 percent from the previous year. And while the overwhelming majority of the crimes involved defacing synagogues or disseminating right-wing propaganda, 725 of the assaults were actually violent, including the brutal murder in the summer of 2002 of a 16-year-old German boy in the eastern town of Potzlow whose attackers mistakenly thought he was Jewish. Within schools and youth groups, however, right-wing extremism is no longer represented by overtly violent, skinhead youths wearing Springer brand boots, bomber jackets, and pit-bull T-shirts. Rather, it is becoming subtler. "Right-wing extremists have recognized that the open wearing of symbols attracts unwanted attention and are even, on occasion, illegal," Ms. Klose says. "Just a very well-cared for appearance and submission to a teacher's authority are a sign of rightist thinking. In fact, right-wing extremists are often teachers' favorite students."

    For Matthias Adrian, this comes as no surprise. Until two years ago, Mr. Adrian, who's now in his late 20s, was an active member of the NPD and in charge of youth development for Hessen, a state in southwestern Germany. As a party member, he taught young NPD members to become involved in classroom discussions so that they might provide a counter to more tolerant voices He says the NPD also uses students who are already right-oriented to try to attract others into the group. "When I was with the party," says Adrian, who now works with EXIT, a program that helps neo-Nazis leave the right-wing scene, "I used to encourage young extremists to attain the position of class speaker or to get involved in the student government. They then could start all sorts of initiatives, like putting a flagpole up in front of the school or class trips to Franc 90 percent of German youth want nothing to do with right-wing violence. Most extremists, he says, are not terribly politically minded at all. "Youths -primarily male -join the scene because they're looking for friends," Mr. Ferien says. "They probably already possess a racist worldview, and have an affinity for violence and the extreme consumption of alcohol. These are the main factors. Most aren't politically active at all." In addition, there are hundreds of groups, many of them generously funded by the German government, currently working to combat such right-wing activity. Adrian himself travels throughout Germany on behalf of EXIT, giving presentations to teachers or to classes, often because they suspect some of their students might be slipping toward the radical right. And almost every Gymnasium in Germany has a group that takes great pains to promote multiculturalism and tolerance. Even the curriculum itself is heavily weighted toward a confrontation with Germany's 20th-century history. Schools haven't always been so open about Germany's past, however. It is in the schools of the East where the problem is at its most intractable.

    While the five states of former East Germany are home to just over one-quarter of Germany's population, more than half of the country's right-wing extremists are from the region. Most experts are laying the blame on the former East German communist system, which did little to confront Germany's Nazi past. "I think it definitely has to do with how the Nazi period was or was not confronted by the different regimes," says Wolfgang Metzger, coordinator of a program that works with right-wing criminals in eastern German prisons. "In the socialist states, what happened was blamed on the capitalist system and the responsibility was shipped west. They didn't confront the positions within their own population that still were connected to the Nazi period." It is exactly that confrontation that those who are working against the right-wing scene, like Matthias Adrian, are looking for. "Sometimes," he says, "I get bored when I am telling democratically minded people that fascism is bad. I prefer going into classes with a right-wing mainstream or with extremists. That is the front line. The NPD calls it the 'Fight for the Minds,' and that is what I am doing. It gives me a good feeling to be fighting."
    ©Christian Science Monitor Service

    Asylum figures
    Denmark has now become a transit country rather than a final destination for refugees seeking asylum. The Government's harsh immigration legislation led to just 598 people applying for refuge in the first two months of this year, compared to nearly 5,500 in Sweden and around 2,500 in Norway during the same period. Both the Red Cross and the immigration authorities claim that the majority of refugees arriving in this country have been smuggled here by professional people traffickers.

    Immigrant brain-drain
    Highly educated immigrants, unable to gain employment that matches their qualifications, are fleeing Denmark in droves. A recent TV documentary reported that 500 highly qualified immigrants have left the country within the past year to seek their fortunes in countries such as the US, Canada, or the UK. Only 14 per-cent of highly qualified foreign immigrants in this country currently have a job where they can utilise their education. The other 86 percent are either unemployed, or employed in menial tasks such as cleaning or driving a taxi. A labour market spokesman said that the distressing figures should set the alarm bells ringing, because Denmark will be in dire need of qualified workers in the near future.
    ©The Copenhagen Post

    Prominent human rights activists are targeted in campaign of violence fuelled by state press.
    By Shahin Rzayev in Baku, IWPR's Azerbaijan Coordinator

    Azerbaijan's two most prominent human rights organisations have come under sustained abuse and intimidation in the past ten days, in a campaign fanned by the official media. The trouble began on April 23, two days after President Aliev was taken ill during a speech in Baku. An angry crowd attacked the offices of the Human Rights Centre of Azerbaijan. The attackers shouted slogans, threw eggs at the building, poured chlorine over the doors and windows, chucked a bucket of rubbish under the door and broke the windows. The raiders returned the next day and on April 28 invaded the home of the centre's director Eldar Zeinalov. His sister-in-law, Zemfira Yusifzade, and father-in-law, Iskhag Takhirov, were beaten up. Yusifzade dislocated her arm and the 85-year-old Takhirov badly hurt his shoulder. Shortly before the attacks, the former prosecutor of Baku city Chingiz Ganizade, who now calls himself a human rights activist, had publicly read out Zeynalov's telephone number on national television and called on viewers to "do what they can so that these national traitors cannot live calmly in Azerbaijan".

    The furore followed a visit by Zeinalov and his wife Zalikha Tagirova to Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorny Karabakh and the Armenian capital Yerevan from April 15 to 23 to the conference of the Caucasian Forum, a coalition of non-governmental organisations across the region. Zeinalov told IWPR that the discussions did not touch on the political status of Nagorny Karabakh and focussed on the development of civil society in the region. At the end of his trip, Zeinalov told Arminfo news agency in Yerevan, that Nagorny Karabakh had made progress in building civil society and that the Human Rights Centre of Azerbaijan would collaborate with Karabakh Armenian NGOs. The interview was quoted and widely denounced in Azerbaijan. Claims were made that his wife had given a bracelet charm to the Karabakh Armenian leader Arkady Gukasian and used the phrase "Nagorny Karabakh Republic" suggesting support for Armenian sovereignty over the disputed territory. Zeinalov and his wife strongly denied these allegations.

    A television campaign then began against the other prominent human rights organisation the Institute for Peace and Democracy and its founders Leila and Arif Yunus. On the morning of April 28, around 35 women converged on the office -preceded by a government television crew. The angry women threw eggs, tried to break in and were narrowly prevented from attacking Matanat Azizova, who works at the office. They chanted slogans, including "Shame on the traitor to the motherland Leila Yunus", "You are the Armenian sister of people like Zeinalov", "Go back to Armenia!" and "Lolita, there is no place for you in our land!" There is a police post only a few metres away on the same street outside the local synagogue. However, the office employees said that the policemen did nothing to stop the rioters. A couple of hours later, the crowd had dispersed and a fat ginger cat was happily licking up the spilt egg on the steps of the office. An old lady walking past, who identified herself only as Shafiga, grumbled, "How can they throw away food like that? Allah will not forgive them." One probable reason why these two particular organisations have been targeted has nothing to do with the Karabakh dispute, but with their domestic political activities. Both have actively raised the issue of political detainees in Azerbaijan. A year ago, they assisted the Council of Europe in compiling a list of political prisoners --to the fury of the presidential administration. In February this year, Ilham Aliev, the president's son who is head of the Azerbaijani delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, told journalists that "Armenian structure the raids on the two offices had been "patriotic acts" and called for "the traitors Zeinalov and Yunus to be brought to justice". However, Ali Hasanov, head of the socio-political department in the presidential administration denied any official complicity in the attacks. "The authorities create the conditions for all citizens to enjoy their constitutional rights," he told Turan news agency. "Every person and organisation is free to hold mass protests and the government creates the conditions for them to enjoy this right."

    The opposition has criticized the attacks. A statement by the Coordinating Centre of Opposition Parties declared that "the campaign of slander and persecution of the human rights activists directed by the authorities against the human rights activists is becoming an open pogrom and is testimony to the coming death agony of the ruling regime". A string of international human rights organisations and foreign diplomats in Baku, including the British Ambassador Andrew Tucker, have also strongly condemned the attacks. Zeinalov, who is currently in Geneva attending a meeting of the United Nations Commission against Torture, told IWPR that he had raised the issue with the UN. A dissenting note was struck by the head of the office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Baku, Peter Burkhard. He visited the offices of the Institute for Peace and Democracy on April 28 after the crowd had left and called what had happened "normal for democratic countries". The besieged human rights activists released a statement expressing surprise and anger at Burkhard's statement and his failure to mention the vandalism of Zeinalov's office.
    ©Institute for War & Peace Reporting

    "If government wants to fall back on empirical experience in other countries, there is plenty of comparative data", said an annoyed Patrick Risch from the "FLay" organization. The initiators of the initiative aimed at a registration of homosexual partnerships are disappointed, but little surprised about the negative attitude of the government. Homosexual couples in Liechtenstein enjoy little legal protection, which leads to discrimination in various respects. The aim of the initiative filed by the Free List was to guarantee the legal protection of these couples by creating the legal possibility of a "registered partnership". In this way, the acceptance of homosexual partnerships should be improved and recognition by the state should be achieved. With a registered partnership, the Free List aimed at equal rights for homosexual couples, especially concerning the law of succession, the right of residence and social security. Following a controversial discussion in parliament, this initiative had been forwarded to government at the end of 2001. In the government's comments, government now recommends to parliament to turn down the initiative.
    © Liechtensteiner Vaterland

    Officials from Turkey's biggest and oldest human rights organisation have denounced a police raid against the association's headquarters in Ankara. In simultaneous news conferences in Ankara and Istanbul, association spokesmen said that the group's work would continue despite the removal of thousands of files and computer hard disks from their office. The three-hour raid on Turkey's Human Rights Association headquarters was carried out by the Ankara police with an official of the much criticised state security court in attendance. Files relating to the evacuation and destruction of almost 4,000 Kurdish villages in the 1990s were removed, along with investigations into the deaths of more than 800 people in security forces' custody.

    Government pressure
    In a statement to the media a day after the raid, the association noted that legal pressure on it had increased in the last few years. It had been prosecuted 300 times in the first 14 years of its existence, it said, but in the last three years it had faced 437 cases, none of which had resulted in a successful prosecution. Fourteen officials of the organisation have been killed. As Turkey has attempted to gain favour with the European Union, which it wishes to join, it has changed much of its legislation regarding freedom of speech and association but critics say that the changes still leave wide scope for repressive actions by the police and that little has changed on the ground. The hard disks of the computers removed on Tuesday have now been returned but association officials have no written record of which files were taken. The association pledges to continue what it calls "the fight for human rights and freedom". "We won't," its statement says, "keep quiet".
    ©BBC News

    Twenty-one asylum seekers who have been in Malta for several months have gone on hunger strike in protest over being detained while their application for refugee status is being processed. The asylum seekers have also written to Justice Minister Tonio Borg asking him to intervene in the case. Ten Liberians, six Chadians, four Somalis and another from Sierra Leone said they had applied for refugee status but were still waiting for an interview with the Refugee Commissioner. "We are well aware that the staff at the Office of the Refugee Commissioner are working hard, interviewing asylum seekers in different camps and we know that there are a lot of us, and that this is a problem in a small country like Malta," the asylum seekers said. However, they complained they spent their days eating, sleeping and staring, with nothing else to do. "We have no television set and no books to distract us and help us pass the time. This is very hard for us, who, like you, led active lives before coming to Malta. "All our lives we have been law abiding and we travelled illegally only because we had no alternative. All of us fled situations that made our lives intolerable. You have no reason to believe we would do otherwise if we are allowed to have our freedom."

    When contacted, Dr Borg, who was in Brussels attending a meeting of justice and home affairs ministers of the EU, said he was not aware of the letter but would deal with it immediately on his return. "The Immigration Act makes it illegal for asylum seeks to be set free. The problem has been exacerbated because we had a sudden influx of 1,680 within a very short time last year. But I will see how we can speed up the process. "However, the government policy will remain: those who are not granted temporary protection or refugee status will be sent back," Dr Borg said. He said the meeting of EU home affairs and justice ministers had discussed the issue of asylum seekers and Malta was practically compliant with the EU directive that is being drawn up. "We also discussed re-admission agreements the EU is negotiating with countries such as Syria and Iran. Malta will benefit from these agreements which we would have otherwise had to try to negotiate on our own," he said.

    Refugee Commissioner Charles Buttigieg said the office was doing its utmost to speed up procedures "while doing it with the professionalism it requires". He said the office was manned by just five members. Since January, they had dealt with 146 applications involving 224 people. "During the same period, 125 cases were concluded, which means that the office is dealing with a case every day. Of these, 18 were given refugee status, 30 were rejected and 77 were given humanitarian protection. The latter would be given special leave to remain in Malta until they can return to their country of origin or resettle safely in another country," he said. "With the resources available, we cannot do more than that," he said. The Jesuit Service Director Pierre Grech Marguerat said the Refugee Commissioner's office needed more staff to be able to deal with cases more speedily. He said there was a growing frustration in the camps where asylum seekers were being held. NGO representatives who visit the centres have reported a sharp deterioration in the psychological well-being as many of the asylum seekers were becoming desperate.
    ©Times of Malta

    A new report by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (Unifem) shows Europe led the way in promoting political gender equality in 2002. Seven Western European states were among 11 nations to reach a 1995 goal of having at least 30% of parliamentary seats taken by women. But Sub-Saharan Africa had greater female representation in parliament than some of the world's leading economic powers, Unifem's latest two-year survey of global women's rights revealed. Despite these gains, however, women still accounted for only about 14% of members of parliament worldwide in 2002. "There is much more to be done to ensure that women are accepted as equal partners in key decision-making processes," said Noeleen Heyzer, Unifem's executive director, at the launch of the report in New York. "Real progress towards gender equality will be seen when women have more say in the decisions that affect their lives." Parliamentary representation, Unifem said, was still the only indicator of advancement not tied to national wealth. It noted that in a number of Gulf Arab states women had neither the right to sit in parliament nor even to cast a vote.

    Unifem's report -Progress of the World's Women 2002 -measured countries against the target set by the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women for parliamentary representation.


  • Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Netherlands, Germany, Argentina, Costa Rica, South Africa, Mozambique -30%
  • Rwanda -25.7%, Uganda -24.7%
  • US -12%, France -11.8%, Japan -10%
  • Britain -17.9%

    Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Netherlands and Germany had all reached the 30% goal by the end of 2002 along with Argentina, Costa Rica, South Africa and Mozambique.
    The organisation noted that states had met the target through quota systems.
    It also pointed out that 13 developing countries in the sub-Saharan region -the poorest area on Earth -had higher proportions of women MPs than the US (12%), France (11.8%) and Japan (10%). Of those Gulf states which have parliaments, neither Kuwait nor the United Arab Emirates give women the right to vote or stand for election.

    Poverty trap
    "Increasing women's share of seats in parliament is not a panacea," Unifem warns in its report. "It can only level the playing-field on which women battle for equality." On non-political indicators of gender equality, the old rule that the richer a country is, the better conditions for women still largely held in 2002, Unifem found after surveying education for girls, women's literacy and non-farm employment worldwide. The UN organisation cited as a success its role in helping promote women's issues at the 2002 parliamentary election in Kenya. Not only was the number of women MPs increased, but six women cabinet ministers were appointed -the first ever to take office -and a ministry for gender, sport and culture was established, Unifem said.
    ©BBC News

    The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) releases its annual activity report for 2002. This Report describes ECRI's main activities in 2002 and highlights the main trends with regard to the presence of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance across Europe.
    Read the report

    ©Council of Europe

    Improving the quality of life of some 80 million Europeans with disabilities is the aim of the ministerial conference organised by the Spanish Government and the Council of Europe in Malaga on 7 and 8 May (Palacio de Ferias y Congresos). Ministers will promote the paradigm shift from the charity and welfare to the human rights-based approach in European disability policies, by enhancing full citizenship and active participation for people with disabilities. This conference is the major contribution of the Council of Europe to the European Year of People with Disabilities 2003 (proclaimed by the EU) and will give the Year a pan-European dimension, by involving the whole continent. Ministers from more than 45 European countries are invited to develop new legal and policy provisions to ensure equal opportunities for people with disabilities, as well as to find innovative approaches in service delivery to meet their needs as consumers. Enhancing the integration of disabled women and of people with disabilities in need of a high level of support will be another issue discussed at the Malaga ministerial meeting. Many representatives of international organisations, both governmental and non-governmental, and participants from Mexico and South America will also attend. The conference will be opened at 9.30 am on 7 May by Walter Schwimmer, Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Eduardo Zaplana, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of Spain and Peter Schieder, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, will also speak during this inaugural session. Alvaro Gil-Robles, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, and representatives of the European Commission and OECD will give keynote speeches. Disability NGOs will make a formal declaration to Ministers, thus enabling people with disabilities to make their voices heard. A ministerial declaration on "Progressing towards full participation as citizens" will be adopted at the end of the conference. This political declaration aims to set the European political disability agenda for the next decade. The conference will be open to the press and a press conference is scheduled at 1 pm on 8 May at the conference venue.

    For more information, please see special file on people with disabilities
    ©Council of Europe

    Former Slave: "UN Silence on Jihad-Slavery in Sudan Outrageous"

    The American Anti-Slavery Group applauds the White House for denouncing Cuba's re-election to the United Nation Human Rights Commission, (UNHRC) but is deeply troubled over the silence in Washington over the commission's vote to upgrade Sudan, a nation that enslaves Blacks. Dr. Charles Jacobs, president of the American Anti-Slavery Group, says: "It is outrageous that UNHCR embraced Cuba a week after Havana denied it access to investigate the Castro regime's arrest of dissidents, but it is more shocking still that the world was silent when the UNHRC upgraded Sudan, a slaving nation."

    Two weeks ago, the Rights Commission voted to upgrade Sudan from a "country with special problems," to a status where special human rights monitoring is no longer required. "Because of that vote, the UN will no longer monitor the slave trade," Jacobs said. "The world body has closed its eyes to human bondage." Sudan has been condemned for genocide and for the enslavement of blacks by the US Congressional Black Caucus, by the entire Congress, and by President Bush. The American Anti-Slavery Group opposes the UN upgrade of Sudan, which has done nothing in the past year to warrant improvement of its status. UN Special Rapporteur Baum noted in a March 28, 2003 report that "human rights abuses have not decreased" and "the overall human rights situation has not improved significantly."

    Francis Bok, an escaped slave from Sudan, says: "I was captured in a slave raid and held as a slave for 10 years. I am shocked that the UN would say there is no slavery in Sudan." "We understand that the Bush Administration is focused on Iraq, but the Administration needs to speak up forcefully now against the UN's whitewashing of a slaving regime," says Jacobs. "America is a nation that tore itself apart over the issue of black slavery. Surely we cannot maintain silence in the face of an immoral farce where slavers are rewarded by the UN." Khartoum has been conducting a self-declared "jihad" against the country's southern African Christian and animist population which has resulted in the death of two million people, the enslavement of tens of thousands, and the displacement of nearly 5 million people. Libya, the chair of the UN Human Rights Commission, has been linked in the trafficking of Sudanese slaves into its borders. "It is no wonder Cuba is embraced: The human rights commission is now headed by slavers and oppressors," observed Jacobs.

    Founded in 1994, the American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG) is America's leading human rights organization combating modern-day slavery worldwide. Based in Boston, the historic center of the American abolitionist movement, AASG works to extend the wave of emancipation to the 27 million people trapped in slavery today.
    ©American Anti-Slavery Group

    Faces deportation to Germany, decision follows report from CSIS

    Neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel has been declared a threat to Canada's national security, triggering a rare and secretive legal process that could result in his deportation to his native Germany within days or weeks. Zundel's attempt to gain refugee status in Canada was halted yesterday at an immigration court in Niagara Falls after he was issued with a national security certificate. The document was signed Thursday night by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Denis Coderre and Solicitor-General Wayne Easter. The security certificate process provides for unlimited detention, without review, until a person has been deported, or a judge strikes it down. Zundel, 64, will be held at an immigration detention centre in Thorold until the Federal Court rules on the validity of the certificate. By law, a Federal Court judge is required to convene a hearing within 48 hours to rule on whether or not the security certificate is valid. Such certificates have very rarely been quashed by a judge. The judge's decision is not subject to appeal. "I won't let anybody make a mockery of our system," Coderre told reporters yesterday.

    If the certificate is upheld, deportation proceedings would begin immediately. Unless he comes up with some novel legal strategy, Zundel's last kick at the can could be a risk assessment that takes place, on paper, prior to deportation, to determine whether removing him from Canada would put his life at risk. Given that jail time in Germany is all that awaits him, he would probably not have much luck arguing that he would be in danger. In Toronto yesterday, Easter said he signed the certificate declaring Zundel a security risk, but wouldn't elaborate, saying the matter is before the courts. He did however note there was "enough information from the hate crimes point of view," combined with "other information," which he didn't elaborate on, to issue the document, the Star's Leslie Ferenc reports. The security certificate is a terse, one paragraph document signed by Coderre and Easter. It states that the ministers "certify based on a security intelligence report received and considered by use that Ernst Zundel, a permanent resident of Canada, is inadmissible on grounds of security."

    Zundel, who spoke briefly to about 40 supporters crowded into the hearing room in Niagara Falls, said the certificate was "in the best style of banana republic-style dictatorships," Canadian Press reported. "They could not face an open court hearing," Zundel said. "They're going to ship me off to the fatherland." The certificate is based on a report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), which contends that although Zundel is unlikely to resort to violence himself, he financially and ideologically supports militant, white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. "There are reasonable grounds to believe that Zundel has been and would be in a position to influence his followers to commit acts of serious violence in Canada or abroad," CSIS said in a report submitted at Zundel's detention hearing, last month.

    Born in Germany, Zundel has lived in Canada as a landed immigrant since 1958 but abandoned the country in 2000 and moved to the United States. He returned to Canada in February, and when halted at the border, made a refugee claim. From the basement of his Toronto home, he published pro-Nazi and anti-Jewish material for decades, claiming the Holocaust was a hoax. In 1996, the Canadian Human Rights Commission found that Zundel controlled a Web site that was used to spread hatred. Then, in January, 2002, a human rights tribunal ordered him to remove offending sections from the site. But the ruling could not be carried out because Zundel had already left Canada and was operating the site from south of the border. In 1991, Zundel was convicted by a court in Munich, Germany, on cha ©The Toronto Star

    Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel is mounting a constitutional challenge to the Canadian immigration laws that are poised to ship him back to his native Germany, his lawyer said Tuesday. Doug Christie said he's drafting a challenge to the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which was enacted last summer in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Unlike its predecessor, the Immigration Act, those who are classified as security risks by the federal government have next to no recourse to appeal that status, Christie said. "This legislation denies the right of appeal and allows for secret hearings in circumstances where there's no method of review," Christie said in an interview. Under the Immigration Act, once those certified as security risks had their certificates reviewed by a judge, they were subject to an immigration hearing and allowed to appeal that decision in Federal Court. Now, once a judge decides a certificate is reasonable, it immediately becomes a removal order with no appeal, said Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokeswoman Simone MacAndrew.

    Eliminating those extra avenues of appeal was one of the main purposes of the new law, which was introduced in February 2001, when public fear about terrorism was running high. The new act provided "fewer appeals and opportunities for judicial review to delay the removal of serious criminals," according to a federal news release at the time. Christie said challenging the law's constitutionality is his client's only recourse. "They can't deny the right to make a constitutional challenge, even though they can deny the right to make an appeal," he said. "They can slam the door (on Zundel) all they want. It's not the end of the day, and my instructions are to proceed with it." Word of Christie's plan prompted little concern Tuesday among those most anxious to see Zundel deported. "From our point of view, this is just a last gasp, a last grasp at straws to stay in Canada," said Bernie Farber, executive director of the Ontario division of the Canadian Jewish Congress. "He'll keep on grasping at these straws until he's finally put on a plane and sent back to Germany . . . it seems very clear to everybody that Canada just doesn't want him here."

    A detention review is scheduled to take place Friday in Toronto to determine whether Zundel should remain in custody until his security certificate can be reviewed next week by a Federal Court judge. That certificate was signed last week by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Denis Coderre and Solicitor General Wayne Easter, setting the stage for Zundel's deportation after years of court battles in Canada. Coderre has so far declined to provide any details of the case except to say Zundel is considered a security threat under the provision for individuals "whose presence promotes some violence." In Germany, Zundel would face charges of suspicion of incitement of hate, stemming from material on his Web site that denies the killing of six million Jews by the Nazis during the Second World War. Zundel, who emigrated to Canada in 1958 but has failed to win citizenship, has had running legal skirmishes for at least a decade because of his published writings and Web site glorifying Nazism, denying the Holocaust and alleging a global Jewish conspiracy.

    His case marks the first time the new legislation has been used against a permanent resident of Canada. Canadian Alliance immigration critic Diane Ablonczy said Zundel has the resources to exploit "every avenue and loophole," and blamed Coderre for not preventing his return to Canada when he had the chance. "The minister was given ample notice of Zundel's intentions and did not need to let him re-enter the country, but chose to do so," Ablonczy said from Ottawa. Housing, feeding and ultimately deporting Zundel "is going to cost regular, hard-working Cana ©National Post

    Spy agency hands report to judge Holocaust denier faces deportation

    Neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel is a terrorist and a threat to Canada's security because he encourages violence and "seeks to destroy the multicultural fabric and underpinnings of Canadian society," the Canadian Security Intelligence Service says in court documents filed yesterday. The 41-page report is a summary of the security service's case against Zundel, which was presented to a Federal Court judge in the last few days in a closed-door hearing that even Zundel was forbidden from attending. Zundel, 64, is scheduled to appear in Federal Court in Toronto tomorrow, where a judge will begin the process of determining whether the Holocaust denier poses a threat to Canada's security and should be deported to his native Germany. The CSIS report says Zundel should be deported "by virtue of his involvement in terrorism, the danger he represents to the security of Canada, his role in encouraging acts of violence that would or might endanger the lives or safety of persons in Canada and his membership in organizations that have executed acts of violence." The spy service acknowledges "Zundel has virtually no history of direct personal engagement in acts of serious violence," but argues he is just as bad as those who commit acts of violence because he inspires them. The CSIS report says "Zundel is an influential individual or patriarch in the White Supremacist Movement." And it says the movement is a coherent network that is "fundamentally terrorist," because it has "employed intimidation, suppressive tactics and serious violence against its targets with the objectives of instilling fear and effecting political change." Zundel's attempt to gain refugee status in Canada was halted last week at an immigration court in Niagara Falls after he was issued with a national security certificate. The security certificate process provides for virtually unlimited detention until a person has been deported or a judge strikes it down.
    ©The Toronto Star

    Anti-apartheid fighter Walter Sisulu, a veteran of the struggle against white rule in South Africa and long-time friend of Nelson Mandela, has died aged 90. Mr Sisulu died at about 2100 local time (1900 GMT) in his Johannesburg home after a long period of ill health, Mr Mandela's office said. "His absence has carved a void. A part of me is gone," Mr Mandela was quoted as saying by the South African Press Association (Sapa) news agency. Born in 1912, the same year that the African National Congress (ANC) was founded, Mr Sisulu rose to become the deputy president of the organisation. He also played a key role in Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC, as well as in forming the ANC Youth League in 1944. Sisulu was sentenced to life alongside the future president at the Rivonia Trial in 1964. He spent 26 years at the notorious Robben Island prison off Cape Town and was released only in 1989 when he was 77. He campaigned in the first truly multi-racial elections in South Africa in 1994 and saw his dream of black majority rule fulfilled -retiring shortly after the election of Mr Mandela to the presidency of the country.

    'Head and shoulders above'
    The son of a white foreman who came to his native village in the Transkei to supervise black road workers, Mr Sisulu went to Johannesburg at the age of 15 to earn money for his family. He had little formal education and worked as a kitchen, assistant, a baker and a miner. Almost alone among the ANC's leaders, he still lived in Soweto, in the same small-red brick house where, 50 years before, his mother took in other people's washing. "(Sisulu) stands head and shoulders above all of us in South Africa," Mr Mandela has recently told a group of South African children. "You will ask what is reason for his elevated status among us. Very simple, it is humility. It is simplicity. Because he pushed all of us forward and remained quietly in the background." Mr Sisulu was married to Albertina Sisulu who survives him. The BBC's Hillary Anderson in Johannesburg says Mr Sisulu will be sorely missed in South Africa and remembered as one of the most prominent figures in bringing the country to a new democratic era.
    ©BBC News

    A decade after white attackers fatally stabbed Stephen Lawrence at a London bus stop, the Jamaican immigrant's murder creates debate in a nation still unsure how its diverse inhabitants can live together. Lawrence's family marked the 10th anniversary of the 18-year-old's killing Tuesday with a Trafalgar Square church service, while politicians and police said Britain still had lessons to learn about racism. ``There can be no room for complacency,'' Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote in a letter to the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, set up to help young people from minority groups become architects, as the young black man dreamed of doing. ``There is a great deal more to do if we are to build a genuinely fair and inclusive society.''

    Five youths shouted racial insults at Lawrence and then stabbed him in the arm and chest that night in April 1993. Bleeding heavily, the high school student ran more than 100 yards down the street, then collapsed and died. Although four witnesses saw the attack, no one was convicted of the killing. An investigative panel later concluded that the killing had been ``a completely unprovoked racist attack'' and a special reviewer found that London's Metropolitan Police force was riddled with ``institutional racism.'' The police's failure to solve the case outraged many Britons, especially the Lawrences, Jamaican immimgrants who have become outspoken anti-racism activists. It also became a focal point for minority groups' frustrations with British law enforcement. Police officials have since sought to change the department's culture to eliminate racism and make London's mostly white force more diverse. At a central London memorial service, Doreen Lawrence lit a candle in her son's honor as the slain teen's family and friends recalled his mischievous smile and lofty ambitions. They - along with politicians and police representatives at the gathering - said they hoped his death would eventually bring racial harmony to Britain.
    Related links:
    Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust
    Official report on Lawrence murder

    ©The Guardian

    Tony Blair has called for a "genuinely fair and inclusive society" in which racism has no place, on the 10th anniversary of Stephen Lawrence's murder. "There can be no room for complacency," he wrote in a letter to the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, which helps young black people follow Stephen's ambition of becoming an architect. "There is a great deal more to do if we are to build a genuinely fair and inclusive society." Mr Blair said the journey had begun to addressing the institutional failings unearthed by Stephen's parents, Doreen and Neville. Mr Blair said he was "absolutely committed" and shared the vision of Stephen's parents of "a future where there are no racial divisions and everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential". He said the UK was improving its race relations framework with a "genuine commitment, shared by all our public institutions, to ensure they are more representative and responsive" to all the people they serve.

    He wrote: "One of Britain's great strengths is that it is a country of many races, many cultures and many faiths. "The diversity of our society is respected and celebrated. Fairness, tolerance and justice are values that the overwhelming majority of decent citizens share." Stephen, an 18-year-old A-Level student, was stabbed to death by a gang of white youths in a brutal and unprovoked attack as he waited at a bus stop in Eltham, south east London.

    Extraordinary contribution
    Mr Blair was unable to attend a memorial service at St Martin's-in-the-Field church in central London. However the prime minister said that despite their grief, Stephen's parents had made an extraordinary contribution towards building an inclusive society. "No-one has worked harder towards this goal than Doreen and Neville Lawrence," he continued. "Their courage and dignity at a time of enormous personal tragedy have impressed us all. "They have worked tirelessly to improve race relations in this country and to ensure our society learns the lessons from the senseless murder of their talented son, Stephen."
    ©BBC News

    The Metropolitan Police remains "institutionally racist" despite great improvements in the way the force deals with race issues, the commander of Scotland Yard's anti-racist unit admitted yesterday. In an interview to mark the 10th anniversary today of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, Cdr Cressida Dick, the head of the Metropolitan Police's diversity directorate, conceded that Britain's biggest police force was unlikely ever to be free of institutional racism. "It's very difficult to imagine the situation where we will say we are no longer institutionally racist. It's a long way off," Cdr Dick told The Independent. "It is certainly obtainable to be more sensitive than we are and reduce it further, but the point about racism is it's about the structure of society and power differential and how institutions operate. She launched a strong defence of the Met's efforts to eradicate racism, arguing that it had transformed the way it dealt with race crime since the disastrous investigation into the stabbing to death of the black teenager by a racist gang in south-east London.

    Scotland Yard's reputation was severely damaged by Sir William Macpherson of Cluny's watershed inquiry report, published in February 1999, into the Lawrence debacle, which said the Met and others within the police service were "institutionally racist". The commander also stressed that many public and private organisations guilty of institutional racism had done little or nothing to change their ways. She believed racist attitudes that would not be considered acceptable in the capital were often tolerated in cities outside London. Cdr Dick said: "I would say there is not an institution out there that could say, 'We are not racist'. But I think there has been a sea-change and we have changed dramatically. You don't have to go very far to find private and public organisations that have not moved very far down this road. "I do think we have put more resources into this issue and have come further than many other organisations."

    The issue of institutional racism was seen as part of the reason the Met failed properly to investigate the murder of the 18-year-old student at a bus stop on 22 April 1993. It forced the Met to changed the way it dealt with race issues, hate crime, and murders. It also caused a national debate about the level of racism within society and led to other public bodies, such as the Crown Prosecution Service, being condemned as institutionally racist. The suggestion that the Met ­ the force considered to be the most forward-thinking police organisation in terms of reforms to race relations and investigating race crimes ­ can never completely rid itself of the tag of "institutionally racist" raises questions about the state of other constabularies where race is not given such a high priority. Cdr Dick, who took over as head of the diversity directorate in May last year, believes London's diversity has worked in the capital's favour and made its residents more tolerant of other cultures. "But you don't have to travel at all far ­ less than 100 miles ­ to hear different attitudes and views being expressed and going unchallenged. A lot of it is ignorance and pure lack of contact and education." The commander believes two of the biggest race issues the Met will face in the coming years are trying to reach the demanding Home Office target of a quarter of its officers being from visible ethnic minorities by 2007 ­ it currently stands at 7 per cent ­ and addressing the issue of disproportionate number of black and Asian people being stopped and searched. She said that newspapers linking "Muslims, terrorism, and asylum-seekers" had left some members of the Muslim community feeling "alienated and threatened".
    © Independent Digital

    Race-hate campaigners are targeting pupils at the gates of Oldham schools, sparking fears of further riots, say teachers. A call was due to be made today for leaders of the National Union of Teachers to meet Oldham schools chiefs in an attempt to end racial divisions in the town's schools. The move would be in line with the recommendations of the Ritchie Report prepared in the aftermath of civil disturbances which rocked the town in 2001. Teachers say the failure of schools to bring together white and Asian youngsters breeds racial tension and mistrust, which is being stirred up by race hate campaigners who target youngsters at the school gates. They believe there has been an increase in racial bullying among pupils and some instances of racist abuse against teachers in recent months. Despite recognising some strong initiatives designed to teach youngsters about racism and to build partnerships between schools, they fear that without more action there could be a repeat of the riots.

    Speaking at the NUT annual conference in Harrogate Bryan Beckingham, secretary of the Oldham branch of the union, said that as incidents of racism increased, parents had been moving their youngsters between schools in the town, increasing segregation. "Schools are actually becoming more segregated," said Mr Beckingham. "And that has a really serious effect for the future of Oldham. "If the community aren't experiencing each others' cultures and differences, then they will fear each other. Asian and white children will look at each other with suspicion and fear. Like most people they will be scared of what they don't know. "This year there has been a lot of racist incidents, fights and confrontations within schools. Often the police are present at the end of the school day to stop outside interference having an impact. " Particular attention in the Ritchie Report was focused on the admissions policies of Crompton House, Blue Coat and Our Lady's RC schools, where admission is dependent on Christian faith." Mr Beckingham said he and Oldham colleagues in the NUT wanted the schools to broaden their admissions criteria.

    "We have a number of faith schools that are virtually all white," said Mr Beckingham. "We want to see them take 25 per cent from ethnic minority groups to make sure there's a mixture. "I would want to challenge the Christian people who control these schools to justify their segregation policies. I don't think Oldham is going to be a very happy town until we tackle this - and there will be increasing racial tensions between these communities." Oldham teacher Mac Andrassy, seconding today's resolution at the conference, said: "I want to explain to delegates, who I am sure oppose the far right, what effect they can have in an area like Oldham or Burnley." In the resolution being considered by delegates today, the NUT was being asked to call for a meeting between union bosses and Oldham council in a bid to convince the council to implement the Ritchie recommendations on de-segregation of schools in the town.
    ©Manchester online

    The first openly gay football team was the New York Ramblers, formed in 1980. Since then, gay soccer has grown in popularity across the world. The International Gay and Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA) was established in 1992. Its primary purpose is "to foster and augment the self-respect of gay women and men throughout the world and engender respect and understanding from the non-gay world through the medium of organised football". Stonewall FC, the first homosexual men's club in the UK, was formed in 1991 and now has four teams. Its London Lions side were gold medal-winners at the Gay Games in Sydney last year and they have just won the West Middlesex County Premier League. They are also the British, European and world champions and are sending a team to the IGLFA World Cup in Boston this August. Chris Worth, their chairman. who used to have a season ticket at Queens Park Rangers, said: "There were a couple of occasions when I was aware of it (homophobia among the crowd), but I was not particularly scared." The less intimidating atmospheres of modern stadiums and the changing demographics of crowds have helped, he believes. He doubts that a change in attitudes inside dressing-rooms is imminent, though.

    Marc Short, a midfield player for Stonewall, is not surprised that only one professional player has come out. "Anyone who thinks about it can understand why," he said. "If footballers' haircuts can cause front-page attention, imagine what coming out would do?" He does not expect any professionals to declare publicly in the near future that they are homosexual: "It'd need to be a really big name to make an impact, but it won't happen for a while." Short says that he has experienced little homophobia while playing for Stonewall, though it can "creep back in" when the opposition is losing. "We get the odd remark, but when they see we can play football, we get accepted," Worth said. Worth believes that "it would help" if a gay footballer came out. "Beckham's broken stereotypes and done articles in gay glossy mags — he's the nearest to a role model," he said. "There are a few gay footballers, I'm sure they do exist, but I guess professionally it's very difficult and what with sponsorship, etc, it might be bad for their careers." "The image this silence projects is that being gay is bad," David Allison, from OutRage!, the gay rights pressure group, said. "The will isn't there (to come out). Until someone makes a stand, there's no incentive for anyone to take on the issue, but it would take an enormous amount of courage." The FA does not have any specific anti-homophobia initiatives comparable with, say, the Kick Racism Out campaign, but discrimination is covered under the aegis of its Ethics and Equity division. "Its core pillar is football for all — anybody and everybody irrespective of age, gender, ethnic background, ability or disability," a spokesperson said.

    Five gay athletes

  • Bill Tilden, perhaps the best tennis player of the first half of the last century, the American won three Wimbledon titles, seven US Open Championships and seven Davis Cups.
  • David Kopay, an American football player who became the first professional team sport athlete to declare himself homosexual, in a 1975 interview, three years after retiring.
  • Billie Jean King, the tennis star was "outed" by her ex-lover in 1981, the same year that Martina Navratilova revealed she was a lesbian in a newspaper interview.
  • Greg Louganis, probably the greatest diver in history, he won four Olympic gold medals in the 1980s. He came out and revealed he was HIV-positive at the 1994 Gay Games.
  • Ian Roberts, one of Australia's best rugby league players in the 1990s. In 1995, at the peak of his career, he became the first Australian sportsperson to come out. Later trained as an actor
    ©The Times Online

    An estimated 2,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Manchester urging voters to reject the BNP in Thursday's local elections. The anti-racism protesters marched through the city centre for a rally in Albert Square, which was organised by the TUC and Unison. Speakers included trades union boss Bill Morris and TUC president-elect Brendan Barber who called on voters and for Prime Minister Tony Blair to stave off the threat from the far right.
    ©Manchester online

    Liverpool's Capital of Culture bid could be left in tatters if the city returns a British National Party councillor in Thursday's local elections. That is the stark warning made to the city's electorate, not by a politician, but by former Liverpool star John Barnes. Barnes, who made his name as an elegant winger with Liverpool and England in the1980's and early 1990's, spoke out just days before the public go to the polls and a fortnight after Capital of Culture judges visited the area. Speaking exclusively to the ECHO he said: "The whole culture bid is based on the concept of the world in one city. "A modern city of culture has to encompass and embrace the culture and identities of all its inhabitants. "If the BNP were elected I can't see how that would be anything but damaging to the bid." Six BNP candidates are standing in Merseyside, including three in the Liverpool wards Anfield, Kensington and St Mary's. But Barnes, who has lived on Merseyside for 16 years following his move to Liverpool from Watford, believes the political sophistication of his adopted city will see the BNP rejected. He said: "We live in a free society which means people can stand for election no matter what their views. "In this sense I believe as a country we can sometimes be too liberal because ideally the BNP would be banned. It would be a disaster if they were elected but I firmly believe none of the six candidates standing on Merseyside will be elected because the area is now much more integrated than it was say 20 years ago. "And, people are much more informed than they were in the past."

    Barnes, a TV pundit, claims the asylum issue is being hijacked by the BNP for political gain. He said: "People should question the real reasons why the areas they live in are deprived. "It is a social problem, not an issue of race or culture. The people who live in areas like Kensington are not poor because of the colour of their skin, they should examine the real reasons. "If the BNP said poverty and deprivation was caused by blacks and Asians they would be laughed at because these groups have been part of our society for so long. "The BNP needs a new target and that means the Kosovans, Afghans and all other groups new to the country are in their line of fire. "They say they are taking all the jobs and benefits, which is exactly what the National Front were saying about blacks and Asians in the 1970's. "The BNP and people like them see the asylum seekers issue as an opportunity and they are looking to exploit it." Barnes, who was targeted by racists throughout his career, believes race relations have improved in Liverpool in the 16 years he has lived in the area. He said: "When I first came here I was shocked when I walked along Church Street because there were so few black people working in the shops. "In London it was totally different. Now, like most British cities, Liverpool has changed for the better and there are many more black people prominent in everyday life."

    The local elections have brought the BNP into the spotlight in Liverpool, but Barnes believes this is nothing more than a passing phase. He said: "The way to marginalise groups like the BNP is through education and integration. "There is a new culture emerging in Britain in which the old ideas of being solely English, Afro-Carribbean or Asian have been completely broken down. "Children of different races and backgrounds have been educated together and understand each other much better - this is the way forward for all of us."
    ©ic Liverpool

    The BNP grabbed a massive foothold in East Lancashire on a night when it became the official opposition in Burnley (Up from 2 to 8 seats) and won thousands of votes elsewhere. But MPs and political leaders today urged people to continue the fight against the far right after it failed to win any seats in the other two areas it targeted -- Ribble Valley and Pendle. The Labour Party was the main casualty on a night when it lost control of Hyndburn, Rossendale and Pendle -- where council leader Azhar Ali was ousted -- as well as four seats to the British National Party in Burnley. BNP organiser Simon Bennett described it as a 'fantastic, historic, incredible' night after the group gained six new seats, taking its tally to eight in the town hall. The result pushed the Liberal Democrats into third place on a borough council Labour rules with 23. Burnley MP Peter Pike today called on people to 'see through the BNP for what they really are' -- and demanded that Labour started working harder to show what it was doing well. He said: "The BNP are a racist, divisive party. Questions must be asked as to why, at this stage of a Labour government, are the Tories and Liberals not in a position where they are picking up votes?" Council leader Stuart Caddy added: "We have still got overall control of the council, but I believe the BNP will now have to demonstrate what they are really about. "They have been democratically elected, and we can't take that away, but we will still do our best for the people of Burnley."

    Labour campaigner Shahid Malik, a former member of the Commission for Racial Equality and of Labour's NEC, added: "We've got to get this into perspective. There are some 22,000 councillors in this country, the BNP will have got 15 or so of that 22,000 tonight." Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Bill Taylor said: "We don't have elections until next year and our job is to make sure that our electors are not hoodwinked in the same way the electors in Burnley have been." Rossendale and Darwen MP Janet Anderson said: "We will work very hard to ensure they never do in Rossendale and Darwen and we will work with our colleagues across East Lancashire to explain what type of people the BNP are." But Mr Bennett said: "Some of these seats were once strongholds for the mainstream parties. We are now becoming one of those. "People are fed up of the dictators in the town hall and the only people they feel they can turn to are us." The BNP won several hundred votes but no seats in the Ribble Valley where it has been actively campaigning for more than a years and stood in five wards. Conservative Council leader Chris Holtom said he was delighted to win overall control of the authority but said: "I am pleased with the result but disappointed with our performance in Clitheroe. We should have done better there and, in some cases to come behind the BNP is very worrying." And voters in Pendle failed to elect any of the four BNP candidates but the far right did poll substantial numbers of votes.

    Pendle MP Gordon Prentice said: "I think it's a tragedy that the BNP has made such big inroads in Burnley. "Although we have managed to fend them off in Pendle, they still managed to pick up a very sizeable vote and that is something which should concern all the political parties. The BNP play on people's fears. We do not need them." In Hyndburn, where the BNP had intended to stand but missed the closing date for nominations by days, the Tories retook control of the authority just 12 months after being forced into oppositon. Hyndburn MP Greg Pope said: "I'm delighted the BNP didn't contest this year's election and hope they don't next year. We can do without that kind of politics in Hyndburn." Ribble Valley Tory MP NIgel Evans said: "It is clear that people here just don't want or need the BNP. They don't fit. They tried to hijack the Clitheroe Mosque issue and failed completely."

    Note I CARE: Nati ©Lancashire Evening Telegraph

    Rural racism in Nottinghamshire exists alongside urban tolerance

    When Ken Clarke, one-time home secretary and would-be Tory leader, spoke at a planning inquiry into a controversial accommodation centre for asylum seekers to be built in his Nottinghamshire constituency last week, he proclaimed: "I think people in Rushcliffe have pretty liberal views." In the run-up to the May 1 local elections, however, such confidence may seem misplaced. Here, in rural south Nottinghamshire, the geographical and metaphorical heart of middle England, opposition to asylum seekers is regularly discussed on the doorsteps, often in unashamed language with the jibe "if you want a nigger name, vote Labour" flung at Labour councillors, who, in contrast to the Tories and Liberal Democrats on the council, back the scheme in principle. The BNP might have failed to put up a candidate, and the local BNP activist has been forced to commute to Long Eaton to stand, but nimbyism surrounding the site, on a disused base at RAF Newton, slides insidiously into racism.

    As Eric Sharp, the genial mayor of Bingham and a Tory town councillor, admitted at last week's hearing: "It would be wrong to say there are no racist objectors." In Bingham, the 8,500-strong market town at the heart of Mr Clarke's constituency, where the once staunchly Tory town council is now made up of six Tories, four Lib Dems and one Labour councillor, fears that "bogus" asylum seekers are "flooding" the countryside crop up repeatedly as activists step up their leafleting. Maureen Stockwood, a former mayor and Tory member of Tory-led Rushcliffe borough council, has received 150 letters on the issue, more than on any other issue in 28 years of local politics. She says she can barely venture out into the town without residents voicing concerns that the 750 refugees, and in particular the 450 young men envisaged, will attract trouble from young local men, frighten women, increase the risk of burglary, push down property prices, and "tempt away" local teachers and doctors. A fellow Bingham councillor, the Lib Dem George Davidson, paints a calmer picture but concedes that one in three residents see asylum seekers as a major issue. Rupert Bear, a retired solicitor and chairman of the local Labour group, suggests residents are more sanguine, though he admits that "when people are at their most unguarded, in the pub, their views are fairly stereotypical and the tenor of a vocal minority is racist".

    The lack of sufficient schooling in Bingham, and the fact that children of asylum seekers will be educated and receive healthcare, is regularly cited, as is the fear that they may steal and will definitely spark anti-social behaviour. "They'll get schools and doctors we need and we'll pay for it. And they'll drive house prices down." Eight miles away, in the heart of Nottingham, a very different picture emerges as John Taylor, a Labour councillor for 22 years, works his way up and down the terraced streets of his ethnically mixed, relatively deprived, inner city ward. At each house, he asks which issues preoccupy his constituents. Crime, they reply with depressing regularity: petty crime and anti-social behaviour. What about asylum seekers, he probes the residents of this East Midlands city, which now houses around 2,200 asylum seekers and refugees - those who have been granted asylum status. Only one woman ventures the opinion that there are "too many of them hooligans around" - and she is no white Sun reader, but a middle-aged Kashmiri woman, who came to Nottingham 27 years ago. "Asylum," says Mr Taylor with a smile, "just isn't an issue here."

    The reasons for this apparent acceptance are numerous: in part a tendency to disperse asylum seekers in areas, such as Mr Taylor's ward of Forest Fields, which are ethnically mixed; the lack of an individual centre such as the International Hotel housing 500 asylum seekers in Leicester, which provides as the crow flies from an area with 200 asylum seekers, it's just not an issue, because of the area's relative multiculturalism."

    But if opposition to asylum seekers appears to be a local issue, it is difficult to judge whether this will make itself felt in the local elections - not even the Tories have taken up asylum as a national issue. Mr Macinnes is convinced the Labour group, which has 11 seats on Rushcliffe borough council to the Tories' 30 and Lib Dems' 12, and which is the only party not to feature opposition to RAF Newton on its local election leaflets, will "suffer significantly for this ... we'll pay electorally". But, even in Bingham, residents seem disinclined to punish local councillors, whom they perceive as powerless to stop the scheme. With a turnout of just 38% at the last local election, a percentage that prompted a postal voting system, political apathy may also mean any opposition to asylum seekers will fail to make itself felt. As Kim Gregory, 37, a nursery nurse and mother, said: "If Ken Clarke can't get this stopped, then who can? I don't see any link between this and the local elections."
    ©The Guardian

    Badly drafted legislation that extends protection against discrimination at work risks becoming a charter for litigation, says barrister Marina Wheeler, member of the chambers of Robert Seabrook, QC, at 1, Crown Office Row

    Let's pretend you need a job. And let's imagine that you are white, male, heterosexual, in reasonably good shape for 45 and with a moderate attachment to the Church of England. You scan the appointments section of The Telegraph and here is just the vacancy: a business in Wolverhampton needs a new accounts manager. You reach a shortlist of eight. The others are: Sandra, recently married, who is hoping to land her first job; Said, a Muslim graduate; Roger, a "mature" 55; Hamish, who is openly gay; Horace, a West Indian; Gerald, who has a residual repetitive strain injury and limited use of his left arm; and Patrick, a Jehovah's Witness who makes clear that in an emergency he would refuse medical treatment. The interview process seems fair: all candidates are asked similar questions, focused on their experience and skills for the job. But there is one crucial, invisible difference between you and each of the other seven. Any one of the others, if turned down for the job, could under existing or forthcoming legislation bring a discrimination claim before an employment tribunal. Each has a "protected characteristic" under revised legislation based respectively on gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, race, disability and belief. If you were to be turned down, you - and you alone - would have no grounds for action.

    Two European directives mean that by December it will be unlawful to discriminate not only on existing grounds of sex, race and disability but also on grounds of sexual orientation and religion or other belief. By December 2006, age discrimination will also be unlawful. The Government calls this "the most significant review of equality in over a quarter of a century". But a review it is not. Instead, it is a major extension of "equality laws", without the review necessary to ensure the system will work. The Race Relations and the Sex Discrimination Acts, both products of the 1970s, have transformed the workplace - largely, in my view, for the better. In tandem with European directives, this legislation has ended many poisonous forms of harassment. It has equalised retirement ages for men and women, outlawed dismissals on grounds of pregnancy and improved the status of part-time workers. Since the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 came into effect, many people have found jobs who would otherwise have been shut out from employment. But to those who practice employment law, the bigger picture is by no means all rosy. There are many good claims; but there are too many bad claims. My own experience, shared by many colleagues, is that a high proportion of the discrimination cases we deal with are ill-founded. One colleague puts the figure at more than 60 per cent. An allegation of discrimination is easy to make. For a disgruntled or poorly performing employee, it can be a convenient excuse - and tribunal cases are easy to bring. The losing party will not expect to pay the other side's costs - though he would if embarking on most other civil litigation.

    Some of the payouts, since the Government removed the cap on damages payable in discrimination cases, have been notoriously large. This means that if you complain of unfair dismissal and you belong to one of the already "protected" categories, you will routinely add on a further claim for discrimination. Very few of these ill-founded cases actually succeed, and to that extent, the system does work. But merely conducting these cases can be hugely destructive, both financially and in terms of the damage to working relationships. Patrick Green, a barrister experienced in discrimination litigation, makes the point that "being branded a racist is just one letter away from being branded a r him for fear of prompting a discrimination claim. The union - which funded the case - had been warned that the applicant's social isolation was caused by his habit of making lewd remarks in the showers, notably about his colleagues' wives. The union did not want to know. Recent legislation that reverses the burden of proof in discrimination cases would have made our case more difficult to win. Once a complainant establishes facts from which it might be inferred that discrimination has occurred, the burden shifts to the employer to prove that it hasn't. In spite of the applicant's outrageous lies, and the finding that he had sexually harassed most of those he was accusing of racism, he was not ordered to pay any costs. Tribunals can in theory make such an order, but rarely do. The case had much to tempt the tabloids, but attracted little publicity since it involved a relatively obscure company. As one barrister, Wendy Outhwaite, points out: "For larger employers, the fear of publicity is a powerful incentive to buy off a claim, even if it is wholly lacking in merit."

    It is in this unhappy climate of growing concern about the increase in vexatious tribunal cases that equality laws are being extended. The provisions on sexual orientation are thought to be the least controversial; but the prohibition against discrimination on grounds of religion and belief is expected to throw up serious difficulties. Problem one is the regulations' elastic definition of "religion or belief" as "any religion, religious belief or similar philosophical belief". Deciding what is a religion is tricky enough. But what "philosophical beliefs" might be thought worthy of protection? Will pharmaceutical companies be breaking the law if they refuse to employ animal rights activists? Last year, a group of private Christian schools challenged the ban on corporal punishment, saying that it violated parents' rights to ensure that their children's education was in conformity with their own religious convictions. The trial judge did not consider their belief to be an "article of faith" - it was a belief in the efficacy of corporal punishment. But the majority of the Court of Appeal disagreed, with one judge, Lord Justice Buxton, dissenting. Not much agreement there! The law is already confused about what constitutes a "belief", and that is before the perplexing new provisions have even come in.

    How can Britain's beleaguered companies prepare? According to the Department of Trade and Industry, "Employers will need detailed guidance on issues such as diet, dress and religious observance to help them avoid having rules which discriminate directly or indirectly against staff on the grounds of religion and belief". This means that larger employers may have to provide prayer rooms or re-arrange working times to enable Muslim worshippers to attend a mosque. Or employers might have to pay more for people who work on days "which they would rather not work". "People should not be discriminated against in recruitment decisions if they cannot work on particular days of the week; particular times of the day; or in particular areas of a business (for example, in the meat or alcohol section of a supermarket)," says the Dti. "Employers may need to recruit more workers to cover for those who are restricted over hours/days/work area and generally maintain a larger and more flexible workforce." Finally, it warns that complaints may arise from those whose religions forbid them to drink alcohol if social drinking outside work is seen as a route to preferment. Religious organisations will be allowed to discriminate in order "to ensure the preservation of any special religious ethos", and to dismiss staff who do not "act in good faith and loyalty towards that ethos" - for example, by ridiculing tenets of the religion or by flagrant sexual misconduct. On this basis, it seems at least arguable that a religious school could refuse to employ a teacher who was openly gay. Many of those helping to draw up this guidance are phlegmatic. There are always solutions, they say. questions will now come before the courts: employment tribunals, employment appeal tribunals and then the court of appeal. Indeed, the judges themselves may have to decide why they are deemed fit to pass judgment at 70, but not at 71.

    The trouble with age discrimination is that it involves a continuum, rather than a clear distinction between black/white, male/female, gay/straight. How old is old? And who are the young? As the CBI puts it: "With no natural boundaries, indirect age discrimination risks becoming a litigant's charter by which applicants can shift the goalposts." And the problem with such vague legislation, introduced in the absence of a clear consensus as to what is fair, is that employment tribunals are left to determine what conduct is lawful after the event. This is wrong. It places an unreasonable financial burden on the employers and encourages litigation. Litigation means conflict - and it will often exacerbate rather than resolve the real problems in the workplace.
    Related links:
    Disability Rights Commission
    Women's National Commission
    Age Positive

    ©Daily Telegraph

    The French right-wing extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen is to address the Cambridge Union society tonight in a move that has attracted widespread criticism. Mr Le Pen, who has been fined for anti-semitism and has described the Holocaust as "a mere detail" in history, polled 5 million votes in last year's presidential elections in France. The 74-year-old has stated that "races are not equal", and has been convicted of incitement to racial hatred. Cambridge University student union (CUSU) anti-racism officer Kimberley Chong called the invite "a completely insensitive move" that was "ignorant of the growth of the far-right in Britain and Europe and the risk they pose to ethnic minorities". Last year, the CUSU passed a "no platform" policy, which mandates the union to campaign against any organisation that provides speaking opportunities to "individuals deemed to pose a threat to the welfare or security of [its] members." CUSU president Paul Lewis said: "We're very concerned and are liasing with the police and university authorities because we're genuinely worried about the safety of our students." The university's Jewish Society said Mr Le Pen's invite was "offensive to all minority students in Cambridge and a danger to student security".

    Anti-Nazi League member Dan Mayer called the invite "absolutely disgusting". ANL protesters from around the country are to gather outside the union building before the debate. Paul Holborow, founder of the ANL was due to take part in the event, but after the announcement of Mr Le Pen's involvement he is now expected to participate in the demonstrations instead. Alice Nutter, from the band Chumbawumba, has also pulled out of tonight's event, although she is due to take part in another union debate later in the year. The threat of violence between the ANL and the British National Party lay behind the cancellation of a debate involving Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, and the Muslim extremist Abu Hamza, organised by the Cambridge Forum, an offshoot of the debating union, in December. Mr Lewis said: I don't know what game the debating society is playing. They have invited far right speaker after far right speaker. This is not what Cambridge students want. It's the lowest of the low."

    However, the union's president, Edward Cumming, who claims to have received two death threats since the debate was announced, defended Mr Le Pen's invitation on the grounds of preserving freedom of speech. "I've got no truck personally with Holocaust denial," he stated, "but the way to discredit these opinions is to engage with them in an intellectual discussion. "As with all these things, some people won't like it, but others will appreciate the opportunity to challenge his views in an open forum. We've not advertised it around town, and I don't see how he's a direct threat to Cambridge students." Mr Le Pen, leader of the National Front in France for 30 years, is due to speak for 20 minutes and take questions for 40 minutes, but he is not expected to take part in the main debate on freedom of speech because of his limited English. Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens and students will debate the question "This house would gag the bad".
    ©The Guardian

    A year ago today, Régis Demeester voted for Jean-Marie Le Pen, the National Front candidate, in the first round of the French presidential election. "I'm a racist and I can't stand all the immigrants who live around here," M Demeester said as he sat in his allotment garden on the outskirts of Dunkirk, northern France, this weekend. "If I voted for the National Front, it was to scare them." Yet it was not just the ethnic minorities who were scared by the extreme right-wing party's success on April 21, 2002. With M Le Pen beating Lionel Jospin, the Socialist Prime Minister, for a place in the run-off against President Chirac, the shockwaves were felt throughout all sections of society. Newspapers said that French democracy faced its greatest threat since the Second World War; more than 1.3 million demonstrators took part in protest marches across the country; and M Chirac's long-time adversaries on the Left abandoned the habits of a lifetime to campaign on his behalf. In the end, M Chirac was returned to power with 82 per cent of the vote in the second round of the election and mainstream France breathed a sigh of relief at what it said was the defeat of extremism.

    But in Saint-Pol-sur-Mer and other parts of provincial France such confidence seems misplaced. Last year, M Le Pen obtained one of his best results here, winning 30.29 per cent of the 10,780 votes cast in the town. The factors that induced that outcome remain present today. There is petty crime. There are the industrial wastelands that surround a once-thriving port. Above all, there is the distrust that divides the communities. On one side of the N1 road that cuts through the suburbs of Dunkirk are the allotment gardeners: white, working-class men who cultivate onions, potatoes and a deep dislike of foreigners. "Of course I'd vote for the National Front again," M Demeester said. "Nothing's changed. There are still as many immigrants around here, and they still commit as much crime as ever." Two months ago, burglars broke into his house, which is next to the police station in Saint-Pol-sur-Mer. He does not know who was responsible, but blames "the Algerians" from Grande-Synthe, on the other side of the N1. "The other day I came across two of them trying to steal a couple of children's bicycles just down the road from here," he said. "I told them to stop and they just laughed at me. What are you going to do about it?' they said. I wasn't always a racist, but when you have to put up with that sort of thing all the time, you end up by becoming one."

    In the bare concrete square in the centre of Grande- Synthe, Mirouane, 25, and his friends smiled amiably as they discussed such prejudice. All are the children of immigrants who came from Morocco, not Algeria as M Demeester believed, to work in the local steel factory. "We grew up here, went to school here and got our diplomas here. But whereas all the white people I know with the same qualifications as me have a job, I'm out of work," Mirouane said. "As soon as an employer sees your CV with an Arab name and address from Grande-Synthe, you've got no chance. "There are two ways to react to racism. You can react intelligently, and put the person in his place; or you can let the hatred get the better of you. Many do. They become racist against the whites." It was this hatred, on both sides of the divide, that led to the National Front's triumph a year ago. Since then, Nicolas Sarkozy, the Interior Minister, has launched a drive to win back National Front voters to the mainstream Right, promoting law and order policies and expelling illegal immigrants.

    Yet despite such initiatives, M Le Pen, 75, was in ominously buoyant mood as he was re-elected as the movement's president at its national conference in Nice at the weekend. He used the occasion to start his campaign for the regional elections next year and seemed to be confident that he could c ©The Times Online

    Veteran French extreme-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen nominated his daughter as vice-president of the National Front (FN) party Monday, confirming her emergence as a frontrunner for his eventual succession. The appointment of Marine Le Pen as one of five vice-presidents on the last day of the party's 12th national congress on the Mediterranean coast means she will have a seat on the nine-member executive bureau for the next three years. Supporters of the 34 year-old lawyer, who leads an internal youth-oriented movement called Le Pen Generations, were also named to the 50-member political bureau, in a further sign of her growing influence in the anti-immigration party. However the Nice congress also revealed the extent of opposition within the FN to the hereditary principle, with the man till now seen as Le Pen's heir apparent -- 53 year-old Bruno Gollnisch -- remaining the firm favourite of the older generation of party apparatchiks. In the wings of the congress, many delegates bemoaned Marine Le Pen's nomination -- two days after Jean-Marie Le Pen was re-elected as party leader -- saying that it went against "the meritocratic tradition of the FN".

    Elections Sunday to the FN's central committee, in which delegates voted Marine Le Pen down from 10th place to 34th on the list, reflected the deep resentment among the old guard at her high media profile and the growing assumption that she will one day take over from her 75 year-old father. At the end of the congress, Le Pen stressed the party's unity, while criticising "some occasionally pitiful movements which happen at congressional meetings". The FN gathering took place exactly a year after Le Pen's triumph in the first round of the presidential elections, in which he beat the Socialist contender and prime minister Lionel Jospin into third place -- only to be trounced following a mass public mobilization and street demonstrations by President Jacques Chirac two weeks later. The far-right party also came up empty in parliamentary elections in June, and its sights are now focussed on regional polls next year in which Le Pen is hoping to take the presidency of the FN's heartland in Provence-Alpes-Cote D'Azur. He has set his sights again on the presidency in 2007. Le Pen sought to play down disputes over his succession, saying he planned to keep going till he was 95, but the question is becoming increasingly pressing as his daughter seeks to rebrand the party in a way not always appreciated by veterans.

    Blond, articulate and telegenic, Marine Le Pen makes no secret of her determination to broaden the party's appeal to younger people and women, and to lessen its dependence on the "ringards" -- a French word meaning old-fashioned reactionaries. "(The election of) April 21 was like a switch. It made people see that we can be a party of government... The job now is to normalise the party. It had to be the way it was -- but now it's matured," she said in a recent interview. Polls show that the extreme-right party has gradually lost support over the last year, but experts said that Marine Le Pen is well-placed to expand the party's support into new areas. "Deploying Marine could remove one of the main hindrances blocking the growth of the FN vote - the reticence towards it of French women," said Nonna Meyer, an expert in the FN at the Centre for the Study of French Political Life in Paris. "She offers an image of the far right which is softer, more respectable, more of a vote-winner."
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    At least 50 illegal immigrants who occupied a theater in the heart of Paris Saturday to demand French residency permits and protest against police round-ups left the building peacefully. The mostly African and Turkish immigrants departed after negotiating with deputy mayor Christophe Girard. Girard told AFP that the protestors agreed to leave after he arranged a meeting with the office of Paris police chief Pierre Lyauto and promised that their problem would be dealt with by the Parisian authorities next week. The protestors were accompanied to a nearby metro station by police. Between 100 and 200 other protesters had gathered outside the Theatre de la Ville near Notre Dame cathedral earlier in the evening, blocking traffic, to support the immigrants inside. Riot police removed those protesters, who had stopped traffic. Immigrants' rights groups frequently stage occupations of buildings in France, though they often target churches, to draw attention to their situation. Conservative French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has made cracking down on illegal immigration central to his political program.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    All applicants for tourist visas to visit France will be fingerprinted under measures approved by the French cabinet on Wednesday. The plan is part of a clampdown on illegal immigration spearheaded by French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. More than 7,000 people have already been deported this year, Mr Sarkozy has announced. Other measures include a five-year wait for residency papers - up from the current three, a requirement for applicants to prove their "integration" into French society, and the systematic expulsion of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants.

    Immigration plans:

  • Fingerprinting of all tourist visa applicants
  • Five-year wait for residency papers - up from three
  • Requirement to prove "integration" including knowledge of French
  • Illegal immigrants can be held for 32 days instead of 12
  • Two years' marriage to gain residency - up from one
  • Easing of deportation rules after jail terms

    Mr Sarkozy's plan was accepted by the French cabinet on Wednesday, and now goes to parliament for approval. "If you have your papers you are welcome in France. If you have false papers, or if you have no papers, you will be accompanied to your country of origin," Mr Sarkozy said after the meeting. "It shows that one can be at the same time firm and just. Indeed one is firm because one is just," he said. President Jacques Chirac welcomed the plan, praising its "firmness and humanity". "It will give France the judicial authority to take to the border foreigners who don't have the right to reside on the national soil," he said, quoted by government spokesman Jean-Jacques Cope. Mr Chirac's right-wing government has focused heavily on law and order as well as combating illegal immigration since his re-election last year. The fingerprinting rule would not apply to European Union, US or Japanese citizens who do not need a visa to enter France. All tourist visa applicants visiting French consulates abroad would have to give their fingerprints, which would be stored in a data bank in Paris. The three-month tourist visas were "patently used for illegal immigration," Mr Sarkozy told Le Figaro newspaper. "Nearly 80% of people found without papers came to France on a three-month tourist visa," Mr Sarkozy told the paper. "Once on our territory they tear up their papers, or lose them, and thus become impossible to expel because no one can tell where they are from." Mr Sarkozy wants to deport between 20,000 and 30,000 illegal immigrants every year - roughly the number entering France every year.

    Immigrants 'weakened'
    Some human rights groups and opposition politicians said the bill would victimise foreigners living in France. They welcomed plans to abolish the so-called "double penalty" under which immigrants jailed in France can be deported after serving out their sentences even if they have dependents in France. But Green Party leader Noel Mamere said that while there was a need to combat illegal immigration, it should not be at the expense of human rights. "The problem is to limit this immigration, but in conditions that don't turn the foreigner into an undesirable," Mr Mamere told French television. The plan would "weaken" the position of immigrants, he said. The government has denied that its proposals are too harsh. "The government wants to restore a serene approach to immigration, with a generous welcome of immigrants - especially victims of persecution - and the strengthening of the fight against illegal immigration rings," the text of the plan said.
    ©BBC News

    France needs a new law to reassert secular values in its state schools against growing radical Islamic trends among Muslim pupils and a related rise in anti-Semitism, Education Minister Luc Ferry said on Tuesday. Ferry said France, home to Europe's largest Muslim and Jewish minorities, faced unprecedented challenges from a new anti-Semitism fed by Muslim radicals rather than far-right bigots who traditionally supported anti-Jewish views. His announcement came amid a renewed debate over Islam in France sparked by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who was booed at the weekend when he told a large Muslim gathering that women must remove headscarves for identity card photographs. 'Secularism faces new challenges today, especially that of 'communitarism''

    Fundamentalist leaders, reflecting a growing Muslim identity that Ferry said threatened France's secular school system, compared the "no-veil" rule to the yellow star the Nazis forced Jews to wear and vowed to campaign to have it changed. "We have to reaffirm very strongly the principles of republican secularism against the rise of 'communitarism', racism and anti-Semitism," Ferry told Europe 1 radio. "That requires a new law," he said, adding he would introduce one next year. "Secularism faces new challenges today, especially that of 'communitarism'," he said, using the French term for US-style ethnic group politics that runs counter to France's vision of a colour-blind society united by shared political values. Some French Muslims have increasingly challenged this "one-size-fits-all" outlook, arguing for example that they deserve exceptions from the strict rules that bar girls from wearing traditional Muslim headscarves in school. Ferry said he had recently met principals of about 100 high schools considered among the toughest in France - many located in slums with high Muslim populations - and all told him he had to reassert authority and defend secular values.

    After years of trying to organise an umbrella group for its diverse Muslim communities, France got a surprise when elections held for it this month saw the fundamentalist Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF) emerging as the second-strongest Islamic group. France, a traditionally Roman Catholic country of 60 million, has about five million Muslims and 600 000 Jews. Many Muslims are born in France to families of north African origin. They have full citizenship but many feel shut out of mainstream society, a situation that feeds Islamic radicalism. Ferry said anti-Semitism, which official reports say grew sharply last year, was spreading because of growing Islamic radicalism and the lax attitude of left-wing teachers who openly sympathised with the Palestinians against Israel. "There is such leniency towards the Palestinian cause that they tolerate anti-Semitic insults not for the motives that inspire the far right" but out of sympathy for victims, he said.

    UOIF head Abdallah Ben Mansour responded to Sarkozy's comments on Muslim veils by recalling Nazi laws against Jews. "A law forced Jews to wear a yellow star, and it was overturned," he told a UOIF rally in a northern Paris suburb on Saturday. "As long as the law bans the veil, we will respect it, but we will demand that it is changed." The headscarf debate has come to symbolise the issue of Muslim integration in France, where many officials say a 1905 law separating church and state means no religious symbols of any kind can be worn in public establishments like schools.

    The angry reaction to remarks made at the weekend by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has reignited the long-standing debate in France over whether Muslim females should be allowed to wear headscarves in schools and other public places. Speaking Saturday evening before an audience of around 10,000 conservative Muslims in a Paris suburb Sarkozy received boos and cat-calls when he said all women are obliged to remove their head covering when they pose for identity photographs. "The law says that on the photo for identity cards the person must be bare-headed, whether it is a man or a woman .... There is no reason why Muslim women should not respect this," the minister told the meeting of the Union of Islamic Organisations in France (UOIF). Traditionalist Muslims believe that the Koran instructs women to keep their heads covered when outside the precincts of the immediate family, and they view France's determination to impose its secular values on them as a religious affront.

    Tension only increased Saturday when the UOIF's secretary-general Abdallah Ben Mansour -- while insisting Muslims were bound to obey national law -- said they should also work to change it, reminding the audience that "the law imposing the yellow star on the Jews was in the end suppressed." Sarkozy was applauded across the political spectrum for his courage in preaching the message of secularism to some of its firmest opponents, though some also urged him to take tougher action against what they fear is the growing influence of conservative Islam in France. The UOIF, which is aligned with the traditionalist movement the Muslim Brotherhood, emerged in elections last week as a powerful force within France's first ever officially-recognised national Islamic body -- the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM). Some fear that in trying to set up a permanent line of contact with France's five million Muslims, Sarkozy has accorded too much power to the UOIF and similar-minded groups at the expense of those liberals who want to see develop in France a modern and indigenous form of Islam.

    The tension is starting to focus around the question of the headscarf, which for the last 15 years has provided a succession of bitterly-fought legal cases without ever being fully resolved. Progressives are urging Sarkozy to take a clear stand by outlawing the headscarf in schools and thus removing the ambiguity that has prevailed since the first legal ruling in 1989. Conservative Muslims are equally opposed, arguing that any new law would be an assault on their freedom of religion. The confusion over the status of headscarves owes much to the 1989 decision by the state council -- France's highest administrative court -- which said that the wearing of signs intended to show a pupil's membership of a religion was not necessarily a breach of the basic principle of secularism. Islamic headscarves only warranted a girl's exclusion from school if they were worn "in a way that is ostentatious or demonstrative," or if they obstructed the process of learning, the state council said. The resulting uncertainty has led to a succession of legal claims and counter-claims, most recently last month in the southeastern city of Lyon. Around 100 girls have been excluded from schools for wearing headscarves since 1994, but in half the cases courts subsequently overturned the decision.
    ©The Tocqueville Connection

    The wife of the parliamentary speaker in Turkey has decided not to attend one of his official receptions because of a row over her wearing an Islamic-style headscarf. Earlier, Turkey's powerful military, the president and also several opposition figures - who consider themselves guardians of the secular republic - warned that they would boycott the event if she attended in a headscarf. The speaker, Bulent Arinc, said Turkey did not need the issue turning into a crisis, adding that "it was extremely saddening that my wife has become the focal point of this debate". Secular regulations in Turkey - an overwhelmingly Muslim country - ban women from wearing headscarves in public buildings. But the BBC's Jonny Dymond in Istanbul says that for many Turks the issue is irrelevant, and has been blown out of proportion by both sides of the debate over the role of religion in public life.

    'Battle for Turkey'
    The row broke out as Mr Arinc was preparing to host a reception marking the 83rd anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Parliament. He announced that his wife would not attend the function in order to avoid further tension on the issue. "No-one would benefit from bringing an issue to a point of tension and then carrying Turkey from this tension to a crisis," Mr Arinc said. Our correspondent says that for the devout and the strictly secular the issue has become a symbol of the wider battle over what kind of state Turkey should be. The military have already warned the governing Islamist Justice and Development Party against changing the strict regulations on the wearing of headscarves in universities. Our correspondent says the row is a fresh warning by Turkey's establishment to a government that has been less than sure-footed in recent months. He says that there are lines that no government - whatever its majority - can cross.
    ©BBC News

    The Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD), in a new evaluation report on the situation of human rights in Turkey covering last three months, said: "There are no positive developments in the implementation of human rights during the term between January and March 2003." "We had to take the fact of torture in this report as it has been previously. Unfortunately, we can not observe any progress in this field. Again in the field of freedom of expression, we observe that public prosecutors and judges do not interpret the codes in favor of freedom," the IHD added.

    Data of the IHD's report:
    183 people were subject to torture and ill treatment in detention during this period. The number of people who were beaten and injured by security forces in demonstrations is 73. 33 people were subject to torture and degrading treatment in prisons. 50 people were threatened and forced to be reporter. 53 people were subject to torture and ill treatment in their houses or streets. Thus, the total number of people who were subject to torture and ill treatment in different places and times reached 392.

    A new category in our report is concerned about the violence against women and children. In this frame, women suicide and honor killings persist. We were able to identify 11 suicide and 5 honor killings, because it is too difficult to document the facts in this field. Two trials have continued about sexual exploitation on women and especially girls. The N.Ç.(13) trial in Mardin and Z.T.(14) trial (also named second N.Ç. trial) reflect only a small part of sexual exploitation on women and girls. The headquarters of the Human Rights Association is determined to monitor these trials and fight against violation and sexual exploitation faced by women and children.

    Human Rights Association also began to observe proceedings against torture perpetrators. In this frame, a fact-finding study on impunity of the torture perpetrators have been carried on and will be presented to the public opinion soon.

    Freedom of Expression
    The situation in the freedom of expression is not cheering. The approaches of various administrative authorities and judicial functions to the freedom of expression are appears as follows:
    4 radios and 1 local television were suspended 180 days from broadcasting by the High Council for Radio and Televisions (RTUK). 6 newspapers and journals were closed 79 days. 9 journalists were taken under detention. 7 books, 17 journals, 7 newspapers and 3 posters were confiscated and banned.
    The number of banned activities is 11. These activities include press release, theatre, panel and competition.

    The number of individuals who are demanded imprisonment and fine as they expressed their thoughts is 50. Penal suits were launched against 23 people out of 50 on the grounds of the Article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code, 5 people on the grounds of the Anti-Terror Law, 3 people on the grounds of the Article 312 of the TPC, 19 people on the grounds of the Article 169 of the TPC. 35 people were prosecuted to 46 years, 9 months and 7 days imprisonment in this term.

    During the period of reporting, amendments were made in following 15 laws relating to the human rights and freedoms. Laws No: 4778, 4779, 4780, 4787, 4789, 4793, 4806, 4809, 4810, 4817, 4826, 4829, 4838, 4841 and 4842. We will present our technical evaluation on these amendments as a report in following days. However, we can immediately say that, the constitutional and legal system of Turkey can not be democratic with such partly amendments which involve mostly changing the same article in several times. Turkey's constitution and legal system need a radical democratic change and transformation. The society of Turkey also expects this change from the political power. The changes to response the and freedoms.

    As a human rights organization, we are sorry for that the political power of Turkey use our people's human rights and freedoms as an element for bargaining with the EU. Therefore, we invite the political and bureaucratic staffs to respect to the human rights and freedoms. We call them to leave their bargaining attitudes.

    We warn the political power because of its practice at the last three months. The protection of human rights and basic freedoms requires the maximum responsibility and determination. First of all, all the institutions of the State and their staffs should respect the human rights.

    The ones who have been reported in the 3 monthly balance sheet are human beings. The story of trauma which was experienced by each covers books. These traumas are too deep that can not be regarded as a tool for internal or external politics. (IHD, April 23, 2003) ©Info Turk

    Officials in Chechnya's Moscow-backed administration accused both Russian soldiers and Chechen police on Thursday of involvement in a wave of civilian disappearances that have belied the Kremlin's claims that normality is returning to the war-shattered region. Rudnik Dudayev, the chief of Chechnya's Security Council, called a meeting to discuss the disappearances. Of all the military and law enforcement officials invited, only newly appointed Chechen Interior Minister Ali Alkhanov attended. "By ignoring the meeting, they have shown their attitude to civil power," Dudayev said. Some 215 people have been illegally detained or kidnapped in Chechnya since the beginning of the year, Dudayev said. He noted that 46 of the cases had occurred since last month's constitutional referendum, which the Kremlin and its loyalists have presented as a key step toward peace. "The overwhelming majority of these people are law-abiding citizens," Dudayev was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. He placed the most blame on Russian servicemen, "who enter populated areas at night in armored vehicles whose license plates are covered with paint and take people without identifying themselves and without saying where they are taking them," Interfax reported. However, he said that the Chechen police force also was at fault for "not preventing illegal detentions, whether by bandits or the military." The rising incidence of disappearances "reduces the efforts made by the republic's administration to achieve stability to nothing," Dudayev said. Alkhanov complained that neither he nor the local administration heads were informed in advance of military sweeps for rebels and their collaborators. "A mechanism must be worked out against this lawlessness," he told the meeting.

    Interfax quoted Shamil Burayev, the administration head in the Achkhoi-Martan district, as saying the Russian forces would not have to conduct the sweeps if the Chechen police were doing their job and apprehending criminals. Two other administration heads, from the Kurchaloi district and the Staropromyslovsky neighborhood in the capital Grozny, said the police themselves were in on the disappearances. "Why are the streets full of cars without license plates and with darkened windows, in which policemen are sitting?," Kurchaloi head Makkal Taramov was quoted as saying. Four Russian soldiers were killed and nine injured in rebel attacks across Chechnya over the past 24 hours, said a Chechen government official who spoke on condition of anonymity. One Chechen policeman was killed and three others were killed in shootouts with rebels, he said. In the neighboring Russian republic of Ingushetia, police detained three Chechens and confiscated 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of the explosive hexogen and two guns they had in their car, Interfax-Military News reported.

    Chechnya has seen two wars in the last decade. The 1994-96 conflict ended when Russian troops pulled out after a 20-month campaign, leaving the republic de facto independent. Russian forces returned in 1999, following rebel incursions into a neighboring region and a series of deadly apartment house bombings in Russia blamed on Chechen fighters.
    ©Russia Journal

    The number of crimes committed in Slovakia grew by nearly 14,500 in 2002 from the previous year, including an increase in murders, racial violence, and corruption crimes, prompting the Interior Ministry to declare a decline in society's moral values. According to a report on the security situation in Slovakia recently published by the ministry, 107,373 crimes were committed in 2002, with total damages assessed at Sk28.8 billion ( 689 million). In light of the rising crime figures, the Interior Ministry has proposed a list of priorities for the police force to address this year. Apart from a continued effort to be "tough on crime" - the motto of Interior Minister Vladimír Palko - authorities plan to reform the police force to eliminate excessive bureaucracy in favour of sending more officers out onto the streets. Observers agree that communication with citizens also needs to be improved in order to regain the public's trust in the police, which has been lost in recent years. The ministry's report states that in 2002 "the security situation was characterised by growing violence, corrupt behaviour, and a continuing decline of moral values". "Disrespect for laws and their purposeful misapplication by society's elite was reflected in the attitudes and actions of other social strata. These phenomena have led to an increase in violent, property, and economic crimes," the report says.

    Racially motivated crimes nearly trebled from 2001 to 2002, rising to 109 last year, leading the Interior Ministry to note that such crimes "are an increasingly present threat to the [positive] development of the security situation." "The reason for this is a growing group of repeat youth offenders inclined to racially intolerant behaviour," states the report. The report specifies that in 2002 racial attacks were primarily directed against the Roma and people of African and Asian descent. It is estimated that there are about 5,000 right-wing extremists in Slovakia. Last year representatives from the Interior Ministry, NGOs, the police, investigators, and other bodies involved in addressing racial violence formed a commission that meets regularly to discuss the most acute problems in the sphere and sets out long-term plans to prevent racial violence. Around 15,000 gun-related crimes and 128 murders took place in Slovakia in 2002. The country also recorded 10 cases that involved bombs, and 235 cases of arson. These were most frequently linked to other crimes such as blackmail, racketeering, and threatening or eliminating competitors, the report states.

    Property crimes grew by 3,500 to a total of 57,543 cases, causing damages of over Sk3 billion ( 73 million). As many as 14,448 economic crimes were committed in Slovakia last year, racking up losses of Sk24.6 billion ( 600 million). Most of these were fraud-related, and many were linked to the 139 bribery cases recorded. Robert Kalinák, head of the parliamentary security committee, told The Slovak Spectator that more effective law enforcement and more officers on the streets would help curb the country's escalating crime rate. "In general, the security situation is not satisfactory. As the [Slovak] saying goes, 'Opportunity makes a thief'. Because officers are often not out on the streets, the rule of law is not felt as an immediate threat to offenders," Kalinák said. "Police are overwhelmed by lots of administrative tasks instead of being in the streets," he added. Reforming the police so that excessive bureaucracy is eliminated is among the Interior Ministry's top priorities for 2003. Interviews with citizens and various opinion polls have shown that people would feel safer if more officers were on the streets. "They should be out and at hand when people need them. That would make everyone feel more safe. Minister [Palko] should make sure that happens soon," said Pavel T., 63, a resident of Brati citizens' cooperation, our work would be very difficult."
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    The Interior Ministry confirmed that a leader of Slovakia's right-wing extremists has been taken into custody and charged with promoting fascism. Interior Ministry spokesman Boris A altovic told the daily Národná Obroda that a resident of the eastern city of Košice, Igor Mi ák, the alleged founder of a Slovak branch of an international extremist movement called Blood and Honor, was recently arrested in the neighbouring Prešov region. In Mi ák's car police found a number of T-shirts with racist motifs. More T-shirts and printed material promoting fascism were later discovered during a search of the man's flat. Mi ák, who is also accused of producing racist websites, was wanted by police for several years and was also reported to have been followed by the country's secret service. Anti-racism activists welcomed the arrest. Ladislav Durkovic from People against Racism NGO said: "At last the police have taken a step that should later have an impact on dozens of members of Slovakia's neo-nazi elite. We think this is a positive step, but at the same time we point out that this [arrest] commits the police to continue in this vein."
    ©The Slovak Spectator

    Terje Sjoelie, former leader of the Norwegian neo-Nazi group "Boot Boys," is among four men charged in the robbery of money couriers inside a bank in Oslo last week. Sjoelie denies having anything to do with the heist. Sjoelie, age 28, was arrested over the weekend, four days after money couriers for Nordea Bank were held up inside Nordea's Gruenerloekka branch in Oslo. The robbery was dramatic, occurring in broad daylight with all the assailants masked and fleeing in a getaway car with cash later estimated to amount to NOK 3 million (about USD 420,000). A bicycling passerby was injured after being hit by the robbers' car. Police also have arrested Trond Ron Jarle Horge, known as one of Norway's most notorious bank robbers, according to newspaper VG. Two others, including a 23-year-old neo-Nazi earlier convicted of assault, are also being held. All four were arrested at various locations on Saturday. They faced custody hearings on Monday. Police also have found and seized the couriers' money bags, the cash contained in them and several weapons. Police are not ruling out that more suspects were involved in the heist. Both Sjoelie and Horgen are currently serving prison time for armed robberies, but had been released on leave. Sjoelie has been attending classes at a local business school.

    Spain's interior Ministry plans to recruit ordinary civilians into a network of snoopers to denounce suspected illegal immigrants to the police. Opposition politicians have condemned the scheme, announced this week, as "absurd" and "doomed to failure". The ministry wants to create "a network of alert and social denunciation" in which individuals and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will be urged to participate. Neighbourhood watch committees would "detect new cases of irregular immigrants" and hand over details of those without identity papers to the authorities. The proposed "alert network" carries uncomfortable echoes of Franco's dictatorship, when Spaniards went in terror of being denounced by soplones, or police spies. Ministry sources say the scheme to "fight illegal immigration" was approved at the request of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The NGO's boss, Brunson McKinley, signed the plan with the government's immigration advisor, Jaime Ignacio Gonzalez, on Tuesday.

    Consuelo Rumi, the opposition Socialists' immigration spokeswoman, has tabled 15 parliamentary questions about the move, one of which is whether "such networks have any precedent in democratic countries?" Ms Rumi said: "My party has condemned similar activities in other countries. We don't like such practices for political dissidents or for immigrants. The government gives the impression of trying to contract an organisation to do the job it should be doing itself." Carles Campuzano, a spokesman for the Catalan Nationalist Convergence and Union (CiU) party, called for Mr Gonzalez to explain the plan in parliament and called it absurd and "doomed to failure". The CiU has also put down a battery of questions over the scope of the deal with the IOM. Statistics show there are about 500,000 illegal immigrants in Spain but officials reckon there could be twice as many. As well as deporting illegal immigrants, the plan also seeks to finance voluntary repatriation by taking money from a Labour Ministry body best known for organising cheap holidays for the elderly. The United Left party criticised the plan for intensifying harassment of immigrants. "The government offers nothing but repressive measures to half a million immigrants," it said.
    © Independent Digital

    In a squalid tenement that reeks of garbage, up a dark staircase flanked by graffiti, the Muslims in the center of this teeming European capital find a place to pray. The layout of the apartment does not really work: Only the first few dozen people who arrive for a prayer service get spots with a view of the imam. The rest end up around a corner or on the opposite side of a wall from him, and merely hear his voice. But at the end of the service, they drop coins into a plastic bucket, readily contributing to the $700-a-month rent for their wretched haven. "It's really bad here," Wajahat Athar said after the 2 p.m. service Friday, when Muslims typically visit mosques to pray in groups. "But if we want to pray together, we have no other choice," said Athar, 29, a Pakistani immigrant.

    Unlike perhaps any other European city of a comparable size, Athens has yet to establish even one proper mosque for its growing population of Muslim immigrants, who cram instead into makeshift spaces that barely make do. That was supposed to be remedied, or on its way to being remedied, by now. Nearly two years ago, the Parliament authorized a mosque for Athens, and Greek government officials pledged to help bring one into existence. But ground has not been broken and considerable discord dogs the project, prompting doubts among Muslims here about whether it will come to be. On Wednesday, local officials in Paeania, a suburb of Athens that was chosen for the mosque, will meet to try to block the plan. The plan was a response to earlier objections by the Greek Orthodox Church to a mosque within Athens itself. "The people are not yet ready for accepting the sight of a minaret in the center of a Christian Orthodox country," said Bishop Epifanios Economou, a spokesman for the church, in a telephone interview. An overwhelming majority of Greeks belong to the church, which wields considerable political clout. The lack of progress on the mosque reflects the difficulties that Greece, a country of emigrants until the last few decades, is having as it adjusts to newcomers in general and Muslims in particular.

    At least 1 million of the roughly 11 million people in Greece today were born elsewhere. Most of these immigrants live around Athens, and by conservative estimates at least 100,000 are Muslims from Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries. Their presence taps into certain resentments among Greeks, who associate Islam with Turkey and with centuries of domination by the Ottoman Empire. According to Muslim leaders here, no mosque has operated in the Athens area since Greece gained independence in the 1830s. "We're enemies with the Turks, and that shadow hangs over Muslims," said Olga Tsakiridi, a professor here who is not Muslim but works with a Muslim advocacy group. "It's a special kind of racism," she said, adding that it survived in a country where impassioned critics of the war in Iraq often claimed that the United States was persecuting Muslims. Muslims in Greece note that there are Roman Catholic and Protestant churches in Athens, and they say that the choice of Paeania for the proposed mosque is a clear-cut example of discrimination. "Are you aware, geographically, of where this mosque will be built?" asked Panayote Dimitras, spokesman for the Greek branch of Helsinki Monitor, a human rights group. "Near the airport." "Are you aware of where most Muslims live in Athens?" Dimitras continued. "Downtown." "If you were to take your car and drive leisurely when there's no traffic, it would take half an hour to reach it," he said. "But if you tried at midday Friday, which is around prayer time, it would take an hour."

    In Greece, a place of worship cannot be established without permission from the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, which signed off on the Paeania plan. A spokesman for that ministry referred a reporter to the Foreign Ministry, where windows. "We want just one suitable place in the center of the city," Samir Kadhum, 30, an Iraqi immigrant, said as he left the service. "Just one."
    ©International Herald Tribune

    In my part-time job last summer I used to fill petrol for a couple who had come to Ireland from Nigeria. One evening I noticed a garda looking at them rather strangely. He signalled to me to join him and proceeded to quiz me about the couple. "Where are they living?" Where are they from?" and, most startling of all, "Are you sure they're paying up?" Shaken, I promptly informed him that I didn't know them and that, yes, they were paying up. Prejudice is not uncommon among our Guardians of the Peace. It is estimated that the gardaí are responsible for about 155 cases of racial abuse annually. Racism in Ireland manifests itself everywhere from teachers to bus drivers and from judges to officers of the law. Why would well-educated pillars of our society even think to act in such a way? Until about ten years ago there was a social norm to which everyone conformed. Most of the population appeared to be white, Catholic and heterosexual. Anyone who didn't conform to this norm at the time was viewed as either a pariah or a novelty. The strength of our economy in recent years has meant that Irish people have acquired a new, almost snobbish sense of pride. We now consider ourselves above menial jobs. Employers fill the gap with foreign workers keen to share our prosperity. The country has never seen the likes of it before. We are a nation of habit and routine this is why new cultures and different races are a shock to the system. I believe the best solutions to Ireland's racial divide would be a steady programme of education and, above all, time. We need to get used to our new state and continue the resourceful anti-racism campaigns undertaken in recent times by the Government.
    Shane Heneghan, Deerpark, Headford, Co Galway.
    ©Irish Examiner

    Racial discrimination in the workplace is pervasive in Switzerland, according to a study released ahead of labour day. The study, commissioned by the Federal Service for Combating Racism, found that racial discrimination was present in all aspects of work, from job-seeking to promotion prospects and salaries. Now the agency wants employers, politicians and workers themselves to come up with ways of combating workplace discrimination. At a day-long conference to discuss the issue this week, the government announced SFr15 million ($11 million) in funding for projects aimed at raising awareness of discrimination and finding ways of eliminating it. The conference brought together 150 representatives from industry, the trade unions, the government, and workers' rights groups.

    Awareness is crucial
    Michele Galizia, head of the Federal Service for Combating Racism, said a first step towards tackling discrimination would be for the general public to accept that it exists. "One quarter of all workers in Switzerland are foreign," Galizia told swissinfo, "And we have more and more young people who were born in Switzerland but who are of foreign descent. These people do suffer discrimination. "If we compare salaries, for example, we can see that people from central and eastern Europe earn 20 per cent less than Swiss people, and people from Africa earn 42 per cent less. At least some of this difference is due to discrimination." Switzerland does not have a law which specifically prohibits discrimination in the workplace, although it does have a constitutional amendment proscribing racism in the public domain, such as in books, newspapers, or classrooms. "Practically there is no legal way for workers in Switzerland to defend themselves against discrimination," said Galizia. "Someone who feels he or she is a victim of racial discrimination should be able to find help."

    From November, all European Union countries will have to comply with a directive forbidding workplace discrimination. Switzerland, however, which is not a member of the EU, will not be affected. But the consensus in Switzerland seems to be that legislation is not really the answer to combating discrimination. Employers and the government favour voluntary partnerships between management, unions and advice groups. "If you make a new law you haven't changed reality," said Jean-Luc Nordmann of the Swiss Economics Ministry. "You have to start from the basics: in schools, for example, that's the way to change society." Nordmann suggested that holding up examples of successful foreigners in Switzerland, such as members of Basel's football team, would be one good way to challenge negative perceptions of foreign workers.

    No easy answer
    His view was echoed by Pierre Triponez of the Swiss Association for Small and Medium Businesses who said that new legislation would be very problematic. "I don't think racial discrimination is such a big problem in small companies anyway," said Triponez. "They simply would not be able to function if they had such things going on. "And I'm not sure it's entirely productive to focus just on racial discrimination like this," Triponez told swissinfo. But this attitude causes frustration among groups like the Swiss Labour Association, which sees it as a way of avoiding any significant action against discrimination.

    Way forward
    Anne Roth-Laurent of the Fribourg branch of the SLA said the desire to tackle the problem through voluntary partnerships between employers and workers would not be enough. "I deal with people every day who have to suffer discrimination," Roth-Laurent told swissinfo. "I actually think a law would be a very good thing. If you say discrimination is forbidden, then people know they can complain if they are victims of it." Laurent is supported by Patrick Taran of the Inte ©NZZ Online

    Following its broadcast of My Big Fat Roma Wedding, which caused outrage amongst the general public and the Roma community, television station tv2 has once again managed to stir up cultural emotions. The Japanese Embassy in Budapest sent a letter of protest to tv2 for the broadcast of a program called Micuko - The World In Slanted Eyes. The show featured a bogus Japanese reporter, Judit Stahl, wearing a black wig and fake goofy teeth, conducting interviews with Hungarian celebrities while talking in a strong "Japanese" accent. In the letter, sent on April 26, the embassy stated that the program had made a mockery of the Japanese people and depicted their culture in an unfavorable light. The embassy expressed its hopes that the main aim of the program had not been to ridicule the Japanese people, but added that the program had managed to do just that. The letter went on to say that such an ironic and exaggerated depiction of Japanese people could have serious effects on economic and cultural relationships. Following a meeting with tv2 program director Lóránd Poich and the First Secretary of the Embassy of Japan, Abe Hiroshi, Poich announced that tv2 would inform viewers that Micuko is just a fictional character. However, Japanese officials refused to accept tv2's offer.

    Poich said that the program's aim had not been to make fun of the Japanese, but rather Hungarian celebrities. He went on to say that, "despite the protest from the embassy, tv2 is going to continue to show Micuko and has no plans to remove it from its schedule". Poich said that it was a licensed program, already shown in Holland, Norway and Belgium. Hiroshi told Hungarian news agency MTI, that although Poich had promised to send him recordings of similar programs shown abroad, nothing had arrived. Officials at the Japanese Embassy refused to make any further comments to The Budapest Sun. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has no authorization to intervene, unless the dispute reaches diplomatic levels, ministry sources said. As punishment for the Roma parody, the National Radio and Television Board ordered tv2 to suspend all its broadcasts for 30 minutes. The black-out occurred on Tuesday, April 15.
    ©The Budapest Sun

    German authorities recognise as national minorities any community whose members are German citizens but who differ from the majority population in their language, culture, history, and identity. Members of a national minority must want to preserve their separate identity, and live in traditional areas of settlement of their respective communities, yet feel traditionally at home in Germany. These five criteria, which constitute an abstract definition of a national minority, have been the subject of discussion at a hearing on the rights of national minorities organised by the Parliamentary Assembly's Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights in Berlin.According to Alfred Hartenbach of the German Ministry of Justice, Danes, Frisians, Sorbs and German Sinti and Roma fulfil the five criteria and therefore enjoy all rights recognised by the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. This Council of Europe convention, together with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages ­ which, in Germany, applies to the languages spoken by the four national minorities as well as to Lower German ­ are the basis for the government's policy and action in this domain, he said.

    In the debate many of the committee's members focused on the status of immigrant communities which, in most European countries, including Germany, do not enjoy the rights recognised under these two key Council of Europe instruments. It was pointed out that these communities are often more numerous than the national minorities recognised under the convention. Mark Lattimer of the Minority Rights Group, a UK-based NGO, pointed out that, according to Article 1 of the Framework Convention, minority rights were a part of human rights. He therefore spoke out against any additional restrictions on the application of the Framework Convention which was, in itself, already "very tightly constrained" he said. He welcomed the proposal made by the committee's rapporteur on national minorities, Boriss Cilevics, to give the European Court of Human Rights the power to issue advisory opinions on the interpretation of the Framework Convention. The involvement of the Court could help to clarify the issue of definition of a national minority, he said. So far, governments had failed to agree on a definition, and the right to define national minorities to which the Framework Convention should apply is left to the contracting parties. According to Mark Lattimer, such national definitions may often be subjective and excessively restrictive. He said it was also regrettable that some founding members of the European Union, such as France, Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as Greece - which is currently chairing the European Union - had not yet ratified the Framework Convention.
    ©Council of Europe

    German TV is to make its own version of the BBC series Great Britons - but will not allow viewers to vote for Hitler or any of his Nazi entourage. German public broadcaster ZDF will produce the series Unsere Besten (Our Best) in partnership with BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the corporation that sold the programme format. In the UK, the public were allowed to nominate who they liked in the BBC Two series which ran for several weeks in 2002. The overall winner, Sir Winston Churchill, nominated by former minister Mo Mowlam, was finally chosen from a list of the most popular 100 nominees. In Germany, the voting procedure has been modified to stop Hitler or any his followers being included. A panel of experts will nominate 250 people. The public will then be invited to chose 50 more before the final voting begins. "The concept could not have found a better home in Germany," said Mark Young of BBC Worldwide. "It will be a very exciting show, if you only think of all the strong candidates: Goethe, Bach, Luther, or perhaps Marx, or Gottlieb Daimler or even Franz Beckenbauer?"

    Ratings hit
    Walter Hellebrand of BBC Worldwide added that the competition would also be very open as to who qualified as being German. "ZDF seems to be defining German in a very loose way," Mr Hellebrand told BBC News Online. "Hitler was an Austrian, but then so was Mozart and Einstein was born in Switzerland. "But to the outside world everyone perceives them as Germans, even the Germans themselves." Sir Winston Churchill was named the greatest Briton of all time after weeks of heated debate. The top 10 Britons were advocated by current well-known Britons, who stated their candidate's case in a series of one-off TV programmes. Sir Winston won with 447,423 votes, beating his nearest rival, engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, by more than 56,000 votes. The widespread interest in the series was reflected by high ratings, with the final attracting more than three million viewers.
    ©BBC News

    A report concerning the respect of fundamental rights in the EU in 2002, presented Thursday in the European Parliament Citizen's Freedoms Committee, finds that a dark cloud hangs over many European countries. This is particularly true regarding the treatment of asylum-seekers in EU member states and the situation in many European prisons - sparking protests from Amnesty International, which has called for a greater accountability at an EU-level for the observance of human rights in EU countries. The public hearing on Thursday also involved the participation of NGOs and National Parliaments. The report will be adopted by MEPs in the plenary session of the Parliament next September. This is the third time that the EU Parliament has organised such hearings with the National parliaments on the prickly subject, together with the presentation of such a damning report. The document is based on the structure of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and covers a range of issues. This year's rapporteur, Fodé Sylla, touches upon the issues of respect of dignity, guarantees of liberty, equality, solidarity, European citizenship and access to justice, all enforced by the Charter.

    Abuse on fighting terrorism
    While speaking of dignity, Mr Sylla also refers to the fight against terrorism and exposes incidents of abuse occurring in member states when dealing with terrorist suspects. The disproportional use of force by the police in some member states and the overpopulation of prisons are also highlighted. To these arguments, The Human Rights Watch representative in the debate also added the poor condition - whilst being detained - of ‘third country' nationals suspected of crimes and their extradition to unsafe home countries. The Human Rights Watch deplored the current EU trend which is fighting terrorism by making restrictions on asylum policy.

    Restricted liberties
    Yet the right of seeking asylum in the EU is somehow improving, the report says, but together with the accelerated legal procedures, there are also a number of violent and sometimes fatal expulsions. Here, the rapporteur pointed to cases of collective deportations forbidden by Article 19 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. For the International Federation of Human Rights, intervening in the debate, the EU too often confuses the concepts of asylum and illegal immigration, sometimes treating asylum seekers like criminals, say its experts.

    Finally, examples of racism and xenophobia are still present today in Europe. The phenomena have increased in 2002 particularly towards the Islamic and Jewish communities. Also, the treatment of minority Roma groups continues to cause concern regarding access to work, education and public services. Gender equality is also far from being reached, the report says, as women having the same skills and education level as men continue to be paid less.

    Greater accountability
    Amnesty International addressed the hearing with the concern that the EU exercises double-standards on human rights. This is the case when the EU demands non-EU countries to address their human rights violations but remains silent regarding incidents on its own territory.

    In his address to the European Parliament Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Alvaro Gil-Robles stressed that many problems now existed regarding the observance of human rights in the EU member States. Conditions of imprisonment, tardiness of justice, police brutality, discrimination affecting minorities of every kind - particularly the Roma-Gipsy community- in addition to domestic violence and the situation of the elderly and the disabled, were identified as matters of concern demanding a speedy and tangible response.

    The Commissioner also expressed his anxiety over the tendency noted in several member countries to curtail human rights safeguards as part of anti-terrorism measures. He considers that the first thing to suffer from this tendency is the tolerance and the open-minded attitude which ought to distinguish European democratic society. The dangerous error of lumping together foreigners and terrorists which is sometimes committed hardens xenophobic ideas and spoils the chances of building a democratic society founded on respect for fundamental rights and rule of law. It was also emphasised that any renunciation of the human rights values forming the foundation stones of European unification would in itself mean handing a victory to terrorism.

    "Europe's strength lies in its inimitable model of collective safeguards for human rights," the Commissioner pointed out. In his opinion, this model henceforth calls for synergy between the Council of Europe and the European Union. The European Union's ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights as proposed in current work on the Convention would meet the rightful aspirations of Europe's citizens, according to Mr Gil-Robles.
    ©Council of Europe

    The crux of Shaheen Ahmed's angst is the parental desire to protect her children. As Muslims, family members struggle with what they say is a growing demonization of their religion and, by association, of them. Ahmed's three children are U.S. citizens by birth - she is by choice. "I made the choice to come to the United States," the Indian-born Leawood, Mo., resident said. "And now, these children are suffering for it, through no fault of their own." A firefighter once told one of Ahmed's sons that he wished to see the young man's head squashed on the concrete. Federal agents knocked on another son's door for an interview. Her daughter was the only student in a planeload of high schoolers ordered off the flight for a separate body search. "We have become the scapegoats," Ahmed said. "It is a no-win situation." The Ahmed family's experiences and fears are shared by many leaders representing America's 7 million Muslims.

    "In terms of the American Muslim community, it is going to be a real struggle in the future," said Ibrahim Hooper with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based civil rights and advocacy group. "We are one of the few minorities in society that has people actively seeking to marginalize us and disenfranchise us." No hate crimes have occurred locally and relatively few nationally against Muslims or their mosques since the war in Iraq began. For that, law enforcement officials and the Muslim community are both grateful. But it is a tense relief. Many Muslims worry about the aftermath of the war in Iraq. They think more radical sects of the Islamic religion are being ignited toward more American-directed terrorism. That, in turn, will arouse backlash on Muslims in America, they said. "My children say, `Mom, we do not feel like we belong here,'" said Ahmed, who seven years ago founded the Crescent Peace Society to help educate area non-Muslims about Islam.

    Muslims also fear new federally proposed airline security systems that rate passengers based on their chances of being a terrorist. Actions that would make a person a suspect do not seem to matter, many Muslims argue. Simply being a young man, Muslim and olive-skinned is enough to merit intense scrutiny, they say. Federal officials say the community's fears are well-founded. "The truth is, you are a community at risk and we are a society at risk," Tim Daniels, director of Missouri Homeland Security, said at a recent town hall meeting with leaders of Kansas City's Muslim community. Daniels said that while America must be protected from terrorism, the rights and dignity of American Muslims have to be maintained. For Ahmed, the new climate has shattered a closely held belief - the immigrant American dream. Ahmed is a pathologist. Her husband, Iftekhar Ahmed, is a neurologist. "I knew at one point that if I worked really hard and my children went to good schools and if they worked really hard and got good grades, that their future would be really bright," Ahmed said. "But now, we feel insecure and we don't know if our children are safe or not. "It is an emotional trauma," she said. "But you just have to keep defending yourself, defending your children, defending your religion."

    As one of the few practicing Arab-American lawyers in the Kansas City area, Tarak Devkota says business is, regrettably, booming. He said Muslim employees had been told no praying while at work, no speaking Arabic and no Web sites that might show Arabic script. One client was told, "Pick it up, dog," as a boss threw a paycheck on the floor, Devkota said. Devkota is reshaping his career to meet the circumstances, shifting his practice to do more employment discrimination. "As long as the (World Trade Center) towers are fresh in people's minds, the racism will continue," he said. "This is just a really bad time." Nationally, the Muslim community has mounted a campaign to fight their image as terrorists. The Council on In response, Muslims have tended to keep their families somewhat sheltered, distant from Americans, even when they are living in the same neighborhoods. Adil Shabbir has been standing at the back of the auditorium, listening to a recent discussion involving FBI, a Homeland Security official, city police officers and Muslim leaders. Adil is a sophomore at Blue Valley High School. Much of his life is caught up with following collegiate basketball, his roles on the school's soccer and wrestling teams, his work as an Eagle Scout and anticipation of his 16th birthday next month and the driver's license it will bring. But as a Muslim he is attending the session to build bridges between law enforcement and the Islamic community. Throughout the two-hour session, Adil has patiently waited for someone else to raise his question. Finally, as the adults are ready to head home, Adil prods a nearby adult to ask, "How can we prevent things from happening?" The panel begins to relate how to contact officers to report a hate crime. They reiterate that they take such acts seriously, that all efforts will be made to find culprits. No, Adil insists, that is not what he meant. He wants to know how can these things be prevented. "They never did really answer my question," Adil said later. "I want to know how we can prevent them so that we don't have to report them in the first place."
    ©The Kansas City Star

    US senators from the Democratic party have condemned remarks by a Republican senator in which he compared homosexuality to incest and adultery. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee called Senator Rick Santorum's comments, made during an interview earlier this month, "divisive, hurtful and reckless" and "completely out of bounds for someone who is supposed to be a leader in the United States Senate". It called on Republican leaders to remove Mr Santorum from his position as the Republican party's conference chairman. A leading Democratic presidential candidate also said that Mr Santorum, the third-highest ranking Republican in the Senate, should resign. "Gay-bashing is not a legitimate public policy discussion; it is immoral," Howard Dean said in a statement. "Rick Santorum's failure to recognise that attacking people because of who they are is morally wrong makes him unfit for a leadership position in the United States Senate."

    'Individual lifestyles'
    Mr Santorum made the comments during an interview in April, in reference to an upcoming US Supreme Court case on sodomy laws in the US state of Texas. I think that while some elites may be upset by those comments, they're pretty much in the mainstream of where most of the country is Former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer He argued against the altering of the state's current laws, which outlaw homosexual anal sex. "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything," he said. "I have no problem with homosexuality - I have a problem with homosexual acts, as I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships." Mr Santorum later issued a statement saying that his comments had been made purely in the context of the court case and "should not be misconstrued in any way as a statement on individual lifestyles".

    'In the mainstream'
    Nonetheless gay rights activists said that the Republican Party should act on his remarks. "[We are] calling on Republican leaders to take quick and decisive action to repudiate Senator Santorum's remarks," rights group Human Rights Campaign said. But some of Mr Santorum's conservative colleagues in the Republican party have been quick to defend him, arguing that his remarks reflected US public opinion on the subject. "I think that while some elites may be upset by those comments, they're pretty much in the mainstream of where most of the country is," former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer told the Associated Press news agency.
    ©BBC News

    By Kelly Cook , a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences

    This headline hopefully evokes a sense of anger in you, but I can guarantee that if the word Holocaust were replaced by slavery, the reader's reaction would be subdued at best. For years, people have been suggesting that Blacks should just get over the whole slavery thing and move on. In suggesting that Blacks 'get over it,' what people are really implying is that they should act as if nothing ever happened -- to forget about it. A popular way of selling the idea of 'getting over slavery' is to make a comparison between Blacks and Jews. The rhetoric goes something like this: the Jews went through the Holocaust and managed to be prosperous, so why can't Blacks do the same? This juxtaposition is seemingly accurate. Here you have two groups of people who have gone through horiffic experiences and discrimination and yet their outcomes are polar opposites. Although it is often done, it is not safe to assume that the obstacles that Blacks and Jews faced is/was the same. The condition of Blacks and Jews can not be equated, if, for nothing else, the fact that the Holocaust and the enslavement of Africans are two completely different events. One does not gain value by putting one in the context of the other. It's just not right to compare the two because it cheapens and disrespects both events.

    While it is pointless and silly to engage in a tit-for-tat discussion of who's genocidal tragedy was worse, there is some merit in examining the difference in how they are perceived -- particularly by U.S. citizens. In exploring this difference, one can no longer draw a lateral comparison and make such simple statements like "Why can't Blacks stop whining and suck it up like the Jews?" You'd be hard-pressed to hear someone today in the U.S. say, "The Holocaust happened, so get over it." In fact, the sentiment is quite the contrary. The Holocaust is treated with the utmost respect and sensitivity -- as it should be. People are willing to acknowledge it as the crime against humanity that it is. But why aren't people as willing to give the same thought to slavery? Some would say this apathy is a result of racism. But I believe the reason for this callous sentiment is more complex than that. It is not simply people's racism or hatred that allows them to dismiss slavery. Rather, I think the reason is that people don't get it. They don't understand the institution itself much less the tremendous impact slavery had on the lives of Blacks, which is somewhat understandable given the way it is taught in schools.

    People can understand the Holocaust because it is in many ways a more visual, physical tragedy. One can imagine people being shot, put into gas chambers, starved to death, having inhumane medical tests performed on them, being forced out of their homes, having their possessions stolen, and many other despicable crimes. Slavery, however, is less tactile and more difficult to wrap one's brain around. For the most part, many slavery texts tend to focus on an the more physical horrors of slavery like whippings and the frantic escapes through the Underground Railroad rather than other subtle elements that may not be as visible but are just as horiffic.

    At the end of the day, most American school children are left with the image that slavery was a bunch of singing Black people picking cotton with an occasional whipping or chaining here and there. In reality, this is an idealized picture of slavery: the life of a Black person between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries consisted of constant trauma and emotional strain. Imagine being raped on a daily basis or waking up one morning to find that your husband, mother, or child has been sold away and that you'd never see them again -- ever. Slaveholders purposely separated families of Africans who spoke the same language in orde Americans are reluctant to acknowledge it is because slavery happened on American soil. They are constantly dismissing it in efforts to deflect the responsibility onto someone else. Of course Blacks understand that slavery happened years ago, committed by ancestors of White Americans and not today's modern individual citizens. However, this does not excuse the country from acknowledging and taking responsibility for it. Like it or not, slavery was a practice sanctioned by the U.S. government. It's easier to point the finger at someone else than to look at oneself. U.S. citizens can blame Germany for the Holocaust and take on the wide-eyed "we'd never do something like that!" attitude. If one asks a Jewish person about the Holocaust, they're probably not going to say that they have 'gotten over it,' although many would say that Jews have moved on. Moving on, however, doesn't mean ignoring what's happened; rather it means not allowing what's happened to prevent you from living a prosperous life. In the same token, Blacks have moved on from a tragic past in their own way. They have survived, but it is unjust to ask Blacks to simply forget.
    ©The Cornell Daily Sun

    Often, speakers of English as a foreign language go to great lengths to articulate pronunciation. At times, to a point of exaggerated perfection that makes them look rather silly and brainwashed. This attempt at oral precision many times may be unattainable and the result turns out to be irrelevant folly. Why imitate a socio-cultural tradition that turns out to be a mirage to many? While the Queen's language proves to be versatile, malleable, dynamic and a beautiful means of expression, an African can use it to describe emotions, objects, people and nature without becoming "English" in such interpretation. But this does not grant linguists licence for erratic oral phraseology or in writing. This prompted renowned African novelist James Ngugi of Kenya to discard his Christian forename and adopt Ngugi wa Thiongo as an authentic option.

    The Kenyan writer in his novel Devil On the Cross pours so much scorn for people who strive to speak like the English and maintain English names. In the novel Ngugi portrays one such character who has retained the name Rottenborough. Many times intellectual realisation drove some people to see through the futility of imitation. In post independence Zambia, some fashion conscious citizens smeared cooking oil in their hair and ruffled through it with a stone made hot on a charcoal brazier to stretch the hair strands that stood on end. Another East African writer Okot p' bitek lampoons these copy cats and monkey follow fashion cultural parrots who feel everything from the West is best and anything indigenous is inferior. In the 60's, the period that has been classified as the Swinging 60's, most Zambians were at their silly worst in copying the sick culture of the West.

    The idea was to imitate the long hair of foreign pop idols like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones of Britain. This also included imitation of Afro-American hairstyles popularised by these musicians. In contemporary times, socio-cultural imitation has taken diverse forms. Sometimes, families or individuals may adopt a sophisticated lifestyle permissible by financial ability. The sophistry extends to key facets of existence like eating habits, leisure pastime outings that soon turn out to be artificial simulations of reality. Thus if a man was called "pencil" at birth, they rejected this name and assumed a modern name that did not make them blush in public. Soon, they seem to trudge the path of striving to be more "English" than the Briton in London. The whole charade smacks of a psychological crisis that works against affirming the African identity. Sometimes, a tragedy occurs and soon the family reverts to the appropriate lifestyle that it evaded with pain. Psychologists have rightly argued that when someone is expressing deep emotion, he usually uses his mother tongue.

    A joke at University of a Zambia of a Chongololo-Uncle Tom who fell sick and was crying in English, Oh Poor me! I can't stand this!. However, when the pain got intense, he switched to his vernacular chi-Bemba crying Nafwa Mayo! Mutule! There's a drastic re-orientation as the plush low-density and exclusive mode of life leads to the nearest shanty township where reality sets in. But few survive the trauma of degeneration as many soon wear out and die depressed. The obsession with white names dates back to colonial times when towns and street names were named after British personalities, relics and towns. In Ndola, President Avenue bore the shameful name King George street after a King in England. Some streets and institutions still retain English names. Further back, the slave trade ranks as one of the most sordid forms of damnation unleashed by external barbarism that humiliated the black man. Such tragedies helped to foster a sense of inferiority in the black man of the day. Flaunting an English name became a sign of "civilisation" and enhanced self-esteem. This writer remembers how most pe traditional names common to some areas for such designations. For Northern Province one may suggest Muchinga, Eastern (Mawa) Southern (Mosi-oa-Tunya), Western (Kuomboka), North-Western (Likumbi), Central (Mulungushi) and Copperbelt (Mukuba).

    Some critical sociologists may contend that the anti-white drive could be construed to be racism in reverse by the black man. But self-determination that came through attainment of political independence despite the emergence of neo-colonialism justifies correction of perceptions for the sake of future generations. Young Zambians ought to fully understand the concept behind the black shade on the national flag. That previously, the black man was subjugated to second class citizen status in the land of his ancestors. Thus when the equality question is discussed, it should rest on the pedestal of this black person struggling for human rights. This is pertinent when one realises that falsification of history like happened in the Third Republic through wayward political sensationalism may carry damaging impressions into the future if not restored. The results of free education at the apex of the copper mining boom in the 1970-80s far outweigh some proceeds of the much publicised and hurried economic liberalisation. Reverting to names, the argument of identity stands supreme in the quest for self-emancipation as underscored by the legendary postulate: Call a spade a spade
    ©All Africa

    The controversial E S "Nigger" Brown stand at the Toowoomba sports ground looks set to stay despite a United Nations committee recommending the word "nigger" be removed. In an 11-page judgment, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination found the term offensive and insulting, although conceded the sign was not designed to demean when it was erected in 1960. The committee said the UN convention on the elimination of all forms of racism should be interpreted in light of contemporary society and recommended the Howard government take action to have the word "nigger"removed from the sign. Aboriginal activist Stephen Hagan, who petitioned the UN committee to rule on the sign, said he was "over the moon" by its decision. But the Toowoomba Sports Ground Trust, which manages the ground on behalf of the Queensland Government, is unlikely to change the sign.

    Mr Hagan has fought for years to have the word removed from the sign which honours Edward Brown, Toowoomba's first rugby league international. Mr Brown, who died in 1972, aged 74, was not an Aborigine and was believed to have earned the nickname because of his extremely fair complexion or because he had a penchant for using "Nigger Brown" shoe polish. Mr Hagan lost actions in the Federal and High Courts to have the term removed from the sign. He said today the UN committee's decision had vindicated his stance. "I've had a lot of criticism from many quarters, including my own Aboriginal community who said that it's only a nickname and after all, he was a very famous footballer and maybe you should turn a blind eye in this instance," Mr Hagan told AAP. "But I did it for my young family. I've got a young boy and girl in primary school and I don't want them to run on to that athletic oval and look up and see the word nigger and think that I'm condoning that word publicly. "I was determined to have it taken down.''

    Mr Hagan called on Queensland Premier Peter Beattie to order the sign's removal, given the UN committee's recommendation. Although the Australian Government is a signatory to the UN convention, Mr Hagan said the Queensland Government owned the oval, and therefore the sign. But a spokeswoman for Mr Beattie said today the sports ground was managed by a trust and while the premier could understand some people may find the term "nigger" offensive, in Mr Brown's case, it was used as a nickname. Toowoomba Sports Ground Trust chairman John McDonald, who knew Mr Brown, said he did not want to dishonour the footballer by removing his name from the stand. "It's nothing to do with racial wording or offensive language. It's the chap's name," Mr McDonald said. "We're recognising one of the leading citizens of Toowoomba and rightly so." Mr McDonald said the word "Nigger" was even etched on Mr Brown's gravestone.
    ©The Age

    23 April ­ The United Nations Commission on Human Rights headed into the final stretch of its annual session today, adopting a series of measures promoting civil and political rights, and approving a three-year mandate extension of its working group on arbitrary detention.

    When the Geneva-based Commission - the UN's top human rights body - took up matters concerning racial discrimination, an intense debate culminated in the approval of a resolution on follow-up to the action plan approved by the 2001 Durban World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

    By a roll call vote of 38 in favour, one against, with 13 abstentions, the Commission decided that the Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action would convene its future sessions for an initial period of three years, and decided that the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent shall reconvene for an initial period of three years.

    While some delegations praised Durban as one of the most important steps in combating racial discrimination at all levels, others felt the contentious atmosphere that had surrounded the conference undermined the action plan's credibility. The debate concluded with the Commission's vote not to take action on a motion to insert new language on religious intolerance into the main resolution.

    In other action, the Commission adopted a resolution on arbitrary detention, encouraging Governments concerned to implement the recommendations of the working group on arbitrary detention concerning persons mentioned in its report who had been detained for a number of years. It decided to extend for three years the mandate of the Working Group.

    Concerning torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the Commission unanimously adopted a motion stressing that all allegations of torture or cruel treatment or punishment should be promptly and impartially examined by a competent national authority, and those responsible must be severely punished.

    In a resolution on the interdependence between democracy and human rights, the Commission reaffirmed its conviction that democracy, development and respect for human rights were interdependent and mutually reinforcing. It called upon the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize a second expert seminar next year to examine further the interdependence between democracy and human rights, with the topic of "democracy and the rule of law," to be funded by voluntary contributions.

    With regards to human rights and terrorism, the Commission adopted a resolution in which it reiterated its unequivocal condemnation of terrorism in all its acts and forms, and urged States to enhance cooperation at the regional and international levels in the fight against terrorism.

    The Commission also adopted resolutions on human rights and forensic science; the right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms; strengthening of popular participation, equity, social justice and non-discrimination as essential foundations of democracy; the question of enforced or involuntary disappearances; and the integrity of the judicial system.
    ©UN News Centre

    Homosexual men and women will have to wait at least one more year for the first-ever formal recognition of their human rights in official United Nations documents. A coalition of Islamic nations, with the support of other countries apparently under pressure from the Vatican , blocked approval in the U.N. Commission on Human Rights this week of a resolution sponsored by Brazil calling for guarantees to protect gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals. Friday, as it wrapped up its annual sessions, the Geneva-based Commission, the maximum human rights authority at the U.N., put off debate on the text until next year. The amendments presented by five Muslim states--Egypt, Libya, Malaysia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia--aimed at watering down the resolution met the same fate, though they did achieve their goal of blocking discussion of the Brazilian text. Pakistan sought to annul the resolution Thursday, stating that the text "did not reflect Islamic values." Independent human rights organizations say the failure of the Brazilian initiative to be decided this week is largely due to the "bias" of the Commission's chairwoman, Libyan diplomat Najat El Mehdi Al-Hajjaji.

    The proposed amendments seek to remove all mention of discrimination based on sexual orientation, rendering the resolution meaningless, complained rights activists. Brazil's draft resolution expresses "deep concern at the occurrence of violations of human rights in the world against persons on the grounds of their sexual orientation." The text "calls upon all states to promote and protect the human rights of all persons regardless of their sexual orientation" and states that the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights must "pay due attention to the phenomenon of violations of human rights on the grounds of sexual orientation." The rights of homosexual, bisexual, or transsexual men and women have never been officially recognized by the United Nations, despite the fact that international laws on the issue began to emerge at the close of World War II, noted Canadian jurist Douglas Sanders. And no homosexual organization to date has obtained "consultative status," which the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) grants certain non-governmental organizations, said Sanders, professor at the University of British Columbia.

    "Millions of people across the globe face imprisonment, torture, violence, and discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," Melinda Ching, spokeswoman for the London-based human rights watchdog Amnesty International, reiterated during Commission sessions this week. In Egypt, for example, 21 men were sentenced to three years in prison after being caught up in a wave of arrests and trials of individuals singled out as gay, said Ching. "Adoption of the resolution is the only way to end the intolerable exclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people from the full protection of the UN system," states an Amnesty International communiqué. The draft resolution tabled by Brazil, and co-sponsored by 19 European nations, warns the 53-member U.N. Commission that an underlying factor of many human rights violations committed around the world is intolerance of the sexual orientation of the victims. Brazil's diplomatic team has maintained a consistent stance on this issue for several years, says Brasilia's representative in Geneva, Luis Felipe de Seixas Correa. He noted that his country had presented a homosexual rights initiative at the World Conference against Racism, held in 2001 in the South African city of Durban. Seixas Correa criticized the Commission Friday, saying the U.N. body was created to erase taboos, not to maintain them. He said Brazil's Foreign Ministry would keep up pressure to ensure that the resolution passes next year.

    Debate on the draft resolution was rocky, a result of the procedural obstacles set up by the M favor were Muslim nations, as well as Argentina, China and India. Voting against were Brazil, the European nations--with the exception of Ireland, which is strongly Catholic and chose to abstain--as did the Latin American countries Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. Tidball commented that in addition to the Islamic support, the vote results clearly show the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, which, like Islam, rejects homosexuality. He said the Vatican had exerted pressure to halt what was originally unconditional support from Latin American countries for the Brazilian initiative.
    ©Common Dreams

    Board response upsets groups, Fantino reacts to more criticism

    A coalition of minority groups walked out of a special meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board last night, saying they no longer have faith in the civilian board to address racial profiling by police. After berating the police board for giving them just five minutes to respond to a consultant's report that concluded police do not engage in racial profiling, members of the African Canadian Community Coalition said they would now go to the province. Board chair Norm Gardner never directly responded to the criticisms of the board during the meeting, nor did any other board member. But police Chief Julian Fantino answered angrily that police were tired of being accused of racial profiling. "Where should the public turn for fair consideration?" an impassioned Zanana Akande of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations said. "Should it be to this body? "Where should civilians go for a consideration of the real issues? ... Should we continue to come and tell you about our sons and our husbands?" she said, her voice rising. "Should we continue to ask you, as the civilian oversight body, to consider that at least some of your police are practising something that is unfair and illegal?"

    Fantino said he would like to have a dialogue with the coalition, but he is "tired" of people bashing the police, adding there is too much "mischief-making" by critics of the police. "This has become a political football," the chief said. "And we are the football. And our people are tired of it." He said the police are working hard to improve dialogue with the communities, but the constant criticism is difficult to understand. "We are willing to sit down and work the issues through, but you know something? We are not a racist organization, we're not a bunch of no-goods, and there is no way we would tolerate anybody that is." No amount of goodwill seems to matter at times, Fantino said. "It appears that the only concern, the only issue is this whole business of racial profiling and it flares up like a fire does every now and then. Right away, we are faced with having to defend ourselves, from what?"

    Community leaders are also angry at the way police services board chair Norm Gardner reacted to a Ontario Court of Appeal decision from earlier this month that acknowledged that some police target racial minorities. The landmark decision involved the case of former Raptor Dee Brown who contends racial profiling played a key role in his 1999 arrest for impaired driving. Following a ruling overturning Brown's conviction, Gardner was quoted saying: "I don't blame him for trying to get off" the charge and questioned if Brown had "his full mental acuity" because of alcohol. Akande lit into Gardner for making public comments that she said belittled the findings of Ontario's highest court. "Your attention is drawn collectively to scoff at the findings, almost to the point of scoffing at our court," she said. "And yet it is through those courts that we are dragged." The accusations from Akande appeared to rattle Gardner, who denied that he had belittled the ruling. "This business about scoffing ... scoffing is not a word I use," Gardner told reporters after the meeting. Late yesterday, the group's lawyer, Julian Falconer, wrote the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services (OCCOPS) and asked to appear before the oversight agency's board at its next meeting. They hope to present the findings of their experts to counter police analysis and show the effects of racial profiling. The provincial commission isn't well-known, but it has wide-ranging powers, including overseeing its own disciplinary hearings and investigating complaints against a police force. Recently, the province appointed Sylvia Hudson, a former Jamaican police and Toronto police board member, as the vice-chair of the commission following two summits on racial profili science." The Star said its study is sound and is backed by independent analysis conducted by a top statistical expert.

    The Star obtained the police arrest database, listing arrests from 1996 to early last year, through a Freedom of Information request. The database records more than 480,000 incidents in which an individual was arrested or ticketed, and almost 800,000 criminal and other charges. The Star's analysis of the data found that blacks charged with simple drug possession were taken to a police station more often than whites facing the same charge. Once at the station, black suspects were held overnight for a bail hearing at twice the rate of whites. Possible mitigating factors such as a previous conviction, state of employment and whether he or she listed a home address were taken into account. The data also showed a disproportionate number of black motorists in the database were ticketed for offences that routinely would come to light following a traffic stop. Civil libertarians and criminologists say this pattern points to racial profiling, whether conscious or not. The statistics spotted another trend: Blacks accounted for 27.1 per cent of violent charges laid by Toronto police while representing only 8.1 per cent of the city's population.
    ©The Toronto Star

    Police officers in Kingston could soon be keeping a record of every person they stop by listing the colour of their skin, if police chief Bill Closs gets his way. Reacting to allegations that his officers are practicing racial profiling, Closs shocked members of the Police Services Board with the suggestion at this month's board meeting. The accusations started in late March after a Kingston police officer stopped two young black men who were walking downtown. During the incident, the officer drew his gun. Two years earlier one of the men was involved in another police incident where guns were used. In both cases the young black man had done nothing wrong. There's been much finger pointing in the editorial pages of the local paper, and when members of the Police Services Board brought up the issue, Closs was ready with a response. He said there's only one way to find out if police are targeting racial groups. "There has to be a record kept of who it is we're coming into contact with. And I'm frankly talking about colour of skin," Closs said. Closs insisted his force does not practice racial profiling. However, he admitted there's a chance an individual officer could be targeting more visible minorities. "If we were to put this check in place, that would send a message to the community and to my police officers: not only shall you not do this, we're able to go back and check to monitor it," Closs said. Overcoming their initial surprise, members of the Police Services Board asked Closs to flesh out the idea and report back to them at next month's board meeting.

    It was no ordinary scene from the staid halls of Parliament. About 50 native people from across Canada ordered pizza, sipped Tim Horton's coffee and frequently shouted from the public gallery as the Commons committee on aboriginal issues met until 4:30 a.m. Wednesday. "This land is our land. Why aren't we at the table?" was a repeated refrain from the peaceful but unruly crowd. They kept the late-night vigil, including a drumming circle on the steps of Parliament, to protest the proposed First Nations Governance Act. The bill would force about 600 native communities to draft election and hiring codes, conform with the Canada Human Rights Code, and file more detailed accounts of how they spend federal funds.

    Native leaders, the Canadian Bar Association, a former Liberal Indian Affairs minister and several academics have said the bill was imposed without proper consultation. They say it would also infringe constitutional native rights to self-government. Proponents counter that it would make native leaders more accountable and offer independent recourse for complaints. Improved governance would also attract more investment and jobs to impoverished reserves, they argue. The grandparents, teens and other reserve residents who kept watch with several chiefs early Wednesday weren't buying it. NDP MP Pat Martin and Bloc MP Yvan Loubier were given eagle feathers as a show of gratitude for their stand against the bill. Federal Liberals are anxious to usher the much-maligned legislation through the House of Commons before Parliament breaks for summer in June. It must then clear the Senate to become law.

    The Liberal-dominated committee hoped to report back to the House on proposed changes to the bill by week's end. That will likely require all-night sessions Wednesday and Thursday, since the panel is less than half-way through debate on about 200 amendments. What's the rush, asked Roberta Jamieson, chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory near Brantford, Ont. "Our people sitting in the observers' seats were so outraged to see (MPs) doing their income tax returns while issues of our inherent rights, our constitutional rights, are being discussed. They were reading or doing correspondence . . . just sitting there robotically holding up their hand to ram this bill through. "It's an incredibly shameful exercise." Jamieson said lively protests in the committee's public gallery will continue. "We were so energized and outraged when we left the Hill, so proud of our people who stood there, clapped and prayed and had whatever voice we could have." Auditor General Sheila Fraser recently criticized the federal government for demanding a "crazy quilt" of native audits - many of which are never read. "We do our audit every year, we publish it, our members can question our auditors," Jamieson said. She blames under-funding for the fact that about one-quarter of native bands are under remedial management because of deficits. Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault said he'd listen to native people, Jamieson said. But he's ignoring the fact that an overwhelming number of witnesses at the committee opposed the legislation, she charged. "Did they listen to that and go back and re-examine this bill? No, they're pressing ahead."
    ©National Post

    contact: news@icare.to
    Suggestions and comments please to info@icare.to