I CARE - Newsarchive August 2000

The Government is to review the controversial system of issuing vouchers to asylum seekers, Home Office Minister of State Barbara Roche has announced.
She made the pledge after Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, described the scheme as "the fuel for the ugly face of racism and discrimination".
He backed his belief by giving a moving account of how he had gone shopping with a 30-year-old GP asylum seeker who had fled persecution in Iran. Mr Morris said he saw the look of "despair, anguish and shame" when the doctor reached the checkout and had to hand over his vouchers.
Delegates at Labour's conference in Brighton gave unanimous support to a National Executive Committee statement which called on the Government to conduct an "immediate comprehensive review" of the voucher system, and to take immediate steps to ensure that trading partners were able to give change to voucher users.
The vouchers to be exchanged for food were introduced in April to replace cash benefits in a bid to deter economic migrants. But they have been criticised for the way they single out refugees buying food and other goods.
No change can be given for the vouchers, leading to complaints that stores and supermarkets are "profiteering" from a scheme which is paid for by taxpayers.
Mr Morris, who backed the NEC statement and remitted a composite resolution opposing the scheme, said the voucher system created divisions in supermarkets and schools.
"It is creating a grotesque black market where vouchers are bought and sold at 70% of their face value," he said. "The no change policy means that asylum seekers are subsidising supermarkets. This, friends, is not the distribution we all understood."
Mr Morris added: "Why is it that we need this system? Is it really needed to satisfy (Shadow Home Secretary) Ann Widdecombe? We will never get an immigration policy that satisfies Ann Widdecombe and we shouldn't even try."
Mrs Roche stressed that there should be a crackdown on "unscrupulous" immigration advisors and organised criminal gangs who "deal, trade in human misery". She said those given refugee status must be given every support in the country "they now call home".
© Ananova

At least 40 Chinese refugees have started a hunger strike to persuade the government to allow them to stay in New Zealand.
The group has set up camp in an Auckland square to protest at being excluded from the government's "overstayers immigration amnesty".
Protest organiser Jane Yao says the October 1 deadline for the new immigration laws has left many people worried about the prospect of arrest and deportation.
Yao, a former Chinese journalist who was involved in the pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, says the group decided to stage its protest now because many people would be too afraid to turn out after the deadline in case they were deported.
Immigration minister Lianne Dalziel is reported as saying refugees cannot be included in the amnesty because it would allow people to use such claims as a "back door" into New Zealand.
The group of Chinese men, women and children staging the hunger strike in Aotea Square are vowing to continue until a government representative arrives to talk to them.
© Ananova

Former Conservative MP Shaun Woodward has branded the majority of Tories "instinctive racists" and said the feelings they had stirred up led to hate crimes against ethnic minorities.
Mr Woodward, who defected to Labour earlier this year, said Home Secretary Jack Straw had been wrong to talk about "bogus asylum seekers".
But his former party's strategy of playing the race card at the May local elections resulted in race attacks and possibly even killings, he told a fringe meeting at Labour's Brighton conference.
Mr Woodward, flanked by Neville Lawrence, the father of murdered black teenager Stephen, added: "Undoubtedly the Labour Party... was grossly mistaken earlier on this year to talk about bogus asylum seekers but the question is when it was pointed out what did they do, and actually to their credit Jack stopped using it."
"What was disgraceful was when the Conservative Party, seeing how good it was at winning short-term political support, actually developed political strategies designed to win local election seats and councils based on stirring up these fears because of the way they used their language."
The tone of the national debate had a real impact on the lives of ethnic minority people, said the Witney MP, who also claimed:"Indirectly it does lead almost immediately to the promotion of hate crimes and actually the sort of appalling, disgraceful things that Stephen suffered.
"I mean, there will have been, there is no question about this, there will have been people who do not have white skin in Britain who after the local elections this year will have been the victims of beatings, maiming and probably murder because of the sentiment that was stirred up."
Mr Woodward echoed Prime Minister Tony Blair's conference address when he spoke of "decent, honest one-nation Conservatives" being purged from positions of influence within his former Party.
"Tragically, what was once called a one-nation Conservative Party is today, under William Hague, a party fast becoming only united by its collective fears and its collective prejudices and by everything that it is against and that is the identity it craves."
A majority of members were now "instinctive racists" who would not admit there was a problem in the party and were still fighting the idea of a multi-cultural society, he alleged.
© Ananova

The parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe has said Russia must improve human rights in Chechnya if its voting rights are to be restored in January.
In a resolution passed on Thursday the assembly condemned indiscriminate bombing, arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of detainees by Russian forces in Chechnya.
It also voiced concern that Russian soldiers suspected of war crimes and human rights abuses were not being prosecuted.
But it said there had been some encouraging developments, such as the work of the Russian human rights representative, Vladimir Kalamanov.
The Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly is to carry out a routine review of member countries voting rights in January.

The European Union is pushing for reforms but his right-wing government colleagues are putting up serious resistance.
Ankara has until the end of the year to nail its colours to the mast. The EU Commission wants to be able to place its report on the state of Turkey's bid for membership on the table by November 8. The paper will make it clear what conditions Ankara will have to fulfil in order to qualify for the final round of membership negotiations.
The Turkish government will then have until December to tell the EU how it plans to conform to its demands.
Following a cabinet session devoted to the subject, Ecevit spoke out this week and promised to introduce reforms swiftly. The government intends to encourage greater freedom of speech, put an end to torture and cancel the state of emergency in the predominately Kurdish part of the country as soon as possible. However the prime minister announced no concrete plans and gave no dates. He also completely failed to mention a whole range of other awkward issues such as the death sentence, the rights of the Kurds or the role of the military in Turkish politics.
Observers detected signs of strain within the government coalition in what Ecevit said. The press has reported that Ecevit's right-wing coalition partners the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) have succeeded in having the teeth removed from the reforms which have been proposed. The conflict within the coalition concerns two issues: the abolition of the death penalty and changes to Article 312 of Turkish Criminal Law.
This notorious "catch-all" legislation has long been used to silence critical voices in the country and brings with it a potential prison sentence of six years for anyone who incites hatred and enmity on the basis of class, race, religion or creed. In practice, the very mention of the conflict with the Kurds is enough to secure a conviction. All of Turkey's political parties have admitted that the legislation can no longer be justified - except the MHP.
MHP head and Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Devlet Bahceli, though, sees Article 312 as a guarantee of order in accordance with the constitution. Bahceli has also raised objections to the plans Ecevit and the other parties have to abolish the death penalty. The MHP is demanding that before the abolition of capital punishment the execution of the leader of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, should be carried out to serve as an example.
Ecevit has managed to have a decision postponed until 2001 at least. But he will still have to tell the EU in December when he plans to set about abolishing the death penalty. Bahceli has so far shown no indication of being willing to compromise on the issue - he has no intention of discouraging his supporters.
The military are also stalling. The Turkish television station NTV quoted an announcement by the General Staff at the beginning of September which described debates on the subject of demands from the EU for the lifting of the ban on Kurdish being spoken in schools or its use in newspapers as "a complete waste of time". It was announced on Friday that four local television stations had been handed down broadcasting bans of between three and 90 days as a result of broadcasting "separatist" reports.
The conflict surrounding greater democratisation could easily become a battle for political survival for the government coalition.
Deputy Prime Minister Bahceli cannot wait for the next set of elections, according to political pundits. He believes that next time round his MHP could build upon its surprising 1999 result - 18 per cent, which made it the second most powerful party - and make it all the way to the top.
© Frankfurter Rundschau

The local government for District VII has abandoned a controversial eviction law implemented in May.
Roma rights organizations have heralded the decision as "just and fair" and hope more districts will be willing to abandon a law which they described as "unconstitutional and a violation of human rights".
Eighteen Roma families, 80 people including 45 children, living as squatters in District VII, no longer face the risk of being thrown out.
v Under the law, municipal officials could order evictions with the recipient having the right to file a complaint, but not to launch an official appeal; an order Roma organizations believe was an infringement of basic civil rights.
v The Hungarian Roma Party and the Roma Rights Documentation Center approached the Constitutional Court when the law was passed, asking for the issues relating to eviction to be reviewed.
The law created outrage. Endre Bihari, chair of the Hungarian Roma Party said, "We don't believe any community should be collectively punished because of circumstances beyond its control that have forced it to the social periphery."
The legislation is seen to heavily affect Roma families. Éva Orsós, co-chair of the European Roma Rights board of directors, told The Budapest Sun, "Over the last two years the number of poor has increased, but local government housing decreased (a result of selling off Government housing)."
As a result of the outcry the Mayor of Budapest organized a professional group of NGO's and experts to find solutions.
Money is given to families in need and the new law connected to evictions has been dropped.
Avenues for appeal are open and the Budapest City Council and Zugló District Council recently signed an agreement to provide temporary accommodation to Roma families evicted from their apartments.
In addition, the City Council agreed to transfer Ft1.5 million ($5,000) per family to Districts VII and XIV for the accommodation.
© The Budapest Sun

Hungary would welcome a minority rights charter and the implementation of an international set of protection rules, according to a Government official.
János Martonyi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said, "We believe that rules at an international level are necessary in several spheres and that the sphere of these regulations must be expanded and strengthened."
Martonyi was speaking on the issue of minority rights after Hungary's recently-elected President Ferenc Mádl spoke before the United Nations on the issue of minority protection. His comments also come at a time when the European Union has allotted $11.2 million for the Hungarian Roma community.
"There should be universal, international and legal regulations on the rights of minorities and these should be abided by," added Martonyi.
Under the EU's Phare program, money is being allocated "to support the social integration of disadvantaged, especially Roma, youth," according to the EU Delegation to Hungary.
The funding will target educational establishments and hopes to "provide young people with competitive knowledge and high-level skills, which in turn give them a chance of social integration and co-existence".
Under a new Phare implementation policy, schools and educational facilities will apply for grants for schemes that must be put into practice by September 2002. According to the plan, money will also be used to finance 15 school buses (in regions where transport is a problem) and schools in need will have new washing facilities built.
One of the conditions of receiving such funding is an internally funded program to work alongside the EU initiatives, with Hungary contributing $5.3 million to co-financing schemes. The Hungarian Government is also channeling money into other social programs.
However, some criticism has been leveled at the vague notions of spending policy. Flórián Farkas, president of the National Gypsy Authority, proposed to a parliamentary human and minority rights committee last week that funds directed for Roma programs "should be precisely indicated in the central budget".
Jenô Kaltenbach, Minority Rights Ombudsman, told the committee the amount of funds needed to solve the Roma issue cannot be predicted and that, due to prejudice, much of the public does not support such programs.
Csaba Hende, Justice Ministry State Secretary, said, "The integration of the Roma is as much an issue in minority policy as it is a broader social problem. The Government will spend Ft7.2 billion ($23.3 million) this year to support the integration of the Gypsies."
Hende stressed there are amendments to Hungary's Civil Code proposed aimed at combating discrimination.
Martonyi indicated that while problems exist, there is an obligation to improve the situation, "There is no such thing as perfect equality and perfect justice. This does not, in general terms, spare anyone from trying to make the world a bit better than it is. This is essentially what the UN's activity is about."
© The Budapest Sun

President Clinton on Thursday urged Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to ``heed the call of the Serb people,'' honor the election of his pro-democracy challenger and step down.
Clinton said results from elections Sunday indicate that Milosevic's opponent, Vojislav Kostunica, won ``an absolute majority'' of the vote. In a statement, he said there was no basis for the runoff election Milosevic is maneuvering to set up, and offered to remove economic sanctions once Milosevic leaves.
``The people of Yugoslavia have spoken loud and clear in support of democratic change,'' Clinton said. ``It is time for Mr. Milosevic to heed the call of the Serb people, step down, and allow a peaceful democratic transition to take place.''
The United States has sought Milosevic's ouster since it led NATO air strikes on Belgrade last year in response to attacks on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Earlier Thursday, before having lunch with Prime Minister Wim Kok of the Netherlands, Clinton said all NATO nations should consider lifting the sanctions if Milosevic is removed from power.
While he did not then refer to Milosevic by name, Clinton said that ``it's clear the people prefer'' Kostunica. When asked later whether he was calling for Milosevic to step down, Clinton told reporters, ``That's what I think should happen.
``When that happens, I would strongly support immediate moves to lift the sanctions,'' Clinton said. ``I think we should all say, in unequivocal terms, as soon as there is democratic government there, the sanctions should be lifted.''
Milosevic on Thursday refused to recognize Kostunica's apparent victory in Sunday's elections, saying he would move ahead with plans for an Oct. 8 runoff. The State Election Commission said Kostunica earned 48.96 percent of the vote to 38.62 percent for Milosevic, but opposition poll watchers said Kostunica won 52.54 percent of the vote, compared with 32.01 percent for Milosevic.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said a runoff is not necessary. ``It's an issue of who won, and Dr. Kostunica won this election,'' Reeker said.
Clinton said he is more inclined to believe the opposition's results because the Serb Orthodox Church has recognized Kostunica as the new president. He also noted that the election commission, ``totally under the thumb of the government,'' admits to a bare margin of victory for Kostunica.
``When they have evidence that by no means all the votes of the opposition candidate were counted, I think that's a pretty good case,'' Clinton said. ``It's time for democracy and for the voices of the people of Serbia to be heard.''
Kok agreed with Clinton's assessment of the vote, and said he also believes the sanctions should be removed.
``That double message should be very clear,'' Kok said. ``The people said, 'We want to get rid of Milosevic.' And we say as soon as there will be a new leadership, the sanctions will be over.''
Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the United States would move to lift the sanctions and restore Yugoslavia's rights as a U.N. member state if Kostunica is allowed to take office.
Russia has declined to join Western governments in calling on Milosevic to step down.
White House national security spokesman P.J. Crowley said U.S. officials are in contact with Russian officials and are confident that they would encourage Milosevic to honor the election results.
``They have made very constructive statements about the need to respect the will of the people,'' Crowley said. ``So, in our judgment, the handwriting is on the wall.''
As for the United States, ``we want to see Milosevic out of power, out of Serbia and in the Hague,'' facing a war crimes tribunal, Crowley said.
Defense Secretary William Cohen said the United States was encouraged by the developments in Belgrade. Without offering specifics, he said the U.S. military was ``prepared for contingencies that affect our national security interests.''
© Associated Press

A rush of Slovakian Roma asylum seekers has resumed since Norway lifted visa requirements, immigration officials said today, reports AP. Norway lifted the visas requirement for Slovakians on August 16, eight months after imposing it to stem a flood of mainly Roma asylum seekers from Slovakia.
The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration said 327 Roma have sought asylum in the past five weeks, compared with 233 for all of last year. Most of those who arrived last year were denied asylum and returned home. Roma make up almost 10 percent of Slovakia's 5.4 million population and often complain of poverty, poor living conditions and lack of opportunity at home due to discrimination.
© Refugees Daily

The number of would-be asylum seekers waiting to learn if they may remain in Britain has continued to fall, new figures show.
The number of applications for asylum rose slightly last month to 6,430, compared to 6,255 in July, the Home Office figures reveal. But compared with the three months of last summer, applications dropped by an average of 6%.
Officials continued to clear the backlog of applications, making 9,770 initial decisions on whether asylum should be granted in August - 10% more than during the previous month.
The number of appeals against those decisions jumped by nearly 30% between July and August.
But adjudicators continue to reject a large number - 85% - at appeal.
The numbers of Iraqis and Iranians applying for asylum soared by nearly 40% on the previous month, accounting for 1,455 applications in total.
There were still large numbers of applications from refugees from Somalia, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
© Ananova

Leeds United chairman Peter Ridsdale is determined to maintain an open door policy and a warm welcome to all races at Elland Road.
Ridsdale is on a mission to cut out racist abuse among United supporters and today reiterated his promise that any fans issuing such threats will be banned for life.
His comments come on a day that has also seen a new initiative launched into eradicating similar problems in amateur football throughout the country.
According to Piara Power, spokesman for soccer's anti-racism programme Kick It Out: "The problem is so great in some parts of the country it has reached epidemic levels."
Ridsdale, who used to play amateur football in Leeds, believes the professional clubs have a duty of care to the grass roots of the game.
He said: "We welcome this charter because racism has no place in society. It is abhorrent.
"We will never become complacent at Leeds. If supporters are guilty of racism then they will be banned for life.
"As for the players we have a multi-racial team and no problems as far as I'm aware.
"We are keen to bring young players through into our Academy from all sections of the community. We are very pro-active in this area because there is a huge reservoir of talent in West Yorkshire."
Young midfielder Harpal Singh, a Sikh, has broken into the reserves - and broken the mould.
But overall many from the ethnic minorities remain appalled at the treatment they receive on the park pitches and from the football authorities.
That is why the West Yorkshire Against Racism initiative was launched in Huddersfield.
Power said: "The campaign is keen to see the pioneering work in West Yorkshire replicated across the country and the sustained challenge to the problem taken up.
"For many amateur footballers from black and Asian communities, being abused or physically attacked because of the colour of their skin is a weekly reality."
Referees have the power to give an instant red card for racial abuse and, according to FA chairman Geoff Thompson, the problem appears to be diminishing in the professional game.
But he added: "We need to spread this anti-racism campaign to all levels. I am committed to seeing its implementation nationally."
Brendon Batson, deputy chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association, said: "If we ignore the problem at this level significant sections of local communities will be excluded and their talent lost to football."
© Ananova

A doctor in Germany who defended a woman's claim to be allergic to black people could be struck off after the woman was found guilty of racism and fined more than £100.
The 66-year-old from Berlin was charged with racist abuse after she told a black man standing in a train, "Get out of the way, I'm allergic to blacks."
The 31-year-old man complained to police after the woman repeated the insult when he followed her along the train carriage and asked her what the problem was.
In court, the woman, named only as Karla W, was defended by a doctor from Hamburg who said she suffered psychosomatic stomach ache whenever she came into contact with black people.
Now he could be struck off after the Hamburg Medical Council described his testimony as a scandal.
Spokesman Karl Damme said: "We must show our colours here - as individuals and as doctors."
The Hamburg public prosecutor is conducting an investigation to see if charges can be pressed against the Medical Council for the doctor's behaviour.
© Ananova

Swiss voters have rejected a proposal to limit the country's foreign population, heeding warnings from the government and industry that it would have disastrous effects.
With results in from half of Switzerland's 26 cantons (states) by mid-afternoon, no state had voted in favor of the "initiative for the regulation of immigration," which aimed to fix in law the number of foreign residents at a maximum 18% of the population.
A majority of both cantons and of voters is needed for a proposal to be approved. Projections for Swiss television indicated a 63% "no" vote.
Its backers, a group of lawmakers who in mid-recession five years ago collected 100,000 signatures to force a referendum, argued the measure was needed to stem a flood of cheap foreign labor and a steady increase in the foreign population.
But the government and economic heavyweights said it would be catastrophic for the country's image and industry, locking out experts in crucial areas such as health and information technology and damaging tourism.
Unemployment is now at its lowest level in more than eight years - in August it was 1.8%.
Last year, foreigners accounted for 19.3% of the 7.2 million population. It was unclear how the proportion would be cut to 18%, where it stood when the initiative was launched.
The Swiss vote comes with immigration a sensitive issue across Europe as nations grapple with an aging population and increasing anti-foreigner sentiment.
The initiative's backers had said they expect to lose by a 60-40 margin. The closest result came in the conservative central state of Schwyz, where 51.6% voted against.
Despite polls predicting the proposal's defeat, the government, careful not to underestimate Switzerland's often unpredictable 4.6 million voters, argued forcefully against the cap.
© Ananova

Racism and xenophobia could jeopardise our economic prosperity, the General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Mr Peter Cassells, told a weekend conference on immigration.
"The ugly monster of racism, which has been lurking in the shadows of Irish society, has become manifest on our streets in recent months," he said. Mr Cassells urged those in power to show leadership on the issue of racism but said "leadership has to be underpinned by action.
"The ICTU is strongly of the view that asylum-seekers and refugees coming to Ireland should be allowed to work. Given the ridiculous system we've been putting people through, creating backlogs of applications, creating a whole environment in which they have to go underground, an amnesty should now be declared to allow people who are already here to work," he said.
Mr Cassells said there was a grave danger that "we will welcome everybody in, but only to do all the jobs Irish people no longer want to do".
He said it would send a very clear signal to Irish workers if unions "were to say that anyone found guilty of racism or xenophobia in the workplace would be immediately expelled from the union".
The president of ICTU, Ms Inez McCormack, said there was a need "to ensure people feel welcome in the workplace, not merely tolerated".
Ms McCormack said there was a "relaxed racism expressed in policy and practice". To overcome this, she said a culture of rights must be developed.
Ms McCormack said that those who need change "must be involved as equals and have a sense of ownership of any process rather than being the object of the process".
The general president of SIPTU, Mr Des Geraghty, said that to facilitate dialogue in the workplace, the barriers to inclusion need to be removed. This included addressing language difficulties and establishing translation services for workers and ensuring that health and safety notices were written in their language.
SIPTU, he said, now represented over 2,000 non-nationals, "and envisages this figure growing considerably in the weeks and months ahead". Mr Geraghty also advocated making access to the workforce easier for immigrants and said work permits should be issued after six months' residence in Ireland.
"The right to work should be seen as a fundamental human right, irrespective of race, creed or nationality." Racism, he said, was often used to divert people from the real causes of poverty, and he urged trade unionists "as people who aspire to a more egalitarian world" to confront racism in the workplace "in all its manifestations".
© The Irish Times

A small group of Dutch protesters on Sunday clashed with police and barged onto the live set of a television talk show, spraying chocolate sauce on the leader of Belgium's extreme right-wing party.
One officer and two protesters were injured, reports said.
The protesters, described as antifascists, forced their way into the Amsterdam studio of state-run NOS Television and sprayed the sauce onto the face of Filip Dewinter, head of anti-immigrant Vlaams Blok (Flemish Bloc) party.
The attack forced the political news program "Het Buitenhof" temporarily off the air, leaving the politician stunned and with half his face covered in chocolate. He was not injured.
The dialogue on the show had been barely audible to viewers due to fireworks set off outside by protesters before the break-in to the studio.
The injuries occurred when the demonstrators clashed with police, who tried to push them back from the door of the studio.
The Belgian politician, who had to be evacuated from the studio in a police fan, filed a criminal complaint against the protesters. It was not clear how many exactly were in the group or if any were arrested.
The protesters also vandalised Dewinter's limousine, slightly injuring his driver, reports said.
Amsterdam Mayor Schelto Patijn criticised the VPRO broadcasting company for not notifying police over Dewinter's appearance on the show.
"If they had, nothing would have happened," he said. "Now Dewinter was given the opportunity for maximum publicity."
© Expatica

Turkey"s top human rights activist said on Wednesday the state need not fear its Kurdish minority and should grant it cultural and linguistic rights as part of the country"s preparations to join the EU.
EU candidate Turkey has come under pressure from the 15-nation bloc to extend greater rights to 12 million Kurds as part of its efforts to meet membership criteria.
But some officials fear that in pursuing EU entry, Turkey could make concessions that undermine the state.
Turkey is currently emerging from a 16-year conflict with Kurdish rebels and there are no guarantees violence will not flare again. "There is a need for a revolution in mentality.
There should be no fear of Kurdish people. They are the cement of Turkey," Husnu Ondul, head of Human Rights Association (IHD), told a news conference. "Only a state that can meet the different cultural and linguistic needs of its people can be a democratic state."
Kurdish language television broadcasts and school education are not permitted on the grounds that they could undermine the unitary state and compromise its founding principles. No ethnic group, the argument runs, should have special rights.
The deputy prime minister responsible for ties with the EU, Mesut Yilmaz, has said the influential military was among the institutions concerned over prospective EU membership.
The right-wing Nationalist Action Party, second largest party in the government, has also made clear its reservations about any relaxation of laws that restrict political expression. Ondul"s remarks came a day before Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit"s three-party cabinet was expected to discuss an official report on EU preparation work.
The report includes reforms such as scrapping the death penalty and reforming the controversial military-dominated National Security Council (MGK).
But it does not cite Kurdish minority rights. Listing the IHD"s own proposals for Turkey"s EU accession, Ondul said amendments should be made to some 75 articles of the constitution and to other laws limiting the freedom of expression, language and culture.
Precautions should be taken to prevent torture by police and security forces, he said. Ondul opposed an official plan to increase the number of civilan members of the army-dominated MGK to make it acceptable to the EU.
He called for the council to be scrapped as a constitutional body and if necessary re-formed with limited power as an advisory group to the government and parliament. "One of the principles of the EU criteria is that those who were elected are eligible to determine the policies of national security," he said.
© ABC News

Wormwood Scrubs: Racial abuse was discovered The Chief Inspector of Prisons Sir David Ramsbotham is to discuss an investigation into the treatment of black prisoners with Home Office Minister Paul Boateng on Monday.
Sir David wants to investigate whether black and Asian prisoners are being treated fairly.
He is also concerned about the treatment of older inmates and prisoners with disabilities.
He is meeting Mr Boateng to seek government approval for an investigation.
Unhelpful interference
The Prison Service has long been criticised for the way it treats black prisoners.
There have been allegations of verbal and physical abuse and entrenched racism.
But the Prison Officers' Association is opposed to what it sees as unhelpful interference, although it accepts there is a deep-seated and widespread problem of racism which needs to change.
The Prison Service itself is due to publish a report into how to improve matters.
Currently, only 3.2% of staff are from ethnic minorities, and raising that figure is seen as one way forward.

Overwhelmed with almost daily landings of illegal immigrants on its shores, Italy asked the United Nations on Wednesday to help formulate guidelines on migration to end dangerous smuggling operations while allowing for safe movement of people.
Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini devoted almost his entire speech to the U.N. General Assembly on international migration, a sensitive issue in much of Europe as it grapples with its declining work force and increasing anti-foreigner sentiment.
Dini urged industrialized countries not to "build new walls and fences" to quell the fears about unemployment and crime that immigration often generates, saying Europe needs a strategy for migration "that embraces the complex process of integrating people from different regions of the world."
The United Nations has warned several European countries that they will have to accept significant numbers of migrants in the next 50 years if they want to maintain the size of their work forces and overall populations.
Italy, for example, has one of the world"s lowest birth rates and the world"s oldest population, said Joseph Chamie, director of the U.N. Population Division. Its current population of 57 million is expected to shrink to 41 million by 2050.
"This is a major challenge for Italy and these countries," Chamie said in an interview.
"Many of the governments are beginning to realize that they have to bring in migrants to address labor shortages in their countries." The U.N. projections, however, have been met with concern in countries where anti-foreign sentiment is high, such as Germany, where a spate of brutal attacks against foreigners has dominated the political agenda this summer.
Austria, meanwhile, was under European Union sanctions until Tuesday because of the anti-immigrant policies of the far-right Freedom Party. But Italy apparently has come to terms with the fact that migration flows are part and parcel of the globalized economy, Chamie said, noting that the Italian government has begun dealing with the issue at the highest levels in part because it is so affected by illegal immigration from Africa and Eastern Europe on its expansive Mediterranean border.
In his speech Wednesday, Dini called for the United Nations to help formulate rules to govern migration, and to better coordinate existing norms on legal migration and law enforcement to prevent illegal trafficking in human beings.
He also called for the United Nations and donor countries to do a better job of providing development assistance to poorer countries to quell the economic tensions that often spark migration.
"We must work together to prevent migration flows from plunging into chaos, a chaos for which the human person ultimately has to pay the highest price," Dini said.
© ABC News

More than 250 immigrants were rescued after their ramshackle boat sank Wednesday off the western Cyprus coast, police said.
There are no reports of any serious injuries. Hundreds of people relaxing on a beach near the resort town of Paphos first alerted authorities to the foundering craft and then watched the rescue drama from shore. Police said the coast guard brought all those aboard the boat safely to shore.
Police said the boat, believed to mainly be carrying Iraqi Kurds and Syrians, departed from Lebanon and was bound for Italy when it ran into trouble.
Local media reports said each immigrant had paid $4,000 to the boat"s four-member crew to take them to Italy.
The reports said the crew abandoned the boat before it entered Cyprus waters.
There was no immediate official confirmation of the media reports. There has been several incidents in the past few years of boatloads of immigrants, most from the Middle East and Africa, ending up on Cyprus shores after their boats break down en route to Greece or Italy.
© ABC News

Baby-faced Nigerian women as young as their teens thronged their country"s visiting first lady for a one-time passport giveaway Tuesday, desperate for a legal new start after breaking from the sex-trafficking gangs that smuggled them into Europe.
"Now I can do anything!" said Ufuoma Emesh, 23, kissing a green-bound passport fresh from the hands of Nigerian first lady Stella Obasanjo. Several dozen women went away Tuesday with the documents, needed legally either to remain in Italy or to return home.
That made them the lucky ones among tens of thousands of African and Eastern European illegal immigrants forced onto the streets of Italy alone _ part of what the United Nations estimates as a $3.5 billion human-trafficking trade yearly around the globe. They also left with a scolding from Nigeria"s first lady, clearly embarrassed at the way the response to the passport giveaway highlighted Nigeria"s status as a leading exporter of prostitutes.
"It only takes a little effort to make a good living in Nigeria," the pompadoured first lady insisted at one stop.
It took "cowardice and greed to leave for a position of quick profit" abroad, Obasanjo said _ quickly adding that none of the neatly dressed young women before her had made that choice.
Her passport giveaway marked the state visit to Italy of her husband, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.
She gave away passports at a Rome office of the Catholic charity Caritas and later at Nigeria"s embassy, where more than 100 women turned out.
Nigeria is Africa"s most populous country _ and for many of its 123 million people, poor beyond all hope of a way up, or out. Agents of the pimp-rings in Nigeria offer girls as young as 14 escape in a job overseas _ girls like Rosemary Igbinadion, whose cheeks bear the ritual scars of her native Ado in Nigeria.
Rosemary ran away from a mother at home who beat her, only to fall into the hands of strangers who promised her a job mopping floors and washing clothes abroad. She wound up at one of Italy"s roadside prostitution stops instead. "These girls dream of immigration. A good share of them really believe they"ll have jobs when they get here," said Pino Gulia of Caritas.
"Even for those who suspect, or who know, otherwise, they never dream of the violence involved." Nigeria"s first lady said she learned Tuesday of women crippled by being thrown from buildings when they balked at hitting the streets. Others were locked in cupboards; almost all were beaten.
"We try to look happy and smile while we wait, but inside we are dead people walking," said Faith Atamewan, an ex-prostitute who just turned 20. Smugglers provide fake passports to get the women into Europe but immediately recover them to use for the next batch. On Tuesday, clerics urged Nigeria to at least cut the standard passport processing fee of $500 to $65 and ease what can be years-long waits.
"They escaped from the criminals, who are trying to get them again, for punishment," said the Rev. Oreste Benzi, who brought more than 50 Nigerian women from the Adriatic resort town of Rimini for the giveaway.
"If they had passports they could get a nice job and send money to their families _ but they can"t," Benzi said. "They escape from the street, and they are forced by the authorities, practically, to go back on the street."
© ABC News

The Ukrainian captain of a ship and four of its officers (three Ukrainians and a Russian) were detained in Pasajes, in Guipúzcoa, last week, after 46 North African illegal immigrants were found to be travelling on board. As the vessel arrived in Pasajes port, 45 of them threw themselves into the water, although it is not known why they did so, and one man remained on board.
Those in the sea were rescued, and all were taken to San Sebastián, where some needed medical treatment for dehydration.
The immigrants were all from Morocco and Algeria, and the adults are being deported while those under the age of majority are being cared for in special centres.
© Town Crier

THAT the unprecedented influx of foreign migrants over the last decade has left its stamp on the texture of society in this country has practically become a cliche in recent years. But most people probably do not realise just how profoundly the impact of economic migration is already being felt in the country's public schools, says sociologist Polyzois Babouras, who was quoted on the weekend by the Athens daily To Vima as saying that "the problems which have arisen from educating foreign children alongside Greek pupils remain unsolved".
Recent statistics confirm the presence of more and more foreign children at schools throughout Greece, and although the percentage is still low all the indications point to a continued steady increase.
Foreign children currently make up less than 10 percent of the public school population as a whole, but in some reported instances there are schools where the percentage is greater, noted the newspaper.
Increasing numbers of parents are known to be concerned about the effect on their children's academic progress of "too many" foreign children in a given school environment, said the newspaper, which noted that relations between Greek and foreign pupils have, on occasion, been extremely strained.
Inadequate knowledge of Greek is certainly a problem, concede some migrant parents, while - the daily notes - there have even been instances of downright racism in the classroom.
Yesterday's Eleftheros Typos headlined the issue Migrants make a Babel of public schools, charging that an absence of orientation classes to familiarise foreign pupils with the Greek school system and speed up their integration is to blame for much of the classroom inequity which has been reported, with Greek parents alleging that their children are being held back academically while foreign children are eased into the system in their new country of settlement.
The To Vima report noted that foreign school pupils are inevitably going to grow in numbers, with the newly-arrived migrant tending to settle down and start a family after finding steady work, describing it as a situation fraught with the makings of future problems for the new generation of children speaking a different mother tongue from that of their peers.

The "Alice in Wonderland" trial in absentia of 14 Western leaders - including Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Jacques Chirac - opened in Belgrade yesterday. The leaders stand accused of war crimes against Yugoslavia carried out during the 11-week Nato bombing campaign last year.
It took the Belgrade district prosecutor Andrija Milutinovic more than three hours to read out the charges to the court, including the exact locations of Nato air strikes and the names of every victim.
The leaders are accused of instigating an aggressive war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia [FRY], war crimes against civilians, using prohibited weapons, attempting tomurder the Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and violating the territorial sovereignty of the FRY.
The indictment named 503 civilians, 240 Yugoslav army members and 147 Serb policemen killed in Nato raids. The names of the 14 leaders were attached to 14 empty seats in the front row facing the five-member council of judges.
A portrait of Mr Milosevic hung on the wall overlooking proceedings, as if to underline the gravity with which the Belgrade regime views the trial, which comes just days before parliamentary and presidential elections.
The government is presenting the poll on Sunday as "a referendum on Nato", with sympathisers of Mr Milosevic being described as "patriots" and the opposition and its supporters branded "traitors paid by Nato".
Belgrade's Palace of Justice was renovated for the trial with a new pink carpet and fresh paintwork. Security was tight, as the trial was attended by the Serb Minister of Justice, Dragoljub Jankovic, as well as diplomats from Burma, China, Cuba, Iraq, Russia and several African countries. The public gallery was filled with senior members of Mr Milosevic's Socialist Party and members of the party's youth branches.
Each of the 14 "defendants" had been appointed defence lawyers by the court. Vojo Beslac, who is defending the British Prime Minister, said he was presented with a 200-page indictment on 7 September. He declined to comment on the grounds of his defence. "It's too early to say," he told The Independent. He added that he notified Mr Blair about the case "through a letter", but "received no answer".
According to the presiding judge, Verolj Raketic, there was no need for any witnesses or families of victims to attend the trial, as the accumulated evidence of 29 district courts and the military prosecutors' office was "thorough".
"We would need an unfeasibly large courtroom for all of them to attend the trial.
All the citizens of Serbia and the FRY could have been invited here," Judge Raketic said. The indictment was sent to the accused via diplomatic channels, he added. Six hours of video-taped evidence of Nato "crimes" will be presented this week.
According to the indictment, Nato used 600 cruise missiles in the campaign of 25,119 sorties. The material damage inflicted upon the FRY was described as "enormous".
The court heard from the district prosecutor that Nato air strikes were launched in March last year as a result of an "unacceptable ultimatum" presented to Yugoslavia. He quoted "political, economical and military reasons" for Nato's decision, as well as the alliance's intention to help "terrorists in Kosovo" in their effort to destroy the FRY. Citizens in the West were made to believe the air raids were a noble cause, aimed at preventing a humanitarian catastrophe among ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, he added.
The decision was "contrary to the United Nations' charter... an act of aggression... breaching the 1949 Geneva Convention and adjoining protocol on warfare; [it was] premeditated murder of civilians and soldiers, premeditated destruction of property, villages and towns", Mr Milutinovic told the court.
Two relatives of victims managed to enter the courtroom. Beba Stojmenovska and Zanka Stojanovic, mothers of two technicians killed during the bombing of the headquarters of Radio Television of Serbia, said the trial was a farce.
"Nato deserves to go on trial but the same should be done to those who made targets of us and our children," Mrs Stojanovic said. "This here - it's a travesty of justice." Mrs Stojmenovska said: "It's all because of the elections. The regime sees the elections as a 'referendum' against Nato. But the elections mean life or death for people here.
"Normal life in a normal country or a slow death in the ruined country we have. This is not about justice."
© The Independent

Far-right leader Joerg Haider described sanctions against Austria by its EU partners on Wednesday as a complete failure and accused German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of "monarchical arrogance."
In a sign that Tuesday"s lifting of sanctions imposed over the presence of Haider"s Freedom Party in government may not mean a thaw in relations, Schroeder"s office said he did not expect to receive Austrian leaders, or to visit Vienna, this year.
France, fiercest critic of the seven-month-old coalition between the Freedom Party and Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel"s conservatives, said Vienna had no reason to celebrate.
Austria"s 14 EU partners on Tuesday unconditionally lifted diplomatic sanctions which they imposed after the coalition took office in February. But they expressed "grave concern" about the nature of the Freedom Party and said they would keep a wary eye on it.
At a news conference in Carinthia, of which he is provincial governor, Haider said the sanctions had strengthened patriotic feeling in Austria and boosted the country"s self-confidence. "The sanctions had no effect," he said in Klagenfurt, the provincial capital.
"At no point did they achieve the goal they were intended to achieve, which was to prevent the formation of a government with the Freedom Party. "They were aimed at breaking the government but the coalition is firmer than ever."
In an interview with NEWS magazine, Haider said the ending of the sanctions, following a "wise men"s" report which praised Austria"s human rights record, represented his rehabilitation.
"I am completely rehabilitated and that is really a personal satisfaction," he told the magazine in an interview to be published on Thursday.
In the interview, Haider launched another of his familiar broadsides against critical EU leaders, describing Schroeder as "one of those people who trample without feeling on anyone who threatens their power."
"Schroeder"s monarchical arrogance is intolerable," he said.
Haider also said he was attracted by the idea of expanding his party into a pan-European movement which could radically reform the EU. It was largely because of Haider, still the Freedom Party"s dominant force despite stepping down as leader in May, that the sanctions were imposed in the first place.
The other 14 governments considered the party racist and xenophobic and were angry at Haider"s remarks playing down the crimes of the Nazis, for which he later apologised.
Haider said that by rescinding the sanctions -- which in essence froze bilateral contacts with Austrian ministers -- the 14 countries had acknowledged that they had never been justified. "The Austrian government and the Freedom Party can emerge from these sanctions with their head held high," he said.
Haider has not held a post in the national government but he still sits on its powerful policy-making coalition committee.
While seen internationally as an extreme right-wing party with an unhealthily ambiguous attitude to Austria"s Nazi past, the Freedom Party portrays itself as a reformist force that challenges post-war power structures, stands up for the rights of ordinary people and puts Austrian interests first.
Both Haider and his successor as party leader, Vice-Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer, said the "vigilance" which the 14 countries plan to exercise would be a two-way street.
"If you look at the violence against foreigners in Spain, France and Germany and the neo-Nazi gangs marching on the streets of Sweden and Germany, then you know there are many things in the EU that are not in order and which we in Austria will follow with great vigilance," Riess-Passer said.
In Paris, France"s European Affairs Minister Pierre Moscovici said neither the Austrian government nor the Freedom Party had reason to celebrate.
The Freedom Party remained a "xenophobic, racist" movement, he said after a cabinet meeting, adding: "There is no reason for triumph, neither for the Austrian government, nor for the Austrian coalition, and above all not for that provocative Mr Haider."
© ABC News

The German Government has banned the German branch of an international white supremacist group called Blood and Honour.
The German Interior Minister, Otto Schily, said the group was spreading Nazi messages.
He said some of those arrested after a recent spate of attacks on foreigners in Germany had been inspired by music played at concerts organised by the group.
But he said there was no evidence directly implicating Blood and Honour in the attacks.
The ban comes as a German Government commission considers whether to outlaw the biggest far-right group in Germany, the National Democratic Party (NPD), because of the racist attacks.
Blood and Honour has about 200 German members, Mr Schily said.
In a series of raids, police confiscated propaganda material and bank books listing deposits "in five figures," he said.
"Germany is the first nation to fight this organisation this way," Mr Schily said of the ban against Blood and Honour.
The group was founded in the UK and spread to Germany in 1994, where it has ties to the NPD. It is now active worldwide.
"It's enough that they adopted the goal of spreading Nazi ideology," Mr Schily said, justifying the ban. The group's activities "poison the bodies and hearts" of young people, he said.
"We are looking into whether it will be necessary to ban other groups," Mr Schily added. Germany is currently engrossed in a wide-ranging debate over ways to tackle right-wing extremism.
Last month three German skinheads were sentenced to long jail terms for the murder of a Mozambican man in a vicious racist attack in the east German town of Dessau.
The murder was one of three this year blamed on extreme-right groups.
Such attacks were further highlighted at the end of July when a bomb in Duesseldorf seriously injured 10 foreigners - six of them Jews.

The UN committee against racial discrimination is criticising Norwegian efforts against racial discrimination. According to the committee Norway lacks laws, surveillance and protection against institutional racism and racial discrimination.
One of the committee's points is that without a set of laws against discrimination, it is difficult to react against the discriminators.
The committee also encourages Norway to improve the surveillance and chartering of racism and ethnic discrimination, in order to establish the extent of, among other things, institutional racism.
Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen, leader of the Norwegian center against racial discrimination, says she thinks the critique will be taken very seriously.
Norway needs to improve the registering of discrimination, says Kristin Krohn Devold, from the Ministry of Local Government. Devold says she is working on it.

A SENIOR Italian cardinal has provoked outrage by calling for Christian immigrants to be given preference over Muslims. He said the policy would "protect Italy's identity" against "Islam's ideological attack". Giacomo Biffi, Archbishop of Bologna and a traditionalist sometimes seen as a possible successor to the Pope, said that the Church faced "one of the most serious and biggest assaults on Christianity that history remembers". He said aspects of Islam were not compatible with the Italian way of life.
He said: "Europe will either become Christian again or it will become Muslim."
His remarks were immediately attacked by politicians and priests.
The social solidarity minister, Livia Turco, who is partly responsible for immigration policy, said that "building walls against Islam was irresponsible". She said: "A secular and democratic state can never accept discrimination based on religion, ethnicity or culture."
Father Antonio Mazzi, a priest who frequently appears on television, said: "Either we are people of hope or we are people of fear.
I would rather talk to believers of a different religion than those who believe only in money and consumerism. Otherwise it means that Christ died for nothing." Italy is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, with 1.2 million Muslims making up its largest religious minority.
© Telegraph Group Limited

The Government is facing mounting pressure to end the "grotesque" voucher system for asylum seekers after a leading union pledged to raise the issue at the Labour party conference.
The Transport and General Workers' Union will submit a motion seeking better treatment for refugees when the party meets in Brighton later this month.
The move was announced by the union's general secretary Bill Morris after he spent an emotional morning with a 30-year-old Iranian doctor fleeing religious persecution in his country.
Mr Morris, who is attending the TUC Congress in Glasgow, took time off to join the doctor at a supermarket in the city to see how he spends his food vouchers. No change is allowed from the vouchers, and refugees have to endure the indignity of buying cheap, often out-of-date food, said Mr Morris.
A black market has sprung up, with asylum seekers desperate for cash, being forced to sell £10 vouchers for £8, said the TGWU.
"It's vouchers for asylum seekers today, it could be vouchers for pensions tomorrow, single parents next and eventually all state benefits," he told the Congress.
He complained that political language used against refugees in recent months had given racists permission to spread their "message of hate".
© Ananova

The Labour Government is examining introducing British history, society and constitution classes for immigrants.
Anyone seeking to permanently live in Britain would then be granted citizenship in a ceremony in which they would swear allegiance to the Crown.
The plans are modelled on US procedures in which immigrants attend 'citizenship classes' and must pass a test on US history, naming state capitals, past presidents and important events, before finally taking the oath of allegiance to the United States.
The Home Office has not yet decided whether there would be tests or to make classes compulsory, the Daily Mail reports. Currently new citizens must sign an oath but it is a purely paper exercise.
Immigration Minister Barbara Roche says the 'induction and guidance' process would aim to teach immigrants they have responsibilities to this country as well as rights.
The UK is to allow 'economic migrants' with no links to Britain to settle here for the first time in 30 years.
Currently immigrants must have family here, a firm job offer from a British company or £200,000 of their own cash to invest.
The only other way to get permission to stay is to claim asylum as a refugee - a system seen as being widely abused.
© Ananova

Florin Buhuceanu was studying to become a theologian, until he decided to stop hiding the fact that he is gay.
Two years after quitting theology school, Buhuceanu, 30, does not regret publicly announcing his sexual preference - a very rare decision in Romania. He now runs the country's only organization to promote gay rights, even though he lost friends and receives abusive telephone calls.
While his thinking brings him closer to the Europe of which Romania desires to be a part, it puts him at odds with the influential Romanian Orthodox Church, whose top clergy this week are fighting to convince lawmakers that homosexual behavior must be kept illegal here.
``We want to enter Europe, not Sodom,'' Bishop Bartolomeu Anania said as the Holy Synod began this week, referring to the biblical city of sexual vice. He wants a national referendum on whether homosexuality should be legal.
``The church rejects tainted love in order to protect and promote the holy love that God desires,'' Patriarch Teoctist wrote in a letter to parliament. ``Europe will receive us at their bosom the way we are,'' he wrote, urging lawmakers to keep legislation that makes public displays of homosexual behavior illegal.
Still, in June, the Chamber of Deputies scrapped communist-era legislation that discriminates against gays and criminalizes homosexual behavior that causes ``a public outrage.''
The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation soon, just two months ahead of general elections. Gay activists fear that with elections around the corner, lawmakers may be reluctant to oppose the Orthodox Church, to which almost 90 percent of Romanians belong.
``The Orthodox Church is hypocritical and immoral,'' said 59-year-old writer Dominic Brezianu, who now lives in Richmond, Calif. ``Some of the highest level prelates were notorious for their immoral collaboration (with the communists) and they meet as a synod.... to condemn in their obscure ignorance.''
Brezianu fled communist Romania in 1980 because he was harassed by authorities for being a homosexual. Those attitudes linger in Romania, a conservative Balkan society.
A recent poll by the Foundation for an Open Society revealed that 77 percent of Romanians would not want to be the neighbor of a homosexual. But there are also signs that the stranglehold of fear and prejudice is easing.
Romanian newspapers are beginning to write about homosexuals without the intolerance that characterized the early 1990s. Local disco Casablanca is welcoming gays, offering security to the clientele, and Brezianu launched a volume of Homo-erotic poems called ``Stopovers'' on Tuesday.
The International Gay and Lesbian Association is planning its annual conference in October in Bucharest, which could anger the church and anti-homosexual groups. In a letter to parliament, Buhuceanu appealed to legislators to put human rights above religious convictions.
``We know that different religious institutions are putting on pressure to maintain anti-homosexual legislation, but Romania is a secular state and your responsibility is to pass laws that respect human rights,'' he wrote.
© Associated Press

People used to buy Dr Muyemba drinks simply because of his exotic appearance. Then the Berlin Wall fell, attitudes changed, and now he is lucky to get served in a restaurant.
Some might despair at such change of fortune, but the 54-year-old economist from Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) is not the type. When immigrant hostels started burning, he took the black man's burden upon his shoulders and became a missionary in Germany's heart of darkness. "I want to civilise the East," he declares, chuckling at the irony of his words.
It helps to have a sense of humour in his line of business: Dr Jean-Jérôme Chico-Kaleu Muyemba travels to schools in Berlin's hinterland, the state of Brandenburg, preaching multiculturalism in a sea of racial prejudice. There are touchy moments, but he has a disarming joke ready for every occasion. When confronted by a Hitler salute, for instance, Dr Muyemba would smile and reply: "Hitler is dead. Haven't you heard?"
In the wake of the murder of the Mozambican Alberto Adriano in June, there has been much discussion in Germany about social attitudes to xenophobia. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has led calls for ordinary people to make a stand, to inform, or at least not to look away. Once again, more than a decade after the fall of the Wall, the appalling ignorance, especially in the East, is being blamed for racist violence. For eight years Dr Muyemba has been doing his bit to plug the knowledge gap.
"Hi, I'm a Bushman," he tells his wide-eyed audience as he enters the classroom. For most, it will be their first meeting with a black man. The little ones are surprised to discover that he can speak fluent German - Dr Muyemba has lived in (West) Germany since 1972 and obtained his degrees from Berlin's Free University.
On a good day, they ask to touch his hair, learn a few words in Swahili, and maybe even reassess some of the knowledge they bring from home, such as "My mum says blacks are sub-human". They certainly discover that there is more to Africa than mosquitoes, hunger, crocodiles and Tarzan. The children are invited to discuss Germany's "foreigner question" and racist terms of abuse.
There is an age of relative innocence, Dr Muyemba has found, when young minds are open. After 14, though, things get tough. Prejudice has hardened into fact, often reinforced by the "learned" input of teachers. Dr Muyemba tells of his visit to a school in Schwedt. A 15-year old boy, describing himself as a "patriot", launches into an anti-Semitic tirade. "Why are all the Jews coming here again, and not to Israel?" he wants to know. "How long must we Germans pay compensation to the Jews?" The form teacher nods: "The boy is right."
In another school in Elsterwerda, Dr Muyemba provokes pupils with a picture showing a black man holding hands with a white woman. One girl is outraged. "We Germans must keep our blood pure," she says. No one challenges her, not even the form teacher or the headmaster sitting in.
A colleague of Dr Muyemba, an Iranian woman addressed by one of the pupils of a Potsdam primary school as "doner kebab", was spat at. A subsequent investigation revealed that a male teacher was present, but did not intervene.
Dr Muyemba is not surprised. The highlight of his lesson is the question: "How many foreigners live in Germany?" The pupils' rough guess is 40-50 per cent. The teachers are not sure. "I've come across teachers who did not even know how many people live in Germany," the black missionary says.
All they know is that the old GDR had a population of 17 million. "So then I say: 'Let me, the Bushman, tell you that 82 million people live in Germany, of whom 7 million are foreigners, the overwhelming majority of whom are not asylum-seekers or drug-dealers. And 2.5 per cent of Brandenburg's population are foreigners.'"
That is the main message Dr Muyemba and other itinerant lecturers are trying to convey: contrary to myth, Germany is not being swamped by foreigners. Their work is sponsored by the Brandenburg authorities and non-governmental organisations dedicated to the fight against racism. Money is tight, but more and more volunteers are heeding Chancellor Schröder's call and offering support. Dr Muyemba estimates that about 90 per cent of his trips are useful, and the remainder a washout because "we are only insulted and abused". But he is not giving up. "I know that the kids who have sung an African song with me have changed," he says. "The next time they meet a foreigner, they will think of me first, and won't throw that stone."
© The Independent

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has accused Tory leader William Hague of tolerating extremism in his party and legitimising racism in its ranks.
But the Conservatives hit back, saying Mr Cook's remarks were "contemptible" and a deliberate attempt at smear tactics.
Mr Cook, speaking in his Livingston constituency, said he did not believe Mr Hague was a racist but gave a string of examples he said showed the Tories did not accept "the multi-cultural society Britain has become".
The Foreign Secretary accused Mr Hague himself of "exploiting fear" over asylum seekers, and Tory health spokesman Liam Fox of "encouraging prejudice" by saying foreign doctors were threatening patients' lives in the NHS through their lack of English.
Mr Cook said politicians should mind their language if they wanted a stable and successful multi-cultural society, saying: "They should stigmatise racism, not legitimise it."
But the Foreign Secretary added: "I do not believe that William Hague is a racist or a xenophobe. But I do believe that he needs to halt the drift in his party to extremism. So far he has shown no sign of doing so."
Tory vice-chairman Tim Collins said in response to Mr Cook's remarks that they were "a contemptible smear" on a par with Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party conference speech last year when he appeared to link Conservative voters and supporters with a host of reactionary and racist causes.
© Ananova

A death threat has been sent to the former chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission as part of a racist campaign carried out by staff.
Police were called in when Kamlash Bahl received four racist memos, including the threat, while chairing the commission in 1996, but the culprit was never found. Everything had been done to find the person responsible and Commission refused to "tolerate racism in any form", a spokeswoman said.
Ms Bahl, who is currently suing former employers the Law Society for sex and race discrimination, accused the Commission of institutionalised racism.
"The thing that shocked me the most at the Equal Opportunities Commission is the racism I found there," she told Professor Anthony Clare in a recording of BBC Radio 4's In The Psychiatrists Chair.
"I used to receive memos from members of staff ... and when the time came for my term to come to an end and I was considering whether to stay for another term, I got a particularly racist memo."
It warned that she might not live to see through another term, she said during the recording.
Manchester police were called into take fingerprints and fellow staff were quizzed when the memos were sent in 1996, but the author was never found.
Ms Bahl, who resigned as vice-president of the Law Society over accusations that she bullied staff, said she suffered "a lot of personal stress and responsibility" by not speaking out at the time.
A Commission spokeswoman confirmed Ms Bahl received four racist memos over a three month period while chair of the organisation in 1996.
"These incidents were taken extremely seriously by the EOC and a full internal investigation was carried out on each occasion and it was made clear to staff that this was a dismissible offence," she said.
© Ananova

The number of instances of racist violence in the Netherlands has increased, according to a study by the Binnenlandse Veiligheidsdienst (National Security Service).
Youths in particular are committing more racist attacks.
Home Minister De Vries emphasised on Tuesday in the Lower House that such attacks had no "organised background".
Youths committed such crimes, he said, usually "more or less by chance," in a group and under the influence of alcohol.
"The ad hoc character means that preventing this violence is difficult," he said.
De Vries and Justice Minister Korthals said there was no clear relation with new extreme-right political parties.
Korthals said the rise of the far right in the Netherlands is not out of hand. "The temperature is not obviously rising," the VVD member said.
Korthals, urged by D66 MP Dittrich, said he was willing to investigate the possibility of a national hotline where citizens could report incidents of discrimination. For the moment, he said, he believes sufficient opportunities for doing so already exist.
© Expatica

The Netherlands, long among the gay rights vanguard, is set to solidify that position with a bill converting the country's ``registered same-sex partnerships'' into marriages, complete with divorce guidelines and wider adoption rights for gays.
Proponents say the legislation, which was virtually assured of passing during a vote set for Tuesday, would give Dutch gays rights beyond those offered in any other country.
An overwhelming majority in the 150-seat parliament favors the government's proposal. Only a few small Christian parties opposed the bill in an emotional and often heated three-day debate last week.
``The law acknowledges that a person's sex is not of importance for marriage,'' said Boris Dittrich, a member of the centrist Democrats 66 party and a proponent of the plan. He spoke during what he called ``the most moving debate'' of his parliamentary career.
In Norway and Sweden, gay couples can already register their partnerships and Denmark has gone a step further - it was the first country in the world to allow gay marriages in 1989. Two years ago, the Netherlands enacted a law allowing same-sex couples to register as partners and to claim pensions, social security and inheritance.
But the new Dutch legislation goes farther, creating full equality for gays, activists said.
Same-sex couples will be able to marry at city hall and adopt Dutch children. They will be able to divorce through the court system, like heterosexual couples.
``We will be able to call it what it is and that's marriage,'' said Henk Krol, an activist and editor-in-chief of the Gay Krant magazine. He said the vote ``will be an absolute first in the world.''
The law is expected to take effect early next year. Krol said he plans to convert his own partnership status to marriage as soon as it does.
Displaying unusual solidarity, all three parliamentary factions in the governing coalition - the left-of-center Labor Party, the Liberal VVD and the smaller Democrats 66 - have pledged to back the proposal. Even a few members of the biggest opposition party, the largely traditional Christian Democratic Alliance, or CDA, have expressed support.
The plan hasn't been recognized by the dominant Protestant or Roman Catholic churches, but a few breakaway churches have sent encouraging letters to legislators.
The Remonstrant Brethren, which broke from the Protestant church in 1619, was one step ahead of the Dutch parliament, having accepted gay marriages in 1986. The Remonstrants and a group called the Old Catholic Church are the best-known supporters of gay rights here.
While gays will enjoy new liberties in the Netherlands, they may run into trouble when they travel in countries where homosexuality remains illegal. The Foreign Affairs Ministry has proposed offering legal assistance to Dutch citizens in such cases.
Some opponents fear the unique position of gays could isolate the Dutch and set the Netherlands apart.
The bill will create ``a world without foundations ... where the historical understanding of marriage is torn from its roots,'' said Kees van der Straaij of the Reformed Political Party.
© Associated Press

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson has appointed Ambassador Henrik Amneus of Sweden as her Special Envoy on persons deprived of liberty in connection with the Kosovo crisis in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY).
In her reports to the Commission on Human Rights, the High Commissioner has underlined the seriousness of the problem of all persons deprived of liberty, including prisoners, detainees and missing persons in the FRY, regardless of ethnicity.
The Special Envoy, appointed for an initial period of six months, will raise relevant issues with international, national and local authorities, parties and entities throughout the country. He will seek to facilitate communication among all parties and thereby contribute toward a reduction of tensions in Kosovo and elsewhere in the FRY.
His main focus will be on addressing the nature of the problem and seeking comprehensive solutions, rather than intervening on individual cases.
The work of the Special Envoy will be supportive of the mandates of the main international actors concerned with these issues, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights.
Ambassador Amneus has been working in the diplomatic service of Sweden since 1961. He served as Ambassador to Iraq and as Permanent Representative of Sweden to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
From 1981 to 1988 he was Minister at the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations Headquarters in New York. He subsequently served as Ambassador for Human Rights based in Stockholm from 1991 to 1993. He is also experienced in the region of the former Yugoslavia.
From August 1996 to February 1997, he was Chairman of the Joint Implementation Committee on Human Rights with UNTAES in Vukovar, Croatia, and he subsequently served as the Head of the OSCE Mission to the Republic of Croatia, based in Zagreb.

The Freedom Party sparked huge protests A French Government minister has said European Union sanctions against Austria could be just hours away from being lifted.
But at the same time, the Swedish prime minister has called the sanctions "correct and powerful" - and said countries should not pressurise each other into ending the policy.
The diplomatic measures were imposed after Austria's far-right Freedom Party was invited to enter a coalition government despite widespread international concern.
A report by three European investigators, released on Friday, called for the sanctions to be lifted.
France's European Affairs Minister, Pierre Moscovici, told journalists on Monday that he believed Austria's return from the diplomatic wilderness was imminent.
"It's a question of hours or of days," Mr Moscovici said.
He stressed the move did not mean the Freedom Party and its former leader Joerg Haider had won approval.
And he said measures should be considered which would keep a check on Austria's human rights performance.
Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson insisted that the 14 countries had to maintain their unanimity.
"We went into this, and should exit from it, with an informal coordination," said Goran Persson.
"If any country stands in the way itself or puts pressure on another, the coordination that we had is over. That can lead to further conflict."
France has been one of the most vocal supporters of the sanctions, and as current EU president has been consulting the 13 other countries on the way forward.
Some pro-European campaigners are keen to despatch the matter into EU history as soon as possible, to avoid influencing the outcome of a Danish referendum on joining the single European currency.
The row has been seized on by Denmark's anti-euro camp as an example of European interference in internal affairs.
The report by the three independent advisers - known as the three wise men - said the sanctions policy had proved counterproductive.
It said the measures had actually served to increase nationalist sentiments in Austria, because they were mistakenly interpreted as sanctions against ordinary citizens.
The report was welcomed by Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, who said the sanctions should be lifted as quickly as they had been imposed.

A panel of independent experts will on Friday deliver its report on the political situation in Austria following the inclusion of the far-right Freedom Party in government.
The so-called "wise men" were asked to prepare their report by Austria's 14 EU partners, who imposed diplomatic sanctions on Vienna when the coalition government was formed seven months ago.
The far-Right's rise to power in Austria and the placing of diplomatic sanctions against it have blighted business in the EU.
The wise men's report could offer a way out.

Policies studied
The panel, led by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, was asked to examine the policies of Joerg Haider's Freedom Party and assess its impact on the Austrian Government.
Its findings will be crucial to any decision by the other 14 countries on whether to restore normal relations.
The EU is certainly looking for a way out of the situation.
But the wise men's report may not give clear answers.

It's possible they will conclude that while the Austrian Government has shown no undemocratic tendencies, the Freedom Party itself is tainted with racism and xenophobia.
That will scarcely lessen the dilemma facing Austria's partners.
The months of isolation have not hurt Austria economically.
Tourism is flourishing as never before, despite early attempts to discourage visitors.
But politically, the country is suffering.
Austrian ministers take part in European Union meetings, but have had no bilateral contacts with other EU nations since February.
The government has threatened to hold a referendum on the sanctions if they are not lifted by the middle of next month.

Some of the tourists were barred from leaving the port The Turkish authorities have apologised after the police banned a group of homosexual tourists from visiting the ancient site of Ephesus.
The 800 tourists, from the United States, Britain, France and the Netherlands, arrived in the port of Kusadasi aboard a cruise liner, the Olympic Voyager.
They say a number of their buses were prevented by the police from leaving the port and others were turned back from the ancient site itself.
Turkish press reports said that the authorities feared they were planning to "disturb" a traditional all-male wrestling contest which takes place annually at Edirne near the border with Bulgaria.

Traders complain
The Sabah newspaper said that the ruling to bar the tourists came from the Turkish Interior Ministry, but a ministry spokesman said he was not aware of any order.
"All they said was 'No pass,"' said Edward Timblyn, one of the American passengers.
"I was disappointed, being stuck on the ship all day."
But he said that the mayor of Kusadasi had boarded the boat in the evening to apologise for the incident, saying that it tarnished Turkey's image.
The Tourism Minister, Erkan Mumcu, also tried to repair the damage.
"We are not in a position to make judgements about people's sexual preference," he said.
Traders in Kusadasi complained that the ban had damaged tourism and cost them valuable sales.

The group has now gone to Istanbul where, after intervention by the US State Department, they were allowed to visit the historic sites.
This time, the tourists were escorted by uniformed policemen on motorcycles and a large number of plainclothes officers.
The police arrested 19 people who attempted to harass them.
Correspondents say that although gay artists, singers and belly dancers are popular in Turkey, homosexuality is still taboo, and gays complain of discrimination - especially from the police.

Dutch police were trailing the suspected leader of a smuggling ring allegedly responsible for the deaths of 58 Chinese immigrants before their bodies were found in a truck in Dover.
Justice Minister Benk Korthals told a special parliamentary session the suspect and others had been under surveillance, but police had no clear indication they were involved in human trafficking.
The suspect's name has not been released, in line with Dutch privacy practices. He was being "observed once or twice a week for some time," Mr Korthals said.
During the hour-long debate, MPs referred to an article in the respected weekly magazine Vrij Nederland that identified one gang member as Gurzel O, and said he was of Turkish origin. The magazine said the ring had been under observation since mid-1998 after a tip it was shipping Kurds from the Netherlands to England by yacht.
Last June, British customs officers in Dover found the Chinese who had suffocated in the back of an airtight truck during the five-hour ferry crossing from Belgium. Two immigrants survived. The truck was registered in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam.
Mr Korthals told Parliament in The Hague that under the surveillance operation illegal shipments were allowed to leave the Netherlands to gather evidence against the gangs. He said: "The former justice minister gave permission to allow shipments through in 1998."
"But the Dover case was not one of them," he added, and the suspects were not being followed on the day the Chinese were packed onto the truck inside an unventilated refrigeration container.
Mr Korthals denied he was aware of any human trafficking activities by the organisation before the incident in Dover.
Six people are in custody and an official close to the investigation said another major figure is being sought.
Five other suspects were detained and conditionally released after questioning.
The Justice Ministry's Human Trafficking Unit declined to react to the minister's comments or give new details. A court hearing and full parliamentary debate are expected in September and October respectively.
© Ananova

Minimum international standards are not always adhered to by Irish authorities in initial asylum decisions, according to a new study, reports the Irish Times. The study is the first examination of the internal workings of the asylum process, and is based on 100 randomly selected assessments by the Justice Department. It also includes interviews with more than 30 solicitors representing applicants.
The study was carried out by the Irish Refugee Council, with the support of the Joseph Rountree Charitable Trust. It arose in part from the rising divergence in numbers between those granted refugee status at first instance, as opposed to at appeal.
The study makes 52 recommendations, aimed at improving the assessment procedure and bringing it in line with international refugee instruments and standards.
The recommendations demonstrate the inadequate protections afforded asylum-seekers during the process, and include a number of telling omissions, like the right to an interpreter, the right to a full interview, and stressing the need for interviewers to be properly qualified and trained and have adequate information about the countries of origin. The study concluded that the grounds for "manifestly unfounded" decisions are too broad.
© Refugees Daily

The Committee for the Protection of Human Rights in Leskovac has been erased from the register of public organisations and civil associations.
The decision, signed by the head of police in Leskovac, Colonel Zoran Mladenovic, was handed over to the president of this organisation's committee, Dobrosav Nesic, last night. According to FoNet, the decision was explained by the fact that Nesic was currently appearing before the municipal court on charges of violating the law on foreign currency dealings, as well as because of the political activities of some of the committee members, which were contrary to the decrees of non-governmental organisations.
The Committee for the Protection of Human Rights in Leskovac and its president Dobrosav Nesic have often been targets of repression in the past. The paper published by the Committee, "Human Rights", has been fined a total of 270,000,00 dinars under the Public Information Act.

German police said on Tuesday they had confiscated more than 7,500 compact discs of neo-Nazi music, some bearing photos of Adolf Hitler on their covers, along with far-right paraphernalia in a pre-dawn raid.
Authorities in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt said it was the biggest sweep against the far-right this year. A total of 11 sites were raided in the early hours of August 30.
``A lot of young people have internalized this music and often commit hate crimes against foreigners after hearing this,'' said Manfred Puechel, interior minister of the state west of Berlin. ``The music inspires them and is extremely dangerous.''
Germany has been shaken in recent months by a spate of far-right violence against foreigners and minorities. Three neo-Nazis were convicted last week of murdering a 39-year-old Mozambican man in Dessau in June because he was black.
A mysterious bomb attack in Duesseldorf in July wounded 10 immigrants, including six Jews, from Eastern Europe.
The German army, which has been struggling to stamp out racism in its ranks, said earlier it was investigating a senior non-commissioned officer suspected of making racist remarks.
Bild newspaper said a 25-year-old staff sergeant was accused of sending defamatory messages and neo-Nazi slogans to a recruit with Turkish roots. Bild said the sergeant had sent racist electronic messages to the cellular telephone of the soldier.
One message read: ``When Ali is swinging from the oak tree, when Mehmet staggers through the gas chamber, when the swastika is once again used to tar our streets, that's when Germany will be worth living in again.'' Music Glorifies Hatred Of Foreigners One of the CDs seized by police featured a neo-Nazi band called ``Zillertaler Turk Hunters'' and had pictures of hanged blacks and Turks on its cover. Another CD described how it felt to kill blacks.
``You've got 30 seconds to run for your life nigger,'' the group sang, before a blast from a machine gun is heard. ``Oh that feels good, that feels good, to kill a nigger.''
Police said they also confiscated some 30,000 CD covers, computers with customer addresses, videos and posters showing swastikas. They said the material clearly violated the country's strict laws prohibiting the incitement of racial hatred.
Police said they had now disrupted the operations of two distributors of far-right rock music, but there were still about 50 to 70 others operating in Germany.
``Based on our preliminary investigation much of the material is in violation of the law,'' the head of the state's crime office, Guenther Flossmann, told a news conference in Magdeburg.
Police did not announce their findings from the raid that took place last week until Tuesday because of their continuing investigation. A 30-year-old suspect was detained, but he was released on bail of 25,000 marks.
© Reuters

Armed police used stun grenades to free eight illegal immigrants believed to have been held hostage by a Chinese "Snakehead" gang in the largest anti-kidnap operation ever mounted in the UK.
Seven women and one man were freed during the raid on a house in Poplar, east London, on Wednesday afternoon. Two women were discovered crammed into a tiny cupboard space measuring 2ft by 1ft behind a false wall in the two-bedroom maisonette.
The women, who, along with the rest of the victims had been held captive for at least 10 days, were distressed and received medical attention.
The other hostages were said to be shaken but in relatively good health given the length of their ordeal and the strain of being held against their will.
All eight have been taken to a secret address under police protection and will be questioned by immigration officials tomorrow.
Thirteen people found in the flat were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and false imprisonment and were being questioned last night at three central London police stations.
Another person arrested at the scene, a juvenile, was released from custody yesterday. A police source said the abductions appeared to be an "archetypal snakehead kidnap".
The gangs specialise in trafficking illegal immigrants into the UK using extensive smuggling networks.
Human traffickers charge up to £20,000 to organise passage from China and the majority of the money is paid when the illegal immigrants reach the UK.
The majority of Chinese illegal immigrants come from Fujian province, a largely agricultural area.
Last month four men were arrested and charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment after a police raid at an address on the Thamesmead estate in Greenwich on the opposite bank of the Thames.
Figures released by the national criminal intelligence service (NCIS) show an increase in incidents of kidnapping and extortion involving Chinese-organised gangs in the last year.
The number of kidnaps in the UK rose from 41 in 1998 to 72 last year.
An NCIS source said there were typically three scenarios in kidnap cases: "Groups of illegal immigrants smuggled into the country by one gang may be kidnapped by a rival gang and money demanded; they may be taken hostage by the people they payed to smuggle them into the country; or they may be kidnapped after falling behind on payments."
Jabez Lam, a Chinese community activist, said economic hardship and political repression were behind the increasing numbers of immigrants.
"Unemployment is rising fast in China and it forces people into increasingly desperate choices. These people sometimes leave children and family behind in order to try and make money abroad to support them."
© Guardian

- South Africa's president is not a man who is afraid to touch a beard; he does, after all, sport some facial hair on his own chin. So on the occasion of Callie Strydom's homecoming in Pretoria last week, Thabo Mbeki had no problem clearing a path through the ex-hostage's full beard to plant his lips on the man's cheek.
It was the high point of a drama that has been splashed across the nation's television screens for days: "Rescued hostages home at last."
Callie and Monique Strydom were among the hostages being held in the southern Philippines after their capture four months ago by Muslim rebels - hostages that also included the German Wallert family and two dozen others, some of whom are still being held.
The South African government took advantage of the huge public interest in the fate of the married couple to turn their homecoming into a PR spectacle celebrating reconciliation between the country's blacks and whites.
"We and our parents have always complained about this government," admitted Monique Strydom, an Afrikaans-speaking South African, "but our government saved us." "We're not the heroes but our country's diplomats, who have acted tirelessly on our behalf," praised Callie Strydom. "It's unbelievable that I am sitting here next to my president after 129 days in captivity."
The contrast could not have been more stark between the festive scene at Pretoria's Waterkloof Air Force Base and the bitter war of words taking place a mere 60 kilometres away in Johannesburg at an unprecedented national conference on racism.
As the Strydoms beamed for the cameras, a few whites among the several hundred delegates at the four-day conference were sharply criticising Mbeki's policies.
"Black people have been the victims of racism rather than the perpetrators," Mbeki said in his opening remarks to the conference.
Although it was necessary to be on the look-out for racially-motivated attacks perpetrated by blacks against whites, Mbeki said, the top priority was overcoming racism against the majority black population.
Although Mbeki was critical of whites' unwillingness or reluctance to support the rebellion against the apartheid system, he also displayed a real understanding of white concerns, advising black delegates to "move gently with your transformation process lest you worsen white fears about the future." The president said that, while he was aware that the discussion of racism alone was enough to stir fears of racist attacks, he felt that fear and confrontation would be reduced if the whole country would work together to build a non-racial society. Sheila Camerer, the liberal opposition Democratic Alliance's spokeswoman for human rights, complained that the government always emphasised the negative, and questioned why Mbeki did not mention the "enormous gains" the country had made since the collapse of apartheid.
Although Camerer had been a minister in the last government headed by ex-president Frederik de Klerk, she insisted that her entire political career had been characterised by her desire to abolish apartheid.
Such oft-repeated assertions by whites at the conference that they had opposed the racist apartheid regime was severly criticised by Pallo Jordan, member of the National Assembly and one of the African National Congress' (ANC) leading intellectuals: "Foreign visitors are always astounded that they never meet whites who supported apartheid," he said. "But we may not forget that the whites voted the apartheid government into office.
Not a single black had the right to vote." Kallie Creel, spokeswoman for the predominantly white Mine Workers' Union (MWU), responded angrily to Jordan's comments, accusing him of turning the meeting into a "racist" conference and saying he was only interested in making whites look bad.
Jordan was evidently not prepared to stomach such an accusation from a representative of a white trade union that helped finance the "neo-Nazis" who used apartheid to perpetuate the disenfranchisement of other racial groups. "Really!" he shouted, "for decades, your organisation saw to it that black miners could only perform the simplest tasks."
Discrimination against blacks is both a historical reality and a pervasive fact of life in present-day South Africa, and the tradition is a tenacious one. South Africa's Human Rights Commission, the contitutional body that organised the conference on racism, collected examples of racist incidents all over the country in the months preceeding the conference. Hundreds of people - mostly blacks living in provincial areas - complained of poor treatment at the hands of whites. Farm workers, the commission said, still live under slave-like conditions and, in remote areas, whites contiune to rule like feudal lords.
In one recent incident, a white business owner is now facing court action after he allegedly forced a 14-year-old black girl he suspected of shoplifting to strip to the waist before he daubed her with white paint. "Imagine the outcry if a black man had handled a white girl that way," the ANC's Jordan said. While most would agree that Jordan and the ANC can legitimately claim the moral high ground in this debate, the opposition's accusations that the ANC is exploiting the country's racial divisions for political gain cannot be dismissed out of hand. More and more often, normal, everyday discussions between blacks and whites deteriorate until both sides end up angrily accusing each other of racism.
In bars all over South Africa, whites are often told that any criticism of the government or of blacks amounts to nothing more than racism. Mbeki himiself accused white journalist Charlene Smith of being infected with "racist rage" after she had spoken publicly about being raped by a black man and commented that rape was a widespread problem in Africa.
Over the past few weeks, Mbeki and Democratic Party (DP) leader Tony Leon - whose party can look back on a long anti-apartheid tradition - have taken turns calling each other racists. A DP paper said that the factious ANC had identified whites as a common foe in an effort to distract from its real problems. In fact, ANC members have tended to dismiss its critics as saboteurs intent on ruining the "national reconstruction" process.
While it is understandable that decades of apartheid have made black politicians sensitive to attacks from white colleagues, the ANC has exposed a weakness that the opposition has been able to exploit in criticising some of Mbeki's important initiatives.
"Nelson Mandela challenged all South Africans to consider themselves members of one nation," reads the party's paper. "But Mbeki speaks of the so-called reality of two nations within one country." ANC spokespersons counter that Mbeki has shown courage in addressing the reality of persistent racism that continues to foment racial divisions in South Africa. The ANC says focusing on events that highlight racial reconciliation - like the Strydoms' homecoming - is not enough to overcome the deep-rooted suspicians between whites and blacks.
But the goal Mbeki has set for his country is no less than unity, even as he reminded the conference on racism that no country in the world has yet managed to achieve a "non-racial" society.
© Frankfurter Rundschau

A Cuban man was sent back to Havana from France last week after authorities decided his asylum request was 'manifestly unfounded,' reports Liberation. Roberto Viza Egues, 25, arrived August 13 in the hold of an aircraft after embarking clandestinely.
On arrival, he asked for asylum and showed his membership card to the 24 February Movement, a dissident Cuban human rights group. But a French official said the interior ministry had been unable to prove whether Viza Egues was really a member of the group.
Meanwhile in an opinion piece, Jacobo Machover says Viza Egues was not given a proper asylum hearing although he qualified as a 'freedom fighter' under a recent French law. He also risks years of prison in Cuba. Will France's new interior minister, Daniel Vaillant, continue to follow the same over-cautious asylum policies as his predecessors? France's image as a land of asylum has been seriously dented after this most arbitrary expulsion, says the piece.
© Refugees Daily

A confidential Council of Europe report has expressed deep concern about racist propaganda in Austrian politics and the role of the far-right Freedom Party in government, the Vienna weekly magazine Format said yesterday, reports Reuters.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), an arm of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, confirmed it had drafted the report in June.
"The ECRI is deeply concerned at the widespread use of racist and xenophobic discourse in the Austrian political arena,'' it said, singling out the Freedom Party (FPO) of populist Joerg Haider.
"The main targets of such propaganda are non-EU citizens, including immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees,'' said the report.
Meanwhile AFP reports the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has blasted limited opportunities for immigrant women to enter the work force in Austria, as well as asylum procedures for women.
It called on Austria to acknowledge gender-specific grounds for women seeking asylum, "including gender-based violence and persecution and female genital mutilation."
© Refugees Daily

The German military is at the centre of another case of suspected racism.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman has confirmed that a junior non-commissioned officer, based in the city of Mainz, is under investigation following accusations of racial harassment.
He is accused of sending threatening electronic messages to a Turkish fellow-soldier using a mobile telephone.
A military court is now investigating the incident which is alleged to have taken place in February.
Public prosecutors are already investigating a soldier accused of establishing a neo-Nazi internet site.

An asylum seeker who suffered severe head injuries when he leapt from a train as it arrived in Britain has been transferred to a neurology unit.
The Bangladeshi man was found lying on the line about three-quarters of a mile from the Channel Tunnel at Folkestone, Kent, yesterday. He was initially taken to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford before being transferred to an undisclosed London neurology unit.
The Home Office plans to interview the man, and two others who suffered a broken leg and a broken arm, when they are fit.
A spokeswoman said: "The three will be interviewed in the normal way to establish if they have a claim to asylum."
Eurostar and Eurotunnel services disrupted by the incident are running normally through the Channel Tunnel.
A spokeswoman said: "Everything is back to normal. There will be an inquiry into this incident but we are keen to stress that this was not a Eurotunnel train.
"However it is of grave concern to us that this has happened and we are talking to the appropriate authorities to resolve the situation. It is a wide political issue that is way beyond out remit."
Initially, a group of 10 stowaways were spotted around 4am by tunnel maintenance staff at Dollands Moor, a freight marshalling area near Folkestone. Four hours later maintenance staff spotted the Bangladeshi man lying on the line.
Ambulance crews were called and he was given treatment at the scene for severe head injuries after all power to the track was turned off. A further six Bangladeshi men were later caught by police.
In total, those apprehended were the Bangladeshi men, a Romanian girl and man, three Iraqi men and three Iranian men who applied for political asylum. The Iraqis were released.
They were all on board a freight train from Belgium on its way to London.
© Ananova

The Pope beatified one of his most controversial predecessors yesterday, a man his critics describe as an anti-Semite, a child snatcher, an opponent of Italian unification and father of the dogma of Papal infallibility.
Pius IX, who reigned from 1846 to 1878, was the last Pope-King before the Catholic Church's temporal power was swept away.
The decision to put Pius IX on the path to sainthood has enraged Jewish groups, liberals and reformist Catholics.
Also beatified was one of the most popular popes of modern times, John XXIII, in what Vatican-watchers see as a way to limit the controversy and maintain the balance between conservative and reformist factions within the church.
Beatification, conferring the title "Blessed", is a preliminary stage before canonisation. The Vatican newspaper, l'Osservatore Romano, tried to stress the similarities between the two disparate figures, by citing their common devotion to the Virgin Mary and noting that John XXIII once expressed a desire to have Pius made a saint.
Nearly all the 100,000-strong crowd gathered in St Peter's Square had come to celebrate John XXIII, known as il papa buono (the good pope), who paved the way for the liberalising Second Vatican Council, the end of the Latin Mass and a more open approach to the world. His simple manner, perhaps deriving from his peasant origins, and his famous speech "Go back home and give your children a kiss from me", made him a legend.
The faithful roared with applause when the drapes covering the huge tapestry of his kindly face were pulled back.
Applause for Pius IX was polite, verging on tepid.
In his homily, the Pope tried to put Pius' pontificate in a historical context, alluding to his limitations.
"By beatifying one of its children, the church does not celebrate particular historical choices but points him out for imitation and veneration for his virtues," the Pope said. He added that Pius, who reigned longer than any pope since St Peter, had been "much loved, hated and slandered".
Clerics defending the Vatican decision, which comes after 15 years of debate, said opponents were judging the events of 150 years ago with today's values.
Critics, however, say the facts speak for themselves, first and foremost the kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, a Jewish child, from his family in Bologna in 1858. He was seized by Papal police at the age of six and raised with other Jewish children in the Vatican because some years previously a nurse had had him secretly baptised. By law, Jewish children who had been baptised had to be raised as Christians. Edgardo became Pius IX's personal ward and his family never saw him again.
"To kidnap a child, take him to a convent, make him a priest and tear him away from his family is atrocious," said Elio Toaff, the chief rabbi of Rome, in an interview with La Repubblica newspaper, "and has left deep scars in the community."
While supporters of Pius say he removed the walls that surrounded the ghetto in Rome, the capital's Jewish community say he increased anti-Jewish restrictions and excluded them from public life. He also referred to Jews as "dogs".
In this "Jubilee Year", in which the Roman Catholic Church is supposedly asking forgiveness for its past sins, Jewish groups have found the move a contradiction. The deep divisions regarding Pius' place in history were evident in Rome on the vigil.
In the basilica of San Lorenzo in Lucina, black mantillas, old family jewels, antiquated insignia and elaborate robes were the order of the day in a mass to honour Pius IX. Rome's aristocrazia nera - the "black aristocracy" whose power has steadily waned since the Papal States gave way to a unified Italy - turned out in force to celebrate "their pope", the "Pope-King". But prominent figures who had been expected to attend, including the former Prime minister Giulio Andreotti and the central bank governor Antonio Fazio, were absent.
Across town, Jewish communities, reformist Catholics, evangelical groups and radicals gathered on the spot where two revolutionaries were decapitated by papal forces in 1846. Among those present was Elena Mortara, a descendant of the brother of Edgardo, the Jewish child abducted on the Pope's orders.
Marco Panella, a maverick Radical MP, said regardless of spiritual judgements, "Pius IX exercised his power in a ferocious manner". Italy's biggest Masonic lodge, the Grande Oriente, also opposed the beatification because Pius obstructed the unification of Italy.
© The Independent

The home secretary, Jack Straw, yesterday faced another high court defeat over the treatment of a failed asylum seeker who is suing the Home Office for malicious prosecution after being cleared of taking part in detention centre riots at Campsfield House, near Oxford, in August 1997.
Mr Justice Elias ruled that Mr Straw had "failed to give adequate and satisfactory reasons" for refusing John Quaquah, from Ghana, exceptional leave to remain in the UK while he prepared his case.
It is the second time the high court has told the home secretary that he has erred in law over Mr Quaquah, 35.
The judge said it was a case where the secretary of state was himself under challenge in Mr Quaquah's civil action for damages for malicious prosecution. The decision would "significantly affect" Mr Quaquah's interests.
He refused an application to make Mr Straw pay punitive legal costs.
© Guardian

Referring to the rise of Joerg Haider's far-right Freedom Party, Labour Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has warned that his country could become "a second Austria."
The right-wing Fremskrittspartiet, or Progress Party, won 15.3 per cent of the vote in Norway's last general election in 1997, making it the second-most important political force in the country.
Now, a new opinion poll published in the Nationen newspaper shows the Progress Party topping the Labour Party for the first time ever with an approval rating of 24.8 per cent to Labour's 22.1 per cent.
The popularity boost Labour experienced after the well-liked Stoltenberg took over the government in March now appears to have been short-lived. In March, 38 per cent of Norwegians said they supported Stoltenberg's Labour Party.
The fall of the Social Democrats and the rise of the Right are directly related. Disgruntled Labour supporters are defecting in droves to Carl I. Hagen's Progress Party. Hagen has headed the party for 22 years but never as successfully as now.
Norway is full of unhappy campers these days. Many voters cannot fathom how hospitals can be falling apart and petrol prices skyrocketing to record levels in this oil-rich land, even as the state hoards hundreds of billions in an oil fund.
All of this voter discontent is like manna from heaven for a talented demagogue like Hagen. Stoltenberg, on the other hand, has to put up with charges from veterans within his own ranks, who accuse him of promoting Progress Party-style policies in his attempts to reform the party. When Stoltenberg suggests that hospitals should be the responsibility of the state rather than local councils, for example, or when he argues that publicly-funded nursing services should have to compete with private care providers, Hagen can lean back comfortably and gloat that he has been saying that all along.
Hagen's ambitions have kept pace with his new-found influence. His party of eternal opposition expects to have ministers in the government after the next elections. He has even declared himself a candidate for the prime minister's post - a move which few see as realistic politically despite the breakdown in the conservative camp (the Conservative Party is a distant third in the polls). No party in Norway has so far expressed an interest in joining a coalition with the unreliable right-wing extreme Hagen represents.
Hagen has ordered a facelift to ready his Progress Party for the political big league, swapping the openly xenophobic remarks of the past for more generic, populist themes. He also intends to frustrate some of the party's more rabid proponents of chauvinist politics so that they no longer stand a chance of winning an election. However, the party rank and file has so far resisted Hagen's tinkering.
Stoltenberg says the danger that Norwegian politics could mirror developments in Austria is very real. He is appealing to his country's centrist and centre-right parties not to welcome the heretofore marginalised Hagen into the legitimate political fold: "We share a common responsibility to prevent Norway from becoming a country in which the Right gains a disproportionately large share of power." Conservative commentators, however, say Stoltenberg's warnings amount to little more than political posturing.
They say luring Norway's centrist parties to the Labour camp is the beleaguered party's only chance of remaining in government, and accuse Stoltenberg of feigning revulsion at Hagen's policies and concern that the country may become politically isolated.
© Frankfurter Rundschau

A ship carrying 500 mostly Kurdish refugees arrived yesterday evening off the southern Italian coast near Reggio Calabria, Italian TV said, reports Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
Most of the 'illegal' immigrants are Kurdish women and children, and many are sick, the TV said, adding that police arrested the captain and crew members for suspected trafficking.
The latest arrival brings the number of boat people to reach the Calabria coast since the beginning of the year to more than 4,500.
The president of the regional administration called for more action by European security agencies against illegal immigration.
© Refugees Daily

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has paid his own tribute at the memorial marking the spot of a racist murder which shocked the country.
Mr Schroeder laid a wreath of yellow roses in the Dessau park in eastern Germany where Alberto Adriano, from Mozambique, was killed.
The chancellor has pledged to redouble efforts to stamp out the far-right violence that has plagued Germany for the last 10 years.
His visit comes a day after a German court handed long jail sentences to Mr Adriano's three neo-Nazi killers.
Enrico Hiltricht, 24, together with Frank Mitbauer and Christian Richter, both 16, were convicted to beating Mr Adriano, a 39-year-old Mozambican man, to death in June.
Mr Schroeder praised the court for rapidly sentencing the three, and said he hoped the convictions would act as a warning that Germany would no longer tolerate racism in its society.
"This was an appropriate punishment for an abominable crime," he said.

Anti-racist drive
He went on to add that he hoped the sentences would send a signal to the international community that Germany was serious in its commitment to stamping out racism.
Mr Adriano, who was a German citizen, was killed as he walked home to his German wife and children on 11 June.
Lawyers for Hiltricht, Mitbauer and Richter had pleaded manslaughter, saying their clients had not meant to kill Mr Adriano.
However, the jury rejected this and in sentencing Mr Hiltricht to life and his two younger accomplices to nine years each, Judge Albrecht Hennig called the crime "senseless and merciless".
The German Government says it has recorded 30 deaths resulting from racial violence since reunification in 1990, but human rights groups dispute this, saying the true number may be closer to 100.
On Wednesday, two skinheads were arrested for attacking and wounding a 33-year-old African man in the northern town of Luebeck.
Meanwhile, police in the western town of Waiblingen said they had arrested two men in relation to an arson attack on a hostel for asylum seekers.


The head of the Turkish army has called for a purge of all Islamist government employees, accusing them of trying to undermine the secular state.
Huseyin Kivrikoglu, chief of the army's general staff, is quoted by newspapers as saying that Islamists have penetrated official positions at every level.
"There are thousands of civil servants who want to destroy the state. They are working against the state every day in order to overthrow it," the general is quoted as saying in Hurriyet.
In a related development, a Turkish prosecutor has filed charges against one of the country's most prominent religious leaders, Fethullah Gulen, accusing him of trying to overthrow the secular system and set up an Islamic state.
The general's comments come in the wake of a dispute between the president and prime minister over a decree enabling the sacking of civil servants linked to Islamist and Kurdish movements.
The Turkish military regards itself as the protector of the secular state and has frequently intervened in national politics.
"The army expels this kind of people as soon as it detects them," the general is quoted as saying. "If (the government) wants public offices to function properly it should do the same," "They have spread everywhere... They have seeped into the judiciary," he added.

Cleric charged
The indictment against Fethullah Gulen accuses the sect leader of wanting to establish an Islamic state and running an illegal organisation of followers implanted in the civil service, police and education service.
The charges come despite an earlier court order quashing an arrest warrant for Mr Gulen, who is currently in the United States having medical treatment.
Our correspondent in Ankara, Chris Morris, says it is estimated that Mr Gulen has hundreds of thousands of followers.
He portrays himself as a moderate religious leader, but videotape evidence leaked last year showed him urging his supporters in the civil service to wait for orders to undermine the system from within.

Blocked decree
President Ahmet Necdet Sezer has twice refused to approve a decree which would allow the dismissal of thousands of public employees suspected of Islamist or separatist leanings.
The draft is now to be submitted to parliament when its summer recess ends in October.
Correspondents say the general's intervention will increase pressure on parliament to approve the proposals for a purge.
Mr Kivrikoglu said the military would closely follow the passage of the bill, reports say.

Army role
Correspondents say the general's comments are unusually candid for the normally taciturn soldier.
He was speaking to journalists at a reception on the national Victory Day holiday, which commemorates the end of the 1922 war with Greece.
The army has staged three coups against elected Turkish governments since 1960.
It also spearheaded the campaign to force Turkey's first Islamist prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, to resign in 1997.
Although Turkey is a Muslim country, the state is constitutionally secular, and the army is the cornerstone of the secular establishment.

The murder of a Mozambican man in Germany, for which three skinheads have just been sentenced to long prison terms, is the latest in a series of racist attacks there.
There is growing concern about the trend in Germany, where it is increasingly dominating the political agenda.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has warned that racism could harm Germany's economic prospects.
In other parts of Europe, the extreme right also appears to be on the rise.

East Germany
In Germany, this was the third murder this year blamed on rightwing extremists.
Lesser attacks continue with regularity.
This week they included an arson attack on a home for asylum seekers, and the beating up of a 33-year old African man.
The problem is at its worst in the former East Germany.
Ironically it is the part of the country with the smallest population of immigrants.
But it does suffer the highest unemployment. Nearly 20% of the workforce are without jobs.

Intolerance spreading
His comments came on the day that an opinion poll in Norway gave a lead, for the first time, to the far-right Progress Party.
In Austria, the Freedom Party, led by Jorg Haider, continues to share power in a coalition government.
Even in those countries where the far-right is in disarray, calls for control over immigrants and asylum-seekers have become popular rallying cries.
While Germany battles skinhead thugs, the debate in other countries is more subtle.
The fear is that intolerance and racism may be gaining a new veneer of respectability.

Irish president Mary McAleese has signed into law an immigration Bill that will give police additional powers to detain and deport unsuccessful asylum seekers.
The president's action followed an earlier Supreme Court ruling that the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill was not repugnant to the Irish constitution.
Mrs McAleese used her powers to refer the Bill to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality.
The new law will give the Irish police the power to arrest and detain unsuccessful asylum seekers for deportation.
Irish Justice Minister John O'Donoghue welcomed the Supreme Court decision and said the new laws reflect "modern day reality".
But the Irish Refugee Council said it was concerned that aspects of the new law discriminated against refugees.
Under the law, unsuccessful asylum seekers have two weeks to seek a judicial review of their case before they are deported.
The Irish police recently established a National Immigration Bureau to deal with the growing problem of asylum seekers arriving in the Republic.
Last year almost 7,800 asylum seekers, mainly from Africa and eastern Europe, arrived in Ireland.
© Ananova

A ruling that Irish travellers should have the same legal protection as other ethnic minority groups has been welcomed by racially equality campaigners.
A judge declared Irish travellers had a shared history stretching back at least as far as the mid-19th century and should be given the same protection by the law as other minorities.
The ruling was prompted by the case of eight travellers, originally from Ireland, who claimed racial discrimination against five London pubs they said refused to serve them.
Travellers Patrick O'Leary, Michael, Margaret and Kathleen Kiely, who were in court, said it was a "great moment". In a joint statement they said: "For the first time in our lives we feel we can proudly and publicly tell everyone we are Irish travellers.
"We have suffered much when it comes to discrimination and prejudice. We are confident that we are now in a better position to deal with that."
The ruling was also welcomed by the Commission for Racial Equality, which backed their case. Chief executive Susie Parsons said: "The law must be seen to deliver justice for all, especially for those most at risk of discrimination and prejudice."
In his ruling in a preliminary hearing at the Central London County Court, Judge Goldstein rejected claims that the eight were not covered by the Race Relations Act.
He said modern Irish travellers were guided by the "culture and traditions which have been handed down by generations", and stated: "They do not go around reading history, they practise it."
Judge Goldstein said the Appeal Court had already decided Romany gypsies were covered by the legislation, and the two groups shared many characteristics. He said a ruling the other way would go against the broad provisions against discrimination provided by the European Convention on Human Rights.
The judge also pointed out that Irish travellers already enjoyed protection in Ulster under the Northern Ireland Race Relations Order.
© Ananova

The Metropolitan Police Service is planning to issue its 25,000 officers and civilian staff with a handbook to help them deal more sensitively with minority groups.
The race booklet, provisionally titled The Culture Guide, contains advice on how to avoid offence when policing minority groups in one of the most international cities in the world.
London has 340 spoken languages and 33 national groups of more than 10,000 people.
The handbook, written by the Metropolitan Police's Hendon-based Diversity Training Unit, warns officers not to summon a Somali by beckoning with their finger - used to call dogs in Somalia - or touch a Sikh's turban without permission.
© Ananova

The Neo-Nazi vocabulary is laden with simplistic concepts they use to define "the enemy" - a vocabulary that allows them to cast themselves as victims and legitimate their acts of violence as resistance.
Linguist Bernhard Poersken describes these and other findings in a paper, "Constructing The Enemy".
Discussing his research, Poersken quotes from the Remer Depesche, a periodical edited by Nazi revisionist Ernst Otto Remer between 1991 and 1994. His examples include statements such as "Bonn has declared war on us".
Or, from 1992, when neo-Nazi activity was on the rise, the provocative, anti-foreigner battlecry of "Germans, defend yourselves, defend yourselves, defend yourselves", and "This is self-defence, this is duty. It is not bigotry. Rebel. To speak up for yourself is to defend yourself."
According to Poersken, examples like these show how the far right uses metaphors which accentuate "the enemy's" aggressive character.
They start with the assumption that the situation they face is exceptional, a belief that legitimizes any action, including the use of violence. Using that line of reasoning, says the linguist, neo-Nazis construct an image of themselves as victims, ones who are merely defending themselves. For them, this image is absolutely real.
Fliers and writings from the neo-Nazi scene between 1989 and 1993 formed the basis for the study. During the talk, Poersken tells of how the material affected him. This "primal linguistic experience" led to an "unpleasant double surprise": he felt his "moral sensivity" was compromised, along with his feeling for language.
Put these unwanted side-effects behind him, the linguist plugged ahead with his study. Explaining how neo-Nazis use "defamatory metaphors" such as "asylum-layabouts," "parasites." "spongers" and "criminal multi-ethnic society", to try and "homogenise their own people". This enables them to view of the nation as a unified body which the "Other," redefined in their discourse as "the enemy", is attacking.
Central terms such as friend and foe lead neo-Nazis to the language of "conventional warfare". In a "battle" situation, the present moment in time is transformed into an "hour of danger", making it absolutely necessary to act now, immediately, to "summon up the last reserves of strength".
Poersken sees this idea as having its roots in the early 20th century's "archaic conception of the battlefield", one that left room for neither hesitation or introspection.
The language used by the far right highlights the fact that they constantly feel under threat from something, and imagine themselves in a world full of enemies.
© Frankfurter Rundschau

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) spokesman on home affairs, Dieter Wiefelspuetz, has come out in support of plans to have asylum seekers' applications processed more rapidly. If the proposals are adopted, asylum seekers being held at airports will be brought before the courts within 19 days. The aim is to prevent seekers spending months detained in transit zones at German airports.
Wiefelspuetz told the Frankfurter Rundschau that Frankfurt's Rhine-Main airport was not a suitable place for the long-term detention of asylum seekers and that the courts should decide more quickly whether the applicant should be allowed to stay or not.
This would require negotiations with the authorities in the German state of Hesse. He thinks that a decision on the proposals will be made in September. He said that, for "reasons of prevention", the current procedure of detaining applicants at airports while their claims are being processed could not be completely dispensed with.
Wiefelspuetz's parliamentary colleague Ruediger Veit, the deputy spokesman for the domestic affairs committee, supports the proposals but voted for a limit of 30 days in detention in transit zones. He said detention for weeks or months - even when officially classified as "voluntary" - was unacceptable in a country based on the rule of law unless it was on the orders of a judge.
He does not believe this represents a deterioration in the position of refugees who, at present, are given the choice after 19 days of remaining in the transit zone "voluntarily" or being taken before the courts. The majority decide to remain in the transit zones out of fear of going to prison.
Veit is eager to head off possible criticism saying that he is "not convinced that judges in Frankfurt are automatically handing down orders for refugees to be imprisoned." He added that he believes the vast majority of applicants are allowed to enter the country. The proposals, in his opinion, would benefit families in particular. "I don't believe a judge would jail an entire family." Abdul Issa, a lawyer, sees things differently. "That would not solve the problem but rather simply shift it" on to the prisons where applicants are detained while they await deportation.
Issa is one of the lawyers who provides advice on asylum rights as laid down by the Constitutional Court.
In his experience, around 95 per cent of refugees who appear before the courts are held in prison, "including children and families." Esther Gebhardt, head of Frankfurt District Lutheran Association, fears the proposal might make the situation worse for refugees.
"The problem would simply being transferred.
It must be accompanied by a limit of three months on the amount of time a person can be detained." The Hesse Social Ministry believes that, once the new airport transit zone building - capable of holding 150 people - is completed in the autumn of 2001, it should be possible for male refugees whose cases have been closed after 19 days to be kept in separate accommodation, says project leader Manfred Racky.
"Those who remain hopeful will make less effort to get out." In Veit's opinion, a number of those awaiting deportation could also be held in the new building.
Racky says a decision will be made in September on whether the airport's social services - now performed by the Catholic Caritas charity and the District Lutheran Association - will be put out to tender across Europe. Although tendering is not required by the regulations, Racky points out that that would be the best way of minimising the likelihood of auditors finding fault on the grounds of cost. Gebhardt says he has no problem in principle with putting the contract out to tender as long as quality of services provided is made one of the judgement criteria. "If it is only a question of the financial aspect, then the church cannot match the private sector." In such a situation, putting the work out to tender would be a purely political decision.
© Frankfurter Rundschau

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