NEWS - Archive January 2006

Headlines 27 January, 2006


25/1/2006- Official agencies have serious doubts about the legal tenability of the reworked integration plan proposed by Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk. The Equality Commission (CGB) expressed concerns about the distinction being made between different groups of Dutch citizens when MPs met with experts on Wednesday. Teun van Os van den Abeelen Chairperson of the Advisory Committee on Immigration Affairs (ACVZ) warned the minister's initiative could face major legal difficulties. Under Verdonk's plan, residents up to the age of 65 who have spent less than eight years in the Netherlands during their school age are obliged to undergo a course to help them integrate into Dutch society. Gaining a command of the Dutch language is the major requirement of the integration course. The problem, experts said, arises because Verdonk is making a distinction on the basis of nationality and ethnic background. Parliamentarians have insisted that citizens who are Dutch by birth are exempt from the need to undertake an integration course. Naturalised Dutch citizens are not. This latter group mainly consists of people with a Turkish or Moroccan background and refugees from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia. The CGB warned the proposed distinction was in conflict with international treaties, and could lead to discrimination and stigmatisation as people would be registered on the basis of their ethnic and national background. Van Os van den Abeelen said there was no almost never a legal justification for making a distinction with regard to nationality. He warned Verdonk was taking a big risk. If the European Court declared to the distinction to be unlawful "a serious portion of the foundation of the law would fall away, and there would be little left to work with". People undertaking the course could then claim the costs they incurred back from the State, he said.
Expatica News



27/1/2006- The memories do not get any less raw with age and distance. As they gathered yesterday in Cardiff for this year's Holocaust memorial day commemoration, the elderly survivors of the Nazis' genocide of the Jews had their stories to tell of the concentration camps they endured, or the kindertransports - child evacuations -that brought some of them to Britain. They all had their tales of miraculous escapes and the courage of relatives and strangers who had rescued them. This year the annual event was held in Wales for the first time, and last night it culminated in a ceremony in Cardiff. Readings, poems and songs were interwoven with speeches by dignitaries including Tony Blair, who was harangued briefly by a heckler. But it was earlier, at a gathering at city hall, that survivors and their families were able to share their memories more informally over cheese sandwiches, cherry cake, cups of tea and orange juice, with civic and national dignitaries on hand to pledge that the world would - in the words of Rhodri Morgan, the Welsh first minister - ensure that nothing similar would ever happen again. They had an important educational duty, he said, to ensure that the memory did not die. As proof of it, children in all Welsh schools recited a pledge yesterday written by Gwyneth Lewis, Wales's national poet.

One of those present in Cardiff yesterday was William Dieneman, 75, a former university librarian, who travelled with his wife, Marisa, from Aberystwyth. Mr Dieneman was evacuated on a kindertransport from Berlin to Bristol in 1939 and his parents escaped soon after. "I think memorial day is a good thing because it reminds me of my past, which I utterly blacked out. We were lucky to get to England," he said. At a nearby table, Paul Oppenheimer, 77, from Solihull, was telling the story that he has so often to schoolchildren across the country of how his family escaped Germany in 1936, came to England and then moved to Holland. They lived round the corner from Anne Frank and her family and suffered the same fate when they were rounded up in 1943 and sent ultimately to Belsen. There, his parents died of typhus, while his eight-year-old sister Eve - also present yesterday - was cared for by a Jewish family. "I have given more than 700 talks and have written a book, called From Belsen to Buckingham Palace, when I got my MBE," he said. "I have got to get home tonight because I am speaking in Wolverhampton tomorrow. It is very therapeutic for me. I forget about my other problems when I am doing it."

The Holocaust memorial day ceremonials have been held since 2001, with events all over the country, but this was the first time the focus of commemoration had moved outside London. Last night's event was held on the eve of today's Holocaust memorial day, to avoid clashing with the Jewish sabbath. It was directed by the founder of the English Shakespeare Company, Michael Bogdanov, and featured Welsh singers, actors and musicians. A memorial flame was lit at the end by Samuel Pfister, aged seven, great grandson of a Belgian rescuer of Jewish refugees. Mr Blair told the audience: "Nothing compares to the Holocaust, not in the intensity of its evil, nor in the ghastly scope of its inhuman ambition ... acts of selfless endeavour gave us the will to work for a better life in a better world. We rededicate ourselves to fighting racism and embrace tolerance of difference." Shortly after he concluded his remarks, a man in the upper circle of the Millennium Centre began to harangue him, apparently about the persecution of Armenians during the first world war, one of the few 20th century genocides not specifically remembered in the evening's proceedings. Mr Blair quickly left the stage and a Welsh Jewish choir drowned the man's words. He subsequently left the auditorium voluntarily.

Among the elderly Jewish families was a much younger genocide survivor, Beata Uwazaninka-Smith, 25, a Tutsi Christian from Rwanda, now living in Nottingham, whose life was saved by a Hutu Muslim neighbour during the massacres in her country in 1994. She said: "I will never forget that man, who took me in when I banged on his gate because the man who had murdered all my relatives was after me. He just let me in before he arrived and he told the man he could kill everyone in the house but he would still be punished for what he did. "When I saw the photographs of the Gestapo, I remembered that man who came after me. He called me a rat, a cockroach, and said we all deserved to die. My life was saved that day by the man who did not know me but who sheltered me."
The Guardian



The world must challenge those who deny the Holocaust happened, says United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

27/1/2006- In a statement released to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, Mr Annan described those who questioned whether the Holocaust took place as "bigots". The German parliament's speaker also said the Nazis' mass murder of Jews should still be commemorated. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been widely criticised for claiming that the Holocaust was a "myth".

Holocaust remembrance ceremonies were held across Europe on Friday. Death camp survivors and religious leaders joined Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz in freezing temperatures for a sombre ceremony at the vast Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Poland. The prime minister laid a wreath between the ruins of the gas chambers the Nazis used to murder Europe's Jews during World War II.  Roman Catholic leaders asked Poles to light candles in their windows in remembrance of the six million murdered Jews. A 1940s red tram marked with the Star of David, like the ones that used to carry Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, once again ran through the streets. But it was empty and nobody got on or off. In his statement, Mr Annan said "remembering is a necessary rebuke to those who say the Holocaust never happened or has been exaggerated". "Holocaust denial is the work of bigots, we must reject their false claims whenever, wherever and by whomever they are made." The UN last year passed a landmark resolution to make 27 January an annual day of remembrance for the Jews murdered during World War II. It was the date 61 years ago when Auschwitz was liberated. The German parliament speaker, Norbert Lammert, said the last few weeks had shown "not only us Germans how very much we need this day of commemoration". "It is with consternation that we have realised that even today heads of state describe the Holocaust as a myth and even go as far as making anti-Semitic statements," he said.
BBC News



ENAR calls for measures to combat incitement to racial hatred

27/1/2006- On this UN International Day of Commemoration to honour the victims of the Holocaust, the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) pays tribute to all victims of the Holocaust. “The Holocaust has to be remembered across Europe and in the entire world, and its history should be taught to the younger generations,” said Pascale Charhon, Director of ENAR. The Network also repeats its call for a legally binding European instrument on racism as a crime. The Holocaust, which killed 6 million Jews, Roma, homosexuals and members of other minority communities, continues to stand out as one of the most shameful and painful pages in the history of the European continent. 61 years after the end of the Second World War, Europe continues to experience violent manifestations of religious and racial hatred. Today’s commemoration is an important occasion to remember and condemn the horror and tragedy of the Holocaust, but also to address the disturbing rise in anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-gypsyism and other forms of racism and xenophobia in Europe in recent years. “It is essential that holocaust education be integrated in the school curricula, and that it should be a core part of the fight against racism and xenophobia,” said Ms Charhon. It is also more important than ever that the EU remains firm, not only in condemning all acts of incitement to racial hatred, but also by enacting legislation to counteract these worrying phenomena. ENAR therefore strongly urges the Austrian Presidency of the EU to keep the Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia on the agenda of the European Council. Hate speech is one of the most insidious expressions of racism in Europe today, and ENAR members are increasingly concerned that the language of racism and xenophobia is being mainstreamed in European political discourse. ENAR does not believe that there is any contradiction between the need to combat hate crime and the right to freedom of expression. ENAR has therefore called on the Austrian Presidency to host a meeting to examine the relationship between freedom of expression and measures to combat hate crime. ENAR also hopes that the Presidency will use the occasion of its conference on Media, Migration and Asylum, which will take place in Vienna from 19-21 April 2006, to examine hate speech, xenophobic discourse, and the interest of ethnic minorities/migrants.

On 27 January 1945 the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by the allied forces. Holocaust Memorial Day was first organised in the UK on 27 January 2001 and in October 2005, the United Nations designated 27 January as an annual International Day of Commemoration to honour the victims of the Holocaust. Last year, the European Parliament adopted a resolution commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation.
EUropean Network Against Racism



The Berlin government has given the go-ahead for a memorial designed by a Scandinavian artist-duo in central Berlin commemorating thousands of homosexuals persecuted by Nazi Germany.

27/1/2006- In addition to the famous Holocaust monument -- consisting of a field of cement slabs -- to Europe's murdered Jews in downtown Berlin, the German capital will in the future be the location to another memorial to Nazi victims. Designed by a Norwegian-Danish artist-duo, the memorial will remember the tens of thousands of homosexuals persecuted and killed by Hitler's regime. The 450,000 euro ($549,000) project funded by the federal government is to be erected "as soon as possible" opposite the Holocaust memorial on the margins of Berlin's vast Tiergarten park near the historic Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag parliament building.

"An endless kiss"
Norbert Radermacher, president of the jury that named Ingar Dragset and Michael Elmgreen winners of the bidding competition, said the monument would remember the victims in a "direct but subtle way." The concrete sculpture takes its cue from the Holocaust monument designed by star architect Peter Eisenman. It expands on the gray cement slab theme, by turning it into a kind of house. Radermacher, added that the structure, which appears cool and distant at first glance actually conceals an intimate aspect -- it will have an oblique window featuring a black and white video of "an endless kiss between two men."

Persecution and killing during Nazi regime
The decision to go ahead with the project was taken three years after the German parliament agreed to set up a memorial for murdered gays that would also serve as a visible stand against intolerance and isolation. Germany's lower house of parliament in 2000 formally apologized to gays persecuted under the Nazi regime, which held power from 1933 to 1945. Between 5,000 and 10,000 homosexuals were deported to concentration camps. During its crackdown on homosexuals the Nazi regime began 100,000 legal proceedings, followed by 45,000 sentences under a criminal law that endured until 1969. After the war, 44,231 sentences were handed down against gays in then West Germany. Legal discrimination of homosexual men ended in 1994, four years after German unification. East Germany had abolished its anti-gay legislation in 1968. Although there is no timeframe for the erection of the monument for murdered homosexuals, gay rights groups have urged the government to act speedily, emphasizing that the purging of gays between 1933 and 1945 was without precedent in history.
Deutsche Welle



26/1/2006- President Vladimir Putin has claimed the recent unmasking of four British "spies" proved he was right to clamp down on the activities of human rights groups, despite trenchant criticism from the West. Breaking his silence on the issue for the first time since the furore erupted on Sunday, Mr Putin suggested the spying debacle sent a powerful signal to the West. His message was clear: don't criticise me and stop meddling in Russia's domestic affairs. His comments showed the scandal's deeply political nature and the fact that the episode has served as a useful device for the Kremlin to rebuff its external critics. Moscow's central allegation was that MI6 was covertly funding 12 non-governmental organisations. It produced documentation which it claimed proved that. The scandal broke - some would say conveniently for the Kremlin - 12 days after Mr Putin signed a new law that brings non-governmental organisations under Soviet-style scrutiny. In effect, the legislation allows the Kremlin to shut down undesirable groups overnight and forces them to fully disclose how they are financed. Russia has come under fierce criticism from the United States and many European countries for the harsh nature of the new law, criticism which Mr Putin has found offensive and inconvenient as his country takes the helm of the G8 for the first time. The Russian President, himself a former agent of the KGB, is convinced that some human rights groups are little more than fronts for foreign intelligence services whose sole purpose is to foment political unrest.

Russia believes that "velvet" revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan were all engineered with the help of such groups and wants to make sure the same does not happen on Russian soil. Mr Putin said yesterday, with a hint of triumphalism and a thin smile, that the entire spying incident proved he was right all along. "I believe it will now be clear to many people why in Russia we have adopted a law regulating the activities of non-governmental organisations," he said. "This law is designed to prevent foreign governments from meddling in Russia's domestic political life and to create transparent rules for the financing of non governmental organisations." He went on to describe as "lamentable" Britain's purported attempts to work with Russian NGOs through its "special services". "It's not for nothing in the current case that we say that money does in fact have a smell. Beneficial aims cannot be achieved with unsuitable means," he said. The Russian parliament gave its full support to Mr Putin, passing a resolution condemning the British "spies". The Communist MP Viktor Ilyukhin was one of the few not to support the resolution. He said: "The President needed arguments to explain why he signed the law on NGOs. And this rock (allegedly used by the "spies" as a transmitter) appeared."  Though Mr Putin revelled in his security service's success in catching foreign spies ,he made it clear that he did not wish to exacerbate the situation. Explaining he did not wish to spoil Russia's relations with its "partners", he said Moscow required very little from the international community. "We want one thing - that others regard us as we regard them - with respect."  He played down the possibility that the four British diplomats would be expelled. "If we expel these spies, others will come in their place. Maybe bright ones will come and we'll beat ourselves up trying to find them. We'll think things over."
Independent Digital


26/1/2006- From five to 14 million illegal migrants are currently living and working in Russia, deputy director of the Federal Migration Service Vyacheslav Postavnin was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as saying. “Despite the fact that over the past three years the number of foreign workers who came to our country on legal grounds has increased from 378,000 to 460,000 people, the scale of illegal labor migration remains high,” Postavnin said. According to him, 750,000 foreigners were granted work permits in the Russian Federation in 2005. “According to specialists, however, their share does not exceed 10-15 per cent of the real number of labor migrants,” Postavnin said. He stressed that “such a number of cheap workers often encourages unscrupulous employers to employ illegal migrants, thus infringing the rights of Russian citizens, since there is no healthy competition on the market”. Last November Postavnin promised his body would hold an amnesty in 2006 for citizens of former Soviet states who are working illegally in Russia but have no criminal record, as they are now a major source of cheap labor in Russia. At the same time their salaries in Russia allow them to lead a normal life at home. Among the negative factors accompanying the growth in illegal migration, Postavnin mentioned the growing shadow economy, the shortage of taxes collected for the budget, as well as a lack of payments to social funds which leads to labor migrants having no social protection.



26/1/2006- Governments across the European Union aim to hammer out common legislation to fight "tradition-based" violence against women, including forced marriages, genital mutilation and so- called honour-killings, a leading EU official said Thursday. "We are about to set up an EU-wide network and we want common legislation in the near future," Maria Rauch-Kallat, Austrian minister for health and women's affairs, told reporters. Austria is current president of the 25-nation EU. Violent acts based on old traditions affect women in Africa and Asia but also women from these regions living in Europe, said Rauch- Kallat who was attending a conference in Brussels on harmful traditional practices. "Because of global migration, women worldwide fall victim to harmful traditional practices," Rauch-Kallat said. The EU needs to start focusing on problems such as forced marriages, genital mutilation and crimes in the name of honour, she said, adding that an Austrian initiative on these questions could serve as an example for EU-wide action and legislation. About 8,000 girls and women living in Austria are the victims of female circumcision, Rauch-Kallat said, adding that France reported 60,000 such cases, Great Britain 80,000 and Germany 30,000. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that between 100 million and 140 million women and girls worldwide have been mutilated. Each year, a further two million of girls are at risk, WHO says. Although EU countries prosecute such crimes, each country applies its own national laws. As a result, prevention of such violence has been impossible so far, the minister said. Groups in which such violence occurs observe taboos and collective silence, partly because of justified fears, Rauch-Kallat underlined, adding: "The few spectacular cases that have become known are only the tip of the iceberg."
Education and awareness-raising are the only ways to combat the problem, she said. "Women often think that what is being done to them is normal, they do not even feel that it is injustice," she said. Somalian ex-model Waris Dirie, United States advocate for the abolishment of female circumcision, called on the EU to take immediate action. "We have heard enough words," she told the conference. "There are so many powerful female politicians in Europe now who can show that it is time to break the silence," Dirie added. According to Dirie's autobiography, she herself was the victim of female circumcision at the age of five.
Expatica News



26/1/2006- The world must remember and apply the lessons learned by the Holocaust, the head of a European watchdog agency that monitors racism and anti-foreigner sentiment said Thursday, on the eve of a global remembrance of the Nazis' slaughter of 6 million Jews. Beate Winkler, director of the Vienna-based European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, said only openly condemning racist and anti-Semitic acts and teaching new generations can help prevent one of history's most horrific chapters from repeating itself. "It is important to publicly condemn all acts of intolerance and incitement to racial hatred, as well as all acts of harassment or racist violence," Winkler said in a statement ahead of Friday's observances of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Winkler warned that recent data show an increase in anti-Semitism in the European Union in recent years, with incidents ranging from hate mail to arson attacks. "The EUMC deplores this increase in anti-Semitism," she said. "More than 60 years after the Holocaust, we have to ask what the world has learned, because only in remembering and learning the past can we hope to secure the future." "The Holocaust has shaken the very foundations of modern civilization, calling into question our understanding of humanity itself," she added. "The Shoah is a unique crime, the memory of which must be transmitted from generation to generation, so as to sensitize also future generations to the ultimate danger that can come from any form of racism." Winkler urged EU leaders to enshrine into law a proposal to combat racism and xenophobia that would make both crimes punishable throughout the 25-nation bloc, calling it "a strong legislative tool in our joint fight for equality."
Associated Press



26/1/2006- FIFA president Sepp Blatter wants soccer clubs to be penalized in the standings if their fans or players are found guilty of racist abuse. "I am so disappointed. It is a shame for football that in the year 2006, you still have racism," Blatter said Thursday during a news conference at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting. FIFA's legal experts will decide in February what measures need to be taken to strengthen anti-racism rules, possibly including relegation, suspension or expulsion. FIFA's executive committee, which meets March 17, will recommend possible sanctions to national soccer federations. "The only way to fight this is to do exactly what we have done when it came to violence," Blatter said. "We have to take away the points because it happens in those leagues where the money is sufficient so, even if you gave a fine of $100,000, it would be paid the next day. That does not change the attitude, so you have to go into a sporting sanction." Former soccer star Pele said racism in soccer appears to be worse now than when he was playing because there are more minority players. "When I started to play, we didn't see black people in other national teams, only in Brazil," Pele said. "Today you have black players all over the world."
Associated Press


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