NEWS - Archive November 2006

Headlines 24 November, 2006


Only around 10 percent of immigrants who become naturalized Norwegian citizens are opting to take a voluntary oath of citizenship. Ceremonies around the oath are being reinstated next month.

20/11/2006- Norway used to require its naturalized citizens to pledge allegiance to their new country, but the practice was dropped around 30 years ago. Now it's been reinstated on a voluntary basis, with Norwegian officials inviting new citizens to the first of the country's new naturalization ceremonies on December 17. It's up to each new citizen to decide whether they want to accept the invitation to their local ceremony. Those who do accept, however, will be required to take the oath of citizenship, vowing loyalty to Norway and Norwegian society, support for democracy and human rights, and respect for the country's laws. The ceremonies will also feature some speeches and cultural entertainment, and end with the singing of the national anthem.

Poor turnout
A total of 1,252 persons were invited to naturalization ceremonies around the country. Newspaper Dagsavisen reported Monday that only 10 percent of those invited to the ceremony for new citizens in Oslo and Akershus, which will be held in Oslo's landmark City Hall, have accepted the invitation. In Vest-Agder County, in southern Norway, 29 percent accepted. It's unclear why the pending turnout is so low, but some new citizens think those inviting could have done a better job of informing them what it's all about. The invitation that came to the Abdulla family from Iraq nearly got tossed out in a pile of other mail, but all four members who came to Norway as refugees seven years ago have accepted it, and say they know of other earlier immigrants who would have liked to participate in such an event.

Tatiana A Ingolvsen, who moved to Norway from Russia five years ago, has also accepted the invitation and is looking forward to the ceremony in City Hall. "I will gladly participate, it's exciting," she told newspaper Aftenposten. "I think it's wonderful that the Norwegian authorities are doing this for us." Ingolvsen said she thinks the ceremony will help her feel more integrated in Norwegian society, and that taking the oath will make her feel "almost Norwegian." She said the ceremony itself will be like a party, for both herself and her Norwegian husband.



21/11/2006 - Just three weeks ago Jiri Cunek was fighting off accusations of racism, when - as mayor of Vsetin - he moved Romany rent-defaulters out of the town. But now Mr Cunek, who is also a senator, could become an important player in talks to form a new government - if he is elected chairman of the Christian Democrats. Jiri Cunek has been mayor of the Moravian town of Vsetin for eight years and is said to be one of the most popular figures in the region. He was re-elected mayor with a strong majority in October, when he also became senator for the Vsetin region. Mr Cunek's popularity seems partly based on his strong stand against Romany rent-defaulters in Vsetin, who he forced out of rundown flats in the town centre and into portacabins. Mr Cunek described this as cleaning or removing an "ulcer". There was some criticism of the language used and actions taken by Mr Cunek; several senior members of his party the Christian Democrats distanced themselves from the senator, saying his actions went against party principles. However, the dispute does not seem to have put too great a dent in Jiri Cunek's chances of becoming chairman of the Christian Democrats, when they hold an extraordinary meeting in Brno in just under three weeks' time. Commentators say he is popular within the party as well as with voters.
Mr Cunek, who a decade was working as a safety control officer in a factory, officially announced his candidature for the top party post on Monday. But he seems to already be thinking ahead. Last week he held talks with Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek, though neither participant is willing to say exactly what they discussed. In the on- and ongoing saga of the search for a new government, one of the latest models of cabinet being discussed would feature the Civic Democrats, the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, and would be formed after the latter's party conference. Mr Cunek says such a coalition should be for just one year, and only come into being at all if it agrees on a reform programme. Otherwise, he says, it would be better to create some form of minority cabinet. But unlike the last chairman of the Christian Democrats, Miroslav Kalousek, Mr Cunek says he would not take part in a minority coalition with the Social Democrats supported by the Communists.
Radio Prague



22/11/2006 - A World Economic Forum (WEF) study on gender equality released yesterday ranks Malta in 71st place out of a total of 115 countries, representing 90 per cent of the world’s population. The study, which finds Scandinavian countries the most progressive in the world when it comes to equality of the sexes, gauges four separate criteria of economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and health and survival. It was in the area of educational attainment that Malta scored most favourably, coming in 25th place, but this was offset by a dismal ranking in the area of economic participation and opportunity, where Malta was ranked 91st of the 115 countries. Elsewhere, Malta scored mid-range in the area of political empowerment (48th) and in health and survival, where Malta was placed 65th. Going into the components of the economic participation and opportunity criterion, Malta was given a 100th placing for female labour force participation, 89th for income, 75th for women working as legislators, senior officials and managers, 71st for professional and technical workers and 34th for wage equality for similar work. Malta’s 91st-place ranking in economic participation and opportunity comes after a study by Malta’s National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) in September, which had taken into account a different set of criteria.

The study found that men earn higher wages than women, regardless of their level of education, job level or basis of employment. In the gender pay review portion of the NCPE study, it was found that men with a primary level of education earned an average salary of Lm363 per month, as against the female average of Lm267. Post secondary findings, meanwhile, showed respective salaries of Lm427 and Lm331 per month. The NCPE study had also pointed out that, in most cases, neither men nor women negotiated their pay but rather salaries were established either by the employer or through an agreement with trade unions. On educational attainment, Malta scored first, and attained complete equality in terms of literacy, as well as in enrolment in secondary and tertiary education. In the political empowerment criteria, Malta was placed 88th in terms of having female parliamentarians, 43rd for women holding ministerial positions and 13th, thanks to former president Agatha Barbara, in terms of having female heads of state in the last 50 years. Placing Malta’s ranking in a European Union context, Malta was ranked 23rd of the EU25 and ninth of the EU10. Only Italy and Cyprus received poorer rankings than Malta, with respective placements of 77th and 83rd. Outside the EU, countries such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia and Mongolia were all ranked considerably higher than Malta. Sweden, Norway and Finland were the top three in the WEF rankings, followed by Iceland, Germany, the Philippines, New Zealand, Denmark, the UK and Ireland. The WEF added that the nations studied had, on average, closed about 90 per cent of the gender gap in education and health but only 50 per cent in economic participation and opportunity, and 15 per cent in political empowerment.
Malta Independent



22/11/2006 - Russian police have detained 11 teenagers for beating an immigrant from former Soviet Kyrgyzstan with metal chains, the Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday quoting a spokeswoman for the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office. The group attacked 23-year-old Chingiz Kailypov, now in a coma, on a suburban Moscow commuter train on Sunday evening. Police are treating the attack as a racially motivated crime rather than hooliganism as previous race attacks have been termed in Russia. “In the wagon of an electrical train a group of skinheads, wearing short black jackets and long boots and shouting nationalistic slogans, attacked Kailypov with their arms, legs and metal chains,” spokeswoman Elena Rossokhina said. The attackers were all teenagers, she said, and some were younger than 16-years-old. Russia has witnessed a wave of race attacks in recent years, mainly on darker skinned immigrants from former Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus. Some victims have died.



22/11/2006 - A group of skinheads severely beat a Kyrgyz man on a commuter train outside Moscow, the latest in a wave of attacks on dark-skinned foreigners, police officials said Tuesday. Chingiz Kailypov, 23, was on a commuter train to Moscow on Sunday night when about 20 young men with closely cropped hair and wearing heavy boots started beating him with metal bars, said Tatyana Agapova, a spokeswoman for the Moscow region transportation police. Agapova said that if other passengers had not rushed to Kailypov's rescue, he could have been beaten to death. Kailypov suffered a brain injury and facial bone fractures and remains unconscious in a hospital. Officials said 11 of the attackers, all Moscow students aged 17 and 18, had been detained and a criminal investigation had begun. Instead of calling it hooliganism, as has been the case with many previous assaults on dark-skinned people, authorities are treating the attack as a racially motivated crime, Itar-Tass reported. Russia has seen an increase in hate crimes against dark-skinned foreigners, Jews and immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus. This year, 39 people have been killed in apparent hate crimes and a further 308 attacked, according to the Sova rights center, which monitors xenophobia. Also on Tuesday, St. Petersburg prosecutors filed an appeal against last month's acquittal of 17 people in the killing of a Vietnamese student two years ago, said a spokeswoman for city prosecutors. The 20-year-old student of a St. Petersburg institute was beaten and stabbed on Oct. 13, 2004. His death prompted protests from hundreds of Vietnamese and other Asian students.
The Moscow Times



20/11/2006 - Xenophobia could destroy Russia unless it is countered by law enforcement and education, a senior Kremlin official told an analytical weekly Monday. Xenophobia has taken on alarming dimensions in Russia, with a wave of brutal race-hate crimes sweeping the country in the past few years. "Ethnic criminal groups and the xenophobia they engender could destroy multiethnic Russia unless they are defeated by the justice system, education and successful development," Vladislav Surkov, deputy chief of the Kremlin administration, told Expert magazine. Surkov said criminal networks, above all terrorist ones, had infected many people of various ethnic origins, including ethnic Russians, with xenophobia, the weekly reported. Russians, mainly in large cities, have grown particularly guarded about migrant workers flooding in from provincial areas with lower living standards and from poor ex-Soviet republics. "Charlatans who promote the benefits of ethnic isolation want to force Russians out of a multi-ethnic Russia," Surkov said. He called on locals and their migrant "guests" to act within the law and show mutual respect. The problem attracted widespread attention in early September when local residents rioted after two Russians were killed in an inter-ethnic brawl at a restaurant allegedly owned by Chechens in northwest Russia. The local community accused authorities of failing to protect them or safeguard their interests, and of accepting bribes from criminal immigrant groups.

Surkov turned to history and said that Russia's greatest political projects, such as the Christian idea of a Third Rome or the Socialist Third International, had been open to people of different ethnic origins. "We have every right to be, and will be, proud of all the best we have inherited from the [Russian] Empire and the Soviet Union, including a unique understanding between the Orthodox Church and the Islamic Community, and with other confessions," he said. A recent string of attacks on foreign students has cast a shadow over such Russian cities as St. Petersburg and Voronezh, about 310 miles south of Moscow, which have traditionally been a popular destination for foreign undergraduates. In St. Petersburg alone, a student from Senegal was killed in April and a nine-year-old girl of mixed Russian-African origin stabbed in early 2006. A nine-year-old Tajik girl died of stab wounds in February 2004 when a group of young men attacked her, her father and an 11-year-old cousin. Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said last week that 150 extremist groups, in particular race-hate groups, with a total membership of around 10,000 were operating in Russia.
RIA Novosti



24/11/2006 - A father of five firearms officer was barred from his elite protection unit because of allegations that his children were being taught by an imam who, the police allege to be extremist. Private Constable Amjad Farooq, 39, is suing Scotland Yard for racial and religious discrimination after being removed from Scotland Yard’s Diplomatic Protection Group (S016) (DPG) which guards dignitaries. He used to work as a firearm officer with the Wiltshire Constabulary before his promotion. PC Farooq was told in December 2003 that he had failed counter-terrorism check (CTC), after having worked for the DPG for six weeks. It has been alleged that two of his sons, aged nine and eleven, attended his local Jamia Mosque in Swindon, Wiltshire, and studied under an imam allegedly connected to a suspected extremist group. The imam left the mosque three years ago after a dispute with the committee and another imam. Joint Secretary of the Mosque, Azim Khan, told The Muslim News that he has known PC Farooq since he was a young child. “He would not hurt a fly. The allegations are silly. It is a complete mystery to me,” he said.

Khan said that many children were taught by that Imam and “we make sure that nothing untoward is taught. We supervise the teachings.” He was surprised when the police said the Imam was connected to terrorism. “We found nothing wrong with the Imam. We were surprised and shocked at the allegations. If he has committed any crime why hasn’t he been arrested?” He was outraged and asked, “What kind of logic is the police using that a father is being punished because his children were taught by an imam disliked by them?”
A worshipper at the Mosque told The Muslim News that the allegations were “just an excuse for the police as they don’t like practising Muslims guarding politicians at a time of war against Iraq.” He added that the worshippers at the Jamia Mosque “were surprised that the imam was accused of being an extremist. It is just pathetic, the imam cannot speak proper English, how could he communicate to the young children who speak English?” Khan believes PC Farooq has been discriminated against “because he is a Muslim.” PC Farooq and his family have moved to Gloucester. The Scotland Yard, justifying its decision told The Muslims News that “the decisions taken in this particular case are entirely proportionate, defendable and justified. We carry out appropriate vetting of officers and staff throughout their careers. The level of vetting increases according to the sensitivity of the roles that officers and staff have to perform.”
The Muslim News



The Russian government has been accused of state-sponsored racism after it approved laws banning non-Russians from several key sectors of the economy. From January, foreigners will not be allowed to sell alcohol or medicine, and from April they will be banned from working in the retail sector. The ban extends to Russia's indoor and outdoor food and clothing markets, as well as to thousands of roadside kiosks selling anything from newspapers to cosmetics. The jobs affected are typically low paid and are often done by immigrants from the former Soviet republics such as Tajikistan, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Nobody knows precisely how many people will be forced out of work, but the figure is estimated to be at least one million people. Mikhail Fradkov, the Prime Minister, said the ban was needed to protect the rights of ethnic Russians who have complained of being squeezed out of the retail sector by immigrants. President Vladimir Putin has hailed the new measures as "a correct decision", arguing that Russia is not suffering from a labour shortage in the retail sector so does not need to rely on foreign workers. With crunch parliamentary elections looming next year, the Kremlin is also keen to be seen to be in touch with popular sentiment. The new laws follow controversial comments from the deputy head of the Russian Migration Service. Vyacheslav Postavnin was quoted yesterday as saying that it was a good idea to keep the numbers of non-Russians in any given region below 20 per cent of the overall population. "If the norm is exceeded, it will make the indigenous population feel uncomfortable. As a rule people who come to such districts do not assimilate. They begin living by their own rules," he said. Activists are warning that nationalism is on the march and accuse the state of pandering to racists. Sova, an organisation that monitors racist violence, says there have been 39 racist murders this year so far and 300 attacks. 



18/11/2006- Some 80 people from different ethnic groups and nationalities sat down to a sumptuous meal at City Hall on Thursday in an attempt to set a new world record and to celebrate the United Nation's International Day for Tolerance. But as they toasted friendship between peoples, news came that an Armenian teenager had been battered to death in the Moscow region. Narek Kocharyan, 15, was assaulted Saturday by a group of young men who beat him, stabbed him several times and strangled him, the Union of Armenians in Russia said Thursday. A bandanna decorated with a skull and crossbones found at the scene suggested that Kocharyan's attackers belonged to an ultranationalist group, the Union of Armenians in Russia said in a statement posted on its web site. It also complained that law enforcement officials were investigating the killing as a simple case of manslaughter rather than a hate crime. "Our esteemed guardians of law and order believe the killing was inadvertent after a man was repeatedly kicked in the head, strangled and stabbed," the statement said. "And not a word about a racial motive for the attack." Critics say the government's response to rising extremism has been inadequate. Supreme Court Chief Justice Vyacheslav Lebedev, speaking before the State Duma on Wednesday, said only six criminal cases related to extremism had gone to court in 2005. Police and prosecutors routinely disregard racial motives when investigating such crimes because they can be difficult to prove in court. Vladimir Slutsker, deputy chairman of a joint commission on nationalities policy affiliated with the Federation Council, said Thursday that the current law on extremism was adequate for dealing with "any manifestation of ethnic tension and xenophobia." The problem, Slutsker said, is that law enforcement avoids enforcing the law. "This is the most direct path to the disintegration of this country," he said.

The Sova think tank says 39 people have died in hate crimes this year, 28 of them in Moscow, and more than 300 people have been injured. The vast majority of the attacks were carried out by skinheads, Sova's director Galina Kozhevnikova said. Back at City Hall, the organizers of the record attempt did their best to maintain a festive atmosphere. State Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky was the guest speaker at the banquet, which was organized by the Moscow Association of Entrepreneurs. The event was designed to break the world record for the most ethnic groups seated around a dinner table, as well as to highlight Moscow's multiethnic population. Zhirinovsky was a somewhat surprising choice, since his Liberal Democratic Party of Russia has often been accused of inciting racial hatred, but the politician, a skilled chameleon, was on his best behavior. When asked about immigration policy, he said: "Anyone who wants to come to Russia can come." Zhirinovsky also apologized to Aslanbek Aslakhanov for comments he made previously about Chechens. Aslakhanov, an ethnic Chechen, advises President Vladimir Putin on ethnic relations. Zhirinovsky blamed his Soviet education. "We weren't taught that they were also citizens." With the tables piled high with food and drink, the event had a Soviet feel to it as people from a host of countries and ethnic backgrounds raised their glasses and toasted interethnic harmony.  The event was first held in Sweden in 2002, when 29 different nationalities shared a sauna together in the town of Halmstaad and set a world record. Last year, Moscow broke the record with representatives of 57 ethnic groups and nationalities gathered around a table.  The lighthearted tone of the event could not conceal participants' concern about the increasing frequency of hate crimes in this country.

"Things have gotten worse," said organizer Oleg Goryunov, who once built a giant pyramid out of bottle caps to get into the Guinness Book of Records. "Last year we had better relations with Georgia."  Guests bemoaned the lost era of Soviet druzhba narodov, or friendship between peoples. Ethnic harmony under the Soviets "was not a toy," Aslakhanov said. "It was real. If someone got attacked it was a state of emergency, because we were all together." Now, he said, "it happens every day." "My wife is Russian. I fear for my child growing up half-black, half-white," said one of the guests, Ugandan Ambassador Sam Barteka Sakajja. "Enough is enough. My color does not matter. It is what is in my brain," he said. "I appeal to Russia's youth to grow up and forget racism."
The Moscow Times



18/11/2006- The government should not permit the creation of so-called ethnic enclaves where foreigners outnumber native Russian citizens, the Federal Migration Service chief said Thursday. The comments by Konstantin Romodanovsky came one day after the announcement of a new government policy that bars immigrants from trading at street stalls and markets. "I consider that settlements of the Chinatown-type would be unacceptable for Russia and I can assure you that there will be no such settlements," Romodanovsky told NTV television. "Migration is a very complicated matter, a universal problem that is a sensitive issue, and one must be very careful." His deputy, Vyacheslav Postavnin, said in a newspaper interview published Thursday that the concentration of foreigners in any district or region should not surpass "17 to 20 percent" of the native population, particularly if they have a different national culture and religious faith. "Exceeding this norm creates discomfort for the indigenous population," Postavnin told Vremya Novostei. According to a new Cabinet order regulating labor migration for the next year issued Wednesday, migrants would be prohibited from selling alcohol or pharmaceuticals as of Jan. 1. Foreigners should comprise no more than 40 percent of retail personnel employed outside of stores during the period ending April 1 and will not be allowed to take these jobs further on next year. President Vladimir Putin ordered his Cabinet last month to take steps to decrease the employment of foreign workers at markets, saying they were crowding out native Russian producers and retailers. Postavnin said 10 million to 12 million foreigners work in Russia, including about 7 million illegally. Each of Russia's 88 regions will be able to set quotas for the amount of foreign labor needed, he said.
Associated Press


RSS feed
Suggestions and comments please to