NEWS - Archive July 2007

Headlines 27 July, 2007


27/7/2007- Travellers’ rights activists with Pavee Point have defended their role in the Roma roundabout stand-off amid threats by Justice Minister Brian Lenihan of a State funding review.  Yesterday, the minister called for an urgent inquiry and said he was concerned should any organisation encourage emigrants to act contrary to the law. “That isn’t acceptable behaviour,” the minister said in response to questions from the media at Templemore Garda College yesterday. “There seems to be some dispute about how precisely they [Pavee Point] were involved. If their involvement was simply to provide humanitarian assistance to these individuals then I do understand their position. “But if their position was that these individuals should be permitted to stay here and that we should set aside the whole immigration law of the State and have a back-door entry policy, then that would be wrong,” the minister said. Mr Lenihan called for a report on the matter. On Tuesday last, 63 members of the Roma community, who had been living on a roundabout at the Ballymun intersection of the M50, were escorted from the site by members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau as deportation moves got under way. The unsanitary conditions at the encampment had been highlighted by members of Pavee Point, who argued the deportation orders were an inadequate response to the situation. Yesterday, Martin Collins, Pavee Point spokesman and Irish representative to the European Roma Traveller Forum, said: “A key objective of Pavee Point is to work in partnership and solidarity with other NGOs representing Travellers and the statutory sector. We have every confidence in the role we have played over the past number of months. “Pavee Point’s exclusive concern from the very start was the humanitarian crisis on the M50 roundabout.” Mr Collins said he respected the minister’s right to call for an inquiry and said he was confident that Pavee Point would stand up under any scrutiny. Mr Lenihan said he would also look at present legislation to see if it was robust enough to deal with the situation on the M50.
Irish Examiner



25/7/2007- The Equality Tribunal’s annual report revealed how 146 race case referrals accounted for a third of its workload in 2006. Racism was also cited as the primary reason for complaints in twice as many employment cases than any other category, including gender, age and disability. The largest group taking cases were eastern European workers in the building industry. Director of the tribunal Melanie Pine said racism claims were succeeding in half of all rulings. “We do not publish the outcomes of each individual category but in cases of racism we are finding grounds for discrimination in about 50% of cases,” she said. Ms Pine revealed how in recent years greater awareness, coupled with growing rates of immigration, had been a significant catalyst for the rise in racism cases. This trend is supported by the latest figures compiled by the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism. In the first half of this year it received 52 reports of racist incidents, an increase of 30% on the previous six months. The reports cover everything from social discrimination to physical assaults. Committee director Philip Watt said racism was becoming more prevalent. “To some extent you would expect there to be some increase in the number of cases because of the increase in the population. “However, the rate of increase is significantly more than the population changes would allow. This increase has been so dramatic over the past year that it is a worry,” he said. Since 2001, race has streaked ahead of all other categories of complaint dealt with by the Equality Tribunal. It is most common in workplace disputes dealt with under the Employment Equality Acts. There has not been any noticeable rise in the number of race-related grievances under the Equal Status legislation, which covers discrimination in how businesses and services deal with the public.
Irish Examiner



Despite new laws to grant asylum to children with close ties to Norway, a Syrian boy and his mother are being ordered to leave the country.

27/7/2007- The 15-year-old Palestinian-Syrian boy, known as "Hamodi", has lived in Norway half his life. He speaks fluent Norwegian and claims to have close Norwegian friends. On top of that, his deceased father, a Palestinian-Syrian refugee, is buried in the town of Gjøvik in eastern Norway. Still, Norwegian immigration authorities have decided not to grant "Hamodi" and his mother asylum in Norway. This ruling came despite recent legislation to make immigration easier for children with a strong attachment to Norway. "It seems that the ruling contradicts the new legislation. It is surprising," said "Hamodi's" lawyer Jan Erik Mellemberg to The staff at the refugee centre in the town of Gjøvik, where "Hamodi" and his mother live, were also shocked by the decision of the Norwegian Immigration Appeals Board, known as UNE (Utlendingsnemda). "I don't remember much of my life before Norway," said "Hamodi" to "I don't know anyone in Syria, and I cannot write or read Arabic. It will be terrible to go there," he added. But according to UNE, the 15-year-old's attachment to Norway is not strong enough to allow him to stay. The immigration authorities argue that "Hamodi" and his mother are from a culture where family ties are strong. "He has siblings, and a number of uncles and aunts in Syria. We are not informed that he has strong ties to Norwegian places or Norwegian friends," a statement from UNE read. In a letter to UNE, the family’s lawyer is urging the immigration authorities to review "Hamodi's" case one more time.



26/7/2007- Nearly a hundred Roma gypsies were flown from Ireland to Bucharest last night, bringing an end to a months-long stand-off that saw them living on a motorway roundabout in scenes more reminiscent of Delhi slums than Dublin suburbs. The group, all members of a single extended family, had journeyed to Ireland in the hope of taking advantage of Romania's recent membership of the European Union. They wanted, they said, to find steady agricultural work in the Irish countryside and improve their standard of living. What they hadn't reckoned with was legislation decreeing that Romanians and Bulgarians cannot work in Ireland without a permit, and can only stay legally for three months at a time before having to prove employment. Nor could they claim benefits, thanks to another law barring anybody - including Irish citizens - from claiming welfare until they have lived legally in the country for two years. And so the Roma set up camp on a roundabout in the middle of the M50, Ireland's congested motorway, in the sprawling suburbs west of the capital. Here the group of about 90 people, including six-week old babies and sixty-year-old grandmothers, cobbled together makeshift shelters, pilfering tarpaulin, scraps of wood and rope from rubbish tips. "Conditions were very bad. The roundabout is in a sort of basin and with the horrific rain we've had, they were living knee-deep in mud and sludge, with no sanitation facilities," said Sara Russell, the Roma co-ordinator for Pavee Point Travellers Centre, which has been assisting the group.

The Roma are one of eastern Europe's most persecuted people, but conditions at the site in 21st-century Ireland have shocked even experienced aid workers. With the smell of human excrement hanging in the air, the rotting food and piles of rubbish, two children from the camp were taken to a central Dublin hospital suffering from severe diarrhoea last week. Those youngsters that dodged disease could often be seen begging among the lorries, vans and cars on the motorway, prompting the AA in Ireland to warn about the dangers of a serious accident. "We were saddened that these people were left in this squalor for two months, while they waited for a minister's decision," Ms Russell said. That decision came at the weekend when the Garda, acting on the instructions of Justice Minister Brian Lenihan, served the Roma with deportation orders. Many of the Rostas family at the centre of this saga are illiterate and so the "Know before you go" information campaigns run around the time of Romania's EU accession would have passed them by. And experts say that Irish officials were keen to send a strong message back to Romania that it was not worth making the trek to Ireland. After Ireland's laws were explained to the Roma group in Dublin, most decided to go home of their own accord on free flights, laid on with the support of the Romanian governement. So on Tuesday, police moved in to transport the gypsies from their roundabout home to a temporary holding centre. "They have all chosen to go home and they are being voluntarily repatriated," a spokeswoman for Ireland's Ministry of Justice was keen to emphasise.

The Romanian ambassador in Dublin has accused the gypsies of misleading Irish aid agencies. While the Roma have said they preferred a risky existence in the middle of an Irish motorway to their tortuous life back home in Romania, Silvia Stancu Davidou told The Irish Times that many of the gypsies did in fact have permanent addresses. Last night the Roma left for Romania, where they will be transported by bus back to their respective home villages around Timisoara in the west of the country. And among Dublin residents, there appeared to be little sympathy for their plight. "If you are going to work, welcome," wrote Anne Byrne in a letter to the Irish Independent. "If you are here to benefit from a better welfare system than you have in your own country, then go back and work on improving your own country, don't bleed ours dry."
Independent Digital



26/7/2007- Hundreds of African migrant children in the Canary Islands are at risk of abuse, a human rights group has said. Children are being beaten and left to go hungry by staff in overcrowded government emergency centres, Human Rights Watch said in a report. More than 900 unaccompanied children have arrived in the Spanish territory after dangerous journeys in makeshift boats in an attempt to reach the EU. In 2006, about 30,000 immigrants were caught trying to reach the islands. The regional government says the accusations are unfounded.

'Abuse ignored'
In the report, "Unwelcome Responsibilities: Spain's Failure to Protect the Rights of Unaccompanied Migrant Children in the Canary Islands", Human Rights Watch says the children - mostly boys from Senegal and Morocco - are detained indefinitely in the migrant centres. Children held at four centres told Human Rights Watch they had seen staff violently abusing other children on several occasions. They also said staff ignored violence between detainees. The group urged Canary Islands officials to close the emergency centres, which it opened a year ago, and provide alternative accommodation and care for the children either on the islands or in Spain. It also called for a full investigation into the children's claims of abuse. "These children should be protected by the Spanish authorities, not left to suffer beatings and abuse," said Human Rights Watch spokeswoman Simone Troller. "The Canary Islands government should close these centres and arrange better care for the children."

In a statement, the regional government in the Canary Islands said Human Rights Watch had delayed for a month before passing on the allegations and had refused to name the staff accused of beating children. The statement said a two-month juducial investigation had failed to reveal any evidence of abuse. The regional authorities do concede that emergency centres are not the best way to house children. They have called on the national government to speed up the transfer of migrants to mainland Spain. Under new agreements between Europe and African countries, many children are returned to their home countries, but face a life without family around them. Those who do make it to Europe often grow up to contribute to the economies of their host country, says the BBC's Africa editor David Bamford. But with large numbers of adult migrants desperate for a new life in Europe free of poverty the emphasis is on containment, and so far the authorities have been losing that battle, our correspondent says. Earlier this month, Spanish officials called off a search for 50 African migrants missing after a boat capsized near the Canary Islands. Forty-eight people were rescued and several bodies recovered. Most African migrants seeking to enter the EU sail from the west African coast in crowded open boats, many dying en route.
BBC News



24/7/2007- The Italian Refugee Council (CIR), a member of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), has issued a damning report about Malta's role in the recent incidents involving illegal immigrants in the Mediterranean, accusing both the island and Libya of adopting an attitude which is "putting lives at risk". The report, sent to the international press, gives details of the situation with regard to international and maritime law and accuses Malta of breaching these provisions on various occasions. The Italian NGO said it is "very concerned about the current attitude of some states, in particular Libya and Malta, putting lives at risk and causing unnecessary suffering to people in distress at sea, most of whom are asylum seekers". The report deals with recent incidents involving illegal immigrants, particularly a case involving "27 persons clinging to a fish pen belonging to a Maltese trawler in Libyan SAR waters for three days", and "26 people saved by Spanish fishing boat Monfalco in Libyan SAR waters but refused disembarkation in Malta". The report states that, according to the information obtained by UNHCR, and rescued persons interviewed by CIR on how facts have evolved in the tuna pen incident, the behaviour of the competent Maltese authorities in launching and conducting the search and rescue operations was unclear.  "This leads one to believe that not all efforts have been made in order to intervene urgently on behalf of people in distress at sea, taking into consideration - inter alia - that nowadays, distress signals can be rapidly transmitted by satellite and terrestrial communication techniques both to search and rescue authorities ashore and to ships in the immediate vicinity."  CIR also lambastes the Maltese authorities for not taking any action against the Budafel, the Maltese tug carrying the tuna pen.

Insisting that the Maltese authorities should have obliged the shipmaster to save the 27 people clinging onto the pen, the CIR said that "the Maltese authorities should verify specific responsibilities of the master of Budafel and, if found guilty, prosecute him according to Maltese legislation for not having given adequate assistance to people in danger". Reminding Malta of its international obligations, the CIR stressed the "need for preserving the integrity of the longstanding maritime tradition as well as the obligation enshrined in international law of maritime research and rescue services". According to the report, there is an urgent need to define more precisely the conditions under which a member state is obliged to assume responsibility for examining asylum claims of people rescued at sea. The Italian organisation also called upon the European Commission to look at the legislation in greater detail and to open a dialogue with non-EU member states in order to involve them in cooperation and to establish a fund to cover the costs incurred by vessels for rescue operations at sea. The European Parliament was also invited to put more pressure along these lines. This is not the first time international organisations have singled out Malta over the issue, accusing the island of being insensitive with regard to the rights of illegal immigrants and would-be asylum seekers. A few weeks ago Malta was in for some bad press by the international media over incidents occurring outside its search and rescue area. The government has strongly refuted these accusations saying it was respecting fully its international obligations. At the same time, Malta made it clear that no one should expect the island to take responsibility of incidents occurring outside its search and rescue area.
Times of Malta



24/7/2007- The Armed Forces of Malta called off the search for an illegal immigrant who disappeared as a group of Africans were being transferred to an army vessel on Sunday night. Another two immigrants - two young men - died during the rescue operation on Sunday. Weary and evidently in shock, the survivors - 24 men and two women - were brought ashore yesterday morning. The incident took place about 30 miles south off Malta when an army patrol was dispatched to assist the migrants. As soon as the patrol vessel reached the boat, the immigrants asked to be taken to Malta because they were tired and the sea was getting rougher, the army said. Realising that the migrants' boat was taking water, the army signalled to the immigrants that it would be better if they boarded the patrol boat. As the operation got underway, the immigrants rushed to one side, causing the boat to capsize. In the ensuing confusion, two of the immigrants died and one went missing. Throughout Sunday, the Maltese army's operations centre was kept busy with a number of illegal immigrant boat sightings and incidents. The AFM maintained close contact with the neighbouring countries about the cases tackled. Various satellite phone calls were reportedly made by fleeing Africans to Marsa Open Centre claiming they were in distress in a number of boats in various locations on the high seas. No contact or sightings were made to verify the reports. On Sunday afternoon, Tunis informed the AFM that a group of 58 on board a rubber dinghy had boarded a fishing-vessel. Suspecting piracy, an AFM aircraft was dispatched to the area while a patrol vessel, which was in the vicinity, was also dispatched and its crew prepared their ship-boarding and hostage-rescue procedures. Later, however, Tunis informed the AFM that the situation reverted back to normal because the migrants had left the boat and were on their dinghy alongside the fishing boat. The immigrants, including 18 females and four children, later steered on their own steam towards Lampedusa, without requesting further assistance. Capitalising on the fine weather, several African immigrants are reportedly trying to make the daring crossing to Europe. Another 25 immigrants were intercepted in Sicily yesterday and 44 landed in Lampedusa. No fewer than 500 fleeing Africans have landed on the tiny Italian island since Sunday, prompting the near collapse of its tiny reception centre.
Times of Malta



By Judy Dempsey

26/7/2007- Poland's Ministry of Education may be an odd place to understand why national politics has been in such turmoil since the conservative Law and Justice Party led by the Kaczynski twins won the elections in October 2005. Here, in this cavernous building that was the headquarters of the Gestapo during World War II, the deputy prime minister and education minister, Roman Giertych, has been setting out his agenda for the country. From here, Giertych's radical far right ideas have permeated even the thinking of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, marginalizing Poland on the European scene. Giertych, 36, wants to curb the powers of the European Union, which Poland joined in 2004. He also wants Europe to be anchored on strong, traditional conservative values because he claims that otherwise it will be overrun by Muslims. "Europe is based on Greek culture, Roman law and Christian values," said Giertych, who is also leader of the extremely conservative League of Polish Families. "If Europe abandons these values and introduces such 'values' as abortion, marriage for homosexuals, adoption by homosexual partners, we are heading toward a catastrophe," he said in an interview. "Without religion, without the family, without people who protect those family values in Western Europe, we will be replaced by Muslims."

It is not only religion and morals that form the core of the League of Polish Families. The party has inherited anti-German and anti-Semitic views from Roman Dmowski, a staunch nationalist who played a leading role in Polish politics after 1918. "Dmowski argued that Poland should be a state of and for the Poles," said Marcin Zaborowski, a Polish expert at the European Union's Institute for Security Studies in Paris. Dmowski argued that certain minorities, particularly Jews and Germans, should be encouraged to emigrate because they could not be easily assimilated. Dmowski's closest associate was Giertych's grandfather. The League of Polish Families has built on this philosophy. Giertych, for example, is against restitution of property for Poles or Jews that was expropriated during or after World War II. "Hitler is guilty of the Holocaust. It was the Germans who were guilty," said Giertych. "Restitution is the responsibility of the successors to the German Reich," he said. Even though the Communist state expropriated property when it seized power after 1945, Giertych dismissed any suggestion that today's Poland should be responsible for restitution. "We lost six million citizens. We lost 55 percent of property during the war. We lost almost all the bridges, factories, forests. We rebuilt this over the past 60 years," said Giertych. "All restitution should be for the successors of the German Reich."

The League of Polish Families has also refused to distance itself from anti-Semitic statements made by the Reverend Tadeusz Rydzyk, the founder of Radio Maryja, a nationalist Roman Catholic radio station. Rydzyk has called Poland's first lady "a witch" and her husband, President Lech Kaczynski, "a cheat who lets himself be influenced by the Jewish lobby." Giertych's policies have won him little public support. Were elections to be held now, his party would fail to jump the 5 percent hurdle required to enter the Sejm, Poland's lower house of Parliament. The miserable polls have not dented his self-confidence. The reason, according to analysts, is that Giertych has forced Jaroslaw Kaczynski into co-opting some of those values to win over Radio Maryja's two million listeners. But by doing this, Kaczynski is destroying his ambitions to widen his Law and Justice Party into a genuine popular conservative movement. "Jaroslaw Kaczynski wanted to create a conservative party similar to Germany's Christian Democratic Union party," said Gienek Smolar, director of the Center for International Relations in Warsaw. "No such party has existed in Poland. But Kaczynski may have failed. He has compromised too much with the far right-wing parties and with the populist parties. He has alienated his moderate supporters."

Indeed, since taking power nearly 20 months ago, Kaczynski has done little to build a strong conservative party. Instead, he has tried to purge the public administration of former Communists or alleged Communist informers to reduce the Democratic Left Alliance, the successor to the Communist Party, to political irrelevance. His coalition includes the two most two Euroskeptic and nationalist parties in Poland: the League of Polish Families and the populist, left-wing party, Self-Defense. "Jaroslaw Kaczynski has been taking bits and pieces from both these parties," said Zaborowski. "By flirting with these parties, he wants to weaken them and win over their supporters in the belief he can eventually govern alone without them." But this policy has alienated moderate Law and Justice voters, and, Zaborowski said, "Kaczynski's party is losing the center ground." Prime Minister Kaczynski, for example, has not criticized Rydzyk's anti-Semitic comments or Radio Maryja's broadcasts. And he has increasingly adopted anti-German policies. The government has introduced a restitution bill, but the return of property is virtually excluded. Compensation is very low, and an immense bureaucracy makes it difficult for foreign, often elderly claimants to file successfully. "Many aspects of the bill are not satisfactory. We are very disappointed," said Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the Jewish Claims Conference, established in 1951 to seek the return of Jewish property lost during the Holocaust.

Moderate politicians who have advocated improved relations with Germany or who have questioned Kaczynski's move to the far right have either been fired or resigned. These include a prime minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, a foreign minister, Stefan Mellor, a defense minister, Radek Sikorski, and Pawel Zalewski, chairman of the Sejm's foreign affairs committee. Giertych seems unconcerned about political instability and infighting in the coalition. Nor does he seem bothered that Kaczynski might call early elections, despite the poor public poll ratings of the League of Polish Families and its ally, Self-Defense. For the moment, Giertych believes he has reached his goal. Under the Kaczysnkis, Poland has missed the chance of building a modern, open conservative party. Instead, it has turned into an inward-looking and nationalist country.
International Herald Tribune



26/7/2007- Polish prosecutors have begun investigating former communist officials for promoting anti-Semitism in the 1960s when thousands of Jews who survived the Nazi Holocaust were driven from Poland, investigators said. The Institute of National Remembrance said on Thursday it had found evidence of propaganda in the archives as well as copies of speeches and press articles that made clear the anti-Semitic agenda of the government of the time. 'We will examine each case on an individual basis, look to verify whether the person has committed a communist crime, which means someone who actively participated in directing the action against Jews and inspiring it,' said one of the institute's prosecutors. Arkadiusz Galaj told Reuters his unit would try to find some of the Jews who left Poland around 1968-1969 to identify potential witnesses. Poland has long been trying to shake off an anti-Semitic reputation it sees as unfair. Most of Poland's three million Jews – then the world's largest Jewish community – were killed in the World War Two Holocaust. Thousands of survivors emigrated after the anti-Semitic campaign in the late 1960s. According to papers brought to the attention of the institute, some Poles in top academic positions and businesses in the city of Lodz were fired in the 1960s after being accused of having Jewish origins or holding pro-Israel views. Poland, like many other communist states, broke off relations with Israel after it defeated Soviet aligned Arab states in the 1967 Middle East war and occupied swathes of land. The institute said former communist party general secretary Wladyslaw Gomulka had called Jews an 'imperialistically Zionist fifth column' – a statement later repeated and developed by Gomulka and other members of his party. Gomulka died in 1982. Galaj said some 3,900 Jews applied to emigrate from Poland in 1968 and almost 7,300 in the first eight months of 1969. That compared to an estimate of between 500 and 900 Jews leaving Poland between 1961 and 1967. The institute will start the inquiry in the Western town of Lodz, but it hopes to extend it to the rest of Poland. Galaj said the institute might appeal to Israel for help with the investigation as many of Jews who left emigrated there. The institute's work to uncover Poles who collaborated with the communists has been encouraged by Poland's conservative ruling twins.



24/7/2007- Volunteers will keep the Turkish Selimiye mosque in Haarlem under guard around-the-clock, according to Oktay Özcan, the spokesperson for the mosque on Tuesday. With this security measure in place the mosque executive hopes to prevent that the mosque will be badly damaged. Unidentified individuals threw two Molotov cocktails at the Selimiye mosque last Sunday. The mosque at the Reinaldapark, which is still under construction, had already been vandalised on 12 July. Some windows were smashed and others were smeared with racist slogans. Özcan expects that surveillance will need to be continued until the mosque is opened, unless apprehensions are made earlier. The mosque is expected to be opened in mid October. The security firm in charge of the surveillance of the mosque has asked for volunteers to help guard the mosque. Around-the-clock surveillance would be too costly; the Turkish security firm has therefore recruited volunteers from its own Turkish-Islamic circles to help safeguard the mosque. The volunteers can quickly intervene when something happens, Özcan argues. “We are trying to improve the response time to prevent large scale damage. We also hope to discourage the vandals.” The police have agreed with the mosque executive to step up the surveillance. ‘We’ll do what we can. The fact that they are deploying volunteers is great,” a police spokesperson said.
Expatica News


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