NEWS - Archive December 2007

End of the year special news edition 2007

'GO AND SEE!' - CINEMA AGAINST HATE(Russia)

17/12/2007- Every year in the framework of the "International Day Against Fascism and Antisemitism" campaign in Russia and in other new independent countries of East and Central Europe the international week "Kristallnacht - Never Again!" takes place, organized by Youth Human Rights Movement, Youth Network Against Racism and Intolerance and The Young Europe supported by the UNITED for Intercultural Action.

During a week from the 9th of November (International day against fascism and anti-Semitism originally chosen to commemorate "Kristallnacht" pogrom regarded as the beginning of the Holocaust) to the 16 of November (the International Day for Tolerance proclaimed by UNESCO in 1995 on its 50-th anniversary) young people take part in different activities (actions, seminars, discussions etc.) organised mostly by non-governmental organisations. The week is aimed at commemorating the Nazi victims and telling about the danger of extreme ideologies the spread of which leads to intolerance and violence. We want young people to join us and say "Never Again!" to the ideas of superiority of one nation, culture or religion.

This year activists of the Youth Human Rights Movement, Youth Network Against Racism and Intolerance and The Young Europe movement supported by the UNITED for Intercultural Action organized in Moscow (9.11-15.11.2007) a five-day film festival "Go and See!" - cinema against hate. The program of the festival included feature and documentary films devoted to the problems of xenophobia and intolerance towards different minority groups. All the filmshows were followed by discussions of the corresponding topics such as modern anti-Semitism - attitude of people and reaction of the government; neo-fascist extreme groups and the reasons for their popularity; genocide and means of resistance (Tibet was in focus of the discussion); LGBT community problems and finally, the problem of migration and negative attitude to migrants.

The festival gathered an audience of about 150 people, most of whom were students and young activists. Numerous handouts, books
and information leaflets how to join including those received from the UNITED were distributed among the participants of the festival. Besides, the film festival got a wide media coverage and positive feedback among participants which means that events of the kind are of great importance today.
Youth Human Rights Movement

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HANDS OFF THE RROM CHILDREN(Italy)

EveryOne Group is keeping a careful watch on the situation of the Rroms in Italy.

15/12/2007- It is not an easy job seeing the authorities and institutions are putting up increasingly impenetrable barriers between the places where the persecution of the Rroms is talking place and everyday citizens by putting constraints on the free press and the right of humanitarian organizations to observe what is going on during the camp clearances and expulsion operations. As we have reported on several occasions, the conditions of the Rrom people have become more and more disastrous as the pogroms against their settlements are throwing thousands of helpless human beings (most of whom are children and adolescents) out into the street without any means of support. Our group has been attempting to report the institutional destruction of the Rrom community in Italy by appealing to international authorities, and on November 15th, 2007, thanks to the support of enlightened political parties, it obtained the approval of the European Parliament Resolution on the application of Directive 2004/38/CE concerning the rights of citizens of the Union and their families to move freely and reside in the territory of member states.

Undeterred, however, the Italian institutions have stepped up these unjust operations of camp clearances and expulsions which violate a series of laws - among which Directive 2004/38/CE itself (which forbids governments of the Union to expel citizens from other members states who are here to seek work) and the above-mentioned Resolution of the European Parliament. The most serious crimes against humanity are emerging, which we hope will be prosecuted - also thanks to our report - by the relevant international tribunals. The aim of EveryOne Group is to save human lives and stop the persecution and massacre (due to hunger, cold, infections, hardship and poverty) that the Rroms are subject to. As always happens with discriminated minorities, next to this general tragedy we find local tragedies from the various regions and cities involving single families and individuals. The case of the parents of the Rrom children who perished in the Livorno fire is typical: a group of racist murders, GAPE (who claimed responsibility for the crime in a written statement) set fire to four children, but in response to this horrifying case of infanticide the authorities decided instead to
arrest and sentence the children’s parents. The four parents were only released from prison when the sentence was suspended after our group, with few allies in situ, took action on their behalf.

The conditions of the Rroms in Italy today is totally unbearable. The persecutory measures carried out by the various local authorities
have left thousands of people without a shelter, without a means of survival, without assistance of any kind. And while a slice of
humanity is fighting desperately to survive with the help of a few just citizens (fortunately not all Italians are prey to this racist
folly), new acts of discrimination are in store for them. EveryOne Group has reason to believe, after listening to the testimony of many Rrom families and Italian citizens who are in contact with Rrom families, that a further violation of the rights of the Rroms is
about to take place. It has become obvious that the institutions have no intention of activating (unless they are forced to by
international authorities) any real programme of assistance and support to encourage the social integration of Rrom men and women
whose conditions are getting worse by the day. Instead, we fear that they are planning ­ and Rosy Bindi’s speech in New York would appear to confirm our fears ­ that the Government is planning a policy of eradication of Rrom children from their families and tribes in order to “Italianize” them through coercive measures. Some mayors, among whom the Mayor of Livorno, for example, have suggested that any child caught begging on its own or in the company of its parents must be taken away from its family. In the latter case, however, if the child is not accompanied by an adult the parents are accused of “abandonment of a minor”. Therefore it is up to the Juvenile Court to decide whether the children are to be handed back to their parents (in the miraculous event of them being able to leave their poverty behind, by finding a job in a matter of days and a home suitable for, at times, five or six children) or whether they are to be put up for permanent adoption to Italian families.

The extreme depredation. As shown by the Romanian journalist George Scarlat in an article published on the Anne’s Door website, Italy is bleeding Romania dry by buying up the best land without using it to create jobs. Italy is also exploiting, again in Romania, the Rrom and Romanian workforce. Hence, it has decided to make a clean sweep of the life and the Rrom culture in Italy by systematically carrying out the stages of a kind of “Final Solution” that has been planned for some time. What is more, again according to the monitoring of the situation, our country appears to want to satisfy the often obscure desires of Italians who have set their eyes on the young Rrom children, people who see their families as a mere obstacle to be done away with. It is a method that brings to mind the situation of many Jewish children during the Holocaust. When the persecution seemed imminent, Christian families first took in entire Jewish families, then ­ when the risks became even more evident ­ they took in only the children. When the war came to an end, the few families who survived were denied the comfort of having their children returned to them, even by the Catholic authorities. On October 20th, 1946, Pope Pius XII and the Church authorities established that baptised Jewish children “cannot be handed over to the custody of institutions that cannot guarantee a Christian education”.

EveryOne Group, together with the major international organizations who fight to protect the rights of the Rroms, defends the value of the Rrom family unit. It will devote its efforts to ensuring that the institutions propose official programmes of support and survival instead of breaking up these family units and finally decide to commit themselves to overcoming the real obstacles, which are discrimination and poverty. At the same time, our group will act as an attentive watchdog and carry out suitable actions in defence of human rights, in order that the attempts to throw further discredit on the Rrom families (or even worse, the efforts to criminalize them) will not succeed. Our group is following several of these cases directly as we have seen that these racist measures have
the grim goal of taking Rrom children away from their legitimate parents by turning an unhealthy and reprehensible action of child- kidnapping into a lawful act. The group will defend the Rrom families as a whole and commit itself to helping them emerge, united, from poverty and marginalization and prevent them being torn apart in the name (at best) of false and seriously discriminatory “protection of children”.
The EveryOne Group

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COMBATING RACISM AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN EUROPE(Comment)

By Isil Gachet, Executive Secretary to the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).

In today’s world, contemporary forms of racism and racial discrimination are complex and disturbing. In Europe, these issues increasingly lie at the heart of political and social concerns. Faced with persistent expressions of racism and xenophobia, the Council of Europe Member States (1) have, for several years now, been taking firm and sustained action to combat these trends. Without making an exhaustive inventory of the situation and listing all the problems observed, we can outline a few broad categories in which racism and racial discrimination occur: day to day life in major areas, such as employment, education, housing and access to social services; human rights violations against members of Roma communities; hostile attitudes to and stigmatization of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers; increasingly widespread anti-Semitic incidents; intensification of expressions of Islamophobia; use of racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic arguments in political discourse; and a negative climate in public opinion, which plays a crucial part in the emergence of expressions of racism and intolerance in society. These trends, of course, vary in scale from one country to another, but are significant enough to be of concern.

To cope with this situation, European countries have devised responses at both national and European levels. The salient feature of the Council of Europe Member States’ action over the past few years is the fact that they address the issues surrounding the fight against racism and racial discrimination from the perspective of protecting and promoting human rights. In other words, the right to be protected from racism and racial discrimination is first and foremost a fundamental right of all human beings. When it comes to working out practical and viable long-term solutions to combat racism and racial discrimination, choices may differ from one country to another. All strategies in this respect should at least comprise measures in the areas of legislation, awareness-raising, education, positive action and participation. While legislation alone is not enough to combat racism and racial discrimination, the law is obviously a cornerstone. In Europe, the greatest advances in recent years have been made in the legal sphere. Many Member States have embarked on reforms to supplement their anti-discrimination legislation at a national level. This is a welcome development from the victims’ point of view, given that appropriate legal measures to combat racial discrimination effectively, dissuasively and as satisfactorily as possible are of paramount importance. But enacting anti-discrimination legislation does not necessarily mean successfully ensuring equal rights for everyone in society. It is not enough to outlaw discrimination; we must also combat it by ensuring that anti-discrimination provisions are actually applied and put into practice. The same can be said for criminal law provisions prohibiting racist acts.

If all these provisions are to be effective, it is imperative that they be implemented by the authorities, including the police and the judiciary. They should not exist only on paper, but should comprise large-scale awareness campaigns directed at the general public and potential victims, as well as training for the appropriate officials. For this reason, it is important to set up an independent national body with the unique responsibility of fighting racism and racial discrimination (2); many Council of Europe Member States have taken steps to set up such bodies. At the broader European level, the most significant advance in recent years has been the adoption of Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which came into force on 1 April 2005. The Protocol contains a general independent clause prohibiting discrimination. The fact that the European Court of Human Rights will be able to deal with individual applications in this area makes the Protocol a particularly useful instrument for combating racial discrimination. For the time being, however, only 35 of the 47 Council of Europe Member States have signed Protocol No. 12, and only 15 of them have ratified it (3).

Lastly, Member States have taken a further step to combat racism and racial discrimination by setting up and bringing into operation the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in 1994. ECRI, whose work is based on respect for human rights, aims to protect all persons on the territory of the Council of Europe Member States from racism and all forms of racial discrimination. It is made up of independent, impartial members, whose statutory activities include country by country monitoring of racism and racial discrimination, drawing up general policy recommendations and building awareness and disseminating information through its relations with civil society (4).  One of the main achievements of ECRI is bringing about changes in law and its practice at national and European levels to counteract racism and intolerance more effectively (5). One of its major contributions is undoubtedly the fact that it has made people understand that “racism” and “racial discrimination” are changing concepts and now encompass acts targeting persons or groups, not only because of their colour or ethnic origin, but also because of their language, religion or nationality. The main prerequisite for effectively combating racism and racial discrimination is recognizing that these problems exist. ECRI has shed light on daily and widespread racism and racial discrimination at the pan-European level, which creates substantial and sometimes even insurmountable obstacles for many individuals.

In the immediate future, European Governments are faced with several challenges, two of which are very significant: enforcing action against racism and racial discrimination in an environment increasingly affected by the fight against terrorism; and addressing the issue of integration, which is widely debated in most European countries. Attention should be drawn to the ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 8 on combating racism while fighting terrorism and to General Policy Recommendation No. 11, adopted on 29 June 2007, on combating racism and racial discrimination in policing. The latter contains a legal definition of racial profiling and asks Member States to clearly define and prohibit racial profiling by law. As racial profiling has increased and assumed new dimensions as part of the fight against terrorism, Recommendation No. 11 is a useful means of countering this specific form of racial discrimination. Regarding integration, it is essential to firmly underscore that the success of any integration strategy will essentially hinge on the importance it attaches to combating discrimination in general, particularly racial discrimination. The principle of non-discrimination and policies on the pursuit of equality are the necessary basis for achieving integration. In the final analysis, encouraging signs at the national and European levels demonstrate that Governments and civil society are genuinely involved in fighting racism and racial discrimination in Europe. But the fight is far from won and advances are needed now more than ever to guide our countries and give practical effect and full meaning to the universal principle: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

Notes
1 The 47 Member States of the Council of Europe are Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom.
2 See ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 2 on specialized bodies to combat racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance at the national level.
3 For more information on Protocol No. 12, see www.conventions.coe.int
4 For more information on ECRI and its work, see www.coe.int/ecri
5 See General Policy Recommendation No. 7 on national legislation to combat racism and racial discrimination.
The UN Chronicle

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EUROPEAN GOVERNMENTS MUST DO MORE TO TACKLE HATE CRIMES

A majority of European governments get a poor grade in their efforts to tackle hate crimes, according to Human Rights First’s 2007 Hate Crime Report Card. This new study examines hate crime laws and monitoring and reporting systems in the 56 states that comprise the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – from the Russian Federation and the Central Asian states across Western Europe and also including the United States and Canada. The report is a follow-up to Human Rights First’s 2007 Hate Crime Survey, which documented the disturbing rise in hate crimes across the OSCE region. The report released today examines government efforts to combat these violent hate crimes. Human Rights First concludes that only 15 of the 56 participating states of the OSCE are fulfilling their basic commitments to monitor hate crimes, with countries in the European Union and North America leading the way. While more than 30 countries have legislation that allows for penalty enhancements when crimes are motivated by bias, there is little evidence that these provisions are applied in a systematic fashion in most countries. “Europe has seen a worrying rise in hate crimes in recent years,” said Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director of Human Rights first. “What’s deeply troubling is that many states still fail to use the tools necessary to investigate and punish the perpetrators of such violence as a matter of priority – suggesting an underlying indifference,” added Byrnes.

This past October, a Jewish school was torched in an antisemitic attack in Kiev, Ukraine. A year before five men attacked and murdered a Nigerian man living in the Ukraine in what was thought to be a racist attack. NGO monitors have reported a rise in such bias-motivated crimes throughout the Ukraine in recent years. Yet the Ukrainian government still does not publicly monitor or record the number of hate crimes committed in the Ukraine each year. Ukraine is among nearly 40 countries where governments provide only limited or no public reporting on violent hate crimes. “How can governments combat the problem of hate violence if they lack a system to monitor and document such crimes?” asked Byrnes. In Italy, where three Romanians were recently hospitalized after being attacked by a masked, club-wielding, anti-immigrant gang in an apparent hate crime, important new institutions have been established to combat discrimination, although violent hate crimes are yet to be included in their programs. The Italian authorities do not currently produce reliable data on such crimes. Some changes have been pledged. In Norway, where no hate crime statistics are available, the Minister of Justice said in September that a study had shown that hate violence against gay men and others was rising and that police had begun to register hate crimes. In the Netherlands, where statistics are available only from NGO sources, authorities have announced new measures to begin in 2008 to track the implementation of prosecutorial guidelines by which bias motivations are to result in enhanced penalties. While nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have filled the gap in some cases, there is ultimately no substitute for official monitoring. In the Russian Federation, for example, NGO monitors have documented a rising tide of hate crimes of alarming proportions, while the limited official data largely ignores the problem.

The new Human Rights First report includes individual country “report cards” on each of the 56 OSCE participating states. Each country report details the monitoring and reporting mechanisms present and describes the legal framework applicable to crimes of violence motivated by prejudice and hatred. Comparative charts cover the compliance of all 56 countries with OSCE, Council of Europe, European Union, and other international standards. This report card is a companion to Human Rights First’s 2007 Hate Crime Survey, issued in June, which found that antisemitic incidents have continued to proliferate throughout Europe, reaching record high levels in some countries. Likewise, bias-motivated violence has threatened many Muslim communities, with such crimes occurring amidst a backdrop of highly polarized debates concerning immigration and Muslim integration. The problem of anti-gay prejudice and violence has also in many countries become more visible, with some of the reported acts of violence in 2006 taking place at gay pride demonstrations. The Survey found a particularly troubling climate of hatred and intolerance in the Russian Federation, where racist murders have proliferated throughout many Russian cities. This new report concludes that while hate crime cases have increasingly been brought before Russian courts in recent years, hate crime charges have not been brought in the vast majority of cases involving a clear racist dimension. In Russia today, there is little accountability for extreme acts of racist violence, such as the September 2006 murder of a Nitish Kumar Singh, a 27-year-old medical student from India, in St. Petersburg.

Recommendations
Among Human Rights First’s recommendations in the report are these:
Monitor hate crimes: Governments should establish or strengthen official systems of monitoring and public reporting to provide accurate data for informed policy decisions to combat hate crimes.
Adopt laws addressing violent hate crime: Governments should adopt legislative provisions that recognize bias expressly as an aggravating circumstance in the commission of violent crime.
Strengthen enforcement: Governments should ensure that those responsible for violent hate crimes are held accountable under the law and that the record of enforcement of hate crime provisions is well documented and publicized.

Below are short blurbs and links to the reports.
Best wishes for 2008!

Hate Crime Survey
Hate crimes have occurred at alarmingly high levels throughout much of Europe and North America. The Hate Crime Survey documents dozens of hate crime cases, analyzes trends, and discusses the causes and consequences of hate crime violence. Separate reports examine violence driven by antisemitism, homophobia, and Islamophobia. Antisemitic incidents have continued to proliferate throughout Europe, reaching record high levels in some countries. The problem of anti-gay prejudice and violence has in many countries become more visible, with some of the reported acts of violence in 2006 taking place at gay pride demonstrations. Violence motivated by Islamophobia has threatened many Muslim communities, with such crimes occurring amidst a backdrop of highly-polarized debates concerning immigration and Muslim integration. The Hate Crime Survey offers a ten-point plan for reducing hate crimes including by adopting hate crime laws, strengthening law enforcement, and enhancing systems to monitor hate crimes.

Hate Crime Report Card
A majority of European governments get a poor grade in their efforts to tackle hate crimes, according to Human Rights First’s Hate Crime Report Card. This new study examines hate crime laws and monitoring and reporting systems in the 56 states that comprise the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – from the Russian Federation and the Central Asian states across Western Europe and also including the United States and Canada. The report is a follow-up to Human Rights First’s Hate Crime Survey, which documented the disturbing rise in hate crimes across the European continent. Human Rights First concludes that only 15 of the 56 participating states of the OSCE are fulfilling their basic commitments to monitor hate crimes, with countries in the European Union and North America leading the way. While more than 30 countries have legislation that allows for penalty enhancements when crimes are motivated by bias, there is little evidence that these provisions are applied in a systematic fashion in most countries. The report includes individual country “report cards” on each of the 56 OSCE participating states. Each country report details the monitoring and reporting mechanisms present and describes the legal framework applicable to crimes of violence motivated by prejudice and hatred. Comparative charts cover the compliance of all 56 countries with OSCE, Council of Europe, European Union, and other international standards.
Human Rights First

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WE NEED TO LISTEN TO VICTIMS OF RACISM (Cyprus)

By Stefanos Evripidou

24/12/2007- Politicians, media and the law all help to perpetuate discrimination, racism and prejudice in our society. The best way to understand that is to listen to what those who claim to be victims have to say, argues one academic who has been studying the issue in Cyprus. Dr Mike Hadjimichael was project co-ordinator of a recent survey into issues of ethnicity and race in Cyprus conducted by the Research Unit in Behaviour and Social Issues (RUBSI). Three hundred non-locals were interviewed as part of a qualitative survey. The results, released on Wednesday, revealed that 63 per cent of those asked reported suffering from discrimination and prejudice on a daily basis. Forty-seven per cent also reported having encountered institutional discrimination. Hadjimichael was quick to point out that the survey was not an opinion poll. “This does not necessarily reflect that 63 per cent of all migrants suffer daily discrimination. To determine that you need a different kind of survey with a lot more respondents.” “The point of the survey was to probe these issues in depth and to find correlations between people’s stories. The most disturbing result is the unique narratives from people who have been severely abused, beaten up and spat at. It’s not about how many, but the fact that it actually occurred,” he said.

“Racism is not about statistics but about what people experienced. And this is not something that’s reflected in the media, especially when they talk of migrants crossing the Green Line. The media plays a negative role here, depicting people from diverse races in a negative way and always referring to someone’s background, which goes against the journalistic code of ethics.” Hadjimichael highlighted how important it was to hear people’s stories. “You can’t insist there’s no racism in Cyprus or that everyone’s racist. It’s more complicated than that. That’s why it’s good to hear people give their accounts.” The research undertaken indicated that those who claimed to have been beaten, spat at or suffered severe verbal and physical abuse felt more marginalised from society as a result. The more abuse suffered the greater they became aware of difference, isolation and unequal treatment, turning the narrative into one of ‘us’ and ‘them’ between the host society and themselves. Those who said they did not suffer abuse developed a more individualistic identity, referring to themselves as ‘me’ rather than ‘us’. Hadjimichael noted that by re-telling their stories, they helped uncover issues of racism, discrimination and prejudice on the island, which were often denied by the authorities and media. “For example, one person was walking down the street when someone approached them and spat on them. In another incident, a person had little kids shouting ‘mavro, mavro (blackie)’ at them in the street. This is a very frightening and disturbing thing. It can be intimidating for anyone to experience,” he said.

“We had one African student who arrived in Larnaca. Her first encounter with Cypriots was on a bus. She did not know which direction the bus was going and asked four people for assistance. Every one of them moved away when she approached. She said they made her feel like a person from another planet. This shouldn’t be happening in 2008.” Hadjimichael identified three areas where these problems were being reinforced: politicians, the media and the law. “When the TV goes on about being flooded by migrants crossing the Green Line, it doesn’t say that the numbers are the same as last year. It doesn’t provide any explanation for why they are coming. That it’s about people who are being exploited while trying to escape war and poverty. “Before the Green Line migrants, the media focused on domestic workers and how they were exploiting their employers. But do people know we still have antiquated and discriminatory rules on domestic workers. Have you ever seen a contract? They can’t join a political party. They can’t even join a union. Their contract in Greek is usually not the same as the one translated into English,” he said. “It’s important to hear the other side too. What are their chances of getting on TV shows to talk about how they feel being on the receiving end of abuse, about the impact of that kind of behaviour. Someone sits next to you and you move away. How does that feel? It’s important to be aware, and not just deny.” Taking the issue further up, Hadjimichael highlighted that politicians had a tendency to substitute racism for xenophobia, which he described as “the ultimate denial”. “Having no antiracism or integration policy in place only serves to reinforce and perpetuate racism. Everything is legalised. Behind that is an ideology which is not human-centric. You impose the law in such a way that it’s bureaucracy, not racism. It’s bureaucracy which targets certain people though. “The political will is not there. You see it from the top down. The laws are important but they are not sensitive to being antiracist,” he concluded.
Cyprus Mail

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ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS A PASSPORT OUT OF HERE (Malta)

Hal Far’s tent city is now home to hundreds of failed refugee applicants, condemned by Dublin II to remain here against their own – and Malta’s – wishes. Raphael Vassallo on the plight of Europe’s new pariahs

19/12/2007- “Give me a passport and I’ll leave Malta tomorrow,” says Walid, 22 from Sudan. “I don’t want to stay here. I want to go to Sweden.” His compatriot Hasan, 21, nods vigorously, and adds with a toothy grin: “And next year we will come back to Malta as ‘turisti’!” Both of them laugh hysterically at the joke as they sit on the cement platform which raises their pitched tent a few feet above the ground: a necessary precaution, in a camp which floods heavily each time it rains. But behind the humour there is an audible sense of exasperation. Walid has been in Malta for two years – one of which was spent in detention at the Hal Safi barracks – and has only recently discovered that his application for refugee status has been rejected. Hasan is still awaiting the outcome of his own application, but without very much hope. Both came to Malta without passports, and now desperately want to leave. But according to the terms of the second Dublin Convention, once they have applied for status in an EU country, their fate is inextricably bound to that original application. Even if Walid’s dream comes true, and he somehow finds a way to reach his promised land, he will not legally be able to remain in Sweden as a refugee. Chances are he will be deported… back to Malta, which will have no option but to readmit him despite the fact that he is plainly an illegal alien.

Most of the residents at Hal Far’s tent city are precisely such prisoners of circumstance: forced them to remain here against their will, as well as the will of the vast majority of Maltese citizens. A few manage to find occupation – mostly illegally, although there are provisions for limited casual work – and are thereby able to leave the squalor of a makeshift village which all too often lives up to its notorious Maltese name: with rats scurrying in between the tents at night, and sometimes even climbing up the rigging. For the rest, living conditions are meagre. I am shown the inside of one of the 10 foot square tents, which is shared by 24 people. Apart from an ancient fridge which stands like a monolith in the centre, every square inch is taken up by bunk beds. A few of these have been stripped bare: a sign that their previous occupants one day failed to return to the camp, whereupon their possessions – namely, mattresses, blankets and possibly a pillow – were promptly appropriated by the rest. Apart from the dirt and the rats – and the communal toilets, now in their second week without a cleaner after the last incumbent (understandably) gave up in despair – the greatest threat to health and dignity remains the cold. For all the recent declarations of intent to improve the living conditions in open centres, there are still no heating facilities or available hot water at the tent city. Some weeks ago the situation was so desperate that a number of residents – including women, some of whom were pregnant – had to force their way into the nearby Peace Lab for shelter.

Still, there is no end in sight for status-less asylum seekers in Malta. Recent statistics show that only three out of 10 irregular immigrants are actually granted either refugee status or temporary humanitarian protection. By law, the remaining seven should be repatriated, but in practice this is invariably a more complex affair than most people think. In many cases, nationality is difficult to ascertain: partly because the immigrants themselves refuse to co-operate; partly also the countries of origin do not want them back, and therefore deliberately put spokes in the wheels of any repatriation attempt. Another point which is often overlooked is that repatriation, even where possible, remains a very expensive option: so expensive, that Malta’s official position on “responsibility sharing” can also be interpreted as a pretext to minimise costs. At present there is limited co-operation with other countries, notably Germany, for joint repatriation exercises: but the fact that so many remain here is itself testimony to the local authorities’ reluctance to fork out that extra money to fly them home. So while Walid may have been joking with his demands for a passport, he might also have hit upon something. After all, everyone concerned seems to agree that it would be better for Walid to leave the country. Some form of legal recognition, then, may well prove to be the only feasible way this objective can be achieved.
Malta Today

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LOOKING BEYOND DURBAN(comment)

The Significance of Racial Discrimination on the International Human Rights Agenda
By Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Resistance to discrimination goes back to the origin of the human rights concept. It was the rejection of differentiation of people on the basis of national, ethnic or social origin, religion and gender, as well as resistance against slavery, that marked the history of human rights. Since the creation of the United Nations, the international community adopted a comprehensive framework for eradicating racial discrimination, from the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. This framework expresses clearly the common agenda for the implementation of the twin principles of equality and non-discrimination.

In 2001 in Durban, South Africa, the international community organized the third World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance to respond to the emergence and continued occurrence of discrimination in its more subtle contemporary forms and manifestations. Participants drew attention to the historical and cultural depth of racism, including an acknowledgment of the major historical causes of racial discrimination. They evaluated and sought ways to address emerging and contemporary forms of racism, and agreed on the need for national action plans, tougher national legislations and more legal assistance to victims of racial discrimination. The importance of appropriate remedies and positive action for victims was underlined, and a wide variety of educational and awareness-raising measures were put forward. Measures to ensure equality in the fields of employment, health and the environment were also envisaged, together with actions to counter racism in the media, including on the Internet. All these elements were included in a comprehensive and action-oriented Declaration and Programme of Action that offer the international community a fully fledged pathway for combating discrimination and a framework for progress.

Still, despite a good legal framework and good guidance, the international community is far from defeating the evil of racism, which extends its tentacles in subtle and vicious ways. Unfortunately, there is plenty of easily available information documenting that the effectiveness of international standards and programmes leaves much to be desired. Data, such as those indicating that people of African descent, ethnic and religious minorities and indigenous people are over-represented among persons arrested or imprisoned and in the number of deaths in custody, provide some evidence of their limited impact. We note with real concern the often too slow action by the police, the prosecutors and the judiciary in investigating and punishing acts of racial discrimination, which often leads to total or partial impunity for the perpetrators. We are also alerted to the frequent lack of accessible remedies for the victims to obtain redress and restore respect for their rights. Although the right to education is universally recognized, indigenous children, particularly girls, do not have adequate access to such education. Minority communities are targets of abuse in many parts of the world and are increasingly exposed to misguided counterterrorism measures. The multiple dimensions of discrimination, encompassing such grounds as gender, race and religion, also impose a heavy toll on migrants’ rights. The interplay of these different grounds of discrimination generates mutually reinforcing patterns of exclusion, disadvantage and abuse affecting the full spectrum of public life, from conditions in the workplace to access to social services, justice, education, housing, health care and participation in decision-making processes.

Underpinning all of these issues are ingrained suspicions against difference. Discrimination, exclusion and inequality reflect socially constructed identities and interests, which, depending on the circumstances, operate along the lines of sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. These continue to trigger all forms of prejudice. Racism and xenophobic views are dangerously acquiring renewed legitimacy and vigour when they are invoked to bolster reactionary political platforms that aim at inflaming public sentiments against migrants, asylum-seekers and persons belonging to minority groups. The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance identified that a major cause of the resurgence of racist and xenophobic violence is intellectual and political resistance to multiculturalism and the conflict it has with old national identities. This rejection of diversity is a principal factor in the rise of racism and xenophobia and is manifested increasingly by intolerance, even repression, of cultural symbols and expressions that reveal the identity of various ethnic, cultural and religious communities. Of particular concern are the resurgence of anti-Semitism and anti-Islamic rhetoric. To eradicate these odious practices, it is imperative to correct the imbalances that affect marginalized and vulnerable groups through comprehensive interventions, which confront the multiple aspects that characterize exclusion, as well as by the means of reforms in the administration of justice to close the equality gaps. Social exclusion, in its broad terms, can be defined as the inability of an individual to participate in the basic political, social and economic functioning of the society in which he or she lives. Central to all of these areas is the problem of poverty that locks millions in a persistent cycle of exclusion and marginalization.

There is an urgent need to craft ways to facilitate the inclusion of marginalized groups in all political, economic, social and cultural aspects of society so as to further the realization of human rights, as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments. A rights-based approach is the guiding strategy towards the realization of full social inclusion. Human rights principles guide programming in all sectors­from health, education and governance to nutrition, water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, employment and labour relations, social and economic security. Social inclusion policies have a direct impact on people’s well-being and should be instrumental in reducing poverty, promoting growth and enhancing social stability and cohesion. Stigma and discrimination must be countered through laws and positive measures. Firstly, it is key to have anti-discrimination legal frameworks, but it is also important to ensure the implementation of those instruments and the awareness of their existence. Secondly, and perhaps most significant, are actions to increase the voice and policy influence of excluded groups in the national agenda, to change stereotypes and prejudices, promote solidarity, social cohesion and a culture of tolerance and acceptance of diversity. Just as importantly, we must combat all forms of intolerance by celebrating the diversity and the differences that enrich the human family. But we must work to reduce the differences that are imposed rather than chosen, that speak of deprivation rather than fulfilment, and that fuel the xenophobic discourse about the relative merit of individuals based on stereotypical attributes attached to their race, religion or ethnicity. Above all, we must ensure that no legitimacy whatsoever is granted to public racist discourse. By promoting tolerance and better understanding between and among communities, education is moving our minds from bias and prejudice to respect and appreciation for other cultures, religions and traditions. Education is above all the greatest tool of empowerment and we should ensure that its full potential is made available to those who may be the targets of violent intolerance in part because of their powerlessness.

Other similar measures of empowerment require considered actions at the local, sometimes even grass-root, level. The protection of all minorities and the rights of indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees are particularly important in this context. Access to justice is critical. The rule of law institutions, including the administration of justice, must be particularly attentive to their own stereotypical assumptions and must question some of their practices that may have a discriminatory effect, even when free of discriminatory intent. We need a common approach to eradicate racial discrimination and we need a common agenda. Fortunately, we have one: the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action not only records a solemn commitment by States to work together, but also offers a functional common anti-racism agenda. Member States bear the primary responsibility to ensure the effective implementation of the right to equality and non-discrimination. Their participation in developing the anti-discrimination agenda established by the 2001 World Conference has created expectations that can only be met by determined and cooperative action. It is by the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action that the true success of the Conference must be measured. To appraise such progress, the United Nations has called for a Durban Review Conference, which will be held in 2009.

The Review Conference should be a platform from which all relevant stakeholders, from Member States to civil society organizations, the United Nations and other international and regional organizations, have the opportunity to renew their determination and commitments to fight the scourge of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. It should be a forum for reflection on actions to effectively implement the anti-discrimination agenda. It should also be an opportunity for the international community to identify and address, one by one, the reasons why, in spite of good laws and programmes, we have not made substantial progress in the eradication of the practices generated by racial intolerance, and to adopt concrete and practical solutions to the problem.
The UN Chronicle

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JUSTICE FOR ALL(Azerbaijan)

An Azeri woman overcomes many obstacles to establish a force to be reckoned with in her country’s courts of law.
By Shahin Abbasov, freelance journalist based in Baku

19/12/2007- The small office of the Association for the Protection of Women’s Rights is always packed with people. Located in a squat, two-story building on a narrow street in Baku’s historical quarter, the office is decorated with colorful posters demanding freedom, democracy, and equal rights. Although there is no sign outside, a stream of people flows through the door all day. Not surprisingly, it’s difficult to catch a few minutes with Novella Jafaroglu, who heads APWR. Her office is jammed with people, and her telephone rings constantly. Only after 7 p.m. each day is she able to take a break. APWR’s 19 staff members have a clear goal: to protect women in Azerbaijan from abuses in both public and private spheres. In particular, Jafaroglu and her colleagues, most of whom are public defenders, work for women’s rights in the judicial system. APWR has a lawyer who assesses cases and assists women who appeal to the organization for legal help, and other activists represent the society in court. The busy Baku office also has a telephone hotline that women can call to report violations of their rights. It’s no wonder Jafaroglu, 66, can get tired overseeing so much activity. But her work doesn’t end with APWR, or with women. She is also a member of Azerbaijan’s Monitoring Committee for Human Rights, which unites the country’s leading activists. While she admits that she is busy, Jafaroglu says she’s faced far tougher challenges on her road to success. A map of Azerbaijan hanging on her office wall is sprinkled with red tacks indicating 10 regional hubs that host the group’s resource centers. Several more locations are marked in blue indicating the presence of APWR activists. But getting to the point where so many tacks could exist has been an uphill battle at times for Jafaroglu, who joined the APWR almost 20 years ago.

Azerbaijan’s culture of non-governmental and civil society organizations was nascent in the 1990s and authorities often associated NGOs with anti-government activity. Human rights watchdogs like the APWR faced repression and constant scrutiny from law enforcement, especially if they decided to stage public protests. “But then we understood that real activity should begin from the grassroots, that we have to educate women on their rights, and we began to conduct seminars in the provinces,” Jafaroglu says of how the society and its resource centers have evolved. “There were tough times. I was beaten and insulted,” Jafaroglu adds, her friendly face framed by glasses and dark hair swept up off her neck. “But I would not change anything in my life. I’m satisfied that I was able to help so many people and had so many victories.”

Growing pains
Jafaroglu’s activism began decades ago, as early as her university days. She attended the chemical school of Baku State University during the Soviet era and worked at the school in a science lab after graduating. It was in that job that she got her feet wet in advocacy work. “I was a trade union leader,” she explains. “I often had conflicts with management on the issue of defending employees’ rights. I am pleased now when people recall me in various places of Azerbaijan and thank me for what I did for them many years ago.” On a trip, Jafaroglu met someone who would influence her activism greatly. While working in the village of Kalaki with her husband, she met Abulfaz Elchibey, a Soviet dissident who would later become the first elected non-communist president of Azerbaijan. The two would remain friends for 40 years, and Jafaroglu would become a supporter of the Popular Front, Elchibey’s opposition movement that united pro-democracy organizations in the 1980s and pushed for reform in subsequent years. Jafaroglu joined the APWR in 1989 and became its leader four years later after its chair, Dilara Alieva, a member of parliament, was killed in a car accident. APWR’s close ties with the Popular Front scared many activists away as Jafaroglu took the helm. Elchibey had recently been exiled after a coup, and Heydar Aliev, a former Soviet Azeri leader, was the new president. “A lot of people left us then trying to avoid government repression,” Jafaroglu recalls. “We had serious problems and pressure from the authorities … but I could not betray my friends from the Popular Front.”

At the time, the APWR had no office space, so it conducted seminars and training in private apartments. It was careful to keep the authorities at bay. “One of us was always on guard outside and, if the police came, we would pretend it was a birthday party and not a public event,” Jafaroglu says. In 1995, the police stopped coming. Jafaroglu says she later heard why. President Aliev happened to walk past the APWR’s office and saw a large portrait of Elchibey in the window. “He was shocked and asked his entourage, ‘Whose office is this?’ ” Jafaroglu tells the story. “Aliev said, ‘Elchibey has devoted friends who will stay with him until the end. Unfortunately, I have no such friends. Do not touch them!’ ” Jafaroglu faced a serious personal dilemma when her husband, who is Jewish, decided to move to Israel. Jafaroglu refused to go. Fifteen years later, her husband still lives there, along with her three sons and six grandchildren. “They have chosen their motherland, but I have chosen my motherland,” she says. “I would not be able to live without Azerbaijan and my work. … Can you imagine how difficult it is to live alone without a husband and children for 15 years? [But] I have never regretted these years that I stayed.” Her family remains in close touch, speaking on the phone daily and visiting Baku when they can. Jafaroglu visits Israel twice a year.

Legal activism
After the first difficult years, the association devoted itself to building its regional resource centers and bulking up its legal assistance program. In 1998, the first resource centers were opened in Lenkoran and Khachmaz, with the support of the U.S. Embassy. Now, women from the provinces – which are much poorer and more conservative than Baku – can appeal to these and eight other centers for free legal consultations. The centers also host training sessions and seminars on women’s leadership and other gender issues. Jafaroglu says that violations of women’s rights cannot be considered separately from Azerbaijan’s generally poor human rights record. In 2006, Human Rights Watch reported that despite improvements in its 15 years of independence, Azerbaijan continued to tolerate, among other abuses, politically motivated arrests, suppression of media freedom, and torture. But Jafaroglu also says there are issues of discrimination specific to women. There are no female ministers in the government, only 14 out of 125 parliamentary deputies are women, and few women hold prominent business positions. Jafaroglu says her group is proposing that the government introduce quotas for female representation in certain sectors. “Meanwhile, women who have already achieved some high positions are against such measures because they believe it will [diminish] their achievements,” she adds. Generally, however, Jafaroglu says she has not faced serious criticism from men during her tenure with APWR. Azeri society is conservative, yet men have not accused her of promoting the “feminization of society,” and the association has even defended male clients.

About 10 years ago, APWR stood up for the divorced father of an 8-year-old boy in court. “We investigated the case, and it became clear that [the father] was right” when he claimed to be providing for his son’s education and other needs, while his ex-wife spent her money on various boyfriends and neglected her son, Jafaroglu says. “We helped him to sue his ex-wife in court, and he won the case.” Still, most of Jafaroglu’s work focuses on women in the judicial system. On average, the APWR provides five or six legal consultations to women every day. Activists also help defend women in at least 50 court cases a year. Cases include issues ranging from unwarranted dismissal from jobs to family violence. Activists carefully investigate women’s claims of abuse and try to settle conflicts privately before agreeing to go to court. “We win about 70 out of 100 court cases,” Jafaroglu says. “But in the other 30 cases, we may fight for years, sending appeals and assuring new hearings and considerations. It is a very good result for a country where the court system is not independent [and is] corrupt and inefficient.” A few years ago, the association took on a case against a high-ranking officer in the Baku prosecutor’s office, who refused to provide money to a woman with whom he had a son because he claimed it was not his child. “The trial lasted two and half years. We defended the woman in court, wrote appeals to various state bodies, and eventually [conducted] a medical examination that confirmed it was his son. So, we won the case and the man had to provide the woman and their son with an apartment, and he began paying alimony.” The case was a particularly important victory for APWR, as it defeated a powerful legal figure and boosted the society’s profile. Jafaroglu adds with a smile that judges sometimes recommend that women appeal to the society because they stand a better chance of winning cases with the activists’ help. APWR also has gained the support of numerous foreign embassies and pro-democracy organizations.

Still going strong
For Jafaroglu, two principles govern human rights advocacy work. “First, you have to believe in what you’re doing, and second, every single case has to be taken seriously; scrupulous research is needed all the time,” she says. While she applies this double mantra daily in her work with APWR, Jafaroglu also adheres to it in other activism efforts. In 2003, she and other members of the Monitoring Committee secured the release of about 1,000 prisoners, who had been detained during riots and arrests after a controversial presidential election. “My principle now is not ineffective noise, rallies, and protest actions but talks with the authorities aimed [at producing] concrete results,” Jafaroglu says. “A constructive approach is often much more effective and allows me to solve people’s problems.” Saadat Bananyarli, a member of the Monitoring Group and head of the country’s chapter of the International Society of Human Rights, has known Jafaroglu for 15 years. “Novella is a charismatic personality who is able to lead people,” Bananyarli says. “We went through many things and events together; there were tough times for us, [and] sometimes we argued. But I would never doubt Novella’s devotion to work and to her followers.” Currently, Jafaroglu is also working intensively on female leadership development. She is creating a project that will educate female leaders from the Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region, a source of continuing tension and violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Jafaroglu also plans to prepare women for participation in Azerbaijan’s upcoming elections. In 2009, she hopes at least 500 women will be elected in municipalities in the country’s regions. In 2010, she hopes at least 30 women will be elected to parliament. “I do believe that more women in power means less conflicts, less corruption, less violation of human rights,” Jafaroglu says. “I will continue to work for it.”
Transitions Online

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FRENCH WOMEN WARNED -- DON'T UPSET KADHAFI

"Mr Kadhafi would like the women of France to rise when he arrives..."

13/12/2007- Moamer Kadhafi held a debate in Paris with 1,000 specially invited women on feminist issues -- but the audience was
warned in advance not to "upset" the Libyan leader. "Mr Kadhafi would like the women of France to rise when he arrives," Khadidja Khali, head of the French Union of Muslim Women, announced to the gathering late Wednesday at a reception hall just off the Champs Elysees. "Welcome your excellency," the women chanted as Kadhafi entered the hall, which is near the tent he has made his headquarters while on a five day trip to the French capital. The Arabic music blared out, Libya's spiritual leader was given a standing ovation and then Kadhafi staked his claim to be a defender of the feminist cause and opponent of terrorism, flanked by his unit of women-only bodyguards. Clad in green fatigues, their dark hair pinned under army caps, half a dozen of Kadhafi's "Amazon" guards, all highly-trained recruits from an elite Libyan officers' academy, scanned the crowd from the edge of the stage. Most of the women in the audience were of African origin but came to Paris from across France. Most had veils, many wore elegant African-style evening gowns.

The debate on "the situation of women around the world" was carefully organised. Khali, who also heads a pro-Libyan organisation, warned the audience "you must not upset him". In their comments to Kadhafi, some women asked for financial support for their groups and even for air tickets so they could take children from France's troubled suburbs on holidays to Libya. But they gave several standing ovations as the Libyan leader spoke of the plight of women on his home continent. "Women in Africa are the victims of injustice," he said. "They raise children. Men marry several times and abandon their children." Kadhafi is known for taking powerful steps in favour of women's rights in Libya, banning polygamy and reforming divorce laws to guarantee women custody of their children and force absent fathers to pay alimony. There was less applause however when he criticised "the tragic conditions for women in Europe, sometimes forced to do work that they do not want to do." Kadhafi went on to quote jobs such as mechanics and builders. "I want to save European women," he said.

"I really appreciated his speech on women in Africa but it was a bit more vague on Europe," said Zahra Boughaz, a 24-year-old, who came to the meeting with 200 others from a woman's association in the northern town of Maubeuge. "He doesn't seem to really know Europe because here we have choices. Or maybe he was trying to be provocative." "I think he is a good man, he has done a lot for women and always defended them," said Nicole Sahart, president of the Club of Friends of the United States of Africa, a relatively new pro-Libyan organisation. But there has been a storm of political controversy over Kadhafi's presence in France -- strict security has been imposed for all of his trips around Paris -- and not everyone in the audience appreciated the Kadhafi stance.  "How can he say he has done a lot for women in the world when he tortured the Bulgarian nurses," said Catherine Chastenet, head of the Women and Freedom association. "But I am leaving with some hope. He gave guarantees on terrorism." Kadhafi condemned two car bomb attacks in Algiers this week, which killed dozens, as "reprehensible acts" and said the Al-Qaeda members behind them were "criminals". The Libyan leader, whose country was involved in the 1988 bombing of a PanAm airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie and of a French passenger jet over Niger, has patched up relations with the West after renouncing terrorism.
AFP

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GERMANY SQUANDERING IMMIGRANT LABOR POTENTIAL

Children from immigrant families are far more likely not to have any educational or professional qualifications than their German counterparts, according to a new government report.

20/12/2007- Integration Minister Maria Böhmer described the statistics, based on data collected in 2005, as "dramatic." They show that only 23 percent of children of non-German origin embarked on an apprenticeship, compared to 57 percent of their native German counterparts. Böhmer said the situation had worsened in comparison to the mid-1990s, when the figure was around 34 percent. She added that the continuation of the negative trend despite the recent economic upturn should be regarded as an "alarm signal." And, some 40 percent of migrants had no professional qualifications at all. Immigrants from Italy, Greece and Turkey had the poorest records in this respect. Some 72 percent of Turkish immigrants had no job training at all.

Around one in five do not have any qualifications
The report also revealed that some 17.5 percent of children of non-German origin finish school without any educational qualifications. The risk of becoming unemployed is twice as high among migrants -- a fact Böhmer blamed chiefly on this lack of education and training. The integration minister said that rather than encouraging the migration of skilled workers into Europe to ease labor shortages, Germany must focus on improving integration and training for its existing migrant population. "We cannot afford to lose any talent," she stressed. According to the statistics, some 15 million people in Germany have immigrated since 1950 or have at least one immigrant parent. About 50 percent of them have German citizenship. "We must significantly improve the educational situation of young migrants," she said. Böhmer pointed to a series of measures included in the national integration plan, such as early language coaching in kindergartens and schools, ease of access to study grants for migrant teenagers and improved teacher training. "We need more teachers from a migrant background," she added. The national integration plan was agreed in the summer at an integration summit attended by immigrant organizations, charities, business associations and representatives from various levels of government.

Is better education enough?
Free Democrat politician Sibylle Laurischk called the figures "shocking" and called for the introduction of national language tests for children starting kindergarden. Sevim Dagdelen, a member of the Left Party, sounded a note of warning. "German language skills are not enough to safeguard against discrimination in the education system and against unemployment." In her speech presenting the report, Böhmer also said that there had to be improved acceptance of qualifications gained abroad. She said there were some half a million foreigners in Germany with degrees, but who unable to work in their professions because their credentials were not recognized. "We are squandering potential here," she criticized. The integration minister had some good news. The number of immigrants setting up their own businesses has almost doubled since the 1990s. Currently, immigrants own some 582,000 firms and employ some two million staff.
Deutsche Welle

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