NEWS - Archive April 2008

Headlines 25 April, 2008


No one has the right to obstruct right-wing extremists from passing out literature at schools, Sweden’s Chancellor of Justice has ruled.

25/4/2008- The Karlberg School in Köping in central Sweden was in the wrong when it denied the National Democrats from handing out political information to students, the Chancellor wrote in an opinion criticizing the school’s actions. The middle school was criticized for denying the anti-immigrant party from arranging a table displaying literature and handing out flyers to students at the school. “You can’t shut out a political party for having an opinion which isn’t in agreement with the school’s basic values,” Chancellor Göran Lambertz said to news agency TT. The National Democrats, a breakaway faction of the Sweden Democrats whose primary goal is to establish an ethnic and cultural homogeneous Sweden—asked last year to come to the school and distribute information about the party. Principal Ragnar Larsson put a stop to the plans. “There was a political resolution in the municipality that parties which are hostile toward immigrants or non-democratic should not be allowed into schools. When I looked at the National Democrats website I interpreted their party platform as hostile to immigrants,” said the principal.
The Local



25/4/2008- The European Court of Human Rights heard 365 Dutch cases last year which amounts to less than 1% of the total, reports ANP news service in Friday. But the Netherlands has a relatively high number of cases related to foreigners’ rights, says ANP. Half of these were from asylum-seekers who felt that their application to remain in the country had illegally been turned down. However these complaints have fallen since the general amnesty granted by the government last year and a less strict regime by the current administration, ANP said. ‘The Dutch government operates in line with the minimum demands of the European Treaty for Human Rights or far above,’ Egbert Myjer, a Dutch judge at the court in Strasbourg told ANP. ‘We are used to them [human rights]. The rights are integrated. This is a big difference with countries where people are tortured or where any criticism leads to a newspaper being closed down,’ he is quoted as saying. The Netherlands was found guilty of two serious breaches of human rights last year. One was the case of a journalist who was held in custody for 18 days for refusing to reveal his sources. The second involved the illegal recording by the police of a suspect’s conversations in a fraud case. Russia tops the list of human rights violation cases handled by the Human Rights Court last year, says ANP.
Dutch News



24/4/2008- Formula One's governing body launched an anti-racism campaign on Thursday at the same track where Spanish fans taunted black driver Lewis Hamilton. FIA unveiled the "Everyrace" campaign in response to the racist abuse directed at the McLaren driver during winter testing here on Feb. 2. Widely publicized photographs showed a group of people in the Catalunya Circuit stands wearing dark face paint with T-shirts displaying the slogan "Hamilton's Family." The anti-racism campaign was launched on the website after FIA agreed with the Spanish Automobile Federation's assessment that the incident was "not at all representative of the thousands of people who enjoy a convivial atmosphere and the spectacle offered by motorsport." The website allows visitors to pledge support for the initiative via e-mail alongside morphing photos of faces of different nationalities involved in F1. Hamilton said he doesn't expect any problems this weekend. "It's good to see all the other drivers supporting it as well," Hamilton said. Formula One's most celebrated rookie last year is under pressure this season to rebound from consecutive poor results after winning the first race at the Australian GP. The 23-year-old had his worst placing in 20 career races at Bahrain after a stall at the start and a rushed overtaking move that cost him his front wing and eventually had him finish 13th. "Obviously, I won't be making the same mistake again," Hamilton said Thursday. "Running away and coming here feeling fresh (for this weekend) was important." Hamilton ceded the championship lead to Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen as a result. World champion Raikkonen leads with 19 points, three better than BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld. Hamilton, teammate Heikki Kovalainen and Robert Kubica of BMW Sauber are next with 14.

News of the anti-racism campaign was news to Spanish drivers Fernando Alonso and Pedro De La Rosa. "I was not aware of this campaign," said Alonso, who has always maintained the fans were not taunting Hamilton over his skin color. "This weekend, and always, it has always been OK and everyone will be able to see," said the Renault driver, who had a rocky partnership with Hamilton at McLaren last year. Under-fire FIA president Max Mosley was not in Barcelona to endorse the plan. Mosley's future is in jeopardy after a British tabloid reported that the 68-year-old Briton engaged in sex acts with five prostitutes in London that involved Nazi role-playing. "One thing that most attracted me to motor sport was that nobody cared about your background, race, gender or religion; all that mattered was how quick you were," Mosley said in a statement for the anti-racism program. F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone told the Associated Press earlier this year that the Spanish incidents were blown out of proportion and that he wanted to meet the alleged racists this weekend. "The sport is all about a driver's ability and this will never have anything to do with their race or the color of their skin," Ecclestone said. World champion Raikkonen and Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa of Brazil were among several F1 drivers and team leaders who joined in the anti-racism plan.
Associated Press


24/4/2008- Czech Senator Liana Janackova (for the Independents movement) will not be prosecuted over her controversial statements about a group of Romanies in Ostrava, north Moravia, as the Senate refused to strip her of immunity as a lawmaker Thursday. Janackova's prosecution is thus ruled out forever. Earlier today Janackova asked the Senate to release her for the prosecution the police wanted to launch over what some suspect to have been racist utterances. She said she wanted to refute the speculations that the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which commands a majority in the Senate, would otherwise support her in the Senate because she had backed its candidate Vaclav Klaus in the February presidential elections. However, in the subsequent vote on whether Janackova should be stripped of immunity, the step was supported by only 13 of the 54 senators present. Apart from all ODS senators present, the release of Janackova for prosecution, proposed by the senior opposition Social Democrats (CSSD), was not supported by her colleagues from the Independents' Association (SNK) group, by most Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and by two CSSD senators. The rest of the CSSD backed the proposal as did all senators for the Communist party (KSCM), members of the Open Democracy Club (KOD) group, KDU-CSL senator Vaclav Koukal, and Premysl Sobotka, the ODS's Senate chairman. The opponents of the proposal pointed out that Janackova had made her statements in the heat of passion and without a racist intention. They said the whole affair has a political subtext. Those promoting Janackova's release said that a politician must behave as a public official. They pointed out that a former deputy mayor of an Ostrava district, who is not protected by immunity, faces prosecution over his Romany-related words, similar to Janackova's.

Janackova, who is Mayor of Ostrava district Marianske Hory and Hulvaky, pronounced the controversial words at meeting of the housing department of her district authority in 2006. On a recording from the event, she was heard speaking about excessively multiplying Romanies and about "dynamite" to blow them up with, in connection with solving problems in a Romany settlement. "Unfortunately, I'm a racist, I disagree with the integration of gypsies and their living across the district. Unfortunately, we've chosen Bedriska [locality], therefore they will be there, behind a tall fence with electricity," Janackova was heard saying from the recording. Janackova apologised for her statements last year, saying they were unfortunate and silly. She said she had made them in a tense atmosphere. She dismissed having aimed her words at all Romanies.
Prague Daily Monitor



22/4/2008- Czech senator Liana Janackova should not be released for criminal prosecution over what she said about Roma in Ostrava, North Moravia, the Senate immunity committee said Tuesday. In connection with the case, the committee did not recommend that Janackova be stripped of immunity as a senator. The final decision will be made by the Senate. Janackova, who is Mayor of Ostrava district Marianske Hory and Hulvaky, pronounced the controversial words at meeting of the housing department of her district authority in 2006. On a recording from the event, she was heard speaking about excessively multiplying Roma and about "dynamite" to blow them up with, in connection with solving problems in a Romani settlement. "Unfortunately, I'm a racist, I disagree with the integration of gypsies and their living across the district. Unfortunately, we've chosen Bedriska [locality], therefore they will be there, behind a tall fence with electricity," Janackova was heard saying from the recording. Janackova apologised for her statements last year, saying they were unfortunate and silly. She said she had made them in a tense atmosphere. Janackova was backed by seven out of the nine present members of the committee. Janackova attended the meeting, but did not ask for her release for prosecution, chairman of the committee Jiri Pospisil (the Civic Democratic Party, ODS) said. Janackova was to be prosecuted over defamation of nation, ethnic origin and race. Earlier Tuesday, the Ostrava state attorney's office brought the same charges against former deputy mayor of Ostrava's district Jiri Jizersky for racist statements about Roma. Jizersky, who was deputy major of Ostrava district Marianske Hory a Hulvaky, spoke about "wiping out" Romani residents at a meeting of the local council that discussed the situation in the problematic Bedriska Romani settlement.
Prague Daily Monitor



23/4/2008- The Maltese government had strongly rebutted allegations made in a report by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) of the Council of Europe. The members of the commission visited Malta in July and a report of their visit has just been presented to the government. The Commission in its report said that Malta’s detention policy had resulted in negative consequences not only on the respect of the rights of the persons concerned but also on the perception of these people as criminals and the levels of racism and xenophobia among the general population. “These perceptions have been sustained by a public, and notably political, debate around irregular immigration in which human rights and human dignity have generally not been in focus. Irregular immigration has also provided the platform for the development of organised right-wing extremist groups. Irregular migrants, asylum seekers, persons with humanitarian protection and refugees remain vulnerable to racial discrimination in accessing different services and to exploitation on the labour market, where they are predominantly employed illegally. "The legal provisions against racist expression, racially-motivated offences and racial discrimination are not yet fully applied and there is still little awareness of the need to actively monitor racism and racial discrimination in order to identify and address these phenomena properly.” The commission said Malta’s perception of itself exclusively as a transit country for immigration has negatively affected the Maltese authorities’ ability to devise integration measures for persons who may end up staying for long periods of time in the country," the commission said. It recommended, among other things, that the Maltese authorities commit to a process aimed at identifying non-custodial alternatives for reception of irregular migrants. While the current detention policy is maintained, it recommends that they improve the conditions of detention and provide these persons with learning opportunities.

ECRI also recommended that the Maltese authorities promote a more balanced debate on immigration that reflects the human rights dimension of this phenomenon. It furthermore recommended that the Maltese authorities improve the implementation of the provisions in force against racism and racial discrimination through: training and awareness-raising measures for the judges and police; awareness-raising measures for potential victims of discrimination and strengthening the independence of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality. The government in a reply said the ECRI had not fully appreciated the scale of the crisis faced by the smallest EU Member State with one of the highest population densities in the world, as a result of the steadily growing wave of illegal immigrants from North and sub-Saharan Africa. “International law recognizes the right, or perhaps more appropriately, the duty especially in view of Malta’s accession to the Schengen acquis, of each state to determine which foreign nationals may enter and remain on its territory; and to return those it refuses to their countries of nationality. “In this regard, one fails to understand why ECRI fails to recommend stronger border controls and makes no reference to the option of the illegal immigrants` repatriation,” the government said in a reply to the commission. “Whilst Malta is fully committed to offer all possible protection and support to all those who are deemed to be in need of such assistance, at the same time it is determined to return back all those whose application for asylum is not accepted. Otherwise the asylum system’s sustainability would be put at risk.” The government said it was also concerned that the ECRI report seemed to be quite lukewarm in supporting the burden-sharing concept especially by the European countries which ultimately are the intended destination of the irregular immigrants arriving at Europe’s border states. Furthermore, the ECRI report showed disrespect towards Malta`s democratic institutions, including Parliament, the judiciary and the free press. It made more than 30 references to anonymous sources, which did not increase this report’s credibility, and a large number of recommendations which was inappropriate to Malta`s particular circumstances. The ECRI mission did not make any request to visit the detention centres, which it nonetheless criticizes at length and in detail.

“ The Government would like to recall a few facts about these centres. For example, every effort is undertaken by the Maltese authorities, obviously at substantial expense, so that as far as possible, centres are regularly provided with cleaning materials. However, and unfortunately, cases have been registered whereby certain detainees refuse to take on the task of keeping their accommodation up to the desired hygienic level,” the government said. “Likewise, maintenance at the centres is carried out on an ongoing basis, but sometimes vandalism and lack of interest shown by a minority of the immigrants contribute towards the degradation of physical conditions. “Moreover a medical team provides services at each centre five times a week; in addition, the detainees have access to regional health centres and the general hospital on the same basis as Maltese nationals. Furthermore, the Board of Visitors for Persons in Detention, set up recently, monitors detention centres and investigates any claims of maltreatment made by immigrants.” The government said it was confirming its commitment to do anything possible, within the constraints imposed by available resources, to improve the situation of the irregular immigrants arriving on Malta’s shores, who would continue to be treated in a humane and dignified manner . “At the same time, it is disappointing to note that ECRI showed disregard for Malta’s vital national interest and the will of the people; and had a certain tendency to view the efforts being undertaken in this area in a somewhat negative manner. “
Times of Malta



When a xenophobic party succeeds electorally in one European country, it has a knock-on effect for all Europeans because immigration, asylum and integration policies are shaped at the EU level.
By Liz Fekete, editor of the IRR European Race Bulletin

24/4/2008- Those of us seeking just and humane race and immigration policies in the UK should be fearful of the knock-on effects of the Italian March 2008 general election, which secured a decisive victory for Silvio Berlusconi's Party of Freedom Alliance. Already, the anti-immigrant Northern League, which more than doubled its share of the vote (8 per cent, leading to forty-seven seats in the Chamber of Deputies and twenty-three in the Senate) has upped the ante, calling for deportation of foreigners and the formation of self-defence groups to fight 'immigrant' crime.

Kingmaker of Italian politics
The Northern League, led by the xenophobic populist Umberto Bossi, brought down a previous Berlusconi administration in 1996. It is once again the kingmaker in Italian politics, for, if it withdraws its support, the prime minister will lose his majority in both chambers. Hence, Berlusconi - the richest man in Italy and owner of all bar two of the commercial TV channels - has already hinted that the League will be given at least two cabinet positions. And in a further wink to the Northern League, Berlusconi has promised to set up camps for jobless foreigners, describing 'illegal immigrants' as constituting an 'army of evil'. Although Berlusconi's alliance includes the post-fascist Alleanza National (AN), led by Gianfranco Fini and Alessandra Mussolini, the torchbearer of Italian fascism today, according to Enrico Pugliese of the Institute of Social Politics, is the Northern League. It is the League 'that has absorbed a great part of fascist thinking, especially the racism', he told Reuters.

The search for scapegoats
Pugliese is right. The Northern League, which represents the rich areas of northern Italy where the economy is fuelled by migrant labour, has grown in strength because of its frequent outbursts of racism, its encouragement of vigilante groups to fight foreigners who commit crimes, its introduction of discriminatory measures against foreigners in the towns it controls and, interestingly, for a so-called law and order party, its occasional forays into lawlessness and incitement. One of the first targets of Bossi's lawless rhetoric was African migrants and asylum seekers. African boat people, escaping conditions brought about by war and economic devastation, set out for Europe on desperate, dangerous and epic journeys across the desert and the Mediterranean Sea. Bossi does not believe that their treatment should be governed by international law or the basic standards of a civilised country. In June 2003, in an interview with the Corriere della Sera he declared that 'There are two ways to apply the law [to combat illegal immigration] approved a year ago. Either our ships will tackle the illegal migrants' vessels and take on board only the women and children, or else we write down in black and white that force will be used, and that is the way I want it. After the second or third warning, boom ... the cannon roars. The cannon that blows everyone out of the water.'

One might ask whether a man who incites violence in this way is fit to stand for public office. But, unabashed, he and the League recently turned their fire on the Roma. In October 2007, following the arrest of a Roma suspect of Romanian origin for rape and murder, the League (and the Alleanza Nationale) spearheaded a campaign for the introduction of an emergency decree which would collectively punish (through mass deportations) all Romanians for the individual crime of one Roma suspect. It also announced that it would organise vigilante patrols in the predominantly immigrant areas of Turin and Piacenza. (Few recalled that in July 2007, criminal proceedings were launched against the League's leader on Opera town council, near Milan, and eight other people, for inciting violence against Roma prior to an arson attack on a Roma encampment in December 2006.) Following the March 2008 general election, Roberto Maroni (tipped as a future interior minister) applauded the idea of citizens' defence groups to help prevent crime while brushing off concerns about them taking the law into their own hands. 'These are details which are secondary to people's lives', he told Corriere della Sera.

Anti-Islamic rhetoric
Another target for the Northern League is Italy's vulnerable Muslim community. Every time the Muslim community seeks to open a new mosque, the Northern League opposes. One of the most distasteful initiatives occurred in 2007 when the League's Roberto Calderoli, boisterous after his successful campaign against the Bologna mosque, suggested a 'pig day' against new mosques across Italy. The idea was that a pig should be taken to any land where Muslims proposed to construct a mosque. 'We will walk up and down on the land where they want to build, after which it will be considered "infected" and no longer suitable', he said. Calderoli, then a minister in the Berlusconi administration, had already achieved notoriety after a televised incident at the height of the Danish 'cartoons affairs', when he ripped off his shirt on live television, revealing a T-shirt printed with one of the drawings of the Prophet Mohammed. Violent demonstrations in Libya followed Calderoli's prank, the Italian consulate in Benghazi was attacked and fifteen people were killed when the police opened fire. Calderoli subsequently resigned his ministerial post. He is now tipped to be the next deputy prime minister of Italy.
The Institute of Race Relations



22/4/2008- Italy's right-wing Northern League has said it expects to win key positions in the new cabinet of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Firebrand party leader Umberto Bossi, who has toppled a Berlusconi coalition government in the past, said he hoped to become reforms minister. He tipped Roberto Calderoli, whose antics have enraged Muslims in Italy, to become deputy prime minister. But Mr Berlusconi has said that no definite decisions have yet been taken.

Crime focus
"We're talking to everyone. Yesterday the League told me what they wanted but nothing has been decided," Mr Berlusconi said late on Monday. "I'll be taking the decisions and presenting my proposals to the president of the republic," he said, adding that there would be "a few surprises". But Mr Bossi was quoted as telling Italy's La Stampa newspaper that he had his eye on several key ministries. "Reforms, security, defence of agriculture - these are the reasons why people voted for us," he said. Roberto Calderoli is a controversial figure who provoked outrage by threatening to walk a pet pig to the site of a new mosque last September. Mr Bossi said the League's Roberto Maroni, who has proposed citizens' defence squads to tackle crime, would be interior minister. The Northern League party played a key role in Mr Berlusconi's return to power this month, doubling its share of the national vote and winning 8% of all ballots. It campaigned on a platform of increased federalism for the country's prosperous north and taking a tough stance on crime and immigration.
BBC News



21/4/2008- Police in the German city of Bremen broke up a birthday party for Adolf Hitler on Sunday April 20. A group of young neo-Nazis had been marking the occasion by getting drunk and chanting "Sieg Heil." They now face prosecution. German police called to investigate loud party noises coming from an apartment in the early hours of Sunday, April 20 found a group of 10 young men celebrating the 119th birthday of Adolf Hitler. "Excessively loud music and raucous bawling could be heard all over the neighborhood. The police officers looked through the window and could see a swastika flag hanging up. The people inside were evidently celebrating the 20th of April," police in the northern city of Bremen said in a statement. "Officers standing at the front door could hear loud 'Sieg Heil' calls being shouted to the refrain of a CD. The noise was so loud that the doorbell went unheard." The police called reinforcements and finally gained entrance to the apartment where they broke up the party and confiscated the flag and a number of CDs. The owner of the flat and his guests, all of whom are known to the police for belonging to the far-right scene, now face prosecution for displaying illegal symbols. The swastika is banned in Germany.
Deutsche Welle



22/4/2008- Greece has rejected strong criticism of its handling of asylum seekers by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The UN body said the most vulnerable people were often unable to claim asylum and others were not guaranteed a fair evaluation of their claims. Finland responded by saying it would stop sending migrants back to Greece unless it could promise fair treatment. But Greece says the UN's accusations are untrue and it is trying to be fair in handling a big surge in migration. The Hellenic Police Head of Asylum, Nikolas Stavrakakis, told the BBC News website: "In 2006 we had approximately 12,500 applicants, and the next year they more than doubled". The UNHCR report last week said that of 25,113 asylum claims registered in Greece in 2007, eight were granted refugee status at the start of the process and another 138 were added on appeal. The report also draws attention to a large backlog of asylum claims with the waiting period lasting up to four years. "We are all over the country trying to screen the real people from those coming for economic reasons," says Mr Stavrakakis. "We have big pressure and you have to be careful in order to be fair in this process. That's why we have a lot of delays. All these accusations are untrue."

Turkish route
Many of the migrants who come to Greece arrive via Turkey in an attempt to claim asylum in the European Union. Earlier this month, 190 illegal immigrants were detained in a series of operations in Turkey. Fifty-six of them were picked up on the Aegean coast at Seferihisar. It is a short boat trip from the Turkish mainland to the Greek islands of Chios and Samos and, last December, at least 40 people died when their overcrowded boat capsized off the Turkish coast. For those who do make it, their asylum claims should be handled in Greece, according to EU rules. Under the "Dublin II" regulation, asylum seekers generally have to be processed by the first EU member state they come to. Many of those who arrive in Greece move elsewhere, but are sent back as they have not been processed. Finland said it would halt the return of refugees to Greece until it had written guarantees that their asylum applications were dealt with. Speaking after an EU home affairs meeting last week, Greek Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said his country would fall in line with EU regulations before the end of June. He said he had received very strong support from EU ministers and assured reporters about the treatment of migrants in Greece. "Our first and only concern is respect for the human rights of all who arrive in Greece."
BBC News


RSS feed
Suggestions and comments please to