NEWS - Archive August 2008

Headlines 29 August, 2008


28/8/2008- Danish leader Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said Copenhagen will not change the country's strict limits on migrants. "Denmark's immigration policy is not going to change; the voters need to know that the law holds,'' Mr Rasmussen told voters in a speech on Tuesday night (26 August) in his constituency of Greve, Bloomberg reported. He was reacting to a debate sparked in his country by a recent verdict by the EU's top court in Luxembourg that struck down Irish restrictions on the residency of foreign spouses of EU citizens. The Irish restrictions were similar to rules that are applied in Denmark. Mr Rasmussen argued that his government would press EU institutions and other member states to prevent any changes to the Danish immigration legislation as a result of the court's ruling. "We're trying to change the set of rules inside the EU so that we can get things as we want them,'' Mr Rasmussen added. The differences between Danish law and EU rules mainly involve the ban for citizens under 24 years old to bring their non-EU spouses into the country - viewed as a way to prevent Danish Muslims from bringing their partners through arranged marriage. Similarly, such mixed couples who have lived in other EU member states are not allowed to come and live in Denmark, a practice in breach of the bloc's freedom of movement principle. The Danish parliament's ombudsman earlier in the summer announced an investigation into whether the Danish Immigration Service had misinformed individuals inquiring about regulations on the settling of foreign spouses in Denmark. France as the current holder of EU's six-month rotating presidency is planning to push for a detailed debate on the common immigration rules for the 27-strong union, with a ministerial session on the issue expected in October.

More deaths at sea south of Malta
Paris is pressing for a so-called European Pact on Immigration and Asylum - an agreement setting out common EU guidelines for how to handle increasing numbers of migrants wanting to make their home in Europe. In many cases, immigrants' struggle to plant their feet on the European soil has had terrible consequences: more than 70 individuals from Sudan and Eritrea, including a child and four pregnant women, are feared to have died in the waters south of Malta, the country's authorities reported on Thursday (28 August). Earlier this week, a group of migrants detained at the southern Spanish port of Malaga spoke of having thrown overboard the bodies of 25 of their companions as their overcrowded boat drifted for days in the Mediterranean, according to media reports.



29/8/2008- The city council of Cologne has voted to allow construction of what will be one of the largest mosques in Germany, a plan that has drawn protests from residents and Cologne's Roman Catholic archbishop. The vote late Thursday by most of the city's political parties cleared the way for the Ditib Turkish-Islamic umbrella group to build a new house of worship - complete with two 55-meter-tall, or 177-feet-tall, minarets - in the city's Ehrenfeld district. Sardi Arslan, the leader of Ditib, said Friday that construction of the mosque would begin immediately, and he expressed hope that it would facilitate communication between Muslims and non-Muslims. "We are building for all citizens of Cologne, not just for the Muslims," Arslan said in a statement. For the past 20 years, Ditib has used a converted warehouse as a house of worship. That will be torn down to make way for the new building, which the group hopes to finish by 2010. Cologne's conservative mayor, Fritz Schramma, has championed the project, arguing that it was necessary for the city's approximately 120,000 Muslims to have a proper house of worship. "It will take some time, but someday the mosque will be integrated into Cologne's cultural heritage," he said in a statement. But the project prompted a rash of disputes among Cologne city leaders and inhabitants, many of whom were bitterly opposed to the mosque, which has been designed by a local architect, Paul Böhm.

In a city with the greatest Gothic cathedral in Germany, and no fewer than a dozen Romanesque churches, adding a pair of fluted minarets would scarcely alter the skyline. But an extreme-right political party waged a noisy, xenophobic protest campaign, drumming up support from its far-right allies in Austria and Belgium. The proposal also drew fierce criticism from a prominent German-Jewish writer, Ralph Giordano, who said last year that the mosque would be "an expression of the creeping Islamization of our land." He did not want to see women shrouded in veils on German streets, he added. The Roman Catholic leader of Cologne, Archbishop Joachim Meisner, was similarly ambivalent. Asked last year as the controversy heated up if he was afraid of the mosque, he said, "I don't want to say I'm afraid, but I have an uneasy feeling." Those statements rankled German-Turkish leaders, who have been working with the city since 2001 to build a mosque on the site, which now houses a far smaller mosque, a community center and the offices of Ditib, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs. "The 120,000 Muslims of Cologne don't have a single place they can point to with pride as the symbol of our faith," Bekir Alboga, a leader of Ditib, said during the furor last year. "Christians have their churches, Jews have their synagogues." Alboga, a 44-year-old Turkish imam who immigrated here at 18 and speaks rapid-fire German, said the mosque would be a "crowning moment for religious tolerance." Given Germany's dark history, he added, "German politicians need to be careful about what they say." Alboga said he was particularly dismayed by Meisner, because the Catholic Church, along with Germany's Protestant churches, has long supported the mosque. Ditib, he said, is an organization that acts as a "bulwark against radicalism and terrorism." It plans to finance the more than $20 million project entirely through donations.
International Herald Tribune



Two key figures in the right-wing music scene have been arrested in a major international operation. Police say the arrests, which follow three years of investigations, are a major blow to the extremist scene.

27/8/2008- A German and a Dane with ties to the right-wing music distributor Celtic Moon were arrested on Wednesday, Aug. 27, in Denmark, said Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). The BKA said the arrests, the outcome of international cooperation, shook up the extremist music distribution scene, dispelling its sense of security. Flemming C. and Stephan G. have been accused of financing, commissioning and distributing recordings that have been deemed illegal because of their extremist content. They are presumed to have had contact to a partner in Australia, who allegedly copied the CDs and sent them to Denmark for distribution. The group reportedly produced CDs worth a five-figure sum. The accused allegedly have ties to German music groups, music managers and high-ranking members of the right-wing scene, including leaders of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD). Authorities on Wednesday also investigated several individuals fromor Werwolf Records, a far-right music distributor with ties to Celtic Moon.
Deutsche Welle



28/8/2008- A 'hacktivist' has hijacked numerous Dutch sites in retaliation for the anti-Islamic short film "Fitna" which was made and released earlier this year by the Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders. Over the last six weeks an activist hacker by the name of 'nEt^DeViL' has hacked many Dutch Web sites and posted ideological statements on their home pages. Such an attack is known as a website defacement. The hacked sites feature an embedded YouTube video dubbed "Anti-Fitna", which the hacker states is "[a] Response to the Fitna Movie by 'Geert Wilders' Cow !" "This hax0ring is to defend ISLAM - The Religion of [ Abraham, Moses, Jesus & Muhammad ( Peace Be Upon Them All ) ] that Insulted by a Cow ! from Netherlands !", a website that tracks website defacement attacks worldwide, has documented thousands of compromised websites over the last months. Zone-H reports that 'nEt^DeViL' has hacked 18,157 websites as of Thursday, August 28. From July 15 on, the hacker specifically targeted sites in The Netherlands, the home country of politician Geert Wilders. A number have since been restored, but numerous others still feature the forcefully injected ideological messages. Arnout Veenman of the Dutch hosting providers association ISPConnect, speculates that the hacker exploited a recently published vulnerability in the Joomla content management system (cms). On August 14 the website was defaced after it failed to properly install a security patch. "A lot of the compromised Web sites run on Joomla, so that is a likely attack vector", Veenman told Webwereld, and IDG affiliate. "Web site owners should urgently update their CMS system." Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch political party PVV an member of parliament, caused international uproar last March when he posted a video montage criticizing Islam. The video was posted on and denounced allegedly violent and warmongering passages in the Koran. The video led to political outrage and street protests in the Middle East. The controversy surrounding the film is reminiscent of the uproar over cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban in a Danish newspaper in 2006. This event also triggered a mass defacement attack on Danish Web sites. At that time, several hundred sites were compromised.
IT World



28/8/2008- Seventy-one irregular migrants are believed to be missing at sea, eight other migrants rescued by a local fishing vessel reported. The eight were rescued by the locally registered fishing-vessel Madonna Di Pompei from a semi-submerged rubber dinghy. The migrants claimed to be the remaining sole survivors of a group that originally totalled 18, but it later emerged that the group consisted of 79 people, including four pregnant women and a child. The Maritime Squadron's Protector-class patrol vessel P-52 was in the area some 40 nautical miles away on a joint-operation, NAUTILUS-3 patrol, and was reassigned to deal with the situation when it was informed of the rescue. Once on location, it was confirmed that all the rescued migrants were male, and at 11.58am they were transferred onto P-52 for subsequent conveyance by another patrolcarft, the P-32, to Haywharf in Floriana, after a mid-sea transfer closer to shore. An AFM Air Wing PBN Islander aircraft was also scrambled to the area of the rescue to ascertain if there were any other survivors. None were found.
The Malta Independent



26/8/2008- A cargo ship rescued 25 African migrants from a sinking boat in the Mediterranean Sea but survivors said up to 35 others died as the boat drifted for three days, the Spanish Red Cross said Tuesday. The sub-Saharan Africans were rescued Monday afternoon south of Spain's Almeria province and taken to the southern Spanish port of Malaga, Francisco Roman, head of the Red Cross office there, told The Associated Press. Survivors told Red Cross employees at the port the boat originally carried 50 to 60 people on board, Roman said. The bodies of people who died of hunger, thirst or exposure were thrown overboard. "We can never know the exact number," he said. The 25 survivors included five women and five children. One woman said her husband and three small children died at sea, Roman said. "She was in shock, in a state of great anguish," Roman said. Mainland Spain and its Canary Islands off the coast of West Africa are magnets for destitute Africans who risk their lives for a chance to reach prosperous Europe's southern gateway and find work. Two tragedies similar to this one claimed nearly 30 lives in July, also in waters off southern Spain. Every year thousands of Africans attempt these treacherous journeys in overcrowded boats. Most are caught and hundreds more die along the way, either from exposure or by drowning. Traditionally, migrants went through Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar or crossed the Mediterranean further east to get to the Spanish mainland. But a crackdown in recent years has prompted traffickers to move operations west to countries such as Mauritania, now the launching point for much-longer voyages to the Canary Islands. The number of those who actually make it to the Canary Islands is down drastically because of better surveillance of African coastal waters, Spanish officials say.
Associated Press



Students in Màrius Torres in Barcelona studied about one another’s culture and prepared a typical dish from their home countries to share with everyone on the last day of school term.

28/8/2008- Spanish omelet, shrimp ceviche, cornmeal rolls, pigs in a blanket, chicken cooked in beer and more. No, it's not a culinary fair, but rather the menu at the end-of-semester party at the Màrius Torres school in the Collblanc de L'Hospitalet neighbourhood. With immigrants making up 90 percent of students, the children at the school are studying each of their countries through their respective delicacies. On the last day of term, their proud parents came together to show off typical dishes from their cultures to the rest of the children and their teachers. "Today it's the parents who are the protagonists," explains Jorge León, the head teacher at the school. By mid-morning, around 150 adults have arrived at the school, all eager to try the 100 or so dishes on show in one of the classrooms. "My daughter and I prepared it," says Ángela Escobar of the plate of pies and stuffed potatoes in front of her, which Angie, her daughter, is going to great lengths to show to her classmates. Both are wearing shirts with Colombia on them, their country of origin. Indeed, soccer jerseys are out in force, in particular those of Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil - South America is the continent that is most represented by the school, with 183 of the 239 kids hailing from that part of the world. There are 23 Spanish children at the school, who held their own during the event as their omelettes and bread puddings were snapped up in the space of minutes.

"Looking at how the kids get on, it's as if they were all from the same country," says León. "We should learn from them, because they don't have any prejudices." The idea seemed to be strengthening the relationship between the adults, too. "It's a great idea - parents should get on well," says Carol España, from Ecuador. "We are meeting people here," says Abderraman Elbarki, a Moroccan who is proud of the typical dish he has brought with him. "Try it, try it," he says to anyone who passes by. "I love this project, and what it shows us: that a dish is the reflection of a culture," he says. The racket approaching from the schoolyard precedes the appearance of the children themselves, who soon fill the classroom. "That's my one, that's my one!" shouts one of the little girls to her friends. Xian Lan Bao, an eight-year-old Chinese boy, hands out sweet pastries, one of his favourite delicacies. "There's nothing left for me!" says Alfredo Crespo, the grandfather of one of the few Spanish students. He is satisfied with the scheme because one get to know other cultures. Jorge León, who has headed up the school since it was first set up, is delighted with the day's events. "We've given them a good send off," he says with a smile.
Expatica News



27/8/2008- Italy is engaged in a bitter debate about immigration and personal security after two foreign couples were robbed and the women raped in separate incidents. The first incident, the brutal beating of a Dutch tourist and the rape of his wife on a camping and cycling holiday in Rome, has been blamed on two Romanians. A young German couple camping in a small beachside town near Naples suffered a similar attack at the hands of three men. However, hostility towards the local Gypsy encampments may prove to be ill directed as police investigating that crime have now arrested a 17-year-old who is said to have Mafia links. The incidents prompted rancorous comments from right-wing politicians. Rome's anti-immigration Mayor, Gianni Alemanno, sparked fury when he suggested the Dutch couple, in effect, asked for violence after choosing an isolated camping site. He said the place they decided to sleep in was a place "abandoned by God and men", and they had asked "a flock of Romanian shepherd immigrants" for directions. Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing Government this year took a series of measures to crack down on clandestine migrants. The program included fingerprinting thousands of Romanian Gypsies who have thronged to major Italian cities.
The Age



25/8/2008- Italy's Northern League, the populist, xenophobic, sometimes separatist movement that is a key component of Silvio Berlusconi's governing coalition, has proposed new legislation which would in effect halt construction of new Islamic mosques. The bill, which the League's chief of deputies Roberto Cota is expected to send to parliament next week, would require regional approval for the building of mosques. It would also require that a local referendum be held, that there be no minaret or loudspeakers calling the faithful to prayer, and sermons must be in Italian, not Arabic. Chances of this being approved as it stands are slim, since it clashes with a number of constitutional rights and there was no immediate support from either Berlusconi's Forza Italia party or from the exfascist National Alliance. But there has been cautious support from the small, ultra-Catholic UDC party, and the proposed anti-mosque legislation undoubtedly reflects widespread feeling among Italians that some defence against a rapidly rising Islamic presence is needed. At present, the Muslim population in Italy is estimated at 1m, with 258 registered mosques. The Northern League, which theoretically favours the secession of northern Italy from the centre and south, won more than 8 per cent of the vote at the April general elections, and has always trumpeted defence of national values of the northern Italian "race" as the natural product of its homeland. Without giving details, Roberto Maroni, the rightwing interior minister from the League, also said in April that "nomads" - as Italians call the Gypsies, although most do little roaming - who were not Italian citizens and did not meet conditions to stay would be deported to their "countries of origin". The League has capitalised on a wave of xenophobia, of fear of crime committed by foreigners, and of preoccupation with illegal immigrants, which did much to help the Berlusconi alliance win the elections.
The Financial Times



27/8/2008- A ban on construction of new minarets in Switzerland would violate international human rights and the country's Constitution, the Swiss government said Wednesday. A group of politicians from the Swiss People's Party and the Federal Democratic Union have gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the matter, saying minarets threaten law and order, but the government opposes the measure. "The popular initiative against the construction of minarets has been submitted in accordance with the applicable regulations but infringes guaranteed international human rights and contradicts the core values of the Swiss Federal Constitution," the Department of Justice and Police said. "Such a ban would endanger peace between religions and would not help to prevent the spread of fundamentalist Islamic beliefs." The Swiss People's Party has courted controversy, having previously run an anti-immigration campaign featuring three white sheep kicking a black sheep off a Swiss flag, which was condemned as racist by rights groups and the United Nations. Swiss voters recently rejected another party proposal that would have made it more difficult for foreigners to secure citizenship. The party's campaign on that issue included posters of yellow and black hands grabbing at Swiss passports. The minaret proposal has to be discussed by Parliament before being put to a popular vote and the process could take several years. The Swiss government suggested that Parliament recommend a "no" vote because the measure would contravene human rights conventions laid down both in Europe and by the United Nations. Switzerland has two minarets, in Zurich and Geneva, which would be unaffected by the vote. Neither issues a Moslem call to prayer.
International Herald Tribune


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