NEWS - Archive October 2008

Headlines 31 October, 2008


31/10/2008- In the wake of the world economic crisis, for the first time, the youth wing of the Kremlin's party United Russia is openly demonizing migrants, according to an October 31, 2008 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. An October 31 posting on the web site of the Young Guard of United Russia reads: "Our money for our people!" and demands "the expulsion of all labor migrants from Russia, and in the coming year, the closing of the border to them" and calls for their jobs to be given to Russians. Even more alarmingly, the Young Guard announced "street patrols to look for guest workers" and protest actions in six cities, including Moscow. The statement came out a few days before the annual "Russian March" (November 4) which regularly features far-right groups who use the occasion to demonize migrants and Jews. The Sova report pointed out that the Young Guard's statement, which closely follows the launch of another anti-migrant campaign by a different Kremlin-controlled youth group called "Mestnye" ("The Locals"), is more extreme than the positions taken by "Mestnye" and the unofficial far-right group the Movement Against Illegal Migration (DPNI). The Young Guards' announcement "doesn't bother using the demagogic rhetoric about 'illegals'" used by other anti-migrant groups, Sova wrote, "but extends to all labor migrants without exception, regardless of their [immigration] status." The Sova report left unsaid the obvious danger in the ruling party's youth wing officially condoning rhetoric and actions previously confined to the neo-Nazi movement and slightly more moderate groups like the DPNI.

On October 19, Andrey Isaev, a State Duma deputy from the United Russia party, warned that if the world crisis triggers unemployment among migrants, they could riot. In language seemingly designed to invite lynch law as a means of self-defense, Mr. Isaev reportedly said: "By inviting labor migrants, we should prepare for the fact that when they get thrown out of work, either we or our relatives will get bashed in the head by a brick." Another State Duma deputy from the ruling party, Andrey Vorobyov, reportedly backed the Young Guard's statement today. The head of the DPNI, Aleksandr Belov, was quoted in the media today approving of the Young Guards' statements, despite their political differences (the DPNI styles itself as an opposition party, though in the past there have been credible accusations that it is linked with government officials). "This [statement] means that we are close to achieving our goals," Mr. Belov said. "These youth would hardly have made such a decision without an order from the Kremlin. Everybody understands that this crisis will probably trigger a riot by guest workers." Sova pointed out that one of Russia's most popular newspapers--"Moskovsky Komsomolets"--has recently taken to blaming migrants for 70% of all crimes committed in Moscow, a figure supposedly put forth by the capital's police. However, Sova was unable to find any proof that the police ever released such figures, or that those statistics have any basis in reality.
FSU Monitor



By The European Roma Policy Coalition 31/10/2008

Overall, the EU Roma Summit sent a positive signal. It indicated political will within and outside the European Union to address the often dire situation of Roma in Europe. The EU Roma Summit reiterated the need to find effective and coherent EU-wide solutions to the social inclusion of Roma, as expressed by the overwhelming majority of stakeholders present, including Roma representatives. The highest level conference targeting Roma to date, the Summit brought together four Commissioners, including the President of the EC, along with Mr. George Soros and representatives of governments, EU institutions, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the World Bank, the UN, and representatives of civil society. Among a number of promising statements, the speech of Commissioner for Freedom, Justice and Security, Mr. Jacques Barrot, was most notable. The Commissioner clearly condemned racism against Roma and reaffirmed his commitment to ensure respect for fundamental rights in Italy and the EU.

I. The Message of the European Commission:
Despite these positive signals, we, the members of the EU Roma Policy Coalition (ERPC), believe that the European Commission has not lived up to the expectations of assuming a strong leadership and coordination role in setting up a framework for action that would see the rhetoric of the Commission officials translated into concrete steps and policy proposals. Furthermore, the shared responsibility of the Member States and the European Union for Roma inclusion was not promoted by the European Commission. It did not seem to propose a more proactive role than it has in the existing policy framework, in which responsibilities lie with Member States supported by fragmented and ad-hoc Community instruments. [See: Commission Staff Working Document, Community Instruments and Policies for Roma Inclusion, (COM                (2008) 420        ),]

In our view, the European Commission made it clear that without a strong mandate from the European Council, e.g. the political commitment of the Member States, it will not be in a position to propose a progressive and long-term Framework Strategy for Roma Inclusion. The ERPC finds this message from the Commission to be ambiguous and insufficient. The proposal for an integrated European Roma Platform, which President Barroso of the European Commission made during the EU Roma Summit, needs to be clarified. Over the last five years the EC initiated a number of expert reports on the social inclusion of Roma. The conclusions of these reports, which have underlined the need for a comprehensive EU Framework Strategy for Roma Inclusion and for the establishment of a Roma Unit within the European Commission, have not been followed by adequate policy responses. An integrated European Roma Platform should translate into creating a permanent and focused structure within the European Commission capable to ensure the efficient functioning of the existing Inter-Service Group as well as of future dialogue mechanisms among relevant stakeholders. ERPC welcomes the setting-up of a "Platform" as long as it will be a mechanism that enables the development of a concrete EU Framework Strategy for Roma Inclusion and the establishment of efficient inter-institutional mechanisms. ERPC believes that Roma inclusion is a shared responsibility of EU Institutions/Administrations and Member States, as President Barroso emphasized in his statement. We welcome the endorsement of the ERPC Summit Declaration by Commissioner Vladimir Spidla and the pledge to take the proposals into consideration as part of the European Commission's follow up of the EU Roma Summit.

The Summit proved that while Roma and non-Roma NGOs and government representatives were more pragmatic and policy-oriented, the position taken by the European Commission was less progressive or forward-looking. The European Commission voiced concerns regarding the abysmal situation of Roma in Europe, echoing the issues raised by civil society. Lacking a strong commitment to propose effective solutions, long term strategies, actions to establish coordination mechanisms and facilitate implementation and monitoring based on clear benchmarks and indicators, however, it failed to live up to expectations.

II. EU Presidency and Governments' messages:
The French Presidency openly welcomed the Declaration of the ERPC to the Summit, which calls for a coherent, long-term, and comprehensive EU Framework Strategy for Roma Inclusion and the establishment of effective implementation and monitoring mechanisms within the European Commission. The French Presidency to the EU underlined the need for immediate follow up and pledged to build upon the ERPC Declaration in the Council deliberations in December 2008. ERPC is pleased with the statements of Member States' delegations present at the Summit. The clear support for a comprehensive strategy at the EU level emerged as their main message. Nonetheless, a number of delegations expressed their concern related to the "Europeanisation" of Roma issues and asserted that an EU Roma policy can only coordinate national actions; it cannot assume the role of the Member States in Roma inclusion, shifting the main responsibility from the national to the European level. However, the delegations of the Member States strongly promoted concrete actions to be undertaken at the EU level, such as the development of an EU Framework Strategy for Roma Inclusion, the establishment of a Roma Unit, and other mechanisms at the EC level in the area of implementation. The need for better monitoring and improvement of the use of the Open Method of Coordination was also emphasized. ERPC welcomes this development.
III. European Parliament Message
In line with its last four resolutions, the European Parliament shared a clear vision for an EU Roma Policy. A long-term comprehensive EU Framework Strategy for Roma Inclusion, a Community Action Plan on Roma, measures to address anti-Gypsism, and monitoring and implementing mechanisms at both the EU and national levels were the key elements of the MEPs' messages to the Summit.

IV. NGO Messages
NGOs underlined the need for an EU Roma Policy, the establishment of a Roma Unit at the European Commission, and effective mechanisms that are able to implement and monitor such a Policy. The importance of the engagement of Roma representatives and grassroots organisations was reiterated by NGOs and by other stakeholders. The need for the Fundamental Rights Agency to have a distinct focus on monitoring anti-Gypsyism across the EU was also a key message to the Summit shared by many NGOs.

V. Conclusions and Recommendations:
a.. The EC should take bold action to address the challenges of Roma inclusion. The development of an EU Framework Strategy for Roma Inclusion that builds on existing Community instruments, identifies clear goals and targets, and establishes effective coordination structures is a shared interest of the EU and its Member States.
b.. The mandate of the proposed "EU Integrated Platform for Roma" should be better defined and include the responsibility to propose concrete policy actions. While not an end in itself, this process has to be built on a firm commitment to policy development and institutional reform.
c.. Member States, which consider the development of an EU Roma policy as an opportunity to strengthen their efforts at national level, should provide the political backing to the European Commission during the European Council in December 2008.
d.. The French Presidency to the EU, consistent with its position on the ERPC Declaration to the Summit, should support a clear mandate to be included in the Presidency Conclusions inviting the European Commission to develop an EU Framework Strategy for Roma Inclusion and to establish institutional mechanisms to coordinate that strategy.
e.. The upcoming Czech and Swedish Presidencies to the EU should take specific actions and launch a consultation process towards the development of an EU Framework Strategy for Roma Inclusion and put Roma inclusion high on their Presidency priorities.
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31/10/2008- A Moroccan-born politician who told immigrants to either integrate or take the next plane home will become the first immigrant to lead one of the Netherlands' major cities. Ahmed Aboutaleb will take the reins of Rotterdam, a city of 585,000, on Jan. 1 when incumbent Ivo Opstelten retires. The government approved Aboutaleb's appointment Friday after the municipality voted overwhelmingly for him. Aboutaleb, 47, is deputy minister for social affairs in Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's government. Before taking that job in 2007, he made his reputation as an alderman in Amsterdam, where he pushed migrants to integrate or leave. Racial tensions in the Netherlands soared after the 2004 murder by an Islamic extremist of filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Aboutaleb was propelled to prominence when he went to a mosque in Amsterdam the day after Van Gogh's murder and told the worshippers to either integrate or take the next plane home. Rotterdam was the power base of populist anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn, who was murdered by an animal rights activist in 2002. But Ruud Lubbers, a former prime minister, said Aboutaleb can keep anti-immigrant sentiment under control in the city. Nearly 36 percent of Rotterdam's population is classed as "nonwestern immigrant" by the national statistics office. The immigrants are mainly families and descendants of Turkish and Moroccan guest workers. "Going with the choice of Aboutaleb to become mayor is a sign of hope," Lubbers told reporters earlier this week. "They trust him."
The Associated Press



Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles have launched a joint protest against the Netherlands’ plan to set up an ethnic database.

31/10/2008- Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles have launched a joint protest against Dutch plans to introduce a database specifically for young people of Antillean and Aruban origin who cause problems in the Netherlands. An Aruban government spokesman condemned the database as discrimination and an infringement of fundamental human rights. In September, the Dutch Council of State ruled that such a database was justified as a measure to combat the trouble being caused by Antillean and Aruban youths in the Netherlands.

Commission sides with school's head scarf ban 
The Dutch Equal Opportunities Commission rules that a Roman Catholic school was within its rights when it refused to hire a trainee teacher because of her head scarf.

30/10/2008- The Dutch Equal Opportunities Commission has ruled that a Roman Catholic school was within its rights when it refused to hire a trainee because she wore a Muslim head scarf. The woman was denied a job by a school in Alkmar in 2007 because she refused to remove her head scarf. The woman lodged a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission, which ruled that Catholic schools are within their rights if they refuse to hire personnel who wear clothes or objects demonstrating adherence to another faith.
Expatica News



31/10/2008- Incidents of racist behaviour in schools may be isolated, but that doesn’t mean the state can rest assured that all is well, the Ombudswoman said yesterday. According to Eliana Nicolaou’s report, which was yesterday presented to the Education Minister, two complaints were submitted to her Office in 2008 by foreign pupils claiming they had been discriminated against at school. The first complaint involved racist graffiti on the walls of four Limassol schools. The second was by a 13-year-old pupil, who claimed she had been subjected to threats and racist attacks by other pupils, who would prevent her from entering the classroom while mocking her because of her colour and nationality. Nicolaou said the letters she got in response to her investigation saw the schools in question all deny that racial graffiti had ever been scrawled on their walls. Regarding the second case, the Limassol gymnasium that the young girl attends admitted the incidents had taken place. The headmistress also presented Nicolaou with the findings of her own investigation, including testimonies taken from the girl and her mother, who said they had been verbally abused with racist insults. Nicolaou suggested the Education Ministry immediately appoints a system registering and evaluating complaints that have to do with racism and xenophobia in schools. She also suggested that due to the seriousness of the matter, it be taken on by the Scientific Committee for Educational Reform in its bid to encourage multicultural schools. Education Minister Andreas Demetriou promised to combat racist and xenophobic phenomena in all schools.
Cyprus Mail



31/10/2008- Not only there is no tension between Bulgarians and Turks, but as we in Sofia, the people throughout the country live in mutual respect. This claimed the former member of the Bulgarian parliament and member of the Movement for rights and freedom (MRF) Gyuner Tahir. He commented on the interview of the MRF leader Ahmed Dogan for “Trud” newspaper and more specifically the attempt to diminish the role of the deceased Ahmed Emin in the party: “Who could entrust to an ordinary member of the Movement for rights and freedom, as Dogan announced it, to dispose with 600 million euro state subsidy. Who will allow such a person to manage 40 people administration in the MRF headquarters and who will let businessmen, who participate in different public tenders to communicate with him, said Tahir and added: “So no matter what Ahmed Dogan talks from now on – nobody will believe him” To remind, similar view and most of all denial of any existing actual ethnic tension in Bulgaria expressed also another former member of MRF Osman Oktai in the very first days after the suicide of the chief of Ahmed Dogan's political cabinet.
News Bulgaria



30/10/2008- The elegant Spanish Queen Sofia is known for many things - her lacy mantillas at royal weddings, her compassionate embraces, her grandmotherly photo-ops, and above all, her discretion. But now, as she approaches her 70th birthday after three decades on the throne alongside the popular King Juan Carlos, Sofia has revealed her thoughts on everything from gay marriage to teaching religion in schools to Hillary Clinton. Leaks from a new biography, The Queen Up Close, appeared in El Pais yesterday and are already causing controversy, especially among gay rights groups, who seemed to like her better with her lips closed. "I can understand, accept and respect that there are people of other sexual tendencies, but should they be proud to be gay? Should they ride on a parade float and come out in protests? If all of those of us who aren't gay came out to protest we would halt traffic," she said in the book, written by Spanish journalist Pilar Urbano. The discreet queen proceeded to even more sensitive ground, referring to Spain's recent law to legalize gay marriage, which provoked the fury of the Catholic Church hierarchy. "If those people want to live together, dress up like bride and groom and marry, they could have a right to do so, or not, depending on the law of their country, but they should not call this matrimony, because it isn't," she is quoted as saying. "There are many possible names: social contract, social union". The State Federation of Lesbians, Gays and Transsexuals immediately asked the Queen to retract her comments. "Many mothers of gays and lesbians are going to ask why the Queen understands that the Prince would marry a divorced woman, but she can't understand why other mothers wouldn't want that same happiness of marriage for their children," said the federation president Antonio Poveda. Prince Felipe married divorced journalist Letizia Ortiz in 2004 with the crown's blessing.

Returned to the throne by Franco, the Spanish monarchy has had to earn the affection of the Spanish people, and support is generally strong in gratitude for King Juan Carlos's role in the transition to democracy. The favourable opinion stems in part from the pact of neutrality by which the monarchs do not take sides on matters of national politics – allowing all factions to believe royalty on their side. The row over gay rights overshadowed the Queen's comments on other thorny matters, such as the teaching of religion in the schools, which she considers necessary "at least to a certain age." "Children need an explanation of the origin of world and of life," she said. She similarly followed the lines of the Catholic Church on abortion, which is legal in Spain. Fans of political gossip, meanwhile, are enjoying her take on the former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who was said to have a strained relationship with the monarchs. "He wasn't unpleasant with us," she is quoted as saying. "Perhaps something about his demeanour, his serious expression, didn't help him?" By contrast, she bonded with Hillary Clinton: "They make her out to be an ambitious woman who uses her husband's influence to her own benefit. The poor thing must have suffered a great deal." Lately some regional nationalists, especially in Catalonia, have been increasingly vocal in their anti-monarchical sentiment, with some youth activists burning photos of the king and queen, once unthinkable. "Does it hurt your feelings?" asks the author of the book. "Well, of course, we're not made of stone," the queen replied. But on that score, Queen Sofia advises discretion. "It's hard to ignore. It's hard to stay silent. We all have our self-esteem. But you have to swallow it: receive, greet, smile ‘How are you?' as if nothing happened. For them to ruffle you would be worse."
The Independent



31/10/2008- Lewis Hamilton's bid to become Formula One champion has been soured by a Spanish website targeting the McLaren driver with vitriol and racist abuse. The website, called Pincha la Rueda de Hamilton (Burst Hamilton's Tyre) invites visitors to place a virtual nail on the track at Interlagos, the setting for Sunday's title showdown with Felipe Massa in the Brazil Grand Prix. The site carries a message board directing abuse at the 23-year-old Briton, who only needs to finish in the top five to claim the 2008 title. The sport's governing body the FIA and McLaren jointly condemned those who had posted the comments. An FIA spokesman told The Times: "The FIA's position is very clear - discrimination and prejudice can have no place in sport or in society. "Everyone in our sport will join us in condemning these abusive and hateful comments." In February Hamilton was subjected to racial abuse during testing in Barcelona, where a minority of Spanish fans turned up with their faces blackened. That triggered the FIA's 'EveryRace' campaign aimed at driving out racial abuse from motor racing. Commenting on this latest incident a spokesman for Hamilton's team said: "McLaren was one of the earliest supporters of the FIA's 'EveryRace' campaign, and we support that campaign still. "We've seen the statement from an FIA spokesman, and we can only echo it." The offending website, which has attracted over 20,000 visitors, was launched last year when Hamilton was battling with his McLaren teammate, Spanish idol Fernando Alonso, for the title. If Hamilton succeds in claiming the title on Sunday he will become the youngest world champion in F1 history and the first driver of Afro-Caribbean descent to lift the title. He will also be Britain's ninth champion and first since Damon Hill in 1996.



28/10/2008- Britain risks a surge in Right-wing extremism if it fails to help its white working class weather the recession, the equalities chief will warn today. Trevor Phillips will break with years of political convention to call for the law to be changed to enshrine positive discrimination in favour of disadvantaged whites. His startling intervention in the race debate is a rebuke to Harriet Harman, who earlier this year trumpeted plans to make companies discriminate in favour of women and ethnic minorities. Mr Phillips said ministers should allow councils and education authorities to introduce 'positive action' programmes aimed specifically at young whites unable to compete with highly skilled immigrants because the 'need is so great'. And he warned that immigration has fuelled 'resentments that are real and should not be dismissed – resentments felt by white, black and Asian'. The chairman of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission set out his thinking to the Daily Mail ahead of his appearance at a CBI event on immigration today alongside immigration minister Phil Woolas.

Mr Phillips said failure to help white families hit by the downturn could drive them into the arms of far-Right parties similar to those that have brought turmoil to Austria, Belgium and Holland. He also warned that ministers needed to acknowledge the resentment by some whites over what they see as unfair help given to blacks and Asians. 'What we are seeing is that there is a whole group of people, a large proportion of whom are white, who are going to suffer from this crisis who are going to be the people we should want to help, particularly because they come from the wrong side of town,' he said. 'We are going to have to do something special for them. We are going to have to put extra resources where young people can't compete with migrants' skills. 'And in some parts of the country, it is clear that what defines disadvantage won't be black or brown, it will be white. And we will have to take positive action to help some white groups, what we might call the white underclass.' And he warned: 'We know what the political consequences are because we have seen it on the Continent. 'If we ignore the fact some white groups are going to be disadvantaged we will end up with the same kind of conflicts we have seen in Austria, Belgium and now Holland, where the anti-immigrant racist Right-wing parties get a big boost. 'We need to do more to help those who are going to suffer and who will then think that the reason they are suffering is their colour. 'We need to pay attention to that white underclass that happens not to live in the right part of town.'

Politicians have long shied away from allowing positive discrimination, claiming it flies in the face of equality laws. But its supporters claim the system is a necessary way of helping minorities finding it difficult to get a job or housing, by pushing them to the top of the queue. In June, Miss Harman angered business leaders by revealing plans for new anti-discrimination laws. She said she wanted to see more women and ethnic minorities promoted into senior posts and would use next year's Equalities Bill to discriminate in their favour. Under the plans, firms will be forced to reveal the salary gap between their male and female staff to shame employers into bringing them into line. But in what was seen as a clear 'white men need not apply', she made no attempt to suggest that whites could benefit from positive discrimination as well. Mr Phillips said he wanted to see the bill used to help whites. And he added Miss Harman had been looking at the work of the commission. 'Positive action now in Britain is more likely to mean programmes for people who are poor, white and come from workless households than it is for East African Asians, for example,' he added. Earlier this summer, Miss Harman insisted: 'It is important to encourage applications from minority groups, but we are strongly against positive discrimination so someone gets a job just because they are black or disabled.' Mr Phillips also warned against allowing the economic crisis to trigger an outburst of anti-immigrant feeling in the UK. 'It's dangerous and it's divisive,' he said. He claimed immigrants could act as a 'buffer' against the impact of recession because they are more likely to return to their countries than stay in Britain and swell the unemployment register. 'If it wasn't for the fact that migrants from eastern Europe are now going home you would see a great many more people unemployed in this country,' he claimed.

Last week, Mr Woolas was forced to backtrack after suggesting that there should be a cap on the number of immigrants allowed into the country. Last night, Mr Phillips dismissed Mr Woolas's call for a cap, saying: 'We need to control it, we need to be tough on borders but the idea is a promise no one can deliver.'
The Daily Mail



29/10/2008- Muslims from Brno and friends of Muslim nations from the group Libertas Independent Agency will file a lawsuit over the
Tuesday rally of the Czech ultra-right National Party (NS) in Prague, activist Lukas Lhotan told CTK Wednesday. Organisers of the rally screened the controversial film Fitna by Dutch extreme right deputy Geert Wilders. After several speeches by the NS leaders, the police dissolved the rally. The Muslims want to file a criminal lawsuit over the support to the movement that seeks to suppress the rights and freedoms of men. The Muslims association is also considering filing a request to the Interior Ministry to reconsider the registration of the National Party as it may violate the valid law. "We proceeded to this step on the basis of the fact that a police extremism expert decided that the NS rally had a racist and xenophobic background," Lhotan said. Lhotan said Muslims from Brno would encourage a broad cooperation of religious societies and ethnic minorities. For a start, they will send letter with an appeal to stage the meeting, he added. "We want to agree on a joint declaration on the attitude of Czech religious and ethnic communities on the growing activities of xenophobic and racist groups," Lhotan said. The NS rally was attended by about 200 people. The NS is an extra-parliamentary party, active since 2002. It is opposed to the EU, immigrants, Romanies and Muslims.
The Prague Daily Monitor


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