NEWS - Archive August 2011

Headlines 26 August, 2011


One of Serbia's better known far-right organisations, Dveri, has announced it will compete in next spring's election on a pro-family values ticket.

26/8/2011- "Finally there is someone I can vote for," is the slogan of the Serbian far-right organisation "Dveri", [Doors], which for the first time has decided to take part in a general election. Vladan Glisic, a leader of Dveri, says the decision to take part in the spring 2012 election reflects an urgent need to change the system and its values after 20 years of "wrong regimes". "We want to change the system and regime completely," he told Balkan Insight, starting with a renewed emphasis on "family values". The groups intents to put the family in first place and so create a more "pro-life" oriented society. "Our goal is to strengthen the state to become a home of the people, which will exist to protect people from beaurocratic arbitrariness and oligarchy," Glisic explained. Dveri is known for a lot more than family values and hostility to gay rights and abortion.

One of the plethora of far-right groups in Serbia, it has a pronounced nationalist ideology, and it firmly opposed government plans to ease tensions with neighbouring Bosnia by adopting a resolution condemning the massacre committed by the Bosnian Serb army in Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia, in 1995. Parliament passed the resolution in March 2010. It is equally trenchant on the subject of independence for mainly Albanian Kosovo. Meanwhile, true to its anti-gay agenda, Dveri has said it will organise a rival pro-family march if and when a Gay Pride parade takes place in Belgrade this autumn. Branimir Nesic, of Dveri, said the government will bear responsibility if there are anti-gay clashes on Belgrade's streets. Last October's parade, the first since 20001, ended in violent clashes between stone-throwing anti-gay youths and the police. Turning to the elections, Dveri says it has no links to any political parties.

"We are not only anti-regime but also an anti-system party and not a single opposition party has shown any interest in fighting against the [existing] system so far," Glisic claimed. Although Dveri's members are strong supporters of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Dveri says it will not seek any official support from that quarter, either. "Our members' relationship with the Church is their private matter", Glisic said. Ordinary people are the only ones on whose support Dveri counts. Months ahead of the election, analysts are reluctant to estimate the potential impact of groups like Dveri. Political analyst Djordje Vukovic said he believed that Dveri might steal a number of votes from established right-wing parties, such as the Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS, and Serbian Radical Party, SRS. But he downplayed talk of a far-right breakthrough in the election. "I do not expect it to register a serious result [in the poll]," Vukovic said.
Balkan Insight



Serbia's Gay Pride Parade has been scheduled for 2 October, but uncertainty looms over whether it will go ahead as planned, following threats from far-right groups.

26/8/2011- The exact time and route of the march is yet to be announced due to security reasons, organisers of the event have announced. Serbian far-right organisation "Dveri", [Doors] has said it will organise a rival pro-family march if and when a Gay Pride parade takes place in Belgrade this autumn. The organisation also said on its website that the government will bear responsibility if there are anti-gay clashes on Belgrade's streets. Last October, thousands of hooligans attacked police in central Belgrade in an attempt to disrupt the parade leaving 140 people injured, 249 arrested and causing damage estimated at more than €1 million. There has been ongoing speculation that the march may not take place amid concerns over security. Interior Minister Ivica Dacic warned last month that the annual Pride parade carries serious security risks whereas Belgrade Mayor Dragan Djilas said he was against the parade and that police should be the ones to decide on whether it should be held or not. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has issued a statement which states that polemic discussion on the pride parade is unnecessary and counterproductive. The first Serbian pride parade, in June 2001, was brought to a halt after clashes with protestors left several civilians and police officers injured. The second planned pride rally in Belgrade, which was scheduled to take place in September 2009, was cancelled after police declared the risk to the marchers’ personal safety as too great following threats from right-wing groups to disrupt the event.
Balkan Insight



25/8/2011- PINK Embassy/LGBT Pro Albania, an organisation that works for the protection of LGBT community in Albania, wishes to express its deep concerns for the latest case of extreme violence used against a member of the transgender community in Tirana, Albania. On August 14, 2011 around 16:00 members of the State Police, accompanied by a private citizen, where investigating the theft of a necklace at the park near the Albanian Parliament. Amongst the people they were interviewing for the case was also a young man, who is friends with the transgender group, which lives by this park. When the police tried to detain the young man, they faced resistance by one of the transgender people called Paloma. The reaction of the Police towards Paloma was extremely violent, crossing all boundaries of its lawful use. A group of six police officers, one of them a woman, used totally unjustified violence which based on international acts ratified by Albania, could be classified as degrading punishment and torture.

Afterwards, Paloma was taken in custody at the Tirana Police Authority, where violence against her continued until she was totally covered in blood and had fainted. To avoid any bruises on the head and face, she was forced to wear a helmet, while kicking and punching continued all over her body. PINK Embassy / LGBT PRO Albania are in possession of pictures that show scars and bruises on her body. The Police took Paloma at Mother Teresa National Hospital (QSUT), where she received immediate aid and was then taken back to the police headquarters of Tirana. Throughout the entire detention, Paloma was not offered any legal assistance and was asked to sign documents without her consent. Paloma cannot read or write.

PINK Embassy calls on the Ministry of Interior and Albanian People’s Advocate to start an immediate investigation on the case and to bring to justice all the people in uniform who were involved in the torturing for endless hours a transgender person, putting her life in absolute danger. For years, the transgender community in Albania has suffered from marginalization and social exclusion. The community lacks support from Tirana Municipality and central government institutions. It is not the first time that PINK Embassy/LGBT Pro Albania publicly denounces the violence and maltreatment of transgender people in Tirana by the Police. Even though during the last months there has been an improvement in the way transgender people were being treated by the Police, the latest case shows that they further need to improve their professionalism and work behavior.
ILGA Europe



25/8/2011- When Søren Pind was named the new immigration minister in March, he made instant headlines – and ruffled feathers – by stating that he preferred ‘assimilation’ to ‘immigration’ and that people who move to Denmark do so because they want to “become Danish”. We sat down with Pind, who also serves as the development minister, for an exclusive interview in which he attempted to clarify his statement, discussed what it means to be Danish, and laid out his vision for immigration policy.

CPH Post: You hear a lot in the press about the ‘problem’ of immigration in Denmark – what is the problem and what is the government trying to accomplish with its various immigration rules?
Søren Pind: It’s a dualistic problem. On the one hand, we need immigration. On the other hand, immigration really changed our society very quickly. The amount of people that came and the changes that occurred were among the fastest in the world. And of course that related to politics. In 2001 the new government was elected, among other things, to stop the uncontrolled migration to Denmark. We have a welfare state so people coming in were received, you know, “Here’s a place to live. Oh, you don’t have work? Here are social benefits.” At a certain point you saw that levels of unemployment were very high for many of the people, so that had to be changed. Quite restrictive measures were put into effect to ensure that these things changed because the larger cities in Denmark couldn’t cope with that development. Now ten years have passed and largely it has been a success. But in not so many years you will see a change in our demographics, where you get many old folks and not so many people to do the work, and we have a social benefit system where it is the people who earn money who pay for the elderly and so on – then of course you have a problem. So the basic fact is that we need immigration which contributes to develop our country.

CP: I find, as an immigrant myself, that it is often very confusing to know where I stand. Now there are suggestions for new exemptions ...
Pind: You are exempted from the indvandringsprøve, where some of it also consists of the Danish language [ed: in addition to language, it is a test of knowledge of Denmark and Danish society]. That is up to now as far as I could go – at least according to certain jurisdictions. We are now setting up a commission to see how far we can go with the exemption rules. We have tried to make an objective measure – and the three criteria we have chosen right now are membership of OECD, in the top third of the UN development index, and I don’t remember the third criteria now [ed: it’s the ability to travel within Europe without a visa], and these turned out countries like Israel, America, Japan, Canada, countries like that. But actually I would like to make more exemptions than just the indvandringsprøve, but we have to get professionals to look at it. Up until now the only reason for which they have accepted that is because Germany and the Dutch do it.

CP: Don’t these rules set you up for accusations of discrimination? 
Pind: A border is a discriminative measure. What is interesting is, is it an illegal discriminative measure or not? My ambition is to make it easier for people who are able to contribute to Danish development.

CP: Is the flip side of that to make it more difficult for those who you feel will not contribute?
Pind: I think it will be hard to make it more difficult than today, to be honest. What I would say is that now we have enforced certain rules since 2001. These measures have worked but some of them are also very harsh and therefore we must see how we can liberalise.

CP: A lot of the comments from you that end up in the press seem less rehearsed and more, maybe, honest than other politicians.
Pind: [Laughs] That’s kind of you to say so, but sometimes I also get into trouble for that.

CP: Are there any instances where you said something quickly and then ended up regretting it?
Pind: Of course, many times, but why should I be in politics if I didn’t say what I had on my mind? There is no such thing as perfection, so if people like honesty then sometimes they must also respect that you will make mistakes and you will say something that will annoy them. I can’t do anything about that. I mean, if they want bureaucrats instead, elect them. And I don’t even say that to be provocative, that’s just my point of view. Yes, I am not perfect and yes, I make mistakes but I do my best to speak my mind.

CP: I think one of the statements that at least among our readers was –
Pind: I think I know the one – that if people come here they come here to become Danish.

CP: Exactly. Is that really something that you believe and is that something that is even possible? Or to put it another way, why should I forget that I am an American?
Pind: You shouldn’t. Let me give an example. I once went to a [karaoke] bar in Washington DC and, because I love America very much, I sang ‘I’m Proud to be an American’. Then some guy comes up to me. “Are you an American?” I say “No, no, no” and he wanted to beat me up because I did not have the right to sing that song. And the girl I was with, she explained: “But he loves America more than I do ...” and then I talked him down. But what I am saying is, of course America belongs to him and not to me. Why? Because he is a citizen. And the same goes for Denmark.

Look, you can put this vulgarly: “Denmark for the Danes”, “Germany for Germans” – those kind of vulgarities. Or you can state the simple fact that of course Denmark belongs to the Danes, which is something else. Now in that understanding, if people come to this country they can be either two things - either guests or Danes. It’s just a question of logistics. People who come to spend the rest of their lives here – of course we have the expectation that they should become Danes. But what do I mean by that? Do I mean that everyone has to drink fadøl, wear a clap-hat, love football? Of course not. That is stupidity and also lacks respect for Danish culture to state that that is what it means to be Danish. I didn’t mean it to be provocative. To me it was just a statement of fact.

I think it was more the assimilation comment that created a problem. I had in 2008 written a commentary on the fact that with these very quick changes, you suddenly saw that in Danish kindergartens, certain dishes were no longer served, even though nobody had asked for them not to be served. You suddenly saw that in schools, songs that used to be sung were suddenly not sung anymore. All these kind of changes. And then I wrote this commentary and said: “You know what, if this is what is called integration, I actually prefer assimilation.” Because to me that is a step backwards.

The word ‘assimilation’ is actually a counter to the American melting pot. What I was trying to say is that there are few very basic principles that everyone should adhere to -you could call it trust, democracy, freedom, that kind of stuff. But this was seen as if I said that everyone should become beer-drinking, pork-eating blah blah blah ... [So when a journalist asked me about it in March] I had two choices: I could say “No”, and then they would have said “Pind is already withdrawing, blah blah” or I could say “Yes, of course” and then explain. And even though it might have offended some, it created a debate with which I was satisfied.

CP: It can often be quite difficult being a foreigner in Denmark, with constantly changing rules, and a language which is very hard to learn. What should everyday Danes do to make things easier for immigrants here? One small example is that I’m often answered back in English when I am attempting to speak Danish, which is very discouraging.
Pind: [Laughs] I think one of the characteristics of the Danish culture is a kind of shyness. A shyness and also a very tight-knit tribal society. Whether you vote for Enhedslisten, or the Danish People’s Party, if Danes go to a confirmation, for instance, they all know what each other thinks. They can disagree, but they know what each other thinks. That’s just the way it is, and that makes some foreigners see the Danes as a closed population, where I would actually rather tend to say that we are the true Hobbits of this world. I mean, it’s okay to be involved in the larger world, but we like to keep to ourselves, just drinking our beer and blah blah blah. But it’s not arrogance, it is shyness.

[But] in this world that we are going to live in, this attitude will no longer due. Yes, it is very good to be strong in your own culture but you have to open up even more. I don’t think the Danes know that they are considered in some aspects to be rude to foreigners. But they are. I don’t think a government can do anything about that. That is a cultural thing that we have to discuss with each other. I agree that we have changed the rules many times, and at a certain point I also think that we must strike a balance. My perception is that I think we are getting where we should and that in the future there will be a down-bringing of rules.

CP: We reported that immigration rules have changed 18 times in the last nine years, and now we’re on the verge of an election. What would you expect if the government remains in power, and what would you expect to change if the opposition were to take power?
Pind: I will pursue this political agenda of making easier access for people coming to this country to contribute. I think that the claims of discrimination are unfounded because what we’re doing is actually reducing the rules, not introducing new ones. And I think that the rules have been too rigid. If the opposition wins, they will change some of the incitement structures on social welfare benefits. They do not agree with us that some of the access to welfare state benefits creates incentives that are not very good at pushing people out in the workforce. And they will change this. According to the last Rockwell Fund report, that will create a great danger for the success we’ve had with many more immigrants joining the labour force.

CP: Last question: When will the election be called?
Pind: Very soon. But I don’t know when. It’s only the prime minister who knows, but it will be very soon.
The Copenhagen Post



Once again statistics indicate that Hungary’s population is decreasing. This trend brings along social and economic considerations for policy makers, who have to make tough decisions to avert a demographic crisis through fostering either immigration or incentive-based programs

25/8/2011- According to recent data released by the central statistics office KSH, Hungary’s population has further shrunk by 18,000 - with immigration somewhat off-setting mortality rate - and is now at 9.968 million. At a time when the national unemployment rate is nearly 11%, having smaller competition on the job market might even look like an advantage. However, negative consequences of a population decline are a common fact. Low fertility rate means that population gradually ages, which puts economic and social strains on younger generations. In the long run, population decline could lead to labor shortage and result in stagnation in some industries. High emigration rates lead to a shortage of highly-qualified professionals, which, in fact, already presents a problem for Hungary in terms of the country’s medical staff. Moreover, according to research conducted in May by pollster Tarki and the European Integration Fund, 17% of the adult population in Hungary is considering leaving the country for a shorter or longer period. A smaller population also means a smaller consumer market, which negatively affects local and foreign businesses. On a less pessimistic note, population decline does not necessarily translate into economic decline. Smaller workforce could lead to smaller GDP. However, if population declines at a faster rate than economic growth, GDP per capita will continue to grow or remain the same.

Local or foreign babies?
It seems rather obvious that to tackle the problem of declining population a country can either increase the number of immigrants by adopting more flexible employment and citizenship frameworks or encourage internal natural growth. Most countries strive for a balance between the two. In fact, immigration might be perceived as an easier option. Despite the population decline in industrialized countries, global trends are on the rise with an annual increase of nearly 80 million people. Since most of these people come from economically weak countries with high unemployment rates, labor shortages in industrialized countries, in theory, could be solved through this channel. Opponents of liberal immigration policies, however, bring a valid argument of potential social and economic backlashes. Rising xenophobia across Europe as well as the rising number of outspoken right-wing conservatives provide fertile ground for heated arguments regarding immigration and multiculturalism.

Hungary, like many other European countries, is facing a dilemma of promoting and protecting women’s rights on the one hand, and encouraging families to procreate by offering economic incentives on the other. Among such incentives the government has already introduced family tax preferences, established programs to advance part-time employment opportunities, expanded children's daycare and strengthened support systems for families with children. However, the problem persists. According to the Eurostat’s forecast, Hungary’s population will decrease by 13% in the next 50 years. As one of the solutions, the government adopted a somewhat contradictory policy direction. On the one hand, Prime Minister Victor Orbán stated earlier this year that reversing demographic trends should be the answer to declining population rather than immigration. On the other hand, over the past year the government has been pursuing an increasingly aggressive campaign of granting citizenship to ethnic Hungarians in the region.

Romania, Croatia, Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine and Austria have large Hungarian communities and, therefore, serve as the main target for the government’s attempt to simplify citizenship procedures for ethnic Hungarians. 100,000 of Hungarian passports have already been granted. Just yesterday President Schmitt delivered a speech in Cluj, Romania, encouraging thousands of Hungarians to apply for dual citizenship. While that would be possible in Romania, some countries, like Slovakia, do not allow its citizens to hold two passports. Moreover, dual citizenship often has more of a symbolic than practical meaning to ethnic Hungarians. Since most of them live in EU member states, having Hungarian citizenship does not all of a sudden open new economic and social opportunities, which they would otherwise be deprived of. Therefore, this policy might not be able to re-populate Hungary, once again emphasizing the need for either stronger domestic efforts to reverse the demographic trend or more flexible immigration procedures.

Although at the moment population decline might not present a serious problem for Hungary, delays in undertaking serious measures to deal with the demographic trend could result in a much bigger problem later, when reversing population shrinkage will be more difficult.
The Budapest Business Journal



A number of Georgian NGOs have accused President Mikhail Saakashvili of xenophobia as he used the words “mongoloid brutality” to describe his country’s Northern neighbors.

24/8/2011- The Russian news agency Interfax reported on Wednesday that a member of Georgia’s Young Lawyers Association, Tamara Kordzaya had reported that several Georgian Human Rights organizations had filed a complaint over President Saakashvili’s xenophobic remark. She said that Saakashvili was addressing the Georgian public in Anakliya, a town located near the border of the Republic of Abkhazia. “There are barbarians there and civilization here. There they have mongoloid brutality and ideology while here we have the true, the oldest Colchis Europe, the most ancient civilization,” the Georgian leader said.

“President Saakashvili was probably referring to Russians and Abkhazians when he spoke about barbarians. This is a manifestation of real xenophobia,” Kordzaya said. This assumption was based on the fact that the Georgian President pointed in the direction of the Russian and Abkhazian borders while making those inflammatory remarks. The activist went on to say that this was not the first occasion when Saakashvili had used openly xenophobic rethoric. “Our organization has registered four cases of xenophobic statements made by President Saakashvili. He spoke about the Papuan people, about black people, and other peoples as well. Every time we sent letters and demanded apologies. As a rule, the presidential press-secretary Manana Mandjgaladze makes comments on the president’s careless statements at press conferences,” Kordzaya said.

The previous cases the activist might have been alluding to could include an incident when Saakashvili used the word Negro as a derogatory term. When he was meeting with Georgian customs workers, he told them that they should be more polite and delicate when they check passengers’ luggage. “When you go to Europe, is anyone searching your luggage? Are we negroes then? Why do we behave like savages?” Saakashvili said.

The Georgian President is not the country’s only official sharing blatantly nationalist and racist sentiments. Recently, the Georgian Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs applauded an anti-Semitic show at a stand-up-comedy festival in Tbilisi. A team from the Georgian Medical Institute said from the stage that Hitler’s greatest achievement was providing free gas to every Jewish family. The minister, Lado Vardzerashvili, who was on the panel of judges for the competition, did not condemn the joke, but rather gave the highest possible score to the team that used it. The next day, the Young Lawyers Association demanded that the minister be dismissed from his post, but the authorities ignored his appeal.



23/8/2011- Italian Jews are threatening to stage a counter rally against a far-right nationalist who announced a recruitment rally next month for a paramilitary-style vigilante group. Rome Jewish community president Riccardo Pacifici joined political leaders in condemning Gaetano Saya's weekend announcement of a recruitment rally Sept. 24 and Sept. 25 in Genoa for a "homeland defense legion." Meanwhile, Italy's minister of equal opportunity opened an investigation into Saya's declarations against gays, immigrants and Roma, or Gypsies. Pacifici called on Italy's interior minister and local authorities to take action against Saya's planned rally, threatening a counter-protest if it wasn't blocked. If nothing is done, he said in a statement, "We Jews will make our voices heard by promoting, on the same day and in the same place, a demonstration against this xenophobic and racist initiative." Two years ago, Saya sparked outrage when his Italian Nationalist Party, a neo-fascist movement modeled on Britain's National Front, launched a paramilitary group. It came under immediate investigation for promoting fascism, which is illegal in Italy. A Nationalist party video that is still online shows Saya and other members giving the stiff-armed fascist salute and wearing uniforms reminiscent of those from pre-World War II fascist militias.
JTA News



23/8/2011- A document produced by ASGI (Associazione di Studi Giuridici sull'Immigrazione) on 12 August 2011 raises several concerns over the treatment of migrants who arrived in Italy as a result of political turmoil in the north African countries of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia since December 2010.

The first part of the six-page document focuses on the denial of the rights of defence, detention outside of the conditions set out in legislation, problems concerning requests submitted before judicial authorities for detention periods to be extended, collective and deferred refoulements. It highlights the existence of significant obstacles to the exercise of the right to defence for migrants who arrived in Lampedusa and Sicily, particularly insofar as asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors are concerned, in spite of the presence of bodies working to provide assistance in the framework of the interior ministry-funded 'Praesidium' project. One problem is the routine detention of those who disembark, sometimes for long periods, without a formal judicial decision or legal basis, both in the Contrada Imbriacola early reception and aid centre on Lampedusa and in other centres in Sicily (Pozzallo, Rosolini, Porto Empedocle, and the Barone barracks on the island of Pantelleria). Similar problems apply to migrants transferred to the temporary CIEs (identification and expulsion centres) set up in Santa Maria Capua Vetere (Caserta), Palazzo San Gervasio (Potenza) and Kinisia (Trapani) in execution of prime ministerial ordinance no. 3935, dated 21 April 2011. The statement notes that the Palazzo San Gervasio centre has been shut because it did not fulfil requirements for this kind of facility, and procedural irregularities like the collective validation of detention measures on 9 June 2011 by a justice of the peace [a lay judge] are taking place, thus eluding the requirement for an assessment of individual circumstances in depriving people of their freedom, especially noteworthy in the case of minors in the detention area.

The statement also raises the matter of justices of the peace's authorisation to extend the detention period in CIEs (there has been tension in detention centres nationwide after the maximum length of detention was raised to 18 months by law no. 129 of 2 August 2011 following an ECJ ruling that deemed the routine imprisonment of "irregulars" after their status was criminalised unlawful), stressing that the right to defence, compliance with deadlines and assessment of individual circumstances should be guaranteed. Furthermore, detention should be used as a last resort and cannot continue if there is no "reasonable prospect" of a foreigner being repatriated and the authorities should also document what steps have been taken to enact a repatriation. An example is provided to highlight malpractice in the case of Tunisians who arrived since February 2011 and are held in Turin's CIE. The police chief's office (questura) requested that their detention period be extended.

It also wrote to the justice of the peace in order to avoid a possible rejection due to the lack of specific details on individual cases and proceedings concerning them to explain that repatriations are being managed by the central directorate for immigration and the border police in association with the public security department of the interior ministry, with assistance from the Tunisian embassy in Rome. Thus, the mere personal details of those held and references to charter flights used for repatriations should be deemed sufficient to extend the detention period for the people concerned, "to allow the central directorate to complete its complex work... and not to thwart good relations with Tunisia". ASGI argues that this constitutes an unusual interference in a justice of the peace's work, all the more so as they are asked to consider "good relations" with another state in reaching a decision; that the extension be motivated by the treatment of Tunisian detainees as a category, rather than basing it on personal circumstances; and, among other concerns, that it enables arbitrariness and allows the public administration to exert pressure on justices of the peace. A further issue noted in the statement and seldom reported, is that Egyptians arriving in Italy are being periodically subjected to collective refoulements in cooperation with the Egyptian consulate. Associations seeking to assist migrants find it difficult (if not impossible) to contact Egyptian nationals, and the presence of consular staff in airports deters them from applying for asylum.

The statement then examines the situation of unaccompanied minors, determination of their age and their access to asylum procedures, noting that times to establish their age are growing longer, and de facto resulting in many minors turning 18 before they are able to submit an asylum application, thus denying them the benefits attached to their condition as minors. It highlights the risk that unaccompanied minors may be detained alongside adults in Lampedusa, while there are delays in informing minor's courts and tutelary judges about them, and they are sometimes transferred into "half-way facilities", without having had the opportunity to apply for international protection, an option that they should be guaranteed.

ASGI argues that refusals of entry often intervene before those who have disembarked have had effective access to asylum procedures in centres including Lampedusa, meaning that they may end up in CIEs (from where attempts will be made to repatriate them) rather than in CARAs (reception centres for asylum seekers). A large CARA was set up in Mineo (Catania) in an interior ministry initiative that was labelled the "Village of Solidarity" in which an estimated 1,800 asylum seekers have been waiting for months, some of them transferred from other facilities. ASGI recalls that it called for its closure on 28 July 2011 after protests and a forceful intervention by the police, and that the work of the territorial commission to assign refugee status may result in claims taking over a year to be resolved in spite of resorting to practices whose "lawfulness" is "questionable" to speed up the process. High rates of denial of protection have resulted in tensions rising, fighting and protests in the CARA in Salina Grande (Trapani), where the situation was previously calm. ASGI warns that delays, rejections and migrants' uncertainty over their future may prime a spiral of violence while, paradoxically, 40,000 people have been reported to Agrigento court for the offence of illegal entry and residence, and this will entail both costs and a greater workload. The only positive development noted by ASGI is the setting up of four new territorial commissions to evaluate protection requests in Mineo, Verona, Milan and Bari, with possible new additions in Trapani, Florence, and perhaps Crotone. The inadequacy of the system for managing asylum seekers leads ASGI to call for the closure of CARAs, especially the largest ones, and to promote a de-centralised system, increasing the number of territorial commissions, in closer coordination with the national system for the protection of asylum seekers, among other measures.

To end, ASGI stresses the "mass" practice of irregular employment in seasonal agricultural work, which largely concerns "irregulars" and asylum seekers awaiting the outcome of their procedure, particularly in the south (Apulia, Campania, Calabria and Sicily). Over one year on from disorders in Rosarno that led to the evacuation of the black African workforce in January 2010, it appears that inspections by the employment ministry are unable to control seasonal employment in agriculture, favouring exploitation. In this context, ASGI laments Italy's failure to transpose the European Parliament and European Council Directive 2009/52/EC of 18 June 2009 on minimum norms concerning sanctions and measures to be adopted against employers who employ third-country nationals in an irregular situation.
Statewatch News


MUSLIMS AS A MIRROR: Part 1 Germany's Unhealthy Obsession with Islam

Muslims in Germany have been accused of many things, from threatening the feminist cause to trying to destroy German society through "demographic jihad." It isn't the Muslims that are the problem, however, but rather our obsession with Islam.
A Commentary by Rolf Schieder

26/8/2011- German Islamophobes hold that their more liberal opponents are do-gooder Islamophiles and cultural relativists. German critics of Islamophobia claim their more conservative opponents are scare-mongers and slanderers. What both groups have in common is an obsession with Islam that doesn't do Muslims, Christians or secularists any good. The way the politically motivated murders of 77 Norwegian children, adolescents and adults by a right-wing extremist were interpreted by the media as an attack on Islam was downright eerie. There were hardly any Muslims among the victims, nor was a mosque in Oslo blown up. It was not the beginning of a crusade against Islam. The victims were overwhelmingly young social democrats, who, if they could be assigned to a religious category at all, were mainly members of the Lutheran state church.

The killer, Anders Breivik, believes that the "Islamization" of Europe is a threat. But what he finds even more threatening is the "cultural Marxism" practiced by his fellow Norwegians. For him, their liberalism is a sign of cowardice and weakness. The term "cultural Marxism" is a reference to "cultural Bolshevism," a concept from the 1920s, when lamentations about a general cultural decline were part of the standard repertoire of conservative political parties. Members of Germany's so-called Conservative Revolution (ed's note: mainly active in the period between World War I and World War II) saw the reasons for that decline in capitalism and consumerism, Westernization and individualization. In this sense, it is entirely correct to identify this mental climate as Breivik's inspiration, as the historian Volker Weiss did in a recent opinion piece for SPIEGEL ONLINE.

But what does one gain from calling the killer a "right-wing brother of the jihadists," as Weiss does, and characterizing the events in Norway as "the Talibanization of the Christian right"? This reinforces the old prejudice of the European left, namely, that religion in itself is always and exclusively dangerous. Yet this overlooks the fact that it was political, non-religious worldviews that inflicted endless suffering on humanity in the 20th century. It also suggests that there is a worldwide ecumenical movement of religions that are prepared to use violence and that have become a threat to the non-religious. In Weiss's mind, the events in Norway represent a "fatal embrace" between "crusaders and jihadists." But if one is to establish a commonality between right-wing extremists like Breivik and jihadists, it lies not in a violent ecumenical movement, but in the shared psychosocial circumstances of the perpetrators. Terrorism is a problem among culturally uprooted, politically radical angry young men who are often educated but unsuccessful. They are men who rebel against a world in which they no longer feel at home. They have higher expectations of the world than it could ever fulfill.

In his influential book "Männerphantasien" ("Male Fantasies"), the German sociologist Klaus Theweleit offers a plausible explanation for the relationship between fascism and delusions of masculinity. If we consider the narcissistic outpourings of the mass murderer behind the Oslo and Utøya attacks, it is not difficult to recognize that he too dreamed the dream of the masculine knight -- depicted as courageous, tough, white, potentially brutal but ultimately irresistible -- who acts as the savior of a society portrayed as corruptible, soft, permissive, comfortable, feminine and in urgent need of purification. For Breivik, the sympathy that society expresses for the victims is presumably additional proof of its decadence. His goal was not to combat the Muslims, but to rescue his own society from disintegration.

A Sign of What Is Lacking
What, then, is the source of this obsession with Islam? Fifteen years ago, there were about 2 million Turkish immigrants in Germany. Today, Germany's immigrants from Turkey are often lumped into a single category of "Muslims." Their critics say that it is not Turkish parents' own lack of education that prevents their children from doing well in school, but their religious affiliation. Muslim "headscarf girls" (ed's note: a phrase coined by the controversial German author Thilo Sarrazin) are characterized as both a threat to feminism and dangerous baby-making machines obsessed with "demographic jihad." Some cite the supposed threat of Muslim parallel societies, apparently ignoring the fact that for centuries Germans have lived in parallel societies consisting of Catholics and Protestants. "Islam" has become a social phantasm. According to the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, the term "phantasm" refers to a negated and repressed lack. As well as individual phantasms, which point to a repressed deficiency and to unattainable objects of desire, there are also societal obsessions, which relate to socially repressed deficiencies and unattained desires. The phantasm does not describe a real object. Instead, it indicates what is lacking.

What are these deficiencies? What is lacking? It isn't the same for everyone. Thilo Sarrazin decries what he sees as a lack of German children. The German politician Klaus von Dohnanyi believes immigrants are more devout than Germans. Others admire their family values. Turks who celebrate loudly and raucously after their team has won a football match are praised for their national pride. We even grudgingly acknowledge the willingness of suicide bombers to sacrifice their lives. Our own population seems lazy, indecisive, fearful, spoiled and endlessly demanding in comparison. The only possible conclusion seems to be that -- to quote the title of Sarrazin's best-selling book -- Germany is doing itself in. But despite the commercial success of Sarrazin's apocalyptic tome, it did not trigger any tangible change within German society. Thus, the faction of Islam's critics continues to suffer in the midst of a population that supposedly lacks the collective will to defend itself.
The Spiegel


MUSLIMS AS A MIRROR: Part 2: We Are Actually Discussing Ourselves

A Commentary by Rolf Schieder

26/8/2011- Opposing this culturally pessimistic faction are the secularists who do not subscribe to the phantasm of Islam as the more aggressive and more powerful religion, but instead regard Islam as an anachronistic and -- given their own belief in a secular society -- ultimately illegitimate phenomenon. To these German intellectuals, the fact that an ailing Christian Church tries to help Muslims gain public recognition -- for example, by advocating chairs in Islamic studies at universities -- in a bid to save itself from demise, is doubly vexing. For German secularists, what is lacking is a secular society. But Germany is still a long way from that. Almost two-thirds of Germans are members of a church, a number that, when compared with the 2 percent of Germans who are members of a political party, speaks to the still robust state of organized religion. Although we live in a secular state, it is not a secular society that the state seeks to protect, but a society that has a vibrant diversity of religious beliefs and worldviews and is therefore pluralistic.

There is a range of other deficiencies, wishes, fears and desires that motivate the phantasm of "Islam," from the yearning for a homogeneous German population to a highly individualized social model that deconstructs all things institutional. The real problem is that we are not actually discussing Islam at all. Instead, we are -- in the sense that we are talking about what we are not -- actually discussing ourselves. For this reason, I would give the following piece of Kant-inspired advice: "Have the courage to use your own religio-political reason without referring to the Other of Islam." It is not the dispute over the phantasm of "Islam" that is productive, but the impartial analysis of the goals of the religio-political parties that are at odds in our country.

This would remove an enormous burden from the everyday lives of Muslims. They could simply view themselves as a religious minority among others, like the Jews for example, a minority that seeks to practice its religion within the framework of what is legally permissible -- nothing more and nothing less. Problems relating to education, integration and equality could then be addressed as such in a nuanced and appropriate manner without being immediately framed within the context of a culture war. German Muslims would be relieved of the need to justify themselves every time an Islamist suicide bomber commits an attack somewhere in the world. They would be seen primarily as German citizens and only secondarily as members of a world religion. This would make it easier to differentiate between the idea of "Islam" and the many ways to be a Muslim man or woman in Germany, a country that guarantees religious freedom. Finally, the various Muslim organizations could calmly coordinate among themselves, without having to confront external pressures, regarding how they want to jointly interact with mainstream society.

Civilizing Religion
Without a fantastical view of "Islam," the German debate over religious policy would then become both tougher and clearer. Secularists, who seek to make religion an entirely private affair, and so-called culturalists, who seek to give priority to Christianity, could no longer sustain their joint campaign against Islam. They would be forced to recognize that the respective social models they envision are completely contradictory. Constitutional liberals, on the one hand, would have to join forces with the secularists in demanding equal rights for all religions, thereby opposing the culturalists. On the other hand, they would have to support the culturalists in preventing what the secularists seek, namely, making religious matters private and eliminating religion from the public sphere. Within such a framework, groups such as the "ex-Muslims" would also lose their unique credibility. When, for example, the German-Egyptian political scientist and Islam critic Hamed Abdel-Samad advocates limiting the influence of organized religion in Germany "to detoxify this society," one could argue that the established religions in Germany promote anti-totalitarian and individual freedom and that they can look back on a tradition of keeping civil society alive. Germany's religious policy is not based on the elimination of religions from the public sphere, but the civilization of religions through public religious education.
The Spiegel


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