NEWS - Archive November 2011

Headlines 25 November, 2011


The ethnic Bjerke Upper Secondary School row has become further polarized with strong support and accusations.

25/11/2011- Officials’ decision to divide classes according to ethnic and non-ethnic Norwegian origins created a storm of protest. Rector Gro Flaten was left beating the retreat, reversing the move after sharp criticism by Oslo City Council’s Torger Ødegaard and the Minister of Education, Kristin Halvorsen. Mr Ødegaard’s predecessor, Robert Wright, says to Dagsavisen today, “I think Mr Ødegaard made a major mistake by stopping division of pupils according to ethnic background. My second lot of children go to Stovner Upper Secondary School (videregående) and I see how the white pupils are disappearing.” “This results in even more students moving and changing schools. Some of us parents in Stovner work as hard as we can to create networks between the Norwegian students. This isn’t because we are against integration, but due to the fact that we see large groups of people from foreign cultures don’t want to be integrated themselves,” alleges Mr Wright, saying he has sent Ms Flaten an email expressing support for her original practise. Stovner and Bjerke schools are in Groruddalen. 17,000 ethnic Norwegians, not just school pupils, have moved from the area since 1997 in search of Whiter areas, a phenomenon known as “White Flight”. Officials from the Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi) are working hard to reverse the trend amongst calls from Far Right-Wing politicians to introduce enforced Norwegian language tuition for foreigners. Accusing Torger Ødegaard of “a complete lack of understanding”, Robert Wright alleges his move yesterday “ensures there will be even more “white” and “brown” schools in Oslo. Bjerke should be allowed to reap experience from what it has done.”

“It’s not over yet”
120 student council representatives from Oslo’s schools gathered yesterday for a meeting about current issues. Discussions soon turned to questions of dividing classes and discrimination. Students at Bjerke and other Upper Secondary schools were appalled by what happened. Labour’s (Ap) Deputy Chairman on Oslo City Council’s Culture and Education Committee, Andreas Halse was at the forum. He expressed his support for Mr Ødegaard. “Do you think schools having 70-80 percent of pupils from a minority is a background?” he asked those assembled. “Yes, it creates more xenophobia. Nobody likes to feel they are in another country when they come to school on the other side of Groruddalen,” answered two people. Continuing by calling Bjerke’s move “unacceptable”, Mr Halse said, “It’s good Mr Ødegaard put his foot down. The discussion is definitely far from over.” A contact group between school staff, the board, and pupils was formed to find positive solutions and promote dialogue, but he believes solving Bjerke’s problems is only part of the solution, and efforts should not stop there. According to him, talking about the problem of White, ethnic Norwegian students moving because of cultural and language differences is one thing; action is another. Suggesting three solutions, Mr Halse argued, “Firstly, there should be no doubt that the primary language spoken in Oslo’s schools is Norwegian. Then, they need resources if they are to tackle this issue.”

A benefit
“Furthermore, good social environments connected to the schools also need building up. I believe much of why people decide to move is because they lose a connection to the majority society, not because of concerns about academic results,” concluded Mr Halse. Whilst some foreigners have ‘given up’ on Norway completely because of certain Norwegian attitudes, as well as wanting decreased immigration, one student at Bjølsen Upper Secondary School says he sees immigrant-based families as an advantage. “I often end up discussing things with classmates with a different ethnic origin to mine, but I learn a lot from these conversations. I can’t see how segregation contributes to increased integration. We learn a great deal about other ways of life by being sociable.”
© The Foreigner



24/11/2011-  The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis, today expressed profound dismay over the conviction of prominent Belarusian human rights defender Aliaksandr (Ales) Bialiatski. Bialiatski, the Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights and Head of the Belarusian Human Rights Centre “Viasna”, was convicted today on tax evasion charges and sentenced to four-and-a-half years in an enhanced regime detention camp with property confiscation. “This case must be seen as part of a broader pattern of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in Belarus,” Ažubalis said. Viasna has been repeatedly denied official registration by the Belarusian authorities following a 2003 decision by the Supreme Court ordering the dissolution of the organization. Although the UN Human Rights Committee found the closure of the organization to be in violation of Belarus’s obligations on freedom of association, all subsequent attempts by Viasna to re-register have failed.

Undue restrictions on freedom of association severely limit the work of civil society organizations in Belarus and put their members in danger of harassment by the authorities for what is in fact a legitimate exercise of their work as human rights defenders, emphasized Ažubalis. “The actions for which Ales Bialiatski was found guilty are a direct result of undue restrictions on freedom of association in the country and his activities as a human rights defender, and it appears that the court failed to adequately consider Mr. Bialiatski’s motives,” he said. Ažubalis repeated his call for the immediate and unconditional release of Bialiatski and other political prisoners and civil society activists: “I urge the Belarusian authorities to ensure the full implementation, both in law and in practice, of OSCE commitments on freedom of association and the protection of human rights defenders.”

The OSCE Chairperson also expressed concern over reports that the Belarusian authorities denied entry to international monitors intending to observe Bialiatski’s trial, saying that this casts doubt on the authorities’ willingness to ensure full transparency in the judicial process in this case. OSCE commitments require participating States to accept the presence of observers sent by other participating States and representatives of NGOs and other interested persons at proceedings before courts, he added. In addition, Ažubalis called on the Belarusian authorities to rescind recently introduced provisions further limiting freedom of association by prohibiting civil society organizations from holding foreign bank accounts and by imposing additional restrictions on their activities.
© The OSCE



.24/11/2011- Thorbjorn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thursday called for better protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law online at a high-level conference. "In short, our vision is about 'maximizing the freedom and minimizing the threats'", said Jagland in his opening address on the conference with the theme of "Our Internet-Our rights, Our freedoms", jointly organized by the Council of Europe and the Austrian Foreign Ministry. The Council of Europe has developed many standards on the rights of internet users, which now will be brought together in a user-friendly compendium of internet rights, particularly in the field of data protection, which is another aspect of freedom of the internet, Jagland said. He also pointed that cyber crime was the major threat to data protection and urged all parties concerned to increase efforts to combat cyber crime through ratification and full implementation of what they have already agreed upon, such as the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime and the Protocol on xenophobia and racism through computer systems.
© People's Daily Online



23/11/2011- As the far-right Freedom Party takes the lead in Austria’s general election, its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, has told RT what he thinks of EU immigration policy and expansion plans, and explained why he wants a national debate on Islamization.

­RT: Why are Austrians so concerned about Islam?
Heinz-Christian Strache: This is an area where there are too many thorny issues. The European crisis is our main problem now. We also face problems in our immigration policy. This largely concerns migration from non-European countries such as Turkey. More than 50% of Turkish immigrants don’t want to integrate into Austrian society. They don’t want to learn the language and organize parallel and opposing structures. The activities of radical Islamists have become visible in our society. They hinder its peaceful and democratic development. In this sense, we are certainly a political force that comes out against any such radicalization.

RT: EU states refused to work with your party when it was in power five years ago. What will be different this time?
H-CS: I think that Europe is living through a turning point in its development, just as the whole world is getting through a turning point and a period of democratization. I assume that the forthcoming elections in Europe, not only in Austria but also in France, Belgium, Italy and Germany, will cause a wave of wrath and pressure. People are going to give vent to their rage on long-standing parties at the polling stations. That will lead to political changes. Since we are well prepared from this side too, European governments will take these elections seriously and will respect their results, unlike in the Middle East, where the authorities tried to deter democratic transformation by imposing restrictions and with the help of other means which are out of line with the principles of democracy.

RT: The president of Austria's Islamic community says “I have a vision where every town in Austria has a mosque.” What’s your response to that?
H-CS: We also need to proclaim that we respect Islam. Islam is a world religion. Unfortunately, it has emerging signs of radicalism, radical Islamism. We deny radicalism in any religion, including Islam. It’s true of any other religion where there’s radicalism. We are against it. But Europe is a Western Christian land. It’s a fact. When they come to us as guests, they can easily hold their rituals. They don’t need minarets or muezzins. They can pray here and religious freedom is guaranteed to them unlike Islamic countries where we, the Christians, often discover that we don’t enjoy this kind of freedom; that Christians are persecuted and forbidden to build churches. That is why we see manifestations of intolerance to Christianity in some countries of the Islamic world. What I mean is that we should make it clear to them that tolerance should be two-sided and that both sides should observe each other’s rights. Today, we are witnessing radical Islamist trends, which are not perceived as a religion but as a political order. Several months ago, the Turkish Prime Minister announced his intention to head an Islamic Union, which, so to speak, will brush aside all other aggressors. He wants to have a decisive voice in the sphere of world dominance. He wants to define the future. His militant statement provides more than convincing proof of his intentions. I think that we, the Europeans, should wake up and become more sensitive and more conscious of our culture. This also concerns the preservation of European folk culture. We need to do that so as not to disappear politically and demographically and so that the loss of values doesn’t lead to complete disintegration. This is exactly what I am trying to revive in Europe.

RT: Why did the Freedom Party create a video game where you can shoot down mosques and Muslims?
H-CS: I did not support this game, and I willingly made statements in public about it. They are not to my liking. One should stick to the truth. It’s not like playing war, as many mistakenly think. This game has been played in Switzerland for many years, and it’s fully legal there, Nobody’s shot, and on the contrary, by pressing a “delete” button, so to speak, they correct flawed tendencies like mosques. And it’s not a war; there are no swastikas, no weapons. That’s what helps eradicate the flawed tendencies. And of course it can’t be interpreted as a war.

RT: Should Turkey be allowed to join the EU?
H-CS: I respect Turkey. Turkey is a fantastic country, a proud country, with a fantastic culture, with fantastic economic success which inspires respect. We respect Turkey’s accomplishments. And every Turkish man may justly be proud of his country, just as we are proud of our country. But Turkey is not a part of Europe. It does not belong there either geographically or historically or culturally. And I want Europe to stay within its borders. I do not want to see Europe expanding by including non-European countries which will turn Europe into a European-Asian-African formation. It would mean the end of Europe. And it would mean an end to the European idea of peace and social ideals.

RT: The President of France has banned the Muslim face veil – the burqa . If you become President of Austria, would you go further?
H-CS: I would strongly support a ban on disguising a person’s appearance. By that, I first of all mean the full covering-up of the face. It’s not about certain people, but about the fact that people should not hide their face, and that you could see and recognize everyone in our society. And I also would like to explain that the legislation, like the one in effect in Turkey for so many years is – in public schools, in public universities, in the civil service, in other words for the officials – there is a law prohibiting the wearing of a head scarf because it’s not needed in such places. And everyone is free to do whatever one wants in their own leisure time. But people arriving in our culture have to integrate, adapt to our conditions, and observe our laws. And we expect it from them. People who do not want to are not forced to come here and are not obliged to stay.

RT: You believe Greece isn't right for the euro – what about other struggling economies like Portugal?
H-CS: Europe is not a balanced block and that’s the problem with the EU’s development. The EU is trying to manage everything in a central and centralized way, taking everything in its hands, so to speak. That is the wrong way to go about it. There are different national economies in Europe, different speeds. Europe is more than the EU. There are many countries which do not belong to the EU. That’s why we should reject centralism and stick more to federalism – we should strengthen national parliaments, regionalization, and federalization. Also we should sort out the problems with the common currency before we face a great fall which will have an impact on every European nation. At the moment the tired and flawed systems haven’t changed. There has been no change in the banking system. There has been speculation, and there has been no procedure for a bank going bankrupt. They continue to prop up a failed system with tax-payers’ money, they help a system which may end up imploding with hyperinflation, and eventually it may put an end to the order of life in European nations. Nobody thinks about it. That’s why we need to rethink the system and think if it’s wise and right for the strong national economies to leave the Eurozone and return to their currencies. Or maybe strong national economies should create a new strong currency, not the super euro, or whatever they call it, but a currency that will see Europe having two gears, a Europe which will not get dragged down by misfortune with the two parts involved.

RT: You won't rule out Italy's South Tyrol region becoming part of Austria – why?
H-CS: In South Tyrol we have sort of an autonomy for which we had to make a big effort. But today Tyrol does not have the right to self-determination. In the EU they speak a lot about the right to self-determination, but in fact we can see that inside the EU it’s not always applied. I think that South Tyroleans will be able to obtain the right to self-determination sooner or later, that at present they are probably at different stages and developing in the direction of becoming a free state. And then, when they probably become a free state, they will be able to use the right of self-determination and decide if they want or do not want to stay inside Italy or return to Austria. It’s legal. We all belong to one and the same European Union, so there must be no problem with that. But up to now we still have such bans. And I think it’s an absolutely positive step and there must be a possibility to support it. For example, like the regional interests of the Northern League – they actively support the desire for autonomy of regions which are not even Italian. That’s why we do not contradict; on the contrary, the position of the federal political party is the same on many issues.

RT:You've made a rap song that people can listen to on your website – let's have a listen to that first.
H-CS: I consciously will not do it. I am a politician and there is a responsibility on me. But at the same time I do my best – and it’s really hard for me – to use new means of communication too, like Facebook, Twitter, rap music and comics. I do it consciously because I want to start a dialogue with people, especially young people, who are often disappointed in politics, and in whom politics excites feelings of disgust. I want to involve them in discussion. And I succeed. I love to be recorded: I record my rap tracks and upload those videos onto YouTube, where you can watch them. But I do not arrange concerts. I am a people’s representative, so to speak, and maybe the one who can persuade you. This line, this line can be continued as long as possible. “Those who do not want to integrate, I have a destination for you: back to your motherland, have a nice trip! We have enough unemployed here!” Like this.

RT: The rap on your site says “Viennese blood”. What does that mean?
H-CS: Wiener Blut is a global trademark of beautiful Vienna and the culture of living of Vienna’s citizens. Wiener Blut – an operetta by Strauss, a magnificent performance you can see every year in concerts around the world. Millions of people listen to this high-class music. And it is Vienna’s advert to the world. Wiener Blut is described as boiling and has passion. We show this passion in a good way, it’s good that we speak about it – we said “More bravery” to Wiener Blut and to our culture. We do not speak badly of everything foreign. We say that it’s bad when we become a minority in our motherland; this way no nation and no culture will be happy on Earth. When you are a minority in your motherland, that means that you have lost your motherland. There exists a human right, a right to have a motherland. And it’s very important to us. It’s the right of all nations on Earth, as well as for the Kurds and many other nations, who have recently been denied this right.
© RT



23/11/2011- National Roma Authority president Flórián Farkas yesterday warned Roma people against seeking refugee status in Canada. He said those who leave Hungary will not be any better off as Canadian authorities have rejected asylum applications and those attempting to emigrate there find themselves in an even worse position. Farkas recalled that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the Roma Authority “signed an agreement of historical importance last May which can substantively change the position of Hungarian Roma”. The future of Hungarian Gypsies is here in their own homeland, he added. Visa-free travel to Canada was possible from November 1, 1994 but Canada reintroduced visas for Hungarians on December 5, 2001, mostly due to the arrival of Roma refugees, HVG writes. From 1998 to 2001 a total of 8,600 Hungarians applied for refugee status in Canada. Canada abolished visa requirements for Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in March 2008.
© Politics Hungary



25/11/2011- The Danish domestic intelligence agency has warned that far-right extremists inspired by Anders Behring Breivik’s attacks in Norway could try something similar on home soil. PET plans to increase surveillance and police training in an attempt to make it more difficult for terrorists to imitate the twin attacks that saw 77 people killed in Norway four months ago. “It’s clearly a concern that we have in Denmark and several other European countries,” Jakob Scharf, head of PET, told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “We have seen a development in both the politically extreme environments and also a general development in terms of solo terrorism,” he added. PET wants to tighten the controls on the purchase of fertiliser – which can be used to make bombs like the one set at government offices in Oslo – and expand efforts to combat extremist groups. Although far-right groups in Denmark are only thought to comprise of a few hundred people, Scharf believes some of these have made contact with violent sectors, manly in eastern Europe, which might radicalise the Danish clusters and supply them with weapons. “It’s worrying that we have already seen people become influenced by other people’s acts of terror, and there is a particular concern related to the Anders Breivik case,” Scharf told the newspaper. “The copy-cat effect could be that people become inspired by groups in other countries who have sent letter bombs to their political opponents.” Justice minister Morten Bødskov said he supports the PET initiatives but would not comment on the specific story.
© Ice News



23/11/2011- Denmark’s government wants to allow same-sex couples to get married in formal church weddings, instead of the short blessing ceremonies that the state Lutheran Church currently offers. The government said Wednesday it’s preparing to launch a proposal in February to change Denmark’s marriage laws. In 1989, Denmark became the first country to allow registered gay partnerships. Since 1997, gay couples in Denmark can be wed in special blessing ceremonies at the end of the regular church service. Denmark’s Church Affairs Ministry says the law change would put Denmark on par with countries including Iceland and Sweden that allow full wedding ceremonies for gay couples. Danish clergy would retain the right to refuse to wed gay couples without sanctions.
© The Associated Press



24/11/2011- The Czech police have accused three 15-year-old Romani men who attacked a young couple in Novy Bor on October 28 of a breach of the peace and a racially-motivated attempt at causing bodily harm, police spokeswoman Ivana Balakova has told CTK. The Roma' attack was one of the reasons for the return of police reinforcements to the town. Balakova said a younger boy also took part in the attack, but he is not criminally liable over his age. The Roma first attacked an 18-year-old young man and afterwards his 15-year-old girl friend. She was attacked by four girls who were accompanying the attackers. They are also younger than 15, therefore they will not be prosecuted. Both victims of the attack ended in hospital. "It was proved during the investigation that the group of teenagers was verbally offending the couple over the colour of skin and race both before the attack and during it," Balakova said. The accused young men face up to two years in prison if found guilty. The situation in Novy Bor worsened in August when a group of local Roma attacked the guests to a bar with machetes and cudgels after a relatively banal incident. The incident resulted in three injuries. Three of the suspects have been caught, another two are prosecuted as fugitive. The extremists Workers' Party of Social Justice (DSSS) staged a march in Novy Bor in reaction to the attack.
© The Prague Daily Monitor



23/11/2011- A group of Romani residents of Ústí nad Labem and the surrounding area has set up a Facebook page with as many as 400 members. The group has put together a petition expressing their dissatisfaction with the application of the principle of collective blame in the Czech Republic and with the lack of action on the part of state bodies with respect to current events. News server publishes the petition in full below.

We, Romani people who are citizens of the Czech Republic, resolutely reject any and all forms of racial and other violence no matter which side or population group commits it.

We, respectable Romani people, hereby condemn the extremely tense situation between the majority society and members of the Romani minority, a situation which has resulted in the principle of collective blame being applied.

We realize that the generalizations about the Romani problem have escalated to a positively dizzying degree when our majority-society acquaintances, co-workers, and neighbors are turning their backs on us, the respectable Romani people, solely because we are Roma. The principle of collective blame being applied to the Romani problem is preventing us, the respectable Romani people, from full-fledged participation in society. It is also preventing our children from prosperous development. The indifference of the government, hand in hand with an "anti-Gypsy" campaign being run by the media, is just adding fuel to the fire. Through taking such a position, the government and media are labeling us, the respectable Romani people, as "inadaptables".

Maximum efforts must be made to ensure that Romani children receive a full-fledged education, primarily so Romani parents will not fear sending their children to normal schools. Romani parents do their best to protect their children from the various racial frictions they experience in mainstream education - this is why they prefer to send their children to the "special" schools, where it is usually customary for Romani children to enroll.

It is clear that the systematic publicizing of negative actions allegedly committed by Romani people has become a lucrative item in political parties' campaign business. Government officials are quietly overlooking the public identification of the nationalities of alleged perpetrators of crimes in the media, a phenomenon for which there should be no room in a developed democratic state. We are living in a free state, but we have to hide!

Romani people in the Czech Republic are able to call certain behaviors discriminatory, and this is an essential step toward addressing discrimination in the first place. When someone from the majority society attends a demonstration to espouse racism and xenophobia and shout hateful insults against the Romani ethnicity, he or she should be held criminally responsible. The Anti-Discrimination Act in the Czech Republic currently only applies when some deem it handy. The reality of the situation is truly very different.

The currently rising tendency among the majority population to report invented muggings that have allegedly been committed by Romani people is having a multiplier effect on anti-Roma hatred and sentiment. Neither the police nor the Government of the Czech Republic are addressing this.... Everything is being given free rein, just like all the other problems experienced by socially disadvantaged people.

This inaction with respect to improving this hellish (and mainly very dangerous) situation has now become distaste for addressing the problem and a lack of political will to address it. On the contrary, whoever is against Romani people is "in". On camera, politicians are tearing their hair out claiming they don't know what to do, but the problem is over for them once they go home. We, the hardworking and respectable Romani people, live with this problem day and night.

It is amazing to see some Czechs in North Bohemia demonstrating against "Romani crime", people who would like most of all to take the law into their own hands - and then to realize they are being led by a person with a criminal reputation, Mr. Kohout. This segment of the public degrades the work of the Government of the Czech Republic, the police, and of us, the hardworking and respectable Romani people. This segment of the public makes it impossible for us to fulfill our everyday obligations even as our children's fear increases. In our view, the worst possible aspect of all of this is the fact that our neighbors are participating in these anti-Roma marches, leading their own children by the hand.... These people are not the so-called "Nazis", they are ordinary people teaching their children hatred.

The Government's policy in this area should be run according to the Romani Integration Concept for 2010-2013 which was approved during the term of Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer. That Concept not only proposes concrete solutions, but has tasked the individual government ministries with deadlines and tasks which the Government is not fulfilling!

The priority tasks include the areas of education, employment and entrepreneurship, as well as crime prevention, prevention of excessive debts in respect of housing, and social security. These points require immeasurable expertise to address and we can all discuss whether or not they are necessary, but to pretend that everything is in order when a Concept exists and is not being fulfilled is unbelievable. At the very least, it shows this Government's lack of professionalism and its laxity. We, Romani people in the Czech Republic, directly suspect that this inaction on the part of the Government is intentional!

We, the respectable Romani people, are starting to be very strongly convinced by all of the foregoing that the current anti-Roma actions and sentiment might in fact be organized from the highest places in the executive branch of the Czech state. For some of us, this is a sign that we should leave the Czech Republic. In other countries, Romani people have found not just equal opportunities for a dignified life, but mainly protection under the law as guaranteed by the Constitution.

The petition can be signed here (Czech only):
© Romea



23/11/2011- Irregular immigrants should be afforded data protection to fight exploitation by abusive employers and cheap labour, according to a report by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency. Malta was generally mentioned positively in the report as a member state which respects the basic rights of migrants, including those without any sort of regular status on the island. However, the agency suggests Malta adopt Spain’s example and provide migrants with data protection so that if they are exploited by abusive employers they can claim their rights without the fear of being deported. The report, Migrants In An Irregular Situation In The EU, was released in Brussels yesterday. It says Maltese law gives the right to all employees – including those employed irregularly, to be adequately paid, at least up to the level of a minimum wage. However, many immigrants are afraid of reporting abuses for fear they will be prosecuted instead for staying or working illegally. Spain has a law on data protection, which does not allow the disclosure of personal data to the police, unless the case concerns a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment of more than one year. Maltese law does not give any effective protection to abused irregular migrant workers even though it recognises their right to be paid adequately and to make claims against those abusing them.

The Employment and Industrial Relations Act in Malta provides a mechanism for claiming withheld pay that migrants, in an irregular situation, may also access provided an employment relationship can be proven. However, other parts of the law make this right difficult if not impossible to obtain in practice. This situation is similar to the majority of other member states, which according to the agency, is encouraging the abuse and exploitation of irregular migrants as bosses know it is not in the migrants’ interest to report them. As a response to this anomaly, the agency’s research found that when disputes arise between employers and employees, courts are only being used as a last resort to access justice. Instead, a common strategy for migrants in an irregular situation is to switch employers and not to report mistreatment, discriminatory or abusive behaviour by employers. The agency underlined the need for access to justice by irregular migrants to be bolstered by removing practical barriers. Additionally, member states with these anomalies, including Malta, should ensure “where possible, any personal data revealing migrants’ identity or whereabouts are not shared with immigration enforcement bodies when migrants seek redress from abusive employers”.
© The Times of Malta


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