NEWS - Archive July 2015

Headlines 31 July, 2015

Belgium: Number of Islamophobic incidents almost doubles in 14 years

In 2014, 185 Islamophobic incidents were reported in the country, the CCIB (Belgium’s pro-Islamist group and anti-Islamophobia association) announced in its first annual report on Friday.

31/7/2015- The phenomenon is steadily rising, having increased by 94% since 2011, the association makes clear, basing its comments on figures issued by the CIEC (Belgium’s anti-discrimination and equal opportunities commission). Last year the CIEC opened 260 new cases of Islamophobic discrimination and expressions of hatred against Muslims. Among these, 55 were clearly identified as criminal offences or inciting racial hatred, in breach of relevant legislation, the CIEC reported last March. Of the remaining 205, 130 related to Islamophobia, without however constituting a criminal offence, adds the CCIB, which has requested that the CIEC provide further clarification. Le CIEC defines Islamophobia as “hatred of Islam and Muslims or suspected Muslims,” and not simply the fear of Islam, its website says.

In 2014, 185 cases of islamophobia were reported in Belgium, compared to 95 in 2011, 115 in 2012 and 139 in 2013, pointed out the CCIB. “In Belgium from 2011 to 2013, there were at least two Islamophobic incidents every week, of which at least one was clearly a breach of anti-discrimination legislation. In 2014 there were at least three Islamophobic incidents a week, an average of one every 2 days” highlights the NPO which was set up almost a year ago. Yet “the authorities are not aware of the scale of the phenomenon and its impact on social cohesion and civil liberties,” it believes. The association is calling for governments to officially recognise hatred of Islam as an attack on human rights, to provide accurate figures, and to rule against the ban on headscarves within universities.
© The Brussels Times

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Northern Ireland: Judges in crack down on hate crime

More than 50 criminals convicted of hate crimes last year had their sentences increased by a judge due to the seriousness of the offence.

31/7/2015- As recorded hate crime across Northern Ireland continues to rise, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has revealed that judges used enhanced sentencing powers to increase sentences in 53 cases where the offender was proven to have been motivated wholly by racial, religious or sexual hostility. Throughout 2013/14 the PPS prosecuted 403 people for a hate crime out of 807 people referred for prosecution, according to the PPS statistical bulletin on hate crime. The majority of those defendants (383) were dealt with in the Magistrates and Youth Courts. Convictions were secured in 67% of cases. A total of 36 suspects were dealt with in the Crown Court, where the conviction rate was 94%. Director of the PPS Barra McGrory said the statistics show that the work being carried out by the PPS and the criminal justice system in tackling hate crime is producing results.

"We are listening to the victims of hate crime, and those who work with them, about the impact that such offences have on the lives of individuals," he said. Mr McGrory added: "The conviction rates being recorded are very reassuring. They show that the information we receive from the police, and the files we prepare, build a strong case for prosecution and that helps send out a message that hate crime will be dealt with in the strongest possible terms." However, the QC admitted that "there is still work to be done". There has been concern over the rise in hate crime, particularly race hate crime, across Northern Ireland. A racist hate crime was reported every three hours on a typical day in the province last year. The number of incidents increased by a third, with assaults and threats to kill among the offences.

Compared with the previous year, there were increases across all but one of the six hate incident types recorded in 2014/15 - racist incidents increased by 374 from 982 to 1,356 and racist crimes increased by 230 from 691 to 921. This year's Northern Ireland Policing Plan aims to boost reporting of hate crime by 3%, so this figure is likely to increase next year, police have said. The Polish Government recently expressed concern at an upsurge in racist attacks against citizens living in Northern Ireland. Honorary consul Jerome Mullen accused Stormont's political leaders of not doing enough to tackle the problem. In Belfast alone, racist hate crime doubled last year, with six attacks reported every week across the city. More than 300 racist attacks were reported during that time. Several families were forced to flee, while others were left prisoners in their own homes, afraid to open the door.
© The Belfast Telegraph

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Serbia Taken to Euro Court Over Roma Evictions

The European Court of Human Rights is hearing a case against Serbia brought by campaigners seeking to stop forced evictions of Roma families who fled the Kosovo war in 1999.

30/7/2015- Danilo Curcic of the Belgrade-based Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, YUCOM, which brought the case to the Strasbourg-based court, said on Thursday that he wanted the rights body to call a halt to the evictions of around 30 Roma families from an informal settlement in Belgrade. “We have asked the court… to forbid the state to separate families [mothers with children from fathers] and to forbid the demolishing of buildings and evictions until alternative accommodation is found,” Curcic told BIRN. Before turning to the Strasbourg court, YUCOM said it contacted all the relevant institutions in Serbia to ask them to stop the eviction of around 130 people, of whom 68 are children, from the Belgrade neighbourhood of Grmec, but received no answer. “The problem is that there is not a single offer of any kind of accommodation [for the families],” Curcic said. “We heard unofficially that there are plans to build a new railway station at that location [Grmec], which will be part of the Belgrade Waterfront [city gentrification] project,” he added.

BIRN contacted the Belgrade city authorities and Serbia’s State Attorney’s Office, which represents Serbia at the Strasbourg court, but received no answer. After the Strasbourg court received the motion from YUCOM, it contacted the Serbian authorities asking for answers to questions about the eviction case, but the state failed to answer by the Wednesday deadline. Any measures imposed on Serbia by the Strasbourg court will be binding. According to the Serbian Commission for Refugees, 250,000 people fled Kosovo following the war in 1999, and around 22,500 of them were Roma. Two decades after the war, the issue of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) remains unresolved. Some 1,000 IDPs and refugees still live in temporary accommodation in Serbia. But the vast majority of the Roma who came from Kosovo have been living in informal settlements.
© Balkan Insight

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How White People Sound When They Argue About Racism

30/7/2015- On July 27, the Black Girl Dangerous Twitter account shared some hilarious -- but also painfully accurate -- examples of what white people sound like when they dismiss the experiences of people of color. Mia McKenzie, creator of the Black Girl Dangerous organization was behind the series of tweets, prefaced by noting, "I've been saying publicly for like four years that IDGAF what you think about shit you don't experience." She then described a series of ridiculous scenarios in which people speak about or disagree with experiences that they have no first-hand knowledge of. "'As a non-brain-surgeon, I think the proper way to cut into the brain is...'" That's how the f***k you sound," McKenzie wrote. It's unclear whether anything in particular triggered the series of tweets, but so far they have gained hundreds of favorites and retweets since they were first posted, with people like comedian Hari Kondabolu describing them as "the thing of legends." Black Girl Dangerous is a non-profit media project which works to amplify the voices of queer and trans people of color. (For more information on the project, go to blackgirldangerous.org.)
© The Huffington Post

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30/7/2015- There’s been anger in Gibraltar at the news that the government may put the question of marriage equality to a referendum, rather than making the change in the law part of the Alliance party’s manifesto, as was the case with civil partnerships on the rock. While the referendum on the question was big news in Ireland recently, in most other countries where gay marriage has been legalised it has been brought in by governments and law makers. Speaking on the GBC programme Direct Democracy, Chief Minister Fabien Picardo would not rule out putting the matter to a referendum. The chairperson of the Equality Rights Group (ERG), Felix Alvarez, said that the possibility was a “hard smack in the face” for many LGBT people.

“No other sector in this community has ever been singled out for the rest to ponder whether they are worthy enough or deserve to be considered and treated as equals, or not,” said Alvarez. He added that referendums should be reserved for questions of sovereignty or other “matters of high constitutional concern.” People were “incensed,” said Alvarez, and as such ERG has convened an extraordinary meeting in the midst of its summer break to discuss how to proceed. But he was “hopeful,” he said, that “after due consideration he [the Chief Minister], the ministerial team, and the GSLP/Liberal Alliance will stand by the LGBT community on this matter, as indeed has been the case before, by committing to one civil marriage law for all in their upcoming manifesto and without intervening plebiscites.”
© Euro Weekly News

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Russia: LGBT website founder fined under gay propaganda laws

Yelena Klimova fined 50,000 roubles after court rules Deti-404 site guilty of distributing ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors’.

29/7/2015- The founder of an online community for LGBT teenagers in Russia has been fined under the country’s law against gay propaganda. Elena Klimova was fined 50,000 roubles (£540) after a court in Nizhny Tagil concluded that Deti-404, which has pages on Facebook and Russian social network VK, was guilty of distributing “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors”. Klimova said she would appeal against the ruling. Kilmova successfully appealed against a fine levied by a court in the same town in January.

With parents and teachers often unsympathetic or even hostile, Deti-404 (Children-404) is one of the few platforms for Russian teenagers to discuss LGBT issues in a safe space. Nearly every day, young people write in with stories and photographs – with their faces and names often hidden – describing the harassment, beatings and confusion they suffer due to their sexuality. The group has recently come under attack by the authorities and pro-Kremlin activists. At the request of the local prosecutor general’s office, a court in St Petersburg in March found Deti-404 guilty of gay propagandaand ruled that its VK page should be blacklisted. The court said it would have the state communications watchdog block the page, but it has remained accessible. Klimova said she also intends to appeal against this ruling.

Putin signed the law against gay propaganda in June 2013. Later that year, gay rights campaigner Nikolai Alexeyev and fellow activist Yaroslav Yevtushenko became the first people to be fined under the law after they stood outside a library in Arkhangelsk with banners that said: “Gay propaganda does not exist. People do not become gay, people are born gay.” A newspaper editor in Khabarovsk was also fined under the law after he ran an article about gay rights activist Alexander Yermoshkin, who said he had been assaulted and forced to quit his job because of his sexuality. Activists have said the legislation has resulted in increased harassment and violence against LGBT people, especially teenagers.

“The law against gay propaganda legitimised violence against LGBT people, and they now are banning street actions under it,” Klimova said. “People are afraid because they understand that gay propaganda is banned, and even mentioning LGBT relations is essentially forbidden.” Klimova herself has been the subject of vituperative online commentary after creating Deti-404 in spring 2013. In April, she published a photo album on her social media page called “Beautiful People and What They Say to Me,” where she paired users’ profile pictures with threatening, expletive-laced messages they had sent her. “Go and fucking kill yourself before before they come for you,” wrote a woman pictured smiling with a bouquet of roses in her profile picture. “Gunning you down, you little bitch, is just the beginning of what you deserve,” wrote a man pictured alongside a baby goat.

Earlier this month, Yermoshkin left Russia following a state television broadcast that claimed to show US intelligence agents recruiting him to hold LGBT rallies in Russia. The activist said the conversation with the supposed intelligence agents was a setup and he cooperated out of concern for his safety.
© The Guardian

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Austria 'top country' for asylum seekers

The Traiskirchen refugee centre in Lower Austria has broken a new record - it is now housing 4,300 asylum seekers, although it only has 2,300 beds. 480 people are sleeping in tents in the grounds of the centre, according to the Interior Ministry, but 2,000 people don’t have a bed to sleep in.

8/7/2015- Peter Webinger, head of the asylum and migration group within the ministry, said that overall there is an “accommodation crisis” across Austria as the country struggles to deal with an influx of asylum seekers. More than 80,000 asylum applications are expected this year, according to experts - up from an earlier estimate of 70,000. This is three times the number of applications Austria received in 2014. According to statistics from the interior ministry for the past month, Austria now has more asylum applications per capita than any other European country - having overtaken Germany and Sweden. In the first five months of this year it had 20,620 applications - an increase of 183 percent. Sweden, in contrast, had 22,342 applications which is equal to a decrease of 6.3 percent. Asylum seekers are reportedly starting to shun Sweden because of its long waiting times and cumbersome bureaucracy.

On paper, Hungary has more asylum applications registered per capita than Austria but many refugees are then sent on to another country - the majority to neighbouring Austria. Germany still continues to have the largest overall number of asylum applications - with around 179,000 refugees having applied for asylum so far this year. Austria's interior ministry has called the situation an “asylum emergency”, with Webinger saying that only ten out of 28 EU member states are taking 92 percent of all refugees to Europe. He pointed out that Portugal has only taken 455 asylum applications this year, and Slovakia only 300. The cost of providing basic care for asylum seekers in Austria has also risen, with the interior ministry estimating that this year the amount will be €380 million (double the amount paid in 2013).

Christoph Pinter, the head of the Vienna office of the UNHCR, says that Austria is now one of the main target countries in the EU for asylum seekers arriving in Europe via Greece and travelling through the western Balkans. The largest groups of asylum seekers coming to Austria are Afghans and Syrians. Austria is known to have a well-functioning and developed asylum system compared to other European countries but the increasing number of asylum applications are a challenge for the small country - particularly when it comes to finding suitable accommodation.
© The Local - Austria

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30/7/2015- Around 50 to 60 immigrants attempted to flee a Czech facility for refugees in Bela pod Bezdezem Thursday damaging two small gates, but they did not succeed in leaving the premises, foreigner police spokeswoman Katerina Rendlova has told CTK. "I suppose that they wanted to make some claims, or to get out of the facility, which they have failed," Interior Minister Milan Chovanec told Czech Television (CT) tonight. Rendlova said the refugees rebelled against their detention in the camp in the section reserved for walks. "They demanded their release from the camp. They tore out two small gates, but they failed to damage the fencing. No foreigner fled," Rendlova told CT. The situation calmed down by the time police reinforcements arrived from Prague.

Rendlova said various forms of protest are frequent in these facilities. The refugees go on hunger strike or try to damage themselves because they do not want to be in the camp and do not want to be escorted back to the country which they fled. The refugee facility has 270 beds. Foreigners who have received a police decision on administrative expulsion and detention are sent there. It was established in the early 1990s in buildings that were used by the occupying Soviet military before. In mid-July, the government decided to raise the capacity of the centre in reaction to the current refugee wave. Hana Mala, from the press department of the Interior Ministry, told CTK previously that there should be some 400 beds by the end of 2016.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Czech MEP invites Ukrainian extremist to European Parliament

Group has been condemned by US Congress for suing Nazi symbols

28/7/2015- Czech MEP Jaromír Štětina (TOP 09) has invited the commander of the Ukrainian volunteer Azov Battalion, which the U.S. House of Representatives labeled neo-Nazi last June, to the European Parliament (EP), he told reporters today, after his return from Ukraine. Štětina said he expected the visit by commander Andriy Biletsky to provoke the EP's criticism. Ultra-right radical Biletsky heads of the organization Social-National Assembly that is freely connected with the Ukrainian Right Sector. He is dubbed “White Leader.” “Volunteer battalions are a significant, real political and military force in eastern Ukraine. Not to talk to them and not to know who they are means not to be interested in the solution to the conflict,” Štětina told the Czech news Agency, answering its question why he had invited Biletsky. Štětina added that Biletsky alone should explain the positions of his movement.

Štětina has been to Ukraine several times since the war erupted there. He visited three volunteer battalions, Azov, Right Sector and Donbas, during his last journey. Their fighters have majorly prevented Eastern Ukraine from being fully controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Štětina said he was convinced that they were the political force to participate in the solution to the conflict. All three battalions' commanders are members of the Ukrainian parliament, he recalled. The Washington Post recently reported that Azov might attack Kyiv if it chose a political and not military solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Štětina, who reported about the war in Chechnya as a journalist in the past, admitted that these political forces would approach ultra-right extremism ideologically.

According to the Western press, some 1,000 members of the Azov Battalion openly followed neo-Nazi views. The Azov banner carries the symbol of Hitler's SS division Das Reich and the battalion fighters promote the idea of the white race supremacy and autocratic dictatorship. Štětina ruled out that mainly young neo-Nazis joined these battalions. Such reports are results of Russian propaganda, he added. Yet he admitted that he had seen the Nazi-tinged symbols among their recruits. However, extremists can be found in every society, even in Czech parliament, he added. Štětina is one of the Czechs included in Russia's blacklist of the EU countries' officials who are banned from entering its territory.
© The Prague Post

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Austria investigating Dutch far-right politician Wilders over incitement

28/7/2015- Austria is investigating Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders on suspicion of incitement of hatred at an event in Vienna he attended at the invitation of prominent Austrian far-right politician Heinz-Christian Strache. Wilders, whose party has been at or near the top of polls in the Netherlands for years, is under another investigation for alleged discrimination and incitement of hatred against Moroccans during a campaign rally in The Hague last year. He was acquitted of hate speech in a 2007 trial after making similar remarks critical of Islam. Other past targets of his populist ire have included East European migrant workers and the European Union. A spokeswoman for the Vienna prosecutors' office said an investigation against Wilders was under way but declined to give details, including what he was alleged to have said in a speech that prompted the inquiry.

Wilders spoke at a meeting in March of Strache's far-right Freedom Party, which attracted a 30 percent approval rating in a recent opinion poll -- ahead of the two governing centrist coalition parties. Known for his trademark shock of bleach-blond hair, Wilders is currently running second in Dutch election polls, riding a wave of resentment against immigration in the Netherlands, once seen as an example of multicultural tolerance. Wilders has said the West is "at war" with Islam and has been the target of death threats that have forced him to live under 24-hour police protection. Strache and Wilders' parties along with other far-right European parties formed a common bloc in the European Parliament last month.
© Reuters

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