ICARE Hate Crime News - Archive February 2012

Headlines 24 February, 2012

Headlines 17 February, 2012

Headlines 10 February, 2012

Headlines 3 February, 2012

Headlines 24 February, 2012


Fresh off last weekend's attack on two immigrants in Oulu, hundreds of people marched for tolerance in the city on Friday. The procession culminated with Imam Abdul Mannan presenting a plea for peace to mayor Matti Pennanen.

Last Saturday's deadly pizzeria shooting in the city left one Moroccan man dead and another seriously injured. Demonstrators called on Oulu decision makers and police to promote tolerance in the community. They also want officials to step up efforts to make the city more secure for immigrants as well as the native Finnish population. A similar procession was held in Helsinki on Friday, moving from the Central Railway Station to the Parliament House. The latest racially-flavoured incident has been a pause for reflection for inhabitants, as it was preceded by two other violent acts towards foreigners. Earlier this winter a newspaper deliveryman sustained serious injuries when he fled a hostile situation by jumping from a balcony. A similar situation occurred a few weeks later when a young man died after falling from the sixth floor when trying to flee a bad situation. While police say neither event was the direct result of xenophobia, altercations with Finns preceded both incidents. Online debates on racism in Finland have raged since a local Finns Party councillor praised last week's pizzeria shooter. Finns party leader, Timo Soini, said the man was likely to be expelled over the comment.
© YLE News



24/2/2012- Redditch police say they suspect a recent arson attack on a local mosque was a hate crime. Fire-fighters tackled a small fire at the front door of the mosque on Jinnah Road, at about 10.20pm on January 24. No one was injured and there was no major damage to the building, which is yet to be fully built. The boards covering the entrance to the mosque were set alight. Police said they were treating the incident as arson. An investigation is now underway and officers said the exact circumstances surrounding the fire were not yet known. Police officers are appealing for any witnesses who may have been in the area at the time of the fire to come forward. Redditch Local Policing Inspector Ian Joseph told The Muslim News: “When criminal damage is caused to religious premises our first thought is to consider if it was a racially or religiously motivated crime. While we have no evidence on this occasion, it is likely that this is the case.” “The mosque on Jinnah Road is still being built and is some way from completion so damage was minimal. We are keen to see it being completed and brought into use as this should significantly reduce the risk of further incidents of this nature. “We enjoy a close relationship with members of the mosque committee and have been offering security advice to them concerning the building. We have also been providing additional patrols in the vicinity of the mosque to deter further incidents. “Anyone caught offending in this way will be dealt with accordingly and could face a prison sentence.”
© The Muslim News



A first UK helpline for victims of Islamophobia is being set up amid concerns that incidents are not being reported or properly categorised.

21/2/2012- Last year 2,000 hate crimes were recorded against different faiths in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Police say it is unclear how many were against Muslims as separate figures were not recorded. Faith Matters, a non-profit group, hopes to show the scale of the problem and provide support for victims. "Many people think that Islamophobic crime does not exist. They say: 'Where is the data?'" said the director of Faith Matters, Fiyaz Mughal. He is setting up the project Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks (MAMA) with the help of government funding. "This is a chance for the Muslim community to say: 'Let us present the case, in terms of the facts, let somebody collate it and present it to the authorities.' "If someone has suffered abuse, been attacked or received a leaflet with inflammatory comments about Muslims in it, I want to hear about it."

Brick through window
The Amod family were forced to move house from a traditionally white area of Leicester, Saffron Lane, to the more multicultural area of Highfields after two years of constant abuse and vandalism. "At first my husband did not want us to report it, but it got so bad that in the end I had to," said Sabana Amod. "Our car was vandalised, someone tried to set their dog on me, and snowballs with stones in them were thrown at my young children. "On the day we were moving house, a brick was thrown through the window, narrowly missing my son's head but the glass shattered and cut his hand. He still has nightmares about it. Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, with a colleague Faith Matters say the helpline will help measure the extent of Islamophobia faced by British Muslims "It was because we are Muslim. I wear a jilbab (full length gown) and hijab (head covering) and youths in the street used to ask me if I was a Muslim before abusing me." Three people were later convicted of racial offences. A 21-year-old man was ordered to carry out 120 hours of community service and pay £100 compensation. A 54-year-old woman was fined £167 with £25 compensation, and a 16-year-old was referred to a youth offending panel for nine weeks, and ordered to pay his victim £100 in compensation.

Hate crime
The police are required by the Home Office to record all hate crime - this includes crime on the basis of race, sexual orientation, gender, disability and faith. Anti-Islamic crime is currently grouped together with faith hate crimes against Christians, Hindus and Sikhs. Anti-Semitic incidents are recorded separately and Faith Matters wants Islamophobic incidents to also be in their own category. According to their research, only 14 police forces out of 44 collate information about Islamophobic crime. Anti-Semitic hate crimes have been recorded separately since 2006 in response to a request from the government following an inquiry into anti-Semitism, said a spokesperson for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo.) "A significant challenge in identifying other hate crimes for other religious groups is that many victims consider the crimes to be racist. Given that Muslims originate from all ethnicities it would not be possible to identify such victims from within racist crime data. "While we do not publish national data on anti-Muslim hate crimes, it is important to stress that all police forces maintain their local hate crime data." 
Anyone who has been a victim of an Islamophobic incident can report it to the free helpline by calling 0800 456 1226
Or contact tellmamauk.org at the website or via Twitter, Facebook or text

Fear of Islam and Muslims is on the increase, according to Dr Leon Moosavi, an academic based at Lancaster University who has studied Islamophobia. "It is a widespread problem in the UK," he said. "More education is needed in schools, and Muslims need to also educate people about their faith." Media reports of anti-Muslim incidents are monitored by Islamophobia Watch, Engage and the Islamic Human Rights Commission, but none are able to offer a personal service to victims.

Panic attacks
"I started wearing the hijab at university in 2006 but last summer I decided to take it off because I didn't feel safe after someone tried to pull it off my head, said Alisha, a student from Middlesbrough. She and her husband were targeted because they were Muslim, she believes. "I started to get panic attacks. I never thought I'd feel like this, but everyone is so afraid." Her husband was also attacked on his way to work. "He was verbally abused, called a 'Paki', 'terrorist', and he was spat on. When he confronted the men, security guards tried to arrest him until an old man pointed out who the attackers were," she said. Another victim, Usman Choudhry, an IT manager in Salford, said he has suffered at least one incident of abuse per week over the last five to six years. "I haven't reported it to the police," he said, "because I am not sure they could have caught the offenders." The new phone line will also welcome calls from non-Muslims, such as Sikhs and Hindus, who feel that they have been mistaken for Muslims and suffered verbal or physical abuse as a result. Faith Matters will monitor incidents for an initial 12 months and report its findings.
© BBC News



20/2/2012- Pupils as young as nine have been excluded from schools in Kingston for racist abuse, a Surrey Comet investigation has revealed. The primary school pupil is among 14 youngsters in the borough suspended from school in the last year. The nine-year-old, who is said to be white British, was given a half-day suspension for the offence which includes physical attacks and derogatory name calling and racist jokes. Kingston Council, who looks after schools in the borough, said the exclusion was for using racist language but could not reveal further information due to data protection laws. The shocking stats also revealed a 12-year-old white British girl was excluded from school last year for two days for using racist language toward another student. Exclusions for racist abuse are on the increase in the borough with five more incidents reported than in 2010 and nine more than in 2009.

Tory education spokes-woman Andrea Craig said she was alarmed by the stats and plans to investigative further. She said: “Children do not pick these things up on their own, it comes from somewhere else, either parents or outside influences. “For a child to be excluded it must be something quite particularly if that child is just nine years old. “It is something that must be looked at, it must be scrutinised, we are lucky to live in a tolerant borough but that does not mean we can be complacent. It must be stamped out.” A spokesman for Kingston Council said they have procedures in place to monitor racial incidents in schools. He said: “We, together with school governors, have a duty to create and implement strategies to prevent and address racism. “All staff, teaching and non-teaching, should see dealing with racist incidents as an important part of their professional duties. “There should be an appreciation of the serious implications that racial harassment can have for the wellbeing of the school and the community. “Openness about incidents is encouraged. All schools promote racial tolerance through their inclusive ethos and the pastoral curriculum.”

Reaction from community leaders.
Rizwan Khaliq, a spokesman for the Muslim Association of Kingston, said: “Look at what is happening in football at the moment with Luis Suarez and one time England captain John Terry. “Children are very impressionable and can receive messages from different sources that can have a very negative impact. “Schools need to be more forthcoming with information so that a wider picture can emerge. It could just be that this is one isolated incident, however, if it is indicative of a wider problems in a certain area or areas of the borough then it is something that would need to be tackled sooner rather than later.”

Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Kingston Liberal Synagogue, said: “We take a lot of time to go into schools because the people I work for, the Jewish community feel it is important to engage. “Many of the kids who come to the synagogue are the only Jewish children in the schools they go to, so getting involved in their school is important to breaking down barriers and suspicions about other groups. “What is also important is speaking to parents because it is all very well educating children but if they are getting negative messages at home then that will have no impact.”

Kingston Racial Equality Council chairman John Azah described the figures as “absolutely shocking”. He said: “I am surprised to hear these figures as I have always thought Kingston was a very tolerant place. “We do a lot of work in secondary schools and because of that things are generally for good in our schools. “However, a lot of primary schools have been reluctant to have us come in. “Some school perhaps thinks if they ask us for help that will label them as a racist school. “But getting into schools early and tackling these problems is important.”
© Your Local Guardian



20/2/2012- The family of a teenage boy who suffered serious injuries after a suspected race attack have pleaded for a march by the English Defence League (EDL) not to go ahead. Trainee baker Daniel Stringer-Prince, 17, suffered a fractured skull and two fractured eye sockets after he and a friend were allegedly attacked in Hyde town centre. His friend, Kavan Brown, also 17, had his nose broken in the incident in Nelson Street. The teenagers were allegedly beaten by a gang of up to eight Asian men. Police said the incident was being treated as a racially motivated hate crime because it was perceived to be so by the alleged victims. Far-right group the EDL said they plan to hold a protest in Hyde town centre this Saturday following the incident. But the family of the two boys have said they do not back the rally and have pleaded for it to be cancelled. Daniel's mum Cheryl Stringer said: “The EDL have decided to do this and it's go nothing to do with us whatsoever. “We don't want this march to go ahead. It's not going to change anything – it won't make anything better it will just cause more problems.

“I certainly don't want Daniel's name dragged into something we don't agree with.” Cheryl added that she had spoken to leaders among the Asian community who have sent flowers and condemned the attack. “We went to see them and they've been absolutely brilliant,” she said. “We've had a lot of support and now all we want is for the people responsible to come forward and hand themselves in.” The comments came hours after it emerged that police and council bosses will apply to the Home Office to have the march banned over fears it may spark unrest. Chief constable Peter Fahy has backed Tameside Council's bid to have the rally banned – although a static protest could still go ahead. Councillor Peter Robinson told the M.E.N: “Everyone in the council is behind a ban – we don't want this to happen.” Ali Haydor, 21, of Croft Street, Hyde, has been charged with section 18 assault in connection with the incident. A 17-year-old and another 21-year-old man arrested in connection with the incident have both been released on bail.
© The Manchester Evening News



Muslim groups say Islamiophobic crimes coincide with national campaigns led by politicians like Claude Guéant

24/2/2012- Muslim leaders in France have called for stronger legislation and more Government focus to tackle the surge in Islamophobic crimes in the country. Their pleas came a week after a series of mosque vandalisms and extremely controversial right wing outburst by France’s Interior Minister. The most recent attack on a French mosque occurred in the Glonnières district of Le Mans where the mosque walls were found covered with graffiti reading “Islam out of Europe”, “No Islam” and “France for the French” on January 31. Three days earlier on January 28 a mosque in Miramas was also daubed with Islamophobic slogans along with the name of Front National presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. It was the second time in four months that the mosque had experienced such an attack. On January 17 fascist graffiti was painted on the wall of a mosque that is under construction in Montigny-en-Ostrevent. The graffiti read, “President Adolf” or “Hei” in reference to the Nazi salute. “Heil Hitler”. A Celtic cross and a man doing the Nazi hello were also drawn. Two days later on January 19 two pigs’ heads were left at the site a mosque is being built in Nanterre. One pig head was left outside the other inside.

Most recently, a report released by the Paris-based Islamophobic Crime Monitoring Group indicates that the number of Islamophobic attacks in France increased by 34 percent in 2011 in comparison with the previous year. Abdallah Zerki, head of the Group, said he had written to French President Nicolas Sarközy - who once referred to Islamophobic crime as “insignificant” – and said Muslims are as equal citizens of France as Christians and Jewish people. “The actions and threats that have been the subject of formal complaints to the police and gendarmerie have increased from 116 in 2010 to 155 in 2011, an increase of 33.9%,” said Zekri. According to Zekri there were 38 major violent incidents and arson attacks aimed at French Muslims, mosques and Islamic centres, an increase from 22 in 2010. “I wish that President Sarközy, to whom I sent a letter in December, makes a statement and denounces these unspeakable acts. In short, he should seek to allay the concerns of Muslims who are citizens just as Christians or Jews, “said Zekri.

Head of the French Islamic Council, Haydar Demiryürek, said research conducted by his council also indicated a rise in Islamophobic crime. “Some people were jailed over arson of mosques, but still legislation in this area is inadequate. The Government should focus on this, condemn Islamophobia and adopt better legislation.” A spokesperson for the Muslim Youth Association told The Muslim News there is a feeling among French Muslims that Sarközy is “playing down” the growing Islamophobia to “extend his political career in the forthcoming Presidential elections.” “The President was at the forefront of the niqab (face covering) ban law, although few French Muslim women actually wear it. He is trying to capture the right-wing vote aware of the growth far-right parties across Europe – to acknowledge the growth of anti-Islam violence in France would result in him admitting that his policies alienated Muslims and made them targets [of hate crimes],” she said. That sentiment was recently echoed by socialist parliamentarians who accused the rightwing interior minister Claude Guéant of flirting with Nazi ideology.

Earlier this month Guéant said that “not all civilisations are of equal value”, and that some civilisations, namely France’s, are worth more than others. The Socialist Serge Letchimy, from Martinique, accused Guéant, Sarközy’s most senior adviser of being the President’s mouthpiece for rightwing views to court voters from Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National. Letchimy said he refused to apologise. Jean-Marc Ayrault, head of the Socialist parliamentary group, said Guéant’s “repeated provocations” had damaged the political climate. Some in Sarközy’s own camp had distanced themselves from Guéant in recent days. “He makes a better minister than ethnologist,” said the former Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin. However Collective against Islamophobia in France aka Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France (CCIF) have dismissed left-wing political parties taking the moral high ground in tacking discrimination insisting: “Islamophobia infects all political parties.”

CCIF member Marwan Muhammad said: “Both left wing and right wing politicians resort to it in order to send electoral messages to those (mainly on the far right) who perceive Muslims’ visibility in France as a problem. Only the arguments used differ: conservatives claim that Islam is not compatible with the traditional Judaeo-Christian European identity and that Muslims need to assimilate into the pre-existing model. “Left wingers come to the same conclusion from a different angle. They concentrate on women’s rights and the threat of allegedly backward religious practice; even though conservative religious groupings like the Taliban do not exist in France.” Muhammad said surge in Islamophobic crimes “coincide with national campaigns spreading Islamophobic propaganda, whether it is the right wing’s ‘national debate on Islam’ or the left wing senatorial bill on banning the hijab even in the private sector.”
© The Muslim News



Study, released in light of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, reveals ten-year-low in recorded anti-Semitic incidents; about 50% of incidents recorded in greater Paris area. 

20/2/2012- The year 2011 saw a 16.5% drop in anti-Semitism in France, according to a study released by the French service for the protection of the Jewish community (SPCJ) together with the French Interior Ministry. The study, released late January in light of International Holocaust Remembrance Day and is now in its sixth year running, recorded 389 incidents of anti-Semitism in 2011, compared to 466 in 2010, making it the lowest number in ten years. However, the number of violent anti-Semitic incidents remained the same as those recorded in 2010, and there was even a rise in the severity of the violence. The main source of the drop in recorded anti-Semitic incidents was owing to the decline in malicious graffiti and slanderous letters. The number of recorded attacks stood at 127, which mainly included damage to property, vandalism and direct violent attacks. The report also recorded 144 cases of malicious threats, threatening actions and curses, and 46 anti-Semitic publications. About 50% of the total number of anti-Semitic incidents occurred in greater Paris.

Christophe Bigot, the French ambassador to Israel, said in a press conference Monday that the French government has made a great effort to defeat the phenomenon, and has taken action via the police and educators. He added that there is still work to be done. Bigot also said the French government has been waging a merciless campaign against anti-Semitism for the last few years. In 2003, France passed a law that imposes harsh penalties on people who commit racist or anti-Semitic attacks and in 2004 approved a plan to upgrade security for Jewish religious and cultural institutions. Thorough work is also being conducted in France's education industry, with an emphasis on Holocaust awareness, in cooperation with the Holocaust museum in Paris.
© Haaretz



19/2/2012- Some 60 civil society groups have come together in a campaign to demand legislation to deal with hate crimes in Turkey. Although such crimes have reached unprecedented levels, with numerous incidents of murders and assaults motivated by prejudice and hostility toward an individual or a group, they commonly go unpunished. The campaign to introduce hate crimes legislation was kicked off at a press conference in Żstanbul on Jan. 26, where Levent Žensever, secretary-general of the Association for Social Change (ASC), said the campaign has two goals: first, to bring a draft law to Parliament and second, to raise public awareness about hate crimes. Civil society groups and individuals that demand hate crimes legislation in Turkey have created a platform for discussion on the website nefretme.net (“Do not hate”), which has received almost 5,000 signatures in support of the campaign. The Hate Crime Legislation Campaign Platform has also organized a series of meetings at which academics and civil society activists deliver talks on hate crimes and hate speech.

Lawyers from the platform are currently working on draft legislation that aims to define and criminalize hate crimes. Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman, Cengiz Alšan, the chairperson of the steering committee of the ASC, said during this drafting process the platform has been in consultation with the US-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the world’s largest security organization, which addresses a wide range of security-related concerns including human rights, minorities and democratization. “When we are finished with the draft legislation, we will send it to the OSCE to be reviewed before we submit it to Parliament,” Alšan said, adding that the bill will probably be submitted to Parliament by the end of October 2012.

Hate speech is a form of expression that spreads and promotes hatred based on intolerance and animosity towards individuals or groups. Hate speech not only inflicts psychological damage on the victim but also tends to incite hate crime, which can be defined as a criminal offense motivated by prejudice or hostility based on somebody’s ethnicity, national identity, religious beliefs, social status, sexual orientation or disability. This kind of crime may vary from harassment, intimidation or damage to possessions and property to actual acts of physical violence, such as physical assault, rape, torture or murder. The Hate Crime Legislation Campaign Platform website defines hate crimes as “message crimes,” which reach beyond the victim and make the victim’s group feel they are unwelcome in the community. This message carries with it psychological consequences, such as fear, depression and anxiety. The platform says that as a result of this message the members of the group can feel marginalized, suffer from psychological trauma and may even commit suicide. Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was fatally shot in front of the headquarters of the bilingual Armenian weekly Agos in 2007, was one of the most publicized victims of hate crime in Turkey, as he was killed because of his “Armenian” identity. According to court documents, Ogün Samast, Dink’s murderer, did not even know Dink’s proper name. He just knew that he was an Armenian.

The murder of Father Andrea Santoro, who was killed in 2006 by a 16-year-old ultranationalist at his church in Trabzon, the Malatya Zirve Publishing House murders of 2007 in which three people who sold Christian literature were brutally killed and violence targeting a Roma community in 2010 are all examples of hate crimes according to the Hate Crime Legislation Campaign Platform’s website. As there is currently no legislation on hate crimes in Turkish law, criminal cases issues are often left unsolved and criminals generally go unpunished. Commenting on Article 216 of the current Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which criminalizes “inciting people to hatred and enmity,” Professor Yasemin Żnceošlu, a platform member, said in an interview with Sunday’s Zaman that the article in question covers hate speech rather than hate crime and could even be described as falling short of criminalizing hate speech, as it is not usually used by prosecutors in support of minority groups. “We, as platform members, have interviewed numerous deputies and nongovernmental organizations in the scope of the campaign,” Żnceošlu said, adding that Turkey urgently needs legislation against hate crimes.

Among the civil society groups that support the hate crime legislation campaign are many LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) organizations, religious groups and associations for the disabled. Some of the more prominent organizations that are working against hate crime and actively involved in the campaign are the International Hrant Dink Foundation, the ASC, the Human Rights Agenda Association (HRAA) and the Say Stop to Racism and Nationalism (Dur De!) Initiative. The aforementioned organizations fight against hate speech and hate crime by publishing regular reports analyzing current trends across Turkey. The International Hrant Dink Foundation recently released a report that reviewed news items and columns marked as using hate speech and fuelling animosity which were published in the national and local press during the four-month period between September and December 2011. The foundation releases such a report every four months on nefretsoylemi.org (“Hate speech”) -- a project it has launched “to combat racism and discrimination based on ethnic and religious grounds, through monitoring the newspapers and exposing ‘problematic’ articles in the media.”

The reports include information on groups that have been targets of hate speech as well as the methods used in the construction of hate speech, such as defamation, exaggeration and stereotyping. The latest report indicates that the target groups have become more diversified in comparison to previous periods studied. While earlier reports revealed that the most targeted groups were Armenians, Kurds, Jews and Greeks, the most recent report described hate speech observed in news items and columns against Laz, Georgian, Albanian, Arab and Zarathustra communities. In 2010, the ASC conducted a similar project under the title “Hate Crimes in the National Press: 10 Years, 10 Examples.” Starting in 2008, the team behind the project scanned 20 national newspapers that made up 80 percent of newspaper circulation in the country. They came up with 30,000 news items that could be marked as inciting hatred and fuelling hostility in society. They created an initial shortlist of 5,000 news pieces and subsequently whittled this down to 200. They published 10 examples of the final shortlist in their report.

Alšan told Sunday’s Zaman their media review project indicates that hate crimes are mostly motivated by hostility against an individual’s or group’s ethnicity. “Hate crimes targeting LGBT individuals have recently increased,” he said. Asked if their analyses have also revealed news items that contained hate speech directed at the Hizmet movement -- a group of volunteers engaged in interfaith and intercultural dialogue inspired by the ideas of Fethullah Gülen, whose teachings promote mutual understanding and tolerance between cultures -- he said they find such items as well and categorize those under Islamaphobic discourse.
© Today's Zaman



Far-right groups in Athens have been patrolling certain neighbourhoods and beating up immigrants they accuse of taking work away from Greeks. Police have so far been reluctant to pursue the attackers.

18/2/2012- Reza Jholam is a 16-year-old from Afghanistan living in Athens. In October, he was walking home alone when he had the misfortune of crossing paths with a far-right group called “Chryssi Avyi” (“Golden Dawn”) terrorising certain neighbourhoods in the Greek capital. Their target: immigrants. “There were twelve of them. First, someone threw a bottle of water at my back, so I started running. But I couldn’t get away,” Reza said. “They grabbed me and hit me in the head with a bat. When I was on the ground, they continued to hit me until I was no longer moving.” Reza arrived in Greece last summer after passing through Iran and Turkey. Once in Athens, he was helped by the Afghan Community of Greece, an association that offers immigrants Greek classes and workshops on Greek culture, laws, and customs. Now, the organisation also informs new arrivals of the risk of racist attacks. “We give them a map of neighbourhoods in Athens where it’s best to avoid walking alone,” explained the association’s president, Yunus Mohammadi.

‘Stealing work from Greeks’
Yunus, too, has had run-ins with far-right groups in Greece. A year ago, several men broke into his office, ransacked it and beat him. “Nothing too serious,” he said, touching his forehead. Last December, the vice president of the Afghan Community of Greece, Safar Haydary, was also beaten by extremists. “This type of violence has become a very common phenomenon here, especially since the beginning of the crisis,” Yunus said. “Some people accuse us of taking jobs from Greeks and hold us responsible for the security problems here.” Yet another attack on February 16 hospitalised three Bangladeshi immigrants. “It’s getting worse and worse,” Yunus said. “The most worrying is that it’s spreading throughout the whole city and even around the country. A few days ago, there was a report of a similar attack on one of the Greek islands.” Eva Cossé, a reasearcher at Human Rights Watch, condemns the recent pattern of abuse of immigrants in Greece. “These attacks mainly target people of colour; few of the victims have been immigrants from Eastern Europe,” Ms Cossé explained. “It’s an extremely upsetting phenomenon, especially since the authorities are hesitant to admit there’s a problem." Indeed, the police seem to be in no rush to arrest the assailants. In the police station near the neighbourhood of Omonia, where many of the immigrants live and many of the attacks have occurred, officers have said they are afraid that the far-right groups will retaliate if pursued.

56,000 immigrants per year
Until recently, community organisations had managed to protect immigrants from right-wing groups. “People here are angry, they want to fight against these fascists,” Yunus said. “But we need to avoid that, because it’s exactly what those who attack us want. That’s exactly what they’re waiting for to step up the violence.” The situation is so tense that it seems on the verge of exploding at any moment. In a report on the recent attack on immigrants, Ms Cossé warns that "police and lawyers will very soon have to do more than just record testimonies from victims" and that "aggressors will only stop when the police react in a swift and efficient manner and carry out serious investigations.” “The problem is not only the lack of action on the part of Greek authorities. It’s much bigger,” Yunus noted. “It’s a problem of how immigrants are received in Europe.” According to Human Rights Watch, 56,000 immigrants arrive each year in Greece. The country is the main entry point by land for illegal immigrants in Europe, where, via the Greece-Turkey border, nine out of ten illegal immigrants enter the European Union, according to the UN.

The dream of leaving Greece
“Apart from these abominable and overpopulated centres [which were severely criticised in a UN report from October 2011], nothing is done to welcome the immigrants, to explain to them how the country works,” Yunus said. “So we take care of them, on our modest scale.” When Reza went to the police station, his face bloodied, he was told that nothing could be done because his visa had expired four days earlier. Nevertheless, an ambulance was called, although the doctors at the hospital did not clean or bandage his wounds. Reza had only been in Greece for three months. Today, Reza has recovered, with only a few scars on his forehead. But he dreams of one thing only: leaving Greece as soon as possible. “I want to go to Norway, but the trip is expensive," he said. "You have to pay the border escort and other people. I’m waiting to save up enough money.” In the meantime, Reza no longer goes out at night alone.
© France 24


Headlines 17 February, 2012


Esmin Hamza, a Kosovo Albanian from Prizren, has been found guilty of spreading hatred and intolerance against the Kosovo Serbs.

16/2/2012- Esmin Hamza was given a suspended two-year prison sentence by the District Court of Prizren, Kosovo, for inciting national and racial hatred against the Kosovo Serbs. The prison sentence will be applied if Hamza commits a new criminal offence in the next five years. The defendant was found guilty for his actions during the March 2004 riots, in the city of Prizren, south-eastern Kosovo. “On March 18, 2004, the defendant Esmin Hamza committed arson and publicly spread hatred, discord or intolerance against the Serbian ethnic group living in Kosovo. A day earlier, he also set fire to some UNMIK, UN Mission to Kosovo, vehicles,” states the verdict.

Violent unrest broke out in Kosovo on March 17, 2004, when ethnic Albanians attacked Serb enclaves in what became the worst inter-ethnic violence since the 1999 war. The riots resulted in the deaths of eleven Albanians and eight Serbs, and over 1,000 people from both communities being injured, while some 730 houses belonging to Kosovo Serbs, as well as 35 Orthodox churches, monasteries and other religious monuments were damaged. According to UNMIK, who then administered Kosovo, about 60,000 Kosovo Albanians took part in the riots. More than 100 members of NATO Kosovo-Force and UN police were injured, while 72 vehicles of the international forces were set on fire. Kosovo Judicial Institute’s last report on the March 2004 riots, issued in 2010, shows that 143 Kosovo Albanian were convicted, of which 67 received prison terms longer than a year.
© Balkan Insight



Women assaulted by violent brothers in Hamrun to face charges this Friday after attackers file police report against them.

14/2/2012- The two gay women attacked in Hamrun are expected to charged with breaching the public peace and making obscene gestures at their attackers, according to a police writ presented in the law courts. The teenagers, whose assault by two men in Hamrun precipitated a protest against homophobia and an announcement by the Prime Minister to strengthen laws against homophobic violence, will be charged after their attackers filed a police report against them. Their case will be heard alongside the police charges against brothers Luke and Carlo Debono, and another attacker Mary Aquilina, for having assaulted the two friends and breaching the public peace.

The two women were dancing in a gazebo at the Fra Diegu square in Hamrun, when the two brothers started insulting them from the top of a nearby balcony. When the girls retaliated by shouting back at the boys, the two turned up and assaulted the women. One of the girls was reported by The Times of having been manhandled before being head-butted, her hair pulled and dragged across the ground. One of the women ended up in a clinic with a fractured nose, a grazed face and bruises on her breasts.
The attackers cannot be charged with committing a hate crime because homophobia is not covered by law. Following the sacking of an Arriva bus driver on 6 February assaulting two women in what the transport company said seemed to be a homophobic act, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi announced he had instructed justice minister Chris Said to tighten hate crime laws.
© Malta Today



14/2/2012- A record number of people were prosecuted for racially and religiously-motivated hate crimes in England and Wales last year. Some 13,276 people came before the courts for such crimes in 2010-11. The Crown Prosecution Service said many had involved assaults or verbal abuse. Of the cases that concluded last year, more than 80% resulted in convictions. The prosecutions total is the highest since hate crime statistics were first compiled in 2005-06. In all, the CPS brought 15,284 hate crime prosecutions, also including cases where people were apparently targeted based on sexuality or disability, or for being transsexual or transgender. The vast majority of prosecutions - 12,711 - were for racially-motivated offences.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC said: "All crime is unacceptable but offences that are driven by hostility or hatred based on personal characteristics are particularly damaging to any civilised society." The proportion of guilty pleas in hate crime cases has crept up over the last couple of years, which Mr Starmer said showed prosecutors were building stronger cases. "The increase in guilty pleas benefits the victims of these crimes, many of whom would find giving evidence a stressful ordeal," he said. Figures also showed a record number of people - 2,822 - prosecuted for crimes against older people. These were calculated separately from the hate crimes total because there is no statutory definition of a crime against an older person. Mervyn Kohler, of Age UK, said: "The escalating crime numbers is more likely to reflect the growing - and welcome - sophistication of the police and the CPS in this field, rather than signal a systemically ageist society."

Mr Starmer highlighted the prison sentences handed down last week for three men in Derby found guilty of a gay hate crime after handing out leaflets calling for homosexual people to be executed. It was the first prosecution of its kind since a law against stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation came into force in 2010. "This was the first case of its kind in British legal history and a significant step forward for us in protecting the LGB [lesbian, gay and bisexual] community," Mr Starmer said.
© BBC News



A man who daubed a housing block in London’s Shadwell with homophobic graffiti has been jailed for eight weeks.

13/2/2012- Mashudur Rahman, 22, had sprayed anti-gay and racist graffiti around the site seventy times last year before being arrested on 28 September. The council for Tower Hamlets, which is one of the most deprived boroughs in the country, said it worked in partnership with housing managers EastendHomes and the police to identify Rahman. He has been given an eight week custodial sentence for nine counts of criminal damage in a sentencing at Thames Magistrates Court. The council said he had earlier pleaded guilty to the charges in a hearing at Stratford Magistrates Court on 3 February, and was fined £2,000 in costs. The court also heard a number of witness statements which described the alarm and distress caused by the graffiti, which contained numerous homophobic references. Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “The council will continue to work with our partners to bring perpetrators of all hate crimes to justice.” Cllr Ohid Ahmed, Deputy Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “The actions of this man were despicable and condemnable. The messages of hate that he wrote caused considerable hurt and distress to the residents of Gordon House, and it is right that he has now been punished.”

DC Simon Fields, the police investigating officer, said: “Many people were involved in the investigation of this offence, including the local Safer Neighbourhood Team. It is a measure of how seriously we take Hate Crime that the perpetrator was identified and convicted and the sentence sends a clear warning that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated”. Jack Gilbert, Co-chair of Rainbow Hamlets, the LGBT Forum for Tower Hamlets, said: “We welcome this conviction. In particular we are pleased that the Court recognised that these were offences motivated by hatred of LGBT people and reflected that in its sentence. This sends a clear message: Homophobic crime in Tower Hamlets will not be tolerated. “Offences like these cause considerable worry and distress to LGBT people and could well encourage others if not addressed swiftly. We are obviously concerned that the incidents took place so frequently and over so long a period. We will be inviting East End Homes, the police and the council to participate in a review of the case to ensure better practices are put in place for the future.”

Last summer, Mohammed Hasnath, 18, also of Tower Hamlets admitted putting up posters in the area declaring it a ‘gay free zone’. He was fined £100 plus £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge. When told the allegation against him of a public order offence of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour between 11-14 February, Hasnath reportedly said: “But I just put up stickers, I didn’t harass or swear at anybody or anything.” Today’s case against Rahman was brought to court after officers from EastendHomes, which manages Gordon House, received reports of the offensive graffiti from residents. Housing managers gathered witness statements and photography before passing the case to Tower Hamlets Council’s Community Safety Service, who compiled video footage and stills of Rahman. The complete package of evidence was then passed to Shadwell police Safer Neighbourhoods Team, who identified Rahman and progressed prosecution with the Crown Prosecution Service.
© Pink News


Headlines 10 February, 2012


White victims claim they were set upon by Asian men in second alleged hate crime under investigation in Greater Manchester

9/2/2012- Police in Greater Manchester say they are investigating a second suspected hate crime in which white victims claim they were set upon and assaulted by a group of young Asian men. The police said a 21-year-old man was chased and hit with a bottle in Rochdale before being repeatedly kicked and punched in the head and body as he lay on the ground. His 16-year-old friend was also punched in the face during the unprovoked attack on a canal towpath. It follows reports of an unconnected incident in Hyde, Greater Manchester, in which the trainee chef Dan Stringer-Prince was repeatedly kicked and punched by a mob of up to eight people after he was chased down a street. Stringer-Prince, 17, has undergone surgery following the attack on Saturday in which his skull, eye sockets and cheekbone were fractured. His vision may be impaired as a result of nerve damage. His 17-year-old friend, Kevan Brown, was also injured. A 21-year-old man, Ali Haydor, from Hyde, has been charged with assault in connection with the incident and will appear before Tameside magistrates on Thursday. A 17-year-old boy who was also arrested on suspicion of Section 18 assault has been bailed, pending further inquiries, until 23 April. The assault in Rochdale happened at about 8.15pm on Saturday 28 January, police said.

Police said both victims, who have not been identified, were walking with friends towards a canal towpath off Sandbrook retail park when they were approached from behind by three men. The trio ran at them, causing a number of their friends to run off, while the two victims continued to walk along the towpath. Their attackers are reported to have run off towards Deeplish. One man is described as being Asian, in his mid-20s, around 5ft 10in, with black hair. He wore a long white coat with two pockets over the knees. The second man is described as being Asian and of stocky build. He wore a black jacket with bright orange stitching on the shoulders and arms. A third alleged attacker is described as being Asian but no further information is known about him. Police are investigating both incidents as hate crimes, as perceived by the victims, though no racist or other comments were directed at either victim. Detective Constable Ben Harris from Rochdale CID said: "This was a completely unprovoked and relentless attack that has left both victims shocked by their ordeal. The 21-year-old man needed hospital treatment for his injuries and the 16-year-old boy was left with visible facial injuries. "I can understand why this has caused concern within the community. However, we cannot speculate why they were attacked and I do not want anyone to presume this has happened for a specific reason. "I would urge anyone who was in the area at the time of the attack or may have seen the offenders running in the direction of Deeplish, near to the towpath, to contact police."
© The Guardian



A former Carlisle soldier just released from jail for publicly burning the Koran was among nearly a dozen people who racially abused two take-away workers.

7/2/2012- The city’s crown court heard that Andrew Ryan, 33, and his brother Matthew Ryan, 27, were part of a group who threatened and racially abused two Turkish men at Manhattan Pizza in Botchergate last year. The Ryan brothers, along with three other men and four women, pleaded guilty to two charges of using racially aggravated threatening behaviour. All admitted that their abuse of the two takeaway workers had been inspired by their mistaken belief that the men were Pakistani.
All previously denied the offences and had been due to face a trial this week. Before the group are sentenced on Thursday, Judge Paul Batty QC will be shown a video of the ugly incident in which they were involved on May 20 last year. The CCTV shows the group massing in a threatening manner outside the takeaway shop shortly before 8pm. They are seen angrily remonstrating with the two Turkish workers, some of the group ranting and repeatedly jabbing their fingers as they spill into the shop. One of the men in the group flicked a lighted cigarette into the shop, and a drinks can is also tossed inside. At one stage, the video shows one of the defendants striding into the shop and throwing a chair.

The terrifying incident came shortly after Andrew Ryan was released from a 70-day jail term for burning the Koran in Carlisle city centre. He claimed he committed that offence with the aim of causing offence to only Islamic extremists. The defendants in the dock yesterday, who all admitted the two offences – one charge for each of the Turkish workers targeted – were: Andrew Leslie Ryan, of Marina Crescent, Currock; and his brother Matthew Thomas Ryan, 27, also of Marina Crescent, Currock; Ian James Bradshaw, 26, of Harrison Street, Currock; Craig William Metcalfe, 30, of Gilsland Road, Durranhill; William Ewings, 43, of Gilford Crescent, Harraby; Kerry Victoria Wilson, 40, of Ridley Road, Currock; Louise Annette Leslie, 40, of Buchanan Road, Currock; Rebecca Louise Wardle, 24, of Eden Park Crescent, Botcherby; and Donna Marie Beattie, 22, of Sybil Street, off Greystone Road, Carlisle. Michael Wilson, 29, of Cant Crescent, Upperby, admitted the same two offences during an earlier court hearing. An eleventh defendant, Tracie Wilkinson, 35, of Levens Drive, Morton, was not in court. She has yet to enter her pleas to the same two allegations admitted by her co defendants yesterday.

Defence barrister Alison Whalley, for Kerry Wilson, said her client’s guilty pleas was entered on the basis that she did not use racist language, and did not go into the takeaway shop. She took part in the threatening racist abuse of the workers by banging on the window, said the barrister. Judge Batty refused to grant adjournments to two of the defendants – Andrew Ryan and his brother – so that detailed background reports could be prepared, commenting that the case had dragged on for long enough. He told the defendants: “I will make this abundantly clear: I have not decided yet what the level of sentence is. This is a serious matter and I want to view the CCTV and make a judgement.” Adjourning sentencing until Thursday, he said the case had already cost an “inordinate” sum of public money and he was not prepared to see any more spent by granting adjournments for detailed background reports. He ordered that summary “stand-down” probation reports could be prepared on the defendants by probation staff before sentencing. Judge Batty imposed a 7pm to 7am curfew on all the defendants until their return to court later this week. He added: “I suggest to each of you that you take your position extremely seriously until I decide what sentence is appropriate.”
© The News & Star


9/2/2012- The Regional Court in Ostrava has once again reviewed the case of a group of ultra-right extremists who are charged with having assaulted several people in Havíøov in 2008. One year ago, the court in Ostrava handed down three convictions without possibility of parole and three suspended sentences for racially motivated grievous bodily harm. Two men were also acquitted. The High Court in Olomouc, however, overturned that verdict and returned it to the lower court. This latest court session was not public because one of the defendants was not yet 18 at the time the crime was committed. The court reviewed the documented evidence and postponed the next hearing until 2 March.

On the night of 8 November 2008, a larger group of violent racists set out onto the streets of Havíøov "after agreeing that they intended to assault Romani passers-by", as the charges read. In the neighborhood of Šumbark, after briefly chasing their victim, J.H., who was 16 years old at the time, they pushed him to the ground, beat him, and brutally kicked, particularly in the head, causing him serious, life-threatening injury. After this assault, the gang drove to another neighborhood, Prostøední Suchá, also predominantly inhabited by Romani people, and attempted to assault Romani passers-by there. Some witnesses said there were as many as 12 people in the group and that they traveled in three cars. Police brought eight people before the court and said they had driven to Šumbark in two cars. The court acquitted two of the eight last year.

Of the three defendants who received suspended sentences last year, two drove the cars. It could not be proven that they had beaten up the Romani victims. Sentences without the possibility of parole were handed down against Karel Takáè, Michal Šebela, and a youth whose name cannot be published because he was a juvenile at the time of the crime. Police already had files on some of the defendants prior to these events as aggressive football hooligans, fans of the football clubs Baník Ostrava and Havíøov. The youngest defendant had the longest criminal record, having been convicted of felonies on three previous occasions, including brutally assaulting a police officer when leaving a football match.

Police have kept quiet about the case during the entire investigation. The public learned of it mainly thanks to the chair of Europe Roma CZ, Ladislav Baláž, who immediately visited the family of the main victim after the attack, found them a lawyer, and represented the victim himself as an attorney-in-fact. Human rights activist Markus Pape then mapped the case and was the first to inform the public of it in detail.

In mid-July 2010, the website of the Anti-Fascist Action organization, Antifa.cz, published detailed information about the overall activities on the neo-Nazi scene of some of the defendants in this case. Antifa says some of the defendants belong to the group of hooligans that calls itself "Thugs Havíøov" and that one of them is an active member of the neo-Nazi militant group National Resistance (Národní odpor - NO), which was banned by the Czech Supreme Court years ago. Violent raids by neo-Nazis against Romani people have been frequent in Havíøov in the past, mainly in Šumbark. "Since news server Romea.cz and the other media have started reporting about the trial, it's been calm there," said Ladislav Baláž, who monitors the situation.
© Romea



7/2/2012- As a YouTube video of a fight between a bus driver and a passenger spread like wildfire on social networking websites yesterday, Arriva said the driver is no longer employed by the company. Allegedly, the incident was an attack against two girls in a relationship. A spokesman said Arriva has a zero-tolerance policy for violence of any sort, and categorically condemns this incident, as well as any bullish, violent and anti-social behaviour. Moreover, the bus company said it has a very clear and open diversity policy which all employees are bound to respect. The video was uploaded to YouTube on Sunday, but Arriva said the incident happened on Friday, and has already been investigated by the police, following a report having been filed by a third party. Most of the 170-second video consists of audio alone; a number of people can be heard shouting, and an argument develops between a male bus driver and one of the passengers. The driver appears to invite the female passenger to a fight, and he is soon seen pushing her to the ground, outside the bus. Another woman is seen helping her get up.

Arriva pointed out that contrary to what the subtitles in the video say, the employee involved in the incident was not a dispatcher but a driver who was off-duty and on his way home after work. At the time therefore, the driver was using the bus as a passenger. “Indeed, any action taken by this driver was taken on his own initiative. This driver is no longer employed with Arriva. Meanwhile, Cyrus Engerer, from LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Labour, referred to the incident, saying that people’s mentality cannot change unless laws are changed. Such attacks can only stop if gay couples and homosexual families are legally recognised, he said, adding that basic laws regarding hate crime and hate speech that cover homophobic acts, also need to be introduced. He noted that four years ago, in its electoral programme, the Nationalist Party had promised that a new PN government would add ‘sexual orientation’ as one of the sectors that the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality would work on. This promise has not yet been implemented, said Mr Engerer, noting that no national entity is responsible for the education and promotion of diversity with respect to sexual orientation, said Mr Engerer.
© The Malta Independent



7/2/2012- Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said today that he had instructed Justice Minister Chris Said to work on amendments to the laws to prevent hate crime. In a statement this afternoon, Dr Gonzi said he was speaking because there had been two incidents over the past three weeks which could have been motivated by homophobia. The two cases, he said, were still being investigated and subject to court proceedings, but it homophobia was proved, this would be very worrying. The country had to respect the dignity of all people, independently of one's colour, belief or orientation. He said society should not judge individual persons and the laws had to be enforced. The two cases referred to by the prime minister was an assault on two girls in Hamrun and, last Friday, an incident on a bus in Floriana.
© The Times of Malta



By Claire Bonello

5/2/2012- The violent assault of two teenage girls in Hamrun last month has prompted a two-fold reaction. There was the general sense of alarm at the sheer cruelty involved in the attack on the two girls, who are lesbians. One of the victims – the 16-year old – was admitted to a health centre with a fractured nose, facial grazing and bruised breasts after being attacked by two teenage boys, while her friend sustained injuries to the head and wrists. The photograph of the victim’s bloodied face published in this newspaper was proof of the brutality of the attack. She describes it as a harrowing experience where one of the boys picked her up and punched her in the eye. He stepped up the violence by grabbing her breasts, headbutting her nose, throwing her onto the ground, grabbing her hair and dragging her across the ground. Following that kind of experience, I would say that the physical scars may heal in time but the psychological trauma suffered may never be overcome. The fact that it took place in broad daylight and in a public place is further cause for alarm. How could the aggressors be so fuelled by hate and so reckless as to the consequences of their actions, that they did not think twice before laying into the girls? Given the horrific nature of the assault and the widespread sympathy felt for the girls, I’m not surprised to see that there are so many cries of ‘Something must be done!’

It’s only natural to want to try to prevent similar incidents from taking place. However I’m not to sure that we’d be adopting the right solution if we simply went down the route of extending hate crime legislation to include violence against LGBT people. Hate crimes are acts of violence that are motivated by prejudice against a specified minority group. At present, the hate crimes contemplated under Maltese law are those committed against people because of the victim’s affiliation to a racial or religious group. They do not extend to crimes committed against people because of their sexual orientation. The penalty for the commission of hate crimes is harsher than that for the commission of the same crime without the ‘bias’ element. In other words, if a Maltese man had to be found guilty of injuring another Maltese national, he would be given the standard punishment for such a crime. However, if the Maltese man were found guilty of injuring a Muslim man and it could be shown that he did so because of some bias against Muslim believers, then his punishment would be increased by one or two degrees. I have a problem with following the logic behind this. In both cases, the harm being visited upon the victims is equally damaging. Why then, should the punishment be different in the second example?

If we are penalising the motivation involved in one particular crime, and not another, we are veering dangerously into the field of thought crime and minimising violence wreaked on victims who do not belong to a minority group. In the example given above, the crime committed against non-Muslim victim would be considered less worthy of punishment. I can’t think of one valid reason for discriminating between crimes in this manner. If the violent action results in injury, then that action should be punished in the same way, every time, regardless of the perpetrator’s motives. Put it this way: If a man hits a woman in a jealous rage, is his crime any less heinous than that of a man who hits a woman because she is black? Is it of any comfort to the white woman to know that her assailant was not racially-motivated? If the attacks were accompanied by insults, why would being called a ‘stupid bitch’ not attract the same penalties as being called a ‘black bitch’? Distinguishing between the two cases, and defining the second case as a hate crime really makes no sense. Even the term ‘hate crime’ is a misnomer. By nature all acts of violence are motivated by hate. None are motivated by noble motives. Why should one particular form of hatred be considered more abhorrent than another?

There are also practicalities to consider when it comes to hate crimes. It is up to the police to decide which offences can be categorised as hate crimes and prosecuted as such. What is there to stop over-zealous officers from passing off any insult with a reference to ethnicity as a racial slur and a hate crime? I know of one case where a man who called another man “A chapati-eating Paki” (when the ‘victim’ was not of Pakistani origin though arguably a chapatti-eater) and being charged for committing a racially-motivated crime. From that it’s not too far-fetched to a state of play where utterances of the word ‘Pufta’ are dealt with severity because it is considered to be an example of a hate crime fuelled by homophobia, when it is more of a generic insult. Besides these considerations I would say that the most convincing argument against considering crimes against LGBT as hate crimes is that by discriminating in favour of a particular group, the members of that group are entrenching themselves further as a separate minority instead of integrating into the community. The end result is the reinforcement of the ghetto mentality of the group, which is hardly desirable. The best possible course of action following the attacks in Hamrun is not the extension of hate crime legislation, but prompt and effective prosecution and punishment, together with continuous educational initiatives to stamp out hatred and intolerance – in all cases.
© The Times of Malta



7/2/2012- The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, expressed deep concern about the increase of violence against Roma people. Referring particularly to serious racist incidents and forms of stigmatizing rhetoric in some member state. The Committee then invited governments to refrain from the use of anti-Roma rhetoric, especially during election campaigns and strongly condemn all threats and intimidation, as well as hate speech. Given the economic environment, has finally been urged not to use the Roma as an “easy target or scapegoat”.  Declaration of The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
© West, on-line newspaper aimed at providing the last breaking news on welfare policies.


Headlines 3 February, 2012


3/2/2012- Human Rights First calls on the Russian government to promptly investigate the recent attack on Philip Kostenko, an activist who works at the Anti-Discrimination Center “Memorial” in Saint Petersburg. This morning, Kostenko was beaten by two men who followed him through a park, where they pushed him to the ground and started to beat him. One of the attackers called the victim by name before the assault. Kostenko waited for an ambulance at the scene before proceeding to a local hospital. “We call on the authorities in Saint Petersburg to thoroughly investigate this case, including the extent to which it was in retaliation for his activism. They should also hold the perpetrators accountable. The fact that this incident took place one day before the scheduled opposition demonstrations across Russia suggests that the attackers may have wanted to prevent Kostenko’s participation in tomorrow’s protest actions,” said Human Rights First’s Paul LeGendre.

Kostenko has also been subject to persecution and monitoring by the authorities—including by the police unit responsible for combating extremism and hate crime— for his legitimate opposition and human rights activities. In mid-December 2011, Kostenko was singled out by police during nonviolent post-parliamentary election protests, arrested, and given the maximum 15-day administrative sentence for public disorder. On December 22, his sentence was extended another 15 days—the maximum allowable—at a hearing heavily influenced by a representative from the police’s antiextremism unit. The judge in that hearing refused to allow Kostenko to defend himself before extending the sentence. Kostenko still faces administrative charges and is due to appear in court in mid-February. His colleagues and lawyers maintain the activist is innocent of these charges and is being persecuted because of his opposition activism and human rights work.

Racism- and nationalism-related issues remain a hot topic in Russia. Just this week, a major court battle ended positively when the Supreme Court upheld the verdict against the members of the Borovikov-Voevodin gang from Saint Petersburg that was responsible for dozens of murders, including the ethnographer Nikolai Girenko, a nine-year-old Tajik girl, and an African student. “The court case against Philip Kostenko is an example where police monitor and go after peaceful activists, instead of concentrating their full attention on the real ‘extremists’—the violent neo-Nazi gangs who until recently have operated with relative impunity in murderous racist attacks on those perceived to be ‘foreigners,’” concluded LeGendre. “The police must recognize and affirm that violent hate crime is the problem, and not activists like Kostenko who, in fact, work to confront racism in Russia.”
© Human Rights First



Man who monitors Craigslist for racist postings becomes victim himself

3/2/2012- Police in B.C. are investigating death threats against a man who has complained about hate speech on Craigslist’s Vancouver website, CBC News has learned
Cran Campbell, of Delta, B.C., says he regularly monitors the Rants and Raves section of the popular website and flags postings he believes are racist, hateful or threatening. Campbell said he also reports some of the more vicious comments to police. Delta police are now investigating death threats against the 63-year-old retiree that have been made in comments brazenly posted on Craigslist. "Just like a pesky mosquito he should be swatted ... and silenced forever," one posting about Campbell said. "Keep looking over your shoulder," said another. Someone has also posted Campbell's picture and his home address. “I get a bit concerned when they tell me they're coming to my address,” Campbell said Friday. “But you know what? Nothing in this world is going to stop me from doing what I'm doing right now.”

Postings advocate killing
He said he's found many postings that openly talk of killing as many people from a particular race as possible. “I cannot stand racism and hatred,” said Campbell. “It's not in my blood to do that. It's not in any of my family that accepts that.” B.C.’s Hate Crimes Team is looking closely at the racist postings. “If you are promoting or inciting hatred against an identifiable group, then that potentially could be a criminal offence, but it's a long process that we have to look at,” said the head of the team, Det. Const. Terry Wilson. One anti-racism activist told CBC News he sympathizes with Campbella. “It's a serious situation. We can't take it lightly,” said Alan Dutton, of the Canadian Anti-Racism Education and Research Society. “There needs to be protection for these individuals that do make complaints. And I would hope that people who do have the courage to come forward do take precautions.” Campbell said he is adamant and will not back down, and will continue to flag racists on Craigslist.
© CBC News



Reports from Europe indicate that there has been an increase in the number of xenophobic attacks.

3/2/2012- Reports from Europe indicate that there has been an increase in the number of xenophobic attacks. Most recently, a report released by the Paris-based Islamophobic Crime Monitoring Group indicates that the number of Islamophobic attacks in France increased by 34 percent in 2011 in comparison with the previous year.
Abdallah Zerki, head of the group, said he had written to French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- who once referred to Islamophobic crime as “insignificant” – and said Muslims are as equal citizens of France as Christians and Jewish people. Head of the French Islamic Council Haydar Demiryürek spoke to the Cihan news agency on Thursday, saying research the council conducted also indicated a rise in Islamophobic crime. “Some people were jailed over arson of mosques, but still legislation in this area is inadequate. The government should focus on this, condemn Islamophobia and adopt better legislation.”
© World Bulletin



Rising public resentment blamed on government focus on alleged 'scrounger' fraud and inflammatory media coverage

5/2/2012- The government's focus on alleged fraud and overclaiming to justify cuts in disability benefits has caused an increase in resentment and abuse directed at disabled people, as they find themselves being labelled as scroungers, six of the country's biggest disability groups have warned. Some of the charities say they are now regularly contacted by people who have been taunted on the street about supposedly faking their disability and are concerned the climate of suspicion could spill over into violence or other hate crimes. While the charities speaking out – Scope, Mencap, Leonard Cheshire Disability, the National Autistic Society, Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), and Disability Alliance – say inflammatory media coverage has played a role in this, they primarily blame ministers and civil servants for repeatedly highlighting the supposed mass abuse of the disability benefits system, much of which is unfounded. At the same time, they say, the focus on "fairness for taxpayers" has fostered the notion that disabled people are a separate group who don't contribute.

Scope's regular polling of people with disabilities shows that in September two-thirds said they had experienced recent hostility or taunts, up from 41% four months before. In the last poll almost half said attitudes towards them had deteriorated in the past year. Tom Madders, head of campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said: "The Department for Work and Pensions is certainly guilty of helping to drive this media narrative around benefits, portraying those who receive benefits as workshy scroungers or abusing a system that's really easy to cheat." He added that ministers such as the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, were being "deeply irresponsible" in conflating Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which helps disabled people hold down jobs, and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), a payment for those unable to work. This "scrounger rhetoric" was already having an impact on people's lives, Madders said, citing a woman who rang the charity to say a neighbour who formerly gave lifts to her autistic child had stopped doing so following press articles about disabled people receiving free cars under a government scheme. Some disabled people say the climate is so hostile they avoid going out, or avoid using facilities such as designated parking bays if they "don't look disabled".

The government has committed to making significant cuts to disability benefits, including a 20% reduction in the DLA bill by 2015/16. Much of its public focus has been on alleged fraudulent claims or cutting benefits to those whose conditions have improved. Charities point to a series of ministerial statements arguing that the "vast majority" of new ESA claimants are able to work, while the disabilities minister, Maria Miller, said last month that £600m of DLA was overpaid each year, not mentioning that a greater sum is saved by others not receiving what they are due. This is "playing directly into a media narrative about the need to weed out scroungers," said Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope. "Our polling shows that this narrative has coincided with attitudes towards disabled people getting worse.
"Disabled people tell us that increasingly people don't believe that they are disabled and suddenly feel empowered to question their entitlement to support."

David Congdon, head of policy at Mencap, said the charity feared where this could lead. "We are concerned that this narrative of benefit scroungers or fakers connected to the welfare reform bill does risk stigmatising all people with a disability," he said. "The worry would be that this could lead to an increase in resentment against disabled people, and even an increase in hate crimes." There was "an incredibly strong focus on benefit fraud within the DWP", said Guy Parckar, policy manager for Leonard Cheshire. "It is mentioned at all possible opportunities. Of course, whenever there is fraud you want that to be tackled, but there should be some serious thought given to the long-term impact that this has. There is the impact of potential hate crime, and issues around that." Neil Coyle, head of policy for Disability Alliance, said his organisation was being told of increasing levels of verbal abuse, and worried this could lead to attacks. "There's a lot of concern that the level of abuse and harassment goes unrecorded because it's seen almost as a norm. It seems to be growing as a result of a mis-perception of much more widespread abuse of benefits than actually exists. That's being fed by the DWP in their attempts to justify massive reductions in welfare expenditure."

A DWP spokeswoman said the department was committed to supporting disabled people but needed to "do more to change negative attitudes", and had begun a cross-government consultation on tackling discrimination. She said: "Our welfare reforms are designed to restore integrity into the benefits system and to ensure that everyone who needs help and support receives it." David Gillon from Chatham in Kent, said: "I think we've lost all the progress we made in the last 30 years in terms of acceptance." Gillon, whose chronic back condition forced him to give up a job with British Aerospace, recounts walking on crutches past a pub in the middle of the day and receiving shouts of: "We're going to report you to the DWP." He said: "When there's a bad article in the press, the next day you think, 'Do I really need to go out of the house?' We're being forced back into the attic, locked away from society." Fazilet Hadi, head of inclusion for the RNIB, said she also felt the tone was set by ministers: "I think they should be more careful. At the moment it feels like the government is not on the side of disabled people. Most people don't have that much exposure to disabled people. They don't see us in the lifestyle pages, they don't see us in the fashion pages. The only reference they see is in these stories. And that's why the language is so important."
© The Guardian



3/2/2012- Taxi driver Graham Williams has been convicted of rape. He was convicted by a majority verdict at Warrington Crown Court this afternoon. The 41-year-old, of Greenings Court, off Battersby Lane, was jailed for eight years. He attacked the woman, who cannot be named, with learning difficulties in Sankey Valley Park in October. Judge Nicholas Woodward said: "Her friend trusted you to take her home. "I have no doubt you decided because of her drunken condition, you were going to take advanatge of her." The court heard during the four day trial that he had taken her to a popular dogging spot in the park to carry out the attack. He attacked her in the back of his private hire taxi while at least one other person watched, the jury was told.

Speaking after court today, DI Debbie Dodd who heads up the dedicated rape Uunit for Cheshire Police that conducted the investigation said "The nature of this man's crimes cannot be underestimated. "He viciously attacked his victim, preying on her vulnerability through drink and her medical condition. "The victim will live with this for the rest of her life. "My team conducted a painstaking investigation which was quickly identified and investigated as a disability hate crime, to bring Williams to justice. "The catalogue of evidence presented to the court ensured the jury were fully aware of the full circumstances of events and the traumatic and violent attack upon Williams′ vulnerable victim."

She continued: "Rape and sexual assaults are amongst the most traumatic of crimes. "We want victims to be assured that we are here to help. "Anyone who has been subjected to this type of crime should feel confident that they will receive the support they need from the dedicated rape unit and other support agencies we work alongside. "Foremost, any victim of a crime such as this will be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, and any allegations will be thoroughly investigated and with the needs of the victim as our main priority."

Speaking after today′s conviction, Inspector Dave Griffiths who heads up Warrington West Neighbourhood Policing Team said "Graham Williams has today been found guilty of one of the most violent of crimes. "With his job he held a position of trust and responsibility within our local community which he exploited in order to fuel his own sexual needs. "The safety of our community is our priority and this dangerous individual will now face the consequences of his actions."
© The Warrington Guardian



More anti-Semitic crime took place in Greater Manchester than London in 2011, despite seven times more Jews living in the capital, says a Jewish charity.

2/2/2012- Nearly half of the 586 anti-Semitic crimes reported in the UK were in Greater Manchester, the Community Security Trust (CST) said. The overall UK figure was the fourth highest since records began in 1984. Greater Manchester Police said the increase reflected a greater reporting of incidents. There were 244 reported anti-Semitic crimes in Greater Manchester - including street attacks, threats, vandalism and desecration of Jewish property - with 201 in London. London's Jewish population stands at 149,800 compared with Greater Manchester's 21,700, the researchers said. One incident of "extreme violence" took place when a Jewish family were filling up their car at a petrol station. "As one of the family members crossed the forecourt in order to make payment, a car containing two white women reversed sharply into her, knocking her to the ground," the CST report said. "The occupants then got out of their car, shouted 'Dirty Jew' and spat at the injured woman lying on the ground, before getting back into the car and driving away."

'Serious problem'
It added that the rise "continues the pattern whereby a higher proportion of the anti-Semitic incidents reported to CST occur in Greater Manchester than should be the case, given the relative sizes of the Jewish communities in Manchester and in London". Among the incidents across the UK in 2011 were 92 assaults, 63 incidents of vandalism, 394 reports of abuse and 29 direct threats. Mark Gardner, of CST, said: "Anti-Semitism is not the most important feature in British Jewish life, but it remains a serious problem in some parts of society, and retains the potential to worsen significantly in reaction to external events." The rise in Greater Manchester was due to "major efforts" to ensure all incidents were recorded, police said. Ch Supt Jon Rush, divisional commander for Bury, said: "What we must acknowledge is that the number of anti-Semitic assaults is far too high. "People in our Jewish communities should be able to safely and freely go about their business without fear of being attacked, so this is the area we accept we need to tackle. "We do not want people to suffer in silence and think they should not speak out when they are subjected to any form of abuse - we want them to tell us so we can bring the offenders to justice."
© BBC News



1/2/2012- A 27-year-old man suffered serious facial injuries after he was assaulted and subjected to racist abuse in the street. The incident took place in Beaumont Walk, Beaumont Leys, Leicester, at about 11.45am on Sunday, January 15. Officers, who released details of the incident earlier this week, said the victim, who is African, was approached by two men who made racist comments towards him and then assaulted him. Pc Lee Cannings, who is investigating the incident, said: "The victim sustained quite serious injuries to his face and will need further treatment. "We understand two women walked past the scene shortly after the incident and we would urge these people to come forward as they may be able to assist with the investigation. "We would also like to speak to anyone who recognises the suspects' descriptions or knows anything about the incident to contact us. "Any calls received will be treated in confidence." The suspects are aged between 20 and 25 and are about 5ft 9in tall. One is black or mixed race, of muscular build, with short, dark, curly hair. He was wearing a burgundy round-neck T-shirt with white writing across the front, tan trousers and white shoes. The second suspect is white, and has been described as being of muscular build with a slight beer belly. He had short, black hair and stubble. He was wearing a plain white round-neck T-shirt and blue jeans. Anyone with any information is asked to contact Pc Cannings on the non-emergency number 101.
© this is Leicestershire



1/2/2012- A shopkeeper suffered months of torment at the hands of a racist “bully” who targeted his store. Inderjit Singh was told his beard, a religious symbol in the Sikh community, would be grabbed. His turban was also knocked off his head during the sickening harassment at the hands of Phillip Richardson. Newcastle Crown Court heard that Richardson’s cruel taunts took a chilling twist, when the 23-year-old threatened to burn the Singh’s Washington Wine and Convenience Store in Usworth.
Richardson was arrested after he made the fire threat, but denied wrongdoing and was allowed his freedom while awaiting trial. While on bail, in a final act of defiance, Richardson went back to the shop and smashed a £400 CCTV camera. He then targeted the Eurostore in Concord, and smashed a window with a dog lead he was swinging while telling the shopkeeper: “I will break your head. You come over here to do business and I’m not gong to let you.”

Richardson, of Kingsdale Avenue, Usworth, was convicted of religiously aggravated threatening behaviour, racially-aggravated assault, threatening to damage property, and racially aggravated criminal damage after a trial at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court. Prosecutor Jolyon Perkes told the crown court yesterday it was in June last year trouble started, when Mr Singh refused to sell wine to Richardson because he feared it was to be given to underage drinkers outside. This resulted in a tirade of abuse and the threat that Mr Singh’s beard would be pulled. Mr Perkes said: “He took the view he was being exceptionally disrespectful to him and he recognised the beard was a religious symbol for him and it was the height of disrespect.” Two weeks later Richardson was back at the shop and persuaded a pal to hit Mr Singh’s head, causing his turban to fall to the floor. Mr Perkes said: “Knocking the turban off his head is the ultimate insult in the Sikh religion.”

The court heard the taunts continued against Mr Singh, despite his pleas to be left alone. Then, on July 10, Richardson warned the victim’s son “I’m going to fire your shop”, which left the whole family terrified. He attacked the CCTV camera in October and taunted the second shopowner in November. Judge Roger Thorn jailed Richardson for 21 months. The judge told him: “It was downright bullying what you were doing.” Jamie Adams, defending, said Richardson has apologised for his behaviour and now realises the error of his ways. Mr Adams said: “Drink was at the heart of it rather than deep-seated racism or religious hatred, there is nothing of that in his background.”
© The Sunderland Echo



Suffolk Police is flying a rainbow flag at its headquarters in Martlesham to mark Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month.

1/2/2012- Assistant Chief Constable Paul Marshall said it "shows how, as an organisation, we are inclusive and embrace diversity within our workforce". The flag will also be flown at stations in Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft. Ipswich Town Football Club will fly a rainbow flag ahead of the team's match with Cardiff City on 18 February. For one week, the rainbow flag will replace the police force flag which is displayed daily apart from on designated days when the union jack is flown. Mr Marshall said: "It demonstrates our commitment to equality - and our aim to provide an effective policing service to everyone in Suffolk, regardless of their age, disability, gender, religion and belief, race, sexual orientation or gender identity. "And it reflects our commitment to tackle hate crime in all its forms, sending a clear message to victims that we are here to support them - and to offenders that their crimes will not be tolerated."
© BBC News



28/1/2012- A MAN has been charged with a racist attack on a woman travelling on a Metro train. David Humphries is accused of hurling racist abuse at the 44-year-old black South African before punching her in the face. She was travelling to South Shields at about 5.30pm on Thursday when she was assaulted between Simonside and Tyne Dock stations. Another man pulled the attacker away. Humphries, 25, of Connaught Terrace, South Shields, was arrested when the train pulled into Tyne Dock station. He was due to appear at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court charged with racially aggravated assault this morning. Police are still appealing for witnesses.
© Jarrow & Hebburn Gazette



1/2/2012- An Orthodox Christian church famed for its valuable icons was set alight in southern Macedonia overnight amid religious tension between Christians and minority Muslims over a carnival in which Orthodox Christian men dressed as women in burkas and mocked the Koran. Firefighters extinguished the fire on Monday night in the two century-old Sveti Nikola church, near the town of Struga. The church's roof was destroyed but its icons were not damaged, the fire service said.
Hours before the fire, Muslim leaders had appealed for calm among community members. The January 13 Vevcani festival prompted angry, sometimes violent demonstrations by Muslims, who are nearly all ethnic Albanian and make up 33% of the country's 2.1 million population and accuse the majority of stoking hatred against them. Ethnic tension has been simmering in this small Balkan country since the end of an armed rebellion in 2001, when ethnic Albanian rebels fought government forces for about eight months, seeking greater rights for their community. The conflict left 80 people dead, and ended with the intervention of Nato peacekeepers.

The Vevcani carnival, said to have been held for some 1,400 years, attracts thousands of visitors. Local residents traditionally wear elaborate, frequently sarcastic masks, with some of the most common costumes including devils and demons. But this year's perceived mockery of the Koran and the burka costumes caused outrage. On Saturday, protesters attacked an inter-city bus heading from Struga to Vevcani, throwing rocks at the vehicle but injuring nobody. They also defaced a Macedonian flag outside Struga's municipal building, replacing it with a green flag representing Islam. On the same day, perpetrators attacked a church in the nearby village of Labunista, destroying a cross standing outside. Macedonian Muslim leaders called for restraint but also accused the government of promoting Islamophobia. Deputy Prime Minister Musa Xhaferi said such incidents "create discord" and "violate mutual respect and trust."
© The Press Association


31/1/2012- The Regional State Prosecutor has filed charges of racially motivated arson against four defendants in the case of an attack in which they threw a flaming torch into a Romani family's home last summer. Regional State Prosecutor Martin Stanģk in Prague gave information about the lawsuit and the crime to the on-line daily TÝDEN.CZ. The daily reports that the charges were filed at the suggestion of police who concluded their investigation of the attack at the end of last year. "The investigation finished on 21 December. Detectives proposed filing charges of racially motivated grievous bodily harm against a 21-year-old youth. He faces between five and 12 years in prison," said Central Bohemian Police spokesperson Soņa Budská. That qualification of the crime has been maintained, as has the possible sentencing the other three perpetrators face. As per the Penal Code they could serve anywhere between six months and three years in prison for committing violence against a particular group. The four suspects were not remanded into custody, as the Kolín District Court saw no reason to do so. Police concluded their investigation into the racially motivated attack after receiving the last important affidavit from fire protection experts. The defendants and their attorneys have been able to review the file since mid-December.

Victims of hate crimes have the option of joining the case in pursuit of compensation for damages. "Since July 2011, hate crime victims have also been able to seek compensation for so-called 'non-material harm', i.e., harm to their personality rights that arises as a result of the crime. There is always such harm in hate crimes matters, the victims have been attacked because of some unchangeable characteristic - the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their faith or their sexual orientation," lawyer Klára Kalibová of the organization In IUSTITIA told news server Romea.cz. The attack took place in the late night and early morning hours of Sunday 10 July and Monday 11 July 2011. The young men allegedly first got into the mood for "action" at a neo-Nazi concert in Velký Osek, where hundreds of ultra-right extremists met up. After the concert they are said to have set out on a march through Býchory, where witnesses say they loudly chanted "Bohemia for the Czechs" ("Čechy Čechłm") and racist slogans. One of them then threw a flaming torch through the first-floor window of an apartment occupied by a Romani family. No one was injured during the attack and the torch was put out. There were three children in the apartment at the time.

Some Czech media outlets reported the torch had been put out by the eight-year-old son of the victimized family. News server Romea.cz has reported that those claims are untrue. The torch was put out by an adult friend of the family who was visiting them and watching television in the room where the torch landed (the family's son was also nine years old at the time, not eight). The young men accused of perpetrating the crime face prison sentences of between three and 12 years because the crime was committed by two or more people. The youngest member of the group, aged 21, could receive the longest sentence. A similar case took place last August in Krty (Rakovník district). A still-unidentified perpetrator attacked a Romani home in the late night and early morning hours of Tuesday 9 August and Wednesday 10 August. A Molotov cocktail flew in the window of the small house at the railroad yard in which they were living and landed next to an infant's crib. A one-year-old child was sleeping there whose parents were in the room at the time. The father succeeded in putting out the flaming bottle and burned his foot in doing so.

The most infamous racially motivated attack against Romani people in recent years remains the case from April 2009 in which four neo-Nazis threw three Molotov cocktails into a small house in Vítkov. Three people were injured during the subsequent blaze. An infant who was not yet two years old suffered the most serious injuries. The perpetrators were sent to prison by the court last March for 20 and 22 years. Not quite one year after the Vítkov case, a similar attack on a small home occupied by Romani people in the Bedųiška settlement of Ostrava drew attention as well. That case was officially found not to have been motivated by racism, but by disputes between neighbors. Last March the juvenile perpetrator of the crime was sent by the court to prison for four years, while his mother got 7.5 years for instructing him to commit reckless endangerment.
© Romea



Humanist says 'godless culture' sermon was hostile to those who do not share church's aims

29/1/2012- A Homily delivered at Knock shrine by the Bishop of Raphoe, Philip Boyce, is being investigated by the Director of Public Prosecutions following a formal complaint by a leading humanist who claims the sermon was an incitement to hatred. The gardai have confirmed to former Fine Gael election candidate John Colgan that they have prepared and forwarded a file to the DPP after he made allegations that the address by Dr Boyce was in breach of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989. The homily, entitled: "To Trust in God" was delivered to worshippers during a novena at the Marian shrine in Co Mayo last August and subsequently reported in the media, including The Irish Times, under the headline: "'Godless culture' attacking church, says bishop." Mr Colgan, a retired chartered engineer and economist from Leixlip, Co Kildare, referred in his formal complaint to two key passages in Dr Boyce's homily which he believes broke the law. One of the passages referred to the Catholic Church in Ireland being "attacked from outside by the arrows of a secular and godless culture". A second passage, which was included in the complaint, stated: "For the distinguishing mark of Christian believers is the fact they have a future; it is not that they know all the details that await them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness."

Mr Colgan, who was a leader in the 'Campaign to Separate Church and State' in the late 1990s, said in his complaint: "I believe statements of this kind are an incitement to hatred of dissidents, outsiders, secularists, within the meaning of the [Incitement to Hatred] Act, who are perfectly good citizens within the meaning of the civil law. The statements exemplify the chronic antipathy towards secularists, humanists etc, which has manifested itself in the ostracising of otherwise perfectly good Irish citizens, who do not share the aims of the Vatican's Irish Mission Church." To back up his complaint, Mr Colgan referred to two statistical surveys carried out two decades apart by the Jesuit sociologist and academic Fr Michael MacGreil, entitled: 'Prejudice and Tolerance in Ireland' and 'Prejudice in Ireland Revisited' which Mr Colgan claims showed "marked prejudice by Roman Catholics and other Christian denominations against agnostics and atheists" (humanist was not an option offered to respondents in either survey). In his complaint, Mr Colgan said he attributed this prejudice to "hostile propaganda disseminated in school and chapel in the main by or for the institutional churches, for there is no rational or temporal reason". In a statement to the Sunday Independent, Martin Long of the Catholic Communications office said: "Bishop Boyce's homily 'To Trust in God' is available for anyone to read at catholicbishops.ie.

"I advise any person to read it and judge it for themselves. It is clearly a reasonable, balanced, honest -- and indeed self-critical from a church perspective -- analysis of the value of the Catholic faith. Bishop Boyce is a good and holy man and much loved by those who know him." After the homily was delivered late last summer, Mr Colgan wrote personally to the cleric seeking a corrective statement. Dr Boyce responded saying that in his homily he did "not wish to disparage in any way the sincere efforts of those with no religious beliefs, atheists, humanists etc. "I have too much respect for each human person, since I believe all are created in the image of God. At Knock I wished to encourage and confirm the hope of believers, even in the present challenging times, since trust in God was the theme I was given."
© The Irish Independent



Families desperate to leave divided community after months of terror and years of segregation

28/1/2012- The first snow of 2012 had fallen on the day Natasha Váradi invited us into the house she shares with her 10 children, mother and father-in-law in the Hungarian village of Gyöngyöspata. The two rooms were dark and dank: for four months the family had been living without electricity, gas or running water. Every half an hour a child went down the hill with a bucket to draw water from the communal pump. By night they stumbled around with torches as they squeezed on to mattresses. The air in the bungalow carried the sour stench of urine. "They've started wetting the bed again," said Natasha, who has lived in Gyöngyöspata for all of her 31 years. "Someone only need knock on the door and they are scared." There is not much door left on which to knock. Much of the wood has been smashed in. On 22 December, the family say a stone came flying through the front room window. The family members have reason to fear for their lives: seven adults and two children died in 49 attacks on Roma communities in Hungary between January 2008 and April 2011, according to the European Roma Rights Centre.

Until last Easter, 31-year-old Váradi had never left Gyöngyöspata, an old village 50 miles north-east of Budapest, which then had a population of about 2,800, including 450 Roma. Then, on 1 March, the militia arrived. Wearing black uniforms and calling themselves the Civil Guard Association for a Better Future (Szebb Jövóért Polgárór Egyesület) they marched through the village singing war songs and bellowing abuse. Soon, they were joined by groups including Vederö (Defence Force), and the Betyársereg, wearing camouflage fatigues and armed with axes, whips and snarling bulldogs. For almost two months they roamed the streets day and night, singing, hammering on doors and calling the inhabitants "dirty fucking Gypsies". When they were not carrying out what they described as "neighbourhood watch patrols" designed to combat what they said were rising rates of "Gypsy crime", the militia were drinking. CCTV cameras recorded one man drunk in the street, boasting at the top of his voice that he had just drawn a swastika in the dirt road with his urine.

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) reported the four most serious incidents during the patrols to police. One involved a woman giving birth prematurely after being harassed by vigilantes with using racially abusive slogans. No charges have yet been brought against the militiamen, though a Roma man was jailed for two years after a fight with the vigilantes; a further five Roma are awaiting trial over the same incident. Roma, who number somewhere between 400,000 and 800,000 in Hungary, are the prime targets for rightwing hate and more general discrimination. In March, Gábor Vona, the head of the far-right Jobbik party (which received 12% of the vote in 2010) gave a speech in Gyöngyöspata saying his party planned to start deploying similar "gendarmerie units" nationwide without delay. In mid-April, a US businessman called Richard Field decided to act. The militia had announced plans to hold a "training camp" over the Easter weekend on the hillside overlooking the poorest part of the village, where most of the Roma live. Together with the Hungarian Red Cross, Field paid for six buses to evacuate the most vulnerable residents. On 22 April, shortly before 8am, 267 Roma women and children boarded the buses to spend Easter in one of two holiday retreats.

In the face of international outrage, the Hungarian interior minister called a press conference in which he denied that an emergency evacuation had taken place. The Roma were, he said, simply taking a "scheduled holiday". In the event, the training camp never took place because police took eight extremists into custody, although no charges were brought. By the end of the month, Field, who runs a private US charity called the American House Foundation, was under attack from the rightwing government. He was called to give evidence to a parliamentary "fact-finding committee", which accused him of blackening Hungary's name by tipping off the Associated Press about the evacuation or labelling it as such. The government maintained it knew about the Easter training camp and had always planned to deploy hundreds of police to the village that weekend.

Váradi and her children took one of Field's buses to Szolnok and then stayed with relatives. On their return, most of the Defence Force had gone, but the fear remained. And all their utilities had been cut off. For Váradi's husband, it was all too much. By September he had scraped together enough money to fly to Canada, where he is trying to claim asylum. Since Canada lifted visa restrictions for Hungarians in 2008, it has become a favourite destination for desperate Roma. Hungary was Canada's top asylum claimant source country in 2010, with 2,297 cases referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board . It appears that it will hold the top spot again in 2011, as figures for the first nine months of the year showed 2,545 Hungarian referrals, more than 1,000 above the second-highest source country, China. According to HCLU, 45 Roma children and 22 adults from Gyöngyöspata have left for Canada in the past six months. The Guardian asked Gyöngyöspata's mayor, Oszkár Juhász, from the far-right Jobbik party, if he regretted or felt sad that the Roma feel they are being driven out of their own village. The village notary replied instead. "The Roma are not pushed out of their own village," wrote Mátyás István. "Those who are not willing to work here will not work in other places either."

The Hungarian minister for government communication, Zoltán Kovács, in response to the same question, said: "We regret that some are utilising the situation and that some Roma people are leaving the country on an argument that is not valid." In a phone interview he suggested the Hungarian Roma who claim asylum in Canada plea persecution in order to "make money" and milk the benefit system. "We don't think there is any foundation for [Hungarian Roma to claim asylum because they are being persecuted for their ethnicity]," he said, adding: "We want every Hungarian citizen to stay here." Nonetheless, Váradi said she and her children – who range in age from two to 16 – were going to Toronto as soon as they had the air fare. "We have no life here any more," she said. Asked what she hoped for in Canada, Váradi did not speak of material gain. "My husband says it's good there. He says there is going to be happiness, that people there will offer us love." When the Guardian mentioned Natasha's case to the local council, asking what they were doing to help the poorest members of the community, the notary asked us a question instead of answering ours. "The head of that household is in Canada, alone. What is your opinion on this?" He said the family had only recently asked the council for help. "If we can, we will help them," he insisted.

It can be hard to understand how such a situation can unfold in the EU. But talk to locals, Roma and non-Roma, and it is clear that segregation is at the very heart of the community. Both sides agree that until last March, the two groups coexisted relatively peacefully. There were "small incidents" with Roma accused of pilfering firewood or vegetables and other petty crime, but only 12 "petty larcenies" were reported to police during the first four months of 2011. Violence was rare. But the youngest members of the community quickly learned that not all children are equal in Gyöngyöspata. The primary school is run on a sort of apartheid system, say lawyers who have brought a lawsuit against the local authority on behalf of the charity Chance for Children Foundation. Their report claims: "Romani children are illegally separated from non-Roma in separate classes, which are also physically separated from each other (Roma classes are on the ground floor, non-Roma are on the upper floors). This separation involves school separation of Roma and non-Roma children in the restrooms, school festivities and school lunch."

When the Guardian visited the school, we saw a marked difference between the quality and condition of equipment on the two floors. The classrooms on the upper levels had electronic whiteboards; downstairs, where the Roma are taught, they make do with a blackboard. Roma children we spoke to complain that only "upstairs" children receive swimming lessons, and that they are not allowed to use computers in class until several years after the non-Roma. They are excluded from after-school activities and are not allowed to use the superior toilet facilities on the first floor. The Gyöngyöspata authorities deny the allegations and the case is ongoing. The school did not respond to our request for comment. When asked what the government was doing to help the Roma in Gyöngyöspata and beyond, Kovács said it did not see the problems as being ethnically based, adding: "We are aware that some problems the Roma are facing are problems because they are Roma, but in general terms, these are social, educational and labour market problems." His government, he said, was rejuvenating the job market by getting people off benefits and into work: "Everyone should work who can." It was the "saddest figure in Europe", he said, that Hungary had the lowest employment rate in the EU.

For the long-term unemployed – a disproportionate number of whom are Roma – this means taking part in the government's new public work programme. According to Jeno Setét, a Roma activist, between 70% and 80% of Hungary's Roma population do not work (the rate for the whole population is around 10%). This scheme aims to get 300,000 people into work by 2014 via a sort of community service scheme for which participants are paid less than the national monthly minimum wage (around 80,000 HUF – £214 – for unskilled workers) but slightly more than they would receive in benefits. Anyone unemployed for 90 days is offered a place on the programme, which administers projects cleaning streets or sewers, cutting down trees or building football stadiums or dams. Refusal to accept a placement will result in all social security benefits being stopped to the refusenik and family. Gyöngyöspata was chosen last year to run a pilot scheme. Unemployed locals – almost exclusively Roma – were deployed to cut down trees in a nearby wood. For Setét, the public work scheme is a "smokescreen" that will do little to help Roma get "real" jobs and will reinforce their position at the bottom of Hungarian society. "If people on the scheme were paid properly and trained properly, I'd be all for it," he added. "But they are not. Right now it's a way of humiliating people and paying them a slave wage."

The most controversial aspect of the programme is the introduction of what Roma activists call "labour camps". If there is no suitable project near enough for someone to commute to, they will be offered "accommodation" near or on site, said Kovács. "They are not labour camps," he said. But to the Hungarian Roma, many of whose relatives perished the last time they were sent off to "labour camps", during the Nazi era, the merest whiff of anything similar is spine-chilling, said Gábor Sárközi from the Roma Press Centre: "People are absolutely terrified at the prospect."

Hungary's Roma clash with rightwing paramilitary group - video
In 2011, members of a uniformed and armed rightwing paramilitary group moved into Gyöngyöspata, a small Hungarian village, ostensibly as a 'neighbourhood watch patrol'. The village's 450 Roma claim the real motive was to terrorise and drive out their community. The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union filmed the rise of the far-right Jobbik party, the group's political wing.
© The Guardian


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